What Do You Need?

As the changes in our world continue, we see more and more that the “normal” we once knew might not come back anytime soon, if it ever does.

And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Most of us have activities and people in our lives that are currently out of reach for us because of the pandemic that, in some places, still has us confined to our homes. Even in places that have begun to open up, being cautious means not resuming our old way of life right off the bat. Some of those people and things are important and positive parts of our lives, and we look forward to a time when we’re able to go back to them.

Some, however, aren’t so beneficial. Being away from toxic family members or friends has shown us that maybe those people don’t have–or deserve–a place in our lives after all. Some activities might have been unhealthy for us, and we didn’t realize it until we were no longer able to engage in them.

On a larger scale, many aspects of our society were broken, some beyond repair. When we’re immersed in them, we don’t always realize they’re there, especially if they don’t directly affect us. Now, though, that we’re seeing things from a distance, filtered through lenses of reflection and introspection, we can recognize the damage. Some people have begun to see how the damage can be repaired, or how certain concepts and aspects of our society can be torn down to clear the way for something new and better.

While this time of change, deconstruction, and reconstruction goes on, I encourage you to take time to assess *yourself* above all. What do *you* need? What changes have you made that benefit you, and what else could you change to bring yourself to a healthier, more positive life? Who can you reach out to for support and suggestions as you rebuild?

Life is never stagnant. The purpose of living is to grow and change. At the same time, it’s human nature to try to avoid growth and change. This time in our world is a time when we can no longer avoid those things. So take the time to determine what you need to grow and change into the best version of yourself and your life.

How Normal is “Normal”?

One phrase that keeps popping up in news stories and online is “the new normal.” But what does “normal” even mean?

Usually when that phrase is used lately, it’s referring to the current state of restrictions and advisories caused by COVID-19. Those changes have become the way of doing things during the health crisis, and most of them are new to many of us. But are they “normal”?

Normal isn’t a consistent, objective thing. Just as each of us perceives things in our own way, each of us has our own “normal.” For some people with certain health or immune system issues, washing hands constantly and wearing masks any time they leave their home has always been normal. For some introverts, and people with some physical or mental health conditions, not leaving the house for days on end has always been normal.

The “new normal” we’re experiencing now is the same old normal for some of us. To others, it’s anything but normal. It’s difficult, complicated, and, we hope, very temporary.

Another phrase that shows up regularly is “back to normal.” What does that mean? Again, for some people, the current way of doing things *is* normal. If we’re using that phrase as shorthand for “returning to the way we did things before COVID-19,” “normal” will look very different depending on whom you ask. A lot of people consider leaving the house to go to work to be “normal”; those of us who work from home don’t see it that way at all.

When restrictions are lifted and things are reopened, we won’t be returning to exactly the way things were before regardless of what you consider to be “normal.” There will be changes in place to help people stay healthier. Hopefully, people will remember how all this felt, and will be more considerate of their health and of other people. I don’t believe it’s likely at all that things will go “back to the way they were.” Some things will be similar, but I don’t believe much, if anything, will be exactly the same.

Through all of this, people are worrying about whether their reactions are normal. Is it “normal” to be scared, angry, upset? Is it “normal” to have no reaction at all, or to even be thriving during this time?

The answer is… yes. It’s “normal” in that you are not the only one feeling or reacting that way. But more importantly, it’s normal because it is what is happening for you. And normal is subjective.

While we continue through this health crisis, and in any other crisis that comes, try to let go of what is “normal.” Think instead about what is happening for *you* and how that is affecting you. Normal doesn’t matter. What matters is you. If you are concerned about how you’re feeling or reacting, it doesn’t matter if it’s “normal,” it matters that you are concerned. And it’s okay to reach out for help if that’s the case.

“Normal” is a loaded word, and it’s one that you can probably tell I don’t think too highly of in general. Our world has changed, and will continue to change. People have reacted, are reacting, and will react in different ways. And whether it’s “normal” or not, it is okay.

Changing Part of Myself

My entire life, I’ve created stories. When I was too young to know how to write, I told the stories to my stuffed animals and dolls, or to any adults who would listen. Once someone showed me how to make those funny little squiggles on paper, I started writing down my stories.

In 1999, I started writing phonics-based stories and worksheets to use to help my special education students learn to read. The stories and worksheets helped my students so much I sought publication for them. Stories from Somerville and the Say, Read, Spell worksheets were published in early 2002. Until early 2020, those books consistently brought me income.

I kept writing other stories. I joined writers’ groups and websites. I learned to improve my writing skills. In 2009, my first ebook was published by a new digital publisher.

From 2009 until 2017, I had over eighty novels, novellas, and short stories published by various digital publishers and small presses. I self-published two or three things, but most of my work was put out by publishing companies. They paid me for my work; I didn’t pay them. (That’s a misconception a lot of people have about publishing. An author does not have to pay to have their work published. Publishing companies pay the author, usually in royalties, which are a percentage of the cost of each book sold.) Some of my books were erotic romance published under a pen name; some, published under something approximating my real name, were fiction for teenagers.

Beginning in 2012 or so, some of my publishers started going out of business. Others started playing sketchy games with royalty calculations. Many more authors started showing up on the market, and more publishers, along with authors who self-published, started putting out work. Promoting and marketing myself had always been difficult, and now my sales started to show it.

Thanks to a couple of crises in my personal life in 2014 and 2016, I reached a point where just attempting to write anything brought me to panic attacks, especially if I was trying to write any erotic romance. More of my publishers went out of business, until by 2016 only two were left, and I chose to stop working with one of them for various reasons.

I hung in there until 2017, but finally reached a point where my sales were too poor, and I had completely burned out by writing too much too fast at the peak of my career. I stopped writing. By that point, only 11 of my books, along with a couple of short stories, remained on the market.

Last weekend, I received a letter from the Stories from Somerville publisher informing me they were closing, and returning to me the rights for the books. I sat with that for a while and mulled things over, and decided it was time to pull my remaining romance and teen fiction as well. I contacted my remaining fiction publisher yesterday and asked them to return the rights to me.

None of this was easy. I’ve loved having the phonics books out there. My two author names, Karenna Colcroft and Jo Ramsey, had become part of my identity, as had “author” in general. But the reality is, while I’ve written things here and there (mostly blogs and short nonfiction articles) since 2017, I haven’t really *been* Karenna Colcroft or Jo Ramsey. I’ve been afraid to be. I’ve been tangled up in the panic and the “I’m a failure” thoughts associated with those names and that career. I’ve tried a few times to get back to writing under those names, and have yet to succeed.

Sometimes destruction is necessary to make way for new creations. In Hinduism, Shiva is the god of destruction, but that isn’t seen as a bad thing. It isn’t destruction as in “let’s get rid of it all,” it’s destruction as in, “Let’s make way for something better.” Like tearing down a dilapidated old house to build a new, sound one.

My past writing career had become a dilapidated old house, full of holes and structurally unsound. And so even though it’s a sad thing, and I admit I’ve been crying about it off and on, it was past time to tear it down and see if I can create anything new once it’s gone.

What To Say?

In the past week, our world has changed drastically. I’m not going to enumerate the changes, because if you have access to any news source at all, you already know.

I’ve had trouble focusing on accomplishing tasks for the past week and a half, since I started seeing news about colleges sending students home. One of those colleges was my daughter’s, and helping her navigate that massive change and the effects it might have on her graduation this May and her continuing to graduate school in the fall took a lot of my emotional bandwidth. Don’t get me wrong; I was grateful that she came to me for support and that I was able to help in some way.

According to what a friend of mine posted on Facebook, some are talking about the current crisis being part of a “great awakening.” Maybe so. I do believe our world and our Universe are shifting and changing… but then, I believe that is ALWAYS the case. I don’t believe it’s my place, or the place of any other human, to tell everyone what the Universe or any Creator power has in mind. I think it’s completely fine to share your own beliefs with others, but not to force those beliefs. Not to look at someone who’s lost a loved one to this illness and say, “It’ll be all right, this is just a great awakening,” or look at a parent struggling to feed and care for their children with schools, day cares, and workplaces closed and say, “Don’t worry, just think abundant thoughts and you’ll have everything you need.” (I have not seen the first one personally; I have seen the second.)

I believe this is a time that humanity might learn a few things about ourselves. I believe this is a time that might lead to greater understanding, tolerance, and kindness. But it starts with us *being* understanding, tolerant, and kind. It starts with supporting one another, not telling others they’re wrong for not believing the way you do. It starts with saying, “I believe” instead of stating your beliefs as facts. It starts with recognizing that not everyone believes what you do…and the acceptance of the possibility that you’re wrong. You might be right, but you might not be.

It starts with knowing that this crisis will pass, as crises have a tendency to do. Eventually, this illness will fade out. Schools, daycares, and workplaces will reopen. We’ll be able to get together with friends again, go out to eat, go to a movie. We’ll be able to walk into a grocery store and find what we need, instead of seeing aisles of empty shelves.

And maybe, when that time comes, we’ll all be a little less set in our ways, a little less “you’re wrong, I’m right,” and a little more open to the reality that we don’t know everything, we can’t say what the creative power in our Universe is thinking, and sometimes we just have to accept what happens and learn from it.

Discouragement and Recouragement (Is That a Word?)

When you’re trying to build a business, discouragement comes with the territory. The problem is that the discouragement leads to frustration and resentment, which leads to negative energy, which leads to the business continuing to be discouraging.

One of the things I’ve found as I’ve been working on RiverEvolutions/River Flow Healing for the past 4 years is that I get discouraged easily…which brings me further discouragement. Things don’t go the way I hope, so I decide I don’t feel like dealing with it. (To be fair, there have also been personal life things and health things that have contributed.)
But also, sometimes… well, okay, most of the time, I haven’t been clear on what I’m trying to create and build. I want a healing business. So what does that mean? What does it look like? Why do I want it?

I’ve been doing some pondering lately, because I reached another point where I couldn’t continue the way I was going and had to decide whether to continue at all. And I’ve realized a few things.

I’ve become unhappy with teaching Chios Energy Healing. I love the modality, and I think it’s highly beneficial, but *teaching* it has become problematic for me. Maybe it’s the way I’ve structured the instruction piece, or maybe I’m not as effective as I could be at reaching the students who would benefit from working with me–and with whom I would benefit from working. Whatever the reason, I’m finding that teaching Chios is not where my heart is, and not where my energy wants to go. I am eliminating offering Chios instruction effective immediately, other than for the students with whom I’m currently working.

I love doing Chios healing sessions. I want to do more of them. I would love to connect with more people who are interested in and would benefit from sessions. I need to create means of finding them.

Channeling scares me… but not because of the actual channeling. I have worked with my guide, a being of light called Shiva, for lifetimes. I feel safer with him than I do with most humans I know, and I know his wisdom and compassion. My fear comes from the worries that I’ll mess up somehow, such as by blocking what Shiva’s trying to say, or that people will think I’m a fake, a liar, or insane. Those are fears I’m working on overcoming, because I really love offering channeling to my clients. I like hearing what Shiva has to say, too. So I need to create/find more opportunities for offering this.

My Best Life Jumpstart program, a 12-week “create your best life” program combining 12 sessions of mindset coaching and 6 sessions of Chios, is available for those interested in beta-ing for me. (That just means you’re among the first to experience the program, and part of your investment will be committing to provide me with feedback and, if warranted, a testimonial.) I’m eager to see if this program is as effective as it feels to me from the planning side.

The cool thing about running a business–and, for that matter, living a life–is there’s always room for reinvention, refinement, and change. And that’s where I’m at right now. I hope you’ll be with me on the next part of my journey.

Change Hurts

In yoga teachings, there’s an affliction called parinamadukha, which translates essentially to “the pain that comes from change.” (I have to admit one of the reasons I remember this is that it’s a fun word to say, though the feeling/affliction is definitely NOT fun!)

It’s human nature to resist change in our lives, even when we know it’s for the best. Leaving a relationship is painful even when the relationship itself also hurts. Taking a new job can be terrifying. Moving to a new location is complicated, stressful, and painful, especially if we’re leaving a place and friends we’ve been around for a long time.

At the same time, though, change is part of life. It’s impossible to be alive and never go through any changes at all. Just for starters, we grow physically. We can’t decide as infants that our bodies are going to remain exactly the same for the rest of our lives. Many people’s brains also go through growth and change as they learn new things and have new experiences. Some growth and development happens whether we want it to or not.

Many of us also reach crossroads in our lives, where we have to make some kind of choice, which necessitates some kind of change. Even if we choose not to choose, we have chosen; and that choice causes a change in us. We then have to live with the choice we’ve made and how we feel about it, and whatever choice we’ve made will have an impact on us somehow. If we do make a choice, that choice might lead to things like ending a relationship, moving to a new place, changing jobs, etc.

I’ve spent the past several days dealing with a painful choice that is leading to painful changes. I’m not comfortable sharing what those are, but I will say that one change is the ending of some people’s presence in my life. People I would really rather keep around, except that doing so is becoming as painful as the thought of not having them around.

Most of us reach points in our lives where change has to happen. It’s completely human to feel fear and pain at those changes, to resist them and even deny them, and to need help getting through them. Ultimately, many of those changes end up being for the better. Even when they don’t, we can learn and grow from them.

It’s Pride Month…

I’m not sure how wide-spread Pride Month is, but I know in a lot of cities in the US, at least, there are events during the month of June to celebrate people who are LGBTQ+. As the parent of someone who fits into those letters somewhere, I’m glad to see these events exist. It isn’t about shoving one’s sexual orientation or gender in other people’s faces, and despite how offended some folks get, it isn’t about pissing people off either.

It’s about acknowledging the prejudice and discrimination those who are LGBTQ+ have faced throughout history–and continue to face today. It’s about acknowledging people as human beings, regardless of who they love or who they are. It’s about celebrating diversity, love, and respect.

In past years, I’ve gone to the Boston Pride Festival as someone who considered herself an ally. I’ve been an attendee and a volunteer. But I’ve felt like I was watching from the outside, and felt privileged to be allowed to be there.

This year, Pride means something different to me. After years of wondering why I grew up not feeling like a girl (and not particularly wanting to, if “girl” meant acting like the bullies and backstabbers I knew), and why that feeling persisted into adulthood, and after doing a lot of soul-searching and inner work, it finally made sense. I didn’t feel like a girl because my gender isn’t female. It isn’t male either. I’m agender.

Agender means not having a gender. It’s important to note that gender has nothing to do with anatomy/biology (that’s sex), or with whom someone is attracted to (that’s sexual orientation). Gender is who your brain tells you that you are, and how you identify. Although I was assigned female at birth, my brain was never comfortable with being considered female, and male didn’t fit right either.

Gender is a spectrum, not a binary. And this year during Pride Month, I’m going to celebrate having finally recognized where I fit on that spectrum.

Making Changes That Stick

It can be pretty easy to say, “I want to change my life. I want to create positive new things for myself.” Actually doing it, however, isn’t so easy.

Conscious creation is one name given to the process of making changes and attracting positive things into your life. The basic gist is that we are always creating our lives through our thoughts, emotions, actions, and energy, but many of us aren’t aware that we’re creating. Because we aren’t aware of it, crappy things happen, which makes us feel like crappy things will *always* happen, which makes more crappy things happen.

A note: My personal belief is that when some people talk about conscious creation, they phrase it in a way that comes across as seriously victim-blamey. “It’s all your fault that a traumatic thing happened to you, because you created it because you weren’t creating right.” I emphatically do NOT believe that.

While our energetic vibration does impact what comes into our lives, and our thoughts, emotions, and actions impact our energetic vibration, that does NOT mean it’s your fault when traumatic or other negative experiences come into your life. The whole point of conscious creation is *learning* how to be responsible for what you create. Things you create when you don’t know you have the power to create them aren’t your fault or necessarily your responsibility.

When we aren’t conscious of our creative power, and if we have a low energetic vibration, negatives come into our lives. And those negatives reinforce to us that negative things will happen, which makes us believe things will always be negative, which further lowers our vibration and brings more negative things.

(I’ll be talking more about energetic vibration and how to change it in a couple of weeks. For now, let’s just leave it that everyone has energy, and everyone’s energy vibrates at a different frequency. The higher the frequency, the more positive that person’s life is likely to be, and the more aware they’re likely to be of their creative power.)

Even if we’re aware that we can create things in our lives, sometimes we don’t use that creative power effectively. I can create enough money flowing into my bank account to pay my bills for the month, but if I stay stuck in, “Well, I paid them this month, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to pay them next month, money never shows up, I’m always broke,” that’s going to lower my vibration. And it’s going to create a continued lack of money, in which either I’m only able to pay my bills at the absolute last second possible, or, eventually, I’m unable to pay them at all.

Part of learning to consciously create our lives is learning to recognize the thoughts and emotions that hold us back from creating the most positive experiences and outcomes, and changing those to positive thoughts and emotions. That isn’t easy, and I don’t mean to imply otherwise. But it is possible to start taking steps.

First, when something negative happens, pay attention to what you’re thinking. Is it something like “Oh, crap, this isn’t good, but let’s see if I can fix it,” or more like “Crappy things always happen, my life is never going to go right”?

Second, make the conscious, intentional effort to change those thoughts. For example, if you’re thinking “crappy things always happen,” you might change that to “This is just one thing. Plenty of good things happen to me too.”

Third, identify the emotion you’re feeling–and remember, you *feel* emotions. You are not the emotion, you are the person *feeling* it. So instead of “I’m angry,” try looking at it as “I *feel* angry.”

Fourth, if you’re feeling a negative emotion, think about something that causes you to laugh, like a funny TV show you watched, or a memory of a time you felt especially happy. Let that thought or memory bring that positive feeling back to you.

Learning to create your own positive reality takes a lot of work and conscious effort. And it isn’t necessarily something you master. I’ve been working with this concept for well over a decade, and I still have times of “Everything crappy happens to me” or feeling angry, stressed, or scared about circumstances in my life. But I keep working, because even when I feel out of control or fear that I can’t bring the good things, I know the truth.

And the truth is that each of us is an abundantly powerful creator. We just need to learn how to use that power.

Following Through on Change

Deciding to make a change isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of insight and inner reflection to identify the change you want to make, and even more insight and inner reflection to figure out how to make it. The “how” might require research, seeking support from others, or even seeking professional help or support. Going through all of that can be hard work. Just recognizing the need for change and choosing to make the changes is courageous.

But in some ways, deciding to change, although it’s not easy in general, is the easiest part of the process. The toughest part for many people is actually following through.

New Year’s resolutions are a perfect case in point. Someone sees a need for change, for example the common “I need to lose ten pounds and eat healthier foods.” They say they’re going to do the thing. They tell other people they’re going to do the thing. They list the healthier foods they plan to eat, and maybe set an exercise goal. They might plan a reward for themself when they meet the goal, like buying that shirt they’ve been coveting. They set their intention: “I intend to be at a healthy weight and to do things to maintain it.”

But then the time comes to implement the plan. To start working on that intention. For some people, that’s when it falls apart. They have the list of healthier foods, but they still have holiday leftovers they want to finish off before they start the healthy eating thing. They have an exercise plan but it involves going to a gym, and they can’t seem to find time to do that. Even for people who do manage to start on the goal, plans might start to fall by the wayside after a week or two. They get frustrated and discouraged, and give up.

Deciding you’re going to change takes guts. But making lists and plans, and telling people what you’re going to do, isn’t enough. Setting intentions and putting the right energy out into the Universe isn’t enough. You have to take the actions too. If you want to lose weight, you have to actually eat the healthy foods and do the exercises. If you want to get a better handle on your temper, you have to actually realize you’re getting angry and walk away from the situation. And so on.

Too many people seem to think that all they have to do is set an intention and maybe say an affirmation or two, and what they want will come to pass. They might genuinely be unaware of the actions they need to take–and there are some coaches and other practitioners who will actually say that all you have to do is intend it and it will come to pass, so some people operate under the belief that that’s true. (Personally, I consider it extremely unethical and possibly harmful to tell anyone that intending it and thinking it is sufficient to actually change and grow, but that’s another post for another time.) Other people know they have to act in order to change, but they find reasons not to take those actions.

Every step of the process of change takes insight, determination, and courage. The step of following through on making the change also takes commitment. When you see a change you need to make, don’t only talk about it. Commit. Find the support you need in order to take those actions, and take them. And believe in your power to create the life you want.

Why Change?

Why change? Good question.

Life is a constant, ongoing process of change and growth. Unless you’re really, really determined, it’s pretty much impossible not to grow and change as you move through life. But some of that growth and change isn’t a conscious choice. It’s in response to things that occur in our lives, or simply the result of getting chronologically older and gaining more knowledge and experience. Change happens.

Conscious change, though, takes work, and to do that work, most people want a reason. That’s where getting tripped up and tangled in others’ opinions can happen. Changing solely for others doesn’t benefit anyone. For change to be effective and long-lasting, we need a self-focused reason to make it.

Sometimes we recognize something about ourselves that we think we might benefit from changing. We might not know how to start making those changes, but at least we know we want to make them. We’re consciously choosing to do something about a problematic trait or habit. We might need help figuring out how to change it, but it’s our decision, and if we do the work, it’s likely to become a permanent, positive change.

There are times when something about us is a problem and we don’t recognize it. Or we think it’s a problem that doesn’t require change when it actually does. In those cases, someone else might have to point out the issue to us so we become more aware. But even then, it’s still more effective to make the change because we see a reason to. Because we see a benefit to ourselves as well as others.

Early on after my kids and I moved in with my husband, when I was still working through some serious issues and still getting a handle on emotional regulation, sometimes I raised my voice when I was angry with my kids. I didn’t realize how much it upset my husband, or my kids, until my husband took me aside and told me it was really hard for him hearing me like that. My kids also told me they wished I would yell less.

I knew I was still working on effective emotional management. After nearly four decades of not being able to display any negative emotions for fear of what other people would do to me, I was finally in a place where I felt safe enough to stop suppressing the emotions. Unfortunately, that meant sometimes the emotion came out with an intensity that was out of proportion to whatever was going on. I knew this, but I didn’t always realize when the emotional display was out of proportion.

When my husband and kids had that conversation with me, I didn’t say or think, “I need to change for them.” They were the cause of me recognizing the need for change, but they couldn’t be the only reason for the change. I needed to change my behavior, and double down on learning better emotional regulation, for myself above all.

I chose to do the work and improve my emotional regulation because my behavior was hurting people I loved deeply and wanted to avoid hurting. Because the person I wanted to be was someone who took care of and protected those I loved. Because when I raised my voice and felt my temper rising to the boiling point, I saw in myself the people who had abused me, and I hated seeing that in myself. I wanted to build a life in which I could love myself. I wanted to create a space where my children might feel the love and safety I hadn’t had as a child or during my marriage to their father. I wanted to become the person I wanted to be.

When you identify a change you think you should make, take a moment to figure out why you want to make it. Are you doing what someone else has told you to do? Are you trying to change something about yourself that you’re okay with, but someone else isn’t okay with it and you’re trying to make them happy? If it’s a change someone else brought to your attention, do you have a self-focused reason to make it, or are you only doing it for them?

Ultimately, the one person on earth whose opinion of you matters, is you. You’re the one who has to live with who you are. You can’t “make” someone else happy, because you don’t control what anyone else feels or thinks. You can only create whether you are happy with yourself. So don’t just be the change you wish to see; be the primary reason you wish to see it.