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.

Rest and Reset

As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts lately, I’ve been taking things a little easier since the pandemic started. I’m not out there on social media and the like discussing RiverEvolutions as much, and in fact have pretty much stopped promoting the business.

This was partly due to a drastic reduction in clients and students, but it was also a conscious choice. At first, I fell into the trap that was circulating all over the internet: “Use this time to build your business, learn new skills, do ALL THE THINGS, because now you have the time you kept saying you didn’t have. And if you don’t use this time wisely, you’re lazy.”
Which, to be blunt, is bullshit. Our world has imploded. Pandemic. Protests. Being told not to leave our homes. Being afraid of getting ill every time we do leave. We’re living through a traumatic crisis situation, and those situations are not optimal times to try to do more than we’ve ever done before. 

They’re times to slow down, be kind to ourselves, and realize that it isn’t that we suddenly have time to do all the things. Instead, our time and energy are being diverted to maintaining our homes and our mental health. And that can take a lot more energy and time than going to work every day and leading our “normal” lives.

When I realized that–something I arguably should have realized sooner than I did, because I have a trauma history and I know what trauma feels like for me–I chose to say, “I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to try to attract clients and students right now. I don’t have the bandwidth to be an entrepreneur. And that is okay.”

As if that point hadn’t been driven home enough to me, last week something new cropped up that is taking even more bandwidth from me. What I thought would be a quick doctor’s visit for a COVID test and strep throat test turned into more tests, including an ultrasound, and the revelation that I have a growth on my thyroid. A growth that, statistically, is likely to be benign–but it might not be.

Over the weekend, I ended up in the hospital overnight after going to the emergency room because I was having trouble swallowing anything, even water. More testing showed that the growth is larger than when I had the ultrasound, which might be because they did a scan that is more accurate than ultrasounds, but it’s still a concern.

Yesterday, I had a biopsy. It will be at least a week before I get the results of that.

So, RiverEvolutions is still here and isn’t going away. I’m still available to do channeling sessions. Chios Energy Healing sessions are limited because I get tired when I do them and I’m overly tired anyway, but because I do not use my own energy for Chios sessions (I use universal energy, which flows *through* me but is not affected *by* me), I am still available for these sessions. I’ve also begun making jewelry and art with stones, shells, and sea glass from the beach near my home, and I’m starting to sell some pieces.

But I’m putting my primary focus on myself right now. On my own health and healing. And on my own rest and resetting. Because you don’t have to do all the things, and sometimes the most important person in your life, and the most important focus of your time and energy, is yourself.

Above All, Harm None

So much information is circulating right now about COVID-19, medications, vaccines, and the like. You see it on the news and on social media. Maybe you hear it from friends or family members.

Some of it is accurate. Some is not. Some is true, and some is blatantly false.

The problem with the inaccurate or false information is that it has the potential to cause harm. Think about the claims from the so-called leader of the US government about a certain drug that supposedly could treat COVID-19. People took that drug. Trials were conducted. And people died as a result, because the drug was not a good treatment for COVID, and was in fact dangerous to people with certain health conditions.

I’ve seen a number of people lately circulating blatant lies on social media and calling them “facts.” Things like “this vaccine contains pieces of human embryos,” or “this herb will cure that illness, but the medicine your doctor told you to take won’t.”

This isn’t a matter of differing opinions. When something has been scientifically proven, and someone else says, “Nope, that’s wrong, this is true even though I have no proof,” that isn’t opinions. That is falsehoods. Those statements have a high potential to cause harm to people who will listen because they distrust medicines, or because they believe in conspiracies that don’t exist, or because the person spreading the false information is a “lightworker” and that apparently means they must know what they’re talking about.

I respect people’s right to believe what they believe. But when they spread those beliefs as facts and others suffer harm as a result, I lose my respect for them. I lose my respect for people who spread information without proof and directly harm others by doing so.

I don’t bother calling these people out anymore. I don’t have the emotional bandwidth for constant online battles with strangers. There’s zero chance of my convincing them that they are harming others, and there’s zero chance of them convincing me they’re right when I can research and find multiple sources proving them wrong. Instead I choose to block them and post on my own timeline or blog the reasons I believe certain information is harmful.

People can draw their own conclusions. I personally do not have the time or energy to devote to conspiracy theories, false statements, and harmful misinformation.

I urge everyone to do their research before sharing information. To have sources available to back your point–preferably reputable, factual sources. To trust yourself and the knowledge available to you instead of thinking “This doesn’t really feel right, but that person’s a healer so they must know what they’re talking about.” 

I urge everyone, above all else, to consider–honestly and fully–whether their words could cause harm, and if they could, to refrain from sharing those words. Above all, harm none.

Things Are Shifting

I’m realizing that a lot of things have shifted for me. I’m not sure whether depression is playing a role, or the current health situation (which may be leading to depression, honestly), or something else entirely.

I was still working on my business, RiverEvolutions, when all this started, but I hadn’t had a paying client in months, and I had only two Chios Energy Healing students. A few weeks into the shutdowns, one of my students finished her Level 3 studies!! The other one completed Level 1!

So now I have no students or clients… and to be honest, I haven’t felt horrible about that. I like doing Chios healing, and I like doing channeling, but I was starting to feel very burned out on the constant effort to attract clients while not actually attracting any. It’s been a nice breather not stressing about “am I posting the right thing in the right place.”

I haven’t felt any call to start promoting RiverEvolutions again, and that’s the part in which I’m not sure whether depression is playing a role. Am I not interested in building (rebuilding) the business because it’s just not right for me at this point, or because I’m depressed and don’t feel like doing much of anything a lot of the time? Though it may also have something to do with the business seeming to gain traction during the first 6-8 months (I started really working on it in Nov. 2018) and then pretty much falling flat after about August of 2019. Which does feel depressing.

(For clarity: When I say “depression,” I am legitimately diagnosed with depression, as in a mental health/medical condition. When I say “depressing,” I mean both that it feeds my illness and that it causes me to *feel* depressed as in an emotion.)

This isn’t the first time I’ve lost interest or desire for something. I used to read incessantly. I would read one or two full-length novels in a week. (I remember reading The Stand in under 2 weeks, and that’s a long-ass book!) I also used to write incessantly. But somewhere during my writing career, when I started getting published, I started feeling like I had to spend *all* my time writing. I stopped reading much.

And then my writing career went downhill fast. An incident in my personal life caused me to start feeling panicky about writing the more explicit scenes in my romance novels, and the poor sales started causing me to feel anxious and panicky about writing at all because even if one of my publishers accepted my manuscript, I felt like I would disappoint them by not earning them the money they expected. (I was published by royalty-paying publishers. I sent them a book, and if they chose to publish it, they paid me royalties, i.e. a percentage of the sale price of each book sold. Sometimes they paid me money up front as well. I never paid anyone to publish my books; the publishers took their cut out of the sales of the books just as I got my cut out of it.)

My last published book came out August 2017. Currently, NONE of my novels remain on the market, partly due to publishers closing and partly because I finally gave up and asked for my rights back. I think two or three anthologies, each containing one of my short stories, are still available, but I’m not sure. I haven’t completed anything fictional in at least 2 years. Mostly my writing now is ridiculously long Facebook posts like this one.

Depression definitely played a role in the writing not being a thing. I’m pretty sure it’s playing a role in not doing much with RiverEvolutions right now. It likely plays a role in not reading much, because one effect of depression is that it can cause loss of concentration/focus, so even when I try to read, sometimes I’ll stare at a page for several minutes and not take in a single word. (Though I am rereading The Stand right now. It seemed apropos.) That lack of focus also contributes to my not writing; I’ll start a fictional story but lose interest in it or even forget I started it.

I’m making art and wire-wrapped necklaces with stones, shells, and sea glass I find on the beach near my home. That’s bringing me joy currently, because it’s something that reminds me of summers at my grandparents’ cottage in Nova Scotia, where I could wake up every morning and walk down a flight of wooden steps to the beach. That was one of the few places in my childhood where I felt completely safe and loved, so the connection is wonderful. I’m selling the things I make, but I’m not necessarily *trying* to sell them, lest I end up feeling burned out with these as well.

I think my point in this is partly introspection, but also partly because I know others who are going through a period of “not feeling like it,” or feeling depressed or anxious, or being uninterested in or not having time for things they enjoyed, and I want to say you aren’t alone. It may also be to remind *myself* of all the things I have actually done in my life, because one of the things depression does is try to convince me I haven’t done anything worth noting.

Unseen Effects of COVID-19

Note: This appeared as an article in my May 20 newsletter. I have chosen to share it as a blog post as well in the hope of reaching a wider audience.

In Stephen King’s novel The Stand, about a manmade pandemic ravaging the world, he devotes an entire chapter to snippets about the people who die because of the illness but not *from* the illness. People who are injured and can’t find help because everyone around them has died. People who take their lives because they can’t tolerate the situation. People who are murdered by others whose sanity is slipping due to watching the illness take everyone and everything.

The Stand, obviously, is a work of fiction, and unlike “Captain Trips,” COVID-19 is not manmade. However, there are some similarities, among them the fact that COVID is having unseen, indirect effects.

Most people aren’t wired to spend weeks on end not leaving their homes. Being so isolated, even if you’re staying in contact with family and friends by video chat or phone, is not usual for us, and can have a negative impact on mental health. The constant information, true or false, that is being shoved at us by sources from the nightly news to the conspiracy theorists on social media raises our own fears and stress.

Being unable to get a break from the people one lives with can have a negative effect as well, even if we’re with people we love and get along with. For those who are essentially trapped in homes with abusers, it’s even worse.

The virus that’s spreading isn’t only the illness of COVID-19. It’s the side effects. The stress, fear, and panic. The increased abuse of those who are now unable to escape to school or work. The arguments among even couples and families who usually get along well. The arguments and endings of friendships among those who refuse to listen to facts and can’t find a middle ground on beliefs.

As restrictions are lifted in various areas, some of these side effects might lessen. Being able to go outside again might help people feel less isolated and trapped. But some effects will remain, and lifting restrictions will bring more impacts such as increased anxiety about being exposed to the illness, panic from people who are unable to wear masks due to claustrophobia, PTSD, or other issues but are told they have to wear them, etc. And the issue of abuse is certainly not going away, especially with schools still closed at least until the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

As we continue to navigate this time, please take care of your mental health as well as your physical. If you are struggling, please reach out for help; likewise, if you are experiencing abuse, seek help if you can safely do so. Talk to friends or family you can trust, or contact a helpline such as the Crisis Textline (741741) for mental health issues, 1-800-799-7233 or thehotline.org for domestic abuse, or 1-800-422-4453 for help in dealing with child abuse. 

If you have the emotional and mental resources to handle helping others, reach out to your friends and family to make sure they’re managing all right. Some people don’t feel able to reach out for help out of fear of being seen as “weak” or “attention whores.” Sometimes all it takes is someone calling or messaging to say, “Hey, I was thinking of you, do you need anything?” to tip the balance from someone choosing to die to them choosing to live. Even people who aren’t at that low a point are likely to benefit from knowing that someone cares.

Too many people in our society (and in my opinion, even a few are too many) live by the basic philosophy of “I have what I need, why should I care about anyone else?” Now is not the time to live that way. Please consider others. Take care of yourself *first*; you know, that whole oxygen mask thing. But if you are able to do so without stressing yourself, please look out for others as well. Let’s all do what we can to minimize the effects of this virus–both the direct effects and the indirect ones.

It’s Fine Not to Be Fine

How are you doing?

When someone asks you that, do you reply honestly, or do you cover up how you’re really feeling? Do you say, “I’m fine,” when you’re anything but?

Right now, a lot of us are anything but fine. As the pandemic continues, people are fearing loss of income. Some are struggling to survive in homes that were unsafe even when they were able to leave from time to time. Some are wondering if they’ll have homes to survive in by the time this is over.

Marriages and relationships are ending. So are some friendships, either because of inability to stay connected or because people are realizing that their ideals and beliefs are diametrically opposed to those of their friends.

It’s a difficult time, even for those who seem to have everything together.

When you answer the question I asked at the beginning of this post, do you say you’re fine? And if so, is it true?

Many of us are taught to cover up the negatives in our lives. We’re told that it isn’t okay to talk about feeling stressed or afraid or angry. We’re told that no one wants to know if we’re having trouble with our finances or our families.

We’re told no one wants to hear if we’re experiencing abuse or other harm.

It’s time to change that conditioning. Right now, a lot of people are not fine–and that is okay. It is okay to talk about the not-fineness. It is okay to say you’re afraid or stressed or angry.

It is okay to reach out for help, whether to people you trust in your life or to organizations or professionals, if you are experiencing harm or abuse.
Even though there are widely different ways of handling the current crisis, and people are experiencing hugely different impacts, we are all experiencing the same crisis. We aren’t all “in the same boat”; far from it. But our boats are all in the same ocean of fear, uncertainty, and crisis.

So speak your truth when someone asks how you’re doing. Speak it so you can get help or support. So you can know you’re heard. So you can know you aren’t alone. Speak it so others know it’s okay for them to speak their truth.

You don’t have to be “fine” right now. Really. You don’t.

(If you are experiencing abuse, please seek help. In the US, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website http://www.thehotline.org. For support and help in dealing with child abuse in the US, visit http://www.childhelp.org or call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You might also receive help or resources from your local law enforcement agency. If you are concerned that someone you know is experiencing abuse, please don’t remain silent or figure it’s none of your business. Reach out to them, to one of the hotlines named, or to law enforcement.)

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.

Free Will =/= Freedom from Consequences

Free will is vital. All of us, as sentient beings, have the freedom to make our own choices and decisions. Mind control isn’t a thing, whether it’s by other people or by higher powers; we were all created to be able to choose our actions for ourselves.

What people forget when the subject of free will or freedom to choose comes up is that freedom to choose does not equal freedom from the consequences of that choice. If you choose to go skating on thin ice, you have the freedom to do so, but that doesn’t mean you won’t fall through the ice. If you choose to drive fifty miles an hour in a thirty mile an hour zone, you have the freedom to do that too, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get a speeding ticket.

Too many people, when confronted with the consequences of their actions, try to argue that “I have free will! I have freedom to do this!” Yep, you do… and you’ve done it, and there are consequences. You do not avoid the results, whether positive or negative, of your actions just because you have the freedom to act in the first place.

One of the biggest consequences of ignoring and fighting against restrictions during our current health crisis isn’t that you’re breaking the rules. It isn’t even that you might get sick, since you have the freedom to choose whether or not you get sick–and whether or not you die. The biggest consequence is that you might cause *someone else* to get sick and die. And doing so is a violation of *their* free will. 

Free will allows for you to commit actions that might harm yourself or others. It allows you to act in a way that violates someone else’s free will. You have the freedom to choose to do those things. However… why would you choose to harm anyone? Why would you choose to take away their freedom of choice when you rail against someone doing the same to you?

Free will does not equal freedom from consequences. If you harm others, there will be consequences for your actions. If you take away someone else’s free will, you may face consequences. And the fact that you have free will doesn’t change that. You are absolutely free to make whatever choices you make–but you are not free from whatever effects those choices bring you.

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.