Thursday, October 22, 2015

An honest pause

I haven't been beating myself up over my sporadic blogging habits as much as I used to these days, but when I really stop to think about this blog and all the opportunities that have come out of it, I feel really sad. It's almost as if a close friend has moved away, and while we still talk and see each other every now and then, it's not the same. There's been a change. There's been a shift. I'm far from being the person I was when I started blogging 4 years ago, and that's both a good thing and a bad thing.

I know I've given adequate reasons for my sporadic appearances, but the fact that I've strayed so far from the soul searching explorer I was when I first started has me feeling pretty down on myself. I feel like I've taken too many stops along my journey to observe scenery and waste time. I've veered off my path and have pretended it doesn't bother me. I reach occasional milestones and then don't try as hard to reach new ones. The passion has burned at times and fizzled at others.

When I first started this blog, I was bursting at the seams with passion, ideas and potential. I made it my mission to do something writing related every day, and I never settled for less than what I wanted to achieve. I knew exactly what to say and exactly how to say it. I didn't care about followers, money or notoriety, but some of that stuff followed anyway because the passion and work ethic came first. But as I've grown over the years, reality has settled in and grown-up responsibilities have taken priority. I have more bills now. I have to buy a car. I need another job (or two or three). I don't get out as much as I should and barely know what to write about outside of what happens in my brain, my heart, and the walls of my home. My ability to inspire others has diminished because I can barely inspire myself anymore.

In short, I need to remember how to live before I can remember how to write.

Some not so fun facts for you:

- I've been trying to write a new Tiny Buddha post for 3 months. It's taken me 3 months to write this one post, and it's still not finished. It might not ever be finished because it feels so forced at this point. The ones I've written before have been written in a couple of days, if not a single sitting.

- I want to write more stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul, but the topics I find fill me with nothingness. "I don't know which story I should tell for that one," I think to myself. And I honestly don't. That may make me sound like the laziest bastard ever, but I'm telling you...I feel like I don't have very many stories to tell anymore. I've told all the stories worth telling already, sometimes in many different forms. I have to create new ones. I have to find the stories because unfortunately, the stories won't find me.

- Almost every blog idea I've come up with this month has been cast aside in favor of paid work and the book I'm trying to write.

- I have 16 webpages bookmarked in a folder called "Writing" on my laptop. They are full of resources, tutorials, publications seeking submissions, articles about overcoming writer's block and anxiety, and so much more. I never look at them. I rarely open them. I have nothing to say in response to them.

- I compare myself to other writers constantly and tell myself how much better I could be doing. I never used to do that. Other writers inspired me. They never made me feel threatened or inadequate. We were all on the same team. Now I feel like the awkward kid jogging behind everyone else and not even bothering to keep up. Mainly because I feel like I don't have the energy to.

- This year has been one of the worst years of my life. I'm trying to turn my stress, pain and disappointment into art, but I barely know how. There are people out there who have it way worse than I do. Who am I to complain?

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to stop pushing so hard. I'm going to do what I have to do to pay my bills, pay my dues, and pay my future self, even if certain writing ventures suffer for it. I'm going to believe that my future self will be less shitty than my current self. I'm going to choose sooner over later. I'm going to take a vacation with one of my best friends and see and do things I've never seen and done, take risks that need to be taken, and find stories that are waiting to be told. I'm going to finish writing my book. I'm going to treat my fellow writers as teammates rather than rivals. I'm going to stop giving people a reason to assume I do nothing all day. I'm going to accept the fact that adulthood can no longer be put off, no matter how scary and overwhelming it is to be an adult. I'm going to slowly cut ties with people and things I depend on too much and learn how to depend more on myself. I'm going to remind myself that the soul searching journey is an ongoing one and that peace, happiness and clarity are fleeting. And I'm going to continue writing for this blog because I can't ever see myself giving it up after all it has done for me. I just need to take an honest pause so I can give it what it deserves.

BUT DON'T PANIC. I know this sounds like a break-up post, but it's not. I hate those. I will always blog when I feel inspired or have something to say. But I don't feel inspired right now, and I don't know what to say.

I will be back as soon as I do.

<3 Madison  

Monday, September 7, 2015

5 things my angry, bruised and lost inner self wants to say

Today feels like a "mentally throw up all over my blog" sort of day, but I can only hope you find something inspiring here.

1. I used to have three happy, healthy dogs. They were my family. They were my friends.

We had to put one of them down in November of last year, which pretty much destroyed a part of me. I will get to honor him in an upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul book. But not even a full year later, another one had to be unexpectedly put down. And she was only 5 years old, even though the average lifespan of her breed is up to 15 years. She only got 5 of them.

I don't understand why time feels so brief and loss feels so heavy, but I do know that the people and things you love can be yanked out from under you at the drop of a hat. Stop fighting over shit that doesn't matter. Stop sticking your nose in business that isn't yours. Stop digging holes of drama and resentment. Stop waiting to tell someone what they mean to you. Stop believing that you have all the time in the world. And stop believing that having feelings and caring deeply about something/someone is a weakness. It's not.

2. A creative or freelance job is still a job. Don't ever let anybody tell you different. Creative people work harder and pour more of themselves into their work than most people realize. I constantly have to wear a filter when talking about my work, whether I want to complain about it a little or simply explain it to someone who doesn't get it. I hate the redundant questions, the blank stares, and the silent judgment. When I tell certain people about my job, I might as well be telling them I'm secretly an alien or something. Is it really THAT hard to understand? I write things, I submit those things, and then people pay me. If you get paid to produce something, you have a job. Just because it doesn't fit someone's narrow definition of what a job is doesn't mean it's not legitimate. So if you're a disheartened fellow creative screaming at me to "PREACH IT" right now, I tip my hat to you for working hard at what you truly love and daring to be different. It takes a lot of courage, passion and resilience to do creative work for a living. You are on the right track, and you will change lives. Not very many people can say the same.

3. I think love should be greater than fear, pain, confusion and conflict. Call me a hopeless romantic, but simply having pure love in your life is worth the risk of the messiness that comes along with it. I used to feel differently. If I had the slightest inkling of uncertainty about someone, I pushed them away before later coming to realize that there will be some degree of doubt and uncertainty with EVERY person you become involved with. You have no possible way of knowing how something will turn out unless you're blatantly surrounded by red flags and warning bells.

It is a beautiful thing to love fearlessly and unapologetically. You may get hurt more easily than people who guard themselves, but guarded people miss out on so much in the end. Love is messy no matter what. But I will always welcome it, regardless of timing, questions, risks and obstacles.

4. I sometimes wonder what happened to the person I was before the reality of a writing lifestyle and the discouragement of paying my dues swept into my life at breakneck speed. I was so full of hope, possibilities, and faith in myself. I was overflowing with ideas, and I did something every day to bring myself closer to a more successful tomorrow. That self still comes out every now and then, and I've managed to accomplish some pretty cool things, but I am most definitely not living up to my potential. And I wish I was. I wish I could go back to the self who was unscathed by writer's block and the harsh realities of a creative life.

5. I posted this on my Facebook page the other day, but I want to post it again here because I think it's an important reminder:

Every person you meet is on their own journey and experiencing life in a way and at a pace that makes sense to THEM. The only life experience you need to be focusing on is your own.

Calling someone ugly doesn't make you any prettier.
Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter.
Calling someone slow doesn't make you any faster.

Every SECOND you spend criticizing someone else could instead be spent improving yourself. Judging others is such an energy-sucking and futile activity. If you can't contribute something positive, don't contribute anything at all.      

<3 Madison 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Should feelings have an expiration date?

Raise your hand if you've ever been in one (or all) of the following scenarios:

~ Crying over something/someone you lost several months or years ago

~ Getting angry over something you thought you had adequately resolved last week

~ Feeling like a radically changed and empowered person one day and a weak, hot mess the next

*awkwardly raises hand on all counts*

It has been said that grief does not have an expiration date, which is totally true. But what about our other feelings? Should they have an expiration date?

Are we allowed to get angry over something that once felt resolved and justified? Are we allowed to be embarrassed about something that happened days or even years ago? Are we allowed to suddenly be afraid of something we thought we weren't afraid of anymore? Are we allowed to get our feelings hurt all over again by the mere memory of something that hurt our feelings in the past?

I'd like to say yes. I think we are allowed. But that still doesn't stop me from occasionally feeling like my ever-fluctuating emotions aren't justified. Sometimes I drag people through the mud with me without meaning to. Sometimes I behave in an overly dramatic manner. Sometimes I analyze the absolute SHIT out of something that may be better off left alone. And sometimes I simply feel like I don't have the right to have intense feelings about something that is over and done with.

I don't have the answers to this emotional phenomena, which is why the title of this post is a question rather than a statement or an idea. I rarely know how to deal with my own feelings. I'm rarely able to tell the difference between what's worth bringing up and what's worth letting go. Sometimes I wish my feelings and thoughts had an off switch, but if that were the case, blog posts such as this one would not exist.

So with that said, I'm handing the torch off to you guys today. Should certain feelings have an expiration date? How much past analyzing is allowed without getting a slap on the wrist from the personal growth industry? How can you tell the difference between what should be fixed and what should be left alone?

I need a friend.

<3 Madison    

Monday, August 24, 2015

A little epiphany about fear

Fear is an elusive subject for me. It's tricky to define, tricky to conquer, and tricky to write about. In fact, I usually steer clear of posts and books about fear because so few of them offer up anything new. So I don't blame you if the mere title of this post bores you to tears.

As most of you may know, I have pretty high anxiety levels. I get myself worked into a frenzy over the smallest things. Making and posting this video felt like a huge accomplishment to me, even though most people might consider it a simple task. I never, ever thought I would have the guts to put myself out there like that, but I did. And even better, I received a good response. Some of you were even greedy enough to ask me to post more videos! (Not happening, folks.) ;-)

Facing fears has been something of a project of mine lately. Proving myself worthy of the things I'm afraid of has been like a minor addiction. I've been inspired to work on my verbal communication skills, open up to people more than I think I ever have, start setting goals again, take risks, and look for opportunities to better myself both personally and professionally. I haven't made any sweeping changes in my life (I prefer baby steps), but some seeds have certainly been planted in the right places.

And the more I learn about fear, the easier it is to face. There's still a lot I don't know and a lot I need to work on, but I experienced a pretty inspiring epiphany the other day: The lead-up to the thing you're afraid of is WAY worse than the actual thing you're afraid of. 

The hour before the job interview or first date.
The plane ride before the skydiving.
The sleepless night before the big decision, presentation, or other work/life experience.

But once you're face to face with your fear and have reached the point of no return, anxiety tends to dissipate. You made it. The thing is happening. There's no turning back. And most importantly of all, you're still alive and well!

It's a comfort for me to know that the build-up of tension and nerves is the worst part --- not whatever it is I'm afraid of. Once I've taken the jump, it can't get much worse. In fact, it's usually all uphill from there.

And don't even get me started on the relief, joy, and/or sense of accomplishment you feel once it's over! Most of the time, reward and growth can be found on the other side of fear. By simply getting to that other side, in whatever capacity makes sense, you've already made a ton of progress and shown yourself what you're capable of. It's a wonderful feeling.

Class dismissed.

<3 Madison

Monday, August 10, 2015

Choosing your army

I've never been one of those people who has tons of friends and acquaintances. I haven't been in a ton of meaningful relationships, and it still baffles me that it's so hard for me to talk to and reach out to people when I'm not typing words behind a computer screen. Friends and family have come and gone like the weather, love interests have moved on with impressive speed, and meaningful moments of human interaction have turned to dust.

Maintaining relationships is hard, and creating new ones is even harder. 

The redeeming factor of this disheartening fact and seemingly endless struggle in my life is that I don't need a ton of people by my side to be happy. I've discovered that the less friends you have, the easier it is to actually keep up with them.

I only have 25 friends on Facebook. (Yes, I finally joined. Double yes, I regret it at times.) I don't see that number increasing anytime soon, nor do I send friend requests to people I don't know or have no interest in truly connecting with. That's huge for me. It's interesting that the people who have the largest social media followings are the people who tend to feel the most alone.

For the most part, genuine connections and interactions are extremely undervalued these days. For so many years, I've struggled to understand why so few people seemed to accept me or want to spend time with/talk to me, and I've recently decided that a few people is better than none at all. Why obsess over who doesn't like you when you could turn your attention to who does?

I can count my friends on one hand and my acquaintances on about three (not that I have three hands). And I'm okay with that now more than ever. The best part about my little friend group is that each person fulfills me in different ways. They are all unique people who fill unique roles, and maybe that's what finding "your people" and choosing your army is all about. I know who to turn to when I want to laugh, who to turn to when I want to bear my soul, who to turn to when I want to be spontaneous, and who to turn to when I simply want to hang out and do nothing.

Here's what I've learned about finding and keeping your own army of companions:

1. If you have to work for their affection, they are not your friend. 

This is so important that I want to annoyingly say it again in all caps. IF YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR THEIR AFFECTION, THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND. In middle school (some of the worst years of my entire life), I spent more energy focusing on how to impress people than I did on my math homework. I manipulated my brain into thinking that people who didn't like me at all were my friends. I cringe just thinking about it. It took me until the end of 8th grade to find a group of people who seemed to genuinely enjoy my company. Although it's nice and perfectly normal to want to impress your friends to some extent, it's even nicer to know for a fact that they like you just as you are. You will never have to question how your real friends feel about you.

2. Having things in common is wonderful, but differences keep things interesting. 

Some of the closest friends I've had in my life have been like my polar opposites, yet we've still gotten along great. So many people stress the importance of finding common interests, but too many common interests can get old really fast. I love being introduced to new things and new ways of thinking. I like to be challenged from time to time or have silly debates over whether or not reading books is better than playing video games. I like the sense of being changed in a good, healthy way by someone who has something to teach me.

3. Relationships take time and patience. 

As nice as it would be for a friendship or relationship to effortlessly blossom on day one, it rarely happens. It takes time to warm up to and get to know people. It takes time for someone to become a worthy and integral part of your life. It takes time for relationships to evolve into what they are meant to become. I often get impatient with the process of getting as close to someone as I'd like to be, but rushing things never works. I've been on both ends of that spectrum. That said, it shouldn't take forever to form a real connection with someone. If that's the case, there is resistance coming either from you or the other person. Find people who love you as much as you love them. They are out there somewhere.    

4. Everyone you love is going to hurt you at some point, whether it's on a small scale or a large scale. Deciding whether or not to keep them in your life depends on the ratio of pain and happiness.  

Getting close to someone opens the risk of being let down by them. And if you're a part of someone's life long enough, they will eventually disappoint you. Does this mean you should run for the hills? Hell no. Deciding who is worth keeping in your life comes down to how they make you feel in the grand scheme of things. Do they drain you and constantly put you down, or do they fill you with joy and make you a better person? Love and friendship means you are willing to forgive the bad and only look for the good. It means knowing the difference between what matters and what doesn't.

Now go forth, and assemble your army! Because I can't even describe how wonderful it feels to finally have mine.

<3 Madison         

Friday, August 7, 2015

Facing my fear + answering your questions

Well, here I am, guys...In all my awkward, imperfect, unedited glory.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a question! Thank you for caring, encouraging me, and being excited about something that I wasn't too excited about myself. And if you still like me or like me even more after watching this, I profusely thank you for that as well.

Overall, I'm really glad I did this. It will give you all an opportunity to see the real me, help you get a feel for my personality outside the blogosphere, and hopefully inspire you to face your own fears...even if your voice shakes or you blink your eyes too much.

As an added bonus, here are 10 self-deprecating thoughts I had while watching this video. I won't be offended if they match your own.

1. That rapid blinking though.

2. I really do sound like I'm about to cry. I'm glad I pointed out that I'm not.

3. I should've brushed my eyebrows before I filmed this.

4. I wish "um" was a more intelligent sounding word.

5. This is painful to watch, but at least I have a few semi-charming moments here and there.

6. "I don't know if this is backwards or not." Seriously? It's a webcam, not a mirror. Ugh.

7. Arrgghhh! I forgot to say the name of the guy who asked the funny question about braces. THANK YOU, ERIC. I'M SORRY I FORGOT TO SAY YOUR NAMEEE.

8. DAMN IT. I also forgot to say the name of the guy who asked question #11. Sorry, Grant!!!

9. That junk food analogy wasn't bad. High-five to myself.


Thank you. I love you. Please stick around.

<3 Madison  

Friday, July 24, 2015

I will face a fear if you send me your questions!

Hello friends!

This year got off to a good start in regards to getting out of my bubble more often. I faced difficult truths in my life and dared to start over. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I danced at my brother's wedding. I survived a long string of bad news. I created opportunities instead of waiting for them to show up on my doorstep. I changed my hair. I started writing a book. I stopped taking everything so personally and learned how to lighten up more. I embraced human contact instead of avoiding it. 

But I've noticed myself retreating again lately. My anxiety levels are higher than I'd like for them to be, and if I'm not careful, my discouragement levels quickly follow. It's ridiculous how easy it is to fall back to a part of yourself you thought you didn't recognize anymore. I don't want to recognize the part of myself that is paranoid, isolated, astronomically anxious, and overly sensitive. That's not who I really am.  

So I want to do a simple little something about this, but I need your help! 

I've always loved watching videos of my favorite bloggers (because I love seeing the person behind the screen), but I've always been too terrified to post one of myself. I can't even tell you how many times I've considered and obliterated the idea. Maybe finally making a video of myself will help me take a huge step out of my comfort zone and (hopefully) show me that it's not so scary out there. 

And if you guys enjoy my blog and are anything like me, I'm sure you'd love to see me in person, hear the voice behind the blog, and marvel at how unforgivably awkward I am in real life! Right?! (No pressure there.) And it would also be good for me because I would be facing a massive fear while also connecting with you all on a new level. It would be like removing a mask after years of feeling safe behind it. 

So here's the deal: If I get AT LEAST 10 questions from 10 different people (no cheating), I will answer your questions on video and post the entire unedited monstrosity right here on my blog for everyone to see. You are more than welcome to submit more than one question, but I want to hear from at least 10 different people so I can rest assured that I won't be practically talking to myself. Ya feel me?  

If I end up getting a surprising amount of questions or receive questions I do not feel comfortable answering publicly, some of them may get cut. Otherwise, I will be happy to answer any questions you have...And don't feel confined to asking me questions about writing or personal growth! You are also welcome to ask me basic or random questions like what my favorite color is or if I've ever punched anyone in the face. (Spoiler alert: Blue and almost.) 

If YOU would like to help me face my fear of public humiliation, please post your questions in the comment section of this post or email them to MadisonSonnier[AT]gmail[DOT]com. The deadline for question submission is August 5, 2015. If I receive my minimum of 10 questions (from 10 different people) by then, I will make the video and post it sometime within the week following the deadline. 

And if you never see the video or hear another word about it, you can safely assume that I didn't receive my minimum number of questions. I will not make this video if no one is interested. I REFUSE, I TELL YOU.  

Sound like a plan? Then ask away!

<3 Madison