Information Overload

June 19, 2016 at 8:35 pm | Posted in Australia, Mental Health, Politics, Psychology, Reflections, Social Responsibility, Society, Ways of Living | 8 Comments
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I just watched the first ½ of our ABC news programme and I’ve had enough.

 

information-overload

 

The avalanche of bad news, with a sprinkling of good, becomes too much. I often wonder how can we absorb so much information and remain sane.

We are constantly bombarded by information, options for belief or non-belief, decisions to make, people to assess from too little information, war-mongering and actual war, the hypocrisy of so many of our so-called leaders, the terrible conditions in which many people live, the intolerance and bigotry of religion and social attitudes, and much, much more.

We were never meant to take in so much so quickly, and so constantly.

 

brain- too many tabs

 

How are we supposed to process it all? I know many people who don’t even try. They take a slice of life and concentrate on whatever relates to that. They don’t look at anything else, even important things that may seriously affect them.

That, I believe is one of the reasons well over half of the population refrains from involvement in politics, in social welfare issues, in human rights issues, and even in potentially world-changing issues such as climate change and refugees.

They simply identify what they want to believe about an issue – something that reduces it to a slogan is the preferred option – and make that their ‘belief system’. That way, they don’t have to think through an issue – they can just chant their slogan.

They are the people who blindly follow autocrats who seem like they know what they’re talking about, or at least make a lot of noise about it. If they did take the time and the effort to open their minds and think about what that person is really preaching, they would turn away in an instant.

But they don’t, and that is how (almost always) men become dictators, leading their countries into totalitarianism, a complete regulation of life and destroying whatever freedom there may once have been.

I could point the finger now at several countries around the world where this is happening, but those of you reading this are probably thinkers (non-thinkers are too lazy to bother) and you will already know to whom I refer.

And isn’t that always the problem? We are all talking to those who already agree with what we are saying. There are so few who honestly consider at least a few sides of the problems we face (there are always more than two).

I read somewhere that human brains are wired primarily in two ways. Just under half – about 45% will lean towards conservatism and control; 45% will lean towards liberalism and freedom. Only about 10% will actually be fully open-minded and therefore consider issues on their merits.

 

Comparison -liberal or conservative

 

Several studies have been done on the differences between the brains of Republicans and Democrats. This one is interesting, and others show similar results. More study is needed of course, but if the differences could be taken into account and issues presented in different ways, there may be some small change.

But it will always be a battle, I think, to get general agreement on many issues.

So, I left the news programme to my husband and came to my study to write this post. That’s enough television for tonight. I think I will go and overload on Facebook instead.

 

 

(c)   Linda Visman

 

 

The Old Year Ends – a look back at 2015

December 28, 2015 at 2:00 am | Posted in Australia, Making History, Migration, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Social Responsibility, Society, War and Conflict | 8 Comments
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2015 Behind the News ABC

Apart from my lovely family and friends, I must admit that I have not enjoyed 2015. Not on the state, national or international level. There hasn’t been very much to enjoy in the world of politics, religion, economics, international relations, terrorism, whatever.

With one of the defining images of the year being the body of a little refugee boy washed up on a beach, how could it have been a good year for anyone who looks beyond their own safe little bubble? I for one wouldn’t mind having another go at it to see if we could somehow change how it all went. Failing that, is the hope that last year was as bad as it will get.

TOPSHOTS Kurdish Syrian girls are pictur

Children among the destruction in Syria

I started to write a list of the nasties that happened through the year:

  • the terrorism in the name of religion that is not a religion;

  • the racism and violence in many countries across the globe;

  • the lack of support in many instances for the millions of people displaced by war;

  • the ineptitude, idiocy or corruption in too many governments in too many countries;

  • the failure to address global warming on a global scale;

  • the brain-dead far right-wingers who would prefer the whole world to collapse rather than help those less fortunate than themselves;

  • the destruction of our valuable, even precious, environments and wildlife, to feed the greed of multi-national corporations;

  • the extremes of weather – excessive cold and heat, floods, droughts, huge wildfires, hurricanes, typhoons and tornadoes, the melting of the polar ice caps;

  • the extreme polarisation in politics, race and religion, and the fear-mongering among our so-called leaders;

  • the overwhelming power of the arms industry, the far right press, and corporations in deciding national and international government policy.

Need I go on?

Of course there were good things happening too:

  • the rise of people power through social media, demonstrations and actions to show their displeasure at where the world is heading;

  • the rise of a pope who, against those Catholic extremists who would prevent him, speaks for the people, the environment, and the cessation of war;

  • the countries like Germany who have taken in tens of thousands of refugees;

  • the individuals who stand up for right when they see wrong.

not-in-my-name

We need the good so much, but it is demonstrated by individuals and small groups in small and seemingly insignificant actions and interactions, whereas the bad is overwhelming in its ability to create a sense of despair, depression and hopelessness.

However, I must concentrate on those small things and the ordinary people like me who do them, and hope they will add up to more than the bad stuff and overcome it. I must do what I can for my own sanity, but even more for the sake of my grandchildren. I don’t want them to live in the kind of hateful world that seems to be all too possible right now.

I must cling to the hope that springs eternal from the human heart. If it didn’t, I would end it now. So I hope with all my heart that, through good people standing up to corruption and violence, hatred and destruction, at least some of the horrendous problems we’ve had in 2015 will get better in 2016.

(c) Linda Visman

 

 

Well Heeled

October 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Culture, Health, History, Psychology, Society | 9 Comments
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Sexy high heels

My mother wore high heels. After all, she was a product of the 1920s and 30s when they became popular. If a woman dressed up – and a working woman only dressed up when she were going somewhere special – she would wear high heels, and stockings if she could get them.

High heels were said to elongate the legs and make them more attractive, and who didn’t want to be attractive! Mum wasn’t tall –just five feet, and Dad was half an inch under six feet so, for her, the higher the heels the better.

Mum loved dancing and, in their courting days and after their marriage in 1941, when he was home on leave from the R.A.F. (it was wartime), Dad took her out to every dance in the district, where they danced up a storm. Dad often said that they would be the last dancers on the floor and the band would beg them to stop so they could rest. How on earth, I have often wondered, did Mum dance, and for so long, in high heels. But she only wore heels for special occasions, and that was not even once a week.

1930s heels

I only wore heels for a short time, and then not very high ones. I started about 18, but stopped at 21when I was expecting the first of my five children. I found ‘flatties’ to be much more comfortable for carrying babies around.

Over the decades, I have noted the continuing attraction for wearing high heel, especially by younger women. The ante has been upped (literally) even higher since I was young. Not only have the heels got higher, but the weight of the shoes has also increased. I don’t think Mum would have been able to drag herself around in what young women wear today, let alone dance at top speed for hours in them!

Platform shoes

About thirty years ago, the medical fraternity finally realised that wearing high heels, especially frequently and for prolonged periods, could cause quite serious problems. This can be as simple as falling and injuring oneself while wearing them, resulting in strained or broken ankles. However, more serious long-term damage can be caused by the habit of wearing high heels.

Posture changes inherent in wearing shoes that place the heels above the toes can result in considerable damage:

    • Hips, shoulders, back and spine are thrown out of alignment;
    • Muscle spasms can occur due to the extra pressure caused by posture changes;
    • Increased pressure on the knees often leads to arthritis in that joint;
    • muscles in the calf become shortened, leading to pain there and in the feet;
    • the Achilles tendon can become permanently shortened, leading to tendonitis;
    • toes, cramped into tight shoes, become misshapen and cannot be straightened even when wearing flat shoes..

This 3-D scan shows up some of the problems. Here’s a set of pictures that gives a good indication.

High heel damage

I have often wondered why women are willing to risk such injuries just for the sake of fashion or of looking sexy. But I suppose that is just the way of it; peer pressure; advertising pressure; a desire to have the latest in fashion. There is no desire to look to the future – just as is the case with young men and their testosterone-induced risk taking. The belief that ‘it will never happen to me’.

Oh how glad I am that I never became a slave to fashion. I’ll stick to my sensible shoes, thanks.

Sensible shoes

What do you think of high heels? Would you let your adolescents – as I have seen – wear them and risk permanent damage?

Young girl in heels

(c) Linda Visman

I Write, Therefore I Am

October 3, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Posted in Australia, Making History, Psychology, Writing, Writing and Life | 10 Comments
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Life is better when you're writing

On a recent Saturday at my writing group, I led a brain-storming session on why we write. It was a wonderful and animated exercise. After the session, we wrote a piece about how we would feel if we were suddenly unable to write.

Erasmus writing quote

Just this morning, I read an article by a very successful author, Warren Adler about what to do after constant rejections. In the end, Adler says, it comes down to three options. You can:

  1. Give up;
  2. Wait to acquire the requisite life experience; or
  3. Never, never, ever give up.

I am neither determined nor passionate enough about achieving success as a writer that I would keep trying to get traditionally published. I don’t have the killer instinct. And besides, I don’t have that much confidence in my ability as a writer, or enough hope that anyone will want what I write.

My nephew, Peter Abela, has much more drive and commitment, and is more likely to be recognised; I hope he will be. But I have no hope or expectation of a future where I will be recognised in that way.

Write for yourself first

So, why do I keep writing? Because I have to, I think.

Because putting my thoughts and my life on paper or into the computer is a sort of validation of myself, of my existence in this world. Because I want to tell stories about what the world was like when I was young, when my parents were young. Because if I don’t write, I am not. If I don’t leave a record, I do not and never will have existed.

I suppose it is part of the reason that we have graffiti everywhere – tags of varying quality and artistry sprayed on fences and buildings and anywhere else that is accessible. These people are also saying, ‘I am here! I exist, even if you don’t see me!’

Write emotions you fear most

Someone might say, ‘What of your children, your grandchildren? Surely they are proof that you are, that you were?’

Genetically, yes. They would not be if I hadn’t been. In whatever influence I have had on them, yes. They will take a little of me into the future.

But me as an individual, a person with her own loves and hates, talents and weaknesses, wisdom and foolishness – where is the evidence for that me if I do not leave a record?

Then they will ask, ‘What about people’s memories of you?’ And I will ask how long will those memories remain, and the answer will be, only until those who have known me have gone.

Write

So why is that not enough; that people remember me until there is no memory left of me? That is all 99.99% of the world can expect. What mark have I made on the world that I should be different? And I must answer, honestly, none. I don’t even have the talent or the passion to make that mark.

Why do we have such self awareness if we are expected to negate it in the ocean of humanity, in the survival of a species that proves every day that it doesn’t deserve to survive?

Why can’t that little drop that is/was me have its own memorial to say that I was not a part of that destructiveness, that I fought against it in action and in my writing?

The narcissist in me wants it. The realist knows that I do not merit it. And my writing will not make it so. But I will still keep writing.

 Write to please oneself

(c)  Linda Visman

Reading: From Print to Digital

August 14, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Culture, Mental Health, Psychology, Reading, Society, War and Conflict | 11 Comments
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kindle-book-shelf

When I reached my sixties, I was reading lots of murder mysteries, forensic crime and dark thrillers, depending on my mood. I have read just about all of the books by Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, and some of Sue Grafton’s alphabet crime series, a couple of Richard North Patterson, and lots of others. Raymond Khoury’s thriller, The Sign, was particularly good.

I have gone back to the past a few times and to more literary novels. A couple were Australian authors. I enjoyed Eleanor Dark’s Slow Dawning (written in the 1930s), and Ruth Park’s Playing Beattie Bow (written in the 1960s), as well as Park’s two-part memoir. I also read Ken Follett’s World Without End, set in the Middle Ages.

I even tried to read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but I gave up on it about half way through. I did, however, relish the style and language of Paul Morgan’s The Pelagius Book. Then there are the novels of Tim Winton, Alex Miller and Khaleid Hosseini – wonderful writers!

Lady Chatterley

Now, well into my sixties, I read more post-apocalypse novels than I ever did, and even quite a bit of fantasy. I didn’t really get into those until the last few years, and I was wondering why recently. I decided that the state of society and the world these days – the violence, destruction, intolerance and hatred – have caused me to need an escape.

Destruction

The end of the world as we know it now seems to be a just outcome for those who have caused such pain and misery to so many innocent people. Unfortunately, many more innocent people would dies. However, post apocalypse times are when the resilient and resourceful have their chance to survive, even if it is against terrible odds. Perhaps it is a hope I have that the better aspects of mankind will finally prevail against the worst.

The same goes for fantasy. In other worlds, heroes – male and/or female – battle the evil forces that would destroy them. In the end there is victory for the good – even if it does come at the end of a series of three or four books!

LordofTheRings

I loved JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and even watched the movies – which I thought extremely well done (and I am not a movie-goer). I have tried Stephen King again and got through Under the Dome and The Stand. I have the complete Harry Potter books in a boxed set (I haven’t seen the movies though), and have found several good fantasy authors on Amazon Kindle. There are lots of fantasy series out there which are quite well written, as well as being great stories.

Two series by Edward W. Robinson – The Breakers and The Cycle of Arawn are good. The Muirwood series by Jeff Wheeler really got me in, as did Aaron Pogue’s trilogy, The Dragonprince’s Legacy. I also really enjoyed Michael G. Manning’s Mageborn series. I recently read Jason Mott’s The Returned, which, I believe was made into a telemovie. All of these I obtained as e-books.

MuirwoodTrilogy

My Kindle has led me into a whole new range and variety of reading. E-books are cheaper than print, and because of that, I have been able to sample a whole new range of authors and genres. Either I would never have come across these in print, or the price would have put me off.

kindle_look_insideYes, there is a lot of rubbish out there, but if you check the synopsis, reviews, and the success of the author, you can usually tell which will be of a reasonable standard. And if you can read a sample, you will get a good idea of the quality of the writing.

Some of the new authors I have come across through accessing e-books on my Kindle, apart from those I have already mentioned, include:
Fantasy & Post-apocalypse: Anna Elliott, Robert Clive Parnell, Peg Brantley, Erica Liodice, Julie Morrigan, Lori Brighton, R.T. Kaelin, M.R. Mathias, Jodi McIsaac, Erica Stevens, Katie W. Stewart, Kevin Bohacz.
Thrillers: Michael R. Hicks, Robert Ellis, Barry Friedman, Tom Lowe.

Lee Goldberg The Walk

Whodunits & Murder Mysteries: Kathleen Backus, Jeffrey Siger, Camilla Chafer, L.L. Bartlett, Debra Mares, Andy Straker, Lee Goldberg, Terri Reid, James Hankins, T.R.Ragan, Edie Claire.
Real life novels: Melissa F. Miller, Othello Back, Helen Ginger.
Young Adult: Aida Brassington.
Writing: Chris Thrall.
Memoir: Joy deKok, Cynthia Harrison
Of course, I have come across a lot more than these, but I decided just to share the ones I liked best.

Kindle

My Kindle goes with me whenever I travel. That is another of its great advantages. I can carry a hundred books in the space and weight it would take for only one slim printed volume. However, I will never give up on printed books. If you saw our bookshelves you would see that! There is something about them that is more evocative of worlds and more personal than an e-reader can ever be.

Talking about Books

Have you made the transition from print to electronic books? Do you use both, or do you stick mainly with one medium?

© Linda Visman

O is for Ostracism

April 17, 2014 at 9:46 am | Posted in Family History, Psychology, Society, Ways of Living | 9 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

It was some time in 1914 when Teddy and Hannah first met as they walked along the grimy back lanes of Oswaldtwistle to the cotton mills where they both worked. Teddy would have been 21 years of age and Hannah 19 or 20.

Unknown courting couple, early 1900s

Unknown courting couple, early 1900s

I imagine them eventually saying hello, as you do when you see each other every day, possibly even twice a day. I suppose they started chatting as they walked, gradually learning more about each other, and coming to look forward to those early mornings and late evenings.

I know that they came to care for each other. Teddy did everything he could to get Hannah to go out with him. He was trying to court her, but she was adamant that it wasn’t possible. There was a reason for Hannah’s reluctance that had nothing to do with her feelings.

Hannah was a weaver in the mill, an occupation higher than most jobs. Weavers often made better money that other mill workers. She was the daughter of James, who also worked at the cotton mills. However, James was an engine tenter, an overseer in charge of the steam engines that operated the machinery in the mill. As such, he was of a higher social class. He was also a Catlow, originally de Catlow (from the Norman Invasion), a family of once-wealthy landowners that could trace its presence in Oswaldtwistle to at least the 12th century.

James Catlow and family in 1916. Hannah is third from the right, behind her father.

James Catlow and family in 1916. Hannah is third from the right, behind her father.

Teddy was the son of Peter Thompson, a coke burner; burning coal to make charcoal. It was a dirty job and left to the poorer people to perform. Teddy himself was ‘just’ a labourer. They were working class people and as such were looked down upon by most of the better off.

Although Hannah cared for Teddy, she knew she would greatly suffer from her father’s disapproval if she went out with him. Even talking with someone like Teddy would have angered that proud man, let alone admitting that Teddy had asked her to marry him.

Teddy was very upset at Hannah’s rejection, which he could neither understand nor accept. The Great War had broken out at the end of 1914. In early 1915, distressed at the social norms that separated him from Hannah, Teddy volunteered and joined the British Army. He arrived in France in June 1915.

GRANDAD WWI

In 1919, aged 25, and with four years of hell in the trenches behind him, Teddy returned from the war a more determined man. Hannah was 24 and still unmarried. Teddy renewed his pursuit of her and she eventually gained the courage to defy her father, who had told her she would be ostracised from the family if she married the man she loved.

They married in July 1920. True to his word, James Catlow never spoke to her again. He also forbade his other children from having any contact with their sister. It wasn’t until after James’s death four years later that any contact was resumed. Even then, it was not too cordial – James had done a good job on several of the family.

However, in 1932, Teddy and Hannah’s son Ernie (my father) was invited to be a pall-bearer at the funeral of his cousin Walter Catlow. Ernie also became friends with his cousin Miriam Catlow, a friendship that lasted until Miriam’s death in the late 1990s.

The only known photo of Teddy & Hannah together. 1947

The only known photo of Teddy & Hannah together. 1947

That’s how my grandparents (Dad’s parents) met and married, and stayed happily married too, until Teddy died of cancer in 1950, aged 57.

 

Have you come across anything like this in your family? What happened in the end?

 

© Linda Visman  17.04.14  (623 words)

 

 

 

My Mind’s Like Vegetable Soup!

March 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Health, Mental Health, Psychology | 2 Comments
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Insomnia sheep swat team

Last night, although I was tired and wanted to sleep, I was awake until after 2.30am.

I tried to relax and clear my mind – impossible. Then I tried to ‘watch’ the thoughts as they cropped up and passed by – impossible; they were too quick for me.

Then I tried to focus on one thing, grasp and examine it until I was bored. Maybe then I could go to sleep – but again, impossible.

That’s when I started composing a blog post about my lack of mind discipline.

I am envious of those who can meditate; those who can calm their minds, eliminate extraneous distractions, focus on the inner being & find their centre.

  meditation-buddha

What happens when I try to do the same? Chaos.

My brain seems to be very much like a meat and vegetable soup bubbling in a pot on the stove. All the pieces swirl around, vanish and re-appear randomly, then disappear again before I have a chance to grab one.

vegetable-soup-cooking

My thoughts are like those pieces of onion, carrot and potato, celery, turnip and chicken. Feelings, insights, memories, glimmers of incidents and people and places, books I’ve read, things I have or haven’t done, questions and answers – they all swirl and bob up, then vanish just as quickly.

How do I obtain some sort of control over the maelstrom? What do I do, short of becoming a yogi or fakir or hermit?

meditation -yogi

All I want to do is quiet my mind so I can relax enough to sleep when I need to, or focus my mind without being distracted.

Awake-sleep brain

Is that too difficult? It has been for me thus far.

Do you meditate? How did you start? Does it help you?

 

Linda Visman

Stories Don’t End Where the Book Does

February 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Philosophy, Psychology, Reading, Writing and Life | 13 Comments
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There's no real ending

Have you ever finished a short story or a novel and couldn’t get the characters out of your head?

Have you imagined what might have happened after the story finished?

With a good story and well-realised characters, I think it happens quite often. I know it has to me.

I suppose that is why there is so much fan fiction written, and why readers love book series.

They don’t want to lose those characters, that world, that reality created by the author. They want the story to go on.

 

Harry Potter books

Think Harry Potter. To many of her readers, J.K. Rowlings’ imaginary character has become just as real as their own family and friends. He is someone they may know even better than those real people. It just happens that Harry, together with his own friends and foes, lives somewhere else.

They dwell in a different reality. It is a reality that has a door from our own that we can enter at will, or which can spill for a time into our own reality through the magic key of reading.

Why do some characters and their worlds become so real, when others do not? Why do we want to stay with some when we can’t even get to know others – or want to?

That to me is another magic. The magic created by a sensitive, observant and creative writer. Such writers do not necessarily create great works of literature (as defined by high-brow literary critics).

What they do create are real worlds occupied by real people, with real feelings and desires, hopes and dreams, challenges and triumphs. Characters with whom the reader develops empathy, a feeling of one-ness.

It’s no wonder we don’t want to leave the book – in a way it is our own life we have been reading, or that of people we have become close to. We want to know more.

Book hug

 

Do you ever identify with or become close to characters in the books you read?

Breakthrough!

January 21, 2014 at 11:17 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Psychology, Writing, Writing and Life | 11 Comments
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For months, I haven’t been able to write. If you read my last blog post you will know that a combination of fear and lethargy have shackled me.

Last week, my writing group had a social get-together. We talked about our writing,  shared stories, ate lunch and drank tea or coffee or water, and laughed a lot.

Make time to write

The day after that, I began going back through the 19 chapters I’d already written to get into the mood and the story again..

After that, I wrote another chapter, one that linked chapters 15 and 16. I discovered that I had already written over 38,500 words on my second Y.A. novel, Thursday’s Child. I had no idea I had written so much.

Then yesterday morning, two of the group and myself had a “write-in”, sitting at a picnic table in a local park. Our challenge was to write as many words as we could on our individual projects. We had short chats about our writing, regular writing, and also speed writing sessions – as many words as possible in 15 minutes bursts.The park, with F-Jetty through the trees.

It was all aimed at getting us to just write. To get words on paper, without thinking, and see where those words took us.

For me, it was fantastic. The chapter I was working on flowed, and in a direction I had not expected.

writing-pen

Today, I went to the same park with my husband. We went for a walk along the lake shore, then he lay on the bed in our camper van to read, while I sat at the same picnic table as before and just wrote.

From the two days’ writing, I have a full chapter that I am quite happy with.

All this time, I have been afraid to write. Now, with the help of my writing friends, I have made the leap from fear and immobility  to excitement and fluency.

How good is that!

 

(c) Linda Visman

I Resolve to Make No Resolutions!

January 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Posted in Experiences, Mental Health, Psychology, Writing, Writing and Life | 7 Comments
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Many people begin a new year by pondering changes they will make. They review the year just gone and look at how they could have done things better. Then they make resolutions for the year ahead. 2013-2014 sign

They vow they will drink less, quit smoking, join a gym. They decide on ways they can become happier, slimmer, more active, more productive, more engaged with others, etc. They make resolutions. I will do this, or that, or the other.

newYearsResolutionsList

However, within very little time, most of those who have made resolutions break them. And break them again, and again. And then give up on them.

Why do they break them? Because they are not completely and utterly committed to keeping those resolutions. There is something between the them and the decision to do or not to do something – and that makes their decision, their resolve, worthless; lost before they even begin.

And then come the feelings of guilt. Oh, don’t I know all about those feelings of guilt! After all, I was brought up as a Catholic, and nobody knows guilt like Catholics.

 guilt_carry-man

I’m not good enough! I’ve failed – again! I’m useless!

Guilt it paralysing. So, this year, I have avoided making resolutions altogether (except for the decision not to make any). Instead, I have set goals that I would like to achieve this year.

 goals

All the goals are associated with my writing, since that is the area of my life that I need most to sort out. I have tried to make my goals realistic and achievable. I do not want those guilt feelings to overwhelm me again this year!

2014 goals

And that is why I am writing this blog entry. One of my goals was to write a blog entry at least every week. I wrote one on the last day of 2013 – that’s just under a week ago. This is the first one for 2014. This goal I have achieved – for this week anyway. Phew!

(c) Linda Visman, January 2014

 

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