Personal responsibility – what a novel concept!

I don’t think anyone owes me anything. I think I deserve to reap the rewards of that for which I have worked. There have been times when I have needed assistance and there have been times when I have been a provider of assistance to others but, as a general philosophy, I believe in independence and creative thinking. I also believe in private charity and kindness to others in need and I know I live in a country that is populated by some of the most generous people in the world.

Dad in the Royal Air Force
during World War II

My parents, who were children of the Great Depression and young adults during World War II (my Dad served in the Royal Air Force), immigrated from England when I was 5 years old. They did this legally by following the requirements as set forth in the US immigration laws. The only help they received from anyone was a brother-in-law who agreed to be their “sponsor” and room and board (not for free!) provided for 11 months by my mother’s parents, who had immigrated three years earlier. They both worked full time during that 11 months and saved every spare penny so they could buy their own home, which they did.

All they had when they moved into their little house was some second hand furniture, household goods they brought with them from England, and enough money set aside for passage back to England in case things didn’t work out for them in the US. They bought a refrigerator and a TV on layaway. They had no car and no washer and dryer. For the first year my mother walked about 3 miles, round trip, to use her sister’s washer and dryer. My father, an electrician, was allowed to take one of his employers old trucks home. I never heard either of them complain about what they didn’t have or make any comments to the effect that they were being treated unfairly if things didn’t go their way or were entitled to anything other than what their own honest efforts could yield. When they had been in this country long enough they applied  for and were granted US citizenship and, since I was under the age of 12,  I became a legally naturalized citizen

Over the next 38 years my father worked – often 6 days a week, 10-12 hours per day – first for other people, then to establish his own small electrical contracting company. During those years he also went to school at night (on his dime) to learn air conditioning and refrigeration and also to take annual required classes to keep his license. In his late 60’s he began to downsize his business to a one man operation and, at the age of 74, he retired.

It was important to both my parents that I have a stay at home mother so my mother didn’t work outside the home, although she became my father’s secretary/bookkeeper when he started his own business. It would have been much easier on them in those early years if she had earned money from a job outside the home but they had their own priorities and were willing to sacrifice to live by them. These days it seems that whenever I hear the word ” sacrifice” I often hear a lot of whining attached to it. My parents, and millions of other people in their generation, were not whiners. They both worked hard and honestly to build up my father’s business and they took great pride in what they accomplished.

So, I was raised to be honest, fair, to work for what I wanted and to take responsibility for my actions. I wasn’t allowed to blame others for my failures and mistakes – and that included teachers. My parents would have defended me against any kind of unfair treatment or abuse but, other than that, I was expected to figure out how to get along in the world. My mother was the major influence in my childhood because my father worked such long hours supporting his family but my father’s basic principles of hard work, integrity, honesty and treating people fairly became an important part of my fiber. My mother encouraged me to be an individual, be independent, and think for myself – she taught me to question authority, which, of course, didn’t always work in her favor. She was doing what any good mother should do and that is to teach her child how to be self-reliant; how to survive without her.

I realized when I was older and working in social services that I was very fortunate to have the parents and upbringing that I had because not everyone is so lucky. They were not wealthy so it’s not about money or material possessions – it is about the love and support they gave me and the example they showed of how to live a good life. As an adult I always knew I could go to my parents for help if I truly needed it but they had taught me, by example, the value of pride of accomplishment and being self-reliant and that has always been my preferred path. I think that is what a good government should offer – the environment for the individual to grow, thrive and succeed with the secure knowledge that assistance that is paid for by their tax dollars is available when they are unemployed, disabled, or made vulnerable by a natural disaster or even by old age.  I never liked to be treated like a child by my parents and I don’t like that treatment from my government either.

My parents immigration story of hard work and success is not unusual – it has been and continues to be repeated millions of times. I believe at the core of all those success stories is a love of freedom and a belief that we are all personally responsible for our own destiny. You can be given opportunities and the tools to succeed but no one else can do the work for you. We are so blessed, as Americans, to live in a country where it is still possible to come here with nothing and build a good life for yourself and your family. Some people even start with nothing and become millionaires! We are also fortunate to live in a country that has a Constitution which protects our rights and a government that provides safety nets for its citizens  in times of vulnerability but, the message I try to get across in my Confidence Clinics is that we each have a tremendous power at our disposal and that is the ability to create the life we want. With our own thoughts, creative energy, and actions we can do amazing things because we live in a country where anything is possible. As soon as you start blaming others or expecting others to do the work for you, you have given your power away.

Comments??

Next time I’m going to write about what I have learned from adopting an old dog – and it has been a lot.

Just chillin’

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Confidence Clinics

Confidence is a funny thing. What makes one person have it and another not? Why can we feel confident in some situations but then not in others? The dictionary defines confidence, in part, as follows:  faith, trust, the consciousness of feeling sure, self-reliance, bold certainty.

Obviously a main component of confidence is self-esteem and this is something to which I have given a lot of thought. Throughout my years working in social services I came to understand the importance of self-esteem because I met so many  people who suffered from a lack of it and, as a result, allowed themselves to be abused and taken advantage of by others or always accepted less in life because they thought that was all they deserved. People who have low self-esteem don’t have faith in their own judgement and often make the same mistakes over and over. They have a tendency to compromise their own morals or values just to please someone else because having the approval of other people is the most important thing to them.  When you learn about the childhood that some people have endured it is easy to understand why they don’t have self-esteem and confidence but, not everyone who struggles with self-esteem issues had a miserable childhood.

I had a loving, and secure childhood and, up until adolescence, I was a confident, happy child. There was no traumatic event, no reason for me to change, but, for some reason, I became increasingly shy and insecure during the middle and high school years. The only thing I really had confidence in was my artistic ability and that was destroyed by the criticism and competition of art school. I can’t explain why I had a lack of self-esteem and confidence throughout most of my adult life or why I never thought  anything I did was good enough. I don’t know how I got in the habit of comparing myself to others and always feeling “less than”.  All I know is that I reached a point where I didn’t want to feel like that anymore and I started on a quest to rediscover the happy, confident little girl I knew was still at the core of my being.

As I mentioned in my previous post, self-help books have been my best friends through some very difficult times in my life and the decision to better understand myself and the way I think was the beginning of that friendship! The very first self-help book I ever read was “Your Erroneous Zones” by Dr. Wayne Dyer, back in 1977 when he was more into pop psychology than the spiritual journey he began in later years. That book was such an eye opener to me – I was able to identify, for the first time, many of my self-defeating behaviors. Of course, that was only the beginning of my journey and I had many miles and many more lessons to learn! In fact, I know now that the journey will continue until the day I die and beyond. Over the years I read many of Dr. Dyer’s books, and learned from all of them but a personal favorite is “The Power of Intention”, which I have read at least five times. Other books that helped to inspire and motivate me have been Sarah Ban Breathnach’s “Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self”, and Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, just to name a couple. Most recently I have been reading Mike Dooley’s “Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams”.

One of the people I met along the way while I’ve been reinventing my life is Nadine King, who started a non-profit foundation called Christmas Come True. Nadine is a caring, compassionate woman, and a power house of vision and energy. As a way to provide some funding for the foundation and, at the same time, support local artists and authors she opened a shop that featured the creative works of local people and this is how I met her. She started her foundation with the mission of providing a “complete Christmas experience for area resident parents who are unable to financially afford the traditional Christmas for their families” and has branched into other ideas that help people to help themselves. One of her ideas is to present educational seminars and workshops to help people who are struggling with unemployment and other problems related to the down economy. I offered to present a series of  free “Confidence Clinics” in which I would share some of the things I have learned that helped me on my path to building stronger self-esteem and confidence.  An unexpected benefit for me was that, in presenting the Confidence Clinics, I not only reinforced my own beliefs, but also strengthened my own confidence! Before deciding to “reinvent” my life I doubt that I would have ever found myself standing in front of a group of people, talking about how to build your self-esteem and confidence but, once you take a new look at your life and make some changes you never know where you might end up. One of my greeting cards (the biggest seller!) has the caption “Just put one foot in front of the other and you’ll end up where you’re meant to be.”

Keep thinking about reinvention – it’s never too late to learn something new and maybe, along the way, you can help other people, too!

 

 

 

 

Take a personal inventory

What does it mean to take a personal inventory? To me, it means  stepping back from your daily activities and all the “busi-ness ” and taking an objective look at where you have been, where you are, and where you want to go in your life. This can be done at any age but it seems to come naturally at certain milestones – high school or college graduation, embarking on a new career or starting a business, marriage,  the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, divorce, retirement, etc. The milestone in my life was the year my father died.

I had achieved success in my career, I was financially secure for the first time, I had a nice home, good friends, pets I loved, and I could finally afford to do some traveling. My father began the year with pneumonia and, after that, he was plagued with one health issue after another until he died  in October. Towards the end of his life he spent some time in a nursing home. My mother and I would take him in a wheelchair for walks around the neighborhood, just to get him outside for awhile. He always loved to be outside and the confinement of the nursing home plus his physical ailments  depressed him. After one of those walks he said something I will never forget. He said “I’ve had a good life. I’ve had a good wife, a good daughter and grandson, work that I liked, nice homes, and I’ve been able to take a lot of nice trips. I have no complaints.” Simple words, plainly spoken. I realized much later that he had actually been taking an inventory of his life and he wanted me to know he was happy with what he saw. I  wondered if I would feel contented about my life if I was close to death and I was looking back at the choices I had made.

During that last year of my father’s life I became more and more restless. I became increasingly discontented with my job and started exploring other options but I felt like I was financially trapped because of my salary and the benefits of the job. A friend called it “golden handcuffs”.  The more health problems my father had, the more restless I became. I became convinced that, if we moved somewhere with a different climate and scenery, my father’s health would improve. In hindsight, I realize I was trying to run away from reality.

About a year after my father’s death, I began taking my own personal inventory. Ideally, I wanted to quit my job but I knew it was impractical to give up a good salary and a pension that would give me future freedom so I  came up with an “escape plan” to help me  keep my sanity. I wasn’t old enough to retire and I didn’t want to exchange my current job for another one but, I realized I could be free if I exercised patience and frugality – never my strong points.  I was 4 1/2 years away from age 62, at which time I would be eligible for early Social Security benefits and full benefits from my employer’s pension plan. I decided to find a way to get through those years.

I have always enjoyed reading anything motivational or inspirational and self-help books have been my friends  through some difficult times so I ramped it up by spending a few minutes every morning reading from Wayne Dyer, Eckhardt Tolle, and others. It was a good way to start the day on a positive note and it also reintroduced me to the philosophy of  “you are what you think”. One of Eckhardt Tolle’s writings was particularly helpful – he said that when you are in a situation that you don’t like you really only have three options: 1) leave, 2) change the situation, or, 3) experience it differently. Number 3 was my only viable option and potentially the most difficult because what it is really saying is “change the way you think”. So simple but not so easy!

While I was working on changing the way I think, I took an inventory of the way I live. First on the list was finances. I  reviewed all my expenses and my spending habits. I thought about what was important to me and I prioritized everything. I got rid of some unnecessary expenditures and streamlined or decreased others. I put myself on a strict budget and implemented a savings plan. I paid off my credit cards and vowed never to carry a balance again. I did so well with saving that, after a couple of years, I  realized I could revise my plan and retire at age 60 1/2. In order to do that I would have to take a reduced pension payment and I would have to supplement my income from savings until I turned 62 but, I knew it was worth it to me to be able to reinvent my life. My goal was personal freedom!

Everybody needs to have a dream or a goal – if you’re not on the path that will take you to that dream or goal then you should seriously reconsider the direction in which you’re headed. Maybe you don’t have a direction and you’re just drifting through life, letting other people and circumstances lead you. For me, the dream was to get back to my creative self. I was a very inactive artist and writer for many years and my dream was to have a lifestyle in which I could get back to being creative. I started laying the foundation for my “new life” while I was still working by opening an online greeting card shop, Lynda Linke Productions. I had been writing my basic life philosophies in my journal, another part of taking a personal inventory, and I turned them into simple stories, illustrated them, and published my first book “Try Lots of Hats” . I was offered an opportunity to sell my greeting cards and book in a small local shop. All this action stimulated my creativity and, by the time I retired, I was working on several projects. I had also adopted a dog and was doing some volunteer work for my local Humane Society with the Ambassador Dogs.

Me and Stella at PAWS to Read at the library

I realize not everyone who is reading this has the ability to make the kind of big life change that I did but, that doesn’t mean you can’t take parts of my plan and use them to improve your current situation or work toward creating your own plan for reinventing your life. I don’t think there is anyone out there who can’t benefit from making some serious changes in the way they manage their money and, as for dreams, if you don’t have any you need to GET some! Take a personal inventory and discover (or rediscover)  what areas need improvement. How far have you drifted from what is really important to you? Even the smallest changes can add to the overall quality of your life and one small, but very important, thing to remember is to be grateful everyday for all the things that are good in your life while you’re working to improve it.

I have always been interested in stories about people who reinvent their lives so, if you have a reinvention story, I’d love to hear it!