Being an Atheist is Okay.

I’m an atheist, but I rarely discuss it. For the most part, I don’t think about it. It only comes to mind when religion is brought up. I make a new friend, and she wants to know what church I belong to. I go through something, and an acquaintance suggests that we pray about it.

I don’t mind being asked about my religious beliefs because I’m confident in my beliefs (or lack thereof) and proud of them. But for some reason, being an atheist is still taboo.

I don’t think it should be. Let’s change that. It’s my understanding that there are some things about atheists that bother (some) theists. I want to talk about those things.

Before I proceed, I have to say that I do not represent all atheists. The beauty of being an atheist is its simplicity. Atheism is disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

That’s it. There’s nothing more to it. That’s the only thing that we atheist will most certainly have in common.

With that being said, this is what atheism means to my life.

How do I know right from wrong?

Well, here’s the thing, there is no book that prescribes how an atheist should behave or think. It is up to each atheist to decide how to live his or her life.

To me, right and wrong is largely subjective. The spectrum of right and wrong is vast and depends on the situation.

Is it okay to steal? No… unless you have a two-year-old at home who’s starving.

Is it okay to kill? No… unless it’s in self-defense.

Like everyone, when I decide what’s right and wrong, I have to know all the facts. When the decision is too close to home, I ask someone with an objective view to step in.

Where does morality come from?

To me, morality doesn’t come from religion. Humans need to coexist to survive. Even if you consider yourself a loner, did you make your clothes, hunt your own food, or create the power grid that powers your laptop. NO. The answer is no. Even if you did all of those things, you had an easier go at it because of the knowledge passed down from generations of coexisting.

Since humans had to coexist to survive, we established rules to keep the peace thus justice and morality was born.

Where do I find answers to life’s big questions?

The things people get from religion, I get elsewhere. So if religion gives people:

–   Purpose

–   Direction

–   Peace of mind

–   Spiritual fulfillment

I would meet those needs in another way.

–   When I want purpose, I look within.

–   When I want direction, I map out the most logical course of action then follow it.

–   When I want peace of mind, I remember that I only live once so I need to make the most of this life.

–   When I want spiritual fulfillment, I do something kind for myself or someone else.

Aren’t you worried about hell?

First of all, I’d have to believe in hell for it to worry me. Questions about an afterlife don’t faze me. This is an area that I accept my ignorance. There is no way for me to know what happens when I die. And, if I’m honest, religious notions of heaven and hell scare me. I don’t want to go to either of those places. I’d rather not exist.

 Do you hate God?

I’d have to believe in God to hate Him so no I don’t hate God. I’d like to add that I don’t even hate religion. I’m not always happy with religion, but I contend that most of the religious people I know are kind-hearted. I grew up in a very religious household. I respect everyone’s right to believe or not believe in any god.

Are you lost?

Hmm… interesting question. You know what, I don’t know. Sometimes you don’t know you’re lost until you’ve walked passed the same tree three times. I can’t have all the answers all the time, and that’s okay. However, I don’t feel lost in purpose or apathetic toward life. I approach each new day knowing that uncertainty awaits me. I’ll wade through it until I find a way to the end.

Is atheism so scary?

If you’ve gotten this far, I hope you don’t think it’s so bad to be an atheist. If you think it’s terrible then oh well. Can’t win them all. I’m sure you didn’t like all of my answers. If you’re theist, I assure you, some of your answers would disconcert me as well. It’s okay.

I don’t think that everyone has to look like me, think like me, and act like me for us to get along. That kind of thinking is behind some of the worse atrocities against humanity.

If you’re an atheist (and it’s safe for you to talk about it), please share your beliefs and disbeliefs. It’s not a bad thing.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say on it.

See you next week!

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So, I started reading erotica.

If you haven’t surmised from the title, I’ll say it again; I started reading erotica. Now, you may be wondering why I felt compelled to share that information. Rest assured, I have my reasons. Before I get into that, I want to share some unexpected pleasures from its reading.

Number one, as a genre it’s got me contemplative lately. When I’m not reading it, I see it under harsh and unflattering lighting. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that the criterion for a book to be erotic fiction is sex. Its main selling point is sex. I’m no prude but feel that sex has an undeserved pedestal. Everywhere I look, someone is trying to get my attention by tapping into sex and sexuality. It’s annoying.

However, as I read erotica, I understand that it has the same appeal as any book. Novels have a way of putting you in the shoes of the protagonist. What she feels, you feel. If it’s a story about a rebel overthrowing oppressors and seizing the throne for herself, the reader feels like a revolutionary. In a story where a shy woman explores her fantasies with the man she loves, the reader feels that too.

Erotica has made me contemplate a lot about the world around me because it made me uncomfortable. That’s thrilling by my standards.

 Number two, it’s a feast for your senses. To succeed in this genre, the writer must be excellent at descriptions. Every scene is milked for maximum sensual impact. I can’t help but admire that. Erotic fiction can make anything hot, from fingers slowly brushing across a keyboard to sliding a silk robe over bare shoulders. It’s weird magic.

All (good) books make you feel things – dread, anticipation, and humor. Erotica (the good kind) taps into the most personal of feelz – pleasure. It creates a dull sense of pleasure that’s drug-like. It’s happiness in a book.

Number three, it’s probably good for humanity. If you’ve opened your eyes, you’ve noticed the outcry for gender equality. Female readers dominate this genre. One major fight women face is gaining sexual freedom – a freedom that is easily attainable for some.

Erotica is a good tool for exploring sex and sexual desires in a safe environment. Instead of participating in risky situations, you can explore it in your mind. The more you explore the topic, the more informed your decisions about sex will be. Disclaimer: don’t take that to mean that erotica is all you need to make an informed decision about sex. It’s simply an avenue.

To me, sexual freedom is all about making a decision about sex and not feeling ashamed for it nor shaming others who think differently. It’s about people establishing boundaries about their body and desires. So, if you aspire to hold on to your virginity for dear life because it’s truly what you want, I hope that nothing comes between you and your goal. If you want to have a one-night-stand every week, as long as you find willing partners, go for it.

Number four, it’s a reminder not to take life too seriously. Some erotica is plain silly with no literary value whatsoever. As I read the crazy dialogue, where a forward guy says something that no forward guy would ever say, I laugh. It’s crap, but I don’t want to put down the story about the human who gets abducted by and falls in love with horny aliens.

There’s no shortage of reasons not to take life too seriously. You have to laugh at yourself sometimes. You have to be in the moment sometimes. Let life seduce you and the adventures will never cease.

Number five, it’s great for bonding with friends, lovers, and such. Though my husband makes funny faces when I describe the crazy premise behind a story, it never fails to start a conversation. My female friends who are into erotica also get a kick out of it. It’s fun and it’s healthy. It provides a neutral ground to discuss feelings on something personal.

When stories have situations where desires seem crazy, it provides learning opportunities on our fellow humans. The more I explore the topic, the less crazy it seems to me. You only get one shot to explore this planet, let it be your adventure.

Number six, I want to be a writer so duh. As an aspiring author, I’ve decided to expand my horizons beyond my favorite genre and medium. I want to learn everything I can from everywhere I can. Erotica has taught me so much about writing. Like I said, writers in this field milk every scene for maximum sensual impact. I want to do that in my non-erotic fiction someday.

Why did I want to share this today?

When I sat down to write this week’s blog post, I couldn’t stop thinking about this new guilty pleasure, and I was ashamed of it. I, like many of you, grew up in an environment that used shame to silence. The minute I’d think something a little out the box, I was quickly put back in my place with a dose of shame.

How could you think that? Only people with no home training do that. What will people say? And you call yourself a lady?

I know they didn’t mean any harm. They did it out of what they perceived as my best interest. Hell, I used this tactic on my sister a lot in our teen years. We’re twins. It was hard not to feel like her embarrassment was mine to share.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned that no one has control over me. They can offer as many suggestions as they want. If I accept the shame they give me, I have shamed myself.

And, I’m not ‘bout that life, bruh. Naw, dude. Uh-un.

I gotz to do me.

After having a long internal duel, with wings-and-halo-me and horns-and-pitchfork-me, I decided to slaughter them both and be myself. I don’t see anything wrong with flights of the imagination. I certainly don’t see anything wrong with sharing it.

What about you? Do you have any guilty pleasures to share? Let me know in the comments.

And, as always, if you like what you read, like the Curious Queendom Facebook page.

Dear Sweetling, Stop Being a Martyr

You’ve changed cities, boyfriends, and friends but for some reason, you’re always surrounded by people who take advantage of your kindness.

Dear Sweetling, the problem is you.

I hate to say it. Maybe to you, it would be nice to live in a world where people read your thoughts and jump at the opportunity to please you, but that’ll never happen. And I don’t think it ever should.

Seriously do you want people reading your mind? Yikes.

Maybe you don’t want people reading your mind. Maybe you think that people “should” be more considerate and do for you what you’ve done for them. I get that. I happen to agree. But I also think that everyone should give me a dollar. I mean, it wouldn’t hurt their pockets, and it would make me rich.

You see where I’m going. The world owes you NOTHING! You won’t get anywhere in life if you don’t learn this lesson soon.

Your first reaction may be to call me a pessimist. I’m not, I swear. I believe the best in humanity and think that most people are motivated to do what’s right. However, I also believe that I am the designer of my fate. If I want something, I will have to, at the very least, ask for it. It won’t fall into my lap because I think it should. If that’s not optimistic, I don’t know what is.

What’s more empowering than taking control of your life.

I know you’re not a bad person. You may just have a bug going around called Martyr Complex. With this complex you always find yourself suffering for the sake of others.

You’re motivated by good. I bet you always put more of the load on yourself so that others can have an easier go at it. You just want people to act right!

The problem with being a martyr goes beyond the phantom world on your shoulders. When you’re in the room, nothing gets solved. Simple things that call for a voice of reason are beyond your skills because your complex wants you to stay a martyr for all of eternity.

When people talk to you, it feels like there’s no way to make you happy. It’s as if you go into fights wanting to prove that you are the most hurt. Well… that’s cool, but it doesn’t solve anything. In case you’re wondering whether you have Martyr Complex…

Signs of Martyr Complex

  1. You don’t accept solutions to problems. You prefer to complain and complain about a problem as if there couldn’t be a solution to why you’re always taking out the trash. When your friend suggests that you talk to your roommate, you get defensive and say that it’ll never work.
  1. You use the word “should” a lot. He should’ve known that you wanted the window seat. Really. Should he have?
  1. You have low self-esteem. In general, your happiness depends on others because you’re not good enough to provide it for yourself. You’ve lost faith in your abilities and believe that others have some special ingredient you don’t.
  1. You can’t say “no.” When someone asks you for something, you neglect yourself to get it done.
  1. You feel as if you’re the only one who can do it right. You could leave the work to others but worry they can’t get that spit shine the way you do.

Now, don’t worry. Come on over here. Let me rub your hair as you cry on my shoulder. No. Stop that. It is sad that you’re a martyr, but it does not have to be permanent. There is a solution.

How to stop being a martyr.

Know what you want. And, let’s be clear, you don’t want people to change, you want a specific behavior to change. If you approach problems thinking you’re going to change a person, you won’t get anywhere. For example, you’re sick of always taking out the trash. The thing you’d want is for your roomie/partner to share the load equally. You’re not trying to make that person more considerate or less lazy because that’s subjective and condescending. You want one specific change in behavior.

Don’t hold people hostage to your gifts/favors. When you do someone a favor, do you expect something in return? You always leave the last bagel for your roommate, so now you expect them to leave you the last of the milk? It may seem as if you’re asking for things to be fair but in reality, you aren’t. They didn’t ask you for the last bagel; why should they be hostage to a favor they didn’t ask for? If you give something away, consider it gone.

Accept your role in the problem. If you have Martyr Complex, you may have heard that you have an excuse for everything and that people aren’t allowed to be upset with you. You spill hot coffee on people but insist they can’t be upset because they should understand your heart or whatever. If you make a mistake, own up to it. No big deal. Just as you deserve sympathy, so does everyone else.

Don’t expect people to read your mind. If something is bothering you, say something. Imagine if every day you went to work, your friend had a cup of coffee waiting on your desk. The problem is, you hate coffee. Instead of saying something, you sneak off to the bathroom and toss it. When your friend sees the empty cup, they interpret it as proof of your love for coffee and the problem continues. I bet this problem would be solved if you just said something.

Learn how to communicate. There’s this amazing book called Crucial Conversations that should be mandatory reading. It’s all about handling those tough conversations. Some of the best advice in the book is to remember why you started the conversation. You want to solve the problem. It’s not about winning or losing. This means that the solution may not come from you. Read this amazing book to learn more.

Set boundaries. I think that everyone could benefit from making personal policies. For me, I go to bed by 9pm, I’m not available to chitchat during the workday and so on. People tend to respect personal policies because they have their own. I even respect people more for having them. Make it known what you will and won’t accept. You’ll be a lot happier for it.

Say no. If you’re someone who often puts yourself on the backburner, you need this advice more than ever. You need to say no to make up for lost time. To make this easier, pick two hours in the day to take care of yourself. Just be a total lush. If someone asks you to do something during your scheduled “me-time,” say no. If someone else can do it, if the world won’t come to a screeching halt, say no. Do this for two weeks. You’ll be rejuvenated. Trust me. You’ll wonder at how you didn’t do this sooner.

No one can force you to do anything. You may do so much for others because you think you don’t have a choice. You always have a choice. If you go against your better judgment and cave to someone’s wishes, you only have yourself to blame. You are doing the damage to yourself. There are relentless people out there. I’m a huge advocate of walking away from them. I also find it effective to say these words:

I’ve told you that I don’t want to do it. Begging me won’t make me want to – nothing will. I don’t want to do it.

That normally gets the job done. I’ll admit it’s a little jarring, but it’s meant to be. The problem with relentless people is that they think you just need to be convinced. It’s like they’re under a spell. They want what they want so badly that they’re blind to how you feel. You just need to snap them out of it.

If you worried about hurting their feelings, don’t. Tell me what’s offensive about that statement. Nothing. It’s all in the way you say it. You can’t laugh it off because you need to break the spell. You also don’t need to shout or get in a tizzy. Just say it in a calm and firm voice.

You cannot force people to change. If you have Martyr complex, you tend to use guilt as your weapon for change. Not cool. Come on, tell the truth: people can’t change enough for you. When will it be enough? When will they be perfect?

Everyone has his or her own life to live. Is it your place to interfere with things that don’t concern you? Of course, you have a right to an opinion, but that’s all you get. State your piece, lobby for what you want, and move on if it’s falling on deaf ears. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to make your friends into mirror images of you.

Some situations are harder than others. Maybe you know someone who’s going down the wrong path. Don’t enable them but don’t make their life your life’s mission. Eventually, they will come to their senses.

I hope this helps. If you’ve overcome your Martyr Complex and wanted to share your story, please do. Or, if you have some advice that I missed, don’t hesitate to share it.

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My Morning Ritual (so far)

My ideal day looks like something out of a fairytale. I’d wake up and begin my day of creative work.   Ideas would flow like a stream that leads to an ocean. By the end of the day, I’d look at what I created and shake my head wondering, what spirit possessed me to create such loveliness.

This never happens.

My day may start off like water rushing down a stream but usually ends with praying for rain or peering into a well hoping to find just a drop of energy to keep me going.

In my quest to build an empire, I’ve learned not to depend on inspiration alone but long for it all the same. Wouldn’t it be great to carry high energy for an entire work day?

An answer to this question came through a trend I’ve noticed over last few months: building rituals. As soon as I understood the premise behind it, I wanted in.

It makes sense. Doing the same actions over and over renders the same results. So, if you find what makes you feel energized and do those things every day, you’ll have an energy source you can count on day in and out.

I also liked this idea because I’m fascinated by the potential of productivity in the early hours of the day. It’s a time when thoughts flow without the obstructions of the day’s worries. I find that I’m not thinking about the past or too far into the future; my thoughts are focused on what’s important.

If there were a way to prolong this feeling of mental clarity throughout the day, I wanted to find it. Building a ritual seemed like a good way to go about it.

So I walked up the steep hills of Mt. Get-it-done, studied under the guidance of Guru Nowish, and now consider myself qualified enough to report my findings. I’m no expert. I have many things I want to improve on but sharing it with you is a part of making progress.

Start the day for you.

This means you’re not getting up 5 minutes before you need to leave for work. You should get up with enough time to attend to your needs. It may sound like a pain to give up sleep but who better to lose sleep over than yourself? Every minute you give to yourself is time well spent.

The weird thing about this is that it gives you something to hold on to throughout the day. Doing good for you never feels bad. You never regret it. It’s a positive way to begin the day. Positivity begets positivity.

Meditate on what’s at stake

I used to meditate formally, but now I settle for sitting and thinking. I think about what I want to accomplish, how it helps me achieve my life’s goal, and how five years from now could look if I work diligently. I also think about how the future would look if I didn’t work toward creating the life I wanted. It’s never a pretty picture.

This pumps me up. I feel motivated to make my dream a reality when I consider the cost of laziness. It reminds me that I love what I do and would prefer working toward my dreams to watching Youtube videos.

Some people say mantras to get them in the right mindset. I love this idea too. No matter what you decide don’t allow the words to lose meaning. Your path is at stake here.

Exercise

Exercise is a fundamental part of life. It just is. However, I don’t think that this is a must for your morning routine. I know people that are perfectly happy working out at 6 pm. I am not one of those people. I’d caution you not to skip this advice because you’re “not a morning person.”

For me, working out in the morning energizes me. If you’re just starting out, you may feel the opposite. Maybe that’s because you’re not accustomed to working out yet, which means you’ll feel tired regardless of the time of day you workout. Because of how good it makes me feel, please try it in the morning for a while before you discard it. If this doesn’t work for you, exercise later.

I’ll admit, since leaving the Army, my workouts have gotten pretty tame. Walking my pup is good enough for me. I walk at a fast pace to both get something out of the workout and to do right by my dog. (It irks me that people get pets only to chain them up all day.) The cool thing about working out with my pup is that it has built-in motivation. When he looks at me with the “is it time for a walk” look, it motivates me to do it.

Cold shower and other hygieney things.

Wait. I don’t actually take cold showers. I take the hottest showers in history then rinse off in cold water. I just couldn’t give up the pleasure of a hot shower. It’s too amazing. I will say that the cold rinse no longer feels obligatory. It gives me a shot of energy that makes the biggest difference. After the initial shock, it feels nice.

Since I’ve given myself enough time to attend to my needs, I don’t feel pressured to rush through it. I get to enjoy it. I get to massage the soaps and potions into my skin.

For me, this is where the magic happens. I feel utterly rejuvenated after I’m done. A little self-care goes a long way.

Breakfast

Food is fuel that’s all I have to say here. Most of us know how a balanced plate looks so I won’t bore you with that. What we fail to do is follow through with what we know.

Honestly, I’m still working on this. It’s not that I don’t have the time to make it a balanced meal. I need some discipline. When I get there, I will let you know how it makes me feel.

Cup of tea and begin working.

A lot of articles recommend a caffeine-less ritual. I am a lover of moderation. I’ve never been into coffee, but a cup of green tea makes me feel divine. Also, some sources say that green tea is good for you.

This ritual does the trick to pump me up. In time, I’ll know if I need to make adjustments.

I hope this has convinced you to give developing a ritual a chance. If you already have one let us know how it’s going. If you’re steadfast against them, that’s cool too. Let us know why.

And, as always, if you loved (or hated) what you read, like the Curious Queendom Facebook page.

 

 

 

This Year We’re Keeping Our New Year’s Resolutions.

It’s that time of year again – time to make New Year’s Resolutions. Which means, no doubt, some of you have read (or created) anti-NYR statuses on Facebook.

*whiney voice* There’s nothing special about January 1st. You can make new goals whenever you want. Wah wah wah.

Okay, I understand this logic. But if it doesn’t matter when I decide to make a change, why are you so against me doing it on the first of the year? HA! Let that sit with you for a while. Slayed ‘em. Okay… sorry about that.

I’m just a little touchy about New Years Resolutions. I guess it’s because I’ve never managed to keep a single one. Nope. Never. I suck at them. Every year, right around this time, I reflect on what I’ve accomplished and make new goals. By February, I’ve completely neglected them.

Last year, I made a series of over-the-top reading goals that I never accomplished. I even said that I would write book reviews. Have you ever seen a book review on this blog? No, you haven’t.

But guys, this year is going to be different. It has to be. Don’t look at me like that. I mean it.

See, for me, shit just got real. I MUST become a fiction writer and soon. If I don’t work toward this goal, I will never be one. THIS IS FACT. Especially considering my life and where it’s likely to go from here – kids, dogs, house. It’s weird, I know. The closer I get to that life, the harder it will be to burst into the industry. It won’t be impossible, but things are simpler right now. I should take advantage of it.

I don’t know where your life is at this moment, but I imagine that it won’t get any easier. Even if you think it will get easier, pretend for a second that it won’t. If you don’t work toward your goal, you will never achieve it. FACT.

So before you (and I) start writing goals this year, there’re some things to think about.

What is your life goal?

I know that’s not exactly a small question. For me, it’s clear: I want to be a published fiction author. If you don’t know your life’s goal, don’t worry. I got ya covered. No matter the goal, there’s something you’ll need to do: become your best self. If you strive for this, you’ll discover your goal – it’s inevitable.

So, if we’re all on the same page, I’ll continue. If you start writing your goals for the year with your life’s goal in mind, you’ll know why it’s so important to do the damn thing. Also, it saves you the pain of doing things that don’t make sense in the grand scheme of things.

Wait. Don’t move ahead of the teacher. You’ve only just written down your life’s goal. Don’t start with the resolutions just yet. Please, humor me for a bit.

Consider the avenues of approach.

With most goals, there isn’t simply one thing you need to do to achieve it. It’s a battle. If you only worry about what’s in front of you, you’ll get flanked and defeated. For instance, to be a published author, I have to think about social media, reading books, building my writing skills, and so on. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever be a writer if I’m not doing all of these simultaneously.

The same goes for losing weight. You have to change your eating habits, exercise, limit temptations, and so on. You won’t be able to keep the weight off for good if you’re not doing all of these things simultaneously.

You see where I’m going with this.

Your resolution will more than likely consist of the avenues of approach. Scary, right?

This is where I get screwed. With all of these things to think about how the hell am I ever going to accomplish my goal?

Be reasonable. Prioritize tasks.

There are only 24 hours in the day, and you’ll likely be productive for five of them.

You may have ten things you need to do, but I’m guessing that some tasks have higher priority than others. And, getting to the other things on your list probably depends on cementing a few habits first. For instance, I’m not at the level where I could write a novel and get it published. I have to develop skills and build a writing habit first. If I spend this time focusing on all of the other aspects of being a writer, I’m dooming myself.

This is why you’re going to limit yourself to no more than three avenues of approach toward your life’s goal. These things are at the top of your list of resolutions. They are the only goals that you are absolutely required to do. Everything else on your list is a bonus resolution that you can give yourself a pat on the back just for writing down.

WAIT, there’s more.

You can’t just say that you’re going to do these three things. You gotta get realer than that. Resolutions don’t get done that way.

What is your minimum?

Is this still fun for you? I don’t know. This is right around the time I start to lose interest but hold on. We’re going to beat our resolutions this year. We can do this.

You’ve picked the top three things to focus on this year. For me, I’m going to:

  1. Write one short story/ month
  2. Read some books/month
  3. Build my social media presence.

Chances are your New Years Resolutions aren’t the only things that demand your attention. You still have work, kids, and the like. Most people write goals as if it never rains, the car never breaks down, and they have a superhuman ability that fends off all diseases, bouts of sadness, and creative block.

That, my dear, is planning to fail.

In my ideal world, I’d write a 10,000-word story per month; read three books per month, and post on every social media platform five times a day (including this blog).

Wow, that is never going to happen. Let’s be real.

If I have a month that totally goes to shit, I think I could still manage to write a 600-word story, read one book, and post on Facebook and Twitter once per day/5 days a week (especially if reposting something from Facebook to Twitter counts).

Now it’s your turn. If the worst-case scenario happened, what do you think you’ll still manage to accomplish over the course of a month.

Now that you know the minimum you’re willing to accept of yourself, there’s just one more thing to do.

Create a schedule.

Imagine how your day would look if it included your three goals. Does it fit? Do you need to adjust and aim for weekly accomplishment of your goal as opposed to daily? I know that for me, I do not have the patience to sit down every day and make a post for social media. I prefer to sit down one day, create five posts for Facebook, five posts for Twitter, and a blog post and then schedule them to publish on the appropriate day.

If you find that your goal doesn’t work in your schedule, you may have to make the decision to save that goal for later or make it a get-to-it-when-you-can goal.

I know I said there was one more thing but this is the last thing.

Plan to make adjustments

When you’ve gotten some things under your belt, and you feel secure in your schedule, you can add things. I bet you don’t have to tell yourself to brush your teeth every day. That’s because (hopefully) you’ve already developed that habit. It doesn’t require any willpower to accomplish that daily goal.

I hope that writing a short story a month becomes so natural to me that I can build toward creating a novel. Writing novels is what I want to do. If one day I decide that I’m ready to move forward, I’ll do just that.

Don’t think that you’re stuck with what you wrote down. You’re not making goals to have something to check off. You’ve created goals because you want to achieve your life’s purpose.

In the spirit of sticking to my goals, I’ve posted mine below.

New Year's Resolutions

  • Read 1 book/ month
  • Write 1 short story/month
  • Post 5 posts on Facebook Page and Twitter/week
  • Create 1 Blog post/ week
Bucket List plugin by Cleio&Co

*Note I consider blogging as a part of my social media goals.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions? If you’re written about it on your blog, post a link to it in the comments.

Good luck out there!

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Be an Amateur

Three weeks ago, I started working on a short story that I plan on sending to a long list of science fiction/fantasy magazines, but when I sat down to write my story, all of my sentences just read amateurish. It was strange. I don’t consider myself to be on par with my favorite (or least favorite) authors; I just didn’t expect it to be THAT bad. With each word I typed, I felt a sense of dread – would I ever get better? Will I ever become a published author?

Each day, I turned on my computer, looked at what I’d already written, got angry with myself, and then watched Youtube. With each passing day, I stopped making excuses for myself and just settled into my new routine of self-sabotage and time wasting.

As a connoisseur of inspirational quotes and productivity literature, I knew what I should do. I wasn’t allowing myself to be amateur – which I am, as I’ve never sold a story in my life.

I looked at my story and compared it to Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, and Brandon Sanderson (my faves) when I should’ve been focused on learning the craft.

Why You Should Be An Amateur.

When you stop focusing on being an expert and learn to be an amateur you begin to…

Focus on developing the right lifestyle. To become whatever it is you want to become, you’ll probably have to change something about the way you live – like getting up earlier, eating healthier, getting better sleep. These things may not directly impact your craft, but they’re still integral to success.

Focus on quantity. Perfectionism has a way of slowing ya down. You won’t finish this first project because you need it to be perfect. Imagine if the Technology industry worked this way. Apple would’ve never put out an iPhone because of the updates it would inevitably need. When you focus on finishing projects, you learn skills you could never learn by working on one project for an infinite amount of time.

Test your skills and level up. As an amateur, you’ll walk up the steps, build your muscle, fall a bit, and then move forward. You can’t become an expert without being an amateur so you may as well stop wasting your time and be the amateur you were meant to be.

How to be an amateur.

Consume and analyze the work of others in your field. Reading the work of other authors has really taken away some of the mystery behind story development. This might sound like a bad thing but the longer you look at something, the easier it is to see the gears and strings working in the background. You start to see the similarities in people’s work, which makes you appreciate their differences all the more. You’ll learn the format so that you can put your personal spin on it and make it something special.

Get started. Do the thing you dream of doing, regularly. Learning about the craft is important but doing the work is where it all counts. Just get started. Don’t worry about how good it looks or how bad it looks just do the work. Use what you learned. Make the mistakes you need to make.

Finish. Finish what you start! Finish what you start! You may be tempted to toss your terrible paint by numbers puppy before you’ve completed the corner but don’t. Finish your project no matter how terrible it looks. One day, you will want to produce a finished piece; get in the habit of finishing things now. If you don’t finish it, you’re also cheating yourself out of learning opportunities. The last corner may require you to mix things up or may help reinforce skills you already learned. One day, you’ll want to go back and look at your fugly painting so don’t toss it.

Get feedback. So your first project was terrible, and you know it so why get feedback? You are limited by your perception. Someone else may help you put your problem into words. Once you have your problems identified, you can fix them, which leaves you room to make new mistakes. Also, you need to desensitize yourself to constructive criticism. If you only hand your work off to others when you’re sure it’ll get praised, you aren’t producing enough, amateur.

Move on to your next project. You maybe tempted to stay on this old project until it’s perfect (indefinitely) but you’re not helping yourself if you do. In any field, you won’t be making the same thing over and over again; you’ll have to be able to generate new ideas and move forward. Your new idea may build off of old ones, but it’ll still be new. Don’t forget: you are an amateur right now. You are still learning. Perfectionism is the enemy. MOVE ON!

The thought of being an amateur is scary. We’ve all have criticized someone’s hard work as being amateurish at one point or another. You know, like those films that look like poor replicates of a poor replication. The thing about being an amateur that gives me comfort is that it means that I am a devotee of my craft. I am paying my dues. I am going through the growing pains.

The best thing about being an amateur is that it is the best and only preparation for being an expert. You’ll learn something new with each project. It’s inevitable and keeps the passion burning. I hope you’ve picked your project because you love doing it. If so, you will love all the practice you’ll get to have.

Good luck out there.

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I’m Back

So it’s been a while and boy have things changed since my last post. I wanted to do this cool thing where I told you about the changes before they happened but spilled milk, right?

Anyway, my life has changed a lot. These changes clicked this weird switch I have. It’s kind of a coping mechanism, I think. When things change drastically, I go into hermit mode.
For starters, I moved to Korea – South Korea, obviously. Not because of the Donald, but the timing is pretty impeccable. I moved to Korea because my husband is stationed here. I thought that once I was settled into my new apartment, I would be able to come out of my shell and write a post but then we got a puppy.

I’m not a dog, cat, or pet-person. It’s due to my all-or-nothing disposition. If I’m to have a dog, it will be trained goddammit. So, as you might imagine, I’ve been pulling my hair out to train the puppy to do the basic commands: sit, stay, stop, down, down, get the fuck off my couch.

The puppy, Colt – a husky, has made me realize more reasons people shouldn’t have pets. But, more importantly, I’m happy to have him in the family. After my frustration had waned, I came to terms with the fact that there are things out of my control and that I didn’t get a puppy to become a drill sergeant. I got him because my husband had been begging me for months…. And maybe because the pet store looked like shit and the puppy was sitting in his own filth… And… because… maybe I’ve always wanted to give love to a furry friend.

Anyway, after having the puppy for a while, I thought I’d write a post but then Election Day happened. The US was on fire for few weeks there. If you know me on a personal level, it’s clear that I’m liberal. I’m super liberal, super progressive. So, no, I’m not a fan of the Donald. Nope. Not at all. The Election increased my time in my hidey-hole. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what could be said. All I knew was, WOW. The word, ‘wow.’

Now that I’ve come to terms with the reality of my new life, I’m back. I’m sorry I left for so long. I hope you can forgive me. I needed the break. I really did.

At first, I felt guilty for taking the break. It’s not like I have a large following on this blog. I started this blog as a promise to myself. So when I took that long break, I felt like I was letting myself down which can make a person go down a weird path of self-hate. I feel bad for breaking a promise to myself then I beat myself up for feeling bad then I feel worse because I beating myself up… It’s infinite in self-destructive power.

When I noticed the pattern, I decided to allow myself to take a break. The break opened my eyes to something: I had a lot going on. Moving within in the same State is hard, imagine moving to another country. I just wasn’t giving myself enough credit.

So, I said all that to say, I’m back. I will continue my regularly scheduled post from hence forward. Thank you for sticking around. See you next week.

How to Enjoy Solitude

I remember times when the thought of being alone terrified me. I had fancied up an idea of what friendship would be like and thought that if I just had people around I could make that dream come true. My fantasy group of friends was like a pop girl group. We all looked amazing in our coordinating outfits. We drew the eyes of the whole room when we arrived. We had slumber parties where we drank fruity alcoholic drinks as we waited for our facemasks to set. And though we were full grown adults, we watched My Little Pony or Barbie Movies because come on, it’s fun and totally sets the mood.

Because I wanted my fantasy as quickly as possible, I settled for the company of unsavory folk. And, though they were bad for me, I actively sought to keep them in my life because loneliness felt like a poor alternative.

It was bad enough to be this vulnerable, but I made it worse by further stripping myself of protection – the kind of protection that comes with being happy in solitude:

– I denied my own feelings to better suit the needs of the group.

– I deferred important decisions just so that I wouldn’t have to be accountable.

– I treated my thoughts and feelings with less value than others.

Eventually, I learned to let those people go and enjoy my solitude but was pleasantly surprised by all of the unanticipated benefits that came with the transformation.

The Benefits of Being Alone

I started to take care of home. Because I didn’t have to rush off to meet someone else’s timetable, I took more time for myself. I spent that extra minute to use the Listerine that had been sitting on my counter for months. I cooked all of my meals instead of throwing a frozen dinner into the microwave. This newfound self-care opened up a reserve of energy I didn’t even know I had.

I discovered myself. Being alone gave me some time to reflect. I had been living my life on default mode and hadn’t allowed myself to truly think about the things I did and wanted to do. With time to myself, I found that I had a lot to say – things that had gone unsaid for too long – which is one of the reasons I started this blog. I began to find myself and commit to myself.

I found clarity. Another weird side effect of not having time to myself was my clarity broke down. I had been inundated with so much outside information and expectations that I had drowned out my own thoughts. I even found myself forgetting things more and not being able to concentrate. Alone time helped me to find space for meditative states that led me to greater focus, memory, concentration, and productivity.

I dealt with my demons. I think a big reason I didn’t want to be alone was that I was avoiding my own thoughts. If I could spend every moment with someone else, I would never have to face my demons. It’s damn near impossible to spend time alone without inner demons surfacing. Because my demons were unavoidable, I chose to slay them – a decision I wouldn’t have made if my solitude hadn’t forced it on me.

I developed better relationships. When I became committed to myself and my beliefs, I found it necessary to surround myself with like-minded people. I no longer wanted to fill my space with just any and everyone. I wanted the people who entered my space to make the room better for it, and I wanted to have the same impact on them.

And, most importantly, I started to like myself. Imagine being alone with someone you don’t like. You’d probably do anything in your power to escape. I think this was the root of my problem. I didn’t want to be alone with myself because I had low self-esteem. I had made so many poor decisions and could no longer lean on myself for support thus looked for support in all the wrong places. In my time alone, I began to supplant my judgments with compassion. I stopped being selective with the qualities I saw in myself and saw the whole picture.

Surprisingly, the journey to enjoying my solitude was not as hard as you may think. I had to make a few changes in the way I think and develop the discipline to sustain the changes I had to make. 

Ignoring Loneliness VS. Enjoying Solitude

In my quest to enjoy solitude, I first had to learn difference between ignoring loneliness and enjoying solitude. I encountered two major obstacles:

  1. Noise
  2. Distractions

Noise. Sometimes I think that noise is a bit of a replacement for people. Have you ever met someone that always has something playing in the background? I think people do this to brush off the sting of loneliness.

Distractions. This, too, is used to ignore loneliness as opposed to enjoying solitude. With all the connectedness you can seek in social media, phone apps, and TV, you never have to acknowledge your loneliness. This is not to say that these are bad, but if you’re going to enjoy your solitude you have to limit your use.

Once I truly understood the difference, I began to use my solitude to do things that I couldn’t do as effectively in the company of others. This is enjoying solitude

How I Enjoy Solitude

I gave myself time to disconnect. It used to be that as soon as I woke up, I picked up my phone and went through various notifications and emails. Before I even gave myself a chance to make a deliberate decision about my day, I let my emails and notifications decide. Now, my morning time is precious. I wake up with a mission to take care of myself first before I get into anything else. It makes me proactive in my day.

Learned new skills. Everyone has goals that are outside of work. Alone time gave me some time to work on them. I am currently learning Spanish – something I would not be able to if I didn’t have time to myself. Though I’ve had my ups and downs, learning this new skill makes me fill fulfilled. 

To deal with nagging thoughts. If something is really bothering me, I have the time and space to deal with it instead of pushing it aside. Sometimes, the things that are nagging at me are small, like the way some customer service rep treated me. Sometimes, it’s big, like a fight with my parents. But regardless, I get to have a conversation with myself that helps me to understand why this problem is bothering me. In dealing with my nagging thoughts, I’ve learned that I can’t take responsibility for others’ actions; I must take responsibility for my actions alone. Usually, this thought ends any inner dilemma and prompts me to action instead of stewing in my negative emotions for days on end.

Quiet time. I have a weird love for quiet. I didn’t even know how much I liked quiet. There used to be a time when I always had music playing or filled companionable silence with useless prattle. Now, I am very conscious of noise. Quiet moments fill me with a strange warmth and connectedness that’s hard to put into words.

The cool thing about this journey is the way it impacted the rest of my life. Other things just seem to fall into place. Time in solitude offers some of the best mental, emotional, and spiritual preparation. It gave me time to understand myself and help me to set some much-needed boundaries.

I also learned that I could and should be my own best friends. I didn’t really need anyone else to help me shine as I walked into the room. I could very well sip fruity drinks as I applied a facemask all by myself. And though I’m a grown adult, I still watch My Little Pony even when I don’t have my niece around as an excuse.

This is not to say that friends aren’t a valuable part of life – they are. It’s important to know that they cannot hold you up and if you can’t hold yourself up. Solitude helped me to be my own support.

When friends started to come my way, I loved my solitude too much to throw it out the window. I wanted both: my awesome pop girl group and my moments of solitude.

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How to Get Over Yourself

When I was deep in the trenches of my insecurity, I would walk into a room and feel like my skin was burning under everyone’s gaze. I can’t say enough I didn’t think everyone was staring because I’m hot shit or something. I was a fraud and felt that everyone could see through my ruse. Like my every flaw or mistake was on full display and they were tearing me apart because of it. It’s kinda funny to me now because of how dramatic it all seems.

I was paralyzed under my presumed self-importance, seeing it fit to do nothing rather than look stupid. And now that I look back at myself, I see the danger all of this put me in.

The troubling fact about this affliction is that it stirs up quite a bit of self-pity.

Poor me, I can’t get out of my head. Poor me, everyone is talking about me.
If you wander through life with these kinds of thoughts, let this be your rude awakening.

I’m sure you feel agitated by your affliction and want to change so that you can realize your confident self, but this problem is bigger than your agitation, my friend.

1) You’re the most likely target of con artist and zealots alike. When you’re self-conscious, you reek of neediness. You need someone to tell you that your thoughts are good, and your words are nice and that you fit in perfectly with society. Con artists can sniff that out like a bloodhound. They’ll be there to give you the validation you crave; I promise you. And you’ll regret it.

2) You may not have proposed ideas that kept others down, but you’re damn sure are a part of the reason such ideas still exist. Things that disgust you can happen all around you, but you won’t speak up because you need someone else to give you permission. You feel like your point of view isn’t worth anything, so you keep it to yourself. I’m sure I don’t have to list the tragedies throughout history that have left the world wondering:

How come no one said anything? There had to have been more people that didn’t agree with this than those that did.

If you hold on to this problem for much longer, I’m sure you’ll be asked these questions someday (maybe you already have).

3) It’s like you’re not even a real person. Instead of being an authentic living person, you’re more comparable to a block of wood. When you’re worried about what others think, you become susceptible to the ax. People can chip away at you and configure you at will. It’s a coping mechanism to ease your pain of feeling different. You shift in and out of roles just to survive, and nobody knows the real you. Be careful. Before you know it, they’ll be nothing left to chip away.

To get out your head is to see the world and live in it. So get out of your head and be here with the rest of us. Here are some tips to get you started.

Be sure of yourself. Validate yourself. If you have doubts in what you do, it will manifest itself as self-consciousness. You end up questioning that doubtful decision you made early at every turn.

It’s important to remember not to take things too seriously. Does the thing you’re worrying about really matter? If you can let it go, let it go.

You’re not in a competition, so stop comparing yourself. The thoughts that overpower your ability to function are likely comparative. You think about how your apartment is subpar when visiting a friend. And somehow that friend can tell their better you. Stop that. If you really need to upgrade your life, do it but there’s sense in worrying about that at the dinner party.

Stop being judgmental. I’ve noticed that people who worry about what others think have a lot of negative things to say about other people. A part of the reason they worry so much is that they think everyone reacts to the world in the same way they do. If you walk around scoffing at someone else’s shoes, you carry around worry about what people think of your shoes. First of all, who gives a shit about what other people are thinking, doing, or wearing. Seriously. Don’t you have better things to do? Secondly, you have to live your life regardless of what others are doing.

It’s ok for others not to agree with you. And, it’s ok for you not to agree with others. When I say that my favorite singer/performer/human-being on earth is Beyoncé, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. It would shock me, but I would get over it… eventually. I’ll make one or two good attempts at trying to show you the light but after that, I’ll leave it alone. Because… I don’t need you to be just like me. I think most well-adjusted adults feel the same. And when you get around someone that can’t accept the fact that you’re different, it’s time to get rid of this person.

Practice expressing yourself. No, not in a mirror unless you think that’ll help. When you’re having a conversation with friends, throw out your opinion even if your opinion is unpopular. You’ll discover that the world will not end. Maybe a debate will ensue but words, am I right? Just words. It’s ok. If your opinion on a given topic drives a wedge between you and your company, it’s just a sign that you need to find more like-minded peeps.

Put your attention on the person you’re talking to, or the task at hand. If you’re talking to someone but thinking about yourself (uh rude much), you can’t say that you really get the whole picture. Conversations encompass way more than words. If you are really paying attention to the person you’re talking to, you understand their body language, the inflection of their voice, and the pace and rhythm of their words. If you’re doing all of that, you don’t have room to ruminate on whether or not your hair has maintained its style. Don’t be rude.

No one expects you to be perfect. There will absolutely be times when you say or do the wrong thing. Expecting any different is unrealistic. Can you think of one perfect conversationalist? No, probably not. Even politicians, whose careers are built on conversation, occasionally blunder.

When I finally got over myself, I started to see how silly I was being. People have their own stuff to think about and are spending far less time thinking about you than you think. The people out there that do spend their time thinking about your imperfections are not worth the effort of trying to impress. These types would nitpick you until they found something to complain about, so you may as well just be yourself.

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Why You’re Attracting Assholes and How to Stop

When I think about the type of men and “friends” I used to attract – insecure, controlling, whiny-ass-babies – there is too much of a pattern for me to say that I had no role in it. Though I’ve drawn a cause-effect connection to the direction of my life and the ill actions of others, let me make one thing clear, I take full responsibility for the course of my life. In the last two posts, I’ve highlighted the bad things people have done to me. However, I am no saint…

Oh no, no, no… NO… Hell no. I’ve done things that I’m not proud of. It is not my goal to paint myself as one without sin.

Hell, I was not the best roommate in the world. I was a slob – a total slob. Being the clean enthusiast I am today, I wouldn’t want to live with a 19-year-old version me either.

And, when it comes to men, I used to be a bit of a snoop. There, I said it. Not proud of it, but it’s the truth. I wanted to know all the answers before I asked the questions. Today, my husband could leave his phone open to a picture of a super hot girl and wouldn’t provoke me to snoop. I’d probably ask him about her but would be satisfied with whatever he told me.

Anyway, all of this is beside the point. These are flaws to be sure, but these things have little to nothing to do with why I used to attract asshole friends and men. As I evaluate my life, there are four qualities I possessed that often led me into the arms of assholes:

I was too insecure to be alone. I knew what kind of people I wanted to surround myself but settled for far less. And, I think a part of me felt I wasn’t good enough for the kinds of friends I wanted. If you were kind enough to approach me or were receptive to my approach, we were friends. That’s all it took. If you were the discerning type and took a while to make friends, I perceived it as not showing an interest.

Did I mention I was full of myself? I thought about myself all the time and thought everyone else was thinking about me too. Not in the I’m-hot-shit kind of way, but in the “everyone knows there’s a hole in my undies” kind of way. Because, clearly, everyone else was endowed with a super vision I lacked.

I lost myself around other people. I wanted everyone to like me, so I rarely showed any of my quirks or imperfections. If I did show a quirk, it was only after someone else gave me permission to do so. I needed to see him or her do it first so that I wouldn’t feel so self-conscious doing it myself.

I convinced myself none of it mattered. I believed that I was one reinvention away from being the person I wanted to be thus the things I didn’t like, didn’t count. I could just erase it all and start afresh. Since it didn’t matter, the harm I put myself in seemed trivial.

In a nutshell, I attracted assholes because I was one.

If you see yourself in any of these qualities, it may be the reason you’re attracting assholes into your life. This doesn’t have to be the way things are forever. Because, let me tell ya, this life is not sustainable. Worse, others are living your life for you. You’re just a leaf in the breeze Dowisetrepla (bonus points if you get the reference). Minding the company you keep is integral to mastering yourself.

Trust your gut. When you come across a person aimed at taking advantage of you, he or she may not ride into the room on a broomstick or where a sign that reads, “I am the scum of the earth,” but there are bound to be other signs – keenest of which is how they make you feel. Something about the way their compliment left you feeling like you were slapped in the face or how you’re now walking away with fewer dollars and more of what you don’t need may be good indicators.

Intentions VS results. I’ve learned the importance of acknowledging the difference between a person intentions VS the result of his/her actions. Intentions are shiny and full of promise but they mean nothing without results. Most people think their actions are for the greater good. It’s just that their “greater good” could be devastating to you. If someone actions bode ill for you, distance yourself. That doesn’t mean that he/she is a bad person. He/she just is not good for you.

Be discerning. Court your future beau or BFF. There should be a trial period before you call someone your friend/bae. I don’t necessarily mean that you need to enact a 30-day rule. This period is action bound, not time bound. You need to know the people you’re inviting into your life. For instance, I have a personal policy to drive separately to a first date – romantic or otherwise. That maybe too new school for you but I refuse to give a stranger my address, let alone sit in the car with them.

Know what you want. If you want to surround yourself with positive, ambitious, and balanced people, why are you with negative-do-nothing-extremists? This is not to say abandon your friends at the first sign of weakness. You should know the difference between a bad day and hardened, habitual behavior. There are few things that immediately raise a red flag when I meet new people: gossiping, not-shutting-the-fuck-up, and certain isms (racism, sexism, and homophobia). If you know what your red flags are, have the courage to stick by them.

Don’t be afraid to call people out. This one has become a new hobby of mine. When people make passive aggressive statements, I make it a game to get them to say how they really feel. I start by saying, “what do you mean by that?” When they respond with an equally passive response because they can’t help themselves, I then say what the statement sounded like to me and watch them squirm. They bat their eyes a bit, and ask me, how could I think that of them. I say their comment sounded backhanded and give them an example of how they normally speak. It’s so much fun! Try it.

Say NO. If you don’t want to do something, say no. This is the easiest way to weed jackasses out of your life. A good friend wouldn’t want you to do anything you didn’t want to do. If you find that this jackass won’t let up, it’s time to let go of him/her. It’s really simple.

Lastly, find yourself. I get the feeling that if you’re in this predicament, you have lost yourself along the way. When you truly know who you are…

…the presence of others can’t overshadow you.

…you value your sanity.

…you couldn’t tolerate being around people that undermine your you-ness.

So get out there and get rid of some people so that you can have room for the right people. You won’t regret it. I promise.

What are your thoughts on attracting assholes? Let me know in the comments.

If you know people who need to read this (we all do), please share it with them.

Also

If you loved what you read, please like the Curious Queendom Facebook page. Thank you for your support.

 

This article is a part 4 of the Developing your fuck-it attitude. Check out the rest of the series.

 1) The Snake

2) The Mouse

3) Types of Women I admire

4) Why You’re Attracting Assholes and How to Stop

 

 

 

 

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