6 Books To Make You Feel Strong

Can you hear that? That’s me sighing so deeply that the roof is rattling. The past two weeks have been trying, tiring, and… good for my character. Two weeks ago I received a promotion at my day job. This was a position that I had been chasing for two years relentlessly. And now it’s here. And now it’s mine. And now I am hella tired.

Adjusting to my new role has, on the surface, been alright, I feel like I am where I need to be finally… however, I come home exhausted, I work later, and my balance of life has been thrown for a loop. It’s amazing how small changes affect our entire being.

At the same time as my promotion I really hurt a tendon in my left leg and had to stop training for my half marathon. I am unable to run. Running is my main source of stress relief so not only have I found myself coping with new issues but I do not have my usual coping tools available to me. It’s been a weird September.

I found myself going back to my bookshelf for comfort. Reading books I read a decade ago for the first time, to help relax me. I wanted to find a center and I hoped it would be in those pages. I read Kerouac’s On The Road, Hornby’s High Fidelity, and I’ve been eyeing my Fitzgerald collection (I own all of his books) with a hunger I usually reserve for pizza.

As a result of using texts to soothe me, where I would normally use my body, I’ve put together a list of books that have made me feel strong in the past and that deserve a re-read. I’m hoping you too will pick up on of these books and feel strong and centered.

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Create a New Story & Live It

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I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about meditation, mantras, and visualizing goals. I keep reading about mental blocks and holding yourself back from the things that you want and the things you deserve because of patterned thoughts and “stories”– the things we tell ourselves to keep us from going for something. We tell ourselves that we will never have money because we’ve always been broke or we’ll never find love because we’ve never been worthy or never had it before. We take the same paths over and over again because we don’t believe we can take another. It isn’t always about blazing a trail but simply taking a left instead of a right.

I get asked a lot where all my energy comes from. How do I get up early, how do I write at night after work, how do I have a dog… etc. etc. And while I sometimes thought I was just a high energy person by nature, I realized it’s really because I believe I am a high energy person.

Did I lose you right there? Wait! Stay with me.

I know this stuff can sound weird and can scare the living hell out of you but listen… just stop and think about the things you have always just assumed about yourself “I am just a nice person”, “I am just a lazy person”, “I am a math person”. Where did those things come from? You made them up! Or someone told you were good (or bad) at something and you believed them and created your story from it. We naturally want to do the things we are good at and avoid the things we are “bad” at, I get it. Life is easier that way. But what if the you you are now, is based on a series of stories that you wrote for yourself?

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To prove my point I’m going to break down a couple of my stories, both good and bad.

I Am Not A Math Person. Numbers bore me.
This is a story I started telling myself in the 7th grade. What’s funny is that I was in the “gifted” math group in the 5th grade, but it took just a couple of years of consistently being told I was a great writer, that I’d publish a book one day, and that math was my weakest subject, to reject the whole thing all together. No one explained to me that though it was my “weakest” subject, I was still very much “good” at it. I believed what I was told and leaned into my writing and let my math muscle deteriorate. Combined with two unhelpful middle school math teachers who laughed at wrong answers, and of course, puberty, I rejected the whole notion that I could ever be good at math or science and by the time I hit the 9th grade I lived in perpetual fear of it.

And then I had a wonderful Chemistry teacher who was TOUGH on everyone. She was this way because she believed we could do anything we worked for. I spent hours after class with her going over formulas again and again until I could do the most difficult problems she wrote. I worked my ass off and got an A. Because she believed in me, because she made me focus, and because she made me work as hard as she knew I could.

It still took me some time after that, years and years of undoing the bad story, but here I am, working at a company, doing math, handling my own finances, figuring shit out. The stories we tell ourselves are sticky but they can be unstuck if we focus and move past our setbacks.

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I am high energy. I don’t require sleep.
When I got to be about 16 years old and was forced to work my ass off at boarding school (a school that I was getting a free ride to and thus was in perpetual fear of getting tossed out) I told myself that I required little sleep. I worked a part-time job, I stayed up late doing homework, I had a boyfriend, friends, extracurricular activities, started playing sports…I jam packed my days and found that if I pushed outside of myself, the energy was there. The same went for college, I pushed my limits, always feeling a heightened awareness that college was going to end and that I needed to soak up as many experiences as I could. I went to parties, I took lots of weird classes, I worked as an RA, I said “I can do it all” because I truly believed I was that type of person. If I pushed, I found the energy for it all just outside my comfort zone.

Flash forward to me as an adult trying to do as much as I did in college but adding in new responsibilities: rent, a dog, full-time job, bills, navigating NYC, cleaning my apartment… At times I would come to a screeching hault all of a sudden and realize “Maybe I can’t do it all.” But I had always been that person, I had always told myself I could do it all. And the moment that belief faltered, so did my ability to do the things I wanted to do.

It took me a few years (yes, years) to right this ship. It took learning a new way of doing things and getting things done to get there. I went through months and months of stress and of simply doing it all wrong. I tried to apply what I knew in college to my new life and that failed miserably. And now I do believe I can do it all, just in a different way.

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I absolutely know what you’re thinking right now. Really! You’re thinking that this can’t possibly be true, that there are things standing in your way but just remember, someone who was born with more than you has fallen and someone born with less than you has risen. It’s all a matter of perspective and of creating stories for yourself that fit. If you secretly wish you were “A Morning Person”… Tell yourself you are, set your alarm like you are, GET OUT OF BED like you are. If you wish you were kinder. Tell yourself you are, do kind things, enjoy the feeling that comes from doing kind things!

I’m not saying this cut and dry and I am not saying it is easy. It actually kind of sucks most of the time. Re-writing your story is HARD. But like… what else are you doing with your time here?

Get After It: Poetry Submissions for May and June

Here’s a round up of all the great magazines and sites you can submit poetry to for the rest of May and all of June. I’ll be doing a few of these myself. I’m excited to take poetry seriously again!

If you get any acceptances from these later on, let me know so I can feature it!

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1. Into the Teeth of the Wind – Deadline: Rolling

What They Say: Into the Teeth of the Wind is a student-run poetry review sponsored by the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While we accept great poetry of any kind, we are particularly receptive to poems about people, poems concerned with identity, weird poems, and poems that take risks with form.

What I Say: CCS has had some rocky times over the past two years with its Literature major. They’ve overcome them and are accepting new undergrads in 2016. I want to support the students there sticking out the drama by submitting work to their mag. Plus, they also want WEIRD POEMS. I love a place that will put ‘weird’ in their submission guidelines. I am in.

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2. The Aurorean – Deadline: August 15th

What They Say: We seek your original poetry that is inspirational, meditational and regional (pertaining to the Northeast). Although these are our focus, we are open to subject matter as well as varied forms and style. We evaluate poetry on several levels including its skillful use of poetic craft; its ability to hold interest, and its layers of meaning. We do not publish anything hateful, overly religious or vulgar. We use very few rhyming or love poems. We are especially interested in positiveness, recovery and nature, as well as haiku.

What I Say: This is one I would love to submit to, but you have to live in New England 6+ months out of the year. This ex-New Englander sadly no longer fits the bill, but if you do, get yourself to the submission page. I’d love to see your work in this one!

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3. The Prompt – Deadline: Rolling

What They Say: We here at the prompt are not soulless machines. We at the prompt are creative individuals just as you are. As such, our goal is to foster a community of writers, and to provide a place for work that often has no place in a traditional literary magazine because of its form or function. As writers and instructors of writing, we have all found ourselves with work that came from workshops, random exercises, and desperate attempts to find our voices. Some of this is pretty darned good, too. Unfortunately, anything that looks too much like it came from an exercise, prompt, or other such “mechanical” source gets relegated by editors to that pile with a sticky note on top that says “too workshoppy.”

What I Say: Hell yeah. I love places with schticks. I am such a lover of schticks! It’s hard to standout in the world and they found their little corner. Grab a prompt, write a piece, polish the shit out of it, and submit. This will be a fun one.

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4. Third Wednesday – Deadline: Rolling

What They Say: Third Wednesday is the outgrowth of a monthly writer’s workshop begun by a group of poets who meet at an Ann Arbor, Michigan, bookstore every third Wednesday. We recognize that the need for another literary anthology is moot, but feel the importance of publishing the work of today’s modern creative minds is inarguable. All types of poetry are welcome, from formal to experimental. Emphasis is placed on the ideas conveyed, craft and language, beauty of expression, and the picture that extends beyond the frame of the poem. Quality is paramount. No previously published poems, please. Send up to five poems, no more than three pages total.

What I Say: I can’t get over this adorable site and the great work they publish. It was developed from a Writer’s Group, which I think is the best place to start. It has organic and humble beginnings and I would never feel that my work wouldn’t be taking seriously. They’re all writers!

Those are my picks for May and June, let me know if you’ll be submitting to any! I’ll be back soon with my summer picks so of you know of or run a literary magazine that’s looking for submissions, send them my way in the comments. I’d love to take a look and feature it on my next round-up.

My Mind is a Mess: Passion Planner Review

One night I was visiting my best friend Kate at her apartment and in between sips of wine and bites of cheese (or gulps and hunks) she turned my attention to her brand new Passion Planner. Wow, I thought, I need one of these.

My whole life I’ve wanted to design a planner that functions how my brain functions– which is million different things all happening at once. Passion Planner is almost perfect. (I still want to design the ultimate planner one day. It’s one of my super nerdy life goals.) My only challenge is that it’s broken down by time slots which is incredibly hard for me to stick too but otherwise, I love the layout.

I’ve been using my Compact version for about 4 weeks now. And each week I get better at utilizing it. I let it help me form my week instead of jamming my week into it. I’ve surrendered to the planner a little bit and it seems to be going well. I stole the below image direct from the Passion Planner website because it’s going to do a MUCH better job of explaining how it works:

PP Breakdown

And all of those things get incorporated into your weekly pages. I know what you’re thinking: HOW?! HOW DO THEY GET INCORPORATED? It seems like a lot. Here are some sample pages from mine. Note: I don’t color in for the time I spend at work. I probably should but it scares me to see how much time I actually spend there. Maybe this week I’ll give it a whirl.

Example Week
I’m trying to teach myself to color code so certain things jump out to me. Yellow is my “Personal Life” color… it makes me happy!
example week 2
This was taken on Sunday of this week. I still had more to fill in and you can see my notes page is pretty open. That changes pretty quick.

I’m sure some people are a little tidier with theirs but I do my best… I’m only human. I enjoy seeing everything that I have to do on one open page instead of having to flip around and see what my week looks like. It’s also nice that there are sections on top of each day that say “Today’s Focus”, I use this to keep the “OMG A NEW PROJECT” part of myself toned down.

One of my favorite features of the planner is all of the Goal Setting material in the front of it. Before you even get to any specific months or days, you are guided through a series of exercises to get some awesome goals lined up for the next 3 months, next year and rest of your life! It’s a great way to keep your goals and passions (hehe) up front while you are toiling away on other things.

As for a mistake I made with it, I wish I had ordered the 8 1/2 x 11 sized version. When I ordered, it seemed like a huge pain in the ass to lug around but now that I am using the smaller size, I realize that I could have used the extra space. Especially because I have goofy handwriting. I think next year I’ll try the larger version and see how that goes.

So far so good with this planner and I am a pretty scattered person. This keeps everything I am constantly thinking about in one place. I’m not the most focused, but this has been helping. I strongly suggest checking them out! And, oh yeah, if you can’t afford the bound version, Passion Planner has PDF versions of the planner pages that you can print out and use. Amazing!

Welcome to the New Cheap Courage & Happy May Day

Today is May Day and this is the first official post of the NEW Cheap Courage.

Less than a year ago a dreamed up a new blog that I could use to help me face fears, take chances, and welcome you all to do the same. That mission still remains, but in a prettier package, a more rigorous posting schedule, and varied topics.

Even with the addition of pretty images and some “fun” stuff, I still promise to keep my honesty and messy bits. It’s important to me that we keep it real. Not everything is sprinkles on cupcakes or impeccably put together outfits or a 6-pack. Some things are tough, and ugly, and menacing. We’ll face them together. With our Cheap Courage. The kind you aren’t born with but the kind you create yourself.

So what’s new? DEDICATED SECTIONS. Click around the navigation up there and you’ll find sections dedicated to WRITING, LIVING, EATING, and MOVING. The 4 most important aspects of my life and 4 that I hope you’ll find inspiring. Some of the sections are looking a little barren right now, but trust me, by the end of this month you’ll have lots of clickable links, shareable photos, and fun shit to share with your friends. Fun shit is the best shit.

And before I go, I want to tell you about May Day. There’s a reason I picked it for my first post of this re-launch. It’s one of my favorite holidays. May Day is celebrated all over the world, but in the US it is a celebration of new beginnings, of Spring, of the NEW.

It was a favorite holiday of mine because when I was a little girl my mother would help me put together tiny baskets or cups (yes, DIXIE cups) of wildflowers for all of our neighbors. The tradition is to put baskets on neighbors doorsteps, ring the bell or knock on the door, and then runaway. I loved something so quaint and something SO Laura Ingalls Wilder, that I became quickly fond of it.

Here’s to May Day Baskets and new beginnings and new gifts. Because that is my intention. To give you all some new gifts to start off this new season in this new moment in my life.