Confessions of a Novice Blogger (first year blogging summary)

Hello friends!  I have missed writing for you!  Quite frankly I’m horribly embarrassed by how long At the it has been since I have written a new blog post.  Some would say Life Happens, but I’m here to say that I got in my own way with this blogging thing.  Let me explain further.

This time last year there was SO much uncertainty in my life.  As some of you know, I had a gastric bypass in August 2016.  One month later, I developed a severe stricture (a closure) between my new stomach pouch and my intestines, which took 3 weeks of being in and out of the hospital to diagnose.  What followed was one month of weekly endoscopy’s to stretch out the stricture slowly so food and liquid could pass through normally, along with being hooked to a pump that fed me through an IV 16 hours a day.  I had a PICC line (central line) inserted and had to keep it from getting wet.  For months after the PICC line was removed and I was back on solid foods, I was so weak at times that I could barely stand long enough to take a shower or unload the dishwasher.  I had extreme dizziness and had to be extremely careful about what I ate; otherwise I would become nauseated.

At the time this happened, I had a job working part-time in a church with their children and youth, but I had no idea when I would be well enough to return to work.  Everything in my life felt uncertain: my health, the fate of my job, and our finances (we’re still paying our portion for the month-long IV feedings a year later).  I was scared, worried, and wondered if I had made a huge mistake by having this life-altering surgery.  My husband’s parents’ church gave our family a food basket for Thanksgiving with turkey and all the trimmings since I was out of work.  We’ve always been the ones donating to food drives, but never the recipients.  That alone was scary, though we were grateful for their generosity.

When I did make it back to work in December, I was informed that the church couldn’t afford to keep my position at 25 hours a week and would have to cut it to 10 hours a week and I would only be working with the youth, not the children.  They were looking for a new pastor and realized under the leadership of the interim pastor that they needed to change some things financially in order to afford a permanent pastor.  Reducing my hours and pay was one of their cost-cutting measures.  My husband and I decided it was time for me to resign at the end of December 2016.

My grand plan was to cash out my small Roth IRA, use it to cover my lost salary for 6 months, stay at home and build up my brand new blog and life coaching business.  6 months at home seemed like an eternity at the time.  I had dreams of multiple clients, a thriving blog, e-books to launch, and lots of people I could help.

Well, that’s not what happened.

Not that my dreams were crazy or anything, but the first 2 months after I left my job I struggled with my professional identity.  Was I really a blogger and life coach if I didn’t have readers or clients yet?  After working in churches for over 20 years, it felt weird no longer going to church on Sunday mornings.  My kids missed their friends and the programs I used to be responsible for.  I felt guilty about that.  I missed the people I had served.  What was I to do with myself if I wasn’t leaving the house for work?  It was quite an adjustment.

During those first 2 months, I also struggled with getting my blog website, w

ww.YourGentleNudge.com and my life coaching website, www.YourListeningEar.com built.  The logistics of website building were challenging for me.  I had an idea of what I wanted the blog to look like but I couldn’t figure out the technical aspects of getting my website to look like I wanted it to.  And I didn’t have the money to hire someone who knew a lot more than me about website building on Word Press.

So I read a ton of articles about Word Press and the theme I was using.  I also read about how to create a successful blog.  Free webinars about topics like list building, mastering Pinterest, getting into Facebook groups to grow your blog, and sales techniques that don’t sound “salesy” were what I spent time on.  I learned about SEO optimization (Search Engine Optimization) so people could find my blog, building an email list, how to create a sales funnel, how to decide what your niche is going to be, successful marketing strategies, and a whole slew of other topics I now wish I HADN’T wasted my time on.  At the time I thought I was being productive; however, what I’ve discovered is that I was avoiding the real problem.

I was scared the world wouldn’t like me and what I have to say.

What’s that?  A blogger who is scared to put herself out there and share her wisdom and life experiences?

Yep.  All my life I’ve felt like I experience the world differently than most people I know.  I’m an emotional creature who can sense certain things about others.  These qualities can actually be attributes when you’re in a helping profession, because the people who could benefit from what I’ve learned through my life experiences aren’t necessarily running around telling the world (or me) that they are hurting and are in need of healing, love, and support.  I know I’M not in any hurry to do that, for fear of being judged or rejected.

But I’ve been criticized all my life for being “overly sensitive.”  Many of the insights I gain about others have some from my sensitivity to others and their emotions.  I’ve never been able to separate myself emotionally from the energy of other people around me.  I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, been a people-pleaser, and felt things very deeply.

So I let my fear of not being good enough, of not having the right thing to say to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who reads this blog, and fear of letting someone out there down paralyze me and stifle 6 months of productivity.  Looking back on all of this one year after I immersed myself in the blogging process, I see how crazy I made myself by trying to learn so much at once.  It’s not that this information was over my head, but I didn’t have the proper context to truly understand all that I was reading and learning.  I was escaping into website building and learning instead of facing my fears and conquering them.

If I could go back and tell my November 2016 self what I know now, here’s what I would say:

1) Take things slowly.  You don’t have to learn everything about blogging in one month.

2) Believe that you have a legitimate voice and the people who need to hear what you have to say will eventually find you.  Yes, you will have to do some work to get your blog out there, but this too will be a long-term process.

3) Don’t think you have to have a perfect-looking blog.  Figure out what you can afford to do on your own and build that.

4) Focus on your content.  Even if you don’t know your ideal audience, as you write more and more blog posts, you’ll find your true voice and discover your audience.

5) Don’t worry too much about all the specifics of a blog post.  You don’t have to write for optimal SEO, have the ideal number of words, or have a list  in every post.  Focusing on the minutiae will take away the vision you have for your blog and will sidetrack you.

6) Learn from a handful of other, more successful bloggers.  Be choosy about whose materials you spend time reading, viewing, or working through.  You will NEVER be able to learn from EVERY good blogger!  There aren’t enough hours in the day!

7) Just write.  I cannot say this enough.  Just write.  Get as many posts up as you feel led to write.  Then, once you start to find your niche and your audience, you can go back and work on weeding out posts which no longer serve your audience.  You can also go back and update earlier posts to optimize them for SEO when you aren’t spending as much time on content creation.

8) You don’t have to do it all at once.  I got so caught up with having to start a Facebook page for my blog and a Pinterest account for my blog in addition to finding groups on both platforms where I could promote my blog that I didn’t really write content for my blog.  Lack of content + not finding my ideal readers = lots of time wasted.

Even though I haven’t achieved my dream yet of being able to work from home and run my blog and life coaching business on the schedule I want with the financial freedom I desire while helping others, I’m not going to stop trying.  There’s been a number of times I’ve sputtered and completely stalled, but I’m still farther along the path to my dream than I was this time last year.  I’ve learned a lot.  I’m working on doing all I can to focus on what I’ve learned and not let it fall by the wayside.  I’m still learning, growing, and exploring all the things I do to block my own success.

In the coming year, I hope you will join me on your own growth journey!  Let’s support and encourage each other!  If you would like weekly encouragement in your inbox, please sign up for my email list!  Just add your info to the form below and you’re in!  You’ll also be able to download my PDF of “99 Ways to Deal With Stress” if you wish.  Thanks for taking the time to read this post!  I value your time!

Your Gentle Nudge: When have you had an opportunity to do something you dreamed of but you didn’t follow through? What caused you to not follow through?

If you have never had an opportunity like that, how can you create one now?  What is stopping you?

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What Drains You?

Hello Beloved Reader!

Lately I’ve been thinking about what I should share with you in this blog, and the topic I keep coming back to is momentum. The past few weeks I’ve been lacking the momentum I had over the previous few months. I can attribute it to a number of things in my life but the truth is, what has caused the lack of momentum doesn’t really matter. Anything I mention to you, my blog family, will feel like excuses. And any list of contributing factors I could tell you about doesn’t change the fact that the momentum which was driving my blog and my emails to my subscriber list drained away recently.

Yep, drained away. Even though the weather outside was beautiful the past few weekends when I normally would be sitting on my front porch writing to you. Even though I reminded myself how good it feels to encourage you. Even though I feel I should be honest with you about my own personal struggles with the hope that my experiences might help you with your own struggles. None of that mattered.

I simply couldn’t push past my own fear that this whole blogging idea was a mistake. And the only thing I felt the past 3 weekends has been exhaustion. I haven’t felt like going out to do anything with my family. None of the normal activities I like to do to nourish myself over the weekend, such as relaxing with a good self-help book or going for a walk brought enjoyment. I’ve been napping during the afternoon on Saturdays and Sundays and while this is nice once in a while, it’s not how I choose to spend each weekend.

Time is precious. Time is not to be wasted. There’s a difference between doing things that are fun or relaxing to take care of yourself and doing nothing but recuperating on the weekends. Lately I’ve been doing the latter. However, I want to spend my free time with those I love and doing things I love, not just getting through a work week to collapse and recover, only to repeat the cycle the next week.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about the momentum I lost and how good it felt when I had it.

Here’s some background for those of you who don’t know me personally…

I had a gastric bypass in August 2016 and to date have lost 140 lbs. before and after surgery. One month after surgery I became very ill due to a stricture between my new stomach pouch and my re-sected intestines. It took 3 weeks in and out of the hospital to discover the problem, and another multi-day hospital admission to insert a PICC line so I could receive IV nutrition for 16-hours a day for a month. During that month, I underwent 4 upper endoscopys to stretch out the new tube going from my stomach pouch to my intestines to make it big enough to allow food and water to flow through. It wasn’t until April or May of 2017 that my body FINALLY got back to where it should be in terms of healing after the stricture and where I had hoped my energy level would be after significant weight loss.

During my weight-loss surgery ordeal, I was able to keep forward my momentum going by celebrating any new thing I couldn’t do when I was very sick. At the height of my illness, just keeping a couple of sips of water down was a victory. Having the energy to load the dishwasher became a joy. Being able to take a shower without having to sit down was a success. And I don’t want to ever take those things for granted because I don’t want to go back to being unable to do the simplest of things for myself and my family.

Now that my physical body is in pretty good shape (I still want to lose another 30-35 lbs to get rid of a few problem areas), experiencing the lack of energy I’ve had the past 3 weeks has been even more terrifying than it was when I was morbidly obese. After all, my expectation has been that I would have so much more energy when I’m not carrying around an extra person’s worth of weight.  So my question to myself has become, “What habits do I need to look at in my life which might be contributing to my exhaustion and lack of momentum?”

Sleep. Now that I have a job where I have to be at work between 7 am-7:30 am Monday-Friday, it’s critical that I get in bed by 9 pm. I have to get up around 5:15-5:30 am in order to get ready and do the commute to work. Most nights I am asleep between 9 pm-9:30 pm.  Some nights I wake up in the middle of the night and some nights I don’t.  Before going to bed during the work week I use the Insight Timer app to meditate or listen to soothing music to help me rest better.

Exercise. I hate to admit I don’t exercise like I did before I started my new job in July. However, I do walk a lot at work, including going up and down the stairs instead of taking the elevator. I usually meet my step count goals on work days. I’m moving a lot throughout the day, which is probably better than spending 15 minutes on a stationary bike and 30 minutes on the treadmill at Planet Fitness.  My goal is to get back to taking a 30-minute walk both weekend days when I’m not at work and maybe doing some stretching or weight-bearing exercises at home at least 3 work days during the week because I really need to tone up under all this loose skin!

Food. Here’s where I have discovered I’m falling short and it seems to have the most impact on my momentum and energy. I have a bunch of food allergies, so I can’t eat dairy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, beef, and a number of other foods. And due to the gastric bypass, I can’t eat lots of food at one sitting. However, of the foods I can still eat, some of them are energy-draining. I’m finding I feel significant exhaustion after I eat potatoes. Lately I’ve been craving Lay’s Dill Pickle potato chips, hash brown patties, and tater tots. All starchy, simple carbs, which turn to sugar. And all tend to make my joints hurt as well as make me want to go to sleep.

Another thing I’ve been craving that causes my joints to hurt and makes me sleepy is sugar.  I’m sure my body craves it for the short energy burst I get since I tend to want it when I’m tired and dragging, but I definitely feel worse after the sugar crash.  And once again, my joints tend to hurt when I eat sugar, especially the joints in my hands.

Since I have a dairy allergy, I can no longer use my beloved half and half in my coffee.  I’ve found a soy-based coffee creamer that I’ve gotten used to, but I’m wondering if the soy is also causing some exhaustion and joint pain.  During the 2 months at my new job, I’ve developed a habit of drinking coffee on the way to work and having iced coffee on my way home, and both use the soy creamer.  And no, I will not drink coffee without creamer.  And no, “non-dairy” creamer isn’t an option for me because they actually have dairy proteins in them, which cause an allergic reaction for me.

In my case, I do think my food choices are one of the biggest culprits for my lack of energy and in turn, contributing to my lack of momentum toward my goals and dreams.  When I was first diagnosed with food allergies, I was extremely upset and hated to make the necessary dietary changes to stop feeling physically miserable.  Now I’m grateful for those allergies because they have caused me to pay much more attention to how the foods I eat make me feel.  That’s how I know which foods are the suspects contributing to my exhaustion and joint pain.

When I stop and ask myself if I still have the gifts and talents I had when I felt compelled to start this blog, the answer is YES!  When I think about having a successful blog where I can help others, I still feel happy.  When I dream about the possibilities I have with this blog, my life coaching business, and online courses I want to create for others, it still excites me.  So I haven’t lost my calling and my desire to help others through these avenues.

So the only thing that has changed is my energy level.  And that can be fixed with some effort and attention.

Your Gentle Nudge: What things in your life are sapping your energy?  Are there things causing your momentum in any area of your life to slow down or completely stall?  What changes can you make in your physical and mental daily routine to help you get that momentum going?  

Leave your answers in the comments section under this blog post or email them to me at WriteChristine@YourGentleNudge.com.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

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