Chelle Summer

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Balancing Social Media

Michelle Rusk
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Some years ago, I remember reading an article by Martha Stewart on how to manage the time one spends looking at email. Her suggestion was that you took certain times of day to look at it and stuck to those so it didn't interfere with other aspects of your life.

Obviously this was before smart phones and social media seemingly took over the time we spend engaged with the technology in our lives (and today most of my email is comprised of "commercials" rather than much that needs responding). 

However, it does still hold true with social media and because of the possible negative effects that social media can have on our mental health, it's even more important that we find a schedule that works best for us and stick to it as much as possible. 

While I seemingly have a big social media presence because of the work that I do– selling books and products I make– I don't spend as much time on social media as one might think. At some point in the last year when my job was turning to part time and I didn't have to be glued to my laptop or phone checking emails, I realized that also meant I needed to back off on the time I spent looking at social media. In my world, 2018 is my "year of creating" and if I'm keeping one eye on social media, it severely cuts into my creative time.

Because I've had much loss in my life and sometimes I get frustrated that professionally I am not totally where I'd like to be, I also found that I couldn't spend so much time looking at what other people were doing. It is much like what I learned from running competitively– it's you against the clock, not you against everyone else. I have to remind myself of that often so I stay focused on what I'm doing and not worry myself over what others have/are doing and I don't. (I know that I have a great life but the reality is that we can't have everything and I've had to make choices along the way as well as some choices that have been made for me and sometimes there is a little sadness that there isn't a place in my life for everything.)

In the mornings I post– and I do the social media for my church so some days there is an added step– and I'm a little more lenient with myself as I settle in catching up on a variety of things because I start writing or head out for errands (yes, estate sales, too). But by late morning I really try to limit my social media check in as little as possible and take as much time as I can through late afternoon to write, sew, and other creative pursuits. 

I also know that there are days where my brain turns off and it needs a water cooler break so in the evenings I might check in more often but I'm trying to do a better job of putting the phone down and instead picking up a magazine or book. And I remind myself that if I look at social media too much one day– as I wrote a few weeks ago regarding anything we set out to do and don't seemingly accomplish– I can always start over fresh the following day.

It's easy to let it take over our lives, however, like anything else there is a balance to it. For each of us that will be different and the key is finding what works for each of us. There are benefits to social media– I get to be in contact with people with whom otherwise I wouldn't be and it has helped me reach many suicide bereaved people as well as share what I create and find. 

The key is that I have to walk away to create more to have more to share. That's what I remind myself when I habitually pick up my phone in a quiet moment and then reach for a magazine or book instead.

Sitting In Darkness...With Others

Michelle Rusk
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I will be the first to say that I hate darkness. I believe darkness is important because we need to rest, living things needs to rest, and it reminds us how much we appreciate daylight. But I thrive in the daylight, in the sunshine, in seeing the sun come up over the mountains.

However, a long time ago I learned that you can't impose your light on someone else when they need to be in darkness. It's not that they are planning to stay there long– we should know this from our own experience when something happens to us– it's about processing through what has happened.

When someone dies, when we learn disappointing news, when we feel defeated by life, or whatever it is, sometimes we need to stand in the darkness and mull it over before we can move forward with the journey.

When it happens to someone else, we should remember the same. They will move forward but in that moment they don't need to be reminded of all that they know. They know it, they just need a few moments to rest where they are. Let them be there, sit with them, and remember just because you're in their darkness doesn't mean you have to be stuck there. You're there for someone you care about, your light is still with you.

Soon they will pick back up again and head towards the light, tired of darkness and ready to move on. Then you can remind them of all that they have and how much you appreciate the light.

A New Year...Where Will We Go?

Michelle Rusk
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Happy 2018, Everyone!

While I believe that we can start fresh at anytime, there is something to be said for the calendar rolling around into January 1. We come off the holidays– when we've most likely been busy– and then we get (I hope you did!) a holiday break. The new year rolls around and suddenly it feels like all the Christmas lights and decorations should be put away until at least Thanksgiving. Personally, I usually want to clean out all of my closets this time of year. I feel as if it's time to let go of the old to invite the new to come in.

This year is starting out a little differently than years past have and I'm embracing the journey of my job going half time to free up a large chunk of my daily time. However, we were in Los Angeles for the new year (and managed to get colds as happens sometimes) so I didn't feel like I could truly start the new year until we came home– and put everything away (although we had taken care of the Christmas decorations before we left).

For me, Los Angeles still remains a very inspirational place. I can't explain it except that it seems that I woke up one day when I was about thirteen and knew it was where I wanted to go. I didn't get there until the summer after I graduated from high school and obviously I never moved there. I joke that I only got as far as Albuquerque. 

Through a series of events, I've been given opportunities that take me back there and as we were driving down the 110 after having dinner with friends in North Hollywood, I was thinking how it still inspires me to be there. That's topped with the many signs of both my parents (through songs on the radio and coins) that don't usually happen here in Albuquerque.

Now that I'm home and everything is put away, the lists made to make the most of this opportunity of time I have been given with job going half time just a month ago, the hardest part for me is being patient with myself. There is much I want to do and I know my timeline. My hope is to spend 2018 with my nose to the grindstone and see what kind of opportunities I can create for myself through all my creative means. I want to take advantage of the time placed in front of me– it is a gift– and see where I land a year from now.

I have lists, goals, and dreams. The key is being patient with myself that there will be enough time to do everything, to know that I will land where I'm supposed to be. And to listen to voices which who are guiding me and leading the way.

A Little Disconnection for Creativity's Sake

Michelle Rusk
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One of my constant challenges is that I am not where I want to be professionally. Soon there will be some changes in my daily life that I'm trying to remember are the universe's way of helping me to move forward even though it doesn't feel like it in the present moment. It's like I'm stepping backward so that I can take more steps forward.

However, the hard part is making sure I don't think too much because that can easily become paralyzing of all my worries. Instead, my motto seems to be, "Create more, think less." I have a slew of projects and ideas and I have to keep myself from being derailed from worries about money, (will we have enough?), about rejections from my query letters to find an agent (is this really a good manuscript or should I scrap it?), and about wondering if I am on the road I'm supposed to be on.

Social media has been huge for me to be able to share with the world what I create– and also to help other people work through suicide, grief, and feelings of hopelessness. But recently I have come to realize that it's taking up too much of my time and it's also stifling my creativity.

I am not going on hiatus at all. In fact, the only person who will probably notice a difference is me. As I will actually have to spend less time at my laptop in the future, it just means I won't be seeing all the notifications right away Essentially, I'll choose the times I look at my phone and laptop rather than looking at them what feels like all the time. In the past week I knocked out one bad habit I developed when I worked with people overseas– checking my email when I get up in the morning which then led to also checking Facebook and Instagram, too. Now I don't look at them until I'm totally done with my workout and running/walking the dogs. It gives me a few extra minutes in the morning and I've come to realize I'm not missing anything by looking at them so early (especially because most of my email anymore is advertisements).

By disconnecting a bit– and looking less in the evening so I can read more– I will be creating more and have more to share with the world. Again, what looks like a few steps backward is really going take me forward faster. After all, I have swimwear to create and a new manuscript that is waiting to be written.

What keeps you going?

Michelle Rusk
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When I was a senior in high school, I remember going through a challenging period that spring. Without looking back into the extensive journals I wrote, what I can best recall is that I was a little worn out on the routine. There was a long day of school and homework and then track practice. And while I was learning how to set goals, work toward them, and accomplish them, it felt a little monotonous.

I remember feeling attached to a television show called "Island Sun" (Hey, I can hear those snickers from here!). It starred Richard Chamberlain as a doctor in Hawaii and I believe he had a son. I couldn't tell you anything else about the show except that those were the days when we had to wait another week to see what happened next. There was no bingeing on anything like we take for granted now.

My wise track coach Marty Bee told me that if that was the thing that kept me going, that was okay. And since then I have always asked myself that during times when I feel depressed, bored, or challenged in some way. There must be something small that keeps us going and we can use that to propel us forward until life starts to feel more hopeful or happy or peaceful (whatever it is we believe we are lacking).

I have always said that I believe we all have an ember of hope burning inside of us. Unfortunately, many times that ember doesn't seem to be burning because of the constant barrage of life events we are faced with. But in times of challenge we should always take a step back and look around us. There is always something we can see or think of that keeps us going. Symbols of hope– that's what I called them when I doing talks about moving forward through grief.

What are your symbols of hope? I asked people. We often forget that it's the little things in life, the sunshine, the change of seasons, the time we spend with people, that keep us going. Sometimes we get caught up in the challenges and difficulties and forget what's right in front of us. 

And once we let go of our challenges and focus on whatever is keeping our ember burning, we realize how much better we feel. And hopeful. We can feel the ember burning brighter.

 

 

Positive Thoughts Only

Michelle Rusk
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There is a reason I post very little that's negative here on my blog or on social media. It's not about anyone else, but about me and how I realized the negative posts made me feel. 

Some years ago I had a run-in over a payment with the group that handled our health insurance. It was during my first marriage and my then-husband was a sales rep and owned his own sales organization. That meant we didn't qualify for other insurance providers at the time, but there was a state health alliance where we could get insurance and something happened with a payment and to say I was mad was an understatement (I don't remember all the details– testament to how much I try to let go of negativity so it doesn't simmer and boil over). It was during the early days of Facebook and I posted my anger there. 

It didn't take long for me to realize that I actually felt worse by sharing it. Usually we think that by sharing something, we can let go of it. Not always. I felt worse and I realized it wasn't what I wanted to put "out there." 

My life is far from perfect, but I choose to share what I believe are the most interesting aspects of my life: what I create, the fun things I do, enjoying being with my dogs, what it is that makes me happy. We all have good days and bad days and I found that by sharing what makes me feel good, I actually feel better. I might start a day feeling awful because I didn't sleep well (a normal occurrence for the bulk of my life), but by posting a positive message, I feel better.

It's the same when I am feeling tired, but need to run errands. Interacting with people, talking about the weather, just being connected gives me energy I might lack if I had stayed at home trying to keep myself interested in what I need to do.

Many times I've also found that after I've been through a challenge, that I share it here and talk about how I worked through it. I usually don't need to share what I'm going through, however, at some point I might post what it was and how I managed the challenge. That I also believe can be helpful to others.

We all have reasons for what we choose to post and for me it's about helping myself keep focused, inspired, and motivated. I do that with positive thoughts. And positive postings. And know that they can inspire others to be positive and feel hopeful and happy, too.

Seeing Past Darkness

Michelle Rusk

The photo of this beautiful sunset was taken in my backyard a few weeks ago. I never posted it on social media because no matter what angle I took it at, I couldn't escape the pole or the countless electrical, phone, and cable lines that come from the pole. On social media, we have the choice to choose how we portray our lives and I am honestly embarrassed that my house has one big detractor: this pole. 

My house was built in the 1950s and the city of Albuquerque has never buried these lines. So each time I go outside to take photos, I am constantly trying to find way to avoid the pole and the lines. 

But I know that reality is that I can't erase this pole from my life (at least until we move to a different house) just as I can't erase any darkness I have experienced. It's part of me and part of who I am today. I choose to post photos of what I create because that's what inspires me and keeps me going, being creative. My life isn't perfect and there are challenges I choose not to share because I don't see any reason to share them. I work through them and I stay hopeful that my frustrations will turn into something better. And I keep working hard even though I feel like I'm on a very slow road to get my life professionally where I'd like it to be.

I have written and spoken many times about how I have found hope in the sunrises of Albuquerque, how when I'd ben out run-walking my dog Chaco and– despite the darkness I'd endured the day before particularly of then having a spouse who suffered a head injury– it would feel like the sunrise was a clean slate to a new day. Hope. Darkness can't last forever a friend once said. The sun has to come back some time. 

Several years ago I was reading my high school journals and was surprised to find how much mental pain I found myself in as a fifteen year old experiencing a stress fracture in my foot that kept me from running much the spring of 1987. I have no recollection of having feelings of wanting to end my life, but there they were written in my hand writing. I don't believe that I would have done anything about the feelings, it was just an escape from the frustration I felt and not understanding that the injury would eventually heal and I'd be able to run again (which I happened by that summer).

It speaks to my life though as I work through challenges and losses. While sometimes it's annoying (well, all the time!) that I continually experience these, I try to learn and grow from them. I ask myself what I can to do to make myself feel better. I can look back on the road behind me and see how far I have come.

Last week Greg and I went out house stalking– I had found a house online for sale nearby and we drove by after dinner one evening. When Greg realized no one was living there, he pulled into the driveway and we walked around to the back of the house to see how large the backyard was. I was immediately drawn to a view of the city toward the mountain, one they had neglected to include in the online listing.

"Look at that view!" I couldn't stop saying.

Then Greg laughed and said, "Look up. You're never going to escape it."

And right there in the middle of the view was a pole just like the one in my current backyard. 

I hadn't seen it because I looked past it, just like I look past the pain and darkness to see the light and the hope.

When Things Fall Together

Michelle Rusk

I suck at golf.

Really, that's the best way to put it. And quite honestly, as much as I've dreamed about being someone who can magically glide across a dance floor without a lesson or play tennis so well that I could be a top player, the reality is far from that in everything that I do.

The only reason I can write well is because I've been at it since I was six years old and learned to write. I've talked before about the little books I started to create in first grade and the novel I began to write in high school (which still exists although not in any published form). And I read, read, and then I read more– because there is a correlation between reading and writing well. 

Running was much the same for me: I got somewhat good because I worked at it. And from running came a multitude of lessons, like how to set and achieve goals. Those I parlayed into everything else that I have achieved.

When I took up golf exactly five years ago, I knew it would be a challenge for me. I am especially not good at any sport that involves a ball (hence, why I ran). And it has been a challenge. Now, the reality is that golf is always a challenge. It's supposed to be that way because it's like the Great Pumpkin. We, like Linus, spend our entire lives hoping for perfection in hitting the ball while Linus is still waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

As I wrote recently, returning to the driving range was part of my Lenten journey– one of which I did have a priest's blessing to do because he understands the importance of taking care of our physical selves. Out to the driving range I went and purchased not the large bucket of balls, but instead the jumbo.

Crazy? Nope, not in the least. I knew I wouldn't get anywhere without practice.

But that's where a funny thing happened. I admit that sometimes I miss the ball. It's worse than hitting a bad ball, but it's always been a struggle for me to even catch what's thrown to me so this hasn't been a surprise in my mind. I'd rather hit something into the sand than not hit it at all. 

And yet when I went to hit that first day on the range this spring I felt when my stance was wrong and I would miss the balls. I can't fully explain it, yet something was different. It was as if something inside my mind– that bridges my mind with the movements of my body– finally made a connection five years later.

Then yesterday on another return to the range, I took some time on the putting green and felt the same exact feeling. Some little piece had fallen together. Two puzzle pieces finally found where they interlocked.

Greg and I were discussing on our way home from the range yesterday my challenge with the serger (a type of sewing machine that allows one to make factory-looking seams). I had been making a skort yesterday and it was taking forever because there is a learning curve to not just using it, but also threading it. He reminded me that eventually it will pay off, that it will be easier, that making a skort will be a piece of cake.

But for now it's like golf and everything else I've done: I keep at it even in the face of irritation when it's not going right.

And I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I made the driving range part of my Lenten journey: getting a little help from above is never a bad thing.

The Continued New Journey

Michelle Rusk

I didn't plan to get a new car. Heck, we were dropping my car off for a sizable amount of service. 

However, through a series of events that had begun to domino the day before, that afternoon I left with a loaner while mine would be delivered from another dealership in the state several days later (because if I was going to get a new car, I wanted all the new techonology that came with it).

What surprised me though, as we emptied my old car and I took photos of the two surfing-related stickers that I would have to leave behind, was the sadness I felt.

It was a nice car, I hardly had any problems with it. But it was more about what it stood for.

In September 2011, trading in my Ford Edge for a Ford Escape was the first item on my list after my then husband and I agreed to divorce. I would be moving my hometown where I had a house but I would have no job per se and needed to bring the payments down. I left Albuquerque on November 1, 2011, with my sister Karen for help and Chaco and Gidget in the backseat in a new 2012 Ford Escape.

Now really, you see these white cars (like mine) everywhere because many government entities use them. That's a good thing: it's a stable model. But for me, every time I saw the car I was reminded of what I had to give up. It was good that I was moving forward but the further I get from that time in my life, I see how challenging it was. 

The story did change obviously and then the car took Greg and I several thousand miles across the country to meet both our families and to explore together the summer of 2014. Since then, the car traveled to California multiple times, carried our surfboards both inside and on the top, as well as a countless items from the Los Angeles garment district to start up Chelle Summer.

I didn't need a new car. We earlier had agreed we would wait but we had an opportunity for me to get a new Escape, one that makes my old one seem primitive. And we did it together.

I was sad to let go but I am more excited about the journey together: about the fun adventures Greg and I will have in this new car. Sometimes there are reasons we don't ever know why life takes us into something new when we don't really feel we need it. 

Life continues to weave our lives together for us.