Behind the Story: A Lesson in Empathy

My first published story, “A Lesson in Empathy” is now available to the public with the release of book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Life Lessons from the Dog!

Moose (pictured here) and I are a little nervous to share our story with the world. As the title alludes, it’s a story about a lesson I learned in empathy. But the story can’t be shared without being vulnerable about a difficulty I went through last year. I don’t go into much depth about those difficulties (the story is, after all, more about what I learned from Moose than it is about me), but reflecting back on where I was today, about a year ago, I never would have believed those difficulties would turn into a story that would lead to my first published work. Life, if nothing else, is surprising.

This story was a challenge to write. I started out with about a page of backstory, thinking I needed to explain Moose’s evolution from puppy to dog. Then I read the Chicken Soup for the Soul word count requirements (1,200!) and recognized that I needed to be able to cut to the point of the story - fast!

I thought about my main goals for this piece:

  • I wanted to show what it was like to experience a panic attack

  • I wanted to demonstrate the similarities between my experience and Moose’s experience

  • I wanted to articulate what it means to show empathy

In the way I wrote this piece, I tried to show how I’ve experienced panic attacks by describing the physical sensations in short, almost clipped sentences. I did the same for describing how I observed Moose behaving which I hoped would served as a bridge to demonstrate our similarities. One of the things I love about writing is that it’s not just the words that a writer uses to make the scene or feelings leap from the page, but it’s the sentence structure, too. My sentence structure was deliberate here and I hope it was successful!

Lastly, I read a lot of definitions on empathy. I watched countless YouTube videos (my favorite, and perhaps the most famous being Brené Brown’s video) of people (and muppets!) describing empathy and ways to show empathy to others. I then tried to craft my own definition, one that was meaningful for me, but also meaningful in context of this story.

You’ll find our story on page 95 in the section of the book appropriately titled Opening Hearts. Moose and I hope you’ll take a read and let us know what you think!

A Lesson in Empathy

Exciting news to share!

My story, A Lesson in Empathy, has been selected for publication in the upcoming title, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Life Lessons from the Dog. The book will be available for purchase on April 9th, 2019 (one month from now)! Put in a pre-order request to your local independent bookstore or pre-order on Amazon.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the stories when the book comes out and will share the journey behind my story in the weeks following.

Parisian Inspiration

Travel is a wonderful way to stumble upon inspiration for a creative project. Whether it’s a trip down the block or around the world, seeing something for the first time or from a new perspective or angle can spark new ideas or break down a creative block. I feel blessed to have had the ability to spend a few days in Paris this past week for a bucket list trip. The trip was not literary motivated (though it did include a trip to the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore) but I returned with plenty of moments, scenes, images, tastes, smells, and sounds to place in my inspiration bank for a future day. Below are some of my favorite images from the trip. Maybe they’ll ignite a spark of inspiration for you! :)

Goal Buckets Instead of Resolutions

A blog post in February might be a little late to talk about goals and resolutions for a New Year. But the end of January, inching to early February, also tends to be the time when conversations go from “what are your resolutions” to “are you sticking to your resolutions?”

I’ve tried the New Year’s resolution thing and like many others, have failed the New Year’s resolution thing. It took a long time for me to realize that when I set specific resolutions, that were almost always infused with sky high expectations, I set myself up for failure. For me, setting resolutions that were too specific and too sky high was a recipe for disaster. I put so much pressure on myself to hit each goal with perfect precision. If I missed the goal by the slightest of inches, I then felt like a complete failure. That feeling of failure kept me from feeling confident and with that lack of confidence, I’d convince myself there was no point in trying again and I’d abandon my resolution altogether.

Now I understand that cycle I’ve found myself in is driven by my need for perfection. In the past year, I’ve come to terms with my perfectionist identity and I try to use this knowledge to think about goal setting in different ways so that I can succeed.

For 2019, I decided to set goal buckets, rather than specific resolutions. My three buckets are:

  • Mental Health

  • Physical Health

  • Creative Health

The objective is to do something each day to add to at least one of these buckets. If I do that, then I have succeeded for the day.

Sounds easy, right?

I purchased a blank notebook (see photo below) to set aspirations for the week. Each day, I fill in the boxes with what I’ve done to add to my goal buckets. I might add, “revised manuscript” (creative health bucket) or “meditated for 5 minutes” (mental health bucket) or “went to doctor” (physical health bucket).

goalnotebook

The bucket approach allows me to work towards goals that are important and provides me with a wider range to succeed. The more I add to these buckets each day, each week, the more I know I’m working towards my goals and the better I feel. When I don’t add to the bucket in a given day, I don’t spiral into the self destruction cycle that would derail me from previous resolutions because I have a visual log of all the other times I’ve succeed. I’m putting in the work and I have the proof on the pages.

I also like this particular journal format because of the task categories “Need to Do”, “Love to Do” and “Hope to Do.” I prioritize what I want to work on each week according to these buckets and feel oh so satisfied each time I get to cross something off the list.

However you call it, goals or resolutions, setting and working towards them is an individual practice. Not every strategy will work for everyone. I needed to figure out what didn’t work for me, in order to figure out what did. Now that I have, I’m feeling more confident about achieving what I set out to do at the beginning of 2019.

Are you a goal setter? A resolution maven? How do you set goals and work towards them?