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The Halfway Point


A few months, I hit the halfway point of the novel I was writing. And just like with every other novel, I wanted to quit right there.

The other times, this frustration had made sense, because I hadn’t outlined the plot. But this time, I had a much better idea of where I was going than with any other story I’ve ever written.

But, I wanted to quit. I second-guessed my pre-planned ending. I decided the writing style wasn’t good enough, the dialogue not snappy enough.

I second-guessed the existence of the sub-plot. Heck, I began to second-guess the direction and plots of the other two books I’ve written so far in the series!

I am not alone

Many runners, whether in a marathon or doing their daily deal, experience overwhelm halfway through and are tempted to turn around and go home. A lot of people quit halfway through earning a degree.

People who could have had a forty- to fifty-year marriage give up on it twenty years in (or, of course, much earlier).

Why? Is it because humans are, by nature, quitters?

Au contraire, humans are, by nature, survivors. I think one big reason so many people quit halfway through to a goal is lack of support.

Writers are notorious for being loners. Our culture encourages isolation from others, so we lack cheerleaders and rear-end-kickers when we’re struggling in our marriage or career or with working toward any kind of goal we yearn to achieve.

Another reason people quit at the halfway point? We don’t count the cost ahead of time. Or, we do, but then when we get in the middle of a journey, stuff happens. We get tired and burned out, and forget that it’s normal to disagree with our spouse, it’s normal for experienced authors to think that they’re terrible and that their book is no good, it’s normal to be exhausted halfway through a marathon.

It’s normal to face obstacles.

How to persevere

I stated that I shouldn’t have experienced my usual halfway-point brick wall. However, this time I only needed a day to talk myself down from it, to convince myself that the plot wasn’t ridiculous and the writing wasn’t bad.

The other times? It took me several days, even more than a week (once or twice, more than a month) to get over the Novel Halfway Hump.

What changed? I’ve been listening to podcasts for authors, by authors, who have been sharing about having the same difficulties that I have. The same insecurities.

I’m talking about bestselling, traditionally-published authors.

It’s not the same as face-to-face support, but it’s helped take away the feeling of author loneliness.

And I’ve persevered because past experience has reminded me that obstacles will come, and they will pass.

Or, rather, I can climb over them. Sometimes, if I’m in a good enough mood, jump over them.

Do yourself a favor. Before you embark on a long-term project, remind yourself that obstacles are normal, and that you are well able to overcome them.

And surround yourself with some kind of support system.

Don’t quit halfway. Because then your only choice is to turn around and go back to the beginning, back to the place you were hoping to walk out of.



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Is A Vegan Diet The Healthiest Diet?

Is a vegan diet the healthiest diet? Before I write another word, let me clarify something: vegans and vegans ALONE consume a vegan diet. A vegan lives by the philosophy that killing animals and allowing them to suffer is unethical. I titled the article as I did because I know most people are going to search “veganism” or “vegan diet” when they really mean “plant-based diet.”

Vegans consume a plant-based diet. They also don’t wear clothes made out of fabric made from animal-based fibers, use products that have been tested on animals, or believe it’s okay to breed pets. Vegans object to the existence of zoos, aquariums, and circuses. Many object to the use of service animals, such as using dogs to guide the blind or horses as transportation.

If you don’t mind about any of those things, but eat a plant-based diet, then you eat a plant-based diet, not a vegan diet. Only vegans eat a vegan diet. That said, let’s address the question at hand: is a plant-based diet the healthiest diet?

There are two main camps of health-conscious people. One insists that you cannot be healthy without consuming at least some animal products every day. The other insists that including animal products in your diet, especially the non-swimming animals, will eventually take a toll on your health. Is it any wonder people are confused about what constitutes a truly healthy diet?

Let me bring some clarification to the table by giving you some direct quotes from the book Vegan For Life by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina. Quote number one: “One analysis of five large studies showed that the risk of dying from heart disease was 24% lower for vegetarians compared with meat-eaters.”

If you hang out with the Paleo or Weston A. Price crowd for any length of time, you’ll hear claims that eating foods high in cholesterol can actually help to bring your blood cholesterol down. Besides the fact that that doesn’t even make sense, the numbers tell a different story. The National Cholesterol Education Program has found that both the total cholesterol and the levels of LDL cholesterol are notably lower for vegans than even for pescatarians, or people who consume a plant-based diet that includes fish and seafood.

Omnivores, on the other hand, have the highest levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. And research bears out the fact that the lower your blood cholesterol level, the lower your rate of developing heart disease.

Study after study about high blood pressure has shown that vegans who eat healthy foods (as opposed to junk food vegans) have lower blood pressure and a greatly reduced risk of developing hypertension than meat-eaters. Research also reveals that people who refrain from consuming animal products have an overall lower body mass index than even semi-vegetarians, not to mention daily consumers of meat.

In addition, a recent study of Seventh Day Adventists shows that, and here I quote from the book again, “vegans were less than half as likely to have diabetes when compared with meat eaters.”

Vegans are less likely than meat-eaters to develop gallstones, renal stones, or intestinal problems. And vegetarians – not necessarily vegans – are less likely to develop dementia as they age.

What about cancer? For decades, vegans have enjoyed blaming the disease on meat. But is there hard evidence of that fact? Nope. Another quote from Vegan For Life: “A few studies have found that vegetarians have lower cancer rates compared to omnivores, but most haven’t shown any difference between the two groups.”

But don’t start celebrating yet, you Paleo and traditional foods eaters. Red and processed meats have been linked to a higher risk for colon and stomach cancer. Some studies suggest that teenage girls who eat meat have a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

Although definitive evidence that vegans are much less likely to develop cancer than non-vegans has yet to be found, cancer experts have come to the conclusion that eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing animal fat in your diet are major elements that protect against the disease. Health-conscious vegans already have the advantage here.

In general, then, it would seem that a plant-based diet – a healthy, nutrient-dense plant-based diet, that is – is, indeed, superior to a diet that includes any kind of animal products. But while I am convinced of the health benefits of replacing animal products with nutritious plant foods, and myself consume a vegan diet, I need to play devil’s advocate for a minute.

I think it’s safe to say that most vegans are health-conscious people, and so do not consume much processed food. It’s also safe to say that most people who eat meat and eggs and drink milk are not all that health-conscious. I say that based on my own observations. Paleo and Weston A. Price enthusiasts, who tend to avoid processed foods and aim to eat more nutrient-dense foods than average, do not constitute the majority of the meat-eating population.

So, that leaves a huge, important question: all those studies that show that vegans have healthier hearts and a lower risk for a variety of diseases, is it really because they don’t eat meat, or is it because most meat-eaters eat potato chips instead of apples and canned corn instead of leafy green vegetables? In other words, could it be that the difference is not whether or not meat is in the diet, but whether or not the rest of the diet is healthy and nutrient-dense? Now, that’s a game changer.

Except for that one guy who sent Paleo diet guru Robb Wolf an e-mail which Wolf read on his podcast. Basically, the e-mailer said, “I’m doing everything right, not eating grains or processed foods and eating several pounds of meat a day. But I just got my blood work done and my cholesterol levels are through the roof!”

Robb Wolf, I am sad to say and to the detriment of his deceived listener, blew the whole thing off. “Gee, maybe your cholesterol levels are naturally supposed to be 350.” Other meat advocates would laugh it off, saying, “It was just that one guy.”

No, it wasn’t. There is nothing new under the sun, and if a high meat, high-cholesterol, high-saturated fat diet deteriorates the health of one person, it is deteriorating the health of many. Not all, necessarily, but enough. Too many. And the scary thing is, many people who get enthusiastic about a particular kind of eating lifestyle will never bother to have their blood work done because the guru said it was healthy, so it must be true.

Still, what are we to do with the question of whether eating meat per se is the cause of heart disease and other conditions of ill health? Is a plant-based diet the healthiest diet, or not?

Ethics aside, my personal opinion is that if you otherwise eat a nutrient-dense diet and choose to eat a few eggs a week or three ounces of lean meat a day, your body can probably handle it. The key is getting all the nutrition your body needs, and to do that you have to make sure you leave room for an abundance of nutrient-dense foods.

The Paleo and Weston A. Price people can talk until they’re blue in the face, but the fact is that most meat-eaters, health conscious or not, are going to eat the not-nutrient-dense muscle meat most, if not all, of the time. They are going to avoid the nutritious organ meats like the plague.

As to determining the healthiest diet, it will be one which greatly lowers the risk of developing all manner of disease. For the moment, all we have to go on are imperfect studies (because no study is flawless), and the studies are on the side of not just a mostly plant-based, but a 100% plant-based diet.

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How To Be Happy: Seven Shocking Truths

Years ago, I read a book about how to be happy. The author, a psychologist, said that the way to achieve this highly sought-after state of mind was threefold: have someone to love, have something to do, and have something to look forward to.

That advice sounded good…until he made his big confession. He had stopped believing in God after his son died in an accident.

Or so he claimed. But one thing I’ve learned over my several decades of life is that most people who claim that they no longer believe in God because of an unexplained tragedy in their lives, are actually bitter toward Him. They still believe, but they’re angry and bitter about the bad thing He allowed to happen, either to themselves or their loved ones.

They hide that bitterness underneath the guise of unbelief. It’s easier to cope that way, to ignore the insidious emotion that eats away inside you until it – in many cases – literally turns into cancer.

Can we agree that it’s impossible to experience true happiness when you’re carrying around bitterness?

Or, wait. Maybe you can be happy, even if you’re hiding bitterness. Because…

The first truth about how to be happy.

Happiness is a temporary emotion. It’s based on circumstances. I’m happy when I make over $300 in book royalties in a month. He’s happy when he figures out how to succeed with a particularly tricky level of a video game. She’s happy when the man she’s fallen in love with calls her.

What happens when the next month, I make under $300? What happens when he can’t figure out how to succeed at the game? When her boyfriend breaks up with her?

Happiness comes from temporary events and circumstances that can change in a heartbeat.

This lead us to…

The second truth about how to be happy.

Trying to maintain a constant state of happiness is exhausting. Since reading the book I’ve mentioned above, I’ve come to realize that the three things the author insisted bring happiness, don’t always.

You can love and be loved, and still feel unhappy because other things in life are going wrong. You can have something to do, but if it’s not fulfilling it will not only not bring happiness, but also could bring on dread. The anticipation of looking forward to something can be pleasurable, but it is equally often frustrating because you wish you could be doing it now.

And so, if your goal in life is to be constantly happy, you keep having to search for things or contrive experiences that will bring you pleasure.

Which is a great segue into…

The third truth about how to be happy.

The search for happiness can be expensive. She isn’t happy unless she’s buying new clothes. He’s not happy unless he’s leasing the latest model of his favorite luxury car. They’re not happy unless they can take three week-long exclusive resort vacations every year.

How many times have you heard about some new gadget, got excited at the prospect of owning it, and then went out to buy it only to find that a few days after using it, you couldn’t care less about it? Or, maybe you were still grateful to have it, but your happiness over having brought the thing into your possession is gone forever? It just became another hum-drum, ordinary part of your boring life.

A similar thing can happen with finding out about a new restaurant, or making plans to travel to a new part of the world. You’re happy when you first go there, but once the initial excitement wears off you wonder why you were so gung-ho to go there in the first place.

And you’re off to spend money on the next thing that you’re sure will make you happy.

This closely relates to…

The fourth truth about how to be happy.

If you’re depending on a change of circumstances in order to be happy, you may be miserable for the rest of your life.

I have a large bunion on my right foot. It used to be a mild bunion. I think it fit into the “moderate” category when I had the bunion on my left foot surgically removed seven to eight years ago.

For an entire two years, I decided I couldn’t be happy unless the bunion miraculously disappeared – or at least shrunk. Or unless I could have some guarantee it would never get bigger.

Do I have to tell you I was miserable for those two years?

Here are other ways people hinge their happiness on circumstances that are out of their control:

  • I’ll be happy when I no longer have these digestive issues (or autoimmune disease, or chronic pain, etc).
  • I’ll be happy when my spouse stops [FILL IN ANNOYING HABIT OR CHARACTERISTIC HERE].
  • I’ll be happy when I win the lottery.
  • I’ll be happy when my business starts making five figures a month.
  • I’ll be happy when I find my soulmate.
  • I’ll be happy when I can afford a condo on the beach.
  • I’ll be happy when a Libertarian candidate is elected President (U.S.).

I think you get my drift. Waiting for an ideal future before you find happiness is going to turn you into one sorry, depressed, bitter human being.

You might be starting to think that I am anti-happiness, that there’s no point in trying to be happy, even in the present.

I’m glad you brought that up, because it reminds me of…

The fifth truth about how to be happy.

Feeling happy is not a bad thing. It’s good for your intelligence, good for your physical health, good for your mental health, good for your creativity, good for your relationships.

Being happy is all-around good for you. And, it’s fun. So when you encounter it, enjoy it while it lasts. Experiencing the emotion isn’t the problem. The problem comes with…

The sixth truth about how to be happy.

That truth is, seeking happiness is bad for you. Experiencing it is good, but not seeking it. Why? When you’re looking for happiness, you’re focused on pleasure rather than fulfillment. You’re being selfish and self-centered.

And, as we saw with the other truths, you’re wearing yourself out and possibly setting yourself up for a life of disappointment and heartache.

Being attached to circumstances, happiness often pops up when you least expect it. It’s a natural result of finding yourself in situations that fit your personal needs and desires of the moment.

Of course, you can craft some circumstances in such a way that you can be close to certain that you’ll end up feeling happy. For example, if you’re in love, chances are high that going out with the person you’re in love with will make you happy. You know that, so you arrange a date with them.

Or maybe there’s a certain place that has just-right weather at a certain time of year that helps you feel happy. You can plan a trip at that time of year and be assured that you’ll probably feel happy while you’re there.

It’s not bad to exert some control over your life when the end result will help you feel happy. The problem comes in eternally seeking happiness. Once that one particular circumstance has ended, what do you do next to stay happy? It becomes a never-ending struggle.

Which brings us to…

The seventh truth about how to be happy.

Seek joy, not happiness.

Happiness is external, while joy is internal. Things that are outside you can be whisked away in a second, without warning. They are temporary. But what is inside you endures, even through the darkest periods of your life. Like happiness, joy can bring giddy feelings. It can bubble up and expand at times. But even when it’s just a steady sense of rightness, a peaceful inner glow, no one can take it away from you.

How do you find joy? It’s born inside you from a deep knowing that your existence has meaning, that you are here for a reason.

In other words, you have put your faith in a loving Creator, believing that He will lead you, knowing that when the going gets tough, He hasn’t left you, but is enabling you to grow stronger.

And the more inner strength you have, the more joy you have. You may not feel happy at those times, but the joy will continue, will help you keep your mind focused in the right direction.

You may say that you know you have a relationship with your Creator, but you still struggle with depression and/or anxiety, In that case, you might want to read my story about how I cured myself of depression.

If you don’t know your Creator, you may be asking, “How do I do that?”

Pray for faith to believe. Pray that God would touch your heart so that you know He’s real.

And be willing to let Him lead your life.

Learning how to be happy is easy: surround yourself, or do things, that bring you pleasure.

But I think what you really want is joy. The journey of seeking that might take a bit of work and time, but in the end it will transform your life in a much bigger and better way than seeking happiness ever will.

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I can no longer read the small print on supplement and essential oil bottles. Presbyopia, or age-related farsightedness, has not crept upon me slowly. Over the past eighteen months, it has slammed into me with the force of a bullet train hitting a brick wall at full speed. Every month, I’ve noticed that my ability to focus on near objects, especially print, has been worse than the previous month.

Hook that together with the other unsavory signs of aging in my body, along with two comments I’ve read online that insinuate that human life is biologically meant to be over around age fifty, and my old nemesis, depression, has found a wide-open opportunity to try to regain residence in my soul.

Oh, did I tell you that I’m forty-nine years old?

This morning, I told my husband about the two comments, and asked for encouragement. As a person of faith, I believe that life has purpose until we die, even if we can no longer make babies, see well, or have much energy.

J reminded me that we are eternal beings.

Yes, we are. I know that, but this morning, I needed somebody to tell me that.

But that still left me with a question:

Why does God allow our bodies to deteriorate?

I know because of the Fall, God removed the ability for the human body to live eternally on earth. But why couldn’t He have made it so that we had youthful bodies our entire lives?

I mean, for people like me, anyway, who have worked hard for the past twenty-five years to live a healthy lifestyle. 😉

You could say that the aging process is also part of the consequence of the Fall. Possibly.

But as I pondered the question, I realized that there might actually be purpose in the slow deterioration of the human body after several decades of life. When Adam and Even ate the forbidden fruit and were subsequently kicked out of God’s presence, they had to work to reconnect with Him again. And it was a struggle, indeed, until Yeshua sacrificed His life so that we would have instant access to the Father.

But God knew people would continue to be self-centered and stubborn, and that most would ignore Him as they journeyed through life, trying to succeed on their own strength and power.

And when a person is young, that’s a totally doable thing.

Not so when your energy and strength begin to wane, and you start to have problems in your body that you’ve never had before. Life gets harder to do on your own.

Could it be possible, I wondered, if our heavenly Father ordered the aging process so that people would see that they can’t rely on themselves to achieve what they want to achieve? Could it be that, in His love for us, He ordained this as one of the many ways that He draws people to Himself?

I brought this up to my husband, and he offered an additional suggestion. How would the younger generation transition into the responsibilities that had been held by the older, if they were not forced to take them over because the elderly gradually had to release them because of their failing bodies?

In other words, the aging process allows a smoother transition of running the world from one generation to the next.

Then I had this thought: in the ideal world, adult children would care for their aging parents, as how life used to play out, and how it continues to play out among certain non-Western and non-modern cultures. Perhaps the need to care for one’s parents is a divine gift intended to produce greater growth in a person that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise?

Whichever of those above musings is true, I’ve come to believe that the gradual loss of abilities as we gain years isn’t simply a divine punishment for sin (what was Yeshua’s death and resurrection about, if not to redeem us from such?) or just an inevitable part of human biology. There is a reason.

And yes, I still firmly believe (because the evidence is clear) that proper diet and nutrition, doing work that fulfills you, avoiding toxins as much as possible, etc., slow down what we have come to term “the aging process.”

But as I have contemplated all of what I’ve just written – from the frustrations with my own body, to why uncomfortable physical changes have to happen at all – I’ve also come to despise the word “aging,” as well as the phrase, “getting older.”

“I’m not getting older, I’m getting wiser” hits more of the mark that I’m aiming for. But today, the new perspective I’ve gained on aging takes that idea a few steps higher.

My new perspective on the later seasons of life

I am not aging, as in the sense that my body is gradually leading me toward death. Instead, I am preparing for an eternally youthful, eternally perfect body. I am, if I may coin a new word (I think!), “younging.” Because ultimately, this journey on earth, including the struggles with my imperfect body that is gradually losing its natural functions, is leading me to the fountain of youth.

Turns out, the fountain of youth is not a mythological place. It’s always existed.

It’s more commonly known as “eternity with God.”

I am forty-nine years wise, and I am younging, not aging. And I choose to embrace the process, however annoying and inconvenient it may feel along the way.

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