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The Only Thing That Fills The Void

Question on Quora:

How do I stop depending on others for fulfillment when it feels like the only thing that can fill the void?

My answer:

At the risk of being downvoted, I’m going to stick my neck out.

The only thing that can fill the void your feeling is a relationship with your Creator. God. Start seeking. Pray. Ask for God to reveal Himself to you. Once you feel that connection, you’ll feel you have a sense of purpose. That purpose will be to love others and to create good things that help others (I’m not talking about singing on a stage or becoming the next Picasso, but things as simple as creating a better day for somebody by smiling or by handing out encouragement and kindness).

When you have God’s love in your heart, such things will become natural, and you’ll experience true fulfillment.

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The Uncomfortable Zone

The question on Quora

“In what ways do you get out of your comfort zone in order to improve your life? Have you ever taught someone how to get out of their comfort zone?”

My answer

I still remember the night that Scott turned to me and said in a snarky tone, “You used to be nice.”

Scott was the manager of the family restaurant where I had been working for a year. He was replying to a sarcastic remark I’d made, and what his statement really meant was, “You used to be a doormat. You used to be afraid to talk back. Heck, you used to be afraid of the little old lady customers that come in here every single night.”

I had grown up painfully shy, and when I first started the job at age sixteen and a half I was terrified to approach the customers. But I needed a job so I could start saving money for college, so I forced myself out of the comfort zone. A year later, I was not only not afraid of talking to strangers anymore, I was boldly talking back to my smart-aleck manager.

When I finally went to college, I chose to attend one where I would have to stay on campus. I’d never been to summer camp or anywhere else that required me to be away from my family for any extended period of time, so that first week among strangers and having to learn a whole new routine was frightening.

But there was no such thing as getting an online degree back then, and I had to go to college to get the teaching degree I thought I wanted. To achieve my goal, I had to get out of my comfort zone.

After graduating, realizing there were few teaching jobs available in my home state, I moved over 900 miles away, into an almost completely different culture. To this other planet called Texas.

To achieve my goal of getting a job in my chosen career, I had to get out of my comfort zone.

Getting married? I’d never had a roommate in my life. Out of my comfort zone, but it was one of the best decisions of my life. Getting pregnant? I was terrified. I don’t recommend that any woman do it for the mere purpose of getting out of her comfort zone, but I’m telling you, it does. As does raising a child.

But the result is that I have learned so much more than I ever would have, had I not had a child.

All of that leads up to the one person I know I have pushed out of his comfort zone: my husband. Early on in our marriage I saw that he really didn’t like his job, so I began scheming and planning different ways to get him out of it. Ultimately, we realized that by a certain year we would have a large enough nest egg that we could retire super-early. But as the day to turn in his resignation grew closer, my husband’s feet grew increasingly colder. But I knew that he wanted out, knew that he’d caught the vision of being able to be the master of his own days. So I kept encouraging him that everything would be all right.

It’s been almost five years since he quit his job, and he’d be the first to tell you that it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

After marrying me, of course.

I have only achieved my goals and been able to grow by leaps and bounds as a person by pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and the above story illustrates only a few of the ways that I have done so.

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Early Retirement…Are The Sacrifices Worth It?

The question on Quora

“What’s your take on Early Retirement strategies like frugality and minimalism? Are they worth it?”

My answer

Are they worth it? That depends on your goals in life. If you want to have ten children, for example – like, having a big family has been a dream of yours for a long time – then retiring early will be difficult. Giving up a dream of a large family in order to retire early would probably cause you to live a life of heavy regret.

Not worth it, in my opinion.

However, if your priority is to retire early and you’re wondering whether disciplining yourself to live frugally and simply now – sacrificing your wants – is worth the future reward of financial and time freedom, I think it would be for most people.

My husband and I retired in our early forties and moved, along with our son, to five acres in a rural mountainous area. We achieved this by two things: first, by living debt-free; and second, by living on half of my husband’s take-home pay and saving and investing the rest.

We didn’t enroll our son in a dozen different classes every year (we homeschool, but lived in a city with a great Park and Rec program as well as dozens of opportunities for things like martial arts). We didn’t have cable T.V. We didn’t take expensive vacations. We didn’t eat out. (Though that was more because of my health-nuttiness than anything else, but it did save us money.) We’d purchased a house that was half the cost of what the lender had been willing to loan us. We drove our cars into the ground (I’m still driving my 1997 Honda Civic!). We wore – and still wear – clothes until they wear out. We didn’t go to the mall for fun.

I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

A lot of that will cause many people to raise an eyebrow. To say, “No way! I could never do that! I’ll just work until I’m 70.”

If you really want something, you’ll do what it takes to get it. If you think you can’t, you won’t achieve it – whatever “it” may be.

And since my husband and I were already naturally frugal, taking the extra steps to reach our goal of early retirement wasn’t a big deal.

As a result, my husband no longer has to work at a stressful job (I had quit my teaching job when I was pregnant to stay home with our son). We can go where we want, when we want, because we create our own schedules. Our choice of home is based on where we really want to live, not our need to be close to a job.

We could be spending several thousand dollars more a month than we do. (In large part because we invest according to The Permanent Portfolio – and I highly recommend the book by that title by Craig Rowland.)

What do you think – was living frugally and minimally worth it for us?

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It’s a strange world we live in.

Used to be that if a couple were abiding in the same room at the same time, if one of them had something to say to the other they’d just lift their head from the book or newspaper they were reading or from the plate they were eating off of, and say it.

Most of the time, that’s how communication goes down at our house. But not all of the time.

Here’s another way it goes down: J is sitting at the kitchen table, doing something on his computer. I am sitting at the other end of the house – so far away, at twenty feet distant – doing something on my computer. I’ve just finished watching a funny comedy video (contrary to popular belief, not all comedy videos are all that funny). Do I call over to J that there’s this video he should watch, and tell him the title to look up on YouTube? Do I invite him over to my computer to watch the video?

No and no.

I send him an e-mail with a link to the video. Sometimes, I don’t say a thing. He’ll check his inbox eventually. Sometimes, I’ll call out, “I just sent you a link!”

Then every time thereafter that I’m in the kitchen working, I’ll look over his shoulder to see if he’s watching the video yet. Because I want us to share that experience of having laughed at the same thing.

By sending him an e-mail when I’m in the same room with him.

Yep.

It’s a strange world we live in.

On the other hand, being able to communicate via e-mail (or text, if people have phones to play with and live in a non-concrete house where cell phone service actually works inside) with someone who is in the house with you can be handy. Like the other day, when I wanted to tell J something about the new computer we’re planning on buying for B. It’s going to be a surprise, so since B was in the house, too, I didn’t dare say anything out loud.

So I sent J an e-mail, then went over to the table and whispered for him to check his e-mail right now.

Kind of like how my grandmother and great-grandmother would speak Swedish in front of my mom when she was a kid and they didn’t want her to understand them. Or how like my sisters and I would sign to each other at the supper table when we didn’t want our mom to understand us.

Poor Mom.

But I digress.

It’s a strange world. In a way, technology has made it better. But in another way, it’s made the world a bit sadder, as the video below illustrates.

I need to go now. I’ve just read an interesting article that explains something both J and I need to know, and instead of walking over to him and summarizing my findings, I’m going to send him an e-mail with the link to the article.

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Yesterday, I received my first review for my book, The Cure For Mental Illness?. The reason is that as soon as you publish a book to the Smashwords website, even if it has not been approved for distribution to booksellers (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.) and online libraries, it shows up on Smashword’s home page as one of the newly published books.

Smashwords sent me an e-mail that I’d received a review. The mouse shaking underneath my trembling hand, I clicked the link to read the review. It was one star. Here’s what it said:

Hello, my name is Timothy [last name removed b/c I’m a kind person] and I DONT approve of this commercial. I have friends that suffer from mental illness and I was excited to hear some tips or something to help them, But this was not it. If you want to help people give more to the readers and the money will follow.

I need you to understand that up until that point, I have never tried to defend myself against a low-star review. Not even the two-star review for Tony’s Rose which basically slammed my and J’s personalities, because I’d modeled the main characters after us.

Ouch. Hard not to take that one personally. However, I did get that the reviewer preferred more stereotypical characters for romance novels. To each her own.

But, the review of my latest book made it sound like I was trying to do some major back-end selling or something. Really, a commercial?

That’s the word that got to me. I stared at it, first in shock, then in anger. This review sounded malicious.

I went to the Smashwords website and e-mailed them. Here’s what I wrote:

Hi,

First of all, I want you to know that I’ve been self-publishing books since 2012 and have never, EVER sent either Amazon or Smashwords an e-mail like this. Up until now I have accepted all reviews, good and bad.

The other day I uploaded a book entitled “The Cure For Mental Illness?” It’s a book about how I used diet and nutritional supplements to cure my own depression and severe perimenopausal symptoms.

My very first review on Smashwords is from a guy named Timothy, who gave it one star, writing, “Hello, my name is Timothy [——-] and I DONT approve of this commercial. I have friends that suffer from mental illness and I was excited to hear some tips or something to help them, But this was not it. If you want to help people give more to the readers and the money will follow.”

The only “commercial” in the book was a recommendation for a particular brand of supplement, from whom I make no money (and I state that in the book very clearly). The MAJORITY of the book is about eating right for mental health. I don’t understand how anyone could label it as a “commercial.”

Especially since I plan to keep this book free forever, so I will never make any money from it. Neither do I do any back-end selling, or promos of any of my paid books.

I believe this book can help many people, but you know as well as I that this one-star review can kill that possibility (at least on the Smashwords website). Is there any way to have this review removed?

Thank you.

Mind you, I had no idea what Smashword’s policy was about removing reviews, if they ever did it. Amazon has a link next to each review that allows you to report it, but I didn’t see anything like that on this particular review.

In other words, I was flying blind. Hoping beyond hope that my squeaky wheel would get some grease.

It did.

Fewer than three hours after I sent the e-mail, a Smashwords customer service rep named Kevin replied thusly:

Hi Emily,

Thanks for writing in and reporting this. I believe this review would meet the standard of one that can be removed.

I’ve gone ahead and deleted it for you. It will take 24 hours for the 1-star rating over-all average to disappear.

Best!

Thank You, Jesus!!

Of course, I thanked Kevin as well, promptly and with much gushing.

You can read the book on my blog, here. Or you can download it from Smashwords, here. It is available on Amazon, but I have to price it at $0.99 until it gets into the Barnes and Noble Nook store, at which time I’ll be able to contact Amazon and ask them to price it for free in the Kindle store.

Do me a favor and don’t be a jerk like the first reviewer. Don’t review the book unless you or someone you know who has a mental illness has tried the program RELIGIOUSLY for at least thirty days (if you see positive results before then, which is likely, by all means leave a review at that point).

If you review the book without making the dietary and nutritional changes recommended within it, without seeing for yourself whether or not the changes help, the review will be unfair.

Thanks for understanding; thank you even more for your support and cooperation in helping me get the word out about this book. 🙂

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