Freelance Writer Envy? Read This for a Sobering Peek Inside Real Life

Online Writing Tips to Speed Up the Process. Makealivingwriting.comDo you find yourself sometimes feeling jealous of that successful freelance writer who seems to have everything dialed in?

You know, the freelance writer who has plenty of clients, earns a healthy income, networks like a boss, and seems to have all the answers to marketing, pitching, copywriting, and business.

You spend some of your precious free time thinking your life as a freelance writer would be pretty sweet if you could just trade places.

Sound familiar?

In today’s social-media driven world, it’s easy to get sucked into thinking everything you see is the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But we all know, it’s just the highlight reel…the best part of that freelance writer’s business, minus reality that isn’t so rosy.

If you’ve ever felt jealous or envious of another freelance writer’s success, it’s time to put things in perspective.

I have a story for you…and some things I need to share with you about my own life.

First, the story:

The freelance writer’s tale of the bag of troubles

Once upon a time in a tiny Eastern European shtetl, a woman was feeling overwhelmed with her life. Let’s imagine she’s a freelance writer.

She took her woes to her rabbi.

“I feel like I can’t go on!” she tells him. “Life is just too hard. My mother-in-law lives with us, my children are ill-behaved, I have so many responsibilities, I’m often underslept and don’t feel so well…what can I do? I can never get any writing done!”

“That’s no problem,” the rabbi replies. “Bring all your troubles in a sack to the village square tonight, when the moon is full. I’ll tell all the other villagers they must come and bring their bags.

“You can take a look in all the other ones, and then pick someone else’s bag. You can take it and go live that other person’s life instead.”

Switching places seems like a good idea…

As you can imagine, our freelance writer was excited. At last, she might find some peace and writing success!

She found a sack and gathered things that represented all her woes to put inside. She waited excitedly while the moon slowly rose, thinking of all the people in the village who were better off than she was, whose easier lives she might claim.

When she arrived at the square, she found all the villagers assembled with their bags, just as the rabbi had promised. She strode eagerly and directly to the bag of one of the wealthiest women in town. She seemed to lead a charmed life with lots of idle time. Their children were so well-mannered! Surely if she could have this woman’s life, she could write the Great American Novel in no time flat.

A peek inside changes perspective

But when she peeked in the bag she got a shock. Inside these bags, thanks to the rabbi’s Kabbalistic powers, was the naked and complete truth of each family’s life — the troubles and travails each kept secret.

Her wealthy family’s bag was made of rich red velvet on the outside…but the inside was black as coal. It even smelled bad. Gazing into the bag, she could see that the family’s father was a violent alcoholic who was beating his seemingly perfect wife behind closed doors. The children were quiet because they were terrified. The writer quickly lost interest in swapping her current life for the contents of this bag.

Shocked, she tried another well-off woman’s sack, only to discover her husband was planning to leave her, and she had recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She was deeply depressed and had suffered several miscarriages she still mourned. The husband also had been hiding financial losses, and in fact they were broke and would soon need to sell their impressive home.

The sum of life experience includes everything

Suddenly, the writer had an idea. She turned this bag upside down and shook it, hoping to empty out its terrible contents and just keep the good part, the good things everyone knew about this woman, the beautiful home and fine clothes. But nothing would come out — the contents seemed woven into the fabric of the outside of the bag.

This wasn’t turning out at all as the unhappy writer had hoped. Who could have imagined what terrible things were hiding inside these beautiful bags! With growing anxiety, one by one, she peeked into the bags of all her neighbors.

Why we envy…

I tell you this story because jealousy happens to all of us, and this is why it happens: Because we can’t see what’s inside other people’s sacks. We don’t know the whole story.

We see the public face of other peoples’ lives, and we think we know what it would be like to be them. But there is always more that’s hidden from sight.

Pull back the curtain

For instance, I remember as a young writer thinking the novelist Louise Erdrich was so amazing. She won prestigious writing awards, had these beautiful daughters and was married to another successful novelist, Michael Dorris. What a charmed life! Or so it seemed to me, looking at the glittering outer wrapping of her bag.

Until it all came crashing down in 1997, when allegations arose that Dorris had molested his children, and he committed suicide. It came to light the couple had already been separated for a year.

Another example: I’m sure quite a few people were envious when top blogger Jon Morrow recently revealed he earned $500,000 from his blog in its very first year. I’m thinking the same people probably wouldn’t be as enthusiastic to take his place if they knew he can hardly move a muscle in his body.

What we really want is just the good part of someone else’s life. But along with that good comes the whole messy rest of it.

To get that life, you have to take the whole bag — all the experiences, good and bad, that shaped that person into the writer they’ve become.

What’s in my freelance life bag?

It’s come to my attention recently that there may be writers who feel jealous of me. My blogging bag is looking nice and shiny on the outside these days, isn’t it?

So I thought I’d give you a peek at the inside of my bag. Because now that I’ve had some success, it has truly brought home to me how money cannot buy you happiness.

I don’t want to intrude on the privacy of my family, so I’m not going to say which of these relates to which of my family members. But here’s a list of some of the issues I am grappling with right now:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Depression/anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Cancer
  • Addiction
  • Memory loss
  • Sleep apnea
  • Failing grades
  • A major gastrointestinal disease
  • Oppositional/defiance
  • Insomnia
  • Threats
  • Fighting

So many days lately, after I switch off my computer and turn to trying to be a mom and a wife, it’s like a trip through the looking glass.

In one world, I can impact thousands of writers and help them earn more. People beg me to talk to them, and tell me I’m competent and helpful and wonderful.

But at home?

It’s not exactly all happiness and rainbows

People shout at me and call me names. No one seems to appreciate what I have to say. In fact, they tell me I’m an idiot or call me a liar on a regular basis. “Mom, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” is a common refrain.

Ironic, huh?

And after nearly a decade of trying mightily to create peace and joy and family harmony, I don’t seem able to make much of an impact. All I can do is pray and keep searching for answers. I’m learning to let go of what I can’t control, and just try to be the best me that I can.

My life is not perfect. But it’s the only life for me, and the only life that could make me the writer and writing coach I am today.

It would never be the same outside of the bag without what’s inside. We’re each a package deal, and the product of all our experiences, good and bad.

We can’t skip the unpleasant parts and only have the good ones, because they are all mixed up together. All we can do is use what we’re given, and write our truth.

The end of the story

Have you guessed what happened to our shtetl freelance writer?

After carefully examining each bag, she gazed across the square to the spot where — in her eagerness to cast off her own difficulties and swap them for someone else’s trouble-free life — she had hastily tossed aside her own plain burlap sack.

She ran fast as she could to her bag.

After seeing the truth of her neighbors’ lives, she had a new perspective. Her life was blessed and wonderful. Her husband was a loving man who truly cared for her. They were poor, but they had enough.

And in her bag was a special gift — she could write.

Then she did the only thing there is to do, for each of us. When we see the whole truth of others’ lives, we always pick up our own bags and take them home.

YOLO advice for the jealous freelance writer

How about a little YOLO advice for the jealous freelance writer? You only live once. No one’s life is as charmed as we might think. If you want to be a successful freelance writer, now is always the best time to go for it, even if your life isn’t perfect.

What’s in your bag? Leave a comment and share what you’re struggling with right now.

Join my freelance writer community: Freelance Writers Den

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259 comments on “Freelance Writer Envy? Read This for a Sobering Peek Inside Real Life
  1. Such a great reminder that everyone has burdens to bear, even the “outwardly successful.” I am very, very fortunate and have a great life, but even then, my extended family and I have dealt with depression, anxiety, alcoholism, ADHD, asthma/allergies, oppositional behavior, drug abuse, physical illnesses and injuries, and recently, the death of a parent. That bag is mixed, indeed.

    I am so grateful for what you share with us via your website and the Freelance Writer’s Den.

  2. Debbie Curtis says:

    This is a great post, Carol. I’ve never been jealous of your success! I’m very, very pleased that you share so much with other writers. Really, you’ve saved me from re-inventing the wheel a thousand times.

    The story of the writer who wanted to trade bags reminds me of a training that I had as a school bus driver. ‘Normal’ is a setting on the washing machine. As school bus drivers (or teachers, etc.) we don’t know what goes on in that child’s life. They may leave without having eaten dinner the night before. A parent may be seriously ill, forcing the child to get themselves to school. Abuse may be part of their lives, etc.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Soooo right, Debbie. In our Seattle district, we have a lot of minors living alone, kids dealing with homelessness. 1 in 10 has food insecurity.

      • Debbie Curtis says:

        Food insecurity! That one always gets me. This is America, and we shouldn’t have hungry kids. Or adults either for that matter.

  3. Couragous!~Sincere!~Believable!

    Thank you, Carol, for helping us know you’re one of us. It’s difficult to wrap my head around the jealousy aspect, even though I know it’s out there. Jealousy is a three-headed monster with nowhere to go but down.

    I am grateful and thankful for your advice, expertise, and willingness to share. You have much of which to be thankful. I’m sure you are. You write beautfully. Thats why you’re where you are.
    Anyone jealous of that needs to work harder, study how you got to where you are, and learn some lessons in humility.

  4. Elizabeth Njuguna says:

    wow!! Such an inspiring story. I can identify with it. Now I know better.

  5. My bag isn’t as heavy now as it’s been, and may never be much lighter. I’m struggling with my website. It’s not live yet, but I’m acquiring knowledge daily about WordPress. Meanwhile I’m busy working my day job, getting used to having my disabled sister in the household, and as usual, struggling to pay bills.

    The upside? I’m really learning my way around WordPress and see it as another valuable skill to offer clients. My sister loves to clean house (I hate it and must admit to enjoying becoming spoiled). Much more important, we’re finding that our childhood connection is stronger than ever. But the bills? I can’t find a silver lining there. Yet. But give me a minute– I’ll figure out something.

    Jealous of you, Carol? Guilty, at least by a smidge. But I am so much more grateful to you. I’m so happy that I found you. You bring me inspiration, hope and knowledge. Thank you for being so open and so giving. Thank you for being you.

  6. Richard Buse says:

    To borrow a line from the great Joe Walsh…”I can’t complain but sometimes I still do…Life’s been good to me so far.” My writing experiences include seven years of writing software reviews for a magazine that went to collection agencies. That gave me a rather chilling look at the dark side of living beyond one’s means. I lost my Mom and a dear friend to cancer. And me? Much to my amazement, I’ve made it through more than four decades of adult life without ever working a regular full-time job, or spending a night as a patient in a hospital. Sure, there have been some difficult times, but my travails pale in comparison to what so many others have faced.

  7. Elijah Janai says:

    Wow! I have never once commented on this site but today I am. I really appreciate you opening this up to us as your audience. It’s a bit relieving to learn that everyone struggles at the end of the day. Life isn’t perfect and we had better accept that.

    It’s like in Mark Manson’s book…The Art of not giving a F***k. Everyone in this site should read that book once in a while.

  8. Felix Abur says:

    This is deep! Carol with this post you really opened up and gave us a glimpse of your humanity.

    While I experience something akin to jealousy at more successful writers, I have always had the sense of mind to know most got there by hard work.

    The success I see in the writers I envy/admire is the result of hours of grinding, money sunk into courses, networks grown over seemingly unproductive interactions, and lots of free guest posts and low-paying ghost-written posts.

    Yes, a little bit of their success is due to lack. Especially where you’re born. But even if you’re born under the worst circumstances you can still make it. And being born in the best place isn’t a guarantee you’ll succeed. So it all comes down to hard work. I want to learn from the successful and get inspired. And Carol you’ve taught and inspired me lots over the years

    • Felix Abur says:

      Forgive some typos, especially this one… *luck, not lack.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks, Felix!

      When writers say they want to be me, I just laugh. Nobody would want to have to spend 12 years as a staff writer and another 15+ as a freelance writer to reach the point I’m at now! Everybody wants to be me but WITHOUT THE WORK. They want a shortcut! Which I do my best to provide…because I definitely think I did it all the slow way.

  9. Ann Earle says:

    Thank you Carol. I just love your posts and website. While this does not relate to ‘writer envy” I learned the lesson of checking out other people’s stories over 30 years ago. My little boy, then aged 9 was diagnosed with a rare, terminal genetic disease (which affects boys). I was on a one way trip to self-pity. How could this happen to me and my baby? Life is sooo unfair etc etc. Then, we joined a support group and learned of other parents who had been on this awful journey we were now on. I discovered there were families who had lost their only son and some had lost two or more. Some their entire families. It didn’t take away the pain of losing a child but it certainly gave me a different perspective on life.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ann, support groups have been a lifesaver for me as well. I’ve learned so much…especially that others have it rough, too, and often worse. May you be comforted on your hard road.

  10. Willliam F Walles says:

    A righteous message at a right time for me. I’ve spent more than an hour reading the truth in these writers’ lives, including your yours. My bag seems shallow amid these greater truths. Hope this jolt puts me on track to accomplish what I’ve yearned to do. Thanks for a powerful reminder of our life together.

  11. Susan says:

    Carol your post has touched me in a big way. I started out by admiring you and after years of making a pittance with feeelance writing, I ended up envying you and feeling that you had no idea about the kind of issues I’ve been grappling with in my life. Turns out I couldn’t be more wrong
    This is a courageous post. I’ve read it to my daughter and it has helped us put things in perspective. I feel that it will help me get in my bike and start writing today. Thank you.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Glad this helped! I meet lots of people who want to be me… until they find out it would involve working 6 days a week, 18 hours a day for many years. AFTER working 12 years as a staff writer, to hone my chops! Then they get less interested… That’s why I offer SHORTCUTS. Nobody would want to do this the way I did. 😉

  12. Patricia Casello-Maddox says:


    I appreciated your stories today and was reminded to place everything in perspective. and know that everyone has the ebb and flow of life. I think you are right, most people would choose their own bags after all. Thanks for the email.

  13. Rhiannon D'Averc says:

    This feels like a really cathartic exercise, so here goes with the list of what would be in my family’s bag:

    Fibromyalgia (insomnia, pain, fatigue, and all the rest)
    Job loss
    Low income and heavy expenses
    Vicious arguments
    Bad housing situation
    Health problems that require operations
    Lack of time to spend together

    But you’ve reminded me I do have that gift – the ability to write. Not only that, but the gift of being born white in a Western country, which makes me luckier than a huge percentage of the world’s population.

  14. Lifelong says:

    This is such a brave and inspiring post. Thanks to you to share it so openly with your students. It gives a perspective to all of struggling freelance writers today.
    I share many of the issues you are facing today in my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  15. Inanna LaFevre says:

    Wow Carol,

    Thank you for sharing such deep personal “stuff”, for the great story and important perspective.

    I for one think you’re doing a great job!

  16. Mark Ellis says:

    Great post as always, Carol.

    When I was teaching a while back, I’d sometimes get into a conversation with my students about success. I’d ask them if they’d like to be Spielberg, or George Lucas or someone like that. Of course, they are like, “Yeah, man. That’d be great!”

    Then, I’d tell them the horrid truth. “Do you really want all that responsibility?”

    I would explain just how difficult the filming of a motion picture is, and how many people directors and producers are responsible for. In the cases of Speilberg and Lucas, the responsibility of all that pressure almost killed both of them.

    Their rise to the top of their game was not a fun thing, for sure.

    Speilberg had a real massive bomb with the movie “1942” after making “Close Encounters”. It was crippling to everyone that worked on the movie, and because he was still a young and new face to Hollywood, he thought his career was over.

    Later, when he was making “Raiders of the Lost Ark” he was already kind of sick from the water in the Middle East, and when they dumped out a barrel of snakes, he vomited all over the place.

    Lucas, on the other hand, had such a horrible time directing the original Star Wars he almost quit. He had so many financial, union, and logistical problems that he had almost had a heart attack from hypertension and exhaustion. (As a matter of fact, this is the reason why he didn’t direct the next Star Wars movie after that.)

    So, even for industry giants, there are all sorts of personal trials and tribulations that are often insane. (I once watched a documentary on how a rather expensive movie was made and I’m now exceedingly glad I have nothing to do with that industry. I’m just happy to sit at my desk and plod away at my craft day by day.)

    Moral of the story: It’s not easy to become a success in your business. To think otherwise is foolish.

  17. Marie writes says:

    Divorce, emotional baggage from childhood, single motherhood, heart break, disruptive family, cancer, job that gives me anxiety. But I’m ok and now have the confidence to follow my dreams.

  18. Jeannie says:

    I am left speechless.

    Thank you for going the extra mile of writing that.

  19. Scott Reaver says:


    Such an inspiring post — and most of yours our! I recently lost my mom and have been grieving.
    It seems in life that there are two parallel tracts we struggle with. Rationally, we know that we are not the only ones going through difficulty. Emotionally — at least for me — I feel like I am the only one going through this. This came at the right time for me. Thank you

  20. Wally says:

    Good article. This is the format all the gurus are talking about – story telling – and this was a great job of it!

  21. Lisa says:

    Fwiw, my bag would have burnt up over this last year if it weren’t for your advice and generosity.

    I’m not making much, because of everything in my bag, but I’m making more than I was, and I’m on my way to making a living at this.

    My own bag sounds a lot like yours. I’m going to give the list without naming names, as you did, so here goes:

    Chronic, treatment resistant major depressive disorder
    Personality disorders
    Severe money trouble
    Asthmatic children
    Possible ADHD
    possible ODD
    Four kids, one part time income (mine)
    And several things far too ugly to write about.

    I’m sorry for the ugly parts in everyone else’s bag. I just want to say, I hope the glitter outshines it, at least some days.

  22. Thank you, Carol, and you are in my prayers every day! My bag contains many of the same things yours does, and this summer I was feeling so very alone and burdened by such a heavy bag. It is likely that, once again, my writing is going to be the sole source of income/support for my daughter and I very soon. Your teachings, blog posts, and words of wisdom are providing the inspiration and practical tools that I need to make that happen. I just read the post on How to Stop the Psychodrama… and am formulating a plan to make that happen! Thank you, again, for the inspiration and the assurance that I am NOT alone with this bag, and that it DOES contain the special gift: I can write.
    Joanna Branson recently posted…“30 is the end of life…” NOT!My Profile

  23. Penny Hawes says:

    Thank you for sharing, Carol.

    I always try to keep my default setting to gratitude. That becomes most challenging (and most necessary), when I’m faced with what seems like an overwhelming amount of “stuff” going on in my life. Since January 1 I have lost my dream job (which I held for 7 years), been taken by ambulance to hospital, had flare ups of a chronic illness and had a reaction to a medication which caused me to gain back most of the 40 pounds I lost several years ago. We’re in a financially uncomfortable place, and our daughter has moved away for her first job.

    And yet – life goes on.

    The job loss takes away the “not enough time” excuse for delaying my freelance writing career. The chronic illness is a boat load less serious than what many others face, the hospital trip turned out not to be a heart attack, and having to come off the medication means I need to pay religious attention to my diet and exercise, which will, eventually, take that weight back off again, and help manage many of the symptoms of the chronic illness. My husband and I are more open with each other about our financial goals (and fears), and our daughter is doing well at something she enjoys. It’s all in how you look at it, I guess. Me? I’m just keeping my default setting to gratitude.
    Penny Hawes recently posted…5 Overlooked Ways Volunteering Can Help Your Horse BusinessMy Profile

  24. andih94 says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. Very grounding. I’m slowly working my way through your marketing course, and until this post and the one about psychodramas that led me to it, I’ve been pausing every so often to think ‘well, that’s okay for Carol Tice, but she doesn’t have my challenges…’. Clearly you are flesh and blood like the rest of us, which makes your generosity even more striking. Thanks for sharing so freely. I still have some maturing to do and some mental knots to untie but I’ll get there and so will my freelance writing career. Sooner, now, I think. I sincerely wish you all the best in everything you do. You have helped me immensely. Much respect.

  25. This is beautiful, and so helpful. Thank you for your transparency. I wrote something similar about Facebook recently, on my blog. Facebook has a way of making everyone else’s life seem perfect. I really appreciate your openness.
    Columba Lisa Smith recently posted…One Question That Silences FacebookMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      OMG, is that ever true, Columba!

      But I think often, it’s a smokescreen. It’s someone trying to convince *themselves* they have a great life. I used to just be devastated that it seemed like everyone else had the most awesome life…but my new rule is the more posts I see from someone about their amazing husband and kids and vacation, the more miserable they secretly are. 😉

  26. Rohi Shetty says:

    Thanks, Carol.

    We all love you not only for your writing but also for the qualities you personify – honesty, humility, hard work, honor, humor and a willingness to do whatever it takes to improve your life and ours.

    May your tribe increase!
    Rohi Shetty recently posted…My Ten Favorite Humorous QuotationsMy Profile

  27. Tiffany says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this Carol. I appreciate you being so candid. I’ve shared some of my own personal struggles in the den, and was glad to see that there were other people who could sympathize with me, including Linda F. It’s sobering and quite encouraging to me that the people I look up to are very much human, and have their own bags of challenges just like me.
    Tiffany recently posted…For Those Who Still Don’t Get TwitterMy Profile

  28. Nida Sea says:

    Wow. I just now found this post. It touched me deeply…

    I just had a similar conversation with my husband not long ago. I had been talking about how I wanted to make tons of money like many of these well-known writer’s and bloggers do. I want to live their rich lives and have my name plastered everywhere. But, your fable and your real story brings the truth to light. We don’t know how another person’s life is behind closed doors.

    I’m not making tons of cash like I want, but I make a decent amount now that pays the bills and leaves some left over to save. My husband told me that we should be happy we can pay our bills and still have some money to go out once in a while or rent movies and eat pizza on a Friday night.

    It’s really the little things in life that matter more than the money. I wouldn’t trade my weekend WoW nights with my sister for more riches. It’s the best four hours I can get!

    When I first started freelancing, my goal was to hit it rich and snub everyone else I knew. That goal is gone, and I realize my life is perfect the way it is. Of course, I’m going to keep reaching for better pay– nothing wrong with wanting to make improvements. But, it’s not my sole purpose to sacrifice everything for more money or “a better life.”

    Thanks, Carol!
    Nida Sea recently posted…How Not To Contribute To a Monthly Savings (And How I blew $12,000 in One Month)My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I can only quote Pirke Avot here: Ben (son of Zoma) said, “Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot.” 😉

      Also in the same paragraph of discussion on this pargraph over on, we get: “One who increases possessions increases worry.”

  29. Wow, Carol, what a lovely and transparent post. Thank you for sharing. We are currently about to sell or give away almost everything we own and take ourselves and our 16-month-old daughter to the West Coast (from Missouri) and start a new job, knowing only one family in a 4-hour radius. We are excited and terrified and the fact that this great job has finally opened up belies a long time of hard work and no results at all.

    Very little compared to many here, but that’s my bag.

    • Carol Tice says:

      What an exciting adventure! And great time to relocate, when they’re still babies.

      We do let you bring your things with you to the coast…not sure what you’ve heard. 😉

      Try to find local social media to hook into. Where I live there’s an islandwide mom’s social network on BigTent that is THE place to get your questions answered about which dojo or nanny or meetup to join. Ask realtors and the Chamber where to tap into the grapevine…can really help you find friends and resources and get oriented quickly.

      Where are you moving to? I hope you have a terrific experience in your new home — and lucky you, being a freelance writer is a totally transportable gig you can do from anywhere.

  30. Tammy says:

    Hi Carol, I was hoping to get some feedback from my comment. Hope all is well and you have a great weekend. 🙂
    Tammy recently posted…Freelance Writing Jobs – Real Writing ReviewMy Profile

  31. Lauren says:

    When I graduated from high school, I chose to spend a gap year in the Philippines, volunteering for a Christian aide organization. I intended to return home and go to university but that plan was put on hold when I fell in love with the Philippines and the poor. I continued to volunteer for 2.5 years until my finances ran dry. During my time there, I was abused and I’m still working through some of the trauma but it didn’t deter me from wanting to help the poor.

    I returned home and was an active member in my church until I decided to go to Thailand to help victims of the sex trafficking industry. I went and volunteered in Thailand for 6 months. During all of this time, I was gay but terrified of coming out because I feared that I would be ex-communicated from the church community which I had grown up in. However, keeping it inside didn’t do me any good. I became depressed and was hospitalized with severe anxiety attacks. I decided to come out to one of the other volunteers because I had fallen in love with one of the women in the aide organization and I just couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. My worst fears came true and they kicked me out of the organization. A week later, I was put on a plane with a 7 ft tall chaperone and sent back home against my will. I was banned from communicating with the woman I loved, even though we were both consenting adults. I returned home and my church ceased to support me. If I didn’t act like a Christian, I couldn’t minister in the church even though I had been gay the whole time I had ministered there previously. I was still the same person before and after I came out. The only thing that changed was the fact that they now knew about it.

    Anyway, I returned to Thailand to be with the woman I loved (and her young son). She was also kicked out of the organization despite the fact that they knew she would not be able to find another job. You see, her family fled China as refugees when she was only 5 years old. They were accepted by the Thai government but then laws changed and their human rights were stripped from them. My girlfriend doesn’t have any birth records so she isn’t able to get a job or travel outside of our city or get a passport or any other official documents. She recently tried to apply for an identification card but was rejected and told to return in 5 more years!! Since I decided to volunteer and not get a university degree, I am unable to get a job here in Thailand which is why I rely on web writing. The particular visa I am on can only be renewed for 2 more years. I really have no idea what I will do after that. I need to be here for at least 5 more years until my girlfriend can get a passport and we can go back to my home country together.

    That was a lot of words to say that my current struggles are: writing to support a family that doesn’t even have basic human rights, being unsure of whether or not I can be with my family long-term, desperately wanting to help the poor but not being accepted by any Christian organization based on my sexuality, and the usual struggles associated with coming out and raising a child in a homosexual relationship.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow…that’s a heavy bag.

      You’re making me glad I’m part of a congregation where our cantor is gay and totally accepted by our community.

      Sounds to me like you’ve got a fascinating memoir in you…maybe there’s a way to turn these experiences into something positive?

      I think there are plenty of aid groups that aren’t Christian based, too. Best of luck to you and your family!

      (And FYI, this site has a nondiscrimination policy — pitch me a guest post!)

      • Lauren says:

        Funny how the “leave a comment” line at the bottom of a blog can get us to share things we normally wouldn’t share. The internet is such a public place and yet sometimes it feels so safe to show the contents of our bags. After posting that comment, I tried desperately to find a way to delete it but couldn’t. I just kept thinking to myself, “the internet isn’t the place to share all of this”, but then I read your reply and it was so encouraging.

        I actually posted my previous comment before I was finished writing it. I had a 3 year old boy prancing around me in the typical “Look at me! Look at me!” fashion so I hit submit before I had a chance to say that despite all of the struggles I’m facing, my bag has made me a stronger and better person. I am happy to carry my bag because despite all of its dark, heavy contents, I have a fair share of light, bright, joyful items too.

        I have always wanted to write a memoir but need to overcome the fear that nobody would want to read it.

        I may take you up on that offer and pitch you a guest post! Thanks again for your encouragement.

        • Inanna LaFevre says:


          I just want to salute you for having the courage to stand for Love and Live Your Truth. Stunningly cruel that in 2019 people are still treated so callously for simply loving who they do. Sending you the courage to stand strong.

          I too have paid a high price for volunteering in a very poor country and working for social justice on what those in power considered the “wrong side of the political divide.” Also I have a complex religious/spiritual journey and am now unable to work with some of the larger and better funded organizations on the sex trafficking issue (which is very important to me) because my faith is not “fundamentalist” enough.

          AND I concur with Carol, you are living a powerful and unique story that warrants telling. I also want to encourage you to seriously consider writing that memoir. There are many books and people to light the way. One of my favorites is Marion Roach and the Memoir Project.

          Wishing you and your family the very best.

          Inanna LaFevre

  32. This really moved me. I’m so thankful I stumbled upon this beautifully written piece. I’ll think of this post whenever I’m feeling envious of somebody else’s life.

    In my bag: debt.

  33. This was the most incredible story. I enjoyed the way it was told and the lesson. There are times I wish people would lead a more transparent life if only so that others would not feel alone. I think people would be more caring with each other if they could see what was real instead of what they imagined their life to be.
    wendy mccance recently posted…What Influences the Way a Person Views the World?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Glad it helped you, Wendy — it was a pretty tough day dealing with the dark stuff in my bag yesterday, so this was a booster for me to see.

      Today fortunately things are looking sunnier! Literally, in Seattle. Don’t tell anyone or we have to kill you.

  34. I think we open ourselves up for the positive and negative when we decide to be cast in a public light. As a mentor, you have come out into public view (even if it only exists in cybyer space). By doing so, you’ve allowed yourself a certain vulnerability that only certain people can accomodate. There are many many people who are thankful you are doing this.

    My bag includes a terminally ill father that refuses to take care of himself. I am is POA and have 3 younger sisters looking to me for answers. I have a 6 year old son that has already seen both assitant principles and now the principle (as of last week) because of behavior issues. He’s only in kindergarten. Addiction runs rampant on one side of my family. The list could go on, but I have realized that we make our own futures and our perspective greatly influences our reality. I’m young and have a bright future ahead of me. I happened upon this site and the Den by accident and know that something will definitely come of it for me.
    Nicole Graham recently posted…6 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out Part 1: The Business ResumeMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Man, the calls from the principal’s office…I never got those with my oldest, and now the younger two just can’t seem to stay out of there. Which is too bad because they sure do have to pull a lot of weeds and skip a lot of sleepovers when that happens. 😉

  35. Holly Bowne says:

    Wow. Thank you so much for your brave, straightforward honesty here.

    My bag has jangled mess of two kids in college starting this fall, the loss of my biggest (okay, my only) client, the loss of two months of my writing time due to a family member’s illness and my own surgery. My writing income is not anywhere near where it needs to be.

    And although I don’t believe I ever feel jealous, I do often wish I could hit a fast forward button to get to the point in my career where many writers already are. But thank you for reminding me that I do have a gift. And I was given that gift for a reason. And no matter what, I’m going to use it.
    Holly Bowne recently posted…Quote of the WeekMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for sharing your bag, Holly…and the cautionary tale to avoid One Client Syndrome! As bad as having a boss, only without the full-time job’s fringe benefits.

      Have you seen the movie “Click”? Great cautionary tale about that fast-forward urge, which I must confess I have sometimes as well. 😉

  36. Heather says:

    I really needed this story, Carol. I often get compared (and compare myself to) another writer that went to the same university as I did. There’s nothing wrong with wanting my manuscript to be published. Still, I’m sure if I looked into her “sack” it would be filled with things I can’t handle. Thanks again.

  37. Amy says:

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks so much for sharing. I just keep reading this over and over and over again. I find it so very refreshing. So exhausting to have a shiny bag all of the time and never really share what’s inside. I just loved this and your sincerity.
    Thank you.

    • Carol Tice says:

      You know, that’s why I wrote the post, I was finding it exhausting. It was sort of giving me emotional whiplash, going from this virtual world where everything seems to be going so great, to my way more messy and often unpleasant real world.

      I’d tell my best friend about it…but she died a year ago.

      I reached a point where I felt like I sort of owed it to everyone to be honest about the context in which I’m operating. And I’m so glad I did, and got to learn about all the life stuff my readers are dealing with too.

      I always wonder what I could get done if there wasn’t all this happening, but maybe nothing would happen because nothing drives us to try to make things better.

  38. Don Wallace says:

    Hi, Carol,

    It took courage to post that.

    My take is this: you’ve built up a certain “franchise”… name recognition in a specific industry and an awful lot of followers.

    I believe that envy usually accompanies admiration – especially when the business of mentoring, coaching and running your community (the Den) requires that, in a way, you “be” the very product that you’re selling.

    I think it happens this way: You have to push yourself out there to the public *constantly* – because you *have* to, in order to maintain and grow your business.

    And because you’re very good and quite experienced, you make all of it look easy. So that may *easily* lead to a feeling on the part of some in the audience who aren’t that well known or accomplished yet that you’re an egomaniac, and/or that you’re all about promoting yourself.

    In the past I’ve tended to be “all tingly” around successful people – for one reason, because successful individuals have been so absent in my past professional life.

    I finally realized a few months ago in working on my own business that success in freelancing is mainly *just* about self-confidence. Yeah, you need talent and skill. But buckets of talent don’t help unless you have self confidence. It just clicked one day. If I were a cartoon I would have been drawn with a big glowing yellow light bulb over my head at that instant. 🙂

    So what I was *really* doing, I realized, was envying those who had built up their self confidence.

    Once I realized that in fact I was being sort of a snob – putting someone on a pedestal because they presented themselves effectively – the illusion that I was “lesser” or that others were “greater” was punctured.

    So, I hear you. I’m just describing where those negative vibes come from when you experience them.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think you can really disabuse anyone of this feeling. They have to come to grips themselves.

    Anyway, I really respect your grounding in reality. It’s often missing from the BS that one hears from some mentors and coaches who try to make themselves out to be floating above it all. As exemplified in your post. It makes your advice that much more convincing and it establishes you as an excellent coach.

    Which I already thought, but the “reality” of your post drives it home.

    Take care.

    – Don
    Don Wallace recently posted…Should You Use WordPress, or a “Real” Content Management System for a Web Site?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks, Don — and I think you’re right, really that is what inspires the jealousy, the appearance of self-confidence in others.

      Of course we don’t know that they may be quaking in their boots inside. As one great commenter above said, we compare our insides to their outsides, and always come up wanting in that unfair comparison.

      Really grateful for all the insights and support from everyone on this thread!

  39. Sandy Powerll says:

    This is a damn good story. Thank you for sharing it with your readers.

    I wish you all the best.

  40. Kate Frank says:

    Carol – You have gifted all of us with your story.

    I don’t know how many of your readers are in their 60’s and have the perspective of time to bring to your story. If you have lived on this earth for less time than I, please pay attention to this inspiring fable.

    Our Happiness is ALL about Perspective!!!

    Choose to be happy. Sounds glib – maybe even heartless. Happiness is truly a CHOICE. If you have to make a change in your life, make the choice with love…first of yourself…then to the other people that are in a relationship with you. SELF-love is where you can get your power and strength to be happy.

    To be a participant in this community sharing event, let me tell you a few things about me:
    * At 60 years old, my decades old career had collapsed. I had no dependable income to support me.
    * I have been single for 13 years and have absolutely no financial cushion to weather the ups and downs of income.
    * I have no source of health insurance and had a health challenge that cost me 4-figures earlier this year. I was unable to work much during my health challenge.
    * I owe the IRS a six-figure sum. Because I am over 60, they only filed a lien on my credit report and now consider my past taxes ‘noncollectable’.
    * I lost my home to foreclosure and owe a five-figure sum to non-collateral loans.
    * I am a confident writer and am almost always happy.
    * I have big plans for my future as a business writer, content strategist and business content trainer. Life is good.
    Kate Frank recently posted…Video Post DemoMy Profile

  41. Carol, It was incredibly brave of you to write this post, and the inside-the-bag and outside-the-bag metaphor works brilliantly. By listing the hard issues you’re dealing with, you dispel the idea that success in the larger world means that everything in your own life is just about perfect. You also made it safe for many of us here to lay out our own problems.

    At my age as one BBB (Born Before the Boomers), I’m dealing with
    ***several chronic health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes. However, I’m managing them all with a combination of meds, diet, and exercise.
    *** struggling to accept my own mortality, not helped by constant reminders in the media of the need to plan for moving to assisted living with “memory care,” the new euphemism for Alzheimer’s disease. I do have a plan, but that’s not it!
    *** frequent assumptions by strangers that with my white hair comes significant cognitive decline and inability to do the simplest technical stuff.
    *** the sudden death of my oldest child three years ago.

    And yet, I have much to celebrate, such as getting married last fall to my long-time BF–The Engineer–in a wonderful ceremony at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle.

    Carol, You are so inspiring and brave and hard-working.
    Madeleine Kolb recently posted…Glen Campbell’s Goodbye TourMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Madeleine –

      Thanks for sharing the good and bad of your bag. Didn’t realize you were here in Seattle!

      Thanks for your good wishes, too.

  42. Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I already thought you were Superwoman–this just reinforces it. Your giving seems to know no end.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, I thought the idea was to show that I’m less of a superwoman than people think. Response to showing I’m a human being has really been amazing. Makes me glad to be one. 😉

  43. Julia Zaher says:

    Carol, this is an incredibly powerful post.

    A long time ago I decided to challenge my own prejudices. While working as a radio reporter I was at an event where the organizers were all apparently wealthy women who appeared to have charmed lives. But everyone has something. It was a large Christian ministry event. In the course of doing my interviews I decided to ask this question of those women: “A lot of women at this event are experiencing healing of deep personal wounds. Is there something the Lord is healing in your life this weekend?” I’ll never forget the first woman of whom I asked that question. She immediately burst into tears and began to tell me about her struggle with infertility and miscarriages. She looked great on the outside but was devastated on the inside.

    That taught me a lesson. Everyone has something. No one has the perfect life, at least not all the time.

    There’s a song that goes, “Everybody hurts … everybody hurts … everybody hurts … sometime.”

  44. Patti Hale says:

    I went through a period of time right after my divorce when I felt like a failure as a parent. As a working mother of two, I felt guilt ridden for putting my need to escape a marriage to a man who was jealous of my success (along with other problems) ahead of my children’s needs. When my oldest acted out in just about every way possible I felt I deserved the treatment. I went for counseling, took classes in parenting, complained to my friends, etc. At one point I thought, “He’s going to either kill himself or somebody.” Flash forward: He straightened up or I got better or both. Can’t tell you which. Can’t tell you why. I tell you this only to let you know that it can and does get better and that you are not alone.
    Patti Hale recently posted…New Work from Home and Writing LeadsMy Profile

  45. Apologies for not being brave enough to share my own bag with you – I guess I should be envious of you all for that. Whoops, there’s that envy coming out… ;o)

    Instead I just want to say one thing about this post:

    Thanks Carol.
    Kirsty Stuart recently posted…How to Find Your Purpose as a WriterMy Profile

  46. Carol,
    I am blown away by your honesty, your insight and your wisdom. I loved your story of the writer in the shtetl. I had heard that tale before but never have I heard it told in the charming and powerful and creative way that you told it. And the takeaway is so important. Each one of us would take back our own problems, our own “pekele” – as we say in Yiddish (even though I barely know Yiddish – my parents spoke it when they didn’t want us to understand!).

    Also, as I read your struggles – the list that you identified, I was relating to each one of those “behaviors” as I too have experienced one or the other, or several as a mom, wife, sister, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law. And I find that my writing, music and other “hobbies,” (soon to be work too!) are outlets for me.

    I love your term “perspective setter” – it’s what I find myself doing daily, even as my kids grow up and move out. And believe it or not, I mean it when I say that as the kids grow up (I don’t know how old yours are, but I have some in their 30’s), and the years go by, those kids who gave us the most angst are kind of great and “together” – and yes, very very respectful these days. I would never have believed that it could happen – that the same child that called me every last name in the book (well almost..) when he was a teenager and beyond….now is quite sweet.

    So I’m saying all this because “this too shall pass” really is true…

    Stay strong – and keep being the amazing teacher that you are.
    Miriam Hendeles recently posted…Please, Sir, I want some more…My Profile

  47. Stephanie Vozza says:

    Thanks for sharing your life so openly and willingly, Carol. I needed to hear this. This weekend, I was beating myself up for being a “total failure as a mother.” It was sparked by seeing a Facebook post from a friend about her child. As you said, raising teenagers is hard. It can be easy to focus on things that the world recognizes as being valuable (like grades and ACT scores and colleges) and forget to recognize the value of other things (like being a good friend and having compassion). I guess you just do the best you know how to do.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Just remember that we should all take Erma Bombeck’s sage advice and bury our kids when they’re about 17 and dig them up when they’re 25. 😉

  48. Cathie says:

    A beautiful post. I am one of the FB-ers who is very honest…not dark…but my kids don’t win every championship, don’t always earn straight As and sometimes don’t get along 😉

    In fact when my son got a C- I posted “Yep, first middle school report card has a C-.If this post makes even one parent feel better about their report card, my work is done.” (I’m the PTA president at our middle school so I thought it would be nice to show some reality).

    And to be honest, I don’t post when they get straight As either. I am proud of THEM but don’t need to share it with the world…just them and those that matter most!

    I love whomever mentioned comparing your inside to their outside. And by nature, I am not a braggy person anyway.

    Thanks for your very brave, very honest, and much appreciated post.

  49. Joe says:

    As a fellow parent, with two teenagers myself, I can relate to the fact that it’s a much harder job now than 15 years ago. Keep on keepin’ on. You’re just saying what a lot of us take for granted, that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors (thank you, Charlie Rich).

    A lot friends and acquaintances think my wife and I have the perfect marriage, and always have. They don’t see the struggles and sacrifices, and the never ending work that goes into making a marriage good. Thanks for pulling the curtain back on envy and why it’s so useless.
    Joe recently posted…Mike & JohnnyMy Profile

  50. Hi Carol,
    Your post was meaningful to many people (myself included). I’ve read thorugh most of these comments, I’m humbled. I already knew I didin’t want anyone else’s sack, but I am also reminded, by the responses, that it is OK to open your sack sometimes and let other see in. As you mentioned support is a good thing.

    What’s in mine? Also without mentioning who in my family there is (or has been) unemployment, Bi-polar, Emphysema, death of a spouse, unforgiveness, and suicidal thoughts. I come from a large family. However I know my words matter and I want to keep spreading ones that are hopeful rather than hurtful.

    I also have support – most importantly of a wonderful wife – who believes in my writing even in times when I don’t.

    I thought about what I could add here, I keep coming back to yours comments towards the begining of the thread about us starting out already on third base. I know this is true and it does keep me grounded. I sponsor a child overseas and I have seen the difference it makes.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Peter D. Mallett recently posted…Being Comfortable in Your (Writer) SkinMy Profile

  51. Erin says:

    A great reminder as I grapple with my own bag of insecurity, depression, verbal abuse, isolation, a mentally ill family member, tight finances, and the tendency to envy my wealthy and highly successful friends.

    It’s ironic, because I’m one of those facebookers, whose photos and updates generate their share of “I’m so jealous of your life!” comments. Hah! Indeed true that the outside of the bag and the inside of the bag are vastly different entities.

    Thank you for having the courage to post this. I think it moved a lot of people.
    Erin recently posted…March Photo of the Month: Trekking the AlpsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’ve been really blown away by the response to this post Erin!

      I think the reason is that we all tire of pretending we don’t have the hard stuff that’s inside our bags and putting on a happy face. We wish someone would know our whole selves and maybe help us carry that load a little.

      We’d like someone to understand how hard it is to write, despite all the life stuff that keeps trying to get in the way.

      I wrote it because it felt increasing weird to me not to mention that life wasn’t all hunky-dory over here. It’s part of who I am and what I cope with, and I feel more honest about my writer journey now that I’ve shared it.

      Thanks for your thoughts and for sharing your bag.

  52. This is such a powerful post. You are so right, we don’t see the inside of the bag with most people. I have had an anxiety disorder for most of my life and no one knew…I kept it hidden from everyone (except my immediate family and only my wonderful mother really understood) out of shame. I have since started talking and writing about it in the past two years.
    In the past eight years I have lost both of my parents (plus over a dozen other loved ones), am worried about my finances and am totally alone for the first time in my life, which is terrifying at times. Most people see me in a whole other light. I worry and grieve alone, so they don’t see that part of me.
    Thank you so much for your honest and touching story. It helps all of us feel not so alone.
    Sheila Berqguist recently posted…Getting Rid of Cat HairMy Profile

  53. Craig says:

    Now, this is one post that’ll go viral. In fact, at about 150 comments in just few hours of publishing, it’s already gone viral.

    Carol, I don’t know for any other people but this is the greatest post I’ve seen you publish. I read it and I couldn’t help but read it all over again. It’s worth more than 2cents; it’s simply priceless. Kudos!

    And thanks for sharing your personal experience, too. I hope your kids won’t beat you up on that.

    A peep into my bag: …thinking


    Dad who won’t respond to my greetings

    Parents who disagree a little too often

    Rising depth (considering selling off one of our two houses)

    Lay off+sickness.


    That’s just to mention a few.

    But guess what. I quit wanting others’ bags long ago, when I found that no one really has a “perfect” life. We only envy the outside of the bags. Your decision is the best. Keep praying and searching for answers. But while searching for answers we just have to live with our troubles. I’ve learned over time that my freaking troubles are *BEST SUITED* for me. Not for anyone else. Just as others’ troubles are suited for them. Never for me. That’s how life works.

    Great post, Carol.

  54. Thank you for a reality check. Having recently started in your wonderful Writers Den, I found myself envying you your lofty place in the freelance world, as in, “I want it soon, and make it snappy.” But things that come quickly and easily don’t carry the value that those hard-earned victories give us.

    And so, we need to enjoy the journey and the struggle, because it makes us strong, and well, because you never know. The path can change abruptly and be so much worse… or better! I’ll take my own bag, and hope for my continued good luck. I didn’t start out very well in this life, being given up for adoption, but I landed in a good place. You just never know.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Just remember that I’m the hottest 25-year overnight success ever! Really, I am the tortoise, finally crawling over the finish line here…just kept plodding until finally, there I was.

      I found it fitting that today was no picnic either, with a lot of abuse going on from one of my kids. Sigh.

      All the words of support from everyone have meant a lot to me, and I feel like I had a chance to get to know so many readers better through this post.

      Clearly, we need to talk about how our lives intersect with our writing more often! So we will. 😉

  55. Carol,

    First off, thank you for bearing part of yourself. It means a lot to be able to relate to people that you look up to. I think a big catalyst of envy is when we put our mentors and guides up on pedestals. We start thinking of them as these god-like creatures who used to make mistakes but nowadays have it all figured out, have it made, and have the idealistic lives we fantasize we’ll have when we finally “make” it.

    Writers need to understand three big things to move forward:

    1. Everyone has their own bag of life to carry. We have to accept the material it’s made out of no matter what, but we have a choice in what we allow to stay in our bag and what good we can add to it.

    2. Mentors are no less human than each of us. Life is still life for them, and just because they have figured out the ins and outs of writing doesn’t mean they have the rest figured out, too. Life is an endless journey that we’re always trying to figure out. The best we can do sometimes is be good people and try to make it through as gracefully as possible.

    3. There is no finally “making it.” “Making it” is a continuous process, a journey just like through life. If you’re always looking at what’s waiting for you at the end of the road, you’re missing everything you pass along the way.
    Tiffany Barry recently posted…Writing: From the Outside Looking InMy Profile

  56. Anita says:

    A good reminder that most of the time we don’t have the whole picture (who does?) and that it’s not our place to judge.

    May your courage and determination, combined with lots of prayers from family, friends, fans, etc., see you through the present challenges, Carol.
    Anita recently posted…those ads about teaching toddlers how to read? I never believed them until last weekMy Profile

  57. D Kendra says:

    My list is simple compared to what I’ve read (and it only applies to me; I’m not in the habit of speaking for anyone else w/o their knowledge):

    osteoarthritis (that’s the kind that bends your hands),
    neuropathy in hands and arms,
    carpal tunnel,
    occasional brief lapses of memory,
    nearly homeless (completely homeless in another month unless I find something).

    However, I must add this, because I have a wide, optimist streak:

    creative as a writer,
    tenacious as a pit bull,
    imaginative as a child,
    artistic (I create jewelry in my spare time),
    on a mood stabilizer for the bipolar,
    currently have a roof over my home
    an SUV and sleeping bag if I don’t have a roof,
    access to the library if I can’t use my own computer…

    See? Bright sides to everything. One of my permanent mantras: I do what I have to do for as long as I have to do it. (Or as Scarlett O’Hara says: Tomorrow is another day!)
    D Kendra recently posted…Writing for Cause(s)My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for sharing both the sparkly and dark parts of your bag, D Kendra.

      It’s a little staggering to me how many readers are wrestling with near-homelessness. I hope solutions come to you and everyone else with insecurity about whether they can hang onto their current shelter.

      • D Kendra says:

        Thank you. Me too.
        D Kendra recently posted…Writing for Cause(s)My Profile

      • Inanna LaFevre says:

        Yes this housing thing is out of control. Still, I have had tremendous shame (in spite of living in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country) about not being able to afford my own place. Literally, for an entire year my few material possessions have been in storage and I have been pet/house sitting or bouncing between friends who I pay minima rent for short stints. Right now, rather than judge myself negatively I am choosing to see this as a creative and courageous solution to an untenable situation.

        Inanna L.

        P.S. Barbara Kingsolver’s recent book “Unsheltered” deals beautifully with this issue.

  58. So much good stuff here. I’m running back to my bag right now!

    We are writers BECAUSE of the obstacles in our lives not in spite of them. I write to try and make sense of this crazy world.
    Andrew Gilmore recently posted…Why Wearing Deodorant Is BiblicalMy Profile

  59. Karen says:

    Thank you for an excellent post. What’s in your bag/my bag/our bag/his bag? Makes you think twice… and then twice more.

    My bag has a lot but I know it is not nearly as much as what other’s bags hold.

  60. alicia says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for writing this. I needed it today like I needed a stiff drink but I can’t take one. What I can do is write. I will now. All the while remembering your blog, your authenticity, and why I follow you. Much gratitude coming your way.

  61. Debra Stang says:


    What a wonderful story–goose bumps!

    Sometimes when I’m struggling with bipolar disorder, I’ll start to wish I could trade places with someone whose brain waves weren’t out of whack half the time. Instead, I think I’ll pick up my bag and get back to work now. 🙂

    Debra Stang recently posted…10 Leisure Activities That Make Me a Better Freelance WriterMy Profile

  62. Beautifully said, Carol. You know from talking to me, and I share on my blog, that I have my own bag: depression, anxiety, ADD and Tourette’s — and that’s just ME, not my family. But I wouldn’t trade my bag for anyone else’s — because I’d have to learn all over again how to handle it all.
    Linda Formichelli recently posted…Why You Need to Shake Up Your Freelance Writing Career Right Now — And How to Do ItMy Profile

  63. EG says:

    That was a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ADHD and related. I have come to the conclusion that most people diagnosed with this are simply highly intelligent/creative/gifted and learn differently. They can’t sit still because they are bored. They learn quickly, within a matter of seconds what it might take someone else an hour to catch. Homeschooling is probably the best way to go for these kids and having their own business when they grow up. In our world, that’s not always possible though, as it is with everything else.

    Along with having a gifted mind (often found in creative writers) sometimes comes Overexciteabilites. This produces a range of “issues” that can be misdiagnosed as ADD, bipolar disorder, and a number of other things. There are people who live at the end of the “Bell Curve” and thus are very isolated. Society tends to want to shove people in a box, so we can all be alike. Those who learn differently must be drugged into submission to act like everyone else. In reality, this drugging of ADHD kids (and adults) may be killing our future Einsteins.

    Don’t know if this is of any help to you or anybody else or not, but I thought I would share since it has been on my mind lately. Sometimes what the world labels abmormal is really normal, only rare and the rest of the world doesn’t understand. Being a creative writer means a lot of things and often it comes with difficulties not experienced by others.

    We live in a very fast-paced world that is very complicated. It shouldn’t be this way. If we got back to simplicity, everyone living on farm, eating healthy, rasing and educating our own children, a lot of health issues would disappear, in my opinion of course, and we might realize how normal we all really are. Is it normal that so many people suffer from severe depression? I don’t think so.

    Also, I have realized that children of all ages simply need love and attention. It is impossible in our world to give our children all the attention they need. I would never write if I gave my child all the attention she needed. That’s simply the world we live in and the choice that I made when I decided to stay home with my toddler. If I sat with her all day and played all day, the bills, dishes, cooking, and cleaning, and writing would never get done. She will never understand of course, until she has her own kids that is. We could probably do some things to change this such as simplifying life, having less bills, less to do, but overall it is the result of living in America, I think. America is a very busy, regulated place. All of our to-do lists are very long and children will always suffer as a result of this.

    Anyway, I have noticed too that the grass is never greener on the other side. We should all try to water our own grass and take care of it and let the neighbor take care of his own lawn. We can give advice to our neighbor, but we need to focus on our own lawn, water it and maintain it so it will be green like we want it to be.

    It’s true you never know what other people are dealing with. My family is currently facing homelessness. We live month to month because my husband lost his job six months ago and I can’t find work either. With a young child, this makes things difficult, and I try to write as much as I can, but being a mother and a writer is hard. My child requires a lot of attention at this age and I simply just can’t write like I want with my husband doing job-searching and temp work every day, so we pray a lot that all goes well. I don’t want to be homeless, especially with a toddler.

    Hang in there. We all have burdens and a loving God who cares abous us. If we pray for wisdom, God will joyfully grant it to us.

    Hope it was okay to share all my opinions.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi EG —

      I wish your description of what you feel ADHD actually is fit my family member…but it doesn’t. It’s not about a different learning style for someone who’s super-smart but different. Ours manifests with a range of problems way beyond difficulty concentrating in school.

      Simple love and attention isn’t a magical cure with him, either. We had my husband quit his job so there’d be a full-time parent with nothing to do but pay attention…and our kid actually just came through here cussing his father out for trying to help him with homework, and basically refusing to do anything he was asked.

      Moving to a farm probably isn’t going to be feasible for most families dealing with this, though we have decided that loads of outside time and activity are good.

      I was very anti-medication for a long time…until I hit the point where I realized we wouldn’t survive as a family if we didn’t try more options. Now we’ve been through one med experiment and are headed to the second, after a nice new exhaustive $2,000 re-evaluation. His preschool teacher who raised two ADHD sons begged me to try meds with him years back, as it can correct their brainwaves and help them focus.

      Killing our Einsteins? In our case it’s more seeing if we can help him simply graduate high school, which right now is a distant dream.

      This is a spectrum with such a wide variety of behaviors and issues in it, and knowing what I know now, I would not judge how anyone else deals with their ADHD kid, ever. If they don’t murder them, it’s a success.

      Here’s hoping your bag soon includes enough work to sustain your family.

  64. Melina says:

    Wow. How incredibly brave of you!

    Thanks for trusting us enough to share the contents of your ‘bag’.

    I’ve made a concerted effort, over the last couple of years, to think more about what I have than what I don’t. It’s made a huge difference in my level of happiness, and in my physical health. It’s not always easy to see the good, but I do my best to remember that I can choose how I react to difficulty. Today, I choose to be grateful for the good. Tomorrow: lather, rinse, repeat.
    Melina recently posted…2013 Off to a Horrific Start for California Law EnforcementMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      At our house, we spend Friday night dinners discussing and sharing our highlights of the week, a habit I highly recommend.

      It’s wired into our brains to remember the bad stuff — where the lion cave is! Where the cannibal tribe lives! So we have to work to reinforce and emphasize the good things we have.

  65. I am waiting to hear whether a friend running the Boston Marathon is okay. Compared to what those spectators, runners and first responders experienced today and will be haunted by for the rest of their lives, my long list of woes is nothing.

    A great, honest post Carol. Kudos for your courage.
    Darlene Elizabeth Williams recently posted…Who Says You Can’t Earn $50/Hour with Content Brokers? >Virtual Freelance Writer – Real IncomeMy Profile

  66. Carol, this article is real and raw. We always think the grass is greener, want it but don’t know the cost involve and exactly what the real picture is. Thanks for being very vulnerable in sharing. Though I am now breaking into the paying market as a freelancer and blogger, I am dealing with an unexpected job loss that I was bullied out of, dealing with the emotional aspect of that. Struggling to find the balance to stay active looking for a 9-5 to pay the bills, while I work on building my writing career. I am thankful that I have more better days, but when the low ones hit, it knocks you off your feet. It is during those times I remind myself of the bigger picture, and the “struggles” are stepping stones and temporary” in this journey of life.
    Diane Dutchin recently posted…Be inspired and go for itMy Profile

  67. Catina says:

    Thank you so much Carol for being so honest!
    I think this post should be read by all the newbie
    writers out there like myself. I think I will print this
    out and put in my journal as a reminder even though my bag
    is full of doubt, insecurity and loss somewhere
    and maybe even in the bottom, is my life-long dream
    to become a writer. Thanks so much for giving me
    the courage to go one step closer. And sending you positive
    thoughts to tackle what lies in your bag.
    Catina recently posted…Warning: Neighbors and NakednessMy Profile

  68. Stacy says:

    This is a very fantastic metaphor for reminding us all of something that is so easy to forget. And I thank you, too, for being able to express two competing ideas at the same time: You are lucky AND you are struggling. It amazes me how much the human mind wants to believe that those two things can’t exist simultaneously.

    I wish I had more time to be working on the second book that’s been brewing in my head — and in my agent’s head, too! — for almost three years. But I think of my challenges in pairs, like this: (a) I have no time to write because I have a very demanding fulltime job; I am so grateful I have a fulltime job that pays me enough that I can support my family. (b) Being a single mother means the full financial responsibility for me and my son is on me; I am very lucky to be in a position where I earn enough to support our lives on our own. (c) Writing this second book is one of my major dreams, the book is so important to me; right now, I am also focusing on another dream, moving out of New York City to a proper house with a garden and trees and quiet. (d) I want to tell the story that is at the heart of my second book; in the meantime, I blog about grief and resilience instead, which is satisfying in a different way.

    Life is so rarely either/or. In my experience, it is so much and/and/and/and/and!!! There are years and months when I’ve been lucky to have calm and order (which, yes, is when i wrote my first book), but until then, I’ll just have to keep thinking about my second, and believe that some day life’s complications and blessings will align in such a way that I will find my way into that delicious rabbit hole from which my second book will emerge.

    Thank you for this brave and beautiful post.
    Stacy recently posted…Checking off the boxesMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      What a great way of looking at it. As my mom says, Life is what happens while you’re making plans. Before we have kids we all imagine how we’ll have time to listen, we’ll never ignore our kids…and then we grow up and have to pay the bills.

  69. Well said, Carol. My bag is pretty full, too, but I wouldn’t trade a single thing in it. Only when we stop to examine what’s not going well in our lives can we really begin to fix it. Of course, some things can’t be fixed, and I have a few of those on my end, as well. But I think that, as long as I’m fighting to make my family’s life better, I’ll be happy.

    Thanks for reminding me of what’s important.
    Robert Jennings recently posted…Why Nothing I’ve Said is Going to Make a DifferenceMy Profile

  70. Caitlin says:

    This was something I really needed to hear, and today was the day I needed to hear it.

    Thank you.

  71. Tammy says:

    I’ll also be praying for you Carol, a lot of stuff you are struggling with! God bless
    Tammy recently posted…Does Writing Talent Get You There?My Profile

  72. Tammy says:

    Hi Carol,

    This post stopped me dead in my tracks today, and I’ve a lot on my plate today. lol Awesome post!! 🙂

    There’s a lot that goes on behind closed doors, or behind the computer screen! Thank you so much for this post. It’s given me tons of perspective!

    What am I struggling with? Well I made myself a promise, (goal) the beginning of the year to start hitting up the magazine markets. I have tons of ideas floating around in my head that wants to get out! lol That probably didn’t sound right! :p

    Anyway, both time and fear of failure has kept me from it. And really, all they are is excuses. lol Fear often finds me!

    Thanks again for the post…good food for thought. =)
    Tammy recently posted…Does Writing Talent Get You There?My Profile

  73. Susan says:

    Hi Carol,

    What an inspiring, brave post. I’ve only been following your blog and been a Den member for a short time, but have already learned so much and am so glad that I found you.

    I wish you all the best as you work through your challenges.

    It’s so true that everyone is struggling with something. It’s just not always obvious to others.


  74. Monique says:

    Wow. Carol. This was a powerful message.

    Just this weekend I dealt with some STUFF. However, you have illuminated the fact that , I am blessed.

    Yes. My children are a handful, to say the least. However, they are healthy and are just being young kids.

    Yes. My husband is pointing out that I can not neglect things with the household (especially my 6month old son) in order to pursue my business. However, he supports me and keeps me grounded and makes me realize that I can not keep my faced glued to the computer screen when I am home (because I work full-time as well)

    Yes. My mother lives with us and she is a handful. However, we have childcare during the day when we are at work. And I am able to help my mother without traveling through town or a different state completely.

    My biggest obstacle currently is actually finding the time to get my business up and going. My website is not fully complete (90% done) and I have reset my deadline for its completion twice already. I had to deal with issues of self-doubt a couple weeks ago. I am not sure how the niche that I have selected is going to go over, with receiving business. I keep reading things that directs me towards a different path from the one that I originally started with. I have just felt completely lost and confused with this freelance writing business venture.

    There is a saying by the rapper, Jay-Z, “The more money the more problems.” And there is really no way to avoid this. It is just a fact of life. Just hang in there and believe that God will pull you through when you bring your troubles to Him.

    Hang in there and we will pull through.

  75. Lois Mazza says:

    Hi Carol:

    All you write is so true. What a great story! All of us could fill a bag with wonderful things about ourselves and our lives and others would say: wow, I want to be her. And we could just as well fill that bag with all the bad stuff. After seeing our troubles, others would say, thank goodness I don’t have those troubles. I’ll stick with what I already have. (which is basically the story you just wrote in a nutshell!)

    So true what they say: the grass is always greener; walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging; etc etc etc.

    Thanks for sharing. I hope you are coping well with your difficulties and finding joy in this beautiful life we are all granted in spite of troubles.

    Thanks for all your inspiration for a continually sending me content with great advice and high value.

  76. Dawn says:

    The grass is always greener until you discover how much shit it actually takes to get it that way.
    Dawn recently posted…My Inspiration to WriteMy Profile

  77. Laura Davis says:

    Carol, thanks for this post! It’s really true: we DO feel awful about ourselves when we go comparing our own “behind the scenes” to other people’s “highlight reels.” We all have our challenges to deal with. Mine began when I became widowed at age 30. That’s actually why I began freelancing in the first place. I didn’t want to leave my then-5-year-old daughter to deal with losing her dad wihout me. Now, my girl is off to college (I am both super proud, and stressing myself sick over the expense!), my dad has been batlling cancer (7 surgeries in 3 years, poor guy! He is on the mend, now!), and my boyfriend’s family is an endless source of Jerry Springer-style drama.

    I was earning a great living as a freelance writer before the economy went upside down, but I managed that on my personal contacts and referrals. Never learned how to market like you did, so I was really, truly screwed when times got tight. Now, I am making up for that mistake by working my butt off to learn to go find work from people I don’t already have an in with! I am really thankful that you’re sharing HOW you accomplished what you have.

  78. Sky says:

    By far the best post I’ve read, Carol…I feel so much closer to you!

    This has been on my mind and heart for years, this notion of ‘trading it in if I could’. My bag of blessings includes: severe allergies (food and environmental), a mystery illness related to hormone imbalance/stomach issues that involves itchy skin 24 hours a day, allergies and ocassional asthma (a battle I’ve battled for almost 9 years and Will win), off and on depression/anxiety, sleep deprivation (not self-imposed), self-doubt/self-saboteur, impatience with myself, dreaming REALLY big and being afraid to start, a funny and lesson-giving 15 year old boy, the epitomy of Joy in a 5 year old girl and the newness of it all with a toothless grin in a 6 month old boy + a hot, happy-all-the-time, hard-working man I call husband, an amazingly supportive family and a faith in a life-giving God that Won’t quit, of course:)

    I’d say I’ll keep my bag for sure…but, man, I sure do need the reminder on a momentary basis that I can get through this hard stuff, and that, indeed, my bag was designed just for me.

    Thank you for your transparency and inspiration. You’ve opened a whole new ‘bag’ here baby;)

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for sharing your bag…sounds like your kids have a similar age spread to my own, which has its own unique challenges. I often feel that I really failed at getting it all to meld together and feel like a family…until of course one night when my husband remarked, “This is so much better than it was for me growing up!” It IS all about our perspective.

      At one point my allergies were proliferating and I was afraid I’d end up having to live halfway up Mt. Shasta and read the newspaper inside a glass box or something…but fortunately found a really gifted allergist who helped me reset my immune system back to sanity. Now I just need to not stay a long time if someone has cats, and otherwise I’m good. Hang in there — it CAN get better. I had a respiratory arrest at one point from mine, and now I’m like a normal person.

      • Sky says:

        Thank you Carol. I really do count it all as blessing, even if I don’t understand it all right now. I know it’s all for a reason and it makes me stronger day by day. But I won’t lie and say I want the health part to come to the end of its season:) I’m ready for a FULL life, how I know it’s meant to be (read: not free of challenges but moving forward). I am working with a wonderful naturopathic doc and resetting some imbalances. Climbing that mountain.

        Thanks again…You Rock.

  79. Wow. I’m sitting here a bit stunned by your very brave soul-bearing.

    I’m not letting readers see everything inside my bundle today (too wimpy), but I will say the upside to many of them:

    -my underpaid teacher husband doesn’t take business trips and is around most summers to bond with me and the kids
    -my tiny apartment is easier to keep clean
    -my kids aren’t spoiled
    -my struggles in life have taught me many, many lessons that I would have never learned if life had been easy.
    -I’m still not thin, but my husband doesn’t care! 😉
    Rebecca Klempner recently posted…Reading local-to-L.A. authorsMy Profile

  80. What is in my bag? Truth and honesty. People copying me, as I am a leader. Flattery, humility, and discovery. Authenticity. Creativity. Poetry. Knowledge. Empowerment. Friends. Noticed how I saved the best for last?
    Lorraine Marie Reguly recently posted…I LOVE CERTS. I AM NOT KIDDING!My Profile

  81. Mark Hermann says:

    Thanks for having the courage to share your own story and reveal this universal truth, Carol. And as a fellow disciple of Jon Morrow’s Guestblogging course, kudos for pointing out what’s really inside his $500,000 bag too.

    Me: working on the big transition to creating my fledgling online business. A long way to go. Still dealing with a day job, financial struggles, father with Alzheimer’s. Up side: early foray into writing has begun to build a real audience. Have an awesome wife and two beautiful children, living in a 100 year old Harlem brownstone with my recording/writing studio in my cellar man cave. I still play and produce real rock and roll at 51 (not weekend warrior amateur hour stuff). Got very into meditation this past year and am continuing on the path.

    All in all, still more to smile about than not.

    Thank you again for your candid portrayal of the real world.
    Mark Hermann recently posted…Warning: We’re Drowning In A Sea of “Experts”My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Mark — thanks for sharing your bag!

      I’m jealous that you’re still making music…when I discovered nonfiction prose writing, I gave all my equipment away. Now I’m thinking about teaming up with some of the other bloggers I know who have music in their background to create a virtual band or something again. Ready to rock! Let me know if you ever need a guest vocal. 😉

  82. J'aime Wells says:

    Thanks, Carol, this post means a lot to me today. Everyone’s got their stuff, even the people who don’t talk about their stuff. It’s good to remember.

  83. Larry says:

    The story you tell about the woman is a wondeful way of saying to appreciate what we have and illuminating the grass isn’t always greener.
    I am sorry that you have so many chllenges in your personal/family life. I respect that you are able to do your job so well and successfully despite these difficulties. Unfortunately, I can relate to some of them as well with my children. However, they are part of life and like the woman in the story, I will keep my bag.
    Thanks for being so honest and open. I hope you can handle the challenges you face on the hopefront and that improvement will come.

  84. Oh, Carol, what a lovely story! One I’ll tell to my daughter when she’s older.

    I hear your bag o’ troubles, especially the mommy worries. Sometimes it’s a shame we can’t just yell “Don’t talk to me like that – I’m a professional writer, dammit!” and get some respect. 🙂

    Want to peek in my bag? Here are my family woes right now…
    – skin cancer [mine]
    – brain tumour
    – homelessness
    – addiction
    – depression
    – an engaged couple with infidelity issues
    – an undiagnosed but agonising joint problem
    – a parent whose ex won’t let him contact his children
    – crushing debt
    – accusations of sexual abuse [they were false; I was the one accused]

    It’s a glamorous life behind the scenes, all right. But I’m grateful for all the good in my family and my life. (You’re part of the good, by the way. For sure.)
    Sophie Lizard recently posted…52 Totally Free Resources for Freelance BloggersMy Profile

  85. Thank you, Carol. So very true! Vanessa
    Vanessa (PurpleSong) recently posted…One Billion Rising for Those Who Still Wonder What It’s All About?My Profile

  86. Carol,

    Thank you for bravely pulling back the curtain and revealing the real-life issues that await you when “the writer” leaves the stage.

    Like you, I won’t identify family members, but issues behind my curtain are: sleep apnea, insomnia, homelessness, addictions, loneliness, depression, prison, and dysfunction.

    Painful though it may be to reveal the dark side, it helps to tell it and to hear it.

    As for the relationships with our kids, it’s seldom they appreciate us. My 4 adult kids and 3 grandkids are not impressed with my accomplishments and endeavors. Occasionally I can drag them out to a book signing or event, but it’s exhausting to do so.

    The saying about great people not being recognized in their lifetimes and in their homelands is absolutely true.

    Even though we know that envy is not logical, it can easily engulf us and stifle our own creativity, unless someone wakes us up.

    You have shaken us awake to the fact that everyone has challenges, without exception. It’s how we handle them that determines our success or failure. Just as we don’t get out of this life alive, we don’t get through it without our share of woes.

    The Serenity Prayer is my constant reminder of where to put my energy:
    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference. focus on what I can control.
    The day I fully grasped this was the day I began to live a happier life.

    I remember being deeply moved by Jon Morrow’s “fight-for-your-ideas” post. Your post is equally as moving and inspiring.
    Flora Morris Brown recently posted…How to Conquer Your Fear of Screwing Up the Book You Want to Write, Part 2My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow, Flora — thanks, but I only wish! But that post of Jon’s is one of my all-time faves. I cry every time I read it.

      I’m saying the serenity prayer a lot these days myself, if that gives you a clue to the kind of support groups I’m finding. 😉

      The funny thing is my dad always used to say that to us, “I’m on a search for serenity.” He’d often tell us something we wanted to do or a behavior we were doing was interfering with his search for serenity.

      And now that I’m old enough to have challenging and ill children, I get it — it’s all about serenity. We need to find it and be in a place of serenity as much as we can to be healthy, happy, creative, alive.

  87. This is my debut comment on your blog!
    My struggles include – Finding a balance (big time!) and appreciating my blessings.
    Thank you for you for your authenticity.
    Heather Villa

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Heather —

      Congrats on your first comment, and great to see your face here!

      I believe I’m attributing this saying correctly, to healer Rachel Naomi Remen, who says our blessings are like planes circling the airport — so many, all waiting for a chance to be noticed and get to land, but so often, they have to just keep circling, unnoticed. 😉

  88. Mertella says:

    Wonderful story written from the heart and may wonderful blessings shower on you and people around you. It is very timely for me at this moment. I do have a great life and great things do happen for me and for people around me. I am just at the point in my life when I am saying what next…thank you for the reminder that change is wonderful!

  89. Joyce says:


    Thank you for sharing. I think envy and regret are two of the most useless, hurtful emotions you can waste your time on. I don’t envy you; I admire and respect you and want to learn from your experience and wisdom. In the time that I have been following you, I have benefited greatly from your teaching. It’s been like stumbling onto a gold mine. I recently quit a full-time job to write full-time and I know I have a long way to go before I “make it,” so to speak but in my mind I am already there. I spend my days doing what I love even if I’m not raking in the big bucks yet and I get to enjoy more quality time with my three-year-old daughter. To me, that is worth everything. I will never get back the moments that are lost and that is why I’m willing to make the sacrifices I do for what truly matters.

    I don’t worry about feeling envious of others because I know the power is with me to make the life I want. It may not always be what I expect it to be, but it is the life I choose. If I ever start to feel discontent, I only have to remember two things: one – I get to wake up every morning to the sweetest little girl in the world and two – I get to work at my dream job, my passion. That makes me the blessed person in the world. Everything else is just “fluff.”


    • Carol Tice says:

      As my dad used to tell me, the secret is, “Don’t sweat the small stuff — and it’s ALL small stuff.”

      Congrats on making the leap to full-time freelancing! When I jumped back into freelancing this time my youngest was recently adopted and about 2, and within about a month I couldn’t imagine how I had ever held a job. Just not very compatible with having very young kids! The flexibility of freelancing has been a real godsend.

  90. Dara says:

    Carol, thanks for reminding us of the simple (yet often hidden) truth that everyone has struggles and blessings. As always, you’ve illustrated something powerful in such a straightforward yet heartfelt way. For me, it reinforced my motto “Envy no one; seek inspiration from everyone. And strive to inspire others along the way.”

    I’ll be including you and your family in my prayers.
    Dara recently posted…A Global ReachMy Profile

  91. Mary S. says:


    Thank you for sharing this. It takes courage to reveal the less-than-ideal parts of life to others, and it’s so true that “everybody’s got something.”

    I’ve been a lurker for a while now, and though I didn’t speak up, I’ve benefited from so many of your insights.

    Prayers and good wishes for these issues in your life — and for your other guests’ issues, as well.


    Mary S.

  92. Nicki says:

    Your post made my whole year. It’s so honest. So, thank you! Here’s what’s in my bag:

    • Loved one struggling with addiction
    • Chronic pain
    • ADHD
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Caring for a young child, without a spouse that’s fully present

    Thanks again for the inspiring post! It gives us all something to think about:)

    • Carol Tice says:

      Boy, sort of similar bags we’ve got! Thanks for sharing yours.

      When my adopted younger two were 3 & 4, through to when they were about 7 & 8, my husband sold cars 80 hours a week. I was like a single parent, and it was the most incredibly grueling thing ever…totally feel ya there.

      • Laura Davis says:

        Oof! I sold cars for a while, but as you experienced, it’s a very time-consuming job, so even though I enjoyed it and was good at it, I had to admit to myself that it was NOT the job for a single mom, and I had to find something that allowed me time to do Mom Stuff.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Yeah. Having come out of a newsroom that had a really strong work/life balance commitment — if production had to stay past 5:30 on the day the paper went to press they had a meeting later to post-mortem how it went wrong and how to prevent it in future — I was blown away at what an awful work scene car sales is. They would call pointless breakfast meetings where hubby would have to hit a 6 am ferry, and on and on.

          Like EVERY single person working there was divorced! We saw that as our cue to get him outta there. 😉

          • Laura Davis says:

            At our dealership, it was drinks after work with the sales manager. And if you weren’t there, you suffered. And as the only woman on the floor, I had to drink at least 2 drinks more than everyone else, or they’d make fun of me for being a “little girl.” That didn’t last long. And, yeah, you’re right: all the men were divorced!

            • Carol Tice says:

              There’s got to be a better way to sell cars. I couldn’t believe what a dysfunctional world it was. And of course we could never go on vacation, because summer is their peak season! They would have all these stupid parties and functions he just HAD to go to as well. It was utter insanity.

  93. lkb says:

    Add me among the people who thank you deeply and sincerely for this post. I’ll be honest that I have been envious of your success but now I see that it came at a cost. I do appreciate your sharing all this. It makes me remember the adage: “Be kinder than necessary for everyone is going through some sort of battle.”

    I will keep you and yours in my prayers.

  94. Linda says:

    It took great courage to write this post, revealing of your own trials and challenges, that alone is to be admired. I sense a vulnerability that I have not read in your blog before. I agree with the concensus of others, you do a great job in here and are to be applauded for your earned successes.

    As for my challenges, loss of spouse-my best friend that sent me to a tailspin of depression, loss of self esteem, examination of relationships…that’s the gist of it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  95. Cindy says:

    Hi Carol,

    Thank you for sharing your life with us. Your post was beautiful and right to the point.

    I enjoy being a part of your writing community.


  96. Erica says:

    Carol, thank you for your bravery. Opening up and letting the world in to see what’s going on isn’t always easy, no matter what’s in your bag. And to share the contents in your bag and the bags that belong to the brave souls who’ve commented takes courage.

    My bag contains financial problems, the declining health of several of my closest loved ones, anxiety, depression, drugs (not me), jail (also not me), self doubt, isolation and loneliness. And lately it feels like I’m reliving the sudden death of my dog. We were together for 15 years and I’ve never been the same since her passing.

    But I have an amazing family and an amazing fiance. And together, we can make things work.

    Thank you all for your bravery. Sometimes it’s more inspiring than success stories.
    Erica recently posted…How this Little Ducky Went Freelance: Part 1My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      You’re welcome — and thanks for sharing your bag.

      Frankly, I had hit the point where I just couldn’t post anymore without saying SOMETHING about the rest of my life. It just felt fraudulent.

      So I’m feeling relieved that it’s been well-received, and we’ve got that elephant out of the middle of the room.

  97. Carol,

    As so many others have already stated, this was a brave, real, honest post and is so deeply appreciated.

    I have learned an *incredible* amount since stumbling onto your blog (thank goodness!), which in turn led me to the Writers Den and your wonderful ‘Blast-Off’ class. I have been ‘wandering in the wilderness’ for the past few years, trying to take my freelance writing business to the next level and feeling like I’d never figure it out. After beginning to follow your posts (along with those of several others I’ve encountered through your blog and the Den), my business has really taken off.

    I have incredible respect and admiration for what you do and what you have accomplished, and I’m *deeply* grateful for your generosity in sharing your hard won knowledge with others.

    Thank you for the graphic reminder that things are not always as they seem. Everyone has their struggles. We may not have a say in the challenges we’re given, but we can definitely decide how we respond to them.

    Wishing you all the best….

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s what my mom’s always telling me, Lori, “Life isn’t about what happens, it’s about what you DO about what happens.”

      As her mom used to write on all her cards to me, “SO true!”

  98. Tom Bentley says:

    Carol, I’ve often considered the truth of this Longfellow quote:

    “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility”

    As a writer who has many times envied the work/accomplishments/adulation of other writers, your post resonated with me. I have often reminded myself that we are all subject to the sharp point of time and circumstance, and the mysteries of human behavior. (My own sack often seems to have more potatoes than roses, though I do try to appreciate the roses.)

    Thank you for your frankness here, and I wish you every easing of family tension and trouble.
    Tom Bentley recently posted…Writing Small, Thinking BigMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow, great quote — wasn’t familiar with that one.

      I’ve found many ways to cook potatoes, myself. 😉 Oven fries for everybody!

      Thanks for the good wishes.

  99. CJ says:

    I know writers are supposed to have a great many words in their heads just itching to exit the fingertips, but I. My bag is one simple thing: fear.

    Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of not succeeding.

    There, I said it!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah, I hear that a lot in this line of work. Have you been through the “overcoming fear” category of posts here on the blog? See the bottom of the sidebar…hopefully some helpful stuff there.

      And of course, more posts about fear-busting coming up!

  100. Carol,

    To break the facade of your private life and freely exposed it to your beloved audience is a bold act.

    You don’t need to do this just to help us, but you did it anyway.

    Thank you.

    If I say, I am humbled, it’s not enough to express what I really feel inside.
    You have just earned my respect Carol.

    Yes, I have been reading your blog for several months now and have been a member of ‘the den’ but your decision to publish this article just made me so uncomfortable, it moved me like no other piece you have written.

    It made me realize how GREAT you are as a mentor and as an artist.
    Anthony Dejolde recently posted…Commitment: What is its implication on your blog?My Profile

  101. Rob says:

    I get branded as a sexpat and even a pedophile. My wife gets branded as a prostitute. It comes with the territory when you’re a barang (foreigner) living in Cambodia and are a Cambodian woman married to a barang. It used to really get to me. I became very withdrawn for a few years and when I started writing, I pretended I was still living in Australia. My blog has been a big help, not because it’s about me but because it’s about Sihanoukville, which is also grossly misunderstood. It’s taught me to depersonalize the prejudices. Still annoying when a journalist writes, “the beautiful boutique hotels you see [in other cities] are non-existent in Sihanoukville,” though. Fortunately, I have a pretty good following now, so when I published a photo of one of those “non-existent” hotels, I didn’t feel like I was writing to myself.

    Everyone talks about traffic as an income generator, but honestly, my blog, which makes about $200 a year, pays invaluable dividends in much more important ways. In a nutshell, it gives me a voice.
    Rob recently posted…Sihanoukville progress continues in spite of the pressMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s funny how we all get these complexes.

      Until just recently, we never seemed to have enough money, and I worried about whether we’d lose the house or be able to stay living where we are. While everyone else here seemed to be a 40-year-old retired Microsoft millionaire who has that second trophy wife who’s 28, two perfect kids and travels the world.

      I know they have their own troubles, but it gave me such a complex! Until finally, I began to own it.

      “That’s right — I am the white trash of this island, a working mom, and you can’t get rid of me. This beautiful place isn’t just for you. I’m here, and you can’t make me leave.” It started to be fun to be the weird one. 😉

      Having a place to vent and speak out about it definitely helps, as you’ve found.

  102. Amandah says:


    Thank you for having the courage to share. The grass is not always greener on the other side. We can assume that a freelance writer, author, celebrity, CEO, CFO, etc. has a glorious life, but we don’t live with the person 24/7.

    In 2010, I had to move back to my home state after my move to Arizona in 2007 did not go as I planned. Then my sister and my niece and nephew moved back in 2011 after my sister left her husband. That makes three adults, two teenagers, three cats, and two dogs. It’s a FULL HOUSE, but not like the one portrayed on the popular TV sitcom from 1987-1995. Uncle Jesse is nowhere to be found.

    Sure, I have three books published with a publisher in Detroit, but I am the one doing the marketing and building my author platform on top of writing for my current clients, attracting new clients, taking care of my websites and social media platforms, writing my own material, etc. Sometimes I want to give up, but I don’t because I love to write.

    When I started my freelance writing business in 2008, I jumped into it. If I could start over, I would have hired a business coach and or consultant who would have helped me build my business from the ground up. Fast forward to today, and I will be working with a business coach who will help me make the adjustments I need to make.

    Life is filled with ebbs and flows. We can only do our best. We can only change ourselves.
    Amandah recently posted…Three Easy Ways to Gain and Lose Likes on FacebookMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah, that last sentence is my whole focus these days, on the person-life side.

      It’s such a relief to really grasp that at last, and to focus on the one thing I can control: me.

      OK, and this blog. 😉

      I realized the reason I was only sleeping 5-6 hours a night, was always exhausted, is because trying to get other people to change is hopeless and exhausting! You’re just tiring yourself out and wasting energy. Letting go of useless activity has really freed up a lot more energy for me, and creativity.

  103. Marjorie says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and authenticity of the heart with all of us. You are truly a gifted and kindhearted soul. I have heard that story many times, but never as richly and deeply as today. Most of the time, I brush it off and find excuses for not really believing it, but this time, it sunk in.
    Your generosity of spirit is very contagious and I salute you for this very brave and caring post.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks Marjorie — As you may have guessed I have a real weakness for tales from the Old Country (for me, Poland) and the stories of our great rabbinic masters. So much wisdom to share.

      My favorite part is when those 11th and 15th century rabbis talk about how impossible the youth of ‘today’ are, and how they are scandalous and disrespectful and not devout and will lead to the downfall of the faith, it’s the end of everything, etc etc. Always makes me smile.

      At least they didn’t have the Internet to deal with!

  104. Carol, thanks for this. Your authenticity is admirable. I appreciate hearing your ever-honest opinion on what makes life, life. We ALL have our struggles, and we all tend to have “fronts” to keep them others’ view. This is my all-time favorite post of yours.

    May God bless all of us and the bags we carry. And may we all be gentle and kind with each other – we never know the quiet burdens on others’ shoulders.
    Crystalee Beck ( recently posted…What makes writing good?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s exactly what I’m learning to work on and unlock in my support groups, Crystalee — turning from anger and frustration to compassion and acceptance. It brings peace to our lives.

      Since it’s Jewish story day here today, I’ll say there’s a saying that we should never judge another until we know all the facts — and we never do. Love instead.

    • Inanna LaFevre says:

      Beautifully said Crystalee!
      Thank You,
      Inanna L.

  105. Kathleen Zinselmeir says:

    Thank you for telling that story so well. Most people are holding their bag so tightly, so that no one will see what’s in it, that they forget that EVERYONE has their own. Can you imagine if whenever someone asked, “How are you?” they would reveal the inside of their bag of troubles? Would that make us more empathetic and support one another more? I think your story might help us consider our fellow humans more kindly. Thanks again.

  106. Thanks for sharing your struggles, sometimes confession isn’t only good for the soul of the person confessing but those hearing it. So here’s my confession: I myself am in debt, living with family and have surgery scheduled for next month.

    I’ve just recently had a conversation with an aspiring author last week and ripped the veil off my “glamorous” career LOL! The expression on her face was priceless! It was like I told her Santa Claus wasn’t real or something.

    Anyhow, I hope life gets better, you will definitely be in my prayers.
    Rachel Rueben recently posted…Cheap Book Covers for Indie AuthorsMy Profile

  107. Kathy Kramer says:

    Thanks for sharing. I have my own issues I deal with, like living paycheck to paycheck, severe anxiety, depression and a phobia, but I’ve managed to get those under control. I’ve taken up yoga and meditation and I’m changing my diet. It has helped me immensely. I’m going to write my story as a memoir because I feel that, particularly after last year, I’m on the upswing.
    Kathy Kramer recently posted…Plains Magazine February 2013 is OnlineMy Profile

  108. Melissa Weir says:

    Carol, thank you for sharing this. It was a very brave move but in the relative short time I’ve been reading your work I am not surprised by your honesty or your bravery. Your generosity is amazing, and you’ve helped me get some of my mojo back.

    My bag is quite full stuff I’d like to change and things I cannot change. I have chronic back problems that effect my mobility. I can walk but it hurts like hell sometimes and there is no “cure.” This chronic pain set off a three-year downslide into unsuccessful surgeries and ultimately an addiction to pain medications. We have ADHD, chronic asthma, insomnia, looming foreclosure, major learning disabilities, addiction, fighting, depression, anxiety, ulcers, chronic lying and a houseful of people that don’t even recognize how shitty they are to one another.

    I wouldn’t trade my bag! I live close to major medical centers and was lucky enough to get physical (and mental) rehabilitation at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. I’ve come out of addiction stronger. I work on one day at a time, trying to stay mindful and appreciative for all the good things in my life. Some days are really tough but I wouldn’t be who I am if my experiences were different.

    Despite it all my mom still thinks I’m brilliant in every way. We don’t talk much 🙂

    Thanks again.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, maybe you should talk to her more. 😉 We should all surround ourselves with people who think we’re great. Why I miss both my 2 grandmas.

      I had a major back-pain incident a while back and was relieved to successfully rehab it. When they asked me to rate the pain I said, “Worse than when I had a baby!”

      And I forgot ulcers on my list. Have had so long it almost doesn’t count any more, but I almost bled out from mine once about 20 years ago. Thankfully that is totally under control now. Yet another thing to be thankful for.

      Now instead I do the jaw-clenching thing. Have you ever noticed that when you resolve one physical thing your body just finds a new outlet for expressing stress? I’m really dedicated to daily exercise now…makes a big difference.

  109. I was on another writer’s website this morning, salivating over all of her beautiful clips—and yes I was envious. Then I clicked over and read this post. I almost fell out of my chair. You’re right on the money. There is so much more to people’s lives than what we can see. It’s a case for not being envious and for being compassionate towards people because we just don’t know what they’re going through. For the record: I think you’re brilliant. I love how you always tell it like it is.
    Nicole Robinson recently posted…College: I refuse to raise the kid who can’t do their own laundryMy Profile

  110. Barbara says:

    Amazing post Carol, thanks for sharing. You’re so right. At the moment, I’m getting so much writing work I’m having to turn clients away. It’s awesome but at the same I’m also dealing so many life-changing events and issues that I sometimes feel like crawling into my bed and never getting out. But none involve violation of human or civil rights, a lack of food, a lack of access to health care, etc. and I have a loving family, so I count myself very lucky. Okay, sure, we have no where to live come July 12th, but I know that we’ll find a place somehow and will not have to live on the street!

    I’ll think good thoughts for you to get through this period.
    Barbara recently posted…7 Ways Freelancers Can Avoid ProcrastinationMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks Barbara — and may you find an awesome next place!

      One of our family friends recently had her rental home sold out from under her…and she contacted our local housing resources organization and ended up with a stunning new place for half the rent! Sending you good vibes for that. 😉

  111. Margaret Mills says:

    That’s a great post. Thank you for being so open and vulnerable. I suspect your honesty will encourage others more than you know. Your list of issues reads much like mine, although I’ve come through to the other side on a lot of it. Post-cancer, post-abuse, kids are raised and other issues are being resolved – (not all, of course.) Just know it can get better 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for that reminder, Margaret!

      I think when we get in a black time in our lives, it is so hard to remember the four most important words: “This too shall pass.”

      One time when my daughter was about 3 and having an insane tantrum in public, I ended up actually towing her by one arm, on her butt out of the restroom and across the floor of a community hall because I couldn’t take any more and wanted to pack her into the car and she wouldn’t walk and was flailing too much to carry.

      An elderly woman passed me going toward the bathroom, took it in, and said, “They do grow up.” I think it helped keep me from murdering her. 😉

      • EG says:

        This just happened to me the other day. My two year old sat in the middle of a church, at the entrance in the middle of the walkway, and told me she didn’t want to leave. All the other people had to walk around her. I was so embarrased. I tried reasoning with her and she would just mock me. I told her I would take away a toy and it didn’t work. Other people would walk by and laugh at how she would say what I had said back to me in a snobbish tone.

        I pulled her arm and tried to drag her. She wouldn’t move (guess I am not that strong). Finally, I told her that if she got up, we could go watch the ducks again (there were ducks in a nearby lake). Finally, that worked. I was relieved, but it took about half an hour to convince her to move.

        Stressful sometimes, those tantrums and the like, but it provides for some great writing material and reminds us to not take life too seriously.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Have you tried hanging them upside down over your shoulder with your arm behind their knees? Often works great for transporting tantrummers. 😉 Eventually they learn to bite you but it gets them out of the situation.

          When I had my one perfectly behaved baby, I always thought people with the badly behaved kids must be bad parents, and I was a good one.

          Then I got my 2 special-needs younger ones and learned the truth. Some kids have ISSUES. The things one of mine says, we sometimes wonder if he understands that we love him. It gets less cute when they’re 11 and as big as you are and they’re using that mocking tone back to you in public, trust me.

  112. Jodi Schumm says:

    Carol, Thank you for sharing your heart. I needed to hear this message and your words of encouragement today.

    Of all the blogs I follow, I seldom like them on Facebook. Because this one has such a powerful message for everyone, not just writers, I “liked” it in hopes of passing along your words of encouragement.
    Jodi Schumm recently posted…The Purpose God’s Planted in Your LifeMy Profile

  113. Rie Linton says:

    Thank you for being honest, vulnerable, and caring enough to share. And for reminding us that everything and every person has a bag woven from the goid and the bad. Blessings!

  114. Thanks for the post, Carol.

    I, too, tend to compare my “insides” to other people’s “outsides” and I usually come up short.

    And thanks for the story about the rabbi and the writer.

    You are a gem!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks Mitchell — and that’s it exactly! WE COMPARE OUR INSIDES TO OTHERS’ OUTSIDES. Maybe I could hire you to help me write more concisely. 😉

  115. Holly says:

    Thank you for an incredible and brave post, Carol. This is precisely the reason I had to delete my Facebook account — seeing everyone’s happy updates on a daily basis bolstered my delusion that other people have near-perfect lives, while I deal with depression, anxiety, family addiction, inconsiderate people, and workaholism. I have had to be very mindful and remind myself every day that others have their own struggles, even though they are for the most part invisible to me. I have also dealt with judgement from others because they think I have it “all together.” Nope. I’m just fairly good at giving off that impression to those who don’t really know me.

    I found help a year ago and am doing much better with a combination of medication and therapy. It was a scary step to take — I always chastised myself for being “weak” and not being able to handle things myself — but it has made all the difference. I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to seek support in some way or another, regardless of what your family thinks. You don’t have to carry the burden alone.



    • Carol Tice says:

      See comments above — I am definitely getting support. And thanks for the hugs! Always gratefully accepted.

      I so know what you mean about Facebook…sometimes I wonder, “Do these people have to work for a living? Or do they have nothing to do but post pictures of the cookies they just baked or their round the world cruise? One posts a haiku about her day nearly every day. Okey-doke.”

      I also have people in my Facebook network who post really black, dire stuff, which I think is inappropriate to that platform. Say you’re having a bad day, sure, but it’s not a nice place to leave your suicide notes, folks. It’s like Facebook AS therapy, and I don’t think that works so well.

      I try to use Facebook as a place to post a highlight of the day, and possibly others do as well. But sometimes I do post about challenges or questions I have where maybe I need support…so I hope I’m human on there.

  116. Thanks for the thoughtful post Carol. It’s so very important to remind ourselves of the good pieces in the bag!
    Nick (Macheesmo) recently posted…Vegetarian Rice CongeeMy Profile

  117. Carol, thanks for showing us that underneath that superwoman, you’re human too. Love this post.

  118. Terr says:

    First Carol, thank you for being vulnerable with the reality of your life. Like the old saying goes, you never knows what going on behind (one’s) closed doors. And I’ve come to believe that the people who go out of their way to make it seem that they have it “all together” are the ones with the most to hide.

    I can relate to your feelings of “One world thinks I’m a rock star, while the folks in my day-to-day life treat me like trash”. I’m not brave enough to put my story out there and this forum isn’t the place for that. Suffice to say though that I wish I had the warmth and the encouragement that I get online, in my off-line life.

    I once was speaking to a young woman a while back and in short, she told me that I seemed like the type that had my act together and went to college, blah blah blah. What she didn’t know is that I envied the girls who got it all right in life, went to college, started their careers right out of college, was mid-level management before the age of 30, blah blah.

    Yeah, people see how I carry myself, they hear how I speak, but what they don’t know is that despite being raised well the earlier part of my life, my family went to hell. My parents are lost to addiction. I didn’t finish college. I’ve been abused. I’ve made many naive and careless mistakes in my life that I’m just now in my 40s learning how to clean up.

    I could sit back and envy younger women who have their acts together and didn’t have the struggles that I did. But then, without those struggles, I wouldn’t have the stories to tell that I do. I wouldn’t have the compassion for suffering that I do.

    So yeah, we have to take the bitter with the sweet. There’s a reason for it all. We might look at successful people and envy them, but you never know what they have going on in the background, or what struggles they overcame to reach success.

    BTW, this post would be perfect to share on my blog. May I have permission to re-post it, along with my response?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow, I’m relating to so much of your comment, Terr!

      I’m such a late bloomer. I didn’t start writing for print until I was 30 (spent ’20s as a starving songwriter), have no degree. I didn’t start blogging in the early days. I could go on and on.

      My joke is my next blog will be called “The Last Adopter,” because I’m such a tech idiot and just want people to tell me which format will win before I buy anything.

      My role models are people like Frank McCourt, who write that first bestseller in their 60s. We all come along at our own pace.

      All I can advise you is: Find support. I couldn’t believe how it transformed my life when I found people who understood and were willing to stand in fellowship with me, and teach me how to survive what I’m going through.

    • Can I ever relate to your comment about the problems of being in your 40s trying to clean up the mess you spent the previous 20 years making. I turned 44 last month and am carrying a “bag” of lazy reactive-rather-than-proactive habits, inferiority complexes, and pessimism–mixed well with regrets at the bag-filling I did myself, anger at the others who helped fill it with their emotional abuse and enabling, and temptations to think “it’s already too late.” Combined with an autistically inclined brain that clings to all the above like a spiderweb to its prey.

      And I, the one who lets it all hang out far more than the average person, have also had people say “I envy you your brains/creativity/having it all together.” I admit I’ve hit a few of them back with heated lectures on how I’m a total failure and a good-for-nothing loser!

      …On the positive side, I’m blessed with a supportive family, a wonderful church, and a few others who will bear with me lovingly in my worst moments, as well as adequate finances for the basics of life and more.
      Katherine Swarts recently posted…Confused and MisusedMy Profile

  119. Barbara says:

    Carol, thank you for your words! What we try to do to show that our lives are “perfect.” I hope you find solutions that work for you.

    My bag of troubles includes difficult clients who renege on payment or just outright make it impossible for me to be paid; mounting bills and fear that I can’t pay them. My son is trying to get into the military so he can pay for school (long story) and my older son is dealing with extreme jealousy in his marriage. My SO thinks what I’m doing is a “hobby,” and “you can’t make a living from a hobby, so you might as well find a ‘real’ job.”

    Still, I have books I am working to self-publish and I’m getting new clients week by week. I will get through this. And my sons will work their situations out.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Good for you for hanging in there with your writing, Barbara. I hate it when spouses are not supportive of freelancing. I’m lucky to have the most supportive spouse in the world.

      Anything I tell him I want to do in my business — like say, oh, drop $1,000+ to go to SOBCon a couple years back — he says, “You totally should. Do it. Go.”

      Sounds like you’re at a similar phase to me with parenting, where we have to do the hard work of letting go and loving our kids while they make their mistakes, without letting it ruin our own happiness. That’s definitely the major focus in my personal life right now…and I thought I had been through tough stuff in my life, but there’s nothing that compares with this challenge.

      Recently, I was decluttering the house and came upon my oldest’s little baby book, full of pictures of my 20-years-younger husband and perfect little boy, and man, it was tough to take, knowing all that’s happening now, and how you never could have seen it coming.

  120. Willi Morris says:

    Love that opening story!!! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your every day life. I know that wasn’t easy. You’ll have to forgive me for idolizing you so much. But you’ve done a lot for me in such a brief period of time. I’m so grateful for it!

    I blogged not too long ago on my “bag.” It is hefty and has been overflowing since childhood. I didn’t mention my “mommy and daddy issues” thanks to divorce, but I linked it here.
    Willi Morris recently posted…Living With Anxiety: When It’s Okay to Put Up the “Closed” Sign For A WhileMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Willi —

      Thanks for sharing your post link — I’m off to check it out!

      And I think it’s good to share your bag. I really felt compelled to do it, because I increasingly felt like a fraud just bouncing along giving writing advice when everything else in my life was so messed up. I felt like it needed to be part of the conversation — and as I can see from these comments, I’m not the only one who sees life getting in the way of the writer I want to be.

    • Seeing as how most of us paid taxes yesterday, here’s a couple to add to the bag:
      – We don’t generally get paid for drinking coffee with our colleagues. Every one of those dollars was paid for through toil at our keyboards.
      – We pay both the employee and employer side of taxes.
      – We generally pay taxes quarterly, so we see how much we actually take home for all those hard hours we put in.

      I LOVE my life as a freelance writer, but it tends to irritate me when people assume we have it so easy, not having to report to a boss and all that.
      Melissa Paulik recently posted…Should I hire a marketer within my industry?My Profile

  121. Cari Mostert says:

    Short story…
    A year ago –

    The bad… No job, no money, health problems, no visible future, no support (morale)
    The good…2 old PCs, a musty, unused education and too much life experience.
    With not much hope, I went looking for a way out and found your website.

    I read everything and acted on as much as I could. I found a way out, thanks to you.

    Two months ago, I was finally able to join the den.
    The only drawback is not enough time to spend there. (my clients keep me busy)

    Thank you for the story and the reminder, we all face challenges.

    Fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses. ~Chinese Proverb
    Cari Mostert recently posted…Trapped in the Cycle of Endless Editing?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Cari — thanks for sharing your great progress! And I love it when Denizens tell me they’re too busy with clients to hang out there. That means the Den is doing its job. 😉

  122. Meg Kirsic says:

    What an inspiring post! Life is such a rollercoaster—when work is good, personal life takes a dive. And vice versa. We just have to appreciate what we have, and keep moving forward. Your blog inspires me on a daily basis, and deserves credit for some of my writing achievements—so you’re doing something right!

    • Carol Tice says:

      You know, I felt really nervous writing this post! But I can see it was a good thing to do. Glad I can lift other writers up and help them get through the day.

  123. Jeanne H says:

    Sending internet hugs to you.

    And fwiw, I see the work you do, and knowing Jon Morrow’s situation and the work he is able to accomplish, and fully realize that y’all are bustin’ your butts when it comes to your work.
    Jeanne H recently posted…Snickerdoodles: Williams-Sonoma Cooking at HomeMy Profile

    • Jeanne H says:

      Hmmm. . .not sure why my latest blog post is showing up. . .

      • Carol Tice says:

        Hi Jeanne — Thanks for noticing that we are. 😉

        And you put in your blog URL and then my Commentluv widget gives us your most recent blog post, so that my readers can all check each other out. For even more of that fun, come back on the First Friday of the month for our link party. I’m running a get-acquainted club here on the blog these days!

  124. My bag is pretty nasty and very full – disabled spouse, two year old, my own health problems (physical and mental) on going custody battle with parents who are trying to take my older kids (currently living with their father), impossibility of bringing in enough income while staying home to take care of spouse and toddler (it would not be safe for me to get a full time job. Part time, maybe, but I can’t support us on parttime wages, and I’m making more writing than most parttime jobs pay.

    The thing is, I know there are people with bags as bad or worse than mine. I don’t generally envy other folks, because to many other peoples bags to kid myself about what’s inside. But I do, desperately, want to know how other people MANAGE to keep up with all the shit in their bags and manage some level of success.

    • Carol Tice says:

      My heart goes out to you, Jessica. I have a relative whose husband had a carotid stroke at midlife and has been in a wheelchair every since. And life has been…so…hard for her. And yet she’s continued to be a creative person and to raise 3 great kids.

      Get support. You can’t have enough. That’s what I’ve learned recently. After much nagging, I am finally finding support groups and they are making a HUGE difference in my life.

  125. Neil says:


    How very true that we try to believe the old adage, “the grass is always greener…” somewhere else. Not going to get into any proselytizing, but my faith is a big factor in keeping my head clear and my focus alive. We have our financial woes, but I am glad to say I have a supportive wife as we both do our 2-3 part-time jobs while I freelance as well. We have 2 boys in or going to a fine college in Florida where their tuition and other costs are being met by working for the school.

    The writing may not be at a level I would like it to be…is it ever for some folks…but I have not quit striving and praying to make it to that mark where we can be financially secure.

    Sometimes we lose perspective and fail to look at ourselves in a mirror instead of others through a microscope. Doesn’t look quite so bad after all.

    Thank you for a timely and well-phased look at envy.


    • Neil says:

      As an aside. It’s the ones that seem to have their act together that we seek to envy or emulate. never the ones that wear their emotionals on their sleeves and their countenance airs their feelings of frustrations. Not that we should envy, but the people that allow their joy to be what we see are what we call role-models.


      • Carol Tice says:

        I’m still working so hard on that, Neil. In Judaism there’s a character trait we call the mitzvah of a pleasant demeanor. Or, “If you had a bad week, why should I suffer?”

        It’s soul-sucking to put your negativity onto other people. I had a best girlfriend — dead just 1 year this week — who had mastered this trait. She had incredible life challenges, but always put a smile on her face and extended kindness to others…where I too often feel like I go around with a storm visible on my face when I’m pissed off or hurt or upset.

        Modeling joy is contagious…on ourselves. 😉 This is definitely one of the character flaws I’m still working hard on.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Love your perspective on it, Neil.

      There’s a Jewish saying that in one pocket we should keep a note that says “The whole world was created just for me.” And in the other pocket one that says “I am nothing but dust and ashes.”

      We need to live in balance, inbetween those two, always realizing we’re not so hot…but that then again, we have unique value in this world, and need to fulfill our promise, despite our challenges.

  126. Amel says:

    Thank you for sharing, Carol. You have imparted a very powerful message in this post. We all go through challenges in life, so it really helps to keep things in perspective. I have met numerous people who seemed to have it all, but this is rarely an accurate picture as no one in life is immune from difficulties.

    Regarding envy, I have always tried to teach my children that there are two kinds – the “good” kind that makes you aspire to do as well as the person you admire and the “bad” kind that makes you wish for his or her downfall. If channeled correctly, the first kind can be a good way to motivate yourself, while the bad kind can lead people to hurt others with their words or actions.
    Amel recently posted…Reslant your Articles for Unlimited EarningsMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      You’re reminding me of my first truly shattering experience of idolizing someone and then getting a look at their bag…it was a movie producer I once worked for as a secretary. To me he and his wife were a golden couple — three beautiful daughters, she was a gifted screenwriter, they were making movies together, they lived in a beautiful part of L.A. near the beach.

      And then the cards and letters start to come to the office that I had to open, from all his girlfriends. While she was out to here pregnant. In the end, I ended up having to be the one who confirmed the wife’s worst fears, and the whole thing blew apart. I had to quit the job because it made me physically ill to work there. As you say, people only seem to have it all.

  127. Carol,

    Thanks for this brave and very wise post.

    Other people’s lives usually look better than our own because we can’t the whole picture. We all have struggles that we face and don’t share. What we forget is that we also have gifts.

    I, for one, am glad that you’ve decided to make the best of things and embrace your gift of writing.
    Laura Spencer recently posted…A Banana’s a Banana, but Not All Web Content Writers Are the SameMy Profile

  128. Very well said, and sorry to hear that you’re struggling with the issues you listed above. My own family’s bag includes autoimmune disease, addiction, bipolar disorder, early onset dementia, money woes and and the scary, scary prospect of first-time parenthood (okay, that last one’s mine!).

    That said, I wouldn’t trade my issues for anyone else’s. Those challenges are only one facet of my life, and I feel blessed to have so many other positive elements in my life that far eclipse these negatives. I’ll take the problems I know over the problems I don’t any day of the week!
    Sarah Russell recently posted…The Biggest Mistake All Freelance Writers MakeMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, exactly.

      Let me give you a perspective-setter about first-time parenthood.

      Go ask any person over the age of 70 what the happiest time in their life was. And they will all answer the same: “When our kids were little.”

      The best lies right ahead of you, so don’t be scared, and enjoy every minute. Little kids, little problems. And you’ll be amazed at how the universe will rearrange itself to make space for you to have this baby in your life. Truly. It’s impossible to envision until it happens, but things will change to make it work. Email me after it happens and tell me about it. 😉

  129. Dear Carol,

    I don’t understand how anyone could be envious of such a wonderful mentor as you have been. Your pay-off in this blog and your other endeavors is well deserved! Thank you for a glimpse behind the curtain which you certainly did not need to provide us. You are a brave and strong woman to expose your personal troubles. And I know you have done so to help us.
    I hope you find the inner peace you deserve and have a blessed year and the most prosperous year ever!

  130. I have a financial crisis, a terminally ill grandmother on another continent, and family squabbles to deal with. But I also have a loving, amazingly faithful and supportive husband, a beautiful little boy, the best family and friends around, and a fledgling freelance business that has enormous potential. Thank you for a wonderful post. It is good to stop and think and count your blessings.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for being the first to share your ‘bag’ — the good and the bad.

      Recently, in one of my one-on-one mentor sessions, a writer filled out my entry worksheet and under the part where I ask what their core values are, she started with, “If you don’t take the time to raise your kids right, nothing else will make up for it.”

      And I just wanted to go to bed for the day. Because it’s so true, and I’m living it from the wrong end of that. Not that I know how I could have done any different given the challenges of my particular family…but still. Just hurts to know that the thing you most hope you’ll succeed in, I could feel like a failure.

      I think maturity is defined as the point when we hit the point where we have regrets. Guess I’m a grown-up now.

      • Lindsay Scheerer says:

        At least you are at home with them. There’s nothing better for kids than having Mom at home when they come home from school. Anyway, I don’t have a profitable business yet, and my son is only 1, so who knows what way it will go. I could find myself struggling with work/life balance someday. Sometimes you just have to work to bring money, and kids don’t understand. Good luck and hang in there! My mom says you don’t know how good of a parent you are until you see how your kids parent your grandkids. 🙂

        • Carol Tice says:

          SO true. You say, “This typing I’m doing here pays for EVERYTHING in your life.” But they totally do not understand it. All they know is “You’re not looking at me.” It’s not any different from when my dad used to watch sports on TV and ignore us and I’d say, “You know, that TV is not going to say Kaddish for you.”

  131. kris wolfgang says:

    A beautiful story to illustrate something I often consider! Thank you! You never really know what’s going on in someone else life. So true!

  132. Karen Finn says:

    Thanks very much for sharing. It’s a shame that envy is part of human nature, but it is. A dose of perspective every once in awhile is good for the health!
    Karen Finn recently posted…Italian Medicines Agency bolsters regulatory activities with six new advisory committeesMy Profile

    • Dana Che says:

      Great post Karen! The grass isn’t always greener on the other side for sure!
      Dana Che recently posted…Love and Hate, Fear or Faith: The StruggleMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      So true. I’m always looking for what I call my “perspective-setter of the day.” Those of us in First World countries really start life on third base — clean water, electricity, the rule of law. Hard to complain…and yet, we do. And feel overwhelmed and like our lives are so impossible.

      Thanks for kicking off these comments…looks like it’s going to be a busy day here!

4 Pings/Trackbacks for "Freelance Writer Envy? Read This for a Sobering Peek Inside Real Life"
  1. […] like to tell you the “Bag of Troubles” story, which Carol Tice relays to us on the “Make a Living Writing” […]

  2. […] A Peek at the Real Life of That Writer You Envy.  I know I’ve envied the charmed lives I assumed others were leading but it’s crucial to remember that appearances can be deceiving. […]

  3. […] Check out this great post by Carol Tice for another example of story-telling-in-the-headline done right: A Peek at the Real Life of that Writer You Envy. […]

  4. […] her blog today telling a story about a woman humbled by what her envy became. Read the full story: A Peek at the Real Life of That Writer You Envy. The story had me thinking about all the things we envy and how petty that can […]