11 REASONS TO BE HOPEFUL THIS THANKSGIVING

 

Hello again, dear friends! I’ve missed you. I’ve been locked in a room for several months chained to my computer, finishing my second book, which it took me 14 years to write and one year to edit. I finally looked up and saw Thanksgiving on the horizon. It’s time to return to the world of humanity.

For me, gratitude is not a Thanksgiving cliché, now replaced with Black Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is the essential remedy of the fear, frustration and confusion living in today’s world can cause on a daily basis. Gratitude and inspiration breed hope and courage; fear takes them away. So, here is a little dose of hope for the holidays.

1) I’m grateful for the French people– even in the wake of the latest round of devastating attacks on Paris– beautiful, proud, un- cowed.

The French response to the fact that one of the terrorists may have pretended to be a Syrian refugee? They not only upheld their commitment to said Syrian refugees, but also deepened that commitment.

The Parisian response to all- out brutality and hatred was not to hide in their homes, but to continue to enjoy the pleasures of their great city, and to live as only the French can. This people have always known exactly whom they are, and what they were made for, and fear will not change that. Their art, culture and joie de vivre have always inspired and served as a model for capturing the best of every moment. Now their strength, resolve and courage do so.

2) I ‘m grateful that there is always another source of inspiration just around the corner. The world is full of unsung heroes quietly living their lives.

Life is bewildering, frustrating, dangerous, and exhausting. Sometimes it makes me simultaneously frightened to death and of the frame of mind, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

But, each of our lives is populated with people who help us and give us the love and courage to be exactly who we are. For every image that inspires fear, there are many more people that inspire faith, courage and admiration.

3) I’m thankful that I am still capable of being inspired by people.

4) I ‘m thankful for the movie, Field Of Dreams, and others like it dealing with faith in the unseen, in one’s self, and the Hero’s Journey. I ‘m thankful for that old Big Daddy Weave song called What I was Made For, which I play frequently when I’m in a funk, and the reminder it provides that I, like each and every one of us, was made by my creator for a specific purpose, and the spiritual journey I must make is finding what that purpose is, sometimes daily.

5) I am so fortunate and grateful that something like a movie, song, or book can live in me like a joyful virus for weeks and months, keeping me strong, and that there are others like me, discussing, forming book clubs, film clubs, artist groups and retreats and other homes away from home.

I get to catch inspiration, use it as fuel to create something from nothing, and hopefully once in a while, pass that inspiration on.

6) I ‘m grateful that there still are books and poetry in the world and that people still read them and love them passionately.

7) I’m doubly grateful that, after so many different directions, careers and mistakes, I am fairly certain my purpose is to create. This certainty stems from these wrong turns and course corrections, all of them essential to the process. It also arises from the fact that, at this point in my life, I can’t refrain or abstain from creating.

More people are writing books now, than there are people who still read. So what? I do this because it is what I was made for. A late bloomer still flowers:)

8) I’m thankful I have a dream. Bringing this dream into being  usually makes me spring out of bed every day with excitement and optimism. At times, it prompts me to spring out of bed with cursing and wailing, but I am thankful that it will, in fact, be born in a few months, and the creative process never ends. It provides me with joy and strength and restores my faith and youth, when the world has worn me out.

9) I am thankful for the struggle. If it was easy, I would have no need for courage, perseverance, help, or the common sense to know I don’t know enough.

10) Mostly I’m grateful for the fact that God brought each of you into my life, as a continual source of inspiration. That makes me feel like the most fortunate person in the world. You are the unsung heroes I refer to in paragraph 2.

11) Oh, and coffee; I can’t forget coffee!

Without the wonderful aroma, the beautiful-bitter taste and the sizable jolt it provides, I’d never make it out of bed to ponder the imponderables, journey towards my purpose, or write or communicate anything intelligible to anyone. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks to each and every one of you!

 

DON’T FEAR THE THRESHOLD!

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God has opened a lot of doors for me in my life. But, not a single one of these opportunities looked like a door at the time. They looked like failure. They looked like defeat. They looked like unbearable conflict and loss, eventually driving me from that particular situation to find something more peaceful. They looked like sudden physical limitations, springing from nowhere, that forced me to limit and change my focus. They always looked like crisis and change. And pain.

With the wisdom of hindsight, I see that these events that I perceived as horrible at the time, were answers to my own prayers for direction, deliverance and other things. They were thresholds.

My entire writing career resulted from being fired from a job as a lawyer. I had been charging down the legal path for decades at full tilt with success, which blinded me to the unpleasant changes happening in my life and my personality. Law is a great venue for believing the fantasy of control: if I just work harder and longer… what I want or what my client wants will be mine.

I had two very young children at the time. My daughter was 4 and my son was 2, and I never saw them. They were in bed when I went to work in the morning and in bed when I got home. Their father had to take care of almost everything, while I worked sometimes until 4 am answering e-mails, worked on holidays, worked on weekends. I was in pursuit of “ success’, and was going to crack this code, if I just worked harder.

One day, I was at work, of course, and I got a call from our nanny, frantic because she was at the hospital ER with my son, and they would not let her check him in. He had fallen down a flight of stone stairs. He was ok after some emergency surgery to put his teeth back in his mouth, and fortunately I was able to be there with him through this ordeal he doesn’t even remember.

This was a huge signpost that I missed. But, my subconscious was working on me. I did not want to give up being a parent to be a professional anything. My love for the job never really returned after that, and it was just a matter of time before my employer saw it. It was humiliating and painful and horribly unjustified I thought at the time. After all, who worked harder for these people?

It was merely a threshold God was asking me to go through. I began writing in journals to get my myriad emotions out. The emotions erupted in the form of poetry. It took all of these events for me to remember that I had originally wanted to write. I finally remembered that I had started writing poems at age ten.

God had returned me to who I really was, and I had fought him every step of the way.

I started a poetry blog, which led to a book, which led to this blog. I may have been a lawyer by trade, but in my heart, I was always an artist, with the soul of a poet. God had returned me to myself by erecting a threshold, and creating circumstances that urged me to walk through.

In retrospect, he was removing obstacles from my path, which a large portion of the time was I. My ambition. My will. My hunger for approval.

What a God! …Every God direction is road- tested. Everyone who runs to him makes it…You cleared the ground under me so my footing was firm.

Psalm 18, Message Version.

 

We don’t suffer because of what happens to us. We suffer because we struggle against it. That struggle is based on what our thoughts tell us about where we are versus where we should be. But our thoughts lie to us. All the time. Our minds lie to us, because we want our will instead of God’s, and we tell ourselves stories justifying it.

 

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

When it seems that I have tried everything and am beating my head against a brick wall, I am. There is no door there anymore. It’s scary, but all I need do is pray, look for the prompts, and take the next step in faith. It isn’t the end. It isn’t a death. It is only a threshold. Don’t fear the threshold; fear the cage that forms around us when we refuse to go through, struggling and fighting what is, and therefore, what could be.

 

4 REASONS THEY SHOULDN’T FIRE BRIAN WILLIAMS

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Please hear me out. This may be controversial or not. But, it isn’t political. I know he lied. I know that is the cardinal sin of journalism. Here’s the thing: I don’t think he’s the real problem, and if he isn’t the real problem, firing him is putting a Band-Aid on Ebola. It looks like we are doing something, but it’s not something useful. It’s closing the pasture gate after the herd has already escaped. I think the herd escaped a decade ago. Here’s why:

  •  Truth is a much larger concept than the literal accuracy of remarks made during a network news broadcast, or anywhere else. Part of living in truth is acknowledging the realities of the world in which we live today. Brian Williams’ comments are merely a symptom of a long- standing epidemic, and the causes and effects of this disease are myriad, including his own network, which is fleeing from him as if from leprosy. NBC, of course, did not know that the now infamous war story wasn’t true. But, they did know that part of the reason Williams had such big ratings was that he straddled the line between straight journalism and entertainment and did it very well. He had huge name recognition. He was a regular on the talk show circuit. I started watching the evening news on his channel because I saw him being hilarious somewhere else. That is the truth.The truth is that the words investigative and journalism no longer appear in the same sentence with any regularity.

The truth is I am technically a registered Republican, but I was and am a loyal Jon Stewart fan because he refuses to let guests cling to their talking points, and yet he manages to question them congenially, without all the vitriol. He maintains respectful friendships with those he criticizes most. That shouldn’t be a rare art, but the truth is that today it is indeed rare.

  • The truth is we can see falsity packaged as “ truthiness” on TV news at any time. “Truthiness” can be literally true in the specific words that are said, and still missing key relevant facts, depending on who is telling the story. Reporting some facts while omitting others: is that completely honest? Blending news and entertainment to produce the mutation called Infotainment: is that truth in journalism? Is it journalism?

Just at random, I decided to watch Good Morning America last week for it’s content. It was an entertaining blend of weather, celebrity news, vine videos and reports on ISIS. I made the same notes on the network evening news: one third weather, one-third ISIS, and the rest was “news.” Into this mix, entered Brain Williams. He had huge viewership partially because he was also a personality; we knew him and liked him. Now, his employer is acting like he didn’t enter this arena with their permission and encouragement. BS. It’s about both ratings and truth, as long as there is competition for viewers and advertising dollars.

 

  • There is a beautiful gift in this set of circumstances because of what it reveals: We want the news to be real, fact based, investigative, journalism again. We didn’t know it until now, but we really, really miss it.

Let’s revel in this moment because it points to the solution, and there is one.

 

  • The cure invites action on all of our parts. We can actively seek out and support our true independent news sources, whatever our political persuasions, wherever they may be. We can each become advocates of the truth. There are independent, investigative journalists out there working for newspapers, online periodicals, and other venues. They rely on donors, like us. They are independent because they do not rely on advertising revenue from big corporate sponsors. We don’t live in a world where there is a single source for news delivered to us as we sit at our dinner tables anymore.                                    ~

Here’s the thing: he lied. I am in no way excusing that fact, but can we all tell the truth? Omitting news is also being dishonest. Telling part of the story is lying. Pandering to the powerful isn’t completely honest. We live in a topsy-turvy world where a whole generation gets their news from a fake news show and is mourning the loss of its host. I recently had the opportunity to very briefly meet Lizz Winstead, the co- creator of The Daily Show, and she schooled me a little bit, as I needed to be. I was lamenting the loss of Stewart, and she reminded me that he isn’t the only place to go where stories and facts are investigated, questioned and verified. It just might require a little more effort on my part now, and not be as funny.

Let’s forgive Williams, and if he does it again, he’s gone. Meanwhile, let’s take this opportunity to become more actively engaged in the search for and reporting of the truth.

Whatever our political beliefs, we can find independent sources of truth, balance, and accuracy in journalism and support them financially, read them, watch them and talk about them, so they can live to report another day.

LOVE AND QUICKSAND

heart

 

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

 

What else would I talk about this week, but love? As the quote would indicate, love is a practice, not a gooey feeling. But, what kind of love are we practicing? What is excellence in love?

 

Love can be a super- power, because it can erase fear, and not much else can.

Love can be freedom, because it can create an expansion in our spirit and open us to a whole new perspective on the world and a host of unexplored possibilities.

Love and intelligence combined can result in wisdom.

But love without detachment, can be quicksand for the giver and the recipient. Love that is not detached from judgment is entirely conditional, and can make the giver a puppeteer and the recipient resentful. Love not detached from the fact that we are not anyone’s saviors can ruin our health, take us off of our own path and ultimately take our loved one off of theirs. We can’t save anyone from all pain or consequences, even our children. Any and all efforts to do so only result in the erasure of us.

Love with detachment, gives us the ability to be compassionate and forgive. It allows us to love from the appropriate distance, so we don’t get stepped on for putting ourselves between someone else and their destiny.

Love is an attitude, an intention practiced daily, or even more often, to see others as a gift, a blessing, and a lesson for who they are right now at this instant.

 

 

7 WAYS TO TAKE FLIGHT IN YOUR OWN LIFE

flyingbirds

 

 Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you…

Lift up your eyes all around, and see

and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult.

Isaiah 60

 

Image supplied with permission by David Eyestone

 

Thank God my friends don’t treat me like I treat myself!

My friends somehow see the me I don’t see.

Why do so many of us find it so difficult to have compassion for ourselves?

Where do we get the idea that driving ourselves relentlessly towards perfection and flogging ourselves for our failings is the best way to go?

I had to finally break wide open to finally let up on myself and discover that gentleness works. The above quotation is the beginning of the cure for this spiritual malady because it stands in stark contrast to the lie at the root of it all: I AM NOT ENOUGH.

Here are some tools to take the weight off your wings:

 

1) Let yourself take off and soar and realize that the belief that it is wrong to do so, is lie #2. If a loving God created you, then hobbling yourself is denigrating something that God made and loves. Quit judging yourself. It isn’t your job. Fire your inner critic and run him or her out of town.

2) If it is true that nothing can separate us from our loving creator, it must also be true that there is no mistake I can make that will separate me from Him or the flight plan he has set out for me, and if that is true, then a host of wonderful things follow:

  1. a) There is no such thing as too late. There is no such thing as too old. There is no such thing as technologically obsolete. There is no such thing as too young or inexperienced. These things do not apply to your Plan. You can be what God wants you to be, because you already are. He doesn’t make mistakes.
  2. b) God loves me unconditionally and he made me. If that is true, then he has compassion on me. If that is true, then I am deserving of compassion and gentleness from everyone including myself. This concept was so alien to me; I had to teach myself how to do it, with the following exercise. This may seem ridiculous, but this daily practice has transformed me by teaching me compassion and love for myself: I face myself in the mirror every day, look myself directly in the eyes and say, Baby girl, God loves you and so do I. I see you. I hear you, and I will never let you down again.

In other words, I treat myself as a loving Higher Power would. If I was created by something divine, I have a purpose, and am worthy of love and affection and joy right now- not when I finally have mastered Everything.

3) Dare to suck and forge ahead. Redefine success as daily progress, not perfection. I haven’t seen Shakespeare’s first poem, but I bet it probably sucked. Those on their deathbeds regret the things they never dared to say or do, not the things not performed perfectly.

Remember the 10, 000 hour rule. I read a book recently that pointed out that behind each and every singular, supposedly unique success story like Bill Gates or Steve jobs was a common trait: each of these geniuses and stellar successes had spent 10,000 hours practicing and honing their craft before they reached critical mass. None was truly an overnight success story.

So keep going, keep practicing, keep singing, playing, writing or programming. It is impossible to fail as long as you are still learning, growing and trying.

Embrace joy instead of perfectionism. The two are almost mutually exclusive. Leave perfection for living saints, dead martyrs and maybe Martha Stewart. Psychotherapy is expensive and treating yourself like a machine will eventually require a major tune up.

4) Ask God instead of beating yourself up. Even if you don’t believe, ask God to change you, instead of using willpower to try and change yourself. In any event, it takes the fear out of your head, and puts it someplace where you can forget it, pause, and shift your attention to what is great in the present moment.

5) Want to be popular and well loved? The kindest thing you can do for your fellow man is be gentle with yourself. If we are rigid and unforgiving of ourselves, imagine how we might judge others. In any case, the constant ” I am an undeserving worm ” recitations are a pain to be around and, as the philosopher, Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you.

6) The past is just a story we tell ourselves (from the movie, Her) The fact that you weren’t perfect in the past doesn’t mean that you aren’t exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Regret is premature. We don’t know how everything is going to work out. Miracles are the things that happen outside of your carefully prepared plan. Take a forensic look back on your life, looking for God’s breadcrumbs. How many “ mistakes’ and detours turned out to be blessed course-corrections?

7) If God never wastes a hurt, as I was told when I was in a great deal of pain, then maybe C.S. Lewis was right. Pain is the megaphone of God. Might as well ask, what is the gift or the lesson in this situation?

I will never be old enough to stop making mistakes, and if I look back with objectivity, those ” mistakes ” were the catalysts to growth, and a necessary change in direction. Labeling myself unkindly is libeling myself, because it isn’t true. Clipping my own wings, hurts me, doesn’t help anyone else and doesn’t glorify my Creator.

 

 

6 WAYS TO BE RICH EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE

grasshopper on top of world

1. COMPILE YOUR BUCKET LIST NOW– NOT WHEN YOU ARE SERIOUSLY CONTEMPLATING YOUR OWN MORTALITY.  This is the best way there is to discern and get clarity on where your priorities really are and to what hidden parts of you have been denied all of these years. Then, start doing those things now. Guess what? You are now living the dream.

 

  1. REDEFINE “WEALTH” ACCORDING TO PRIORITIES FOUND IN # 1. For me, wealth is discretionary time and freedom. It’s the likelihood and ability to do the things I want to  now, not “when I retire in 40 years.” The truth is our friend, and the truth is that there are no guarantees. Do you really want your life to begin decades from now?

 

  1. REMOVE THE CLUTTER. It affects your attitude and potential. If I hang on to every purchase I’ve ever made, “ because I might need it someday” or “ I might lose everything”, it creates an attitude of scarcity and fear. I’m the worst about this. Every object has sentimental value, but I live in a small house, and if I don’t get rid of the things I haven’t used in a year, my precious living- space becomes an episode of Hoarders. There is another reason: Even though I tell myself I’m a disorganized artist, the clutter affects my mental clarity, discipline, and peace. I don’t want to have to double the size of my house every 10 years simply to store my “ things.” Think of all of the people living in huge warehouse- type houses, who are under water on their mortgages.

 

  1. LIVE A LIFE THAT ALLOWS FOR MORE OPPORTUNITY AND CHANGE. What if the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself today? Could you pick up and go follow it tomorrow?

 

  1. AS A COROLLARY TO NUMBERS 1-4, LIVE A LIFE THAT IS FREE. Debt- free, cage- free, worry- free, clutter free. It’s freakishly weird, but almost every adult in my extended family growing up was a banker.  They all said the same thing: “If  you don’t have the cash to buy it, don’t buy it.” Obviously, I am not suggesting going off the grid.   For anyone not Amish, that could present an obstacle or two.  But, it’s a matter of degree, isn’t it? One or two credit cards may be necessary, but 6-10, may be quicksand.

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  1. LOOSEN THE GRIP. I have my first dime, and my second and my third. I want to be ready for emergencies, so I tend to not spend, even if it might be critical for my long term well being. This stems from the delusion that if I am cautious nothing bad will happen. But, while I’m trying to control everything, I’m not discovering, learning, or living. It helps me to remember that my material possessions aren’t really mine. They come from the Source of Infinite Wealth to be funneled through me to go where they need to go, and eventually replenished. If God doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called, I will have what I need when I need it, as I continue on my journey of discovery. My job is to stay limber, stay ready and await further instructions:)