Stories Matter

My Favorite Books

My Favorite Books

“Whoever has learned to love new thoughts can never be threatened by them.” – Deepak Chopra

“Never apologize for being sensitive or emotional. Let this be a sign that you’ve got a big heart and aren’t afraid to let others see it. Showing your emotions is a sign of strength.” – Brigitte Nicole

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” – Stephen King

Just lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about the power of literature. It’s partly because I’m working on a novel. However, I’m surrounded by story telling all the time, because I also teach theatre classes at the local community college. In each of the three classes we discuss the story arcs, character motivations, and themes of the stories. These are things I’ve always been interested in from a young age when my parents introduced me to fairy tales. The best most enduring stories are based on characters who grow while facing everyday challenges. In my opinion, what is the point of telling the story if the characters don’t learn anything?

The thing I love about literature is that we can learn something from the trials and tribulations of the characters and as a result not have to go through the same horrible situations ourselves. We can embrace the lessons as the characters make their choices and grow. What a relief. We don’t have to experience every possible challenge ourselves.

Last week I wrote about being a late bloomer and this past weekend my husband and I went to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which was a delightful experience and an affirmation that growing older doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. It’s a continuation of the first movie in which a group of elderly people from England, who for one reason and another, choose to retire in India. They are attracted to ads for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, because the room rates are very reasonable. The hotel proprietor is a young idealistic young man who has a dream, but not much talent for making his dream work. So there are lots of things to adjust to for the retirees. What makes the story endearing is the way the characters from such vastly different cultures learn from each other. And they learn important things about themselves as well. One of the most profound things they learn is that they can still grow and make a contribution. My favorite exchanges from that movie is this: Evelyn says, “Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected,” to which Muriel replies, “Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.” An affirmation that not everything that happens unexpectedly is bad.

Both movies are about ordinary people trying to make sense out of the things life throws in their path. Isn’t that what we are each faced with on a regular basis? Each day we wake up and must put one foot in front of the other in new tracks if we want to accomplish our goals. Not everyone does this for one reason or another. Some get up and put one foot in front of the other in the same old tracks and dig themselves into deeper and deeper boring, meaningless lives. But the thing I loved about the second movie was that most of the characters realized that it’s never too late to reinvent your life. My favorite quote from the second movie is spoken again by Evelyn, “How many new lives can we have? As many as we like.” I agree with her. We can climb out of the rut we’ve dug for ourselves and invent a new more meaningful life for ourselves if we have the courage to do so.

Some people might say I’m silly or crazy for not facing the real world but for me, literature helps me make sense of my life whether I’m reading the book or writing it. What some people call the real world can be a cruel place. Literature, and by extension movies and plays, helps me and millions like me find a way to wend our way toward peace. The best stories, in my opinion, point us toward triumph not destruction, even if the triumphs are small.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Late Bloomers

Fall Flowers at La Fuente

Fall Flowers at La Fuente

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” – Betty Friedan

“No one can avoid aging, but aging productively is something else.” – Katharine Graham

“The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.” – Doug Larson

“The great awareness comes slowly, piece by piece. The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning. The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one.” – M. Scott Peck

I’m proud to say I’m a late bloomer. It’s not that I didn’t accomplish anything when I was younger, I did. It’s just that it took me a long time to put down roots deep enough to realize what it was I really wanted to do when I grew up. When I could finally say I loved myself, I was mature enough to be able to acknowledge that I was a loving, talented woman who could admit my mistakes and embrace myself as I am. In other words, I finally let all the silly ego stuff go and just loved myself. And I’m grateful for that because I love what I’m doing now, writing. It’s the happiest work I’ve ever done, except maybe being on stage. Being an actor was exhilarating, but it wasn’t quite the right fit in terms of my deepest passion. Teaching has also been a joy in my life, but I never felt the deepest ecstasy I feel when I’m writing.

The thing about being a later bloomer, is that I’ve lived long enough now to have a measure of wisdom to share with others. When I was younger, my mind was cluttered with erroneous ideas, and assumptions. I’ve had lots of years to weed out my mental and emotional garden so I can bloom.

Some place along the line of my study of spirituality, I picked up the idea that true happiness comes by delaying our urge for instant gratification. I think that idea may have come from M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled which was one of the first books that opened my eyes to a much wider and deeper spiritual world. When I read that book, I dedicated my life to learning to love myself first, then sharing it with others through my talents. It hasn’t always been easy, as I’m sure you know. But my dedication has brought me to a place where I am not afraid to follow my passion. If I can do it so can everyone else. It’s important to follow your dreams and do what you love, because it’s in doing that that the world is healed.

I don’t mean to belittle those who find their passion early. No, we need all the flowers in the garden to make the world a much more beautiful place in which to live. So, my advice is, no matter what your age, go find the thing that makes you the most happy and pursue that. At some point your passions may change. That’s okay. Mine did. When you find a new passion pursue that. The benefits to your soul are immeasurable, and the service you bring by sharing the love of what you’re doing sends out positive ripples. We may never know the effect we have, but in a way, that’s leaving a very powerful legacy for the future.

Thanks to all of you who read this blog. Pass it on, leave a comment if you choose, and connect with me on social media.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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A Thirst for Silence

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

“Silence is a true friend who never betrays.” – Confucius

“The quieter you become the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass

Lately I’ve had a deep desire to be home, be silent, and work on my writing. Actually for most of my life, I’ve loved being alone, thinking my own thoughts and forging my own path. I’ve never been a joiner, and there have been times when I was misunderstood because I didn’t ascribe to the accepted point of view on a subject. For the most part that’s been okay with me because somewhere deep inside I felt connected to something much greater than myself. This isn’t a feeling I can articulate very well. It’s only been in the last few years when more and more spiritual teachers and scientists are espousing silence as a stress reliever and way to make sense of our lives, that I feel vindicated in my life long search for silence.

The other day a college friend of mine, Terry Green, who is an independent film maker and screen writer, wrote an interesting post on Facebook which described this feeling I’ve had for most of my life. He wrote that writers need to have a quiet, private place to write so we can hear what our characters have to say to each other. If we get out of their way, they will speak and all we have to do is write down their conversation. I love that. It’s so true. When I’m writing I have to get into a zone and allow what wants to come through speak to me. If I get out of the way, the voice that speaks is so much more articulate than I could ever be. I love this life of daily silence. What I’ve learned is that when I listen, I hear deep levels of wisdom that I would never have heard if I were still out in the noisy world.

It seems to me that anyone who is creative, and I believe that’s all of us, need silence to regroup and regenerate. If I don’t have silence during my waking hours, then I find it harder to sleep because my mind is too busy with the noise of the day to allow me to relax enough to go into deep sleep which is where we have the opportunity to be renewed. I also wonder if we would have any of the wonderful inventions, scientific theories, or artwork we enjoy today if it weren’t for the inventor, scientist, or artist taking time to be silent and listen to the inspiration that was trying to get through the noise of their everyday thoughts.

There is a great story about Albert Einstein I heard on a biography of him on one of the science channels. When he was stuck on the next step of a theory or mathematical problem he was working on, he’d ride the trolley car. He’d ride until his head had cleared and the answer to his dilemma presented itself. I loved that story because, in essence that’s what I do when I’ve got a dilemma.

The last five years of my public teaching career, I had to drive an hour each way to get to and from school. Though the drive was long, it was also a great time to have silence. There were so many times while I was driving in silence, that the answer to some problem at school with a student, or the play I was directing, or a lesson I was going to teach would come to me. When someone asked me why I didn’t listen to music, or audio books as I drove, I said, “Because driving in silence allows solutions to my problems to come to me.” Our minds need time to process so we can come up with an entirely new solution to whatever project we happen to be working upon.

I’ve found silence to be of great solace and source of my own creativity and I believe everyone, even extroverts need some of it every day.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Compassion Can Change Lives

SOO-wreath - Creative Commons.org“Freedom cannot be learned by tyranny of any kind, and the perfect equality of all God’s Sons cannot be recognized through the dominion of one mind over another.” – A Course in Miracles

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama

“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” – Maya Angelou

What if you made a huge mistake? I mean a really big one that society says is unforgivable? How would you feel? I don’t know about you but when I make even little mistakes, I beat myself up over it. If I made a huge mistake, I’d feel so much shame, I’d never want to show may face out in the world again. But if someone showed me compassion and forgave me, I’d be able to feel better about myself.

Last Sunday my husband and I saw a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, one of my favorite shows. My husband and I watch it faithfully every Sunday morning. Almost every Sunday I cry during at least one of the segments.

Last Sunday there was a story that made me think again about compassion and forgiveness, and how it can transform someone’s life. The title of the story we saw was “The Gainesville Tornadoes Thank Their Unexpected Fans” filed by Steve Hartman. Click Steve’s name to go to the CBS Sunday Morning page and watch the segment. I was touched by the story because it’s about the Gainesville Tornadoes who are young men serving time for felony offenses at the Gainesville, Texas Juvenile Correctional facility. The team is made up of students who have been on their very best behavior. When they get to play, they play teams from private schools like Vanguard College Prep in Waco, TX. The remarkable thing about this story is that the Gainesville Tornadoes rarely, if ever, have any fans. They are, after all, from a correctional institution, so none of their classmates can attend the games and most of the time their parents aren’t able, or don’t want to attend their games either. So not long ago, two Vanguard basketball players cooked up a scheme. They asked half their fan base to cheer for the Gainesville team, because as one student put it, “It’s no fun playing when the other team has no fans.” The thing is, by the end of the game, all the fans were rooting for the Gainesville players, and that was just fine with the Vanguard team. When Steve Hartman said, “This is not what I’ve ever seen sports be.” One of the students responded, “I think in a way this is kind of how sports should be and kind of showing you the real impact that encouragement and support for anybody can make.” Go watch the segment and if it doesn’t touch your heart, then you won’t understand the point I’m trying to make in this post.

We all need to be shown compassion when we make mistakes. It shows us that someone understands us. I know it’s hard sometimes to show compassion when we’ve been wounded by another. When that happens, we put on our armor and think that we’ll be safe inside it. But what retreating inside our armor does, is separates us from others.

Most of us are wounded people lashing out at other wounded people thinking we’re going to feel better by being the first to attack. This sets up a vicious cycle. The only way to stop the cycle is to do what Atticus Finch tells Scout to do in To Kill A Mockingbird, “You’ve got to put on another man’s shoes and walk around in them for awhile; see things from his point of view.” That’s how you cultivate compassion. If each of us stays inside our armor, we’ll never change the world for the better.

When I see a story like the ones Steve Hartman files on Sunday Morning, I rejoice. His stories always make me cry, because they are so hopeful. He tells about people in the world who are willing to set aside their personal goals of winning or being successful to help another person feel like there is someone who cares about them. Isn’t that what we all want? We want to feel needed and heard. We want to feel useful and we want to feel like we’re not the only ones who make mistakes. And on the other side, we want to feel like we’re making the world a better place in which to live. To do that we have to shed our armor and be the person who makes a difference in someone else’s life.

Thanks to my new and old followers. Please leave a comment below and connect with me on one or all of my social networks.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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A Thing Worth Doing

Julia working at the wheel.

Julia working at the wheel.

“It’s impossible to explain creativity. It’s like asking a bird, ‘How do you fly?’ You just do.” – Eric Jerome Dickey

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” – Albert Einstein

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Faster isn’t always better. Fast food isn’t always the best for us and fast isn’t always better when working on any kind of project. Unfortunately, we live in a fast food society. We want instant gratification in many aspects of our lives from our food, to our entertainment, to our success. My father used to say that it was better to pay more and get exactly what you want than to save a few dollars and buy junk. And it’s better to spend time and effort on something worth doing than to rush the process.

Artist, scientists, and inventors all know about taking your time to make sure the painting, the experiment, the invention is done in the best way possible. Teachers know that their students can’t learn their lessons all in one day. Each school year’s lessons build on what the children learned the year before, the semester before, the day before. So why do some people want to rush the process of what matters most in life?

This morning the title of the one of the instructional writer’s blogs I read was this: “How fast can you write a book? (and why that’s the wrong question)” In the post, Jurgen Wolff, was cautioning his readers not to fall for any program or book that states that you can write a best selling book in only a few days, weeks or months. I know from experience that he’s right.

In the last month, I’ve been contemplating the amount of time it has taken me to get my novel, The Space Between Time, finished and ready for publication. I started it in 1999, set it aside for ten or so years and then picked it up again in 2010. Once I’d started the book, it was always in the back of my mind. I was thinking about the characters of Morgan and her father Thomas. Since I’d started the book as a tribute to my father, I didn’t want to give up the idea of finishing it. Now, of course, the main theme has changed slightly. There are two main characters, Jenna and Morgan. They connect through time to learn from one another. But it was my father who inspired me to write the book and that fact keeps me plodding along toward publishing the work he inspired. My father didn’t know that he was my inspiration and now he’s gone yet isn’t that how it is. Little and big things speak to us and help us grow, or inspire us to create something beautiful.

I’ve written before, that I finished the rough draft of this novel a year ago last December. Over these last fourteen months, I’ve allowed myself to take a step back to get a more objective view of the story lines and see where they can be improved. Writing a book is a long and sometimes tedious process. At one point I was feeling impatient. I wanted the book to be finished and I said something to that effect to my husband. I nearly wept when he said to me, “What you’re doing isn’t easy. It takes time to create something worthwhile.” I was so grateful to him for saying that because it’s true. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. So I’m an advocate for slowing down allowing yourself to take your time to build your success, to get that education, to heal your wounds and build a life worth living.

I’m happy to say that my manuscript is nearly finished now. I can feel it in my bones. That doesn’t mean there still won’t be some tweaks to be made to it. But I feel proud that I didn’t rush the process to publish it last year. It wasn’t ready then. I have to admit, I’m glad I’m a plodder when it comes to any creative project I do whether it’s writing a book, or directing a play. Taking the time to examine all the layers of what needs to be accomplished is a good thing. Whenever I’ve rushed through any project, I’ve been sorry. Rushing creates stress and stress isn’t good for optimal success on what you want to accomplish. So I encourage everyone to use slow and steady progress where creativity is involved.

Thank you to all my followers, new and old. Feel free to leave a comment and connect with me on any of my social networks.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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On Reading and Writing

My Favorite Books

My Favorite Books

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” – Octavia Butler

“Learn as much by writing as by reading.” – Lord Acton

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” – Stephen King

I’m a member of Goodreads social network. At the beginning of the year I pledged to read 50 books. That’s a small amount of books compared to the number some of my friends and family members read every year. However, I enjoy savoring a book. I look forward to going to bed early, reading and then dreaming about the book. I find myself thinking about it at various times during the day and if the book is good the characters come alive for me.

About a year or so ago, I joined a book club group made up mostly of women who had taken my journaling class. It’s interesting to be part of the group because many of the books we read are not ones I would ordinarily choose. The latest book the group chose was, in my opinion, boring. It’s always distressing to me when I begin a novel that fails to grasp my attention because I know how much time goes into writing a novel. In a way, I feel like I’m betraying the author by not liking his or her book. Writing a novel is a huge investment of time and effort. I always want to be completely enthralled by every book I pick up, so when I begin one that I don’t like, I feel sad. I was going to slog through this particular book to the end because I felt a responsibility to the author and my fellow book club members. However, eventually, I just couldn’t continue reading.

Part of me felt bad about putting aside a book that was written by a New York Times best selling author. I thought, “Who am I to say the book wasn’t good.” Then I thought, “I’m a reader, that’s who I am. I have a right to say whether or not a particular book speaks to me.” The wonderful thing for readers is that there are so many books available. We will undoubtedly find many books that touch our lives throughout our reading lives and some books just won’t be worth our time.

As a writer, I feel sad about this particular book because I wanted to like it. It’s historical fiction during the time of the Civil War. Part of the novel I’m writing takes place during the Civil War, I was hoping to get a different perspective about the war from reading this book. I have to say that some of the scenes did give me a different perspective on the war, which is something I always look for in a good book.

As is my custom, I thought long and hard about what it was about the book that made me dislike it. I believe that’s an important exercise for all writers to undertake. The answers can help us become better writers. I’m lucky because I have a background in theatre. I’ve done lots of analyzation of plays and characters. In my opinion, what was missing from this particular book was an emotional connection among the characters. In my mind, all the greatest stories have something in common. They are multilayered and deal with universal themes. When the reader or audience can get a glimpse into a character’s soul, that’s what grasps our hearts and makes us continue reading. This particular book missed the mark in terms of character motivation and connections among the characters.

I’m in the final stages of getting my novel ready for publication. You can be sure, I’ll be going through my manuscript to make sure I’ve done the best I can to make the characters live on the page. At the same time, I’ll have to remind myself that not everyone is going to like my book. That will have to be okay. It will hurt when people write bad reviews, but as the Octavia Butler quote above says, this novel I’m working on might be crap, but I’ve got to keep writing so I can improve my skills. And I’ll keep reading to learn as much as I can from both good and bad books.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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The Essence of a Person

Calla Lilies

Calla Lilies

“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.” – Charles de Lint

“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“The strangest part about being famous is you don’t get to give first impressions anymore. Everyone already has an impression of you before you meet them.” – Kristen Stewart

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” – Albert Einstein

Last week as I was browsing Facebook, I found a link to an article in The Guardian in which it was lamented that Colleen McCullough’s obituary in an Australian newspaper was more about her looks and relationships with men, than about her brains and the many best selling books she created over her long career. As the reporter points out, it’s not the first time that articles about women concentrate more on a woman’s physical attributes and role she has played as a mother, or lack of it, before listing her other accomplishments.

That got me thinking. What is the essence of a person? Are we our looks, our family relationships, our job, or our accomplishments? Or is there something much more mysterious deep inside each of us? I think that many of us are afraid to explore who we really are which makes me sad. Think of all the wonderful things that could be accomplished if everyone was completely self-actualized.

Women are particularly plagued with image comparisons, but men face this problem too. There is a nebulous measuring stick out there for what constitutes an attractive, successful, smart man or woman. It’s a set of qualities that no one, or very few people can live up to. And if they could live up to them, would they want to? Who wants to be put into a category?

Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of looking at someone’s physical appearance, education, or situation in life, we could look into their soul and see the real person underneath? What would we find I wonder? Why is it most of us don’t care to look farther than skin deep? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but this whole idea has been on my mind lately.

I wrote several weeks back about the fracas in my family at the end of last year. One effect of that event is that I struggled to see my sister and brother for who they really are at their essential level, rather that to judge their actions which at first caused so much pain. When I calmed down, two things came to my mind. First, they either didn’t have any idea of the effect of their actions or they thought they were doing the right thing. Second, when we have a conflict with someone, they are in essence holding up a mirror so we can examine our own motives and unhealed places. So how can I fault anyone who irritates, or attacks me? When that happens, I’m getting a chance to learn a great lesson about myself. Once I came to that conclusion, I realized that we’ll never really know another person unless we allow ourselves to look with different eyes so we can get a glimpse of their soul. To do that, we must delve deeply into our own soul. We must accept ourselves as we are with no recriminations.

The fact that Colleen McCullough’s fans raised an outcry about her obituary is just one sign that maybe people are waking up to the fact that each person is a unique gift to the world and should be honored. After all, her fans saw into her soul through the many books she wrote. When you become a fan that way, you accept the beauty of the artist’s soul and it doesn’t really matter what they look like. Maybe her fans find it easier to honor the people they meet in their everyday lives as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true?

Today as I sat down to write this blog installment, a Facebook friend posted a list of qualities that are not measured by academic tests. The list was developed my Maria Montessori, a pioneer in the field of education. As I read the list, I felt that many of the things on it are also qualities that are overlooked when we reduce someone to the superficial things we first notice about them. Here are just a few things on the list: creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, humor, self-awareness, self-discipline, empathy, compassion, sense of wonder, and humility. We each have so many qualities inside of us. We are so much more than a small list of qualities that are supposed to be important. It’s my hope we will all discover who we really are so that we can appreciate others at a deeper level thus honoring who they really are.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Focused Attention

Cochise College Roses

Cochise College Roses

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” – George Eliot

“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” – Elbert Hubbard

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” – Arnold J. Toynbee

Last week I wrote about serendipity and how it has worked for me in my writing career. Trusting that serendipity will happen is a key element to being successful, but you can’t just sit back and let serendipity happen. Some say it takes hard work, but instead of hard work, I like to think of it as focused attention.

The reason I like to replace the words hard work with focused attention is because when we think of hard work, we equate it with stress and strain. However, I’ve learned from being involved in the theatre that hard work can be fun, fulfilling and energizing. If you like what you do, you can be focusing your attention on the task at hand, but it won’t feel stressful; it will be fun.

I’m sure you’ve experienced what I’m writing about. You’re doing something that captures your attention. You love every aspect of whatever it is you’re doing. It might be building a sand castle, skiing, playing with you children, cooking, or gardening. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, it’s your feeling about it that makes the difference. Time slips by and suddenly you realize that you were so absorbed in what you were doing that it seems like only a moment has gone by since you started your project. That’s focused attention.

Our souls rejoice when we’re doing what brings us joy. Isn’t that a much better way to live than dragging yourself out of bed every work day and dreading being there for the interminably long hours before you can go home? Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if everyone woke up excited to get to the work they love? So why do so many people stress themselves out doing work they hate?

Many of us cling to the old idea that we have to support ourselves somehow. Most of the time we think that means sacrificing doing what we love so we can put a roof over our heads and food on the table. I’d like to challenge that idea. Everyone of us can live the life of our dreams. It may take some effort to transition from our old life to our new, but that’s where focused attention and serendipity can help.

Our minds are powerful beyond what we may think. Many people are convinced that events happen TO us, but science and the ancient wisdom traditions tell us that what we think creates our reality. If we think we must stay trapped doing work we hate for twenty, thirty, or forty years before we can do what we love, we’ll be miserable most of our lives. I don’t know about you but I didn’t want to face that prospect.

I won’t say I was always completely successful in my efforts to find work I loved. I loved doing theatre, but it didn’t pay much and took up a great deal of my time. I missed many a family gathering because I was in rehearsal. The day came when I had to decided what was more important to me, my relationship with my husband, or theatre. I gave up theatre. But then a few years later, I got a job teaching drama. Ah, I could do what I loved and still go home at night to my husband. Yet there were aspects of teaching that were stressful. Teaching drama was nearly the right match but not quite. While I was getting my Masters in theatre, I discovered that I loved writing, but not many writers make a good living. So I buried the idea of becoming a writer and moved on.

The thing is that through the years I continued to believe that I would find the work I was meant to do. I kept my attention focused on doing what I loved to do as much as possible. One day, I remembered that I’d wanted to be a writer, but somewhere along the way I’d become convinced I couldn’t make a living doing what I loved most. My mind was split in two and clouded with thoughts that only the most special people are lucky enough to be successful at the thing they love doing. I tried to stay close to my first love. Almost all my jobs throughout the years involved some aspect of story telling, but I was never the story teller and that’s what I longed to do.

Who knows why we block our own happiness. However, something inside me kept prompting me to keep searching for the thing that would make me deeply and completely joyful. One day my focused attention paid off. Something clicked in my head and I realized I just needed to make the decision that writing is what I was going to do no matter what and that’s when serendipity began to work for me.

I haven’t published my first novel yet. Who knows if it will sell millions of copies. If it sells one or thousand copies, my efforts will be worth the years of work. Something else wonderful has happened during this process, I’ve met other authors by writing reviews of their books. I didn’t know that they would contact me when I wrote the reviews, it just happened that way. So, I’m creating positive change by meeting and supporting fellow authors and by allowing myself to tune into something greater than myself as I write my blog and books. Every little positive ripple changes the world. Because I believe that is true, I encourage you to find ways to do what you love even if it’s only in your spare time. Who knows where that focused effort will lead you.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Trust Serendipity

Our rosebush

Our rosebush

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi

This morning as I was thinking about what to write for this week’s post, serendipity came to my rescue. The above quote was in my email inbox. When I read the quote, I was reminded of the process I’ve used while writing my first novel, The Space Between Time. It spoke to me because it implies the miracle of serendipity. As I’ve been writing my book, serendipity has played a big part in my creative process.

I began writing this novel in 1999 after a visit with my Mom and Dad in Quartzsite, Arizona. My dad had heart disease, and though he’d been active for more than ten years, I could tell during that visit, that he was beginning to decline.

On the five hour drive home, the idea for one of the story lines of the novel came to me. I wanted to write a kind of love letter to my dad with a relationship between a father and daughter reflecting the relationship I had with my father. This is what came to me: In 1858 Vermont, a minister and his daughter are nearly the only family they have. Their relationship is very close. A letter arrives from a former student of the father’s urging them to come to Southern Oregon. The town where he lives needs a teacher and since the town is growing so fast the father could find work as well. Unfortunately, by the time the letter arrives, the father has been diagnosed with cancer. During his illness he encourages his daughter to travel West, which she does after his death.

After a few months of writing, life intervened and I got a full-time teaching job, which took up so much of my time, I had to set the novel aside. It wasn’t until 2010, six years after my father’s death, that I was able to pick up where I’d left off. By then I had an idea, which I didn’t know how to execute, of having a storyline in the present that somehow intertwined with the events in the past. That idea rumbled around in my mind nagging at me for about a year, until one day a guest speaker came to the writing group I was attending.

The guest speaker was a local writer who had published several books, all military intrigue and action, one of which was about to be made into a movie. At the beginning of the session, he asked each of us to describe what we were working on. When I described my book, he said, “You know, you could have a link between someone in the present with the woman in the past. Something unusual like that is kind of popular right now.” I told him I had been wanting to do just that, but I hadn’t been able to come up with a plausible way to make that happen. Well, of course, on the drive home the idea of how to link the two timelines came to me.

As I was nearing the San Pedro River, I seem to get a lot of inspiration from that river, it occurred to me that the woman in the present could find some journals written by her many times great-grandmother and when she opened the first book to read, her consciousness would merge with her great-grandmother’s and she would experience portions of life with her. I knew this was just the right direction to take my book because the familiar feeling of elation descended upon me. It happens whenever I think of the best possibility, direction, or action to take.

For the next several months, I woke up every morning excited to develop the timeline in the present and linking the two women in the past. I liked the way the book was taking shape, but try as I might, I couldn’t think of a title. Whenever I talked about working on my novel, the first question people would ask was, “What’s the title?” I had no idea. Nothing I’d come up with so far seemed right.

Again serendipity came to my aid. It was late in the fall semester 2013. I was driving home from teaching my evening college class and I was listening to The Beatles on my iPod. I don’t even remember the song that was playing but something about the lyrics clicked and I knew that I was going to title my book, The Space Between Time. Again, I felt that tingle in my stomach, and goose bumps came up on my skin. I knew that was the right title for this book.

I finished the rough draft in December 2013. For the next year, I made revisions and found an editor, all the while considering how I was going to promote my book. I don’t have much experience with marketing and promotion. Since I was going to self-publish, I was concerned about how to get the word out about my book to potential readers, but no solutions presented themselves. I was getting anxious.

I think it was in the spring or maybe summer of last year, that a friend I’d met on Facebook, Dorothy Sander, sent me a #FF message, along with several other women, on Twitter. Dorothy is a writer as well and we had exchanged messages on her Aging Abundantly Writer’s Meet Up page on Facebook. Her latest book, Finding Hope: Inspiration for the Midlife Journey, is available at Amazon. You can also find her blog, “Manifest Me” on WordPress. Now I have to say, I’m old enough that I don’t fully understand all the etiquette of social networking. But on the day I got Dorothy’s message, I thought Oh, Dorothy must be encouraging all of the women listed to connect with each other. So, I went and followed each of them and sent them a short personal message. When they followed me back, I sent each one an individual thank you. Since I didn’t send these as private messages, they showed up on the public stream of tweets. The next day I was astonished to find four or five new follows in my Twitter feed. I thanked them as I had the original women, and so my Twitter group began to grow. Each day I would get new followers and every few days I would go and send a personal thank you to each new follower. Often, if I like their profile statement, I’ll follow them back. The day Dorothy sent me that #FF message, I had about 180 followers. This morning when I checked Twitter I found I have 742 followers. Now, I know that’s not a huge amount over a six month period, but by sending a personal thank you to each follower, I increased my social media influence, and I didn’t have to buy followers who aren’t interested in me personally.

Another way I’ve grown my Twitter presence is to retweet posts that I like. Many of them are about books coming out. It’s my way of paying it forward. If I help other authors promote their work, perhaps when I publish my book they will return the favor.

Who knows if my strategy of building a social networking presence will help me create a following of readers. I’m trusting serendipity to continue to come to my aid in that respect as well. All I know is that I’ve met some wonderful creative people along the way. Twitter is just one of my successes in increasing my web presence. More about that in next week’s post.

I don’t have all the answers about how to gain followers and readers. When I think of spending hours reading books, or taking courses about marketing and promotion, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. When I think of concentrating on my writing and devoting a few hours a week connecting with people on social media, I feel much better. So, I’ll let go of trying to control events and I’ll let serendipity be my guide.

Watch for news of the launch date for The Space Between Time this spring 2015.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Following My Own Star

Stars

Stars

“The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” – Benjamin E. Mays

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

I’ve always had a longing to follow a different star than many of my classmates, family and friends. For many years I kept that desire hidden because I was afraid. I was afraid of what others would think, of what I’d have to sacrifice, but mostly I was afraid to trust that all would be well if I threw caution to the wind and followed the guidance I was being given. Oh how I wish I hadn’t wasted all that time.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve stopped caring about the opinions of others. The voice, or feeling drawing me toward complete immersion in joyous creation is stronger than all my petty fears ever were. I’m so much happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. Each morning I wake up looking forward to the day instead of dreading doing work that kills my soul.

This phenomenon of following your own star isn’t new nor is it happening only to me. Every single one of us have our own star to follow, our own purpose to fulfill. Some of us grab ahold and have the ride of our lives. Others are like Ivan Ilyich, a character in the story, “The Death of Ivan Illyich” by Leo Tolstoy. Ivan Illyich has taken pains to build a life that looks great from the outside, but he has never fulfilled the purpose he came to live. Perhaps he was too afraid of who he really was, or he didn’t want to do the work necessary to follow his heart. Who knows what blocks us from fulfilling our dreams. On his death bed Ivan realizes that because he tried to make his life look good, he was selfish. He didn’t offer up his talents to help anyone else. I like the way Wayne Dyer says it, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” The saddest thing is when someone realizes in their final moments, that for whatever reason, they wasted their life doing things they hated. It’s sad when people ignore their calling.

The paradoxical thing is that to be of service to the world, we must often appear selfish when it comes to listening to our inner guidance. It’s only when we listen and follow that we can be in true partnership with the Divine, and bring something extraordinary to help lift humanity out of darkness. There have been many people throughout history that we identify as those types of people. The thing is we don’t allow ourselves to think that we can be one of them too. At least I didn’t allow myself to think that until recently. We don’t have to be Jesus, or Buddha, or Gandhi, or any of the other giants of history to make our contribution. Think of life as a puzzle. If one piece is missing the picture isn’t finished. Not all pieces are bright and prominent, but each piece is needed.

You might ask, how will I know what my purpose is? The way I knew was by paying attention to my feelings. I asked myself what activities and tasks brought me joy. When I was in the midst of doing what I loved, time stood still and at the end of it I felt energized, not drained. The trick is to put more of your focus and determination into doing what brings you joy rather than the things that don’t. Little by little you will be able to drop what doesn’t serve you and live a purpose driven life.

That’s actually been my goal in life all along, to live in partnership with the Divine, to fulfill my purpose. To listen to that still small voice and follow It’s guidance. Over the years I’ve come to understand that everything I do, whether I’m letting my ego take control, or I’m listening to the Divine whisper, I’m affecting the world. It’s not a new concept, the idea that we’re all connected. The thing is, once I felt the truth of this idea, I was much more careful about what I thought and did.

I know now that Marianne Williamson’s quote above is right. It doesn’t help anyone to play small. That quote is one of my favorites, because it’s as if she wrote it directly to me. Many times I felt the pull to blend into the background and play small. I was afraid of my own light. Not anymore.

It’s long been my mission to empower people. No matter what work I was doing, that has always been my goal, to help people come out of the shadows and shine so the whole world benefits from the light. That’s been my goal because it’s what I most need to learn. Let’s learn it together.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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