About Women and Our Changing Culture

Business Women in Indonesia

Business Women in Indonesia

“I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.” – Georgia O’Keefe

“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher

“Clearly older women and especially older women who have led an active life or elder women who successfully maneuver through their own family life have so much to teach us about sharing, patience, and wisdom.” – Alice Walker

“You see a lot of smart guys with dumb women, but you hardly ever see a smart woman with a dumb guy.” – Erica Jong

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West

Somehow what I wrote in the last post just didn’t seem like it covered all the ideas that have been rattling around in my head for the last few months. So many things are happening to lots of different groups of people and they all look like different issues, but in my opinion, they are the same issue. We need to learn to value others so much that it won’t matter what color, sexual orientation, gender, or level of prosperity they might have or be. However, it’s hard to value others if we don’t value ourselves.

As I’ve written many times in this blog, valuing myself has been a big theme in my life and one of my main cheerleaders was my father. I couldn’t articulate until I was much older that he had lots of great feminine qualities that I wanted to emulate. Because he was a man, I got the idea that all men would be like my dad. But as I grew older and bumped up against barriers that were constructed to keep out anyone who wasn’t a white male, I started to rethink who I was and what it was that made me valuable. And the answer is: Because I’m here! This has been a lifelong process, you understand, to know that I’m valuable just because I exist. This and all the ideas I’m expressing today have taken me a long time to be able to articulate.

This is what I now know. We are each a piece of God. As I’ve studied the religions of the world, I’ve come to think that there is something within women that understands that fact. Way back in human history, men knew it too, because they worshiped the Goddess. But then things changed and men took charge. Women adapted. They kept their strength to themselves and learned to make a place for themselves within the male dominated societies. On the outside it looked like men were in charge, but there were often great women behind the great men. And almost every woman who became ruler of a country, did not have a husband, which allowed them to rule the way they thought best.

But I don’t want to go into the entire history of moving from female based cultures to male based cultures and back again. There are lots of fantastic books about that subject. No, what I want to do is express what I think is happening now. I think we’re moving from a completely male dominated world, to one of cooperation between the sexes. And one where every single person is value and honored. The evidence I provide for this is just what’s happening in the news almost every day.

In this country, the male dominated congress is in deadlock. There are white men who are going ballistic because they see their domination crumbling. They’ve been in control for so long. They liked it and they don’t want to lose the upper hand. Each time there is a new shooting, or new restrictive legislation introduced, or progressive legislation that’s voted down, there are people who wake up and say, “Wait a minute. That’s not right.” And the more people who say that and band together with other’s who are awakening, the pendulum swings ever so slightly in the direction of more equality all around.

One of the things I was going to mention in this post was the fact that women need to stand with and for other women. I’ve always thought that was important but this morning as I was thinking about that I was challenged to back that up with action. I’ve received a number of invitations from my new Representative Martha McSally to follow her Facebook page. I’ve refused to follow her because she’s from a much more conservative party than I am. I was angry that she won the election, and that she won it by a minuscule amount of votes. But if I’m going to stand up for having more women in leadership roles in this country, then I need to support Martha McSally. I’ve just taken the time to like her page. Now I’ll be able to tell her how I feel about the important issues that we face in this country. I don’t know if she’ll pay attention to anything I write to her, but she’ll never even consider them if she doesn’t know what I think. As Malala Yousafzai says, “Sometimes we wait for others and think that Martin Luther should raise among us, Nelson Mandela should raise up among us and speak up for us, but we never realize they are normal humans like us – and if we step forward we can also bring change just like them.” So, I’m taking one step forward and telling my Representatives what I want this country to look like.

I’m given hope that maybe Ms. McSally will pay attention, because I saw a news segment not long ago about the gatherings the women in Congress hold regularly to create a bridge between the parties to get things done. They may not always agree on an issue, but they look for ways to work together. I like that!

There is so much more to say about how to help this country grow into one where every single person, no matter who they are, can be honored and valued but I’ll leave that for future posts.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Working Mom

Working Mom

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Cancer of Our Society

Hands of different races

Hands of different races

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Islam teaches tolerance, not hatred; universal brotherhood, not enmity; peace, and not violence.” – Pervez Musharraf

“Prejudice of any kind implies that you are identified with the thinking mind. It means you don’t see the other human being anymore, but only your own concept of that human being. To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” – Isaac Asimov

“Dignity does not come from avenging insults, especially from violence that can never be justified. It comes from taking responsibility and advancing our common humanity.” – Hillary Clinton

Something important I’ve learned in my sixty-two years is that we repeat a lesson over and over again until we learn it. That goes for individuals as well as groups, businesses, societies, and nations. As I write this, there has been another mass shooting this time in a church. I guess we haven’t learned that violence only begets more violence which means, we’ll keep repeating this insane scenario until we get it. Humans are stubborn and we often have to be pushed to the brink before we are willing to change.

Violence in all its forms in our country is a cancer that is eating away at our society from the inside out. It’s exactly what our enemies are hoping for, that our society will collapse in on itself. And we are teetering on the brink of doing just that because the people haters are declaring their right to freedom. But what of the rights and freedoms of those who become victims of violent acts? They get blamed for not carrying a gun.

This is what I think about the gun debate. This country was founded on the fight for freedom against tyranny. Each member of the army had to own a gun, and that was even written into our constitution that individuals have the right to own a fire arm. The reasoning behind that was obvious. This was a wild country at the time, not to mention many people needed to hunt to provide food for their families. Do we really need to own so many guns now? I guess we do if we see every other person as a threat. That’s sad. We’re so busy being proud of our heritage of standing up to the bullies that we continue to look for them everywhere and have become the thing we fight against.

In my opinion, our country was founded on the masculine ideal. We think of a man as being tough, stoic, invulnerable, and he rules his domain with an iron hand. And if a man isn’t like that we look down on him, or at least we used to.

Basing our culture on those principles may have helped us grow and develop at one time, but that time has passed. We’ve evolved as a nation as evidenced by the way we treat our returning soldiers now as opposed to the way we treated them after WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. During WWI men who suffered from PSD, or shell shock as it was called back then, were treated with distain, disrespect and if they were in the field and were unable to perform their duties, they were shot for cowardice. With each successive war the attitude about PSD changed ever so slowly. Now we understanding that being a part of all the violence that is a part of war, is highly corrosive to a person’s psyche. In other words, again in my opinion, our society is moving toward a more feminine perspective.

Those with feminine qualities are loving, vulnerable, understanding, supportive, inclusive, peacemakers, and healers. All the people most of us profess to admire and aspire to emulate throughout the ages have had more feminine qualities than masculine, Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. to name just a few.

So I ask, do we want to heal the cancer, or kill ourselves because we don’t want to acknowledge the diagnosis?

I hope you will consider this quote from the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. My copy was translated and annotated, and with an afterward by Victor H. Mair, thus the two different numbers.

41 (76)
Human beings are
soft and supple when alive,
stiff and straight when dead.

The myriad creatures, the grasses and trees are
soft and fragile when alive,
dry and withered when dead.

Therefore, it is said:
The rigid person is a disciple of death;
The soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life.

An army that is inflexible will not conquer;
A tree that is inflexible will snap.

The unyielding and mighty shall be brought low;
The soft, supple, and delicate will be set above.

In other words, the meek shall inherit the earth. I believe that if our society is to survive, we need to become soft and supple with each other.

I’ll write one last thing. I saw Malala Yousafzai on Jon Stewart’s show last night and I’ll paraphrase something she said that I’m trying to get across with this post. She said that one person can do one thing to make the world a better place. And I say, if each of us does one thing, then it won’t be long before the world we live in becomes a very different place than the one we’re living in now.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Minding Your Passion

Tarantula Nebula

Tarantula Nebula

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

“We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“You can do anything as long as you have the passion, the drive, the focus, and the support.” – Sabrina Bryan

For a little over two years I’ve been writing this blog and today is the first day I wish I could skip writing for a week. It’s not that I don’t like writing it, it’s that I’m deep in the process of revising my novel, The Space Between Time and I almost resent any time spent away from that task. So I hope you’ll excuse me if this post is short because I’m in full creative mode.

Having written that, I want to emphasize that anything we do that fills us with passion and gives us pleasure, in a creative way, of course, should be our top priority. I have lots of theories about why we deny ourselves the pleasure of losing ourselves in work that grasps us. We’re sure we don’t deserve to be happy, or we’re addicted to misery. Getting pity from others can be a powerful draw. In a way our DNA is imprinted with the idea that we can’t have the things we desire most. Most people throughout history accepted their lot, did all they could to survive and didn’t allow themselves to dream beyond creating a better life for their families. We have few examples of people living the life of their dreams and being successful at it. In a way, that’s good because every single person must discover their own way to their deepest passions. The thing is, though, you need to believe that it’s possible to put aside the miseries of our existence and cross over into a happy, fulfilling life. Seek out the stories of people who’ve realized their deepest desires. Discover how they did it, and believe you can do the same.

Once you discover your purpose, I encourage you to go for it. I can testify that you might not realize your dream right away, but if you keep your commitment alive, eventually, you’ll be living the life of your dreams. When that happens, you’ll look back and be thankful for every time you chose to take one step closer to fulfilling your dreams.

Every morning when I wake up, I’m grateful I stuck with my quest and I’m grateful for the full support of my husband who has been my cheerleader our entire married life. Find your cheerleader, and be a cheerleader to someone else.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back to working on my manuscript. Good luck on making your dreams come true.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Do We Want to Live in a Society Like Nazi Germany?

Barbed Wire Fence

Barbed Wire Fence

“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.” – Bayard Rustin

“Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture.” – Charlotte Bunch

“People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.” – Nelson Mandela

“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” – Pope John Paul II

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refused to hate him.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of the time, I’m a positive person. I believe that humanity is making progress toward more peace, love and fulfillment for all people. I work to see the positive aspects of people and societies. However, there are times I’m brought down to despair by events. Today is one of those days.

This afternoon when I was eating lunch I found articles in both The New Yorker and The Atlantic which were posted on Facebook about Kalief Browder who, when he was 16 years old, was picked up for a theft he didn’t commit. He subsequently spent more than a thousand days (three years) on Rikers Island without a trial and nearly two years of it in solitary confinement. However, he was never brought to trial and eventually he was released, but by that time his life was shattered. While he was being held, he was abused and tortured. Much of this torture and abuse was recorded on tape, so no one can deny it happened.

Last Saturday, June 6th, Kalief Browder committed suicide. He’d finally succeeded after many attempts to kill himself, which were interspersed with attempts to put his life back together. His story came to the attention of celebrities who tried to help him, and who aided in bringing his story to the public, but none of it helped in the end.

When I read the articles about what happened to Kalief, I wept for his pain and for the pain of his family. And I had to ask myself are we’re living in a similar situation to Nazi Germany? We have more people in prison in this country than in any other industrialized country in the world. Most of those in prison are people of color, many convicted of crimes that, in other countries get light sentences. Are these people our Jews? Do we white people think we’re so superior that we have a right to mistreat those who aren’t like us? Are we so afraid of losing our way of life that we attack people who aren’t white? I just want to know how we think that perpetuating violence against anyone is going to make this country better. And I really don’t see how these kinds of acts uphold our Constitution.

Have we become so terrified that we attack black youths who go to a swimming pool, where they have passes, because someone there having a party wants to keep them out? Do we always assume that the person of color is the one who committed the crime? Do we assume that people of color don’t have the same feelings we do? Do we assume that poor people are lazy, that men have the right to abuse women physically and dictate the amount of money they can make and what health procedures they can and can’t choose for themselves, that the rich have some kind of superior wisdom, or that Christians should be the dominant religion in this country?

Today I’ve just had it with people who don’t stop and think rationally. I’m angry with people who aren’t willing to try to understand a situation from the other person’s point of view. I’m tired of people thinking they know what’s best for everyone else, and not stopping to examine their own lives. On the one hand I’m tired, angry and fed up, on the other I know that without the vast contrast between the society we have and the one we want, we’d never do anything to change.

I know there are rays of hope. I’m thankful that there are journalists who have been willing to write about tragedies like the one that happened to Kalief Brower and too many others. People who are willing to stand up and defend women and the poor. I’m grateful for people like Jackson Katz, who is an Anti-sexism educator, and who gave a TED talk titled “Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue.” If you can go watch his talk because he talks about how the dominant culture, sexes and religions can become invisible within the discourse of a society by assuming that the discourse should concentrate on those being abused rather than the abusers. It’s one way those who are in the dominant position become invisible and retain their power positions. When we don’t talk about them, they are invisible and are safe from scrutiny. The way we talk and use language is so very important.

There are indications that we humans are waking up and some are rocking the boat. And indications that we’re shaking up the status quo. There are those who are pointing out the thinking that has gone unexamined for perhaps centuries. I want to be one of those people. I’m going to pay closer attention to how I talk about these issues, but I’m also going to pay attention to how my friends, family, students, and colleagues talk about them as well. I’m not going to keep my mouth shut any longer. We need to be more tolerant of others who we think aren’t like us, and one way to do that is to take a good look at our thought patterns and own them.

I weep that almost everyday we hear another story about acts of violence because they deteriorate our ability to be sympathetic. Violence begets more violence and fear. The only way to stop it, is to stop it. To allow ourselves to get in touch with our emotions and realize that all human beings share similar feelings. We all want to be seen, heard, and loved just because we exist. I hope you will allow yourself to hear the stories of others and grieve, or rejoice with them.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share this with others.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Why I Left Organized Religion

Grace Cathedral Window

Grace Cathedral Window

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama

“True religion is real living; living with all one’s goodness and righteousness.” – Albert Einstein

Rarely do I talk or write about my break, twenty-five years ago, with organized religion but recently two things happened that made me feel the need to tell my story.

Recently, former President Jimmy Carter announced he is leaving the Baptist Church behind because it has lost its message of love and the Pew Research Center released a report about the decline of all organized religions in the U.S. You can follow the links to read the articles for yourself. When I read those stories, I wasn’t surprised.

My quest for a deeper connection to God began the day I was confirmed into the church. Several generations of my family had been members and that is the reason I joined. I was eight years old. My father, a lay minister in the church, had baptized me the week before and on that Sunday, my father and Al Gardner, another minister in our congregation, placed their hands on my head to bless and confirm me as a member of the church. The moment they touched me, I felt a loving presence surround and permeate my body and I knew it was God. I felt such peace. There was no question in my mind that God and I were friends and would have or perhaps already had had a long relationship with each other.

As I grew up, I forget my connection with God often getting caught up in the events happening around me. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, a very turbulent time. My ego sometimes convinced me that its message was better or stronger than God’s. However, God was always there with open loving arms whenever I remembered S/He was there. Every valuable thing I’ve learned throughout my life is because of my conversations with God.

Over the years I grew to understand that I’m connected to everything that exists, but that each individual must make their own discoveries about who they are and what their purpose is in the grand scheme of this thing we call life.

When I began college, I decided to study religion. I wanted to know all I could about the relationship between humans and the divine. My studies were both joyous and deeply distressing. Each religion began from a pure message that we must love ourselves and one another, but then power hungry men developed doctrines to control the members of their particular brand of religion. Each religion claimed to be THE ONE TRUE FAITH and the original message got distorted causing great conflicts. Many terrible acts of violence throughout the centuries have been committed in God’s name. I didn’t understand the purpose of it all. All I knew was I had to keep my connection to God open and I had to keep searching.

After my husband finished his degree and we moved to Portland, Oregon we were happy with our church duties for a time. We’d chosen Portland because it was one of the more progressive areas of the country and within the church as well. But things changed within the church and our local congregation and my husband and I began to feel like round pegs trying to fit into square holes. The only way we could describe how we were feeling at the time was that we wanted “more” out of our spiritual life. More than the church encouraged and more than any religion that we knew of seemed to offer.

A member of our congregation suggested we read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. Reading that book was the beginning of the end of our commitment to the church. After that we read in rapid succession, Out on a Limb by Shirley MacLaine, Quantum Healing by Deepak Chopra, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav and Awakening to Zero Point by Gregg Braden, which he later rewrote and I think is now titled Fractal Time.

In our deliberations about leaving the church we waffled a great deal. First of all, there was the tradition of our family connection to the church. Then there was the uncertainty of where to go from there? Attending church every Sunday morning, going to church camps and retreats and having a spiritual community were compelling reasons to stay. But two things happened to help us break the ties that held us once and for all. First, we attended two or three spiritual growth retreats developed and offered, ironically, by a minister in our church. He had been a dear friend of our parents and we were so hungry for spiritual connection and answers to our dilemma, that we gladly signed up.

The spiritual growth retreats were designed to be silent for the most part. There were short sessions where we were taught various journaling techniques designed to enhance our skills in listening to God’s voice. We learned meditation and were encouraged to be silent out in nature and wherever we went as often as possible. In fact, each participant had a cabin all to themselves so we could have a quiet place to meditate and contemplate at the end and beginning of each day. Silence during those retreats healed some deeply wounded places in my soul and I will be forever grateful for the various practices I learned during those weekends which I still use today.

The other thing that happened was we had an amazing session with Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversation With God books, who was working as a psychic in Portland at the time. The actual sequence of events leading up to my disassociation with the church is now a blur in my mind because one aha led to the next in such rapid succession, but I can say without question seeing Neale was the most profound experience of all.

We’d found Neale’s card on the bulletin board in the dressing room at Common Ground Communal Hot Tubs. A church friend of ours cleaned the place and got free tickets, which she shared with us. Our friend and her husband, my husband and I would go soak and talk every two or three weeks or so. I remember on one visit I saw Neale’s business card, pointed at it and Barry nodded. We took down the number and made the appointment. This was really going out on a limb for us. We felt like we were entering woo woo land. But, Neale’s voice and manner of speaking was so kind and gentle. He was open and accepting and the things he said to us rang true in our hearts. The main thing he said was that we were wasting our talents and that we were embarking on an exciting spiritual journey. That was the confirmation we needed to hear. It wasn’t long after that that we relinquished all our responsibilities within our congregation and stopped attending church.

For awhile we searched for a new spiritual home. We attended Silent Friends meetings, the local Unity Church, and a mega New Thought church. None of them felt like home for long. One of the ministers at the New Thought church once said in a sermon, “Religion should be in the business of putting itself out of business. It should give each individual the foundation to establish their own personal spiritual practice.” That’s what my husband and I came to understand was what we had longed for all those years. We wanted a deep personal relationship with God in which we could shed all the things that don’t serve us or the world. We wanted to allow ourselves to be instruments in God’s hands.

I’m deeply grateful for the foundation I received from my spiritual upbringing in the church of my family. It was within the church that I understood that I could have a personal relationship with God. My daily spiritual practice is deeply enriching to my life, however, I know now I don’t need all the trappings of religion to be the conduit between me and God. It seems to me that the Pew research might indicate that there are others who feel the same way I do.

Thank you for reading this long post. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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What’s in a Word?

December Sunrise

December Sunrise

“The mind that opens up to a new idea never returns to its original size.” – Albert Einstein

“We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.” – Janis Ian

“If man understood that ‘what I create has nothing to do with what anybody else is creating’ then he wouldn’t be so afraid of what others are doing.” – Abraham

“People who are given whatever they want soon develop a sense of entitlement and rapidly lose their sense of proportion.” – Sarah Churchwell

I have a double major BA, Religious Studies and Theatre and Speech, and I have a MA in Theater Arts. I don’t write that to brag. I write it to let you know that I have lots of experience with the use of words and how they can be used to bend a group of people to a certain point of view.

Words are symbols for ideas. Duh, you might say, but there are two different meanings ascribed to the words we use. There is the denotative, or dictionary meaning and there is the connotative meaning, or the meaning we attach to a word. Some words set off deep emotions within us. And sometimes those emotions are used to bend us to a certain point of view. The people who are doing the bending, don’t always have our best interests at heart. In fact, most of the time they don’t.

Let me give you some examples of words that have been given a new connotative meaning through propaganda. Patriot, liberal, conservative, and entitlement. Those are words we twist in propaganda messages to attack those we don’t like or want to keep in a weakened position. I guess, in that case, we should include in the list, propaganda and persuasion. They are both very powerful ways to sway people to your way of thinking, but they use very different tactics. Look up the words patriot, liberal, conservative, and entitlement for yourself. What does the dictionary say they mean? And do they mean what you think they mean?

I would like to comment on the difference between persuasion and propaganda. When I taught English, we studied the difference between propaganda and persuasion. I wanted my students to begin to think critically about the messages they get through the media.

Persuade: 2. to induce to believe by appealing to reason or understanding; convince.

Propaganda: 1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. 2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

The difference between persuasion and propaganda is clear in the dictionary meanings. But it seems to me that most people don’t do the critical thinking necessary to determine whether what is said in the media, by politicians, the clergy, the business person, banker, or clerk at the grocery store is in fact using persuasion or propaganda.

And that brings me to the current unrest in the world. Accusations are hurled like swarms of bees, but is the buzz the words make true or is it manufactured? Have you bothered to investigate what’s being said? We’re at a critical time in human history where we can destroy ourselves or we can change the world for the better. Which do you hope for? If you want the world to be a peaceful, loving place in which to live, then you need to start to examine the ideas expressed in the books and articles you read, the news you listen to, and even the things your friends say. Our country was founded on debate, but it doesn’t help if you only listen to the words that make you feel comfortable, or that support the way you’ve been indoctrinated to think.

One of my favorite movies is The American President, written by Aaron Sorkin. In that movie two characters, the president, and one of his aides are arguing about whether or not the president should make counter comments to the attacks by the man who is his primary challenger for president in the next election. President Shepard says, “Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. The drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

I urge you not to be one of the ones who doesn’t know the difference between the sand and the water. I hope you’re someone who questions everything you read and hear that have to do with the myriad of important issues we face. Examine not only the meaning behind the words people use, but their intent in using them. We can’t afford to be lazy and let things happen to us. We need to be challenging the way we think so we can create a new way of being in the world with our new thoughts.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Discipline

Barry's pottery

Barry’s pottery

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” – Jim Rohn

“Confidence comes from discipline and training.” – Robert Kiyosaki

“Winners embrace hard work. They love the discipline of it, the trade-off they’re making to win. Losers, on the other hand, see it as punishment. And that’s the difference.” – Lou Holtz

“For those who have been trained by it, no discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful…” – Bobby McFarrin, “Discipline” from Medicine Music

Lately I’ve been thinking a great deal about discipline for various reasons. Some are related to my work as a writer, others have to do with my work as a college instructor, others have to do with my spiritual work. My thoughts are too many and convoluted to enumerate here. However, I want to share some of the things I’ve gleaned from my thinking.

It takes discipline to:

Discover your purpose.

To make your dreams come true.

To educate yourself.

To change your perceptions.

To change from complaining all the time, to being happy each and every day.

To feel empathy by walking in another persons shoes.

We can choose self-discipline or we can choose the opposite.

It takes NO discipline to:

Complain.

To be angry about events outside your control.

To hate those who are different from ourselves.

To blame others for our circumstances.

To roll up in a ball and let fear overtake us.

Whichever we choose, we are responsible for our choices no matter how much we’d like to blame others.

It seems to me humanity is at a cosmically important crossroads. Do you want to, as Wayne Dyer says, die with your music still in you?

If you want a better world in which to live you must choose one way or the other.

If you want to have a happier life, remember what Dr. Christiane Northrup says, “Rather than think you need to go on an archaeological dig into your past, just look at your life in the present moment to see what your past beliefs have created.”

Do you like where you’re living? If not consider employing discipline which is choosing to take one step toward who you want to be, then another step, and another. One day you’ll be glad you started the journey. And remember that every lesson you learn, adds to the advancement of the human race.

Which path do you choose?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Joie de Vivre

Calla Lilies

Calla Lilies

“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.” – Tony Robbins

“Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.” – Joseph Campbell

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Tuesday is the day I write my weekly blog. Sometimes it’s a struggle to express the things I’ve been thinking about over the last week. Today is especially difficult because it’s the day I’ve finished the grading for the classes that just ended yesterday. Some semesters go smoothly and all my students receive passing grades but as with this semester, sometimes I have students who fail. When that happens, I am tempted to blame myself for their failure. But, the other day I watched the Super Soul Sunday with Dr. Christiane Northrup and something she said was particularly appropriate for how I’m feeling today. She said something like, “If I feel the need to fix other people, that’s my addiction. Each person must find their own way.” Sometimes I want to fix my students and force them to succeed. I felt like that this semester. But that doesn’t help anyone.

I guess I come by it naturally because for most of my life I’ve been a fixer. In fact that was my role in the family. So when my students, friends or family struggle, I’m tempted to help them find their way out of the darkness. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve learned that the best way to help someone through their dark times is just to be there for them. If I do the fixing for them, it never lasts because it’s as if I don’t trust them to be strong enough to fix their own lives.

It’s interesting that I have such a deep pull toward helping others when most often I keep my own council. For most of my life I’ve felt I had help beyond who or what I could see and I’ve trusted it to guide me. When I was quite young, I felt that one day I would find a deep love of life even when what was happening on the outside wasn’t so very happy.

Now my life is becoming more and more joyful. I wake up every morning excited about the day ahead. So, when Dr. Northrup also said, “Getting older is inevitable, aging is optional,” I felt like she was talking about my life. We choose whether or not to shrivel up and become old, or we choose to learn from the things that happen to us and find a joy in life. Other times we choose to give up and fail. But that’s never the end. We can always make a new choice and transform our lives. That’s grace.

I hope that my students who failed my class will understand that one, two or even twenty failures doesn’t define who they are. There is so much more to each of us than anyone, even we, can see. Digging deep inside to find that larger part of us is what will eventually bring joy to our lives.

This post feels like it’s a bunch of gobbledeeguck, but if there is one thing I hope you get out of it, it’s this: keep plugging along. Keep looking for the things that make you happy. Keep choosing to love, rather than be angry, hurt and upset. Keep telling yourself you’re worthy and one day you’ll find joie de vivre, the joy in living as I have done. When one person finds that, they leave bread crumb clues for those who come along behind.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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On Creative Criticism

April Morning Rose

April Morning Rose

“I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.” – Johannes Kepler

“The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.” – Elbert Hubbard

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” – Frank A. Clark

After five years of working on my first novel, The Space Between Time, I felt I needed to have some help identifying places where it needed to be tightened up, scenes dumped, or characters clarified. I needed a second, third or more set of eyes to help me improve upon what I’d written. Having someone critique your work is a scary proposition. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. It’s scary but it’s necessary. At least it is for writers.

There are several things to consider when you send your work out for critique. The biggest thing you have to keep in check is your ego. This is a hard one, believe me. An artist puts their heart and soul, and a great deal of time into the thing they’ve created. A writer friend of mine, who is one of the people I asked to critique my book, spent twenty years working on her first novel! (Shameless promotion here: The novel is The Sweet Trade by Debrah Strait and well worth your time reading. It’s about five boys in the Caribbean in the mid-1600s who are tragically orphaned. After being sold into indentured servitude, they must become pirates to survive. The twenty years Debrah spent on writing it make it a treasure for the reader. You can find it at Smashwords, Amazon and other books sellers.)

Anyway, back to my friend Debrah, it took her an extremely long time to finish her book because she had a full-time job. She told me that when she thought it was finished, she sent it out to publishers and entered it in contests. Each time she got comments back, the advice she got for changes were sometimes things she didn’t want to hear. Boy could I relate to that one. But she said she took time to consider the changes that were being suggested. She compared them to the story she was trying to tell. In her heart she knew which suggestions were right and those are the changes she made.

As Debrah and other writers have said, sometimes people try to belittle you with their comments. Who knows why they do it. Don’t listen to them! But the bottom line is that not even all friendly suggestions you get for changes will add to what you’re trying to do. So you have to consider each correction carefully and use only those that enhance the message you’re trying to convey with your story. Which leads to the next thing to consider when evaluating criticism: You are the expert!

This is your work of art. Only you know what you want your audience to get out of the piece. You are the one who sits long hours crafting each character and each thing that happens to them. You’re the one who contemplates your story while you’re doing something else. Only you, know what it is that’s trying to come through to be manifest as art. Since this is the case, once you’ve given your work to those you trust, you must keep your own counsel about which suggestions you’ll use and which you’ll let go.

Keeping your own counsel brings us full circle back to the ego. Our ego thinks it’s in control of everything we do. It sees criticism as attack. It’s important to keep in mind that’s usually not the case with your friends, family and other writers, especially writers. They know exactly how vulnerable you’re feeling. At least that’s what I’ve found. Letting go of your ego is a goal you accomplish a little at a time. But like anything that makes us grow, there will be times when we feel pain or discomfort. However, a great thing will happen if you choose vulnerability. You’ll find cheerleaders, people who see potential in your work and who will help you feel good about making necessary changes.

I’m grateful for all the people who’ve read and commented on my manuscript. They were taking a risk that I would get mad and never speak to them again. Fortunately that wasn’t the case and I’m ready to move on to the next phase of revising and polishing my novel.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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On Empathy and Courage

Welcoming Jean

Welcoming Jean

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” – Lao Tzu

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee

“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” – Stephen Covey

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin

I had a very different blog post in mind for today, but in light of all that’s going on around the world, I have to return to an idea I write upon often in my posts. That is: that the only way to heal the world is by healing ourselves first.

With the riots going on in Baltimore, the terrorist threats around the world, the battle over rights for the poor, gays, and women we’re living in the middle of a war zone. Our instinct is to wall ourselves off, attack before being attacked and blame people and societal forces for all the bad things that happen to us personally and out in the world. The answer to solving our problems, however, is to do the opposite of what we’ve always done. We must learn to be empathetic.

Perhaps I’m an advocate for using empathy as a healing tool because I’m an empath. I was born that way so I can’t help it. But I’m with Neil deGrasse Tyson, empathy can be taught. You don’t have to be born that way. He advocates teaching empathy as part of our school curriculum. It’s the only way we’ll change the world for the better. For those of us who are adults, we’ve got to teach ourselves how to climb inside another person’s skin and walk around in it for awhile. Choosing to be empathetic takes courage.

My first reaction to the riots in Baltimore when I heard about them, was to condemn the rioters. But then I reminded myself to step back and try to understand why they feel so much rage. I could condemn anyone who turns to violence rather than looking for common ground to solve the issues but like my Dad used to say, “People who lash out at others are in so much pain they think that attacking others will help them get rid of it.” The thing is, that never works. I know because I’ve attacked people thinking the attack was deserved and that I’d feel better afterwards but I always felt worse.

There’s a great quote from the movie Ben-Hur that illustrates why violence never works. (I love picking up little gems of wisdom from movies and books.) Esther, the woman Ben Hur loves, says to him, “I know there is a law in life, that blood gets more blood as dog begets dog. Death generates death, as the vulture breeds the vulture!” We know that violence begets more violence, but for some reason we don’t stop ourselves. We attack others in big and small ways insanely thinking that we’ll get rid of our rage, that people will listen, that things will change for the better. The only way things will get better is if we feel empathy for others, forgive and stop attacking.

Healing is about forgiving ourselves and everyone we think injured us. Forgiveness is letting go of blaming and needing apologies. Forgiveness is about seeing the light of God in another person even if they can’t see it in themselves. We have to allow ourselves to understand that every human being longs for complete love and understanding just like we do. The best way to get that love and understanding is to give it away to others then it will come back to us.

I know it takes courage to go against the majority way of thinking. I know it’s scary to show empathy to a person who is in a great deal of pain and who might lash out. But the alternative is for violence to escalate. I’m tired of that, aren’t you? We’re at a turning point and only you can decide what you’ll do.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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