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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