Am I Too Nice?

Octavia E. Butler At a Book Signing

“Being nice doesn’t necessarily mean you’re weak. You can be nice and be strong at the same time. That’s a character trait that we need more in Washington.” ~ Shelley Moore Capito

“Certain people are like ‘Oh, here come the Feminazis!’ You end up acting 10 time nicer than you even need to be, to be the opposite of the stereotype like ‘You’re the man haters!’ We’re always bending over backwards being extra nice. And I don’t know if being nice is my legacy.” ~ Kathleen Hanna

“All that you touch, you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God is Change.” ~ Earthseed: The Books of the Living, from Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Today a bunch of things I’ve listened to and read have collided in my heart and head. The collision brought tears to my eyes. I’ve been living in a kind of cocoon for the last few years only going out occasionally to teach a class, or go grocery shopping, have a date with my husband, or meet with my writer friends. For the most part it’s been lovely. On the other hand there have been times when I’ve felt like I was stagnating. Today it feels like big changes are coming to my life, that I’m going to break out of my safe little nest and move into something I never expected would happen to me.

One of the shifts that I know I have to make is to just let my real feelings spew out onto the page. Since I’m highly sensitive, I almost ALWAYS think twice before I speak or write. One particular time when I didn’t, I hurt someone and made them angry. Since I’ve been hurt so many times in my life, I don’t want to be the cause of pain for anyone else. But today I realize that I can’t control that, because deciding whether or not to be hurt by what I say or write isn’t up to me. It’s in the hands of the people I interact with. So here goes, I’m going to attempt to be totally honest about a couple of things I’ve been thinking about.

Last week I wrote about finally finding a label for my spiritual and religious beliefs. That word is Omnism. It’s the idea that truth doesn’t reside in just one religion, but that it can be found in all religions. That word describes my deepest feelings perfectly. Since I wrote that post, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about truth. It can be found not just in religions but in lots of places, if we are looking and listening deeply enough. I found it today while listening to Anne Bogel interview poet, Amena Brown on the “What Should I Read Next” podcast.

Amena was describing what it was like for her to write her poems and how that is completely different than writing the nonfiction book she has coming out in November. I was in tears because everything she said broke open my soul. The discussion was funny and light, but also so honest. In a flip of the emotional coin, I knew that the reason my book of essays that I have been working on has been falling flat is because I was hiding my true inner reality. For some reason it’s easier for me to be honest when writing fiction, but even there I have to work hard not to be too easy on my characters, and not to shy away from the darkness they feel when bad things happen to them.

Though I’ve been trying to be more open emotionally in these posts, I often continue to hide behind nice words and sentiments. But I can’t fool myself any longer. I’m almost as mad as hell as Peter Finch in the movie Network, and I’m not going to take it any more. This anger has been building for many months. One part of me knows that the way things are going in the world right now is leading toward an eventual awakening of humanity, and an overhaul of our systems of government, business, education, and all the rest. But I’m completely exhausted by the violence, and total disregard for human life running rampant in almost every aspect of our current reality. We’re in such a dark place of fear that it’s really difficult for me to feel that we might actually find the light at the end of the tunnel.

I want to be one of the people persisting in shining the light of love, but I’ve been afraid to go out and participate in those demonstrations because of my hyper empathy. That’s a term I learned from reading the book, Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler. The main character is hyper empathetic because her mother took a certain drug while she was pregnant with her. She not only feels other people’s emotions, she feels their physical pains as well. When she was really young she even bled with the injured person. There are times when I feel like that, like I’ve been shot, or my head bashed in, or I’ve been betrayed by loved ones, or even the system.

I’m almost half way through Octavia Butler’s book. It’s almost a prophecy of what could happen to our society if we don’t examine our fear and look for ways to heal ourselves. It’s so dark that I nearly put the book back on the shelf last night. I didn’t think I could finish it. And yet, the main character, Lauren, has connected to profound truths about God that she hopes to share once she leaves her walled in neighborhood. What she has written about God, has touched me deeply.

When I heard the podcast with Anne and Amena, I knew I had to finish reading the book. Lauren has found a way out of the darkness. Maybe I will too if I finish reading.

Another insight came to me as I listened to Anne and Amena talk. I’m still ticked about things that happened to me while I was in college. Today’s insights actually began when I read the book, A Brief History of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice. by Jack Holland.

I have always been deeply interested in the mysteries of God and the spirit world. So, it was natural that I should study religion when I attended my church college. This was in the mid ‘70s. The population was small, and like small towns, everyone could potentially know everyone else’s business. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when a group of extremely conservative male students, tried to convince me, over a series of weeks or months, (I honestly don’t remember how long this went on.) that because I was a woman, I had no business studying religion. I would never be ordained a minister in the church. I was wasting my time. (A side note: Just a few years later, our church did begin to ordain women into the priesthood.)

Here is where my highly sensitive nature worked against me. I was furious with those young men. I wanted to tell them to piss off and leave me the hell alone. I wanted to yell and scream at the injustice of being a woman with road blocks in my way and nasty people telling me how to live my life. But I didn’t. I was a good girl. I didn’t want to cause them the same pain they were causing me, so I stuffed those feelings. I engaged them intellectually countering their Bible quotes with other Bible quotes, and with discoveries in Biblical Criticism. And I built a trench with a resolve to stay on the front lines until they gave up and went away. Which they eventually did. But rage had taken up residence in every cell of my body. It was eating me up. I deceived myself for a long time that I was fine. That I had won, having graduated with my religion degree, and I need never think of that chapter in my life again.

It was reading, The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck that woke me up. I did a great deal of personal work to heal that rage. And I thought I’d finished until I read, A Brief History of Misogyny. Wow, I’m still holding remnants of anger, and the situation with the GOP declaring a war on women is bringing it all up again.

I still don’t have a clear idea of what I’m going to do to persist in asserting that men have been in charge long enough, and that it’s time men and women learned to work together as equals.

I do know that the ideas for my sequel to The Space Between Time are crystalizing in interesting ways. Jenna and Morgan are going to engage as advocates for women in their separate time periods. Their story lines are becoming more clear in my mind. I’m excited to get off of the hump I’ve been stuck on for these last few months and be able to move forward with the book.

Maybe I never will be a marcher. Maybe I’ll work one on one, or in small groups with women to heal their wounds through journaling or through activism, or creating artwork. I don’t know. I just know I feel the Change coming and maybe that Change is God.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and will soon be available in a print-on-demand version at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Literature and the Human Soul

Classic Books
Classic Books

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain … To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” ~ Kevyn Aucoin

“Literature must rest always on a principle, and temporal considerations are no principle at all. For, to the poet, all times and places are one; the stuff he deals with is eternally the same: no theme is inept, no past or present preferable.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“I found that dance, music, and literature is how I made sense of the world … it pushed me to think of things bigger than life’s daily routines … to think beyond what is immediate or convenient.” ~ Mikhail Baryshnikov

“I pray for the change in perception that will let me see bigger and sweeter realities.” ~ Anne Lamott

This past weekend I uploaded the first episode of my “Loving Literature” series. I’ve been having so much fun learning iMovie, finding the photos, writing the copy, and recording the talking head and voiceover segments. It’s a joy to wake up feeling energized, to know that I get to work on the videos and my writing. Why did I wait so long to allow myself to have this much fun?

As I’ve been working on the series, I’ve refined my ideas about why literature is so important to me. Over these last years of writing, a transformation, or perhaps a revelation has been going on in my consciousness. This revelation has been like chipping away pieces of marble to get to the sculpture living inside the stone, or maybe it’s cutting the jewel to reveal the fire within. Whatever the process has been, I’m coming to understand in a profound way why authors, poets, and playwrights feel compelled to write. We need to convey to our audience and ourselves the depths of what it means to be a human being.

This feeling about literature began to gel during Thanksgiving weekend as I talked with my second cousin about my video project. He’s a mathematician, and has a very different idea of how the world works than I. He told me he doesn’t understand literature. That got me thinking about different personality types and how we are each oriented to view the world in unique ways. I couldn’t articulate why I felt literature was so important during that discussion. But it got me thinking. Today I can. In posts earlier this fall, I said that the idea for the videos came to me because of some students who were struggling with reading, but it’s really more than that. The arts provide us with a way to change our perception of the world.

Now don’t get me wrong. I admire people who can do math and see the connections between numbers and abstract ideas. We need those kinds of people to help us figure out so many things, but there is no equation that can reveal the pain, fear, frustration, compassion, joy, or love humans experience every day. Mathematics is a function of the mind. Literature reveals what is going on in someone’s heart. And that’s what compels me to write my blog, books, and do this video series. I want to help people understand a little bit more about what it means to be a human being, and maybe even why we’re here interacting with each other.

I know that we each live in our own little universe and see the world in a unique way. From my viewpoint, it is through reading and watching plays and movies that I can get a glimpse into the way someone else experiences life. When that happens, my world view expands. I cherish the times when I open up to a new perspective. Somehow the connection between me and everything else on the planet deepens and I feel great joy in that moment. I want to help foster those kinds of experiences in others. It seems to me that feeling empathy for each other is something we need very badly right now. That’s the purpose of my video series.

In case you are interested in seeing what I’ve created, here is the link to the introduction video on YouTube. I hope you’ll go watch, and subscribe to my channel.

If you would like to join my email list to receive notifications of new additions to the series, or information about my soon to be published novel, The Space Between Time, you can join by using this link.

Thanks for reading. Welcome to my new followers. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times

Cover art for A Tale of Two Cities
Cover art for A Tale of Two Cities

“The truth is, we are all one connected thing.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” ~ Albert Camus

“Countless scientific studies show that steeling yourself against the negative, preparing for the worst, actually puts you on a trajectory heading straight for the very thing you’re hoping to escape.” ~ Pam Grout, Thank and Grow Rich

I don’t believe in coincidence, so when Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey recently offered a new meditation series and it was titled “Creating Peace from the Inside Out”, I knew it was just what I needed to ease my frazzled nerves from the din of the election noise. The meditations went right along with the Pam Grout books I’ve been reading, E Squared, E Cubed, and Thank and Grow Rich. They are all about changing our focus from always seeing the negative things around us, to finding the abundant beauty that most of us miss everyday.

Here is an example: As I began this post, the sun was just coming up. I love to watch the sunrises and sunsets here in Arizona. I can’t get enough of them, and my photos file proves it. I love them because, you see, I lived in Portland, Oregon for fifteen years prior to moving here. As my father used to say of living on the western side of the Cascade Mountains, “It just get’s light, then it gets dark.” There is almost constant cloud cover. Okay, I haven’t been back in twenty years since global warming has changed climates everywhere. They may see the sun more often now, but while living there I never saw the lavender tinge to the sky on the opposite horizon when the sun was rising or setting. It’s just one of the pleasures of living where the sun shines almost every day.

Another pleasure of living in the desert is the night sky. Every night that I drive home from teaching my class, I stop outside my car before going into the house and look at the abundance of stars. We’re lucky to live in the country where there is little light pollution.

I have to say I do miss the proliferation of flowers in Portland in the spring, and how the gorgeous colors make up for the gray skies. I especially miss the pink dogwood tree that my husband gave me for my birthday. I loved watching it bloom as I worked in the kitchen. I must now keep the beauty of that tree in my mind.

Since doing the twenty-two meditations and reading Pam Grout’s books, I now wake up grateful for a new day and all the blessings it will bring. When I’m feeling down, I listen to “Happy” by Pharell Williams, (Right after the election I listened to it about twenty times one day when I was feeling particularly off balance.) or some other happy song. I watch happy movies and TV shows and I’ve decided to stay away from negative posts on social media. Thankfully, I gave up watching the news years ago. In short, I’ve decided to follow my inclinations to spread, and feel as much joy as I can.

To this end, I’m focusing on my latest fun creative project, my video series, “Loving Literature.” It’s so much fun learning to create and edit the videos. (It’s much more work than you might think watching the finished products.)

Originally the series was going to focus mostly on tutorials, but lately I’ve been thinking of books I’ve read that have inspired me, and I want to include them in the series as well. The first of these books was A Tale of Two Cities. I read it and Jane Eyre in senior English class many years ago. They ignited my love of British literature. As I was thinking of A Tale of Two Cities, it struck me that we could use that title for the times in which we are living.

If we focus on just the negative, it is the worst of times. But if we turn our attention slightly it can also be said to be the best of times. In the two weeks since the election, I’ve read of people being attacked and then others coming to their rescue, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood and other such organizations are enjoying an increase in donations and memberships. I choose to be grateful for those and so many other blessings big and small. It’s amazing how many blessings I’ve found since I decided to look for them.

Yesterday I was thinking about how in the end of A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton gives his life so that Lucy’s husband Charles Darnay may live. He does it out of love for her. On the night before his execution, he imagines the joy that his death will bring the couple as they raise their children and honor him for what he did for them. He imagines the good they and their children will bring to the world. In fact, that was the thing that grasped me about the book, how love can change people. Amidst all the chaos and violence of the French Revolution, Sydney Carton was redeemed.

Though it sometimes feels odd to do so, I have begun sending love to Mr. Trump, his cronies, the KKK and any other people and places where strife is happening. My prayers join with those of others doing the same thing. It becomes an invisible force for good and hopefully more and more people will join in and accelerate the change which is already happening.

I didn’t mean to get so preachy. It’s difficult to express how deeply I’m affected by current events, and how I gain comfort from what I’ve read, the guidance I receive during meditation, and from the beauty around me. I share my thoughts with all of you in the hope that maybe you too will find the kindness, love, and beauty that can be found everywhere we look.

Thanks to my new followers for joining me, and thanks to you all for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

It’s An Opportunity

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

Like many people I thought that once the elections were over, we would have some peace from the political insanity. Nope. Not gonna to happen. But maybe that’s a good thing.

Like many of you, I’m exhausted. But I just keep thinking that I have to continue plugging along trying in my small way to make changes for the better. I’ve got to continue to spread love where I can and continue to work on myself so that my peace can contribute to the peace of the world. Okay all that sounds grandiose but I have decided that I can’t give in or give up. I’ve worked all my life on making small changes in my life. I will continue to do so.

I must admit that my head is still reeling from the outcome of the elections, not that I was all that surprised. I feel the hatred, anger and rising up of frustrated people all over this country. It’s as if we’re mobilizing for war but this is war of a different kind. It’s a revolution for the little people.

It’s difficult to think coherently about what the future might hold. I’m scared but determined too. It’s one thing to read about such monumental times in history with all the good changes brought about by events. It’s another to live in such times. All I can do is cling to the thoughts of some great people and try to follow their examples. Here are some that I’m contemplating so I can marshal myself to stand up to hate.

“Peace begins with a smile.” ~ Mother Teresa

“The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life.” ~ Gary Zukav

“What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.” ~ Wayne Dyer

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I’ve come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“I think if you follow anyone home, whether they live in Houston or London, and you sit at their dinner table and talk to them about their mother who has cancer or their child who is struggling in school, and their fears about watching their lives go by, I think we’re all the same.” ~ Brené Brown

“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that.” ~ Princess Diana

“The struggle of my life created empathy – I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

I don’t remember who said that we’re all just doing the best we can all the time, but I think that’s right. And though it goes against my learned feelings, I have to give the people who oppose my point of view the same love and understanding as those who agree with me. I don’t have all the answers, and I mess up plenty of times. Yet, helping one person, then another and another makes me feel better. Maybe it makes them feel better too.

Thanks for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Words, Words, Words

Classic Books
Classic Books

“I never feel lonely if I’ve got a book – they’re like old friends. Even if you’re not reading them over and over again, you know they are there. And they’re part of your history. They sort of tell a story about your journey through life.” ~ Emilia Fox

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~ Will Rogers

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

It’s ironic that someone like me, who loves solitude should also love words both spoken and read. Or maybe it’s that I love stories. Stories in all forms, visual, aural, and on the page touch my soul. I just finished reading a fascinating book series by Marissa Meyer using the fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White and weaving them together in a Sci-Fi/fantasy world where the evil queen is ruler of Luna but wants to conquer Earth. After finishing the first book, Cinder. I was hooked and now that I’ve finished the last book, Winter, I can’t stop thinking about the characters and events of the books. I highly recommend them for all you Sci-Fi/fantasy lovers out there.

The fact that I’m having a hard time letting go of the story of these four strong women characters got me thinking about other novels, or short stories that have had a deep impact on me. So for today’s post, I thought I’d share an abbreviated list of my all-time favorite books.

The first book of quality that grasped me was A Tale of Two Cities. The character of Sydney Carton is my favorite from the book. He’s a flawed character who redeems himself by taking Charles Darnay’s place to face the guillotine during the French Revolution. The speech he gives as he faces his death is one of the classics for all time. I love the theme that people can change, and in the direst of circumstances make a difference, no matter how small. This book ignited my love of British literature, both classic and modern.

Later, my perspective of the world changed when I read first Roots and shortly after Shogun. Both books put me into the heads of characters who lived in very different cultures and circumstances than I did and I still feel their influence to this day. Who could have read, or seen Roots and still think slavery was a tenable practice? When I read it with one of my English classes, my students were just as appalled at what the slaves experienced as I was. It’s a book that helps the reader develop empathy, and that makes it a classic in my mind. Any book that can give the reader new insights speaks a universal language for the ages.

In recent years I have been deeply affected by each of the books in the Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Outlander series, and I loved The Book Thief, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Go Set A Watchman. Each of those books showed the strength and resilience of the women main characters, a trend I love.

In general I don’t read short stories often because I like to take my time and savor the story, but one collection that changed my perception of spirituality was The Way of the Wolf: The Gospel in New Images by Martin Bell. It was first published in 1968. I discovered it in the early 80s when I was still very involved in church. One story in particular continues to influence my thinking. It’s “What the Wind Said to Thajir”. In the very short story, Thajir, a young boy, goes out to play. He loves the wind. On the fall day in the story, the wind speaks to Thajir and shares three great life secrets with him, everything that is is good, at the center of things life belongs to life, and that the meaning and purpose of life is in dying on behalf of the world. Recent events have brought back to mind the importance of these three great secrets. For that reason, I read the story again to refresh my memory of the important message shared in the story.

What I look for when I read a book, is to get inside someone else’s world and experience it with them. A book that allows me to get inside a character’s head to feel their confusion, fear, despair, awakening and finally growth is to me the epitome of a great story. There are so many superb books that I’ve read that I continue to think about long after I’ve read them. Too many to mention here. If I’m still thinking about a book years after I’ve read it, that’s the sign of a great author.

I understand that we all come into this world with different agendas and points of view, so these books I’ve mentioned might not speak to you the way they do me. That’s okay as long as we each remain open to new ideas however they come to us, that’s the point. The people I’m concerned for are those with closed minds who think they already have all the knowledge they need. Hopefully they are few and far between.

I hope you will share some of your favorite books in the comments below. I’m always looking for the next life changing book.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Life Lessons

At rehearsal for The Tavern
At rehearsal for The Tavern

“It is a universal principle that you get more of what you think about, talk about, and feel strongly about.” ~ Jack Canfield

“I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others.” ~ Muhammad Ali

The other day I had an encounter that woke me up to the fact that I’m a helper, and not always in a good way.

Being a helper is a good skill to have if you’re a teacher but not so good if you’re in a group of business owners and creatives. One of my strengths is helping people make connections. Connections between disparate bits of information, or connections between people and resources. But the other day, I overstepped my bounds and made someone angry, understandably so. This person rankled when I made suggestions about connections she could make for her business. She then turned the tables on me telling me about a course she had taken that I might need. When I responded that I didn’t really need the class, she asked me if I was teachable. Baffled by her question, I said yes. The encounter stayed with me and I went home to examine what I had done that made our interaction go south. After several days of thinking and meditating, it came to me that I had tried to be a helper, when what she needed was a listener.

This encounter came at a time when I’m actively working on discovering my true self. That means shedding old behaviors and allowing myself to become more open to others. For that reason, I’m grateful that this incident happened because I needed to face a part of myself that I must release. I love the way the universe works, because this morning as I was getting ready to finish this article, I read a post that applies to the above incident.

I follow Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook. Today her post was titled THE ALPHA MARE. She wrote it in response to an online conversation she was having with a woman who wants to lead with an open heart but who has been hurt because of that. To help the woman, Elizabeth cited this information she got from Martha Beck about the psychology of horse herds. Herds of horses are lead by an alpha mare who keeps the herd together. (Apparently the stallions come and go.) The skill the alpha mare exhibits best is boundaries. “She knows exactly who she is, and nobody messes with it. … The alpha mare never lets herself be influenced by another horse’s fears or anxieties or aggression.” When I read that I understood that, as an empathetic person, I often take on other people’s emotions. I haven’t completely mastered setting up good boundaries. So, sometimes I absorb the emotions of others instead of blocking them. Today it hit me that’s part of what I’ve been working on is cleaning up and sweeping out all the cobwebs of other people’s stuff that I’ve been holding onto for years. I’m learning who I really am. I’m learning to set my boundaries so I can be calm in any situation.

And thanks to the above encounter, I realized that I no longer need to be a helper. I can follow my father’s advice and let people figure stuff out for themselves. That’s really the only way we can learn anything valuable anyway. We may meet people along the way who point us in the right direction, but what works for me may not necessarily work for you. That’s as it should be. We’re all trying to figure out what it means to be a human being in our own unique way. I hope I can maintain my empathy, while not taking on the fears and anxieties of others and at the same time be supportive and a good listener. I no longer want to be so arrogant as to think I have the answers for someone else.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

My Father part 4 – Leading by Example

Dad's Birthday
Dad’s Birthday

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Example is leadership.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This past weekend I had a Facebook conversation, if you can call it that, with one of my friends. His politics are conservative judging by his posts and there have been times when he’s posted photos and memes that are, in my opinion, hateful toward Muslims. Sometimes when I see those, I hide them, because the photo or sentiment promotes violence and hatred, and I don’t want them on my feed. I have not unfriended him, because one thing I learned from my father is that the only way to change someone’s mind is to try to understand them and then lead by example.

Now, this person and I only have contact on Facebook. However, I believe social media can be a powerful tool. With it you can spread any message you choose. I choose to try to spread compassion, understanding, kindness and love. I’m not perfect and sometimes I post questions that are nagging at me about our current national dialogue on so many issues. And sometimes I post memes that express something that I hope people will think about.

Thursday, I found this meme on my newsfeed, which I reposted: “There are well over a billion Muslims on this planet. If Islam was really about violence you’d all be dead by now. Stop letting your TV and Newspaper tell you who to hate.” Most of my friends liked the post, however, it set off a firestorm of nasty comments from the above mentioned Facebook friend. I admit it is rather confrontational and unlike me to repost such a thing, but sometimes we do need to state clearly our point of view which this meme did for me.

However, as I was reminded by the debate I set in motion, you can’t change anyone’s mind once they’ve become entrenched in that point of view. My dad used to say that and he was right as I relearned last week. Fortunately for me, this man did not unfriend me. I stopped trying to convince him of my point of view and he did the same. Maybe if I continue to post my viewpoint about treating others with compassion and empathy, eventually he and I will change our feelings toward each other.

I know it seems like there is so much hatred in the world but if you look you can find messages of hope. Saturday I reposted this meme from “Parliament of the World’s Religions,” after the attacks on Brussels. It reads: “If you are not Muslim, say to someone who is: ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ If you do not know a Muslim, meet a Muslim, then say to them: ‘I’m glad you’re here.’” Whoever created this meme is trying to get us to think in new more loving ways instead of continuing to perpetuate retaliation which only exacerbates a situation. Insert any word that describes a group different that you into the meme and be kind not confrontational with them. That’s easier said than done for me when it comes to politics especially since the extreme conservatives have entrenched themselves and are, figuratively speaking, arming themselves for political battle. It’s been like this for almost eight years and the situation seems hopeless. Yet, we can change the situation by taking a new tack. I’ve read two articles recently that give me hope that the tide is changing away from attack to empathy.

The first is from Popular Resistance titled: “History Teaches That We have the Power to Transform the Nation, Here’s How.” The authors, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers published this on June 12, 2013, but it seems even more relevant today and points out all the times in history when regular everyday people banded together to effect huge changes in their societies. Most of their examples are based on non-violent movements, but our country was formed by people banding together and saying, “We want to govern ourselves.” It seems we’re having to do that again. I hope we accomplish it using empathy this time.

Another article I read recently on the same theme of non-violent change, was a much more personal piece published on March 18, 2016 by George Lakey on the Waging Nonviolence website It’s about his experience protesting outside a Trump rally. The title of the article is “How empathy, not protest, can defeat Trump and right-wing extremism.” In the article he asks these questions: where does the violence of the Ku Klux Klan, and by extension other hate groups, come from? And where is empathy honored in our culture? He believes empathy is the vital tool to bridging the gap in the wide divide between political groups. I think he makes some important points in his article. Each side has been attacking the other. That hasn’t worked to solve our problems. Maybe using empathy will.

These are just two examples of people who are advocating that instead of continuing to confront our “enemies”, we should lead by example and use compassion and understanding to create a bridge. I’m all for that and will continue to plant seeds and show compassion and use empathy wherever I can. My first act of compassion is to keep as friends people who don’t agree with me and show as much empathy toward them as I can. Remember, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ~ Lao Tzu. My father was soft when dealing with people. I want to be that too.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Empathy and Mean Memes

Hands of different races
Hands of different races

“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

“The struggle of my life created empathy – I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

“I always think that if you look at anyone in detail, you will have empathy for them because you recognize them as a human being, no matter what they’ve done.” ~ Andrea Arnold

About a week ago I saw this meme on Facebook. “Unpopular opinion: We are not all equal. I worked my ass off to get where I am, I deserve what I have, I shouldn’t have to give up what I’ve worked for to make things equal.” ~ Whisper. When I read this meme, I found it disturbing on several different levels. First of all, it shows a lack of empathy, which I believe to be extremely important in human relations. Second of all, the writer assumes there is not enough abundance to go around which I believe to be completely untrue. We just need to spread the abundance around so everyone has enough.

The other day I was at Target before going to teach my evening class at the college. I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between the man in front of me and the cashier. The customer said that he hoped the cashier’s shift was nearly over, to which the cashier replied, “Nope. I don’t get off until 9:00 tonight … four more hours. And I’m tired. I just came from my other job.” Of course the customer commiserated with the cashier which affected me deeply. I nearly cried. What must that young man’s life be like? Does he have any down time at all? Or is his life going from one job to the next just so he can survive. How horrible. It’s like he’s condemned to a living hell.

We often make the assumption that people who are poor are lazy. I don’t believe that’s true as evidenced by the cashier at Target. It takes a great deal of effort for the less fortunate to make ends meet, which leaves little time for additional education, or looking for a better job, or having fun with family and friends.

When I overheard the conversation in Target, I thought again of the above meme. The writer assumes that some people are more deserving than others. I don’t believe that to be true. We all come from the same place and our country is founded on that very idea. In the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I think what Thomas Jefferson meant was that every single person born on this planet is seen by the Creator as having the same value to every other person, and that VALUE has nothing to do with what we own, the job we have, how hard we work, or anything else which is visible. Our value is something intangible, known to God and only minimally to ourselves.

Most of us are incapable of seeing another person’s or even our own true self. We have no idea who they or we are beyond the tangible things we associate with personhood. That’s the tragedy humans have been trying to overcome since we became the human race. The have nots feel their worth instinctively, while the haves sometimes arrogantly assume they have more worth than anyone else. We hold so tightly onto what we have because we’re afraid of losing it. But our country was founded on the idea that if we share what we have with each other, we all become richer. It has been one attempt to give everyone a chance to be free to navigate their own path and to fulfill their personal destiny. It hasn’t been a perfect experiment as we all know. However, I think, perhaps, we are in a new era of attempting to reset the balance so that everyone can thrive and find their perfect life. It seems to be happening in various ways all over the planet, people standing up for their rights and doing things that change our perspective of what it means to be a person of worth.

In my opinion the solution to our current financial, political, and religious imbalance is to share what abundance we have with each other, to be open and try to understand one another. Compassion and empathy are things each of us can learn. Now when the world is in such turmoil it seems a particularly good time to dedicate ourselves to cultivating both empathy and compassion. It doesn’t take much, just do what Harper Lee wrote in To Kill A Mockingbird. “You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

On Strength and Weakness

It's a Wonderful Life Village
It’s a Wonderful Life Village

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” ~ Bill Bullard

“We think that forgiveness is weakness, but it’s absolutely not; it takes a very strong person to forgive.” ~ T. D. Jakes

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been thinking a great deal about strength and weakness as we approach this most sacred time of the year. We often think that a show of force is strength, as in military retaliation, or getting revenge on our enemies. To me that’s the weakest kind of human interaction. I think strength is having the courage to accept and feel all our emotions. To cry and not be ashamed, to love with abandon, to be kind and compassionate, to feel another’s pain. When we can do that we can effect real change.

While revising my novel, I came to a section where Jenna, one of the main characters, is fired from a position that she thinks is her dream job. That and other life shattering events force her to face herself and who she is meant to become. If her life hadn’t been shaken up in such a cruel way, she would have continued to follow the path she was on and not reached her full potential.

Though the circumstances are different, the situation I wrote for Jenna came from an experience in my own life. I was fired from a much beloved teaching position. It was a political thing. Shortly after I lost that job, I was having breakfast with a friend of mine from the school and I was stunned when she said, “I hate to say this but you were weak and they took advantage of that.” I’ve thought a great deal about that statement over the years because I think my friend is dead wrong.

One of the major lessons I learned from that experience is that we each live in our own little worlds with a set of goals we want to accomplish. We see anybody who stands in the way of achieving those goals as our enemy. In fact one day as I was driving by the turn off to the school I remembered something an actor, I don’t remember who, said when asked why he played so many villains. He squinched up his eyebrows and said, “Well, you know, the villain is the hero of his own story”. I had a huge aha in that moment. I was the villain to my school enemies and they were the villain to me. We had opposing goals and stood in each other’s way to accomplishing them. All of a sudden I thought of those two people differently. They weren’t evil, they were just righting a situation they thought was wrong. I wasn’t supposed to be hired for the job, you see, the daughter was. Someone was going to lose the fight and it was me.

Now I can’t say I forgave them that very day. Oh, no. I wanted to hang on to my anger a while longer. I wanted the situation made right, which meant I wanted them to apologize for wounding me so deeply. I wanted them to see that I was really the better teacher for that position. I wanted my job back. It wasn’t until I gave up wanting a different outcome that I was able to look for what I could learn from the situation. Once I did that I began to make the steps toward forgiveness and toward finding my true purpose in life. In fact it was only a few weeks ago as I was meditating that I saw myself hugging them and telling them they had done me a huge favor and I thanked them for helping me find the most happy and fulfilling life that I now enjoy.

Over those several years when I was struggling to make sense of why my perfect life was shattered, I’ve learned that real power is wielded by the compassionate, the loving, and the empathetic because they are the ones who see the true souls of others. They are the ones who know that who we really are is not the things we own, our bank account, our jobs, our belief systems, or our behaviors. Most of us are completely unaware that we are beautiful light beings connected to each other and to the Divine.

One of the reasons I love this time of year is because almost all of us celebrate the sacred. Instinctively we know that light is more powerful than darkness for it is easy to dispel darkness by lighting one candle. Spiritual light shining from within is much the same. It can lead us to peace and happiness if we commit to loving those who are drenched in the darkest of places.

I know it’s a little early for making resolutions, but this is mine for the new year. To be one light that helps dispel darkness by embodying love, empathy and peace as much as I possibly can. If we band together in our intention to be the peace we wish to see, it can’t help but happen one day soon.

I hope you have a blessed holiday season.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

We Can Change the World

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

“Conflict must be resolved. It cannot be evaded, set aside, denied, disguised, seen somewhere else, called by another name, or hidden by deceit of any kind, if it would be escaped. It must be seen exactly as it is, where it is thought to be, in the reality which has been given it, and with the purpose that the mind accorded it. For only then are its defenses lifted, and the truth can shine upon it as it disappears.” ~ A Course In Miracles Lesson 333, “Forgiveness Ends The Dream Of Conflict Here.”

I’m a big fan of reading fiction and watching plays and movies. I say that because there have been so many books, plays and movies that have changed the way I see the world. I believe I’m a better person because I love to be transported by the stories.

This past weekend my husband and I went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. I had read the books and seen the first three movies. In general I’m not a fan of dystopian books and movies, because most of the time they don’t end on a note of hope. I believe in hope. This series has a large dose of hope at the end. If you haven’t read them, I suggest you do because the main characters must deal with the horrendous mental and emotional wounds they suffered throughout the arch of the story. They must find hope and healing. And they do, as much as they are able.

At the end of the movie, Katniss Everdeen is on an outing with her family. It’s many years after the events that transformed her society. She’s holding her baby, while Peeta, her husband and fellow sufferer, is playing with their young toddler. The baby jerks awake, as if from a nightmare. Katniss then tells the baby how she deals with her nightmares. She makes lists of all the acts of kindnesses she’s seen people do. It helps her remember that there are good and kind people out there and that eases her memories of the horrors she’s experienced.

I can’t say I’ve witnessed horrors first hand, though I have seen real horrors on TV. I’ve never lived in a war torn country, or had to flee my home, but none of us get through this life without scars. According to studies done on the effects of witnessing horrendous events, it doesn’t matter whether we experience them in person or see them on TV or in movies. They don’t even have to be real for us to feel them as if they happened to us. We are affected no matter what the delivery system. The same goes for acts of kindness. If we witness an act of kindness, it’s as if the kindness was done to and for us.

So, we live in a violent world. It’s always been violent. That’s nothing new. However, we’re at a turning point. We have an opportunity to change the world from a violent environment to one of peace. But to do that we have to focus on the problems we face, acknowledge that we’ve allowed them to go on unchallenged and find a way to solve them.

Some of the people I know focus only on the negative. Maybe we’re wired to notice negativity first, but the thing is that people who study the brain, like Dr. Joe Dispenza, and Bruce H. Lipton, have discovered that we can rewire our brains so that we notice the positive first instead of the negative. That’s what I advocate and try to do. That’s why some friends I know want to be around me, because when the conversation turns to all the problems we face in this world, I point out good things that are happening and they feel better.

The thing is, each person must decide to focus on the positive themselves. We each must choose to see beneath the surface behaviors of the people in our lives and in the media as well. That’s not always easy. It’s comfortable assuming we know all there is to know about people we see in the media, or even people we live or work with. But we can’t ever know the deepest hopes and dreams of another person unless they reveal themselves to us. That requires trust.

The media can be our enemy when trying to discover the true nature of people in the spotlight, or it can help us see another side of a person. Not too long ago my husband and I were watching CBS Sunday Morning. It’s a Sunday morning ritual with us. This morning they interviewed Charles Koch. I’ve not been a fan of the Koch brothers because they donate outrageous amounts of money to political causes that I abhor, however, we watched the interview to see if our assumptions about this man were correct. We found that they weren’t. Yes, he supports a large number of causes that I think are destructive. On the other hand, the Koch brothers, Charles and David support causes that I too support. That interview was an eye opener. It made me take a good look at the assumptions I make about people. Each one of us is a bundle of contradictions. What I learned was that I can’t condemn the Koch brothers just because they have billions of dollars and I don’t. Having billions of dollars doesn’t automatically make them evil, as some people would have us believe. And just because they have billions of dollars doesn’t mean I can point my finger at them and lay all the world’s problems at their feet. Oh no, I too have to take responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in.

I often say, and people look at me as if I have two heads, that our thoughts create our reality. Quantum physicists figured that out many years ago, but that idea is just now taking root. Not long ago someone shared this article on Facebook about that very thing, that what we think, creates the events and even the physical things we use in our world. Generation after generation of humans have created the conflicts that have plagued us for millennia and now we have a clue why. Once it got started, nobody thought it could stop. Oh, a few highly enlightened people tried to show us the way, but we thought they were anomalies and we didn’t follow their lead. We clung stubbornly to our old thought patterns because changing was too difficult.

So here we are. We’ve got scientific proof that what we think creates the events out in the world, and that we can change our thought patterns. The question is, will we do it? Will we get up off the couch, figuratively speaking, and actually do something concrete to change the world? Will we notice all the kind things people do for each other? Will be find opportunities to be kind and compassionate? Will we change the focus of our thoughts? Those seem like ephemeral things to do, but they have a huge impact. I’ve been watching it happen. You have to look outside the media in this country to find evidence of change. You have to dig for the stories of goodness happening. You have to lay your assumptions aside and be willing to see the world with new eyes. And then you have to be willing to change yourself to bring about peace. Take it from a Baby Boomer, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015