Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Trying to stay on track

“Life is a series of experiences each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.” ~ Henry Ford

“We all get where we’re going by circuitous journeys, and some of the setbacks are warranted.” ~ Carol Burnett

Has this ever happened to you? You get an insight about something, or you learn a new skill and your world expands in some way. For awhile your new understanding is glorious and you feel so happy. But not long after something inside you gets frightened and rebels. It sets up an inner conflict which explodes making you feel unsettled and frightened, which causes you to lash out at those around you.

That happened to me last week. I’ve started doing A Course In Miracles daily exercises again this year and I got a profound insight that I wrote about a few posts back. I felt for the first time just how afraid I’ve been most of my life. But the thing is once I got that insight, I saw myself and my relationship to everything as free from fear. I saw myself creating a wonderful new life full of once unimaginable joyful experiences. For a day or two it was a glorious feeling. Then my ego said, “Oh no you don’t. I’m taking control back.” And I began to feel small, and anxious again.

It’s funny the way my ego will use little things to try to reel me back in. This time it was comments from my new critique partners about the first chapter of my new book. I got huffy and wanted to shoot nasty comments back and I even made some nasty comments to my husband about something completely trivial and totally unrelated. When I heard myself, I knew exactly what was happening.

So, I went to my journal to sort out my feelings. Writing always helps me get out the irksome emotions so I can tell my ego to go take a hike. When the negative feelings clear out, I see things much more clearly. What I figured out was that I wasn’t angry with my critique partners or my sweet husband. I was angry that I had let my ego sneak in and try to take control again.

I’ve been at this spiritual, self-awareness work for a long time, and what happened last week should not have come as a surprise to me. It’s always the same, two steps forward and one step back, or at least my ego would like me to take steps back. But once I’ve had that new insight, or learned that new skill, I can’t unsee or unlearn it. It’s kind of like those mind bending pictures artists do to try to get us to see the hidden words, or figures in their work. We stare at the picture and once we see what they’ve hidden, we can’t unsee it.

Even though there are things that unsettle me from time to time, I’m grateful I have the tools of writing and meditation to help me work things out. Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for people who don’t have any way to get rid of their fear. I wish I could help them. Maybe one way I can help is to be honest about my own stumbling journey. Another is to be kind. I’m not always good at either of those especially if I feel threatened, but I’ll keep working on it.

To end this post, I’ll include a review of my first book from a friend of mine sent a day after my little run in with my ego. It was totally unexpected and came just at the right time.

“Recently, I finished reading a book titled, The Space Between Time, by my friend, Lucinda Sage-Midgorden. It was the best book I’ve read in a long time. It kept me captivated, which I have not experienced from any other book for the past couple of years. I loved all the little gems of meaningful and what I call spiritual statements throughout the book. You know, those words that make you pause and think, and sometimes have an “aha” from or a deeper awareness about something. And it was entertaining and informational about some of the history in the 1800’s and yet, contemporary. It also reminded me of the importance of “living in community” and how important it is to help one another and be engaged in your community. Thank you Lucinda for a wonderful, entertaining and captivating book!” ~ Rita Gau

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your taking time out of your week to comment and like my posts.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

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Blessings of the Generation Gap

Lucinda’s Birthday with Arielle

“We are what they grow beyond.” ~ Yoda in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

“The young man pities his elder, fearing the day he, too, will join their ranks. The elderly man pities the younger generation, well-knowing the trials and tribulations that lie ahead of them.” ~ Lydia I Fisher

“America isn’t breaking apart at the seams. The American dream isn’t dying. Our new racial and ethnic complexion hasn’t triggered massive outbreaks of intolerance. Our generations aren’t at each other’s throats. They’re living more interdependently than at any time in recent memory, because that turns out to be a good coping strategy in hard times. Our nation faces huge challenges, no doubt. So do the rest of the world’s aging economic powers. If you had to pick a nation with the right stuff to ride out the coming demographic storm, you’d be crazy not to choose America, warts and all.” ~ Pew Research Center, The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown.

At the beginning of each new semester, I think anew about my students and what I will learn from them. Maybe it’s because I’m dedicated to life long learning that made me choose teaching as part of my career. My life is so much richer for the exchange of ideas that challenge my old ways of thinking and being and I’m grateful to meet new students each semester.

There are times when I feel angry and distressed when older people shake their heads and condemn the younger generations, or when the younger generations dismisses the contributions of those who came before them. The human race would never evolve if we had to begin all over again when a new generation emerges into the dominant positions as creators, leaders, inventors, and innovators. One generation must learn from the last and build on what they have contributed so that improvements can be made.

As I was preparing for my busy semester, I got to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi, for a second time. The first time I saw it, one quote stuck with me. It’s the one above by Yoda, “We are what they grow beyond.” I loved that statement. However, the second time through, I heard the second part of that quote, “and that is the pain (or maybe it was sorrow) we bear.” And I thought, “Wait what?” I don’t bear any burden if my students take something they’ve learned from me and use it to grow beyond my understanding or talents. That’s the joy and reward of teaching.

I’m not saying anything new when I state that we are in a time of great change and we have to rely upon one another even more than before, so when I found the above quote by the Pew Research Center, I rejoiced. I don’t want to tell my students or any of the younger generations that I’m smarter than they are. I want to learn from them and work with them to create a much more equitable, sustainable world in which to live. And I want to appreciate the many contributions of the generations that have gone before as well. Change is always disruptive, but in my mind, that’s a good thing. I’d get bored if my life was the same day after day with no hope for something new and exciting to look forward to. When the forces of change arrive, we get a chance to keep what works and throw out what no longer serves us. It’s a long process sometimes, but well worth the work.

I’m off to auditions for the play I’m directing, Measure for Measure and excited to hear what my students have to teach me about this play written so many centuries ago. It’s amazing that the works of Shakespeare contain so many ideas that apply to events today and give us clues about how to face our challenges.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting on my posts. I appreciate reading your take on what I’ve written.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

My Words for the Year

January 9, 2018 Sunrise

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I want all the girls watching here today to know that a new day is on the horizon.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

“… other than a few useful details, the past is mostly a prison. It prevents me from seeing and experiencing life as it is now.” ~ Pam Grout

I came to a shocking awareness this morning. I’ve been afraid most of my life. I don’t think I’m alone in this given many of the posts I read on social media. You probably already know the details of how fear has reared it’s ugly head for me, because that insipid monster in your head tries to undermine you too. Fortunately, three events came together to help me see myself and my life in a new way.

First, as I often do in the winter, I opened the blinds to look at the sunrise. It was particularly beautiful this morning with the clouds over the San Jose Mountains turning shades of pink, peach and orange.

Second, Barry and I watched Oprah’s amazing speech at The Golden Globes, and wept together. The tide is turning and the more people who speak up about what has happened to them, the harder it is for the perpetrators to make excuses for their actions.

Third, after he left for work, I went to do my daily meditation and my A Course In Miracles lesson. The lesson was this: “My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.” During my meditation I saw myself standing on a hilltop with the sun rising on a fresh new day. I felt for the first time, that even though I’ve been afraid for so long, I can let it go forever. That other little voice in my head that’s been telling me I’m loved, worthy, and talented, can now be the guiding force in my life with no competition.

A couple of Sundays ago, Faith Salie had a wonderful segment on CBS Sunday Morning about how art has helped her see her life in a new way. There are two words used in the art world that she said she wants to be her words for this new year. The first is, pentimento, the presence or emergence of earlier images, forms, or strokes that have been changed and painted over. She used the example of some Henri Matisse drawings she’d seen, which show places he erased so that he could improve the drawing. To her this meant he repented and changed his mind about what he was creating. That’s something we can all do with our lives. We can take a step back, change our minds about where we’re going and construct something new out of the broken pieces. Which brings me to the other word she is embracing, kintsugi, the Japanese practice of repairing broken ceramics with gold.

Each of us is broken in some way. Some of us stay broken and that becomes our story. But others of us accept our flaws and brokenness and in doing so we become stronger; we’re able to help others stitch together their broken places as well. We can take the lessons we’ve learned along the way and let them propel us, with no regrets, into the sunlight of a new day.

So, I’m joining Faith Salie, and adopting pentimento and kintsugi as my words for the year. Today is a fresh, new beginning. And for the first time in a long time, I feel like my life is new and full of all kinds of previously unimagined possibilities.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I hope you have a fabulous new year.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction:Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Rigid or Pliant

The Duke and Isabel in Measure for Measure.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” ~ Robin Williams

“They say best men moulded out of faults;
And, for the most, become much more the better
For being a little bad; so may my husband.” Mariana in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

I’m preparing to direct a lesser known Shakespeare play, Measure for Measure this spring. If you don’t know it, it might be worth your while to read, listen to, or watch it. Here is a brief synopsis of the play:

The Duke of Vienna is facing a dilemma. Licentiousness is overtaking the the city. The laws are harsh against this behavior, especially sexual misconduct. The Duke has not enforced these laws for nine years, presumably because he doesn’t agree with them, or perhaps he has just inherited his title and is unsure of how to proceed.

He goes out into the city disguised as a friar to observe and listen to the regular people. In his place he leaves Angelo, one of his deputies – who is thought to be a pious and upright man – in charge with the Duke’s full powers. He asks Escalus, another deputy, to be Angelo’s second in command.

The minute the Duke is gone, Angelo begins to show his true colors and abuses his power. He makes an example of Claudio and his betrothed, Juliet, by arresting them because they are about to become parents. Angelo condemns Claudio to death within a few days time.

Isabella, Claudio’s sister goes to Angelo to plead for her brother’s life. Angelo is taken with her and tells her he will release her brother if she will “love” him.

The Duke hears of this and sets about exposing Angelo and saving Isabella, Claudio, and Juliet.

In a conversation with our guest artist, who has done this play seven times in one capacity or another, he pointed out that both Angelo and Isabella are rigid, inflexible people. That was an idea I had not considered as I was studying the play once again. That idea got me wondering why that might be. What is it about these two people that make them want to keep such a tight reign on their emotions? At first I didn’t understand them, until I remembered that when I was a teenager, I had very much the same attitude.

Perhaps it was because my mother kept telling me that I needed to control my emotions, or it might have been because of the fact that we moved a lot as I was growing up. I attended two different elementary, junior high, and high schools. Over the years I became very guarded in my interactions with the other students. I wanted to retain as much control over myself and my environment as possible because who knew when we were going to pick up, move again, and I’d have to start all over with a new school environment and set of friends.

Slowly, as I graduated high school and sought out new experiences, I began to open up and become more flexible. But as I did, an interesting thing happened. I was confronted over and over again by inflexible people who wanted to control my life decisions. I learned something very valuable from those controlling people. Trying to make life fit into the little box of one’s belief systems is a death sentence for the soul. We are confronted with all kinds of life experiences and often what we had planned for our lives gets shattered in some way and we have to regroup.

People who are flexible, open their eyes to all the myriad possibilities that might be better than what they originally planned for themselves. They learn to accept their flaws, mistakes and wrong assumptions, and use them to become better people.

Inflexible people have it much harder. They become judgmental, or depressed, or angry, or live lives of quiet desperation because they don’t want to do any self-examination.

In Measure for Measure, it’s unclear whether Angelo and Isabella embrace the chance at self-examination and growth. The play ends before we know their decisions. But Mariana’s line that I quoted above (she’s Angelo’s rejected betrothed) is, to me, the main theme of the play. The fact that she gets Isabella to forgive Angelo, and the Duke to rescind his order to have Angelo executed, is an indication that her loving and open nature will have a profound effect on all three of the main characters in the future.

That line has already had a profound effect on me. It has made me want to release more of my rigid thought patterns and become even more open and pliable so I can be of better service to those around me.

In closing I want to share one of my favorite quotes from the Tao Te Ching. When I first read it, the truth of the words resonated deep within and cemented my resolve to become a flexible person. This has been a lifelong process.

Tao Te Ching 41 (76) New translation by Victor H. Mair

“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.”

These are just some things I’ve been thinking about as I’ve studied this most interesting play.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate your thoughts.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

It’s All in Our Heads

Human Brain Thinking

“Perception is reality.” ~ Lee Atwater

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain

This has happened to me and maybe it has to you too. You’re going along, life is great, or not so great, but familiar and … boom … something happens and your life is turned upside down. It can be something as small as a minor car accident that disrupts your life for a while, to something big, like losing your job, your spouse, or receiving a life threatening diagnosis. The way we react or respond to these types of events is literally all in our heads.

I used both words react and respond in the above sentence because to me they are two different ways of conducting oneself in everyday life. To react, in my mind, is negative. Someone says or does something and instead of taking in the information and evaluating it, we go on the attack. To respond is to take a few breaths, look at all sides of what has happened, and then decide how we are going to proceed in that situation.

Over the years I’ve changed from someone who reacts to events and people, to someone who responds. I don’t remember the exact incident, but I do remember the feeling of relief when I accepted that I was responsible for my life. And that my nature was made up of both light and darkness. It wasn’t always easy to make the change from feeling like the world was against me to realizing that it was my attitude that had an affect on the way I was experiencing life. But little by little I stopped looking outside myself for solutions and began untangling all the junk assumptions I’d held onto for so long.

I was reminded of how I transformed my life when I read a very introspective blog post by Sam Wood titled “The Last Jedi, toxic masculinity, and showing your place in all this

I’m a big Star Wars fan, have been since the first movie came out in 1977. It’s an epic series about light and dark, facing personal demons, and finding your path. And after watching The Power of Myth a conversation between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell, who happened to be George Lucas’ teacher, I realized that we create myths to explain our deepest fears, hopes, and dreams. Most of the science fiction, fantasy, and superhero books and movies produced today are our modern myths. They help us figure out real life issues from a safe distance.

The thing I loved about Sam Wood’s post was his examination of a car crash kind of turning point in our world, that of white male identity. Here’s a telling quote from the article: “It’s no mistake I say ‘he’. Heroism, protagonessence, being the best, being supreme is the legacy of whiteness, of patriarchy, of heteronormativity. It is the toxicity that suffuses the identity of young white men, that suffuses my identity. And before The Last Jedi I had never seen it been represented simultaneously so sympathetically, and with so little indulgence of my bullshit.”

When I read this blog post, I had seen The Last Jedi twice, and I thought his observations were brilliant. The “heroes” of the story all have a very male point of view. They think of themselves as heroes and it’s their job to save the day, or berate themselves for failing to do so. Okay Finn doesn’t accept that mantle, but people keep trying to thrust it upon him. Each man struggles with this way of seeing themselves. And what happens? Each of them fail epically. When that happens, the way they see themselves and the world is shaken, which gives them the opportunity to change their perceptions.

It’s the women, Rey, Leia Organa, Vice Admiral Holdo, and Rose, who propose new ways of looking the world and themselves. When Rose stops Finn from a Kamikaze stunt, he asks her why. She says, “We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love!”

Rey resists Kylo’s plea to join him in ruling the galaxy. She tries to get him to acknowledge his own light, but he refuses. She follows her own inner guidance and rejoins the resistance.

And in the end, when there are only about forty resistance fighters left, Rey asks Leia how they can turn the tide against the evil First Order. Leia says, “We have everything we need.” In other words, it’s what they have inside that counts, not the number of weapons they wield.

The story belongs to Rey and the other women. They offer Luke, Po, Finn, and Kylo the opportunity to change. They invite them to be a part of a bigger and more important effort to change the galaxy through cooperation. Kylo is the only one who doesn’t accept. He wants to ease his suffering by becoming supreme leader thinking that will solve all his problems. He doesn’t understand that his problems are imaginary, created inside his own head and emotions. That’s how it is with all of us, we create our own problems. And that’s where we have to solve them.

There are times when I look at the way my life is going and I’m tempted to slide back into blaming the fates for the things I’d like to be different. 2017 was that kind of year. But then I remember, that the world I see is the one I’ve created and I can change my mind any time I so choose. Since blaming events outside myself hasn’t made anything in my life better, I think I’ll take a step back and let go of some more of the things I thought I knew for sure.

Blessings for your new year. Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Things I Learned in 2017

Great Buddha, Kamakura, Japan

“The highest virtue does nothing. Yet, nothing needs to be done. The lowest virtue does everything. Yet, much remains to be done.” ~ Tao Te Ching chapter 38

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

“Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.” ~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” ~ Mother Teresa

I’m not big on publishing lists. I know they’re the “thing” now. “Follow this list and/or do these 12 things to get …” Or, “These 14 books are must reads.” If you’re on social media, they float by your feed and are oh so tempting to read. Of course, for most of us, this year has been an extremely trying one with the state of politics in this country. And social media is a place where facts and opinions fly around as if they’re in a tornado. That’s why I’ve cut back on my social media time, and ignoring those lists, news reports, and opinion polls to pay more attention to my real friends has made me much happier.

Since, I’m happier and always thinking about what my experiences can teach me, I wanted to break my own rule and share some things I’ve learned this year. I’m not publishing them in a list, and you can take them or leave them as you choose. I do not profess to know what’s best for anyone. I’m still trying to figure out my own life.

I’m a slow learner. Some of the seeds for what I learned this year actually began in 2015. That’s the year I read and studied A Course in Miracles. I know, that’s the kind of book you can study your entire life and still gain new insights. So, I’m thinking of picking it up again on January 1 and studying it in 2018.

In any case one lesson I learned from my 2015 study was the whole idea of non-action. I didn’t understand that concept fully until this year, or at least, I understand it on a deeper level now. I may never fully understand it. Non-action is a concept I first encountered when I studied the Tao Te Ching years ago. It’s this paradoxical situation where, if you adopt non-action, you can accomplish more than if you run around filling every day with tasks to be accomplished. The way I understand it now is that if you have something you need to do, you wait for guidance before you act, you usually get a better solution than the one your tiny little ego would come up with.

I’m not good at this practice you understand, but when the presidential election blew up and some new attack on human rights, and the environment ensued on a daily basis, I felt paralyzed. What could I, one person, do to fight the descent into darkness? But I remembered lessons from all the spiritual teachers I’ve read over the years, and I felt really uncomfortable with that word “fight”. My understanding of non-action is still imperfect, but my experience has shown me that the statement “What you resist, persists,” is true. Practicing non-action gives you a chance to come up with a new solution to any problem. For example, I worked at a job I hated. All I could think about was how much I hated that job. And it got worse, not better until finally I nearly had a nervous breakdown and realized, I had the power to change my life if I allowed myself to get a new perspective. That was a huge turning point in the way I approached problems. But, I was still stuck in many old ways of thinking.

During graduate school, I took some playwrighting classes. I loved everything about writing, but I couldn’t see how I could make a living as a writer, so I set that aside. Money and creativity didn’t go together in my mind. Eventually, however, my desire to write became so strong that I quit my teaching job to become a full-time writer. And little by little, my thinking that money and creativity are mutually exclusive has been changing. I’m learning that writing to make money is not the goal. It most likely will not bring cash to my bank account. Expressing my viewpoint about life and working to understand myself better is now my goal. And if I can touch someone else with what I’m learning, then that might bring me some income, but more importantly, I will be adding to my own, and other people’s awakening.

I learned another vital lesson as I published my first novel this year. When working on a big project, you have to do the work in little chunks. There are definite stages to writing a book. Working on the first draft can be nerve wracking, especially if you’re someone like me who doesn’t do outlines. I get the general idea for my story and characters, but even if I plan to take the story in a certain direction, some other idea will take precedence. My characters don’t talk to me, but the muses visit me at odd times and I’m often surprised at what they tell me I need to write.

Once that first draft is finished, and that might be years after I started it, the fun part begins. At least I think it’s the fun part. Revising, reorganizing, filling in the blanks, and cutting out the unnecessary parts. After that the tedious process of line editing needs to be done. I’m not so fond of that part. But it’s better to make the manuscript as pristine as possible, because you never get another chance to make a good first impression.

And finally, when I published The Space Between Time, after seven years of work. I felt happy and satisfied. Like I had contributed something new to the world. It’s an intoxicating feeling similar to the way I feel at the end of a long rehearsal process when the play is appreciated by the audience. And no amount of money or awards can match that feeling of knowing I’ve done a job well.

I’m still working on the whole creativity, money connection, and letting go of my old viewpoint about money and it’s importance in our lives. I do know that following my creative urges has always brought rewarding experiences, and interesting people into my life. So, for now, I’m going to forget about the money part, and just keep working on developing my creativity muscles. Maybe if I do that, I’ll get to meet some really interesting people and even do some traveling to book signings and talks about my creative process. That would be really fun!

I hope 2018 proves to be a good, and enlightening year for you.

Blessings, and thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Creative Urge

Taj Mahal at sunset

“The people we walk by every day have untold talents, passions that beat in their chest like a witch doctor’s drum.” ~ Pam Grout, Art and Soul Reloaded

“Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.” ~ Victor Pinchuck

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

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” ~ Edward de Bono

“In my experience, poor people are the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Every day, they must innovate in order to survive. They remain poor because they do not have the opportunities to turn their creativity into sustainable income.” ~ Muhammad Yunus

Creativity is something I feel like I harp on a lot. It’s kind of a theme of my life, so, in a way, maybe that’s not a bad thing. We all have a kind of life theme that we share with those we come into contact with.

Creativity came into my consciousness again which started me thinking about the struggles I’ve had to balance my creative urge with making a living. it’s not so bad now that I’m semi-retired, but when I was young there were so many forces urging me to find a career that would pay good money so I could live the American dream. But when I took a job because I needed the money, it was soul killing. And I don’t want anyone else to have to experience that, so maybe that’s why I harp on finding ways to be creative.

When I was offered the job, I had a sickening sinking feeling in my gut. I knew I shouldn’t take it. But I was fresh out of college, married, and living with my grandparents. So, I took the job not trusting that a better one would come along. It had only been two or three months, but Barry and I needed to be out on our own. When I started working, it was great to be self-sufficient, but I groaned every morning knowing that I was going into that toxic environment for another day. Yet, I learned a great deal from going against my inner guidance. And the biggest thing I learned was never to do that again.

I know I’m not the only person who struggles to balance working and having time to devote to things I’m passionate about. Many of my former students are friends on social media, and they share similar struggles I had when I was in my twenties. I guess it’s a universal challenge. I’m inspired by the people who follow their passions in spite of the need to earn money. For the most part, they see the world in positive ways. And it seems to be that when they contribute their good energy and their work, we all benefit from what they create.

Some people would say that I’m a dreamer when I say that I would love it if our society became more like the one in Star Trek, where people have a basic income, and are encouraged to develop their interests and talents. In that society, money exists, it’s there, but no one needs it to survive. Living like that would be so fantastic.

Maybe we are moving in that direction at least in terms of encouraging creativity. You’ve probably seen the ads for master classes in photography, or film directing, or writing, or acting. Last summer I took a free class about Alfred Hitchcock and his movies offered by Turner Classic Movies and Ball State University. It was a fun class, and I learned a lot about movie making in general, and his style specifically. Those kinds of opportunities are out there on all kinds of subjects. All we have to do is take advantage of them.

As you may know, my husband and I are doing the year long course offered by Pam Grout as part of her book, Art and Soul Reloaded. One of the things about this course I love is that at the end of each lesson, Pam has a section she calls “You’re in Good Company”. It’s a little snippet about some person’s struggle to make their dreams come true. Here are some examples: “Every cartoon Charles Schulz, the creator of the wildly popular Peanuts comic strip, submitted to his high school yearbook was unanimously rejected.” Or, “Donald Sutherland has made more than 100 films, but he still gets so nervous, he throws up before filming begins.” Or, “Lady Gaga, whose hits have topped charts in nearly every category, got dropped by Def Jam Recordings a short three months after they signed her.” Or, “Actor Ryan Reynolds, once chosen as People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, said, ‘I feel like an overweight, pimply faced kid a lot of the time.” Or, “In the early ‘90s, George Clooney was being considered for the lead role in the homicide drama Bodies of Evidence. The CBS executive cast him instead as sidekick Ryan Walker after deciding Clooney was ‘just not leading man material.’”

But this is one of my favorite exercises in the entire books so far. “Important Creativity Test: Get out a pencil. Are you breathing? Yes _______ No _______, Check your score here. If you answered ‘yes’ to the above question, you’re highly creative.” The entire book is filled with those little encouragements. She wants us all to find our particular passion and nurture it in any way we can.

This week’s lesson is titled “Art Diviners”. In this chapter her point of view is that everyone we meet has something they are deeply passionate about and want to create, and we need to be aware of that fact. I love that idea. There is so much more to people than we can see on the surface. Just look at all of the innovative ideas people are coming up with to solve various problems we’re facing. Maybe you don’t see those on social media, but I do, and every time I read one of those stories it makes me hopeful that more and more people are not letting anything hold back their creative impulses. It might be difficult, they are probably scared, but they follow their passion anyway.

That’s one thing I love about teaching. I get to encourage my student’s creativity. And as Yoda says to Luke in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, “We are what they grow beyond.” We’re all teachers in one way or another. I find it comforting to know that little by little the world is becoming a more friendly place to live in because of what we’ve learned from the generations that have gone before, and that we’ll all leave something behind that generations after us can build upon.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Scrooge and Jesus

Scrooge and Marley’s Ghost from *A Christmas Carol*

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be eased.” ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” ~ Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

“Jesus did not spend a great deal of time discoursing about the trinity or original sin or the incarnation, which have preoccupied later Christians. He went around doing good and being compassionate.” ~ Karen Armstrong

The other day I was visited by a couple of lovely ladies who are Jehovah’s Witness. These people come around most often at Christmas and Easter. There were actually two visits. The first time they came I said something about leaving the church I had grown up in. That, of course, was the foot in the door for them to come back. Whenever I say I’m finished with organized religion, people think I’ve lost faith in God. That’s not the case at all. God and I’ve been communicating with each other since I was eight years old and we’re doing just fine.

During the second visit they showed me a video about a man who had given up on organized religion and felt abandoned by God, but then he came into contact with the Jehovah’s Witness and his life was turned around. I was happy for him, but I didn’t leave my church because I lost faith in God. I left because I wanted a bigger spiritual life than the one mapped out for me within that church. I got a great start in my spiritual life from them, I just needed more space to expand my understanding of God.

Because God and I have been having this running conversation for most of my life, I’m always thinking and asking questions about the light and darkness within us and what purpose they serve. Christmas time seems like a prime time for those kinds of reflections. And the visit by the Jehovah’s Witness got me thinking about Jesus and what he would think about how people put him on a distant pedestal.

One of the most meaningful scriptures to me is the one where Jesus says that we can do even greater things than he has done. I always took that to mean that he thought of himself as the forerunner, an example. Worshipping him has always made me uncomfortable. It’s nearly impossible to relate to and learn from an icon.

Another thing that I have always loved about Jesus, is that he believed we can become better. He was drawn to people who were wounded in some way and needed a shift in perception. If they were open to it, he helped them get that. I think of Jesus as the light. And that brings me to Scrooge.

I’m rereading A Christmas Carol. I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but I read it for the first time last Christmas. At the beginning of the book, Scrooge is definitely a symbol for darkness. No one wants to be around him, even the men he does business with.

I’ve seen multiple movie versions of the story and what brings me back to watching them year after year is the promise that even the most hardened heart can be softened and changed. That’s what I’ve learned from Scrooge.

Today, as I write this, we just returned from seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Those movies are definitely about the battle between darkness and light. In the movie, Yoda says something to Luke that applies to how Scrooge transforms in A Christmas Carol. He says, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” And I have to say that I agree with him. My greatest lessons have come when I’ve utterly failed, or when my life has fallen apart. And Charles Dickens was a genius to put Scrooge into a position where he was forced to examine his life. He never would have done it on his own. It’s interesting that as he is forced to relive his tortured young years, he’s drawn to the people from his past who are full of light. It’s the same as he travels far and wide in the present. And more than that, his own dark and unloving words come back to haunt him.

I find Scrooge’s story extremely fascinating because at the beginning it seems that he likes the darkness that surrounds him and he’ll never give it up. Sometimes I feel the same way. I get caught up in downward spiral thinking and I kind of wallow there. Yet, it only takes a little nudging toward the light for Scrooge to able to see the pattern of his life; how he came to embrace darkness and get a chance to make a new choice.

These are just some things I’ve been rolling around in my head. I do it most often when things in my outer world appear to be so dark. Hope, light, love, compassion, listening, gratitude, generosity, those are the things that darkness cannot stand up to. This Christmas season it feels like I need to take stock and cultivate those qualities so that darkness can’t win.

I hope the light of loved ones surround you this holiday season.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Gifts That Cost Nothing

“By taking the time to stop and appreciate who you are and what you’ve achieved – and perhaps learned through a few mistakes, stumbles and losses – you actually can enhance everything about you. Self-acknowledgment and appreciation are what give you the insights and awareness to move forward toward higher goals and accomplishments.” ~ Jack Canfield

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

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, and a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring. All of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~ Leo Buscaglia

Listening is one of the best gifts you can give another person. In fact, it’s so important that I think I’m going to make it my word for next year.

I learned to listen from my father. He was a the greatest listener I have ever known. When I did something wrong, instead of punishing me right off, he’d sit down with me and say, “Now tell me what you were thinking when you did that?” And he’d listen. I don’t remember the punishments, I remember that he cared enough about me to listen to my side of the story and then gave me guidance about how I might change my behavior in the future.

The other way I learned to listen was by being an actor. Countless actors have said that the best tool in the actor’s toolbox is listening. An actor listens to their fellow actors in a scene and then they have to decide how to react or respond given their character’s background and emotional bent.

Listening in real life is sort of the same thing. It’s an interaction between two or more people that involves many more layers than just the words being spoken. There are the nonverbal clues, and trying to understand the intention of the person speaking, then deciding how you feel about that.

Let me give you an example. The other day while planning to make homemade tomato soup, I pulled the bag of tomatoes out of the freezer and left them in the sink. Barry put them in the fridge later that day. A day or two later, Barry said to me, “Be sure to drain the tomatoes before making the soup,” to which I replied looking him straight in the eyes, “I’m not stupid.” Well, as you can imagine that set of a little bit of a heated discussion.

Later I sat down to think about what had happened and how I could respond differently. This is what I came up with. Barry’s intention wasn’t to belittle me in any way. He’s not like many of the men in my religious studies program, or the men who thought I needed to change my major, or men I’d worked with on my various jobs, or on projects at church. I tried to tell him that, when he said those kinds of things to me, what I heard was that he thought I was not capable of critical thinking. Of course, that’s not how he feels at all. He’s just detail oriented and wanted to be sure the soup turned out the way we like it.

After I processed those thoughts, I remembered something Wayne Dyer used to say, “We can decided whether or not to be offended.” I was allowing what had happened to me in the past affect my response to Barry, when really I should have just said, “Thanks. I thought of that.” and moved on.

I bring all this up because this week three things happened in the discourse about sexual harassment. First, Rose McGowan attacked Meryl Streep in public for not supporting other women who had been abused in various ways by Harvey Weinstein, Matt Damon made a statement making suggestions about the same issue, and Jody Foster made similar statements on Stephen Colbert.

What Jody Foster said makes so much sense. Women need to tell their stories and those stories need to be listened to and believed, but there comes a time when we need to allow men into the discussion. We need to take a look at where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we want to go in relations between women and men. And we have to do that together. From what I’ve read, Matt Damon was trying to do that, but a Twitter storm of condemnation was aimed at him. And as for Rose McGowan, I think she was wounded so badly by Harvey Weinstein that she needs our support until she has a chance to heal.

I understand what it feels like to be so hurt that you can’t see straight. It’s happened to me. And while I was in that wounded state, I was completely unreasonable. To me the world was a hostile place and almost everything anyone said to me I viewed as an attack. There are lots of wounded people, both men and women, all around the world. We have to listen to their stories, because as Oprah has said, “People just want to be heard.” And as we listen, we have to refrain from judgment. Just being a witness is sometimes enough to help a person start their healing journey.

Then, once those who have been abused have had a chance to heal and feel more safe, then we can begin to have productive dialogue about how to fix male/female relationships.

These steps can apply to any public discourse as well as one-on-one relationships. I’ve lived through the process myself. One the greatest gifts I have ever received is to have someone listen to my story with complete support and without trying to fix or judge me. I’m grateful to all those people who let me be a mess for a while and loved me anyway.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

When Your Story Takes a Different Direction

“The characters won’t do what I want.” ~ Charles Dickens, The Man Who Invented Christmas

“Wherever my story takes me, however dark and difficult the theme, there is always some hope and redemption, not because readers like happy endings, but because I am an optimist at heart. I know the sun will rise in the morning that there is a light at the end of every tunnel.” ~ Michael Morpurgo

“Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.” ~ Octavia E. Butler

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ~ Philip Pullman

I used to think that writing was a matter of sitting down and letting the story pour forth in it’s completely finished form. Boy was I wrong!

When I began writing the book that became The Space Between Time, the story was going to be about the loving relationship between a daughter and her father in the years leading up to the Civil War. My initial inspirations were my relationship with own father and my pioneering ancestors. It was going to be a fictional chronicle of the wisdom my father had shared with me over the years.

I began writing the book after one particular visit when I knew that my father’s health had taken a definite downturn. That was in 1998 or ’99. But I had to stop writing because I began teaching full-time. When I picked up the book again in 2010, the story wanted to go in a different direction. Time had changed crucial elements about my story since my father had been dead for six years. Morgan now had to deal with the death of her father, and since her mother was also dead, she had an opportunity to build an new life. The link between Morgan and her father was not broken, but the talks I had envisioned had to be altered. Now she remembered things he taught her, and occasionally he came to her in spirit form when she needed him.

As I worked on my book, there came a point when I had written all I knew how to write about Morgan’s life. Something was nagging to be included in the story, but what it was was not quite clear to me. Then as I’ve written in previous posts, the inspiration came from another author. Originally I had thought that Morgan would be the main character and her life would somehow be aided, or intertwined with someone in our present time, but I couldn’t see or hear the story of the character in the present. It was as if I knew the character was there, but she was behind a veil, or off having ice cream, or hanging out with friends. Whatever she was up to, she wasn’t available to tell me her story.

However, when the fellow author suggested I intertwine the present timeline with the past, I knew he was right. That’s when Jenna began to reveal herself to me. Her life had been shattered too just like Morgan’s, only for her it happened all in one day. Her fiancé broke off their engagement, her mother died in a car accident and she lost her job. She needed to rebuild her life. As I listened to Jenna, I realized I was writing about the time when I lost a most beloved teaching position. Because of our connection, Jenna needed to be the main character. Once she told me that she would find the journals of her three-times great-grandmother linking their experiences, I was filled with all kinds of new story possibilities for both of my heroines.

Later, of course, another writer friend helped me by suggesting I spread out Jenna’s self-awakening more slowly. This forced me to remember how I had managed to rebuild my life. As I dredged up old memories, I used them to enhance the link between Jenna and Morgan as they helped each other through all kinds of challenges.

I’ve had friends and family, who have read the book, ask me how I came up with all the details of my story. What I tell them is that I did it a little at a time. For me, writing is a little bit like a scavenger hunt. (Do they have those any more?) I get a snippet of story and work on it until it feels like it’s done, at least for the present. Then another snippet comes to me usually just as I’m waking up in the morning, and I begin working on that new section, and on it goes until I have a finished draft.

When I finished the rough draft of The Space Between Time, I thought I was finished with Jenna and Morgan’s story. However, it wasn’t long before a new segment of their story nagged at the back of my mind and the sequel, Time’s Echo was born.

To tell you the truth, where the ideas for these books came from is a bit of a mystery. I mean, for a long time I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to put my ideas into a coherent form. Nevertheless, once I got the concept for The Space Between Time, it simmered on the back burner of my mind, even when I was extremely busy teaching. Finally the day came when the stew was ready to be served and I started writing. Now that it’s finished, I’m in a little bit of awe of how my writing process has evolved and that the ideas in this book have led to the next book. And not only that, I have ideas for books of different kinds.

I have to say I’m hooked on this wonderful creative process. Now I write not only to make sense out of my own life, but to see where my imagination will take me. So, the moral of this post is that I have to keep writing.

There are many stories to be told by me, and other people, which means there are lots of different stories to be enjoyed. So, help your favorite storytellers by spreading the word about their work. Believe me, the creators will be grateful you did because, the main challenge for an author is to get their story noticed.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.