“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” ~ William A. Ward
“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Strength and growth come only from continuous effort and struggle.” ~ Napoleon Hill
There is a great deal that can be said for never giving up on something you want. There have been times when I’ve wanted to quit a project, or give up striving for that degree. But when I didn’t it turned out to be a good thing.
I’ve recently finished another round of revisions on my novel. This time I had to make some major changes. There might be people who would balk at the tedious work of going through their manuscript page by page to catch mistakes and to take big blocks of text and either eliminate them, or put then in a new place. Yet this is my passion so every word closer to publication is a victory.
The best most successful stories and the lives of real people who inspire us are the ones where the protagonist or the real person kept persevering even through all of the pain and heartache. If I could, I’d include a photo of the Sistine Chapel. Talk about being dedicated to your work.
So many people have told me how much they admire my stick-to-itiveness when it comes to working on my book. Many of them say, “I don’t think I would have the patience to stick with writing through all the years and all the meticulous work as you have done. I admire you.” It’s nice to have their admiration. However, when someone compliments me like that, it makes me more determined to keep working because my job isn’t finished yet. On the other hand, I hope that they find the one thing that they would dedicate their life to because it is a joyous feeling to wake up in the morning and know you get to do what you love.
That’s all I had to say today. I’m just coming home from vacation and don’t have lots of time to get this post ready for publication. Besides, I’ve got to go through my manuscript again to make sure the changes I made to it make sense then send it off to my writer friends for more comments.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ ” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
“Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.” ~ Boris Pasternak
“Some of us think that holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.” ~ Hermann Hess
Does this happen to you? It’s your birthday, or anniversary, or some other special day for you, and you don’t get the present you were hoping for, or your loved ones don’t even notice that’s it’s a special day? Or you’re telling a story and something interrupts and no one notices that you didn’t get to finish your story? Or you’re feeling down and no one notices? Then in each instance you feel irritated, angry and upset because other people didn’t respect or understand you? They were so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they completely forgot about you? That’s happened to me more times than I care to count and for years I didn’t understand why I would get so upset.
As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been studying A Course In Miracles this year. One of the concepts has baffled me a great deal. It’s the idea of “specialness”. The first time I read about this concept, which the course says “…is a lack of trust in anyone except yourself.” I felt extremely uncomfortable. Aren’t we supposed to feel that we are special? That we have gifts and talents the world needs which only we can share? In a way I was affronted by the idea that none of us are special. However, I have to admit that I have had an internal battle for most of my life between feeling ordinary and feeling special, humble and arrogant. I never understood what that struggle was about until I began studying A Course In Miracles.
Last week the concept came up again in my studies and this time I understood the idea that was being conveyed. As I’ve written many times, each of us lives in our own little world. We think of our ideas and our lives as paramount. Our well being is more important to us than that of others. I didn’t like to accept that fact about myself. The Course says it this way, “He who is ‘worse’ than you must be attacked, so that your specialness can live on his defeat.” It’s sad to say but I’ve done that, and had it done to me. I’ve rejoiced when I got the better of others and I’ve suffered when others have defeated me. Maybe it was just the fact that I was praised for something I did, and others weren’t. Or someone cheated me out of some money, or got the job I wanted and made me feel terrible. As I was reading that section of the course, I realized that it is this concept of specialness that has caused so many problems for us throughout the ages.
Something I’m still working to understand is that we are all part of God which means that every single person, maybe even every single thing that exists is my brother. Someone once said it this way, we’re all drops in the larger ocean. God is the ocean. One drop is not better or worse than any other drop but we’re all needed to complete the ocean. We all have our specific function to perform to keep the ocean healthy.
I am happy that with all that’s been going on over the last few years, I finally understand on a new level why we lash out at each other. Self-preservation is one of the most fundamental reactions we experience whenever something happens to us. If we don’t feel like we’re being understood and appreciated over a long period of time, then the pressure builds up and our hurt and anger blow the lid off the cooker and that’s when bad things happen.
My husband and I were talking about this concept in the car as we were driving on our vacation. I said, so now I understand that when we attack others we think we’re protecting ourselves, but it never works. It makes the situation worse. I loved what my husband said, “Yep. The human race hasn’t learned that one yet.” Jesus asked us to turn the other cheek and to love those who despitefully use us. Do I have enough courage to put away my sword? I very much want to. I want to stand defenseless, which is another concept of the Course, that defenselessness is strength.
When I think of the concept of defenselessnes as strength I think of the story of Immaculee Ilibagiza, whose entire family was killed during the Rowandan genocide in the early 1990s. She wrote about her extraordinary experience of survival with seven other women confined to a bathroom for 91 days in her book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rowandan Holocaust, written with Steve Erwin. I saw her speak during one of Wayne Dyer’s talks on PBS. She told about how she and the other women were found by the men perpetuating the terror. Some of them were men she knew. She stood her ground ready to give up her life and she told them she forgave them. When she told that story, I thought that I would not have been able to stand among the murderers as they held their machetes ready to kill me, nor would I have been able to forgive them for killing my loved ones. Yet she was able to do that and they bowed to her strength. She lived to tell the tale of what she learned from those horrific events.
I began these posts over two years ago as a forum for myself to write out and make sense of my experiences and the things I’m learning as I live my life. I write today’s post because I feel I’m at a turning point. I can’t see the world in the ways I used to. And I’m inspired to continue on this journey to become a better, stronger, more loving person. I hope you will continue to come along with me. And if you don’t understand what I’m writing about, I hope you’ll ask questions, or challenge my attempts to express what I’m learning.
“The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lighting bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it’s really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow.” – Carlton Cuse
“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” – Julia Cameron
“ ‘Romance’ is based on my entire creative process. I fall in love with an idea, obsess over it, isolate myself with it, and when I eventually introduce it to my friends, they all tell me that it’s stupid.” – Chuck Palahniuk
“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” – Flannery O’Connor
“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.” – Red Haircrow
Does this happen to you? You’re working on a project. You love doing it and you’re inspired every day by what you’re working on. Even when you’re having a frustrating day, it’s great to be part of the creative process. Then others, knowing that you are doing something creative, send you tips on how to do the work. And that makes you feel irritated. That happened to me the other day. A friend of mine posted something on my wall about writing a novel, which made me feel really irritated. It’s one thing to post it for the general public to read, but I didn’t like that he posted it on my personal wall like I needed help with the project I’m working on. Okay, admittedly, I do need help from time to time but I’m going to seek the help of people who are writers and who understand the personal nature of the writing process.
I find that often the people who are sending me tips, aren’t engaged in the same work I’m doing. That irritates me even more. Who do they think they are telling me how to do my work, when they aren’t working in my field? I begin to engage in mental ego games. I want to tell them to shove their advice in a … well, we won’t go there. Then I begin to get my ego in check and I realize they’re just trying to be supportive. They want to encourage me and be my cheerleaders. Sometimes I find myself getting irritated even when fellow writers send me tips on writing. They believe that everyone should approach writing the same way they do, and they are very didactic about it. Maybe that’s why I dropped out of both writing groups I used to belong to.
It’s a rule in the theatre that an actor never tells another actor how to portray their character. That’s the job of the actor playing the role in collaboration with the director. I feel it should be the same with other forms of artwork. My way of writing isn’t going to be the same as your way. Your way of painting that picture isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s way. The creative process is deeply personal and unique to the artist.
While I was mulling this “helpful” post by my friend, I read a post on Facebook by Diana Gabaldon, author of the hugely popular Outlander series. The other day she wrote about her experiences at writer’s conferences both as a new writer and now as a successful author. She enumerated the ways new writers sabotage themselves by listening to all the advice from the successful writers who present their method for writing at the conferences as THE way to do it. They, the new writers, think they have to write just like she does, or like Dan Brown, or James Patterson, or J. K. Rowling. She was telling how it was for her when she began to write the first in what is now nearly a nine book series. Though she attended writer’s conferences, she didn’t pay attention to anyone’s formula for writing. She took what was helpful, then just started to write and followed where her characters led her. She followed her own instincts. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve gone to only a few writer’s conferences because I didn’t want someone telling me I’m doing it wrong. As far as I’m concerned, there is no right or wrong when it comes to creativity. The few conferences I have attended didn’t really offer much help for me and my process. I’m the only one who can find my inner path to the truth I’m trying to convey.
Having written all of that, I have had fantastically helpful comments from reader and writer friends. But I chose their advice very carefully. The ones I trust don’t try to speak to my process, they only make comments on their reaction to the work I’m creating. They know that writing is a painstakingly slow process and sometimes we can get mired down in all the details of our story and loose track of where we were going with it. We throw unnecessary events and characters into the story and we need one or two helpful people to point out where we’ve gone off track. The people who are the most helpful, are those who point out where the story bogs down, tell me what’s working and encourage me to continue writing.
As for my friends who try to help me, I’m grateful that they are interested in what I’m working on. It’s nice to have cheerleaders encouraging you to keep up the good work. Maybe some of them want me to succeed because if I do, then it’s a sign that they can succeed at making their dreams come true too. When they send me advice, that I don’t really want, I’ll just remember that my ego is the one who is offended. The real me will accept the good wishes of my friends and keep writing.
“People say, ‘I want to change the world!’ Wonderful! I’ve got a great place to start – look in the mirror and get to work!” – David Roppo
“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” – Jimmy Carter
“What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature.” – Voltaire
“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” – Dalai Lama
Last week I was away at a family wedding and all kinds of great things happened during that time which make me think we’ve reached a tipping point in the direction of choosing love instead of hate.
The wedding was beautiful, as was the scenery along the way and at our destination. I don’t know the couple well, but everyone who spoke of them said they are two exceptional people. That in itself is hopeful. Weddings are a celebration of love. That’s what made the Supreme Court decision about making sure marriage equality is accepted in all 50 states an extra bonus to the weekend.
The Supreme Court also upheld The Affordable Care Act, and they upheld the use of an independent commission made of up citizens to draw Arizona’s congressional districts. In other words, they stood for the citizens of this country in three different ways. Hurray! It’s another few steps in the right direction.
Though I was very happy about all the decisions, the one that surprised and delighted me the most, because I didn’t think it would happen, was the one that upheld the rights of THE PEOPLE of my state of Arizona to decide how to to organize the voting districts. The politicians have to stay out of such decisions. If they upheld the vote of the people on this issue in my state, it can be the beginning of the end for gerrymandering in other states as well. This decision was big, and went mostly unnoticed with the news of the other two decisions. However, all three, in my opinion, point to the beginning of the end of lots of injustices that have been in place in this country.
As I’ve emphasized many times in the two years I’ve been writing this blog, there are positive things happening. The tide is turning toward more tolerance, and more fair treatment for all our citizens. I think what happened last week is definite proof that what I’ve been saying is true.
Other positive things are happening as well. Look at what’s been happening since the shooting in Charleston. I have to say that I was moved by the statements of the families of the victims. They shared love and forgiveness for the poor young man who allegedly did the shooting. Because of their forgiveness, lots of people are engaging in actual, serious conversations about not only the symbol of the confederate flag, but how blacks, and other ethnic groups, have been treated. We’re examining our unacknowledged and unexamined attitudes about each other. (Thank you Donald Trump!)
If you watch Fox news you probably still think the world is going to hell in a hand basket, (Sorry for the over used metaphor.) that liberals are taking over the world and persecuting conservative Christians and wealthy white people. It’s not, and we’re not. We’re just standing up for the rights of ALL people.
Here are some more positive signs that the tide is changing and that we’ve reached the tipping point toward the positive. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have had huge turnouts at their rallies, and raised enormous amounts of money donated mostly by ordinary citizens. The Republicans who are running for office sound more and more like people high on drugs or people who are mentally ill living in world of their own creation. The Girl Scouts refused a $100,000 anti-transgender donation, the attacks on the president by the Koch brother’s and the Tea Party are failing, and many people around the world continue to speak out on issues from guns to women’s rights, education for all, and how damaging it is to use religion to attack others. Wow! The good news is everywhere.
Now I understand that most of us automatically go to the negative when events happen. My friend Jean, who had brain surgery almost two years ago, has been studying books about brain research. One thing she told me was that scientists have discovered that we’re hard wired to embrace the negative first and that turning our thinking around to the positive can be difficult. But it can be done. It just takes practice.
I have to admit that I grew up in a positive environment, so it’s easier for me to change those initial negative thoughts to positive ones, however, I too feel despair at times about all the bad news. That’s why I seek out positive news items, TV shows, movies and supportive messages on social media. If we feed our minds negative images and messages, that’s what we’ll think about. Conversely, if we feed our mind positive messages, it becomes easier to think in the positive. Maybe recent events show us that people ARE beginning to embrace positive thoughts which produce positive change. I hope so.
“I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.” – Georgia O’Keefe
“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher
“Clearly older women and especially older women who have led an active life or elder women who successfully maneuver through their own family life have so much to teach us about sharing, patience, and wisdom.” – Alice Walker
“You see a lot of smart guys with dumb women, but you hardly ever see a smart woman with a dumb guy.” – Erica Jong
“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West
Somehow what I wrote in the last post just didn’t seem like it covered all the ideas that have been rattling around in my head for the last few months. So many things are happening to lots of different groups of people and they all look like different issues, but in my opinion, they are the same issue. We need to learn to value others so much that it won’t matter what color, sexual orientation, gender, or level of prosperity they might have or be. However, it’s hard to value others if we don’t value ourselves.
As I’ve written many times in this blog, valuing myself has been a big theme in my life and one of my main cheerleaders was my father. I couldn’t articulate until I was much older that he had lots of great feminine qualities that I wanted to emulate. Because he was a man, I got the idea that all men would be like my dad. But as I grew older and bumped up against barriers that were constructed to keep out anyone who wasn’t a white male, I started to rethink who I was and what it was that made me valuable. And the answer is: Because I’m here! This has been a lifelong process, you understand, to know that I’m valuable just because I exist. This and all the ideas I’m expressing today have taken me a long time to be able to articulate.
This is what I now know. We are each a piece of God. As I’ve studied the religions of the world, I’ve come to think that there is something within women that understands that fact. Way back in human history, men knew it too, because they worshiped the Goddess. But then things changed and men took charge. Women adapted. They kept their strength to themselves and learned to make a place for themselves within the male dominated societies. On the outside it looked like men were in charge, but there were often great women behind the great men. And almost every woman who became ruler of a country, did not have a husband, which allowed them to rule the way they thought best.
But I don’t want to go into the entire history of moving from female based cultures to male based cultures and back again. There are lots of fantastic books about that subject. No, what I want to do is express what I think is happening now. I think we’re moving from a completely male dominated world, to one of cooperation between the sexes. And one where every single person is value and honored. The evidence I provide for this is just what’s happening in the news almost every day.
In this country, the male dominated congress is in deadlock. There are white men who are going ballistic because they see their domination crumbling. They’ve been in control for so long. They liked it and they don’t want to lose the upper hand. Each time there is a new shooting, or new restrictive legislation introduced, or progressive legislation that’s voted down, there are people who wake up and say, “Wait a minute. That’s not right.” And the more people who say that and band together with other’s who are awakening, the pendulum swings ever so slightly in the direction of more equality all around.
One of the things I was going to mention in this post was the fact that women need to stand with and for other women. I’ve always thought that was important but this morning as I was thinking about that I was challenged to back that up with action. I’ve received a number of invitations from my new Representative Martha McSally to follow her Facebook page. I’ve refused to follow her because she’s from a much more conservative party than I am. I was angry that she won the election, and that she won it by a minuscule amount of votes. But if I’m going to stand up for having more women in leadership roles in this country, then I need to support Martha McSally. I’ve just taken the time to like her page. Now I’ll be able to tell her how I feel about the important issues that we face in this country. I don’t know if she’ll pay attention to anything I write to her, but she’ll never even consider them if she doesn’t know what I think. As Malala Yousafzai says, “Sometimes we wait for others and think that Martin Luther should raise among us, Nelson Mandela should raise up among us and speak up for us, but we never realize they are normal humans like us – and if we step forward we can also bring change just like them.” So, I’m taking one step forward and telling my Representatives what I want this country to look like.
I’m given hope that maybe Ms. McSally will pay attention, because I saw a news segment not long ago about the gatherings the women in Congress hold regularly to create a bridge between the parties to get things done. They may not always agree on an issue, but they look for ways to work together. I like that!
There is so much more to say about how to help this country grow into one where every single person, no matter who they are, can be honored and valued but I’ll leave that for future posts.