History Repeats Itself Until…

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…we must do that which we think we cannot.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

This weekend my husband and I binge watched The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. We were struck with how similar events during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency are to events that have happened in the last few years, and are still happening today. Isn’t that always the way, though. Even in our personal lives. We repeat lessons until we pay attention to what we need to learn from them.

The events we’re living with right now are so bleeping uncomfortable. Add to that the personal struggles each of us are going through and it’s no wonder we’re all freaking out a little bit. However, you may think I’m weird, but, for the most part I’ve learned to welcome challenges.

In my personal life, when I’m feeling uncertain or fearful, I know I’m getting a huge blessing. The Universe is telling me there is something extraordinary I need to be looking at. If I heed the call instead of poking my head in the sand, I’m always rewarded.

Right now the challenges I’m facing all have to do with the publication of my first novel, The Space Between Time. I’m in new territory here. I’ve never written a novel before and something tells me my life will be irrevocably changed when the book comes out.

Part of the reason I feel this way has to do with something that happened one day shortly after I made the decision to quit teaching. I was cleaning up my room at the end of the school year, thinking about my decision to teach one more year. But as I was packing, the thought came to me that if I chose I could trust the Universe and quit at that very moment. Instead of squashing the possibility, I considered it, which brought a flood of what I can only describe as ecstasy. I knew without a doubt I was on the right path. That I was supposed to take this step into being a writer. The extraordinary thing about that feeling was it lasted through the rest of my packing, and the hour drive home.

It ended up that I chose not to quit that day. I took my signed contract to the school district office on the deadline day with a little bit of a heavy heart. But, that last year of teaching was amazing, and I don’t regret my decision. However, ever since my extraordinary experience, I’ve had this feeling that no matter what, I’m meant to be a writer. Every morning when I wake up I know I get to do this amazing job and I feel immensely blessed.

That doesn’t mean that thinking about all the possibilities of my future as a writer doesn’t make me crazy sometimes. I’m an introvert, so the thought of attracting even a little bit of attention is daunting. But I’m building a new life for myself, like my two main characters in my novel, Jenna in the present, and Morgan in the past. I’m choosing to step out of my comfort zone following where Spirit leads me. I wouldn’t change my decision to become a writer for the world.

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt

That brings me back to Theodore, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. They are fantastic examples of people who looked for and followed their calling. They weren’t perfect people. They each suffered great tragedies in their lives. But they didn’t let those stop them from embracing life to the fullest. They did the very best they could with the life they had. That’s what I want to do. I want to do the best I can with this life I have, because doing that will influence someone, maybe a lot of someones. And isn’t that why we’re here? To make connections with, learn from, and inspire each other?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Empathy is Good

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

“We can cultivate empathy throughout our lives and use it as a radical force for social transformation.” Roman Krznaric

Almost all my life I thought being empathic was a curse. I’m deeply affected by what’s going on around me, and by what people around me are feeling. If you’re not a highly empathic person you may not understand what it’s like for those of us who are. Whenever I go out in public, I’m like a magnet. I pick up the feelings of those around me. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why my happy mood would suddenly turn to anger, or fear, or sadness. It was only when I was a little bit older that I realized that the feelings of those around me were attaching themselves to me. Often times my sudden mood swings had nothing to do with my own emotions.

Because I was an emotion magnet, I preferred to stay at home quiet and secure within my own family unit. School, church and going shopping were torturous experiences for me. I’d cry at movies, and feel the pretend injuries of the characters. When I was given a reading or song to sing at church or school, I’d often cry at the poignancy of the piece. Maybe people thought I was a wimpy girl. Good thing I was a girl, because it’s okay if you’re a girl and you have empathy, but it’s not okay for boys. I think that’s sad.

Over the years as I started to do deep spiritual work, practicing meditation and Reiki, I learned how to protect myself from other people’s emotions. When I did that I was able to see that some people shut themselves into cocoons to protect themselves. Maybe they are empathetic too. But some people are so disconnected from their feelings that they have become sociopathic. They can’t see or feel what is happening to the people around them. And frankly they don’t care. They don’t want to understand what it’s like to live another person’s life, as long as theirs is comfortable. It seems like there are a great many people like that in the world right now who fit that description. That makes me sad, because perhaps they started out with a large amount of empathy but got scared and chose to protect themselves.

It takes work to remain open to the feelings of others. Believe me there are times when I wish I could shut myself in a cocoon and not know the terrible things that are going on in the world. But that doesn’t help make a change for the better.

I’m a big believer in energy fields. One thing I can do is to send out positive energy to people in other parts of the world who are hurting. I’ve mentioned the Global Coherence Initiative in previous posts. That organization is all about focusing our collective energy toward a troubled place in the world. Meditation, Reiki, prayer, sending good thoughts are all ways you can send positive energy into the world. It may not always look like the positive energy is helping, but over time, it does.

Another way is to take action and actually do something. This may sound lame to you, but one of the reasons I continue to teach theatre classes, is because I like helping students open up to new abilities and talents. Theatre is an excellent way to open your empathy centers. You must identify with a character to be able to play her well.

I read about a study a few years back that measured how witnessing acts of violence or kindness affected the watcher. They found that witnessing something that’s happening to someone else causes us to feel as if it’s happening to us. I wish I could give you the link for the study, but it was so long ago I don’t have access to it any longer. It’s studies of this kind that prove why theatre, movies and TV are so powerful. It’s also one of the reasons I’m so excited that one of the most popular genres, Super Hero movies, are digging deeper into the struggles each hero goes through before they are able to take on the mantle of a true super hero. What makes them heroes is the fact that they’re willing to face their demons. It’s not just the fact that they have super powers, it’s the inner work they’re willing to do that helps them identify the suffering of others. They are able to empathize with the people they are trying to help.

The thing I liked about the article that if found on Facebook, “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People” by Roman Krznaric was his assertion that we can learn to be more empathetic. It just takes practice. The article was published almost two years ago, but I think it’s just as relevant as the day it was published. Maybe more so. There is a link on the site to a short test to help you see how empathetic you are. If you find your not very empathetic, don’t panic. You can become more so with practice.

I wasn’t surprised to find I rated very high on the empathy scale. I’m also very glad that I no longer feel like being empathic is a curse. On the contrary, it’s a huge blessing.

Lucinda Sage-MIdgorden © 2014

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The Mystery of Life

“I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.” -Dalai Lama

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” -Albert Pike

Arizona Butterfly
Arizona Butterfly

I’ve been weeping most of the morning, because I found out yesterday that one of my college students died over the weekend. She was 23 years old. I had her in three of my classes, so I got to be blessed by, and enjoy her sense of humor, her intelligence, and her smiling face. Her death is tragic. I’m tempted to ask why this happened, but I know that it’s just the mystery of life.

Something about her death brought back the sense of loss I felt when my seven week old nephew, and some years later my father died. What does it all mean? I don’t know, but I have a deep feeling inside that everything that happens to us has a purpose. Even the bad stuff has meaning.

Now, I’ve heard scientists, and researchers say that we’re hard wired to find patterns, make connections, and find the deeper meaning of things. Some people think life is just absurd, and there is no purpose to anything. Maybe they’re right. Today, I’m leaning in that direction. But here’s the thing, if there wasn’t a purpose why are we here?

You can tell me that life on this planet developed through a series of coincidences. That an uncaring god created us, or everything exists because of random cosmic events. Go ahead and believe that if you want to. I just don’t buy it. Maybe I don’t buy it, because I’ve always known that there is a higher power of some sort. I’ve experienced her/his presence, and had profound life altering experiences, which lead me to conclude that everything in the Universe has a purpose. Every being contributes vital energy, or maybe something deeper, to whatever mystery is going on; the mystery of life.

Brené Brown says we’re hardwired for connection. Weddings, graduations, birthdays, health challenges, promotions, job losses, births, and deaths help bind us closer together, if we let them. If that’s the only purpose we have for sharing this planet, then I’m in. I want to deepen my connections with my loved ones. I want to bring something to the table that helps others grow and expand. My student did that.

A year ago, almost to the day, she played Glinda the Good Witch in a juvenile production of The Wizard of Oz. It was a joint production with the elementary school and the college. The students loved her. Throughout the rehearsal process, she helped them understand that giving in to petty personal feelings hurts you, your performance, and hurts the show. She helped them understand what it means to be a disciplined performer. I know that’s not her only legacy, but that’s a huge one. Something she could be proud of.

So, today I’ll weep for my loss, and the deeper loss her family, and friends feel. I’ll trust that the ripples she set in motion during her short life, will continue to grow, and add meaning to those of us who remain.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014