Doing It Anyway

Rainbow

“Those who improve with age embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and begin to replace youth with wisdom, innocence with understanding, and lack of purpose with self-actualization.” ~ Bo Bennett

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” ~ Cecil Beaton

I’ve been thinking a great deal about my writing process lately. After several months of concentrating on other projects, I’ve finally gone back to my sequel novel, Time’s Echo.

I’ve heard that Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, writes in blocks of scenes. They aren’t connected until she gets to a certain point, and then she shapes them into the story she wants to tell. In a way, I do the same thing. I get an idea for something that happens to my characters. I begin writing that situation. Often I have to go back to it to add more details, or I realize that something needs to be changed. Once it’s in a presentable rough state, I move on.

When I got the idea to write The Space Between Time, my original idea was to write about a father, daughter relationship and how what the daughter learned from her father helped her once he was gone. But as I got into the nitty gritty of the story it became clear that it wanted to be about how my two main characters deal with life shattering events. The death of a parent, loss of a job, loss of romantic relationships, dealing with difficult people. Each woman must face hardships, learn from them, and then build a better life for herself.

While I was writing, I thought this first book would stand alone. But the moment I finished the rough draft, I knew I had to write a sequel novel. The second book would address women’s issues. That was in 2014. I had a clear idea where I wanted Morgan’s story in the past to go. But what Jenna had to deal with in the present was not as clear. So, her story didn’t develop very quickly. Then the @Me Too movement happened, and it has opened up Jenna’s story line. There are now so many possibilities for her character to choose to do. Since it’s the harder of the two storylines to write, I’m letting it percolate on the back burner of my mind while I work on what Morgan’s timeline.

As I’ve been working on Time’s Echo, the idea that we can’t escape our life’s purpose keeps coming up as one of the themes. Morgan in the past, and Jenna in the present come face to face with the way women are treated in their time period. They each have an unavoidable choice to make, get involved, or sit back on the sidelines. I chose for them to become involved, even though that creates tension in their home lives.

While writing about the struggles of Jenna and Morgan, I’ve realized that I’m inspired by people who see some problem that needs to be fixed, and even though the work is dangerous, or seemingly impossible, they do what they can to make things better. And being who I am, those stories make me think about my own life’s purpose. I don’t think I have a huge function in the grand scheme of things. And yet, I do want to change the world in the small ways that are within my power. I’ll never be a Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, or Jesus. But no matter what I’m meant to do, if I try to deny or ignore it, my life will become shallow and vapid. That’s an unacceptable prospect for me.

I think I’m so caught up in all forms of story telling, especially the ones I’m telling, because I get a chance to examine situations that I would never experience in real life. I ask myself, what I’d do if I were in that situation? Would I fight until the end, even if I knew the cause was hopeless? Would I join a cause even if my life was in danger, or I might never see the culmination of all the work I’d put in?

Those are the kinds of questions I’m asking about my characters as I write Time’s Echo. And one more, when someone makes a commitment to a cause that will change society, how does it affect their family? I’m fascinated by the tension between the life a person has been living and the realization that they’re called to step outside their comfort zone. What effects do their decisions make on those around them?

I’m happy to say that I’m nearing the end of Morgan’s storyline. Now to tackle Jenna’s. I’ll keep you posted about how that goes.

Welcome to my new followers. Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments. Have a wonderful weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden ©2019

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 little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Only Jenna joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, instead of traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news on the audiobook version Lucinda is working on. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Life is Messy. Why That’s a Good Thing!

Marco Polo Sings A Solo

“The one thing that I keep learning over and over again is that I don’t know nothing. I mean, that’s my life lesson.” ~ Dwayne Johnson

“My greatest life lesson has been that life can change in a second. This is why it’s important to always live your best possible life and to do what you can for others.” ~ Niki Taylor

This has been a devastating week both on a national level and in the lives of my students. I never know what to say at such times. I want to be of comfort. I want to assure my students, or friends that when things fall apart, they are really falling together. I even said that to one of my students when she said, “My life is a mess.” But later I thought, “That was stupid. She needed comfort not platitudes.”

The thing is, I’m old enough now to have lived through lots of life shattering events and I know that when my life falls apart, I have this extraordinary opportunity to build something new with the pieces. And some of you might think I’m crazy, but I know that there is some power guiding us through such trying times. We just have to trust that’s true and then try to listen to what that still small voice is telling us. I know these things, but when I say them, or share them on social media, people can’t understand what I’m driving at. They get angry with me or they say, “Yeah, but …”. I can’t blame them. When you’re in the middle of the drama, it’s hard to see that outside the theatre there is something more wonderful going on.

After that encounter with my student, I berated myself for not being caring enough. I felt like I failed and I started thinking about how to share what I’ve learned about life being messy and how failure and loss can be the beginning of a more fulfilling life. Then I had to laugh at myself. My book, The Space Between Time is my life philosophy expressed as a story. Jenna and Morgan face life shattering events, they embrace the messiness of their lives and come through to happier plateaus.

I’ve always loved fairy tales, myths, movies, and books. I didn’t know why, but when I became involved in theatre it dawned on me that stories give us the chance to open up to new perspectives. And when we allow ourselves to be influenced by the story we get a glimpse of new ways of thinking and being. That’s what propelled my drive to begin writing.

In real life encounters, all I can do is BE with those who are suffering while they find their own way through the darkness. But as a writer, I have an opportunity to give comfort in a different way. Stories give us a chance to learn at a safe distance. That’s exciting! Now that I’ve realized the truth of that, I’m more determined than ever to keep working on improving my story telling skills.

Here is an audio recording of the second segment of chapter one of The Space Between Time. I’m experimenting with creating my own audio segments, so this is not perfect, but I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for reading and listening. I appreciate your likes and comments.

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.

Marriage Lessons

Wedding Photo

“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” ~ Simone Signoret

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

Today is my thirty-seventh wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that my husband and I have been married that many years, but then his parents celebrated their sixtieth anniversary last month, so Barry and I have a long way to go to beat that record.

For obvious reasons it feels appropriate to look back and reflect upon all the things I’ve learned from being married.

First of all I should say that we have no children, so the things I might have learned from being a parent I’ve had to learn in other ways, or not at all. I don’t regret that decision one bit. It was right for us.

The way Barry and I realized we were in love was right out of a movie script. We were in one of the college choirs together, and were preparing for a tour during Winter Term. It was January in Iowa. One evening at the end of rehearsal, the director told us to go ahead and put on our coats and other winter gear while we sang one of our encore songs, which happened to be “Let It Be Me”. Barry and I were goofing around pretending we were in a play singing to each other, when all of a sudden, looking into each other’s eyes, something changed. We both felt it. That was the beginning of our romantic relationship.

Relationships can begin like that. But romance is only the spark that brings a couple together. I was naive and thought that that tingly all over feeling was love and would last forever. I assumed that Barry was supposed to be my everything, meet all my needs, and I was in turn to be that for him. It was a shock when I understood that that is not realistic. A marriage where the two people are completely dependent on each other is not healthy. That couple is codependent and for awhile that applied to Barry and me. However a few years into our marriage, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. I had to take responsibility for myself and make sure I did the personal work necessary to bring my best self to my relationship with Barry.

This led to another huge realization. Barry is my beloved and I rely on him for many things. But now I know that if something were to happen to him, I’d miss him terribly but I’d be okay.

Learning the above lessons started the day Barry and I were having an argument and I said to him, “When you say that, I feel …” The look on his face told me he was appalled, and he told me what he had intended by what he said. It was completely opposite to what I assumed he meant. What I assumed and what he intended were two completely different things. That was a big revelation. I learned that day that we hear one thing based on our past experiences, when in fact the other person might be trying to say something else. From that day onward, I checked in with him when we were having a discussion so that I understood just what he intended before getting all bent out of shape.

Over the years, I learned another vital lesson; that every day I must make the choice to commit to making our marriage work. For several years, I was sure that Barry would realize that I wasn’t worth his time and would leave me. So to protect my heart, I held back. I didn’t fully share my thoughts, or my affections. No relationship can work if one or both people are hiding behind their fear. When I was able to love and accept myself as I was, faults and all, I was able to open up and allow Barry his imperfections, and not try to change him.

My relationship with Barry has changed me in other ways. When he came into my life, I was an extremely serious person. I saw the world as a scary, hostile place. He, on the other hand, has a fantastic sense of humor and most of the time sees life as fun rather than a chore to get through. I’m forever grateful that he taught me how to laugh. Because of him, I now see life as an adventure. There are so many people to connect with, love and compassion to share, and beauty and wonder to experience everywhere. If it hadn’t been for him, I would never have had the courage to follow my dreams and try lots of daring new things. I hate to think what might have happened to me if I hadn’t married him. Though I do remember saying months or maybe even a year before Barry and I got together, that I deserved to find a true and lasting love and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. I guess I was on my way to trusting that I lived in a friendly universe after all. Falling in love with Barry was confirmation of that fact.

In these last few years of our marriage, I’ve learned the largest lesson of all, that each person is much more than all the outer things we associate with being human. At the core of each of us is a shining, creative, loving human being full of talents to offer the world. Most of the time we get bogged down by self-hatred, or the things we own, or by seeking the house, job, or education we think of as necessary to live a happy life. But none of those things are the true essence of who we really are.

Since we’re both artists in our different ways, there have been times when Barry and I have found common ground struggling to find our place in the world. Much of the time people don’t understand or appreciate that artists and creatives look at the world in new and different ways to come up with their theories, or inventions, or artwork. Having so much in common with Barry has given me the freedom to explore and create. These thirty-seven years are ones I’m extremely grateful to have lived. I look forward to many more wonderful years of creativity and self-discovery with my beloved husband, Barry.

Post Script: A couple of days ago I went to the dentist. I mentioned our upcoming anniversary. Since he’s a former student of mine, he knew me well enough to ask what was the secret for such a long and happy marriage. Without thinking I said that each couple needs to figure that out for themselves, that there isn’t one right answer to that question. I did qualify that statement by saying that I think good communication is a key component to all good relationships. He and his assistant agreed.

I added that little story to say that I’ve shared what I’ve learned, but those are my lessons and realizations and might not necessarily apply to you and your relationships, so happy discoveries to you all.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

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

Life Lessons

At rehearsal for The Tavern
At rehearsal for The Tavern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Things I Learned from My Father part 2 – Kindness

Dad and me on Easter Sunday
Dad and me on Easter Sunday

“No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.” ~ Aesop

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ~ Dalai Lama

“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me those are traditional values.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

The other day I was trolling Facebook and saw a video that fits perfectly something I learned from my father: it’s important to always be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt. My dad was almost always kind to others. He rarely lost his temper even at home, even when people were in his face challenging, or yelling at him.

But back to the video. In it a man with a “Trump Supporter” T-shirt and a sign that asked for hugs was standing outside a Bernie Sanders rally. He had a camera crew with him, so I don’t know if he was a real Trump supporter, or someone doing a social experiment. In any case as the rally ended and people poured out, he held up his sign asking for a hug. Only one person said, “F**k you.” Many people walked by without saying a word, but once the first person gave him a hug, many others followed. One woman even said, “Oh, you poor guy.” There was one man who wasn’t sure he wanted to give this Trump supporter a hug, he kind of hemmed and hawed, but finally he approached and gave the best hug. At the end of the video the young man said something like, “See we can overlook our differences and find common ground.”

In this season of so much controversy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what my dad taught me about being kind.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school, we moved from Wilbur, Washington to a five acre lot, twelve miles south of Spokane. There I was starting at a new country school that just happened to be rivals with the school I had been attending. The students at the new school were much nicer to me than the ones at the old had been when I started school there. That was wonderful, but church wasn’t so wonderful. My father was a progressive thinker in every aspect of his life. The members of the three congregations in Spokane were mostly conservative which as they got to know my father caused some real problems for our family.

At various times my father was, the district wide youth leader, and later pastor of our congregation. As youth leader, he wanted to broaden our experiences, so he did things like start a “Coffee House” in the basement of our congregation every Friday or Saturday night. We drank soda or tea, ate cookies or popcorn and had an open mic where people could sing, or recite or read what they’d written. We were encouraged to invite our friends. The atmosphere was dark with candles on the tables which made it feel very intimate. We kids loved it. The parents did not. We were, of course, chaperoned, but that didn’t matter. There was an uproar that inappropriate things were happening at the coffee house and the experiment was shut down.

Then dad started a program with the local mental hospital. Those of us who attended their monthly socials, would just talk to the inmates of the hospital, play games or read to them, or maybe dance with them. But again, people objected. Why should we be subjected to those unsavory people in the mental hospital? Maybe the parents were jealous. My father was very popular with the younger generation. Whatever the case, our trips to the hospital stopped.

When my father became pastor of our congregation, he started a relationship with the minister of the Baptist church a few blocks away. The congregation was made up of mostly black people and the two ministers cooked up a scheme where the two congregations would get to know each other so we could do some community outreach together. Unfortunately, that too fell flat.

Each of these attempts by my father to help get us out of our insular activities and worship, caused great anger toward him and our entire family. My parents received hate mail and terrible phone calls from congregation and district members. Though my parents tried to shield us from the controversy, I was old enough to catch snippets of conversations that gave me a pretty clear picture of what was going on. My father was considered a rabble rouser and many people didn’t like him. There were times when I witnessed people confronting him at church. No matter what they said or how they treated him, he was always kind.

Witnessing the way my father interacted with people left a deep impression on me. I asked myself how he was able to stay so calm and return hatred with kindness? One thing I noticed was that after such confrontations, he’d go to his bedroom, or some other quiet place to be alone for awhile. When I took up this same practice, I found that it helped me in my attempts to be kind to others.

I’m not perfect. There are times when I feel overwhelmed by emotions I don’t understand and I want to make nasty comments either in person, or on social media. But that would only escalate an already volatile situation. When I feel strong negative emotions, I follow what I learned from my father, I go to a quiet place, write down my feelings and meditate to calm myself. I wish we taught those skills in our schools because if we did, we might have a more peaceful world. I’m grateful I learned them from my father.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016