I have recently quit a part-time job that was engaging and interesting, but that required me to accept a toxic environment. I truly enjoyed what I was learning and being able to contribute as a service to the company as well as its clients. But when I discovered the building had partially unmitigated asbestos in its old and somewhat cracked tile flooring, after some studying up on the subject online I knew I could not continue to work at that site. I had recently vacuumed and the broken vacuum had spewed a cloud of dust into my face, before I had learned of the asbestos.
So I explained that I could not work in that environment. For a few weeks I tried to to see if perhaps there was a way I could do the work from home, while also teaching the role to the second in command at my home. Ultimately I realized not only that it was not ideal to try to conduct that role remotely.
So I finally uttered the words, “I quit.” Immediately I felt the relief that comes with a positive, self-affirming decision, bringing—yes—a better ending to an unbalanced situation. It has felt very liberating and creatively productive to return to my more unscheduled life, with no more clocking in and out on company time schedules.
Better endings, remember, are not always happier ones, but when they bring clarity and closure to an unstable or lingering situation, they can lead to New Beginnings!
Better Endings Story Seed: Toxic Conditions?
Have you had the experience of being able to free yourself from a toxic situation? Or, are you currently engaged in a situation with toxic elements to it? Journal about how you found your way free from a toxic situation from the past, or about the toxic elements you have been dealing with. In what ways might the principle of Better Endings potentially relate to your experiences?
A Better Endings outlook is first and foremost a choice to maintain a positive attitude, despite or even especially in the face of life’s challenges. How can we maintain optimism, though, when beset by the heavy weight of a current problem? Recently I have stumbled upon a way out from under the otherwise debilitating burden of a pressing life situation.
I am transitioning out of my part-time job, one that I have deeply valued, because of an irresolvable environmental concern. I have been troubling over this decision, but I do know it is the right choice for me based on health considerations. So I have been mulling over this situation and yesterday arrived at a breakthrough realization that I am calling my “happiness quotient.”
I started counting my blessings compared to the negative factors I am moving through. I thought, well, most of my life remains positive, so I started adding up the percentages of positive aspects I am happy about in comparison to the elements that have been weighing me down.
For example (Readers, please make your own list), What I am Happy About: * my pets, Sophie and Emily (healthy, loving companions) * my family being nearer since my relocating * good friends nearby, old and new, including my best high school buddy and her husband * good friends I am still close with after all these years (many moons and and many moves!) * My new book being released May 6 ! (see right panels for a Goodreads Giveaway and to pre-order) * Continuing to teach anthropology online (my passion) * my home environment: small hometown, river, lake, performing art center * my spiritual practice and community activities * my relative good health and prosperity * my freedom
And What I am Unhappy or Challenged About (Readers again, please compose your own current list): * leaving a job I have treasured and the people there whom I have been befriending * the state of the world
So, when I count up my current factors for Happiness (N=10) against more negative factors (N=2), add them together (12) and calculate the percentage of happy to total factors (10/12 as x/100), I realize I have a Happiness Quotient of 84%. This awareness lifts my spirits and helps me to RELEASE what simply it is timely to Let Go!
So, how about you? Try this one on for size. See if it might help you to put ‘things’ into a broader perspective. And importantly if it does not; if your Happiness Quotient turns out to be lower than you would like, then I would invite you to journal about (or contemplate or talk with your loved ones about) how you might introduce some better endings re-visioning into your current life chapter. What can you do to increase your happiness and to decrease the weight of current burdens?
Please feel free to share about your results in Comments below.
A few weeks ago an odd thing happened. I found a single jigsaw puzzle piece on my living room carpet. This was odd because I have not worked on a jigsaw puzzle for over a year (and I have vacuumed several times since then!); and because the last puzzle I did put together is complete and I have not disassembled it. No missing pieces.
I showed the puzzle piece to a friend who sometimes works puzzles and has visited at my home, but no, she says it could not be from her either.
The puzzle piece itself is not so extraordinary: a sliver of the top of a white and grey cloud against a line of maybe blue mountain scape on a horizon, against a dark blue background. Let’s say it could symbolize a cloud’s silver lining—then, for me as the finder, what could be its significance?
Maybe that is just it: my missing piece of the puzzle of life is to find silver linings! Sometimes I do need to remember that; not to stress out when things go out of kilter a bit, either in everyday life or in the larger scheme of worldly events. Depending on one’s outlook or one’s position in a situation, there can always be a silver lining discerned: opportunities disguised as setbacks.
Still, this could be but one of my “missing puzzle pieces.” As a journaling exercise I recommend answering What Is My Missing Puzzle Piece About? Brainstorm several possible answers and then explore or contemplate each response. For example, for me (I always sample first any better endings journaling tool I offer to others), my brainstorming could include:
My Missing Puzzle Piece Could Be About:
Taking more time to investigate a situation before acting
Listening with greater, and longer, patience
More free time for sheer enjoyment
Dropping the mind in contemplation practice
More laughter, at myself, and healthy humor generally
Ways to arrive at greater clarity and conviction
And so on…guess I have plenty more Puzzles to solve!
How about You? How might you answer this probe? What might your puzzle piece look like? What could it represent for you?
Better Endings, and the new beginnings that generally follow from them, start with creative re-visioning. That is the greatest lesson I have taken away from exploring the principle of Better Endings for this blog and in my life over the past several years.
Sometimes I refer to the practice of creative re-visioning itself as better-endering, a play on the phrase from Camelot of ‘happily ever-aftering.’ Of course, not all ‘better endings’ are happy ones; rather, they bring benefits of helping people to resolve situations–sometimes deeply buried in past memories but affecting current outlooks or decisions—so they can move forward with greater awareness to move toward a ‘better’ future.
So, what is Re-Visioning? It is a viewpoint we can apply to past, present, or future situations or choices that allows us to look “anew” or with a “fresh pair of lenses” from our most mature and mindful Self.
We can re-vision a past trauma, for instance, to come to a better understanding of how that came about, what we have learned from the experience, and how we can go forward knowing we could handle such a situation differently today. We can re-vision the present by asking ourselves, have we fallen into any sort of “rut” that is impeding our progress toward our highest goals; if so, how shall we move forward again? We can re-vision the future by looking at where we appear to be headed and asking ourselves, is that where we want to arrive; if not, what specific steps can we take now or in the near foreseeable future that could propel us in a new direction we truly desire to explore.
Here is a practice:
Better Endings Story Seed: Creative Re-Visioning
Make a list of 3-5 situations from your past that you feel influenced the person you have become either in a positive way or a negative way (please include at least one or more of both). Then, quietly reflect about, talk with a loved one about, or journal about each of the situations you have listed. What was most helpful about the positive influences? Why or how did the negative situations come about?
Finally, go back in your active imagination to the more challenging situation, bringing your more mature attitude and sense of greater empowerment or free will today with you. What could you do differently or tell your younger self to do differently? How might that have changed your life? Can you do something today to celebrate AS IF you have resolved that earlier challenge?
“I dreamed it, man!” – Aaron Donald LA Rams defensive tackle (2/13/22, after VLII Superbowl game)
What a wonderful contemplation seed!
The legendary NFL player, Aaron Donald, was not speaking figuratively after his team’s recent Superbowl win; he really did dream of his game-ending play. Donald sacked the opposing team’s quarterback in the 4th quarter on 4th down with 1 yard to reach a first down, and with only seconds left to play. Had the Bengals gained that first down they would have likely at least tied the score and sent this year’s Superbowl game into overtime. But the lineman who sacked the QB to win the Big Game for his team had “dreamed it!” and so it came to be.
What does it take to synch your inner dream world of goals and ‘can do’ possibilities with your outer world of physical action, resulting in the realization of your deeply cherished ideals? Here is a better endings question well worth pursuing.
If you can visualize achieving your goal, as successful athletes and stage performers learn well, then you can manifest that vision. You forge a thought mold, and then you fill it. There is nothing mysterious or magical or difficult or forbidden about this process of manifestation. But it takes dedication to a worthy goal, study and practice to achieve the skill necessary to enact the pattern (fill the mold), and strong belief in your own ability or talent.
Better Endings Story Seed: Live Your Dream
Have you ever worked so hard at pursuing a goal that you literally dreamed of your success and then found yourself living out that dream in ‘real life’? How can you apply your faculty of creative visualization to realize or bring yourself nearer to fulfilling some worthy goal? Journal in your Better Endings Journal (any loose-leaf paper or blank page book) about a ‘dream’ or goal that you would like to bring into reality. Imagine yourself achieving your goal. What do you see? How DID you do it?
I have always loved the question, and ask it a lot both of myself and of others: “Why Are You Here?” Recently I have come to a further understanding of how this is a potentially inspiring ‘better endings’ prompt as a journaling or contemplation seed.
“Why are you here?” carries the double entendre of referring either to the immediate moment or to the ultimate question of what your life purpose is, or your sense of mission.
Why are you here?
WHY ARE YOU HERE?
Either side of this double-faceted query is worth pondering, and it can be illuminating to observe as well how they might converge!
Recently I have accepted a part-time job working at an academic publishing company in my local home community. It has been quite an adjustment to be working four days a week (plus continuing online teaching mainly in the evenings for now), around 24 hours per week, after having settled into a rather comfortable semi-retirement lifestyle with a lot of daily flexibility. So, I ask myself, “Why am I here? (at the new job), from both an immediate and a more ultimate spiritual perspective.
Okay, so I am certainly on a learning curve at the new job, learning about the inner workings of a publishing business. I find myself in a service role there, aiming to help not only by doing the cataloguing work I am assigned to but also helping implement ideas to help the business grow there despite the transition from print to ebooks in the publishing world. While I also am earning some additional income toward my later years savings goals, the work is fulfilling as a growth opportunity. It requires me to draw on inner creative resources as well as to engage in positive co-workership with the small team that runs the daily operations of the Press.
Knowing how an experience such as a job carries value and contributes to my ultimate spiritual and social goals helps me to frame how this experience can be best integrated into the rest of my life. I do not want to allow this part-time job to prevent me from continuing with teaching—which I find ultimately fulfilling in itself—or to limit my own writing, creative, and spiritual practice activities, or to limit my time with my pets and family and friends! So, I need to monitor how things are going. I do not want to fit myself to the new job but rather intend to integrate the job into my deeper life as a whole.
Better Endings Story Seed:
Why Are You Here?
Ask yourself this question at two different levels: Why are you Here? in your job, social life or location; and WHY ARE YOU HERE? in terms of your spiritual or whole-life goals? Contemplate and/or discuss and journal about this question. I suggest it will take several passes at contemplation and journaling to really sort this out, but as it is a question of defining your life purpose or mission and how your life relates to those, it may be quite worth your while!
I have been posting to this blog site of Better Endings, in various editions, for well over seven years. In the process of developing ideas for the blog, I have come to understand how “Better Endings” is more than a literary device. It is a principle, a creative faculty, inherent to each of us as human beings because of our capacities for imagination and rational thought. We are capable, through language and memory, to reflect on our past, to mindfully experience our current thoughts and actions, and to anticipate and plan for our future.
We are never ‘stuck’ in the present moment—or bubble—of time. The philosophical admonition that we live ‘only in the present moment’ means different things to different people, but I find for myself it is not really about the Present tense or about time (or spacetime), at all. To be grounded in the Now can mean simply focussing your attention fully on what you are experiencing. If I travel to a past event through memory or imagination, I am Here-Now. If I recall a dream to explore its meaning, I imagine myself back in that experience to ‘replay’ it, and I am Here-Now. If I consider my future potentials to choose my best path forward, as I ‘preview’ a future potential, I am Here-Now. And if I reflect on a full process of how some event or attitude or situation has emerged, unfolded, and resolved (or its forward potentials), viewing that entire process as a single extended Moment is also being Here-Now.
The Principle of Better Endings allows you to regard and conduct your life as a transformational process of Becoming: where have you been, where are you currently, then where are you headed in relation to where/how you would most desire to Be? To develop the talent of future prospection—like mining for gold!—it is helpful to reflect on past events and situations to ferret out what has worked and what could use some tweaking for going forward in a direction most in keeping with your current goals or with your sense of mission and purpose. The principle of Better Endings lets you choose how you will respond in a current condition so you can ‘aim’ to achieve a ‘better’ future condition for yourself and all concerned.
If we think of ourselves as locked within some bubble of the Present (like in a level-balancing tool), then we might think of our lives as like floating on a raft being tossed about on the open seas of chance or circumstance. Hang on! We might say, “I don’t make plans; I like to let things happen and Go with the Flow, wherever Life takes me.” (If you have set the flow in motion in a particular, desirable direction, then yes by all means!) I get the dynamic randomity of that and the sense of surfing on the waves of life experience to develop resourcefulness and spontaneity in the journey or process of living, day by day. “The journey is more important than the destination,” someone framed in this perspective might propound. I totally agree with that idea! Still, howwe engage in the Journey is part and parcel of living a fruitful, dynamic life. “Following Your Heart” to “Find/Live Your Bliss” requires more from you than ‘just getting by’ or waiting to see what will happen next.
Here’s the deal, from the perspective of the principle or faculty of Better Endings as I have come to understand it from practicing the art of ‘better-endering’ through the last several years:
If we regard ourselves as bobbing along through life in a Present spacetime-bubble, there is no reason for the future to be any more than a further unfoldment and extension of habits, conditions, and circumstances we have accrued along the way. We may become trapped in this Present bubble of time.
When I began the journey of conducting research that ultimately led to my book providing Life Mapping tools, Your Life Path (2018), I was inspired by a dream. One morning as I woke from sleep, I saw a white placard with bold black letters pasted right between my eyes, that stated:
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE TO REALIZE YOUR DREAM, NOT JUST FOR GETTING BY.
What a wake-up call! This dream vision led me on a quest to discover for myself what is my Dream and how can I realize It. This led to my research on life mapping as I piloted every step of that emerging process before sharing it with others. After teaching from that process for several years in a humanities course about Myth, Reason, and Your Life Story (co-taught with an historian of mythology), my book and more importantly the workbook for Your Life Path (2018; you can download the workbook for free from the right panel), this process has now led further for me to a new book manuscript (now with my agent) of the title, Better Endings!
In the last three and a half years I have moved three times, following my own heart to realize aspects of my Dream. This shows how flexibility is an important component of applying the principle of Better Endings. There are no limits to this principle, of course. As we apply it to situations and choices in our lives, engaging with this principle of Better Endings helps us realize the manifold potentials of the Present Moment.
The future is not fixed or necessarily determined by past choices or conditions.
You are free to exercise your faculty to reflect on the past, to review current conditions, and to choose your direction forward, to Realize Your Dream!
Each month this year at Better Endings for Your Life Path I am inviting you to pose a monthly question as a step toward resolving a larger, yearly Quest. My own Quest is about achieving happiness in my new life conditions since retiring and relocating last summer. This month, my question is about “How to Apply Lessons from the Past.” I aim to not have to unnecessarily repeat earlier hardships but rather to move forward, having turned over a leaf or with a new lease on life, as ‘they’ say.
images are from pixabay.com
So rather than repeating decisions and choices that led down pathways I do not choose to revisit, my quest this month is to contemplate how to practice discernment as I approach situations with a fresh viewpoint. Every step forward needs to be tempered, like walking through a labyrinth slowly, step by step, taking care at each pregnant pause to consider my options well and choose accordingly.
I do believe that if we do not learn from our lessons we are very likely to repeat the conditions that require us to learn the same lesson again. Moving is a great opportunity for growth and development, but true progress has to come from within.
I invite you to choose your own monthly question this week in relation to a larger QUEST you are aiming to fulfill.
For 45 years I have participated in service activities with my spiritual group, and I have taught university courses first as a grad student then as a professor and author for forty years altogether. Service is baked into my sense of identity and purpose. I would feel bereft without the opportunity to serve, wherever and however I can be of use. A credo I have adopted is:
In service is my reward.
I put this out there because this month’s question is about how to be of service in a new location after semi-retirement, which I feel is a fundamental necessity for continuing growth and development. Living your Dream, Now!, which is the through line of my book, Your Life Path (see right panel), does not mean “settling” into an inert, less than active life. Quite the contrary; Living Your Dream means to be following (in Joseph Campbell’s terms), yet I would say, manifesting your Bliss! For as you achieve one facet of your fulfillment, this opens doors to pathways leading forth to many more.
In Indian traditions (both continental Indian Hinduism and some Native American cultures) conceptually a lifetime can be understood to be comprised of four stages or cycles. Elder-hood can be a period of reflection that bears the fruits of Wisdom, not just head or fact knowledge. Wisdom is expressed as service to one’s community based on the wealth of experience an elder has attained. Giving back, offering insights from a life well lived, is a vital stage by which the generations turn in the gyre of transformation and continuation of growth and enlightenment.
images are from pixabay.com
So I am ready to step forward, to volunteer in my new community and to forge continuing pathways forward with writing and other creative activities. I find that having made this commitment, already avenues are opening. I dreamed of an advertisement for my life mapping services. I will add some info in the blog tabs shortly. Plus I have been welcomed to help in a political context, and ideas are flowing for writing.
Service and love are one and the same, as forms of reciprocity in community.