I woke from a dream a few weeks ago where I was attending an advanced acting class being coached by my high school English teacher and theater director. He had invited me to join the class, which had already been meeting for some time.
I arrived to the class as it was ready to begin. The drama coach said to find a partner to sit near, then he selected a young man as my partner, who was hiding under some clothes to avoid being picked. I said to the young man, “Acting is not scary.” Then both he and I in unison added:
“Acting is about finding out who you are.”
I woke then, and I thought about that statement off and on all week Really all of life is about finding out who you are, isn’t it? Trying on this and that persona, this and that archetypal part of self in different scenarios, building and aiming to express a core sense of self as best you can, day by day. And all of the episodes that comprise the scenes, chapters and major acts f your life story, your MyStory, unfold distinctive facets, different dramatic Masks, of your Self in different contexts as you interface with various partners, other personae enacting and finding out about themselves in their own MyStories, too.
So, living—experiencing a lifetime (or many, perhaps)—is set upon a stage where you can find out who You are, what You are made of, in a process of transformational unfoldment.
There is, therefore, a strong sense of purpose at least potentially driving any lifetime. Gradually in learning who we are we also come to recognize who or what we really are not, or do not wish to be.
A life well lived is forged in drama, crowned in the comedy of glimpsing the very essence, the divine Soul that we are, and seeing this also in others.
So it can be helpful to reflect on what we are finding out about who we and others are as life unfolds. Journalling, expressing artfully or even contemplating about the lessons in your MyStory can reveal the deeper mystery of your—of all of Our—greater Soul journey.
images are from pixabay.com
Who Are You? What have you been finding out about your Self in differing scenarios, different chapters of your MyStory?
I use the expression Homo Narrativus (coined by others, as I have recently learned) to frame the primary human cognitive orientation to conceive of our life experiences as either linear-serial, cyclic, or random episodic narrative events (see Your Life Path, 2020; Better Endings, 2022). For as far back as we can trace language, every human or hominid society has had a storytelling culture. We reflect upon and relate to others about our life experiences—even our dreams—in narrative form. We construct our life history in terms of narrative episodes. We each possess, and develop over our lifetimes, a Life Story that in large part defines as well as expresses our individual identity as embedded within our collective cultural Whole.
We are Storytellers. And the stories we tell, both to ourselves and others, are time capsules: seeds that inform and influence the further unfolding of events that either complete or transform our Life Story narrative and hence that affect the development of our own—and significant others’—character arcs over time.
This is why telling and reflecting on our own and others’ stories matters so much: they are the stuff of myth and legend as well as the foundations of our own Life Path.
Any story conveys a message linking past, present, and future as a meaningful whole; a narrative moment that encapsulates lessons either learned or not, repeated or abandoned.
Your story…what I call in this blog your MyStory…is a gold mine to explore and to reveal. Your story feeds not only your own unfoldment but is a seed that can nourish others.
Why do we read and tell bedtime stories to our children or watch television serials or watch some films over and over again? This is how we understand the dramatic and mythic contours of life itself and one another.
So I encourage you to journal about your MyStory, to reflect upon the meaning of your own uniquely informative story seeds!
images are from pixabay.com
As a lighter way of thinking about all this, I am reminded of one of my favorite movies: Stranger than Fiction. The plot itself works precisely because it acknowledges the universal human experience of living our lives as Story. The main character Harold (played brilliantly by Will Ferrell), an IRS auditor somewhat bored with his lackluster life, comes to realize he is actually a rather lackluster fictional character in a novel being written by an author other than himself (played also brilliantly by Emma Thompson). Harold consults an English Literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) to better understand his predicament, and the professor asks him to take notes on his life experiences to determine whether indeed the story he is a character within is a tragedy or a comedy. I will not spoil the rather satisfying ‘better ending’ in this tale, but I highly recommend the film. Suffice to say in the end Harold’s character in the author’s story takes a transformational turn once Harold becomes actively engaged in figuring out who he is in this story, hence making it his own story after all.
Writing has been a life theme for me for as long as I can remember, as I expect it is for fellow bloggers and for many who read or follow blogs. As a blogger for nearly a decade, sometimes I muse about how these posts we create and publish on the web float out and expand into the Blogosphere, like radio waves or the Voyager space probe streaming forth into the endless Cosmos.
Why do we write? Or create music or sing or produce art or communicate in any public domain? One notion I embrace is that we are each vehicles for God expressing Itself and expanding Its love and awareness via the vast diversity and evolution in form and consciousness of Its creations.
And, why does it matter? Growing up, through various stages of my education and while producing academic as well as creative writing, I have often asked myself, “What difference does it make?” This has been sort of a writing mantra for me in fact, a test of the worthiness of whatever I am expressing.
More recently I have found this self-test has all but disappeared, as gradually I have come to understand how what I express out into the universe or Spirit DOES matter, irrevocably, and it may indeed make a difference. The size of that difference does not matter. The thought expressed, or love itself, has a life of its own and contributes to the unfolding of Life in its totality. Maybe just the wavelength of positive intentions matters; who can say? But as a small voice of God energy or consciousness expressing Itself, it can be of value to the very air we breathe and the social connections we share.
These ideas about how what we express matters no matter the form it takes or whether or not it is “finished” have become clearer to me after losing two excellent friends who passed away within a year of one another a couple years ago. One, whose name I will not share in honor of Native American notions about not speaking the names of those who have moved on, was a writer. She was an excellent writer, with an amazing clarity, humor and wit. She spent many years working on a book where she was rewriting the story of Scheherazade. She never let me read what she was writing and she transpired before she ever finished or published this work that was so close to her heart.
A few months ago, I had a dream in which I met with my departed friend. She told me that she was going “on a vacation beneath the Grand Canyon, with Sherzi.” Those were her words precisely. When I awoke I thought about it and realized she must have meant Scheherazade! I would not have conjured up this nickname on my own; this was for me a very clear proof of having communicated with my friend in the afterlife. Also I looked up Hopi beliefs about under the Grand Canyon and learned (for the first time for me) that Hopi believe there is an area under their Place of Emergence or sipapu in The Grand Canyon that is a passageway to the afterlife.
What stood out for me from this conversation with my departed friend was how the book she had been working on for so many years had indeed mattered! It exists in a completed form, I now believe, on planes beyond the Physical. It does not need to have been published ‘out here’ in order to have its influence or to be an expression of divine awareness and love. My writer friend had forged a connection with Sheherazad herself in the process of imagining and writing her revisionist story.
Images are from pixabay.com
So, write on! Perhaps the very thought streams we weave in the process of creation expand like ripples through the fabric of Reality, in ways we can hardly begin to comprehend with our meager physical senses or mind. What you think, imagine, dream, believe and express is creative and makes a difference.
Inner guidance has been a significant theme along my own life path; I would not be alive today nor certainly where I am at currently, except for seeking out, accepting and attending to inner guidance.
I have long practiced exercises in active contemplation and dream study to seek out inner guidance, often with the assistance of using mantras to focus attention for glimpses of higher awareness and clarity. The story that follows is an example, for me, of the benefits of attending to inner guidance.
Finding Quan Yin
I was living in Arizona, around a year before completing my doctoral studies at ASU. I had a friend, Dana, who had a beloved pet cockatoo whom she named Quan Yin. Dana was somewhat a loner in life; she was closer with her bird friend than with most humans.
One morning I received a phone call from Dana. She was distraught because while preparing to clip Quan Yin’s wing feathers, a normal routine, Quan Yin flew out into Dana’s back porch area and from there she had flown out into the neighborhood.
Dana asked if I could come over to help her to locate Quan Yin and bring her home. This unfolded into a three day ordeal. On the first day, Dana and I took neighborhood walks in opposite directions, aiming to cover the area broadly and hopefully to find Quan Yin. The bird was white and we hoped if she saw Dana she would show herself. For my part, I tried to practice a sort of intuitive radar awareness, scanning the neighborhood, looking in the trees, and asking for inner guidance or awareness. I came back from that walk feeling I had sensed Quan Yin could have been in a certain directional sector, but we had no luck that day in retrieving Dana’s avian companion.
On the second day, Dana was more worried, fearful that Quan Yin might come to harm unless we could find her and bring her home soon. Near success that afternoon: we did find Quan Yin, perched high in a tree in the direction I had sensed. She would not come down to Dana on her own, so Dana called the fire department and they sent over a truck. Dana climbed the ladder up into the tree, but just as she reached out and was about to grasp Quan Yin, she flew off again!
On the third day, Dana was despondent, feeling she had lost her best friend forever. No one from the neighborhood had responded to posters we had placed from the day before, and by now Dana felt that without food and water, Quan Yin would be weak and very vulnerable if she were even alive and in the vicinity any more.
That third afternoon, after taking another lookout walk without success, on an impulse I decided to climb a ladder Dana kept on her back porch that led up to her flat, porch-like Arizona rooftop. I looked around 360 degrees from this high vantage point, but still I had no success in spotting Quan Yin.
While on the roof I decided to sit for a spiritual contemplation. Mainly I just wanted to center so that I might help my friend Dana to accept her loss. After singing the universal spiritual mantra of HU (as a love song of divine love), I started singing “Quan Yin” as a mantra. After all, Quan Yin refers in Buddhist tradition to a Chinese goddess of compassion, so it felt like an apt mantra to use!
images are from pixabay.com
I sang ‘Quan Yin’ outwardly on a slow, outward breath about three or four times. Then suddenly, I opened my eyes and, guess what? I was staring directly at a white bird perched in a tree in the adjacent neighbor’s yard! I informed Dana and we quickly took a step ladder over to her neighbor’s tree. This time, Quan Yin was somewhat depleted and she gratefully leaped onto Dana’s extended forefingers.
That is my story of Finding Quan Yin. She and Dana lived happily ever after so far as I know. The End.
For me, this experience was about more than helping a friend find her missing pet. I was happy that Quan Yin and Dana were reunited. But the ‘miracle’ sort of moment I had of singing ‘Quan Yin’ as a mantra then suddenly opening my eyes to see the bird we had been searching for for three days, felt amazing, humbling, and instructive. I felt and still do feel grateful for the gift of inner guidance, of an available inner connection with divine Spirit that could lead to such a beneficial result.
May the Blessings Be!
Have you sought and received awareness from inner guidance in your life in ways that have helped you grow or that has helped you at times you have most needed insight or protection? I invite you to write out or otherwise share your MyStory memoirs about the theme of Inner Guidance if that has been a meaningful theme in your life.
I am and have always been a Dreamer. Are you? Since dreams, visions and reflections have inspired some of the pivotal turning points of my life, I would include them within one of my own MyStory Life Theme chapters. I do hope that as you read any of the stories I am sharing in this blog from my own MyStory experiences, that these stories might help you to reflect on YOUR OWN MyStory stories and themes. I have always understood it is best to write about what I know best, which is why I share from my own life experiences, but the point of sharing about them here and in my books (Your Life Path, 2018; Better Endings, 2022) is TO ENCOURAGE YOU TO REFLECT ON and to write and/or creatively express yourself about your own Shaping Events, to inspire your own Better Endings. So, I invite you again to keep a dedicated MyStory Journal, wherein you can record memoirs that are most meaningful to you and could be helpful for you to collect and share as a legacy of insights with others in your life.
So, I add here one of my own MyStory short stories from the theme of Visions, Dreams and Reflections. I have been blessed to occasionally recall a very clear “visionary” sort of dream. These inner experiences usually occur in that zone of consciousness between sleeping and waking, when lucid dreaming commonly occurs. I hesitate to share many of these openly, because they are of such rare and deep significance. But since I definitely include this one in my own MyStory collection, I choose to share it here in case it may carry some insight for others.
Between sleeping and waking, around a decade ago: a beautiful Being appeared in my awareness as a Visitor. It is difficult to describe this Being, whom I think of as a Silent One. Male or female? Olive toned or other? Old or young? Just this beautiful Presence.
S/he/It asks me a simple question, and the following brief dialogue ensues:
Beautiful Being (BB): “So, how are things going out there?”
LW (somehow aware of the slant of the question): “Well, there are many people, with many different religious beliefs, but most people are still afraid of death.”
BB (after a prolonged, pregnant pause): “Next time, we won’t do Religion.”
Then I awoke. I felt humbled and grateful to have received such a Visitation, and I have never forgotten our clear, brief exchange. It has led me to ponder the cosmological and/or spiritual basis of this Being’s words.
Just two days ago, I was reading Michio Kaku’s interesting book, The Future of Humanity. As a footnote of sorts to my visionary Visit, while reviewing several theories about how the known universe might end, Kaku relates an interesting perspective based on Olaf Stapledon’s idea of a Star Maker:
“This takes us back to Olaf Stapledon, who imagined that there is a Star Maker, a cosmic being that creates and discards entire universes. He is like a celestial painter, constantly conjuring up new universes, tinkering with their properties, and then moving on to the next one. Each universe has different laws of nature and different life-forms.” (Michio Kaku, The Future of Humanity, pg. 303)
images are from pixabay.com
I am also reminded of a section of a book I read many years ago by Paul Twitchell, I think Dialogues With The Masters or maybe The Far Country. Twitchell similarly describes a sort of highly evolved being—I believe referred to therein as Silent Ones—who experiment with creating and designing universes.
So, what might be the relevance for my own understanding? To me this insight from the Visitor in my waking dream has helped me to accept the wide diversity of religious or spiritual viewpoints, knowing that no matter how much I might—and do—explore spiritual awareness, likely I will never achieve higher clarity than my puny mental capacity may contain until after my own translation (death) from this bodily state.
And you? I invite you to write in your MyStory journal about some significant vison, dream or reflection(s) that you would wish to remember and share.
As we proceed with building a corpus of MyStory tales, our most memorable and thematic life stories, I am reminded of Carl Jung’s significant record of his own ‘depth’ MyStory explorations in The Red Book. Jung used active imagination (contemplation) techniques to sink deeply into his personal unconscious realm, to explore and interact with his internal archetypal personae. After engaging with each archetype long enough to glean its message for Jung’s emerging, more fully integrated Self, he artistically created a colorful Mandala image and wrote in his Red Book (journal) about what he had learned. Jung recommended that anyone likewise interested in actively promoting their own individuation and integration of Self would do well to create their own ‘red book’: their own journal about their archetypal parts of Self, their own exploration of the Life Themes and character shards of their ever-emerging Self.
So that is what your MyStory is intended to be: your compilation of meaningful life stories that reveals the deep character of your dynamic Self.
For my part I find myself moving forward with my MyStory reflections to the Life Theme of personal relationships, which is a key theme for me, as it is for many. My most significant Relationship theme stories are rather too personal to write much about in a public blog, but some of the most transformative of these are fodder for deep excavation and I can share at least some shards here which I will explore more deeply in my private MyStory journal. In the process of exploring Life Theme lessons and insights, it is vital to detangle the curious web of relationships that have emerged and developed over a lifetime (at least!), to date.
To know me at all deeply is to know something of my relationship with Donna (pseudonym here). This relationship has evolved since I was 17 and continues even after this dear friend’s passing around six months ago. I will share some of what I can here, embellishing further in my private MyStory logs, seeking to unravel through layers of import to better glean kernel messages from this relationship for my Soul journey going forward.
I met Donna when I was 17. A good high-school friend, Larry, himself a budding poet and close comrade in our drama club (the actor who played the soldier dying under a tree in Viet Nam as recalled in the previous post), approached me in the hall one day at school, and with his signature panache said:
“Yes,” I responded faithfully. “What did I just agree to?” “Fencing!”
Thus began a journey that has woven through my life ever since, both in terms of wonderful adventures with fencing throughout my college years and into my life overall, and through my relationship with a dynamic, uniquely gifted lifelong friend, Donna. She was the instructor for a ten-week class in fencing at an arts center in my home-town (where I have returned to live recently, in part for the sake of reflecting on this deep relation).
So, Donna, and fencing (the latter a theme I will explore separately down the road). Donna is one of the most dynamic persons I have ever known. I feel most fortunate that after the ten weeks of our fencing class, she invited the students to order some equipment and I ventured to her apartment one Thursday after school to pick up a mask, glove and foil that would launch my later fencing career (on a college fencing squad), and that would initiate one of my most influential friendships. We began a conversation that afternoon that developed and evolved such that even in my current active contemplations and dreams, I still visit with this dear Soul friend.
Donna became a mentor and friend over several years throughout my last two years of high-school and through my college years in Buffalo, continuing by phone and letters after that. She took interest in helping me explore and develop my own creative and spiritual awareness. I shared my journals with her and she gave me lists of books to read and discuss, as we met weekly for the next two years, every Thursday after school. As Avatar portrays for a close connection, Donna “saw me,” and in turn, I now realize, I saw her, as Soul, too.
Some shards of memory from those initial several years of my connection with Donna
Books and poetry, including: Camus’ notebooks and The Stranger; Schopenhauer’s Either/ Or; Yeats’ Selected Poetry of W. B. Yeats (much of which I memorized) and The Vision; Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (whom Donna knew in NYC while an actress there); The Moveable Feast by Hemingway; Anais Nin’s diaries and Seduction of theMinotaur; The Chalk Garden play (the first work we discussed); and The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (the second). (These and others set me up very well for my English major studies to come in college.)
“Who is the real LW?”
Fencing: Donna’s visit to my fencing club, where my early coach was also one of her friends; Our team’s (and my own) placing 9th (by 2 pts from 7th) of 125 or so university fencing teams in intercollegiate nationals, 1975
Visits to Donna over college breaks and over summers
Visiting Donna at a hospital’s mental health ward when she was in for ‘nervous breakdown’ and MPD was diagnosed (see below)
My own poetry about our friendship through the years; her mentorship continuing through my undergraduate and Masters study college years
Flash forward: to my early doctoral study times in Arizona, some ten years or so into our friendship. One night I felt a clear inner call to communicate with Donna. We had long shared an unusually ‘psychic’ connection. The next morning I dialed her number (she by then living in Florida) from a pay phone at the Anthropology building at ASU:
LW: “Hello. Is Donna there?” (her housemate/ partner had answered)
K: “Who is this? Yes, Just a minute…”
D: “Hello?” (a deep voice at the other end of the line;
was this a friend who was to tell me
of Donna’s recent passing?)
LW: “This is Linda…”
D: “Yes, hello!” (It was Donna; as I listened more closely
I recognized my Friend)
D: “I have changed my name, Linda.”
LW: “Okay.” (I took out pen and paper, ready to write down
Donna’s new married name.)
D: “It is Donald. You have called on the very day
before I am going for my final operation.”
I had not communicated with Donna for nearly a year, so this conversation brought quite a surprising revelation about my dear mentor and friend. Lots had developed that I have mostly not recorded above that led Donna to this transformational choice. She had experienced several years of eventually successful therapy after a diagnosis of Multiple Personality Syndrome. A highly talented actress and theater director, Donna had developed a panoply of at least eleven distinct personalities since around the time of my sophomore year in college. She had first been diagnosed with ‘nervous breakdown’ episodes, then her MPD condition fully emerged. She underwent a successful hypnotherapy program, but it revealed that Donna’s core personality was actually, at least after the integrational therapy, Donald. So, after the requisite year of transgender living and hormone therapy–during which it was discovered Donna had had a blue bracelet applied after birth, with a surgical “correction” such as more babies than most of us realize still receive—doctors unanimously approved Gender Congruence Surgery, and Donna transitioned ‘in place’ in Florida, to Donald. This baby then, raised as Donna, had never been fully comfortable in that persona. Donald was central to this Soul’s outlook and personal consciousness.
Okay, so the first time I met Donald in person was the summer after that revelatory phone call. When I saw him (as him) for the first time, at the airport when He came to greet me, inwardly I felt myself stating over and over: “That’s it!” There had always been a sense of something mysterious and unusual about Donna’s persona—like there was always something hidden, something so unique that other than her amazing intelligence and creative virtuosity, I could never pinpoint. But seeing Donna as Donald ‘made sense’ of some of that mysterious quality.
My connection with Donald continued though not at the level of closeness I had shared with Donna. Yet I found through the many years to follow something unexpected in my own internal, spiritual life: dreams of visiting Donna, as Donna, developed into a frequent feature of my very active dream life. (I have long felt there should be a clinical interest in such dreams of the friends and allies of ‘sex-change’ cases.)
The first dream: I go to a house and knock on the door. A man opens the door, and I ask if I can visit with Donna. He says no, but I can see her if I go to the patio. I am then on a patio that reminds me of a classical Greek villa (a courtyard surrounded on at least three sides by its house). Looking up to the top of a small knoll just beyond the house, I see Donna standing there, and she sees me. She sends like a girl scout down to give me a message. (Later I realized the other residents of the house included Donald—who had answered the door—and Donna’s other MPD personae. She had been sort of expelled from the assemblage.)
Another significant early dream: I see Donna at an intersection, a crossroads. I could tell she was in some pain; that something had been ripped out from her right shoulder. Around the same time a dream of seeing Donna at another crossroads, where two pathways were to diverge. Her path was binary, one person (Donald) moving off to the right, and Donna herself to the left. She held up a placard (like in a a Brecht play I had recently read, Mother Courage), with one word: Eternellement. (I felt she showed me this as a sign of our enduring spiritual connection.)
images aare from pixabay.com
Then over decades, similar dreams of Visiting Donna: I would visit her at an apartment overlooking a pond with a walkway around it. We would talk as we had in our earlier year visits. We would sometimes play Scrabble or some sort of game while overlooking the pond. (I felt that this apartment setting was like a “purgatory” sort of existence that Donna had to endure so long as Donald continued in his occupation of their erst shared body; that Donna would not be able to “move on” until Donald’s passing.
NOW: I maintained a connection with Donald through nearly forty years, visiting with him twice and more regularly (though not so deeply) after he invited me to play Words with Friends with him, where we sometimes would Chat, for around 15 years.
Donald had an excellent life experience, as a behavioral health liaison and eventually a director there, still active as an actor and director in local theater productions, and with a long-term partner for over twenty years. He experienced a lot of physical health hardships, as do many on long-term hormonal treatment. He dealt with joint problems then also cancer over a long duration until finally he transpired, some six months or so ago.
Yet my dreams of visiting with Donna continue. Only once so far, shortly after his passing, Donald communicated. He said there was something he had wanted to tell me. (I hope that would have been that he had always remembered the depth of our friendship.) I went to visit Donna recently at another apartment setting, but she was in a car in a garage with several people attending to her (it felt like she was in distress because she was still not being allowed yet to move on.) And last week, a sweet though brief visitation with Donna in the dream state, to suggest we will continue to be in touch…eternellement.
And you? What have been some of the deepest, most transformative relatioonships in your life? I invite you to write in your MyStory journal, to explore and plumb the depths of your core relations.
The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, 1387-1400AD
Teaching has been my career and remains my passion along with writing, for over 47 years. In my youth I was fortunate to have several excellent role models for teaching that led me to choose to become an educator. Certainly Education, with its personal subtheme of Mentors, has been a primary Life Theme for me as it is for many. So allow me to share a couple of MyStory tales in relation to the educator theme.
Professor G was one of my English profs in Buffalo at my undergraduate college. He was the consummate Teacher, as he had begun teaching at 18 in a one-room schoolhouse before teaching certificates were required, and he had taught some fifty years to when I took his course in Chaucer as an English Literature major. In fact, the semester I took his class was the last one before he would be required by law to retire.
Prof G related the tale of how once while he was undergoing an operation, I think having to do with removing a section of his intestines, the anesthetic wore off and he awoke. Rather than asking for more anesthetic, he began reciting the entire Prologue to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and he continued this recitation through the remainder of his surgery!
So, when Professor G passed away shortly after the end of his final semester teaching, his colleagues made sure that etched into his tombstone was the Middle English line shown above (and below), from the Clerk’s tale in the Canterbury Tales Prologue. I have always remembered this line and hope to be living up to its inspiration with my own lifelong teaching career.
And gladly wolde (s)he lerne and gladly teche.
Then also Mr. S., still a much respected resident here in the high-school hometown to which I have recently returned, was a primary mentor as my tenth-grade English teacher and as the talented Director of our high-school theater program. I gained excellent experience as Student Director and then as Stage Manager under his guidance in my final two years of high-school. In my eleventh grade we put on a play (in 1971) called Summertree, about a young soldier dying under a tree in Viet Nam while his brief life passed before his eyes, in three acts. For this I was Student Director. Our cast and crew became such a closely bonded unit, so dedicated collectively to communicating the anti-war sentiment to our audience, that on the final performance, after Act II opened on the stage, I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I cried openly backstage, shaking uncontrollably in tears, for the entirety of the rest of the play.
In my tenth grade (1970) class, Mr. S. introduced our class to Harlem Renaissance authors for at least a full half of the semester. This was somewhat radical in our hometown that had very little ethnic or racial diversity at the time. We read Black Voices, an excellent anthology of poetry and fiction, along with Richard Wright’s Native Son; and we each selected a favorite Black author about which to write a term paper. (I chose the ‘mulatto’/mixed race author Jean Toomer, who preferred his Black identity because of its closer sense of community.) This exposure to the African American experience in the 1970’s, just two years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., was life changing for me as it increased my awareness of the benefits as well as the challenges of diversity.
images are from pixabay.com
One day in my senior year as I was contemplating my soon to come college adventure, Mr. S saw me in the high-school hallway and walked with me and asked about what my college major would be. I told him I wanted to be an English teacher, like him. He coached me wisely. He advised me that, if I could see myself being satisfied in my life when after some thirty years I might overhear a former student repeating some fragment of insight s/he might have gleaned from some material I had exposed them to in class, whether or not they even remembered where that insight or line had come from, then I should indeed become a Teacher. Otherwise, if I were seeking a more wealth or ego-boosting sort of career, then perhaps I should choose otherwise in going forward with my college ambitions.
I did begin college as a secondary education major then shifted to English Comparative Literature for my BA, then I earned my MA in Linguistics and my Ph.D. was in cultural and linguistic anthropology, after which I served as a university professor for 25 years and still continue post-retirement teaching part-time online. Mr’ S’s wise words during that hallway conversation confirmed my natural passion for a teaching career. I have often remembered his wisdom and have repeated it to several of my own mentees and students through the years.
And you, dear reader? What was the inspiration for your career? I invite you to write in your MyStory Journal your own memorable tales about your Education or mentorship theme. MyStory tales are memoirs which you find yourself often thinking about and sharing with others, embellishing their narrative force through the years. These stories embody the lessons of your lifetime. Collectively they encapsulate the mythic narrative legacy of your own heroic adventure!
In composing MyStory memoirs, we are looking at particularly meaningful events, relationships, and themes that have deeply impacted and shaped the person you have become. These are situations or events that we tend to tell ‘our stories’ about, again and again, refining and embellishing these signature tales to bring out their messages as life lessons or as highlight adventures that have come to define us. We each have these stories in us that we have shared time and again. I believe it is helpful and illuminating to collect these tales, to assemble them in a volume or journal that you can rightly title MyStory.
MyStory tales are usually about transformational moments or relationships in our lives, so recording these stories allows you to uncover and reveal the mystery of your MyStory: to unravel the interwoven key lessons and insights of a lifetime or of a meaningful chapter of your own mythic Life Story.
This week I will focus on my own Life Theme of Mentors. If you recognize a similar meaningful theme, or maybe a larger umbrella theme such as Relationships or Education, I invite you to reflect and journal your own stories around this theme this week. (Please feel free to share your story with me and I would be happy to reblog it, or you can refer to your journaling insights in Comments.)
To exemplify what I mean by a transformational MyStory tale, I will focus on one of three hugely influential mentors from my life: Dr. Antoinette (Toni) Mann Paterson, whom her Philosophy students sometimes referred to as “Tone-the-Bone” Paterson.
My Life Mentor, Toni P.
I have so many significant memories of Toni P that it is difficult to select just one or two; cumulatively her mentorship and moreover her friendship changed me entirely. From her I learned to contemplate the majesty of the smallest details of life and to expand my own potentials accordingly. I also learned that one can be a learned scholar in academia without sacrificing one’s creativity and spiritual practice. So, I will assemble a few of the most memorable insights and stories I have acquired from the blessing of this great mentor in my life.
The Mighty Acorn
I mother-sat for Toni P’s mom, Mary Mann, around three days a week for 2-4 hours a day over several years, at Toni’s old Victorian home in Buffalo, New York. Dr. P was a full Professor of Philosophy at Buffalo State (SUNY) College, where I met her while an undergraduate student. Mother-sitting provided a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with both her mother Mary and with Toni herself. One day over lunch, while we were discoursing about religion and whether she believed in (a) God, Toni shared with me about an interaction she had with her son in Delaware Park when he was young.
Toni found an acorn on the ground beneath a giant Oak Tree. She held the acorn in her hand, studying its magnificence. Then she handed the Acorn to her son as a special gift.
“This,” Toni said to her son, “is God!”
The small acorn carries, in seed form, the grand design of a majestic, mighty oak. TP shared this story also to explain why all the furniture in her beloved Victorian Buffalo home was made of Oak. Most of her furniture she had acquired from Salvation Army stores. She loved finding gems where others might see only used, disposable objects; this too was a lesson for me.
Who Are You, Really?
Shortly after I first met Toni P (another tale worth telling!), after a Creative Studies–my Minor–class that she had visited to talk with us about ‘the philosophy of creativity,’ She asked me point-blank:
“What is your name?”
“Linda,” I answered.
“No, I mean what is your REAL name?”
I was flummoxed. “What do you mean?,” I asked her. Then I told her of how when I was around six or seven my brother had told me I was adopted, which I could not disprove because my mother had lost my birth certificate. I had created a fictional name for myself: April Thornton.
“April.” Toni repeated the name. “Yes, I will call you April.”
What was this about, in retrospect? I think she was asking me if I had yet discovered my IDENTITY. Truly at that point in time, I had not. I was whom others saw in me; I had no mature, core sense of self. I carried this question with me for many years and in fact underwent several periods of psychotherapy to explore and gradually to discover and express Who I Am. I am grateful to TP for this quest.
So What? Whan!
To complete this ensemble of MyStory tales about my dear mentor, Toni P, let me describe her a bit further and tell a classic story of how she taught me to probe deeply into the meaning of life.
Toni published a book called THE INFINITE WORLDS OF GIORDANO BRUNO, and she was a supporter (and colleague) of Immanuel Velikovsky–who, like Bruno (burned at the stake in the 1400s for the heresy of telling people to seek truth experientially Within instead of through priests), was vilified in mainstream academia for his WORLDS IN COLLISION book, where he explored historical truth via studying cultural myths.
Also, while not religious, Toni P was one of the most spiritually aware persons I have ever known. She would stand before students in her Philosophy classes lecturing with her eyes closed, and then she would open her eyes and stare directly at a particular student to ask a bold question. E.G. That first day I had met her at the Creative Studies class, she arrived early and was sitting at a round table with students to whom she had not yet been introduced. She picked up and examined a papier mache art project of a student who had come from an art class, of a human dancer, I think. “HOW THE HELL DID YOU DO THIS!?” Toni asked the astounded student. “I mean, how the Hell can you do this, when I can hardly draw a stick figure?” Then as class opened and she was introduced, Dr. Paterson discoursed about a philosophy of creativity.
When I mother-sat, one day over lunch Toni explained how every day she “dived into the Ocean,” meaning she took a contemplative ‘nap’ (what Jung would call active imagination) on the little cot she slept on in her bedroom.
Now then, one day I was depressed. I came into her office for my Independent Study on a topic we had agreed to: ”a philosophy of, not Science, but Silence.
“So, what?” I asked my mentor.
She responded: “Take out a piece of paper and a pencil and write two words: So, What, question-mark.”For your assignment this week, answer that question. Bring me your answer next Wednesday.”
So, all that next week I searched the library for literary and philosophical clues to the question I had posed of “So, What?” I abstracted readings and wrote in my journal. Ralph Waldo Emerson, for instance, wrote an essay on “The Transparent Eyeball” that I found useful to the probe. Again I found this was about personal identity, whether “I” had any distinct meaning or purpose as an individual.
I arrived at Toni P’s office for our class session that next Wednesday. I told her about some of the thoughts I had arrived at but admitted I had not really answered the question.
Toni had set up a card table with a large, blank roll of sketch paper draped over it, and she called me to sit down at the table. With a large felt pen she wrote the following words at the compass points of the paper:
She placed each of these WH- words strategically in a circle on the paper, like compass points, and then drew lines to connect them to one another. She intersected them all at the center of the page, where she wrote one more word:
W H A N
“There is the answer to ‘So What?’,” Toni said. “It is WHAN.”
This solution was totally understandable and made total sense. Yes, of course. At the intersection of all the WH- questions, is WHAN. What is the meaning of Life? WHAN. The purpose? WHAN.
In other words, questions are meaningless in themselves. Life IS what it IS, and that is not only OK; It is GOOD; It is WHAN, and that is enough.
“It Just Is!”, I soon after discovered independently, is a profound spiritual Truth. Try sometime just chanting the word IS, over and over as a mantra. (I did that for several hours one day, and arrived at a remarkable inner awareness!)
There are more stories about Toni P that I will include in my MyStory logs. But this is enough to share here!
images are from pixabay.com – – – –
What of your greatest Teachers or Mentors? What life lessons have they helped you to learn? I invite you to write your own MyStory memoirs, to probe your own mystery: Who are you, really? Why are you Here?
To build at least a workingTable of Contents for your MyStory tales, after identifying your recurring, dominant Life Themes, you can make a list, for each of your key themes, of Shaping Events that you associate with that Theme.
I repeat below from the last post a simple, tried and true way to identify and name your dominant Life Themes:
Reflect and compose a list of significant events that have “shaped you as the person you have become.” You can include a phrase or sentence about each event to remind you of its significance. Please note: This does not have to be a “complete” list, and the events or situations on your list do not need to have been earth shattering, just significant.
After you have composed your list of significant “shaping” events or situations, read back through this list several times, and SORT these events into KINDS of events or situations. (For example: Family, Travel, Work, Education, Spirituality, etcetera).
Reflect on the TYPES of events you have identified, and assign your own personally meaningful NAMES to each of these recurring these Kinds of Events. (E.G.: Disappointments, Relationship Matters; also you can still include standard sorts of names like Family, Relationships, Romance, Work, etcetera).
So now, for each of your Life Themes, you can reflect and identify (list) some key ‘shaping’ events or situations that you associate with that theme. This will likely include several of the events you used to identify the Theme, but you can also include other events or situations that come to mind when you reflect on that Theme in your life. Consider providing meaningful titles for these events that you will be writing about.
images are from pixabay.com
In developing your MyStory Table of Contents with some of the most meaningful events related to your recurring Themes, remember that a Shaping Event is any event or situation “that has influenced the person you have become.” Some shaping events are so monumental as to be Critical Events, events or situations that have been so impactful in your life that you feel you were a different person before and after that event occurred.
A sampling of topics to represent this second step from my own MyStory Themes (but, of course, use your own) would include:
My Mother, a Hero (two tales)
Using Big Moves to Change Up (Finding Myself)
Crossing the Great Waters
My Mother, the Cat!
The Running Dog (Losing Elly)
Sophie’s Dogwalking Song Lyrics
B.E. and A.E.: The Bus Ride “Home”
Acceptance of Change
Using the steps outlined above, go ahead and begin to develop your own MyStory Table of Contents. This is only a start, a working Table of Contents that you can add to and build on as you begin composing your MyStory tales. Next, we will start moving through some common Life Themes and you can begin to write out your stories. As you do so, the focus will be on the lessons and most vital memories each of these events or situations have added in value to your unique, mythic MyStory legacy.
Allow me to invite you to a very simple and effective way to identify your Life Themes, those recurring situations and KINDS of events that form the “stuff” of much of your life experience within your Life Story:
Reflect and write a LIST significant events that have “shaped you as the person you have become.” This does not have to be an exhaustive list, and the events or situations on your list do not have to have been earth shattering, just significant.
After you have composed your list of significant “shaping” events or situations, read back through this list several times, and SORT these events into KINDS of events or situations. (For example: Family, Travel, Work, Education, Spirituality, etcetera).
Reflect on the TYPES of events you have identified, and assign your own personally meaningful NAMES to these Kinds of Events. (E.G.: Disappointments, Relationship Matters; also can still include standard sorts of names like Family, Relationships, Romance, Work, etcetera).
These personally meaningful, recurring types of events and situations are (at least some of) your dominant LIFE THEMES.
Make a list of your LIFE THEMES in your MyStory journal, or you can save them in a file on your computer. Over the next year or so at this blog site we will be exploring several common Life Themes and I invite you to journal or write your personal memoirs about events and situations that have been significant in your life in relation to the Theme (or similar theme for you) being explored.
The MyStory principle we are exploring is our tendency as humans (i.e. Homo Narrativus) to frame our Life Theme shaping experiences AS STORY, as narratives, with meaningful narrative structure, plot, characters, messages, spiritual principles, and lessons to impart to others based on our own life experience. Consider those thematic events about which you have tended to tell the ‘same story’ over and over again, refining the story to ferret out deeper meanings and messages, both for you and for those with whom you might choose to share your most meaningful MyStory tales. This is part and parcel of your Legacy that you may pass along to your loved ones or to posterity.
images are from pixabay.com
As Joseph Campbell has emphasized, your life (your MyStory) is mythic, even Epic, because it is imbued with meaning and lessons for your own growth. As you grow from reflecting on your pivotal life experiences, you are ever more able to help others find meaning in their own Life Themes, as well.
Now too, a SECOND level of identifying Life Themes, which I would recommend you could apply after the tried and true method above, is to work backward from those stories you tend to retell and embellish, asking what sort of THEME does that story reflect in your MyStory that may just not have made it into your list from the above method. For instance, while Pets have been a HUGE Life Theme in my life, in the process of listing biographical shaping events, it is possible I could overlook these while focussing more on obvious themes for me like Family, Education, Relationships (which might include with my pets), and Spirituality. But when I think of very important shaping events, losing my dog Elly, for example, is a huge event I would want to make sure to include in my MyStory corpus of stories.
So for this week, I invite you to explore and discover your own MyStory Life Themes!
[Note to readers: I have cancelled the former post offering an Authors’ book sales and review exchange, because after several days, while there were some “Likes” for the post, no one had submitted their works. So I realized maybe this was not an appropriate approach. If you still would like to avail of that offer you can still Contact me and I will reply to you individually-LW]
I watched a free film via On Demand a few days ago that so absolutely called out for a better endings re-visioning that I realized there is a dystopian science fantasy meme of presumably inevitable global extinction events that might be negatively affecting our collective consciousness. Annihilation Earth, with Luke Goss, Colin Salmon, Velislov Pavlov, and Marina Sirtis, has appropriately received mainly rotten tomato reviews for a weakly developed plot and thin characters, but I think it is worth taking note of as a clear example of a potentially dangerous fault line in contemporary, secular collective reasoning.
The film opens on a grim disaster scene: much of France including Paris has been annihilated in a momentary conflagration due to, we soon learn, a terrorist’s sabotage of a super-collider being used to generate free and inexhaustible energy. The rest of the movie flashes back from this scene, periodically announcing the “time to extinction” in hours until the final scene delivers on the forecast: planet Earth implodes from a black hole created by the interaction of a global network of interlinked, sabotaged supercolliders.
Of course, the plotline pits the West against all Middle Eastern nations who are not included in the otherwise global boon of free energy and the elimination of any need for fossil fuels. But aside from basic story weaknesses including the notion that only two scientists would together have unique and total access to programming and safeguarding the supercolliders such that compromising them could allow a sole terrorist to hack and sabotage the entire supercollider infrastructure, the main problem I see is in the lack of any awareness of potential protective agency of a spiritual—or resilient human idealist—nature.
We are given to believe, in this and similar dystopian visions that are growing in popularity these days, that we—all species in fact, because of our human frailities—are completely at the mercy and whim of all-powerful bad guys ‘out there’ (or, in here, in our home communities) who will godlessly inflict death and cataclysmic destruction if they either plan ahead maliciously or simply wake up on the wrong side of bed one day and decide to wreak havoc. We are helpless, this cultural meme or cognitive schema tells us, in combatting or surviving evil if we just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now of course, yes, there are good grounds for this general malaise in light of the scourge of mass killing sprees and recently yet another brutal genocide playing out on our news media daily and horrifically on the ground in Ukraine. And such chaotic killings do appear to be random and unavoidable by good people. But I want to appeal to our deeper potentials for agency, spiritual awareness, and hope.
There are always survivors, those who testify about following a nudge to stay home or take a different route on an otherwise fatal day. Parents and loved ones who are bereaved find ways to make their lost loved ones’ lives meaningful by publicly advocating for change in the policies and laws that have fueled such horrendous acts as mass killing sprees.
Yes, it is a battle so long as we are on this earth plane, between the forces of Light and of darkness. Yet we are more than our bodies and there is more to Life and to reality, that bullets can never silence. Individually we have agency and collectively, too, so far as our elected officials are willing to serve the greater whole instead of their own seats of power or financial security. Individually we can pay attention to our own inner guidance. Pay attention, and act according to your highest awareness. Even if it does not save your body, it provides a deeper connection with a greater good.
Just before the ‘fateful’ end of the B-movie Annihilation Earth, The scientist about to make a wrong decision to turn off the supercollider network despite his dying colleague telling him that doing such will result in a black hole event, his wife and two young children are standing behind him. In my better endings re-visioning of the awful conclusion shown, his young daughter stops her father in the middle of his typing in the authorization code to turn off the colliders.
“No, Dad! Stop, now!”
“But Sarah, dear, this is the only way to fix this.”
“No, you are wrong. Stop this, now!”
“Why do you say this?”
“There are three people with me inside, Daddy. A woman and two men from somewhere else. They are beautiful, full of light and love! They asked me to tell you, please Stop! This is not the right way!”
David (the scientist-father, Luke Goss) pauses. He looks across at his superior, Paxton (Marina Sirtis), whose anger flashes:
“Do it now, David!”
David’s fingers on the computer keyboard press backspace several times, deleting the passcode he had been entering. It was like they had a mind of their own. His friend Raja (Colin Salmon) would know best, he dimly realized. He was wrong to have ever doubted him. And Sarah, such a dear…
After pausing, David could now discern on the screens that had been showing the growing global conflagration, that it was beginning to abate. Just as Raja had advised, the system had a self-correcting mechanism. Earth would not be annihilated; after much damage, survival was imminent. Life would continue; people would rebuild, species survive! Perhaps, even, a lesson would finally be learned…
So, there you have it. There is always a ‘better endings’ scenario, if we will but turn our hearts and ears to Spirit; to the highest, not the lowest, in one another!
Better Endings: A Guidebook For Creative Re-Visioning is a fun and informative way to create better endings for you. By using the prompt questions and space provided to record your answers you will begin to learn more about yourself. The book is divided into two parts: Part One deals with creating new endings for movies, books, history, and more, while Part 2 guides you to better understanding your choices and creating better endings for yourself.
I found this book entertaining as well as effective. The great thing about this book is the possibilities are endless as you can discover more about yourself by each better ending you decide to write and analyze. I related to the creative tactics of the prompts easily since I am a fan fiction blogger. I really went into a deep dive into myself as I discovered new things I never thought about before.
I would recommend this book for people who enjoy fanfiction. The creative writing aspect will appeal to anyone enjoying the arts. Movie fans and book lovers will enjoy certain sections and aspects to the exercises. This is ideal for anyone seeking to learn more about yourself in a creative and extremely personal way. This book would also be fun for an activity amongst friends, family, coworkers, or book club with members sharing their participation writings and what they learned about themselves and each other. Put on your creative writing cap and be ready to transform in a new direction in your own life with this wonderful read!
borne back ceaselessly unto the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
This final line from The Great Gatsby has stayed with me since reading the book in my late teens. I have often heard its echoing refrain, as I am one who does hold onto feelings and memories from yesterday or long ago. I can easily dwell in these memories of moments shared with a friend, a family member, a pet, a partner, or a place and time imprinted indelibly in consciousness. In fact, I do not apologize to the universe for this indulgence. When I contemplate the meaning of living in the Now as a spiritual principle, I assume that timespace being itself illusory, Now is wherever/whenever I choose to focus my attention. And for myself, I feel fueled by these golden, eternal memories: a moment of solitude, sitting at the dock of an Alaskan bay; a road trip with my dog companion Sophie, still with me after so many years; a magnificent inner Temple opening before my spiritual eye like an oyster revealing its pearl.
Still, there is merit in looking ahead. I find myself resurfacing, after a two week cold has provided an intermission, to such a vantage point; poised at a precipice beyond which I know I must venture to proceed further with this lifetime’s quest:
You have the responsibility to realize your Dreams, Not just for getting by.
(a dream admonition, 2004)
So in peering ahead, what can I discern beyond this precipice, and how can I navigate to reach the farther shores of this life’s purpose and mission?
First, I must reset my goals and steer accordingly in their direction. These are in part mundane: forging a path to connect readers with the new book (Better Endings; see right panel or click to order at Amazon); preparing the summer session online syllabus; household provisioning for my pets and me. Other goals are more profound, aiming toward greater spiritual growth and awareness. Plus simply forging ahead with projects and prospects already begun and emerging.
This week’s cold, now abating, has provided an interlude–an intermission between activities preceding and following the new book launch. The pathway forward as a relatively unknown author, I must admit, is tenuous and largely unclear. These days with so much online visibility at stake, the bulk of responsibility in steering a work of art forward, no matter how worthy, seems dependent primarily on the financial resources and budget of the artist. How to obtain sufficient reviews and whether to purchase expensive ad campaigns so that prospective readers might discover this work, created to be shared with others?
I apologize if my tone here is overly personal or brooding. The cold, I suppose, has opened a window for my reflections and prospection, and I am indeed contemplating how yet to achieve a ‘better ending’ to my current travails.
How about you? What precipice do you stand before, if you do, in your own life’s Quest? How shall you best navigate forward?
[First this week, THANK YOU to all of you who have been following and especially for those registering your ‘Likes’ for recent posts.-Linda]
Writing and particularly for me, journal writing, has been a lifelong refuge and treasure. I kept as many as four journals going at a time through my college years, and I have kept a dream journal as well as a writing journal active for over 50 years. Early on, I addressed my journal Itself as a Friend (Dear Friend would start my entries). It is this long practice of journaling that has sustained my lifelong interest in writing and has led to several academic journal articles and to date, four published books (the first two academic and the last two, mainstream).
My just released Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning (Central Park South Publishing) includes journaling pages so that you, too, as the reader can engage with the magical art of journaling that can open new doors of self-discovery, insight, and future envisioning. The journaling prompts, included blank journaling pages, and chapter topics presented in Better Endingstruly can guide you to explore and reflect upon key values and events of your own Life Story: past, current and to come.
I have personally ‘beta tested’ every theme and journaling excursion offered with the Better Endingschapters. Part One introduces topics that let you have fun practicing creative re-visioning with movies, fiction, and historical events. You will get to write your own ‘better endings’ for movies or stories whose endings you have always disliked and to reflect upon what it is about these stories that lead you personally to want to rewrite these conclusions. This is not at all about improving upon the screenplay or writing but about developing your own sense of ‘creative license’ to re-envision (or re-view) any story to explore its open possibilities. If you can practice re-visioning a fictional story or an historical event, so too can you look at your own life story events (past, current and to come) with this same creative license, allowing you to imagine and mindfully explore your own open possibilities! After all, you are the composer, editor and key actor in your own Life Story. In fact, that is what Part Two is all about.
Part Two gives you, the reader/ journal writer of Better Endings, the freedom to reclaim your own creative license; to re-vision and flexibly reflect upon the ‘shaping events’ or Turning Points of your own Life Path. Topics include: What If?, Second Chances, Silver Linings, Loss and Recovery, Big Moves, and Your Best is Yet to Come.
The value of creative re-visioning and journaling your reflections is that it opens your intuitive awareness. It can help you arrive at a sense of more meaningful closure and purpose with regard to your significant life events, situations or relationships, so you may approach new choices with greater understanding and clarity of intention.
Better endings are not necessarily happier ones, but they can lead to New Beginnings!
If you would like to explore these themes in your own life, pick up a copy of Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning. (You can click on the embedded links here or on the right panel cover image to be routed to Amazon, or you could order through Barnes & Noble or any other major retailer site.) It is available as an eBook (but if you choose this, please do create your own Better Endings Journal and do the journaling), or as a softbound or hardcover version. I welcome all reviews, comments, and questions!
Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning, by Linda K. Watts, has been released and is now available to order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook, Kobo and several other other retail book sites. It is available as a paperback (17.85), hardcover (28.95), or as an ebook (9.95). Its direct url at Amazon is (or click on book image on right panel):
Please if you procure this book, in any format, I invite you as the author to please, do the journaling, at least for the topics you are most drawn to personally. This book can help you to envision and bring about your own Better Endings.
These days, aren’t we all ready for some better endings?
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.
My apologies for a two-week aperture. My new book, Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning (click link for url) is now available for pre-order at a discounted rate at all major retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble) and it will soon be available as an ebook at Kindle, Nook and several other sites. I have been on a daily learning curve, aiming to announce this book in as many ways as possible; if you are an author you know what I mean! While the publishers have announced the book to retailers and independent bookstores through Ingram at a good trade book discount rate, still it is up to me to let people know about the book, and that is a heady, onerous and daunting opportunity. The official release date is May 6 for retailers. There will be a book launch at my local Lewiston, NY Library on May 13, thankfully. I have set up a Goodreads Author Page and print book giveaway (6 free books chosen randomly, so you can find it there if you like), from April 26-May 8. Otherwise “pounding the pavement”: sending out postcards to selected bookstores, visiting local stores, submitting info to Barnes & Noble store placement, and basically learning something new every day about possible ways to get the word out.
This blog site has been the rich source of the concept that developed into Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning. Over the past 9 years or so we have explored herein the multifaceted jewel that is our own inherent creative license to envision and to flexibly re-vision a Story: everything from composing actual ‘better endings’ to movies, fiction, or historical events whose conclusions might leave you personally dissatisfied or yearning for a twist of fate, to journaling about ‘shaping events’ or Turning Points in our own life stories: Past, current or to come.
I have come to realize how fundamentally empowering it can be to creatively re-vision a situation from the past, any current situation, or a future aspiration or prospect. Doing so has guided me through three Big Moves just over the past four years, and has brought many new opportunities and vistas into clearer view. Re-visioning a past event helps me see it with new (more mature) eyes, and prospecting a desirable future through ‘alternate futurescape’ journaling has helped me zero in on what values I aim to establish in my home setting and in all my relations. Better Endings lead to New Beginnings! Sometimes this can mean simply bringing closure to a long contemplated worry from the past, or setting out in a new direction based on realizing the path you choose to follow!
Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning is the fruit of these many years of applying the creative principle of creative re-visioning not only in this blog but in my life. Central Park South Publishing has helped me to produce honestly a very well designed book. I am especially grateful that this book provides ample journaling space for readers to explore this faculty of creative re-visioning for yourselves.
Below is the Table of Contents. With each chapter, I introduce the chapter’s theme, share a sample ‘better endings’ story and some personal reflections about the topic, and then turn the theme over to you as the reader, to reflect on and to journal about with respect to your own life experience. The final of four lined journaling pages ask you to add your Reflections after you have personally explored your own ‘better endings’ perspective.
If you get the book, please do the journaling! That is the heart of its gift. Feel free to reach out to share with me about your experience with the themes in the book; I would gladly post your own ‘better endings’ stories here to share with others. And if you would, please do leave a review somewhere, at Amazon, B&N, Goodreads or on your own blog if you like. I understand reviews can be most helpful for letting more people know about a book.
Thank You for visiting and especially to those of you who have been Following this blog site; the fact that people actually do read what we write and share in a blog is what keeps them going and growing!
This week I will share the back story of how this blog developed and has morphed into my new book, Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning–to be released May 13 and available later this week (I will post the url here as soon as it is pre-released for ordering through Amazon)! This is the story of my encounter with someone described in Thrive Global as a “Super Agent” –and, she is!–, Linda Langton, president of Langton International Literary Agency and Central Park South Publishing.
After several years of interview-based research and presenting a series of papers about life mapping later published in book form as The ‘Life Map’ as an Implicit Cognitive Structure Underlying Behavior (Edwin Mellen Press, 2011), I developed and co-taught a Humanities course in Colorado with a History professor, Dr. Duvick, called Myth, Reason and Your Life History. This led to the One Thing moment I wrote about last week, a summer writing retreat in Steamboat Springs, CO, during which I created the nub of the book, Your Life Path (Skyhorse, 2018). I continued to write and teach about life mapping for another few years as I attended a series of writing conferences, one near San Francisco; another in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and finally in Newport Beach sometime around 2013. Each conference was worthwhile as it helped me understand what agents and editors were looking for and helped me improve my manuscript proposal. Of course, I was also seeking an agent willing to take on a new author.
The morning I met Linda Langton, I was at breakfast at the conference hotel. I had set up three agent meetings for that day, for which I had sent chapters and a book proposal in advance. As I was leaving the restaurant, this striking lady professional who was standing nearby turned and called out to me: “Colorado?” (she had read from my nametag). Are you Linda Watts?
“Yes,” I stammered, grateful to be acknowledged at all at this large conference event.
She introduced herself and I gratefully thanked her and said I would be seeing her shortly after lunch later that day. I had another agent session set up in the morning.
At the first agent meeting, that lady let me know that she liked my book concept, but she said since I did not have a strong public “platform,” I should establish one and maybe get back to her in six months. I returned to my hotel room, discouraged.
Was this to be yet another conference at which I was to learn more about what I yet needed to do, but no more?
I arrived twenty minutes early for my meeting with L. Langton. Guess what, though? She was already there too, outside the large meeting conference room which was closed during lunchtime. We greeted each other, and she asked an attendant to let us into the room, early!
We sat at her agent table to talk. I started:
“I am really not here just to learn more about what I need to do to make my book better. I am here to find an agent!”
LL smiled and extended her hand across the small table to shake mine. “Oh, I will represent you,” she beamed. (I was struck silent then, absorbing the impact of what this NYC agent had just said, and to me!) Then she continued: “But I can only publish your book if you have a platform. If you have a platform, I can publish your book; if not, I cannot.”
We talked for the rest of our session about how I could go about building a public platform. As a university professor who had published two academic books and several peer reviewed academic articles, I was certainly not a public figure much beyond my small world of students and faculty. Yet, that very morning before coming to the agent sessions, I had been thinking in bed about how I could take another idea forward that I had begun to journal about, the idea of “better endings.” So, when Ms. Langton suggested I could write a blog and join Twitter to help increase my public platform, I told her about the “better endings” concept and suggested I could blog about that! My new agent liked the idea. I left the conference (after cancelling my third agent appointment since I was very happy to be working with LL), boosted and thrilled to have this golden opportunity to further develop the manuscript for Your Life Path, and to start a blog.
That next week, a colleague’s husband who is a scifi writer with his own blog helped me to set up and create my new blog, this one: Better Endings. The ideas here have ranged widely from concepts associated with Your Life Path that connect with living your best life and “living your dream,” to journaling tools for reflecting on the basic theme of “better endings.”
After Your Life Path was eventually published in 2018, a new idea formed: I would write a simpler, narrative plus journaling-based book presenting the creative principle of Better Endings to the public. As a Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning, this new book includes ample lined journaling pages for you to explore and create your own better endings.
What I have discovered through nearly a decade of applying this creative principle in my own life and blogging and then writing about it is, One Thing:
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?
One of my favorite movies is Defending Your Life, about the between-lifetime adventures of Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) and Julia (Meryl Streep). Daniel and Julia are recently departed Souls whose lives are on trial to determine whether they get to “move on” or must to return to Earth to make more progress on their life goals and challenges. They meet and fall in love in Judgement City, a way station between lives where their trials are held.
Rip Torn plays Bob Diamond, the lawyer for Daniel, whose case is much less likely to succeed than that of Julia, a brave and virtuous heroine by all accounts. Daniel is judged as having been too fearful and risk-aversive, based on scenes from his life shown in the courtroom. Rip Torn tries to defend or apologize for some of the less stellar episodes from Daniel’s life, but he is clearly aware the verdict is going to go against Daniel. So, near the end (I will not spoil the twist ending; worth seeing!), Julia is moving on and up, but Daniel boards a bus taking Souls back to Earth to be reincarnated, to hopefully recognize and learn their lessons better the next time around.
There is also an excellent non-fiction book on the same theme: The Journey of Souls, by Dr. Michael Newton. Newton interviewed over a hundred people while they were under hypnosis, not about ‘past lives’ but rather about between incarnations. He discovered a high degree of intersubjective agreement among these many people’s accounts; they provided very similar descriptions! Among other shared factors, they talked about undergoing a life review process to determine how far they had come during their last lifetime toward fulfilling certain goals or learning particular lessons. Here is the intersection with the film, Defending Your Life.
Honestly this film and book have long been part of my background motivation for writing Your Life Path (2018) and my soon to be released simpler and I think the reader will find more fun and creative journaling sandbox: Better Endings: A Guidebook for Creative Re-Visioning. My thought is, why wait til after or between lives—or later in THIS life, no matter your beliefs!—to find out how you are doing with your deepest life mission and goals. It can be very illuminating to step back and do some basic contemplative or journaling life reflection, here and now, to take stock and maybe consider some basic or highly desirable mid-life corrections you might want to make, before ‘moving on,’ in THIS life!
Better Endings Story Seed:
Defending Your Life (to Now)
Imagine (playfully) that you have passed Beyond; just temporarily, let’s say. You find yourself in Judgement City, where a lawyer defends your case for ‘moving on’ in a courtroom with a judge and several wise-appearing jurors looking on. Your lawyer and a prosecuting lawyer against your transcending show some brief clips from your life to emphasize why you should return for another life to work on unfinished lessons, or to show how you have fulfilled your purpose and are ready to ‘move on’.
List 3-5 of your life events the lawyers might show in these clips, including at least one from both positive and less positive moments. What lesson or lessons are you still working on? Where to from here then, to fulfill your life’s mission or goals?