Week Four

CHRISTMAS whos around your treeIt’s the day after Christmas, and what a week! So many cool things:

1. My parents spent Christmas with us. They could have stayed home and enjoyed the company of my sisters and their families, and probably would have preferred the comfort of their own house rather than our little home, and yet they decided to get into their car and drive 999 km each direction (according to Google Maps) to spend the week before Christmas until Boxing Day with us. I understand the sacrifice they made, though of course, they didn’t say a word. They only seemed glad to be here, despite the facts that it rained almost every day and I saved the Christmas prep until they got here, which meant lots of shopping. Poor Dad! However, their patience and kindness knew no bounds. I am incredibly grateful for them.

2. A fantastic time was had and an amazing dinner thoroughly enjoyed at Seth’s and Elaine’s home. The little kiddies are so bright and engaging in their celebration; it’s simply a joy to be around them.

3. Marina came back for Christmas, and it’s wonderful to have her here. Now that Christmas Day has passed, we are going to work on a script together. Exciting!

4. It was so nice to have a FaceTime chat with our Texas kids despite the fact they kept bragging about how hot it was there (29C). I guess that was payback for us bragging to our family in Calgary (who were at -20C) about how warm it was here. 🙂

5. So many gifts of love given and received, one being an incredibly generous gift of money from Bev and Lyle to use as we wish during our upcoming trip. I feel so grateful to pass my share of that gift on to PARE, a home for street kids in Columbia.

So the summary of all this: There is so much to appreciate. The biggest present I gave myself was to live in each moment as fully as possible, while being as aware as I was able. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses but even those moments were appreciated as growing opportunities (as per my Week Two post) and I found that as long as I followed my intuition, all seemed more or less well timed on when to enter a conversation, when to exit.

I was sad to see my parents leave this morning. I hope they know how much I appreciate them and acknowledge the sacrifice they made in coming here. I love them dearly, and I also admire and respect them. Their examples guide me as I work to grow into a more spiritually mature person.

Wishing peace, love, and light to you all!

Week Three

This story has been popping back into my head a lot this week. It’s a true story, something that happened to my daughter/friend, Charity, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, something she helped make happen because she followed her intuition.

Homeless ManA year or so ago, Charity was finishing her last year of University. She’s also a mom with two young children, and like most young families, she and her husband struggled financially. One day while driving home from campus, feeling particularly grateful for the good things in her life, she saw an elderly homeless man pushing his belongings down the street in a shopping cart, and felt compassion for him. She had $60 in her wallet, and she wanted to give it to him.

However, since he was on the other side of the street, one of the busiest streets in Victoria at that time of day, she knew she’d have to double back, find parking, and then approach him on foot. It took her some time to get turned around during rush hour, and by the time she got back to where he’d been, he was gone.  She drove slowly along, hoping he hadn’t gone far. He hadn’t – but he was once again on the wrong side of the street!

Another lengthy exercise in patience as she turned around in traffic, and ten minutes later she was heading back to where she’d last seen him. Again, he seemed to have vanished – until she saw him disappearing into a driveway to an apartment building.

Determined now to chase him down on foot, she found parking at a nearby bank, and ran toward the apartment building – and there he was, already pushing his cart down the street away from her. She says she must’ve looked like a crazy woman running after him, money fluttering in her fist.

Finally, she caught him! “This is for you,” she said, and pushed the $60 toward him.

He didn’t even seem surprised. “You keep that money,” he told her kindly.

“You don’t want it? But… but don’t you need it?”

The old man chuckled. “No one knows what they need, and those who think they do are just fooling themselves.” Then he patted her arm. “Pass your good deed onto another. And have a nice day.” He smiled as he turned back to his shopping cart, and walked away.

I’m not drawing any conclusions from this story or trying to pin down why it’s sticking in my mind this week. I’m just sitting with it, in gratitude, thinking of the power of Charity’s experience. There are so many awesome lessons in it: following intuition, showing compassion, thinking outside the box, being persistent, not being afraid to do something unusual and different, accepting the wisdom gifts of others, and on and on and on.

Interesting, multifaceted life learning – the best kind.

Week Two

I have a person in my life who really doesn’t like me. We’ve had a very negative relationship for some time, but because of people we mutually know, I can’t seem to escape him. At get-togethers, he baits me, usually by saying something judgemental or unkind. I feel I have to speak up, and because I’m usually right (or at least think I am!), he gets angry, which in turn makes me feel threatened… and it spirals down from there. I feel shaken for days after an encounter. Well, we had another get-together last week, and because of being open to All Things Are Possible, I saw things differently, more honestly. This is what I noticed:

participationHis words and actions are specifically chosen to bait me, because we don’t just have a negative relationship. He actively and intensely dislikes me, so much so that I am the person he is most aware of when we are in the same room. When I saw that, it slowly dawned on me that I was the one in control of the situation – something I never would have guessed before. I realized that his entire satisfaction depended on me doing one thing: taking the bait.

So I’ve been thinking on that, on what to do, on what the possibilities are. At first, I thought there were two things I could do: either ignore the comments or speak up with integrity – but as I started to write things out, I realized a deeper truth.

It’s not the bait I need to worry about; it’s the trap – the bait is the comment itself, but the trap is the negative feelings. That’s what I need to avoid. Even truth can be spoken with the intention to do harm, to aggravate, to belittle. And when bait doesn’t trap you, it isn’t bait anymore. It’s a snack. 🙂

So the question isn’t: do I ignore the comment or speak up with integrity? The question is: can I be around this person without reacting to their malice? If I choose to remain silent when he baits me, can I still maintain my positive outlook? If I choose to enter the conversation, can I impose my own value system on it, instead of allowing his anger to dominate? To draw attention to Wayne Dyer’s quote, whether I choose to engage in the conversation or not, I must refuse to engage in the conflict.

So I don’t know if I’ll speak up or remain silent the next time, but really that’s irrelevant. What is very relevant is that I’m not trapped in a bitter mindset. I’m wondering now if inner strength is not shown by fighting against bullying, angry comments, but instead, by facing someone who has ill intent, seeing their motives clearly, and not only refusing to engage in the spite no matter how personal it gets, but act true to my own beliefs of respectful, kind interactions. In other words, instead of diving into the negativity, elevate the situation.

I know it sounds strange, but I’m almost looking forward to the next time I’m in the same room with him. I want to explore this more. I want to turn this negative into a positive. And I believe I can do it because for this year, All Things Are Possible.

Week One

The first thing that happened was that I started to pay attention – and I first noticed I kept slipping back into old ways of thinking. Instead of keeping open to All Things Are Possible (ATAP), I turned back to the Usual Things Will Happen (UTWH), and as we all know, when you think the usual is going to happen, then you act as if the usual will happen, and then the usual does happen! However, every time I noticed the UTWH mindset I did my best, sometimes unsuccessfully, to think in an ATAP way. By the end of the week, it was getting slightly easier.

On Sunday, ATAP helped me big time. Instead of just feeling my usual social anxiety at church, I found that I was also observing myself feeling it. As I observed, I tried motivating myself: if all things are possible, then it’s possible to not feel anxiety. This helped the anxiety diminish a little more – not enough to approach anyone and actually talk afterward, but it was enough to feel more relaxed. A first step.

SailingLater that day we went out sailing. There was fear there too, right at the beginning when I though we were taking Viento out, because of the currents that go through where she’s docked. As it turned out, we took Wind Borne instead. She’s docked in a different place, with very low current. My nervousness evaporated. The wind was perfect, the motor started despite the cold – everything seemed perfect. We put up the sails before we cut loose because we thought we could sail her away from the dock – but ended up almost ramming the dock. And oddly, I felt no fear then, just exhilaration. The fear was with Viento, thinking about bashing the dock.

That night, I watched After Earth again.  It turned out to be an interesting choice. The theme: Danger might be real, but fear is a choice. To put this toward my social anxiety: yes, social humiliation may be real; I may say something stupid and have people think I’m weird; I may inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings; I may act like a total idiot. But to be afraid of doing that is a choice.

This week, I’ve also had a shift of writing focus, from one screenplay to another, from Freedom to Undertow. I’m happy for it. I think it’s the right project for me right now, and events conspired so that I can – All Things Are Possible!

And one more thing happened that was mystically powerful. If you come along on this journey with me, you’ll have to get used to weird interpretations of possibly very normal phenomena. I’m telling my experience the way I interpret it; it’s not meant as a statement on the way the world is. Anyway, I was sleeping in, tired because I woke up at 3 and couldn’t sleep again until 6:30, and yet I was still waking up. I didn’t want to wake up. I fought it. I wanted another hour…  And a voice spoke inside my head (no, it wasn’t Brad – lol!): “Don’t ask for more time to extend your experience, ask for more experience to fulfil your time.”  I have no more words for that right now. Just putting it out there.

So in the first week of living as if all things are possible:

  1. Changed writing projects;
  2. Entered a writing contest;
  3. The power went off a few times (but that wasn’t me, I promise);
  4. Observed my usual social fears instead of only feeling them;
  5. Realized something important about time and experience;
  6. Fear is a choice. Now I just need to have the focus and inner balance to choose to not feel it in fearful situations.

And right on time, the power has returned… time to post.

The Year of Living as if All Things Are Possible

Crofters WindowCombining my optimism, hope, faith in the goodness of the world, and free will, I have decided to embark on a year long journey. I am going to live the next year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. My initial goals: to live as much as I can without past resentments and programing, to overcome fear, to achieve my career goals, to develop stronger, more loving relationships, and act with more open kindness. I’m sure those goals will grow and change.

The inspiration came from a book I just finished, which I highly recommend: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. After reading about habits and how we can change them, how we are manipulated by them, how the big corporations use them to target customers, I came to a story about William James, who when he was a young man, suffered from depression and more. After struggling for years, James made the following commitment:

I think that yesterday was a crisis in my life. I finished the first part of Renouvier’s second Essais and see no reason why his definition of free will — ‘the sustaining of a thought because I choose to when I might have other thoughts’ — need be the definition of an illusion. At any rate, I will assume for the present — until next year — that it is no illusion. My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.

This decision changed his life, and focused him on the path that led to him now being considered the Father of American Psychology.

Obviously, my year will be different. To begin with, I’m not focusing on free will to gain free will, but on using free will to live the life that some part of me has always believed is possible. I’ll try to report every week but before I start I have one more thing to say: if you subscribe to my blog, please don’t feel bad deleting the notifications in your inbox. And that is my first act of kindness on this journey. 🙂

Fun and Mind Games

Mind GameI don’t normally find myself blocked from writing, so the last couple of days have been good for me. Haha! From a certain point of view, anyway.

I’m trying to write the opening of the new novel I’ve been outlining. Though I haven’t completely finished the timeline, I do think it’s time to write something. Just a modest start, and honestly, it doesn’t even have to be at the beginning. A page, a paragraph or two. It’s not like I expect much. But it hasn’t been happening.

And I know why.

I have people looking over my shoulder. Not literally of course. Only Cedar, my collie, is here, a vision of perfect relaxation as she snoozes on the floor. However, every time I sit down to write my first words in this novel, I feel every critique partner it will have, every publisher that I hope gives the novel a chance, and every possible reader looking over my shoulder and saying “This sucks!”

Being somewhat logical, my next question is: Why am I assuming the publisher and readers will be negative? The critique group will be – or at least I hope so, since that’s their job – but why am I imagining them all disliking it with such force?

No reason but my own far too persistent insecurities.

So, I’m going to keep telling myself that if I write something I love, someone else will love it too. I’m going to visualize that it’ll even be fun to write, that the characters will practically leap off the page, that they’ll be heartwarming and engaging, that the story will be exciting and appealing to more than just me.

So yes, writing is fun! If I make it that way. The cost? The sometimes huge effort it takes to push aside doubts and fears and disgruntled, pessimistic, judgmental  imaginary editors.

Believe in yourself. Have faith in your abilities. Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy. ~Norman Vincent Peale

Epiphanies in the Night

Medellin, Columbia

Medellin, Columbia

A number of weeks ago, I promised a blog post outlining what I learned in Texas, and then I procrastinated. It’s not like I didn’t think about writing the post; I did, often. I also knew what I wanted to write.

The words came to me in the middle of the night after being in Dallas for about two weeks. I woke at 3 a.m., suddenly and completely, with an epiphany in my head. I grabbed my journal and wrote on what I hoped was an untouched page in the darkness. It was, and the words I wrote were mostly legible.

So why haven’t I put them here?

It’s not time. The epiphany is too fresh to share, too new in my life – so instead of telling you what I realized that night, I’m going to tell you how it has changed my life so far:

1. I am going to Columbia to teach English and do other social awareness projects for three weeks in 2016. Teaching: way, way, way out of my comfort zone!

2. I am in the process of becoming a member of the Sooke Sailing Coop. No, I don’t know how to sail. Yet.

3. I started a Facebook page for my writer persona. I know I should have done it long ago but it just seemed such a big step. Now it’s done. You can link to it here if you’re interested.

4. I have two new script ideas. Yes, TWO!

5. I have committed to doing what it takes to break in to screenwriting. If this means traveling to Hollywood and meeting with producers, agents, or managers, I will do it. I’ve accepted and embraced this necessity, which for reclusive me is a very big thing.

Obviously, Texas was a game changer for me, and a testament to one thing I believe: don’t back off from change because it’s usually a good thing. Not that I won’t be doubting how good it is in Columbia when I’m standing in front of a bunch of people, wishing I was somewhere – anywhere – else.  🙂

Creating Gold

poolTravel seems to be on my mind lately. I don’t mean the how of travel, or the when, or the where. It’s not even the why, though that comes the closest.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” — Martin Buber

That kind of travel. The destinations that we don’t know we’ll reach, that we don’t even know exist, because in some way the only reason they exist is because we’re there, and something happens, some strange reaction. Pure alchemy between the physical place and who we are in that moment, that illuminates new places in our thoughts and attitudes and world view. By the time we leave, we are forever changed. Wiser even, or simply more aware of our ignorance. Or both. Usually both.

I just got back from Texas where I experienced a faux-move. I helped my daughter and her wonderful family transplant their lives to an apartment in Dallas – and not just any boring apartment either. It’s a huge complex, with lounges everywhere and BBQ’s all over the place. A gym, a pool (complete with fountains), a games room, a business center, and to top it all off, the world’s most amazing coffee machine. Like, ever!

As soon as the moving was done, I settled into resort living, fiddled with a novel outline, and enjoyed the amenities – a lot! Total indulgence: not what anyone would call a spiritual undertaking. I embraced being pampered (especially by that amazing coffee machine!).

And the alchemy happened anyway.

Since a lot happened beside that pool in Dallas, I’ll leave the rest for future posts, but before I go, I want to leave you a link to another traveler, someone who is much more adventurous than I.

Mars One pulled “Miss Miral” out her door and set her on a crazy path. I’ve followed her adventures for a while because I know her personally, but now she’s entering the web arena. Do me (and yourself) a big favor and follow her blog at https://eowynmiral.wordpress.com/. 🙂  She has two posts up now, and both are amazing!

And I’d love to hear your travel epiphanies, if you are so inclined! Start a conversation?

New Life

Cover ImageThe other day, I did one of my very favorite things. I signed two contracts which will bring two of my juvenile backlist novels to three European countries. There’s nothing better than knowing a book you love will have another life, more readers, more influence, and give more pleasure to readers – unless it’s having TWO BOOKS being released!

I’m not sure of the dates yet, but ABANDONED and WINTER OF CRYSTAL DANCES will soon be released in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. I am so pleased and excited that these two special books will be having a second life!

And to all the future readers in Norway, Sweden, and Finland – my wish for you: may you never run out of books!

Happy Reading!

Gratitude in Advance

gratitudeI’ve been doing something lately, totally spontaneously, and then today I find out it’s a thing!

Isn’t that the best experience ever, realizing that something that makes your day have more magic and meaning, is actually making a lot of people’s lives brighter around the world.

And what is this thing?

Advance gratitude.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton

Being grateful for your day, for your life, for an experience, for the beauty, for the people and animals and flowers in your life, for what you see, think, say, hear – all before you even experience it. All before it presents itself to you in all its wonder and glory, whether good or bad (which really is only a judgement call anyway, but that’s another blog post).

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Buddha

Some people use advance gratitude to bring luck to their day, and according to them, it works. Some use it to turn difficult life events on their heads, to learn from them, to see the positive side these experiences have to offer no matter how small (an incredibly brave thing to do, but that’s another blog post too). Some, like me I suppose, just enjoy the rush of being more aware than I otherwise would be of the beauties around me and the experiences that bless me, again whether “good or bad”.

“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

If I could give any advice to anyone willing to try this, I’d say, look for the details. Instead of being grateful for something in general, notice and be grateful for the specific.

Instead of being grateful for someone you’re close to, think about how they smile when you greet them. Instead of being grateful for your garden, be grateful for that single glorious bloom by the fence, for the way the sunlight shines off a single leaf, the creative curve of a branch, the blue flowers bursting from the gumboot planter experiment you tried this year. LOL! Yes, I’m looking out my window right now. And feeling grateful, this time in the moment.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

Enjoy the beauty in this day!