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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oooo! Oooo! Oooo!

Teacher: “Okay class, put down your pens. We're going to have an oral pop quiz! Who can define the meaning of living an authentic life?”

Oooo! Oooo! Oooo! I feel like a kid raising my hand with the right answer. When I get full of something you know it’s going to overflow into my writing. So, here goes….

I am my authentic self and I am living an authentic life. It’s a funny term when you think of it…authentic self, authentic life. Like we’ve been offering our bodies as hosts to alien spirits. But in a way it’s true. Emotional pain can cause us to morph into damaged versions of ourselves. It can begin at a young age, and without even realizing it we can live in this state for most of our lives, often wearing a mask to hide our pain.

Or maybe we do realize that we’re feeling “off” and we commit to working on ourselves, making good progress, but then a strategic situation is placed before us to test our growth, the stakes seem higher than ever before, and we do alright for a season, but when the situation moves outside of our control, we freak out, reverting back to our unhealthy thought tracts—responding from a place of panic and desperation, until we no longer recognize ourselves. Where the hell did the real me go?

I can see myself walking into a busy pawnshop and telling the clerk that I want to pawn myself. Would he pull out a loop and look for a signature? Do a scratch test for carats? I can hear him saying, “Sorry lady, but you’re not authentic. You’re a rather sloppy copy of the rare and beautiful Leah Griffith.”

Huh? When did this happen? How could this happen? Was I the victim of a highly sophisticated heist?

If only it were that easy to detect when we’ve lost ourselves. The term authentic self may be a bit overused but the message remains mighty: You are rare and valuable. There is only one of you, and once you allow life’s circumstances to distract and overpower you, you are no longer free to be yourself. You’re living in, and acting from, a state of fear and bondage.

We mostly tie ourselves up in knots and then blame it on other people, emotionally framing them so as to shine the spotlight of suspicion elsewhere. Of course we don’t do this consciously; it’s the ego at work behind the scenes, protecting its fragile empire of half-truths, fears, and delusions in order to get its way and remain blameless and in charge. You may say, “But they wronged me! How is that tying myself up in knots?” Well, believe it or not, you gave them the rope (the power) when you placed too much importance on their roll in your life. By doing so you placed them on the throne and relinquished your power. They may not even be aware that you’ve given them your power. Or perhaps you gave your power away to drugs or alcohol. And why did you do this? Because deep down you held the erroneous belief that something outside of yourself was capable of making you happier than you ever could.

Oh Dorothy, when will you learn that you have always held the power for a happy life?

Here’s a good question: How does one go about taking back their power?

We lose our power one compromise at a time. Gaining back our power is pretty straightforward—but also a lifelong exercise. You must believe that you are a complete person possessing everything you need, both spiritually and emotionally, to live the amazing life placed before you. You must remind yourself of this every day, and when trials come you must remind yourself even more often. Of course you should welcome, love, and appreciate, the people in your life, but you mustn’t ever override your own instincts or convictions out of fear of rousing their anger or being rejected. Be brave enough to love and support yourself and quit comparing yourself to others.

Here’s the really good part about being authentic. Once you take your power back you can then use it to forgive yourself—for abandonment. Yup. You abandoned yourself. Not on purpose of course. But lets say as a child (before you had the emotional maturity to protect yourself) a parent did desert you, and then you carried that rejection into your adult life. You danced to the old tapes for years; never moving beyond the belief that you were not quite enough…something vital was missing. But now as an adult you are able to see that it is impossible to truly be abandoned by another person because only the inhabitant of a dwelling has the power of abandonment. The Free Dictionary’s
definition of abandoned is: unoccupied, empty, deserted, vacant, derelict and uninhabited. So you see, you would have to vacate (abandon) yourself in order for another person to move in. Only you can abandon yourself and give your power away to someone or something else.

Another way to use your reclaimed power is to forgive those people who have hurt you. Now that you have your power back you can see clearly that the other person was simply acting from his or her own limited view of self and life. You can stop measuring and judging them and freely offer them unconditional love. This is a divine love. Not one based on ego, (as long as they make me feel good, or agree with me, I’ll love them) but based on self-love and self-respect, both of which are divine qualities.

Being our authentic selves means fully inhabiting our lives—living from the inside out rather than the outside in, responding to life from a place of love instead of fear, and then offering the world our authenticity instead of our egos. It’s a nail-biting endeavor guaranteed to humble and test, but for those who want to live a powerful life, saturated with creativity and love, there is no substitute.

Okay, enough of my teachy mode. You do realize when I dole this chit out it’s only because I am learning it myself;)

Have I told you lately how glad I am that you’re here with me?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Next Big Thing!

My Next Big Thing!

Laine Cunningham, recipient of two national awards for her novel, Message Stick, tagged me for a blog hop called “My Next Big Thing.” Laine posted on her current project, Buy Light and Purple Blooms. Check out her full blog post by clicking here.

Everyone in the blog hop answered ten questions about their latest projects. Laine’s describes Buy Light and Purple Blooms as a women’s thriller. "That is, the story is primarily a woman’s story yet it has some of the same elements as thrillers."

At the bottom of this post, you’ll see the writers I’ve tagged so far. I will be adding more writers throughout the month of January. Hop along to read about more great plans in the works!

My next big thing is a continuation of my first novel, Cosette’s Tribe. Readers have fallen in love with young Cosette and are craving more. I originally intended to write a continuation on the story so I guess this means that both author and reader are on the same page.

Here are the questions:
1. What is the working title of your book or project?

This book is a continuation of my first novel, Cosette’s Tribe. It remains untitled so far but I have a few ideas.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project?

The readers of Cosette’s Tribe have become quite invested in her outcome with many requests for a sequel. I had originally intended to write two books about Cosette, her early years and her life as an adult. This book starts when she is 14. I’m still not certain where it will end.

3. What genre does it fall under, if any?

It could fall under many genres, but the most obvious would be literary fiction. It is a coming of age story, which could also fall under general fiction or women’s fiction.

4. If applicable, whom would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

I know very few young actresses so I guess it would be best to leave this to the casting agents.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project?

Desperate to leave an abusive home life, 14 year-old Cosette challenges the world, risking everything to find the answers to life’s most critical questions.

6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency?

Although seeking an agent’s representation, I am very comfortable with self-publishing this project.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I am still working on the first draft. So far I have invested a little over a year on this project.

8. What other book or stories would you compare this story to within the genre?

This Boy’s Life, an adaptation to a memoir of the same name by Tobias Wolff, has a similar nitty-gritty vibe and flow as Cosette’s story. I can’t think of a story within the genre of fiction that I would compare my project to.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story?

I have been carrying this story with me my entire life. Much of it is inspired by my experiences as a teen.

10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest?

The setting takes place in a small New England city back in the 1960s-70s. Readers have expressed an intense emotional investment in book one, Cosette’s Tribe, stating that it takes them back to the streets of their own youth. This project, book two, will challenge readers to believe in the magic of serendipity and experience, as they bite their nails down to the quick, hoping for things to turn out well for young Cosette.

Leah Griffith's novel, Cosette’s Tribe, is now available on Amazon, B&N, and also offering signed copies from here.

Laine Cunningham:
Author of several books
Publishing Consultant
Quoted on CNN and Media Bistro
Winner of five national awards
Visit Laine’s blog here.

Laine’s latest book, Seven Sisters is available on Amazon now!

Marie Nikodem Loerzel will be posting after her return from travel next week. Visit Marie’s blog, Rock The Kasbah here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Little Bird Saves Woman!

Okay, 2012 sort of kicked my butt. Yes. It was a stern teacher springing pop quizzes on my unsuspecting soul, re-teaching me things I thought I had already learned, only to discover that I had acquired a sturdy mental assent on theory but the lessons hadn’t completely made it to my heart. Like a strategist leaning over a map, pushing little red pins into cardboard mountains, I hovered over my kingdom, protecting and projecting, paying no attention at all to the massive gift from the Trojans being rolled into my foyer.

I had paused at a place of mature complacency, mistaking it for experience, so when this particular quiz was placed in front of me again I had no fear of failing it. It was familiar, and although it contained some of the more difficult questions on life, I was somewhat eager to wear out a pencil or two with my clever answers.

What I hadn’t counted on were the trick questions, and the touchy language being used (with many words having more than one meaning) to convey the questions. Being a somewhat direct person I took the questions at face value, answering straightforwardly. I was overly confident, imagining my certificate of competency hanging smugly above my desk. But then I noticed that things weren’t adding up. I used the old formula when calculating the answers, but it wasn’t working. It had been years since I’d used this method; I figured I had forgotten a step or two. Should I subtract or carry over? Bah!

I was tempted to raise my hand in question, but the administrator had left the classroom, leaving a curvaceous hourglass to mark time, spilling away the sandy hours grain by grain in agonizing silence.

It wasn’t fair. The rules were arbitrary and ruthless, independent of earthly reason. One would have to be God to know the answers or at least a clairvoyant. I revisited the history of the quiz, when it was last given, my mental and emotional status at the time, and noticed that the last time this test was given I was fifteen and sorely disadvantaged. My adolescent perception was that I had lost all when I failed this exam. I carried this loss with me throughout my adult life. I lived in loss, ate in loss, and loved in loss.

Like an amputee, I learned how to do everything with a missing limb. The compensation became normal. I was an accomplished amputee. What more could be expected of me? I was proud of myself. I did well.

But here I was again, trying to pass the same damn test, figuring that with all these years of experience I would pass the exam without having to raise a brow or scratch out a notion. But I was wrong. Once again I’d become ensnared and was facing years, possibly the rest of my life, as a double amputee, for no doubt, I would lose another limb or perhaps even my heart this time.

I was determined to save myself from such a fate and find enough of the answers to earn a passing grade. A “C” or even a “D” would suffice. This went on for many months and then one day, while fretting over the exam, I became distracted by a bird resting on a branch outside my window. The bird was grey with black markings on his head and wings. He flitted along a thin branch, perching at last on a woody finger pointing heavenward and singing as he preened himself into a chubby puff. With the sun cast behind him he darkened into an animated silhouette, a singing shadow, causing me to forget his feathery details, enchanted instead by his sulky transformation and the simple melody of his chirps.

Laying my pencil aside, I left the room and found a soft place in the yard where I could be closer to this happy bird. Closing my eyes, I welcomed his song into my being; evicting the testy tenant with the tricky questions from my mind, along with his convincing rhetoric that I was not enough…I needed something more to complete me.

It was in that moment that I felt an inner peace lifting my soul above my thoughts…a restorative reward for pausing. Basking in this satisfying surge of life I vowed to monitor my thoughts more closely, and not be so quick to believe their dark tales. I could feel the rhythm, the oneness of all creation flowing through me, helping me to grasp the reality that indeed all things serve my path, (whether dark or light) including this current test, for which I shall no doubt receive an endless “A” for, acquiesce.

It may take the rest of my life for me to master this seemingly simple lesson. For the lesson isn’t without but within. The situations may change from year to year but the message remains the same: Be Present. Receive Love. Give Love.

Who’d a thought that a little bird could save me?

I’m sending this amazing love out to all of my dear friends today. May you find courage when faced with life’s many trials and may the truth of your lessons carry you to freedom throughout 2013 and beyond.