Saturday, October 25, 2014

Am I An Angel?


There are many things I like about writing.  One of them is that I can imagine anything and write about it.  That’s the whole basis of fiction.  Someone makes something up and then writes about it.  So no idea is too fantastic, too outlandish, or too impossible.  The interesting thing about fiction is that some of it can be based on fact.  Another interesting thing is that things written as fiction could possibly occur one day.  H.G. Wells predicted things in his fictional accounts that came true a century or more later.   So what if I was given an idea, and though it seemed crazy, could possibly be true?  Here’s the idea:
            What if I were an angel? 
Now before you laugh or stop reading this blog, or before you think I’m crazy, let’s just consider the idea, even if only as fiction. 
What if I were an angel sent here by God and unbeknownst by everyone (including me) to accomplish a specific assignment or set of assignments?   And what if I didn’t know this for most of my life?  What if, during that life, I made many wrong twists and turns?  What if I failed everyone, including myself, for years?  What if I got to a place where my life seemed hopeless and pointless and worthless…and then…and then…something happened to awaken me to my Purpose? 
What is that something?  It could be anything.  It could be an accidental discovery of a need I see or a talent I have.  It could be a kind word from someone or from many people along the way.  It could be another angel in disguise helping me to see my mission.   Maybe it was the desperate culmination of all my pain and failures and disappointments welling up and spilling over into something productive and powerful, rather than destructive and hateful.   Maybe I just grew tired of not using my wings.  Maybe I needed to stop crawling and start flying.  Maybe it was a combination of all of the above.
These aren’t necessarily original ideas. They come from many books including some I have yet to read, like The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain or The Hero of a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.  It’s in thousands of movies and books.  An ordinary person wakes up one day to find he or she is a hero, something special, an angel with a mission from God, a hero with a task set before him or her. 
But here’s the thing:  that discovery is not the end of the story – it’s only the beginning.  There’s still the mission, the Purpose, the deed or deeds that need doing.  There’s still the quest, the journey, the battle, the setbacks, the defeats, and finally, the victory. 
This is not fiction.  This is life.
And maybe, just maybe, there are many other angels, too, and they just don’t realize they also have a mission.  Maybe they haven’t been woken to their own possibilities.   Maybe the mission of every angel on the planet is to wake up all the sleeping angels, while doing his or her own work. 
Is this fiction?  Fantasy?  Maybe.
Or maybe I need to Get Started and Keep Going and find out how far my wings will take me.

Five Aspects of Purpose


Though I’d like to take a night off, I can’t.  More accurately, I won’t.  As long as I know my work blesses at least one person, I plan to remain in my Purpose for the rest of my life.  I also need to remind myself about my house on the beach with my Muse.  Have I made any big strides today?  Maybe not, but I’ve taken a few small steps, and that’s good.
Once, when I was younger, I found myself spending a lot of time alone.  I didn’t mind this; in fact I even preferred it.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends.  I did.  It wasn’t that I was anti-social.  I wasn’t.  I just enjoyed spending time alone.  When I was 13- 15, I would go to downtown Monterey and go to bookstores and look for comic books.   I’d walk for hours some days.  Sometimes I’d find some real treasures.  I’m still very grateful for those times. 
Now I have all the comics I could need or want.  I still buy some occasionally, but I rarely buy any from comic book stores anymore.  If there’s a comic convention, then I like to go, but I don’t need comics like I used to need them.   I enjoy them, but I don’t need them.  What I need to do is write and be with my Muse.  I need to do this every day.  One of the reasons I write is because it brings healing.  Another reason I write is because it blesses others.  So I write every day even if some of my writing, such as what I’m doing now, seems like I’m rambling. 
This is part of the writing process, by the way.  I write until I find my message.  Often I delete a lot of what I’ve written because it was just part of the warm up.  The real message comes eventually if I just keep working.  This is how Purpose works too.  We just keep working until we find our “groove,” our message.  Sometimes, often even, I have no idea what the message is when I start.  I just have to keep working.  As I said, this is how Purpose works sometimes.  You just keep working.
Purpose can be expressed in an infinite number of ways, but are there aspects of Purpose that all these different expressions have in common?  I have found five.
First, (and I’m going to use the generic pronoun “you” rather than “I” or “one.”) you have to show up every day and sometimes more than once a day.  I’m not saying never take a break or a day off, but I recommend every day as a guideline and let each person decide for him or herself.  For me, at least, I need to write every day and, as I’ve said, usually two or more times.
Second, you will love your purpose.  It will make you happy.  You will sometimes (often) wish that you could do it all day, every day.  You will think it is one of the most wonderful things in the world.  You will be right.  So will everyone else who is engaging in his or her purpose, even though everyone expresses it differently.  Each person’s Purpose is wonderful, life-giving, and joyful.  Today I saw a friend’s face light up in an arts-and-craft store because she loves decorating and being artistic.   Her joy was contagious and though I am not the most artistic man in the world, her joy made me want to decorate my own place.  It woke up my own love of beauty and order.
Third, though you make love your Purpose and though you may be good at it (great, really), you recognize that some greater Force is working through you.  This may be why you feel so powerful, yet at the same time, surprised.   You never knew you were that talented, that gifted.  But you are.  As I’ve said before, “gifted” means you were given a gift.  But it’s not for you alone.  Your responsibility is to share that gift with the world.  I also remember that this gift comes from a higher source and I use it with humility and care.  It’s as if someone lent me his Porsche indefinitely.  I’d want to be very careful with it.
Fourth, you may see your life change. It may change in large or small ways, but none of the changes will be insignificant.  They will all be part of your personal and spiritual growth.  You will experience inner healing and you will feel the presence of God.  Does this sound dramatic or overstated?  Perhaps it is, but it is also what I have consistently experienced every time I commit to my Purpose.
The final common factor is that you may see miracles happen.  Beside the miracle of inner healing that I just mentioned, you may feel in awe of the freshness and newness of your Purpose every time you work.  As an example, though it always surprises me, I somehow manage to write something new every time I sit down to write.  It’s as if the source of my Purpose is infinite.  It is.
So Get Started and Keep Going.  Enjoy the miracle of Purpose.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Negativity


Negativity
Is like the breaking of wind
Only, from the mouth

Original haiku



I feel it is important to, first, establish that I am quite imperfect.  It isn’t that I think I’ve left any impression otherwise, but I want to establish the fact all the same.  In this case, my imperfect nature expresses itself in a multitude of ways.  The way it’s been expressing itself lately is through negativity – negativity of the spirit, the mind, and inevitably the mouth.  Put plainly, I’ve been complaining lately…a lot. 
By nature I am a positive and happy person, but over the last few months, in one particular area of my life, things have not gone well.  I’ve suffered disappointments, setbacks, and humiliations.  And I haven’t handled it well.  I’ve seen my suffering as extraordinary circumstances that warrant complaints, criticism, and gossip.  After all, if you knew what I’ve suffered, you would realize that I am completely justified in my errant behavior.  Right?
Okay, maybe not. 
What I wish now, at this moment, is that as soon as things started going badly, I would have immediately chosen a different response.  I wish I had seen my troubles as a normal part of life, perhaps even lessons, or ways to make me a better man.  Instead, I allowed my thoughts to direct my life.  I gave circumstances control, thus making them, by default, negative.   Then I began complaining about the negativity that I myself allowed to enter and to control my life.
Interestingly enough, I want to complain now.  I want to give into negativity and fear.  In fact, this blog that I’m writing now, I started a couple of days ago, along with a few others.  I was going to start a new one tonight, but I felt like I had to go back and look at the other blogs, including this one, and finish one.  So instead of writing negatively, I’m going to write about negativity.
The truth is that most of us choose our own situations.  We like to say that we have no choice.  That is what I said for many years.  I was bound by society, or lack of money, or rules, or other people.  That’s what I said anyway.  But the truth is I bound myself, or let myself be bound.  Then I complained about it.  Does this mean that all troubles that come our way are our fault?  Of course not.  But we do get to choose our responses.
This is easier said than done.  We may need to deal with sadness or anger or regret – but we don’t have to stay with those feelings indefinitely.  In Flourish, John Smith recommends exactly that – to deal with our negative sides, our fears, depressions, or anxieties.  To deal with something doesn’t mean to ignore it.  Nor does it mean to allow it to take over.  To deal with something, especially negative emotions, is to acknowledge them, and then to decide the most appropriate response. 
With regard to my own negativity, it wasn’t until I acknowledged how unhappy I really was AND began responding differently, that I could start being truly productive again.  In addition, I found the things I had been resisting, were actually quite beneficial, for me and for those around me.   All my negativity did was delay some good things.  Maybe that’s what fear and negativity and resentment and hatred do.  They delay the good things in life.
At this point then, all I want to do is be happy.  I don’t want to be angry, afraid, or negative.  I want to be grateful for all that God and my Muse have given me, especially in the last two years.  I am extremely grateful for all the good in my life.
As for the bad?   Maybe, just maybe, there aren’t as many bad things as we think.  Maybe there are just a whole lot of transitions and opportunities… to Get Started and to Keep Going.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Race Against Time


“A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.”

Rita Mae Brown

“...a deadline should not prevent you from writing, but writing will help prevent you from missing your deadline. Then write a word. Then remind yourself of that again. And then write another and hey, look at you! You’re spitting in that deadline’s eye.”

Courtney Summers


 I have three or four blogs I’ve already started, so why am I starting a new one?  There’s nothing wrong with the other blogs, other than they aren’t finished.  So why don’t I work on one of them?  Then I could finish early and then eat popcorn and read comic books.  That would make more sense.  Here’s why I’ve started a new blog:
1.     I’m committed to writing, as much as possible and as often as possible.  I’m also committed to spending time with my Muse.  Finally, I’m committed to our house on the beach.  What I’m not committed to is shortcuts.  Yes, I could finish one of the other blogs and end my work early, but what if I were just a few more minutes away from reaching my goal.  Would taking a shortcut help me?   Would doing less than my best serve others or me? No. My Muse needs me to do my best.
2.     I felt what I needed to do, what my Muse was telling me to do, was to start something new.  I will get back to the other blogs later…or I won’t.  My goal is not to publish; my goal is to write.  And my Muse wanted me to write on a clean page.
3.     I’m racing against time.  To be more specific, I am following a self-imposed writing schedule.  I get up between 5:00 and 6:00 every morning and write for 30 to 60 minutes.  I try to write in the afternoons for another hour.  Finally, at night, I try to write for one more hour.  The problem is that during that last hour, I get tired.  Often I start dozing.  Many nights I will lie down for “just a few minutes” and wake up two hours later.  In fact, I’m falling asleep now.  Time is not on my side.  So I’m writing fast and furiously, putting in my time, getting words on a screen, hoping that what I’m saying, what I’m writing, will help someone somewhere.  What is the lesson?  Same as always – Get Started and Keep Going…even when you’re tired.  Even a small effort can make a big difference. 

Purpose needs passion.  But more importantly, it needs time.  I have little passion or enthusiasm right now.  I just want a bowl of popcorn with hot melted butter and some comic books to read.  Then I want to go to bed.
That’s it.  That’s all I can do.  I did my best.  The length of this blog doesn’t matter.  Nor does the number of people reading it (though of course, I’d love a huge readership).  All that matters is I put in my time and I gave it my best.  Tomorrow I will Get Started and Keep Going some more.   Tonight I won in my race against time.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lilies



“Yet, the great ocean hath no tone of power Mightier to reach the soul, in thought's hushed hour, Than yours, ye Lilies! chosen thus and graced!”

Felicia D. Hemans


It’s not that late, but I’m tired because I don’t feel well and I didn’t sleep well and I just want to go to bed, but I’m committed to writing every day.  Because who knows how close I am to reaching my goals?  And besides I love writing and I’m not going to let a little upset stomach or some fatigue keep me from my Purpose.  I’ll probably delete this paragraph when I publish this, but I have to start somewhere.  That’s what Purpose is – I Get Started and I Keep Going...even when I don’t feel great.  I just keep writing and working.  But what should I write about?
Perhaps I’ll write about the flowers in my place.  They’re lilies.  They’re bright and yellow and beautiful.  They give me hope.  A few years ago I didn’t know anything about lilies.  Now they’re my favorite flowers.   I used to think the rose was my favorite flower because that was everyone’s favorite flower.  But I think it’s everyone’s favorite flower because most people don’t really know much about flowers.  The rose is just more popular. 
But the lily is beautiful and diverse and complex.  I’ve had white lilies with pink and they were beautiful, too.  The yellow ones brighten up the place.  As I said, they give me hope because the time I was learning about lilies and flowers, I was also learning about myself, and the potential and responsibility I have.  I was beginning to understand that God really loves me and that I am created for a purpose.  As I was learning about the lily, I was learning that I can write, that I should write and that lilies and writing may be the thing that gave me hope. I’m not interested in being clever here.  That would be an embarrassing attempt.  It’s enough to say that I love lilies.  I love how they bring beauty and order to my place.  
My place could use a little more order.  Last night I cleaned some of the kitchen.  It still looks good.  I like order.  I need it.  But it’s hard for me to maintain.  But I have a picture in my head about what order looks like.  It has lots of space.  (A translation of the term “Feng Shui” is space.)  An orderly place has space and simplicity.  There would be a vase of flowers, lilies, to add beauty, but there would be little else.  I can see this.
That’s a big secret to Purpose.  We can see it.  It may not even be close to reality, but we can see it so clearly that we can almost touch it.  The trick to making it reality is to see it every day.  You see it so clearly that you do a little more and a little more every day, every day, every day, until you can really and literally touch it.
So the lilies remind me of when my Purpose started.  They remind me to Get Started and Keep Going.  One more thing:  when I started this blog, I was tired and didn’t feel well.  I feel better now and I have energy.  Purpose heals our souls.  Maybe it heals our bodies also…like some flowers.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What If I'm Only One Page Away?


What if all that were between me and the fruition of my goals was one more blog?  What if all I needed to do was write a few more pages in my journal?  What if the life-changing insight I needed was just a few pages away in the book (or, more accurately, one of the books) I’m currently reading?   What if I were that close?  Would I do what it takes to write that blog, finish those pages, or read that book?
Could I stay focused?  Could I put away the distractions?  Could I turn off the TV?  Could I ignore my e-mail, or the online games?  Could I look at my comic books later?  Even with this motivation, it’s a challenge to stay focused.  It’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible.  If I knew, really knew that I was that close, I’m sure I’d do whatever I needed to get to my goal.
The problem is we don’t know.  I could reach my goal tonight, tomorrow, or a year from now.  It’s a matter of time, but it’s also a matter of effort.  The more effort we put in, the sooner our chance of reaching our goals.  When I speak to job seekers, I say, “The more time you spend looking for work, the less time you’ll spend looking for work.”
This is true of most things.  The more time we put into reaching our goals, the less time we will need to reach them…maybe. 
Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours.  Brian Tracy says an hour of study a day is required and in seven years you will be at the top of your field.  I’d like to put in an hour a day of studying how to be a better writer.  I’ve read a few books on writing and they’ve all been helpful.  But I knew I needed to read more.  Then something happened. 
The other day, after some hesitation, I went to a bookstore near work.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go.  I’d been there once before, but the store was dusty, disorganized, and chaotic.  In addition, the owner was doing his best to sell to me, a habit that makes me want to run screaming.  But for some reason I felt I needed to give the store another try.  It was still dusty, disorganized, and chaotic, and the owner was still trying to sell to me, but there was a cart of books outside, all on the topic of writing, and they were $4.00 each.  I bought five.  I don’t think this was an accident or a coincidence.  Maybe the books I bought will bring me closer to my goals.  Again I use the word “maybe.”
Here’s the thing: success is not guaranteed, not even for the diligent worker…but it’s far more likely for the diligent than the lazy or neglectful.  And while it’s not guaranteed, it’s highly likely.  How do I know this?  Because I’ve seen it.
I’ve done a lot of career coaching.  I’ve met hundreds of people and never once did I see someone fail to get a job if they didn’t apply themselves and the correct principles to the job search process, principles that I taught.  Some people got jobs sooner than others.  Some got jobs that didn’t work out and had to start the process again.  But just about everyone got a job.  The two or three people who didn’t get work had some severe personality disorder that kept them from following my directions.
Though I’m not perfect, I don’t think I have a severe personality disorder, so I think reaching my goals is a matter of time.
When I speak of time, I mean it in two ways.  First, I mean the length of time.  for example, cooking something often takes a certain length of time and the process can’t be rushed. Likewise, I may need a certain number of months or years before I am ready for the success I want.  Sometimes when success comes to soon, it becomes a bane not a blessing, like someone winning the lottery without knowing how to manage money, and then soon loses it all and more.  When I started my first book, I left it several times because I just didn’t have the knowledge required yet. 
By time I also mean the amount of hours I put in each day.  The more I put in, the faster the process can increase.  Professional writers say anywhere from three to six hours a day is optimal.  I can’t do that yet, but the more time I put in, the sooner I can reach my goal.  If it really takes 10,000 hours then putting in two hours a day will obviously get me there faster than putting in one.   This is why I work nights and weekends.  I could be doing something else, but not much else is as important as this.
Because…
What if I’m only one page away from success?

Why Do I Write Every Day?


“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“The greatest act of faith some days is to simply get up and face another day.”

Amy Gatliff

“Come friends, it's not too late to seek a newer world.”

Alfred Tennyson




Why do I write every day?  Sometimes I write for stress relief.  Other times I write out of the commitment I made to do so.  Other times I write because it’s cathartic and healing.  And other times I write because it feels so good.  Which one is it now?  It doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that I’m writing.  It’s part of my Purpose.
Why in the world do I keep going on and on about Purpose?  Haven’t I said enough about it?   How many times can I encourage people to Get Started and Keep Going?  I will stop doing this when the following things happen:
·      I will keep doing this until everyone gets it and does it. 
·      I will stop when I no longer need to say it. 
·      I will stop when I see everyone on earth living to his or her fullest potential. 
·      I will stop when I see no more able-bodied and able-minded men or women begging for money. 
·      I will stop when I see everyone who wants a job has one and one that he or she loves. 
·      I will stop when I see everyone (myself included) not wasting time on pointless drama, gossip, complaining, and criticism.
·      I will stop when people stop wasting their time…period.
·      I will stop when I see more determination, happiness, and meaningful productivity.
In other words, I will probably never stop. 
(Small aside:  this blog started going a different direction, writing about when or if I would stop writing, but upon review, I’ve decided to look at that another time.  For now I will continue on this theme.  That’s how writing and perhaps all forms of Purpose work.  One pauses and assesses and then keeps going.)
There will always be a need for encouragement.  There will always be a need for reminders.  I need both every day.  Part of the reason I write is to encourage and remind myself every day. “Encourage” means to give courage and confidence where there is little or none.  Almost every day I wake up with little or no motivation.  I’m not where I want to be in life.  In addition, I face distractions and problems throughout the day, both internal and external.  So it is important to remind myself and to create my own courage.  The only way I can do that is to write every day.  More accurately, I need to write two or three times a day.
Perhaps it’s overstating the case, but when we are in Purpose, we are in direct connection with God.  Can I be any clearer?  God, the creator of the universe, is with you when you write or paint or dance or work with autistic children or doing anything that makes the world a better place.  And it doesn’t always need to be a large or ongoing enterprise either.  Picking up trash, tying a child’s shoelace, or petting a lonely dog could be part of Purpose.   Walking for breast cancer or any other worthy is being in Purpose. 
There is an infinite number of ways to express Purpose.  But do all these ways have anything in common?  Being in Purpose usually creates the following:
·      We are lost in the moment.  We are not aware of time.
·      We feel joy.
·      We don’t want to stop.
·      Our work is blessing others, directly or indirectly.
·      Our work is blessing us, directly and indirectly.
·      Other things that were bothering us seem to resolve or minimize.
·      Life has a direction, perhaps for the first time.

The benefits just don’t end.  We don’t do it for the benefits, but they come anyway, like unexpected gifts.  This is why I Get Started and Keep Going...and why I write every day.