Acting “as if”

Your total presence is requiredWhen the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” was released in 2004 I went to see it with a couple of friends. My friends loved it but I was unimpressed and wrote it off as a typical “chick flick” in which a woman is brokenhearted by divorce, moves far away to start over but doesn’t really feel complete until she finds a new man (OK, guys, stay with me now). I thought it was a cute, fun movie but I managed to miss an important underlying message until I saw it again a few years later. After that, I bought the DVD and have watched it many times since then. It has become a favorite of mine. Like I always say – when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

 Our heroine, a writer named Frances, while on a trip to Tuscany, impulsively decides to buy a charming but slightly rundown 300 year old villa. She has many doubts about her decision but she knows she can’t return to her old life in San Francisco. She is sad and lonely but she tries to embrace her new life. She hires an Italian contractor and his two Polish workers to do some renovations on the villa and welcomes neighbors who reach out to her but she is still feeling sorry for herself and unsure of whether she has done the right thing. At one point, when she feels overwhelmed and afraid that she has made a mistake, she tells a new friend that she must have been crazy to buy a house with so many rooms when she has no one to fill them. She says she wants to have a wedding there and for a family to live there. She says she wants to cook but has no one for whom to cook. He tells her a story about a railroad track that was built through the Alps before there was even a train that could make the trip. This is the message I missed the first time I watched the movie – Frances begins to live her life as if and it changes everything.

She immerses herself in her new life; learning to speak Italian, forging new friendships, creating a home and life for herself. She learns to cook Italian style from an elderly neighbor and makes wonderful meals for the contractors who are working at her house everyday. She emerges from her cocoon of self-absorption and self-pity and begins to get involved in the lives of the people around her. She breaks through her long struggle with writer’s block. She becomes like a big sister to one of the young Polish workers and helps him with his romantic problems. Her pregnant friend, whose relationship ended badly, arrives unexpectedly from San Francisco and Frances gives her, and then her baby, a home. In the end, a friend has to point out to her that she actually has received everything she wished for. She didn’t even realize it since the wishes weren’t fulfilled in the way she had envisioned them – she did find people to cook for, there was a wedding at her home when her young Polish friend got married, she did create a family with her friends and her house was full of love. At the end of the movie when Frances feels good about herself again and is surrounded by the happy life she has created, a new love enters.

I’m well aware that this could come across like a load of you-know-what but bear with me! I have read a lot about such ideas as “changing your thoughts to change your life”, “choosing to experience your circumstances differently”,” envisioning your life the way you want it to be” and “living as if everything you want is already in place”. I have also put a lot of effort into putting those ideas into practice, admittedly with different degrees of success at different times. Simply stated, when things are not going the way you desire just try acting as if you are happy, healthy, wealthy, loved, successful … whatever it is you wish. I know it sounds crazy but try pretending that everything is the way you want it to be and imagine how you would feel if that were true. It’s kind of similar to the “fake it til you make it” theory – smile and act happy and, before long, you will notice that you actually feel happy. At first it seems like you are just fooling yourself but, after a while, you will begin to actually feel different and, if you keep at it, you will also start to notice small changes in your life.  I’m not claiming it always works but, what have you got to lose? While you’re taking positive action to change your life why not also act as if you’re already there? You will begin to attract into your life more of the things you want – you will also discover that some of them were already there and you didn’t realize it.  And, perhaps most importantly, be prepared to recognize when your wishes are fulfilled because they may not appear in the shape you imagined!

Stella LIVES "as if"!

Stella LIVES “as if”!

See more of my artwork at Lynda Linke Productions

 

 

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Time will pass but you will not

A Star to DiscoverOne of my high school teachers cleverly posted a sign in her classroom which read “Time will pass but you will not”. It was directly under the wall clock – a place that she knew her student’s eyes would stray many times. The message, of course, was that if you didn’t remain present in the moment and do the work then time would certainly move forward but you would not. I didn’t really get that when I was 16; I just thought it was an amusing saying.

That saying has popped into my mind many times over the years when I was enduring a tortuously dull business meeting or an incredibly boring date, constantly checking my watch, and I would smile inwardly. If you have read any of my other posts then you know I retired in 2011 and have been going through a new phase of my life, which I think of as my latest “reinvention”. I have been through a few other reinventions; some by chance and some by choice but, here is the thought that put a shiver down my spine: “This could be my last reinvention”. The amount of time I have left in this particular incarnation is finite and the infinite possibilities I saw before me when I was younger are gradually decreasing. This is true for all of us at any age but, as we get older, most of us see the reality of it more clearly. Most of my life is behind me and, even if I live another 30 years, there is no way to know how many of those years will be independent and autonomous so I believe that this particular reinvention, whether it is my last or not, is the most significant one and I want to get it right. I want to be present in the moment and do the work. Actually, no matter where you are or what your age,  you might want to adopt that way of thinking.

This latest bout of introspection has led me to think about the WHY of my life. I’m happy to say that I understand the WHY of me much better than I did when I was younger but, I know I still have more to learn. Looking back, I can see that many of  my decisions were made with little awareness of what I was doing – never mind WHY. I often reacted based on emotions with limited thought to motives or the possible ramifications of my choices. I also made a lot of decisions based on the opinions or desires of other people. My WHY was too much about getting approval and “love” from others and I would feel angry, hurt, or resentful if, despite my best efforts, I still didn’t get it. I was hyper-critical of myself but made endless excuses for others. I thought that taking care of my own needs would seem selfish. It’s a cliche but, how can you truly care for anyone else if you don’t care for yourself? That is why the importance of self-love and self-respect is a central theme in my writing, in the SELF seminars I present and even in a lot of my artwork. The more I love and accept myself, the happier I am, the more spiritual power I feel and the more love and acceptance I can give to others. Instead of being stuck in a vicious cycle of confusing and negative emotions, often directed at myself, I feel like I am traveling on a gentle and never-ending circle where everything connects and make sense to me – all because I have a better understanding of my WHY. If there are people in your life who bring you nothing but negative energy you might want to think about WHY those people are still in your life. There are billions of people on this planet and I can see no reason to choose relationships with people who don’t share your desire to live a peaceful, happy, positive life. This was a long and hard lesson for me but I learned that it is so important to understand and honor my WHY – WHAT and HOW actually become much easier when you first understand WHY. Of course, we make decisions all day, every day, and I’m not suggesting that every decision requires deep contemplation but, ask yourself how often you make an important decision without even thinking about WHY.

I have had “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck, M.D. on my shelf for years and have re-read parts of it many times. There is a definition of spiritual power in the book that I especially like “It is the capacity to make decisions with maximum awareness. It is consciousness.” I don’t think that kind of awareness comes in a single blinding flash of enlightenment. I think it is the result of a life long journey of study and observation of everything, especially yourself. That sense of power comes to you slowly as you gain a deeper understanding of your own spirituality. It is your WHY.

You can see more of my artwork at Lynda Linke Productions

WHY?

WHY?

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Peridot - August birthday for herThe term “self-fulfilling prophecy” is generally given a negative connotation but I’m thinking about it in a different way today. Robert Merton, a 20th century sociologist, actually coined the term of self-fulfilling prophecy. His definition, from the book “Social Theory and Social Structure” (published in 1949), states that the prophecy is false but is made true by a person’s actions. In the modern sense the self-fulfilling prophecy is neither false nor true, but is merely a possibility that is made into probability by a person’s unconscious or conscious actions. Simply stated, we are what we think about so, therefore, we create our own reality. Can you think of an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy in your own life? I can think of a couple of negative ones from my own life but I’ll share a positive one today.

I presented my first SELF seminar of the year last Tuesday – focusing on the first two letters in SELF. I explained that I was relating the first two letters to self-confidence and empowerment because I believe they are so closely interconnected that you can’t really have one without the other. I shared a favorite quote, which I had taped on the front of my computer for many years “The longest journey is the journey inward”  and talked about how this is also the most important journey you can ever take because it is how you come to understand and, hopefully, love yourself. I gave the group 10 questions to ask yourself when you are at a crossroad or want to change your life from a great book I am reading “The Right Questions” by Debbie Ford. I am a proponent of creative visualization, vision boards and journaling as ways to navigate the “journey inward” and using those tools helped me to create the self-fulfilling prophecy I am living today.

This is the story of my self-fulfilling prophecy: A few years ago I was living my life in “golden handcuffs” – after many years I had achieved success in my career but I was unhappy and began to wish I could change my life. I didn’t want to start a different career or even get a different job in the same field – I just wanted to be free, but it wasn’t financially possible so I felt trapped. I decided the most practical thing would be to stay where I was for six more years and then retire at 62. I’m not the most patient person and there were many days when this seemed like forever! I set financial goals of paying off debt, saving money and cutting unnecessary expenses to prepare myself for living comfortably on a lower income. I did so well with my goals that I was able to retire a year and a half earlier than originally planned. I’m sure some people thought I was crazy to take a reduced pension and then a reduced early Social Security benefit but I had a clear vision of the life I wanted and I was willing to sacrifice some things to get it. Don’t ever let anyone’s opinion deter you from fulfilling your dreams! During those years I also read a lot about changing your thoughts in order to change your life, living in the present moment, and learning to experience your situation differently, etc. (instinctively, I knew those skills would be useful no matter what). I began focusing my thoughts on the future life I wanted to create – one where I was accountable to no one, where I could spend my time drawing, writing , pursuing different interests and doing whatever I wanted to do. I called it my “reinvention” and I started a reinvention vision board on which I pasted photos, quotes, and words that expressed the life I wanted in the future. I visited the future when I visualized and wrote in my journal but I lived in the present and tried to make the best of it. I took positive steps toward creating my future life by establishing an online shop to sell my greeting cards at Greeting Card Universe and starting my first book, “Try Lots of Hats”, which was published in 2010 while I was still working. I also began to focus more on being grateful and appreciative for the good things I already had in my life and staying open to experiences of joy and inspiration. I adopted Stella and we began volunteering with the local Humane Society’s Ambassador Dog Team.  About three years after I began visualizing my reinvention it became a self-fulfilled prophecy.

Once you understand that your life today is the creation of the thoughts and decisions you made in the past then you will also understand that the thoughts and decisions you make today will create your future. If you daydream about a different type of life then now is the time to create a self-fulfilling prophecy with your thoughts and think every day about your vision of that life and the steps you can take to get there. Often the decisions and thoughts that created our current life were based on a lack of self-love so a good place to start creating the life you want in the future is to learn to love and respect yourself.

Please visit me at Lynda Linke Productions

Stella at PAWS to Read

Stella at PAWS to Read

I wish you hope and faith

HopeHappy New Year. The best wish I can send to you is that you always have the strength to choose hope and faith no matter what happens – and I really believe it is a choice. It is like choosing optimism over pessimism.

Throughout the 22 years I worked in social services I helped many people who were in need of the basics of survival – shelter, food, clothes, medical care. I know this work was valuable but along the way I learned something even more valuable – the hope you give someone is just as important as the material assistance itself. One definition of hope is “a chance that something desirable will happen or be possible”. Of course, you can’t really give someone hope but we all have the ability to shine a light to help someone who is stumbling in the dark. At least then they have a chance of finding hope inside themselves.

For this phase of my life I am trying to find ways to shed light on that intangible human need – hope – in a different way; with my artwork and writing. Even if it is something as simple as one of my greeting cards putting a smile on someone’s face and lifting their spirits for a moment. I have discovered that this also helps to keep my own focus on hope. I don’t speak from a position of superiority; I know that life has many more unknown challenges in store for me and can throw a curve ball at any time. I write about what I have already experienced and learned and share these things in the hope that I am shining some light in a dark corner. Over the years, many people have illuminated the path for me and reminded me that I can overcome my struggles when I have hope. This is not to say that I have never felt hopeless; this is to say that I always knew that if I could get back to hope I would prevail. So, if you’re struggling with your self-esteem, your family, a difficult relationship, financial problems, unemployment – I’ve been there, too, and I know that finding and staying connected to hope is essential. You can accept the kindness of others and listen to their advice but then you have to find hope by yourself because no one can give it to you.

I haven’t had to overcome the kind of difficulties that so many of my former clients faced but I learned another important lesson from them – don’t ever compare your problems to those of others. We all have our burdens and everything is subjective. The important thing is to learn from your difficult times and apply those lessons in the best way you can. Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living”. I couldn’t agree more and have known many people who seem to just drift along, unthinkingly repeating the same dumb mistakes and causing pain to themselves and everyone around them. Every time we have to go through the darkness we get to experience the beauty of the light and start all over again but how we go about that is an individual choice. Unfortunately, some of us have to repeat the same experiences over and over until we finally get the message! Anybody see the movie “Groundhog Day”?

It’s easy to understand how someone can feel hopeless when confronted with serious life challenges and, yet, I have met many people who still have hope and that other elusive intangible, faith, while dealing with very difficult situations. Why are they able to have hope and faith when so many others don’t?  Is it because they have faith in God? Not always. The dictionary says that faith is “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof”. Another definition comes from the bible “… Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) We often relate faith to a belief in God but I’m reminded by the dictionary definition that faith is really just a matter of trusting in somebody or something – whatever sustains and comforts you – and it might be that you simply have a strong faith in yourself and your ability to overcome hardship (where that faith comes from is a topic for another day). Whether it is faith in a Higher Power or faith in yourself I think it comes down to the same thing – you believe that there is a chance that something desirable will happen or be possible and that, somehow, you will have whatever is needed to make it happen.

I used the first stanza of the beautiful poem by Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” in my illustration above – here is the rest of it:

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet, never, in Extremity –

It asked a crumb – of Me.  

I’ll be presenting a SELF (Self-confidence, Empowerment, Love, Freedom) seminar on Tuesday, January 8th from 7 to 8 pm at Christmas Come True (yellow building at the corner of A1A and 14th St. North, Flagler Beach). I’ll be focusing on the first two letters because I believe they are so interconnected and I also have a very special DVD I want to share with you so, if you’re near Flagler Beach, please join me and the wonderful Stella. There is no fee for the seminar but a $10 (or whatever you can afford) love offering for Christmas Come True would be much appreciated. Please call Nadine at 386-569-4429 to register.

Life is good

Life is good