I guess we all need a little inspiration. And we can all be inspiring.
Last night I watched three reality shows: Chopped, American Idol, and From Gs to Gents, and realized why I and so many others connect with reality shows--because even though they are sometimes silly, they sometimes do portray real people living inspiring lives.
On Chopped, Chris, one of the four chefs selected to create meals out of weird ingredients, was a former boxer. He came into the competition with the mindset that he was going to win. That mindset obviously served him well in the boxing arena, and it did in the cooking arena as well.
Because he won.
Even though his meals were not as creative or edgy as the other contestants, he stayed focused, and he said over and over that he was going to win. And he was a great guy. When one of the chefs broke down and cried over being chopped, he gave her a hug. He was gracious when receiving criticism from the judges, saying only, "Thank you, Chef". Unlike other contestants who sometimes get bad attitudes.
Now...about From Gs to Gents. When I started watching this show last summer, I thought it would be really stupid. I was wrong! It's about real guys from the streets, the hood, whatever you want to call it, trying to better their lives and become "gentlemen" --and win $100,000.
In this season's opener, one of the contestants, Dirty, got stinking drunk. He was so drunk that he sat in a fire pit, threw another contestant who could not swim into the pool, and finally passed out.
The next day, he had to tell his story to Farnsworth Bentley, the host of the show. Prior to hearing Dirty's story, Bentley was inclined to throw Dirty out of the house.
Dirty's story was that when he was two months old his mother dumped him in a garbage dumpster. Fortunately someone found him, and he was in and out of foster care all his life. He admitted to having alcohol problems.
Bentley's outlook after hearing the story was, "How can I throw him out, when everyone else has thrown him out his whole life?"
Bentley told Dirty he'd get him help for his alcohol problem, and asked Dirty to apologize to the rest of the contestants and see if he could earn their respect. He did, and asked to be called Baron, his real name. "I'm not Dirty anymore," he said. He wants to experience a better life.
It was very moving. And real.
And at last, American Idol. The first three contestants in the final 12 were chosen, and all three had inspiring stories as well as being good singers.
There's Alexis, the 21-year-old single mother who is doing this to create a better life for her daughter; Danny, the church music director whose wife passed away last summer, and Michael, a roughneck on an oil rig trying to create a better life for his wife and child.
Chris. Baron. Danny. Alexis. Michael.
All are standouts in the inspiration arena. All have experienced pain, hard times, uncertainty, difficulties.
Yet they are all inspired by something greater than themselves, and that is what makes them inspiring to us.
Yet, each of us can look at our own lives and realize that we, too, are inspiring.
The inspiring things about our lives don't have to be shared with millions on television to be meaningful.
They can be shared with just one person, and they will have an impact.
What inspiration can you find in your own life today, and with whom can you share it?
I have been blessed to have had wonderful writing teachers throughout my 30-year career.
There was Ed Weathers, who taught me the art of freelancing; Marjorie Riehm, who introduced me to memoir writing, which is becoming my main genre, and Douglas Taylor, who taught a fabulous class at Northwest Community College in which we were allowed to say only positive things about each other's writing. My classmates, most of whom were 18-21 (I was 40+!) and I thrived and flourished in that environment.
Then there were Natalie Goldberg and Anne LaMott http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Lamott , whose books I devoured, and Gabrielle Rico, whose tapes I listened to in the '80s.
And in March 2007, I spent three nourishing days with Susan Wittig Albert in a workshop on using creative fiction techniques in memoir writing.
Now, many of my writing mentors come via the internet.
One is Mary Carroll Moore, who has a helpful blog titled How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book. http://howtoplanwriteanddevelopabook.blogspot.com/
Mary Carroll teaches in Minnesota and New York, and since I am in neither place, I'm grateful for her blog, which features a weekly writing exercise.
This week's exercise was adapted from Natalie Goldberg's Thunder and Lightening, which I did not have but immediately ordered from www.half.com. http://www.nataliegoldberg.com/
The exercise is about answering the questions, What has brought you to your knees? and What do you love with your whole heart?, then weaving the answers into your writing.
Mary Carroll puts the first question as, "What loss have you experienced?" and "What gifts have they brought?"
Since I am prone to insomnia, especially when there is a full moon, I did this part of the exercise about 1 a.m.
My losses were astounding, when I began to list them:
my father at age 3 when my parents divorced
my stay-at-home, happy mother when she had to go to work at a job she disliked
the sense of family
two beloved cats, one when I was 8, the other when I was 11
not getting into the honor society and glee club in high school
my father's death when I was 21
deaths of both grandparents I was close to, and a great-aunt, a few years later
my broken engagement in my mid-20s.
deaths of 9 friends
Oh, God...this is not all, there is so much more!
What this made me realize is, these were tremendous losses, yet I am still here, I am happy, I am growing, I am flourishing, I am as beautiful and serene as the Japanese cedars I saw at Cheekwood on Saturday.
As for what I love with my whole heart, well...that took some thought. In fact, I did not even know how to answer that question until I began this post.
It could have been gardening, it could have been nature, it could have been being with loved ones, it is all of those things because those are the stuff of my life.
But what it really is, because it weaves all those elements together, is writing about the stuff of my life and sharing it with others.
I had several ideas I wanted to blog about today, and after some reflection, decided to post about a powerful dream I had early this morning shortly before waking. (That's usually when I notice my most powerful dreams).
In the dream, which was very clear, lucid, and peaceful, I was working in a call center with many people. The pay was low and many people were struggling, including myself. However, I did not have kids or anyone depending on me as many others did, so it was not as much of a struggle for me.
Payday came, and I had $30 in cash. I decided to give $10 to a co-worker who had several children. I wanted to give the gift in secret but I was scrounging through my purse to find the money and my work friend asked me what was taking so long--she was ready to leave, since it was Friday quitting time.
So I told her what I was doing and who I was giving the gift to. She immediately said, "Why do you want to give anything to her; she has such a bad attitude!" My response was, "I used to have a bad attitude about life, too, so I understand her."
Finally I found the $10 in my purse, but when I went to give it to the woman's son, who had come to pick her up from work, the recipient wound up being a different woman, who some would call a redneck.
I offered her the gift, and she immediately said she was not worthy to receive it. I replied that I believed, knew that she was worthy and held out the $10 to her.
That was the end of the dream.
I believe this dream was me learning how to be both giver and receiver. In the dream as giver, I was an expression of spirit that was understanding and non-judgmental. I recently realized that understanding is not something we do with our heads, but with our hearts. There is no room for judgment when one is able to come from a place of love, understanding, and acceptance.
As the receiver, sometimes I feel judged or unworthy to receive the gift. This blocks the flow of spirit, which only seeks to give without reservation. If the flow is somehow blocked, spirit must move on to find another recipient that is open to receive.
Last night before bed, before I began to dream this dream, I repeated over and over to myself, "I love money." It gave me peace, even though...
Saying I love money goes against all my training, upbringing, and all the religious lessons I learned as a child and young adult.
Yet, what is money but a form of energy, and what is energy but love? The Christian Scriptures, specifically Colossians 3, tell us that "love binds everything together in perfect harmony."
If I believe love is the unifying force, which I do, and I believe love is another name for energy, which I do, and that money is a form of energy, which I do, then it's OK to love money!
In a balanced, honest way, money/love/energy flow in me and through me and out of me and enable me to co-create a more beautiful world.