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Posts from the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

What is calling you in 2013?

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“Hair Raising” ~ Mixed Media Collage by Betsy Lewis

Do you know what you are called to do or be? Have you always known? Have you had several different callings or just one? Do you have a calling on the “back burner”?

Some people seem to know their calling at birth. They make a beeline straight toward their destiny. I ran across an old friend like this on Facebook. I remember him from high school as being a super smart, likeable and devout young man from a military family. I see that he became a chaplain at West Point!

If you’d met me in high school, there would have been no way to divine my future path.

Japanese Garden and Imnaha collage 021Most of my life I have zigged and zagged this way and that, distracted by the many shiny things of the world. I have let my ego and other people’s visions for me lead the way. They say there is a consistent unifying thread that runs through each of our lives. If that is true, mine must be in a tangled mess by now.

Part of it is that I have an inability to “settle” on anything, which isn’t all bad. I am always open to new adventures and creative projects. On the downside, I have lacked boundaries. My tendency has been to merge with others and not stay in an awareness of  important parts of myself — parts which might have helped me discover my calling earlier in the game.

But always I have been asking, “What are you here for? What do you want to do with your life, Betsy? Who are you really? Why is this so hard??!!”

Although I am traveling light, I do have a few books with me all the time. One of them is by Gregg Levoy and is titled, “Callings: Living the Authentic Life.”  My copy is dog-eared and heavily underlined. He says, “You just need to figure out what decisions will assure that when your life flashes before your eyes, it will hold your interest.”

Chinese Gardens Portland Jan. 2013 037Now on my walkabout, with time and solitude to be with myself, I have discovered my calling. It happened just the other day, and it was if my vision cleared suddenly — less of an “Ah Ha”, and more of an “Oh yeah . . . that makes sense.”

So what is my calling?

In one way or another, I am called to help people find their “voice” and be “seen and heard”– by the whole wide world, or by their community, or by their family or maybe just by themselves for themselves.

By “voice” I mean the expression of a person’s true inner self, through speech, action, vocation, avocation or any of the art forms. By “seen and heard” I mean to be acknowledged, validated and valued. To use your voice and be seen and heard is deeply and powerfully healing, and the world needs more of this. Many women, children and 99% of the world’s people don’t have a voice and are not seen and heard.

My calling has been a shadowy shapeless force informing and shaping my life – the elusive “thread” that has led me from social work to (of all things) marketing — as the most expedient medium for carrying out my calling.

This is not pure selfless altruism. I am very aware that this calling is also a way of validating my own voice and meeting my own yearning to be seen and heard.

Answers come in their own sweet time – sometimes late in life. But thankfully they do come, and I have my walkabout to thank for this one.

It’s never too late to be happy

“Claiming our own lives creates fulfillment and joy. We don’t need to be controlled. We don’t deserve to be repressed or stifled. We don’t have to let anyone convince us that we do. We can trust ourselves. We know what we need, we know what we yearn for — we long to be set free.” Melody Beattie

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I started my walkabout 3 months ago with a powerful, but somewhat vague yearning to be free. I wasn’t really sure what freedom would look and feel like.  I feared I might just be running away. The ensuing months have convinced me of this one thing:

My walkabout is a proactive act of claiming my life for myself, which is resulting in a slow shedding of my own freedom-repressing patterns. Here’s one that is on its way out:

Striving for happiness.

Most of my life I have striven for one thing or another — hoping to finally be happy. But no matter what I achieved, there was always more striving and more plans for being happy in the future.

A friend called  the other day to ask me how I was. I answered “happy.” What a surprise!

But there it was.

I was happy.

I had arrived and didn’t know it.

There wasn’t really anything more I needed to do, be, or acquire to be happy.

Happy didn’t look like I thought it would either. I didn’t  have the conventional trappings of happy – a lot of money, a large house, a new car, (or  thousands of Facebook fans.) Happy obviously didn’t mean I wouldn’t have problems, worries, fears, or aches and pains (I still do.).

The difference is that anything else I do now or in the future isn’t going to make me any happier than I am now.

There is only doing what I am doing — and then doing the next thing.

I just finished reading the novel “Breaking out of Bedlam”, by Leslie Larson. The main character is an unhappy elderly woman named Cora. Her family puts her in assisted living because she has become a danger to herself. She loses everything familiar and her world comes crashing down.

BOOBpbkHer granddaughter gives her a blank journal. Cora considers it useless at first, but in her misery, she decides to do something she has never done before – she begins to write, and what she writes about is her own true story. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of her journal:

“I’ve got a plan. I’m going to write down everything I ever wanted to say. I’m not holding back and I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks. Most people don’t tell the truth about their lives, including me. I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I lied to keep myself alive because life is hard and there’s things you got to do. But now I got nothing to lose. I’m going to tell the truth, once and for all.”

By the end of the book Cora has filled three blank journals, starts living a full (and rather lively) life in the assisted living home, and transforms herself. She claims her life, gives it a voice through writing and “breaks out of bedlam”, in her own way, to freedom. I won’t reveal the details, but the story has a happy ending!

It might have been nice to have allowed myself to be happy sooner, but even a moment of truly taking in happiness is a gift beyond all others. I have a friend who often says, “I can die happy now.” That’s what I feel too.

And Cora’s story is a reminder that  claiming our lives and giving it a voice — at any age and in any circumstances — can be transforming and freeing.

And that it is never too late to be happy.

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