An Invitation

You can create a life you love… right here, right now.

You’re going to work with the raw material of your life… exactly as it is.

Start with a willingness to practice creating moments of
Peace, Joy, Empowerment, And love… in each day.

What would that look like?
What is peace? Joy? Empowerment? Love?
How does one live those qualities?

Peace is a deep inner quiet we each have within us, that can be accessed anywhere, any
time, by briefly pausing, breathing deeply and allowing one’s self to be still.

Joy is the exuberant feeling that comes from being aware and awake to the small miracles
and wonder of life in each moment.

Empowerment is recognizing one’s ability to take action, and taking action.

Love is making a choice in this moment to support one’s divine potential or that of
another with kindness and compassion. Love is not an adjective, it is a verb.

You can create a life you love by bringing these qualities to the circumstances of your life
as they are now. All you need is a sincere “yes” to yourself… and a daybook…

A daybook can be on your phone, I-pad, computer. It can be a big beautiful journal or a
little notepad that can be carried easily in a pocket or purse. It can be a graphic journal
where you draw instead of write.

Each day just take a moment to record:

When today did I create a moment of peace?
When today did I create a moment of joy?
When today did I create a moment of empowerment?
When today did I create a moment of love?

As you begin doing this right here, right now… your life will change and you will begin
creating a life you love.

Posts made in May, 2014

My Life Behind the Scenes

From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life
A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust

 Hello Dear Friends!

This is the last chapter of  my latest book, Sorting the Pieces of Your Life. From here on out I will be doing weekly articles on the general theme of this website — creating a life you love.

For the past 19 weeks we have been exploring how to clean out our closets and clean out our hearts!

We have talked about how physical chaos in our outer world is symbolic of unaddressed emotional chaos inhabiting our inner world.

Today, I share with you my back story as I have been writing this book for the past 20 weeks. I had no idea what would happen in my own life as each chapter has unfolded since January.

I couldn’t have been more astonished by the opportunities that arrived for me to emotionally sort the pieces of my own life. I have been revisiting a sobering experience I had nearly four decades ago which became both a blessing and a burden for the rest of my life.

Tamera Website 003It was 1976. I lived in Utah where I had just graduated from college with a degree in journalism and communications, and had started my first job as a reporter.  Gas was 25 cents a gallon.  Fleetwood Mac; Earth, Wind, and Fire; and disco were playing on the radio.

The most important news story of that year was the senseless murders of two young fathers in Provo, Utah, who were shot by an ex-convict named Gary Gilmore. He was quickly found guilty and then was given the death sentence. He chose not to appeal. An execution date was set for death by firing squad.

Just a few months before the murders of Bennie Bushnell and Max Jensen, The United States Supreme Court over-turned a 10-year moratorium on capital punishment. In January of 1977, Gilmore would be the first man executed in the United States in a decade.

While covering Gilmore’s arraignment, I met his girlfriend. Later, when media from around the world had descended on Salt Lake City to cover the story, I was the one she chose to give an interview.  Gilmore was on death row and she was seeing him there every day.  She was the only one who could answer the questions that plagued both the media and the public:  Why had he committed the murders?  Why wasn’t he appealing his sentence?

Tamera Website 004She gave me access to over 1,000 pages of a letters Gilmore had written her from Death Row, and a scrapbook full of his artwork.  She also confessed to me that he had talked her into a suicide pact with him. (See 1/28/2013, Chapter 6, www.creatingalifeyoulove.net/we-are-all-creative)

When my stories came out they were carried in newspapers worldwide. My life changed. I was interviewed by the media, was approached by a major publishing company about writing a book, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

I also spent the night at The Utah State Prison, along with reporters from all over the world, to cover Gilmore’s execution.

What does all of this have to do with sorting the pieces of my life?

It wasn’t until the past few years that I fully began to understand how deeply affected and even a little traumatized I had been as a 22-year-old reporter covering this story. My own childhood trauma was activated by it and new layers were added. I have never told another living soul some of the things I read in Gilmore’s letters.

I spent two years exploring this experience and time in my life in a weekly consciousness-raising group. I ended my time in the group last November, with a resolve to write the book I have never written about covering the Gilmore story. For me it was a way to sort through what happened; expand my awareness; and gain clarity about how I lost, gained, and misused personal power during that time.

executionersAnd then, one Monday morning this last March, I received a phone call from Lawrence Schiller, a famous producer and photographer, who bought the rights to Gilmore’s story.  He produced the movie, The Executioner’s Song, (starring Tommy Lee Jones) and hired Norman Mailer to write the book of the same name, which became a best-seller and Pulitzer Prize winner. (I was interviewed by Mailer several times for the book.)

I had met and become friends with Larry during my time as a young reporter when he arrived in Utah from Los Angeles to meet with Gilmore and the other parties in the story.  We hadn’t talked in 38 years. I couldn’t imagine why he was calling me.

It turned out that as part of a Norman Mailer Center writer’s colony at the University of Utah this summer, Schiller is hosting a journalists’ panel of reporters who covered the Gilmore story. Gilmore���s lone surviving attorney will also be on the panel.  He wanted to know if I would be on the panel.

I accepted his offer and asked him if he knew where Gilmore’s former girlfriend was.  She and I had developed an important relationship during the time I was interviewing her.  I had been looking for her, without success, for years.

Peloquin.Forgiveness.high-resA week later I received her phone number and e-mail address in a message. She said she wanted to reconnect with me too. I hung my head and wept.  The next day I traveled to meet her.  The years hadn’t diminished our connection. The minute we saw each other we embraced, our eyes filling with tears. I realized why I had been so desperately seeking her.  I needed to know if she was alright and I needed to know that everything was fine between us. I had made some mistakes with her in how I  handled the story.  She is doing very well in her life. Our relationship has deepened.

The journalists’ panel gives me an amazing opportunity to interview other people who covered the Gilmore story and a second chance to do some things differently than I did all those years ago.

6a00d83451e8d469e2016305c5577e970dYes, I have been doing the physical sorting too as I have been writing—cleaning out closets and drawers and reorganizing.  Releasing things I have clung to has made my life easier and created a stronger desire to live more simply.

But the emotional sorting is another story. As my history from my twenties has been re- activated, I have found myself delving anew into the ego-identity this part of my life created.

I have been exploring how I can more fully integrate parts of the life I lived then into the life I live now.

I am asking, what lingers that can be left behind?  What is still alive in me that needs to die?  What parts of myself have I cloaked that await new life?

These are questions for us all to examine about our lives.

stones-windowsill_300As we have explored simplicity in this book, we have considered the questions:
How do we complicate our lives?
How can we develop more clarity and simplicity of focus and intention?

With the principle of order we have wondered:
How do we allow chaos into our lives—emotionally, physically, and with our time commitments?
How do we bring order into our lives?
And what would it look like to be more centered even in the midst of chaos?

Considering renewal we have looked at:
What holds us back in life?
What emotional obstacles are still in our way?
What needs to be reclaimed?

trustFinally, we have talked about trust:
How does fear get in the way of trusting?
How could our personal inner narratives be expanded to allow us to trust our lives and ourselves more?

These are all questions I have and am considering. As I have sought to be the teacher with these concepts, life has taught me that I am ever the student. I am finding my own way toward simplicity, order, renewal, and trust.

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The journalists panel will be at 9:15 pm at the SLC Main Library, 210 E. 400 S. Salt Lake City, 84111, UT on Friday July 18th.  It will be preceded by a showing of The Executioner’s Song at 7 p.m. If you are in the area please feel free to attend.  I would love to meet you!

 

 

 

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Expand Your Perspective, Expand Your Story

From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life
A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ― Aldous Huxley

the_tightrope_walker_by_roweig-d4cpwfaAn important truth I have learned about life, both from being a therapist and being a patient, is that the narratives we hold about ourselves and our lives can be expanded.  Our memories are held from the perspective of a person who was much younger, less experienced.  Things appeared more black and white.  We lacked the depth of understanding that life and humans are complex.

Holding our stories in a crystalized perspective prevents us from the growth, freedom, and expansion that come from looking at things a bit differently. As we explore our stories with an eye to details that may be difficult to face (or even see) we are offered a fresh view of ourselves and life.  This can be very renewing and help restore trust.

While growing up, I was sexually abused for several years by an older teenage boy that I knew from church and school.  Because of my age and innocence, and the fact that he was somewhat of a friend, I was very confused by his overtures toward me.  Overwhelmed, curious, confused, and a bit paralyzed, I found myself complying with his actions.

I felt deep shame and guilt and was burdened by having a secret.  I felt that to tell would be incriminating to myself as well.  My deep shame and secrecy led to numerous problems in my life, not to mention the devastating effects of abuse. Most damaging was that I actually didn’t realize I had been abused, I just thought I was bad.

communityThis changed in my early thirties when I had a flash back of a particular incident of the abuse.  I had never forgotten what happened, but I also had never experienced something as disturbing as a flash back.  It was like it was happening again.  As soon as it passed I immediately went to the phone book and started looking for a counselor.  I was shaken and in turmoil over what I had just experienced.  I knew I needed help.

I began my work with a wise counselor who specialized in sexual abuse recovery, and joined a support group for survivors at the same agency.  Healing became my main focus in life for the next 18 months.  The first thing I learned is that sexual abuse does not require a weapon.  It just requires someone who is even a little bit older who has more knowledge and in some way understands how to exert a subtle amount of power over another via flattery, befriending, grooming, manipulation, and pressure. Thus began the expansion of my story.  I wasn’t bad, I had been victimized. And most importantly I had survived!

I was finally able to talk about what had happened for the first time and have my story reflected back to me with girls-in-sunflowersnew insight.  This led to grieving the loss of my innocence as a young girl. There were dark periods of anger over what had been taken from me.  Sometimes I felt overcome by sorrow for the shame and secret which burdened me. Eventually, though, I began to feel newly alive and empowered.  As my views changed my life was changing too.  I learned how to stand up for myself, how to set boundaries, and how to exit victim thinking and acting.

Time passed and I realized that my new story also had its frozen perspectives.  I had begun to view my abuser as “the enemy, the bad one.”  I saw what he did from one limited viewpoint.  I want to be very careful here in letting those of you who are survivors know that I do not in any way excuse, justify, or minimize abuse of any kind. Abuse is real and it is wrong.  As a therapist myself now, I see it as being one of the most damaging things that can happen to a person.

imagesHowever, for me personally, there was more expansion ahead.  I am a seeker.  I am curious.  I want to understand people. And I wanted to forgive versus holding onto emotional toxicity.  (And again, for survivors, this is a process, not an event, and not something to be rushed.)

I made a decision to find the person who had abused me and confront him.

While he did offer an apology, it was anti-climactic.  It was evident there was no way he could begin to comprehend the many harmful ways I had been effected by his actions.  But as I talked to him it was hard for me to see the grown man he now was.  My mind kept replacing the young man I remembered.  Seeing that teenage face in my mind’s eyes touched something in me.  I knew from our past friendship that he lived in a home where he was beaten.  He was fatherless.  And he too had been sexualized by an adult in his life.

aldous-huxley-doors-of-perceptionNone of these things made his abuse of me acceptable.  But they helped the adult me begin to appreciate how complicated life and people are—that there are many perspectives.  I was thankful to have this pertinent information more present in my awareness because it helped me to release him from “the enemy” position, freeing me from the cancerous anger that had been mutating in my emotional cells.

Now, as an adult woman who works to help victims heal I can hold him with some compassion as well.  It is one of the factors that cause me to be strongly against requiring underage abusers to register as sex offenders, except in the most serious cases.  These young people have often been victims themselves and still have a realistic chance of being healed.

I knew this was certainly the case with my former abuser.

Open-Your-MindAs I look back at it now, my perspective about adversity in life is that, it’s just life.  I believe we are here to learn and grow. Every experience offers us deeper perspectives and understanding if we are willing to learn, explore, and view from multiple angles.  One way to do that is to ask ourselves, “If this was sent here to be my teacher, what can I learn?”

I have lived the wounds of the past into irrelevance so that I can say for myself, abuse is just abuse, death is just death, pain is just pain.  This doesn’t mean I don’t take these things seriously, it just means they no longer have such a hold on me.

This allows me to trust life.  And it has certainly helped me create more trust in myself despite my own weaknesses and fallibilities.

David Hockney, Woldgate Woods, 21, 23 & 29, November 2006, Oil on 6 canvases, about 72 x 144 inches (Courtesy of the Artist. © David Hockney. Photo credit - Richard Schmidt).I have used a very serious example in this chapter on expanding our perceptions.  But the principles apply to something as simple as a conversation we had with someone that triggered us, a fear that holds us back, a belief that creates complications in our lives, or someone who is particularly annoying to us. Any area of our lives that holds energy around it is always an opportunity to try to see a bigger picture.

As we sort the pieces of our emotional lives we can expand our perspective by noticing what stories we tell ourselves and exploring them with new curiosity and an eye for previously unseen possibilities. As we expand our perspectives, our lives expand as well.  We experience renewal and renewed trust. We are indeed set free!

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Opening our Hearts to Trust

From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life, A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust

“Trust yourself, and then you will know how to live.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goeth

Fear holds us back from trusting ourselves, trusting life, and trusting the Divine.

To trust requires letting go and facing that there is much in our lives we can’t control or predict.

To trust is an emotional investment of the heart that allows us to dwell in possibility, and in the present.

6a0120a68523f8970b014e8a676cba970dBut most of us are reticent. What if we open our heart to trust ourselves, someone else, or life itself and then something difficult happens?  This is our fear speaking, trying to convince us that somehow by withholding an open-hearted approach to life that we can control the unknown, and avoid the worst. Often, trust actually opens a doorway to a fuller, richer life.

The irony is, the amount of control we have in life, while significant, is far outweighed by the innumerable possibilities of things that can and do go awry. This is where it gets tricky . . . sometimes the very things that ‘go wrong’ are placed on our path to be our teachers, to give us experience, and ultimately to be for our highest good. Growth and transformation are the gifts of that come from meeting the challenges of life versus resisting them.

runners-place-setting-lTrust opens up limitless possibility.  In order for anything in our life to expand, space is required.  It only makes sense that for something good to happen, we have to create space for it, we have to set a place for it at the table!  We create space for all that is good by trusting, letting go, and surrendering our insatiable need to always be in the driver’s seat on the journey of life.

And so when we trust we create space for life and love to unfold naturally with unlimited potential for good and for growth.

Many years ago I limped home from a brief but successful career as a newspaper reporter.  Despite amazing opportunities and success, I was tired, wounded, and worn out because of some trauma I had experienced in my work and personal life during that time.

I felt alone and longed for companionship, and to be married to someone who would be my partner in life. I also knew while I could certainly take steps to bring that dream into reality, it was largely out of my control.

After a couple of months of recuperation and getting myself grounded again, I took a temporary job in Portland 12242476974_1070f10db7_oworking for The Oregonian followed by The Oregon Journal.  Being actively engaged in work that utilized my skills, I began to regain some of my confidence.  I remember vividly, leaving work one evening and watching the golden sun set through the dark branches of the barren trees in a park.  Something in me shifted seeing those trees without their leaves, but glowing from the distant rays of the sun.  I decided to quit obsessing about finding a husband.  I let go of my worry, my fear, and my desire to control outcome.  I made the brave decision to just trust my life and where it was heading. I knew this required me to show up in a full-hearted way in my life, releasing myself from my attachment to the end result.

scan0005Oh life is so amazing!  It wasn’t long after, that the man I have now been married to for 36 years, asked me on a date.  We had met and knew each other casually, but I had no idea he would be the person I was to marry.  But on that first date, it was evident to both of us that we had everything we needed to create a life together!

I know. Life doesn’t always respond this quickly.  Indeed I was blessed, but I have learned many times over, that when I let go and trust, not only am I more at peace, but the trust creates an opening in which my life finds its way to what is best for my highest good whether I realize it or not.

Our task is to focus on what is in our power—and that’s a lot.  It’s in our power to show up and do the work of life.  It’s in our control to say yes or no or even maybe.  We have the ability to take action, even the action of patiently waiting.  We can choose how we will respond to what life is offering us.  We can be bitter or we can be curious about the possibilities even with devastating events.  We can nurture ourselves, meet our needs, and offer ourselves the gift of our own compassion and care. We can expand our life by being present to exactly what is happening right now.

Fear lives in the future; it is the kingdom of a thousand terrible ‘what ifs.’ What if I fail? What if my new boss doesn’t like me?  What if I can’t do the job? What if my health fails or my children rebel? What if I end up alone? What if something terrible happens?

the_tightrope_walker_by_roweig-d4cpwfaTrust dwells in the present, the kingdom of possibility.  It lets go while getting on with life.  It is in love with the beauty of the mystery that is always unfolding. It wakes up in the morning with wonder about what unexpected blessings are at hand in this very day. (Pope Francis gives us the wise counsel to allow ourselves to be “surprised” by God). Trust teaches us more is possible than we imagine. And it is the quiet companion that sits with its arm around us during the funerals of life, the many little deaths or losses we all suffer.

Trust is a true principal, which creates expansion if we practice it.  Avoiding trust shrinks life.  We don’t take risks; we keep our eyes tightly shut like a frightened child sitting in the dark.  The doors to our heart are closed.  We may feel safe in the illusion of control non-trusting offers, but we limit ourselves to a very small space to live in.

When we trust others we hold them in the highest vision of who they are.  If they break that trust, we make the necessary adjustments, evaluating if our trust was misplaced or just requires a little patience.

When we trust, we stay in the present moment and bring ourselves fully to the experience of life exactly as it is unfolding now—letting go of the rest.  As we do, we leave fear behind.

trust

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Renewed Engagement in Life

From Sorting the Pieces of Your Life, A Woman’s Guide to Simplicity, Order, Renewal, and Trust

Renew: 1: to make like new; restore to freshness, vigor, or perfection 2: to make new spiritually: 3: to become new again 4: to begin again” – Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary

Finding renewal in life is the goal of ‘emotional housekeeping’, our focus for the past few chapters.  Leaving behind bad habits, compulsions, obsessions, addictions, is not just a call to stop our harmful behaviors, but to completely re-engage in life in a way that makes us feel alive.

What is meant by engagement?

TiffanyCampbellfilmmakerSurfingLongboardDearYongerVillaVillaColaProductionsPerhaps the simplest definition is being actively involved or committed to something that gives us a sense of purpose and passion.

Giving up negative behavior leaves a void and we leave ourselves vulnerable, even in danger, if there is not something to replace the old behavior.

One of my first clients as a counselor was a man who had turned to drugs, alcohol, and addictive sexual behavior to survive a difficult childhood wrought with neglect and abuse. For years he lived a hard and dangerous life that came close to killing him.  But after a nearly lifelong battle with his numerous addictions, he began to piece together sobriety one harmful behavior at a time.  He was meticulous in his recovery—attending Twelve Step meetings, working with a sponsor, doing service work in the program; and actively engaging in counseling as he worked to gain insight about the psychological under-pinning of his disease. The next step was to discover the renewal that comes from fully engaging in life with passion and purpose.

RHi_Blog_12StepHe began helping other men recover.  He worked tirelessly as a sponsor; he was the first one at meetings to welcome the newcomer and invite him out for coffee; he planned amazing camping trips for the men in his recovery group where he cooked fresh salmon for them that he had caught himself.  His purpose in life was to help those who were still suffering. Over many years hundreds of men found recovery because of this man. And most importantly he was able to hold onto his own recovery, and still does.

When we are caught in the sway of the Bermuda Triangle of unhealthy habits, compulsion, or addiction, we are owned by the behavior, even obsessed. It gives us a false sense of purpose in life, fueled by the next score or acting-out behavior. The elevated mood this creates is as a result of the immediacy of the dysfunctional behavior. There is a false sense of empowerment and the relief of brief freedom from the misery of anxiety that often fuels the habit. In reality though, we are engaged in something that is not only completely meaningless but also harmful. We lose time and money.  Our relationships and life begin to deteriorate.

In The Power of Full engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, the authors tell us that “To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose . . . Full engagement implies a fundamental shift in the way we live our lives.”

14638546-woman-playing-cello-on-the-stairway-outdoors-on-streetActive engagement in life gives us a reason not only to keep going when life is difficult, but to get up in the morning with a sense of purpose and sometimes excitement.  I know of people who have replaced harmful behavior with creating art or music, biking, hiking, cooking, gardening, being an advocate for abused children, working with troubled teens, holding hospitalized infants who are born addicted . . . the list is endless.

A sign hangs above my desk that proclaims: “Live What You Love.”  The passion and purpose of writing replaced my addiction many years ago. I’d had my fill of writing about the difficult, harrowing parts of life as a newspaper reporter and turned to inspirational writing.  I wanted to share what I had learned with others. The writer’s life is a kind of second religion for me. It has given me a voice, something I lacked as a child.

Renewed engagement in life also applies to other types of adversity we may face.

Six months ago one of my friends lost her husband to suicide. His life-long battle with Bipolar Disorder had claimed his very life.  Her recovery from such a devastating tragedy will be as ongoing as prayer—in other words it will probably last a lifetime. But recently she had a beautiful experience of renewal, and re-engagement. She generously gave me her permission to use her name and her story thinking it might help others who suffer.

Before Keri’s husband died, they had scheduled and paid for a cruise to the Caribbean with another couple.  As the time approached to set sail, she debated about whether to go alone and in casting a vote to ‘go on with life,’ decided she would take the cruise.

643645-cruise-woman“The first nine days of the cruise, I couldn’t find my footing, I felt like I was on the outer edges of life,” she told me. Most attempts she made at engaging in the cruise activities left her feeling empty because of her husband’s absence. “The tug and pain of missing Larry was there,” she said. “I knew he would have just loved it!”

On the ninth day of the cruise, they stopped in St. Thomas and there was an opportunity to take a short diving Beach-Babylesson and go on a dive with an instructor.  Keri had grown up in Santa Cruz, California and literally spent every day of her summers at the water—“I was a brown beach baby” she told me laughing.  “I absolutely loved the water. It was my safety, my sanctuary, my place of renewal.”

She remembered that when she was just seven-years-old she would dive down into the water 20 feet and lay on the beach bottom on her tummy.

Professional diving though was new, “I’m going to do something I’ve always wanted to do.  I have nothing to lose,” she said to herself.  She completed the short certification process and made her dive with the instructor.

st-thomas-hotels-scuba-pkg-topIn St. Thomas, she went down 45 feet and in the silence of the underwater world found her sanctuary and herself again. “My brown beach baby was back!” she declared.  “I knew there was something I could do that would sustain me.”

As soon as she returned home, she signed up for professional diving lessons and has plans to take up rowing in the summer.

She had taken her first important step to ‘begin again,’ to re-engage with life once more.  The invitation for renewal awaits all who are in need. As we re-engage  with our passions and purposes in life, unhealthy behavior gradually flat lines and  adversity becomes more manageable. Freshness, vigor, and second chances help each of us to reclaim our true self.

hoa_anh_dao_2

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