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 July, 2014

Finding Peace with Life’s Contradictions

“Once in a while, you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
 From ‘Scarlet Begonias’ by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter of The Grateful Dead

Part 1 – The Past

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow often is one given the opportunity to revisit a major event in their life, complete with some of the original cast of characters?

It had been 38 years since my stories on the famous Gary Gilmore murder case were published in The Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Carried worldwide, they revealed Gilmore’s perspective on his life and his crimes through quotes from over 100 letters he had written to his girlfriend, Nicole Barrett, from Death Row, where he awaited his execution.

I was the least likely reporter, in the swarm of media people who had descended on Salt Lake, to cover the story of the first person to be executed in the United States in 10 years. Only 22, a new journalism graduate from Brigham Young University, I was working my first job in Provo for the newspaper.  I covered tree plantings and brush fires until Gilmore shot Max Jensen, 25, and Bennie Bushnell, 24, in two separate robberies the nights of July 19, and 2O, 1976.

Bailiffs Escorting Gary GilmoreBecause my boss was on vacation, I was assigned to cover Gilmore’s arraignment. It was there that I met Nicole.  My young heart was swollen with sadness for the widows and children of Gilmore’s victims.  But when I saw him shuffle into the courtroom, legs and hands manacled, and then lean down to kiss Nicole as he passed by (this was prior to the type of security that exists now) I felt empathy for this beautiful young woman, close to my age, and by the looks of it, in love with someone who had committed murder.

After the arraignment I approached her, introduced myself and asked her if I could take her to get a bite to eat. I made it clear it was a visit, not an interview. In a small restaurant in Provo, we discovered that despite coming from two very different walks in life, we had much in common.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, a bond was forged between us that would last a lifetime. I gave her my card afterwards and told her to let me know if she needed anything.

A few months later Gilmore had been found guilty.  The US Supreme Court had lifted a 10-year-ban on capital punishment just 17 days before Gilmore had murdered Jensen and Bushnell.  With new sentencing guidelines, he was given the death penalty.  A date was set for his execution by a firing squad. He was taken to death row at the Utah State Prison.

By this time I was working in the main newsroom of The Deseret News in Salt Lake City.  Dale Van Atta, one of the investigative reporters on our staff, along with every other news organization covering the case, from the NY Times to the major networks, was trying to get an interview with Nicole.  She was visiting Gilmore in prison daily and was the only person who could shed light on his motives and state of mind. She also wasn’t talking.

Dale asked me to speak with her, called her at the prison, and handed the phone to me.   She Stefan-Eins-Photocopyimmediately remembered who I was, said we could talk, and asked me to pick her up at the prison in 45 minutes.  During the next six hours she gave me access to 100 letters Gilmore had written to her from death row; a scrapbook full of his artwork (incredibly good for someone who had already been incarcerated for 18 years prior) and inferred to me that they were considering suicide. I drove home with a heavy heart, but also amazed by what had happened.

When I met with my editor Lou Bates the next morning and told him what I had, he removed all my other assignments and told me to be with Nicole as much as she would let me, so as not to lose the story!  I spent over a week with Nicole, driving her to the prison; eating homemade whole wheat bread with her in her mother’s kitchen; hanging out at her apartment talking; dodging other reporters; and trying to convince her life was worth living even without this person she considered to be the love of her life.  Our agreement was that I could write my story in two weeks on the day Gilmore was to be executed.

The execution was stayed after an appeal was filed, not by Gilmore, but by one of the groups opposed to capital punishment.  Lou told me to get permission to run the story early, that it was never going to hold, that our paper had been getting calls from other media who knew we had a reporter following Nicole.

I called Nicole and to my surprise she agreed.

I stayed up all night reviewing the letters and writing the first of my stories.

Tamera Website 004The next morning my desk was surrounded by a swarm of editors literally editing the pages of copy as it came out of my typewriter.  We were right on top of the paper’s deadline. The story, as they say in the industry, was put to bed and just as we were going to press, the news came via the Associated Press wire service, that Nicole and Gilmore were in separate hospitals after taking an overdose of Seconal.  I was told to go back to my desk and start writing a story about the suicide pact.  Now, 38 years later, as I write, tears still come to my eyes.  I had come to care about Nicole very much.

They both survived.  Nicole was taken to the Utah State Mental Hospital and Gilmore back to death row.  I would not see Nicole again for nearly a year and then there would be a break of decades, other than a few letters we exchanged.

Gilmore was executed on Jan. 17, 1977.  I spent the night at the prison Jan. 16, with the international press corp. I did not witness the execution the next morning at sunrise, but after it was carried out, we were shown the chair, Gilmore’s blood still fresh in its tattered vinyl cover.

Reading Gilmores letters was my formal initiation into adulthood.  I had already lost my childhood innocence on life’s journey in the usual ways, but none of it compared to the content of the letters.  They were a long Gary_Gilmore_mugshotnarrative, whispering to me in the night in a voice I had never heard. They spoke of terrible, daily abuse at the hands of a father who hated him; the horrors of 18 years of prison life—cruelty, sodomy, torture—prior to his parole to Provo.  There were incidents described in the letters that I have never told another human being. Childhood abuse and prison life had bred a cruel perpetrator by the time he was released . . . but also a broken victim.

Nicole had spoken to me about how good he was to her two young children when they lived together. She knew a man who was kind, funny, intelligent, and very caring toward her, in fact he was the best partner she had had in her own difficult, adversity-ridden life.

The contradictions were overwhelming for me. I felt such grief for the victims and their families.  I knew what it was like to grow up without a father. Mine had died in a driver’s education car accident when I was 16.  It had been the student’s first drive, and my second death.  My mother had died from cancer, just a few years before my father.

What Gary Gilmore had done to the victims and their families was horrible, a nightmare of a magnitude that cannot be expressed or completely understood unless one has suffered profound loss. Its callousness disgusted me. And, honestly, I felt sympathy for him as well. I was conflicted about that. Was I betraying the victims and their families by that sympathy?

The contradictions within him created confusion in me. I struggled over the trauma of his life, how it seemed he was bred for his moments of depravity that changed two family’s lives for generations. I was desperate for answers that would help me make sense of it. It became a moral dilemma and exploration for me for the next 38 years as I searched for insight and resolution.

At first I ran from it, hid in the safety of my own religious culture.  I went to therapy. I wrote about it in graduate school in a paper called—‘Gary Gilmore and the Nature of Evil in the Human Experience.’ Later, after I became a counselor, I presented a paper on it at a social work conference, exploring the case through the lens of Narrative Therapy, a type of counseling that focuses on expanding our stories by bringing new perspectives to old ideas and scripts.  All of that had helped some, but my attachment to the need for more concrete answers still lingered for years. I just couldn’t completely shake my attachment to reaching an understanding.

 Part 2 – 38 Years Later

And then one sunny day this past March, to my utter shock, I received a call from Lawrence Schiller.  Larry is Picture-No.-31known internationally for his work as a producer, director, and photographer. He bought the rights to Gilmore’s story. He and Norman Mailer collaborated on the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Executioner’s Song, and he had directed the movie based on the book. He and I had become good friends during the coverage of the story, but we hadn’t talked for 36 years.  What could he possibly be calling about?

He told me that he was now the president of The Norman Mailer Center in New York.  The center was created to preserve and archive Mailer’s manuscripts, the home where he wrote, and to encourage promising young writers through a yearly writers’ colony. This year it would be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, with a focus on Mailer and The Executioner’s Song.  The setting, the University of Utah, at the base of the Wasatch Front, lent atmosphere to the sense of place captured in the book.

Interesting, but what did that have to do with me?

Larry invited me to come to Utah for a journalists’ panel held in conjunction with the writer’s colony.  The timing was curious to me since I am currently writing a book about my experience covering the story.

I also knew my emotional work around the case was unfinished, and the opportunity intuitively beckoned to a somewhat fragile part of myself that was finally ready to see what needed to be seen.

I told him I was interested. And, by the way, I asked, “Do you know where Nicole is?”

I had been looking for her for over 10 years unsuccessfully.  Larry said he had a couple of uncertain e-mail addresses for her and would try to make contact with her to see if she wanted to talk to me again.

A week later, I received an email from him with Nicole’s contact information and a note saying she was very interested in reconnecting. I hung my head and wept.

Not long after, we were embracing each other, both of our eyes flooded with tears.  I had forgotten and was stunned unnamed-6how powerful our connection still was. We have spent hours together and have a deep friendship.  She loves to plant flowers and has been a landscape gardener for 15 years. She is in a relationship with a responsible and caring man.  We each have six children, almost the same ages, and two of them have the same middle names.  We both are grandmothers and love it!  She went to Utah with me, though most people at the events we attended didn’t know that it was her. And at each event there was a question about what had happened to her.  It was known that in some ways she had been a victim too.

It was a fantastic trip with hiking, sightseeing, and visiting family. We had dinner together with Larry, who had become a type of surrogate father to Nicole. We each did the emotional work revisiting what had happened all those years ago, sorting it out, and in some ways putting it to rest. There were deeply emotional moments, with tears, anger, and reflection to each other. And in the last days there, we had an incredible eight hours of happiness and laughter as we ran around a popular amusement park in the area like a couple of teenagers—eating carnival food, and riding rides while screaming and laughing.

While I was in Utah I had time to write every day and reconnect with old colleagues from my journalism days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVern Anderson, who just retired as the editorial page editor for The Salt Lake Tribune, was the moderator of the panel.  He had been my first editor at our student newspaper, The Daily Universe, at Brigham Young University and we covered the police beat in Provo together. We had also worked together a bit after college, but I had not seen him in 18 years. Now we were working together again.  Larry would also be on the panel and Bob Moody, one of Gilmore’s attorneys.  Bill Beecham who covered the entire story for the associated press, fell ill the day of.

Vern had assigned each of the panelists to give a five-minute statement about the case.  Despite how much I have written about it over the years I was stumped.  There was so much to be said. What was my statement?  He encouraged me to just sit with it.  “You’ll know,” he said.

One morning during my early morning writing time, it came to me.  Much had been made of Gary and Nicole’s prison romance and suicide pact, maybe too much.  But what had been important in my reporting experience was the letters—1,000 lined pages, folded into 100 envelopes that gave us Gilmore’s perspective on his life and his crimes.  It was the closest I would ever come to some understanding of him.

campus_!overview_fallThe answers had been there all along, they just weren’t the answers I wanted.  Now sitting in the shadows of the vast mountain range towering majestically above, the place where the rage of this man had poured out onto the heads of the innocent, my understanding of the complexity of life came into clearer focus.

By the day of the panel, I knew what I would say.

The Gary Gilmore story calls us to be able to simultaneously hold conflicting emotions—confusion and clarity, disgust and compassion, a desire for concrete answers that is met with only speculation. I had wanted to understand a criminal mind without feeling I was betraying the victims and their families (bless their hearts!) But it is only that understanding that offers insight for how we can do better as parents and in our criminal justice system.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd each of us has this task of holding ambiguity in an uncertain world.  Each of us longs for certainty in areas in which there is none to be found.  We each have shadow and light.  We all are complex in some spoken or unseen way.  To hold the dueling realities and dual truths of life and self, with compassion and curiosity, is a call to our own wholeness and is the nature of life.

In the end I had to let go of my desire for any explanation that would ever completely make sense, there just wasn’t one.  And my work, like so many others,’ was to grieve the losses I could not change.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I entered the theater where the panel discussion was held, it was filled to capacity with 244 people. I was confident and resolved. And I was thankful for the last question from the audience:  “If you had to cover that difficult story again, would you?”

Now I could say, and did: “Absolutely. The Gary Gilmore story was one of the great teachers of my life.”

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The Mansion Within

For today’s post we are re-posting a chapter from Tamera’s book, Creating a Life You Love.  She has completed the  journalist’s panel on the famous Gary Gilmore case and it went incredibly well.  She will return to her regular articles next Monday. 
 “. . . the treasure house of infinity is within you.” Dr. Joseph Murphy

 

IMG_1910-300x191As we come home to ourselves, we begin to realize we are in a mansion with many rooms. And yet most of us live within the narrow borders of our busy minds.

We all have unlimited inner parts to explore and bring into consciousness that will expand our life. We can go deeper and begin to notice our passions and our pain; our triggers and our trials, what makes us feel alive, and what numbs us; our night dreams and our waking dreams.

In my work as a professional counselor I have occasionally worked with clients suffering with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The critical feature of DID is the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that recurrently take control of the person’s behavior.  There is an inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. The person’s psyche is split off from the other personalities, and has no memory when one of them takes over consciousness. The disorder reflects a failure to integrate various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness. It is often brought on a childhood scarred by severe physical and sexual abuse. It is an enormously creative way the “self” survives.

A young college student, suffering from DID found her way to my office.  Although responsible and determined, the disorder was causing havoc in her life.   She had long blank spaces of accounted time where “she” was gone. She missed classes and didn’t recognize people who seemed to know her. Shopping bags of items she had no memory of purchasing showed up in her house, some with receipts, some  not.  Occasionally she would discover a fresh batch of raisin bread cooling on her counter that she had no memory of making.  She hated raisin bread.

As she became comfortable with me, the other personalities started coming to therapy — each talking, gesturing, and dressing differently than her or the other personalities. But it was always evident, that really they were just “disowned” parts of her.  As we worked to integrate all the parts, I became increasingly aware of IMG_2026-300x200the many rooms of self I possessed–the difference was they were not separate entities. But I could be blind to them, especially if they held a part of me I didn’t want to see. I realized the healing methods we were using for her could be beneficial to anyone in accessing valuable parts of ourselves of which we are unaware, are in denial about, or have disowned.

Putting a paint brush in the hands of the different parts and asking them to paint their inner experience helped us access feelings and memories that had been buried.  Using a journal to write to the other personalities, inviting them to write back (which they did) helped her to reconnect with these lost parts. Traits she had disowned that another personality embodied were identified. She discovered what tasks they carried out for her. One paid the bills.  One shouted at the landlord.  One shoplifted.  And, they all had their reasons which led to a deeper understanding of what she needed to own and why.  She learned that SHE could be assertive with her landlord, take more responsibility in areas of life she neglected; and find legal ways to get a thrill!

IMG_1940-300x213-1The task was to bring all of these parts of herself into the light of day by laying out the welcome mat and throwing open the door of consciousness with curiosity and compassion.  We used play therapy with a closet full of Fisher Price Little People and their accoutrements to tell all the stories that needed to be told.  We used inner body awareness to identify stored pockets of grief, fear, and rage. Over time she got to know each personality and herself better – their needs, their passions, their sorrows, their joys, their idiosyncrasies. We utilized these pathways to visit and integrate the many rooms of self.

The miracle of integration did occur.  She quit splitting off– something that had previously felt entirely outside of her own control.  The memory of her sitting in my office as an integrated self still brings tears to my eyes for this reason:  All of the personalities were still there, but now they were present.  Her true essence shined brighter than ever and now joining that was a new found strength from the part of her that had carried the pain, the lively sass of the teenager, a new wonder for life from the young self. Her work was courageous and tenacious.  The word that describes what I felt at the honor of witnessing both her journey and “their” joining: Reverence.IMG_2014

We each have numerous doors we have not opened. The key that opens them is curiosity, inquiry, and a willingness to see that which we may resist.  A door is thrown open when we mindfully explore our judgments of IMG_2017-259x300others and the possibility that our reactions are pointing to disowned aspects of ourselves. Behind that door is a mirror, waiting to show us what we have projected onto another. The expansion of self continues when we notice and pursue an unexpressed desire – to learn how to make artisan cheese; explore fabric art; learn Kundalini yoga; try our hand at photography or filmmaking; or get married in a fairytale castle on our grandparent’s anniversary.

Another door is thrown open when we notice what upsets us in life and explore it to find the closeted emotion behind the agitation. That can lead to insight about ourselves: a need to stand up for ourselves, create more down time, forgive ourselves, quit blaming, or resign from shame.

Instead we may hide, ignore, over-eat, under-eat, and over-spend. It takes courage to tend to the rooms of self that are hidden in the shadow. As we do we allow their stories, secrets, and insight to come into the light. And then we can create a space to allow those disowned and hidden parts of self to be consciously integrated into our lives. As we throw back the drapes and open the doors to our inner experience, life responds in liberating and exhilarating ways.

We leave the shack behind and allow ourselves to fully inhabit the mansion of self.

IMG_1963

Copyright 2012 Tamera Smith Allred. All rights reserved.

Photos by Maria Allred

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Coming Home To Our Self

Coming Home To Our Self
Dear Readers, For today and next Monday’s post we are re-posting chapters from Tamera’s book, Creating a Life You Love, while she prepares for a  journalist’s panel on the famous Gary Gilmore case which she is participating Fri. July 18 in Salt Lake City, UT (9:15 p.m. at the Salt Lake City main library)  She will return to her regular articles July 28. 
“May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, may the clear light within you, guide you, on your way home . . .”  Traditional Irish Blessing

At its purest essence, life is about relationship – how we relate to others, how we relate to our experience in life, but most importantly how we relate to ourselves

What is relationship?

Simply put, relationship is our connection and response to self and other.  It can be a connection and response rooted in strife and struggle or compassion and trust.

IMG_6925-300x199Creating a life we love is not about setting our sights on our dream home, our ideal weight, or winning the lottery.  It is about changing how we relate. It starts with changing how we relate to our self, coming home to ourselves.

It may be a difficult journey as we traverse an inner terrain pocked by the sharp pebbles of self- loathing, the harsh bark of an inner critic, or the relentless chiding of the cultural “shoulds” we have absorbed.

Take the story of a woman we will call Susan.  She was raised by an image- conscious mother, who’s subtle, sugar-coated, but mean spirited- criticism made Susan feel she wasn’t enough. Her father was indifferent, detached, and uncomfortable with women. “It was not okay to be me,” she told me.  Any inner connection she might have experienced with herself was replaced with a constant quest for approval from parents who were incapable of giving her what she so desperately needed.

When I first met her she was depressed, anxiety-ridden, and went through life feeling “wrong” and disconnected from herself and others.  Her inner narrative was, “I’m never enough. I’m not acceptable.”

This was not her true identity, it was an ego story, the result of her response and interpretation of her life so far, and based on false information she had been given.  As a child her parents emotionally abandoned her. As an adult she was abandoning herself.

treestairs-200x300We began the work of creating inner-intimacy – the golden path that leads us home to our self.  This includes five simple practices that add nothing to our ‘to do’ list because they are a new way of ‘being.’

The first practice is attention.  We take some brief moments throughout our day to turn our attention or focus inward.  This is especially helpful when we experience difficult emotions.  Basically we begin to pay attention to ourselves.

Once we have our own attention we begin to notice what it is we are experiencing internally.  We become aware of our internal world.  What kind of self-talk is going on in our head? How is that affecting us now? What are we feeling?  Where are we holding that feeling in our body? What are the sensations?

IMG_6750-200x300This powerful practice of simply observing shines a light on the ‘true self,’ the observer.  If part of us can observe, the question can be asked, “Who is thinking these thoughts?”  In other words, there is another part of us, beyond our thoughts, with a deeper knowing and a peaceful presence.

Once we are aware, we practice acknowledgement.  This is simply stating what is.  “Oh, I’m feeling really anxious right now and I have this tension knotting up in the muscles in my neck.  And I’m telling myself I shouldn’t be feeling anxious!”

Acknowledgement helps us identify what our real experience is. It gives us our material to work with in life. And it can help us detach.  If we have a tendency toward over-thinking, or self-criticism, we can acknowledge it by saying “Oh, there’s that again.” Or, “Oh there’s that thing I do.”  It takes some of the power out of those thoughts.

IMG_6910-300x199Next we practice acceptance of what is happening right now.  Acceptance is neutral.  It doesn’t judge. It faces reality. We are so easily seduced by the inner critic in our heads, giving it power. It has an opinion on everything we do and spends a lot of time being negative and judgmental. The escape hatch from this danger is simple – replace the judgment with curiosity as in “Hmm, I wonder what part of me is having a problem with the fact I’m anxious.”

Our emotions are not a problem to be solved, but an opportunity to give ourselves the gift of our own presence. This is exactly what Susan and many of us were lacking as children, a witness to our experience. This is one of the most potent practices we can bring to all relationships – with self, others, time, and life – because it offers transformation.

As we become more present to our inner experience, we will find that the body and spirit know what to do and will help us pass through the storms of difficult emotion, washing us up on the infinite shore of insight.  A feeling arises, we ride it through its cycle, we catch our breath and perhaps in that moment or perhaps later, an insight reveals itself.  We have touched the well of self-knowledge.

IMG_6818-300x200The next practice of assistance, offers us the opportunity to help ourselves in healthy ways.  Often we cope with a difficult inner landscape by turning to compulsions, or addictions.  As we come aware of and present to whatever experience we are having at any moment of life, we can offer ourselves the balm of our own compassion.  We can think of ourselves as a small child needing mothering and nurturing.   Soothing phrases, self-encouragement, and rocking ourselves, are some of the ways we might do this

As Susan practiced new ways of relating to herself, her confidence increased, her anxiety slowly began to relax, and her depression became much more manageable.  Then she had what she called a “pivotal moment.”  She said she had felt so alone all of her life and then one day she realized she wasn’t alone because she had herself.  “I felt connected,” she said, “I felt attached to someone and it was me, and it was my body, and I felt like I had something that was finally grounding me. It had always been with me and I just didn’t realize it.  But now I was really here, I had finally caught up with myself.” In other words, she had finally come home to her true self!

IMG_7008-300x200None of us had perfect mothers and none of us are perfect mothers.  And this is the way of this world. The wounds we bear and the wounds we bequeath are both our burden and our blessing.  This is the way in which each daughter receives her work.  As we embark on the ‘The Path of Inner Intimacy Practices,’ we learn to nurture ourselves back to life. We learn to be our own mothers, and in so doing find our way home.

Copyright 2012 Tamera Smith Allred. All rights reserved.

 

The Path to Inner Intimacy Practices

By Tamera Smith Allred

Creatingalifeyoulove.net

Attention – Note Where Your Attention Is and Turn Inward

Awareness – Notice Your  Inner Experience

Acknowledgement – Name Your  Inner Experience

Acceptance – Nod to Your Inner Experience

Assistance – Nurture Your Inner Needs

Photos by Maria Allred

Copyright 2012 Tamera Smith Allred.  All rights reserved.

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The Lost Self

The Lost Self

Dear Readers, For the next two Mondays we will re-post chapters from Tamera’s book, Creating a Life You Love, while she prepares for a  journalist’s panel on the famous Gary Gilmore case which she is participating in Fri. July 18 in Salt Lake City, UT (9:15 p.m. at the Salt Lake City main library)  She will return to her regular articles July 28. 

Recently, I was at the grocery store replenishing our bare cupboards after our hearty brood, home for the holidays, had depleted them. Six daughters, three son-in-laws, eight grandchildren, a couple of passing boyfriends, and a partridge in a pear tree were gone. Like a march of starving ants they had cut a wide swath through the refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards.

At the store, the check-out lines were at least six over-flowing carts long under the bright, fluorescent splendor of the expansive supermarket. While waiting my turn in line, I was greeted by a flank of bright glossy women’s magazines, the new January issues, and decided to make a little game of doing a quick survey – fieldwork in the cultural current.

First I noticed that half of the magazines were adorned with flawless celebrity faces coiffed with great hair. They were wearing the latest style trend, or in some cases, very little at all. Clustered around them were bright article titles competing for attention.

Shrink Your Fat Cells – Flush up to 10 lbs. in a Week

Melt 10 lbs. in 10 Days – Eating the Four Fat Burning Foods

When Bad Muffin Top Happens to Good Women

(I’m not making these up by the way.)

IMG_1499Surprisingly close to the weight loss article titles were tempting pictures of desserts with recipes promised inside.

Milky Way Mousse Pie! A Mouthwatering Treat

Guilt Free Gourmet Desserts

And then there were the article titles on “potential.

Unlock Your Inner Superstar – Our 4 Step Plan

With a 22- year- old celebrity as my guide? I wondered, reading on.

Extreme Closet Makeover – One Woman Many Shoes!”

Next I noticed article titles about getting more energy.

Feeling Drained? – The Cellular Slowdown That’s Making 1 in 4 Women Tired

The Get-Real Guide to a Happier, Thinner, More Energetic You!”

Of course we’re drained! We’re hungry from the diets we’re on, burdened by the unrealistic expectations that hit us from every angle, and mentally exhausted from trying to sort our shoes!

The only thing more daunting than the message I had just been served while standing in line, was the total amount due for my groceries.

Our culture breeds self-loathing in women. Surrounded by vibrant images of women who are thin, young, and airbrushed into perfection, the message sent is that normal is not enough.

There are conflicting messages – that we can have it all and that we are not enough. The list grows with pressure to have our homes in perfect order and superstar kids. The impossibility of cultural expectations held up against reality can lead to always striving, but never arriving.

This creates conflict and profoundly affects our inner narrative. We find ourselves at war with ourselves or at least in a constant state of inner struggle. The struggle is further complicated by the negatives beliefs we have adopted from our personal histories. We may have an inner script of lack, of feeling unworthy or undeserving. Our true self becomes lost.

Preparing for this post was actually amusing. I saw in the light of day, how I still stand in the shadow of our culture. As I reviewed the photos with my photographer (my daughter Maria), I said to her, “Is there any way you could edit out that extra skin under my neck? My hair looks mousey, could you brighten it up?” And then it dawned on me – the point of having me in the grocery store shoot was my desire to portray a normal woman, not the perfect model or celebrity. We both laughed.

Our lives as women bear remarkable similarities, and each of us is remarkably unique. This is a truth that is not honored by our culture, and often ignored by ourselves. Quiet longings within us are silenced by our striving to measure up. Our lives are often a grueling and hectic response to a list of “shoulds.” The media messages are a self- fulfilling loop, creating impossible ideals that leave us in a constant state of dissatisfaction, always needing more, and never at peace.

Healing from exposure to our cultural disease requires returning to our inner experience. We can begin to notice when we disregard our needs, discount our wisdom, give away our power, or engage in self-criticism. We can notice the theme of our own narrative. Slowly, we can create a new narrative of self-compassion, support, encouragement, trust, and worthiness.

We don’t have to be at war with ourselves. We can let go of the struggle. We can make a peace treaty with ourselves.

We can take our cues from our own inner light, where we discover our own authenticity, authority, and truth. We turn can down the volume on the blaringly bright cultural noise. We can claim our right to choose for ourselves. As we do, our true voices are found. And the inner messages they give are far more potent, powerful, and ultimately satisfying.

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The Freedom of Creative Risk

Dear Readers,

Today we have a guest writer – my daughter Maria who edits and posts this material on this web site.  She shares her dream of bringing her creation in film to life.  I am in awe over a new vision she has about love and the film she has begun to shoot, exploring relationship in a fresh, new, inspiring way.  After you have viewed her short descriptive film below, I invite you to contribute, even if you can only afford $5.  As you know Creating a Life You Love, has been a free sight for 19 months, delivering inspiration to you weekly.  If has brought you any peace, joy, empowerment, or love, both Maria and I would be most grateful if you could support her project. Either way, her story below is sure to inspire! Enjoy!  Tamera

The Freedom of Creative Risk

July 2 was a surreal day, an auspicious day.  Pressure change from a sudden heat wave evoked wild warm wind.  Leaves shimmied, fracturing the light through my window into a hundred prisms that danced across my intent face.  I had been staring at a computer screen for many days and nights.  An altered state from sleep deprivation added to the wonder of the summer gusts.  This was the day I would try something new, a day I would step into the unknown with a bold risk.

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 10.06.20 PMMy sleepless nights had purpose.  Deep in my video-editing cave, a technicolor cocoon of creation, I was editing a fundraising video for my first feature film, If. I Love You.

As an artist it is always a risk to share my work.  And my first feature film is unquestionably my most personal piece, drawing upon life-altering experiences and wrenching emotion.   Add to that my long-held fear of asking for help (I grew up in a large family of six girls and never wanted to place undue burden on my parents).  I was taking a monumental risk.  Hey, if you are going to fail, fail big and publicly.  Right?  (Oh no, what am I doing?!)

As a child I wanted to be an actress, visual artist, and detective.   I did not have film director as part of my F.U.ILOVEYOU11cognitive framework at that age, but I see now, after finally finding my life work at age 30, that filmmaking is an amalgam of those early passions.   Discovering the right outlet for the visions that permeate my psyche was no small thing for me.  Suddenly everything made sense, it all clicked into place:  an artist finding her medium.  It was the beginning of a passionate and at times cruel affair.  I am helpless in its embrace, I am compelled in a way I did not know was possible.  And it is not an easy medium…it is a complex, expensive, all-consuming, gargantuan medium that calls me to task in every facet of my being.

Just the process of, in the last year, shifting from working primarily solo (writing, shooting, editing all of my pieces) to working with a team, has challenged me immensely and spurred rapid inner growth.   Creativity is connection—connection with oneself, with collaborators, and with the audience.  Connection is also a risk.

I have had three of my short films air on Oregon’s PBS station, OPB, even though I have only been producing films 1800336_215390445321701_2012584766_nfor three years.  It is now time for me to risk bigger, to produce a full-length film with a fleshed out crew and proper equipment.  If. I Love You is an experimental fiction feature film set in Portland, Oregon.  The film illustrates love from an investigative perspective.  It is driven by a fundamental outlook that romantic relationship reflects the quality of one’s relationship with oneself.

The format of the film is a cohesive, interwoven collection of short films. The shorts will weave fluidly together, each one tackling a vital aspect of relationship.  Narrative tension and questions raised in one short are addressed and/or resolved in subsequent shorts.  The characters will intermix throughout the collection of shorts, providing a sense of continuity and community.

10385378_1517987931746050_8960481858787784336_nThe film considers multiple phases and themes of love including mating rituals, chemistry, the honey moon phase, projections, transference, love and war, triangles, apathy, stuckness, covert and overt communication, the actual (often overlooked) work of love, catharsis, and dissolution.

With this film I am debuting my distinctive directorial style, process-oriented directing.  Put simply, this facilitates a conflation of fiction and reality.  I describe this more in my campaign video and text.

To launch my cinematic dream, I am using crowd-funding, a new method of obtaining capitol at a grass roots level.  This community collaboration allows emerging filmmakers to create big-screen quality productions.  This would be close to impossible in the past with the movie industry’s monopoly and the enormous cost of producing a film. Below you can view the short fundraising video I have made describing my feature, If. I Love You. If you are interested in what I am doing I would be grateful for even the smallest contribution.  I have 33 days to raise the $20,000 I need.  I am so grateful for this opportunity and am determined to manifest my vision in a full-length film.  Please click this link to view my project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1937276380/if-i-love-you

I am posting this on July 4th – a day to claim my independence as a filmmaker. Two years from now I hope to be announcing the debut of If. I Love You, a revolutionary look at love!

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