Inspiration

How Not Having Kids Shaped My Legacy

Allef-vinicius-woman on road
Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

 

We all want to matter. It’s innate for us to want to leave a mark on this world that will have meant something when we’re long gone. For loving parents, having children is often a principal and driving force of their purpose and legacy. I’ve asked so many friends who are parents this question, and many have said their children are their legacy, which always makes total sense to me.

My grandmother would have been 114 this past week. I thought about how proud she would be if she could see all that her family is doing, her son and daughter, six granddaughters and seven great grandkids. I can just feel her joy as she watches the active and meaningful lives they’re all living. Her legacy is alive and well, and growing.

It got me thinking about the existentialism of legacy, if you don’t have children, which I’ve thought a lot about as a childless woman. Is your legacy only partially fulfilled, without offspring? It took a bit of a journey to arrive at how I feel about this now. So, this is my story.


EPIPHANIES WHILE GETTING PEDICURES
“Wow, look who’s a Grandpa,” I said. I was looking at Facebook on my phone while getting a Mani Pedi with my girlfriend. We were sitting in very high-backed white leather chairs, feet soaking in bowls of aqua glass about three-inches thick. They weren’t motorized tubs, which I kind of missed because I liked to hold my toes against the jets. But, the smooth glass felt good against the bottom of my feet. My manicure was already done and my nails were still tacky so I’d been careful when I’d clicked open Facebook so I didn’t dent my polish. My manicurist had taken such great care with every stroke of her tiny paintbrush that I didn’t have the heart to be the one to destroy one of her masterpieces.

The look on my friend’s china doll face was one of understanding because I had no doubt she knew where I was heading with my thoughts. The Facebook post made a happy announcement of grandfather-dom. And, the grandpa was my college sweetheart, my first fiancé, the owner of my cherry.

And, now here, all of these years later, like three decades later, he has three children and a grandson that bears his middle name as his first. Henry. That’s the name we always talked about naming our little boy, when we had one, of many, we said. Henry, and we’d call him Hank. I still think it’s a great name.

Now, when I looked at the sweet, squished red face of this baby whom I don’t know and never will meet, I felt a pit in my gut. Not because I felt I missed anything with the old boyfriend. But, because that’s something I’ll never know. I’ll never know the pull of a grandmother’s love, of that special feeling that only grandmothers know when their child has a child. Because here I was all these years later, looking at this flat photo on Facebook, and I’m childless. I can’t have children of my own, and will never experience that scene in that way.

There was a numbness that took over when I thought about it. A numbness that I’ve taken to mean acceptance, because really what else could I do? I refused to have a pity party so the numbness had become the norm. A small cotton ball near my elbow probably had more feeling right then than I did.

But, the truth was I think I was afraid to go beneath the numbness. Because staying numb kept me safe from feeling. I was numb so I didn’t feel. I always described myself as an emotional person, a woman in touch with her emotions. But, not about this. This. I’d grown to like my numb. Love it, even. My numb was loyal and steadfast, providing me a calming hum when she knows I need it. I know what to expect from numb. When the numb is removed what is there?

And, there it was. What I felt was a one-ness; what I felt was a projected alone-ness. Not lonely, but a sense of, it’s me and me alone. I see big family photos on social media of grandparents in their 80’s, with a huge brood of kids and grandkids and great grandkids, all wearing red t-shirts because they’re at some annual family reunion in Wisconsin, and I project ahead three decades me, myself and, and I think; I’m alone. A woman, a would-be matriarch without a family legacy.

And, even deeper than that was a longing to make a generational and meaningful contribution to humankind, and the question of what that is supposed to be.

There was a little girl next to me with bright green and blue nail polish. She was with her mother. It was sweet. But, I also realized that I don’t want that anymore. My friend — who also doesn’t have children — and I have often talked about how it’s interesting how many of our friends don’t have kids of their own. And, I think, you fill your village with some others who are on similar paths.

“Do you wish it was with you?” she asked, referring to the Facebook photo.

I shook my head. Nope. The pedicurist reached for my right foot. And, I was back in the world. And, that’s the moment when my shift in mindset started to settle into place as the question of legacy dug deeper into my consciousness. As a woman unable to have kids, does that lessen my purpose or make my existence as a woman less-than because I’m not fulfilling the natural legacy of my biology, of co-creating the next generation of life?

It caused me to examine deeply my path, the mark I will leave on this world and my relationship with being childfree.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE IS 20/20
When I was a little girl, like nine or ten, when other little girls were playing with dolls and pretending to clean house and get ready for their husbands to come home for dinner, I was playing office. I have a specific memory of being at my grandparent’s house where I’d created a small office. I’d received a toy phone for Christmas and I was giving it a run. I sat with authority at my tiny desk, answering my toy phone with confidence.

As I glanced around my make-believe office from my helicopter and historical perspective, I saw that my dolls and stuffed animals were my co-workers and subordinates, all lined up behind me, in various shapes and sizes, as I bossed them around, telling them what to do. The seeds were being planted in my young mind of wanting to be a leader and reach for the corner office, which eventually I did do. And, what I loved most about that job was the nurturing, the mothering, working with and guiding those in my stead. Legacy?

When I dressed my Barbie, she was a seriously cool single chick, with a kick-ass job and social life with numerous Kens. Yes, she was looking for her truelove Ken (still is), but that didn’t stop her from having a full life.

In my 20’s, while friends were starting to grow their broods, I was growing my career, watering the seed that had been planted early on. I enjoyed watching them, but from afar in the sense that I didn’t feel connected to wanting that for myself, although I figured I probably would at some point, after all that’s what I was supposed to do. In fact, when I met my ex husband, we agreed that we both wanted kids, but even that felt a bit like fantasy, out of my reality.

I watched my sister struggle through numerous miscarriages and I felt deeply her pain and longing for children. Then, my niece was born and I fell madly in love with her, followed by her brother whom I was crazy in love with too. That feeling of overwhelming, protective, I’d-do-anything-for-this-kid love was the closest I’ve come to wanting some kids of my own. 

After I found out I was pregnant, my husband-at-the-time and I entered the fantasy phase of what to expect while we were expecting. I surrendered to the innate part of my womanhood that wanted to birth a human, to take part in the natural course of things, by the standards and traditions of those before me as well as the possibility of fulfilling the dreams of parents/soon-to-be grandparents. I became excited about it and was enthralled with the changes in my body. And, as I’d hoped, it brought my husband and I closer in what was a bit of a bumpy marriage at the time.

For the next several weeks we drifted into that zone where expectant couples live: eager announcements, morning sickness at the smell of paint and toast, books on the stages of pregnancy and baby names, nursery furniture, shower dates, endless chatty discussions about bodily functions with anyone who would listen. Cramping. Spotting. Sleepless nights. Ultrasounds. Ovarian tumor. Emergency surgery. No more baby.

What I gave birth to, rather than a bouncing baby boy/girl, was the numb. A numb that softened the mourning over how my womanhood had failed: failed my body the chance to fulfill it’s expected destiny, failed my husband, failed my parents/soon-to-be grandparents, failed my sister by not gifting her with the same kind of love I feel for her kids, and failed a family history that would not continue with me. Failed my legacy?

But, here’s what’s interesting. I think deep down after that happened, I knew I most likely would not have a child of my own. My husband and I never seriously talked about trying to have another child. And, the loss of this pregnancy is what signified the beginning of the end of the marriage. It opened a chasm in which to see the framework and scaffolding of it all and there were too many broken pieces to fix.

So, I was on my own again, alone. I was still buying into the ingrained pressure to have a child and that I would not be complete until that happened. So, I made a promise to myself, and declared it out loud to my close circle, that if I was still single and without the prospect of a mate when I was 42, I would look into having a child on my own.

Then, I filed that away and got on with my life, a life I relished in so many ways. A big move across the country, new jobs (including the one with the corner office), a deepening love and commitment to writing, new ways to expand spiritual growth that have taken me far outside of my comfort zone, traveling alone and with others, dating, not dating, big crying, big laughing and bouts of loneliness which provided the contrast necessary to be able to embrace the non-loneliness of being alone. Learning is revealed through contrast.

CHILDLESS MOTHER
As 42 approached, I kept to my own word. I wasn’t in a serious relationship that might lead to long term so I started digging and researching what it would take to have a child on my own. I read books, attended seminars on how to adopt children from Guatemala, Russia and China. I interviewed adoption attorneys on the adoption process in the United States as well as spoke with some of their clients about their personal experiences. I checked out the reputable sperm donation clinics in Southern California, going as far as filling out a profile as to what kind of “father” I would want for my sperm baby. I bought a two-bedroom home with a nice big yard.

Then, I woke up one day and realized I didn’t want it badly enough to do it alone. I’d done my due diligence and there was a true sense of freedom in that.

A few years later I had to have a hysterectomy, which closed the chapter on any lingering inkling that I might be missing out on something. My friend, the same pedicure friend, did a painting for me that showed the figure of a woman taking flight. On the back on the painting was a picture of Saint Majella, the Patron of Childless Mothers. Ah, this was truly a new chapter.

Childless Mother. This is something I could embrace. I loved nurturing people, and even though I didn’t have children of my own, I love kids and knew then and there that I would always have them in my life, somehow. Did this have something to do with my legacy?

It was another redefining moment as I looked at both motherhood and legacy through a fresh lens.

THERE’S MORE TO A FAMILY TREE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Not too long ago, my parents, sister and I did the Ancestry DNA test, sharing the interesting results with each other about our origins. My mom took the opportunity to fill in the family tree on the Ancestry.com site. She and my grandmothers had done extensive genealogy research into our family, going back to the 1500’s, stretching across Europe, so the family tree looked quite impressive; sprawling, uneven branches of life with names that have repeated and regenerated often.

My finger traced along our branch: my parents, my sister and her husband, their two kids, and me. And, again it hit me. My little branch was dangling out there, alone, like a stump. It felt like a stop. But, that’s when things became crystal clear.

A LEGACY IS A LIVING THING
What I felt next was a full embodiment of something that felt embryonic and full of promise and at the same ancient and foregone. What I felt was my purpose. As a creator, a writer and a storyteller, the messages and missions in my stories, those define my legacy. What became so clear also created a new sense of urgency. Because, now knowing this, writing is not only my passion; it’s also my responsibility: to my legacy, to my mark on the world. It’s my sense of belonging and my contribution to history, and yes, to my family tree. 

My legacy is now alive, and what I birth will live on long after I’m gone.

My grandmother, the one who would have been 114, her legacy stretched far beyond the future reaches of her offspring. She started teaching in the 1920’s, in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Kansas. In the 40’s she started college, taking one extension course at a time, whenever one was available in her small town and when she could fit it in while raising her family.

It took her until 1959, but she got her Bachelor’s Degree at the same time as her son, my dad. She went on to be selected as a Master Teacher, an honor bestowed to the top teachers in the state of Kansas. She was passionate and touched many lives during her career. Her legacy made a difference.

YOUR LEGACY IS REALLY NOT ABOUT YOU
My path to understanding my legacy may seem roundabout, but in fact, it’s the natural course of discovering your purpose. For me, it’s writing meaningful prose that will help people to think about things in a new way, to improve their lives. It becomes about them which is so much more meaningful. 

Your legacy is the impact you make and the imprint you leave behind. We all have a legacy. And, the truth is it can be either positive or negative. There are numerous examples of people who are/were notorious for doing bad things, things that have a ripple effect. They go down in history as such. 

Your legacy is how you’re remembered. The lesson is that when you’re aware you’re modeling your life for your legacy, you pay attention. When you take an active part in creating and living your legacy, it becomes a meaningful adventure.

HOW DO YOU LIVE YOUR LEGACY?
Take a look in the metaphorical mirror at your life. Ask yourself:

  • How are you an original? We all are unique, and what’s your special sauce?
  • What do you want to be remembered for?
  • How can you make a lasting impact on others? Look at the impact you currently have on people in your life, directly and indirectly. Don’t belittle the significance you have in your world already.
  • Will your lasting impression help or change the greater good? How?
  • What lessons have you learned that you find yourself organically teaching to others, whether it’s merely giving a friend, child or parent advice, or whether it’s a more global imparting of your knowledge?

Your own path of self-discovery, as mine has, will help answer those questions. Any or all of these help to comprise what is your legacy, your gift to the world. 

Give it space. Allow your legacy to find you as well. Sometimes we can be so busy seeking we miss what’s coming directly to us. 

Be a Living Legacy. And, remember that the actions you take, the words you speak, and the impressions you make launch a ripple that ebbs and flows, continuing long after you’ve moved on to the next action, word or impression. Armed with this knowledge, you’re empowered to take an active role in creating the legacy you were born to create. 

ONE LAST THING
The truth is, the inkling is still there, just once in awhile, when big things happen in the lives of the important young people in my life. I put myself there, what would that be like if I was their mom. And, here’s what beautiful. I can still be a nurturing mentor or influence with them. There are so many opportunities for that. I know this is part of my legacy too.

And, who knows? Perhaps my next life mate will have kids and I’ll still get to be a grandma, of sorts. How great would that be?

Most of all, I believe the best legacy is a life well lived, in service to others and to a higher calling. Create from there and you’ll be unstoppable while having a meaningful life.

 


Mastering The Art of Fear

 How to allow fear to work for you instead of against you.

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Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash 

By Cindy Yantis

I think about fear a lot. I mean, at times we all do, right? Lately it's been a very loud companion as I dig deeper into writing my memoir. No matter the situation, whenever it shows up I run the gamut in my relationship with fear. I see it, dread it, fight it, am pissed off at it, run from it, cry with it and am utterly fascinated by it for the never-ending lessons and conversations that derive from it. 

Recently I listened to Linda Sivertsen's Beautiful Writers Podcast when she and guest co-host, Martha Beck interviewed author Glennon Doyle. They were discussing Glennon's extremely raw bestselling memoir, LOVE WARRIOR, which is sitting next in my Kindle queue. I'm an admirer of all three women and their work. This was a great interview where they delved into a wide range of topics centering on their commitments to being completely truthful in the expression of their stories and the way that stretched and freed them.

I was listening in my car and suddenly realized I kept exhaling, loudly, and my whole body was vibrating, my stomach like the engine room of the Titanic. Honestly, their conversation scared the sh*t out of me as I wade tender-footed into the pool of my own stories, uncovering little places where I've been hiding, often in plain sight, fearful of how it might be received. It was big. And, it couldn't have come at a more opportune time because this fear of expressing my deep truths to someone other than my cats, often has me paralyzed. 

When I sat feeling the bigness, what I discovered led to a more expansive aha: this engine in my belly, this fire that made me exhale like a dragon, is a fuel, an ammunition if you will, like I haven't experienced in a long time. Like it goes deep and wide, echoing back decades, the kind of echo you hear in canyons and see when you look at your reflection in a house of mirrors. The truth is, this reverberation has been growing louder for a while now.

[As an aside, although it's not really an aside because it's such a big part of my story, I've been on a 30-day cleanse, eating only clean food. The intense vibration I felt I couldn't feel before because I was numbing out on an addiction to sugar and overeating. Now, I could actually FEEL the raw fear in my belly which turned into food for my soul and fuel for my work when before I was feeding emotions that numbed me from feeling anything else. It feels incredible, honestly.] 

I had lunch with a friend recently and we got into a great discussion about fear. He said he believes fear drives everything, good and bad. It's a constant no matter what. I think there's truth to that.

And, it got me thinking about how mastering fear rather than fighting or trying to conquer it might turn fear into an ally instead of an opponent. It's like mastering an art form; at times you feel the art might kill you, until you reach a place of working with the art, willing the art, arriving at the mastery of the art. Could it be the same with fear? 

The famed music producer Jimmy Iovine in HBO'S THE DEFIANT ONES said things turned the corner for him early in his career when "fear became a tailwind rather than a headwind." What a game-changing shift in mindset! When fear is a headwind, getting in your way, it can be so strong that it keeps you in place, stagnant, stuck or pushes you entirely away from what you want. It can feel like fear has a power of its own.

When fear is fuel for intention it's the tailwind that catapults you forward. Gary Zukav said in SEAT OF THE SOUL, "Every action, thought and feeling is motivated by intention...your intention creates your reality." When intention is aligned with your fear-turned-into-fuel it's a very powerful forward momentum.

The game-changer is the knowledge that we are the ones controlling our fear, not the other way around. 

I had a friend a few years ago who used to say when she was afraid of doing something it made her feel truly alive, to go into the fear and do it anyway. 

That can be called many things: courage, bravery, boldness. They all give fear a new role in the game. 

Invite fear to be your partner, to work with you instead of against you. Is it a fear of rejection or of failure or of success that you have? If you take fear by the hand and move forward with it into each of those arenas, you take control and allow fear to morph and transform into passion and action.

Put your fears, as kindling, into the fire of your own engine. Then, just watch what happens. It could create the tailwind you've been waiting for. 

 


How Do You Know When Your Calling Has Called?

By Cindy Yantis

It often comes when you're not expecting it. At least it did for me.

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Photo credit: Yoann Boyer


It was the middle of the night. The year was 2002. I was tossing and turning, thrashing in and out of the sheets because I alternated between sweating and freezing. No, I wasn’t ill. No, I wasn’t having a hot flash. But, my breath was hot as I sighed, the weight of the world on each exhale.

Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve come to understand I was having what could be known as a “dark night of the soul.”

The origin of this phrase goes back to a 16th century poem by Spanish Poet St. John of the Cross, where the poem narrates "the journey of the soul to mystical union with God."  Eckhart Tolle defines it today as, “…a collapse of a perceived meaning in life, an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaningless…what really has collapsed is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it.”

This was exactly what was happening to me. My mind was engaged in a war of purpose, while I pleaded, cried, even screamed in prayer.

Ever had one of those, a dark night of the soul? It can be triggered by any number of things – anything that can rock your current existence, from a personal tragedy or loss, to a deep feeling of loss of direction or purpose.

But, as Eckhart said, the dark night of the soul “awakens you into something deeper… A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life. It’s a kind of re-birth.” A spiritual awakening.

Well, I’ve experienced a few nights (and days) like this as I’ve evolved and grown in my human experience and as my consciousness has expanded. And, they can be gut and heart wrenching to go through. But, there are two that stand out as re-birth moments in my purpose – in 2002 and very recently – and what’s so mysterious and awesome is that they’re connected.

But back in 2002, it had been four years since I’d uprooted my life in Michigan to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the arts, acting particularly at the time. I’d had a few trickles of success: some theatre roles, a co-star spot on NYPD BLUE, and several national commercials (McDonald’s paid for the redecoration of my West Hollywood condo). And, I had started writing, mostly so I could write roles for myself in which I could act. I wrote and starred in a tiny short film that I used to help me get an agent. I wrote a piece for an industry workshop. And, I wrote my first script, which placed in a prestigious screenwriting competition and helped me get my first literary manager.

But, so much of it felt like an uphill climb. I felt like I had a gift, but I felt split. I enjoyed the making of the art, but the business was daunting. And, if I’m being honest, which at this point that’s all I can be, I wasn’t sure I wanted the acting thing badly enough to do what I knew it was going to take, that being a guerrilla approach to self-promotion. Whenever I did it, it didn’t feel authentic. And, I certainly didn’t enjoy it. And, truthfully, I didn’t think I was a good enough actor to break through the fray of other actors who really, really, really wanted it. The writing was still fairly new, although I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was ten. And, I didn’t know what to do with it, really. Self-promotion was going to be involved with that too.

So anyway. That night. With the soul. Some of these unvoiced and hidden truths were swimming around in my subconscious. Some of them I wasn’t ready to admit because I was determined to find my purpose, and I didn’t give up easily. As a lifelong seeker that was a force that was innate. My body was in pain as I stiffened on top of my mattress; my mouth was dry and I became aware that I was constantly sighing heavily, audibly a whisper of wanting that led to my conversation with God, my Source, my Higher Wisdom.

“God, what am I to do? Why is this so difficult? If it’s my purpose shouldn’t it be easier?”

The silence was beyond deafening, until another sigh of desperation exploded from me. “Why did you give me these gifts?” More silence. My cat, Callie, who had previously become very bored with my bed-top one-woman show of angst, came slinking back into the room. Like she wanted to hear the answer to this as well.

“Please help me. What am I supposed to do?”

And, then it came. An answer I wasn’t expecting, but it was very direct, short and surprisingly sweet. It made me bolt up from bed.

“Write meaningful prose that will change people’s lives.”

What? I can tell you, those were not my words. I didn’t use the word prose. But, that’s what I was told. “Write meaningful prose that will change people’s lives.”

Was that the call of my calling?

That’s when it became the “aha night” when I heard the call of the soul.

My body relaxed as I settled into this new mantra of truth. A mantra that has carried me ever since. So, my focus became writing. I’ve evolved into a pretty good storyteller, screenwriting mostly, my wheelhouse being characters, primarily women, who are in self-discovery, smart, sardonic women with big flaws. Heroines who also have dark nights of the soul. And, there’s movement around a few of them, although it’s Hollywood movement, which can mimic molasses. I’m okay with that though. All in the right timing, with the right people. And, this blog Thought Changer, was birthed from that mantra as it's about changing your life, an idea, an expression, a thought at a time.

Calling fulfilled? Maybe. At times it feels that way. 

But, something has recently shifted around it, causing more angst. Oy!

After breaking my wrist and taking the time to reassess priorities, I decided to concentrate on writing a novel that I’ve been researching for awhile.

Also, during this time of rehabilitation I’d engaged with a couple of healers for energy healing sessions. Now, this may sound a little woo-woo for some, but hey this is my world, these are my peeps and it’s how I roll. So, hang with me. I love exploring different healing modalities and they have opened up my life and expanded my mind. Anyway, during the course of the sessions with both of these women, they received strong messages from my angels, spirit guides and loved ones that I’m supposed to do some more deep writing about myself. Both of them said the same thing, on separate occasions: I have a story of my own to tell. And, I said, "Aw thanks. I’ll definitely do that some day." And then I filed it away under the category “maybe someday when I’m interesting.” But these readings happened at a time when there was a lot of quiet in my life, so I heard it on a deeper level. Oh, and they also gave me specific topics and events I’m supposed to write about. Yeah, I know, but that's exactly what happened. 

Well, that scared the crap out of me. I think because I knew what that was going to mean. Raw, hard truths that are challenging enough to admit to myself, let alone put out there to the world for others to read. And, my perception is that memoirists have really interesting lives that include huge events - often tragic and dysfunctional family lives - that catapult them into subjects of literary fame. I don't have that. I have a wonderful family that functions pretty well, most of the time. 

But, there are some dark and transforming moments, as with any life. So, what did I do? I decided my new novel would be based on some real events in my life. I gave the main character some of my story, writing actual scenes from my life into it and recreating them. That way, I could embellish them and create a much more interesting story than what mine is or would be. That felt like the perfect solution! Much easier to hide behind a fictional character than to reveal anything messy about myself. I don’t show the world my messy. And, I could really write it! Write what you know, right? So, I wrote a few of those chapters and laid out a kickass outline that I was excited about.

Then, I stopped writing. I literally couldn’t write. I researched and made notes. But, I wasn’t writing the novel. I didn't know what to do with her, this character that was sort of me, but wasn't at all me. Procrastination became an appointment in my daily calendar. And. It. Was. Frustrating. Any prolificacy that I’d previously experienced when on a project had left the building.

When the Call Comes Again 

So, I created a weekend writing retreat to help me focus. I got a lot done, both on the novel outline and the blog. I was tapping into some deep work. Although something was still in the way, scenes just weren't forming.

As part of the retreat I took part in an herbal tea meditation and breath workshop. The healing breath work was very intense. As the practitioner, Melissa Terese Young, told us, the consistent and deep breath pattern when done for an extended period of time (we did it for close to an hour) over oxygenates your brain and body and puts you into a meditative, and at times alternative, state. A lot came up for me during the session around my novel, my work and more aspirational questions than answers came forth.

That night, in bed, is when the 2nd night of the soul took place. Tossing and turning. I couldn’t sleep and I was feeling a collision of purpose coming. The difference this time is I had some sense of navigation because I’d been here before. So, again I prayed and I asked, “What is stopping me?” “Why have I been so stuck in my writing?” “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” "Please guide me on what's next."

In the silence that followed, a small voice came. “Write meaningful prose that will change YOUR life.” Hmmm. It went on. “Take your story back and tell your own story.” And, the deeper message I got was that the more I dove into my own truths, pains, revelations and transformations, the deeper the connection will be with those who read it, connection to that deep wanting and truth within themselves too.

Now that is a calling that rings really true. And, it petrifies me.

"Every time I picked up a pen, this grinding, unnamed fear overcame me—later identified as fear that my real self would spill out. One can’t mount a stripper pole wearing a metal diving suit. What I needed to write kept simmering up while I wrote down everything but that. In fact, I kept ginning out reasons that writing reality was impossible. I cranked up therapy and drank like a fish.” ― Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir

So, I’m committing to it, to writing those scenes from my own life, whether it’s about the loss of a baby and a marriage, the depths of food addiction, the perils of the hysterically funny and tragic voices in my head as I discovered boys and ran up against mean girls, the shame of pretty, the Miss America Pageant, the path of being a childless woman, the eye-opening metaphors that shifted my perspective and my own spiritual exploration, from Sunday school to shamanic journeys in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. It’s all game and I have no idea what it’s going to look like or what path the story will take.

But, it’s calling. So, I’m answering the call. And guess what? It's pouring out of me, like a waterfall of life. 

So, how do you know when your call is calling?

The best way I know is to:

  • Ask those deep questions - and then get quiet. Really quiet.
  • Listen intently  - to what your inner voice tells you. It may be a soft whisper, or it may be a shout that makes you jump out of bed.
  • Pay attention - when your entire being feels in accord with that voice, pay close attention

That just might be the call.

Answer it.

Related: A Soul's Purpose. Are We Ever Really There?


7 Re's to ReAwaken Your Life

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By Cindy Yantis

A day spent at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena was more than I expected it to be. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. I was there recently with my dear friend, Ferrell Marshall, who wanted to go for inspiration. She's currently in the one-woman play "The Belle of Amherst" in which she brilliantly portrays Emily Dickinson. I joined her at the last minute because I had an inexplicable yearning to be outside in that beautiful nature. I felt like a bear reemerging after a long hibernation.

Because of Emily Dickinson’s lifelong fascination with roses, we focused particularly on the massive rose garden enlivened with over 1500 rose varieties and hybrids, examples include the Passion Rose, Jump for Joy Rose, Exquisite Rose and the Marilyn Monroe & John F Kennedy Roses, which with a stroke of garden humor were placed next to each other.

Breathing in the fresh growth and deepness of new that surrounded us and greeted our hungry senses at every turn, I had a new feeling of life within, a rebirth and renewal.

The Power of RE

It got me thinking about the power of the Re words. I’ve reflected about this before and it hit me again at Huntington Gardens how deeply ensconced Re’s are in the development of spring, and therefore in our lives at this time of year. For sure, in my life right now.

The truth is I have been hibernating, more than usual in fact.

When I broke my wrist on Christmas Eve it meant there were a lot of things I couldn’t do, the most crucial being – at least to me – I couldn’t type because I couldn’t pronate my left hand. So, it made writing – my passion and my why – very complicated. Sure, I could “voice type” straight into a document and write longhand (thank god I’m not a lefty). But, instead, I decided to take it as a sign to stop for a while and to surrender to all that my rehabilitation meant on a deeper level. 

I slowed way down, took a couple classes, did some reading, plenty of soul-searching and spent a lot of quiet time alone. Staring at the wall. A. Lot. Of. Time.

My rehabilitation and recovery (two delicious Re words) allowed me to hibernate deeply in my own truth. And, the reality of my truth is much simpler than the reality I was living before I broke my wrist. 

Related: How A Broken Wrist Changed My Life

So, this brings me back to this season of Re. What I love about the Re is that it brings a fresh lens, attitude, appetite and perspective to whatever you’re doing at any given moment. Or more to the point, a refreshed way of being.

Here are 7 RE's that come to mind to reawaken you:

Re-calibrate your spirit by getting back in touch with nature. It can be really simple. Walk barefoot in the grass. Gaze at the sun. Sink your hands into the soil. Bury your face in a cluster of lilacs.

Reaffirm your goals that are most important by getting rid of those that aren’t.

Reclaim your dreams by keeping them alive every day. Talk about them. Write about them. Take action.

Reignite your relationships by devoting time and energy in those that mean the most to you.

Rejuvenate your system. Get 8 hours of sleep. Meditate. Clean up your diet. Replenish your supplements.

Refocus your game plan by clearing out the extraneous projects; and

Remind yourself about what you love & why you do what you do.

Tis the season to Revivify your life. What Re’s can you add to your list?

Emily Dickinson wrote, “We turn not older with the years, but newer every day.” It makes me wonder if Emily was sparked by the Re as well. I like to think so.

BelleIf you’re in Southern California this week I highly recommend seeing Ferrell Marshall in her luminous performance as Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst. It closes 4/23. Tickets available here.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Giving Thanks Starts Here

By Cindy Yantis

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as the last Thursday of the month and from then on it was an annual tradition.

His declaration was stated during our nation’s civil war and the underlying message is so apropos today.

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise… And I recommend to them that… they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become… sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.” Abraham Lincoln, 1863

It feels good to tap into the early remembrance of what Thanksgiving means on a grand level and to honor and be in gratitude for the core values of us as a national people. At the end of the day it always comes down to that.

It all begins with what we’re grateful for in our own lives. And, to my way of thinking, giving thanks for those same tenets that Lincoln mentioned, on a personal level are a good place to start: “peace, harmony, tranquility...”

So, traditions of giving thanks abound, in a myriad of ways. And, it’s really something to celebrate. 

What are you thankful for? Take a few moments to really give them thought and voice.

To name a few...

I’m grateful for my family and friends, and for people in my life who are my greatest teachers, often giving me lessons that are very hard to receive at the time but end up being necessary and transformative.

I’m grateful for a curious mind and for having a platform on which to invite others to explore and reach a little beyond themselves as well.

I’m thankful for you.

It’s pretty simple. And, necessary. And, important.

Light-thank you

 

Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com. Please visit us on our Facebook Page: Facebook.com/ThoughtChanger  


Growing Your Legacy Like a Garden

By Cindy Yantis

Signals from nature never cease to amaze. One morning I was greeted by the most gorgeous blooms on the rosebush next to my driveway. I couldn't resist cutting a stalk to take to my office. So for a week, each morning new buds opened and the pink roses expanded. But what I found so remarkable was that on this one thick stalk were 28 separate buds. Truly. Twenty-eight. The strength of the base stalk fed the buds and maturing blooms in a way that a matriarch might feed her family, or in the way people seed and grow their ideas.

Oddly enough it got me thinking about legacy. We all have a legacy, whether we know it not. We will all be known and remembered for who we are, what we've done or what we leave behind. Legacies sung or unsung, global or insular, significant or mundane. 

My Legacy bouquet
My Legacy Bouquet

The beauty of knowing this is that we have the choice to fully participate in and cultivate the kind of legacy we wish to build and leave for others. 

Jack Nicklaus rose to fame as the world's greatest golfer, but he feels his true legacy is his contribution of hundreds of world-class golf courses all over the globe that people will enjoy for generations to come. 

Bill Gates built his fortune as a pioneer in the computer software industry, which is most certainly a large part of his legacy. But, his legacy bouquet grows exponentially through his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where they generously transform lives. 

And, to that point, there doesn't have to be just one bud or bloom or focus when it comes to legacy. Which, to my way thinking, thanks to the rosebush, removes a lot of pressure. 

So, when the question arises for you - "What do I want my legacy to be?" - there doesn't have to be just one final answer. Just think, by allowing yourself to be that healthy stalk, feeding and nurturing each bud along the way as they grow and impact others, your true legacy or legacies will evolve and lead your way.

How do you want to be remembered?

What's your gift to those most important to you? To the world?

What kind of impact do you want to have on others lives?

How can you expand your own legacy bouquet so that its seeds will carry on long after you're gone?

Most importantly, how can you live your legacy now? 

Just imagine the garden you will grow!

 

Related:

Pick a Lane, Follow the Road Baby

What's Your Born Legacy

The Impact of Being a Precedent Setter

Do You Matter? 5 Ways to Have a More Meaningful Career

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com

 


Now More Than Ever, Grace

By Cindy Yantis

Negativity cannot reside in a state of Grace. Only love. Peace. Compassion. Forgiveness. Harmony.

It’s what is needed, now more than ever.

Grace

 

Grace is floating on the wings of the wind,

And being in Grace is allowing the

Breath of the divine to breeze through you,

Levitating you to a place where you drift between dimensions.

 As a kid, the mention of Grace was usually saved for church, some far away notion that was meant for nuns and saints. Other dimensions? Come on, that was for re-runs of Star Trek or when my girlfriends and I held a séance at a slumber party.

But, now? Now, I’ve felt it. I’ve asked for it. And, received it. Sometimes it just shows up.

Grace is state of mind.

Grace is a way of being.

Grace is a divine connection to all that is.

Grace is way of life, however I have fleeting moments of Grace where I am of the air and as the air I’m a part of everything.

Everything, seeping in between the blades of grass and tickling the pads of my cat’s feet.

Pausing to exhale as the house settles at the end of the night and Inhale as my fingers play a fancy tune on my laptop.

But, Grace is really to each his own.

Grace is the reply for gratitude.

Grace is a close sibling of serenity.

Grace is the nurturing force in nature, the calm vibration under everything.

For me, when I remind myself to stop and smell the roses or look at what’s in front of me, that’s when the Grace meets the road. I go with the flow and look on the bright side of things.

Sometimes when I’m stuck, Grace is far away, like on another planet.

But, then I remember.

It’s supposed to be pie. Grace and ease.

It’s supposed to knit one, pearl two.

Then, it just is.

Related: We the People: The Alchemy of We

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com


Pick a Lane! Follow the Road, Baby

By Cindy Yantis

"I've finally decided my future lies beyond the yellow brick road."  ~ Sir Elton John

I think a lot about that road.

In a “60 Minutes” interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Award-winning creator of the musical HAMILTON, Lin-Manuel talked about attending a school for gifted children. He said he looked around and everyone was smarter than him, he was “surrounded by genius, genius kids.” Charlie Rose asked him, “So why do you think I’m sitting here talking to you and not one of your classmates?” He said, “I picked a lane and started running faster than anyone else.”

“I picked a lane!” That lane led to the intense hard work and dedication that made him a true pioneer, recreating the modern Broadway musical. And, man is he ever in his purpose.

One morning, on a recent trip to Costa Rica, I woke up at Rythmia Life Enhancement Center to take a stroll at dawn. I was in the middle of a truly transformative week, and that morning, full of questions and reflection, I came upon a labyrinth, just as the sun rose. 

I’d seen the labyrinth when we arrived and knew I wanted to take spend some time there.

Pick a lane, follow the road.
 

I took off my shoes so my bare feet could feel the Earth as I slowly walked the Labyrinth. The design of a labyrinth is such so that you continue walking on the singular path, trusting and following where it leads. I did this, pausing in the center for a 2-minute sun gazing meditation – easier said than done, staring into the rising sun – and then continued on the rest of the way until I exited the other side. What surprised me is when I first looked at the labyrinth I thought the path led one way into the center, when in fact the course took the opposite direction. It made me think about how often we look ahead, trying to second-guess an outcome rather than just trusting the plan. I felt something shift in my thinking about process, trust and letting go.

The small stones poked the soles of my feet and it took concentration to surrender to the sometimes painful rocky path, knowing full well that sticking to the very clear course of action laid out in front of me was the best way to get there. Hmmm. 

It’s just so simple. We make things so complicated at times. We get busy, so busy trying to see our next right move and many times, when seeking answers outside of ourselves, we follow someone else’s lead down their road, ending up chasing a goal or dream that was never ours to begin with. Then, we lose our way, our path becomes less clear, albeit hidden behind something other than our own truth.

It Becomes Clear 

That little exercise on nature’s labyrinth gave me a glimpse into how clear the path to purpose really can be.

The next morning I walked the labyrinth again, this time wearing shoes. And, I had to laugh. With that simple aid and ally, shoes, the path was ever so much easier to walk. I still felt just as connected to the journey and actually leaned into it with more clarity because I wasn’t focusing on any pain or obstacle in my way.

I noticed someone watching me from across the campus and interestingly I started second-guessing myself. Judging. Was I doing it right? Should I have started from the other direction this time? What is that person seeing in me right now? 

It got me thinking about how all that's outside of the labyrinth, the path, our purpose, are things that are just that, on the outside. They can be allies or distractions or are simply others feeling their way along their own labyrinths.

The gifts?

  • Pay attention to the signs along the way
  • Receive aid from the allies
  • Learn from the distractions and
  • Keep going on the singular path: trusting, believing and living in that glorious place of curiosity and purpose.

Sir Elton John introduced some new songs at a recent special one-night concert in LA. He definitely picked a lane! Traversing a melodic labyrinth that after 5 decades has given us a soundtrack for many of our life moments. He closed the night with a soulful rendition of “Yellow Brick Road,” as nearly everyone in the audience sang along.

And, then in a satisfied gravel of a voice, he said, “Follow the road, Baby. Yeah.”

So, pick a lane and follow the road.

Yeah, baby.

Related:

And, the Beat Goes on Your Path Called Life

Diamonds in Your Stream of Consciousness

In Alignment, A Life Purpose

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com


Here's the Truth About Truth

By Cindy Yantis

How often do we just kind of fudge the truth, or tell a little white lie to make someone feel better or to make things a little easier on ourselves?

How about several times a day?

Research by social psychologist Robert Feldman, who has studied lying for over a decade, showed 60% of people lie 2-3 times during a 10-minute conversation. He also found that most people lie to be more likable or appear more competent.

According to behavioral scientist Dan Ariely - in the documentary “(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies” - it’s all about rationalization. The “fudge factor” leads to people rationalizing that a little lying is okay. He also says that self-deception takes place everywhere. It’s the biggest lie of all. He said, “We convince ourselves the deception is actually truth.”

Well, that piece about self-deception gave me the chills. It got me thinking about Truth, not only as a philosophy of life but also as a GPS system – Truth from the inside out.

Plato was one of the foremost and passionate philosophers on truth. He said:

Truth is the beginning of every good to the gods, and of every good to man… The true lover of knowledge naturally strives for truth, and is not content with common opinion, but soars with undimmed and unwearied passion till he grasps the essential nature of things.” And, “There is nothing so delightful as the hearing, or the speaking of truth. For this reason, there is no conversation so agreeable as that of the man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive.”

Okay, brilliant, but easier said than done, Master Plato.

Fear filters the truth. I came to this shocking realization a couple of years ago when I saw this in my own behavior. I have an aversion to conflict and as a result have often manipulated the truth, just a little, in order to avoid conflict. As soon as I recognized this, I made a commitment to use my words carefully but honestly, even if in the face of
conflict. It’s continual work, but my voice has become stronger and managing conflict has become smoother. And, the truth is, I have a lot more self-respect because of it.

Here are some more thoughts about truth: understanding, reframing, speaking, assimilating and living it.

Instead of fear being the filter, I started concentrating on using my heart as the filter. When truth is funneled through love, the truth becomes unfettered but with direct kindness. The unvarnished truth, well told

Truth recognizes its own fences, knowing that manipulation and fudging are but a
whitewash over untruths.

Truth begins at the base of a deep sigh, when the vessel is empty and pure and relying only on its own influence.

Truth listens inward first.

Truth is ancient ancestral wisdom that we know deep in our root, in our bones and in our solar plexus.

Truth is reinforced or belied by words spoken.

Truth can be couched by fear and hidden beneath humor. Conversely, truth can be softened by love and can make us laugh, or cry, hysterically.

Truth has a lot of fancy aliases, such as authenticity, transparency, clarity and realism.

Truth just is.

Truth wants to be remembered. 

Truth wants to be asked. Truth doesn’t need to be answered.

Truth lives in our dreams, in our breath and in our voices, grounded and lowered half an octave.

Truth doesn’t ask for our respect, but fully deserves it.

As a writer, one of my mottoes is, “the unvarnished truth, well told.” That helps me to be honest with my characters and true to their stories.

The unvarnished truth, well told. Now, that's a true tenet for daily life.

 

RELATED POSTS:

For The Love of Words: How to Use Yours Effectively

Stop Being So Nice, Just Be Real

How To Grow The Best Relationships

Mind Your Own Buttons

 

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com


Permission Granted: Give Yourself a Break

By Cindy Yantis

“I’m amazed you’re able to get out of bed in the morning.” This is what my doctor said to me recently. “It’s life, Doc. I have a lot to do,” I said. “Do you have body aches?” she asked. “Only when I move,” I said.

The truth is I’ve kind of felt like crap for months now. But, most people who know me wouldn’t suspect it because, like many of us, I’ve perfected the game face. Powering through, crossing off my to-do list, meeting deadlines, most of the time with the ready smile and it’s-a-good-day persona. But, behind the scenes? I’m tired. However, I don’t let myself be tired. I jam my evenings and weekends with writing projects and client deadlines and social gatherings, all of which I love to do, but… I’m sluggish and tired. AND, I have insomnia. Which creates brain fog and makes it hard to focus, so I beat myself for not crossing as many things off my to-do list as I’d like to. Oh, and then there are the body aches and weight gain. Fun!

So, when my doctor told me I have hypothyroidism and am in adrenal crash, you’d think this would have added to my already climbing level of stress. But, an interesting thing happened. Relief. In fact, I was emotional with relief. Finally, there was a name and a reason for what’s been happening to me. It’s an actual physical condition and something can be done about it! Booyah!

And, then another thing happened. Permission. I had permission to be tired. Finally. And, as soon as I gave myself permission, I was really tired. But, for the first time in a long time I didn’t feel guilty about it. So, I took a good long nap. For two days.

It got me thinking about Permission and how it affects other areas of our lives, in our work, in our relationships and with our health.

On a regular basis, we find ourselves in the position of either asking permission for something or granting permission of something.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

You give others permission to treat you the way they treat you, or not treat you. You’re the only one who can do that. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. But, giving anyone else the power of your permission only robs you of your own voice and thus your own permission.

The most important person you give permission to is you. The real tragedy is often we don’t give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves. That’s not okay, because the pressure we put on ourselves to excel, to be better, to be good enough, to be perfect, is at a volume that is louder than the voice inside that so desperately wants to give us a break.

Permission Lion 2You give yourself permission. It's a tenet worth adopting. Where are you not giving yourself permission?

So, perhaps take a bit of time this week to give yourself permission to:

  • Stop.
  • Start.
  • Sleep.
  • Say yes.
  • Say no.
  • Say that where you are right at this moment is okay.
  • Know you’re enough.
  • Be grateful.
  • Surround yourself with others who make you feel good.
  • Weed out others who don’t.
  • Sleep.

Okay, I said sleep twice, but hey I’m tired. And, I’m okay with that.

 

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Cindy Yantis is the Thought Changer Blog creator & curator. She is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. For more info: CindyYantis.com