Janet West has been a writer since the late 1990s. When someone asked, "If nothing were impossible, what would she do?" The answer was automatic. Write. When she crafted her ideas into words, she felt alive.
Her early writing years were in child development magazines, but now her interests have expanded. Although the love of learning and teaching is still the core of who she is.
One of the first things you learn in the craft of writing fiction is how to develop your characters. You place your characters in a setting as a child would place his toys. They are ready for their lives. Each one with his or her own agenda, wants, and desires. Let them glimpse their future. <insert evil laugh here>
Their winning is there for the taking. You can see the lust for the finish line twinkle in their eyes. When they are almost there, thwart their efforts. Weather, family, or disease. the evil novelist rules the world.
Sometimes it seems our lives are like that, like some malicious author is blocking our moves just to develop our character.
This is character development by chaos 101.
Welcome to class. In front of you are your notebooks and pens. grab the funky pen or the bright-colored one, I don’t care. Begin.
What’s your dream goal? Happiness? Hmm, I can’t work with that. A job? Simple enough. A spouse? That’s possible. But we all know that just any ol’ job won’t do. We want a powerful or high dollar job, right? Or a glamorous job, with flashing camera lights maybe. High dollar shoes and high dollar cars. And the paparazzi following your every move. Am I right? Well at least until you get those things. What do you really want? Write it down.
Truly we all want something different. You might want the bright lights and the paparazzi. Some want the money so they can afford more fuzzy slippers. And pajamas. Who doesn’t want to live in their pajamas.
Me? I want to feel I’ve helped someone. That I will always be brightening other’s lives all through my existence. How about you? fame? money? health? children? Whatever it is, what is in your way? Time? Are there not enough hours? Maybe it’s just a clear idea of how to get there.
I sometimes don’t know what to write about. I’ve made a goal for myself. I must get in my 1000 words a day. I feel as if I haven’t completed my task if not. And that makes me unhappy. I like meeting my goal. Of course that same side is the perfectionist and she feels untidy and lazy if I just write nonsense as I am now. The other side? Let loose the horses. Let the wild woman free. The one who splashes in mud puddles and chews her nails. What to do?
The two sides
I name myself the two-sided twin. Maybe I will come up with a more nonsensical name, but for now, it’s two-sided. I can see this becoming a good chapter of a book. I could explore the two sides of my personality. The tidy perfectionist who can’t stand wasting the bread crust. Then the crazy bitch that just needs turned loose. Let her out of the freakin’ cage already. She’s shaking the bars and the other inmates are screaming at her. She extends her long claws to snagging the guard’s arm. Of course the other one, the prim one, is sitting on her neatly tidy bed in the corner. If she’s quiet enough maybe no one will associate her with this she-monster.
Dichotomy – division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups: a dichotomy between thought and action.
Now that image is probably taking it a bit far, but I feel the dichotomy of my personality or should I say personalities? I’m standing in line, the long line at the grocery store. I’m trying to decide if I want a candy bar or a pack of gum. There they are, the crazy bitch and her proper escort. I think the bitch has duct taped Ms. prim’s hands. It keeps prim from dragging her away from all the ice cream and candy. Prim’s filled her basket with pasta and vegetables. She has her list neatly printed and has marked off the items in order. She’s the picture of calm and orderly as she rips the duct tape with her teeth, peeling it from her wrists. Her eyes never leave her monster of a sister. She’s not afraid. She knows Crazy too well. Later Prim will clean up the mess while the crazy one passes out from exhaustion.
Prim never gives up.
Quite honestly I love them both. The sparkle and the shine of the bitch makes me smile. She is pure joy to shop with. She loves life and can work a room like nobody’s business. I laugh at her quirky view of life. Her bubbly laughter. You may think Crazy’s my favorite. Some days she is. It’s only when I get the credit card bill and the bank overdraft that I ask Prim for help. She’s good to help. Sometimes you can see her frustration. All her long hours and careful budgeting, shot! What’s a girl to do? She catalogs and notes the accounts, checking for ways to get back any lost ground. Well she’ll just take the loss this month. Prim never gives up.
I have to free fall
Is this any way to live? Is there another way? Can the Critic and the Creative ever cohabit? I really don’t know. When I write, I’m in complete creative mode. No holds barred. I have to free fall to express in all the full color lively verbiage. when all is fully expressed, the critic may enter, but only then. If he comes out early, the Creative will shut down and shut up. And beware of having those two out at the same time. There isn’t a fight. The Critic is too scary. He has no remorse. He will open up a vein on the creative and leave no blood. To the critic, the creative can’t be trusted.
Can’t we all just get along?
I’m sure that we each have our own version of the two. Who are your people? Or are they people? Monsters maybe. Wild things. What seems abhorrent one day seems perfectly reasonable the next, depending on which personality is in charge. Tell me, please, how you deal with a dual personality? I know I’m not the only one with these issues. I will admit to having a few, but I’m certainly not the only one.
Can’t we all just get along? Is it possible? Is that even what I would want, for my two sides to come together in happy harmony? Truthfully, I don’t think that’s what I want. I like both sides as they are, with all their duct tape and personality differences. There is balance in the differences. I certainly wouldn’t want the personalities to converge into one happy medium.
What do you think? Would you meld your various personalities together? Would you prefer them more mellow? Or do you appreciate their separateness? Truly I don’t have a multiple personality disorder. No blackouts or loss of memory. but I do find it funny to think of the two sides as being opposing singular beings. They, in their slices, make me whole. With each perspective I can do the entirety of living.
I am the dichotomy
I’m the one with the duct tape, the one with the claws, the one with the excel spreadsheets, and the one with the grocery list. I am the dichotomy and so are you. We are the frivolous and the detailed. Live it.
Perspective is a hot topic for me now. I would like to understand it better. I watched a Ted video that I’m going to re-watch soon. I will add it below. If you’d like, you can watch it now. But please don’t forget that I’m here waiting with bated breath..or something like that.
Through different color variations that had light and shadows mixed, Beau Lotto showed color shapes that looked the same color, but were really very different colors with various shadows or lights. His main delivery point was how your brain needs color, but also that your brain learns in response. Even in just a few minutes of watching a two toned color with the dot in the middle to fixate on, your brain learns to filter by the two tones side by side. When you refocused upon the scenery, you see the scenery with a mental color filter. Your very own brain was using the colors and projecting them on the picture you were looking at. That was a fascinating experiment and I would love to learn more.
I wonder if that’s what is happening in our world now. We have fixated upon certain events so that when we refocus our attention on the scenery around us we are prejudiced automatically. Wow. That’s a deep thought. That one will take a bit of time to ponder upon. Very good thought, but also very scary. I have to share this one.
“There’s no inherent meaning in information. It’s what we do with that information that matters.” Beau Lotto
For some, it’s a ritual, the lighting of a candle, the touching of a bead. For others it’s a prayer or a song that brings them comfort. We all have something. In the middle of chaos what helps you find your home? If you dropped into a foreign land what would you do every morning or every evening to remember yourself to not forget what matters the most to you?
I am often reminded of scenes in movies. One in particular, is the movie Inception. In the movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, a group of people (extractors) trained to gather information for the purpose of corporate espionage, with the help of a military engineered machine. The tricky part is not to lose themselves in the other person’s subconscious.
There have been many movies about delving into the subconscious of others and the fear always seems to not to get lost. In Inception, the extractors each carried a personal totem. It had to contain a strong special meaning to the person which held it and only he could control how it would behave. In this case the DiCaprio kept a spinning top which he could spin on a table to find if he was in his own dreams or in others.
The sun would set, but in the morning it would rise again
In our lives, we develop totems or rituals of our own. They keep us from losing our balance when life gets too difficult to handle. We take comfort in them much as a child would with her blankie. It’s a comfort to know that when I get stressed I can take my hot bath. Candles burning in front of me help to calm my fears. I can say a prayer with the candle flame burning and afterwards I feel the relief as if I really had accomplished a task.
Once, when I was in a particularly stressful time, nothing seemed to help. I felt completely lost as if my world had spun upside down. My entire nervous system had seemed to shut down and I was a messed up girl. I was standing by the window watching the sun set and it struck me not as beautiful but as absolute. It was the one thing that felt the most steady, the most solid and the most predictable. The sun would set, but in the morning it would rise again in the east and I could once more see its bright rays fall across the lawn.
I learned to take steps once again
That one simple fact got me through. Afterward my faith strengthened. I felt myself grow a bit stronger. I couldn’t control the loss of my marriage but I could trust in a few things. I learned to take steps once again and hold on to whatever brought me comfort and strength again.
Life is a process
When you’re swimming in the deepest of emotional turmoil, you need something to grab on to. And the time to prepare is before you are treading water. When you are on the dry land and in your sane mind, prepare. The day will come if it hasn’t already. Find one thing at least that you can look to which will remind you that a better day will come.
Remember a song from your childhood. A funny or a simple little ditty that doesn’t have to have any meaning but reminding you of a memory, a beautiful day. It could be a photo album or a diary you have kept. A prayer altar that you can set up with small items such as a dried flower or a river rock that smoothed and worn over time.
Life is a process, a wheel of time that takes us through the seed-time and the harvest. Through this wheel we have births and deaths, but in between the surety of the many sunrises and sunsets.
It’s not the item itself that has any power
Many cultures throughout history have had totems and rituals and yes I do put those two in the same group. In the time of tragedy a child will grab a doll or a blanket, a preacher may grab his Bible, a musician may grab his violin. It’s not the item itself that has any power. As I heard from the movie Practical Magic, the metal star of a lawman, is just a small symbol. It has no true protective or comforting power of its own. Only the authority that we as people have given it.
In our culture we honor our dead by burying them in their nicest clothes. We place objects that have meaning only to us and that other person in the coffin with the deceased. This is normal for us and we think nothing of it. But there are other cultures that burn their dead. Some even mix their ashes with water and drink together the ashes of their loved one so that person’s spirit continues inside of each of them. Since I’m not from that culture I think I’d have a difficult time drinking the ashes of my grandmother, but I do understand the adoration and the honor that is given.
There’s no simpler thing than helping someone else that is hurting
These are totems, these are rituals, these are steps we take together to honor each other, and to keep our civilization intact. We, like the sun that sets in the west and rises in the east remind ourselves with rituals and customs that there is love and there is good and there is comfort. Even though that today is difficult and we are in pain, tomorrow will come. And that day may bring more pain but hopefully that pain will not last forever.
When a person has nothing left to hold they go into a blackness which they don’t know how to pull themselves out. That is why I am encouraging you to find something to help you balance. I realize that a candle will not replace a lost child. Nothing can ever take their place. But you have to continue on.
Those that we love that have died are gone. They are in our hearts and in our memories and we will miss them dearly, but what reason, what comfort can you find that will help you find your balance? If you need encouragement to make it one more day or if nothing makes any sense to you anymore because someone you believed in betrayed you, what will help you?
It was once said that if you are grieving, comfort someone else and if you have loss, give to someone else. If nothing else in life makes sense, bring your life down to the basics of humanity. There’s no simpler thing than helping someone else that is hurting. There’s no purer love than giving a cup of water to someone thirsty. It may not take all of your pain away but you have made a choice towards life and the living of it.
And at that moment that is what totems and rituals are all about.
“Tigers don’t know if they like ice cream until they try every flavor there is.” Calvin and Hobbs
Sometimes I have to risk being foolish to find my potential. I have to stray from the safe. I have to make a mess.
I admire the straight orderly lines that others make. I’d like to follow them and order my life in such a way. I’ve always been fascinated by the minimalist with their neatly trimmed greenery and lack of clutter. Buddhist monks with their orderly lifestyle. No frills. I’ve tried to convert to the Macrobiotic diet and vegan-ism. I crave simplicity, but only for a time.
A beautiful landscape with green grass, trimmed shrubbery. One or two outfits. Utilitarian shoes. Practical flooring. Food for a day. Why does this intrigue me? Could life ever be so simple? Could I actually live in a house decorated only in white? Or black?
“At its heart is reverence for a divinity. This is a single being for, as the medieval philosopher William Occam said, why multiply entities (or assumptions) unnecessarily?
We may pray to this divinity for guidance or assistance in serious matters (why shouldn’t we?).
We should avoid giving attributes (either limbs or supposed qualities) to the divinity because the more we attribute, whether by imagination or inference, the more likely we are to make mistakes. As we don’t really need a portrait to revere God, mystery seems preferable to misconception.”
After mulling some of these things over, I understand my fascination with minimalism. There are no decisions.Thinking is optional and absolutely no conflict. In the choice for dishes to eat from, no worries. White. Clothing? The white shirts please. It limits your options so you can concentrate on other areas of your life.
But I love color. My walls are yellow. I have red, turquoise, yellow, gold, brown and many other colors and it makes me very happy. When I am trying to keep things simple, I become obsessive. Afraid to move. I feel constricted and agitated. That’s not a good way for me to live. Life is messy. I’m good with that.
If you draw a straight line and EXPECT to follow it perfectly, then watch out. You will fall short of the mark. But, if you are using that line as a general guide and realize it is only a focus point or a mark to help you keep your bearings, then you will wander and stagger but you will be able to right yourself easily. You will be able to find your way back to center. In that way, having a line, a religion, a moral stance can help. Somewhere inside us, we have our center. The place we can return to if we have spun off the center pole. The irony is, even the North Pole shifts.
Some find Buddhism as that foundation. If you have a favorite color, theme decorating may be for you. Many would agree that it’s smart to buy only quality items, especially for expensive purchases. In that case, staying with the tried and true name brands would be good. Many of the philosophies of minimalism rings true. I will always lean towards being a vegan since my digestive system prefers it. But there are moments that I crave variety. I like messy.
I believe that we can learn from many places, if we are only willing to listen. Children’s books are often a favorite. Who hasn’t ever wondered if they are Tigger or Eeyore? Which one of us would love to have the simple faith of Winnie the Pooh?
Since I was 15 years old, I have practiced yoga. Many of the lessons I have learned, came from my practice. With yoga there is no goal line, there is only the daily practice. It’s not a competition or a speed race. You simply do. It relaxes my nervous system. I am a rather competitive person generally and I don’t quit easily. If I want something I can at times be too bull-headed to realize when I need to stop. Just like water that rounds out the stones in the river bed, my practice reminds me that my current quest (obsession) isn’t everything. Life is more than being perfect. It’s more than always finishing.
In yoga practice a stretch or a movement is held for a time and during that time many thoughts go through your mind. At that moment we bring our mind back to our stretch. To where our feet are or where our balance is placed. Sometimes in the practice of yoga we have a bittersweet moment. The stretch feels good, but it at the same time can have a bit of pain. I reached a moment like that yesterday. I was thinking about my sons, who are grown. I enjoyed raising them more than anything in the world. There was no other pleasure that I could imagine that would be better than watching them grow up. If you are a parent you know it’s true. There’s the bittersweet part in there that you remember. The early morning feedings, the midnight earache, the bruises, and the skinned knees.
Life has many bittersweet moments. You’re stretching yourself and doing everything you know to do. You’re loving it but you’re also a bit tired. Of course if someone asked you, there’s no way you’d stop. You’re on a mission! No quitting here. You will hold your pose and then as in yoga, you will release.
~There are those bittersweet moments when the stretching feels both pleasurable and painful.~
If you are trying a pose in yoga and your body isn’t as flexible as others, that’s alright. We use “props” for adapting. There are blocks for when you are bending from a stance and your arms don’t quite reach the floor because your hamstrings are tight. You can roll towels to place under your knees or under your neck for support. We use mats that have a slight sticky or tacky feel so our hands or feet don’t slip. You want to remain stable so you can give in fully to the pose or your focus will only be on falling. The purpose of yoga is often misunderstood. It is not only to create a more flexible body. It is about knowing your body and working with your body.
Many years ago my favorite instructor worked with me in a time of crisis. She taught me how much the body knows and how we can do incredible things when we support our bodies. I was lying on my mat, flat on my back in shavasana, also called corpse pose. She noticed that I was having difficulty relaxing. She took a couple of heavy, folded, Mexican blankets and placed them over my chest and stomach area. My body responded immediately. I relaxed, but not only did I relax. I started quietly sobbing. My entire nervous system started releasing pent-up emotions. I’ve never experienced anything like that before and I loved it.
~Life has its own flow~
The point is, the body responds to the information it receives everyday. In yoga we support our bodies. We listen to its urges and we respond to its needs. If a pose is too much today, then we don’t force the pose. We coax it and allow it time to respond. If today we are feeling ill or tired we allow our bodies to decide the amount it can handle.
Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.
Yes there are times to stretch a little further and to try a little harder. There are those bittersweet moments when the stretching feels both pleasurable and painful. There is also a time to release. Rest is as important as work.
~We will not all rule~
The one thing that I have the most difficulty remembering is my breath. I forget to breathe in and out. If you hold your breath, your energy cannot flow. Your movements will be stiff and brittle. We need to breathe in while we are stretching and breathe out as we release. Life has its own flow. Its breath is as real as our breath and we can become just as aware of it. Sometimes we hold our breath in life. We are out of sync with what is going on around us. Out of step with the dance.
When I am shaky in a pose, I remember to breathe. I check my pose. I feel my pose with all of my body. If the holding is causing me pain, I release to an easier level of the pose and hold that just as diligently as I would have held a more difficult pose. We are not all to be presidents or CEO’s of large corporations. We will not all rule over anyone. Many of us are teachers, doctors, nurses, or organizers. We all have our positions, our poses to hold. If you are in a high post and it becomes too painful, it is not shameful to release to an easier post. If you are needing more of a challenge then it’s fine to push yourself a bit more. Just remember that there is no pride or gloating in holding a more difficult pose. If something is too painful, release and ease up. If you are needing more of a challenge allow yourself the extra nudge.
~I must let life cycle~
The truths I’ve learned in yoga are the give and the take, the ebb and the flow. The inhalation and the exhalation are always there. I cannot hold any stage of my life. This too shall pass applies to the pleasant as well as the unpleasant. I must let life cycle.
I almost put that I was alive and blooming, but the picture of flowers popping up all over my head didn’t fit my mood. To demonstrate my mood and what this site is about I will include a video link. I hope you enjoy it!
We outgrow things.
Shoes and clothes. Styles and winter coats. Our hair gets long and we cut it short. We file our nails and then have to file them again.
Sometimes it seems endlessly tiring, all of this change. Wearing the clothes, washing the clothes, mending the clothes. Folding them and then unfolding them. But this is the cycle of our lives.
We outgrow teachers. We outgrow friends. We leave our parents and then we meet them as adults. We don’t normally see the exact start of change, but change flows through our being just as the seasons flow through the trees and the earth.
There’s no sense trying to stop it, as if we could. Greet it as a friend because we are no match facing it as an enemy. No gun will make it scare away. No stalling will hide you. The growth, the change, the leaving, these are the only things that are consistent.
We are all agents of change as well as the ones being changed. Below, I have a video for you to enjoy. It’s called the Fibonacci in Lateralus.
The thing about life is that we usually troll along our merry way thinking that everyone lives or thinks the same way. It’s just that some people have all the good luck, right? They win the lottery or their rich great-uncle-three-times-removed dies and leaves them a fortune. But you on the other hand are just out of luck. You got the rotten job, the car that breaks down, the felony boyfriend and every time you get a little money someone needs it more than you, so you get stuck with nothing.
Well that’s the way it seems because all we know is who we are, what we’ve experienced, and what we think. Have you ever met someone that thinks totally different than you? The same situation that you were in, but they handled it like it was nothing. That’s what I want you to see. Just a few different actions, just a few different responses will change your life.
Decide what you want
I’m not talking about “I want to be a millionaire” or “I want to win the lottery”. I’m thinking along the lines of handling your money wiser, making good choices, not blowing your top the first time someone makes you mad, or making more friends.
Change what you remember
If your childhood seems like one misfortune after another, that’s what you are thinking of and that will define who you are today. Think of one memory that is along the same thinking as your wants. If you want to make wiser choices, remember a time when you did. Even just one memory. If you want to make friends and have fun with them remember a time that you did, even if it was just one time and it only lasted a week, remember it. The surprising thing is how you will get more memories to back up the first. It works that way.
Act like it is true
If I want to be successful in something, I start by first, deciding I want to be successful at it. Second, I remember a time or times when I was successful. Third, I begin acting or pretending that I will again be successful. If I don’t act like it, I’m falling back on the old beliefs. And beliefs are like muscles, the more you use them the stronger they become in your life. The less you use them and ignore them then the weaker they become while the new beliefs are growing stronger.
So change your life by deciding what you want, remembering the memories and feelings that reinforce you wants, then act like it is so. It may take some practice and it will probably feel a bit fake at first, but keep at it. You’ll come out on top.
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