“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Today I have Greg Ryan with us.  I met Greg in June of this year, during our time together working on the play "Our Town", which we both performed in.  Greg is here, sharing what this acting experience has meant for him.

Greg and I had a couple of scenes we were in together, and I'm really tempted to keep calling him Mr. Webb (his stage name)!

With that…Greg (errr…Mr. Webb), take it away!

An Actor's Experience

Community Theater is an odd bird.  Some people don’t consider it “real theater” because it’s not performed on one of the big-name stages.  The productions are often found in high school auditoriums or back-rooms that you could walk right by if you weren’t looking for them .  This production of “Our Town” was at SummerStage, an outdoor theater in the middle of Lapham Peak State Park, about 30 minutes outside of the Milwaukee area.  It’s a lovely theater, but it’s definitely in an odd location off the beaten path.

Even though I’m over 50, I’m still relatively new to acting. So when a director casts me I experience a flurry of emotions.  I’m initially flattered since the director is essentially trusting me with the production. In my short tenure, I’ve seen firsthand how one actor can jeopardize an entire production. This memory helps the flattery to fade and I turn my attentions to my next emotion: worry.  Can I actually do it?  Can I memorize my lines?  Can I really BE this other person?

Underneath all these questions is the reality that I’m putting much of the rest of my life on hold during weeks of rehearsal and, finally, the play’s run.  For the next two months or so, many evenings and
weekends revolve around the stage.  Actors spend less time with friends and family; even their careers can get upstaged.  Will this decision affect their long term relationships?  My wife wasn’t all that happy when I took this role because she felt that summer is such a long-awaited time in Wisconsin and we’d miss out on activities we’d normally do together. Luckily, after she observed me falling in love
with this play, she became more understanding and supportive.

Of all the plays I’ve acted in, none have made me think more about being human than Our Town.  It’s rather amazing, considering that during the read through I thought it came off as corny and dated.  But
the more I rehearsed and saw my fellow actors assuming their roles, the more I realized that the play is timeless.  Sure, some of the words we spoke may have been from the early 1900’s but the thoughts
that they expressed still ring true today.  How do you feel about a newborn baby?  Or when you discover that the person you love actually loves you back?  How would you feel if both your children died before
you did?

Connie Gehl, the actress who played my wife in “Our Town,” needed to cry during the performance.  Her sorrow was so convincing that I, as her husband, was compelled to comfort her so she was not alone in her grief.  Her performance pulled me in and, I believe, helped me truly embody my part as Charles Webb.  It was just one of the wonderful aspects of this production.

Memories and Emotions

I’d like to share two more wonderful memories of this show.  I was moving furniture from the stage to another building.  One of the younger actresses stopped me and we chatted pleasantly for a moment.  She said that she just loved interacting with all these creative people and she obviously was including me.  Still feeling like a newcomer to the theater, I was inwardly surprised and flattered.  Am I actually an actor?  I guess I am.

The other moment occurred during the wedding scene.  I play the father of Emily, the hesitant bride.  At the beginning of the scene, she’s scared and looks to her father for reassurance.  After a little
father-daughter chat, I kiss her forehead, drape her veil over her head and walk her down the aisle.   Well, I walked my own daughter down the wedding aisle about three years ago.  This is a privilege
that fathers of girls have enjoyed for centuries and it may be the only time I ever do that in real life.  But because of this play, I was able to relive the experience during every performance.   And my
“real” daughter saw the show, too.

When a show ends, I experience more emotions.  Sorrow that the production is finished.  Perhaps, relief too.   I commuted about 40 minutes to the venue, but the majority of the actors live out in the
Delafield area so I may never work with or even see many of them again.  I’m wistful when I realize that these people have passed through a brief part of my life.

Although I do feel sorrow,  gratitude is the emotion that over rides all the others.  I’m grateful that Diane Powell cast me in this play.  I’m grateful that I was able to work with Ethan, Mason, Amanda,
Connie and Lance as well as the rest of the cast and crew.  I’m grateful that we had good weather for all of our production dates. I’m grateful to the audience who usually laughed at the right times. I’m grateful to my body and brain for hanging in there and allowing me to physically and mentally handle the part.  I’m grateful to my wife, Brooke, for supporting me in a very personal endeavor.  I’m grateful to Facebook because it allows me to know some new friends even if they turn out to be temporary.

Well, on to the next audition.  I’ve just been cast in a new one act play, but I’m confident that this production of “Our Town” will stay with me until I play in my own real life funeral scene.


You can keep up with Greg at his personal website – Our Next Thing, and on Facebook.

Note:  Today we have guest writer Zeenat Merchant-Syal, of Positive Provocations, sharing a very heartfelt and meaningful piece on body image.


That Weird Dead Feeling
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kendra Infinity

"Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly."~ St. Francis De Sales

On a recent trip to my cousin’s place, who I met after many years, we talked and giggles like we were kids. Neither of us felt any older than those days we used to play in the rain and create havoc during summer break. All of us lived in different states/countries but would come together to Mumbai,India for the summer. Its still essentially the same situation, except now we have our own little ones roaming the rooms.

Battling Body Image Issues

In most of these trips and even in my regular life then, I was constantly battling body Image issues. You see, I have always always been on the plump side. I don’t ever remember being thin. That in itself had never been the problem. The problem was when I would be given free flowing, no hooks barred advice at every nook and corner about how I should lose weight. Living in a home, where each parent had completely different approaches to the way things are supposed to be, didn’t make it any easier. One would constantly keep vigil of my intake, while the other couldn’t bare the thought of his child being so worried about what she ate.

This tug of war culminated into such a massive problem for me especially as I entered my teens. Suddenly everything and everyone was about looking “perfectly media good”. Walk like someone, look like someone, talk like someone other than yourself and you could be the IN teenager. I became that. Although I was still battling the way I saw myself, I put up a brave front and laughed. I was the life of every party, and yeah had the handsomest guys ask me out. Was all this making me feel better? NO! It was actually deepening the problem I had with myself and pushing it deeper into my soul…until I was so so deeply scarred. Scarred enough to make horrid decisions I still regret. I keep thinking now…”how could I have been so stupid?”

I still remember how I would cry to sleep every night, because I didn’t like who I had become, but felt it was the Only choice I had to be accepted.

Becoming The Real Me

There came a point, when the self annihilation had started, that I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. In those days, I came face to face with questions of purpose. In my most low states I could hear a voice inside me ask me, “Is this what you want to BE? Who are You REALLY? ”

It was only when I met my spiritual teacher, at the age of 16(almost 17), I realized how awesome it could be to be Me. The Real Me. There was this woman, right across the room at a social gathering, who I couldn’t stop looking at. She was simple, neat, smiling and extremely loving. She wore simple clothes, no frills, no makeup, no pretentiousness whatsoever. I was so drawn to this woman. She somehow looked like she glowed. I still think she does. She introduced me to my soul. And for that I remain eternally indebted to her. She guided me, taught me lessons from religious scriptures. Showed me the light, so to speak.

As I dwelled into religion, spirituality and all things Divine..my mind, my body, my heart all came to a certain calm. I realized that I am meant to be a certain way. It felt right. That is my unique gift. The physical body issues began to heal. As the issues healed, a warm more loving me emerged. A Me even I am sometimes flabbergasted by. I stopped crying to sleep, I stopped hurting myself, I stopped being someone I was not.

The relief of letting those masks go, was like taking off a huge mountain from my shoulders. I never felt lighter, freer than I did in that moment.

Yes, not all people in my life were fully happy with this transformation, but they came to accept a happier me.

TODAY

Today, I’m still plump. But happily so. I love myself and things about this self. Dimples, warts, moles, crooked teeth, the not so perfect figure….I love it all. It keeps me real. I live a very simple but content life today.I am healthy. I walk, do yoga, exercise, eat right, smile, help others heal, help souls become whole and happy. So I'm plump. Big Deal!(smile)…More of me to love More of every other soul in this Universe with 🙂

I do hope I can instil the same simplicity, love and calm in my little girl. As she grows up, I keep thinking, she will go through some of the anxiety of peer pressure, society pressure to look or be a certain way. But I know I will be with her every step of the way, telling her just how Beautiful she is just as she is. She need never be anyone else!

May we all Happily embrace our awesome and very real selves. Its one of the most imperative steps in understanding and living in constant happiness. Knowing and trusting the Divine Plan and living in the flow of it makes living blissful. Nothing and I mean nothing can get you down then.

Today(literally) as I met my cousin, she said, “We were such goofballs in our teens na. You are still a goofball, naughty as ever, but you seem genuinely Happier now. What did you have an epiphany or something?” I kinda did and I completely agreed with her, while I baked and we ate home made veggie pizza with all our kids.

A positive affirmation I use when I feel a whiff of old imagery coming along…. “I am Awesome. I am Beautiful. I am a divine creation full of amazing mastery.” Heart *Smile*

Zeenat is the founder and writer of the blog ~Positive Provocations~ Healing You Completely with Positivity, Love & Happiness!. A Practicing Counseling Psychologist/Spiritual Counselor/Motivational Speaker/Naturopath by profession (since the past 10 years) and Spiritual Traveler & Writer by passion.
Zeenat is also an eternal student and researcher of the school of life and all its realities. A constant learner in the fields of Metaphysics and New age Thinking. 

Today I have a special guest with us – Live Lane, from Choosing Beauty.  Below, Liv shares a part of her blog journey, and how deeply good that has been for her.  As well, both Liv and I sat down recently to talk about this, and to discuss her upcoming "How To Build A Blog You Truly Love" e-course.

The story Liv shares below very much touches upon choosing beauty, and how we can all choose to see that in our daily lives.

For those of you who are bloggers, in the video Liv and I dig a bit more into her upcoming e-course, How To Build A Blog You Truly Love.  We both came into this video as video non-experts (yikes!) and there were a couple of technical difficulties which cut off the last few seconds of the video (in which Liv so graciously thanked me for our time) (and thank you, also, Liv!).

 

My Blog Transformed My Life

 

I know it sounds over-the-top, but it’s totally true: my blog transformed my life.
 
Before I tell you how, I need to rewind to the day my first son was born in early 2003. I had entered the hospital happy and excited, my usual chipper self. But several days later, I left the hospital a changed woman – sobbing all the way home. The birth experience had been horrible, with one complication after another. I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time my baby arrived – blue and barely breathing, with his heart on the wrong side of his body and his lung collapsed. Miraculously, he recovered in the NICU and is now a healthy, high-energy eight-year-old. But as he got better, I got worse.
 
I cried a lot. I couldn’t sleep.  I became masterful at small talk because I couldn’t handle anything deeper. I hid my pain really well – at least for a while. My family eventually urged me to seek help in late 2005. I was diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress disorder, both the result of “birth trauma” – something I’d never even heard of.  My therapist, Jeanne, promised me I could heal and that the darkness I was living in could be lifted. It seemed impossible. But I decided to believe her and jumped into my healing journey. I was willing to try anything: talk therapy, psychotherapy, medication, meditation, hypnosis, and more. Eventually, I began to see glimmers of light. Slowly but surely, I re-discovered the real me.

One day after a session with Jeanne, a brilliant rainbow arched over the intersection where I was sitting in my car. I looked at the drivers around me; they were all too busy putting on lipstick, talking on the phone or staring blankly at the stoplight to look up and notice the stunning rainbow overhead. I wondered in that moment how many other little miracles I’d missed by being too distracted or too depressed. I wanted to take a picture of the rainbow, just to show others what I’d seen {remember, our cell phones didn’t have cameras back then!}.

My birthday was only days away and I decided it was the perfect time to initiate a personal exercise: take a picture of something beautiful each day for a year and write about it. I suspected it could contribute to my healing and created a very basic blog – a type of web site I’d only just learned about.  I called it One Year of Beauty.

Within weeks of starting, I was hearing from readers around the world who were inspired to find beauty in their everyday lives, too. They kept me accountable; had it not been for those early readers cheering me on, I probably would have quit on the days it felt impossible to find beauty. In the end, those turned out to be the most transformational days. Finding something good on a “bad” day was a rush. I was so glad I’d chosen to write something about each photo I posted because it forced me to really reflect and practice gratitude. What was so beautiful about a fallen leaf? Why did the sight of my child’s paint-covered hands make my heart skip a beat? How did I feel standing under a bright blue sky?

Over time, one beauty sighting a day multiplied into many. Though I continued to feature just one on the blog each day, I began to notice beauty everywhere I went – even in the midst of chaos. My therapist was floored by the changes in me. I would waltz into Jeanne’s office more eager to tell her about all the good things around me than the fear or sadness that occasionally {instead of always} reared its ugly head. During that first year of blogging, my search for everyday beauty – and the ability to post it for the world to see – gave me comfort, hope and a new perspective.  And the support I received from readers was the fuel that kept me going.
 
I’m fast approaching the fifth anniversary of my blog. It’s now called Choosing Beauty because I believe we each make a daily choice – whether conscious or not – to see or shun the beauty in our lives. It is there, waiting to be noticed, eager to inspire us and ready to comfort us. I learned this from my blog and it changed my life for good.

About Liv Lane

How To Build A Blog You Truly Love is a soul-stirring, blog-boosting e-course for anyone who longs to feel more inspired, excited and rewarded by their adventures in blogging. Led by inspirational speaker, radio personality and veteran blogger Liv Lane of Choosing Beauty, you'll be lovingly guided through an innovative process of self-reflection and in-depth learning. Over the six-week course, you'll develop your own unique blogging blueprint – designed to help you achieve sweet success and deep fulfillment for years to come. Plus, gain exclusive access to Liv's interviews with more than a dozen superstar bloggers on how they're rocking the blogosphere and livin' the dream.
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Special: Sign up here for 20% off this six-week course (starting June 5th).  I'll be at this course both as a participant and a contributor!
 

“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Earlier this month I wrote about my word of the year for 2011 (SHINE).  This has become a very meaningful practice, as I really focus on one word, at a deeper level.  As meaningful as this has been, it is also a wonderful experience for me to reflect back on the previous year, and really "see" how that chosen word manifested itself in my life.

Today I'm doing exactly that, as I review 2010, and my word that I chose last January:  SPLASH!.

It's an honor to be sharing these thoughts with Stacey Curnow, someone who really embraces the idea of living life from a place of deep meaning.  So, today I invite you to join me over at Stacey's site, Midwife For Your Life, as I review 2010 and the word SPLASH in my life. 

Hint:  I don't think any of my splashes looked exactly like that up above (although I certainly have some crazy kids around here who find that this is a great way to greet the water!)

~ Comments Closed ~

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