Monthly Archives: July 2014

protagonist(s) parting words


Throughout the duration Living Chapters, I’ve had countless conversations with my extremely patient and nurturing network of friends. Ironically, without this external support, I don’t believe I could have accomplished the amount of inner reflection and personal internal work achieved during this year. Oddly enough out of all the living chapters players and participating friends, it was actually someone I did not know who was able to fully understand and support me through this grueling year of digging in the dirt.  That someone is Shannon Twenter, the only other protagonist that I know living out chapters.

Shannon lives in Boise Idaho and contacted me the second month into Living Chapters requesting to start her own blog based on the “Living Chapters” model. This woman wanted to be a protagonist in her own story of self-development. I could not have been more excited to share the life experiment and compare notes. Read here for Shannon’s description of her Open Book Project . And read below for Shannon’s opinion on what the Living Chapters experience has done for me and for her.

Final Thoughts of Living Chapters AND Open Book Project’s Protagonists: 

Evidence, Beth: I see it in our phone conversations. As we compared our goals of journey at the beginning, we found synchronicity in letting go of control. But there was near scoffing at my larger goals of faith and love being your major outcome goals. It wasn’t in your trajectory at that time. Walking this journey with you, I am not at all surprised to see you explore love and faith as tools of trust. A perceivable change.
Deliberate. That is the power of Living Chapters. And for me, the power of Open Book Project.
In the deliberate focus on logic, environment, personal relationships, existentialism, purpose, and the body/kinesthetic, Beth made change. Change that was already within her and true to her core, but change that asked her to shift largely to explore the unexpected. And though her conclusion is fluid, I observe a result that is palpable and real. A re-alignment and steadfast reminder of her core while a movement, adoption, and commitment to further explanation of the sought shifts.
All in her amazing way of an artist. Who she is.
I, too, have been deliberate in being present with faith, love, purpose, creativity, all thrive not survive themes. And I felt the needed BEAUTIFUL shifts. So grateful for it, it urges me to keep at it in a consistent, lifelong way. As even I feel the value of the shifts and prioritizing my core, my tendency can be to revisit old habits, particularly in times of challenge. I want to instead choose my core and Open Book Project’s beautiful shifts.
Open Book Project’s goal was trust. And it was right. Trust is the key. Open Book Project, and it seems Living Chapters, has urged me to terrifyingly continue to choose and live through trust.
Evidence, Shannon: I love people. I love to understand them. My actions can veer to the opposite. I fear opening to others. The vulnerabilities of rejection or hurt have seemed larger than the benefit. I’ve opened enough to learn that the benefit is vastly worth more than the pain. A simple said or signed ‘I love you’ with sincerity makes the heart float.

– Shannon Twenter

Thank you Shannon! ‘I love you’ for sticking through this with me!

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Pages to learn about the Living Chapter monthly challenges.

one LOVE


“Who is the true, deep down you? The you who you can feel when you are centered and grounded?” This may be a question that you answer through a feeling rather than through words.”

Chapter 11 wild card, Myra Margolin, poses this question in response to the Living Chapters experiment. I agree with Myra, this question may only be answered through feelings rather than words. Could it be possible to describe the deep down essence of who I am without leaning on the surface statements of what I do, what I own, who I am with, or what I consume? Try it. I have been working on this for the past 12 months and have failed to find  words or reason that surpass feeling.

During this year, I have noticed consistent occurrences in which I am completely centered and grounded. In these moments I lose track of time, I’m called to create, engaged in conversation, engulfed by nature, dizzy by dance, and am fully being myself without filter. I lock in – connect and WHOOSH everything else disappears. All worry, fretting, questioning and doubting fall aside. I feel aligned, focused, validated and supported in this place. Here I know that every choice and action I’ve taken allowed this to happen and every effort to stay open and giving has allowed me to recognize it. What is this “it” I am talking about? LOVE of course.

I reflected upon the topic  in Chapter 6 “Interpersonal Relationships”. Reading the French philosopher Luce Irigaray, I got lost in her abstract metaphors and lengthy emotional prose. Maybe I wasn’t fully understanding because I was not yet ready or open to?  Somehow though, by the end of this 12 month story, I have not only come to clear understanding and definition of what Love means for me, but I have also met someone who I believe has helped me redefine my whole concept of Love. Its true, just weeks before reaching my final chapter, I encountered love!

To me love is not a mere romantic attraction or the feeling of being complimented or acknowledged. It is about living honestly, fully being yourself – and sharing it openly. Not only giving, but also receiving what is given. Love lives in the moment of the exchange, letting go of all but trust and faith. It is the dissolving of separation, struggle, fears and doubts. Love is the place I am, when I realize I am one with my environment, I am the melody of the music I dance to, and I am the self created pieces of the puzzle I put together. The feeling of love is the friction and the energy created when reaching the mutual understanding of this exchange. Simultaneously giving while receiving unconditionally and involuntarily.

So how did I come to my defined meaning of this fleeting feeling? It may have something to do with consciously spending the last 12 months of my time focusing and reflecting upon my inner self this year. Who am I? What do I believe? What makes me happy? Through the Living Chapters structure, I gave myself the time, trust and faith that I could only lead to positive change. I gave myself the love and care needed that leads to growth.

My past patterns of giving to and for others before myself are changing. Living Chapters was an effort to become accountable to my friends in preparation of becoming accountable to myself. I created the rules and guidelines in the hopes of forming better habits and having new experiences. I never knew it could also lead to stronger intuition, confidence in my decisions, clarity in my mind, and allowing both open love and romantic love into my life.

And even now, as I find myself in uncertain times, about to make new choices that will re-direct the course of my life. I am feeling centered and grounded. By placing deep trust in myself and all writers participating in the process, I have been led to this place that Myra speaks of. I am ready for anything that will come and will welcome it when it arrives.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Pages to learn about the Living Chapter monthly challenges.

journey into summer


Walking through Walden’s web…

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary…” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

In response to my request for feedback on the Living Chapters year long project, chapter one writer Joe Gallo forwarded this quote to me from Thoreau’s “Walden”. Joe said, “I do think that this is the essence of your adventure – To live deliberately.” He also noted, that the last sentence of this quote is normally cut off when the quote shared. Joe included the last sentence commenting, “I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant except that one has a responsibility to resist resignation as much as possible. But if circumstances make resignation a necessity, let it be a conscious choice – an act –  rather a shoulder-drooping reaction to a sucky situation.”

Joe’s reflection and Thoreau’s quote struck a chord in me. Both describe what I believe to be the two of most profound gifts I received through living out the experiences of the past year. The first, being the strong desire to live a more mindful, intentional and deliberate life. The other gift being my new awareness and ability to meet, address, and accept resistance as an opportunity when necessary.

The Living Chapters structure planned the focus of my path monthly. It relieved me of the question of “what” I was going to do and presented me with the question of “how” was I was going to do it. Taking this time to specifically explore “how to live” has placed me not following Thoreau’s path of desired deliberate living but creating my own path.

Letting go of what I could not control this year, I followed guidelines and accepted suggestions while at the same time conjured my own personal energy and beliefs to breathe life into the written chapters given. This process revealed an alternate and interesting way to live. Day by day, I brought my focus back to the present challenge at hand and felt a shift occur.

Slowly over the months, I noticed the change from directing my life previously through vague instinct, external expectation and available opportunities to directing my choices through a set structure, stronger instinct, internal trust, external loyalty and the exchange of love. It has been a delicate balance between “letting go” of my old patterns while at the same time developing new intentional ones that work for my present life.

“I did not wish to live what was not life,” says Thoreau. It seems a simple desire, but in fact is not an easy thing to do. To live life deliberately cannot be accomplished in 12 months time; it must be put into a daily practice and nourished over a lifetime.

In the defined space and time Living Chapters allowed, I merely began the exploration of self and the understanding of others and our environment. As if I were left out in the woods, I slowly discovered what worked or didn’t work for me in every chapter. With each challenge I took a closer look at what I believed, how I felt and what I was capable of. Setting the themes for chapters, before starting set the intentions for my year. Showing me where and how I wanted to grow and develop.

Each player in Living Chapters pushed and supported me by dictating tasks that illuminated my strengths and addressed my weaknesses. They stretched boundaries and sparked fears challenging me to make and break new habits and banish old patterns. The chapters that fueled my resistance were most beneficial. Through the resistance I began to understand and accept that discomfort and confusion can be the first step to clarity and contentment. Understanding what was holding me back was, for me, the key that is allowing me to move forward.

I will leave you with a couple more quotes from Walden that resonated with me.  Thanks to Joe for bringing me back into the woods this summer.

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to learn more about what happens when you live your life through chapters.

epilogue: independence day


“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”
      –  William Faulkner

Ask and you shall receive…

I asked for self development, growth and transformation. I requested change and challenge in the form of written chapters that could help guide my story forward. The Living Chapters structure and its players generously provided, giving all that and more. Trusting my initial intuition, I let go and put faith and trust in the ones I loved to guide my path.  Now it is “Independence day”.

Just a few days into freedom from the structured chapters and how do I feel? It’s as if I just finished a 12-month marathon, or a 12-step program? Either way – an intensive mind-body and soul makeover.  I’m a bit sore, in shock, and invigorated at the same time.

Now that the year has addicted me to the process of reflecting through writing, I feel the need to take at least the month of July to wean myself off the program by responding (in writing) to the feedback, questions, critique and comments I have been given from the Living Chapters participants and readers.

This “Independence day” post is directed in response to question #1 from radio producer/interviewer extraordinaire, Aaron Henkin.  Aaron played the wild card for chapter six and also invited the Living Chapters players and I on his popular Baltimore radio show The Signal. Today Aaron asks me, what many have been asking all along, what will I now do with my new-found freedom? Freedom! A scary thing to many – a blank slate and abyss of choices!  Just what will I do?

IMG_5219    “What’s it like for you now that LC is over and done?  Do you know what to do with yourself when you wake up in the morning?”

Well Aaron… yes, I actually do know what to do each morning! Even without a monthly chapter prescription!  It seems these days, there is rarely a moment when I don’t know how to utilize my time.  And as far as mornings, I am very specific about it!  After waking, I have, for once in my life, become remarkably consistent. Chapter 4 brought a new meditation practice into my life: 15 min in the morning and 15 min in the evening each day.  I have kept with this practice and am now averaging 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening.  Meditation isn’t the only thing that has stuck with me through the roller coaster existence moving through one month to the next.  But it’s one of the most helpful and useful tools I’ve picked up.

I was inundated with a plethora of requests filling each month. I thought it virtually impossible to accomplish them all in four week’s time.  I tried though and merely scratched the surface of many tasks attempted. I am now eager to dive in and try some out again. Returning to the past chapter tasks will not only help me understand how the LC process has changed me, but will be a good way to test and try on the lessons learned.

In addition to meditation, the major transformation occurring, now that the project is over is my love of writing.  Writing for me was the main physical goal of this project – an act that I had been avoiding both personally and professionally for years. This task, before June of last year, seemed incomprehensible and made me anxious. Instead of writing, I would grab my camera, or my audio recorder as a means to reflect, express or document my world.  Through Living Chapters this has now changed.

So what will I do now that it’s over?  All I can say is that I will continue to write.  In what form, I don’t know yet. Living my 12 chapters and writing about them this year helped me find my voice and use it in a new way.  I had always felt my strong sense of intuition and inner guidance but now, after living out my chapters, I can honestly say that I hear my voice more clearly and trust it more fully.  As I continue to live on my story, the logical next steps are, of course, to hone my skills in using my voice more frequently. Time to put more trust in myself and start learning how to write and sing my own soundtrack.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to learn more about what happens when you live your life through chapters.

confidant conclusion


Beth, I have few parting words for you as you start your next chapter. I don’t know how this will unfold, I don’t know your next chapter or if there will be a sequel. I do, however, know what you taught me over the last 12 months. I hope that might be useful to you in your journey and as you live your chapters to come.  

In the past year, while you explored the unknown, and bound yourself to the challenges, structures and limitations given to you by others, I have been building my own walls, setting foundations, making things happen, creating boundaries, schedule and structure that I never had in my life. There was a place for this and a need for it. Some of it has been necessary, but likewise some of it has been limiting. What I realize is that you have given me my next chapters to live through your example. I have been intuitive in my life at times, reacting rather than choosing, learning and shifting with people and opportunities that come in and out of my life, but slowly, over time, I have disconnected from those instincts. I want to reclaim them. I need more balance. So, I choose to challenge myself for the next 12 months to be less logical and structured, less tied to obligation and convention, and more willing to accept what I cannot change around me and listen to the universe. Control, planning, logic, can be frustrating and narrowing, as much as useful and expansive in the way they make you think. I ask you to consider how these tools may balance your fluid life, as much as letting go of them may challenge mine. 
As with everything, you well know, the key is balance in life. A balance of trusting the universe and the relationships and people who influence you, and pushing and shaping your life to make your world all that you want it to be.
I recently visited a friend of mine, in DC, and on her wall in huge letters she had written, “You are living your story.” What a statement to have over your bed, and to see every morning. So much pressure! But, there is truth in it. Every day we add another page to a book that gets longer and longer. How can we make sure that every day we make our lives as interesting, balanced, and fulfilling as we can, but still control, guide, and shape the book we end up with when all the pages are bound together? 


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to learn more about what happens when you live your life through chapters.