Be yourself!

snowflake3 (icy snowflake)Deepak Chopra, the author, lecturer, and endocrinologist once said, “Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss.” But what if, like me occasionally, you feel as if you have lost your bliss entirely . . . or perhaps you even feel as if you never found your bliss in the first place? I have said many times in my blog posts that material possessions and such ephemeral things as fame and fortune will not give you happiness or contentment. The question is, what will fill that void within your soul?

The key may begin with making sure that you are living a life that is authentically yours. If, for example, you are living a life in which your goals have been guided  by the desires or wishes of others or you are pursuing your goals for the wrong reasons, then you are compromising the person that you are. In a world in which the superficial is often more highly prized than the ordinary and jealousy is much more common than feelings of generosity and benevolence towards others, there is a tendency to compare ourselves to other people . . . people who may or may not be anything like us.

Rather than focusing on that which we can do, many of us expend our mental energy thinking about that which those around us are able to do, and resenting the advantages they have over us. It could be said that envy and covetousness are perfectly “normal” emotions, and that those who do not admit to experiencing traces of them at least every now and then are hypocrites. Yet, when we envy that which someone else has or we are jealous of that which someone else has accomplished, are we not failing to acknowledge and appreciate the authentic being that we are?

I’m certain that you’ve heard that every snowflake is different from another . . . that each is in some way unique. Do you know what causes the dissimilarities in snowflakes? It is the discrepancies in temperature and the humidity conditions that bring about the changes. Remarkably enough, even snowflakes created in laboratory snow tanks are dissimilar to each other. It has been said that each snowflake carries the physical history of its own personal travels. Well, are we not in many ways like a snowflake? Whether they be good or bad, painful or joyful, the experiences that come into our life and the people who cross our paths help mold us into the people who we become.  And in many ways we determine whether or not the outcome is positive or negative.

To a certain extent, I am a bit of a skeptic. I do not subscribe to the idea that we are at the mercy of fate or that the stars will predict our destiny. Yet, how we use our minds on a daily basis truly will impact the way that our lives continue and end. All too often, people become so accustomed to destructive thought patterns that they develop the habit of thinking negatively, even when they are unconscious of it. To a significant extent, the environment in which we were raised as children influences how we see the world when we are adults. If we were discouraged from expressing ourselves in a way that enabled us to appreciate our own uniqueness–if, for instance, we were compared to other siblings or experienced abuse or neglect–we will tend to look upon the world as being intensely competitive. We may even see it as a hostile universe where no one can be trusted, not even those to whom we are closest. The danger is when we allow ourselves to subscribe to the idea that this type of vantage point is based in reality.

Indeed, the world is competitive in many ways, and, yes, it can be cold and brutal. But that does not mean that we are doomed to lead lives of what author Henry David Thoreau would call “quiet desperation”. Even if we have suffered nothing but abuse, betrayal, and pain up until this time, if we do not believe that our lives can turn around for the better, it isn’t the universe or fate that is placing a curse upon us. Rather, we are placing a curse upon ourselves.

Stephen Covey has spoken of how there are two types of people in this world: those who are effective and those who are ineffective. Covey believes that the ineffective people are those who allow life to happen to them . . . those who think that they were born under an “unlucky star” or who somehow think the forces of the universe are conspiring to make their lives miserable. The ineffective people are the first to cast blame on others for the mistakes they made, for many times admitting their own guilt would chip away at their already fragile self-esteem.

Conversely, effective people are those who are willing to admit their mistakes and who do their best to profit by them. They tend to disregard such terms as “destiny” and “fate” and refuse to accept the idea that they do not have power over most of the events that take place in their lives. To a large extent, ineffective people are guided by their emotions. Instead of stopping to think before they act, they frequently behave rashly, only to be perplexed, bewildered, and overwhelmed when the ramifications of their actions leave them playing the part of the “victim”.

At many times in my own life, I have been an ineffective person. Having come from a dysfunctional family, I did not have the role models I would have needed growing up that would have enabled me to effortlessly become an effective individual. When  you already feel inadequate or have issues with your self-image, the last thing you want to do is accept the fact that you have had a pivotal part in the mess that you’ve made of a specific situation, a career, or an important relationship. However, until you can see yourself clearly and objectively–until you can look in the mirror and see the real you rather than an idealized image of yourself–how will you ever create a personal vision for your life?

I find it interesting that, according to scientific studies, a large percentage of people see both themselves and their lives as being better than they actually are.  Could it be that gaining clarity about every aspect of our life is too painful for many of us to bear on a psychological level? And, if so, is the short-term attempt to sugarcoat our lives going to bring us long-term happiness, or will it only prevent us from ever experiencing true bliss? If you chose to ignore all the flaws in a diamond or an emerald, would those flaws go away? Even if the gem appears to be flawless from a distance or to an unobservant eye, would it diminish the imperfections?

 As I have said before, we are all, in a way, a gem that is in the process of being polished. But if there are flaws that we need to work to eliminate first, all the polishing in the world isn’t going to make us into the person that we want to be. Although many thinkers, philosophers, and authors have expressed this thought in similar words, I still believe that Gandhi said it best: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” One person cannot even begin to change the world, but if we want to see the world start to change, we should start with changing ourselves.

I have found that one of the most important things we can do–an essential step in starting to embrace our own authentic selves–is to let go of the judgements and assumptions we make about other people. When we begin to criticize those around us, we shift the focus from something that we have control over to something that is completely outside our “zone of power”. While you do not have to agree with others or even pretend to, to let the people whom you know have their own opinions and views on every subject, even those which you feel vehement about, is mandatory for creating the life of your dreams. Ultimately, the only life you are going to live is your own. And, no matter what anyone else does, whether you agree with it or not, your own decisions, thoughts, and opinions are the only ones you have the right to establish, change, or sustain.

A lot of complications that come into our lives stem from our inability to separate that which we can control from that which we cannot control. Author and speaker Wayne Dyer has used the label “authoritarian” to describe those people who have the need to force others to subscribe to their same views and opinions. I think that authoritarians oftentimes seek a sense of self-importance that comes from shoving their beliefs down someone else’s throat. But, even if they are successful at doing this, that feeling of self-importance that they want to experience will continue to elude them.

The only way that you will feel important is if you establish a definitive sense of self-worth within yourself . . . and nobody else can give that to you, even if they share all of your beliefs and opinions. In fact, there is no amount of money on earth and no relationship, no matter how fulfilling it may seem, that will give you a feeling of self-worth if you don’t already experience that inside yourself. You have to let go of what you think you should be and what others have told you that you could or couldn’t be to become the person that you’re meant to be. Sometimes, that which will give us ultimate satisfaction in life is so far removed from that which anyone else has encouraged us to pursue that we feel as if we are walking alone down a road that is dark and lonely, bordered by trees on both sides. There may not be anyone there to tell us that we’re making the right choice–it may be a case of us having to trust our instincts about what is right for us.  

A man who had to carve his own niche in life, in spite of criticism from everyone around him, was Wilson Bentley, the farmer who went on to compile the most remarkable photographic collection in history. What were the photographs of? Snowflakes. Although the idea of studying snowflakes would not inspire most people, Bentley was utterly inspired by the magnificence of what he referred to as his “snow blossoms”. Because he followed his instincts and embraced his own extraordinary potential, he not only found his bliss but also stayed connected to it.

In one scientific paper that Bentley wrote about his studies of snowflakes, he used the word “beauty” or “beautiful” forty times in a mere nine pages. To be so enraptured with one’s work is what anyone would surely desire. If more of us were this enthralled with the career path we decided upon, think of what our world would be  like! Rather than a society made up primarily of people leading a humdrum existence that never fills up the void within them, people would wake up each day feeling exuberant and glad to be alive for another twenty-four hours.

Isn’t that the way you want to live? Don’t delude yourself into imagining that you will find bliss or contentment through anything other than fulfilling your individual purpose in the world. If you look at those who have millions of dollars and are famous around the world, only a mere handful of them are truly happy. Shakespeare may have said that the world is a stage and we are all players, but, if you could trade in a “fake” life, a makeshift existence that is leaving you empty and unfulfilled, wouldn’t you do so in a heartbeat? It doesn’t matter what we’ve been told that we must survive . . . whether we have subscribed to the idea that life is difficult and unfair and we must simply bear with it. We are not a character out of a novel by Charles Dickens, and we do not go through our entire existence being miserable and unhappy. Although great works of literature, art, and music have been produced through emotional and physical suffering, it wasn’t necessarily because of this suffering that these masterpieces were produced but rather in spite of them.

I am learning so much about life as I write my blog and share my insight with you. There are so many questions I still have in regard to how optimal happiness is attainable and how we can differentiate between dreams and goals that are realistic and those that will always be just beyond our grasp. Having not written a blog post in nearly three weeks, I have had quite a lot of time to reflect upon my own life and to recommit to being the kind of Diva who will truly make a difference in the lives of those who read my blog. You and I are on this journey together . . . and that is something I hope you will never forget.

For today, it is my heartfelt wish that you will look upon yourself as a snowflake, in human form . . . a unique being entirely different from anyone else. I want you to pursue the destiny that is yours alone. It is waiting for you, but only you can discover it and fulfill it.

Live with enthusiasm, faith, confidence, and passion!

Until soon,

Your SuccessDiva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages are written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva

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Free yourself!

believe173 (bird flying)As I’ve said many times before, life is a series of peaks and valleys, and what can seem like the most difficult thing in the world is holding onto the idea that there is still a mountain to climb when we feel as if we’re sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand of despair. It’s not always easy to convince ourselves that changing our life is really as simple as changing our thoughts, and, to a certain extent, it is a bit more complicated than that. We must combine actions with our thoughts to design a life that will bring us ultimate fulfillment.  When these two things match up–deeds and thoughts–in a way that is positive and effective, miraculous events actually do take place.

Those who are skeptical are reluctant to believe in miracles, and you don’t actually have to subscribe to that belief in order to bring into your life blessings that seem like miracles. One thing that keeps us from engaging fully in life is the fact that we set definitive limits on ourselves and our abilities, whether we realize it or not. These limits shape our thoughts, and those thoughts, in turn, determine our actions.  It may be daunting to think about the fact that what you’re doing on a daily basis right now is going to have a significant impact on the way your life turns out, but day-to-day living has a much greater influence on our destiny than we want to admit.

If, for example, you’re holding onto toxic energy connected with past experiences or your own fears and doubts about yourself, the life force within you will never be able to free itself, which means that you will always live in a prison of your own creation. I’ve spoken before about getting outside the box, but that concept can be explored even more profoundly. It isn’t just a “box” that we put ourselves in–it’s actually a prison. After all, some boxes can be unlocked and opened. But when you’re in a prison, you’re kept away from the outside world by bars and locks. Ironically, many people consider that they have a realistic view of the world and human nature when they allow themselves to think the worst of everyone they meet, rather than allowing themselves to continue to trust. Living can be experienced richly on a very instinctual basis, but,  when those instincts are wrong or clouded by subjective reasoning, it’s beneficial to begin examining things more analytically and less instinctively. Is it realistic to think that you can never achieve anything just because you have had disappointing results thus far? Realism and faith may seem antithetical, but, in an ideal scenario, the two should work hand in hand like two ingredients in a recipe that never fails to produce outstanding results. Does that make sense?

Realism is not and never has been the same as pessimism. George Lucas, the well-known film producer of such movies as Star Wars and Return of the Jedi has confessed that he is a cynic. At the same time, he also says that he is an optimist who has never let himself be hampered by the critics or by those who have told him that his dreams couldn’t come true. Perhaps, the fact that Lucas was at one time a race car driver demonstrates that he had the inherent spirit of a risk-taker. To take risks demands a tremendous amount of courage, not merely because it’s so hard to have complete faith in ourselves but because there are always those naysayers around us who will tell us what we “cannot” do. Since Star Wars was such a groundbreaking movie, it only stands to reason that plenty of narrow-minded people told Lucas that it was an impossibility, before he got the project off the ground.  Had Lucas not been such a big dreamer and had he not had an enormous amount of confidence in his dreams, he would not be the household name that he is today.

There is little doubt that the surest way to accomplish any dream, big or small, is to visualize its completion from the beginning.  For one thing, our minds generally cannot tell the difference between something that we strongly imagine and that which actually transpires. Wayne Dyer, the self-development expert whose books and audio programs have sold millions of copies around the world, says that the the only way to see any sort of transformation in our lives is to believe in it before we see it. At the root of visualization is will-power. We must be willing to visualize ourselves accomplishing that which we aspire towards. We have to make a conscious choice to engage in visualization, casting aside any misplaced ideas we may have about such concepts being nothing more than funky New Age ideas. Regrettably, some people are so quick to label anything that they don’t understand fully as being “weird” that they close themselves off from strategies that could make a world of difference in their lives.

Labels–in regard to people, ideas, and life itself–are something I would urge everyone to dispense of. For like deeply ingrained prejudices, labels have a way of narrowing your own way of thinking, even if you mistakenly believe that you’re only applying them to someone else. Once  you begin to label things,  you will find that you’re closing windows and doors of your world that might have offered you interesting and perhaps even life-changing experiences. It’s one thing to make wise choices and use sound judgment, but labels are unnecesary and only serve to foster a limited belief system. And, there are certain labels that can destroy others and corrupt the beauty of your own soul. Such words as “fat”,” stupid”, and “ugly” should be permanently removed from the vocabulary of anyone who wants to experience happiness or success over the course of their life. In a way, such labels are words of hate. And, as I said in my most recent post, “Cultivate your Garden,” destructive emotions are like weeds in your garden. No matter how beautiful your flowers may be, if you grow an abundance of weeds the blossoms will all be destroyed. For, just as dark clouds passing over the sky block out the sun, toxic emotions will seep into your heart, eventually leaving no oxygen to nourish love, kindness, compassion, or generosity. As surely as water quenches one’s thirst, a spirit of hate will also quench a spirit of love, and, even if you think that you can love and hate at the same time, I challenge you to examine whether or not you’re genuinely experiencing both of these emotions simultaneously.

When I was younger, I was someone who often spoke without thinking and allowed myself to give into outbursts of temper. Although I always felt depleted after getting angry, I failed to connect the fact that I was robbing myself of energy and power by letting such a destructive emotion overtake me. Those who get angry easily sometimes experience a false sense of power when they manage to intimidate others. True power, however, can never be had at the expense of others. If what you believe to be power comes from evoking fear in another person, it’s not really power at all. It is inherent weakness, stemming from a tarnished self-image and a lack of genuine self-assurance. Cowards are the ones who tyrannize and manipulate others. Courageous men and women are secure enough in themselves and their own capacities that they have no need to control anyone around them. When you think about Napoleon, the notorious onetime Emperor of France, even though you may admire his tenacity and determination, you have to admit that he did demonstrate a certain amount of cowardice. His ruthless desire for power without considering the needs of anyone else shows that he had a need to win at all costs simply to be important in his own eyes.

Do any of us really want to live that way? Do we want to be imprisoned by fears, doubts, and feelings of worthlessness? I tend to think that prisons we build for ourselves come in many different shapes and sizes. There are those that allow us room to reach our own goals, yet prevent us from considering the needs of those around us. And there are also prisons that force us to place limits on ourselves, thereby eliminating the possibility of us ever enjoying contentment on any level.  In order to be free, we have to let others have their freedom, too. That’s a lesson that isn’t learned overnight, but it’s one that will change everything about the lives of those who  haven’t yet learned it. When you free yourself, you free those around you, too. You realize that the only thing you can control and should control are your thoughts, opinions, and decisions. When you are completely free, you want to give others the freedom to be free, too, for you realize that the only way you will be able to sustain your freedom is if everyone else has freedom, too. There are situations in which it seems impossible to give another person that freedom that they deserve. For example, if you love someone and they don’t want to be with you, you may have to fight every fibre of your being to pull back and let them go. But, in not letting go of someone or something, you are putting yourself back in a prison and giving up your own freedom. Freedom cannot exist unless everyone is given the right to make their own choices and subscribe to their own belief systems.

The writer Dame Rebecca West was a woman who destroyed her ability to have any happiness in life because of her desire to imprison others in the cage of her own expectations. Although the heroines in much of her literature are liberated and free-spirited, West herself was unable to remove the gate around her heart in order to give unconditional love and acceptance to those who she cared for most. In her personal relationships, West thrived on the art of intimidation, for she wrongly believed that she could manipulate others into behaving in a way that conformed with her wishes by using the force of her will. Willpower may be a potent force, but the results it achieves sometimes come about at the expense of kindness and love. West was forced to be satisfied with the contentment she experienced through the success of her writing for even her son didn’t want to spend much time in her company. West’s objectives were achieved–yet she paid dearly for them.

It all comes down to the simple fact that there are consequences from every one of your actions. This is why you have to let go of destructive thinking patterns that include limiting beliefs about yourself and negative emotions towards others in order to be free–free in the truest sense of the word, like a bird that has been let out of its cage in order to fly. Don’t let another day go by in which you remain imprisoned in a web of false ideas and narrow-minded beliefs. Let go. . .free yourself and let the joy of your freedom be shared with everyone else!

Live with passion, enthusiasm, and courage. . .and make each moment matter!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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This page and all written material at the Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

Cultivate your garden!

garden13 (rose)The great author, Oscar Wilde once said, “All of us are living in the gutter; but some of us are looking at the stars.” In a way, I think that this sums up the two types of people who are in the world. There are those who focus on all the problems and difficulties in their lives. . .and there are those who strive towards concentrating on their blessings. Whether we call this an attitude of gratitude or something similar yet different, there is something to be said for those who make a conscious choice not to allow the difficulties that cross their paths to prevent them from ever experiencing any joy or contentment.

Have you ever wondered why some people with cancer that is supposed to be terminal end up living long lives yet others, who have a better prognosis, end up surviving only a short amount of time? Do you find it hard to understand sometimes why there are those people who seem to bounce back from a series of setbacks that would cause most people to give up, but do you find yourself giving into despair simply because the supermarket is out of the flavor of ice cream you enjoy most? Well, in a way, I think that gratitude is a cultivated habit, rather than something that a person comes by naturally. And, like any other habit, it requires practice before it becomes second nature. However, you cannot expect wonderful things to happen in your life if all you are do is complain about the things that aren’t taking place.

Each of us has a choice–we can either embrace our lives fully or we can live in shades of black and white. We can be like a multi-colored butterfly that alights on every flower with enthusiasm and delight, or we can be like a dead leaf that falls off a tree, only to be swept up in the current of the first turbulent wind. When you think about a butterfly, you should take into consideration that its life span is very brief. Yet, what does it bring to the world around it before it dies? It gives beauty and joy to those who see it–it adds color and vibrancy to it surroundings.  Should not each of us do the same?

Someone who comes to mind when I think of a person who has truly cultivated the garden in her life is the amazing writer, radio host, and founder of the organization, Joni and Friends, Joni Eareckson Tada.  Joni, who was left paralyzed from a diving accident that took place in 1967, reached such a point of personal despair following the catastrophe that she asked her friends to help her commit suicide. But, rather than ending her life, she turned things around and let the riches within her soul blossom forth in ways that have touched millions. Her inspiring biography, Joni, was an international bestseller, and the book was even made into a feature-length film of the same name.

In spite of not having the use of her arms or legs, Joni learned how to paint by holding a paintbrush between her teeth. Her paintings have been collected by dozens of fine art connoisseurs, and Joni has also authored thirty-five books. The question that comes to mind is this: how can a woman who is at such a disadvantage make more of her life than millions of men and women who seem to have an ideal life in comparison to hers? Is it luck? Is it fate? Was she simply blessed by God or the Divine Creator? Well, I tend to agree with the words of Seneca, who once said that luck is “what happens when opportunity meets preparation.” I believe Joni’s heart and soul were both prepared to bless and inspire the lives of those around her, and her accomplishments have merely been a by-product of the extraordinary woman that she is.

The majority of us will never have to face a set of circumstances such as that which Joni has managed to overcome. So, what’s our excuse for not cultivating the garden we’ve been given? Why do our flowers die from lack of nourishment, and why do we let weeds grow as plentifully as cracked and broken seashells scattered on the beach? Are our lives of so little inherent value to us that we allow them to be frittered away on petty worries, distractions, and obstacles that are only insurmountable in our own minds?  As you and I both know, we make all the choices in our lives, whether we accept responsibility for them or not. In accepting responsibility, what we do is hand ourselves the power to make the decisions that are best for us, rather than engaging in what I call “living by default”.  When you live by default, you imagine yourself to be at the mercy of chance. You may even let yourself buy into such lies as the idea that you are born to be a failure or are meant to never have happiness. One can easily draw conclusions as to how the life of Joni Eareckson might have been different if she had subscribed to such negative patterns of thinking. I daresay she would have never made an impact on the life of anyone. In all likelihood, she would have succeeded only in ending her own life.

So, do our thoughts really shape our destiny? Can the way we see the world truly end up transforming our life in a negative or positive way, depending on which pair of glasses we choose to view the world through? I believe the answer to both these questions is a definitive ‘yes’, and many of  those who are experts in psychology and psychiatry, in addition to scientists, share this vantage point. My friend and mentor, Denis Waitley, wrote a wonderful book called Empires of the Mind, and, in a way, merely from its title, this book exemplifies the concept that our minds are miniature kingdoms over which we must proclaim dominion. All of us know that the power of the human mind is greater than any of us can even envision. This is why we need to take ownership of our mind, discriminating between those thoughts which we allow to remain etched in our subconscious and those that we should instantly let go of.

Without taking ownership of our mind, the gardens of our lives will always be in disarray. They may even end up being entirely overridden with weeds. It’s not the thorns on the roses that end up preventing us from enjoying the beauty of the blossoms. Rather, it’s those weeds choking our roses, smothering them with their toxic energy and preventing them from breathing the oxygen that gives them  life. Unfortunately, weeds don’t always look like weeds, either. There are times when weeds appear to be flowers, and they may even look particularly beguiling in terms of their outward appearance. But like anything that possesses beauty that is strictly superficial, a weed disguised as a flower will not wait long to show its true nature. As soon as it’s planted among your gorgeous flowers, it will immediately began to draw energy from those blossoms, depleting them of their richness, their vitality, their splendor, and their very essence. This is why cultivating your garden on a daily basis is so important. The weeds must be disposed of immediately, before they have a chance to do any permanent damage. One strategy to combat weeds is to make sure that you always plant and nurture plenty of flowers. 

Flowers such as as generosity, compassion, integrity, persistence, courage, kindness and faith will always have a unique and innate power of their own. Even when weeds attempt to cut off their supply of oxygen, these flowers are too tenacious to be destroyed. St. Augustine came to the conclusion that man made a mistake in attempting to eradicate such evil forces as hate, violence, jealousy, and bitterness in the world. Rather than embarking on a quest to destroy or battle evil, he suggested that we focus instead on the nature of goodness, which embodies the attributes of grace and virtue. When we strive to be kind, generous, honest, thoughtful, and loving, we are actively participating in creating goodness.  

The problem is, in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day existence, it’s easy to lose sight of those essential traits and focus on that which is superficial and of short-term benefit to us and our lives. We worry about which movie we’re going to see at the cinema or which restaurant we’re going to eat lunch or supper at. Yet, what lasting value do these activities have? Would our lives be changed in a dramatic way if we skipped the movie altogether or if we decided to dine at home? Whenever we choose to do something, we are automatically giving up the chance of doing something else. After awhile, fully comprehending this makes you see things a little differently. For example, watching a television program that is more of a way to fill up time than something that we truly enjoy or benefit from becomes a lot less important. Similarly, whether or not we get to try a dish that a restaurant in town is famous for starts to seem insignificant.

When you begin to think bigger and expand your viewpoint, the things that were important move into the distance, almost out of view. Your garden starts to look like an earthly paradise because your flowers are strong and luscious, capable of withstanding the most pernicious weeds. Sure, you’ll always need to keep a pair of gardening gloves handy, for those roses will always have a few thorns. But, in a way, those thorns make the roses even more beautiful, for they force those who handle them to use a gentle touch.

What would you like for your garden to look like in six months.  . .in a year.  .  . in five years? Do you want to see clumps of weeds strangling your flowers, or would you prefer to see magical blossoms of splendor and vitality? The choice is yours, for only you are the keeper of your garden. So, cultivate the flowers and discard the weeds!

Make each moment matter! Live with enthusiasm, passion, and courage! Celebrate life!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva 

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This page and all written materital at the Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are served. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

Reinventing yourself!

believe43 (butterfly)There is only one way to truly live. . .and that is on the edge. Although I believe that we must use wisdom in the choices we make, if we don’t learn to take risks, we’ll never be able to use our full potential. You know, I lived my life with the dream that I would one day be a performing classical violinist. However, when that dream came to an end I was faced with two choices: either I could give up on life entirely or I could decide to reinvent myself.  A lot of people come from the place where they think that they have to somehow make a career or a relationship work out that seems to be dead-end. They don’t understand that only in letting go of that which is no longer beneficial can they bring the things into their lives that will give them fulfillment. It would be like keeping your closet full of clothes that don’t fit anymore or shoes that are too worn-out to continue wearing. Would you actually do that? I know I wouldn’t.

And yet, many of us are doing something similar to this with our lives. We make the mistake of trying to change ourselves while keeping things and people in our lives that are not part of our long-term vision. Reinventing yourself is about more than simply altering you. You also have to be willing to unclutter that closet! You must pull the weeds out of the garden to enjoy the flowers.

In addition to toxic thoughts, there are also toxic people, and they can be every bit as deadly to keep in your life as toxic thoughts are to keep in your mind. At the heart of most motivational thinking and writing is the basic concept that your thoughts can transform your world. Now I’ve been told by some people that so-called “positive thinking” does nothing for them. Well, if your thoughts are not followed up by relevant actions, you aren’t going to notice a transformation taking place. And that’s what you need sometimes, isn’t it? A transformation in your life.

I have had to transform both myself and how I see the world countless times, and I still struggle with breaking free from toxic thinking. Like anything that is nourished by practice, toxic thinking can easily become a habit. Pretty soon, you may notice that it’s not even something you actually. . .well. . .think about. You simply lapse into thoughts of unworthiness, hopelessness, helplessness, or despair. But, even if you have been guilty of this up to this very moment, you don’t have to continue down that beaten road that isn’t ever going to take you anywhere. Remember how I keep talking about the yellow brick road that will lead you to the Emerald City of your dreams?

When I think of someone who has constantly reinvented herself from one decade to the next, I cannot help but think of the singer and actress, Madonna. Whether you’re a fan of her music or not, I think it’s almost impossible not to admire her determination to continue to do whatever is takes to continue being successful. Even when things haven’t worked out the way she undoubtedly intended them to, she hasn’t let it get her down. My songwriter friend, the amazingly talented Anna Ginetti-Ricci, pointed out what an icon of courage and strength Madonna has always represented to her. And I found myself agreeing with Anna that Madonna truly is a woman who has been uncommonly resilient and resourceful.

Many of Madonna’s films, for example, have been box-office bombs. Yet, she hasn’t stopped trying to pursue a career in movies. She has been crucified by her critics, mercilessly attacked in the press, and scrutinized in a way that would have surely torn apart the self-esteem of a lesser woman. But she’s understood that only in bouncing back from every temporary defeat will she have the kind of life and career she desires.

The American author, Terry McMillan, probably best known for her New York Times bestseller, the novel, Waiting to Exhale, once said,  “There is a price for popularity. Critics look for your weaknesses, your flaws, anything that makes the work seem like a fluke and not seem worthy of all the attention is getting.” And Henry Fielding, the celebrated English author of such classics as the novel, Tom Jones, once wrote, “Now, in reality, the world has paid too great a compliment to critics, and have imagined them to be men of greater profundity than they really are. ” And there’s no doubt that both Terry McMillan and Henry Fielding are right. If you don’t have some people around telling you that your dreams are impossibilities, your dreams probably aren’t big enough. You know, a lot of people might not have thought of looking at it this way. However, it really does take every bit as much energy and effort to create big dreams as little dreams. It’s sort of like nourishing yourself on positive emotions rather than negative, destructive emotions. Feelings of anger, frustration, hate, and bitterness wear you down, both from a physical and a psychological standpoint.

Haven’t you ever noticed how tired you feel after you have a fight with someone? For instance, if you have a quarrel with a friend or with your spouse in the morning, haven’t you perceived that the rest of the day seems to automatically go in the wrong direction? It’s as if the entire day has been jinxed, simply because of the spat. And most of the time, nothing positive has been accomplished from the argument. Instead, you and your friends or partner most likely feel unloved, unappreciated, and misunderstood. One of my role models, the marvelous motivational speaker and author, Stephen Covey, speaks of the importance of seeking to understand the people around us. In fact, his philosophy is summed up in this sentence, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Yet how many of us really live that way?

In treating life as the opportunity it is, I feel that what we must do is transform the way we relate to the people in our lives. In fact, improving and changing the way we communicate with others is essential to redefining who we are. We can’t reinvent ourselves if we hold onto old patterns of behavior. I grew up with a father who frequently lost his temper, and, when he did, he would alienate everyone around him. He had difficulty with authority and was compelled to own and run his own businesses because the idea of working for anyone else filled him with resentment.

Because I saw the way in which my father’s attitude towards life and other people affected his relationships, I have understood how important it is to treat others with respect and dignity. It can be devastating when we allow our destructive emotions to take over our behavior. When we react to situations and other people’s actions and words with anger or hate, all we are doing is allowing ourselves to be overpowered by our emotions. And it’s our thoughts that will transform our world—not our emotions.

It’s important to cultivate a generous and compassionate heart. When we let our heart rule our head, though, we can easily get into a lot of stressful predicaments. We must think before we speak and before we act. . .otherwise we will inevitably succumb to feelings that will negatively influence both ourselves and others. An encouraging thing to keep in mind is that the more often we take control over our thoughts, words, and behavior, the easier it will become to continue doing so.

In recent times I have found myself desperately holding on to my inner serenity, mostly because I have been too caught up in letting other people’s actions influence my own opinion of myself. However, when I look towards those who have persisted in spite of relentless critcism that has been unfair and unjust, I know that I, too, can choose not to listen to the critics. I remember a few months ago when Oprah Winfrey was lambasted in the press because a situation involving child molestation arose in the girls’ school she founded in Africa. Even though Oprah was in no way personally responsible for this set of circumstances taking place, she was vastly criticized by her detractors, who did their best to cast aspersions on her character. Rather than putting the blame where it belonged, some wanted to take away from all the wonderful, benevolent things Oprah has done. They chose to try to make her feel guilty.

While I cannot know for sure how deeply Oprah was affected by all this criticism, I do know that she’s a resilient lady. She would not allow anyone to permanently diminish her feelings of self-worth. And I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not how many times we let ourselves be affected by the things that people say about us or the way in which they behave towards us. The most significant question is: do we let other peoples’ opinions of us and/or actions affect us permanently?

For example, if, like me, you grew up with a father who made you feel inadequate because you were a girl, do you continue to remind yourself of the things he told you and the way those words made you feel? Or do you choose to let the feelings of rejection you experienced from him strengthen you? There really are just two ways to respond to any negative situation, you know—you can either let it weaken you or you can let it make you stronger. Courage is not something that you are born with. It’s something that you learn to acquire. It may not be able to be purchased, but as you continue to reinvent yourself, you’ll start to see that courage really can be learned.

Courage is like “learned helplessness”, a term that the American psychologist and writer, Martin Seligman, coined. When you were born, you were not made to remain helpless as you grew. You did not come into the world with an inability to bounce back from the hurdles life put in your path. Any feelings of helplessness that you have now or have had in the past are a by-product of  the negative experiences that you have lived through. This is why the only way to start living a life that will be in alignment with your deepest desires is for you to replace the learned helplessness with courage and resilience. If you tend to focus on the negative side of life, it will be very difficult for you to turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. However, even if you can’t see it, if you’re holding onto negative thoughts and nourishing yourself with destructive feelings, there’s a big sign that says DEAD END at the end of the street you’re walking down. And, sooner or later, you’re going to reach that dead end. Then, what will you do?

The time to reinvent yourself is not next year, next week, or tomorrow. Why would you want to wait any longer to start walking down that yellow brick road that will lead you to happiness, success, and ultimate fulfillment? I know that the actor,  Jim Carrey, didn’t let roadblocks get in his way. He came from a family where money was so scarce that his family barely had enough to eat. Both of Jim’s parents battled deep depression, and, starting at a young age, Jim was faced with the responsibility of trying to cheer them up. Of course, he had it in his favor that he was naturally funny. In fact, he was a born mimic.

Although Jim was not a popular kid in school, he managed to become well-liked because of his amusing antics. At age fourteen, he was given the chance to perform in a well-respected club in his hometown of Toronto. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a success. But Jim had drive and determination, and he committed himself to not letting one failure steal his dreams. He perfected his comedy routine and, awhile later, returned to the same club, where he made a magnificent splash. His talent as a comedian was noticed by the American actor and comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. This connection is what landed Jim on the first step that would take him up the spiraling staircase of success. 

Your diva can tell you that she has experienced more setbacks than she would care to claim. However, my perseverance in not letting any of those setbacks be permanent is why I’m where I am today. I could never share my words of encouragement with all of you if I hadn’t first shared them with myself. I am very grateful to such inspirational people as Denis Waitley, Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, Les Brown, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, and Zig Ziglar for writing books and recording tape and CD programs that have encouraged me, but on a day-to-day basis I have to be my own coach. This is why I emphasize the importance of reinventing yourself.

If you’ve had crossroads and setbacks in your life that you haven’t yet recovered from, you need to start seeing a brand-new you every time you look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter whether you made a big mistake yesterday or last week. . .you can start anew at this very moment. Have you ever noticed how some flowers blossom overnight? Our next-door neighbors gave us a pot of spectacular trumpet flowers. The thing about it is, trumpet flowers only bloom for a few hours, and, when they do bloom, their blossoms unfold all at once. The transformation takes place overnight. Now it’s not going to be nearly as easy for you to transform yourself and/or certain aspects of your life. But it doesn’t have to take a minute for you to start the process of transformation. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Until soon,

Alexis

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This page and all written material at The Success Diva Pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

Amelia Earhart: Flying High

amelia1There have been few women who have made as much of an impact on history as the legendary aviator and author, Amelia Earhart. She was born Amelia Mary Earhart in Atchison, Kansas, on July 24, 1897. Amelia’s mother, Amy, did not believe in raising either Amelia or Amelia’s sister, Grace Muriel Earhart, to be “nice little girls”. Rather than playing with dolls, both children enjoyed hunting rats, climbing trees, and “rough-and-tumble” play. Growing up, Amelia also exhibited a large interest in reading, recalling later that she spent countless hours in the vast family library. Although Amelia experienced a tremendous amount of unhappiness growing up, she always had a tendency to focus her sights on women who had been successful in their chosen fields. In fact, she kept a scrapbook filled with photos of women who  inspired her. However, in one of her school yearbooks, she was described as “A.E.—the girl who walks in brown alone.”

 

After Amelia visited her sister in 1917, and she saw the wounded soldiers returning from taking part in the disastrous World War I, Amelia Earhart decided to train to be a nurse’s aide for the Red Cross. A year later, she developed health problems resulting from her arduous work at the Spandina Military Hospital during the Spanish Flu Epidemic. In November of 1918, Amelia was hospitalized for pneumonia. At this same time in her life, she also developed maxillary sinusitis, which ended up affecting her immensely in her later years.

Amelia clearly did not perceive what her life’s purpose was until she had explored other avenues. In 1919, she signed up at Columbia University to pursue a course in medical studies. However, destiny intervened. Not long after she returned to California, to live once again with her parents, Amelia and her father visited an airfield where she was given a free ride in a airplane by air racer, Frank Hawkes. Earhart said later, “By the time I was two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly.” Earhart was a plucky lady who possessed the kind of determination that it takes to get to the top of your chosen profession. She was willing to dedicate herself to her career, even though she knew there would be plenty of opposition she would be compelled to face. Earhart cut her hair short, donned a worn leather jacket, and bought her own bright yellow Kinner Airster biplane, which she nicknamed “The Canary”. When she received her pilot license on May 15, 1923, Earhart was only the 16th woman to accomplish this feat. By 1927, she had managed to accumulate over 500 miles of solo flying. One year later, Earhart gained notoriety by becoming the first woman to fly solo across North America and back. In spite of having her share of detractors, Earhart was becoming a celebrity. She was hailed as “The Queen of the Air”, and many magazines and newspapers began referring to her as “Lady Lindy”, noting her resemblance to famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh. She began promoting and endorsing various products, and stores like Macy’s even sold a line of clothing that was supposed to mimic Earhart’s sleek, practical, yet feminine style.

amelia2In keeping with her lack of conformity in other areas of her life, Earhart also had radical ideas about marriage.  Her husband, George P. Putnam, proposed to her six times before she actually agreed to accept him, and, when describing her marriage, Earhart referred to it as a “partnership” with “dual control”. The wedding itself took place on February 7, 1931, and there wasn’t a honeymoon.

Earhart made several solo flights before her planned world flight in 1937. After a failed attempt to make this flight, a second attempt began on June 1 of that year, when Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, left Miami, Florida, finally arriving in Lae, New Guinea, on June 29. It was on July 2, 1937, that Earhart took off from Lae, and, at approximately 8:43 that morning, Earhart transmitted her last known broadcast. There has been an immense amount of speculation as to what happened to Earhart and her plane. An aura of mystery surrounds the event, and, even to this day, Earhart’s disappearance remains one of the most interesting missing person cases.

hilary1Earhart is going to be portrayed by the two-time Oscar-winning actress, Hilary Swank, in a new biopic film about the remarkable aviator. Might Swank garner yet another Oscar for her depiction of this inspirational dame?

To read more about Amelia Earhart, her life, and her adventures, don’t miss checking out this remarkable site paying tribute to her: http://www.ameliaearhart.com/

 

Also, you can watch a portion of a documentary film on Amelia Earhart, entitled “Where’s Amelia Earhart?” by going  here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUR8r06EtVE

 

 

 

(photos: Amelia Earhart, a classic headshot of the striking lady; Earhart, looking sassy and self-assured; actress Hilary Swank, who will be portraying Earhart in a new biopic film)

 

This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

The present is yours

gift2

 

 

I have been very personal with everyone so far. In fact, I have gone out of my way to present everything from a personal perspective. This means, of course, that I share a lot about myself with all of you—some of you being people I have never met and probably never will meet. So, why am I sharing so much so freely?? It’s because I care about every one of you, even if I don’t know your name. The fact that you are reading this blog lets me know that you want to change your life, and this means that you and I have a lot in common. We are already what some people would call ‘kindred spirits’ whether you realize it or not. I use that phrase knowing that it is used too often and that sometimes it is not regarded with enough sincerity. If you loathe that phrase, forget this diva ever used it.

In keeping with sharing so many of my personal thoughts and feelings with all of you, I have a confession. There has already been more than one day this very month that I would call “one of the worst days of my life.” Yeah, we all have them, don’t we? And sometimes, after a good night’s sleep, we’re fortunate enough to view the world once more as a place that feels the warmth of the sun. Then again, there are times in our lives in which we have several bad days in succession. These are the really tough times, aren’t they? The times when even lots of sleep and eating your favorite flavor of ice cream doesn’t seem to help. Even watching one of your favorite films—a film that would usually make you laugh or cry or inspire you—leaves you feeling numb. I tend to think that there is a state of despair that is beyond sadness. Sadness can be dreadful when it is severe, and crying for several hours can wear you out. But what is worse than that, I think, is a feeling of numbness. It’s a feeling where you have reached your threshold of emotional or mental pain, and your body just closes down. Nothing really even moves you because nothing can—you have shut off your emotions. At times like these, even the death of a loved one might not affect you. In fact, the death of a loved one can actually bring about a feeling of numbness. The thing that’s frightening about that numb feeling is that you wonder if you are still fully alive. You wonder if a part of you—something that is essential to who you are—has died. Do I sound like I am fully familiar with this feeling? If so, it’s because I am.

You know, there are times when I know I am not having the right attitude towards life, and I have the idea that many of you have experienced this, too. Have there not been hours, days, and maybe even weeks when, rather than feeling grateful for all the blessings in your life, you have chosen to focus on all the problems instead? If there haven’t been, I admire you! In fact, I rather envy you. I would very much like to be one of those persons who always, without fail, had a wonderful attitude. The exceptional motivational speaker and author, Keith Harrell, wrote a book called Attitude Is Everything. I have recommended the book to strangers before—that is how impressed I was by it. It’s actually been a few years since I read it from cover to cover, but every now and then I pick it up—usually when my own attitude leaves a lot to be desired. I do think Keith Harrell has a point, but sometimes. . .well, isn’t it just almost impossible to transform a negative attitude into a positive one? Well.  .  .I think it can certainly seem impossible, particularly when we don’t stop to analyze why our attitude is so negative. Obviously, if our beloved pet has just died or our fiance/fiancee has broken up with us, we know why we’re feeling lousy. But are there not times when a bad attitude just seems to come out of the blue? I’ll admit that generally the cause is right under our nose. . .and right before our eyes. We also tend to have a tendency to take our less-than-wonderful attitude out on other people, usually people whom we know will love us no matter how badly we act. The problem is, of course, that inflicting our own pain on other people is only going to make us feel worse. Or haven’t you noticed? *wink* Truly, you do feel worse when other people are as miserable as you are. For one thing, you feel guilty. So, in addition to feeling depression or discouragement or hopelessness or anger. . .well, you also blame yourself. So, by that time, you have so many destructive emotions on your plate that there’s no room for the emotions that would nourish you, such as hope, faith, gratitude, and joy. Imagine if you were at a buffet and you decided to pile your plate high with nothing but foods that were laden with heavy sauces and gravy. How would you feel after you finished eating? Would you feel good? Might you not feel sluggish and lethargic? Well, life is like that, too. You must find a way to get rid of those emotions that are making you feel like giving up on yourself and on life if you’re ever going to feel brave and hopeful and happy. Doesn’t that make sense?? When a theatre has a sold out performance, there are no empty seats. When your freezer is packed with so much food that you can barely close the door, you aren’t going to be able to fit another carton of ice cream or another bag of frozen peas in there. It just isn’t going to happen. This is why I suggesting ridding your life of as many toxic people as you can. If you don’t, what’s going to happen is that there won’t be space for those people who will uplift you, inspire you, and make your life more marvelous.

I know my thoughts may seem to be more scattered than usual, but your diva is not in a mood to worry about how tidy her thought patterns are today. If it seems like I’m talking to myself almost as much as I’m talking to you. . .well, what can I say? I watched too many videos of Glenn Gould playing Bach over at You Tube. For those who are not very familiar with Glenn Gould, he often mumbled and hummed to himself while he was performing on the piano. Actually, I am talking to you. I’m just sharing with you the thoughts and ideas I share with myself on a constant basis. I continually berate myself for not having enough of what I call an “attitude of gratitude”. I realize that life is a gift, and I understand that allowing one day to pass in which you let yourself thrive on negative and destructive emotions is the same as not thanking someone who gives you a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a book you have always wanted for your birthday. I remember once when I wanted a copy of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell for my birthday. I was 16 years old at the time, and I had always loved the film adaptation of the book. For one thing, Vivien Leigh has always been my favorite actress. At any rate, I let it be known—in a very subtle way, of course—that I would really love to have a copy of Gone with the Wind. One of my girlfriends, who had always made a point of trying to give me presents she thought I would like, seemed like the most likely person to give me a copy of the novel. Well, imagine my surprise and my disappointment when she gave me William Bennett’s Book of Virtues instead. To this day, I have never read much of the book. It wasn’t because I had anything against the book. In fact, I’m sure it’s an excellent book, and it would probably benefit me in some significant way were I to read it from cover to cover. It is supposed to include stories about such laudable virtues as responsibility, courage, self-discipline, perseverance, honesty, faith, and compassion. However, I really wanted to read about Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. I did not care about being morally enlightened. I have always been what people would call a ‘good’ person, and, although I realize I am in some ways very much flawed, I didn’t see that The Book of Virtues was something I need to own. Let’s just forget that everyone who read it at Amazon seems to have given it 4-5 stars *wink*. Hey, maybe it was what I needed. Perhaps I should even pull it out now and start reading it. Who knows? What I do know is that it wasn’t the present I wanted on my sixteenth birthday.

Of course, there could be a lesson here, couldn’t there? It is only at this moment that I am seeing the lesson. . .so, please know that I am sharing this with you at the very time that it has become clear to me. I am very spontaneous in most of my writing at this blog. I do not consciously plan what I am going to say nor do I have lots of books here that I am gathering thoughts from. I am what you might call my own diva. There are other experts on success and happiness who know more than I do, I am certain. But you have chosen me—not them. So, you want to hear my own personal ideas, not the ideas of another person even if that person is more of an expert than I am. The revelation I have just had is this. My girlfriend giving me The Book of Virtues, a book I didn’t want, instead of Gone with the Wind, a book I did want, is a lot like life. How?? Well, aren’t we oftentimes getting something different than what we want? Haven’t there been men or women whom we have found attractive who were not interested in us? And have we not decided to go out with someone whom we originally thought wasn’t “our type”? Yet, are there not some of you who have ended up realizing that the person who wasn’t your “type” was more your “type” than that other man/woman who rejected you? And haven’t you ever been in a restaurant and found out that the entree or dessert you wanted wasn’t available? I have. Last October, on my birthday, I went to a French restaurant. My heart was set on trying the cherry claufouti. However, when I got there, I was told that they had already run out of that particular dessert earlier in the evening. So, what did I do? Well, I ordered a banana and chocolate crepe with whipped creme. How was it? Well, let’s just say I forgot all about the claufouti once I had devoured the crepe. I think life can be like this, too. I was trained to be a classical musician and spent years thinking that I would never find any other career that I felt so passionate and enthusiastic about. Indeed, if you had asked me, when I was 12 years old, what I would do if a concert career on the violin or the piano didn’t work out, I would have told  you, “It has to work out. It must work out.” You know what, though? It didn’t work out. Yes, I had a plan for my life. . .but, you see, life had a plan for me. And the two plans didn’t match up. Carson McCullers, one of the greatest writers that the Southern part of the United States has ever produced, also wanted a career in classical music. In fact, that’s what she trained for, too. But life clearly had other plans. I never knew Carson McCullers. . .so, I never had the chance to ask her how she felt about the career in music not working out. Yet the chances are that at some point she saw it as a blessing. By the time that her career as a writer was flourishing, I would find it hard to believe that she was looking back over her shoulder, feeling an enormous amount of regret.

So, as you see, some of the things that we are given in life may not be just what we want when we get them.  . .but sometimes they’re what we end up needing. As I have been writing this, I feel as if another window has been opened in my life. That window needed to be opened, and I want to thank those of you who support your diva for making my life so much richer by allowing me into your world. I am looking forward to the rest of the day, whereas there was a time during the early morning hours when your diva, much to her chagrin, was looking upon this day as merely a certain period of hours to get through. Now, though, I see it as an opportunity. . . and as a gift. Thank you.

Life isn’t just one gift. . .but a series of gifts. Each day is a present, and I don’t know about you, but these aren’t presents I want to return to the store.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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