I devour novels — stay up too late reading them; lock myself into one position for way too long; skip meals; ignore responsibilities. Obviously, novels are bad for me — I limit myself to one novel a year. I read ferociously all year long with an eye for education. Then when the time is right, I carefully pick a novel and curl up with it. Last weekend, I   R E A D    A    N O V E L! A good page-turner is not something I will put down. This particular novel was a Pulitzer Prize winner. The author’s ability to create characters that leapt off the page and her capacity to weave seemingly unrelated stories into a masterpiece was more than an award-winning work of art, it was a change agent.

As the townspeople grappled with their problems in this fictitious human drama, profound insights into the human condition were revealed. The truth I was left with: We, humans, do a terrible job of protecting our hearts — our very essence. We allow hurt, anger, fear and guilt to eat away at who we are or who we intended to be. We tolerate soul-eating emotion and permit it to fill us up until there is no room left for anything else. We neglect the important step of releasing and readjusting. As we hang on to what should have been left behind, the result is sleeplessness, constant need to control, escaping, irritability, emotionally numbing ourselves and more.

When each new character stepped on the page, it was painfully obvious to any reader that he or she had chosen to hold on to hurt, pain, anger, strife, fear, or rage. It was a choice. They had chosen. They could make a different choice at any time, but they seldom did. This was not fiction at all! This is reality. We have a choice and yet we keep choosing bitterness, hate, worry, hopelessness, and misery.

We each have the power to decide how we feel. Certainly, bad things have happened to us. Absolutely people have treated us wrongly. How necessary is it to give ourselves over to these soul-eating emotions? What does that produce for us? How is this allowing us to become all we are meant to be? What do you really want to experience? Joy? Peace? Delight? Hope? What could you do to invite in what you actually want to feel and experience? If it’s a choice, what would keep you from choosing it?