Abandoned (My Novelette for Teenagers)

I posted yesterday with a link to my website so people could read the first 2 Chapters. Thing is, the link didn’t work! 

So, here it is. As I said before, constructive crit welcome! I hope you enjoy it whatever age you are!

I have always wanted to write for young people as throughout my years of teaching English as a foreign language in Greece, I would write short stories for my classes. As well as helping them with their English, the stories would also be great discussion starters and would allow me to address certain themes prevelant at the time. Relating to my students and their problems and issues allowed me to get them talking through stories about children of their own age and how they dealt with every day life.

That is what I would like to continue, getting to the nitty-gritty of subjects, but in an entertaining and interesting way. Books should be friends~ they reassure people of all ages that they are not alone. They can inspire and comfort, just like Art. I hope my stories do that.

Here is my design for the cover and the basic synopsis for my first novelette. I don’t want to give away much of the story as yet as  I will also include some chapters as tasters for you all to read and leave a comment on in the Blog section if you like! All comments, positive or negative, are very much appreciated as always. Enjoy!

abandoned cover

Abandoned~a teenager’s journey of self discovery.

Casey is a spoiled sixteen year old. She does not appreciate her loving parents or other children who don’t dress like her or listen to the same music. When her father accepts a post as a village Doctor and they move into a beautiful old mansion in the countryside, she is determined to rebel. Bored and angry to have left her friends back in the city, she decides to defy her ‘selfish’ parents completely, refusing to make friends with neighbours Lee and Lisa, and determined to spend her days alone.

But her bad attitude is about to change.

She discovers her punk rag doll under her bed, but it is not the Eliza she made with her own hands. This doll is sad and torn and makes Casey uneasy and afraid.  On a solitary walk she comes across a house that looks exactly like her own, but is deserted and burned out. It haunts her with terrifying feelings which will draw her back there again and again.This begins a rollercoaster ride of fear, intense emotions and self discovery.The house weaves the web which entangles Casey into a series of events connecting the doll, the boy called Lee and her fated future.

Why does Eliza the doll keep appearing in that house?

Who is the handsome boy wearing her Nirvana tshirt who hangs out in the burnt out attic bedroom and why is he petrified of her?

Gradually, Casey begins to piece together the sinister clues that manifest themselves in that house. Her journal entries and sketchbooks lead her to a terrifying discovery. Can she look deep into herself and mend her selfish ways before she destroys herself and all the people she loves?

Chapter 1

Something isn’t right here

June 5th~11.35am

Casey hurled her i-phone towards the pile of crumpled clothes in the corner of her room. Angrily, she chose the loudest Rock song she could find on her MP3 and snatched the earphones from her bedside table. Her best friend Stella wasn’t picking up and she really needed to talk to someone. Closing her eyes, she pushed the earphones into her ears and let herself fall back onto the unmade bed. Loud music always helped her block out the world around her and today she didn’t want to be aware of anything or anyone at all.

She hated the new house they had recently moved into. It wasn’t as much the house itself, just the dread of what she would do all summer without her friends who were now hundreds of miles away. She had already seen the nearest neighbours, who were at least ten minutes walk away, sitting on their lawn listening to severly irritating chart hits. The girl, who was probably a year or so younger than Casey, seemed to her to be a bit dull in her floral dress and silly sandals. The boy, as far as she could remember, was about eighteen although it had been difficult to tell, not having stuck around long enough to catch their attention. There was no way that she was going to waste her time even talking to them as they obviously had nothing in common. She could hear mum’s insistently gabbing voice in her head now,’Why don’t you go and make friends with Lisa and lee, love? Lee’s only a year older than you! And their parents are so nice, they came to welcome us to the village yesterday…’

‘Nice’. How bland. Mum was disillusioned if she thought for one single second that she would hang out with them. It just proved to her that her parents didn’t understand a thing about their own daughter. They were too busy fussing around all Dad’s patients at the clinic and trying too hard to make friends with everyone. What about her? Did they care about her at all? Had they bothered asking her opinion as to whether she wanted to move or not? No. Plain and simple. Anyway, she didn’t need them. She didn’t need anyone.

Her Doc Marten boots felt heavy from trudging around in the woodland behind the house. They had left a muddy, wet line smudged across the pillowcase. She kicked the pillow and scraped her foot along it, spreading the mud even further. Mum would kill her but she didn’t care.

She hung herself over the side of the bed, feeling the blood pumping in her temples. Twisting her head a little, she could just see dim outlines of boxes and junk under the bed, some of the things she hadn’t even taken out the boxes.  Ther was the xbox that her parents had given her when they moved. She didn’t want more things, she just craved someone to talk to, someone that understood her. She flipped over onto her stomach to reach further underneath and suddenly her hand touched something soft, something like wool. She laughed outloud as she pulled out Eliza by her hair. She thought mum had thrown her out ages before they moved, saying as always that she looked evil and manky. But here was the doll she had made all by herself from scraps of clothes and old socks. She pressed Eliza’s dusty hair against her cheek and felt strangely comforted. She sat up and arranged Eliza so she perched, lifelike, on the edge of the bedside table, her striped, lanky legs bent up towards her chest.

‘Hi Eliza,’ Casey whispered, pulling some fluff out of her bright yellow hair, ‘I missed you. I guess it’s just you and me now.’

Casey stared at Eliza’s huge, uneven eyes that were outlined in thick black acrylic paint. She had hated all the other dolls that relatives had given her throughout the years. Stereotypical bodies and faces of ‘beauty’ that everyone was expected to adhere to. She had always prefered the misfits, the ones who were considered ugly for it would be them that came through as the strong ones, the ones who had good hearts and more than one brain cell in their heads.

Suddenly, Casey’s eyes went blurred and a she swayed a little, overbalancing for a second. A feeling of unease gripped her chest as she tried to focus on Eliza. She turned down the volume on her MP3 and shook her head to try and clear it. Kneeling on the bed, she looked back at Eliza and what she saw sent a hot blazing stabbing sensation into her chest. She drew a breath but her lungs felt tight, too tight to breathe at all.

Eliza had moved.

Her legs were hanging down now, but not limply as a rag doll’s legs would. They were bent at the knees, and her head had turned so her eyes fixed on the window. Eliza’s head never moved, it was sewn too tightly!

That was not the worst. Her face had changed. Her mouth wasn’t smiling as it had been when Casey made her. Her thin lips were curled down at the corners, the stitching loose and torn at one end. She had been smiling when she was pulled from under the bed.

Casey had been holding her breath for way too long and let it out with an almost deperate sigh.Something isn’t right here, she realised with dread, gasping as an icy finger slid up her spine. Without thinking any more, she jumped up knocking the bedside table against the wall with a thud, grabbed her bag and almost flew down the stairs, her hand covering her mouth so she wouldn’t actually scream. She was screaming in her head though. She had to get away, as far away from her bedroom as possible.

Casey

Chapter 2

Conflict

June 5th~ 12:30pm

Casey didn’t stop running until she had reached her clearing in the wild woodland at the back of the house. Completely sheltered and isolated by the entangled protection of the trees, it was a silent place that she had come across the day they arrived, wanting to get away from mum. She was relieved that she couldn’t even see her attic window from there. Perfect. She needed to sit down and think. Her head was spinning and she was still feeling really anxious.

Trying to take deep breaths, she kicked away some soggy leaves from under the nearest tree and fell back against the sturdy trunk, lowering herself to the ground. The leaves whispered in comfort as they wrestled and teased each other in the breeze. Emptying her bag out onto the ground, she rifled through the messy pile and grabbed her sketchbook and a pencil. Cross legged, she pressed her earphones into her ears as far as they would go without causing pain and let her music swim its way into her thoughts. She opened her sketchbook and smiled as she ran her fingers over a loosely sketched picture of her best friend Stella sitting on the top deck of the bus, a wide, manic grin on her face. That had only been the previous week on the way back from the cinema. She had been happy then, oblivious to how much of her life was about to change. Not for the best, either. She sighed and flicked the page over.

After a few minutes of staring out into the shady clearing, recalling fun times, she closed her eyes. Without warning, her relaxing thoughts were pushed aside by a vision of an angry looking Eliza, raising her hands with huge claw-like fingers protruding towards Casey’s eyes. Her giant, hand stitched pupils hypnotised and her gaping mouth dribbled loose threads of ragged cotton. Casey snapped her eyes open and looked around her.

Too many horror movies, she thought. I’m probably even imagining that Eliza moved in my room before. It was a trick of the light.

She reached up absent mindedly and pulled at the strand of pink hair that the breeze had blown into her eye. She had dyed it herself and had managed to hide it from Dad so far. He would freak if he saw it. He didn’t like earings or any trace of makeup either. She didn’t really care about the makeup but she would dye her hair as often as she wanted, he couldn’t stop her. She hated looking like everyone else and being labelled because she was blonde. Her grandma was always going on about how pretty she was and that she should wear dresses more often. She hated girly dresses. She hated ‘pretty’. Pretty flippin’ awful, she muttered and screwed up her eyes in disgust.

‘What’s awful?’

Casey’s heart stopped. One of her earphones had dropped out and the shock of hearing a strange voice sucked her back into reality.

There was a rustling noise and she sensed someone was approaching her. She stared straight ahead, not knowing what to say or do next. This was her place, how dare anyone else know about it? And how loudly must she have been talking to herself? This was hideous!

‘Hi’

There was the voice again. Now there was a tall figure standing right beside her, towering above her. Panic was starting to crawl its way up into her throat, but she managed to turn her head and look up. He was about 6 feet tall with a very brightly coloured orange t-shirt on, a grin as wide as the cat in the Alice in Wonderland film, and black spikey hair. She felt her face blaze red. Eyes fixed on her sketchbook, she cleared her throat awkwardly and said hi back.

Then he spoke again. As if he had known her for years or something. Didn’t he sense her embarassment?

‘Sorry, I saw you here and then I heard you say something. I thought you were talking to me! ‘ he was chuckling and jangling some coins or keys in his pocket. He wasn’t at all shy or hesitant. He was one of those cute, confident boys that thought he could chat up anyone and they’d fall at his feet. Yes, she knew all about them.

Plus the fact, he’s laughing at me! Casey realised, her face now burning up with anger. She pulled herself together and started gathering up her stuff which was still strewn all over the ground. He appeared next to her and started picking things up and handing them to her. Casey tried to ignore him, hoping that he would give up and leave. But he didn’t and made a grab for her sketchbook which had been discarded and was lying open behind her.

‘No!’ she shouted and lunged for it, almost over-balancing and falling against him. ‘Give that back, it’s private!’

Silence. For a long time. She shoved the sketchbook into her bag, almost ripping the zip off and clambered to her feet with as much dignity as she could. She turned and started walking, but he was following her.

‘Hey!’ he said, trying to stop her with his hand. ‘Please don’t go. I’m Lee.’

She carried on walking blindly ahead, not realising in her haste to get away that there was no way out of the clearing in that direction. She was getting extremely irritated, as much to do with her own humiliation as her anger at him for just turning up and spoiling her chillout time. She stopped and turned to look at him. He was very tall. And still smiling despite her attempts to put him off her.

‘You must be Casey, right? You’ve just moved into the mansion not far from here. We’re neighbours. My mum works at the surgery with your Dad.’

What? Oh no…I can’t be rude to him then, can I? Mum will kill me. Casey stood there, feeling completely deflated.

‘Just leave me alone, would you, please? I don’t want to talk to anyone, ok?’

She tried not to sound too abrupt. She didn’t want to talk to him, but knew if she really laid into him then she’d be buried by Mum and Dad. His smile faded as she brushed past him, heading towards the narrow gap in the trees that she had entered through. She just wanted to be alone.

‘Ok, you know what?’ he sounded upset. ‘I was trying to be friendly but I really don’t know WHAT your problem is. Be on your own then, it makes no difference to me!’

She heard him mumble something else as she pushed aside the undergrowth, walked through the low tunnel of branches and stepped onto the public footpath. Heading off towards the house again, she flung her bag over her shoulder and dug her hands deep into her pockets. She would have to find another chill place because obviously she wasn’t the only one who visited that clearing.

Soon she found herself on the path home. She stopped as she realised that Lee’s house was the one that she had seen the day before with a long, narrow garden and an old rotten fence at the bottom that the path ran alongside. She would have to be careful as she didn’t want to bump into him again today. Getting her bearings, she took a detour through the woods again and hoped she was at least heading in the right direction. Her thoughts kept returning to Lee. As much as she wanted to push them out, they came back again and again. Why? She had to admit that he was cute, but disappointingly he was a skateboarder judging by his blindingly bright t-shirt and baggy jeans. And yes, she reminded herself, also rude and oblivious to his own lack of concern for her embarassment. And the way that he had tried to grab her sketchbook! The cheek!

No, he’s not my type, she told herself. Not even as a friend let alone a boyfriend. I shouldn’t encourage him either. He’s obviously got a huge ego so this will bring him down to earth a bit.

As she walked amongst the trees, she started to feel better. She knew the woods well enough already to find her way back eventually. Singing along to her favourite song of the moment, she thought about inviting Stella down for the weekend. Mum and Dad would be working at the surgery again on the refurbishments, so they wouldn’t mind. She really needed someone to talk to.

At last, she noticed the wrought iron gates at the back of the house, the ones that looked like they were gradually being engulfed by branches and wild plants. She loved these gates. The previous owners hadn’t cared much about them as they hadn’t cut back the undergrowth and made a path there. They always groaned in exhaustion as she slid through, pleading for some oil for their rusty hinges. Today, though, they seemed older than usual. As she approached, she noticed a huge rusty chain wrapping them tightly together like an oversized snake. She shook the chain but it was well and truely locked solid and it seemed to have been that way for a long time. She backed off a little. She had walked through these gates only a couple of hours ago, maybe even less. What was going on? Had Dad put the chain on? That didn’t explain why it looked so old. She was finding it hard to breathe. The air seemed heavy and thick. Dizziness threatened to overcome her so she leaned her head against the metal of the gate, trying to calm herself and think rationally.

Suddenly, something made her look up. As her eyes focused through the bars and across the garden to the back of the house, she stood upright in shock as she was stunned by what she saw. It wasn’t her house. This house was derelict. Some of the downstairs windows were smashed, glass splinters reflecting the sun like a pool on the back yard. Where were Mum’s pots of flowers? As her eyes scanned the rest of the exterior, she noticed that the brickwork was black as though it had been burned. The once red back door was now a dull brown hanging lifelessly by its top hinge.

It’s not my house. I took the wrong path, that’s all. This is just old and burned out.

Although she almost managed to convince herself, the icy finger pricked her spine and started its terrifying journey up her back. Forcing herself to let go of the gate frame, she turned and tried to re-trace her steps back on to her path home. Her head was now throbbing and she felt disorientated. She had never wanted to see her house and her Mum as badly as she did at that moment. She hadn’t felt like that in a long time.

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~ 28 Signs You are ASCENDING ~

I must tell you all from the offset that the following article was on Facebook, NOT by me,  but I had to save it somewhere. I think many people would benefit from reading this. It was posted by Realm of Tranquility. Please click on this link to visit the page.
It is a subject that I am very much into at the moment as I am experiencing an overwhelming empathic state constantly, an equally overwhelming desire to live simply (to the extent of wanting to throw my mobile phone, mum’s TV, and laptop into the nearest deep lake), and a knowing that everything is shifting. My eyes are foggy, people are moving too fast, I am detached and uncaring about most people’s concerns. Everything seems fake. I feel like I could put out my finger and scratch the surface of something and reveal everything that is really happening and what people are feeling. I am reclusive but at peace with that.
I have written some notes below the listings in Italics. Any comments would be appreciated. I’d be interested to hear how others feel about this!
~Here is the full article~
Know that although our evolutionary processis rapidly accelerating, along with the new higher vibrational energies. We are all experiencing these changes in our own way and in our own time, according to who we are and according to our coding and plan before birth. In addition, generally speaking, our ascension process relates to how we each run our own individual energy and what our beliefs and experiences are. In other words, how we are wired and how we vibrate. These things can be changed and will also change automatically as we clear and embody more light within ourselves. For the highly sensitive, psychic and those very open to the higher realms, the ascension process can be a bit more challenging.
BEGINNING EXPERIENCES

1) Moving into a better job that supports the expression of who you are, your passion or your mission, which are basically the same.

(I am unemployed and never been happier. I get to create healing art and explore these amazing subjects!)
2) Greater financial abundance as you’ve never quite experienced before.
3) Most of your dreams come true and easily
4) You attract a new mate/partner or you and your current partner have a relationship revolving around companionship with no issue related “hooks”. You love, admire and adore each other for who you are with no dependencies.
(I met my soul mate two years ago. It was literally like a fairy tale. We were engaged within 6 weeks)
5) As you further evolve, you re-unite with your “twin” who is a total reflection of you. Being together is like being with yourself and you feel a unity to Source as never before.
6) You don’t seem to care much about anything and nothing seems to matter anymore. You have evolved out of the Old way of being of drama and emotions.
(Not many subjects I hear being discussed seem relevant. People gossip and talk bullshit most of the time)
7) You have lost your interest in the “New Age” arena.
8) You KNOW that all your needs are met and will always be.
9) You no longer have the desire or need to make things happen, “to try” or “to fix” anything. You understand “allowing”, “acceptance”, “being” and “intent”.
(I let things be. I don’t even agree with revenge. See my recent post:https://thenomadicangel.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/thoughts-on-revenge/ )
10) You can no longer relate to mental and analytical processes. You now relate to “feeling”.
11) You no longer care what anyone thinks about you or anything else.
(I never have cared!)
12) You understand that there is no right or wrong, good or bad, or black or white. Everything just IS.
13) You finally realize that there is no dark or light. The appearance of lack of light is simply to provide a contrast to spur us on to creating what really feels good. All energy is always going in the same direction, supporting the light.
14) You have lost your desire to read books or gather any more new information as you are now much more connected to Source and can gather it “directly” by being, feeling and “knowing.”

15) Your health improves and/or you experience a miracle-like healing of a long standing physical ailment.

16) You crave a simplicity in all things and require and thrive on simple processes, simple desires and a very simple lifestyle.

(I wish I could live off the land with organic vegetables and eggs, rising with the sun and sleeping with the twilight)
17) You begin to experience a flow to life at a slow leisurely pace, where you need not do anything you do not really wish to. Everything falls into your lap. You experience much basking, savoring and gratitude for the simple things in life.
(Everyone else is rushing around and achieving nothing)
18) You only desire to do what is yours to do and no longer have a life full of mundane “..responsibilities”. When much releasing has been completed you are then left with a purified you…a gold nugget of your divine expression. This is your contribution to the New World.
19) You easily pick up the thoughts, feelings, desires and needs of others, as you are becoming telepathic.
(Empathic and telepathic. This is really killing me at times! See my recent post:https://thenomadicangel.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/absorption-my-downward-spiral-other-peoples-emotions/ )
20) You can control your emotions, your experiences and create your world with your mind and intent without doubt or fear.
21) Your surrounding environment has little effect on you. You don’t take things personally. Nothing is really worth getting that upset about.
22) You have an unquenchable thirst for creativity. The enormous amount of energy running through you demands an outlet. You feel most as home and in alignment with Source when you are in your passion and creating.
(I am doing so much creative work, it feels like I am being guided)
23) You laugh a lot and find many things amusing and funny.
24) You have a heightened love and compassion for all living things. You are also experiencing higher states and more frequent state of love and joy.
(Went back to vegetarianism last year)
25) You live in the moment without a “day planner”. Things just naturally unfold day-by-day and moment-..by-moment. All stress is gone.
26) You feel incredible peace. There is a distinct absence of fear and you feel safe.
27) Your inner child seems to have disappeared (relating to issues and wounds), although you love to play and frolic. Much of the time you just want to play, play and play!

28) You begin to have an understanding about how everything is connected. You understand that there are no mistakes

This is my latest piece. It’s the front of the Major Arcana Card ‘Earth Element’ for my Angel Elemental Inspirational Card Pack. Please see recent post to view my other work: https://thenomadicangel.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/the-water-element/
I am feeling a great connection to all the Natural Elements and this pack will show how we can all connect and learn from all the elements for a more fulfilling and spiritual existence.

Being an Empath…some serious advice.

 

I don’t want to get in to trouble for posting this as these are NOT my words. The link to the site is:

http://www.askgrace.com/psychic-advice/0838-psychic-empathic-traits.htm

I just need to have this here so I can read back on it. I’m having a tough time. Any comments would be appreciated! Thanks Kerrilynn for your last comment, this is for you!

”Having psychic empathic traits can be extremely challenging, and even painful. The definition of empathic understanding is to be able to feel what another person feels (sometimes both emotionally and physically). Even under normal circumstances, having psychic empathic traits can be confusing and difficult to manage or understand, but in times of global chaos, emotional tidal waves that rip through the collective consciousness can be utterly overwhelming. This is why an empath feels anxiety at these times.

Some people consider being an empath to be a paranormal trait, but it is more normal than we realize. Many, many people have psychic empathic traits, but they are usually labeled as being “overly sensitive”. Empaths have a heightened sensitivity, and parapsychologists often refer to them as being “Psi Sensitives”.

Some of the characteristics of an empath include being “moody”, or having mood swings for no apparent reason. This is because empaths pick up on the energies and emotions from other people, places, animals, and even things around them. An empath can be feeling fine one moment, then suddenly become depressed or sad or angry, or even develop physical pain and headaches “out of the blue”. Many empaths can feel like they are going crazy, especially empathic children who cannot understand what they are feeling or why they are feeling that way. An empath must learn to trace these feelings back to their origin in order to determine what triggered them. First ask yourself, “Is this mine?” – if the answer is no, then determine when and where it started, and who or what was around you at that time.

Some other characteristics of an empath can involve extreme shyness, avoidance of public places, or being overweight (especially in children). These are all ways to try to shield and protect oneself from the psychic abilities of being empathic. An empath can absorb and take on the feelings and symptoms of others just by being near them or even by speaking with them on the phone, which is why an empath feels anxiety when faced with crowds of people.

There are different types of empaths who employ different psychic empathic traits. These are the 10 levels of the empath:

Psychometry – the empathic ability to receive energy, information and impressions from objects, photographs or places
Telepathy – the empathic ability to read people’s thoughts
Mediumship – the empathic ability to feel the presence and energies of spirits
Physical Healing – the empathic ability to feel other people’s physical symptoms in your own body (and often the ability to heal, transform or transmute them)
Emotional Healing – the empathic ability to feel another person’s emotions
Animal Communication – the empathic ability to hear, feel and communicate with animals
Nature – the empathic ability to read, feel and communicate with nature and with plants
Geomancy – the empathic ability to read the energy of places and of the land – geomancers can feel the energies of the Earth, such as Ley lines. They can also get headaches, pain or anxiety before earthquakes or other disasters occur anywhere on the planet.
Precognition – the empathic ability to feel when something important is about to happen (often this can be a feeling of inexplicable dread or doom)
Claircognizance or Knowing – the empathic ability to feel what needs to be done in any given circumstance, often accompanied by a feeling of peace and calm, even in the midst of a crisis

Psychic empathic traits not only involve the ability to receive energy, but also include the ability to heal in many cases. For this reason, an empath’s life path is best suited to the healing arts, whether it is in the field of healthcare or counseling, or working with children, plants, animals, or even healing places through design and renovation. There are many different paths for how to become an empathic energy healer – you just need to determine which characteristics and levels of an empath resonate with you most. When you have a positive outlet for the psychic abilities of being empathic, you can experience peace and fulfillment. This allows you to overcome the overwhelming feelings of why an empath feels anxiety.

Meditation can be helpful for anyone to achieve a state of peace, but what is even more important for those with psychic empathic traits is to maintain constant grounding and protection. You must visualize yourself surrounded by a bubble or blanket of white light that shields and protects you from external energies. If you are extremely sensitive, you may want to increase these boundaries of protection by imagining a rainbow of layers around you, starting with a bubble of red light surrounding your body, followed by a layer of orange light, then yellow around that, then green, then blue, then indigo, then a layer of violet light, and finally a layer of white light around them all. It is also important to envision yourself grounded and connected to the Earth so you can remain balanced, stable and secure. It is helpful to use the affirmation “I am willing to receive all that is for the highest and best good of all for me to know, and I am protected and shielded from all else at all times”.

Remember that those with psychic empathic traits are not only able to receive and pick up energy, but they can also project healing energy. The reason that empaths pick up on energy and information in the first place is because they have the power to do something about it.

One of the easiest methods for how to become an empathic energy healer is simply by using your intention. When you receive feelings from others, or even from the whole world, you can reverse the polarity and send out healing energy. Close your eyes, imagine that there is a vast sun above you that is sending down a beam of light into your heart and down into your hands. With all of your will and intent, send that light out from your heart and your hands, and direct it to wherever it needs to go for the highest and best good of all.

This is what will give you peace. The future is not set in stone and we are not victims. We have the gift of free will and the power to change, so we must not be afraid, even when it seems overwhelming.”