A meeting with a renowned psychic convinced Dianne to transform her life: She lost weight, got divorced, started acting, and published a book about her reinvention.
Tell us about you and what prompted you to make a change in midlife…
For nearly 40 years, I was in search of the American Dream. I had a long-term marriage, three small children, an MS in marketing communication from Northwestern, a mini-mansion across from Lake Michigan, and a successful consulting company.
On my 38th birthday, I gave myself a present, a reading with internationally known psychic, Sonia Choquette. I had expected her to tell me that I was on track for joy and success. Instead of singing my praises for leading a fairytale life, Sonia called me out on my dirty little secrets and bashed me over the head with them. She claimed that I was an unlit Christmas tree and none of the bulbs were firing.
I was chronically depressed, trapped in the wrong career, a loveless marriage, obese, and my body was breaking down. She instructed me to become an actor, author, teacher, and healer. Before she left the session, she delivered a final warning, “If you don’t hurry up and grab at ‘the real brass ring’ it’s going to be too late!” This was the impetus that spurred me on to chart a new course in midlife.
What changes did you make as a result of this experience? What is your next act?
I took Sonia’s words very seriously and made a commitment to go through a total life reboot. For the next decade, I excavated and recrafted every area of my existence. Now, I represent life’s dichotomies: I went from depressed to happy, size 18 to size 4, divorced to happily engaged, physical weakling to practicing yogi, and corporate slave to SAG actor, public speaker, and empowerment coach. I also chronicled the raw and real transformational stories into The Real Brass Ring: Change Your Life Course Now, which has become one of the top ten inspirational books according to the February 2015 issue of Aspire Magazine.
Was it hard to take the plunge? How did you figure out which way to go?
I’d always loved performing arts, so when I was encouraged to go back to acting, the message felt accurate and true. The reality was, however, that I was forty, 190 pounds, hadn’t been on stage since high school, and was completely petrified of rejection.
Somehow, I mustered up the courage to audition for a community theatre production of Oliver and delivered, by far, the worst audition of my life. I probably should have been mortified with embarrassment but, instead, I left the room beaming with joy because I’d had the courage to show up.
A week later, the director offered me a part in the ensemble. It felt so good to be on stage; my energy soared and I lost 30 pounds over the next three months. From that point on, I made a commitment to pursue acting full-throttle.
For the next two years, I grabbed every possible opportunity to be on stage. I also wanted to pursue film and commercial work in Chicago but didn’t realize that without any on-camera experience or an agent, this was going to be a very difficult task. In the book, I highlight several of the harrowing acting stories and obstacles that had to be overcome, but eventually, I found an agent and was cast in my first commercial for Comcast. Over the past 8 years, I have been fortunate enough to land over fifty film, commercial and television roles.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
Most of my challenges had to do with confronting fear and taking responsibility for my negative thought patterns and poor state of “being.” I had to open up and start listening to my higher self. The more I trusted my gut, the more I experienced clarity and felt comfortable taking risks. I also took full responsibility for any lack of alignment in my emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental realms.
Facing numerous impending health issues, including plantar fasciitis, sciatica, and a rotator cuff tear, I committed to physical therapy, practicing yoga, and speed walking to gain back my strength and mobility. Over a ten-year period, I lost over 55 pounds, increased my flexibility, and adopted a healthier, more passsionate lifestyle.
Were there times you thought about giving up?
Yes, absolutely. The act of tearing down a perfectly traditional, yet unhappy, life was petrifying and often emotionally devastating. I also felt a lot of internal resistance to completing the book. From time to time, I’d threaten to quit writing because it was just too hard. My eldest daughter, however, kept telling me, “You need to share this story with the world because it will truly help people. Get back to the computer, Mom, and keep going.” Her encouraging words allowed me remain focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.
What do you love about this new course in life?
The best part about reaching for the “real brass ring” is the surge of pure positive energy that resonates throughout the day. I had struggled with depression since childhood, so to rid myself of the darkness and sorrow, I went to the Hoffman Institute, a spiritual recovery retreat center in California for a week; there, I dealt with the issues that had blocked my openness to self-love. When I came back home a week later, my depression was gone. I began moving forward with hope, excited about waking up to a world of possibilities. Now, I also allow for synchronistic events to occur instead of trying to push so hard to make things work out as I had envisioned them in my head.
How did your book come about?
At 42, I started writing my novel to capture the dramatic and sometimes harrowing stories involved in this crazy life overhaul. In many ways, the book seemed to write itself as a half memoir and a half how-to-transform-yourself book. I also synthesized the lessons learned along the way into the 14 Shortcuts for Happy Living. These rules became a behavioral roadmap that guided me through the challenges of divorce, living as a single mom, cougar dating, repairing my body, working in the film industry, and handling the stress of the Recession.
Tell us more about your 14 Shortcuts for Happy Living…
My 14 Shortcuts for Happy Living provide a framework for managing the most important aspects of life so that the painful growth and transformation lessons can come and go with ease. These rules help to consciously retrain your mind and provide a critical framework for authentic living. More specifically, they allowed me to communicate in earnest (Speak Your Peace), get in touch with my emotions (Pay Attention to your Emotional Radar Detector) manage a divorce (Manage Your Circle), and lose weight (Leverage Your Alignment), just to name a few.
What do you think readers will gain from reading your book?
This book is for anyone who feels stuck, depressed, and unfulfilled. It’s for those standing in the middle years who have worked hard in their careers and caring for their families but finally, wake up and ask themselves, “Is this really where I ended up… sad, lonesome, and empty? By now, I thought I’d have a happy life.” The Real Brass Ring: Change Your Life Course Now allows readers to know that they are not alone in their midlife struggle and disappointment. It gives them a sense of empowerment to create an existence filled with passion and meaning.
What advice and tips do you have for women seeing to reinvent themselves in midlife?
Always remember…the future is lined with infinite possibilities and the middle years can be the greatest time of your life! We are beings of light and our thoughts resonate in the form of waves. In every situation, you have the opportunity to reach for a thought that feels better, the positive side of the energy wave. So, whenever you are tempted to sit in the victim’s chair, step back and identify a lesson to be learned. If it is a repetitive issue, call it out, make changes and learn your lesson quickly so you don’t have to repeat it.
What resources do you recommend to help women get prepared or better informed as they contemplate a change in midlife?
Here is a short list of must-read books for starting your next act:
Improving relationships: Conscious Living: Finding Joy in the Real World and Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment by Gay Hendricks and The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
Overcoming fear: Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie
Understanding the soul’s path: Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives by Michael Newton
Living well: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz
Law of Attraction: Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires by Esther and Jerry Hicks
Creating abundance: The Abundance Book by John Randolph Price
Weight loss: When Food Is Love: Exploring the Relationship Between Eating and Intimacy by Geneen Roth
The Real Brass Ring: Change Your Life Course Now also summarizes the key philosophies of many important thought leaders in the self-help space. I have also developed a website, Live Your Everything that will become a sanctuary for life transformation.
What is next for you? Do you think you have another next act in your future?
Currently, I am offering Life Reboot Workshops across the country; the schedule can be found on my website. This spring, I will be filming a part in a full-length feature movie and I’m also writing a second book that identifies the specific steps and formulas for effortless life reinvention. It will be paired with a detailed workbook and a variety of online courses to help others find inner peace and joy.
Contact Dianne Bischoff James, Life Reboot Specialist, at www.liveyoureverything.com