Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

10 Life Lessons from Emma Jean

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from my friend and mentor, Charlotte Rains-Dixon. 

emmajeanSometimes fiction states truths every bit as profound as non-fiction, which is why I like writing it.  My just-released novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, could be classified as a romantic comedy.  Despite the humor, its heroine embarks on a spiritual quest every bit as serious as those in the latest self-help bestseller.  Sandra asked me to share some of Emma Jean’s discoveries with you.  Here goes:

1.   A serious spiritual quest can start in the oddest of places.   For Emma Jean, her epiphany begins in the throes of passion, when she realizes that she is connected to everyone and everything in the universe.  Her resulting spiritual journey is an effort to recapture that moment.  Except that she discovers:

2.  It truly is the journey, not the destination.  Because there is no destination, only the present moment.  Emma Jean learns this when her initial efforts just lead her farther away from the truth of her being and deeper into trouble.

3.  Life changing wisdom can be found in a book.   Emma Jean is a writer herself, and like most writers, she’s a voracious reader.   After her epiphany, Emma Jean’s first impulse is to order books—lots of them—on Amazon.  As she peruses titles from many traditions, including Hindu, Christian, Buddhism and New Age, she gains enlightenment and purpose from her reading.  The trick, of course, is that she must learn how to live this wisdom in her day-to-day life.

4.  Life is better when you’re writing.  Or painting.  Or in process somehow (see #2.) Because of the trials of her life, Emma Jean quits writing.  And a writer who isn’t writing or a creator who isn’t creating is like a pastor who isn’t praying.  Or a lama who isn’t mediating.

5.  Life is also better when you’re praying or meditating.  Hard as it can be to establish such habits, and Emma Jean finds it very difficult, an ongoing dialogue with a higher power (even if it’s your higher self) makes everything easier.

6.  Embrace simplicity.  It’s powerful, even when everything is taken away from you forcibly, as is the case with Emma Jean.  She loses everything she holds dear—and finds something even more valuable in the leftover crumbs.

7.  Wherever you go, there you are.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but we can’t get away from our shit.  It follows us wherever we go, as Emma Jean learns all too well when public penance becomes part of the trials she must endure.  So it’s best to learn how to deal with said shit, because there’s really no escaping it.

8.  And despite all your efforts, sometimes you end up where you started.  In the classic quest structure of the hero’s journey, the hero accepts a call to adventure and over the course of it, discovers many truths about himself, which he then brings back to his ordinary world to share.  So, too, with Emma Jean.   The things she learns about herself are more like uncovering the truth of her being that had gotten covered up with false reality.  She returns back to the person she was meant to be at birth.

9.  Letting go really is the answer.  Give it all up and get it all back.  It’s only when Emma Jean quits trying to shape what happens to her and surrenders that her life starts to turn around again.  She learns the important lesson that we think we control things but we really don’t.

10.  Give thanks for every experience.  Good or bad, they shape us for the better, Emma Jean learns.   And just about always the worst experiences not only teach us the most, but they lead us exactly where we need to be.

What are the life lessons you’ve learned?  Which of Emma Jean’s resonate with you?

Charlotte Rains DixonCharlotte Rains Dixon is a writer, writing coach and writing teacher.  She has published numerous articles and stories as well as three non-fiction books.  Charlotte received her MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and teaches in the Loft certificate-writing program at Middle Tennessee State University.  She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, a 15-year-old blind pug, and two enormous cats. Visit her blog at  And, check out Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior.

Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra


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  1. I adore Emma Jean AND this post, how fantastic to share her life lessons!!

    I’d add another – Emma Jean seems unable to be anyone but who she is. She embraces her uniqueness (what I call her Square-Pegness), which, at times might look like she’s “too much” (too vocal, too emotional, too too), but is actually the reason she is able to evolve in the beautiful way that she does in the book.

    • Thank you, Karen! You were my first reader outside my critique group and I treasure your reaction and your support!

    • Welcome Karen,

      I love your additional point. I can be so “too…” and “too…”. I related. I’m digging into the book now and enjoying each well-turned phrase. Thanks for coming by!

  2. jean sampson

    Oh, no, Charlotte, not the “s” word!
    No, not THAT one—- “surrender” —-that one! It keeps popping up everywhere and it is SO hard to do! I don’t know about Emma Jean, but it usually only seems like a good idea to me when I have tried everything else and am too tired and beaten up to fight anymore. Somehow, I don’t think that is the best way to approach it, but I forget that it is an option most of the time! 🙂 And whenever I read or hear the word, I feel like I need to hide from Whatever is in control of the world and is looking for me at that moment! I am SURE that I don’t want to let go of whatever “IT” wants me to surrender! 🙂 Am I the only one who feels this way? And, yes, I know that surrender really is the way to go. Sigh~~
    Your book sounds like a wonderful journey in itself, Charlotte. I want to read it! Congratulations to you and thank you, Sandra, for introducing us to Charlotte.

    • Oh, Jean! You made me nervous there for a moment, mentioning the “S” word. Letting go is a life long journey for me and I’m often ducking it just as you describe here. Thanks for supporting, Charlotte. She’s a wonderful writer and fabulous human being.

  3. Oh, Jean, I hear you! That “s” word is the worst–and the best, too. Emma Jean’s experience is similar to yours–you reach the point of exhaustion and there’s nothing else to do but let go. But then the rewards are great, which is why I’m not sure why it’s so hard to get to that point!

  4. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive! I resonated with #4 and #9 the most. I feel at odds when I’m not creating SOMETHING, and I try to remember that I can’t control the world…and when I do remember, life is definitely richer!

    • I just received my copy today. I opened it to a random page and can verify already this is a really good read. #9 gets me too. Thanks for your thoughts, Beverly.

  5. Thanks, Beverly, and I agree–when I’m not creating I feel edgy and out of sorts. And yeah, that whole letting go of control thing is huge.

  6. As always, Charlotte writes some very interesting and fun things to read and ponder, as is the case in this post. Interesting indeed. Thanks Charlotte and Sandra.

  7. THanks for sharing these insights from Emma Jean, Charlotte.

    I think these are good reminders of how to live life! I’ve been on a spiritual quest for the last couple of years so a lot of what you talk about resonates with me. Especially that one can start in the oddest of places. sometimes in your own bedroom after waking up from a nap haha. and deep questions you had pondered about suddenly appear so clear and easy to understand.

    Also, letting go is really the answer. Once I let go (of control and demands on the universe around me) it all started to fall in place for me. Thank you for sharing these insights. Look forward to checking out your blog.

    • Thank you, Don, for reading and your loyal support!

      • Hi Vishnu, Yes, I love how a spiritual quest can start in the most unexpected of places! I think that happens to a lot of people, only some choose to ignore it. And the issue of letting go seems to be one that many of us struggle with. Thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you over at my blog.

    • Vishnu,

      You gained so much perspective over the recent years. I appreciate hearing what’s made a difference for you. Letting go is the key, isn’t it!

  8. Daniela

    I love #7 – it’s so easy to try to “run away” from your problems – and running away doesn’t always need a change of location, sometimes it’s also “just” distraction or not facing whatever it is you need to do.

    • Daniela, I remember the first time I realized that wherever I was, I couldn’t escape myself. When I think about it, that was probably the start of my spiritual journey–I realized I better get myself together or risk driving myself crazy!

    • Daniela, Thanks for the reminder of all the little ways we try to run away from our problems! They can be rampant!

  9. J.D.

    Excellent post, Charlotte. As for what I’ve learned: Friendship, like marriage, is a work in progress. Of Emma Jean’s lessons, #10 is the one I should work on. Nice blog, Sandra.

    • I’m guilty of forgetting to give thanks, though I’ve gotten a lot better about it lately. My daughter said something recently that really pulled me up. I was complaining about something and she said, “Mom, first world problem.” As in, think of people in other places who would love to have this concern. Now I remember that and give thanks instead.

    • Thanks, J. D.! Yes, #10 is a good one. I could work on that one too. Thanks for supporting Charlotte.

  10. What a great list. Two things really resonated with me. First, is that Ireally need to take the time and effort to put what I read into action. I have recently begun my own journey on improving my life and, in the process, have been reading a lot. However, I fear that it may be information overload or, in other words, in one ear and out the other, and that is certainly a waste of time and energy. This served as a reminder that I need to remind myself to think more about the good items I read. Thanks for that reminder.

    Second, and I know this but don’t think about it enough, that life is about the journey. There is not as much to say about this one, but it certainly is worth thinking about.

    Thanks again for the great article.

    • Oh man, isn’t it just so true that life is about the journey? And how easy it is to forget this. I think we writers at least have a bit of an edge of this, as we spend so much time in process. Thanks for the reminder, Patrick.

  11. Hi Charlotte and Sandra,
    I love the message in the book about how we are all connected and not separate as we were taught to believe. Your book really resonates with me and I will absolutely have to check it out.

    Take Care.

    • Thanks, Justin! Emma Jean really does propel herself into a spiritual journey once she has the epiphany that everyone and everything is connected. I know I’m on one, too, and a huge part of my quest is to remember that connection every moment.

    • Hi Justin,

      It’s a fun book. Emma Jean asks her self all the right questions while stumbling into great unity. Thanks for sharing.

  12. You had me at the title! And what wonderful lessons. I especially liked the one about wisdom in books. I have often found just the “teaching” I was looking for through reading. But all the the lessons resonated with me.

    By the way, Charlotte, I live in Portland, too, and I’m from Tennessee–two connections in that small world kind of way! Do you know Broadway Books? The owner is my next door neighbor. I will buy your book from her store, and I look forward to reading it!

  13. Galen, I live in NEP! Up in the Rose City Park area….I’d love to do a reading at Broadway Books, and my book is POD (its from a small publisher) so I’m not sure if they’d be interested. But we should get together and have coffee and talk writing and Tennessee!

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