Oct 6 2014

Resistance, meet my friend Possibility

Redding Air Show

 

Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark on a spiritual practice, to dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others?…Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”  -The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Two weekends ago, we accepted a gracious invitation to attend the Redding Air Show. A chance to have a weekend away with my husband and children. No sports. No sleepovers. And our first air show.

As my heart rattled in my chest and my ear drums nearly split open, I couldn’t help but think about the remarkable advancements and the even more remarkable people responsible for those advancements. Generations have been fighting Resistance, pushing the envelope, flying faster and farther.

Personally, I’m no stranger to Resistance-the gale force wind encountered when turning in a new direction. But, an afternoon spent craning my neck to the heavens reacquainted me with an old friend. Possibility announced it’s presence with the blast of a jet engine thundering across the tarmac.

Resistance, meet my friend Possibility.

The demonstration of sheer power through jet propulsion has been reverberating in my heart. The strongest weapon I have found against Resistance is the gravity defying hope of Possibility. Since covering my ears to the chest pounding cacophony of jet engines, I have dusted off my treadmill, laced up my running shoes and pressed the start button. I have sat down to write and overcome the nagging silence as I stare at a blank computer screen. And I have opened my eyes to the truth that I am not the only one fighting Resistance. A good friend of mine has launched a crowd-funding campaign to crush Resistance and pursue Possibility.

Resistance stands in the middle of the room and tells us all the ways we might fail, or all the times we have failed. But there’s another voice. A low rumbling, like a distant jet engine, that stands in the corner, holds out a jetpack and says, “Wanna try again?”

Resistance, meet my friend Possibility.

 “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.

The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

-Thomas Edison


Sep 15 2014

A Colorful Epiphany

 

Hot air balloon races

Hot Air Balloon Races, Reno, NV

Garnered with large doses of coffee and hot chocolate, and an unnatural enthusiasm for being awake at such an hour, we left our sleepy little town at 3:30 a.m. for what I was told, is the largest hot air balloon launch in the country.

We joined the masses at pre-dawn on a large grassy field dotted with tarps and giant picnic baskets. Several high-powered gas burners ignited a few feet behind us, and although the heat was welcome in the cool air of a high desert morning, the sound momentarily stopped our hearts. Extreme heat and noise brought life to a field of colors and the magnitude of it all caused me to stand in awe.

Hot Air Balloon Races

Early morning ascension.

The heat and noise needed to launch these massive balloons and provide amazing views, looked and sounded a great deal like conflict. I realized, the greatest vantage points in my own life have come on the heels of the greatest heat and the loudest chaos.

Conflict is hot and loud, but like the balloons, it is full of potential. It provides the prospect of reaching heights we never thought possible. We learn more about ourselves and more about the amazing people we get to share life with. Without the fire, the balloons would lie lifeless on the damp grass never realizing their full potential. Without conflict, I propose our relationships too, would lie lifeless, never allowing the realizations of who we truly are, or the beauty of the deepest, most tender places in the hearts of those around us, to come to light.

I don’t suggest the creation of conflict. It is organic. It will inevitably show up and it will leave, but maybe it’s possible to recognize it for the auspicious potential it contains and not just the momentary pain it causes.

 


Jul 2 2014

A few steps to the left…

 

"Genial"

“Genial”

 

“The enemy is a very good teacher.”  -the Dalai Lama

The above short video has sat in my head for a couple of days now. It does what only art  seems to be able to do–a visual representation of the deep dark places. An angle of light. A splash of red. A key that somehow unlocks places unknown.

The first time I watched this pile of junk transform, I was struck by the technique. How often did the artist have to step back and gain perspective? How often had the artist walked around the pile, moving the guitar or the wheelbarrow a few centimeters at a time?

Sure, one could watch this and think it an odd stroke of luck, but as I mentioned above, this struck a chord. A familiar but seldom heard note resonated in my being as I followed the camera from used and discarded items into the face of what looks to be a Civil War soldier. A vastly different perspective.

A friend recently sent a book home with me, “The War of Art.” It has nothing to do with Nicholas Cage, for the record. Instead, it is an artist’s brilliant description of that thing that keeps us from taking those few steps to the left. In his book, Steven Pressfield gives the force a name, “Resistance.”

“Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.”

Resistance keeps you from changing your perspective. Resistance says a few steps to the left won’t change anything. Resistance says it’s just junk. Resistance is the enemy. But unwillingly, the enemy teaches us something.

In everyone’s life, there are moments when the heap of junk is all that is visible. In those places, there is tremendous pressure to surrender to the chaos. After all, it’s just worthless clutter. Resistance keeps you from changing your perspective. Resistance says a few steps to the left won’t change anything. Resistance says it’s just junk. Resistance is the enemy. But unwillingly, the enemy teaches us something.

It only takes a few steps to the left. Eyes don’t move away from the colossal load of litter. It demands attention. But in only three steps, the picture changes. The senseless moments, the random incidents no longer sit idle. They move and morph into profound meaning. The pile of junk takes shape.

The arbitrary uncovers the articulate, and all those seemingly erratic occurrences have done nothing less than define and give dimension to a work of art.

A few steps turns drivel into definition and Resistance loses.

I followed the camera and realized I am like that soldier. The haphazard has shaped me. What might start as a pile of rubbish becomes a portrait. And all it takes is a few steps to the left.

 


Apr 10 2014

The Violinist of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a glorious day outside of Paris.

Serpentine lines of people zigzagged their way around a cobblestone courtyard under the watchful gaze of gilded fences. A sea of people and an hour more of waiting under the hot sun. Between heavy sighs and questions of how much longer, tentative notes from a violin floated through the air like a dream.

Having been in France for nearly a month, we had strolled villages and chateaus by the dozens. It was not uncommon for me to imagine music nearly everywhere we went. France has a kind of magic about it. But this was different. A quick glance at my family and their searching eyes told me what I had hoped. This music transcended my imagination. It was real.

And then it stopped. A mystery had been birthed. Murmurs in half a dozen different languages began. Hushed voices. Seeking eyes. The shrug of shoulders. We had all heard it. But where had it come from?

And then, a small person took a step out of line.

With one hand clutching a compact but perfect violin and bow, and the other grasping the hand of a man, a little girl took another step and froze. Not distracted by the grandeur around her, she stared at the cobblestones beneath her feet. She looked at no one and everyone looked at her.

The man with her, most likely her father, tried to pull them both further into the middle of the sea of people but she would not budge. A drama was unfolding, slight and unassuming against the magnificence of a French palace.

Again, the father nudged his daughter, bidding her to step forward and play. He leaned down and whispered in her ear. With eyes focused on the ground, she shook her head. He tried once more. A small pull on her hand met only refusal. In perhaps a final ditch effort, the man squatted down until he was able to coax her eyes up to his own. He pulled her small hand to his chest and the words he chose kept her attention and ours. We couldn’t hear his voice, but we pleaded along with him, in silent anticipation.

She stared again at the stones under her bright blue sneakers and slowly nodded her head.

The man stood, still holding tight to the little hand. She raised her face to look at him. That was his cue. For several feet, she matched him step for step, watching his face until he planted his feet and nodded decisively. She took a deep breath, dropped her hand from his, and brought the small wooden instrument under her chin.

When she looked ready, he gave her one last nod. She closed her eyes and began to move the miniature bow over the strings.

It only took one note and the sea of people stopped breathing. It was as if she needed the extra oxygen somehow and we gladly gave it to her. Our breath was the fare required. We paid it and she transported us to another place.

She couldn’t have been more than five. Maybe six. But as she played, a mystery unfolded before us. Cameras and video devices came out. This miniature maestro had captured our attention and our hearts.

Her father took a step back, but this time, she didn’t notice. She kept her eyes closed and played the undersized violin with all of her little body and soul.

The violinist of Versailles.

She drug her bow slowly across the strings for the final note. It is curious, that with only twelve notes, and having heard them all a thousand times in different ways and in different combinations, there are still notes that draw tears from my eyes.

Oceans and borders had been crossed by thousands of people in order to stand in the courtyard of Versailles. A place where masters of art and music have walked for centuries. Two small feet stood and spoke to us in the universal language of music. Transfixed, grateful, dumbfounded we responded and gave her what we had. Our sincere approval. Before she could bring her bow back to her side or even open her eyes, the sea of people erupted in applause.

Her eyes opened in surprise. She had not been playing for us. She had played in spite of us.

Frantically, she searched for her father. He quickly crouched next to her once more, pulled her to his chest, and wrapped his arms around her. She was a little girl again hiding in her father’s embrace. It was obvious that she does not yet see or understand her artistry or brilliance. But maybe that was also part of the gift.

Under the glimmer of the Palace of Versailles, the little violinist gave us a performance that we could never forget. In stark contrast to the grandeur and opulence, she performed not for the homage of man, but for the love of an instrument.

The violinist of Versailles

The Violinist of Versailles


Feb 14 2014

A Valentine Message

 

conversation hearts

Conversation hearts

Be mine.

I “heart” you.

XOXO

We literally ingest these messages. Like some weird ritual where we hope through osmosis, the feelings of security and safety that emanate from these short notes will pass the lining of our stomachs and make their way to our hearts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Valentine geek. My table has been decorated for six weeks. See?

valentine centerpiece

Happy Valentine’s Day

I “heart” the idea of a day set aside to gush over those I love. I made heart shaped pancakes with raspberry syrup for my family. I spent $20 on cheesy cards that will line our waste basket within days. There are heart napkins set out waiting for their debut at dinner tonight.

What I’m saying is I love the premise of Valentine’s Day. (Pun intended.)

Such Valentine enthusiasm has not always been the case. I remember days of longing to have a Valentine. Someone who would give me cheesy cards and buy me flowers and candy and take me to dinner. And I know many people who can relate. We long for someone to say they love us, to say they believe in us, to say we are special. To send us a message that we are loved, that we are lovable.

We ingest messages everyday. Some from those around us and some from inside of us.  Words are inscribed in our memory and like osmosis, so often they find their way to our heart, to the center of our being, to the place we hold a picture of who we are.

A Valentine Message.

I have a message for you, regardless of your relational status. May it pierce your heart, the very center of your being, the place you hold a picture of yourself.

Here’s my conversation heart to you in the form of a song.

Who says? Selena Gomez

Who says?

Who says?


Jan 28 2014

Parking Garages and Golden Tickets

validation optional

validation optional

The parking garage.

You pull up, push the button and take a ticket. Once a parking space has been secured, you leave your vehicle, ticket in hand, to do what you left home to do. Doctor’s appointment. Shopping. Lunch with friends.

Your business concludes and upon leaving the parking garage, you show the attendant the ticket and if you’re lucky, it’s been punched. Validated.

The attendant, literally a gate keeper,  looks at the stamp, doesn’t look at you, and nods you through.

You are exempt from having to pay for your parking space. Your activity met the requirement. You’ve been validated. It was time well spent.

Validation.

If only it were that easy to find on a personal level. And yet, we search for exactly that. At the end of the day, we review the activities and accomplishments. We present them to the gate-keeper in our mind for the verdict. Can I validate my existence today based on the list of to-do’s I checked off?

We have been watching American Idol as a family. Nothing says bonding like watching the mechanized wheels of celebrity propel or run over America’s young people. But I was struck the other day with the connection between American Idol and our quest for validation. Those who brandish the numbers on their clothing like marathon runners are gutsy. They step onto the small stage, sing their guts out (metaphorically, we haven’t started The Hunger Games yet) and wait for a nod. A golden ticket. Validation.

Please tell me I’m doing a good job.

As a country and even a world, with similar shows sprouting up everywhere (Korea’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent…), it’s obvious that we all seek validation in some way or another. Human beings desire to hear words of encouragement and affirmation. We long for our efforts to be substantiated, to have meaning and purpose. To be validated.

Recently, I pulled out a paper I wrote in college. The professor  made kind and validating remarks. The words were nice to read, but the impact of validation given so many years ago has faded, just as the ink on the page has begun to fade.

The laurels of accomplishment brown and grow brittle over the passage of time.

We seek that which doesn’t last. Several contestants from American Idol made it through last season only to be eliminated. The golden ticket of accomplishment faded. And so they are back. Seeking it again.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting they should just let it go. Validation is often the fuel that propels our dreams and pushes us to work harder. It isn’t evil. But, I wonder…do we seek validation for our accomplishments because we believe those are the things that define us? Does the validation become the vehicle instead of the fuel?

One of the contestants made a statement before stepping out in front of the judges.

“I’ll either be a successful musician, or a struggling one.”

Her thirty-second performance could alter the direction and course of her career, but it would not define her. She has learned to tap into a different kind of validation. She already has a golden ticket and it says she matters because of who she is, not what she can accomplish.

Are you waiting for a golden ticket? 

Maybe you already have one.


Dec 19 2013

Remnants of an ongoing battle with the past – Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD

Bookcase in the secret room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashbacks.

Last weekend David and I were sitting on the couch watching the 49‘s game. One minute our team is winning, the next minute an innocent commercial rips through the comfort of our home.

The commercial depicts a boy with tire tread running the length of his body, meant to invoke laugher and jollity. Instead the images unleash distress and horror.

Next to me, I feel David’s body tense. The steady rhythm of his breathing is replaced with a shortness of breath and in his eyes, tears pool around the edges, vying for freedom.

David sees something different.

The Secret Room.

Heat and light in the secret room.

Heat and light in the secret room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To deal with and control these memories David goes to a secret place. A room designed specifically by him to provide safety and comfort. At one end sits a well used, worn brown leather chair. A coffee table stands in front of the chair and beyond the table, on the opposite wall, a fire in the hearth burns bright and warm. A focal point where light and heat bring  tranquility and a feeling of security.

Both adjacent walls are lined with bookshelves containing volumes, magic anthologies, a documentation of events. Not just words but images, emotions, sounds and smells.

A Flashback.

Without warning, a book appears on the coffee table. And into the quiet room, the memory of a young boy with tire tread across his chest invades the safety and tranquility. Sights, a pool of blood puddles under his small head like a pillow. Sounds, the mournful shriek of a heartbroken mother who lost a piece of her heart in an instant. Smells, fresh blood creeping across black hot asphalt.

Unannounced and unavoidable, the unwanted remembrances float out of the open book and invade the secure, hidden space. Like rogue enemies, they launch poisonous arrows into the warm air and pierce the serenity.

David’s body tenses. His breath suspended in constricted lungs begging for escape, guarding a prayerful hope that the book will disappear.

But these are memories that will never go away. To contain and control them David has placed each one into a book. The memory of the little boy killed by a drunk driver is just one of many. David leans forward and closes the book.  With a deep breath, he rises from his chair, picks up the book and places it back on the shelf in its rightful place. Tucked away, surrounded by a myriad of other memories, both fond and equally horrifying.

While flashbacks cannot be anticipated or avoided, they can be controlled. David’s use of a room full of his memories has worked for him. Memories are impervious to destruction but they can be coerced. Forced back into storage. Driven back into the past, leaving room for the light and warmth to occupy the present and bring peace again to the secret room.

Healing and tomorrow.

Our connection to the events of our past is a two way street. We may mosey down the avenue and revisit joyful occasions. And, just as easily, the past can barrel down the road and crash into our present, bringing remembrances we would care to forget.

But we are not left powerless. David learned this technique at a retreat for first responders. The West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat Center. (www.wcpr2001.org) The past cannot be changed. But for those suffering under the weight of bygone memories there is hope. And hope is the fire burning in the secret room, giving warmth and security and a chance to live fully in the present.

************

Check out Rebecca’s debut novel, DISTRESSED, on Amazon.


Nov 9 2013

Why do I write?

3573941942

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To paint a picture. A picture that gives real perspective. A perspective that goes beyond our Sunday best and drives us into the heart of others.

For the last several years, since I started taking this writing journey seriously, I’ve asked myself this question often.Whatever you may think the writing life looks like, you’re probably wrong. No disrespect. Just saying.

Writers stare at the screen and wrestle. We wrestle with words. With plots and characters. And we wrestle with self-doubt. Which is perhaps the greatest understatement of the century. Self-doubt sounds like something you find in a Disney movie. But what I’m talking about is the kind of crippling uncertainty that renders a person slightly unstable.

So why do it?

I’ve heard responses that are close to the mark. “I’m ruined to do anything else.” “I love to write so much I can’t not write.”

But I stumbled today on my reason. An epiphany of sorts. I’ve danced around the idea for a couple years but it hit me square between the eyes today.

David and I finished watching a movie this morning. End of Watch. I still have tears streaming down my face. A movie about two LAPD officers who are ambushed. One of the partners is killed. We watched the graphic portrayal of his end of watch. The scenes are heart wrenching and the cop sitting next to me kept saying, “That’s so real.”

You can take the man out of the uniform but you can’t take the uniform out of the man. We sat and watched pieces of our reality play out on screen. It was more than a movie. It was a realistic portrayal of the life of a cop.

So why do I write?

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 2.32.58 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first novel, “Distressed” which releases soon, is a story about what a cop life can do to a marriage. To a family.

More than anything, I want the world to see. To see and smell and feel what it might be like to walk in another person’s reality. We have all been taught to walk a mile in another person’s shoes but how often do we actually take the time to do that?

What if you could read a book that put you in another person’s shoes? What if you could read a story and really see and feel the life of someone else? The characters and plot may not be reality but the emotion is. And it’s universal.

So why do I write?

I write to move people from their comfortable into the hurting world. Anyone can sympathize, or imagine what someone else might be feeling. But the well of humanity is much deeper than that.

Sympathy wipes a tear, but empathy embraces.

I write because I want to feel what others are feeling. And I write because I hope others want the same thing.

 


Oct 4 2013

We weep

Andrew

“Jesus wept.” 

In just two words, we are given a glimpse of something spectacular.

Humanity.

Suffering.

Empathy.

Jesus knew his good friend Lazarus had died. I can only imagine the small band of men walking two days in near silence. Grief drapes their group like a low lying fog. They stop to eat and rest, never forgetting their destination. A place of shock and sorrow. A place of death.

Even from a distance they hear the mourners. An entire village lends their voice to create a symphony of despair and anguish. The silence of the last couple days is overtaken by the sound of heartbreak.

Lazarus has died and the village mourns.

As the sun reaches its pinnacle in the sky one afternoon, Jesus crests the hill and sees the company of sadness.

Jesus wept.

As he stood and watched the dejection and pain, tears rolled down his face.

Humanity.

Suffering.

Empathy.

A young man we know died today. He fought valiantly against a disease that sought to destroy him. In the midst of suffering, he showed humanity and empathy. (Read his story here.)

And now we weep. May our tears be counted by the Almighty. And may the tears that fall glisten with…

Humanity. 

Suffering.

Empathy.


Sep 21 2013

A day of soccer and thank you’s

Thank a police officer

A few weeks ago, my twelve year old son started soccer in a fifteen and under division. Not only is he a rookie, but he is also at least a foot shorter than most of the other players. At a game last night, our team started the last quarter ahead by two. The goalie had done a great job but was tired of being in the line of fire. He took off the bright orange jersey and the gloves and tried to pass them off. No takers, until he got to my son.

My heart stopped as I saw Isaac pull the larger-than-life jersey over his head and push his hands into the gloves. I was reminded of what he looked like so many years ago as he would follow his dad around the house, helping with repairs. He tried to fill boots that were too big and wear gloves that continually succumbed to the pull of gravity and headed for the ground.

The game continued and the last quarter seemed to last a lifetime. The other team attacked our goal. Maybe they smelled blood. They were determined. Shot after shot. Those of us on the sidelines held our breath for minutes at a time.

The whistle blew. Although our opponents had managed to get two goals past my son, he had thwarted another five or so attempts. The game was over and we had won.

On the way home, I asked him if he volunteered to be goalie. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “No one else seemed to want to do it. And someone has to.” He had played goalie before. He knew the pressure. He understood that he would be standing alone. Protecting a large area and taking the heat first from his opponents and secondly from his teammates, should he fail.

Today is a national day, set aside to say “Thank you” to a police officer. Life isn’t a game. But I can’t help but see some similarities. Everyday, police officers put on a different color. A color that set’s them apart from their opponents and from their community. They may not wear gloves but they wear a band of tools around their middle that remind them of the gravity of their position.

They stand, often alone, between those who wish to score. And if they fail, they receive criticism and flak from their community.

It is easy to forget that we are on the same team. That someone has to put on the bright orange shirt and gloves and stand against the opponents of liberty and freedom.

Gratitude doesn’t mean we always agree with their decisions. Gratitude means we acknowledge the place they choose to stand. Say thank you to another human being who attempts to fill the shoes of men like Superman and Spiderman. They may not be superheroes but they are heroes none-the-less. And don’t be surprised if your “Thank you” is met with a similar response to the one my son gave.

A shrug of shoulders and a reply, “Someone has to do it.”