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


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.


Feb 1 2013

Life is Full of Misconceptions

the yellow brick road

the yellow brick road

Misconception #1: My parents are perfect and life is fair.

Misconception #2: My parents don’t know anything and life is way unfair.

Misconception #3: I will be a perfect parent.

Misconception #4: (After having a child) Misconception #2 was way off. Life is indeed unfair but perhaps my parents knew a great deal more than I was willing to give them credit for during the throws of teenage hormonal imbalance.

Misconception #5: Having a literary agent guarantees publication.

I have taken a sort of unannounced sabbatical from blogging over the past few weeks. Granted, there has been a great deal of change in our lives recently but the lack of posts has had more to do with my confrontation of misconception #5.

Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit such ignorance. But seeing as this isn’t the worst of my naiveté, it seems safe to share. Deep down inside, I honestly believed that once I secured an agent, I would become a published author. And I thought I was being reasonable. I waited for months. It seems to me that if another human can take shape and form in the void in ten months, an editor can pick my book for publication in less time.

Oh wait, I think I just discovered Misconception #6: The editing process is timely.

Anyway, I received another rejection yesterday. “We like your writing, blah, blah, blah, but the story is too dark.” The story happens to be about PTSD. And yes, it’s dark. I lived it. I remember.

In the face of yet another rejection I had to finally confront misconception #5. And let me just say that this blog is in no way a slight against my agent. She didn’t write the dark story that no one wants. She’s just doing her job. (nothing but love, K)

So my first book may not make it down the golden road of publication. (Misconception #7: The road to publication is paved in gold.) But maybe there’s another story in me.

I wonder if I have confused my misconceptions as failure. If I believed that I would be published and then I wasn’t, isn’t that a reflection of my ability? Yeah, it has felt like failure. They don’t like my story, they don’t like me, I’m not really a writer…spiral, spiral, spiral.

“Pilot to co-pilot, I smell smoke.”

And so I stopped writing. Or blogging. (Which is kind of like fast food writing.)

But just as I learned to overcome the misconceptions I had regarding parenting, maybe it’s time I grew up in the writing world too. Having an agent doesn’t mean I’m necessarily closer to publication. I think maybe it means that God knows I wouldn’t or couldn’t do this without a cheerleader. Which annihilates another misconception.

Misconception # who’s keeping track: I am super woman and can do anything and I don’t need anyone’s help.

How about you? Do you suffer under the delusions of misconceptions?


Jan 7 2013

Confessions of a Pioneer

pioneer wagons

Recently a friend referred to me as a pioneer. I had to pause and ponder such an accusation.

Pioneer? Me? Really?

I forced myself to look beyond the stereotypical view of a pioneer. Remove the bonnet. Put in indoor plumbing. Replace a covered wagon with a Suburban. And sure enough, perhaps she’s right.

Maybe I am a pioneer.

We moved to a foreign and somewhat harsh environment. And we are learning new ways.

For example, I cooked a pork shoulder in the crock pot and couldn’t bring myself to throw away the stock left behind. Saving two cups of left over pork stock is new to me. But perhaps even more shocking than saving it, is having a pretty good idea  how to actually use it for consumption later this week. Trips to town are usually once a week and they are an event. Pa drives, we sing songs, and we buy what we need for the week.

But the biggest adjustment is the swing from achieving to surviving.

I have been struggling. Each morning I wake up and think of all that still needs to be accomplished before we can feel settled and immediately my body reacts. My heart starts beating faster. It becomes difficult to take a deep breath. I want to crawl back into bed and hide.

Instead, I swing my feet into my slippers. Did I mention how cold it is? And I recite my new mantra.

“One day at a time.” 

Wait a second. Um, isn’t that one of the slogans for AA? If such a saying is one of the pillars of recovery, and I repeat this saying to myself ad noseum throughout the day, does this mean I am in recovery?

This pioneer woman had to stop and think. 

If I am in recovery, what am I recovering from?

It was as if a little voice inside shouted back at me, “Well, Miss Rebecca. I’m so glad you finally asked.”

I sat down and braced myself for what was to come.

“Yes, you are in recovery.” Sassed the imperious voice. “You are recovering from an addiction.”

An addiction? An addiction to what?

“Accomplishment.”

My brain rattled a bit. The verdict hit me square between the eyes.

So here is my confession.

“Hi. My name is Rebecca. I’m a pioneer. And I’m addicted to accomplishment.”

And not just normal accomplishment. I’m talking the extreme over-achieving sort. Writing a novel in five months. Trying to remodel an entire house in four weeks. Is there such a thing as type A, extra bold and italicized?

I’ve known this about myself for quite awhile. I’ve never seen it as an addiction. But when one is faced with the task of survival, achievement takes a back seat. Or maybe even gets drug behind. The once mundane tasks of life have grown monstrously. If I ruin dinner, the closest In-n-Out is 45 minutes away. Painting trim turns nightmarish when it takes three coats to cover the pea green paint. I want to see more accomplishment. But there’s not time for that in the midst of survival.

I’ve thought about hiding under a rock, or more apt a tumbleweed, until we pass from pioneers to settlers. But there’s no telling how long that will take. And it won’t happen until all the green trim is painted.

I’ve heard that recognizing you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.

So, here’s to first steps!

What’s your name and what are you addicted too?