June 22, 2018

The Right Thing

I'm a stickler for doing the right thing. I'm the kid who pointed out the teacher's marking error...even when it wasn't in my favor. I'm the kid who told my mom when I broke the rules. I'm the woman who stands up for what's right...even at the expense of my health and financial well-being. Why? Because it's the right thing to do.

My husband and I are watching New Girl on Netflix. We are a couple episodes shy of completing season 5 so if you aren't there yet...

<<spoiler alert>>

On the episode we watched last night ("Return to Sender"), Jess is faced with a dilemma when she meets her boyfriend's female best friend from med school. Jess discovers Diane has been in love with Sam for years and even told him in a letter that recently returned to her unopened. Diane gives Jess the letter because she can't destroy it and, now that she's met Jess, she can't give it to Sam either. Does Jess stay silent and keep the man she loves or stand aside and let him decide? In the end, Jess gives Sam the letter. She wouldn't have been able to live with herself if she'd kept the letter from him. His happiness is important to her. The audience understands the selfless motivation behind Jess' decision, but watches as Jess comes to terms with the inevitable reality of losing Sam.

Sometimes (most times), the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do.

This episode struck a chord with me because, had I been in Jess' shoes, I would've made the same choice. I often choose to do the right thing even when the alternative is easier or more beneficial. I have a strong moral compass. And, I believe in karma. Reward or benefit may not be immediate or ever materialize, but, at the end of the day, I can live with myself. The alternative? If you can't live with yourself, then it's pretty hard to escape.

Everyday, we are given choices. Choose carefully. Karma is watching.

June 8, 2018

Soundtrack of My Life

I always say my life story on screen would be a musical. Music is, and always has been, an important part of my life. I sing when I'm happy, and (excuse the total cliché) I sing when I'm sad. I have go-to rock out music—mostly from the year 1994—and I sing Broadway show tunes to my kids. Because I love music... many of my CDs were movie soundtracks... My Life: The Musical has the best soundtrack... I narrowed it down to ten tracks, but there were many other contenders.

I didn't watch a lot of TV when I was a kid. We didn't have cable TV until I was ten, and I loved to read. I do have fond memories of Sesame Street, a classic kids show. Oscar the Grouch was my favorite character so "I Love Trash" is track one.

New Kids on the Block were emerging onto the music scene just as I grew beyond children's music. I had the Hangin' Tough tape and my sister had Step By Step. They were the first band I ever liked... if you came of age in the 1990's you either loved or hated New Kids... and "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" makes the cut for track two. BTW, I still have Merry, Merry Christmas on tape, and I play it in the car (the only tape deck I have) at Christmastime.

If I had to describe myself in one word it would be romantic. I loved love (still do) and hoped to find my very own Prince Charming. My high school M.O. was having many hopeless crushes and dreaming of a tall, dark, and handsome dream guy. (I found him!) I love the Disney Princesses. What little girl doesn't dream of being a princess and marrying a prince? The classic princesses get a little flak for falling into the 'damsel in distress waiting for her prince to rescue her' stereotype, but the truth is that role was their personal choice. Just like the empowered, modern princesses who decide to go it alone. After all, feminism gives all women the right to chose their life, unrestricted by their gender. In my younger years, I had career aspirations and I never doubted that I would be successful, but what I wanted most of all was to get married—preferably to my true love—and have children. I didn't picture myself wearing a power suit for a thirty-year nine-to-five, but I recognized the importance in having the ability to support myself—and my family—in a worst case scenario. Disney's Enchanted is one of my favorite movies. <<Spoiler Alert>> Giselle begins as a 'damsel in distress' waiting for her prince and, as the movie progresses, faces adversity alone and evolves into her independence. In the end, she finds her happy ending—a successful career and her handsome love—the very definition of having it 'all'. I spent my teenage years waiting for "True Love's Kiss"—the most powerful thing in the world, you know—so this beautiful song is track three.

For every crush that ended in heartache, I had "Always" by Bon Jovi blaring on my boom box as I sang every word. Ironically, "Always" also became my go-to cleaning house song in the early 2000's. There were a few years shortly after I found out Jon Bon Jovi cheated on his wife where I boycotted his music, but "Always" has always had a special place in my heart, and the song isn't to blame, so this hit makes my track four.

"Self Esteem" by The Offspring is one of my go-to songs from 1994. I love this song. It's not so much that the lyrics apply to my life or anything, but it was a great song for a mosh pit. I still rock out when I hear it played—my kids recognize the riff "la la la la la la" as their brushing teeth music—so for those and other reasons, "Self Esteem" is track five.

"It's a long road when you face the world alone... And then a hero comes along, with the strength to carry on. And you cast your fear aside. And you know you can survive." High school is hard—you often have to be strong for yourself—so my pick for track six is "Hero" by Mariah Carey. It's also a great piece to play on the piano.

"What a Feeling" from Flashdance is my track number seven. I have seen the movie countless times, and I've even seen the musical—it was pretty good. This song "What a Feeling" is my go-to karaoke song; it's my 'on-the-way to an exam' song; it's my 'singing in the shower' song. The lyrics are so motivating. "Take your passion and make it happen."

We played "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing for our bride and groom wedding dance so this special song is my track eight. The soundtrack for Dirty Dancing has a ton of awesome songs too that are great to belt out.

There are a few reasons why I picked "A Whole New World" for track nine. Aladdin happens to be my husband's favorite Disney movie. When we got married (we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this year), we embarked on a journey together. Along the way, we added a nine-pound shih tzu and two amazing sons. It's "A Whole New World" seemed most fitting to illustrate starting a new life, and a family, together. My life would be incomplete without my family.

Nothing forces you to face your own mortality more than a death. Sudden death, especially, has a very sobering effect. When I heard Tom Petty died, I was stricken with grief. All I could think was how amazing an artist he had been and that there wouldn't be any more songs. "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty has become my anthem as I struggle with my health issues and confront the root causes. I am determined to succeed on both fronts, and "I Won't Back Down" until I do.

My Life: The Musical

1. "I Love Trash" - Oscar the Grouch
2. "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" - New Kids on the Block
3. "True Love's Kiss" - Enchanted
4.  "Always" - Bon Jovi
5. "Self Esteem" - The Offspring
6. "Hero" - Mariah Carey
7. "What a Feeling" - Irene Cara
8. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing
9. "A Whole New World" - Aladdin
10. "I won't Back Down" - Tom Petty

What songs would you include on the soundtrack of your life?

June 1, 2018

People Watcher, Feeling Analyzer

Sometimes I make a point to avidly observe everything around me. I note what people are wearing, the expressions on their faces, the cars they are driving. I give these strangers back stories and motivations. All in an attempt to understand humanity a bit better. There is much in life that doesn't make a lick of sense. I peer into the murky lake that is reality and create a world that does make sense. At least to me. For fiction is the lie that is often more truthful than the reality we perceive.

I love a novel that ends in happily-ever-after. No matter what sort of adversary the heroes face, the reader knows happiness is just around the corner. Honestly, a story without conflict would be rather boring. The characters need to bleed and cry. Suffering and obstacles and forks in the road make better stories. Conflict is relatable.

My characters and stories are significantly influenced by my life experiences. Writing is a tool I use to figure things out—solve problems, make decisions, discover hidden truths within myself. I'm terribly introverted. I don't even share my thoughts with myself. Instead, I depend on the words that flow from my fingers to interpret what is going on in my brain. A method more common, among writers, than you would think.

I consider the mind and the body as somewhat separate entities. Two parts that communicate, or not, with each other amidst the human experience. The absence of this communication is the starting point of many health issues. I am plagued by a mind-body disconnect where each part takes turns engaging in malfunction. Some retain their minds yet are imprisoned within their bodies while others lose their minds and not their physical function. And some lose both. Totally or fleetingly. I reside in such a prison. My mind is inflicted with an illness that freezes me under a menacing dark cloud for minutes or hours or days. Held in place without ability or desire to move. My body shuts down unexpectedly while my mind laments for the things I want to do and the places I want to go. I have searched unceasingly for the key to my prison. I feel like I could find it... if only I could write the answer. But my mind has failed me in that regard as well. I struggle to compose a short blog post. I lose my ability to think, concentrate, construct. I lose my desire to create. I sink into a deep despair. And, sometimes, it is all gone. Mind and body. And all I can do is cry or sleep. Until time eases my unceasing suffering.

Time, the most precious commodity, slips away before my eyes.