Silly Obstacles

I stopped writing for a while.  I couldn’t figure out why as I really enjoyed doing it.  And for the most part I appreciated the comments and the feedback I received from the 3 people that read my posts and commented.  But for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to continue with the endeavor.  And it was really bugging me that I couldn’t pinpoint the cause or the event that precipitated my ceasing to put fingers to keys (the modern day version of pen to paper I guess!).  I let it sit for a really long time and didn’t do anything about it.  I didn’t even think about the issue, or so I thought.  It was never far from my brain.  I’d ruled out having nothing to say because honey I ALWAYS have something to say.  Just ask my closest friends and family.  I’m sure they’d admit under their breath and out of my hearing that me having nothing to say would be a refreshing change of pace.  But there you have it, I’m a talker.  And a writer.

So what was with this aversion all of the sudden?  After cogitating (see Willie Shakespeare, I can make up words too!) on it for several weeks, ok months I know, I think I may have figured it out.  And it’s a situation that isn’t going to go away, especially if I have the kind of career I want to have going forward.  The details of the issue aren’t important.  What is key here is realizing I was letting someone stop me from expressing myself fully.  That’s an old behavior I thought I’d put on the shelf long ago.  Apparently not.  I was surprised it reared back up but there you have it.  It’s back and needs to be dealt with.  And the pen needs to be put to paper once again.

Sliding into Home

I have been blessed with 8 nieces and nephews.  More nephews than nieces but I’m partial to both.  My brother and sisters were kind enough to select me to be the Godmother of the oldest and the youngest, both boys.  Let me tell you, the youngest one is a pistol and being around him is a blast.  He’s sharp as a tack and built like a toddler linebacker, an interesting combination.  The oldest one is very observant, serious, smart, impatient and likes to know he’s got a handle on everything, that’s he’s in control of his environment.  He’s a good student although I wish he liked to read more as it opens up your world so much.  Whatever Aunt Pam.  Sometimes I feel as if I’ve turned into the adults from the Peanuts cartoon when I’m talking to the kids, so much “wah, wah, wah”.  But start talking to him about sports and watch his face light up.  He’s a huge sports fan, from baseball to golf to football to basketball.  He’s truly a student of the game and it shows in how much he can tell you about any subject.  He’s also an active participant of several sports.  He plays football in the fall, baseball in the spring and has a really nice natural golf swing he breaks out in the summer, which makes his Nana very happy to see.

Since it is Spring, we are in the midst of baseball season for all the kids even the girls.  Every game counts for each team as it gets closer to the playoffs.  This particular game was a real nail biter as it went down to the closing innings and our team was behind.  My nephew is leading off third as the pitcher throws a wild pitch.  He takes off down the baseline and slides into home plate.  Only his cleat catches on the base and his leg goes one way and he goes the other.  Followed by the pitcher falling on him.  Snap!  You could hear it pretty far away.  Both bones, tibia and fibula, broken.  As he was being carried off the field for the trip to the emergency room, tears streaming down his face, he looks up at his coach and asks “was I safe?”  He was.  As the tears resume, he stops them once again to ask “did we win?”  The game wasn’t over but it was the go ahead run.

Pretty amazing.  Not the part that made me smile, the questions that were topmost in his mind, but the total commitment he had to taking advantage of an error and getting to home plate.  Nothing was going to deter him.  His goal was to get to home plate no matter what.  There’s something to be learned from this terrible experience.  There will be obstacles and sometimes setbacks as you pursue what you want.  But being completely fearless and totally committed will get you the results you want in the end.  Oh, and they did win the game…by one run.

Finding Heroes

Reading biographies is something I truly enjoy doing.  I buy into the fantasy and believe these words just came flowing out of the authors mouth perfectly onto the paper.  Ghost writers?  What are those?  I choose not look behind the curtain to see the main moving the levers and pushing the buttons.  Reading about another’s journey and what got them to where they are today is very inspiring to me.  I usually pick up something that lights my fire and keeps me going in a forward direction on my own journey.  Usually these people have reached a level of expertise, celebrity or notoriety that would allow a biography to be written.

Every once in a while I come across a story that isn’t like this.  The subjects aren’t famous.  They haven’t climbed to the top of their field.  They may not even have a field.  They are simple people trying everyday to reach beyond their present circumstances.  And their stories are every bit as compelling and inspiring, sometimes even more so, than those of the celebrated.  Such was the case with a documentary I recently watched, Waiting for Superman.  It’s been on my video cue for several months but I kept pushing frothier fare in front of it.  But I found myself on a long flight and it was in my bag.  And let me tell you, it was gripping.  Several times tears were just streaming from my eyes.  My heart was breaking for these kids.  If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a huge favor and put in on your must watch list immediately.  You’ll thank yourself.  The struggle of parents to get a better education for their kids was heartbreaking.  And when things didn’t turn out their way, they didn’t give up, they tried another route.  Nothing was going to stop them from getting a better life for their kids than they had.  And you know this is going on everyday, in every home, with single or dual parents, rich or poor, PHD’s or barely GED’s.  Parents realize a good education is the ticket to success for their children and they were going to move heaven and earth to make it happen.

That single mindedness, resolve and quiet determination really hit home with me.  It’s so easy to point to the celebrity or sport elite for inspiration but the real heroes are those that just keep plugging away, day after day in their anonymity, doing the best they can with what life throws their way.  They are real heroes.

Getting Unstuck

I’ve been working out recently with one of the DVD programs you usually see advertised on TV late at night.  It’s a pretty good workout with enough variety to keep me going to the next day.  One day I’m working a muscle group, the next I’m doing some form of cardio workout.  I feel good after each workout and I like all the workouts.  Except for this one workout.  It’s 50% longer than all the others and I really don’t enjoy doing it.  It’s a Yoga workout and while I usually like Yoga, I really don’t like this one.  I struggle with the moves, holding the poses and the overall length of the workout itself.  I find every excuse I can to not do this workout.  Which throws off my daily routine of trying to get a workout in every day.  I abhor this workout so much, it has completely derailed the good momentum I had going about a month ago.

I’ve noticed this happens in other areas of my life as well.  If I can’t seem to get a blog post written the way I want it sound, I’ll let my writing languish for days.  I let it stop me from my goal of trying to write everyday.  Or if I am craving a certain usually off limit food or type of food, I’ll eat all the way around the food, most likely adding WAY more calories than if I just ate the dang thing in a moderate portion size.  Or even if I’m having difficulty reaching a contact I really want to do business with, all other cold calling stops until I reach that contact.  Instead of replacing the ickey workout with one of the multitude of others available in the DVD set, or starting a completely new blog post, or eating the craved food, or putting aside the elusive contact, my stubbornness and narrow-mindedness allows these situations to take control of otherwise good progress.

No more.  Tomorrow I start fresh resuming my walk/run.  I’ll get to the DVD’s on Monday when it’s supposed to be over 90 again.  And the elusive contact goes to the bottom of the contact list bumping up every other prospect higher in the list.  And the troublesome blog post gets saved as a draft, perhaps never to see the light of day.  Instead I published this one.  You’re not the boss of me frustrating situations.  So there.

Relentlessness

The other evening, due to a mixup on scheduling, the class I usually take was cancelled which allowed me to attend a meeting at the Chicago Film Actors Meetup group.  I haven’t been to one in a really long time so I was quite happy with the situation.  The forum for these meetings is usually chocabloc full of fantastic information for the Chicago actor and this evening was no exception.  They were interviewing owners and instructors from various acting schools around Chicago on their curriculum and philosophies.  One of the great things about this group-aside from the fast that it’s run by a very accomplished actress and organizer Grace McPhillips-is it’s adaptability and relevancy.  The forums aren’t set in stone so if something comes up that resonates with the group, that path can be followed.  On the other hand, she’s great at reining in rabbit hole discussions that lead to nowhere.  The question was asked by an audience member what is was that made an actors successful, was it training, networking, luck, voodoo offerings to the gods at midnight in a cold dark swamp?  Actors especially, are always looking for that secret key that will unlock everything for us.  The answer came back that those in this person’s mind who were successful, where those that were relentless.

That hit me like a 2X4 between the eyes.  I’d had a not so great couple of days that were filled with frustration and no signs of progress.  I wasn’t going to give up by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets pretty tough to keep moving forward when nothing seems to be going right.  Especially when you are going at it alone.  But moving forward is exactly what I need to do and the message came through loud and clear.  Relentless is exactly what I’m going to be.

Remember that school yard game where you linked arms with your mates and marched lockstep around the playground chanting “we don’t stop, get out of our way!”?  The nuns didn’t like us to play that game.  But that’s going to be me with my career.  Sorry Sister.

Fabulous Hair

I am a devoted reader of Seth Godin’s Blog.  I have it delivered to my inbox every day.  Which reminds me I need to let all my 4 readers know I have the ability to do that for them as well.  Anywho, I love how he looks at things.  He takes a situation, turns it upside down, inside out and backwards and helps me to look at something in a completely different way.  And in doing so, I break a little further out of the mold of “I’ve always done it that way”.  He’s also great at introducing me to new thoughts, new ideas and often new words. And you know I’m a word junky.  I love collecting them.  One of his recent blogs was about the word Sprezzatura, which is an Italian word meaning the ability to do your craft or work without visible effort.  In his words, it’s a combination of elan (another great word) and grace and class.  It’s the golfer finessing a shot under a tree but over a bunker to land on the green 4 feet from the cup, the surgeon who calmly and precisely opens a chest, inserts a pacemaker into a heart and restores normal rhythm to a struggling patient, or the film actor who take after take hits his mark exactly while delivering his lines slightly different from the take before, thus giving the director options when he edits the film.  Or for me, it’s my hairdresser Elizabeth who blows dries my hair so fabulously it has that come hither look about it.  I sigh in resignation each time I watch her at her task, determined to figure out what she’s doing that I’m not because no matter how hard I try, I just can’t duplicate her results.  One time I blurted out “Now why can’t I do that?”  She chuckled and said “well first of all my arms aren’t connected to your body” -good point for her as I have a hard time reaching the back.  She continued “And it could be the fact that I’ve been doing this for 15 years” which made me think, yes but I’ve been blow drying this hair for 3 decades and it’s the same head and hair I’ve always had so why can’t I do as well as she does?  I came to realize that the difference is how we approach the task.  She is a professional who is trying to please a client so she has learned the proper techniques and motions to create “Hollywood” hair as I like to call it.  Me, I just want to get it done and dry as I have 35 other things that need my attention once I’m finished so it’s a chore to get completed, not my passion.  If it was really that important, I’d practice over and over to get it right which is what I do each time I audition or perform.  It’s still not at the Sprezzatura point, but I’m getting there.  And now I know what to call it when I reach that point of effortlessness.

The problem is…

The will to get good at it.  You know how it is, you figure out something you want to do or learn, a new passion, skill or hobby.  You get all excited about the endeavor, researching it, buying stuff for it, getting it all set up.  Then finally you get started doing it.  And it’s fun for the first few days, maybe even a few weeks.  You are proud you’ve stuck with it, because didn’t you read somewhere that it takes 3 weeks of repeated behavior to create a new habit?  Pretty soon, you start to take it for granted.  A distraction presents itself and you think “I’ll get back to that later, I need to take care of this now”  Before you know it, later becomes tomorrow becomes next week becomes a few months.  And the momentum you worked so hard at establishing is gone, not to be recalled.  Oh sure, you can work at it again, but the excitement isn’t really there, it’s been replaced by embarrassment and disappointment at letting it go in the first place.  So getting back to that groove takes even more effort, because now you’ve added some baggage to the journey.

You have to want to get good at it, not just try to get good at it.  The wanting will sustain you when the newness has worn off and the mundane has set in.  I’d forgotten that in this process of blogging, fortunately someone kindly reminded me.

26.2 miles

Yesterday was the Chicago marathon.  The past 2 years we’ve had freakily, if that’s a word, warm weather, in fact, 2 years ago they had to cancel the race midstream due to the heat and runners suffering severe dehydration.  This year the weather was on the really cool side, perfect conditions for long distance runners and predictions were records would fall.  Sure enough the 10 year old course record was broken by 1/100th’s of a second with the winner finishing in 2:05:41.  That time just blows my mind.  In slightly more time than 2 episodes of 60 minutes, a man ran from downtown Chicago to the Motel 6 in Dundee Road in Palatine IL.  If you’ve ever watched a marathon, the elite runners appear to be mythical creatures.  They fly by in a group and you can’t even hear their feet hit the ground.  There appears to be no effort, no strain, no difficulty on their part as they complete their trek.  It’s all in a days work to an outsider.  But the truth is in what you don’t see.  These people train daily, watch every single calorie they intake, analyze every aspect of their stride and improve the minutiae that will enable them to take 1/100th’s of a second off their time.  That’s what a professional does.  They labor in obscurity for months and years perfecting every aspect of their chosen craft until they burst on the scene in a blaze of glory.  The proverbial 20 year overnight success.  So many times we see a person on the screen, or in an arena, or on the microphone and think “I could do that, it doesn’t look that hard”.  To achieve the appearance of ease while attempting the impossible makes one elite.  It’s something I struggle with all the time.  I’m smart, competent and trainable.  It just frosts my cookies when I don’t master something the first time.  Pretty arrogant of me.  I fall prey to that nasty vice of instant gratification.  Keeping the long term goal in mind and continuing to put one foot in front of the other, do one more audition, learn another monologue will keep those baby steps adding up and someday I’ll be proficient enough to run my marathon effortlessly.

The Word Monster

I think I’ve created a monster.  What started off in obscurity as a “let’s see if I can keep up with this” has quickly become something quite different.  I don’t want to call it a burden or a responsibility or a duty because of the negative connotations those words sometimes have.  But I have come to realize that in creating this blog that way I have, starting it off as a daily feed, in essence I created for my readers, all 4 of you, mostly family mind you, a expectation of what was to come.  Sorry for all the comma splices in the previous sentence.  Anywho, by posting daily, I informed the readers that this would continue to be a daily endeavor.  And when I started, it was an easy task to keep up and even ahead of.  But with time and other responsibilities and brain drain and you name it, I wasn’t as daily as I had started out to be.  And I have no one to blame but myself, I set up the rules and I allowed them to be broken.  I made a commitment I wasn’t keeping up with. I’m disappointed at this turn of events.  I had every intention of staying at least one day ahead.  But the road to heaven is paved with good intentions right?  And the minutes turn to hours turn to the next day and crap!  I got nothin.

I’m reminded of the movie Little Shop of Horror when the giant plant Audrey II keeps wailing to Seymour Krelborn (Rick Moranis) “feed me, FEED ME!”.  She is insatiable in her constant need to feed.  Just like the fact that the next day will come and another post needs to be created.  But I made a commitment, and commitments need to be honored.  Otherwise where would we be?  Being eaten by a giant plant that’s where.  Not a fate I want to share.  Now where was I?

First and 10 at the 20

This time of year is a really happy one for me.  I’m a huge Indianapolis Colts fan.  HUGE!  The problem is I live in Chicago Bear territory and the games are usually scheduled to run at the same time.  I know, different conferences.  But when the Bears air on Fox, the local CBS affiliate won’t run another game against this telecast.  So unless I get lucky and one of the teams has a west coast game or they are playing in Primetime, I’m forced to leave the house to watch my beloved Colts.  And I really don’t like watching with others around unless they are fellow Colts fans.  I get too nervous.  Two years ago when the Colts played the Bears in the Super Bowl, even though I’d been invited to several parties, I watched at home alone.  My Mom, sister and BIL went to the game in the pouring rain but I couldn’t stand to be around others for fear they’d lose.  Fortunately that wasn’t the case.

This past weekend was a good weekend.  The Bears played in Prime so I could watch the Colts at home.  It was a very close game with lots of turnovers and a pretty low score.  For the most part, each time there was a turnover, QB Manning would be starting at his own 20 yard line, with 80 yards to travel for a score.  And each time, he would patiently and persistently march down the field towards the goal line.  Even when a play failed, he’d get right back under Center and try another play.  And when he ran out of downs and the other team took over, he waited until it was his chance to get back in the game, tweaking things with his coaches and then try again to make progress to the goal.  It wasn’t the case with this game, but I’ve seen him take the team, down 2 or 3 touchdowns on to win the game.  I’ve often wondered how a team and a person, can stay focused, committed, positive and professional against overwhelming odds and obstacles, sometimes overcoming them, sometimes not.  And then do it again the next week.  That drive to achieve comes from within and helps them to take that 80-100 yard march one yard at a time.

Oh and this weekend will be another good one.  The Colts are on Monday Night…are you ready for some football?