Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Power and Privilege of Words


I've been thinking a lot about words lately and the mystery of them. 

Both the spoken word and the written word have always intrigued me. 

I still stand in awe of the way a young child learns to speak the language of his or her parents.  The way that language just seems to be absorbed as if by osmosis, the way one wondrous day a word comes forth, and then another and another, finally to be followed by a sentence and before long a conversation.

The written word holds no less intrigue for me.  In fact, they may even hold more. I never cease to be amazed at  how these symbols we call letters are put together to form a word and how those words are put together to form a sentence and those sentences form a paragraph and those paragraphs form an article, a blog post, a story, or a book.

But perhaps my greatest surprise is the power that words hold and the effect they can have on others and where that leaves me as a writer.  This realization of the power that words hold is simultaneously both awesome and frightening to me.

Words have the power to uplift, encourage and heal.  They also have the power to tear down, discourage and wound.  They hold the actual power of speaking life or death to others.

I had two teachers in school whose words still ring in my ears and so perfectly illustrate this point. 

The first spoke death to me. I still vividly remember both the incident and the words as if they happened just yesterday.  I was a small grammar school student who had worked diligently on an art assignment the teacher had given us. When I was sure that it beautifully conveyed on paper the image I saw in my head, I proudly handed in my  work.  A day or two later, the teacher (whose name I don't even remember) handed back my art work with a Big Fat Red F marked across the page while she boldly proclaimed to me (and the rest of the class) "YOU have NO artistic talent whatsoever!" To this day, I've never picked up a paintbrush (other than the ones I paint beautiful rooms with!) again.

The other spoke life to me.  Miss Vella (whose name I do remember) told me regularly that I had talent, that my writing was beautiful and that she had no doubt that one day I would be a published author. I credit Ms. Vella, my high school teacher, with my love of language, love of words and the fact that I am able to string a word or two together today to convey a thought or an idea. 

Now the point here (in case you're missing it) is not whether I have even a smidgen of undiscovered or underdeveloped artistic talent in me, or even whether or not I'll ever find myself on the New York Times Best Seller List.

No, the point here is that words hold power.  And that consequently, as someone who holds words in both her heart and fingers, I am given the privilege and the responsibility to use them in a way to speak life to those who read them. 

And what an awesome privilege that is - to have the opportunity to speak life and birth greatness in others.  Not an art that I've perfected yet, but  certainly an ideal I aspire to. 

And I hope I get it right, at least some of the time.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Crazy


"You can find inspiration in everything (and if you can't look again)" -Paul Smith

I've been asking myself a lot of questions lately.  Questions like: "What type of women do I really want to coach in my coaching business?" and "Who exactly do I want to reach with my writing?"

I've also been wrestling with some recurring questions swirling about in my head (yes I hear voices - does that make me crazy?)  ones that are constantly vying for top billing in my thoughts. The winners as of late have been "Does that make me crazy?" And "Who do you think you are?"

I often find inspiration in strange places and today I found it in Southern Hip Hop Artist Cee Lo Green's hit "Crazy." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgRLrOyxUBo&feature=youtube_gdata_player.  He wrote the lyrics to "Crazy" after a conversation he had with a friend about people thinking artists are insane.

In case you're not familiar with the lyrics, they read like this:

I remember when, I remember,
I remember when I lost my mind.
There was something so pleasant about that place.
Even your emotions had an echo is so much space.

And when you're out there, without care,
yeah, I was out of touch.
But it wan't because I didn't know enough.
I just knew too much...

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Possibly

And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice
That's my only advice

Come on now
Who do you
Who do you
Who do you
Who do you think you are?
Ha, ha, ha!
Bless your soul!
Do you really think you're in control?

Well...
I think you're crazy!
I think you're crazy!
I think you're crazy!
Just like me!

My heroes had the heart
to lose their lives out on a limb.
And all I remember
is thinkin' I wanna be like them.

Ever since I was little,
Ever since I was little, it looked like fun
it was no coincidence I've come
And I can die when I'm done

But maybe I'm crazy
Maybe you're crazy
Maybe we're crazy
Probably


Yes, I remember when I lost my mind - when I decided to follow my dreams and I remember the pleasantness of that place as I finally gave myself permission to free up the creative space to do so.

I know what it's like to be out of touch - to ignore logic and reality and to follow my dreams anyway - because I know what they are, and because to me, they are worth following.

I'm all too familiar with  the voice(s) in my head that are constantly asking me "Are you crazy?" And "Who do you think you are?" And I know all too well the constant struggle to not let those questions deter me from my path.

I realize that while following my passion in life will give me the time of my life, thinking twice about the cost to do so is so very necessary.  So I've thought about it twice (maybe three times)  and I've decided that not following my dream would invariably cost me more.

Today, the answer to the nagging question "Who do you think you are?" was finally forthcoming! "I think  I am an ordinary woman with an extraordinary dream - to inspire others to follow their dreams by following mine." 

That dream (to be a writer)  was there since I was little and as I looked at my heroes, I too can remember thinking I want to be like them.  And no, it is not a coincidence that I've come to this place - it is a decision.  A decision to follow my dreams.  A decision to do what it takes to get there.  A decision to inspire others to do the same.

 I only recently declared myself a writer along with many others followers of 
http://www.goinswriter.com and shortly thereafter writing opportunities began to open up.  I am now in the process of transitioning to a writer's life and finding inspiration in the two online classes I am presently taking at http://www.susannahconway.com and http://www.kellyraeroberts.com.

I now know the type of women I want to coach, the readers I hope to reach with my writing.

They are the "crazy" ones.  The one's that have a dream deep in their souls, a passion burning them from the inside out, a calling that won't stop calling their name.  They are the crazy ones who know  too much - they know what their dream is and won't give up its' pursuit until it's realized.  They are the crazy ones, the ones who are ignoring the medical reports and seeking to find purpose in their pain and fighting their way back to a joy-filled life in spite of the facts.  They are the crazy ones who leave the cushy life of the corporate world to open their dream business.  They are the crazy ones, the artists, the musicians, the writers,  the designers who want to speak to others through their beauty and their words.  They are the crazy ones, the ones who'll ignore logic, the ones who will push past  insurmountable obstacles, the ones who hear questions swirling around in their brains, and the ones who want to find the courage to answer those questions...... all because of a dream.  

Yes, I want to reach the "crazy" ones - the ones just like you and just like me.

"Does that make me crazy?"

Probably.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

An Unwanted Gift

I never thought I'd say this - but having a chronic illness has turned out to be a gift - an unwanted gift ( like one of those white elephant gifts a friend gives you) that you really don't like and really don't want, but have to keep stashed away somewhere in the house, readily available to be brought out and displayed prominently  for those times when your friend might drop by.

When I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome some 18 years ago, I was, as they say,  in the "prime of life" - a young mother with three children - the youngest the age of 3.
I thought I had a bad case of the flu, and that it would all be over in a week or two. and then my life would return to normal.  The "flu" got worse and worse and lasted longer and longer until I was too weak to even stand up and had to be hospitalized.  I was plagued with chronic pain, chronic insomnia and chronic fatigue - and quickly withered away to 94 lbs and dropping.  My husband took me from doctor to doctor as we both searched for not only the cause of my mysterious illness, but a cure.
Finally after many months, we found a doctor who not only diagnosed me, but over the years through her medial expertise and compassion helped me regain a semblance of my former self.
There was (and is) no cure.  Some people do spontaneously go into remission, others do not and others (like myself) seem to reach a plateau where some symptoms are better and others remain chronic.  I still suffer with fatigue (although thankfully a much reduced), chronic migraines, chronic insomnia and chronic pain.  

The white elephant gift is still with me.  I never wanted this gift, never liked it and still don't.

However, this gift has literally changed my life.  Not in a self-limiting way (although that is the nature of the beast) but in a freeing way.

It has taught me to be more compassionate.  Pain has a way of doing that, you know.  

It has taught me to be intentional about living my life.  Because of limited amounts of energy, I am forced each day to make choices - choices about what I need to do, but more importantly about what I want to do.

It has taught me to see each day as a gift and to drink in the beauty that each day holds in the moment - that moment - the moment I'm experiencing here and now.

It has taught me to develop my creative side - to realize that this illness I have cannot take away the creative gifts and talents the Good Lord has given me.  The talents are still there - but the way I use them needs to be different now.

It has taught me to be grateful - grateful for the love of family and friends and for their understanding and support.

It has taught me to live each day in the grace of God - grace that has taken me this far in my journey and grace that will carry me the rest of the way.

Yes the unwanted gift is still with me.  I hope one day to be able to finally put it to rest, but for now, I'll keep it stashed away (as much as I can), by choosing to live a creative and joyful life and on those days when it is on display in the middle of the room - I will look for something, anything beautiful in it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Gift of Compassion


So often the gift of compassion is a two-edged sword-we feel motivated and called to act, but feel helpless and overwhelmed at the magnitude of suffering in the world.

For me, this means attempting to reconcile the reality of suffering in the world with the reality of my ability to do something about it.  I have come to realize that while I cannot do everything, I can do something. So now I begin with asking myself - What CAN I do?

When I look at things from this vantage point, suddenly I become not only more aware of suffering, but of opportunities to respond to it. 

I see that suffering knows no boundaries and that there are needs as close as next door and as far as a continent away.  Suffering is not limited to age or race.  It is not confined to economic or social status.

It can strike unexpectedly like a tsunami leaving thousands in its wake, or it can arrive slowly latching onto a individual like a slow growing cancer.  Perhaps most insidious is the suffering that comes at the hand of another - a husband who abuses his wife, a parent who abuses their child, an owner who abuses an animal; or a crazed shooter who open-fires on a gathering full of unsuspecting, innocent people. 

The gift of compassion looks into the eyes or suffering and responds. It calls us to leave our comfort zone, to be inconvenienced, perhaps even to suffer hardship.  It can call us to respond to an individual or to the masses.  The response can be as simple as wiping a tear from a child's eye, praying with someone whose loved one is near death or as complicated as organizing an awareness campaign or starting a non-profit organization.

God in his mercy has given us this gift of compassion - this gift which allows us to come alongside those who are suffering and offer outstretched hands - this gift which allows us to truly make a difference in the life of others. A gift which Christ not only gives to us, but receives back unto himself as well, as Matthew 25 reads:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "I tell you the truth whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Compassion - a two-edged sword, but a triple gift - a gift given to us by the Lord, a gift which we then give to others, a gift which then returns to our Lord, the giver of all good gifts.

How will you use your gift of compassion?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I Am a Writer


As the warm water washes over my body in my morning shower, thoughts are whirling around inside my brain just begging to be captured on paper before they once again elude me. I let myself allow those thoughts to go where they desire.

The ideas excite me so much I hurry through the rest of my shower, step out of the tub, towel off and begin to get dressed so that I can begin the business of writing today because....

I am a writer.

As I comb my hair it feels a little oily. Did I forget to shampoo? I ponder whether It would be possible to let it go since I've set aside today to really concentrate on writing a contest entry for the "You Are a Writer" Contest. I decide against it; we have Bed and Breakfast guests arriving shortly and it would not look very professional for a disheveled host with somewhat oily hair to greet them. So it's back into the shower.

Now, I am showered (twice), shampooed, dressed and ready to begin. I turn my iPad on, poise my fingers over the keyboard and....the phone rings. Better take this call it might be a B&B booking......

By now the clock is showing 1:00 and my stomach is demanding lunch...so I decide to fix myself something to eat, but continue to keep the creative thoughts flowing, while I gobble down left-over chicken pot pie.

I stack the dishes in the sink, turn to go back to my bedroom office, ready to get a fresh start, when my little dog begins barking wildly alerting me to the arrival of our B&B guests.

I get them settled in, return to the house ready to begin at last.

I am a writer.

As I pass through the living-room I catch a glimpse of a white car parked in front of our house. I pause to look at it a minute trying to discern why it's just sitting there when I notice a lady getting out with a package. I grab the ginger ale I had poured into a wine glass and head outside to meet her. She hands me an overnight package to sign for and comments on the beauty of our gardens.  As I sign the receipt slip I tell her we are actually a B&B. I see her staring a bit at the wine glass and I explain to her that, though I am a writer, I'm not drinking wine in the middle of the day - it's just ginger ale.

"You're okay," she says soothingly, "You're okay."

I ask her if she wants to come in to take a peek at the gardens and I offer her some ginger ale, more for proof of my sobriety than for pure hospitality. We have a pleasant visit and then I head back inside and sit down to begin writing.

The house phone rings. I ignore it and keep writing. The doorbell rings. I ignore it and keep writing. It rings again, this time more insistently, so I reluctantly get up to answer it. It's my neighbor, explaining that he has some of our mail and that he tried to call but no one answered so he thought he'd better bring it over.  I thank him, but silently wonder why he didn't just put it in our mailbox. I try to be pleasant as I move towards the gate with him, all the while only half listening as he talks about the tree across the street that is sure to fall on our house when the next big storm blows through if the county doesn't cut it down soon. I excuse myself and tell him I need to get back to work because...

I am a writer.

I decide that I need to pack up and go to my favorite coffee shop to get away from all the distractions so I can really write. After I arrive, I order a cup of serene green tea (because by now I need it) and a cinnamon scone and pick out a table in an out of the way corner near the back of the shop.

At last I am alone with my thoughts. My fingers fly across the keyboard much like a pianist's fly across a piano during the Allegro scherzando third movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. I become lost in the words, lost in the story, unaware of passing time. The ideas seem to flow effortlessly and I am quite sure that at last I will have something to show for my efforts.

Sharon, one of the shop's owners, invites herself to sit down for a moment to chat. She directs my attention to a large table nearby where the pieces of a puzzle are spread out and invites me to work a while on the "community" project. I decline, thinking that I am already hard at work on my own puzzle, trying to fit the fragments of sentences together to form an inspiring piece.

Sharon excuses herself to go and assist a customer and I see Carrie heading towards me with the same expectant smile she always wears. As she asks if I mind if she sits down, and does so without waiting for my response, I instantly feel a prick of guilt over not feeling more altruistic towards her today.  Carrie is a high functioning autistic which she proudly proclaims to whoever will listen. She is full of stories, mostly the same ones retold in different ways, but ones she loves to tell nonetheless. I push aside my iPad, give her my full attention and just listen without interrupting to comment. After a while, she notices my iPad, my pen and the papers which are strewn all over the table and proclaims to me, "Oh, you are a writer!"

"Why, yes," I reply.

"I am a writer."

Two hours later, 268 calories richer and $6.75 poorer, with two proud paragraphs to my name, I head home. I cook and eat dinner, clean up, feed the dog and take a long hot bath. 
I slip into my nightgown and then slip into bed. I pull my iPad close, ready to have some really intimate conversation with it but it seems that all that I've wanted and waited all day to tell it, has slipped away. 

I decide to thumb through a few magazines in hopes of gaining a little inspiration. I find myself getting pumped with creative ideas - ideas on how to make my environment a more inspiring one in which to write because....

I am a writer.

I survey my bedroom office. The floral lavender walls provide the perfect balance of inspiration and relaxation. The plum colored sheets covered with a beautiful ivory matelasse coverlet dress the king-sized cherry wood sleigh bed. A hand painted five-shelf bookcase holds only books which inspire me to create. On the right side of our bed is my writing space. Two huge 30x16 rose canvases are mounted above my antique verde colored wicker and iron desk. Two oil-rubbed bronze buffet lamps flank either side of the desk, and my laptop and iPad rest in the middle. 

Oh this is a place I can write! It's a place where I can withdraw from the world, be alone with my thoughts and coax them onto the page. In fact, I am able to coax several more paragraphs out in a short time and I begin to feel encouraged that I might make the contest deadline after all.

I am a writer!

But wait.....something is not quite right.....I hate to admit it, but I must....as a person who is visually inspired and very cognizant of the psychology of color and how it affects my mood and ability to create, I have to admit that this iPad case which I ordered online last week thinking it was plum, only to discover it is actually grape, just isnt working.
I have tried to pretend it is plum, tried to pretend it works, but each time I look at it - it reminds me of the nasty grape-flavored anti-nausea medicine I needed to take last week after an acute attack of gastritis. It causes me to feel nauseated all over again and I just can't write.

I decide to Google " best iPad 3 covers" and also to Google "whether plum or fuchsia inspires more creativity."

Although plums resume touts it as encouraging deep contemplation, pink is described as a powerful color representing the feminine principal. I find both a plum, and a lipstick pink leather cover. I switch back and forth between the two, comparing them in high resolution, and I finally decide on the lipstick pink one hoping that it is in actuality closer to fashion fuchsia than to hot pink. It should perfectly balance out the lavender walls, the plum accents and look beautiful sitting atop my verde desk under the oversized pictures of the pink roses which perfectly blend shades of amaranth pink, carnation pink and Persian rose with apple and forest greens, sepia, ecru and eggshell.

I decide to forego the advertised free shipping and decide instead to pay the two day shipping cost. That way I can be assured that my beautiful leather pink lipstick case with its intricate pebble detailing will arrive before the deadline for getting my "You Are a Writer" entry in.

Then I can do the final draft sitting at my desk, bathed in creative surroundings and I can be sure that it captures, in my own unique way, through my own unique process, who I am....

I am a writer!

As I hit the "buy now" button, I notice the clock reads 2 a.m. I lay the iPad aside, pull the covers up and let my final thoughts of the day carry me where they will because...

I am a writer!


Terry Gassett
Writer

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day

Each Mother's Day I like to remind each of my three (now-grown) children of the sacrifices I've made as a mother, both as they came into this world, and as I raised them to be the fine young men and women they have become.

For my daughter that means listening to the story (again) of how I labored for 20 looong hours, without pain medication of any kind, determined to bring her into this world going the natural childbirth route. It means listening to how the doctors let me labor for those twenty looong hours under the illusion that nature would indeed eventually take its course, only to receive news that I had to have an emergency C-Section before she would make her debut into this world.
For my oldest son, it means listening to me tell the story of spending nine long months of pregnancy confined to bed rest due to a condition referred to as placenta previa. It means listening to me tell the story of stopping off at Mama Harbison's for lunch and one last piece of carrot cake before going into labor and delivery, then spending my prep time for my scheduled C-Section with my head in a puke pan because I ate too much!
And last but not least, my youngest - also born by C-Section - has to listen to me recount how he refused to come out of the womb until the doctors cut an extra incision above the bikini line, forever putting an end to all hope that I could one day wear a bikini again.

Then of course I like to remind them of the endless sleepless nights caring for them as newborns, the terrible twos, and the always interesting teen years where they each began  to spread their wings to fly, while I ran around frantically trying to clip them back!

Then, each Mother's Day they remind me  (not with words) but with their presence, just how blessed I am to be a mother - to be their mother. For you see, each one of them is special, each one is a gift to me - a gift that has made my life more interesting, more rewarding, more fulfilled.

They have taught me far more valuable lessons than I have probably taught them.  They have taught me that Motherhood is indeed a noble profession - a valuable undertaking.  As a mother, I have been entrusted with the care of three precious gifts, which each came wrapped in their own unique boxes, and to this day never cease to amaze me with the joy that each gift holds.  They have taught me the value of unconditional love, both given and received.  They have taught me the value of holding on and letting go. They have taught me the value of tears and the value of laughter.  They have taught me the value of prayer and the privilege of being on my knees for them before the Lord. They have taught me to be grateful - grateful for the moments which make up a life - which make up Motherhood.

So this Mother's Day - I'd also like to remind my children not only of the sacrifices I've made as a mother for them - but of the blessings I've received from them - blessings that far outweigh any sacrifice I ever made or could ever make for them. And I'd like to remind them how very much I love them.




Refreshment

Ahh - Stress - we're on all too familiar terms.  But how well are we acquainted with the other side of the coin - Refreshment?  Jesus tells us "Come unto me all ye who are burdened and heavy-laden and I will refresh you.

While Jesus and His Word provide the ultimate refreshment, we can also rejoice that we have been blessed with the creative canvas of our Father which is on permanent display for our enjoyment each day.

When was the last you stopped to truly delight in the beauty of God's creation? The last time you paused to enjoy a raindrop gently touching your cheek? The last time you sat quietly listening to the morning songbird serenading her young or the evening Hoot Owl bidding you a good night? The last time you drank in the intoxicating aroma of a rose or ran your fingers gently over its velvety petals?

Can you remember when you last witnessed a breathtaking sunrise or watched clouds morph from cats into old ladies?  How long has it been since you've said hello to the "man in the moon" or quietly waited on your front porch for "star light, star bright, the first star you see tonight?"

When was the last time you skimmed a rock out over the top of a creek just so you could count the ripples it made? Listened to the secret conversations hidden deep within the recesses of the sea shell you discovered as you witnessed the ocean changing from high tide to low tide?

When was the last time you paused and unloaded your burdens?

All too often we are so busy carrying our burdens from place to place that we miss the joy of the moment, and so refreshment eludes us.

Refreshment begans with a pause - pausing to put down our burdens, pausing to pick up the Word, pausing to commune with God in prayer, pausing to drink in the beauty of His creation.

Will you take time to pause today and experience the joy of refreshment?
    .

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Value of Piddling

I spent the day piddling.  Piddling is so not like me - I'm usually one whose "To Do" list is written the night before, whose day is well thought-out and well planned; one who feels their day has been a success when most of the items on the "To Do" list are checked off at the end of the day.

But today was different. Today I piddled.  I filed the stack of papers in the kitchen and the ones in our bedroom that I've been meaning to get to for the past few months.  I folded the two baskets of clothes in the laundry room and hung my husband's shirts in the closet. I made some long overdo phone calls, and even penned a note to a friend.  I checked in with the little town of Mayberry to see what Sheriff Andy Taylor, Aunt Bee, Opie and the gang were up to. I fixed myself a peanut butter and honey sandwich with a glass of milk and ate it outside on the front porch while my doggie chewed his bone at my feet.

Ah life is good... I piddled around today and I am unapologetic.  For you see, I've discovered the value in piddling.  I got so many of the little things done, the things that get pushed aside so much of the time, while I'm going about the business of running a business.

Tomorrow, I'll be back to my "To Do" list, full schedule and well thought-out and well-planned day.
I hope to accomplish much and at the end of the day feel that I've succeeded. Back to business as usual - except for one thing -  in the not too distance future I'll be scheduling in another day to just piddle.