Saturday, January 23, 2010


Some days I feel like my heart will explode.


When I’m running on the treadmill at 5:00am and I’m about 5 minutes from ending my workout, breathing becomes more difficult, my heart rate rises even more than it already has and I want to stop, right there.

Interestingly, I started to notice that it doesn’t matter how long I’m running for, it happens as I’m getting close to being done. If I run for 30 minutes, 45 or 60, I get panicky about 5 minutes out and I want to make it stop.

Sometimes I quit. I tell myself that I need to “cool down” and give myself permission to walk the rest of the way but recently, I’ve been making myself stick it out. I tell myself that it’s only 5 more minutes and I talk myself through one minute at a time concentrating all my effort on breathing, until I’ve finished running the full time.

Once it's over and I’ve finished stretching, I have a big dose of energy and I’m glad that I pushed myself and didn’t let my irrational feelings slow me down.

Some days I feel like my heart will explode.


Life gets hard. The questions overwhelm and I want to quit.

That's when I breathe... and keep moving. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life As A Story

My dad is a fantastic storyteller. I am not.

In fact, I pretty much suck at it. I can give you a long line of chronological details spelling out a big background of information with a grand build up but when it’s time to pull it all together and make a succinct point, well, that doesn’t always happen. I wobble in the random much of the time. Such is my need to discover the art of creating a good story.
My dad, however, has a way of telling a story that includes just the right amount of necessary information, coupled with humor and the power of his point to make a story you will enjoy listening to and get something out of.

If life is a story, which I think it is, then the elements that make a good story parallel our lives.

Donald Miller says in his book, “A Million Miles In A Thousand Years”, that a story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

That’s it. That’s all a story is, in essence.

1) Character. There must be someone or something in the main role.
2) Ambition. There must be someone or something that the character desires.
3) Conflict. Without struggle, the story is weak and uninteresting. 

When it comes to my own life being a story, I often get hung up on the conflict. I don’t like it. I don’t like the disappointments, the things that hurt, the setbacks, and the unfulfilled desires. But without those things, my life’s story is weak and unmemorable.

Robert McKee says, “Joy is what you feel when the conflict is over. But it’s the conflict that changes a person.”

No one likes change. We like to be comfortable and have it easy but the conflict pushes us to an uncomfortable place where change takes place. There is positive, there is negative, there is pain and struggles followed by relief and happiness and still more rounds of the same. We don’t change without a shove. And change in the character is what makes a good story. 

In a strong story everything has a purpose. Every scene, every interaction, every bit of dialogue, is carefully crafted to move the story forward toward the culmination. Have you ever watched a movie where the scenes are out of order? Pulp Fiction is one that comes to my mind. The scenes are not in chronological sequence and it feels like the movie is bouncing around and it’s hard to follow. But when you get to the end, it all makes sense. I think this speaks of life as well. No matter how out of order it may seem, nothing is happenstance.

It doesn’t make sense that you have a Master’s degree and can’t find a job. It doesn’t make sense that the person you planned to be with forever doesn’t love you anymore. It doesn’t make sense that you followed all the right steps to stay out of debt but now you have 20k in medical bills. It doesn’t make sense when you love someone who is committed to someone else.

The scenes seem so messed up.

Maybe the reason that life feels so random sometimes is because we haven’t been looking at it as a story.

Maybe if I can see the individual scenes as part of a story and if I can run toward my ambitions, jumping head first into risk regardless of fear and if I can embrace the inner and external conflict as my personal character arc built to change me then maybe my storytelling skills won’t suck quite so much. 

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

"If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive." —Barry Lopez

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Personal Story

For a couple of months leading up to the new year, “story” kept coming up in things I would hear or read or see.  After a few instances, I started to wonder why. I love a good story, but I felt like it was about more than that. My curiosity started to nudge me as I began to think about the elements of a story and I started to notice them in different places as if they were being waved in front of me like a flag.

It’s kinda like how I never saw a silver 2007 Nissan Altima on the road, ever, until I bought one. All of the sudden, they were everywhere. I’m pretty sure they were driving along next to me everyday since 2007 but I never noticed a single one until it was my personal choice in transportation. 

I took notice and decided to adopt the theme of “story” as my personal theme for 2010. After it showed up a few times, clearly, I thought, I should take some time to look into it further.

I have been writing since I was old enough to scribble words on paper. In fact, this past weekend I uncovered a “diary” from when I was 11 years old. The handwriting is atrocious, the entries are sporadic and what I documented is hilarious. My personal favorite from June 25, 1988 reads, “Today was one of the worst, stupid, days of my life. First the sisters of mine got away with pounding on me. Then my mom and sisters don’t care about me.” How’s that for my own original after school special?
All of the entries start with “Dear Diary”. I misspelled diary once and it said, “Dear Dairy”. It’s weird that I wrote to the notebook as if it were my grandma or something. I wonder where I learned that; probably from Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie.

Still hesitant to call myself a “writer”, I just know that writing is part of who I am and it is also something that I struggle with. In fact, the process is rarely easy.

“I will start writing after I watch this one movie, after reading one more chapter of that book, after I fold the laundry or empty the dishwasher. I will sit down and write after I go out to dinner with a friend, after I go to the gym, after I call another friend or maybe I should check facebook.” There is always something else to do besides actually sitting down to write. Starting truly is the hardest part.

In 2009, I wrestled with writing a lot. I started the year with great optimism about finally having time to devote to writing after I was laid off in January. I had dreamed for years of having more time to write, and I used a lack of time as an excuse. Then, at the start of 2009, I was given time. Ironically, words and motivation for writing vanished, the very minute I was able to give it my full attention. I made myself do it though. It was as exhausting as looking for a job. After 30 minutes of typing, I wanted to take a nap. I had nothing to say and the stuff I did want to say, I probably shouldn’t. I saved a bunch of crap on my hard drive last year.

If being a good writer happened by simply having an ambitious desire to write, then love should be enough to make a relationship work, right? Ahhh… If only it were that easy. I want to be a good writer someday (and to have a good relationship). It’s hard work sometimes but that ambition (and that love, when it comes to relationship) is a good place start.

So, this awakening to a better understanding of story and what it really means is a fitting theme for me to explore throughout this year.

As it turns out, this whole “story” thing... it’s about more than just writing. 
My quest to know all that is wrapped up in writing a good “story” took me to a place this weekend that has challenged me in life.

It may not be a story just yet but let's see where this goes…

Sunday, January 10, 2010

T is for T-Bone

I was in a car accident last week.

It was relatively minor, I mean, the front bumper of my car was crunched pretty good but there was no structural damage and no one was injured. As far as accidents go, it was a decent outcome.

I had the right of way. The girl driving the other car had a stop sign on a cross street but she failed to yield and crossed my path without leaving enough room for me to stop. I hit the brakes with both feet and left skid marks and a cloud of brake smoke as if I was a NASCAR driver, coming into the pits. Her passenger’s side took the hit, T-bone style, leaving the signature of my Nissan imprinted on her Honda Accord.

The other driver was calm at first. She called the police and we waited in the 18-degree weather. After a few minutes, it registered with her what just happened and she became hysterical. She had no idea where she was, she couldn’t talk, she just sobbed.

Annoyed, I waited for the officer to release us so I could proceed to go out to dinner with my family. Sitting in my car, I remembered.

The last time I was in a car accident, I was 16. It was my fault. I rear-ended someone and wrecked my parents’ car. The lamination was basically still warm on my driver’s license; I had only been licensed to drive for a few short months. My father made me drive home from the scene of the accident; he didn't want me to become afraid to drive. I curled up in my bed and didn’t leave my room for 3 days. I was so embarrassed and ashamed and scared and sad. I didn’t want to face the disappointment of my parents. I crashed THEIR car. I felt like life was ending. So dramatic, I know, but it was a big deal when I was 16. Dad only made me pay for ½ the cost of the repairs and he never teased me or screamed at me or held it over my head at all. I guess he figured I punished myself enough. Life went on. It wasn’t the end of the world. It was a mistake; one that I learned from.

My heart got soft and mushy while I was waiting at the scene last week. I wanted that poor girl to know that life would go on, it wasn’t the end of the world. Before I left, I told her. Sometimes, I can be hard as stone when I’m wronged but this time I just couldn’t be angry or mean to her. I had been in her place and I knew how she felt. The kindness and forgiveness that I received from my dad so many years ago, healed my heart when I was at fault and I needed to remember that while I was aggravated that my car was busted.

But let me tell you, you should see my mangled license place. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Story Of 2010


Another year.

2009 went by at warp speed and I must say, it was a pretty good year; much better than the previous two, that’s for sure. It was the ‘year of surprises’. When 1/1 hit the calendar 12 months ago and that theme jumped out at me, I had no idea what it meant. I never could have predicted or dreamed up all the surprises that came my way in 2009.

Today the calendar starts over again and this time, it’s a fresh decade as well as a new day and a new year. Like opening to the first crisp page of a brand new notebook, the next 12 months are unknown, unwritten and the story could go any which way. I love the clean, unmarked first page of a new notebook, I know I’m weird but something about the unlimited possibilities of what could be written there brings a sense of hope into all that has already been written, and gives courage for all that is yet to be, whether it be good, bad or a little of both.

In thinking about what 2010 looks like right now, before anything has been written on the first page; all I know is that there’s so much I don’t know. One thing I do know is that this year will have a story. The plot, the conflict and the theme will be developed as the days turn to months and time starts to scribble this thing out. The setting, the characters and the point of view may look different 365 days from now but that’s what makes it life.

The story of 2010 is untold today but I’m ready to see how it unfolds.

Let’s get this party started!