And So It Goes

There is a song by Billy Joel called “And So It Goes” that came on the radio this morning while I was getting ready for the day. It particularly stood out to me this morning because right before it there was a rocking song with guitar licks and drum solos…and right after it there was a melancholy love song with harmonies and orchestra (I was listening to Pandora).

If you’ve never heard the song, click on the link above and have a listen. It is Billy Joel and his piano. Just a voice and the piano telling a story of a man and his partner, their life together, their moments of silence and a recognition that they are the only ones that truly understand each other simply because of their time together. It isn’t the words so much that resonated with me today, but the tone of the song; particularly in contrast to the songs before and after it.

Life seems to me to be mostly simple songs with our voice and a piano. We all have rocking guitar song moments when we go on vacation or our kids do something fantastic or we have that great night out with friends. We always make sure to get those rocking moments out on social media! We also all have melancholy love song moments when important people in our lives go through pain or life deals us a tough circumstance. We might tell a few close friends about these and trooper on. However, most of our lives are spent in our mundane daily tasks, going through life with our partners, family, and friends who understand us simply because of our time together.

Today I’m trying to relish these “And So It Goes” moments more. I’m staring out the window of my office this morning at a grey sky, thankful for a routine morning run after getting the kids off to school. I’m looking at my to do list for the day knowing that there is work to be done and that it is meaningful and enjoyable. I’m thinking about basketball practice tonight and smiling about the fact that I still get to engage with kids in a game I love. It is just a quiet piano solo day, but it can be a beautiful day.

My life will soon have some rocking guitar songs and I’ll be sure to post those to social media for all to see. Life will probably have some melancholy songs in the near future too and I’ll need my friends and family most during those times. But today, life just has a routine Wednesday for me. And So It Goes…

Writing Helps

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It was an unlikely place to learn one of the most valuable lessons in life. You’d expect an ‘a-ha’ moment for a teenage writer to come from an inspiring English teacher or from reading a book of Emerson poetry for the first time, or something like that. And, while I had some great clinicians for English teachers (Neuleib and Kelly), it was in my AP U.S. History class that Ms. Scott taught me that writing helps. She forced me to write about history in a way that EXPLAINED it, not just recounted it, and in those exercises I learned the value of using writing to explain things. You see, when you write to explain your thoughts and feelings, your mind is forced to process and organize those thoughts and feelings into understandable sentences. The result is that writing helps us understand ourselves, process our feelings, and express those feelings to others in ways that speaking cannot because of the filter of our hands on the pen or fingers on the keyboard.

So, I return to the task that Ms. Scott often assigned now as an adult, particularly when I’ve got something swirling around in my mind that needs some translation to make any sense. While I still love to read about Sherman’s March to the Sea and Roosevelt’s New Deal, those topics don’t find their way into my creative writing these days. However, when I was writing about those things I was forced to study the facts, examine the commentary, and develop my own thoughts about the how and why of some of history’s most important moments. I try to apply the same exercise to my writing now – I am usually stirred by facts (something I read, hear, or discuss with a friend usually), I examine the commentary (often inside my own head), and I try to develop my own thoughts about the implications of what is going on.

You see, I’ve been in a bit of a ‘funk’ lately. Nothing serious, just not the best me, not the me I want to be. Unlike my writing hero, Edward Abbey (pictured above), I’m not intending to set off to blow up a dam out of angst; although if you are thinking about that you should watch Damnation on Netflix and you’ll definitely want to. I digress…

So, I review the facts: I’ve had 3 straight weeks of heavy travel (like multiple flights, coast to coast, red-eye heavy travel), I’ve been out of my consistent running pattern (only 1-2 days a week the last few weeks), I’m eating like crap (on my last business trip I had back to back nights of 10p wings and beer at the hotel bar because of that crappy travel schedule), and I haven’t written anything since October 30. I examine the commentary in my head – “Wow, looks like you’re putting on some weight this morning in the mirror,” “Gee, I’m awfully tired this morning, I think I’ll sleep another 45 minutes since my client meeting isn’t until 10a today,” “It’s been a long trip, you deserve some ‘comfort food’ before bed tonight.”

Now it’s time to develop my own thoughts into something meaningful on this page. Travel is a natural part of my job, it us unavoidable, so there is no sense in taking a negative view of the necessity of some tough trips. The real thing that is going to get me out of this ‘funk’ isn’t less travel, it is a change in discipline and attitude. If I look at times I’ve felt great about myself and the world, I was actually traveling quite a bit then. Travel inspires and energizes me, it is fun for me to explore new places and meet new people. The difference is my approach to that travel and how I spend my hours on the road needs a re-start. When I leave enough room in my travel schedule to enjoy a city, sit down for a decent meal at a decent hour, and make it a priority to get out of bed for my morning run, my whole attitude and experience changes.

In my old high school ‘blue books’ where Ms. Scott made us write our history essays, she always made us leave margins so that we had room for notes and additions if we needed them. I think the same applies here – I need to get back to leaving some margins in my days; time to think, time to read, time to explore, and time to write. Because writing helps.

Lessons from Granny

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I don’t see my 88 year old Granny Searby nearly enough, but this past week we spent a few hours with her and I quickly realized that I still have a lot of lessons to learn from Granny. As 2013 comes to a close, here’s the reminders I picked up from her during our visit that I’ll keep close to memory for 2014:

– Slow down…Granny isn’t in a hurry to get anywhere, she knows where she’s going and enjoys the getting there.

– Eat just a little each time, but eat several times throughout the day…Granny doesn’t eat a lot at meals, but she takes little snacks throughout the day. Maybe that is why she’s always be thin and fit.

– Exercise a little each time you can…Granny has decided to get a little exercise each time she walks back to her room by walking all the way to the end of the hall and then back to her door before going in – those extra 20-30 feet add up over the course of a week.

– Friends matter…Granny looks as good as I’ve seen her in 5 years and she attributes a lot of it to spending time with the new friends she’s made over the last 6 months at the assisted living center.

– Be thankful…Granny mentioned several times during our time together how thankful she was for the staff, the exercise room, the library, the weekly bingo, the good food. Seemed like she was able to find thanks in the simplest things and it showed on her face.

– Live simply…Granny lives in a small apartment with a living room, kitchenette, bedroom, and bathroom. She doesn’t have a lot of ‘things,’ but she told me that she’s got everything she needs and is as satisfied as she can be.

– Live life to the fullest and cherish each breath…Granny has had a tough year, but she has made the most of it and seems happier than ever.

My hope and prayer for 2014 is that I’ll take these lessons and apply them to my own life. I think they are valuable lessons for us all.