Tuesday, May 30, 2017

From my journal, September 2010: Lessons from a babbling brook

Originally written September 12, 2010, around the time of this blog post.
Right now, I'm sitting outside with Michael on the deck of the cabin we rented to celebrate our anniversary. We're in Luray, VA - in the Shenandoah Valley. I hear bugs, we saw woodpeckers and then a raven chased them off. We ate pie for breakfast (who ever would have known that dessert for breakfast would become such a thing for us and celebrations?) Now we're sipping our second cup of coffee and Michael is writing in his Bible and I'm here. All to the soundtrack of a real life babbling brook.

The occasional car drives by.

The simple life out here in the county is such a nice escape from the hustle-and-bustle of our lives in DC. As I listen to the brook, I think about how people pay major money to recreate these nature scenes in their own environments. Like the pond in my mom's back yard, or those little fountains people buy with the rocks and the flowing water. We are so funny. We want to grow and develop, and build all these conveniences, then all of the concrete and escalators and baristas shouting our names stress us out, so we end up spending $179 a night in a one room cabin at Brookside, escaping the man-made utopia for real, authentic peace.

That's man for you, isn't it? We are always thinking. Always working toward something bigger or better. I know I am. Pretty soon, our closets are over-stuffed with clothes and our kitchens have more gadgets than we could ever use. That's my own manifestation of this truth, at least.

THIS. Is. Church., though. Seeing the slow, slim stream of steam off the top of Michael's cup of coffee (well, 1/2 Swiss Miss, 1/2 coffee) seeing the brook flowing. Nothing stops it. When the warmth of that coffee hits this cool, crisp, fall mountain air, it creates steam. It has to, to escape. When the flowing water, running slightly down hill comes up on a rock in the middle of the brook, it flows over it, or around it, or back into itself. Whatever is necessary. It has to keep going. Momentum is taking it somewhere else.

As I ponder these challenges that we've faced in our first year of marriage, I'm thankful to have a clear head and these examples of triumph right before my eyes. What would happen if the warmth of the coffee didn't escape, if it weren't able to blow off steam? The coffee would probably end up weak and gross. And the term, "babbling brook," that is so much fun to say, wouldn't exist.

The babbling part is the triumph. And you know what? That stream running behind Brookside Cabins wouldn't be nearly as beautiful if it weren't for all those rocks in the water and running haphazardly around the edges. There's no rhyme or reason for where the rocks are placed. Some are big, some are small. There are places where there are lots of little rocks - one right after another. In some places, there is more space between the rocks where the water is more calm. Surely, the water can't see what's ahead, if it's a slope - where things pick up speed - if there's a giant rock that no matter what, the water is just going to splash up against it, there's no way to know what's ahead. But the water just keeps. on. going. It must. It has somewhere to go. It is compelled to keep running.

Oh how I relate to this! Funny though, how I do not see any water down there throwing a fit because it is cold, or wet, or not comfortable. I supposed that would be quite a scene, huh?

Thankfully, for the purpose of this illustration and just in general - water is quite obedient. I suppose that's why people say, "go with the flow."

As I gaze at this babbling brook, I'm inspired by it. I suppose since I don't see a section of water complaining and pouting and feeling sorry for itself, I must relate to a section where the water is just barely squeezing by. And in some places, it's kind of just sitting there. Some of it's been there a while, too - because there is moss growing on the rocks.

Oh, how I have been in that place! Where it's dark and cold and it feels so stuck. And slimy! I hate to say it's been a tough year, I hate even more to write it because then I have to actually see the words on the page. But that's the truth. It has been a tough year, but as I said to Michael this morning as I lay my head on his chest in the morning sunlight shining down through the skylight - "It's been a tough year, but we've had one heck of an anniversary!" Seriously. The Nats game, this trip. What an awesome way to celebrate all that God has brought us through TOGETHER this past year. I'm looking forward to many, many more. With much less "moss."

Gotta just keep moving. Go with the flow, because I've got somewhere to go. And remember, these rocks are what make us beautiful, and special and authentic!

Data doesn't lie, neither do hips, but this isn't about hips

Have you ever heard the term, "data doesn't lie?" This is something I've leaned on in my profession as a journalist and a TV news executive.

1. When you can find raw data, it will tell you the truth in a way a human cannot. Humans experience things through a certain prism. They can only get you so close to the truth. Even if they get you right up to it, it's only their experience/interpretation of the truth. Data spit out by a computer, though, that has no feelings or frame of reference. That is what it is what it is.

2. I used to pay really close attention to TV news ratings. This was how we measured how well we were doing with our audience. Did all the marketing and promotion work? Did people watch? We could tell by viewing patterns if people were interested and how long they watched something, and at what point they left and went somewhere else, by the power of the remote control.

It turns out, as I leaf through old journals and blog posts, I see the truth of myself. I wish it were a prettier, more put-together picture - but it's not - and the data doesn't lie.  I am mostly a compilation of coffee and pretty notebooks and lots of false starts.

I think false starts is how I grow. I am a low and slow processor. Like a brisket. I take a long time to cook on an idea before it's ready to come out and be enjoyed. I'm always afraid when I get back on here that all I'm doing is adding another post to a list of posts with notebook pictures that declare "I'm back," when I'm really not.

You know, you're not supposed to do that. All of the blogging experts tell you not to acknowledge when you've been away, because your readers don't care. They are just glad you're there and they don't really want to read anything about where you've been or hear you talk to yourself.

Oh well. Here it is. I guess I'm still processing, as I write these posts.

I've never stopped writing

It's been really quiet here in this blog space over the last few years. But the truth is... I've never stopped writing. I just stopped publishing.

I don't know that I have the "why" on that figured out. That has me somewhat stuck. That's the way I am. I always want to analyze and figure things out before taking the next step.
But, I have lived long enough at this point to know not only is that not always possible, it doesn't even matter.

A few years ago, I started writing a book. Then, I over analyzed. I read too many things about book writing. I reached out to agents. I had a writing coach. I listened to podcasts, took notes fervently at conferences, I have entire notebooks dedicated to this goal.

Then, I put the whole idea on a shelf. It's been about four years since then. A lot has happened in life. A couple of moves, a couple of big professional steps. Some major losses. Most of it has happened away from the pages of this blog. It's all n the pages of these journals, though.

They are the Dead Sea Scrolls of my life. Joy, love, pain, fear, tears, grief, hope, heartbreak, endurance, character-building, success, anxiety. The stories are all there. I'm so glad they are, too. Because life passes by too quickly to process and I can't publish it fast enough.

Not that it will all be interesting and/or helpful to you. It won't be. But I sure do enjoy looking back and spending time with these old thoughts. Like old friends. Familiar and comfortable.

I've been thinking for a long time about getting back into the game. I feel like life has loosened me up, and I'm good enough to get back in without getting hurt. The basics will come back, right? Like how when I go play second base in a softball game, I just know what to do - even if it's been years since I've done it.

It's grafted into who I am. I am a writer. I experience life as a writer.

Since I feel the call to put words back to the screen instead of just pen to paper - I'm going to be obedient. But - I am also overwhelmed by the task, so instead of trying to figure it all out, I'm going to find things in these pages, and share them just as they were written in my journals.

It may be raw. It certainly will be out of order. I hope, somehow, it does some good.