What’s There To Be Afraid Of, Anyway?

Summer 2017, Day 4: June 24

I woke up this morning to my phone vibrating like crazy with a slew of severe thunderstorm alerts.

I used to be very afraid of thunderstorms until two years ago when I was at a local amusement with my nephew, then 10, and some terrible storms came through. We were standing outside under an awning, and he was a little uneasy about the situation. I couldn’t let on that, inside, I was curling up in the fetal position with my fingers in my ears because I didn’t want to further freak him out. So I pretended that the storms didn’t bother me. I remained calm on the outside despite hearing the sizzle of lightning and the crack of the thunder close at hand. I pointed out different things to look at, like the family dancing in the rain and the people who would run past at top speed every two minutes. We both laughed as we tried to predict when the next person would come screaming through with a bag over their head and shoes in their hand. Within a few minutes, the worst of it passed us and we ended up having a stellar time because almost everyone else left the park. The rides were ours and ours alone for the remainder of the night. I learned two valuable lessons that day. One was to sing and laugh in the rain, and I wrote a post about that lesson in January 2016 (click anywhere in this sentence to read it).

The other was that there was nothing to be afraid of. I couldn’t control the lightning or the thunder, so why had I let the thunder and the lightning control me?

What was there, really, to be afraid of?

Nothing.

The lighting and the thunder would do what it does, regardless of how I feel about it.

Could I ever, truly, prevent the worst from happening?

No.

So when I woke up to the alerts this morning, I didn’t retreat to the floor in the fetal position with my fingers in my ears covered by a blanket. Instead, I opened the blinds and watched the water pummel down from the clouds, making little waterfalls on the trees and the leaves and the neighbor’s roof. There was no thunder and no lightning, but if there was, I would have watched it instead of hiding from it.

Now, let’s take that a step further.

If I look at other things I’m afraid of with the same logic, why do I let fear run the show?

What’s the worst that could happen if, say, I got on that big roller coaster?

Or better yet, what’s the worst that could happen if I took a chance on my writing and stopped using fear as an excuse?

I was afraid of thunder and lightning for almost 44 years.

Did the worst ever happen?

No.

If I take a chance and get on that roller coaster, I’m 99.9% sure the worst isn’t going to happen. And as a wise friend once said, I can do anything for a minute and a half.

I think it’s time to consider getting on that roller coaster ride.

And it’s time to move forward with my novel. I’ve wasted enough time because I’m afraid I’m not taking the right path with the story line.

I’ve just got to trust the path that I choose to take for my characters and go with it, regardless of my trepidation.

What’s the worst that could happen if it’s not the right path?

I’ll simply just start over again.

No worries.

And no fear.

 

 

 

“Sea” Why My Tears Are Purple…

It’s not uncommon for me to have my phone out while teaching journalism. All students have their phone out as well, which is technically a violation of school policy, but news alerts are the quickest way to find out about breaking news. We’ve watched several breaking news stories develop over the years via our handheld devices, including the tracking of the Boston Bombing suspects, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, Pope Francis’ travels in the USA, the World Cup soccer events, and the Olympics. It’s hands-on learning in the real world for journalism students.

About 5 minutes into class on Thursday, April 21, 2016, I looked down at my phone as it lit up with an alert and audibly gasped while covering my mouth. “Oh no! Oh no!” I said as I read the unbelievable alert: BREAKING NEWS: Pop Star Prince has died, AP reports.

My students immediately checked their phones as I said, “Prince died? I can’t believe this!” as tears welled up in my eyes.  Some students knew right away that Prince was a musician. Others thought it was Prince William from the UK. Still others had no idea what Prince meant or who it could be.

I hoped that it was a hoax, but it wasn’t. The planned journalism lesson was changed to follow the story surrounding Prince, and as each alert and tweet was posted, we added to our timeline of breaking events.  Students were to determine what was fact, what was not, what might be true, what might not be true, the credibility of the source, etc.

After class ended, I sat in my chair and sighed very hard with my head in my hands, overwhelmed by sadness and disbelief. I was surprised about how upset I was, and couldn’t figure out why at first. I wasn’t a huge Prince fan. I mean, I liked his music, but I never saw him in concert. I had a few of his songs on my playlists over the years, but never made it a point to listen to the songs over and over, whether on cassette, CD, or digital.

I’m usually empathetic when a celebrity passes away, but not at this level. The only other time I actually cried over a celebrity death was when Chris Farley died.

Why, why then, was I shaken to the bone over the news that Prince wasn’t alive anymore?

Why was I unable to control my tears?

Then it hit me.

It’s because Prince was always there.

He was just there, all the time.

Looking back on Prince’s career, I was surprised that I still knew most of his hit songs word for word, even though I haven’t heard some of them in over 25 years.

I never realized that since 1978, Prince released an album almost every single year I’ve been on this earth.

His music was the background music to my life, to all of our lives, whether we were diehard fans or not.

He was there since I was a child, and was always there…through my teens, through my twenties, through my thirties, and through the first half of my forties.

Every chapter of my life has at least one Prince song playing in the background, if not more.

He was purple. He was unique. He was influential beyond description. He was talented beyond comprehension.

Prince was a musical genius.

Prince was always there.

And now he’s not.

There are so many unanswered questions…Who is his family? Why did this happen? What could have prevented it?

And you know what? I don’t want to know the answers to those questions.

To me, not knowing his private persona makes him more mysterious and interesting.

I do not want to know the result of the autopsy, because it doesn’t matter what it says.

I do not want to consider what could have been done to prevent this from happening, because it will not change the outcome.

The fact is that Prince is not here anymore.

The world will never be the same.

And I’m not the only one feeling his loss.

So many artists are performing his songs in tribute, artists like Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and the cast of The Color Purple. Tweets from music icons such as Steven Tyler and Bette Midler, and from others like Spike Lee, Oprah, and Jimmy Fallon show that these masters considered Prince THE master. Landmarks have been lit up worldwide in purple to honor Prince’s lasting legacy. The movie Purple Rain is showing nationwide in movie houses, and on television almost non-stop. MTV even interrupted their miserable programming to bring viewers hours of Prince videos, Sirius XM set up a Prince tribute station, and Saturday Night Live aired a Prince special and retrospective in place of a rerun.

With each tribute, tweet, and photograph, I realize that Prince was the one artist I took for granted. I thought he’d just always be there, singing and strumming through the background of my life…forever.

It’s been 3 days since I received that news alert, and I’m still heartbroken.

And I’d venture to say that so is the world.

Thank you, Prince, for sharing your extraordinary gifts with the world, and for being that one constant note that played through my journey here on Earth thus far. Thank you for soothing, for inspiring, and for guiding my soul.

Most of all, thank you for helping us all get through this thing called life…

“Electric word life

It means forever and that’s a mighty long time

But I’m here to tell you

There’s something else

The after world

A world of never ending happiness

You can always see the sun, day or night

So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills

You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright

Instead of asking him how much of your time is left

Ask him how much of your mind, baby

‘Cause in this life

Things are much harder than in the after world

In this life

You’re on your own

And if the elevator tries to bring you down

Go crazy, punch a higher floor

If you don’t like the world you’re living in

Take a look around you

At least you got friends

You see I called my old lady

For a friendly word

She picked up the phone

Dropped it on the floor

(Ah, ah) is all I heard

Are we gonna let the elevator

Bring us down

Oh, no let’s go!

Let’s go crazy

Let’s get nuts

Let’s look for the purple banana

‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!

We’re all excited

But we don’t know why

Maybe it’s ’cause

We’re all gonna die

And when we do (When we do)

What’s it all for (What’s it all for)

You better live now

Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door

Tell me, are we gonna let the elevator bring us down

Oh, no let’s go!

Let’s go crazy

Let’s get nuts

Look for the purple banana

‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!

C’mon baby

Let’s get nuts

Yeah

Crazy

Let’s go crazy

Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down

Oh, no let’s go!

Go crazy

I said let’s go crazy (Go crazy)

Let’s go, let’s go

Go

Let’s go

Dr. Everything’ll be alright

Will make everything go wrong

Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill

Hang tough children

He’s coming

He’s coming

Coming

Take me away”

Let’s Dance and Laugh in the Rain


Last summer, I took my 10-year-old nephew to Six Flags Great Adventure on a mostly overcast and muggy July day. It was his first time there, and it was the first time the 2 of us had ever done something together without anyone else. It was a special day and we had an awesome time. There was the chance for thunderstorms in the afternoon, which kept a lot of people away from the park.

That was a bonus, resulting in hardly any wait for the rides. The most we stood in line was for 10 minutes. Our tally for the day ride-wise: 16 times on Skull Mountain, 8 times on Runaway Train, two times on the Sky Ride, 1 time on the Safari, 1 time on the Log Flume, and 2 times on Congo River Rapids, which completely drenched me from head to toe and made him laugh.  In fact, the day was full of laughs.

The most memorable part of the day happened about 4:30 pm. Thunderstorms, indeed, pummeled us, and we stood outside under the locker overhang by Skull Mountain. It was absolutely pouring. As we stood there, I watched people running past us in the rain, and every single person was screaming yet laughing at the same time, with a huge smiles as they tried to make it to dry land.  The park had music playing, and the song “1, 2, 3, 4” by the Plain White T’s came over the PA system.

A family of 5 (mother, father, and 3 children between the ages of 6 and 12 I would guess) was running in the rain, then they stopped.  Each of them then jumped in the puddles in unison, almost as if they had planned it. They were laughing and smiling, and I was witnessing a moment of pure joy.

It was the perfect song for this perfect scene, a folksy song with the phrase “I love you” repeated several times.  This family clearly loved each other.

I completely forgot about this moment until I recently heard the song again in CVS. The faces on that family came flooding back to me, their smiles, their sheer happiness playing in the pouring rain, and I could picture it as if I saw it yesterday. A simple moment of fun, of togetherness, and of love.

It got me thinking. That’s what life is all about…learning to laugh and dance in the rain. The rain didn’t ruin this family’s day. Instead, the rain made the day better. And that’s a much better attitude to adopt.

The next time it rains in my world, I vow to laugh and dance. I will embrace the rain and relish with delight in its deluge. I hope you will, too.

 The Approach of the Storm


The Family who Dances and Laughs in the Rain…thanks for the lesson in this small yet profound moment!  (The young man to the left in the yellow shorts is an interloper here.)