My personal path


Once again I’m struck by how the universe responds when I clearly ask for what I want and take action toward that end.

On November 19, I posted a personal essay on my blog about my first year in public school in Mount Pleasant, Texas in 1949, a piece in which I experimented with writing my internal dialogue as events unfolded. My blog is set up to send new posts via email to subscribers, and the next day I got an message back from my friend and subscriber John Coats, who’d read my piece. John reminded me that his grandfather had been mayor of Mount Pleasant during the early 1950s, the period during which my family lived there. What’s more, John spent a portion of his summers at his grandfather’s home, an experience he’d written about and now shared with me. So our paths had crossed prior to my experiencing an intensive personal development workshop in Houston in 1986 at which John was the trainer.

I emailed John back commenting on our common history, letting him know how much I’d enjoyed his story about his grandfather and suggesting that he expand it into a full-blown memoir. And, since I was embarking on a memoir project of my own, tentatively titled “A Tale of Two Daughters,” I asked John if he knew of mentors or coaches who could support me in this project.

John highly recommended Cat Parnell, who he’d met at the Bennington Writing Seminars and who had very thoughtfully edited some of his work. John also reported that Cat had already had a look at my blog and my Amazon Author’s Page and was interested in working with me. (more…)

My true calling: I’ve known it since grade school when I was fascinated by words and phrases that would roll effortlessly off my tongue. And it’s that thing that I spent the first 40 years of my life avoiding: taking my writing seriously. Even though I was drawn to jobs that required a certain amount of writing (proposals, articles for business journals, features for textbooks and teachers’ ancillary materials, etc.), when it came time to reveal my deepest thoughts and feelings, I crawfished like crazy. But as Gregg Levoy says, “Callings keep surfacing until we deal with them.”

And my calling is to write. I am compelled to do so. Any other path would be a breach of my integrity. I am duty-bound to put my knowledge, thoughts, feelings, intuitions and inklings out into the world—for myself and in service to others.

For my writing is often a journey of discovery. I learn things about myself that I was not conscious of. I get to examine my thoughts and beliefs and decide if they serve me. I have the opportunity to separate truth from fiction. I am able to comprehend why a planned action might (or might not) be in order.

And I write in service to others. I write to remind folks that they possess great personal power, that they have the capacity to live the lives they’ve always dreamed of. I write to reveal the innumerable possibilities that life offers, far beyond the choices promoted by the current dominant culture. I write that change—personal and societal—is possible and actually underway right now. I write to help create a shift in the cultural paradigm—to one of greater love, connection, honesty, integrity, generosity, responsibility, respect and courage. I write in support of spiritual warriors, men and women who are willing to share their unique gifts in service of a better world regardless of the consequences.

Mount Pleasant, Texas, September 6, 1949: At the time of my matriculation into the first grade at East Ward Elementary (a squat rectangular building that could easily have passed for a penal institution), Miss Sims was already more than 60 years old and had been teaching there for 28 years. Born in Victorian times, she was the classic old maid school teacher, gray hair in a bun, stern countenance and malevolent attitude, who expected her students to color within the lines, behave impeccably and obey her demands instantly.

Me, Art & Nancy

Me, Art and Nancy

I arrived for my first day of school a shy, sensitive, self-conscious, scared, scrawny little kid who typically ingratiated himself to others to gain their approval and be included in their games. But there were so many new faces (20 or so), and Miss Sims’ foreboding manner didn’t raise my comfort level at all.

Holy cow, who are all of these kids? That old woman really looks mean. I don’t want to be here! I want to go home! Please, Mommy, take me home with you! (more…)

Our four-year-old daughter Gracelyn is quite the rhymester, frequently making up poems and songs for her own entertainment and, so it would seem, for ours too. So, at Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) a few weeks ago, we decided to go to the youth poetry slam, where Gracelyn could see kids performing their work and experience a unique style of poetry.LKVRootsHobeyCrowdZB_webMay14

Well, the youthful poets, their poems and their delivery were more intense than we’d anticipated, so after two poems, Shonnie and Gracelyn left to play in the grass away from the tent that served as the venue. Engrossed by the performances, I chose to stick around a bit longer.

The next slammer was an passionate young woman who performed a heart-achingly poignant poem about the life of a lesbian in small-town North Carolina, how she was once called an abomination while grocery shopping with her partner, closing with a defiant stance in the face of such shameless bigotry. I was literally moved to tears, but having made a commitment to join Shonnie and Gracelyn, I reluctantly got up to leave.

As I moved to the back of the tent, I recognized a woman who, with her husband, had joined us on the LEAF hike that Shonnie and I had led on the previous day, her eyes, too, filled with tears. We gazed at each other for a moment, and though words were really pointless, I mindlessly mumbled, “Wow, that was really powerful.”

Without hesitation, “Hug me,” the woman called. As we embraced, she began sobbing inconsolably on my shoulder. In an instant, I began bawling too. We held each other close, crying unashamedly . . . for seconds? . . . minutes? I have no idea. Long enough, seemingly, to at least partially cleanse ourselves of the unexpressed grief we’d been withholding . . . for the young poet, yes, but also for ourselves, our loved ones, our world.

We slowly regained our composure, and in due course, I gently kissed her on the cheek and slowly walked away to rejoin my family.

I may never see this woman again, but I know the serendipitous crossing of our paths will remain with me forever.

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