A Lesson from the Prophet

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home” Matthew 13:57

This Bible quote was brought to my attention many years ago as an explanation of why it is that strangers may praise our artistic works while friends and relatives seem to barely notice them. It’s true that this sort of thing happens. A lot.

Case in point: I myself have received about 25 positive reviews of my novella online from people I’ve never met – yet none from anybody who actually knows me “in real life”. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of people I know “in real life” who have even read it. And my blog here? My last entry, a poem I wrote, received eleven likes from total strangers. And not one from anybody I know.

It seems logical that if 25 strangers like a book enough to go to the trouble of writing a review, then it must not be a bad book. Likewise, if eleven strangers come across a poem and tell you they like it. But we artistic types are often cursed with low self-esteem and a need for feedback to keep us from giving up on our creative endeavors. We may receive positive feedback from fifty people, but the one person who gives negative feedback – or no feedback at all – is what sticks in our brains. And no feedback may as well be negative. It means either they couldn’t be bothered reading/ listening to/ acknowledging our efforts (and it is effort!). Or that they do read or listen but dislike it so much they decide to say nothing at all. Ouch.

Or… it could be what Jesus said (and experienced himself in his own hometown). When we know someone in one way, that is often the only way we can see them. The girl you know from school. The teen who used to cut your grass or walk your dog or babysit your kids. The woman who married your friend or your brother or cousin. The man who sold you a car a few years back. The baby whose diaper you changed. You can’t think of them any other way. That’s who they are to you – not a writer or a singer or an actor or a painter. Or a prophet.

I suppose this is the best way for us sensitive creative creatures to look at the lack of acknowledgment from those we know. It’s certainly much easier on the ego to believe that people are short-sighted than to believe they really just don’t like what you’re doing (or don’t care enough to even bother looking at it). And isn’t that the whole positive thinking thing we’re supposed to do to keep our heads from filling with negative thoughts?

So, to the artistic among us, trust that what you’re doing is worthwhile. Accept the acknowledgements and praise from those who give it and forget about those who don’t, whatever their reasons.

Eyes

(Written about an old friend of mine for a creative writing class in 1994)

She has deep, dark eyes

Made darker with his rage and deeper with secrets.

Eyes that smile, somehow

Behind glistening tears, at the little girl on her lap.

Eyes that drop

When she lies to her closest friends.

But their eyes see

The scars covered with thick makeup,

The brusies behind sunglasses in the rain,

The subtle shake of her hand holding yet another cigarette

As the kettle whistles a song.

They hear the quiver in her voice

As it releases a heartless laugh.

And they search her deep, dark eyes for the reason why she lets him stay.

My Crossword Puzzle

Since the work-from-home mandate started a few weeks ago, the one thing I miss about going to the office is doing the daily crossword puzzle with coworkers. Last night I decided to try my hand at creating one myself. I’m not sure how it will print from here (it wasn’t easy getting it on the website), but hopefully someone will give it a try (or even just write your answers down). I will post the answers in a day or two.

ACROSSDOWN
1. 1st word in a Supremes song2. Sally’s ____, song written by Mary Chapin Carpenter & Cyndi Lauper
6. ZZ Top tune3. Song from Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation album
8. Hot ___, Fiona Apple song with her sister in the video4. Has Anyone Ever ___ Anything For You, by Stevie Nicks
9. Part of an Eagles song, or the name of a movie starring Brad Pitt5. ___ in You, from Shawn Mullins’ Soul’s Core album
10.Part of a song by Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded on a record label I worked for7. ___ Girl, by Fiona Apple
11. My favorite Eagle12.Mary had a little one
14. Sia song13. What Prince heard crying?
15. She wears high heels when she exercises14.Cyndi Lauper hit whose writer asked me to be in her band (3 wds)
18.Caught a ___ Sneeze, from Tori Amos’s Songs for Pele16.___ Baby, by Joan Osborne
19.There Goes the ___, by Sheryl Crow17.Nothing ___ 2U, Prince song made famous by Sinead O’Connor
20.Dido song with “White”21.Cry Me a ___, Jazz standard I recorded with my husband
22.Hit song cowritten by a man I was executive assistant for (3 wds)23.The name of a Shawn Mullins song, and a novel by Chuck Palahniuk
25.Building a ___, by Sarah McLachlan24. Skyline Shawn Colvin wrote a song about
26.Alanis Morissette song from the movie City of Angels27. Australian singer with a strange name who acted in Mad Max: Fury Road
30.With “All My”, a song written by a country star I once made tea for (2 wds)28.Giving Away a ___, song by Canadian singer songwriter, Luba
34.Mr. ___, song from the Tori Amos album that has her holding a rifle on the cover29.___ So Long, from Jewel’s 2nd studio album
35.Musical trio that includes Shawn Mullins31.Beautiful ___, by Kelly Clarkson
37.___ Came Home, Grammy Award winning Shawn Colvin song inspired by the painting that became the album cover32.British band, Right Said ___
38.St. ___ from Joan Osborne’s Relish33. Anne Murray song, or the name of a person who winters in FL
40.My favorite Sarah McLachlan song36.___ Eyes, 1979 song by Robert John
41.Mr. Holland’s ___, a song I cowrote, inspired by the Richard Dreyfuss movie with a similar name39.St. ___, my favorite Aerosmith song
42.Title of a George Michael song about addiction
43.With “The”, band famous for the song “Break on Through”

Dare to be Seen – Book Review

Elisa Di Napoli is an integrative hypnotherapist and life coach who has taken the psychological principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Positive Exposure Therapy, the LAMA Method (Let go And Move Ahead), and combined them with other theories and techniques to create a powerful course in overcoming performance anxiety. Her method uses self-hypnosis, and while this may sound a little like hocus pocus, it is based on scientific understandings of the human brain and how it works. If you’ve ever gone to a therapist, you will recognize a lot of what she says. The difference is most therapists will use these techniques without explaining what they are or how they work. Instead of reiterating the same old psychological catch phrases we hear in pop psychology every day (“Face your fears”, “Be here now”, “Let it go”, “I’m okay, you’re okay”, “Grant me the power to accept the things I cannot change”, etc.), Di Napoli explains the mechanics behind those catch phrases so that they regain their power.

For instance, she explains that Anxiety is a coping mechanism, a habit fed by insecurity and self distrust. I had never thought of anxiety in quite that way before, but if you think about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which is an Anxiety Disorder), it is exactly that – an attempt to control the uncontrollable, a habit that has formed in the face of worry, built on a distrust in ourselves to handle whatever comes our way. Di Napoli explains how to use self-hypnosis to change your perspective and trust yourself to be okay no matter what happens.

In talking about “Rewinding” she explains how PTSD (post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is an extreme form of pattern matching (the basis for human learning), and how to release the “stuck” trauma from the Amygdala (the alarm system of the brain) so that similar stimuli is no longer a trigger. To do this, you must detach from the source trauma. This moves the memory out of the Amygdala and transforms it into a narrative. This is how EMDR works (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a technique that has gained popularity in PTSD treatment in recent years.

Dare to be Seen is filled with examples, exercises, and valuable information. Di Napoli talks about the use of Hypnotic Anchors (like a talisman or a sigil), and how neuropathways in the brain are strengthened according to what we focus on (where attention goes, energy flows). This is very much akin to The Secret and the Power of Attraction, and the lesser known teachings of Abraham Hicks. She talks about Mindfulness and cognitive distortions and how our past experiences shape how we behave. She talks about Behavioral Rehearsals (similar to the “Act as If” method used by psychologists).

Anyone determined to overcome not only performance anxiety, but any kind of anxiety or trauma, can benefit from this book. 

Learn more about the author, and see my review and a synopsis of the book at Reedsy.com

Fate

I was thinking about the lyrics to this old song today. Almost 22 years later, they still convey my feelings about the world.

Fate

written by Shannon Noel (that would be me!), c 1998 Tiger Moon Publishing

I could close my eyes to the world outside

And believe that all is well

I could be like you, do what you do

Pretend the angel never fell.

I could smile and say “everything’s okay”

And not hear the silent screams

And believe that God will save them all

That evil’s just a dream

But I can’t take another day of false sincerity

And I won’t let my life depend on serendipity

So won’t you take my hand

Hold tight and we’ll make it to land

God helps those who help themselves

Our fate is in our own hands

So I won’t sit by while babies cry

For a safe and happy place

I can’t ignore it anymore

When virtue falls from grace

And I can’t take another day of false sincerity

And I won’t let my life depend on serendipity

So you won’t you take my hand

Hold tight and we’ll make it to land

God helps those who help themselves

Our fate is in our own hands

If You Knew How Long You’d Live…

A man in his seventies once said to me, “If I’d known how long I was going to live, I would’ve taken better care of myself.” I’ve wondered about this many times since. Would he really have taken better care of himself? Would he have drunk less whiskey, quit smoking, resisted the sausages and the fries and the biscuits? Would he have gone on daily walks? Drank more water?

Would any of us?

If you knew you were going to live to be a hundred, would you start taking better care of yourself now? Exercise and watch what you put into your body? Avoid the cancer-feeding sugar and fat-producing carbs that permeate our diets? Cut back on booze, sustain from smoking, fill your lungs only with fresh air, give your heart the daily aerobic workout it craves so that when you’re ninety your body is still in good shape, disease-free and not overcome with old age?

And, on the other hand, if you knew you’d die young, say, before your thirtieth birthday, would you work your ass off to get to where you want to get in your life before you run out of time? Or would you care only about having as much fun as possible while you can? To hell with the consequences, to hell with the health risks, for you’re going to die soon anyway. Travel the world, run up debts you know you’ll never have to pay off, eat chocolate in Switzerland, drink fine wine in Italy, eat pastries at quaint little cafes in France.

I think it’s one of those questions you can’t really answer unless you have to. But maybe knowing when we’re going to die wouldn’t be a bad thing. Maybe we’d all create more, work harder, have more fun and take better care of ourselves, because there’s no rule saying we can’t do all of those things.

“Beautiful You” Review

I hate that I am giving 2 stars to a Chuck Palahniuk book. I have read ten of his novels and several of his short stories. I’m even one of the backers on the upcoming movie adaption of “Lullaby” – that’s how much of a fan I am. I love his humor and his imagination. I love his fearlessness in writing what he wants to write and saying it the way he wants to say it, regardless of who he might offend. He is not for the faint of heart, and I generally feel you either love him or hate him. And I do love him. But I did not love this book. I might have loved it, had it been a short story or even a novella. It’s not that the idea of the book was bad. It was imaginative and funny and unique. It was bold and daring and shocking. All the qualities you look for in a Palahniuk book. But this 220-page book dragged on and on. I couldn’t wait to be done with it. It truly saddens me to say that, but the fact is, I wouldn’t have given this book the time needed to finish it at all if it were written by someone else. That’s how much I love Chuck.

I often judge a book by how many lines I’ve highlighted or copied into a notebook. These are the lines that are so well written I want to be able to quickly revisit them. Lines that make me think. Lines that are beautifully crafted and force you to go deeper into the larger meaning of the story. I got none of these lines in this book.

Like I said, I may have loved it if it hadn’t been dragged out so much, if it had been edited to a much shorter length. It might have carried some power then, if the shock value hadn’t gotten old less than half way through. As it is, this is not a book I would recommend, even to a Palahniuk fan like myself. Sorry, Chuck, but you really can do better.