Big things, small packages

Is it age or experience?  I don't know if I am willing to go so far as to claim "wisdom".  But what is the catalyst for the realization that the biggest things in life–the most important ones, at least–happen in the smallest and quietest ways?

In spite of knowing for the last 24 years that "Success is not a destination' it's a journey," I've continued to pursue the moment.  That thing out there, presumably that tells me that I've arrived.  Personal, professional.  What have you.  And when this arrival happened, there must be some sort of ticker tape parade or something.  Right?  And the feeling–man, oh man!–the feeling of the moment would linger.  I could hold onto it for the rest of my life, knowing.  Content in that knowing.  Complete.

Uh huh.  Sure.

Because that's not the way it works, is it?  Moments don't linger.  They come and go.  When they're gone, that's it.  Onto the next thing.  Makes chasing that moment a little silly, huh?  Because what is it?  It's a myth, that's what it is.

Success can't be a destination because destinations are kinda nothings.

I went to the Grand Canyon this past October.  I hiked out to the rim and stood there for, like, 10 minutes.  That was my arrival.  And then I hiked back to camp.  Yes..it was a great 10 minutes–one that I'd looked forward to since I was a kid.  But the moment, itself, was small. Just Lori and me standing there.  A couple of "Wows" and a picture or two on my iPhone.  No big deal.  And then it was done.

Yet, it was somehow greatly satisfying.

That's because getting to the Grand Canyon, I think, was the big deal.  Everything around it.  And the small moment at the canyon's edge was really special in terms of how it related to all the other stuff.  The getting there, which was far more than half the fun.  I mean, on one hand, it was a moment 25 years in the making.  That's a journey of the "holy crap!" magnitude.

Standing there at the edge of the canyon together, we looked at each other.  We knew we'd arrived, figuratively as well as literally.  Finally.  That was…huge.

I guess my point is that I am realizing every time I have pushed for the big moment, the big deal, and held that moment on a pedestal, I've been disappointed.  The moment never seemed as important as I'd made it out to be.  And I'd have it, go to bed, and wake up the next morning and I'd still have to pee and put my clothes on and brush my damned teeth and let the dog out and get the kids up and off to school and do my day just like I always have to.  There is no moment in life that transcends all that.

At this point in my life, I am finally waking up to that.  I'm seeing why it's the journey that's so important, and why the most important moments in life are so small.  It's because the moment is nothing without the rest of life–real life–alongside it.  If I work toward a moment to escape life or distract myself from my life, I'm on the wrong track.  The moment isn't self-referential.  It doesn't celebrate itself in a vacuum.  It's sole purpose and reason for existence is to acknowledge a point along the journey.

It's the moment's relationship to peeing and putting on my clothes and brushing my damned teeth and letting the dog out and getting the kids up and off to school and doing my day like I always do that makes it special.  That makes it outstanding.

Fitting is the word, therefore, I would use for this, my favorite picture of last week, courtesy of my beloved and her wonderful "to do" board.  On Tuesday the 8th, RUNAWAY was finally released on DVD.  It seems to be doing quite nicely in terms of sales and rentals, and I am grateful for that.  After the long and–god, what do I say?  Arduous?  Difficult?  Overwhelming?  I dunno.  What I can say it that after 10 years (I wrote the original short story in 1999), it all came down to this.

Rboard RUNAWAY released.  And we still needed a pooper scooper.  And jeans for
Indi.  And gloves for Jonah to go on his school trip.  It happened in
the midst of life.  The fact that she put it on the board was a loving
recognition of something in life that day, not above it or beyond it. 
Part of it.

I don't know if I am making any sense.  This is all kind of stream
of consciousness here.  My first attempt at trying to put this into
words.  Having it on the board, and not doing much (although Lori and I did steal away for a quick celebratory toast later that night) other than the stuff I needed to get accomplished that day seemed to honor the RUNAWAY journey more than any ticker tape parade ever could.  The quietness of the moment gave deeper meaning to everything that went into arriving at this particular destination.

Not to get all Christmassy on y'all (though it does seem appropriate), but the whole conversation brings to mind this passage in the second chapter of Luke:

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

That Mary…she had the right idea, I think.

Big journeys.  Small moments.  Pondering.  Life.

Yeah.

Here's to you and all your small moments this season, TRUE LIFERS.

Catching up

Dear friends,

Hello.  How are you?

I am fine.

Thank you for stopping by today.

What’s going on?  Oh, man!  Where do I start?

Remember this l’il thing?

Headhurts1

Apparently, I should be provide a little more explanation when I post something like that.

Reminds me of the time when I posted this (really bad) poem I wrote as a kind of nod to Pablo Picasso and Surrealism a couple of years back and promptly left town for a week to the lands beyond cell service coverage.  Oh, my…  Can you say voice mail messages?  Took me over a week to convince everyone that I was neither losing it nor suicidal.

Friends and family.  God love ’em, but sometimes it’s hard to be a writer trying to strut his stuff in their line of sight.

Oh, well…occupational hazard.

No one said it was gonna be easy.  Trying to understand a writer guy, yet trying to care about him at the same time, that is.  It requires a whole new compass than most folks are used to.  North doesn’t always point north.  What’s worse is north changes, sometimes shifting unexpectedly and for inexplicable reasons.  So you can’t obtain a compass for the purposes of getting a good read on us writer types.  You gotta build ’em from scratch.

Oh, well…all guys like me can hope is that the rest of you think it’s worth the trouble.

That said, from the "What I really meant" department, comes this:

I had a lot going on.  I tried to write it all out in a sort of "let’s catch up with Bill" missive, but there was so much to say.  It gave me a head ache.  My creative response to said cranial distress was to let the long, rambling post go and simply (and, I thought, humorously) "depict" my feelings over trying to describe the myriad plates I had spinning at the time.  The rest, as they say….

In truth, everything was fine, though I admit that I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed of late.  Hyperactivity, with rarely enough energy to tackle each zone of my crazy/beautiful life with the gusto, creativity, and passion it deserves.  There have been many days, in fact, when I’ve felt like I’m losing ground everywhere.  And even moments when I’ve felt like an utter failure.

Then again…that’s nothing new.

Occupational hazard…of being me.

But the strike is over, and far from my previous fears, Hollywood seems to be welcoming me with reasonably open arms.  Yeah..check this out–

  • It’s not out of the realm of possibility that RUNAWAY could see some sort of distribution in the near future.
  • The management company I would like to work with seems genuinely interested in working with me.
  • I am in very active talks with a very reputable production company to develop a real, live Hollywood movie (a proposed budget in the mid-eight figures was tossed onto the table yesterday).
  • I have a good bead on (and have been highly recommended to) a great agent at a major agency.
  • INCARNATION, all of a sudden, is getting a lot of attention and seems to be taking on a life of its own.
  • As I plan on making a pilgrimage to the Tower of Tinsel in the next few weeks, people seem to really wanna meet with me.  For the first time ever, I think that my dance card will be full–with real and meaningful meetings to show for it.  Yikes!
  • If I play my cards right, I’ll have a first draft new spec script (which already has parties interested in reading it) ready to show the world by the end of March.

Holy crap, right?  Makes my head spin.  Mostly in a good way.

SagePresence is going equally well.  People are really responding to it, and we’re getting opportunities to speak and train all over.  The biggest problem there is there’s only three of us.  At some point in the VERY near future, we will have need to hire someone (or somones) to help us manage this thing.  Especially as word about what we’re doing spreads outside the Twin Cities, as it’s beginning to do so.  It’s quite amazing and scary cool.

Funny how this professional speaking thing so powerfully supports the screenwriting career, and vice versa.  Equally, how much fun I’m having going around and talking to folks.  Having such an immediate, profound, and positive impact for people–seeing it on their faces and hearing their stories of trouble and triumph–really makes my day.

And home…  With respect to that, let me simply say that Georges Seurat would be proud.  As I am proud of us.  All of us.  Yesterday, I noticed a piece of me was calm in the face of an otherwise tubulent day.  That piece was the one associated with home.

It was a bit of a surprise, as honoring this Great Love, this great family, and "putting it together" hasn’t always been the most calm of affairs.  But yesterday’s discovery spoke volumes.  It spoke of healing.  It spoke of health and happiness.  It spoke of peace and prosperity.  It spoke of adventure and accomplishment.  It whispered in my ear, visions of the future that brought a smile to my lips.

Today, my head doesn’t hurt.  Nothing has changed, except for today I feel a little less overwhelmed by this crazy/beautiful life.  That’s all.

Because I know head aches come with the job description.

Husband.

Dad.

Partner.

Speaker.

Friend.

Family.

Screenwriter.

Superhero.

None of ’em easy.  All of ’em worth it.

Dear friend…I hope you are well, too.  I look forward to catching up again in the near future.

Best to you and yours.  Let’s get together soon!

Yours TRUE-ly,

Bill

“So Crates” in-the-making

I’m in the middle of a meeting yesterday, and my cell phone rings. I am trying to turn over a new leaf, so I am working very hard to, you know, like, answer it. And I see that it’s my daughter, Sydney, on the other end. We’ve been trying hard to wrangle a few loose ends on the financial aid front, so I excuse myself momentarily to take her call.

“Hey, Syd. What’s up?”

“Hey, Dad. …I don’t know. I’m sitting here with a moment to myself, and I wanted to bounce something off you.”

“Shoot,” says I, thinking it’s the kind of “bounce this off you” that takes a minute or so. It ain’t. But it’s all good. Quite cool, in fact.

She tells me that she’s considering a double major in political science (which she’s already declared) and, of all things, philosophy. She’s taking this class–a survey course of sorts, I am guessing–and it seems like the scholarly heavens are opening up to her.

I see it clearly. The depth of her conversation over the course of recent months–even in short bursts via phone–is obviously deeper. It’s nuanced and intriguing. And the information she’s taking in, she’s processing and then generating whole new ideas and connections and opinions.

Seeing this transformation makes my heart sing.

And then there’s the matter of…

“I’ve always thought that you’re a born philosopher,” I say after she lays it all out before me.

“Well,” she responds. “I would say more that I’ve been raised to be a philospher. After all, I am your daughter, Dad.”

I gotta tell ya, standing in the middle of a public place at that moment was a difficult proposition. ‘Cause my heart was suddenly in my throat.

“Yeah,” I reply, my cool only marginally intact. “There is that.”

“I still want to do law school, but it seems like there’s a really close relationship between political science and philosphy. I have my philosophy class right after my political science class, and I notice how a lot of the terms and concepts are almost identical. I’m thinking that it might be a good thing. Make me more well-rounded.”

My little girl. All grown up. Blossoming into quite the amazing young woman.

She asked me if I thought it was a good idea to explore the whole philosphy angle.

Let’s see…Sydcomicmy kid’s in college and actually taking to heart the whole “higher learning, expand your horizons” aspect of the experience, as opposed to merely marking time till the paper mill spits some empty and meaningless document at her.

Yeah, kiddo, I think it’s a good idea.

And I am proud–oh, so proud–to be your dad.

Dear anonymous commenter,

I do not who know you are because you didn’t identify yourself. What’s up with that? Just so you know, I deleted your comment for that very reason. No offense. One piece of advice, anonynous..? If you’re gonna try to get through to me..? Have the respect to go through the front door. Please..?

That said, thank you for your comment, because it gives me an opportunity to set the record straight on a couple of things. Gives me a chance to tell the real story.

Here goes.

My family and I–all four of us–have been handed bigger challenges and bigger changes in the past few years than most people get in a lifetime. We have, one and all, met these challenges and changes to the best of our abilities. And every day we’re growing. Every day we’re working to come together. Every day we’re living and loving and walking our paths.

I am proud of all of us…beyond, beyond imagining. My wife, my daughter, my son…they are amazing people. Their capacity to love, to accept, to be resilient, to thrive in the face of adversity that would bury another person. It blows me away.

Every day we’re healing. And we’re figuring stuff out. And we’re putting the pieces of our collective life together…well, together. And that takes time. And effort. And it’s rarely pretty. And, by the way, the people who really know us and really love us..? They know this, and they are bursting with pride on our collective behalf.

And they support us. Which, I have to say, looks nothing like your rather abrasive comment. Ikes.

Put yourself in my shoes, anonymous. How would you like it if your life was public domain like mine has been? How would you like it if one day, through no fault of your own, through nothing you’ve done wrong, you completely lost control of it, and the only way you could keep anything together was through the charity of others? How would you like it if, though you sincerly appreciated everyone and everything, all you wanted was your life-your life, not anyone else’s–back. And how would you like it if, though everyone said they understood your need to get your life back, your every move was, nonetheless, under constant scrutiny? Well, it’s okay if he puts his life together, so long as he does this, this, and this…but not that, that, and that. Why doesn’t he listen to us? Certainly, we know what’s best for him.

I’m sure you’d hate it. I know I have, but for awhile I accepted it as coming with the territory–the path I was called to walk.

But there comes a time, wouldn’t you agree, when everyone–me included–deserves to strike out on a path of our own design?

My family…how we move forward together… How we walk, how we run, how we stumble, how we pick ourselves up again, is none of your damned business. It’s no one’s business, in fact, other than ours. And if I choose to share it–or parts of it–with you or anyone, that’s my call. Not yours. Or anyone’s.

Did you stop to think that, perhaps, stories about my daughter’s graduating and going off to college–though I am proud of her to the absolute extreme–are simply too pregnant with emotion for me to adequately comment? Or similar stories about my son? Did you think, perhaps, that I don’t share every aspect of my life because I am still processing it, and I have a complete right to do that? To talk about it at a time of my own choosing? When I am ready to do so?

Because this is my blog. This is my life. Not yours.

There are tons of stories–about my wife, my son, my daughter, my dogs & cats, my friends–that I could share, but I don’t. Sometimes because I am lazy. Sometime because I don’t have time. Sometimes because they are personal. Sometimes because they are special..they’re my stories, and I wanna keep them to myself. And that, too, is my call.

And, by the way, what’s wrong with talking about my wife, whom I love ferociously, till I’m freakin’ blue in the face, if that’s what I wanna do? It took me 40 years to find her. I’m a little excited. Wouldn’t you be, too? Moreover, in a world where half of first marriages and up to 70% of second marriages end in divorce, don’t you think it’s a good thing for me and our kids that I spend all the time, energy, and effort toward it I can? Makes sense to me.

Judge me if you will. That’s up to you. If I am about to stumble, feel free to point out the pitfall. I really appreciate it when people do that for me, as I know they appreciate it when I do it for them. But this anonymous thing..? As an old boss of mine used to say, “That don’t feed the bulldog.”

At least I have the courage to live and love, to fall and rise, out loud and in the open, and I make no apologies for that. Ever. Because I am all about living the ordinary life in the unordinary way.

It is, I firmly believe, the only way to fly.

About as proud as I can be…

Hell yeah, I’m bragging.
Hell yeah, this is a blatant plug!

If you happen to be in St. Paul, MN next Friday, stop on by. I’ve seen the goods, and they certainly will not disappoint!

If you can’t make it on the 21st, her photos will be displayed through October. Otherwise, check out her website: www.robbyelossing.com.

I’ve had more fun watching Robbye prepare for this than I’ve had in a long time. Today, we picked up a slew of large format prints. They were all packed up in cardboard and bubble wrap, and uncovering them felt like Christmas morning…with Robbye as the lucky duck that got the bestest present in her stocking.

How fun to see her giddy. To laugh unabashedly. How cool to see her so excited.

And this from the girl who, a mere year-and-a-half or so ago, answered my query about whether she was a photographer with, “I guess I take a picture or two.” Yeah…I guess so, too.

Congrats, my love! I can’t wait for your big debut.
Robbyeflier_2

Strange Butt True (vol. I)

Here’s an odd little ditty.

Robbye and I were riding in the car someplace the other day. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but somehow this nugget wriggled its way out of memory. I turned to her and said, “I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.”

So… What?

Exactly.

Except…

All of a sudden I had this epiphany. All of a sudden I got it.

So, yeah…I know. I feel like an idiot.

I have lived with this statement for as long as I can remember. It’s one of my mom’s little gems–one of her greatest hits. She says it all the time. I’ve certainly caught the gist of it–at least the spirit in which the statement is evoked: the answer is so apparent, you only need one guess to get it. But the logic behind it has always eluded me.

Because that’s not what the statement is really saying. When you take the statement at face value, it seems to be saying that if I give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count, that means you ostensibly have an infinite number of guesses. Right? On the surface, it’s pretty much an invitation to keep guessing until you land on the correct answer. That’s cool, huh?

I mean, it’s not like I’ve spent the last 40 years pouring over the thing, but… Alright, I admit it. I have spent my fair share of time puzzling through it.

It’s like a sliver imbedded under the skin. Or better…recently, I read an article about this 59-year-old German lady who had a pencil removed from her her head. Apparently, she’d fallen on the thing 55 years earlier, when she was four. It went through her skin and right into her brain. She didn’t die, but she did have chronic nosebleeds and headaches all of her life because medical science wasn’t at a point where doctors could safely extract it.

The “three guesses” thing is like that. Lodged in my brain. A lot of headaches. No way to excise it.

And I feel stupid for not getting it all these years. For not figuring out its painfully simplistic logical framework.

I mean, what’s that all about?

One reason I may have stuggled with it is because the logic is inherently flawed. It breaks down and renders the statement utterly useless.

The machinery behind the statement–the inherent assumption–is, in effect, saying that I am attempting to provide you the correct guess, based on a question you’ve posed to me. Presumably, if my first two guesses “don’t count”, that means you leave me infinite leeway to arrive at the correct answer someday without restriction. In this case, presumably on the assumed third guess. You’ll wait there patiently with me, for the rest of eternity, if necessary, until I say the right thing. Stumble all you want, pal. No problem. We’re doin’ just fine. You take all the time you need. You’ll get it one of these tries. The old “put an infinite number of monkeys in a room with typewriters” routine.

And yet, I make a guess, and it’s discounted. I make another guess, and that one’s discounted. I continue making guesses, and they are continually cast aside. Unaccounted for. No tick mark. Nada.

It turns out I never reach my third (and final) guess. If each answer, i.e., guess, that leaves my lips, doesn’t count, I’m snared in some sort of feedback loop. It goes on forever. I’m always stuck at the beginning. I never make it to square two, much less square three.

Because what if I get the right answer the first time around? The statement doesn’t acount for that. If I nail the thing right outta the shoot? Forget it. That guess didn’t count. I can, in fact, say the same thing again, be bang on with the right answer. Nope. Doesn’t count. What about a third time? Umm…you don’t seem to get it. This isn’t the “third time”. Those other two guesses (What other two guesses?) didn’t count. This is still your first guess. And by the way..? It won’t count either.

Here’s the deal: it never counts. You can have the right answer at the get-go, and it makes no difference whatsoever. Because your answer never goes on record. You’re left screaming at the wall.

Go back to Philosophy 101. The statement isn’t just illogical, it’s non-logic.

Fuck. Maybe that’s why I’ve wrestled with it all these years.

It’s a built-in Catch-22. But it’s more insidious than that. It masquarades as a pleasant invitation to take all the time you need to get it right. The pressure’s off. No worries. Except for one small snag. You accept the invitation, all the while thinking, this is great! And then…

BAM! You’re knocked to the ground by a sucker punch of Sisyphusian propoortions. And to add insult to injury, you’re sucked in FOREVER! You can never pass the test! You can never win.

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Yup… That’s what it feels like. Warm smell of colitas rising up in the air, indeed.

Crap.

No wonder I couldn’t make heads or tails of the thing. It’s a metaphor for my life growing up.

What does that mean?

I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.