I Believe I Can Fly – Just Not Today

I was power-walking again for exercise a couple of days ago when I decided to exercise my imagination for inspiration. 

Bundled in a red ski coat, sweat pants and tennis shoes I walked through our neighborhood where Cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom even as some trees remain naked. Purple, pink, and yellow flowers in my neighbors’ front yards already are promising spring. I noticed birds flying high or perched on trees.

“Self?” I said in my mind. “The next bird you see is you. Watch its patterns.  Note what it does. Imagine the bird is a reflection of you. The very next bird that catches your attention.”

“O.k.,” I agreed.

“You can’t look for a bird. The trick is the bird has to catch your attention.”

“Ok!” I said, emphatically.

It seemed odd that I was noticing birds until I started the internal conversation. Now I was only hearing them, none were flying in my view.

“O.k. I hear them. I don’t see them, but I know they’re all around me because I hear them,” I said to myself.

“Then just listen and realize the birds are singing even on this cold and dreary day. They’re not waiting for spring to break. Can you sing in the rain like Gene Kelly suggested?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I absolutely can. Is this little exercise over? I was just supposed to be reminded to sing in the rain?”

“No. Keep your eyes open. The next bird you see is a reflection of you.”

I noticed a tiny bird bouncing around on the ground. It was a red-breasted bird.

“Oh no!” I thought. “Get up from there! Get up! You’ve got wings. You can fly!”

The bird bounced around on the evergreen grass in an opening beyond a clump of trees.

“Fly birdie! Fly!” I thought, standing still to observe.

“There’s your bird. Now what do you think?” my invisible friend asked.

“Well, even though it is small and on the ground instead of in the air, it caught my attention. Maybe I will catch the attention of somebody – a manager  who will hire me or a publisher who will sign my book for publication and a movie.”  

A chilly wind whipped at my legs. I noticed a large bird flying above my little bird, but I remained focused on the small bird, since this was my assignment.

“O.k., So once I get their attention, I’ll keep it even though they may have bigger birds in sight. They may have high-profile authors on board, but I will keep their attention.”

Just then a flock of birds swooped down near my little bird, but quickly took flight again.

“Oh, those are all the self-published authors, touching ground (working their day jobs), but immediately taking flight again (going home to work on their dream job of self-publishing books).” They will not keep the people assigned to work with me from focusing on me and our project.”

Streaks of sunlight broke through the clouds. A smile rose from my heart.

“Little birdie, fly. Are you content to stay on the ground? You can’t be. We were made to fly,” I thought, hoping the bird could hear my thoughts.

I was reminded of a time when I was about 14-years-old and one of my favorite uncles, my greatest inspiration at the time, handed me a copy of the then-popular book, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”  It was a very small hard-cover book, only 150 pages or so. I accepted the book as if he was handing me money.

“You are Jonathan,” he said. “We both are. This is our story.”

“What’s it about?” I asked.

“Don’t ask me. Read it for yourself,” he said. 

I read it quickly. It was the story of a bird that dared to leave the flock of birds pecking around on the sea shores for leftover scraps of food. The bird, named Jonathan, decided that since he had wings he must have been made to fly, not waddle around on the sand for crumbs. He decided he would fly simply for the joy of flying. He would fly simply because he could.

The other birds, of course, laughed at him and swore he would starve if he did not work as they did. But Jonathan’s hunger was more than belly-deep. He hungered to do what he felt he was designed to do.

Jonathan flew high until he met other birds of like-mind. They taught him new flying skills and encouraged him to fly even higher. He did, and at each new level, he met other teachers who taught him the miraculous things they could do with their wings.

This story came back to me as I watched my little bird bouncing around on the ground. I also remembered a conversation I had with my recently departed aunt, who also had been my best friend.

“Stop worrying about some little job,” she would say. “You’re an eagle. God made you to fly high above the rest of us. Stop pecking around here like some little chicken!”

She had good-gubment job security, so she wasn’t exactly in the position to convince me I did not need the same. But her encouragement came back to me as I watched my little bird a couple of days ago.

“Fly little bird. Fly,” I mentally projected as I watched her from a distance.

I decided to stand there and watch to see how long it would take her to get off the ground, but I became impatient, and went home. Later that day I considered the bird may have been telling me it is ok to be content on the ground for a while. Even birds must rest, right?

The 23rd Psalm came to mind. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me to the paths of righteousness for His namesake.”

I considered that my little bird had been simply lying down in green pastures for a moment.  Of course she took flight again at some point. Birds fly because they can and they must. They know they can fly.  I know I can, too – when the time comes. Until then, I am becoming more grounded in many ways. Grounded, as in: being in touch with reality; gaining a secure feeling  my personal feelings.

Yes, I can, and will, fly again. Just not right this very moment – and that’s o.k.

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The Transformative Powers of the Pen

We discussed social media best practices for authors during a conference call yesterday. It was one of the weekly calls Strebor authors have where we exchange information, encourage each others, and get a chance to ask the publisher and our publicist questions as a group. Something said during the conversation resonated long after I hung up. The publicist talked about the necessity for authors to self-promote. No, this was not news to me. I knew it. I tried it. I concluded after more than ten years that I simply was not good at it. Since this is what it takes to succeed as an author, I considered, I may as well die.

I write because I must. Writing for me is like breathing, like thinking. It has been a saving grace since I was eight-years-old writing plays where characters said and did all the things my religion deprived me of enjoying. Writing, as a young woman, saved my sanity.

All my life, all I’ve wanted to be was a writer. I’ve wanted to share my passion for literature, share my observations and analysis of common experiences, and share my unique experiences, but if self-promoting is essential to this, forget it.

I mulled this over as I went out for an afternoon power-walk. I was walking home from the bank when it suddenly occurred to me that the God had sent me to train with a master self-promoter. My last supervisor was a pain in the ass because she insisted on writing her own press releases while I insisted on doing the work I was allegedly paid to do. She knew what she wanted to say and found it quicker to write her promotions her way than to answer my questions and wait for me to pen a press release. I hated this. I had, after all, by then published hundreds of newspaper articles and two books. As much as possible I tried to beat her to the punch, anticipating news and drafting press releases before she could get started, but we often ended up with her doing her own thing.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that it was training for work I would need to do for myself until I can afford to hire a p.r. expert.

Penning my own press releases may even force me to break a life-long habit of self-deprecation. It will train my brain on what is best about me and the literary gifts I pen.

I recently completed my first novel, and felt transformed from bitter to neutral to soon-to-be-all-out-grateful for what had felt like two years of hell. Writing about the experience helped me detach and see incidents as just that – incidents. It helped me put the incidences in context. It helped me see the “enemy” as just a character, an antagonist. It helped me see myself as just a character, a protagonist, who had to mature by the end of the experience.

Figuring out how to promote this story promises to be rewarding, as well. Already market research has showed me my experiences, as challenging and tragic as they felt, are much more common that I knew. I am looking forward to the other many rewards from this process.