Day 26: And Still We Rise

There is no way I will write anything coherent and organized today. Some have. One of the best things I’ve seen is a post by Jon Pavlovitz about “Why We Grieve Today.” It’s so good that people have crashed his server trying to get to it. I can’t even get to it right now, so I’m trusting that my cache has the right link.

And there’s also Maya Angelou’s poem, And Still I Rise, which she read with such power and beauty and strength here:

It feels like the world is spinning. We must remember: It is okay to pause.

There is so much uncertainty right now. I keep asking myself: What happens now? What does this mean? How do we find unity again? Where do we go now? How do we go forward from here?

I waver between two things:

“When they go low, we go high.” Michelle Obama

and

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to take the high road. That poise and grace of not letting someone’s going low get to you, I want that.

At the same time, I know I have a moral obligation to stand up for what is right, even when that means taking a few lashes.

I am struggling with finding the balance point between these.

What I know for sure is that all of us, every last one of us no matter how we voted, wants to be loved, wants to belong, wants to feel safe and cared for and secure in our futures. How we work to achieve that varies, but those longings are universal.

Seek to find common ground. It may be easy to hate a stereotype, but up close, face to face, we can more easily see that our hopes and dreams are the same.

I don’t know yet where to go from here. I know there is vigilant self care involved. I know vigilant love is involved. I know there will be some anger but hopefully I can dig below that to find inspiration and peace and compassion.

My first year in college, a woman came to speak to our campus. I’d never heard of her at the time. I had no idea who I was going to see, but I found myself mesmerized through her talk, writing down phrase after phrase that she spoke.

Her words were a revelation.

That woman, of course, was Maya Angelou.

One of the things she said that night was a variation on her And Still I Rise poem: “The greatness of the human spirit is to be found in the fact that despite it all, we rise.”

Pause for a moment if you need it. Breathe. Breathe again. And when you’re ready, return to the world to love another day.

And still we rise.

mayaangelou
Phenomenal Woman. via PBS

The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day 24: Celebrity Opinions

liberty-lego
The Statue of Liberty, made out of lego

A funny thing happens when a person reaches a degree of recognition and potential influence:

Some people tell them to shut up.

Rick Steves (I assume you know who he is) is world-famous. He’s also very outspoken on his political beliefs. And every time he talks politics, some people tell him: “Rick, stick to travel.” In fact, he just posted about that today.

Everyone who intentionally has a public persona at some point has to make a decision: Do I stick to (travel, writing books, singing, acting, whatever)? Or do I voice my opinion when I’m feeling compelled to do so?

While I would hardly say I have any public recognition at this point, I definitely, consciously thought about this. I have beliefs that on occasion might conflict with others’ beliefs. Do I stay safe in an inoffensive bubble, saying nothing? Or do I risk alienating some people by saying what I think?

Ultimately, for me, the answer was the latter.

My decision was based on the fact that I am a whole person; I am not my books or my writing or anything other than a human being. Therefore, I’m entitled, as anyone else is, to have an opinion. Having a public persona does not mean I have to leave all my opinions at the front door.

But I see it all the time: people telling celebrities that they are not allowed to have a voice. “Stick to travel (or acting or writing or singing or whatever).”

What they’re really saying is, “I disagree with you, and that makes me uncomfortable, so I want you to shut up.”

There’s that quote by Beatrice Evelyn Hall (often attributed to Voltaire): “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

These days, we’ve become a culture of “I may not agree with what you’re saying, and if that’s the case then I have the right to insist that you not say anything at all.”

But that’s not so. Rick Steves has every right to say what he wants to say, as do I, as do you, as does your favorite celebrity with whom you disagree. Telling someone to “stick to travel” (or writing or singing or acting or whatever) is completely disrespectful of that person’s right to complete personhood, their right not to be defined by the work by which you know them.

Like the song says: Say what you want to say.

And grant others the same right as well. Even if it’s difficult. Even if you disagree. Even if it’s hard to hear or to be confronted with ideas that are different from yours. Be respectful, be honest, and be open. But let’s say what needs to be said.

Democracy is not easy. It’s messy and it’s frustrating, but it’s the best we have.


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day 23: The Final Countdown

voted

This election season has worn on us and worn us all down and torn us apart. We are anxious, we are angry. Sometimes, if we think too hard, we are terrified.

As I write this, we are 46 hours from the polls in my state closing. Since I’ve heard that the election (presidential) could be called by 6 p.m. Pacific, we’re only 44 hours away, possibly, from knowing who our next president is.

“I’m so nervous,” said a friend I was talking to today.

I’ve been nervous, too. I realized yesterday, though, that if my worst nightmare happens, my worrying about it for two extra days won’t make much difference. So for now, I am optimistic and hopeful.

Come Wednesday, no matter what happens on Tuesday, we all are going to have some work to do. Some common ground to find. Some empathy and compassion and listening to cultivate.

But for now, whatever you believe, just be sure to vote.


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day 21: “How Many Books Have You Sold?”

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It seems like anytime I meet a new group of people and tell them I’m a writer, I get questions like this at least once.

“How many books have you sold?”

“Are you able to make a living at that?”

“Are you successful?”

Or some variations thereof.

I hate these questions. I never have the right answers at hand, because the fact is, the answer is: If you knew me well enough for me to tell you the answers, you’d know already. If you don’t already know, you don’t know me well enough to ask.

Think about it. Essentially what these questions come down to is the age-old-taboo question: “How much money do you make?”

Sure, you might not know how much I make from the sale of each book. But if I told you I’ve sold 1,000 books, you’d make an estimate in your head. Same if I told you I’ve sold 1,000,000,000 books.

(For the record, it’s more than 1,000; less than 1,000,000,000.)

Look, I get it. People are curious. Behind the question are some other questions. People might be looking for inspiration (“I’ve always wanted to write a book … if she tells me she’s doing well, maybe I’ll pursue the dream, too!”). People might be looking for affirmation (“I’ve always been too afraid to follow my own dreams, so I just want to know it’s not worth it, it’s too hard, and you can’t make a living at it anyway”). The questions aren’t really about me. They’re about the person’s own dreams. I get that.

But every time someone asks me, I want to turn the question around: “Hm. Interesting question. Tell me, are you any good at what you do? Do you make a living at it? Would you consider yourself successful? Would your colleagues agree? Relative to other people in your field, where do you stand?” And so on.

Or I could go for the jugular:

Tell me, do you like what you do? Have you followed your dreams?” Because usually, I know the answer to that one.

So here, once and for all, is what I’ll tell you.

Unless you’re already in the process of publishing a book and are in the game with me, I won’t tell you how many books I’ve sold (and then, only maybe). Yes, I am able to survive. I have a roof over my head, and I get by just fine. In my opinion, my books are great; each one is better than the last, which is the goal, always to be improving. Am I successful? Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. Making the decision to try writing that first book was without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s not easy, but it’s fantastic and I love it and I think I’ll keep doing it for a while (regardless of how many books I sell). I am happier with my career and my goals and my future than I’ve ever been.

That may not be the answer people want, but that’s what I’m giving.

 


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day 20: Three Lessons from the World Series

cubs

Fact: I don’t watch a lot of sports. Whether football, basketball, baseball, or anything else, I’m just not that into it. Do I watch when my city’s team is in the playoffs? Sure. Am I fair weather fan? Sure. If that’s the worst insult you can sling at me, I’ll take it.

Still, along with many others, I was (somewhat) glued to the TV last night for the seventh game of the World Series. Indians v. Cubs. A game 108 years in the making. And after watching it, I thought, there are some good lessons to be learned from this.

Here are three.

1. Get in the game

First, if you’re not in the game you can’t win, period. That much is obvious, but still a key point. If you want to win, you have to be in the game.

2. Stay in the game (persevere)

And second, stay in the game. Do you know who didn’t win the World Series, and will never win the World Series? The Brooklyn Tip-Tops. The St. Louis Brown Stockings. The Chicago Whales. Who are they, you might ask? Well, according to this Wikipedia page, these were all major league baseball teams that are now defunct. For one reason or another, they closed up shop. Their chances are now over.

If you give up, you can’t win.

The nation didn’t rally around the Cubs last night because everyone is a Cubs fan, or even a baseball fan. We watched because we want to see that persevering pays off. We want to believe that if we keep trying, if we don’t give up, we too can win. We want to believe anything is possible. We want to have a reason not to give up hope.

There’s that saying: fall seven times, get up eight. What about fall 107 times, get up 108?

3. Winning isn’t final, and losing isn’t fatal

Sure they’re celebrating today. And maybe tomorrow. And maybe the day after that. But in 100-odd days, they’ll be back in the ball park for a new season. Clean slate. Yesterday is over. What we have is now.

The joy is in the striving. If all that mattered was winning, the Cubs (and all the other teams that have ever won the World Series) would be done. We keep going because our happiness truly does come through the process, not in reaching the goal. It’s all about the journey.

So, to recap: Get in the game. Stay in the game. And once you reach your goals, make another goal and keep going.


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day 18: Everyone Dies; or, Why Not Try?

I have two songs in my main iTunes playlist that feature a singer I used to know. Used to, that is, because he died, very suddenly and far too young, a couple of years ago.

I keep the songs in there because every time they come up I am reminded: everyone dies.

This isn’t intended as a morbid expression or a solemn moment of silence. This is intended as a poignant reminder, an impassioned plea to myself to live. Now.

There are things we want to do, but we don’t do them because we’re afraid we’ll fail. We’ll look like a fool. We’ll get it wrong.

Who cares? Who cares??

For about 150,000 people around the world, today is their last day on this Earth. And again tomorrow. And again the next day.

In this hour alone, more than 6,000 people will die.

So maybe you try that new thing, and maybe you look like a fool, but maybe you have a good time. Maybe someone laughs at you, but maybe someone else is inspired by you.

You may even inspire yourself.

Everyone dies. None of us knows when our last day will be. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try, why not try?

sunset
Sunset in eastern Washington. Photo: Pam Stucky

The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day 17: Habit vs. Routine

I’m on Day 17 of this posting a blog post every day, but the habit is definitely not ingrained yet. At the end of each day (such as now, as I wait for more trick-or-treaters to ring the doorbell), a moment comes where I realize I haven’t written anything yet.

I did get writing done on my mystery novel today, so that’s good. But the point is to write in the blog every day. Just for the sake of routine.

And therein, I think, lies the key: habit vs. routine.

I’m working on building a habit, but I haven’t worked out yet how to make it part of a routine. Routine means something you do in the same time and basically same way every day. Habit is just something you do but it might not be part of a routine.

To avoid this end-of-day scramble to get some words down, I think I’m going to need to add writing to a morning routine.

It’s so easy for the writing to get pushed off. In part because there’s always something else, seemingly more pressing, that needs to be done. And in part because whatever else might be pressing, writing is harder. It’s not hard in a coal-mining, back-breaking labor kind of way, but it’s hard. It’s far easier to answer some emails, send some things out to media, take care of a million minutia. To write means to take time to settle into silence. Get comfortable with the discomfort. And write, no matter what.

So tomorrow, I’ll start working on building a writing routine as well as a writing habit.

But for today, at least I showed up.


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


Check out Pam’s books!

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Day 10: A House With No Books

One time in college, I went to stay the weekend at a friend’s house for the first time. As one does.

I expected the house to be normal. As one does.

But this house was not normal.

There were no books. I don’t even remember any bookshelves. There were no magazines lying out on tables, decorative or otherwise. Nowhere was there any evidence of the written word.

It felt disorienting and uncomfortable and awkward. Like I’d walked into a house with no oxygen. Like I’d discovered something about these people that no one was supposed to know.

“Why do you write?” someone asked me the other day.

The only real answer I could give was: “How do you not?”

shelf


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day Nine: What if Laughter is the Canary in the Coal Mine?

This morning I’ve been listening to Radiolab’s fascinating Season Four opening podcast, Laughter, from February 2008.

About a quarter of the way through the episode, a point is made: “The most important thing to remember about laughter is that it’s social.” — Dr. Robert Provine, Neuroscientist.

“Wait,” you’re thinking. “I laugh all the time when I’m alone at home. I watch funny shows, I see a funny tweet, I get a funny text from a friend, I laugh. Out loud.”

Apparently that doesn’t count. “Those are vicarious social stimuli… You take away media, and laughter basically disappears,” says Provine.

Maybe you’ve heard the statistics. Numbers vary, but studies say children laugh anywhere from 300 to 400 times a day. Adults? Well, we’re in the 15 to 20 range.

I’ve heard these numbers many times, over many years, but I’ve never really thought about the reasons behind the disparity. It’s sort of obvious, right? We adults laugh less because adult life is less funny. Right?

But on hearing Provine’s statement, something else occurred to me.

I’ve long thought that loneliness and isolation are at the root of many of our current societal problems. In fact, loneliness and isolation and, as salve to these, compassion are among the themes of my MG/YA book, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse. When I was trying to decide on a villain, I thought, well, I can’t have Evil with a capital E as my villain, because Voldemort has been done. So what is just as bad? What is just as prevalent? What is just as scary and hurtful? And what did I come up with? Loneliness. In this novel, The Void, a vast, formless, but omnipresent entity, represents loneliness and isolation.

On listening to the podcast, a hypothesis started to build in my mind. If adults laugh less, and laughter is purely social, does that mean if we’re not laughing enough, that’s a warning sign? If we aren’t laughing enough, are we too isolated? Is lack of laughter the canary that tells us to get out of the coal mine and get back into the world with other people?

What if we’re not laughing, not because adulthood is too hard, but because we have lost our connections with each other?

laughter


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day Four: Happiness is an Action

Yesterday morning as I drifted in that half-dream space between asleep and awake, my mind was playing around with the idea of happiness.

Then I had a thought that rang so true to me, it jolted me straight from half-asleep to fully awake:

Happiness is an action.

We’ve all heard that saying that “love is a verb,” right? That love isn’t just something we feel; it’s something we do.

I’ve been reading about and studying and chasing the ideas of happiness long enough that I instantly recognized the same is true of happiness. The intense, simple truth:

We are happy when we make the choice to do things that make us happy.

And, by contrast, we are unhappy when we choose to do the things that make us unhappy. (See, for example, yesterday’s post: Seeking Outrage vs. Seeking Peace.)

I need to think on this one a lot more but I wanted to share it here with you.

It’s a small (and almost obvious, once you think about it) shift, but yet a big one. We’ve heard the idea that happiness is a choice, but what does that mean?

Maybe it means that happiness is a choice in that we choose to do the things that make us happy, or we choose to do the things that make us unhappy.

We can choose to write in a gratitude journal (which studies show increases happiness), or we can choose to perseverate (one of my favorite words, by the way) on the things that are frustrating us.

We can choose to go on a walk, or we can choose to sit and watch a show we’re not really interested in.

We can take the time to make a delicious healthy meal, or we can go for the french fries. (Okay, sure, french fries are temporary happy, but you know that feeling of heavy, greasy regret in your gut comes way too soon.)

We can reach out to connect with friends or make the effort to meet new people or we can let ourselves become engulfed by loneliness.

We can work on our own life and dreams, or we can covet someone else’s.

We can choose to do the things that make us happy, or we can choose to do the things that make us unhappy.

Happiness is an action.

This is not, obviously, the end-all be-all one-stop solution on how to be happy, and what’s more I’m undoubtedly not the first person to think this. Happiness is complex and multilayered.

More on this as I think more about it. But for now, don’t try to be happy. Make the choice to do happy.

do-happy

 


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


Check out Pam’s books!

Join Pam’s mailing list!

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