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 25: Love Always Wins

I just remembered I hadn’t posted today. So caught up in the election all day that I almost forgot.

I am in shock at the election outcome tonight.

I have so many words. I have no words.

But I know this much: it may take a while, but Love Always Wins.


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 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 14: The Benefit of the Doubt

When we mess up, it’s easy to want others to be a little forgiving of us. To give us the benefit of the doubt. To understand that we’re only human and we’re doing the best we can.

But when someone else messes up at our expense, it’s easy to forget all that. It’s easy to assume that if they hurt us deeply, they meant to. If they said the wrong thing, it was intentional. If they were unkind, it was personal. If they were less than sensitive, it’s because they don’t value us enough to try harder.

Assuming that everyone is doing their best can be hard sometimes. It is easier to feel hurt and get angry than it is to give others the benefit of the doubt and trust and be vulnerable and risk being hurt again.

But if we want to be happy, that’s the only way forward. When you know better, do better. When they know better, they do better. Everyone is learning. We’re all simply doing the best we can, and we all mess up, over and over again. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt.

maya


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 13: Perspective

It seems, sometimes, that life is unbearably, irrevocably difficult. Or that everything is falling apart with no hope of falling together again. Or that the mistake you made is unforgivable and enormous. Or the person you wronged will never let you make it right. Or that the weight of the world will pivot on a challenging decision you have to make.

At times like these, perspective helps.

For such perspective, I like to return time and again to Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

Said Sagan: “To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” I would add, to deal more kindly with ourselves. Just as the pale blue dot is the only home we’ve ever known, each of us is the only self we will ever be. Be kind to you, too.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

carl


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 12: When Hard Work Pays Off

In June 2009, without really realizing what I was doing, I joined the ranks of independent artists.

In the years since then I’ve had the joy, honor, and delight to meet dozens of independent artists in all genres: writers, visual artists, jewelers, musicians, film producers, and more.

I was talking last night with a friend who creates jewelry. We were commiserating over the fact that though we work hard and create, and work hard and create, it sometimes feels like no one is paying attention. Getting traction, finding our audiences, making progress on our goals, sometimes feels impossible.

We love the work, we agreed, but it would be nice if a few more people noticed what we’re doing.

I passed on to her a quote I’d read just that day from writer Zadie Smith: “Don’t confuse honours with achievement.” (See link for Zadie’s 10 Rules of Writing.)

Of course, we aren’t doing the work for the honors. (Or, if you’re British, honours.) We’re doing it because we can’t not do it. That creative instinct is more than an urge; it’s a drive.

“Unused creativity isn’t benign. It metastasizes.” So says Brené Brown, and I think she’s right. We don’t create just for the fun of it; we create because we must create in order to thrive.

And yet.

And yet, the honors, when they come, are nice. Very nice indeed.

Which is why I’d like today to congratulate my dear friend Damian McGinty on the release of his gorgeous new CD This Christmas Time, and its debut at #2 on the Billboard World and Holiday charts. I hate the word “deserve” as it implies that those who don’t receive the honors didn’t deserve them. But I do know Damian has worked so hard to get where he is. He poured every bit of himself into this album, and I’m beyond delighted to see him getting such great recognition for his efforts.

Creators keep creating because we can’t not create.

But the awards, when they come, are very nice.

2-billboard-world-and-holiday-chart


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 Eight: The Starting Line Doesn’t Move Just Because You Wait

Imagine you’ve decided to run a marathon.

You get to the starting line and you think to yourself, “I can’t run a marathon! I’m not ready for this!”

So you decide to stand there and wait until you’re ready.

Makes no sense, right? The starting line isn’t going to move further ahead just because you wait.

If you want to get in the race, you have to begin from the starting line.

The same is true of any endeavor. We have a tendency to think that if we wait, we’ll give ourselves time to learn more, read up more, train more, and then magically the starting line will move forward and we’ll avoid mistakes; we’ll get to our goals faster once we do begin.  (Okay, technically in the case of a real marathon, training would be good, but this is an analogy here, so work with me.)

But the fact is, we learn by doing. What’s more, much to our dismay, we learn by making mistakes. We can’t avoid mistakes by waiting until we think we’re “ready” or we’ve “learned enough.” All we do is postpone them. The mistakes are part of the process, not something we can run around. They are the obstacles in the obstacle course. They are an inherent part of the race.

If we want to succeed at something, it’s best to start now and start making mistakes now so we can learn and grow and move forward.

So if you’re at the starting line, looking down that long path, start now. Don’t wait.

Photo by Joe / flickr
Photo by Joe / flickr

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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