I’m A Fan Fridays! A little acoustic sunshine on a cloudy day

214 Tommy Emmanuel

My brother, Danny, introduced me to Tommy Emmanuel a few years ago via a YouTube clip, much like I’m about to do for you right now.  I can’t remember the exact piece my brother shared with me, but as soon as I experienced the one, I got lost down the rabbit hole of videos of Tommy that are on the site.

To get you started, here is one of my favorites.  It’s a brilliant arrangement of a couple of Beatles tunes that you might be familiar with.  I hope you enjoy this edition of I’m A Fan Fridays!  

Have a great weekend!  Enjoy!!

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

On what it means to suck a lemon

gty_suck_lemon_ll_120713_wbWhen I used to teach acting at the Wanda Bass School Of Music at Oklahoma City University, I used to have my students do an exercise that was so insightful. I’d do it either in the first class session or the second at the latest. The students who really got it would have their acting craft altered in such a big-time way. (Try it right now yourself, if you like). My instructions went like this:

“Okay.  Close your eyes and allow yourself to just breathe. Concentrate on your breath for a while. Now, see a lemon right out in front of you. Keeping your eyes closed, reach out and take that lemon in your hand.  Feel it.  Feel the rind. Smell the lemon. Smell all of the smells.

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Now, lay it out on the table in front of you. Take a small, serrated knife in one hand and hold the lemon still with the other.  Cut the lemon in half.  Pick up one half and smell it now.  Squeeze one half of the lemon in one hand.  Feel the juice flow down your hand.  Now, put it to your mouth and bite it.  Suck on it.  Really taste it.”

You should have seen the faces on these students, scrunched up noses and all sorts of things.  I wish I could have gotten some of them on video.  If we would have had YouTube then, I could have bribed quite a few students.  Maybe a little pocket money?  Hah! Anyway, some would barely begin to bite down before the sensation was too bitter for them to take any longer.  Some eyes would water.  It was quite something to see all of the different reactions.  Why did they react this way?

Well, I’m certainly no scientist, but the way I understood it when it was explained to me after I first tried the exercise was that our brain just reacts.  It doesn’t know that we’re sucking on thin air.  Our brain believes what we tell it to believe!  Why was this important for acting class?

Well, what an actor has to do, if nothing else, is be believable in the role she is playing.  The reactions to the lemon juice, and everything that came out of the lemon exercise, were completely believable because they were true.  The experience was real. Even if the piece you’re performing isn’t “realistic”, you still have to be committed to the role and you must believe what you’re doing in that moment.  No one will believe what you do unless you believe it first.  No one will believe who you are unless you believe it first.

And so it is with our lives.  If you are committed to being a certain way– content, satisfied, happy, you name it– you must be committed to it.  You must believe you are that way.  See the satisfaction.  See the joy there out in front of you.  Close your eyes and bite into the happiness that is right before your eyes.    How you decide to be is the only thing, and I repeat, the only thing that you will ever have any control over in this life.  No matter what life deals out, you choose how to react.  You choose how to be.

Close your eyes and tell your brain what you see.  Tell your brain how you feel and your brain will buy it .

And so will you.

Now, go suck a lemon!

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

I’m A Fan Fridays! Two minutes and twenty one seconds of pure happiness

illus11I’m A Fan Fridays was born out of my desire to share with the world a few of the things I think are simply out of this world–performances or works of art that have reached out and touched something deep within me, giving me pause to contemplate all of what life can truly be.

What an amazing time it is to be alive!  I will most likely never get the chance to meet Matthew Auerbach, the young man who gives this life affirming and joyous performance, but through the absolute magic of modern technology, I found this, it thrilled me, and I can now share it with all of you.  Enjoy!

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

She said, He said…A Bi-Polar conversation

09PSYC-articleLargeSHE:  Well, hello!  It’s good to see you.  It’s been a while.  How are you?

HE:  Good.  Yeah, I’m doing pretty well. Thanks.

SHE:  Great.  That’s super.  I’m glad.  Come in, come in.  Have a seat.  So, let’s see…, your labs look good.  Kidney’s fine.  Liver’s fine.  Your sugar was up a bit.  Did you fast before or no?

HE:  No, I didn’t.  It was midday, though, and I hadn’t eaten for a few hours.

SHE:  That’s fine.  It’s not a big deal.  Things look good. So, how are you feeling otherwise?

HE:  Good.  I still have moments, you know.  I still have times when I can feel myself going one way or the other, and I can feel how I push the outer edges of things, you know?

SHE: Ok.  How do you mean?

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HE:  Well, I can feel myself slipping into a manic place and it almost feels like I’m changing in some way; literally changing into somebody else.  I’m making choices that I don’t want to make, and I don’t even know why.

But, then I think I can work it out.  I can see that I’m headed down a dark tunnel, so to speak, and things aren’t going to be ending well, and I pull back.  Sometimes it’s the opposite, though.  Sometimes I see myself falling down.  I’m drowning in all of the potential misery, all of the possibilities of all of the things that could go wrong– my wife dying, my kids getting sick, you know, all the worst stuff.

So I step back, go for a run or something, and try to regroup.  So far, so good, I guess.  I haven’t tried to run myself off of the road in a while, you know?

SHE:  I think those are some good insights, don’t you?

HE:  Yeah.  I guess so. Yeah.

SHE:  You talked before about being afraid that your creativity would be stifled with the Lithium.  Do you still feel that way?  You’ve been on it for a while now.  Definitely long enough to know.

HE:  I don’t like how I feel when I’m on it.  I feel emotionally castrated.  The truth is, I stopped taking it.  I haven’t been on it for quite some time.  I just took it for about a week before I went in for those labs.

SHE:  I see. Do you think that’s wise?

HE:  Probably not.  I know you called it a…what did you call it?…a “mood stabilizer,” but I feel like it keeps me from places I need to go emotionally.  On the other hand, there are some places I don’t want to go to emotionally ever again, in my real life, anyway.   You know what I mean?

SHE:  I can understand that.

HE:  Can you?

SHE:  I think so.

HE:  Okay

SHE:  Have you been drinking at all?

HE: Sometimes I do.

SHE:  To self medicate? Escape?

HE:  Sometimes, yes.

SHE:  Does it help?

HE:  No.  It makes it worse.

SHE:  What do you think about that?

HE:  I think it might be time to stop.

SHE:  That probably would be best.   (a brief silence)

It’s been a while since we talked about what happened.  Would you like to talk about that today?

HE:  No.

SHE:  Okay, then.  Can we talk about you taking your medication again?

HE:  I guess so.

 

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

On when one is “Touched With Fire”–Thoughts on Manic Depressive Disorder

manic-depression-james-hammonsMost people live day to day.  They get up, live the events of their day, rejoice in triumphs, regret mistakes, look forward to a better tomorrow, go to sleep and then do it all over again the next day.  Someone living with Manic Depressive Disorder does not live that way, and the day to day can very easily end in suicide.  The world simply doesn’t spin the same for him.  The days don’t have the same meaning.

Someone suffering with Bi-Polar Disorder (a label which I basically consider a euphemism for, and less accurate than, Manic Depressive Illness) carries the dreams, hopes, plans, and experiences of his life throughout several days, or even weeks, on a continual emotional plane.  The “ups” stay up, defying anyone or anything to come along and flatten out the wonderful, creative, brilliant existence in which our hero resides when mania rules the day.

The trouble is never in the manic brilliance.  Oh no.  It comes just after;  just after the realization that the Mr. Hyde that rules the manic days has left, in his wake, a  trail of destruction and despair not unlike a small Oklahoma town after a tornado has blown through on an otherwise perfect spring night.  Very often it’s only the experts who see those kinds of things coming, both tornadoes and mania, but everyone can see the results of both.

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Wives, husbands, children, parents, friends, everyone close to you can be deeply hurt by your destructive tendencies when you’re manic and when they are left to pick up the pieces, the despair and depression can seem totally insurmountable.  Relationships can seem to be beyond repair. Debt can seem so deep that ever reaching a financially stable position again can appear to be just a very distant dream. Any true satisfaction from your job appears to be an impossibility.  Your guilt mixes with your feelings of failure and your failure begins to blend in with your questions about your relevance to the world. Those questions then bend themselves to dark resolutions about why the world would simply be better off without you in it.

You will very rarely find a note from a suicidal manic-depressive.  Plans aren’t necessarily made.  In the same way that our hero wants everything and everyone to be wonderful during a manic stage, he now wants the sorrow and regret and guilt and despair to go away, to not be his fault.  The pain that he has caused is so present now that nothing he can think of can take away the downward spiral that he feels he has caused.  These thoughts consume him constantly.  He just wants it all to stop, to be better again for everybody.

So, one day while driving home, his tears flood his eyes as he sees the minivan approaching him in the oncoming lane.  Drifting over, he heads straight on, head on, toward the moment when it will all be over.  But he can still see. And when he sees the man driving the oncoming van with his wife beside him and the children behind him screaming to turn away, he has just enough strength to pull over to his own lane just in time.

It’s time for help.

This story has a happy ending, but many end sadly.  This disease is real and can be devastating, and ignorance is our enemy.  The more we know, the more we can see.  My prayer is that we will all be willing to see with eyes of compassion and understanding before one more soul drives himself into the wrong lane, and instead of seeing that there is help ahead, drives right into the darkness.

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang

“I’m Him!”: Thoughts on being an example to children

04It never ceased to amaze me how many lessons I would learn from teaching young children. Not too many years ago, I discovered something quite fascinating about kids that I believe to be universal. I guess I should say, something occurred to me, because I’m sure I didn’t discover it.

Early in my career in public education, I was an elementary school music teacher. I enjoyed my job, traveling from room to room with my guitar in one of the inner city schools of Elizabeth, NJ. The students always greeted me with such enthusiasm, probably because they only saw me once a week, and I wanted to give them something new whenever I came to their room to teach. I wanted them to be exposed to as many experiences of music as they could get in the time we had together. I liked to change things up, and they were always game for something new.

One day, I was showing a video to my students in one of the first grade classes. It was a video with real human characters, as opposed to animated, and right from the get go, the kids, one by one, started to call out, “I’m him!” or “I’m her!”

That really struck me. The first thing they felt compelled to do was stake their claim on who they wanted everyone to see them as being. Every student wanted everyone else to identify them in some way, and that was how they articulated it.

I say they wanted everyone else to know because every declaration was out loud and quite clear.  Some, of course, made the same claim to a character as another, and that caused some difficulty before I could reel everyone in.

“I’m him!”

“NO! I’m him! You’re her!”

“I’m not a GIRL!  MR. SCOOOOOTTT!!”

“Whoa! Ok kids. Let’s chill. Relax. We can all just be ourselves today. How’s that sound?”

Children look to anyone, everyone and everything for some kind of guidance on how to be.  I realized that teachers are on the front lines on a daily basis.  Who do our children want to be?  Not “what” do they want to be, but “who” do they want to be?

Learning how to be is sort of like buying a pair of shoes: quite a few people wear your size, but you try on a pair that you think look good. If they feel good, you wear them and break them in with the way you, and you alone, walk. Then, after a while, they truly become yours. No one else can wear them because you’ve got them just the way you like them for your feet.

I thought to myself how it would be nice if my students would point to me and say, “I’m him!” I’ve just got to make sure that I’m as prepared as I can to be a worthy example. Whether I want it or not, kids may look at me and want to try me on for size.

I look at kids now and wonder: How would I fit? 

Follow Scott on Twitter- @scotylang

I’m A Fan Fridays!

rhiannon-giddens

A couple of different times I’ve shared with you a musical act that I found out about as a result of the Showtime special, Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis

There were so many acts on that wonderful concert.  I hope you got a chance to see it.  If you didn’t, it’s well worth your time to look it up.

While it’s hard to pick an absolute favorite act from the show (several numbers really blew me away!) all I have to say by way of introduction to this singer is, Good lord, Rhiannon Giddens…

 

Follow Scott on Twitter–@scotylang

You Understand Me?: Thoughts on our desire to be heard and understood

Successful-Stock-Trader-UnderstandI’ve been having some serious discussions lately, some at Church, some with my wife, and some with my buddy.  All of which have to do with one serious subject or another.

I mention this because I’ve noticed something about myself:  If you disagree with me, it’s simply because I haven’t made myself clear enough.

Narcissistic?  Perhaps a tad!

When I realized this, it made me think about why I might feel this way.  I really don’t think it is entirely about me being so self-centered.  When I stop and think about it, I know that it’s very probable that someone may hear me, understand me, and simply disagree with me. (Why, I have no idea!  Ha!)

All kidding aside, though, when I reflect on the reason I struggle with this kind of thinking, I think it comes down to the fact that one of my greatest desires in life is to be clear, to be fully heard, and to be understood.  Don’t we all want that?  Don’t we all want to be fully heard and understood?  I think we do, but often, at least in my case, that desire is accompanied with a nice, healthy dash of wanting to be right.

How important is it, in the end, for me to be right?  I certainly don’t think that any conversation about politics, religion, or football draft picks is worth any amount of hurt feelings.

My wife and I have a friend who’s Russian.  She’s married to a man from Poland and their two boys were born in the States.  The boys speak splendid English, while Mom and Dad can only speak broken English to each other.  Talk about communication barriers!

Anyway, when we talk, she’s always saying in the middle of sentences, “You understand me?”

Sometimes I feel so sad for her.  Her greatest desire is to be understood.

So, I’ll continue to try to be clear, and at the end of the day, pray that whoever ends up on the receiving end of my communication gets my point.

You understand me?

 

 

Follow Scott on Twitter–@scotylang

Questions, pain, demons, compassion, and love, always love

Philip_Seymour_Hoffman-1024x802-650x509I wasn’t sure how to, or even if I could, write about Philip Seymour Hoffman and how his death has affected me so deeply.

I just made a link from his name to IMDB.  See for yourself the way his prolific work impacted your life in some way.  Seen any of those movies?  Have any of them moved you at all?  Any of them have an impact on how you look at the world?  Well, several of them did for me.

The day he died, a friend of mine posted this on Facebook:

Oh, Philip Seymour Hoffman… Your performance in “Capote” single-handedly changed my opinion of the death penalty. No, we never met, but your authenticity made me feel as though we had and based on what I’m reading today, I’m not the only one.

The word that struck me in that last sentence was, authenticity.  In all of his work, Hoffman was definitely that–Authentic.  I heard several interviews with him over the years and he always spoke about making choices for his characters that were honest.  Honesty and authenticity in his acting were hallmarks of what he left behind to the world.

He also left behind a great deal of confusion.

I’m going to do a bit of assuming here, but I’m not sure Hoffman meant to die; I don’t think he wanted to.  There was no note, no goodbyes as far I’ve read or heard.  I could be wrong, but as I grasp for answers regarding why this could happen, I want to hope.  I want to hang on to a hope that he never lost hope, but just lost his way and couldn’t get back.

Almost immediately after he passed, I read things on my social media feeds like, “How could he do such a thing?  He had it all!” or “How selfish!  Why do people feel like they have to turn to drugs?”  I understand the questions, however short-sighted they might be, but those are not the questions that came to my mind.  Among many were these:

What triggered you?  Did you know how much you were loved and admired?  Could you possibly know what kind of hole you would leave if you couldn’t come back from that needle?  If you did, did you just not care or were there just too many voices in your head keeping you from hearing how much you were needed here?

You were NEEDED here, Phil!

There are so many questions when anyone dies so tragically like this.  We ask the questions because we want answers.  We want sense to be made from the things that happen that are so senseless.  But the more questions I ask, especially about this particular death, the more I know that I don’t know shit.

Goddammit, Phil!  I’m so mad right now!

I want answers!!  I want answers that will not come, and I’m so sad.  I’m sad for your partner and your children; for your family and friends; for all of us who will never see the brilliance of what you were becoming.  You made the world better.  What you did mattered.  Can you hear me where you are?

I pray that you still had hope, Phil.  I pray that you had visions and dreams for your future right to the end.  I pray that you didn’t die in despair, not knowing if anything you did made any difference in this world, not knowing if you could keep on fighting the demons inside of you.

I know the urge to run away, to give up, to escape.  I know how it feels to need peace so badly that the consequences of getting just a moment’s worth of it make no difference if only that moment could come.  I pray that you have that peace now.

I don’t know what was going through Philip Seymour Hoffman’s head the day he took the heroin that took his life.  I do know that he lost his way, and I weep for him and for everyone who loses theirs.  This life is not easy.  It is so hard sometimes to even think about what it’s going to take to make it even one more day.  But all we can ever do is live this day while it’s here.  Tomorrow will come, if it comes, and then we’ll take that day.  One day and then another.  Just take this day.

If you’re still reading this post, dear reader, I want you to know that as I sit here typing this on my computer, I’m fighting my own particular demons.  And I know you are fighting yours.  You being alive is so vitally important in ways you do not even know, what you do matters, and you are never separated from love no matter what you might think.  Please look around you and if you can’t see it immediately, look harder.  Seek love out and it will find you.

I’m still here only because, somehow, the grace of God has allowed me to remember how much I’m loved and needed today.  Today.  We’ll see about tomorrow when tomorrow gets here.

Follow Scott on Twitter- @scotylang

I’m A Fan, Fridays!

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Okay, so here’s a great example of why I think it’s an amazing time to be alive right now.  We are connected in ways we never dreamed we’d be 15- 20 years ago.  Facebook, Twitter, et al, have given us ways to share things that really have an impact on our lives–  news in an instant, pictures and video of family members and friends, and art, wonderful works of art.

I found this band completely by surprise while scrolling around my cousin’s Facebook page the other day.  This is a cousin I see once or twice a year and wish I knew better, but thanks to technology, I can catch a glimpse (a very small one and no substitute for actual face time, I know) of what she’s into and what’s going on with her.

So, thanks to Lisa and our connection through Facebook, I found this great song by a terrific band called, Dawes.  You’ve got some pretty good taste, kid!

Take some time and listen to the lyrics.  It’s some really great song writing in the classic tradition of Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Have yourself a great Friday and enjoy!

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Follow Scott on Twitter: @scotylang