Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Wayne Dyer, You Changed My Life.

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Facebook really knows how to deliver the news. Whatever is going on in the world, it ends up there in some way, shape or form. Guaranteed. So much of it is bullshit baffling brains. It’s a crazy-ass stew of hilarious, hysterical, heavenly, helpful, hurtful and harmful.

And every now and again, it’s gut-wrenchingly heartbreaking.

This emotional gutting happened to me a year ago when I opened my Facebook newsfeed, only to learn that my dear one and soul sister, Mary Frances had died. Then it happened again on Sunday, August 30. Wayne Dyer has left his body, passing away through the night. My first reaction to both death announcements was, “how’s that even possible?”

Initially, my entire being was thrust into abrupt and swift shock. Then, my soul struggled to fathom such an impossible notion, such a far-fetched and preposterous declaration. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe what I was experiencing in that moment. Then panic set in. If Wayne Dyer isn’t in this physical dimension, then where do I go in times of fear, sorrow, anxiety, trouble and confusion? Who will comfort me? Where will I find solace and courage, strength and grounding? Who else can provide such powerful profundity and candid commonsense? For this is what his words and wisdom had provided me for the past three decades.

Then I just felt sad. Deeply. Profoundly. Fervently. Utterly. Completely. Every fiber, every cell, every piece of me went into mourning.

I was sad for everyone who loved him, his family and friends, his followers and devotees, those who were lucky enough to know him personally, and those like me, who knew him through his books, audio recordings, PBS appearances, his website and social media.

Like many, I “met” Wayne through his first book, Your Erroneous Zones. I say I met him because that’s exactly how it felt. And as I read more and more of his books, I felt like I was not only learning and growing increasingly aware of my interior and exterior worlds, acquiring a deeper understanding of this life and the one beyond the mist, but that I was also getting to know the man. And this man was extraordinary in every way.

Marvelous and wonderful. Magical and mystical. Intelligent and wise. Witty and entertaining. Mentor and teacher. Inspired and an inspiration.

And I am going to miss him. I’m going to miss reading his words. I’m going to miss listening to his voice in the truck on my way to work. I’m going to miss watching him pace the PBS stage, rolling his hands rhythmically in tune to the cadence of his lyrical voice, as he explained the power of intention and how to make our wishes come true. You’ll see it when you believe it, one of his many mantras. I’m going to miss all those too. I’m going to miss his inspiring quotes in my Facebook newsfeed. I’m going to miss meditating with him. I’m going to miss the “ah”.

So what does the student do when the teacher moves to a different realm?

Take the lessons learned and do something good. Something meaningful. Something kind. Something loving. Something compassionate. Something generous. Something optimistic. Something courageous. Something big. Something small. Something simple. Something profound. Something gentle. Something fierce. Something funny. Something intelligent. Something memorable. Something ordinary. Something peaceful. Something wise. Something imaginative. Something beautiful. Something human. Something divine. Something infinite. Something everlasting.

Thank you Wayne Dyer. You changed my life. I am eternally grateful.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: We All Want to be Liked.

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Last week I watched an episode of Frontline called Generation Like. It was an enormously compelling, at times inspirational, but ultimately for me, a disturbing look into the desire by teens to be “liked” on social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

On the one hand it was inspiring to see the accomplishments of some of these young social media “stars”, especially the ones with real talent. As the show illustrated, it’s a whole different world of connectivity, where a poor kid with buckets of personality, who also happens to be a crazy-ass gifted skateboarder, can achieve fame on YouTube, and maybe, just maybe, a fortune as well. This kid is a head-to-toe living-breathing billboard for Big Brands, all featured brightly on his YouTube videos. I say, good for him and all the others like him, who are using Social Media and these Big Brands to promote themselves and possibly transform their lives for the better. Of course, the darker side of all of this is that these kids are also being used and perhaps exploited. But that’s a whole other story, for another day, another blog post.

What really resonated with me in this documentary was the insatiable desire by all these kids to acquire the coveted LIKES, the currency of self-worth. There’s a wellspring of elation and euphoria if the LIKES are high for a particular post, but should the LIKE count dip, distress and despair follow. This is the tragic roller-coaster rise and fall of self-esteem and value in Social Media Land.

But here’s the rub. It’s not just teenagers who feel this way. I’m a fully-formed adult with a lifetime of experience in my rear view mirror, and at the risk of full disclosure, I understand how these kids feel. I get it. I was a teenager who was tailored made for Social Media, had it been around back then in the prehistoric days of dinosaurs and diskettes.

Truth is I wish I didn’t get it, that none of this made sense. Like the weirdness of Alice in Wonderland or Ozzy Osbourne. All this exhausting vying for attention, the begging and pleading to be noticed, acknowledged, complimented, desired and admired. The persistent popularity contest. The trendy or trending. The endless sharing. The viral. The cool. Fashionable. Commercial. And ultimately the marketable. It’s all so consuming.

As a writer, storyteller and blogger I’d be lying if I said that none of this mattered to me, that I was completely oblivious and above the fray. Yet every time I post one of my stories on Facebook, Twitter, Cowbird or Tumblr I say a small silent prayer that it will resonate with at least one person in cyberspace. And because I’m not a complete narcissistic ass, I also pray that my words will do some good. Serve humanity. Push the conversation towards optimistic, positive, hopeful, encouraging and promising places in the hearts of others.

But there are times, many times, when nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, happens. It’s like no one is out there. There’s a moment afterwards when I feel disappointed. Discouraged. Disheartened. Dispirited. Depressed.

I feel UN-LIKED.

When this happens, I’m plagued with self-doubt and insecurity. My Nasty Nelly inside-voice shouts, “You are not now, and never will be, among the great writers of your time. You are invisible and no one gives a shit what you have to say. So shut the fuck up. Quit.”

Then I brush it off. Like the dandruff on my shoulders. Or the dog fur on my pants.

Because I can. Because I won’t quit. And because I know better. None of this has anything to do with my self-worth. Or my ability to tell a story, for that matter. I gently and kindly remind myself, that I write because this is what I love to do. This is my big fat stupendous and spectacular passion. My magnificent obsession. I remind myself that this is one of the reasons I was put on earth, at this unique and particular time in history.

So I give it another shot. I kick the can down the road one more time. I write another story. Because in the end, when I drill down to the core of what motivates me. I write because I love the art and the process and the doing of it.

These days, I’m working on not giving a shit about the outcome, or how my stuff will be received. Good bad or otherwise.

The LIKES or HEARTS or THUMBS-UP are like the extra toppings on the Sundae. Nice. But not necessary.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like/?fb_action_ids=10152966835316644&fb_action_types=og.recommends

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 1 Million Likes and My Dad will Quit Smoking.

IMG_1700In an earlier post I shared some of the things I was angry about since this dance with the Big C began last fall.  Mostly bat-shit crazy, Mad Hatter things that have been overwhelming and downright mystifying.  The bubbling brew of oozing gooey undisguised and unrestrained emotions.  My psychological backpack is already jam-packed, yet I continue to gather more of these sour candies with each passing day.  It’s been a real slice and I am grateful to everyone who is on the road with me.  I’m especially grateful to those with large hearts and even larger compassionate muscles who haven’t judged.  Just walked the mile in my moccasins.

One of the big things I have wrestled with in this messy muddy life I lead is that there is just no way to sanitize these emotions. I wish I could.  But the truth is, they are there.  Maybe they always were and E’s cancer just brought them roaring to the surface. Demanding that I take note.  So I have.  And the thing is, I can’t paint a pretty picture.  Won’t even try.  All my life I have been referred to as “such a nice person.”  Well, there isn’t anything nice about this.  None of it.  So if you will indulge me one last purge, one final rage, one more dump about anger, then I think I’m done here.

Warning: Some of you may want to quit reading at this point.  No hard feelings. This isn’t for everyone.  I get that. You can move on and read the blogs about flour-free recipes or how to make a tee shirt from toilet paper.

There is one colossal thing that I’ve been livid about for years.  It trumps all those other things I’ve been mad about.  Makes them seem almost trivial.  Not even deep enough to be superficial. It’s the Big Kahuna of piss-offs.  I intentionally left it out of my first rant because it’s been such a sensitive thorn in my side.  And believe it or not, I was still trying to play nice in that post.  But since this is the final puke-up, here goes.

E smoked.

Not casually.  Not after dinner.  Nor while on vacation.  Not like those rare birds who bum smokes at parties but never indulge otherwise. It wasn’t a bad habit he picked up late at night while playing in bands.  E was a hard-core smoker from the time his was nine years old.  He chain smoked. Tons. It was the first thing he did when he got up in the morning and the last thing at night.  If he couldn’t sleep he got up and had a cigarette. It comforted him in ways I never could.  It was his best friend. An extension of his yellow nicotine stained fingers.

No one knows with 100 percent certainty that smoking was the cause of his disease. Even the doctors who treated him, and the nurses who cared for him, left the door open for other possible explanations.  Cancer does strike randomly.  Nonsmokers get lung cancer.  Health nuts, who only eat organic foods and run ten miles a day, get stomach cancer.  People who wear big floppy hats and cover themselves in gobs of suntan lotion get skin cancer.  We know this to be true.  Stress and inflammation are often at the heart of many diseases, from head to heel.  I get this.

But here’s the two thousand pound elephant in the room.  E stuck a carcinogenic substance in his mouth for 45 years, every day, all day.  He has mouth cancer. Mathematical equations aside, odds are cigarette smoking most likely caused this thing.

And I’m mad as hell about that.

Before our daughter was born I begged and pleaded with E to quit.  Once M was here, I tried every manipulative trick in the book.  Of course, intellectually I knew this had to be his decision. He had to hold his own come to Jesus meeting.  I had no control over this.  I understood addiction. Having grown up with an alcoholic father and personally battled with uncontrollable sugar cravings my entire life, I knew what misery looked like.  I’d grovel and drag myself through the mud just for an O’Henry Bar. I know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night needing to feed.  I will always be a sugar addict, whether I eat the stuff or not.  I’ve also smoked.  I know how hard it is to quit. I bawled like a baby for two weeks solid the last, and final, time I quit.  It was pathetic.  Not one of my more graceful and exemplary times.

Because I knew intimately how difficult quitting smoking could be, I exercised as much compassion and understanding as was possible with E. But I’m only human after all.  And I have my own crap to deal with. There was always this underlying resentment about him not quitting.  I often viewed it as defiance.  Not something he couldn’t do.  But wouldn’t.

There were a couple of occasions over the past 20 years where E attempted to quit.  His longest smoke-free period was about four months.  Most of his efforts were futile though.  When it came to quitting, the best he could commit to was “someday.”

Over time, my protests and admonishments ebbed and flowed in volume and frequency.  I also had a comrade, a buddy, a conscientious objector who shared my concerns.  I went from wanting to shield my daughter from a swath of cigarette fumes to having her join me on the protest line.  M and I were a united front on this issue.

At times we were passive aggressive in our objections and disapproval.  Never really coming out and saying, “You’re an asshole for treating this so lightly,” but implying it just the same, in our offhanded comments.  These ran the gambit from the descriptive, “The garage looks like a butt factory” to the succinct, “you reek.”  His habit was bringing out the worst in us.  We were evil twins.

But once E’s mouth cancer was confirmed, no one dared to say, “I told you so.”  We knew there was a good possibility something like this could happen. He was playing a risky game with much at stake.  Sad thing is, E knew it too.  That was the frustrating part.  Just like quitting  might happen “someday” so could getting cancer.

It’s a peculiar thing how love supersedes everything at times like these. Instead of thinking, “I knew this was going to happen.” All I could think about was losing him.  Nothing else mattered.  The cause was irrelevant.

Having said all that, I’m still angry.  At E for not quitting before it came to this.  At his doctor, for not ever suggesting he should quit.  At myself, for not being more persuasive, not fighting hard enough.  At God, for not answering all those millions of prayers.

Pointless self-flagellation.  I know.

One last thing.  All over social media sites, but Facebook in particular, there have been these images of kids holding signs that read something like, “My dad says that if I get 1 million ‘likes’ he’ll quit smoking.”  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry the first time I saw one of these posts.  For the most part these are scams called “Like Farming”, which can generate tons of money for the owners of those phony pages.  Scams or the real deal aside, I found them disturbing.  Because M and I know the truth.  It will take more than 1 million “likes” to make someone’s dad quit smoking. No matter how much they love you. It just doesn’t work that way. Nothing’s that simple.

I’m angry about that too.