(Originally posted on 6/17/10)
Movies, books, plays and even great songs have them-those moments when everything changes. Someone figures it out. Someone makes a move. It might be Sherlock Holmes putting all the clues together, or when Harry finally realizes he should have been with Sally a long time ago-a really long time ago. Maybe it was the first time Superman realized he was able to "leap tall buildings in a single bound," or when Will realizes he should go see about a girl, or...well, the list goes on and on. Moments. Moments when everything changes.
This is story. Something inside of us relates to it. Buried in our DNA is a connection to the arc of a story. Writers didn't invent these ideas. They respond to them. Think about your own life. What if there were never any conflicts or tough decisions? What if there weren't any times of struggle or loneliness? It sounds great on the surface, but it would be, in reality, a terribly boring life. Without struggle, we wouldn't understand accomplishment, or the feeling of winning. Without conflicts, we would all think exactly the same way, at the same time. Without tough decisions, we wouldn't know courage or gain experience. Without loneliness, we wouldn't know how incredible companionship is.
The problem is, we don't always realize we're in these moments. We tend to stroll through life, dealing with issues as they come, trying to smooth everything out, so that we can get to our two week vacation to Disneyland. We don't listen to the cues that life gives us. We miss the subtle whispers nudging us to go somewhere, to change course, or to sit still.
We end up living decent lives, but not great lives, not the lives we dreamed of when we were kids. Don't you remember? Maybe you were supposed to be a fireman or an astronaut. Maybe you daydreamed of being a ballerina, a football player, a missionary, or president.
Perhaps, you were supposed to be a musician and writer. You were going to tour the world and write songs that would race up the charts. I was. I used to escape the world around me when I closed my eyes. The darkness would turn to pictures of me singing in front of thousands. Of course, in many of my “visions”, after achieving fame, I would develop a drug problem and become suicidal. Only my inner circle of real friends could help me come back. Then, I would return to greater stardom than before. You know VH1 Behind The Music style.
Anyway, I think I wrote my first real song at 11, but I had been putting on concerts in my house long before that. Music, acting and writing were everything. So much so, one of my majors in college was music. I moved to Nashville in 1995 and everything was working. I recorded an album, performed all over the place. Beyond just the music and all that, I genuinely wanted to change the world. I wanted to make things better. The problem was that throughout the years, I had developed huge fear. No one knew it really; not even me. I also got real comfortable and developed some habits that shouldn't have come until after I was famous. I was a kid who grew up with very little and now I had pretty much everything I wanted. So, I exchanged my dreams for comfort. I pushed things aside to have friends, things, strangers' respect and, of course, a girl. I'm not diminishing my life. This is not a sad story. This isn't about my career choices. I just want to illustrate a point. I've done good things in my life so far. I ran a group home for kids in need. I've counseled hundreds of people through the toughest and greatest times of their lives. I have great friends and family. And, I've been so fortunate to start recording and performing again over the past few years. Life is good. But there could have been greatness. Thanks to grace, there still can be. I see fantastic things coming. I've completed a book that is going through the editing process. My speaking schedule is full, taking me just about everywhere. I can't think of a time when I was so completely prolific in my songwriting. I'm ready to find my other half. Life is a good thing and I am greatly loved.
But, what if I had stayed on my original course? What if I never stopped? Where would I be? What if I had listened along the way to those whispers, and sometimes shouts? I've been taking inventory of my life, trying to learn from my good decisions and bad decisions. From this vantage point, it's all completely obvious what I should have done. Yet, I didn't.
But, I did wake up. It started in 2002. I was attacked in my home when a client came into my bedroom and tried to kill me. Imagine waking up to a fireplace poker missing your face by less than an inch. I fought off my attacker for about 30 minutes and ran out the front door in my boxers. You'd think I would have heard that cue. But, I didn't right away. I'm sort of slow like that. But, something started happening in 2005. I started coming back to life. I was writing, recording...living. I even had a spiritual awakening after years of numbness. Then, on October 16, 2006 (the day after my birthday), I went to get out of bed and I couldn't walk for a short time. Over the next few weeks, I started forgetting how to do things, passing out, etc. I was scared as hell. Then on Halloween night, I ended up in the emergency room and my long journey of recovery began. I'm not going to get into all the details here. It's too much information. But, I'm doing well. I had surgery and went through some treatment. I still take lot of medication and many, many tests. But, it looks like I'll live a relatively long, healthy life in spite of my illness. I have to say, I wish I would have listened earlier. I listened this time.
I had my moment. Different people call it different things. Oprah calls it your “aha" moment. Christians may recognize it in a person's decision to “get saved” or in someone "listening to the Spirit." Those from the Jewish faith may say it's a “burning bush” moment. Mental health professionals sometimes call it a “moment of clarity." It's that moment when it clicks. It makes sense. And more than just knowing it in your head, you feel it in your soul. As a person who counsels people for a living, it can get incredibly frustrating when the person you are working with knows what to do, but doesn't do it. You feel like you're banging your head against the wall, giving them cues as to what to do. But they don't do it. They just babble on about the way they do things...even though the way they do things isn't working. I'm sure everyone reading this has felt this way with friends or family or someone else. Have you? Don't get discouraged. They're just not ready. They hear you. They have the information. They just aren't ready for their moment yet-their moment of clarity. Instead of continuing to preach to them, stand by them, support them, love them and gently point them in the right direction. And don't get mad when they come to you one day, changed, because someone else told them exactly what you have been telling them for years. You were a step along the way. You were part of the foundation. Celebrate with them in their moment. More importantly, help them make it last.
That brings me to my last thoughts on this. When you have your “aha” moment, don't stop with the feeling. How many of us have watched some program about a cause that moved us, but we did nothing? The feeling wore off in a few days. When your moment comes, do three things: feel it deeply, make a decision and take action. There's a scene in (I know I shouldn't reference this movie because I will lose whatever “guy credentials” I have, but...) My Best Friend's Wedding when the Julia Roberts character and the “best friend” guy are on a boat and they are about to go under a bridge. Julia Roberts had been trying all day to tell him she was in love with him. The guy says that his “fiancee” (Cameron Diaz) says that if you feel something, you should say it. Just say it, right away, or the moment will pass. As he's saying this, they pass under the bridge and Julia Roberts lets the moment go. It's a terrible moment. But it illustrates what I'm saying perfectly. Don't let your moments of clarity pass without motion. Otherwise, you' might be missing out on who you truly should be.
So, listen. Truly listen to the whispers, the cues. Don't let your moment pass. No matter how many mistakes you have made, or wrong roads you have traveled, the past does not have to be your shackles. The past can be steps, watermarks. When your moment comes, fall on the grace you have been given and breathe in the future. Take it all in...and move.
Take care of yourself,