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

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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