Brave

self-expressionThe legend of Pandora’s Box, deeply rooted in Greek mythology, carries with it severely detrimental and far-reaching consequences for those who dare to open it. Me? I had a different experience altogether when I cracked open that ill-fated cauldron. Was it detrimental? No. Was it far-reaching? I can only hope. Time will tell.

My weekday hours lapse in front of a computer monitor, eyes blurring through pages of computer code. Sometimes the only saving grace for my sanity is the melodic tunes that fill the air. Enter Pandora. I like surprises. I never listen to an album front to back. I always shuffle. I like not knowing what’s coming next. It turns out that preference holds true for more than just my musical offerings.

As I meticulously matchup parentheses in my code, the magic of Pandora is streaming through my headphones. Relinquished as a backdrop for my primary activity, it is typically little more than white noise to break up the monotony in the silence of my cave. Until. The music once reserved for the background is suddenly promoted to the foreground. There is no longer any focus on sans serif characters in the form of a computer program. Now, it is only the chords, percussion, and lyrics combining to reach my core with more expediency than it reaches my ears. And ever since that moment in time, Sara Bareilles’ Brave has been my anthem. Most songs catch me with their tune first. The lyrical appreciation usually comes later. This song was no exception. However, usually taking days or weeks, the lyrics captured me within seconds.

Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out, honestly I wanna see you be brave. ~Sara Bareilles

I am a free spirit when my thoughts spill onto the page. I muster more courage to publish what is on my mind when I can avow it through the safety of a blog post, shielded from immediate critique, either positive or negative. For me, neither one is handled with the necessary grace. There is a sense of refuge when I am able to remain concealed behind my words.

Run across me on the street and my propensity to usher true feelings into the open is much more unlikely. This song and these words, however, have shifted the fulcrum ever so slightly. I have been given a subtle vote of encouragement to be me. I know that these little nudges ideally come from your family, your friends, those people that are closest to you in your daily life. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. And you know what, that’s alright. You take inspiration in any form it comes, from any place it originates. More often than not, it comes around full circle.

A few weekends ago, while I was off getting lost in the forest, my wife sunk two wooden 4x4s into the ground. Serving as the anchor points for our hammock that had been sitting in the garage for close to a year, she had picked up my slack and created a serene and tranquil resting spot a few short steps from the back porch. Framed by two tiki torches on either end and surrounded by the colorful blooms of our cape honeysuckle bushes, our own private oasis had been established in the comfort of our own backyard.

On a cool Florida evening with a slight chill in the air, the setting could not have been more sublime. With my wife and I seated comfortably in our Adirondack chairs, our son is gently swaying back and forth in the rope hammock. The two tiki torches flicker with life. Its flames illuminate the cape honeysuckle as the setting sun provides the magic of twilight, a transition from sunset to moonlight. Unbeknownst to me, another transition was about to transpire.

Momentarily disrupting the ambience, my son and I vacate in different directions. He heads off to his bedroom, me to mine. We return to our previous venue, musical instruments in hand. He with his Native American flute, me with my acoustic guitar. We easily slip back into the aura of bliss supplied by two female influences, Mother Nature and the handiwork of my beautiful and artistic wife.

The moment of truth arrives. Or so I thought. It just so happens that what I was really encountering was the moment of inertia. As I began to strum the chords to Brave on my guitar, the words followed from my very own vocal chords. First with slight apprehension, but soon with the freedom and conviction that the lyrics portray. We each have our own unique obstacles to surmount. This was one of mine. This was the first time that I had freely strummed my guitar and sang a tune in front of my family. Big deal, right? Well, for me it was a big deal. Probably bigger than it should have been, but I’m not too sheepish to share that it was a big step for me to take.

What followed was special, almost surreal. After my unique rendition of Brave, my son followed suit by performing a song of his own creation on the flute. Back and forth, we exchanged the spotlight in our own private concert. Native American song on flute, then my version of Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. Another mesmerizing combination of flute tones courtesy of my son, followed by The Rainbow Connection on my guitar. Kermit the Frog probably performs it better on the banjo. But, in this private oasis, our connection is much stronger. Our evening’s final performance is an extended interpretation on my son’s flute which is shared by him with the same confidence I was lacking at the beginning of the evening. As his notes roll from one to the next with ease, my fingers tap on the guitar body while my wife’s do the same on the side of her chair. Providing a complimentary drum beat, the rhythm keeps our family in sync. In so many different ways.

find-yourself-artSelf expression is just that, expression of yourself. There is no right or wrong. Actually, there is a wrong. Choosing to not reveal your authentic self, that is wrong. And unfortunate. Whether you are singing a song, playing an instrument, painting on a canvas, giving a speech, writing a book, or jumping into any other creative endeavor, the most important choice is to do it in your own unique way. Express yourself.

Self-acceptance precedes effective self-expression. I leapt over a personal hurdle on this magical evening that will not soon be forgotten. But, the element that will forever be preserved in my memory is watching a young boy open up and share what is inside with courage and bravery. If that is the only thing that I help to inspire in my lifetime, it will also be one of the most meaningful to me. With a synergistic effort from husband, wife, and son, we composed our own music. Maybe out of tune to the rest of the world, but wonderfully so within our own circle.

 

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The rainbow connection

G81-182213After a day crammed with taxing situations funneling through my queue, the most effective therapy involves picking up my guitar, strumming a few chords, and letting the lyrics flow from deep inside. I am magically transported to a different world where all tension and stress melt away. In these moments, a feeling of quiet serenity washes over me and life is good.

Sitting on the floor in our bedroom, back against the bed, guitar perched on my thigh, I look up to see my wife walking into the room. With a smile on her face she asks, “Do you take requests?” After issuing my standard disclaimer that any played song may not resemble the said requested song, she asks me to play The Rainbow Connection. The whosit whatsit?

I sheepishly admit that up until this very moment in my life, I had never really heard the song made famous by Jim Henson and the Muppets. After listening to a rendition by Kermit the Frog and watching a smile spread across my wife’s face, I appreciated the extraordinary lyrics from this classic song.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
and what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

I have veered off course on several occasions in an attempt to see one of these fleeting views out the car window. What is it about rainbows that make us stop whatever we are doing and gaze in complete awe and wonder at this natural phenomena?

Is it because every color that we can perceive in the world is wrapped into this one vision? Is it because we dream about the mythical pot of gold at its end? Or, is it because there is some magical rainbow connection that we know is there, but simply can’t put our finger on right now?

As I replay these lyrics in my mind, I am reminded that there is something bigger than us as individuals. There are things that we can’t see that are stronger and more real than those things we can see and touch. We need to believe in hope and wishes coming true. We need to daydream and ponder all the most seemingly absurd possibilities in our lives. For it is only in these daydreams that a seed is sown and allowed to flourish into a beautiful garden.

kermit-the-frogThere are two important elements necessary to spawn a rainbow, rain and sunshine. Maybe the rain symbolizes the difficult times in our lives. Perhaps the sunshine represents the happy and joyous moments. In a rather fascinating combination of these symbolic elements, we only witness the beauty of a rainbow when both are present, the rain and the sunshine, the difficult and joyous times. Sometimes our lives seem to get turned upside down and thrown off-kilter. Could it be that we need to view a rainbow in the same way? For, if you look at a rainbow while upside down, it assuredly resembles a smile. A smile of hope, a wish for brighter days brimming with fulfilled dreams.

Life’s like a movie. Write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending. ~Kermit the Frog

Maybe a rainbow is nothing more than Mother Nature smiling down to let us know that sunshine is waiting on the far side of every storm in our lives. So, the next time you see a rainbow, may it be a reminder to keep the magic of your inner child alive in your heart. Smile back and you may just make your own rainbow connection.