Sunday, May 13, 2012

Be A Bridge Builder

Your life is yours, no question.  Do what you want.  But never forget you touch many others with every nuance of your existence.  Smile or don't smile at the sales clerk in the grocery store:  It makes a difference.  Raise your voice or talk softly to your child: he will carry the experience with him for the rest of his life.  He may not remember the exact incident, but the pattern will shape who he is.  And those are just the day-to-day actions with big impact. 

Then there are the deliberate decisions – whether to go to a conference or what you do with your life.  Let me tell you how those decisions converged in my life this week (you knew it was coming ;-)).

So I had more or less decided I couldn’t go to this doTerra essential oils conference.  I couldn't make it work for myself and my family, so not happening.  Just when I made the decision, I get a voicemail from a friend.  She has a complimentary ticket and would I like to have it?  My jaw drops - and I have to say yes.  I trust the serendipity in my life – and I believe that the universe conspires to help adventurous souls.  I like to think I'm one of those souls.  So, yeah, I have to go.

As soon as I said yes, I started gnawing the worry bone about how much time this would take away from writing, how to get the kids from school and who's going to watch them?  I stressed over the stress this might cause my dear husband.  He has endured 10 years of fitness conferences and yoga retreats several times per year.  He’s 100% supportive, but how much is a guy supposed to take?

The day of I'm still scurrying around making phone calls, letting the floor guys in while my dh gets the kids to school, gathering stuff and rushing out the door, hoping to high heaven there's no traffic. Ha!  Northern Virginia never fails to disappoint. So I'm late and flustered, but my friend texts me where she's sitting. I find her and collapse in my chair.  She puts a bottle of sandalwood essential oil on the table between us and I just about cry right then.  I'm goofy that way.  She tells me someone gave it to her and to help myself whenever I wanted (<---this right here, what you do matters).

I love sandalwood.  It is my favorite essential oil.  And the real stuff is expensive.  Did she know that I needed that right then?  I don't know, but this lady is definitely intuitive and has learned to trust her instincts.  But there’s no way whoever gave it to her would have any insight about me.  That was cool, and I learned a lot about the company and the oils day one, but the most amazing thing happened the second day.

A medical doctor presented some information - and to be honest, I can't remember the last two thirds of his lecture because one statement blew me away.  He said something I didn't know: When doctors take their oath to be licensed, they swear not to recommend anything that hasn't been approved by the FDA.  And if they violate that oath and they are sued, they're screwed.  Light bulb moment! .(<---this right here?  You never know how what you say will affect someone).

My brain is now building steam and a key part of my novel clicked into place.  Like a broken steam pipe the story erupted, screeching in my head, and I had to write.  It was all about my antagonist, the most important part of any story - the conflict, the source of the hero's plight.  And I had not been able to nail him - he was a mystery to the other characters and a mystery to me, his creator.  Stymied for weeks, I was desperate for him to reveal himself.  He was way too cardboard-cutout-bad-guy - made a bad choice for selfish reasons and it just didn't work.  Blah.  Hate an undeveloped pivotal character - really hate under-developed antagonists. 

So I get lost in the story and the next thing I know someone else is speaking.  I've heard this guy before and he's good, so I pause to listen.  I'd gotten as far as I could with the story, anyways.  And at the end of his presentation he quotes a poem that sets off church bells in my head.  (<----Do I have to type it?) I remember it!  I was a frickin' English major. I have tons of forgotten poetry buried under 2 inches of mental dust.  I look it up on my smartphone and my stomach flips. Drumgoole.  Yes!  It’s a simple poem, but one I remember very well.

And suddenly I know how my novel will end!  It’s a huge surprise to me and I’m writing it, trying not to cry in a banquet room of hundreds.  I blubber for a figment of my imagination, the pain and suffering and how it all could have been avoided. There are also tears of joy because, once again, I let serendipity be my guide and a bridge appeared where an abyss once was.  I'm a writer, we're weird. 

My friend, who had to sit elsewhere that day because she was one of the presenters, comes over to me at lunch and I'm still crying.  She starts, "Wasn't that wonderful-hey, are you okay?" Struggling to speak, I tell her the thought that has me bawling:  that our lives, our very lives are bridges, not just for the fair-haired youths that pass this way in the twilight dim, but for every person we come in contact with. 

Think of it this way: Dr. Phil likes to say that we are either contributing to a situation or contaminating it and there is no neutral ground.  Whether you smile at the grocery store clerk can be a bridge, helping them along in life or it can be just one more thing to get in their way. 

How you live your life matters, the attitude you bear matters, because you are a bridge builder.  You can be happy or you can be miserable.  You can contribute in a positive way to this world, or you can drag everyone else down with you.  Your choice.

I know you’ll choose wisely.  I believe in you.

Oh, and here's the poem.

The Bridge Builder
by William Allen Drumgoole

An old man,going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast, and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned, when safe on the other side,
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim, near,
"You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way.

You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide-
Why build a bridge at the eventide?"
The builder lifted his old gray head,
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said.

"There followeth after me today,
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm, that has been naught to me,
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."


  1. Excellent post! I'm happy for you that you found how to end your novel. You never know where you'll get inspiration, right...

  2. Needed to hear something like this. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  3. Needed to hear something like this. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  4. Fantastic post on so many levels! I stumbled on your blog by chance and I'm happy I did. I'll be a regular here. :)