Feed your dreams, not your fears

My step father once said,
“What are the dots in your life?”
As in, I did x dot, dot, dot then y dot, dot, dot.

I didn’t fully grasp it at the time but now it’s a little more clear.

What he was saying is to pay attention to the pauses in life—the thoughts, moments of mediation, reflection and of being not doing. Sage advice. Thank you, Dave O’Connor!

As he and my mom age I am reminded how very short this life we have is.

In November last year, my mother took her second big fall. This time she was partially paralyzed and forced to recoup in nursing home for five weeks. Meanwhile, her ninety-year-old husband of twenty-eight years and my stepfather was battling age related memory loss and required a caregiver to assist with meals and meds. To top it off his son attempted to assert control over David’s health and finances. It was a nightmare, but we survived.

My wife graciously cared for my mom for six weeks after she was released from the nursing home and eventually moved in with us for four months. When the six weeks leave of absence for my wife was up, my work was generous enough to allow me to work from home, so I could care for her until we were able to sell their house and find a new place for them.

For four months, I was not able to break free to recharge. I was unable to make time to feed my soul. I desperately needed to hike the coast, to be in nature, to reconnect with my spirit. I needed to pay heed to the other dots in my life. Once their house closed escrow and we got them all settled in one of the first things I did was take a long hike along the West Marin Coast.

Even though I battled fears my mom would never be able to live on her own again, I trusted everything would work out the way it was supposed to. Fortunately, it did.

In hindsight, everything happened exactly as it was supposed to. My mom and Dave are now in a place in Petaluma where they can maintain their independence while having meals and cleaning services provided.

Though I did the right thing, those few months sapped my soul to the core. Now, I make it a point to carve out time for me to rekindle my inner spirit. To dream again. This year has been a challenge but despite it all me and our family have been blessed beyond measure. I don’t take anything for granted and am even more intentional about investing my time on the important things.

The past three years my wife has chosen a word as a focal point for something she wanted to work on that year.  It worked. Last year I watched her whole life transform as she lived out her word, confidence. My word for 2018 was focus. I have accomplished virtually everything I set out for myself and more. When it is all said and done, my relationships are stronger, my faith has grown immeasurably, I joined Toastmasters and even pushed myself to go back to school.

I am feeling pulled to grow even more in the year ahead and that is both frightening and exciting. I know in my soul that I need to dream bigger. So big, in fact, that I must rely on the divine forces of the universe to do for me what I cannot do for myself. I am growing to trust my higher power even more. From a logical standpoint, there is really no reason to live in fear or doubt. I could list hundreds of experiences where I was given exactly what I needed, despite any of my best laid plans.

2019 will be a milestone year. The events and blessings to come from faith, effort and my willingness to grow will set the course for the rest of my life. The dots will be many. I will walk through every moment of fear with a quiet certitude that there is a plan for me and my only job is to seek and trust that inner voice which guides me— my responsibility is to put one foot in front of the other and march forward into the vast unknown. In so doing, my prayer is that the dreams I live and achieve will ignite many others to aspire to whatever change they seek.

I am more determined than ever. This year, my word is commitment.

Waterfall

Swollen clouds laden black,
Filled with life.
Lightning cracks.

Like a wanton lover, your fire burns.
Electric and bright.
With each new flash — a tremble, a roar.

Your load is heavy.
Clouds burst open.
Streams race onward through the forest floor.

Alive, raging, serpentine.

Down,
up and over,
around and through.

Streams breach their soggy banks, marching onward, toward the sea.
No obstacle is spared. They will not be denied.

Granite stream beds worn smooth as stones collide.
Tumbling, rolling, toward a sharp precipice.
Cascades of falls,
Plunge deeper still.

Water has no conscience it merely flows on.
Twisting, shaping, giving life in its path.
Her waters spread wide, the meadow will soon bloom.

A sigh contented by dawns early light.
Two lovers embrace in pure delight.

What do you say to someone who’s hurting?

What do you say to someone who’s hurting?

In the wake of the tragic wildfires, I am a bundle of mixed emotions. Me and my family were spared from major loss, but thousands of others were not. At last count over 7,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. Over 43 are dead. Many families lost everything.

In many respects, we are all hurting from this.  How do we process our feelings? How do we cope?

I’m not a psychologist nor a counselor and therefore I am not qualified to give any specific advice.

I do however, know that I have to process my own emotions and do what I can to help those who need it.

Here’s what I can offer:

  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Listening

Offering food, clothing, shelter and financial support are also helpful.

Yet even then, I am left with a sense of grief. How would I handle it if I lost everything? I don’t know.

A couple things that have always helped me in past personal crises are writing— journaling about my thoughts, and emotions, talking with others, counseling, and trying to offer help to others.

I was given two opportunities to talk with people in the midst of these devastating fires.

Last Saturday I had a book signing at Barnes and Noble. In some ways, it felt selfish to promote my book, but I quickly realized that I was there for another purpose—to offer encouragement and guidance to those who had family members suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and also to offer encouragement about the fires. I was able to listen to their stories and offer suggestions. Many of them also bought my book. Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness.

B&N

Two days later on Monday, I was scheduled to do my first live radio interview by phone on KZSB – 1290 AM in Santa Barbara. It was largely unscripted and conversational. Granted, I had a framework for the program including talking about the fires, ways people can help, and, of course, my recovery journey as it related to my book.

The interviewers, Ed Giron and Maria Long were both gracious and kind and asked some really good questions. Ed at one point asked me what advice I would have for those that don’t think they are ready to stop drinking or using drugs and a follow up question about what I would suggest for those who really don’t think they have a problem. I paused before answering.

You see, my experience has been that sometimes we may think we are ready to stop drinking, using, overeating,etc… and may  even go to a meeting or seek counsel, only to return to our old addictive behavior(s). Other times, we feel we still have control and therefore have no need for any solution. If you want to learn more, you can listen to the whole interview here:

In summary, I suggested that for those who don’t think they have a problem with food, drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, etc., —they may not. However, if they are causing an individual pain and affecting their relationships they may want to seek help. In response to Ed’s question about those who think they may have a problem but are not yet ready to change or seek help, I expanded a bit more but, in a nut shell said that the first step is admitting that one has a problem. Then an individual can follow the 12 steps or work with a counselor or another program to find a solution.

The bottom line though, for me and millions of others, is that the solution must come from a power greater than ourselves. We are not God. And no matter how much we think we are in control, ultimately, we are not.

That brings me back to the current state of my emotional and spiritual development. I rely on prayer and meditation to help me stay centered. I have a sense of faith. I call my higher power God. I have witnessed hundreds of miracles in my short lifetime and trust that even in the wake of these horrific fires that most of us will survive. In some respects, we have become closer as a larger community and stronger because of them. That is not to placate, minimize, or sweep away the pain they inflicted.

My heart goes out to all who lost it all. I too have lost so much in my life—jobs, health, brother, family, broken relationships. In the midst of it all, I always found hope.

My prayer for all is that we find the courage to process our emotions and continue to grow in love and kindness for each other. May we become more unified as families, community, country, and world. May we realize that we are truly never alone. That at the end of the tunnel there is always light.

Shell Beach - Pebble Beach Trail Inverness, CA

Shell Beach – Pebble Beach Trail Inverness, CA

Love,

Shawn

Find our more at

www.shawnlangwell.com

“Be the change you desire…

They say I’m a dreamer… I’m not the only one…

I love Steve Jobs quote, ”The people crazy enough to think they can change the world are usually the ones who do.”

I believe it. Do you? I’ve seen it happen so many times already in my lifetime.  Someone comes up with a new way to put together things and suddenly we have new industries, new ways of communicating, new ways of travel.

What will be the next big paradigm shift in our world? Who knows? One keeps coming up for me that I am very passionate about.

It’s not new. In fact, it has been around since the dawn of our existence. It is not unique to man either. Before humans inhabited the earth, this powerful force was alive and well. It touched every living creature on the planet in some way. It is something that people will die for. It has the capacity to change someone’s life forever or when withheld, destroy it. It is free which would lead one to believe that it was ubiquitous, but sadly, it is not.

I, like many of those around the world have been at odds with each other over values, opinions, ideals, religion, race, and politics for far too long.

There is something that can wipe away pain, dissension, hate, judgment, and prejudice. Virtually all of us have the solution in us already, sometimes though we don’t use it. Instead we would rather be right or on one side or the other.  We all have the capacity to love.

How hard is it to be kind? How hard is it to love another even if you disagree with their opinion? Would you no longer love your wife or child if they didn’t agree with you? What if they had different values, beliefs, religions than you? What would you do? Would you love them anyway? Why then is it increasingly difficult to do our own part of loving one another? If you stopped to think about it, if we all loved each other, there would be no more war. There would be no more famine. There would be no more hate or prejudice. No, what I am suggesting though, is that the blame has to stop. It’s time each of us steps up and takes personal responsibility to be a little more loving.

All we need is love.

Each of us has within ourselves the capacity to love another human being. Yes, it is a choice. I am not saying that we need to like everyone or even agree. But, for crying-out-loud, embrace our differences!  We are all unique creations with a purpose. I seriously doubt our true purpose in this brief time on planet earth is to tear down each other and consume as much as we possibly can before it’s all gone.

Earth

There is more than enough for all. Some of us have been blessed with more resources than others. We all have a virtually unlimited capacity for love and kindness.  Unfortunately, like muscles, they need to be exercised.

I have done my best not to engage in the slamming of one side or another especially on Facebook. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the fear and hate that is being spread on media like a California Wildfire. We all have choices. We all have our values, morals, ethics, beliefs, and opinions. I am not advocating that we all become yes men and women. I am advocating though, that we need to practice a little more kindness, empathy, and love toward one another.

After reading a couple friends rants and posts on Facebook recently I started to get angry. Rather than engage in the polarized, virtual, not face-to-face dialogue that was only going to go around in circles I posted this instead—

“Be the change you desire— spreading hate just fuels the fire.
Try instead, if we might, to live in peace, harmony, and light.
To love and be loved no fear, no spite.”

Kiss your babies if you got em.  And hold the door open once in awhile.

Love a little more, you’ll feel better, I guarantee it.
Hey, if we all got along a little better we could change the world!

Who wants to prove Steve Jobs right?

Shawn Langwell
Author/Speaker

To hear more listen to recent interview here: Langwell Interview 7-14-17

 

 

Do you occasionally suffer from What-if Syndrome?

What-if syndrome is that gnawing, nagging, often unnecessary feeling that, if left to run wild, can turn into a raging torrent of fear paralyzing us from action. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have all experienced it at some point.

For me, it usually comes up around money issues. What if I don’t close that deal? What If I don’t make that goal? Then what?  Will I have more money than month? How will I pay the mortgage? The car payment? The credit card bill?

Deeper than that though, what-if syndrome may lead to feelings of inadequacy that cause us to doubt and question our worth— Will I fail? Am I good enough? Or feelings of pride— What will others think if I don’t get my kids new clothes for this school year? How will my kids feel if they have to go to a different school?

 In a word, what-if syndrome is worry. At its root, worry is a form of fear tied to our belief system and lack of trust.

Peanuts

I have lived through my share of worry over the years and have pushed through it with faith and effort to keep it at bay. It was not easy, but when it came to my addiction to drugs and alcohol, it was a matter of life and death to overcome it. I had a big enough reason why to motivate me to do something about it.

Like many things in life, it takes diligence and practice to:

a) Recognize worry or a problem when it comes up and
b) Become willing to learn some new skills to address our problems so we don’t stay stuck in them for too long.

I’ll be honest. Right now, I am wallowing in a little self-pity. For the past two and a half years, I have been riding a high from my efforts and blessings at work. I have managed to triple the sales volume for my territory in less than three years. I have written and published a book and managed to make time to work with other recovering alcoholics as a sponsor and mentor volunteer leaders at my local church.  Life has been good.

Currently, however, I am facing a less than ideal sales month and fighting worry while also trying to find the desire to complete my next book on goal setting.  I am dealing with the very challenges I want to write about overcoming.

Is this an accident? I think not. I believe that this is a wake-up call. In a sick twisted way, I am having to practice what I want to talk about.

I am grateful that I now recognize what is going on and how I feel but that, by itself doesn’t change anything. I have to change. So what do I do?

Over the years, I have acquired tools, primarily through AA, on how to cope with and conquer worry and fear. The basics consist of three steps:

1) Identify the problem.
2) Ask for God’s help. (Surrender)
3) Pray for the willingness to allow God to help me.

The short version, which, to outsiders may sound like a cop-out is, I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let him.

But, it doesn’t stop there. I have to do my part, which usually requires work. In most cases that work includes changing my thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes about my current situation. This process takes time.  It starts with humility and honesty and taking a deep personal inventory of what is bothering me. I need to look at my part—what I can and cannot control. That is but a beginning. I don’t have the space to do a deep dive into this right now. I talk about it more in my book, Beyond Recovery A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness. And I will unpack it even more as one of the blocks in my upcoming book on goal setting. If you want immediate answers or help, there are countless coaches, mentors and counselors well qualified to help.

For now let me give you a personal example of how worry has come up in my life and how I have processed and overcame it.

In very early sobriety, my biggest worry was whether I could go twenty-four hours without a drink. I had tried on my own countless times, with no lasting success.

Then, after several months of practicing the program of AA, drinking was no longer an issue. Instead, I had to face the feelings beneath the surface that I was running away from with drugs and alcohol. Without booze or drugs, I needed to find a new set of tools in order to cope with my feelings.

I found help in the twelve steps of AA. I was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober, one-day-at-a-time and quickly realized that when I worked the steps daily, my days got better.

Yet some things continued to come up—usually feelings around scarcity. I believe these were tied to my belief about not having enough and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin as a teenager.

I was raised in a middle class family until my dad left when I was thirteen. Through my first two years of my high school I had to deal with having very little, money was tight.  I recall my freshman year wearing red Toughskin jeans and a hand-me-down shirt from my older cousin. I was mortified. I felt so out of place. All I wanted to do was belong.  

Adding  to my anxiety was the fact that I went from a small class of forty students to a high school with over twelve-hundred, I was out of my comfort zone.

My solution then was to pour myself into schoolwork and making money. I soon had a job to earn money for new shoes, pants, and shirts I liked. I received praise and recognition from teachers and peers for being smart. In other words, my entire sense of self, how I felt, was dependent on external things—money, clothes, grades, recognition.

I am now realizing how much of my identity is still attached to external factors and how much more work I still have to do to find peace within; to tap into my higher power and be willing to walk through temporary fear, worry, doubt, and insecurity.

I have a feeling that I am not alone. I am sure many of my recovery peers can relate to some of this, perhaps others as well. I know I must overcome this mental block so I may confidently speak about it in a goal-setting book. My guess is that is exactly why I am facing this right here, right now.

I have a higher power. I have faith. God has never let me down before, but I have noticed that sometimes he gives me a challenge as a wake-up call for something he wants to work on in me. So what do I do?

Experience has shown me that what I need is willingness and courage. Along with that, I need to trust that He will show me a way out—He always does, sometimes though, it takes awhile for me to see it. The other thing I need to bring to the table is vulnerability. I need to be humble enough to ask for help, from others and from God. Before any of that though, and most important, I need to know what the problem is—my negative beliefs and what I have bought into, and become willing to develop a new way of thinking to overcome them. What results is greater confidence for the next time I have to face a difficult situation. With practice, I learn to not stay in self-pity so long and more quickly focus on the solution. Sometimes though, I need to sit with it for a bit to look harder at what is beneath the surface so I can better get at the heart of the problem.

In short, I need to do the work, and leave the results up to God. That principle was taught to me in early recovery and it still holds true today. To conquer worry and fear requires faith and effort.

There is no quick fix, and it will not magically disappear. The good news is that we can overcome worry when we apply faith and effort.

Thank you for listening to what I am struggling with in this moment and how I am dealing with it. I know this too shall pass.  I know I am not alone. I hope that some of you have found this post helpful.

If you want to learn more about my story, please pick up a copy of Beyond Recovery, A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness on Amazon or at any bookstore or smashwords.

Also, if you’d like to be kept up to date on blogs, events, or one of the first to read my next book, please sign up on my email list or follow this blog.

Thank you all for being a part of this journey.

Love,

Shawn

P.S.

If any of this has hit a chord, here is a promise—one of never being let down or alone which has been around for over 2,000 years.

Over the next few days God (your higher power) is going to show you how your worry can be replaced with confidence.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

Matthew 6:25-32 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mat.6.25-32.niv

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 NIV
http://bible.com/111/isa.41.10.niv

 

 

It’s never too late to say, “I love you.”

Those three words have the ability to change someone’s life, or, at least their day.  They are three of the most important words to a child’s ears.

wp-1464277254498Simple loving acts of kindness can also spread joy. Watch how much another lights up when you smile at them. Or when you show genuine interest in another or listen intentionally.

Though all are free, each requires a conscious effort to intentionally take our eyes off of ourselves and put them onto another for a moment, without expecting anything in return.

Yet, often what we get back in terms of joy is invaluable.

 

Two nights ago, while on Vacation in Maui, I stood at the sand shower by the pool hosing off my sandy feet. A small toddler walking with his mother paused for a moment to watch. He was clearly fascinated by what I was doing. I looked at him, then his mom. “It gets the sand off,” I said to the little blond boy, pushing the button and dangling my feet beneath the light spray.

“Wanna try it?” I asked, smiling at him.  He hesitated for a moment then stepped closer. He balanced on one leg and placed his tiny foot under the shower. Beaming, he looked at me for approval. “Good job. Pretty cool eh?”

He beamed and stepped back as I rinsed my other foot. He then moved forward again to do the same.

This was a moment, frozen in time, which I will probably remember for the rest of my life. Will the young lad? Perhaps.

The point is, life is too short to miss opportunities to spread joy; to be loving and kind.

It also made me miss my own son and my dad.

In February of this year I delivered a five-minute talk about my memoir, Beyond Recovery.

My goal wasn’t to convince anyone that they need to get sober. No, my goal was to share that it is OK to let people know you love them and that forgiveness is one of the most powerful ways to do that.

Several close friends and family sat around a long table listening intently as I began reading an excerpt from Beyond Recovery entitled Second Chances. As I scanned the audience, I noticed others leaning in. Some even had tears welling up.

I never really know what will reach someone. Each time I practice telling my story I have to try a few things before I know what works.

I took my seat after answering several good questions then listened to a few other speakers.

When the event was over, the soundman approached me as I began to leave.

He asked if my dad had always said I love you. I paused for a moment, “Yeah, I guess so.”  I replied.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because mine never did,” he said, eyes looking away…

He talked a bit about it. I listened, but didn’t press. I sensed that it was still a sore subject.

He thanked me again for sharing a piece of my story—said it touched him.

“You made my day. Thank you!” I replied, shaking his hand.

We all yearn for two things: Love and Acceptance

Father’s day is this Sunday. Even if your relationship is less than perfect with your father, I encourage you all to let him know you love him. If he is no longer here, perhaps you could write a love letter. Trust me; it will change your world.

If you are a dad, most kids will always love you.  It’s OK to say I love you to them. They need to hear it. If you are a single mother encourage your kids to talk to their dad, if possible.
My hope and prayer and goal by sharing a piece of my heart, that you too will find that which you seek. Sometimes you have to give it before you receive it.

Here’s the excerpt I read.  You can order Beyond Recovery through any local bookstore or on amazon

 

Beyond Recovery A Journey of Grace, Love, and Forgiveness

Chapter 25
Second Chances

 

Miracles and Milkshakes

Whether you believe there are no mistakes or not, I do. I have seen things happen so many times that seemed wrong or painful or didn’t make any sense. When I looked within, prayed, or talked it out with another, I learned to walk through whatever it was that was causing me agony inside. I came through. I survived. …

Miracles happen every day. So do tragedies, I wish I could say the story ends here and we all lived happily ever after…that’s only in movies and fairy tales.

In October of 2005 I got a call from my mom …

“Your aunt called and said that your dad is very sick. You should go see him,” she urged. “He’s at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.”

Shit. Here we go again. Another hospital visit. Why me? Why now?

“Okay. I’ll stop by after work.”

My heart pounded as I parked the car.

Is it too late? What if he’s going to die? How am I going to handle this?

Suffocating from the ‘what ifs,’ I said a short prayer.

“God, please grant me the strength and courage to face this situation. To accept it for whatever it is. To come from a place of compassion and let my dad know how much I love him.”

I walked into the hospital and asked the receptionist which room he was in.

She gave me the number and pointed to the room. I walked down the dimly lit hall. It was quiet. The room was dark. My dad lay in a hospital gown. He’d lost forty to fifty pounds since I last saw him three years earlier. Salt and pepper stubble covered his gaunt face. He looked very frail.

Our eyes met. His warm smile melted away all the pain and hurt and anger of the past thirty-five years.

My heart glowed with his beaming smile. He was truly delighted to see me. In that moment he showed me what it was like to let go of the past. In that moment, despite his body giving up, he was radiant.

His smile filled my heart with so much joy. I was so, so glad it wasn’t too late. I really don’t know how I could’ve handled it if I was too late.

“Hi Dad!”

“Shawn,” he chuckled, “you look good!”

“Thanks Dad,” I said, giving him a hug. “So what’s going on?” I asked, trying to be strong.

“Some infection…they don’t know.”

“Wow. You’ve lost a lot of weight,” I remarked, feeling a little uneasy and very concerned about his health. His smile didn’t match his body. But he was at peace—I could see it in his warm brown eyes. He’s letting go, I thought.

The stubble on his face reminded me of all the times he’d given me a hug and a kiss goodnight as a kid. I felt safe. I looked up to my dad so much as a young child. I could brag that my dad was a fireman! When he left us, all that changed. The love I felt was replaced by anger and hurt. He had abandoned me and my two brothers, and I let it imprison me. I drank over it so I wouldn’t have to face the feelings. But now, the love we shared for so many years was stronger than ever. It enabled me to push through the layers of resentment, like a seedling reaching for the sunlight in spring.

As I held his hand, I felt all that love come rushing back. Fond childhood memories rushed forward. After baths as a child, he would dry my hair by vigorously rubbing it with a towel. I loved that. Now, as we talked about life and how much I loved him, once again, I asked for his forgiveness for all the anger I had held from the past.

Without thinking about it, I began to rub his head—a comforting gesture he had done for me so many times as a kid.

“Dad, I love you.”

“Ha!” he chuckled. His eyes expressed peace, love and care. “I love you, too, Shawn. I’m sorry we lost Seth.” His voice trailed off a bit. (We hadn’t really talked about the loss of my brother since the time several years earlier. I had made amends with this as part of my recovery.) Still, his words touched a piece of the wound that still existed.

“Please let Kelly know I love him, too,” he continued. “Even though I never got to see you boys much, I thought about you often. You were always with me,” he said, holding his hand close to his heart, smiling. Tears streamed down my face. “I know, Dad. I know. It wasn’t easy, but we all turned out all right.”

“Yeah, I’m proud of you, Shawn.”

I wiped the tears from my face. “Thank you. I love you, Dad. Is there anything you’d like?”

“A milkshake,” he replied quickly with a childlike smile.

“A milkshake?”

“Yeah—chocolate.”

I smiled at the simplicity of the request.

“I’ll get you a milkshake the next time I come back, okay?”

“I’d like that.” We hugged and said our goodbyes.

That was the last time I saw my father. He passed shortly thereafter.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t make it back to get him his chocolate milkshake. I feel a little guilty. I could’ve just gotten it that day. I guess I’ll just have to wait until I see him again. Now, every time I have a milkshake, I think of my father. I imagine us sitting on a park bench watching the ducks, sipping on a milkshake together. Somehow, that helps assuage my guilt. I feel blessed that I got to say goodbye. This experience also serves as a reminder to make peace with those closest to us—to cherish the time that we do have. Our life on this planet is so very brief. Depending on your beliefs, there’s plenty of time for milkshakes in Heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exposed – Local Author Gets Real

Public speaking usually tops the list of things most people fear.

I’ve found that when I do that which I fear most, confidence and joy typically follow.

The first time I had to give a talk in front of a crowd I was in grammar school. I hated it. I was mortified.  Filled with anxiety and worry that I would suck, I stood there with sweaty palms wondering if I would have anything worthwhile to say. Would I stumble over my words, and saying lots if “ums” and “ahs”? That was many years ago. Despite all my fears, I lived through it.

Last Thursday, before delivering my first truly public talk about my memoir, Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Love, Grace and Forgiveness at Many Rivers Books in Sebastopol, I was a nervous wreck.

Shawn Langwell - Many Rivers Book Reading - Sebastopol - 6-1-17

Shawn Langwell – Many Rivers Book Reading – Sebastopol  6-1-17 Photo: Dale Godfrey

As the hour of reckoning drew closer, I psyched myself out wondering if anyone I invited would show. Most did. I was thrilled when the founding pastor of our church arrived. I had prayed all day that he would be there. I smiled and gave him a big hug, and thanked him for coming.

Later, as I began my talk though, I was afraid I’d drop a few cuss words and worried that I might mess up. I also wondered how the mixed crowd would accept or reject me talking openly about my faith, my struggle, and my recovery journey. How would they receive my stories of love, acceptance and forgiveness? Would they even know the inner terror I was feeling?

It didn’t matter, I had chosen to do this. I was committed and went for it.

Was it the best talk I’d ever given? No. Far from it. It did, however, give me that extra little bit of confidence to do things a little different next time. For example: I need to practice a little more, be lighter, and share from more from my heart in the beginning of my talk and not rely so heavily on my notes. I believe this will help me connect more  and build a stronger relationship with my audience.

Perhaps I am being too hard in myself, but the point is, I am walking through uncharted territory which is scary and exciting.

I have found that the greatest growth happens when I stretch my comfort zone and venture out into the unknown.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

-Henry David Thoreau