How Glee Conquered Fear

Since Glee began five years ago, they have been a beacon for story-telling. Whether it was Kurt’s coming out, gay and straight relationships, school violence, family troubles, and now death, Glee has shown us humanity.

They shattered the idea of fear and showed that the high school quarterback can be in the glee club; and be their leader too.

While just a television show with the ability to make everything end up perfect in the end, they still displayed situations that teens and adults alike are facing in the 21st Century.

Last week we said goodbye to Finn, the quarterback. The lead male singer. Our friend. We all know he died of a drug overdose this past summer and no matter his flaws, the people who only knew him as Finn and his private world who knew him as Cory are all mourning his too-early passing.

It was and is senseless to die so young at the hand of drugs. He tried to get better.

This is something we can change and Glee has shown us how. We need to be open about drug and substance abuse. We need to be open about mental health. There is help. We just need to be open to it.

Cher Proves There is Nothing Left to Fear

Not  much can be said about Cher. She is a world-renowned artist who has been performing in one form or another since she was one part of Sonny & Cher in 1965. She is credited with creating a sense of female autonomy and self-actualization in the entertainment industry, not to mention her 140 million records sold throughout her illustrious career.

It is no surprise that the fearless Cher is releasing a new album this fall: Woman’s World. Give a listen and watch her below. Even at 67, she is fearless.

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

My friend Mike always gives me great books to read, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, is no exception. It began with the entertaining read of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and continues with this curious tale of an autistic young man at the cusp of adult-hood with a family that has fallen apart and a curious dog incident.

At first, the book as a bit unnerving in it’s style, but it quickly grew on me to a point where I wanted nothing more than to pick up the book again and read. It’s written from the young man’s perspective and soon, you, the reader, are thinking just like him. Your reasoning changes and you realize how fractured his world is and how badly you just want to understand.

In a way, the book is a look at the inside of all of us and how we all want so very much to be loved and understood and to understand. In my previous readings, including Brain Rules, I love to read books that provide that understanding, the this one meets that challenge.

I promise you will not be disappointed in this read that gives insight into the world of a young child in pain, in silence, in fear and in need of the one thing we all can give, love.

Newsletter: Help Yourself

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Two weeks ago after a long day, I came home to relax. It was the night of my weekly date and I put together a relaxing meal and told my special someone to pick a movie. I didn’t want anything emotional or that I had to really pay attention to. I just wanted to shut off my brain.

Well, that didn’t happen. He picked, “The Help.” If you have seen the movie, then you will know what I’m talking about. If not, don’t worry as I will not give away the story.

I laughed. I cried. I got angry. All in the same movie. From a creator standpoint, the movie was incredible. From a message standpoint, it was also incredible. Why? I’ll tell you why.

Be You
One of the characters, incidentally, the main one is fighting many battles. Some of them against her family. Some of them against her community. Some of them against history. And the rest against herself.

She fights the entire movie to find out who she really is meant to be and the audience goes with her on the journey. Then she works with the other characters in the movie to help them find their own strength.

As I watched, I was reminded of my own journey to be me. Whether it is coming out, becoming a speaker and a writer, or just living my life, we all go on this journey to becoming ourselves.

Never Quit
I don’t like to quit. In fact, I hate it. And I don’t usually do it. Sure, I have no problem (after hours and days of fighting), admitting defeat. I remember one time after I had just started working out where I tried to take on too much weight on the bench press. I brought it down to my chest but couldn’t bring it back up. In defeat, I stormed off and my friends let me go. I was angry.

And I wanted to go home. But something stopped me. As I sat stretching my legs a few yards from the beach press that had tried to beat me, I remembered that I don’t defeat myself.

I stood up, angry at myself for letting the bar and the weight beat me. So, I went back. And I did it. Just once. But I did it. And in that moment, I chose to not quit. And you shouldn’t either.

No matter where you are in life or where you have been, you have the unique ability to change. Human beings have a trait – a human trait – called reason. We can think through our decisions and move forward.

In the movie, there is a mother who has a choice to make. In the heat of the moment, she falls victim to her past as well as the present societal norm; even though in her heart she knew the truth and the right action.

And that for me what the message of The Help. It’s about change. It’s about seeing an opportunity to make change and be change and never quit living for something.

I must ask you, what are you living for?

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

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This column tri-weekly column, “From Richard’s Oft Cluttered Desk” appears every third Wednesday.

Not very often does a television program come along that tells a great story. Sure, a lot of what is written for television is quality. But when the shows go off the air, we are sad because we have become attached to the characters. Or perhaps we have become attached to sitting our asses down at the same time week after week for years to see these people entertain us.

Just take a look at the shows I have been passionate about: Coach, Seinfeld, The West Wing, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and countless others that I can’t recall at the moment. I most distinctly remember the ending of Friends and Seinfeld.

Those are two of my all-time favorites (and I own the entire Seinfeld series). When Seinfeld ended it was an event. Millions watched. Some were upset at the ending but for a show about nothing, we weren’t attached to the story, we were attached to the comedy.

As for Friends, I cried during the final episode. I had grown up with the friends and as they all placed their keys on the counter and began their next journeys, we would not be going with them. But I did not desire to have them continue. They had run their course.

For five years I lived the ups and downs of Friday Night Lights. The show that NBC tried to kill only to hear from the show’s small, but forceful fan base. I was attached to the people, the team, the school, the town. Lucky for me, and the many other fans, NBC teamed up with DirecTV to team-produce two more 13-episode seasons.

Aside from being a huge fan of the show, I have written about it in the past. One of the re-used phrases on the show came from Coach Taylor and it was simple, yet deep. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

Someday I will have that slogan, that motto, hanging for my kids to see. I’m not sure what it was meant to mean exactly, but I take it to me that if you have a clear vision, if your hearts are full of love and compassion, there is no way you can come away a loser.

As coach and his players completed their fifth and final season on television, I was struck by how different it felt. I wanted more. They made me believe. They made me dream. They made me cry and scream and sit on the edge of my seat.

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

What other television show can tackle the issues of underage drinking, teenage sex, homosexuality, absent parents, marriage, abortion and live to tell about it? Not many, but Friday Night Lights did all that and more.

In my now favorite scene of the finale – and possibly the entire series – coach and one of his student assistants are talking in his office when she says, “This has been the greatest experience of my life.” The camera pans to coach and he smirks and replies, “You know, I think it’s been mine too.”

That is all I will ever need to know about this show and these characters. That no matter the opponent, the challenge, the obstacle, if you believe in your dreams and you love those around you, you can not lose.

Say it with me: Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

FOCUS: Your Happiness!

Selected Life Lesson
You are the only one who can make you happy.
-Lisa B’s Life Lesson from Lee’s Summit, Missouri

Richard’s Thoughts…
Happiness is personal. It is yours. Only you can decide what makes you smile and what makes you come alive. A job can add a ton of value to your life, both financially and through great experiences, but it can not — in my limited opinion — make you happier than you already are.

In the movie Cool Runnings, the coach Irv is talking with his star Derice the night before their final race about winning an Olympic gold medal:

Irv: It’s a fair question. It’s quite simple, really. I had to win. You see, Derice, I had made winning my whole life, and when you make winning your whole life, you have to keep on winning, no matter what. Understand?
Derice: No, I don’t understand. You won two gold medals. You had it all.
Irv: Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.

You decide what makes you happy. I hope you find it is you, living a life full of passion and love. At least that is my lesson for you.

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