Shelley Widhalm

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Condoleezza Rice at CSU

In Passions, Shyness, Writing on April 24, 2011 at 8:06 am

I was one of 8,000 lucky people to attend Condoleezza Rice’s lecture Tuesday night on current events, foreign affairs and education atColoradoStateUniversity’s Moby Arena.

As a reporter, I had a media pass and sat on the floor of the arena with a dozen other reporters, photographers and videographers.

At 7 p.m., the song “Celebrate” came on, making me think we, as an audience, were celebrating the chance to hear the former secretary of state speak.

After the National Anthem and the introductions, Ms. Rice took the stage. I dutifully took notes, expecting to write my story and be on my way. I’ve covered dozens of lectures, panel discussions, speeches and whatnot on political, social and economic topics. But Ms. Rice, after touching on her experiences in and out of office, as well as what is happening in the Middle East, talked about passion.

What struck me was her saying that you need to follow your passion, or it will find you. If you follow it and do what you love, other things will fall into place, she said.

Ms. Rice’s passion is in the political arena, something that found her after she tried studying piano. She served in political office, held many roles and now is a political science professor at Stanford University.

My passion is writing. I found my love of it in the sixth grade and have been chasing my dream of becoming a published novelist since. But I am not being brave about it. I wrote my novel and am editing it, but I’m waiting, not chasing. I’m taking the safe course of working and fitting in my passion when I can. I let this mad desire to write drift away when I think about the practical things I have to do each day.

It’s like my heart is bursting with my love of the dance of words that take over my body, but I hesitate. I don’t know how to push myself over that fine line between practicality and going for your dreams to be who I really am.

It’s like shyness, I guess, this holding back of the self to be safe and practical.

I’m not saying, though, I will ever give up my chasing of words, wanting to hold them on my breath before I let them loose onto the page.



In Challenge delay, Novel editing, Shyness on April 17, 2011 at 8:53 am

I make these challenges every week that are intended to help me overcome my shyness. Half of the time, I come up with an excuse or a delay tactic. I think that’s a self-protective measure, because really, it’s easier to be shy.

My challenge for this past week was to buy someone coffee who was standing in front of or behind me in line or to do something nice for another person. I did a couple of nice things for people, like taking my mom out on errands (but I do that every week) and offering up my dog for petting sessions when I’m out on walks. She just loves anyone and everyone, but that’s a given.

So, here’s my excuse: I forgot to open my eyes and notice who was in front of or behind me in line. Isn’t that sad? I got so caught up in working hard at work, editing my novel and doing what needed to get done, that I forgot to pay attention. Sure, I noticed when it was sunny or cloudy this past week (it even snowed one day) and that the trees were finally budding. But I didn’t look around for a possible opening for a nice hello, a simple chat or buying someone coffee.

I remembered to do so once this past week, but then I thought that I would be putting myself out there. What if this stranger thinks I’m weird? I know the pay-it-forward concept has happened with people buying Starbucks for the person behind them in line or at the drive-through, but I somehow found it hard to join in. I somehow conveniently forgot my goal once I was inside the coffee shop waiting in line.

Just like in a conversation with a few people talking, unless I’m among close friends, I don’t know when, how and where to add my comments. I just start listening, waiting for a pause – sometimes I get a word in, and then I go back to listening. In other words, I take the easy way out. I think, “I’m shy. I don’t have to try.”

Wrong! My challenge for next week is to pay attention to conversations and to be more involved in them, plus buy someone coffee.

Positive Upload

In Positive thinking, Wanting the sun, Writing on April 10, 2011 at 8:42 am

Thinking positive is hard, but I did make a first step. For the first couple of days of this week’s challenge, I completely forget that I was supposed to think positive thoughts.

I became conscious that my thoughts weren’t so bright when I was back to work (I have Sundays and Mondays off) and it was sunny out. I wanted to run outside and stay there and not go back into the big bad office where I had to, you guessed it, work! I want to live the artist dream and write novels all day long, but I can’t, at least not until I get published and can earn a living.

Yep, I’m a starving artist who likes to eat. So what does that make me?

Oops, there I go again into my slippery slope thinking that if only I could have things my way …

Later in the week, I thought about this guy who I like, and he sent me an email that made it kind of clear he’s just not that into me, so I started thinking that I’ll never meet anyone because … and on and on I went with reasons why. Wait! That was another negative thought.

The thoughts kept popping up all week, and I had to think, “You are negative, and I can’t be having you hanging around.” And then more of them would swing by, and I’d have to bash their ugly heads with positive thoughts, like “things will get better” and “I can say the Serenity Prayer.”

But it’s not like I made any changes in a week. It’s that I put little red lights on my negative thoughts. It was a good exercise, and I’m going to continue working on it. At least if I acknowledge, hey this is not such a pretty thought, then I don’t have to let the other bad thoughts make their way into my day if it’s not such a great one to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not on my way to being a Pollyanna or anything. I’m just trying to accept the things I cannot change, I’m working hard on what I can and I’m trying to figure out the difference.

My challenge for next week is to buy someone coffee who’s standing in front of or behind me in line or do something else nice for another person. Maybe it will add a positive spin to their day.

Crash-Course in Positive Thinking

In Positive thinking, What's important on April 3, 2011 at 8:34 am

I thought it was the end of the world, or almost. I was driving to an interview for work and heard a clanking sound, followed by a couple of loud thumps under the hood of my car. It’s not my car, I thought. It must be some muffler-lacking car behind me.

The clanking got louder, and I stopped, having to admit I had a problem. I pretended I knew what I was doing and opened the hood. I noticed the windshield wiper fluid was low and that the coolant was full.

I had two miles to go to my interview or five back to the office. I chose the interview with an 83-year-old business owner. He had me drive my car a quarter-block and said it sounded like the transmission.

I wanted to cry but called a tow truck and a couple of auto shops to try to get my car in the next day.

At home that night, I called my mother. I told her I couldn’t afford to shell out more money on my almost 10-year-old car and would walk everywhere. Forget cars. Having one wouldn’t be worth $3,000, I figured.

Sleeping on it, I realized I didn’t want to give up my dependence on my car, both physically to get me to places, but also emotionally. I didn’t want to go back to my college student days where my transportation was my bike and my feet.

I got a call from the mechanic in the morning. He said three of the four engine mounts were cracked or broken, causing my engine to shake. The cost was $240. I hung up, feeling silly. I had overreacted, imagining the worst-case scenario when I could have waited to see what happened, and then reacted.

My challenge next week is to have all positive thoughts, even when I normally take comfort in being negative.