The Parallax is an intriguing story that provokes the mind into a different way of thinking. A way of thinking that actually involves writing; writing about your feelings, thoughts, and actions. Each of the characters in the book discovered the healing power of writing. As an author, William Allen White used this “power” to grieve over the loss of his daughter and to come to the understanding that life in words has so much meaning. I found it very interesting that such a simple thing as writing down the thoughts from your mind could be so powerful. Many people keep journals but who really lets their mind take over and allows themself to write continuously? For me, this was a hard concept to grasp. Today, most people, including myself, have a million things on their mind every minute. Letting my mind just relax and to try and forget about my worries for the day provided much more of a challenge than I thought it would. A challenge that I am ready to take on so I can feel for myself the benefits of the written word. I have only partaken in this adventure a few times so far and already I am feeling the healing benefits of it. When I sit down to write, I let all the thoughts in my head flow onto paper and instantly I feel better. Somehow, seeing all my worries and thoughts on paper make them seem less daunting to me because my mind is no longer exaggerating them into concepts that are bigger than reality. I feel refreshed and like the characters in the book, a weight is being lifted off my shoulders. I strongly encourage those of you contemplating starting this adventure to go with your instincts and take on this initiative. Without a doubt, I believe you will feel more connected with yourself and with others around you.
We started up the trail, meeting other couples along the way with looks of dread and needfulness cast on their faces, exchanging glances with us as they passed that echoed a shared sense of knowing, a reordering of priorities.
–Frank Beck, The Parallax
Searching For Things
“My dad said, the way I saw the world was a gift.” The words of Oskar Schell, the child who captivated us in the best-selling book and Academy Award nominated “Best Picture of 2011,” Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, resonate with all of us. We are all searching for something and like Oskar we begin to understand that having the key doesn’t immediately help us know what can be unlocked. Oskar’s quest “pushes our emotional buttons.” We recognize ourselves in his need to find things. We understand his yearning. We share his emotion.
Clarence, a character in The Parallax, recognizes this fact when he says, “You could have been anywhere and affected by 9/11.” That day was a watershed moment for everyone, regardless of their location. Think about it. Most of us can describe in vivid detail what we were doing when we learned of the terrorist attack and how we reacted to it. I, personally, was waiting for a commuter train at the Memorial Hospital Metrolink station in Belleville, Illinois. I remember the emotions of the people riding the train, interacting with one another as they had never done before. It was as if we were a family and had just learned that other members of our family had been hurt. I don’t think I’d ever experienced the sharing of emotions that occurred that day. I suspect that nearly everyone has a story of what they were doing on September 11th, 2001, because that day will forever be part of our social consciousness.
Brad Paisley tells us in his hit song, Find Yourself, that although we may go through life thinking we know who we are, it is when we are lost that it is most possible to find yourself. Frank and Sarah, characters in The Parallax, were married for twenty-five years. Did they really know one another? Do you really know who you are? Frank and Sarah found themselves in a distant place, the Colorado Rockies, when their world was shaken. I thought about the many ways that 9/11 might have impacted people on that day, and used the tragic event as a backdrop for my story, The Parallax. I sensed that although everyone was impacted differently, readers could connect with the shared experience of that horrific day. You don’t need the events of 9/11 to “find yourself.”Use the gift of seeing things differently. Discover what’s important to you. Embark on the journey, identifying those things you value, the places you enjoy, the things you treasure, and, most importantly, the people you care about; and envision your life in a new way.
Change Is a Verb
Aspen trees paint the mountain landscape with a blaze of gold as fall approaches—a welcome change from the hot-dry summer months. We await the metamorphosis with great anticipation. Similarly, we often treat change in our lives as if its’ a manifestation of inevitable consequences. This viewpoint is embedded in our language: Change happens. We’re under the grip of change. Couples in love recognize that an effective relationship requires that we understand that love is a verb, not a noun. It’s not good enough to fall into love. We must constantly work at loving. And so it is with change. Spencer Johnson, MD, in his best-selling book, Who Moved My Cheese, uses cheese as a metaphor for change to teach us this lesson. He tells us that we have to plan for change—“Smell the cheese often.” Effective change requires that we view it not as something that happens to us, but something that we facilitate through the choices we make. We act so we aren’t acted upon and, as we do, we become a model for others.
Effective Change Inspires Others
St. Louis musical artist Erin Bode recently released a song, The Space Between, inspired by ten-year old Katelyn Jackson, who is afflicted with a congenital heart defect. Erin used audio recordings that doctors had made of Katelyn’s heartbeat, during her years of treatment, as the background rhythm for the song. As an artist, Erin understands that her music can tell a story. She created a song that allows us to connect with our deepest emotions, becoming a model for what her lyrics implore—“Maybe, if you hold my hand…” She demonstrates how we can become a positive force for change as her song helps, not only Katelyn, but thousands of others.
Effective Change Makes a Difference
It’s when we understand that we have the power to impact our future through the choices we make that we become truly effective. Accessing our emotions and connecting with our stories move us toward that goal. Our stories allow us to see ourselves with new understanding, providing an impetus for change, marked not by passivity and acceptance, but distinguished by active involvement and inspiration. Kyle, a character in The Parallax, learns this lesson from Nicole, another character in the book, who unsuspectingly through her leadership becomes his role mode, influencing a positive change in his behavior. Everyone has the opportunity for leadership. Ken Blanchard, author of The One-Minute Manager, reminds us that “leadership is a journey, not a destination.” Leadership, love and change, they are all journeys. As we embark on these journeys, we learn that we each have a role as we interconnect with others, recognizing that the outstretched hand that we clasp may be the giver as well as the recipient of help. We discover a truth—“Maybe, if you hold my hand…”
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage emotions—our own and others’. Everyone knows the importance of emotions. It’s one of those common sense things. But as Samuel, a fictional character in the The Parallax, points out “common sense ain’t necessarily common practice.” Emotional intelligence is the missing element in our understanding of personal effectiveness and a possible explanation for the disparity that often exists between cognitive intelligence (IQ) and success.
How does emotional intelligence impact our effectiveness?
Have you underestimated or neglected the importance of emotions? Or most importantly, do your behaviors reflect recognition of their importance? Baby boomers might remember Data, the android in Star Trek: The Next Generation. His cognitive abilities were super-human; however, Data knew that it was his inability to experience emotions that limited his effectiveness and differentiated him from humans—something he desperately yearned to be.
How can we improve our emotional intelligence?
When you experienced anger and frustration as a child, your mother may have offered this advice: “Count to ten.” …more common sense. But in our 4G world things happen very fast, eliminating the opportunity to pause and reflect which is key to managing and controlling our emotions. Without this critical self-reflection, our emotional intelligence is diminished and our effectiveness is impaired.
What is the relationship between emotional intelligence and writing?
Writing engages our brain differently. Think about it. Try writing something without giving attention to what you’re writing. You can’t do it! Writing demands that we focus our thoughts, and as our first words spill out onto the page, others begin to emerge, as if they’d been hiding, waiting to be discovered. Your mother was right—counting to ten helps. But even better, taking the extra time to write about something that is troubling you can yield one-hundred fold results, improving our emotional intelligence and increasing our personal effectiveness.
There have been times in my life that I have struggled with emotions that have threatened my relationships and diminished my personal effectiveness. My guess is that everyone has had similar experiences in their lives. Often, we may not even know what the source is to the anger, fear, confusion, and despair that reside beneath the surface of our consciousness. My new book, The Parallax, provides the secret to handling these difficult situations.