29 April, 2008

The MORNING SONG writing competition is complete . . . A Message from Charlie to all of you, and the essays he chose . . .

Thank you all for so many thoughtful, eloquent and intimate reflections on Loss. Inspired by the haunting lyrics and melody of MORNING SONG, you have moved me to laugh and cry.

What touched me the most was how so many of you did find a new appreciation for Life in the wake of loss, which is what I wanted this writing competition to be about.

The gift that a loved one gives us when they die or when we do experience a personal loss, is a nudge in the ribs as if to say:

"Hey, wake up! Look how fleeting and unpredictable it can all be. Don't waste a moment worrying about what was or might be: live each moment in love, harmony, faith and patience. If you can do that, really "be" in each moment, without expectation or regret, it is a wonderful, wild, exhilarating ride. The only things you can take to the bank are that it is always changing and it will end."

That is what goes to the heart of what we were looking for when we suggested this exercise. There were so many beautiful essays and poems, expressing love, forgiveness, renewed faith and hope. These are some of the essences of what Lincoln called "our better Angels."

They are the attributes and virtues that extol the wonder of the human spirit and places us in the presence of God (however you might want to interpret that.)

There were no losing or winning entries here. I chose the ones that I felt best fit the criteria of what I set about for this writing competition and then picked 8 of them to share with all of you. It wasn't easy, however, what made it easier, was how many of you wrote and said, "Thank You for this contest. It was a great form of healing, therapy and catharsis." So to each and every one of you who embraced this idea, who wrote with such heartfelt expressiveness and poignancy, we are so pleased to know that so many, got so much from entering and writing and we all, truly, thank you.
With best wishes, Charlie

These are the entries that I chose, listed in alphabetical order.

Christi from California

Sometimes it is better to pace through life than to drive a racecar through it. While pacing you can stop and smell the roses and see the beautiful Monet painting that life is. Racecars destroy the roses and water lilies while the scenery is nothing but blurry. That's the lesson I learned when my friend Suzanne died along with her son and sister-in-law in a car accident. When she died, she and I had not talked for four years, since high school graduation. She was going to the local community college while I was going to the local university. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to finish college as soon as possible and commit all my time and energy to becoming one. I didn't want any distractions so I cut virtually everyone off. I was so committed to studying that I didnšt even know she had died until three weeks after her death, four days after the funeral.

It was then that I realized that even racecars need to stop so they can refuel and get their tires changed so they can win the race. Shortly after I received the news I found her MySpace page and got caught up about the last four years. She had gotten married and had a son. She was enjoying the simple things while I was making everything more complex.

I had several opportunities to get back in touch with her over the years and I chose my goals over friends. I have now pulled over to refuel and change my tires, but Išm in no desperation to put my foot back on the gas pedal. Getting into medical school and being a doctor is still my lifešs goal but now I consume it, instead of letting it consume me. I leave time for friends and family. The roses and water lilies never looked or smelled so nice. Suzanne and I told many jokes and did many fun things back in the day. Now those jokes will remain in limbo forever and the fun will stay in suspense. I now enjoy those jokes. When my racecar is back on the track I wonšt be stepping as hard as possible on the gas to reach the checkered flag first. Coming in a few places behind will be well worth just enjoying the ride.

Conny from The Netherlands

How can a loss mean something positive in the lifes of whom that stay behind?

I donšt care anymore about a carrier and I’m satisfied with a part-time job.

I met fellow sufferers with whom I share someting deep and irreplaceable.

I got a broader view at religion and spirituality.

I love my other child with more awareness and I tell it more often.

I enjoy nature more and I am more aware how fragile everything is.

I know now that I can grieve and that I will survive.

I am no longer afraid of my own death.

Feelings of loss are like a diamond, with more than two sides (sadness, anger, fear,...).

Feelings of loss are like the peels of an onion, layer after layer you have to cut through.

Feelings of loss are like floating in a tub on a rough sea.

Feelings of loss are like a still, misty morning with frost on the branches.

Feelings of loss are like loneliness and being-within-yourself, but coming out stronger.

Feelings of loss are like a faraway star, that’s still closer than your beloved one.

And still if I had to choose, I would have chosen a living Jessan.

Dawn from North Carolina

My life as I know it, well it's full of losses. And I guess this competition has made me take a good long look at what some of those things are. Whether it be the loss of my grandmothers. The loss of a dear hospice patient just last week. Or a different kind of loss which has to do with affairs of the heart, they all have left positive and negative marks on my life. Through my grandmothers, I learned patience and unconditional love. Through my hospice patient, I learned that strangers can become family. And through all three, I learned that giving is always better than receiving. Because no matter how much one takes, more is always earned when one gives of them self. Now as far as the affairs of the heart, I have learned that some types of love last a life time. And some last for just a moment. But they are what they are. And one can either choose to come away remembering the treasured moments. Or they can come away never realizing that a lesson can be learned in all things. For it is how we choose to perceive our losses, that really matters.

Deborah from New York

When I was 17 my father asked if I was happy. He had just agreed to let me go to college in Switzerland. He wasn't a wealthy man. He worked a job he didn't much like to feed and educate his children. At 17 he lived in an orphanage, his father, still alive, but penniless. I didn't have an answer. He said if you want to be happy, be a bartender or a jazz saxophonist. Thirty years later, we sat chatting about life, having dinner near his beloved Lincoln Center. On leaving the restaurant, an ordeal, prying him away from one of his favorite pastimes, telling stupid jokes to a bartender, we walked down the street, he hailed a cab, kissed me on the cheek, had a heart attack, and died at my feet. It took a year before I could walk on the corner of Broadway where he died, but when I did, a young saxophonist stood playing 'Someone To Watch Over Me'. It was time to say goodbye, time to embrace the gift my father had endowed me, a life to aspire to, one filled with integrity, curiosity, joy and love.

Deidre from Kansas

Losing my father to Parkinson's was the worst day of my life. But, knowing my father, he would have wanted me to live my life in a positive way. I have really worked on this the last few years and have come to realize several things.

I can be as mad at God as I want to, but it doesn't change a thing, and the only one it hurts is me. Children are a precious gift and they must be treasured. Enjoy even the smallest moments with them, they grow up way too fast. Life is fragile and very short and shouldn't be taken for granted. True friends are so hard to find and should be held onto with all my might. The material things that I work so hard to achieve are secondary to living things. Don't waste my life pursuing "stuff", it'll be here long after I'm gone. Always look for the rainbows after the cloudiest days. And remember to love, laugh, and live my life to the fullest.

Liz from New York

What have I learned since my husband died? That I am a lot stronger than I ever thought. That one person can take an idea and help other people with it. I have done things that I never thought I'd be able to do to honor his memory. Like starting an annual bowling benefit in his name to raise funds for the National Kidney Foundation to help other people who have the same disease he died from. Like having to speak publicly to warn people about the dangers of kidney disease. I never thought I'd have to courage to do something like that. I remember at the time 8 years ago when I started this, thinking something bad happened, I have to make something good come from all this.

Sometimes change is thrust upon you and you have to make the best of it. Dating is an example. I had hoped to be married to this wonderful man for the rest of my life, but that didn't happen. So now I am dating again and it has been both scary and funny. For example, there was the man who brought his ex-wife on our first date because he wanted her opinion. Then there was the man who brought me to a family party on our first date, then left me alone and I had to spend the rest of the evening avoiding his married brother who kept hitting on me. Yes, dating again has been an interesting experience! But most importantly I have learned you cannot live in the pain, yes, some of it will always be there, but it is your reaction to the tragedy that counts. You have to grow and change and come out of your comfort zone, maybe not always for you, but maybe to help someone else. Change is constant, wanted or not and nothing ever stays the same. Your can only actively appreciate the here and now. You cannot go back in time, you cannot live in the past, you can only go forward.

Mary from Virginia

I checked myself in. I had to. The burden I had carried for so long threatened to overwhelm me. I couldnšt eat, I couldnšt sleep, I couldnšt care for my daughter -- the one burst of light in my seemingly bleak existence. For a woman who had always seen the world so clearly, cut through lies and subterfuge to find the marrow of it all, and was unashamed and unchecked in her opinions, this was devastating.

I couldnšt point to a single incident, though I tried. The psychiatric intake took minutes: post-partum depression, death of a parent, diagnosis of my two-year-old with autism, residual trauma from childhood sexual abuse. The losses piled up one after the other.

But I worked through it; Išm still working through it. And coming out the other side of darkness, I canšt help but blink in wonder at the brightness all around me. Life is no longer a straight line with a beginning, middle, and end. It wanders; I wander with it. Itšs the littlest of moments: the handshakes, the giggles, the hugs...the ray of sunlight peeking through high, tumbling clouds. Itšs the turn of a phrase or a gentle look. Itšs inspiration...once lost, now regained.

Robin from Indiana

In my memory, I had his hand before he slipped away beneath the water. In my memory, I tried to hang on.

I don't think it really happened that way. In truth, I think he just disappeared. __We were kids at the lake, playing in shallow water, the Texas sun white and hot above us. When I saw he was gone I ran for help. Not fast enough, I kept thinking. Why canšt you be faster? My five-year-old brother, shorter and younger than most of his counterparts, always carried himself tall and proud, shoulders pushed back, chest stuck out. How tiny he looked on the side of the boat with that essence of him washed away, his chest only able to rise with the help of panicked breaths from my father.

They served hot chocolate at his funeral. I remember feeling dark and horrible that I wanted some. I was six. The day after his funeral, the neighbor boy came to the door. Toy rifle propped on one shoulder, Troy wanted to know if Ronnie could play. My father stepped outside to talk to him. He shut the door behind them so we couldn't hear. I wondered why my father didn't talk to me like that. I guess he couldn't. Still, it's my brother I've turned to over the years. He's always there. He's here now. In my mind, he defends me. In my mind, he's the sort of brother who thinks no other woman can ever quite live up to his big sister. In my mind he's grown into someone I can respect and admire; someone who would have done great things, someone I could only hope to live up to. In my mind, his chest is still out, his shoulders squared; bigger than life. In my mind, I have his hand and I never let go.

This is what the contest was all about . . .

We have a new writing competition that we are very pleased about. We would like to invite you to write your own experiences and thoughts and we will publish our winning favourites on the blogs and website. In addition to the information that we have on this page, please also watch the video of Charlie & David Habbin discussing the competition and what inspired both of them by clicking on this link HERE!

David Habbin, Charles Shaughnessy, Morning Song, Natalee Holloway, Maddie McCann, Robin Lerner

Recently Charlie told you about a demo of a beautiful song called MORNING SONG recorded by David Habbin.

The music was written by Tommy Lee James and the lyrics by Robin Lerner. Robin's lyrics were inspired by the disappearance of a young girl, Natalee Holloway, and how such an unbearable loss would affect a mother and the effort of getting through each day.

Your reactions to this song were so touching, and because we haven't had a writing competition in a long time, we thought we would put the two together and this one be inspired by the concept of MORNING SONG . . . what do we learn from loss?

We all experience loss in many ways, beginning at a very young age. Sometimes loss leaves us bereft. Too soon, too fast, too painful, often unexpected and usually unprepared. But we all come and go, and sometimes those that go before us leave us an important message or sign that might help those of us left behind, on our own path. Though Robin was writing about the loss of a child, we want you to examine and write about any kind of loss in your own lives, not necessarily to death, and we want you to write about the positive that came from one of these times.

We have all experienced loss at one time or another: the death of a parent, grandparent, close friend, spouse, sibling or child; But loss isn't always experienced in death. There can be the loss of a best friend moving away; a moment when innocence is lost forever. The loss of a beloved pet, the loss of a job, the loss of a partner, of a relationship or a romance. There are many ways and degrees to suffer loss, and they all leave us feeling, at the time, empty and alone and often full of despair. But, nothing in life is wasted or meaningless.

The greatest gift that we do get from loss, is that it leaves us looking for and finding the good, the positive, the strength and the ability to move forward in spite of everything.

When we lose something or someone valuable in our lives, that often results in being the one thing that inspires us to recommit ourselves to living life to the fullest.

This is what we want you to write about:
Tell us what you have learned from loss. Look into your own personal experiences and find: what has been positive that has come out of a loss in your own life. How have you personally grown or what lesson have you learned, from any kind of a loss in your life. Though the song and the lyrics are sad, this writing competition is to show that out of darkness, comes Light and Hope and Strength, Lessons Learned, and Celebration of the Positive and Good.

Here are the links to the blogs and all of the other comments that generated so much interest and led to the idea for this contest.

* Click on this link: David Habbin's blog on MySpace, MORNING SONG: The Song - The Story Behind The Lyrics

* Click on this link: David Habbin's blog on MySpace MORNING SONG: The Video

* Charles Shaughnessy's blog about David Habbin's MORNING SONG video on YouTube.  

* To watch the video that inspired this writing competition click on this link: MORNING SONG: The Video on YouTube by David Habbin

* To watch the video talking about the contest click on this link: CHARLES SHAUGHNESSY and DAVID HABBIN MORNING SONG WRITING COMPETITION VIDEO

* Click on this link to read Robin Lerner's blog on MySpace who wrote these beautiful lyrics that started the whole thing

Here are the rules:

All entries must be received by Monday, midnight 17 March, 2008

Only ONE (1) entry per person

You MUST include your first and last name

You MUST include the city & state or city & country where you live

You MUST send your entries from a legitimate email address that is not blocked, as that is how we will contact you if you win.

You MUST send your entries to contest@charlesshaughnessy.com and have the words MORNING SONG: The Writing Competition as the subject title of the email or we may not receive it. To automatically create an email for your entry, you can click on this link HERE!

You MUST limit each individual entry to 400 words or less.

If you are under the age of 18, you must tell us how old you are and please get your parent's permission to enter the contest.

When you send us your entry, you will receive an email back telling you that we have received it. please make sure that you do not have our domain blocked. The email you get back will be from Auto-reply from contest@charlesshaughnessy.com If you do NOT receive a confirmation email back, please contact contest@charlesshaughnessy.com.

This is very important!! With so many to read you MUST limit your entries to 400 words or less. Just to make it clear, this 400 word limit applies to the written entry itself only. The part with your name and where you are from is separate and not counted as part of the 400 words.

DO NOT send attached documents as we will not read those. Your entry must be written in the message body of the email.

To keep it honest and give everyone an equal chance, remember, only one entry per person.

We will be posting our winning favourites on the website and blogs, along with your first name and the state or country you are from.

Any entry that does NOT meet the rules properly will be disqualified and will NOT be eligible to win.

Other stuff you should know

Any personally identifiable information will be used solely by the official charles shaughnessy website charlesshaughnessy.com. The first name, and state or country only will be posted to the website along with the winning entries. IF you are a winner, and have chosen to receive a prize, at that time you will need to give us a full postal mailing address in order to receive your prize. It cannot be emailed.

Entries become the sole property of Shaughnessy Productions and charlesshaughnessy.com.

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