When What Motivates You Also Breaks Your Heart

This morning was packed with an accomplishment and a letdown. I decided to run downtown, a route I don’t take often. Maybe 20 times a year, and I usually run every day. About four years ago, it was a part of my running routine, and I ran there at least one day every week.

Stretching out alongside the river and finding a stride is one of the best feelings. I even enjoy climbing the stairs up the bridge, skipping them two at a time. Crossing over traffic on the pedestrian bridge, I noticed a homeless person sleeping under a blanket on the corner of the bridge.

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I climbed the next hill, skipping steps, and ran in front of and behind the city offices, the police station, across an old train trestle to view the courthouse rising up on the hill to my left and the river rolling along between the fields and forests to my right. Up Dog Hill, where I lived as a college student, and that old 1840s house where my boyfriend camped out in the vines was razed a decade ago–I reminisce and run faster. See a feather on the sidewalk and pick it up.

At the end of another train trestle, the trees are tall and thick as I look out over what was once called “Gallows Hollow” and, though I can’t see them, I listen for an instant to children laugh and play on the playground in the distance. I’m happy about how time changes some places. I turn back and cover the same route.

When I pass the homeless person, I see a woman, and she’s skinny. I run harder and faster than ever before. I do the whole route one more time, to see if she’s breathing. I hone in on her as I pass by. She sleeps and the blanket rises and falls slightly. I run faster and harder– my brain working and pushing me. I make a decision: I will get her some food and leave it beside her.

I stop at the car, check my time and distance. First realization–amazed! Shock. I have set a personal record and ran faster than I ever believed possible for myself. I call my husband. Ask him the time. He asks, “Did you already finish your run?” I always call him before I begin. Confirmation.

Almost forgot why I ran so fast as I drive away from the river. When I see the Arby’s, I remember and pull into the drive thru. With the food and drink, I return to the river and park close to the bridge. I run very lightly up the stairs and across the bridge, but she is gone. I look around on the other side, down along the road, to see if she’s walking close by, and I don’t see her anywhere. She is gone. I return to the parking area, cover the route again, but I don’t find her. Due to a meat allergy, I can’t eat the food myself. Second realization–devastated.

The woman was my motivation to run so much faster than usual and as a result, I received a huge realization about how hard I have trained my body to run. But, and this trumped everything, I didn’t get to accomplish my mission, and that felt devastating. I will go back, and if she’s still on the streets, I hope to help her, but my biggest hope is that she won’t be on the street anymore.

There is an effort to open a homeless shelter in the town where I live. Please, help Manna Cafe to accomplish the goal of giving people a safe place to go and rest their bodies.

P.S. (Adding this as an afterthought): I usually keep care packets in my car (ziplock bags of toiletries, food gift certificates, etc.), but I ran out of them about three weeks ago when it was so hot, and that was one reason for my dilemma about how to help her. 

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Ah! She Recorded Me…I Didn’t Recognize My Own Voice

The audiobook for Multiple Exposure is available for purchase: Go to iBooks or iTunes and type in Shana Thornton, you’ll see the book. Also, buy on Amazon, Audible
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I said that I wouldn’t read Ellen’s book again. Technically, I’m the author, but to me, the story in Multiple Exposure belongs to the narrator, Ellen Masters, and I read it so many times while writing it that I told myself I wouldn’t again, not cover to cover, for years… decades. Maybe never again.

I told an audience recently, “I think writing this book gave me post traumatic stress disorder.” No one was laughing. I was serious.

Then, I had an opportunity to record an audiobook version with recording artist, musician, technician, and producer, Gwendy Joysen, who gave me a reason to read the book cover-to-cover again and in the best voice I’ve used, and all while making it a better book. Gwendy has many more skills, but these were the talents that helped me record my audiobook–technical and creative skills combined with openness, psychological vulnerability and wisdom, and positive praise–suddenly, Gwendy was helping me into a new phase of my life that I wasn’t even fully engaging.
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Walking into her recording space, the big mic waiting for my voice, waiting for the story, I was intimated to read the book again. When I flipped open the first page, I shuddered and cleared my throat. Faltered. When I heard that first line played back in my voice, I heard a flat tone. I closed my eyes and imagined an audience. Gwendy said the same thing when I thought it–to imagine telling my story to people. Don’t focus on the headphones and microphone, on the wires and levels and controls that I knew were there, just make the story come to life from the words on the pages.

As soon as that began, the need to shift and adjust became clear which lent the story extra clarity and tighter prose. Little clean ups: tags, words that just sound weird when said aloud together, verb shifts, and more. All those editing chores, considered “boring” by many but like tilling and weeding to me, were happening again. Ugh, I was exhausted after our first session. My legs were swollen and my lungs hurt. I found new admiration for singers and the physical demands and challenges required for singing and vocal performance. I was feeling how fragile I was when I wrote the story. I saw my own past pains and stresses reflected in the words.

When I least expected it, Gwendy asked me to sing–first, “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” and then, “Precious Memories.” Only the title of the former and a couple of lines from the latter, but I was recording my singing voice–oh, geez, while this lightened our recording time (Multiple Exposure is a heavy book), I’ve only considered myself a road trip crooner and fireside accompaniment, as far as singing goes. Gwendy volunteered to be my vocal coach, too, for those little bits of song. First, we listened to a couple different versions of each song until we found the one that seemed right. Gwendy quickly chose one and then, she sang and sang, instructing me to blend in with her voice. We sang the lines over until she dropped out when I captured it enough times to record my solo voice with the correct tone and melody.

My diaphragm and abdominal muscles were sore after reading for 4+ hours, and this showed me how taxing it can be for singers and musicians when they are in the recording studio. My feet ached from standing. Gwendy insisted on breaks and drinking water. I sipped coffee most of the time to soothe my sore throat.

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During our breaks, we naturally learned about each other, and Gwendy connected to my character’s PTSD struggles, since Gwendy recently emerged from a traumatic and abusive relationship that lasted a few years. I finally felt like Ellen received some validation, and that I did as an author.

We shared stories about overcoming anxiety issues and allowing art to carry us through the highs and lows in life. That ever-changing landscape, the sand painting of living the life of an artist and trying to make a living, looking for validation for your artwork and not wanting to need it but needing it, and the moments of being swept up in the exhilaration and escape of the creative process–we shared all those experiences in life. By being her own open, honest self, Gwendy helped with the inspiration for a new book and creative project that’s currently in the works.

Multiple Exposure was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Gwendy Joysen. I highly recommend her services! Her website: http://www.gwendyjoysen.com
I narrated. Recorded in Tennessee, spring 2014. Please, buy a copy: Go to iBooks or iTunes and type in Shana Thornton, you’ll see the book. Also, buy on Amazon, Audible

Cover Design by Steven Walker, http://www.stevenMwalkerImages.com

Cover Design by Steven Walker, http://www.stevenMwalkerImages.com