This company is all about telling stories and here's the thing, I can't recall if I've ever told any of you MY story. I have always said that the heart of ThreeSocks Media LLC is stories because they matter and recently a friend told me that to tell a good story, I need to know MY story first. Is that true? I'm not sure, but I do know that I decided it was time to gain some clarity on my story and share it with all of you.
I was born a story teller....oh, and the youngest of seven children. (It was a crazy zoo, but as the youngest I eventually got my own bedroom and in time was able to be an only child in the house...at least for a few years.) Early in my life I gained a fan club at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. I was kind of a big deal there because at 18 months old I stopped breathing and was apparently "technically" dead for a little while. I was originally told 6 minutes, but over the years I heard figures that ranged from 2 minutes to 45. I seem to recall actually hearing a doctor say 6 minutes after he looked at my chart, so that's the number I stick with in my version.
That makes me a miracle...that and the fact that my parents were in their 40's with very little privacy, quite frankly makes my conception and birth outright Ripley's Believe It or Not material. Then, as I said, I had some health problems and during an emergency room visit just outright stopped breathing. (I've had some "unique" experiences throughout my life and a psychic once told me it was due to my death experience....I kid you not a woman came running up to me in a restaurant to tell me this news randomly. Somewhat scary since I hadn't even been talking to her when she felt moved to yell this out. Scared my lunch companion, but what the hell.)
I went on to totally amaze the doctors at Beaumont as I made a miraculous recovery years later, and then despite initial predictions that I wouldn't live to be an adult and I certainly would never have a "normal" life, I got a clean bill of health at age 14 and never looked back. Okay, I should probably add that I haven't had a "normal" life, but that's what miracles are all about and I'm fine with that. LOL! I have lived a healthy life and that's what really matters.
My story gets hazy for awhile, however, because though I started out my professional life strong and focused, doubt brought me to my knees and took me way off course. Though I love both of my parents, it took me many years to be able to say the following line: I am the daughter of a man with mental illness, a man who fought off paranoid delusions and his family all paid the price for them. My siblings paid a higher price than me, since I was the youngest and was able to be sheltered by them, but it ultimately drove a wedge between us all.
I'm not complaining. It made me who I am and I'm really proud of myself. However, I honestly cannot remember a time when I was a kid that a trip to the local Kmart wasn't a traumatic thing. You see, my father believed that someone from his early adulthood was after him and, in fact, Dad thought this guy had a poisonous spray that he used on our family. So, my father always made at least one of my brothers stand watch at the car and if while we were shopping, my father felt like he was being sprayed, we had to drop everything and run out to the car and leave. I remember once picking out a pink Easter dress that had to be dropped so we could run and when we returned it was nowhere to be seen.
But, nonetheless, I made it. My siblings made it as well. We all survived and went on to lead pretty good lives and all of us are fairly sane....knock on wood. LOL! But one profound effect it had on me was that I was very big into playing it safe and not drawing attention to myself. My career has had many stellar high points, but until recently, I was always fairly eager to get out of the spotlight and thus turn down a promotion, give someone else the chance to lead a project, etc. I worked as an English teacher much of my life all the while writing. A few years ago my daughters asked why I didn't do anything with my writing and initially I replied that it was due to not having Hollywood contacts. I said, "The deck is stacked against people like me." Then it hit me. That was my father's favorite line...it was his WHY when people suggested he get a better job so that he could support his family, it was his go-to for how he and my mom ended up in a bad neighborhood with little to show for it all.
So here's the thing: I have come to realize that the deck is stacked the way you stack it. Yes, there are some things out of our control, but we always have control over our mindset and how we approach the world. My father had an illness, which was out of his control, but the option to take meds or ignore them were his. So were other things like his decision not to allow other people to help our family.
I am a miracle. I survived my father. I survived a heart valve problem. The heart problem was supposedly a death sentence. Yet here I sit with a Ph.D., two children, and a very full career. I don't define myself by my early illness or my father anymore. Nor do I define myself by fears and the belief that things are stacked against me. The rough times only made me realize and appreciate the incredible nature of my life. This is my story...I am a miracle.
My current plan is to make five movies. They're going to be great, and if you're reading this blog, it means you're a part of this whole process and I thank you. The deck is not stacked against us, but we do have an adventure ahead of us. Are you ready?
Getting funding for a movie or accomplishing any major life goal for that matter, can be challenging at times and even overwhelming. We begin with great excitement and then we lose steam. Doubt finds its way into our lives and when challenges come up, it's easy to mistake them for signs that we need to quit. In fact, I was raised to believe that when things become challenging God is telling you to back down or find a new direction. I no longer believe this. Life is an adventure and it's in our hands how we decide to pursue it. Challenges make us stronger. They define us and show us what we can truly accomplish. They are not an end, but a beginning.
I recently had an extremely empowering situation that was all about challenge. A local charity asked if I would participate in a "Dancing with the Stars" type of show. Now, right up front I want to tell you that I've never danced. I did not take ballet lessons as a child nor did I ever engage in any type of lessons--formal or informal. The charity asked for my help and I agreed. This involved my first ever dance lessons all geared towards a competition that would involve competing against people who have had lessons and some who had even competed in this event previously. There reached a point where I felt overwhelmed. There I was stomping about with two left feet while this very graceful (and I might add extremely patient) dance instructor walked my partner and I though steps that I just couldn't get to move from my brain into my feet. I wanted to quit. Actually, I wanted to scream, tear up something, scream some more, AND THEN QUIT. But I didn't. After a few more weeks, things began to feel better and I saw progress. Then last Saturday I competed. I didn't go home with a trophy, but I got a standing ovation, and I went home with a sense of achievement. I had learned a dance, performed it in front of a group, and most important of all, I had pushed past the challenges.
During the past few months I've put a few projects on hold because I'd reach that point of feeling overwhelmed. To be quite honest, I'd reverted to my old mindset of God closing the door. But at the height of my frustration about the dance competition I had a flashback to turning point earlier in my career. I had been walking down a hallway about to turn a corner when I heard two colleagues talking. They were just around the corner and couldn't see me when one said, "Lynne has so much going for her. Why doesn't take charge and really do something for this project?" The other person replied, "She doesn't have it in her." That was a defining moment for me back then and I continue to use it now. The truth is that we all have what we need inside of us, but we let doubt get into our heads and we stop.
Are you going to stop? Am I going to stop? NO. The music is playing, the dance floor is ready, and if we just let ourselves free, we can dance with the best of them. So, it's okay if you're overwhelmed. It's not okay to stop because of it.
My dear readers, that means all of my projects are back on the table.
Lynne M. Smelser is an executive producer and scriptwriter. For more than 20 years she has been an active writer who has won many national awards. She also holds a Ph.D. in English from Michigan State University.