Together or Alone?

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This morning, I pondered the differences between my two novels: Detour from Normal and The Road to Amistad. Joined at the hip in many regards, these novels are nonetheless as different as night and day in a certain respect: one is about being alone and the other is about being together.

In Detour from Normal, I was thrust from normalcy into a life of cold, heartless professionals and the tragically mentally ill. A normal person in my place would feel frightened and alone, and many of the experiences I described are from a solitary perspective. Instead of feeling terrified, I felt at peace, and at times, blissful. A mysterious process had freed me from judgment, expectations, worry and fear.

That mindset allowed me to befriend people who were toothless, foul-smelling, crippled, rude or unable to communicate—people I would never associate with before. My best friend was a drug addict recovering from his eighth relapse who had lost his job, savings, car, home, wife and family because of addiction. Through different eyes, I found these people funny and interesting, and for those among them who felt frightened and alone, I became their guardian angel. It was an immensely freeing experience and I could not help but imagine what the world would be like if everyone could live life as I did then.

The Road to Amistad explores just such a scenario. People from all walks of life were spontaneously freed from their mental prisons and introduced to my world overnight. Unfortunately, their changed mindset more often than not led to heartache as family and friends demanded the return of their absconded loved ones.

A few managed to avoid that struggle and find a unity of spirit with others like themselves. Friendship and trust thrived regardless of former walls that separated them. They were magnets to each other, formed strong friendships and accomplished great feats together. None among them ever felt separate or alone.

Nowadays, it is difficult for me to tread the line between alone and together. I have a wife, children, friends and a full-time job. There are many rules and walls that impede me and I have limited time and resources.  It would be easier to abandon my vision and rejoin my former world, but I don’t want to close doors—I want to open them. I don’t want to be alone—I want to be together. I want to be part of something big.

I hope that you will read both Detour from Normal and The Road to Amistad and open your mind to possibilities that are ours for the taking. If my message rings true, press the button; twist the throttle; swing; jump; do whatever it takes to begin your own journey, and as you go forth, spread the word so that you may do it together instead of alone.

Resilience

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What is Resilience? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, it is an ability to recover from, or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Resilience can result from severe trauma, like a switch flipping in a person’s mind—a kind of wakeup call that closes a door to their immediate suffering, often opening a new one to latent passions.

That is what happened to me following surgery, adverse reactions to medications and resulting temporary mental illness. Within months, I embarked on a writing career and published my first book, Detour from Normal, just over a year later.

I asked doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors about my experience and was met with blank stares. The best they could offer was a pill to numb my mind and make me forget. Family and friends were no better—they either longed for the day I would fully recover, made fun of me behind my back, or shunned me.

I could have let that hurt my feelings or taken an easier route and pretended to be the old me. Instead, I chose a new path, convincing others even more of my continued lunacy. I desperately needed to understand why I changed so much.

At first, there seemed no answers. Eventually, however, I painstakingly assembled the pieces to the puzzle, one that perhaps only I could solve. Along the way, I discovered that few people in the world understood resilience, a fact that left me feeling isolated and alone.

As time passed and my desire to share my knowledge grew, I decided to write another book. I knew from my experiences that readers would likely be skeptical, so I hatched a brilliant plan: I’d divulge everything I’d learned in the form of an entertaining story, a kind of parable. If readers thought it crazy, I would tell them “It’s just a story.” Who knows, a crazy story might prove more popular than a sane one. On the other hand, suppose that my words changed lives and others became resilient without having to suffer trauma? It seemed a win-win proposition. I began writing.

More than anything, I wanted to live and breathe my story–experience what my characters did first-hand. Over the ensuing years, I traveled from the desolate to the exotic through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Idaho. I hiked down dusty desert roads; four wheeled through rugged wilderness, and gazed upon some of the most beautiful scenery in America. I even joined Toastmaster’s for a year to overcome a fear of public speaking, following the path of my protagonist. Frequently, I carried a notebook. On one road-trip, I pulled to the side of the road repeatedly to record notes–sixteen pages in all.

Although I aspired to be a great writer, I paled in comparison to any number of famous authors. Seeking tutelage, I found a local English teacher. Over the next year, we painstakingly dismantled two years of work and created a new story unlike any other—a story of a formerly mentally ill man’s quest to make sense of his new life; of finding others like himself; of his burning desire to share his gift with the world to end suffering and open doors to endless opportunity; a story that I believe is our destiny.

Thus was born my second book: The Road to Amistad. Soon, I will proudly present it to the world. I hope that you will join me then on an incredible journey into the unknown and test your own convictions about your mind.

UPDATE: The Road to Amistad was published on February 19th, 2016.