I found inspiration over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, in the last place I expected to find it.
Before I get to that, however, allow me to back up a bit.
Inspiration has been sorely lacking for me in recent weeks. Just a couple of months ago I had so many column ideas I told my husband I could probably write one a day if I wasn’t self-moderating to avoid overdosing my readers.
I’m not exactly sure what happened to that enthusiasm and inspiration (although I have a definite idea, as I’ll explain), but I most definitely lost it somewhere.
My column is one of my favorite things to write. It’s where I get to express multiple facets of myself and my viewpoints that may sometimes not be expressible when I’m engaged in my regular, full-time reporter gig.
However, I often find inspiration for my columns in writing the news when I discover that I most definitely do have an opinion to share on something. It’s liberating to have the opportunity to break free from the constraints of news story writing, in which I’m well aware my opinion isn’t welcome and sharing it would be downright unprofessional.
However, I am a human being and therefore do have opinions.
What is unfortunate, however, is that all too often people seem to fail to recognize the difference between my opinion columns and my news pieces. My column is mine. It reflects my views, my thoughts, my life, my search for truth and anything else I may want to express.
The news stories I write are mine in that I strive to find the correct words and word arrangements to express what happened and share important facts; however, that is the only way those stories are mine. The substance of what I’m writing belongs to the readers and even more so to the entire community and the historical record.
That isn’t to say I write to necessarily please community members. I’d be an unethical reporter if I sat and thought about whether this person or that person was going to be upset by my fact-checking or quoting or anything else that goes into thorough reporting. I write to share the truth and what the public has a right to know.
It’s disheartening as a person who takes her work very seriously to find so many people either unaware of the difference between news stories and opinion columns or who deliberately ignore the difference so I can be personally maligned as part of the evil, un-American, “fake news” media.
I recently had the experience of showing up to cover a community event only to stumble abruptly into a conversation about the horrible press. I’ve seen the Facebook comments that seem to lump all journalists into a group of manipulative liars who make use of software and clever camera angling to deliberately mislead the public.
This could be funny given that my Photoshop and general photography skills could probably be bested by my youngest child, and sometimes I do indeed laugh it off, but sometimes it admittedly starts to get to me.
It then becomes a struggle to write, especially my column, because I know every word is likely to be misconstrued or misinterpreted or deliberately taken out of context. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, somebody will take to our Herald website to tell me how disgusting I am.
Even as I’m writing this particular column, I’m sitting at my keyboard on a cold winter night cognizant of the fact that this will likely be taken by someone as whining or a self-pity party. Perhaps in some respects it is. Perhaps I’m just a liberal snowflake who can’t take people calling me a liar.
Perhaps we’re living in some sort of bizarre-o, upside-down universe where people (mostly prominent national politicians) make daily statements that are demonstrably proven lies, which are branded as “alternative facts,” while other folks who take great pains to verify accuracy and tell the truth are branded the liars.
Or perhaps I do this job because it’s important and it matters. Perhaps I take great care and pride in my work. Perhaps I began to recognize several years ago that I have extremely strong public service motives. Perhaps that’s why I work two paid jobs and get teased about my multiple other volunteer unpaid jobs.
And perhaps it’s hard to find inspiration when I find myself questioning what in the world I do it all for.
Which brings me full circle to finding that inspiration over the holiday weekend. I didn’t find it in preparing a Thanksgiving meal for my family, although I loved that as always. I certainly didn’t find it in the horrific weather or the ridiculous and disgusting rampant consumerism that is Black Friday.
I found it at Aspen Cinemas when my daughter insisted we take in Disney’s “Frozen II.” I had no idea how much I needed that movie.
I’m a mother in the modern era, which means I’ve seen pretty much every Disney movie in existence. Repeatedly.
I know the plots and the stories and the characters and, of course, the songs. As a matter of fact, I can probably sing along to most.
There are many things about older Disney movies that don’t hold up these days, things like 16-year-old girls running off to get married or falling in love at first sight or needing a man to come rescue them. There are also a lot of really great things in Disney movies.
Who can’t relate to a young Ariel trying to get her father to see through her eyes or Simba recognizing that his father lives on in him? If you can listen to “Bare Necessities” without wanting to bounce around or “Be Our Guest” without wanting to sing along, you’re stronger than I.
I’ll admit it. That part in “Moana” when her grandmother dies and her spirit becomes the giant manta ray in the ocean? Yeah, I cried.
Even with all that, however, I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of seeing “Frozen II.” It’s been my experience that lots of Disney sequels are just horrible and unnecessary stories designed only to get parents to spend money. I guess that could be said about almost anything, but that’s for another column.
I wasn’t prepared to find myself laughing aloud or being truly astonished by the beauty of the animation. I really wasn’t prepared to find a new mantra in a Disney sequel.
I know a whole lot of people like me, people with public service motives who honestly and wholeheartedly strive to do their best work every day, both at paid work and at volunteer work. I know from conversations with these folks they sometimes ask themselves why they keep doing it. I know they sometimes feel under- or unappreciated. I know that sometimes it just seems all too much or like the work is for nothing.
I also know these folks will keep doing it. They’ll keep on keeping on because when the going gets tough the tough get going and when they get knocked down they get up again and probably a million other cliché sayings.
Thanks to Disney — and Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven — and a certain 10-year-old girl I love with every fiber of my being, I can add another such saying to my list of those my internal Jiminy Cricket whispers in my head. “Make the choice to hear that voice and do the next right thing.”