Blog | Allan Besselink Allan Besselink | Official Site Of The Smart Life Project, Smart Physio, Rhubarb Diaries, And Mobius Intermedia http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog Wed, 22 Oct 2014 07:48:18 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Spin Doctors And Debunking Myths http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1293-spin-doctors-and-debunking-myths http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1293-spin-doctors-and-debunking-myths whirling people machineIt's all in the spin I suppose.

The headline was simple: "7 Myths About Physical Therapy". The press release from the American Physical Therapy Association was going to debunk some myths about physical therapy. How exciting, I thought.

Maybe this would set the record straight on any number of issues and misconceptions about our profession that exist in the public eye. Surely this would be a great opportunity for us to "Move Forward", yes?

And then, I read myth number one. It was, admittedly, hard for me to overlook.

"Myth: I need a referral to see a physical therapist".

Fact: A recent survey by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) revealed 70% of people think a referral or prescription is required for evaluation by a physical therapist. However, all 50 states and the District of Columbia (DC) allow patients to be evaluated by a physical therapist without a physician's prior referral. In addition, 48 states and DC allow for some form of treatment or intervention without a physician referral or prescription (Oklahoma and Michigan being the exception). Beginning November 1, 2014, patients in Oklahoma will be able to seek treatment from a physical therapist without a physician referral. On January 1, 2015, patients in Michigan will be able to do so, as well. Some states have restrictions about the treatment a physical therapist can provide without a physician referral. Check out APTA's direct access summary chart to see the restrictions in your state.

I will be the first to state that proper use of language is important. And I must also say that if I look at the actual words as printed, then no, you don't need a referral to see a physical therapist. As a matter of fact, we exist in the wild, roam freely, walk amongst you, and generally play well with others.

But seriously, seeing a physical therapist isn't the issue. It is the play on words that is critical. Spin is everything.

Let's start with the most critical consumer-related question regarding physical therapy: can you freely and of your own volition access evaluation and treatment from a physical therapist?

The answer is quite simple: no, unless you reside in one of about 18 states - a number that has remained stable for over a decade.

Are the facts presented in the release correct? Well ... yes. But it's all in the spin.

In Texas, yes, patients can be evaluated without a referral. But now the reality check: seriously, how many patients want to be evaluated by a physical therapist, then be told that they can't be treated unless they have a script? Answer: Not many. And, frankly, I don't blame them.

Yes, 48 states and DC allow for "some form of treatment or intervention". But now, again, the reality check: it is typically, if not always, limited to a certain time frame or number of visits before that permission slip (aka script) is required. Oh, just a minor detail buried between the lines.

So in the name of truth-telling and myth debunking, on behalf of the consumers in the crowd, unless you live in one of 18 states, you simply DO NOT have the right to access a physical therapist directly for your care at their professional discretion, much as you would any other health care provider.

No wonder there is so much confusion in the marketplace.

Here's a thought: stop the spin doctoring. Please. Why continue to make the scenario sound far better than it really is? The facts are there, yes, but there is also a spin to them, a fallacy that continues to be perpetuated. It downplays a patient's potential role in changing the health care landscape to increase their access to appropriate care. It certainly diminishes the level of urgency in the eyes of the consumer and the legislator.

I would suggest that consumers and legislators alike would find the issue far more compelling if they were told that only 18 states give you the right to choose. When you live in a country founded on rights and freedoms, I can't imagine that will go over very well with anyone.

Let's debunk this myth once and for all. Please. Consumers deserve the truth, not the spin.

Photo credits: joiseyshowaa

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Smart Physio Thu, 16 Oct 2014 22:03:32 +0000
Presence Of Positives Or Absence Of Negatives? http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1292-presence-of-positives-or-absence-of-negatives http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1292-presence-of-positives-or-absence-of-negatives Happy buildingLife. Love. The pursuit of happiness. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It's a journey that takes us on a moment-to-moment adventure driven by countless motivating factors. Some are positive. Others are negative. We find ourselves either moving towards something good or away from something bad.

I don't think that many people would ever expend the time and effort to differentiate between the two. But how we view these motivators, at the most basic level, can directly impact our lives, our relationships, and our happiness.

Are you focusing on the presence of positives or the absence of negatives? The differences can be subtle but substantial.

We can be moving toward something good, basing our behaviors and actions on the presence of positives in our world.

Goals. Relationships. Love. Fulfillment. Self-actualization.

There is an exquisite beauty and clarity of moving forward in life with the presence of positives guiding you.

But we can also be moving away from something bad, basing our behaviors and actions on the absence of negatives in our world.

It isn't so bad. Work isn't great, but it isn't bad either. My relationship isn't great, but they are never perfect are they? 

Perhaps this is driven by fear of the unknown or simply breaching our own comfort zones if we do so. We find excuses at every turn. Hey, you can rationalize just about anything with the right excuse and spin on it. We end up focusing our efforts on a life lived with the absence of negatives. We end up with a life that is, well, good - enough.

Life is too short to just be good - enough. Life is too short to not have that "wow" factor built in. Of course, life isn't always "wow" and there are a multitude of factors at play every day. Sometimes, there is just too much inertia to battle - at least in this moment. Sometimes, the timing just isn't right. And sometimes, there are just mundane moments that tie together the "wow" moments.

When we make decisions based on the presence of positives, then the excuses just slip away. We're all in. And when we are on the journey and we are invested, truly invested, in it, then excuses become an afterthought.

Wouldn't we all be better off to discard the fear, the inertia, the self doubt and self sabotage? Wouldn't we be better living in the presence of positives, even when those positives may be hard to find? Simply expressing gratitude can be a step in the right direction towards this even on the most difficult of days.

Therein lies one of the great challenges of life. It is the choice to live a life based on the presence of positives - and not the absence of negatives.

Which choice are you making today?

Photo credits: josemanuelerre

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Smart Physio Sun, 28 Sep 2014 03:00:37 +0000
Abnormal Is The New Normal http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1291-abnormal-is-the-new-normal http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1291-abnormal-is-the-new-normal Storm over NormalThe world of musculoskeletal care is a strange animal if ever there was one. It is a world of imbalances and mal-alignments, asymmetry and inflexibility. Or so we are taught, and have been for decades.

The world of musculoskeletal care is is also the same realm that would benefit most from an understanding of clinical anatomy, statistics, and logic.

Diagnosticians are always seeking some relationship between a patient's signs, symptoms, and some particular patho-anatomical entity. But the problem lies in the realm of normalcy. You see, abnormal is, without question, the new normal.

Normalcy presents a number of problems to diagnosticians. Let's just start with the statistics of biomechanical alignment and symmetry. Reid noted in 1992 (yes, 1992) that “mal-alignment is a term that should be reserved for gross abnormalities, two SDs (standard deviations) outside the norm”. For those who like math, that would mean that, statistically speaking, 95% fall within the bounds of "normal". That is a whole lot of normal.

Expand on this thought a bit. Spend some time in cadaveric dissection and you quickly see a steady stream of anatomical variations. They are the norm, the rule instead of the exception, the vast majority of what we see and experience. Take the piriformis muscle as but one small example, both anatomically and statistically. Research would indicate that up to 40% of people have abnormalities, yet may or may not have symptoms associated with it.

Examine some of the research done via MRI on asymptomatic individuals and you will find some disturbing - or comforting - results. A variety of peer-reviewed studies have shown that positive, abnormal MRI (of the lumbar spine, shoulder, knee, and hip) exists regularly in asymptomatic patients. More on that in a future post.

Wow. Pain-free and functional yet "abnormal". No worries though, because it all fits from a statistical perspective. Clinical anatomy tells us that these types of numbers have been well-known for some time.

Part of the problem is in the perception of "abnormal" and "normal" - a rather significant element of the diagnostic process. Edward de Bono notes that 90% of errors in thinking are errors in perception.

But with that said, there is an inherent beauty in all of this. Perhaps the solutions to this diagnostic problem can be found in the problem itself.

Normalcy causes us to question our thinking about musculoskeletal pathology, its relevance, and its context. Abnormal is the new normal. It's now what we do with that knowledge of clinical anatomy that will provide us with the foundation for a new era in musculoskeletal medicine.

Photo credits: Ross Griff

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Smart Physio Tue, 16 Sep 2014 03:56:16 +0000
Playlist Ponderings: Stevie Ray Vaughan At The NAC http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/rhubarb/1290-playlist-ponderings-stevie-ray-vaughan-at-the-nac http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/rhubarb/1290-playlist-ponderings-stevie-ray-vaughan-at-the-nac Waiting for the SunIt was a solitary musical moment that would be forever etched in my mind. What it became was a life-changing event of epic proportions.

August 16, 1984. Thirty years ago. It was an early 15th birthday present - a show at the National Arts Center in Ottawa featuring none other than Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The first notes fired out from the worn-down Fender Strat that night can still be heard echoing in the back of my mind. My jaw dropped and I sat there mesmerized. I remember the moment like it was yesterday.

Stevie Ray spoke to me in a language that I understood. Direct. Heartfelt. Raw. And it changed my life.

I'd already cut my teeth on "Texas Flood" (released 6/13/83) and "Couldn't Stand The Weather" (released 5/15/84). I found myself deeply immersed in Texas blues. It was other-worldly to a Canadian kid in small town Canada.

But then there was that fateful night at the NAC. I sat there dumbfounded, in awe of Stevie's guitar prowess and showmanship. This three piece was tremendous - Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon holding down the rhythm, and Stevie out front doing his thang. Add to that the acoustic splendor of the National Arts Center, one of the finest performance venues in the country, and you have quite the visceral experience.

I walked away from there that night realizing that I needed to find out more about Austin and the music scene that was Stevie's foundation. Something inside me was drawn to it. I felt compelled to learn more about it and to fully experience it some day.

It wasn't that long after that I taught myself how to play guitar.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I made my first trip to Austin in the spring of 1988. I returned the following year and played at my first open mic here. The next step was to move here, setting foot in the heart of Texas on August 15, 1990.

Over the years, I had the opportunity to see Stevie Ray Vaughan 4 times before his tragic death on August 27, 1990. His passing came on my birthday, of all days, and I always spend a few minutes of that day, year in and year out, listening to "Texas Flood".

Looking back, that one night in Ottawa would be the ticket to a life lived deep in the heart of Texas. After 24 years, it is most certainly home.

Thank you, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, for putting Austin on the map for me. Life wouldn't have been the same without you - in so many ways.

Photo credits: justinjensen

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Rhubarb Diaries Sun, 17 Aug 2014 02:47:26 +0000
Periodization: Timing Is Everything In Training And Injury Recovery http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1289-periodization-timing-is-everything-in-training-and-injury-recovery http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1289-periodization-timing-is-everything-in-training-and-injury-recovery Timer at 0The concept of periodization has been around for quite some time in the sports world. Coaches build training schedules around "periods" of training and recovery in a cyclical fashion.

However, the more perspectives you read on periodization in the training world, the more you realize that certain elements of it have been a little bent and twisted out of shape. More on that later.

But at least periodization actually exists in the world of sport training. We know that the timing of training sessions is important. Recovery is critical as training adaptations require time without subsequently "de-training". So what makes injury recovery any different?

Absolutely nothing.

Before I even broach the idea of periodization in an injury recovery context, let's set a few things straight in the training community. There are some elements of periodization that have been applied poorly over the years. For example, the idea of "building a base" for endurance athletes - while leaving any form of intensity-based training on the sidelines for the duration of this "base" period. Forgotten is the premise of "de-training", which goes in tandem with "training". Power output diminishes because, as the saying goes, "if you don't use it, you lose it".

(Sidebar: refer to one of my previous posts, "Base Happens", for an expansion on this concept)

But let's assume that we are using the principles of periodization correctly. What would prevent a physical therapist from using these same principles in the development of a "periodized" injury recovery program?

Some might call that a "protocol". But it is far more than that.

A periodized injury recovery program involves understanding the mechanisms underlying the training stimulus and response - just like a training program. In the injury recovery process, our goal is not so much to do "exercise", but to provide a stimulus that will, in effect, attain the desired response. This involves timing of stimuli with sufficient capacity for recovery (from the stimulus) and adaptation to the stimulus.

All of this demands that the patient understand what appropriate responses to training are - and aren't. The patient must have the tools that will allow them to recover from and adapt to those training stimuli. It includes an understanding of the impact of the most basic nutritional elements on the tissue repair and remodeling phases. Yes, that includes protein for tissue repair and carbohydrate for fueling the process of injury recovery and normal function of the immune system. Cognitive strategies are also important to diminish the adverse effects of cortisol in the recovery process.

There you have it: the foundations for injury recovery periodization.

So the next time you hear a patient proclaim that "they have been doing their exercises three times a day because that is what they were told to do", a few questions should arise. What is the intent of the activity? Is it the necessary stimulus to attain the desired response? What are the critical paramters of the stimulus required to attain an optimal response? And what is the time course for recovery from and adaptation to the stimulus?

You will find that the "home exercise program" takes on a new look - with periods of rest and recovery built in to more specific, focused exercise plans. The goal is to have a program that optimizes the injury recovery process. As they say, timing is everything - in optimal human performance and in injury recovery.

Photo credits: numb3r

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Smart Physio Fri, 15 Aug 2014 04:43:37 +0000
A Thousand Words http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1288-a-thousand-words http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1288-a-thousand-words IMG_20140701_200003_362A thousand words. It's about 4 pages of a novel. Or two of my blog posts. Or a scant few minutes of your precious time, depending on how quickly you read.

We've all heard that a picture is also worth a thousand words. An image, combined with a moment of quiet reflection, can conjure up plenty of meaning - without saying a word.

I wonder how many words silence is worth? I guess it all depends on the context.

Sharing our inner world involves an ebb and flow between words and silence. Phrases and pauses. Time for words to breath and for meaning to percolate. The meaning and intent of our communication changes depending upon the context, the way that we see the world at this very moment in time.

There are times when a thousand words just aren't enough. And there are times when a thousand words are, quite simply, overkill. Over the years I've found that the fewest words, direct from the heart, are almost always the most effective. However, we all run afoul of this at times in our personal and professional communication. We get sucked in to using grandiose and flowery phrases when a noun and verb will suffice.

Let me give you a prime example: the elegance and simplicity of the phrase "I love you". Just three words - but very powerful stuff requiring little to evoke a vivid mental image beyond description.

A picture isn't the only thing that is worth a thousand words. Silence can be worth that and more. As I mentioned above, silence exists in the pauses between the phrases, the moments that provide us with time for quiet reflection. Silence can also be reflected in the words that we don't use. As they say, silence speaks volumes. Either way, the context is critical.

There are times when words are necessary and perhaps even desired, and times when they aren't. But the same can be said for silence. There are times when it is of great benefit, when no words need to be said in order to get the full sense of presence and being in the moment. There are also times when silence - the choice of not saying words that might perhaps be better said - can be counterproductive at best and hurtful or spiteful at worst.

Much like the picture - so much said with nothing said at all.

Photo credits: abesselink

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Smart Physio Thu, 17 Jul 2014 04:12:02 +0000
Seven Tips For New Runners On National Running Day http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1287-seven-tips-for-new-runners-on-national-running-day http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1287-seven-tips-for-new-runners-on-national-running-day Turkey Trot 2011June 4 is National Running Day, a day to celebrate the sport of running. As a coach and physiotherapist, I work with runners on a regular basis. Contrary to popular belief, running injuries don't occur because of mal-alignments or muscle imbalances. They are typically a function of some common training mistakes. Running injuries will, however, be counter to the full enjoyment and appreciation of running, the sport.

If you are already a runner, today is a great day to spread the word and to get out and enjoy the sport. If you are thinking about starting a running program, then there is no better time than the present! As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In order to make that first step just that much safer and more enjoyable, I present to you seven tips for new runners.

1. Set a SMART goal. Having a goal will give you a guide, even if it seems modest at first. Goals should be SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, and time-bound. I strongly urge people to not set a goal of something like a marathon in the early stages of your running adventure. Get some success under your belt, be it via consistency, increasing your running pace, or even a few 5Ks for starters. Small incremental successes will breed the internal motivation to go longer and/or faster.

2. Develop a training plan. It's not just for experienced runners! Runners of all paces, skill and experience levels will benefit from having a training plan. Running injuries start with training, so establish a training plan early to provide a methodical progression to your running. I have presented many thoughts on this in "RunSmart".

3. Start with walking and running. If you are new to running, I think there is a value to starting with a walk/run program. I advocate alternating 1:00 walk with 1:00 run for no more than 20 to 30 minutes to start. Run at a pace that allows you to recover within the minute of walking. It will probably be faster than you think!

4. Focus on the quality of training, not the quantity. You don't get a badge of honor based on the number of miles you run in any given week. You are better having some shorter, good quality runs that feel good than to have a bunch of longer, slower runs that feel like you are slogging through mud just to complete the task.

5. Add interval training. Short, faster-paced efforts - even if only 10 seconds long - increase your overall capacity and help to develop your running mechanics. Building your capacity in this way helps to improve your capacity to run longer as well.

6. Get a comfortable pair of running shoes. Avoid the fads and the flashy colors. Every manufacturer builds their shoes on a slightly different shaped "last". Some will fit you better than others. Find a shoe that fits well, first and foremost.

7. Enjoy it and have fun. Running should be fun. It shouldn't be the activity that you dread, slowly slogging through the miles because you feel like you need to do so. Running can be playful. Add some impromptu sprints to the next street light, or try a hill or two for a new challenge. Keep it fun!

These seven tips will give you a great start to a lifelong running adventure. Experienced runners will also benefit from many of the same tips.

Enjoy National Running Day – and Run Smart!

Photo credits: abesselink

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Smart Physio Wed, 04 Jun 2014 23:49:44 +0000
Images Of Life In Front Of Me http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1286-images-of-life-in-front-of-me http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1286-images-of-life-in-front-of-me My OM-10I was sitting on the living room floor. It was the summer of 1984. The decision in question was spread out in front of me: two pieces of paper that, frankly, held my destiny and future.

One of those pieces of paper was an acceptance letter from Queen's University. The second piece of paper was an acceptance letter from Ryerson. It was what was contained on each that was most important.

It was a decision being made at the ripe-old age of 18 that would ultimately have an impact on, well, the rest of my life.

On one hand, I had been accepted into one of the best physiotherapy programs in Canada, the only program that would accept you directly out of high school. Unless you are a graduate of McGill (our rival academically and athletically), you know that Queen's is the best university in Canada [insert obvious alumnus bias here]. My grades in high school had got me an acceptance letter. Yeah me.

On the other hand, I had been accepted into one of the finest photographic arts programs in the country, and the only program at the time that offered a Bachelor's degree for your efforts. My grades had laid the foundation for acceptance, but it was pushed over the edge by my portfolio.

And there I sat, trying to figure out what life would hold for me. In which direction should I go?

In a moment of what now appears like mature thinking (or just plain young luck), I remember simplifying the decision to one comparison: how long would it take me to get to where I wanted to go long-term after I graduated?

The long-term goal as a physio was to work with an athletic population. If I positioned myself correctly, selected my jobs well and worked hard, I could get there over a relatively short period of time.

The long-term goal as a photojournalist was similar - working in the sports world and being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, just like the work of iconic photographer Neil Leifer. But to get there, I was going to have to not only work a lot of events, but probably have to hope for a little luck in getting my work into the hands of the right people along the way. Advancing would probably require more than just taking good images, something that would, to some degree, fall out of my control.

And so the decision was made.

Thirty years later, and 26 years of clinical practice down the road, I certainly believe that I made an amazing choice. Either I enjoy what I do, or I am crazy to still be doing it after all these years.

What amazes me most, in hindsight, is that on that summer day, I somehow found the wisdom to make the decision. I didn't know anything about going to university, nor did my family. Life provided an opportunity, a moment to have an impact and to lay the foundation for the future.

Somehow, I grasped it and the rest, as they say, is history. I certainly don't think I truly realized the impact of that decision when I was 18; the magnitude was lost in the thrill of the collegiate adventure and a strong dose of the innocence and naiveté of youth.

It is a moment that is not easily forgotten - each and every time I pick up the camera, look through the viewfinder, and compose the next images of life in front of me.

Photo credits: xddorox

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Smart Physio Fri, 16 May 2014 14:44:51 +0000
Further, Further, Further http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1285-further-further-further http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/smart/1285-further-further-further How much further?One year ago today, the world lost not only a physiotherapist but a true visionary as well: Robin McKenzie.

In retrospect, I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Robin McKenzie and to watch him assess and treat patients live. It was an experience that I look back on fondly and that words fail to describe. I still laugh when I recollect his telling the tale of legendary patient Mr. Smith in such a matter-of-fact and unassuming way.

Today, I can attest that his vision and insights live on stronger than ever. Here are some personal reflections on McKenzie, MDT, and what we really stand to learn from his legacy.

McKenzie was a man ahead of his time. He was truly a "clinical scientist": making astute clinical observations, applying the scientific method along the way, and eventually developing a classification system long before anyone had considered diagnostic categories and sub-groupings. In his first text (1981), he envisioned this as being a system of musculoskeletal care, not just for spinal pain. All the while, he stood steadfast behind the principles underlying his approach even in the face of opposition from the medical community as a whole and physiotherapists specifically. Lo and behold, science has, over the years, "sorted out the details" and started to validate those insights that form the basis for Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy.

But his legacy is about far more than just an "assessment" or "treatment" algorithm. McKenzie proposed a revolutionary concept in health care: patient self care. Along the way, he got to the root of our health care issues on many levels: cost containment, public health, and clinical outcomes. I don't think it was ever his goal from the start - he just wanted to get patients better, and to promote them doing so with their own efforts.

My personal experiences with MDT have been far-reaching and extensive over the years. My first course in 1994 was, as I have recounted, a world-view-changing life experience. Day one of that course forever impacted my perception not only of my clinical role but of the importance of self care as the central hub in the health care system. I then became the 151st clinician to complete the Diploma program: the highest level of training in the McKenzie Method. I served as the Editor of the McKenzie Institute USA journal for 8 years and the inaugural year of the International Journal of MDT. Fast forward to 2014 and we are on the verge of taking MDT into the digital era with web-based discussion and social media.

Many years ago, he signed copies of his two original texts for me. They are a treasured addition to my library. McKenzie even reviewed my first book when it was released in 2008. It was quite an honor and admittedly a role reversal for me - the mentor reviewing the work of the mentee.

He would often use the phrase "further, further, further" with patients. These words echo in my mind now, but for reasons other than just going further into the range of motion. McKenzie reminds me, on a daily basis, that when you stand on the precipice of something that is radically different from those around you, you WILL face resistance driven more by beliefs than the true value of the concept itself. These are the times in our lives when we must truly press on - to go further, further, further in our thinking.

On this day, Robin, I miss your presence in the world as a guiding light and mentor. I am thankful to have known you, to have experienced your vision, and to know that it changed the way I see the world. It has only just begun, Mr. McKenzie. Further, further, further. Indeed.

Photo credits: Hryck.

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Smart Physio Tue, 13 May 2014 14:28:40 +0000
Write Now! 2014 http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/rhubarb/1284-write-now-2014 http://www.allanbesselink.com/blog/rhubarb/1284-write-now-2014 IMG_20140429_101319_338I'd originally just planned it as a quick trip to west Texas. It was going to be just a few days to get away, to breath, to simply find some peace and quiet in a what had become a rather emotionally challenging world over the past couple of months.

Little did I know it would become something far greater. Serendipity.

Please allow me to introduce what I am now calling Write Now! 2014. Here's the story - and the results from the adventure that it proved to be.

I'd never been out to west Texas before, but many of my friends have continued to rave about it. Traveling by train has always been fun for me - it was how I originally moved to Texas (another story deserving of its own post).

So I jumped on a train and headed to Alpine, Texas. Yes, an 8 hour train trip from San Antonio to Alpine. Yes, the sprawling community of Alpine, population 5,900 or so nestled in amongst three mountain ranges and just north of Big Bend National Park.

Some of you might be wondering right now about my choice of vacation hot-spots and travel adventures. I wouldn't blame you!

But as the story line evolved, it became more than just a respite in a quiet place. It became an opportunity to reflect. It became an opportunity to step away from the distractions and - write. Take some photos. Write some more. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It worked. Exquisitely, I might add.

Alpine is a pretty cool little town, perhaps not as "hip" as a place like Marfa, but a good place to relax and unwind. It was quiet; well, except for what seemed like the never-ending wind buffeting in my ears.  I stayed at the Maverick Inn, a wonderful little hotel tagged as "A Roadhouse For Wanderers". Could there be a more appropriately named place for a creative retreat?

It was a bit of a whirlwind trip. Here are the raw details:

Total trip time: 77 hours (58 of those in Alpine)

Total miles: 929 (772 by train, 144 by car, and, yes, 13 by foot)

Writing: around 12,000 words total over a total of 22 hours (approx.)

Photos: 139

Along the way, I found the world's best hot dog at Cow Dog. What a surprise. Serendipity, indeed.

What did I learn along the way? Lets face it: the only way you get better at anything is to reflect, learn from your experiences, refine how you approach it, and do it! In order to improve any skill, you have to practice and practice and practice some more. Writing is no different. Life is the same. But in order to create (or live), you somehow have to remove the distractions and just get down to it. Don't hold back. Focus. Put 100% into it. You have to be in a mind space to create. Alpine presented just that.

Mission accomplished. Thanks to all the great folks at the Maverick for making my stay a fantastic one.

We all have a story to tell – in words, in song, in pictures. Write your story now!

I look forward to Write Now! 2015. Anyone up for the adventure?

Photo credits: abesselink

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ab@allanbesselink.com (Allan Besselink) Rhubarb Diaries Sun, 11 May 2014 01:32:56 +0000