Monday, January 18, 2016

All we have is now.

I just learned that a childhood friend's father passed away. He was a prominent figure in our hometown and he's one of those people who can honestly say that he left the world a little better as a result of his being here.

His death comes on the heels of several recent deaths in the entertainment industry: David Bowie at the age of 69, Alan Rickman also aged 69, Rene Angelil at 73, and Glen Frey at 67.  Of course these are just 4 well-known public figures among the millions of people who have died in the past week, leaving behind grieving loved ones.  

While I understand that death is inevitable for all of us, what strikes me as the most tragic thing about it is the finality of it.  I realize that sounds like an incredibly asinine thing to say - of course it's final, it's DEATH! But when I think about how wholly, truly, completely final it is, that's what makes me sad and a little bit scared too.

Because each one of those people who is no longer walking around on the Earth had things that they still wanted to do.  Probably lots of things, that they just assumed they'd have time for. And then their time ran out.

There is a quote from Alan Rickman going around where he talks about "when I'm 80." Sadly, he fell short of that goal by 11 years. In Nora Ephron's last book she mentions what she's going to be doing in her eighties.  She passed away at 71.  When I think about these people what strikes me is that fact that we never know how much time we're going to have.  And if we do have ample time, we don't know that we'll be in the physical or mental shape to be able to accomplish what we want to. Which means that if there's something that you want to do, or feel you need to do at some point in your lifetime,


Or as close to now as you can get.

It is my hope that when people do draw their dying breaths they will feel like they lived the life they wanted to, and were supposed to, as much as was possible.  I hope that people won't feel like they've wasted their time on things that weren't important to them. I especially hope they don't feel like they could have accomplished things and followed their dreams but waited too long to make them happen.

I knew a colleague many years ago who was in her late thirties and wanted more than anything to have a baby. She was not going to be complete in her life without a child to raise.  She was unmarried, with no serious prospects for a mate, and I remember some of us asking her, if this is so important to you, why not adopt a baby, or volunteer at the NICU, or become a nanny, or do something that would at least get her closer to her life's dream.  She would have none of it. If it didn't happen the picture perfect way she wanted it to happen, then it wasn't going to happen at all.

I wonder how often we pigeonhole ourselves by looking at our goals in a singular way.  I've seen many times how dreams can sometime manifest themselves without our even noticing.  They may not look like the original dreams we had, but they may be just as satisfying in a different incarnation.

For example, we recently attended a house concert by an amazing musician who was touring around the country. He explained that when he first started pursuing music full time as a profession, he had dreams of being picked up by a major record label, recording albums of original music, and touring around the world.  He had been feeling pretty badly that fifteen years later this dream of his was still out of reach until he had a revelation in a tiny bar in a tiny midwestern town he had never heard of.  There he was, in the "middle of nowhere" and a bunch of people he had never met before had come out to this place just to see him and were singing along to all of his songs.  As he was experiencing this he realized, "My dream has actually come true. While I don't have an official record label, I AM making a living as a musician, I HAVE recorded several CDs of my music, I HAVE been touring around the country, and the world, for the past several years, and best of all, my music is out there, resonating with people, even with a group of people that I had no idea even knew who I was!" So the dream didn't look exactly like he had imagined, but with courage and hard work and by not giving up, it was actually coming true right before his eyes!  And that's what happens in life. More often than not it seems.

My point here is, DON'T WAIT TO DO ANYTHING THAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU. EVER. We don't know how much time we have or will have but we do know that our time on this Earth is finite. Of course I'm not saying to quit your job to write the novel you've always wanted to write but which lands you living in the streets, but I am saying that if you want to be a writer, WRITE! If you want to be a singer, SING! If your dream is to own your own business, do whatever it takes to START.  Don't put anything off for "someday" because someday can very easily, and quickly, turn into never.

Also remember, at the end of you life, the only person you have to answer to is yourself.  You are in charge of your own destiny and how much, or little, you get accomplished every day.  I knew a man who was about to turn 50 and was devastated because he did not have a successful career, he had never been in love, he had never owned a home, and was essentially still living like someone typically does in their early twenties.  He was still blaming his parents daily for the difficult childhood that led him to his current situation.  And while I can definitely be sympathetic toward the hurts and damage from his past, I believe very strongly that no one is responsible for his current unhappiness but himself.  Every day we each have the choice to be a slave to our past or to be the hero of our future.

So please, for God's sake, DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY IN YOUR LIFE!  Stop suffering, stop playing the victim, stop making excuses for not having the brilliant, glorious, fulfilling live you are meant to have.  And stop looking to others for approval.  When you are lying on your deathbed you are not going to care one bit about who may be standing around, shaking their heads at you from somewhere far away. All you are going to want is to be one of them, still standing.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome 2016!

I realize the irony in that I often say I'm not a fan of looking back, and then I repeatedly post these "year in review"stories.  Well, I guess I'll say that I usually don't like to look back, but if there are events and lessons to be acknowledged then I'll indulge myself...for a short time at least. :)

So 2015 was, for me, the year of the Ps. If I could have told myself at the beginning what I would have needed to fortify myself for the year to come it would have been these words:

1. Patience.  And a lot of it. Between the continued search for a medical diagnosis and the repeated difficulties with making the new CD, I clearly needed to learn patience.  Even up until these past few weeks finishing up the graphics that would finally send the CD into actual production there were problems and delays almost every day.  I'm not sure why the entire process was so challenging or why I needed to learn patience over and over again at this particular time, but I've lived long enough to know that it was all for a reason, and the next time I have to wait for something, or help loved ones wait for something, I will have armloads of patience to distribute freely.  I will be able to trust that things will work out no matter how much I worry (or don't worry) about them, and I will be able to encourage others based on my experience.

2. Perseverance. A lot of that too.  There were so many times over the past year when I was ready to give up on the CD. It was just getting to be too difficult - too many doors slammed in my face, too many people not being able to help me with what I needed, too much money being spent on fruitless tries, - it would have been so much easier at several points along the way to give up and move on to something else.  But I kept pressing on, with my small group of supporters, and thankfully the glimmers of hope kept shining through the darkness of despair. A huge lesson learned, that I realize I can apply to anything worth pursuing in my life.

I kept being reminded of that line from the film "A League of Their Own." The baseball player says, "It just got too hard," to which the coach responds, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great."  Hear hear.

3. Persistence.  Similar to perseverance, but with an additional, sharper edge to it.  The definition of perseverance is: "Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success." The definition of persistence is: "Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition." While I usually would not consider myself to be obstinate, being headstrong and uncompromising when it comes to one's art is key, I think, to getting the eventual necessary result.  Anyone can go through the motions and do what other people think they should do - that's definitely easier and doesn't make waves or cause trouble. But if it's going to have your name on it, it needs to be yours, and if you're already going through all of the trouble of doing it, do it the way that YOU want, that's true to YOUR artistic vision.  I now believe there's a reason why my new CD is titled "Relentless."

4. Protection from Problematic, Perverse, Persnickety People. Yes, I'm having some fun with this, but the truth is, I wish someone could have warned me about the parade of nasty, mean, angry, sad, burdened, selfish, and disrespectful people I was going to encounter during the past year. Not that I could have prevented the situations, but I feel like somehow I could have protected myself against all of the insults and degradation.  Actually, no, I take that back.  The only way we learn is by going through things and I clearly needed to learn the lessons of not taking mean comments personally, recognizing that the malice and malignity has more to do with the other person and not with me, and most importantly, I do not need to keep these people in my life for one iota of a second longer than I need to.  Thankfully the band season is over and I do not have to deal with those demeaning bullies any longer, both studio engineers who wanted to rewrite my music and lyrics immediately lost my business, and if a doctor or pharmacist is rude or insulting to me (both happened over this past year) I can, and will, take my business elsewhere.

(As an aside, I will never understand why people in customer service centered positions are rude to their customers.  I suppose some patrons just take it and return for more, but especially in the age of Yelp and other internet review sites, I can't imagine it ends well for any of them.)

So, looking ahead, if last year was the year of the Ps, I'm thinking that this year will be a year of Hs:

Hope - for good things to happen.
Health - for myself and my loved ones.
Happiness - overflowing, overwhelming, in abundance, for everyone.
Hunger - I know I'm going to have some of this if I want to lose some lbs. for another H, Hawaii! (see #2 above)
Harmony, helpfulness, humor, hilarity, hospitality, hardihood (it's a word, I just learned it, and it's great - look it up) happy hearts, happy homes, and happy "hard" (see League of Their Own quote above) experiences for my family, my friends, myself, and for all people. If more people had these Hs prominently in their lives, above the other stuff, they wouldn't be those people in #4, who try to make the world around them as dismal as they routinely see it.

I'll let you know how it all goes. In the meantime, I'm wishing you all a happy, healthy, hopeful, prosperous, festive, fulfilling, blessed, peaceful, dynamic, exciting, fun, and dreams-come-true year ahead!