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Change

“I can’t enjoy anything, unless everybody is. If someone is starving someplace, it puts a crimp in my evening.” - Alvy Singer (Annie Hall)

I know how Alvy feels, but I also had a second grade report card that said, “Breck clearly expects everything to go well.”  That statement, however true, also now includes other seemingly contradictory statements that I live by, or better said, they live me.

I feel incredibly blessed for all of my blessings, but I also include an expiration date.  I cannot, without excluding any kind of prescient logic, expect my life or my country’s life to continue dominating with affluence, privilege and entitlement, while the rest of the world is torn apart.  America is like the Broadway production of “Cats”; its had a ridiculously successful run.

A person who I hadn’t seen in quite sometime asked how I was doing. I said I was awesome and life was sweet, and then I followed up with,  “I feel kind of guilty feeling so good when so much of the world is feeling so bad.”  There used to be some sort of governor on virulent behavior.  Granted, the world has endured some of the most venomous figures, (Hitler, Hussein, Pol Pot, Ayatollah, Mengele and countless more) but these were infected anomalies and the rest of us had some sort of moral compass.  It seems like the dam has burst and all our inner entitlement is issuing forth like some polluted river.  We have a rationale for violent acts, for thoughtless acts of greed and gluttony for religious differences, for righting wrongs, and certainly, in some cases if someone is mentally sick and feasting on humanity, they must be stopped.  It’s not that the world hasn’t always been this way, it just seems we used to have better role models and bad behavior wasn’t either ignored or endorsed as it is today.

I know our fears stalk us on a daily basis and the images of Syrian, Palestinian and Israeli children that blanket the news is too much to bear. Whether it’s in the disharmony of a marriage or it’s the waging of war between two factions, it’s always the children that pay the price for adult behavior.  I say this mostly pointing the finger at myself.  I am as guilty as the next person with regard to thoughtless acts and narcissistic behavior. There is a cost for that behavior, but there’s a bigger cost if one doesn’t attempt to change it.

When one does an inventory of their life, their behavior, and they scrutinize their actions, there is an intrinsic desire to change.  


To change requires the following:

“That what WAS important moves to the background and what IS important takes center stage.” When that happens, other factors come into play; shame, doubt, lack of faith that you can succeed, indictment, futility, loss.


Let’s take “shame” first, as shame is the puppet master that controls all the puppets.  Shame translates as, “This shouldn’t be happening.”  If something should be happening, than it’s not shameful.  So, with regards to wanting to change all sorts of doubt, fear, indictment, futility, loss, comes into the picture, and under the banner of “shame” none of those characteristics I just mentioned should be going on. That’s not true.  These psychological resistances; doubt, fear, indictment, futility, loss, are the evidence that a certain behavior is being threatened.  Doubt, fear, indictment, futility, loss most certainly should be deploying an arsenal of obstruction in an attempt to thwart any kind of change.


DOUBT - Your questioning of whether you have the fortitude to bring the new changes into existence.

FEAR - That you will be ostracized and laughed at.

INDICTMENT - Questioning all your skills or lack thereof.

FUTILITY - At some point you will say, “What’s the point?”

LOSS - If you change you will lose the qualities that you have.

 
These concerns stop us from forging ahead and driving the new changes, and it’s not that that aforementioned issues won’t happen, they will. 


1. You should question your fortitude.

2. You will be laughed at and criticized.

3. You will want to give up.

4. You don’t have the skills as of yet.  The person who starts the journey will clearly not be the same person at the end of the journey.  You will develop skills along the way. You will not have them at the beginning. 

5. There will be loss.  You must put at risk what you have become for what you could be.  

 
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” - Niccolò Machiavelli


Don’t let the arsenal of resistance stop you, but rather be evidence that you are initiating great changes.



Constructs

We all have some issue, infirmity or difficulty that we come in with.  In some ways, they turn out to be our greatest assets, but for a while those issues, infirmities or difficulties can look like unfair liabilities.

For as long as I can remember I have been anxious. I have compensated for those intense feelings of insecurity by bravado, hyperbole and shameless self-promotion. There is an upside; I have been incredibly mobile and resolute in my appetite for danger and adventure. Those intense feelings have given me a rich and diverse life. As much as I am able to bring life to any situation, I also have the ability to destroy all that I love.  For most of us, we have created constructs to live by.  These constructs make sense to us, but they lack any real critical thinking and usually are quite mad.

For example: 

“If I work hard, I will be successful.”

“If I treat others fairly, I will get the same in return.”

“In order to be truly talented, you have to be tormented."


We are riddled with all sorts of constructs that have an inherit context, “if this, then that," which in turn create upsets because these constructs don’t inevitably fulfill, and are not necessarily true. We put these pillars together as a way of defining ourselves, as a way of getting along.  We have determined that without one, we don’t get the other.


For example:

“Without drama, we don’t get creativity.”

“Without worry, things can fall apart.”

“Without screaming, nothing is heard.”

“If I don’t do it, it’s not going to get done.”


These are all set-ups for disappointment and blame. To begin to see the insanity of our thinking is the first step. It’s not the whole step. I have seen something many times, that doesn’t mean that I have become proficient at disengaging when those highly intense feelings take root and begin to initiate a reality.

To dismantle the constructs that have become the fabric of our personalities begins with spending more time on the asset side, and less time indulging your liabilities. 

These constructs are tethered to fear and shame.  To pull the proverbial “Chicken from the Bone” of these flimsy myths is to liberate yourself and introduce you to a more creative and expansive life.


Aging with Grace

To age requires no effort at all.  To age with grace, well that’s something entirely different.  We all know and have heard how disposable our old people are.  We walk past them, take little notice and have little regard.  Now that I am old, I figured I should have more empathy and understanding of my peeps.  If I don’t make friends with old age, I’ll have no one to talk to.

I have always been impressed with people who have a comfort level with the fragility of old age. I don’t have any indictments on youth dismissing age, and it is futile acts to have a generation of puppies find compassion for the elderly.  That is not to say that there are not young people who have a fondness and respect for the aged, however it’s the exception, not the rule.  No need to try and excavate empathy from our youth, better than to work on what it means to age with grace.  Grace knows how to ride the ebbs and flows and all the transitions, and to always be appropriate to the times.

Years ago, I had this idea to take a group of people (Actors/Singers) out to the old actors' home -Motion Picture & Television in Woodland Hills, to sing Christmas carols. We would do this a capella with just a harmonica to get us on key. I collected some sing along favorites.

I had never even been invited to an old person sing-along (is there such a thing?) much less come up with this idea myself and then to orchestrate it.  I have always been afraid of old people.  I would go out of my way to avoid them. They scared me right down to their boney fingers, and I was certain if I shook hands with one of them, I would end up holding a disembodied hand.  I was afraid of broken hips, labored breathing and long hairs growing in all the wrong places.  So to come up with this idea was crazy.

After arriving at the old age home, we were met by a very ample, African American woman named Mary, who directed us to lounge area where all were gathered.  Even though I had put this together, I had recused myself of any kind of leadership and retreated to the back of the pack.  Jack, an obnoxiously loud actor, had moved into the foreground and was spearheading the singing.  He showed no sign of reserve as he prodded and prompted some of these crusty old people into singing along. 

Meanwhile, as I was sending out a silent disclaimer that I didn’t have anything to do with all of this, I was being eyeballed by a man in a wheelchair. He looked like he had been put together with popsicle sticks and chewing gum.  He extended a long boney finger in my direction and waved me over.  The old man was wearing an LA Dodgers hat that was covering little sprigs of white silk hair.  He was hunched over in his wheel chair.  He gestured to me indicating for me to put my ear to his mouth so he could tell me something. I had great concern about putting my ear anywhere near his mouth, but I conceded.

“You are afraid of old people…not like your friend there.  He probably grew-up with old people… It took a lot for you to come here. We appreciate it.  One day you will look like this so you had better make friends with it.” He said.

Then he went back into a slump.

I didn’t say anything...Jesus Christ, who is this guy?

We sang with and talked to the old people.  We laughed with the staff.  The day was a great success.  I couldn’t get the baseball cap guy out of my mind.  He barely looked alive and yet he had pinned me to a wall with his prescient candor.  Before we left, I looked for him to say thank-you and good-bye, but couldn’t find him.

I learned much that day:

What you see is not what you GET.  In order to GET something you have to look beyond what you see. 
 
It’s easy to dismiss something and that SOMETHING that you dismissed could be the greatest contribution to your life.
 
Don’t just look for the comfortable or predictable solutions. The gold is in the most unlikely places.
 
Like Jack, be BOLD in your demand for LIFE.
 
Don’t be arrogant about what you have, be grateful for the time you have it because it will most certainly change.
 
Aging with grace is to understand when some “way of being” is bankrupt and some other behavior is looking to take its rightful place.  None of us ever think we are going to get old.  My generation was known as “The Young Generation” and we were never going to age. We branded ourselves with the tag line “Don’t trust anyone over thirty”, but since Mick Jagger is now over 70, we have had to amend that number.

To age gracefully is to become more aware; more aware of your impact, both good and bad. To accept that which you will never be and to contribute what was always meant to be.  To have nostalgic conversations with old friends while surrounding yourself with young people. To become more attentive to your health and less attentive to your vanity.  To celebrate your birthday, announcing your actual age.  

It is not an easy to age with grace, but it’s actually much harder to attempt to turn back the hands of time.