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Happy Holidays 2016

There is so much being thrown at us on a daily basis it’s hard to keep up, it’s hard to stay connected. It seems that the world is giving us a lesson. And it sure seems as if the world has its own conscience in dealing-out these lessons in very harsh ways. We have never been good with loss. Our own personal losses continually shock us; we are certainly anesthetized to the world’s losses. It seems that understanding that loss is an intrinsic part of life is the lesson that the world is pounding into our hearts. We are also being forced to face the absurdity of life and what we think we can claim as ours. The recognition that we are living on shifting sands and all is in question, its having us learn a whole new form of balance. The world is our teacher and it goes beyond the people that make up this planet. Like an omnipotent force that has always had its eye on us, it seems that force has taken up a different narrative, leaving us staring point-blank down the face of a barrel.

I don’t feel afraid; I feel more loving. It is an interesting paradox to feel more loving in the face of complete uncertainty. I think about what I can give and how I can maintain an open heart. We are all absurd and we all have our own brilliant ways of getting through and aberrant behaviors always belie the truth.

It is my attempt to continually talk to the best part of people, to not be so quick to react as if I am being offended. To create a new context, one that will Sheppard me through the next twenty years; a context that uplifts those around me. I am reaching out, not so much to the stars anymore, but more to a hand that is right next to me.

 

Have a safe and grateful holiday.

The Death of Democracy

The model for our children for the past year has been poisonous vitriol, aimed at everyone and anyone who stood in the way. This unqualified bully, stupid and with an inability to complete a full sentence, has been elected president. He has modeled the worst possible behavior and this will teach the ignorant to think it is the path to success. His children are nothing more than pay-rolled lemmings with no ability to think for themselves, who think that climate change is just weather and that killing endangered animals for sport is somehow manly. Ivanka, an advocate for women’s rights, has stayed silent throughout the campaign about her Father’s misogynistic attitude and behavior towards women. This is a statement about the America we live in, where disgusting behavior is rewarded and incompetency is over-paid. (Pollsters are just another piece of evidence that we pay dearly for incompetence.)

So many of us are in shock. Like any shocking loss there is that time of disbelief and desire to believe this didn’t happen. And like the stages of grief, it is the road we must travel. Disbelief, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance.

The hardest in this case is the last, acceptance. But without asking you to skip steps there is profound value in acceptance. We are being asked to accept the America we live in today, not The America of Yesterday or even The America of Tomorrow, but today. Acceptance does not mean resignation. It does not mean giving up. It does not mean stop fighting for higher principals or stronger ethics. It means to understand and accept the direction in which the train is moving and to get in front and lay some track.

America is a naïve country, which makes it very easy to market to. Marketing to America is a very simple recipe: put in some greed, vanity, and a healthy pinch of entitlement and you have America every time. We are a country divided and we have been divided for quite some time; now it has just been formalized.  Donald Trump in his own arrogance and need for attention is ignorant to the political landscape, he doesn’t understand well enough to know that when you divide a country it will becomes vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. Russia know this all too well, as it has already watched its own country fall apart to division. Putin is a happy guy with the outcome of our election.

There will be many pieces written on the campaign and on this election. There will be college courses for years to come, marking this as a precedent setting case study. This for me is not a time of protest but a time of bed rest. We must look to the people we love. We must look to the families we need to protect. There is nothing to get up in arms about today, rather today find something or someone to wrap your arms around.

Another Pivot

As we are on the precipice of a major pivot, I am reminded; I have had five major pivots in my life and the sixth pivot is calling my name. Those pivots have been ontological and structural as well as emotional.

The first was my stepmother.  As an out of control (I am certain an ADHD) child/adolescent I was untethered and she offered love, guidance and a fresh start. I made a mess out of my educational life and she found a college in Florence that offered up a new beginning and a repertory company, and most importantly, the Dean (Dr. Adamany).

The second pivot being Dr. Adamany. Dr. Adamany was Lebanese; he did all his undergraduate work and advanced degrees at the University of Chicago. His Ph.D was in English literature and more specifically, Shakespeare. After seeing me act in “Long Day's Journey into the Night” he told me to stop acting and to study with him. Even at the worst of times I have always love to read. He formalized that love and gave me direction, he was my mentor and my first real loss. He died of cancer a year after I left Florence and had returned back to NYC. If I look at this in more metaphysical terms, he died of a broken heart. Attempting to do a gracious deed for my academic future he was betrayed by his colleagues who had always been jealous of his spirit. But that’s a longer story…

The next pivot was when I was approaching twenty-nine and was once again out of control; in the throes of a divorce and being a particularly narcissistic father to my two-year-old baby girl. I was supposed to do a movie but instead ended up in a motivational seminar where I was up to my old tricks of seduction and destruction. Tracy Goss, a brilliant seminar leader/educator/critical thinker was running the seminar and called me out in front of 250 people. She said to me, “You’re at a decisive moment and you have a choice to continue being an asshole or change the direction you are going.” I studied and trained with her for years and it was there I found my calling and my life’s work.

The fourth pivot was when I met Jen (my wife). Once again I was in the throes of destruction and coming out of my second marriage. I met an angel who had the capacity to chew-up my poisonous ways and yet still become more beautiful and pure. I was confronted with issues and traumas that I had been running away from all my life.

The fifth has been my children. Finding the importance of Character over Reputation, Integrity over Charm, and Parenting over Entitlement.

The sixth pivot is in its infancy: Surrender. The giving up of control, understanding where I have nothing to say but much to listen to and truly letting go. I see my life in pivots and I see my life in the people who have given so much to me. There is no intrinsic right for someone to contribute their time, love and money to another's life.  It is an existential act of love. There are many more people and many more conversations that have changed the course of my life- too many to mention. I am grateful and I am humbled by the love and generosity of others.



A Magical Summer

As school starts and the summer of 2016 becomes a silver box memory, I am happy that we have a pictorial account of our 5 weeks in Europe.

Jen (my wife) has had, for quite some time now, very strong intentions for us to spend an extended period of time in Europe. I wasn’t resistant to the idea, naturally, but more reluctant, uncertain of how I was going to manage it all while I was away for so long. Basically, give up some control. Jen had three very strong intentions for the trip: 1)  To expose our kids to a different culture- Actually get some manners. 2)  For Jen and I have more time together, unencumbered by our very busy lives in LA. 3) And for me to let go of the reigns a bit and see if I could work more remotely.

I think those 3 intentions were certainly realized, and so much more.

We boated and floated in Croatia; all hosted by the gracious generosity of Stephan and Caroline. We ferried from Croatia to Venice, even the Italian heat and the multitude of tourists did little to quell the magic that is Venice. We saw CARMEN (the kids first Opera) at the Arena di Verona. We trained from Verona to Lago di Garda, a beautiful lake region in Northern Italy. Jack (my 12-year-old son) and I saw the girls (Jen and Gigi-9 yrs) off at the Milan Train station, which double as the airport. They went to Paris and we stayed in Milan. Jack and I then trained to Innsbruck. The boys got to spend time together while the girls did Paris. We all rendezvoused in Echleiten which is Stephan and Caroline’s Schloss outside of Vienna. Our final stop was London. In an existential act of generosity, Simon and Angelika, whom we just met, lent us their flat in London. We hiked. We walked. We biked. We ate. And mostly we were grateful. Grateful for such generosity shown towards our family.

As we transition from the magic of summer to the uncertainty of the next two months (the elections only being months away), we find ourselves at a beginning. People have different reactions to beginnings; many of us like to be at the end, we like to read the end of the book and then go back and read the entire story. Somehow it puts us at ease if we know the outcome. But conclusions give us nowhere to go, as a beginning gives us a fresh start. And we can all use a Fresh Start.

The world is watching us, the world is always watching us. Whether that is because America needs the attention or because we are never static. We are a 3 ring Circus; and it’s hard to look away. We are a Country that dwells in unchartered territory and here we are again. The first women candidate and the first clown. And we all know clowns are scary.

We are a country that was founded on revolution and we somehow do well under chaotic conditions. So as we enter into the new order of things we enter with trepidation and holding our breath. Underneath all that uncertainty is a heart that beats true, that I know for certain; and I trust in that certainty.





No Accounting for Spirit

There is usually only one person who makes it out of a family and evolves beyond the family dysfunction. Now there is no evidence for this postulation, just my own personal observations over time. There are, of course, exceptions to this where all siblings do well and perform at high levels and contribute to the greater good despite their familial malfunctions.  I am not talking about unicorns and other mythological creatures; I am talking about the rule, not the exception. Only-children are no exception to this rule, as there are only-children who evolve beyond their circumstances. In their case they are the one and only who made it out alive.

There is no accounting for spirit. That spirit which sees beyond the pain and anguish and either transcends their original wounds or alchemizes those wounds into a positive expression. There are countless stories of heroic acts and remarkable achievements that counters a horrific beginning, however, there are not a lot of stories about those that are left behind. When I say there is no accounting for spirit I mean that there is an accounting of success; why one person succeeds and another doesn’t, but there is no accounting for why one is imbued with that spirit and another is not. Why one person looks from 30,000 feet and another has Vaseline on their eyes and all is blurred. Why one continues to live from a paradigm of what they didn’t get and blames their parents and/or circumstances, while another takes those wounds and it turns lead into gold. Or why one is emotionally imprisoned and victimized while another is liberated and open-hearted. Or why one is delusional about their talents and skills and is out to prove something and lives with their foot nailed to the floor while another is creative and has nothing to prove but much to contribute.

People who have found their way beyond their past have similar attributes. They don’t blame their circumstances but they use them to their advantage. They are open to hearing what’s not working, they reach out and get help where needed. They give credit away so their creative channels stay open. They build powerful partnerships and teams. They go through life grateful and with a sense of humor. There’s no way of accounting for spirit, but maybe there’s a way to unleash it.



Gun OUT-of-CONTROL

I was reticent to be just another voice in a long line of truly heartfelt and profound voices weighing in on The Orlando Massacre. I initially was anesthetized and disbelieving. I didn’t register the tragedy, but with each passing day it is like some time-released despair that I feel. I did not know anybody that died that night but I can’t help but feel a parent’s grief. A parent’s helplessness. A parent’s rage. I mourn with those parents that have lost their untried children.

In 1996 Australia banned all guns and subsequently there has been only one incident in 20 years. That is not by coincidence. Is it that we as Americans are so arrogant that we can’t learn from other countries? Why do we feel that we have to stay true to our sanctimonious ways? You would think after Columbine that would have been enough impetus, and if not then, certainly when small children were gunned down at Sandy Hook would have been the icing on the cake; but still not. We are addicted to using The Second Amendment as some concretized tablet rather than an ever-evolving construct that should be vetted and examined to see if what was written in 1787 is still germane today. The right to protect ourselves with assault rifles seems oddly ironic.

I don’t need to go into all the reasons why there should be no guns; there are so many others who have already exhausted this argument through comedy, tragedy, and political forums and we still have guns. I just know we grow stupider every day. We follow people who have no ability to listen and we listen to people who have no ability to follow, so how could they possibly be expected to lead. Once again we are infected with another case of heartbreak; with no solution, just anguish. And again we will be left watching devastated parents perform the unnatural duty of burying their children.



Looking Past, Looking Forward

My 11-year-old son, Jack, and I had one of those “before you go to sleep, lights off, moonlight, coming through his shutter windows” talks the other night.

It had been prickly for a couple of hours prior, where he had been tormenting me with relentless demands for hot chocolate and I said NO repeatedly. He became sullen and subsequently vituperative, so I sent him to bed. I went in to check on him and he basically told me to get out. The lights were off and he was lying across his bed, still in his jeans. “Let’s talk this out,” I said, and we did. He felt that I was mean to him and on him way too much. Jack began telling me how he suspected that something happened to me when I was young. He wanted to know if that was true and what happened that made me get so upset all the time. I told him that it was difficult in our house and that my Dad was an alcoholic and not around physically or emotionally. He said that he knew there was more than what I was telling him.  Jack threatened that he was going to read my memoir and find out, to which I reminded him that he’s not allowed to read until he is at least thirty-five. He said that he felt like he was picking up a lot of what had happened to me during my childhood. He was crying while he said it. I started to cry. I agreed that he was likely right and I told him, “We are working things out together. I am learning more about myself through you and you are developing a deeper understanding of your own impact through me. We are each other’s best teachers.”

Looking into those darker places, having real conversations, and finding a greater understanding of yourself through your children is one of the many gifts of having children. I am learning to look past all the behavior that I have been so addicted to changing in my children. Being more attentive and less controlling is my greatest challenge. We all have challenges to work out. And we have to work them out together.



A Confluence of Cultural Crap

Johnny Depp’s video-taped apology to the Australian people is just another link in an already bizarre chain of cultural crap. What is it about movie stars that has them become more and more aberrant as they age?  Like Persian cats who have gotten far too much attention and have been inbreeding with themselves. Has no one told these people that men shouldn’t do plastic surgery or color their hair?

These day you can’t say anything without offending someone. The over-sensitivity that has become the zeitgeist of our time is crippling. Developing some moxie, some toughness, belongs to another time. Equality has been taken to new heights where we are attempting to equalize the playing field so people feel better about themselves. No one is equal. Nothing is equal. There are people who are smarter, funnier, more talented than the next person. Whoever said it was a good idea to reduce yourself so others feel better about their own mediocrity.

Overly medicated and under-educated has birthed a mountain of authority with very little credibility; assuming you have something to say is an epidemic. In the spirit of the confluence of cultural crap, there is really nothing more you could say about Donald Trump. He has so congested the cultural pipes that even a good plumber with a viable snake couldn’t unclog that mess. People have turned incompetency into an art form using family names as a stepping stone for their own benefit. The need to be special, mixed with very few life skills and over-inflated expectations is unleashing a problem that we won’t be able to undo.

So what to do? Make changes where you can. Stop attempting to make changes where people are clearly not interested. We are so prone to give our opinions with very little interest in investing our time. To understand what matters to you and to spend your life dedicated to that cause is a life well spent; for the rest save your breath. 




Let's Make America Great Again

I find this to be just another myopic slogan that longs for a time and country that no longer exist. “Let’s Discover America,” would be a better slogan. If you think back to when we were in school and first learned about Columbus and all the other explorers, we were learning about the discovery of America. That has been the hallmark of this country; the continuous discovery of who we are and what we have to contribute. There is no “GREAT AGAIN,” there is no going back to our “glorious past”. There is only the discovery of what we are today.

 Like any great business you would start with the fissures and the cracks and see what needs to be done. You would examine the product and see if it’s still current and viable. You wouldn’t keep trying to upsell something that people stopped buying long ago. The very fact that Donald Trump has so much traction is just a statement of the times, it’s not a statement of the man; the fact that he does not know that difference is a statement of the country. People come into power by being in the right place at the right time with the right pathology. Without Bush there would be no Obama, and without the advent of everyone thinking they’re special there could be no Facebook.

 People are concerned about the direction the country is going in; that’s like being concerned about gravity and thinking you have something to say about it as you jump off a cliff. To demand change, you must first understand how we got here. You must tear down the rotting structures and start to rebuild with a strong foundation. It’s not sexy, but it’s real. To pivot a great change would require the country to be unified, pulling in the same direction. It would require collective sacrifice. It would require trading in short term gratification for long term vision. Getting that all to happen would be the equivalent to wresting a bone out of a rabid dog’s mouth. We are a country consumed with self and have no ability to distinguish fact from fiction. We truly believe celebrities are our friends. No matter what anyone says we will believe what we want to believe, regardless of whether it’s true or not. Even though this will land on deaf ears, Mr. Trump, just because you’re married to someone who is good-looking, it doesn’t mean you are.


It's the Heart that Matters More

There are all kinds of documented testimonials about how the heart had to bypass all kinds of logic, geometry and physics in order to make something extraordinary happen.  There is the science and the controversy about what is the physical controlling factor in the human body. Is it the brain? Is it the heart? Depending on how you are wired, depends on how you look at life.  If you more logical, the brain is what you listen to and if you are more romantic or creative you listen to your heart.

I had a massive heart attack six years ago and then had an incident just a few months ago that required an angioplasty and a stent.  I have always been known for my heart, and if I look at my family and all the heart disease and death that’s resulted from vulnerable hearts, it makes sense. Our family crest should have been one, big, broken heart. 

I now have a very intimate relationship with my heart. It’s quite personal, loving and fragile, and we speak to each other all the time. I have asked so much of my heart and I demand so much of it on a daily basis.  Our relationship was pretty one-sided for so long. I treated my heart the way I treated most of my relationships…that they were there to serve me.  No wonder that there was pushback and an angry heart but also like my other relationships, my heart has hung in there giving me more chances to do the right thing and be the person that I say I want to be.

People have asked me if I am afraid due the damage in my heart and I say “No”, I actually feel more in tune, more courageous than ever because I am in love with my heart. The good, the damaged, the majesty of it all.  I am also in love with other’s hearts and as human beings that is truly what we respond to the magnificence of when one is true to themselves, which means being true to your heart.

Some interesting facts:

·      Your heart beats 101,000 times a day. During your lifetime it will beat about 3 billion times and pump about 800 million pints of blood or about 1 million barrels -that’s enough to fill more than 3 super tankers.

·      Blood takes about 20 seconds to circulate throughout the entire vascular system.

·      A typical athlete’s heart churns out up to 8 gallons of blood per minute. 

·      Your system of blood vessels - arteries, veins and capillaries - is over 60,000 miles long. That’s long enough to go around the world more than twice!

·      The heart produces enough energy every day to drive a truck for 20mi.

·      Your heartbeat changes and mimics the music you listen to…

·      Couples who are in Love synchronize their heart rates after gazing into each other’s eyes… 


Happy Valentines Day.



 



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