Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tune In Tomorrow

Among the most interesting aspects of working in soaps was the degree to which the story (both the fictional one and the behind the scenes one) changed each day. In the fictional world, a character might suddenly end up with a different partner or be played by a different actor. On the behind the scenes side, a challenging day with one set of producers and directors might be followed by a simple day that made you wonder how you had actually survived the previous one. But, because of how quickly things could change, you could be fairly sure that the frustrations of one day could be shelved the next. You might not be able to say "all is forgiven," (anybody remember the short-lived soap-based sitcom of this name?), but you could (and pretty much had to) put your experience of the previous day behind you and move on. Predicted a scene timing wrong? There would be 50 more tomorrow. Didn't get the exact shot you wanted at the exact time? There would be hundreds more shots to come. Didn't see eye to eye with the day's director? There would be a different director tomorrow.

So, while soaps seemed to be--and largely were--an ongoing endeavor, they actually taught me a bit about how temporary things are. Most days, we have experiences we'd like to erase. And many days, all it takes is waiting till tomorrow to do that. We make mistakes, we are beaten down by the people we encounter, we face challenges that can feel beyond us. But, just like on a soap, a new day makes a difference. Just like on a soap, we have the chance to start all over--or at least try something different. We simply have to be willing to put one episode behind us, and move on to the next. And to stay tuned for the next set of pictures on our screen.

Monday, December 5, 2016


My heart skips a beat as I read about the settlement of the Prospect Park/ABC suit over All My Children and One Life to Live, and the return of the rights to the shows to ABC. What kind of soapster would I be, after all, if such news didn't make my ears perk up, at least a little? How could I not care about how the transfer of rights will affect something that was my life for so long?

The end of the lawsuit, and the transfer of rights, will likely mean nothing, except for the network's ability now to use the shows' characters for other shows if they so choose. The likelihood that production of All My Children and One Life to Live would resume is minimal. But the news does make me (and I'm sure a lot of other Lifers) wonder...

Would the shows be able to find an audience after all this time, and by what means?

Would the format, and its production model, actually be sustainable in the current television market?

Would the genre feel outdated, or would it be updated, or would it actually fit right in--just like the soap episode you watch after having not watched for weeks?

Would the canvas be filled with former characters, now at completely different places in their lives?

Would the crew be filled with former soapsters, now at completely different places in their lives?

I guess that last question is the one I wonder about the most. When Prospect Park revived the shows, it wasn't immediate, as originally planned, but it was soon enough after their demise on ABC that countless production people were still trying to find their way, and were thrilled at not just the return of the genre, but at the prospect (no pun intended) of long-term work. 

It has been a long time since that blip on the radar. Resilient as always, we soapsters have moved on--to other genres, to new endeavors, to distant locations. Out of both psychological and financial necessity, we have made new lives, lives interesting in all sorts of ways. So, if the opportunity arose, how many of us would really go back?

The opportunity is unlikely, so the question is really just an exercise. But sometimes, the exercise is what we need in order to understand just where we are and what we want. The truth is, if my phone rang tomorrow saying we could be back to the soaps, I'm not sure what I'd do.

And I suppose that is what they call a real cliffhanger...

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Never Before

I am twenty-five plus years into my time in New York, and I have never seen the Radio City Christmas show. There have been years when I've thought about it, and years when I thought right past it, and somehow, decades have gone by without my joining the crowds of holiday-clad people at one of the city's most famous theatres.

Among the wacky things about New York City is that, despite its myriad museums, sites, and cultural attractions, it is also just a place where people make their lives. On a day to day basis, life is about going to work and picking up children. Our weekend options may be different because we live in New York City, but weekends are still filled with negotiation over kids' activities and household chores, choices between all-out weekend fun and hours of accomplishing homework assignments.

I still haven't seen the Christmas show. But this weekend, I spent the better part of a day--more time, perhaps, than I have in twenty-five years put together--in Central Park, another NYC landmark. Aside from walkathons in my early working days, and a few field trips when my kids were deep into their "Central Park Study," at school, I have pretty much considered it "someone else's park," a big, beautiful thing for the bikers and the runners and the Upper West and Upper East Siders. But this time (full disclosure, thanks to a kid and to Pokemon Go), I spent hours walking, and taking in the scenery and architecture of the place and the city around it. What got me there was the kid and the game, but what "got me" was the juxtaposition of city and nature that I suddenly had the chance to enjoy. For those few hours, it was my park too.

Sometimes, "never before" doesn't necessarily have to mean "never." And sometimes, the door to what you've never done opens in the most unexpected ways--with the most unexpected results...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I Am For...

You can cry for what you haven't done, or you can sing for what you have.

You can bemoan the times when you didn't go somewhere, or you can celebrate the times when you did.

You can allow yourself to be trapped by what others want, or you can choose to fly to what you want.

You can squander an hour, or you can savor it.

You can do what you do every day, or you can make today different.

You can be only the "you" that's expected, or you can be the "you" that goes beyond the expectations.

You can live in the past, or you can face the present.

You can focus on just the present, or you can look toward the future.

You can be for everyone, most of the time. But sometimes, sometimes, you have to be for yourself...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Never Eat Alone

I go to dinner with some former coworkers, at which one of the topics of discussion is "never eat alone," the idea being that every meal is an opportunity to expand your network, your knowledge, and your world view--if you eat with someone else.

I suppose this idea is not so different from my having tried to "have coffee" with people when I was out of work. Not only does sharing a meal or having coffee expand your network, it keeps you from living an isolated existence, no matter what your current employment or financial status.

While I was once quite committed to the "have coffee" idea, fairly steady work and the preservation of the schedule and energy to maintain that work have come to change my focus. When given the choice, I often opt for the control of the "alone" situation, rather than the risk of the "never alone" scenario. As we continue the "never eat alone" conversation, however, I realize that putting yourself out there, even when there is not the imminent need for connection, is still important, and still empowering. When you eat (or even just drink coffee) with someone else, you open yourself to different viewpoints and different opportunities. When you "don't eat alone," you situate yourself not just for how things are now, but for how they might be if circumstances should change five minutes or five months from now.

I'll admit, often my "never eat alone" company will be my family. While that's not really the intention of the instruction, family too can provide perspective that munching alone just can't.

It took a leap for me to go to the dinner where I had the opportunity to discuss "never eating alone." Often, it is a lot easier to face just a plate in front of us, rather than a person across from us. But when we try never to eat alone, we transform the meal into much more than just a little nourishment. It becomes the source of the kind of energy that helps sustain us going forward.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Did you ever wish you could wipe the thoughts from your head, even just temporarily? It's an attractive thought--it would mean not having to remember our setbacks or stress about the situations we can't change. It would mean sleeping when we need to sleep and focusing when we need to focus. It would mean not allowing reminiscing about the past or anticipating the future to intrude upon acting on the now. It would make so many things easier.

Most of us, however, are not built that way. We can't just turn off our concerns about our day in order to sleep in preparation for tomorrow. We can't just pretend that our yesterdays didn't happen, just because we are now removed from them. And, though I'd like it be easier to sleep when I want to and move ahead when I'd like, I realize that I accomplish because I let my mind work when it needs to. I can face moving toward the future because I use what I learned in the past.

All of the thoughts and worries and plans can make it hard to sleep, leaving me, well, wiped. But without them, I am just a fraction of what they make me. And re-learning what they have to teach me could be pretty exhausting. So, I keep them. I own them. And, when necessary, I shelve them, but only temporarily. Because in the end, there's not so much to gain from being wiped.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Today. Just Today.

It's a good idea to build a closet containing all the right clothes for all the right occasions. But sometimes it's more important just to make sure we are comfortable today.

It is useful to make a plan to sleep right. But sometimes, it's more important just to make sure we sleep enough today.

It is good to have a game plan. But sometimes, it's more important just to play the game (and play to win) today.

We can try to prepare for weather, prepare for crisis, prepare for the unknown. But sometimes, it's more important just to stay dry today.

We can spend time and energy analyzing the "best way," but sometimes, the "best way" is simply what works today.

We can plan for the future and long for the past, but we will ultimately be stuck if we don't embrace (or at least face) today.

There is so much for us to try to do, try to see, try to be. But often, all we really need to worry about is today. Just today.