Saturday, April 30, 2016

Games of Chance

We enter a ticket lottery. We play an arcade game (or 2 or 65). We buy raffle tickets, believing we might acquire a valuable item for just a dollar. Once in a while, we win. More often, we lose. But not much seems to deter us from taking the chance again.

It could be argued that we have wasted all sorts of time and money on results that will never be. Yet, I would prefer to argue that we have invested in possibility. After all, isn't every resume we send into the world at least in part a game of chance? Aren't most of our excursions to places we've never seen an iffy proposition? Isn't every match we play or competition we enter at least a little bit affected by chance? If we were to do, move, or act only on the "sure things," only on the things that we could truly control, would we really do very much in our lives? If we never took a chance, how much of a chance would we really have?

We can play it safe, or we can take a chance. We can kick in a bit of pocket change and walk away with something more valuable, or simply the thrill of having played. Each time we walk out the door (and even when we don't), we can be entering a game of chance. It's up to us whether we choose to play only the chances we have to, or the ones we enjoy as well.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Autopilot

I take the same steps or the same train or the same snacks for a few days in a row, and I begin to believe they could become a habit.
 

I eat the same breakfast at the same time each day, and I begin to believe I could do it with my eyes closed.
 

I hear the same "Do your homework," "No more screens," "Clean up your room" come out of my mouth, and I begin to believe I might as well be pre-recorded.
 

I go through the motions of job and hygiene and parenthood, some days while my brain is busy thinking completely different thoughts, and I begin to believe that my autopilot must work pretty well.
 

Believe me, my life is far from the mindless existence I have described here. But sometimes, it is a relief to have parts of your life that you've done so many times, you don't have to think through every moment. Sometimes, it is refreshing to put on the autopilot and let your brain take an excursion to great thoughts, or simply different surroundings.
 

Sure, drive actively, with both eyes on the road and your foot on the pedal most of the time. But make sure to keep your autopilot in working order--you never know when it will come in very handy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Independent

More and more often, I am reading that former colleagues, either on their own or with other former colleagues, are making movies, and web series, and plays, and pilots. Not only do they have ideas, they also have the drive to pull together the financial and human resources to see their projects to fruition. In a world in which we are so often just pieces of a bigger puzzle, they have managed, at least for a time, to be independent.
 

I used to think that independence was about having your own ideas, about creating and developing original content. Yet, while there is most certainly independence in that, the ultimate independence is in being to execute those ideas. It is fantastic to have ideas, but without the wherewithal--be it organizational or financial or logistical--to bring those ideas to life, they are simply file cards in your head.
 

As a person who has spent years with numerous file cards in my head, I cheer those who are getting it out and getting it done. Not only are they employing, for simple satisfaction or for pay, many amazing people with whom I have worked, they are filling screens and stages with new and interesting options for all of us. And they are reminding us, while we sometimes are just getting by, how important it is sometimes to be independent.

Vacationful

My kids are determined to do all sorts of exciting things on their vacation. We are not away, as I am working, but nonetheless, they have no intention of letting this time slip by without their accomplishing great things.

As I struggle to keep up with their wants and needs (between the naps I have to take to survive working overnights), I remind them that not every vacation can be wall-to-wall fun-filled. But then, I think of all the uneventful days I took off from One Life to Live (or any job, for that matter). The truth is, there have been very few of them. As a freelancer (i.e., a person who makes money only when she works), I have for years remained reluctant to take off days just to sit around. On the contrary, days off have been for occasions, for appointments, and for parent-teacher conferences. They have been for trips for some or all of us. They have been when I was too sick (and that's pretty sick) to work.

And so, perhaps it is not that surprising that my kids are looking for more than just down-time from their busy schedules. They are looking for the full value of their time off, whether that means seeing friends or exploring places off their beaten track. There will be time for just time--for now, I guess they figure there are better things to do.

Have they been listening to or watching me all these years? Or is it simply seeing friends on vacation? Are they destined to become tied-to-their-work freelancers, as I have been, or will they actually be better at taking time just for the sake of time?

I grab a coffee and muster the energy to up the vacation game. And maybe along the way, I am learning a little bit from them about using time to the fullest when I have it...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

And The Dust Clears...

It has been a week since my daughter's star turn, and the flowers she received are reminding my sinuses daily that it is time to move on. But knowing and doing can be two very different things. It feels much safer to cling on to the good that has passed than to face the unknown that is ahead. It feels much better to celebrate what has been accomplished than to jump into new challenges.

But in the spirit of clearing the dust, I toss some of the flowers that have died. In the spirit of facing the new, I unload bags of clothes from former lives. In the spirit of moving on, I try to focus on the events of today, rather than dwell on the events of a week ago.

Don't be fooled--this is not easy. Shedding the past, whether it is the past of a week ago or the past of 20+ years, calls upon us to let go, at least a little, of the good, and to make peace with the not so good. Letting go of the past can make us feel both lighter and emptier at the same time. But if we are to move forward, to be able to savor the present, we can't cling too tightly to what is past, whether that is clothes that once fit, or a moment that once consumed us.

In the midst of my letting go, a video of my daughter's show appears, and I absorb and share it with glee. But the elimination of dead flowers and non-fitting clothes continues, and little by little, the dust clears...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Past Over

One of my favorite things about Passover is the opportunity to talk to family members we don't often get to see. Over course after course of traditional (and sometimes not so traditional) food, we catch each other up on work and kids' activities and just where we stand in the world since the last time we saw each other. If I am lucky, we play a kind of musical chairs as dinner goes on, so that my conversation partners change constantly. With so many different points of view, I inevitably come away from the meal with not only a full stomach, but also a wide variety of new perspectives on almost any issue over which I have been puzzling. Sometimes, I am doing a completely different job than I was the last time I saw people. Often, I am handling an entirely different parenting challenge. Whatever the circumstances, presenting them to new listeners both makes me hear them differently and makes me see more clearly what they mean.
 

It has been many years now since my conversation was about the demise of the soaps, and perhaps it is actually because of that passage of time that I have come to appreciate Passover conversations so much. In some small way, my life has become one of constant movement and change, much like the story of Passover. So, while every day, it may feel as though I have settled in, each year, I have the opportunity to assess where I have been and where I am going. The past may be over, but my Passover conversations always manage to remind me that there is a future. And that I can, if I choose, actually have control of that future. And that is part of the festive meal that sends me home each year feeling very full indeed.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spinning Support

I stand, holding a somewhat ridiculous looking pole with a ball-like structure on its end. And over and over, my son wallops the ball-like structure, often sending me spinning until it is time for the next hit. It is almost worthy of a video, but I'm sure it is not nearly as funny on a little screen as it is in my head. Either way, for a split second in time, I am able to contribute to something one of my kids likes to do.
 

We spend years hoping that our children will find a passion, that they will discover activities that they love (and that we can manage and afford). And then, when they do, we are faced with supporting them in those endeavors--attending performances and games, attempting to keep up in conversations about topics far beyond our own knowledge, and sometimes, even helping with practice. It can be dizzying. And in this case, it literally was, as the force of the bat against the practice pole sent me spinning more than once. But how many of us are where we are now because someone hung in with us? How many of us were able to pursue our passions because someone--or a series of someones--supported us financially or emotionally to get us where we wanted to go? It isn't always easy to hold that "practice pole." But sometimes, it is the putting ourselves out there, the allowing ourselves to be spun around a little, that lets us really understand. Sometimes, it is the allowing ourselves to be immersed, even just for a moment, that enables our kids to step closer to their goals.
 

So, as I whirl around, spun by a bat swing that gets stronger and stronger, I am glad to be a part, holding steady the pole that helps support a child's dream.