Funny thing about us in Emergencies

If you read or listen to the news on a fairly regular basis you may have come to the conclusion that we’ve become a group of angry, divisive, name-calling sects, busily elbowing each other out of line, judging each other’s moral and mental capacities and losing that old, dependable sense of connection that used to mean being an American. Yes, we were always different from each other but we were always still related, allied, unified as Americans. Remember?

Then along comes Irene. And those hard, thorny, judgmental shells get peeled back to reveal— we’re all still connected. Connected by that most durable, eternal thread— our shared humanity. Everywhere we saw just folks rushing to rescue total strangers. Putting their own lives in jeopardy simply because they could feel the link. Their empathy and concern born out of the simple, innate human emotions we’re all born with. And suddenly we got to view that old American arm-in-armness that has been so sorely missing these last couple of years.

Of course folks like Rep. Eric Cantor couldn’t lose the opportunity to exhort us that FEMA – busy saving lives and property but spending money to do it —has to be considered one those evil government- spending programs that must be cut back in order to save money. Rather than asking the super-rich to kick in more revenue to solve our growing insolvency, certain politicians still see the human services our government provides as unnecessary, indulgent and only adding to the weakness of our economy rather than being the basic fabric of our society, grounded in our country’s founding principles.

So—does it have to take hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and blackouts for us to rise to showing the best in us? And what will it take to move the hearts of those members of Congress who worship the almighty dollar and the bottom line more than our universally basic human needs. Needs we all share, we who are lucky enough to be part of this country whose foundations were built on answering those human needs— freedom of speech and of worship ,from want and from fear.

What’s with Making New Year’s Resolutions?

Just as sure as that ball drops at midnight on December 31st, we all feel, come January 1, that we need to find something about ourselves we have to fix or change.

Why? Think about it. What a tough way to start the New Year—to scrutinize where we’ve failed, how we haven’t measured up. Makes us start what should be the bright and promising adventure of a New Year by shining an internal spotlight on what we didn’t do; that who we are or how we’ve behaved or how we compare with others or our own ideals is not just not good enough.

Why do we burden our outlook on the New Year that way? Instead of looking at the calendar with all those nice empty pages with anticipation —wondering what will fill them, what new discoveries we’ll make, what will surprise us, how we can rise to a new challenge— we hang the albatross of a test around our necks. And a test that most people notoriously fail at. The media fills that first week with “How to keep your New Year’s Resolution”, underlining that we’re expected to fail.  What a great way to sail into the future. Not only knowing what’s wrong with us and where we need to improve but knowing that we’ve tried and failed before and probably will again…

How about giving ourselves a break? How about adding up last year with its disappointments and its shortcomings and saying “Phew! Glad that’s over with. Let’s see what a New Year will bring.” And believing that whatever comes, we can handle it. That there will be opportunities to rise to new occasions. That what we learned last year will help us make better moves this year and that we even have it within us to change what we think we would want to.

Discovery and Excitement in a New Career

So you dream and … you dare. You dare to drop what you know, what you’ve always done, what your secure niche feels like – and you strike out into unknown territory. Into your next field of dreams. For me- acting.

Even more than fear, I was swamped with the idea of chutzpah—the “What do you think you’re doing? Who are you to enter this deep, professionally-trained world- with all  its experienced, well-accepted players? “ But the energy behind the curiosity, the drive behind the dream, pushed me, headlong, to defy logic and take the leap—guts aflutter.

The first audition? Secretly roaring with laughter at myself, I notice that others seems to take me seriously… They don’t know! And I go on… They seemed to like what I’m doing!

And so I begin to act- to audition- to learn- to stick my neck out. To memorize! Is the old brain gonna let me do this- easily – like when I was a kid?  I do various smallish parts and then I get cast in a play. A play I have to carry- as the star ! A play that in so many ways reflects my own life. And raises some of the questions all of us ask ourselves as we get older… And I discover what an honor it is to bring some answers to others. To add my insights into this common experience of “Is that all there is? What have I missed? What else is out there for me to taste, to test, to explore?”

The play is so good that it starts winning at festivals. And I get to explore how many ways the words carry me—how differently I do it each time. And I think back to all my interviewing years on my talk show when I naïvely asked great actors “Don’t you get tired of doing the play over and over?” Now I know. Never! It’s all about the adventure. The daily doing – of passionately investing in becoming another soul– breeds discovery. And I revel in and reflect on it, each time.

Thanks for having the guts, Sonya. For daring the leap, for listening to the burning curiosity, and for not being afraid to reach and grow—even this late in your life…  To all of you— go. Do. Try. It’s waiting for you- another place to grow and discover and find new fulfillment. Don’t miss it!

When City-ites go to the Country

Ah, the summer. The time when people think about some kind of vacation. getaway, weekend trip.  I’ve gone from city to country for the summer and have been reflecting on what happens to us city-dwellers when we’re surrounded by trees, not skyscrapers.

First- the shock of silence. Where can city-dwellers experience silence? Our lives are so intense, so filled with rush and roar and irrelevant sounds that intrude on most everything we do. But here the focus is on what different sounds wind and birds and water make. Natural sounds. Not shrill, staccato, grating, banging, clanging, generic noise. The silence makes you notice and breathe and finally turn inward, to listen to your own thoughts.

Then—space. Look at the horizon! When do we city-ites ever get a chance to see or even remember that? How that long look at the foreverness of the earth changes your perspective on what you, and life, are really all about.

And – time. The pace of how you function changes so radically. How easy it is to get from place to place here. And how much slower everyone operates. Time enough to chat with the clerk at the supermarket. To consider when and how you have your meals.  Time enough to read, to talk, to look, to think – even to change plans and zig when you thought you would zag.

But most of all- experiencing the different attitude of people towards each other. You secretly think “how nice the service people are – they ask and discuss, even smile…”  There is a recognition and acceptance of the fact that we’re all in this together- that we each need a little room and a little neighborly nod and some decency as we ply our time on this earth together.

Sure, we city-dwellers need to live where we do, to strive and grow and explore what we can accomplish. To enjoy and admire what people can create, even as it costs us personally. But there’s nothing like getting back to nature to find out what else really counts and what we’re missing