Reflections, the Serenity Prayer & 2016
2015 was about control. 2016 is about wisdom.
I have been attempting to write a blog post for the past week or so, thinking it is the right time for reflection as one year closes out and another begins. This is my third attempt and regardless of whether I feel it is worthy or not, I am going to post it, if for no other reason than to put me out of my (short-term) writing misery.
In trying to frame what I wanted to write about and what I thought might resonate with anyone reading it, I kept asking myself the question of “what have you learned this year that can be applied to not just the new year but also the way in which you structure, approach or otherwise navigate your life in general?” Pretty simple, right?
It finally occurred to me that the good old standby of the Serenity Prayer is probably the best way to organize my thoughts. You are more than likely familiar with this one. The basic gist is “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is really the best advice I have ever come across.
So here it goes:
The things I cannot change (and am still learning to accept):
People judge by appearances. They just do. This doesn’t mean that their perceptions can’t be modified, and even, in some cases, relatively quickly, but take it from me, when your hair is longer, people think of you differently than when it is shorter. When you’re at the airport with jeans and a t-shirt, security looks at you differently than when you’re wearing a suit jacket. When you’re divorced, some people treat you differently. It just is.
People will have preconceived notions about you and what your capabilities are based on nothing that has to do with reality. Whether at my day job or on the comedy circuit, I have come across people who either thought their work was too complex for me to understand, the comedy business was too messed up for me to have a place in, or personally, lawyers were too “in charge” for me to challenge them. These were based on nothing other than a) what was (or was not) on my resume or what they thought I actually did or knew, b) something someone “heard” about me or c) pure ignorance. Let me repeat – almost every single time this happened, it was relayed to me on behalf of someone who barely spent any time speaking with me. I cannot control this. Maybe it’s a function of our 140 character, twitterized society or maybe it’s human nature. I don’t know. I am also no longer angry about it. I can, however, control the way in which I respond which is best when it is in the “no response” category. The best way to prove who you are is to just do it. It won’t happen in time for someone to give you that work assignment, that gig or even acknowledge that you caught a huge mistake despite their law degree…but it happens.
Time will not stop or slow down – ever. The idea of capturing every moment as time moves faster and faster will not stop the fact that kids and parents grow older, not to mention ourselves. You will look back and wonder where time went. You will see a picture of yourself and think “why was I so hard on myself?” You will reflect on something and wish you did it differently. You will think about your future and wonder if you have time to do something grand. And as you do this, another minute, 5 minutes, day or even year has passed. It’s great to be organized. It’s helpful to have lists. It’s good to have a plan. But it’s even better to just do something – anything.
Some people do have an easier time of it than others. Maybe it’s because of their DNA, their upbringing, a better perspective or luck. It doesn’t matter. This is not in our control. We have no control over anyone nor their situation any more than they do over us; even our children – we are simply here to guide as best we can. We can start to control the degree to which “ease” can enter our lives. Do we react or respond? Do we do the hard work of exercising and watching what we eat, at least a couple times per week or do we put it off? Do we challenge our thoughts and how we judge ourselves or keep playing the same script over and over? This is a lot harder to do than looking at the relative ease to which others seem to navigate the world compared to ourselves. But it’s the only control we really have, not to mention a lot more realistic as we never really know what someone else is going through.
The things I can change (and am finding courage to do):
Relationships – with others and with myself. Disappointment is a difficult prospect for me. I enjoy helping people, being part of a team and generally, seeing people succeed. However, I have come to learn that, regardless of whether it is deliberate or not (and it usually is not), being around people who cannot keep their word is a source of profound disappointment for me. This goes for me, as well. I feel especially bummed when I have made a pact with myself to complete something, respond in a certain way or manage something positively that did not go the way I had intended. I am finding the courage to be more vocal with those that I may not have been vocal with in the past and respectfully articulate my feelings while taking responsibility for the fact that they do belong to me. This is hard for me because it may compromise friendships or prospects, but it is required. I also am trying to find the courage to both hold myself more accountable for learning when things do not go the way I had planned as well as being kinder to myself for failing, or perceiving to have failed.
Moving toward minimalism. I am not joining a cult or about to embark on a process to cull my belongings down to whatever I can carry in a backpack but I am purging like never before. Throwing things out doesn’t necessarily take courage but throwing out associated feelings of the past does. This is a delicate balance in acknowledging those parts of you that maybe you are not as proud of or wish were not there but were and then saying, “it’s ok.” I have a quote that was sent to me hanging on my bathroom mirror that represents this perfectly. It is from Eric Roth, who wrote the screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is as follows: “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” 3. FOMO – You may be familiar with this. It means “Fear Of Missing Out.” For me, I realize that social media has played into this fear a lot. I have written about my love/hate relationship with Facebook (actually, just hate) and over the past 2 weeks, I have significantly reduced my time on Facebook to maybe twice a day and for just a couple of minutes to see if I got any messages. I can absolutely control the amount of time I spend on social media AND the FOMO attitude that kept drawing me there in the first place. 4. Where I live, at least metaphorically. I am tied to where I am living right now until my daughter graduates, which will be here sooner than it may seem. I am eager to move geographically, for many reasons, and spent a lot of time in 2015 lamenting about how if I could only move physically, I might get the fresh (or fresher) start I was longing for. I realized last year that where I reside had very little to do with where I spent my time, with family, friends or alone. Without sounding too “new agey”, there are people who live in big cities and never leave their apartments and people who live in small towns and have networks with global reaches. I know I can change the scope of my network and my capabilities by focusing less on where I live and more on what (and where) lives within me.
Now…as for the wisdom to know the difference…that’s a big part of 2016.
As an aside, since I keep long lists on my cell phone of books, movies, articles, music, etc. that I want to get to, I thought I’d start a “Recommendation of the Blog” section at the end of each blog that you might want to check out, also.
So, here is the first one. Recommendation of the Blog – If you haven’t seen it, check out the documentary “Inside Job” about the 2008 financial crisis – by far the most clear, organized and thorough explanation of the players, dynamics and history that led up to the crisis and how it was all connected.
I wish for you a serene 2016 and until next time, Marc
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