Tag Archives: observations

Grass That’s Greener

courtHaving watched an inordinate amount of Wimbledon this year, I couldn’t help but draw some strong disparities between real life and “superstar life.” There seems to be a widening chasm between the haves and have nots, and that trend is harshly reflected in society. But, maybe this microcosm lends itself to some further investigation.

As I observed these incredibly gifted athletes achieving feats that I dreamed about as a boy, my mind drifted into a mode of nostalgic possibility. I thought about how different my path would have been if I had the means and discipline required to compete at that level. I contemplated the ceaseless mental stamina and physical training, and I wondered if I could have survived the harsh rigors of a perpetual world tour.

But, inside the bubble, the perfect painting has much less sheen. These professionals are subjected to a barrage of interviews, public appearances, press conferences, endorsement obligations, travel tribulations, and the balancing act of living each moment under a microscope.

Anyone who is able to attain the highest levels in a particular field is scrutinized, but it seems athletes’ and actors’ shoulders are saddled with the heaviest loads. There is a stiff price to pay for the privilege of standing in the spotlight, and many people don’t realize how hot that beam can burn.

So, far and away from the mountains of money and elite social gatherings, I am grateful to be able to preserve my anonymity. Yes, there are countless benefits to being hyper successful, personally fulfilled, and globally revered. But, those don’t come without a significant price tag.

It’s easy to sit in a current state of mind and gaze longingly at someone else’s world. The irony is that they may be staring right back.

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The Defuser

photo (3)How many fires could be extinguished with the careful incorporation of a few reassuring words? How often do we choose to escalate an argument or disagreement, as opposed to neutralizing the issue with empathetic understanding? Why does it feel so good to win, and why does arriving at a mutually-beneficial compromise seem like defeat?

Those who have been engaged in a heated debate with me will surely disagree, but I have found that a keen understanding of what makes people tick will allow cooler heads to prevail.

I can credit my communication courses at Ithaca for building a foundation that has helped me navigate a world of blundering inefficiency and repetitive false expectations with relative ease.

Granted, there is generally more success found with strangers than loved ones, but the tools required for the job are the same. The implementation varies wildly, and that mostly has to do with the level of secession I’m willing to grant.

It’s not about sucking wind from sails or puncturing balloons. The beauty of disarming a bomb lies in the subtlety of the technique. People simply want to be heard. They like to feel that their words have weight.

It may be important to identify with another viewpoint or particular stance to establish common ground, and this is often the most difficult and most uncomfortable part. But, when two staunch debaters are face to face with opposing beliefs, there can be little accomplished in the way of progress or resolution. No one responds to shouting or antagonism.

Remaining even-keeled and not allowing yourself to get rattled will prevent the altercation from escalating, but playing into the other person’s hands will also pull some steam from the ship. No middle ground is found when two people are sprinting in opposite directions.

It’s also important to know your audience. Screaming at a customer service representative over some piece of miscommunication does very little to accomplish anything other than release tension through personal venting. These people don’t own the company and they have no great interest in the value of the stock. They’re simply doing a job and trying to pay the bills. Let’s not make their days miserable for no reason.

Open ears and an open mind can do wonders when it comes to a squabble. We need to give a little to get a lot. It’s not always pleasant, but it feels a lot better than the alternative.

Winning isn’t winning when someone’s left in tears.

Puppet Shows for All the People

photo (2)Is life an illusion?

Now, I’m not asking this in a Matrix-y, alien-controlled consciousness kind of way. But, the more I step back to observe modern society and the dance we all do for each other, the more I see the green screen.

There’s an inherent irony in the fact that we crave reality and authenticity, but seem to do everything in our power to present ourselves in a wholly contrived and artificial light. This goes beyond stiffly posed selfies and the artifice of our various social networks. There are examples everywhere.

I spend a lot of time on sets, so I get to see the wizard behind the curtain on a regular basis. Still, each time I watch an actor or product in extreme closeup, only to see an army of disinterested crew members sleepily checking their phones or watching the clock, it’s hard to invest in the emotional stock of an actress with tears streaming down her face.

It’s all about framing, but I suppose we crave this type of art forgery because we keep buying. Audiences at live tapings coaxed to holler and scream at the most mundane jokes, the epilepsy-inducing graphics at sporting events, or “reality” shows cut and edited to the point of absurdity have all become so commonplace that any version of something substantial is merely a filtered illusion.

We are hyper engaged and video crazed, and real life moves way too slowly. Instant gratification at breakneck broadband speeds and temporary comprehension are the trends of the day.

Now, I admit I’m the first to jump on a technological bandwagon, but this is only the roller coaster climb. We’re not slowing down and we’re not asking for a return to accuracy or purity. We hunger for the fireworks and we like to believe people can be superheroes. But if the gimmicks get us through the day, who am I to argue? Life is tough enough.

I guess it’s time to go live vicariously through more of the French Open.

Stealing Minutes

burglarSometimes I have to remind myself to live in the moment. Because my chosen lifestyle and profession make me think I’m stuck on a treadmill without any definable destination, there’s an inclination to believe that life will always be full of possibilities. The road will always be open and the friendships and established relationships will always exist in the same form and manner to which I’m accustomed.

This notion is utterly false.

Although I have been lucky enough to physically feel the same for the last 10 years, the clock has not remained static. The people in my life have floated in and out, teaching me lessons or satisfying some temporary void. The few, concrete alliances have grown at much the same rate and in similar fashions, further blurring the hands of time. So, a general sense of limitless deadlines has remained intact.

I’m reminded of the Billy Joel lyrics, “This is the time to remember, cause it will not last forever. These are the days to hold on to, ‘cause we won’t, although we’ll want to. This is the time. But, time is gonna change. I know we’ve got to move somehow. But I don’t want to lose you now.”

Taking a second to fully embrace the events around me—knowing that everything can change in an instant—is going to be my mission. I see most of my memories with crimson-colored spectacles, but I have the bad habit of observing the present, as opposed to living in it.

Although I’d like to think of life as a boundless stretch of open road, the reality is that the opportunities to accomplish my dreams or savor shared experiences do not live in a vacuum. People will ultimately settle into whatever existence they’ve created for themselves, and that plan may or may not include me.

Everything happens for a reason…whether to teach us lessons or push us into particular directions. I don’t worry about a dismal future, but I know that an uncharted tomorrow will take a very different shape than the familiarity of today. That’s all part of the puzzle. The challenge is finding a better way to solve it.

Coincidentally Cool

coolCoincidence is “the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident, but seem to have some connection.” But, how much of what we believe is accidental is simply an energetic or universal pull toward a specific outcome? Can we manifest results through the catalyst of our subconscious and its ability to focus so throughly on some predetermined consequence that we are fooled into believing we are the orchestrators of our own fate?

There are strong arguments on both sides of the debate because what we deem to be coincidental can be so unfathomably absurd that we’re left searching for explanations to justify the illogicality of anything that appears to dance in the space between hard-nosed facts and dreamlike fantasy.

Mystics will look to the Earth’s more magical properties, just as religious zealots  will point to their blind devotion and faith-driven divinity as justifications for anything that sits outside of conventional knowledge.

But, what if we all harnessed the ability to construct our destinies? What if, somewhere in the untapped territories of our brain, existed the tools necessary to write our own blueprints, and build individualized templates? Could we avoid a life of pitfalls, blunders, and misunderstandings?

Irony is a powerful concept and the bevy of impossibilities that consistently defy probability is part of what makes life worth exploring. If walking in the sand was only about following footprints, we’d likely feel the void of uncertainties and a desperate lack of adventure.

Until we resolve the dispute of whether or not we are merely mice on a maze, running tirelessly toward preordained cheese, let’s marvel in the coincidental nature of the human playground. Maybe we are assembled with safeguards to protect ourselves from excessive rates of evolution. Maybe we’re not meant to know anything more than how many monkey bar swings we have left in our limbs…at least for now.

The Beauty of Authenticity

MASKMost of us walk through the world craving truth and validity, wearing masks to hide our intentions and insecurities. We post pictures capturing flashes of how we’d like to be perceived, and delete anything that might prove contradictory. We manufacture images built from aspirational notions, and hope no one notices the holes in our Swiss cheese.

It’s a high-wire routine, and many times we’re left swaying on a safety net—feeling anything but safe—and wondering how we fell. But, what if we removed the mirage and abandoned the ruse? What if we stopped filtering our words and screening our thoughts?

The consequences would be disastrous, right? How would we manipulate one another, gaining what we want by leaving a trail of unsuspecting victims in our path? How else could we construct perfect alibis and hide honest opinions inside of false compliments?

I’m not claiming this transition would succeed without bruises, and I don’t know if it’s even feasible in a technologically translucent society. But, beating the bedrock to expose a fallacious foundation may not be the worst use of our united efforts.

Games are fun, and they serve their purpose at birthday parties, baby showers, and wine-guzzling get-togethers. But, an existence safeguarding every word and action is a life spent toiling against the grain. Leave the fantasy on stage, and say what’s in your heart. It’s a dose of fresh air in a crammed elevator, and it feels fantastic.

Old habits die hard, but allowing even a modicum of legitimacy to creep into your vocalized notions will give the those tiny roots permission to sprout. Before long, we’ll all be standing atop a tree of transparency…or not.

The Human Life of Progress

EvolutionA large part of my day is spent observing and asking questions. This isn’t necessarily the most carefree way to spend my time, but I shuffle the cards I’ve been dealt.

Lately, there has been one particular concept rattling around in this crowded cranium that I find interesting and, most likely, impossible to resolve. Is our species inherently made to feel like we are constantly evolving? Do we possess some programming imprint to make us believe we have learned from our past mistakes, and are now rigidly embracing the present?

I bring up this question because it seems like we are inundated with messages about the latest “thing” being the only important commodity to consider.

Musicians talk about their new sound and its grand departure from their previous efforts. Writers wax philosophical about inspiration crafting their work in a more powerful direction. Filmmakers preach about their past catalog helping to usher in a new landscape and motivation for their art. Painters eschew earlier efforts, claiming they can finally see the canvas with honest eyes.

But, the creatives aren’t the only guilty ones. How many times do you hear someone in his 30’s reminiscing about his wild 20’s? Just as often as someone in her 40’s lamenting the wistful wandering of her 30’s. The retired look back at youth with a detached disbelief, and the elderly study the middle-aged with a perplexing mix of envy and pity.

We always think we are precisely where we’re intended. Obviously, on a microcosm, this notion is brought into question on a daily basis. But, when we step outside the narrow focus of our lives, we rarely yearn for  experiences had or roads traveled. Moments exist in specific times, for specific reasons.

On a quest of self-evolution, there is a part of us that is content with the progress we’ve achieved and open for the possibilities of what lies in waiting.

We trust that the decisions we make today come from the learned lessons of yesterday’s stumbles. We try to smile at the past and not pine for it. We see the present as a culmination of errors and triumphs and dreams of what once was, sprinkled with aspirations of the future. We allow hope and resolve to fill our mornings and the pledge for a better purpose to usher in our nights.

We ask a lot of ourselves, and demand movement and growth. Believing we’re evolving is the easy part. The real challenge is floating in space at 1,000 miles an hour, trying to stay grounded.

Emerson Was Wise

road4

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

A life in limbo isn’t a productivity death sentence…as long as that limbo stick keeps moving.

Having multiple irons in the fire is a good way to generate heat. But, when momentum is only the promise of future rewards, the waiting game can become water torture.

Lately, I’ve been in the odd position where a number of factors and individuals have universally conspired to make me wait. I suppose it’s a good test of my patience but, because I love to routinely take inventory of my neatly arranged ducks, allowing the ball to rest in any court other than my own is an experiment I have been less than thrilled to undergo.

Writing prospects, job opportunities, investments, publishing possibilities, acting upswings, and the self-starting loop of my freelance existence have made living in Skytown an interesting—and often frustrating—experience. To know there is gold at the end of the rainbow, without the ability to personally capture the coins, has painted my landscape a color I’ve rarely had the opportunity to see.

I’ve spent a lifetime focused on finish lines, so stopping to smell the roses has never factored into my schedule. However, it has taken this metaphorical traffic jam to shift my attention away from the results and back to the process.

We have so little control over the future, and this includes the various pitfalls that may or may not sneak beneath our feet. The best we can do is stay centered in the present moment and allow the plan to organically take shape. As long as we direct our efforts toward a general goal or intention, the stubborn details have a way of falling in line.

Regardless of my typical grind against the grain, I’m grateful for the opportunity to take stock of my environment. I have had patience forced upon me but, if those efforts result in a more lucid outlook, then this temporary interlude will have been more than justified.

Until then, it’s back to watching sunsets and waiting for checkered flags.

Sharpened Perspective

Thank you for being a wonderful mother

It’s often too easy to get lost in the mundanity of daily life. The interval between turning a white noise sleep machine off and turning it on again can feel like a timeless loop of repetitive habits, vibrating on skipping needles, powered by hamster wheels.

My Groundhog Days are normally of little concern. I accept that baby steps lead to Olympian leaps, so I tackle my routine tasks and always sweat the small stuff. As a writer and proofreader, details are kind of a big deal. These are my cards, and I’m happy to play them.

But, sometimes—even when the marathon tennis sessions have beaten my body and emptied my energy reserves—I find myself squirming inside my skin for a change of pedestrian pace.

Normally, I ignore these impulses and continue punching computer keyboards in my never-ending attempt to accumulate tension headaches. But, two weeks ago, I was delivered a surprise fuel injector in the form of a fellow tennis aficionado from NY with the desert on her mind and a pro tournament in her sights.

Mom knows just when to rescue her overthinking, word wrestler of a son from his stationary bike, and exactly how to throw some excitement and a change of scenery into the mix.

It was just what the proverbial doctor ordered, and I was able to unplug and detach from the busy, serpentine track of LA life.

My chiropractor believes that the mountains in Palm Springs have a way of inexplicably extracting the stress from our bodies and, although I don’t normally subscribe to  teachings of the mystic variety, I’d have to agree with him.

So, now it’s back to work and back to that hamster wheel. But, like mainlining lemon-lime Gatorade, I feel refreshed and ready for the race ahead.

Thanks, Mom…for always knowing what I need, even when I don’t.

Searching for Sugar Mama

money-origami-dress-greenOn the eve of Hollywood’s most spectacularly star-studded night, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on a trend that is now so routine, it’s becoming boring. I’m referring to the sea of doe-eyed twenty-somethings securely fixed to the arms of men who are old enough to be their fathers.

With pretty hair and perfect teeth, they amble along red carpets and media lines, pandering to the city’s power players, and desperately trying to stay afloat in an ocean of ennui. They nod affably while listening to recycled stories about pranks on set, the triumph of the cast and crew, the challenges of the role, and how this particular film is going to alter the way people experience cinema. The mechanical Barbies are never acknowledged or introduced. They straighten their too-small dresses and take the hand of Mr. Hollywood as they’re ushered to the next press pit.

Beauty has been a valuable commodity for as long as humans have had eyes. That beauty is often rewarded with gifts and opportunities. This is nowhere more prevalent than Los Angeles. We are a city of young, meritless actresses tagging along with rich, old men. It’s modern prostitution with a Hollywood sheen, and my feminist sensibilities find it nauseating.

There is nothing more impressive or attractive than a strong, intelligent, and capable female. There are plenty of women who understand references without having them explained, who are in on the joke while it’s being constructed, and who can fight to support their stance on any topic. They appreciate music and art. They read books and remember specific lines. They laugh at themselves and knock you down to size when you deserve it. They think and they question and they seek information. They are interesting and thoughtful and open and honest. They can carry the weight of the world and never let you see the strain. They are intuitive and emotionally connected. There are levels of virtue and resilience in a woman that can easily trump those of a man.

Why anyone would choose a plastic robot in heels is beyond me. It shows how little that person is valued. She is simply a trophy, a prize to be flaunted in front of those who crave a similar emptiness. She has a very limited shelf life and will soon be exchanged for a later model. But, she blindly swallows the promises of auditions, meetings, and connections guaranteed to propel her career. The result is compounded rejection. She finds herself more alone than when she started, with an extra layer of judgment to shed at the therapist’s office.

But, maybe this is how the game is played. Perhaps I need to find a sugar mama who falsely encourages my talents and abilities, filling my head with assurances of book deals, media tours, New York Times Best Seller lists, and a life of security, lavish luxury, and endless happiness.

If you feel you fit the bill, please don’t hesitate to offer your pitch. I will be accepting applications immediately.