Packing it In

We’re going on a week-long trip from Huntley to Hilton Head, South Carolina. This was supposed to be our last escape from a cold winter. But we just checked, and the weather has changed. I was packed and able to start on this blog, call my sister, exercise; things I could do with extra time. But instead, I am unpacking and repacking for cooler, rainier weather. Anxiety creeps in. If the long-sleeved dress, what about shoes? If more jeans, what about the plan to take one less bag? What has to go? What stays? I want it all, and guaranteed climate on arrival so that I did it right. This is what happens, I imagine, when we have time at the end of life. But we can’t take anything. So, all the worry is about what we leave behind. I can hear myself saying,...

Party with Purpose

In three weeks, we’re having a party featuring wine, cheese and a live band. Why? What’s the occasion? None, really. Why does there have t0 be one? To party is, in my definition, to connect with lots of people in a short length of time; to do more than call, text or email–to meet and maybe even shake hands, hug or dance together. We’re inviting about 50 people we don’t know. We’ve lived in a new place for two years, and we socialize with the near neighbors but not the ones around the block. So, we’re inviting them, too. Fifteen years ago, they used to have gatherings, but they fizzled when volunteers stopped planning events. It’s easy to draw back in and settle on a few relationships when more are so hard to...

A Cadre Connected

The Magic of Memories: Your Story in Your Words is the name of a workshop I just conducted that we hope will become a writers group. Why? Because in eight hours together, 10 people over 55 bonded. They shared short life stories and feel better for it; connected. They want encouragement to continue and interest to move them to write more. Initially, they posed questions and intentions: “Where do I begin?” “Will this be an autobiography?” “I want to pass something on to my children.” The answers set them on paths into their pasts; ones they found were intriguingly in common. Subjects included Catholic guilt, dangerous immigration, historic neighborhoods, childhood pranks, school crushes and teacher clashes; devastating break-ups, the hazards of parenting and career...

Having Character

I’ve begun rehearsals for a comedy, ‘Til Beth do us Part, in which I play Beth, a southern belle from hell. It’s actually a silly plot, but the character is closer to my acting instincts than a role in a musical. Still, I love those, too–but dramas are my favorite because they are the least fictional. To be an actor, you must be enamored with the part you play to make it seem natural on stage. That’s why rehearsals are intense; we are learning not just to act like, but to be the character. When actor mistakes happen in live theatre, we must cover them in character; that is, as if we are the same individual who made the mistake, not the actor feeling embarrassed that he did. In our own lives, we are the lead; either hero, heroine or...

Taming Monkeys

You’ve been there. A well-deserved nap is interrupted by your doorbell. The final edits before a deadline are postponed by a knock on your office door. Your long-awaited planting day in the garden is extended by a neighbor who stops to ask which side of her house is the most ideal for gardenias. Some of us are much better at ignoring distractions that hamper our days than we are ideas that derail our minds. Random thoughts are often unwanted visitors. We don’t recognize that some hijack our energies away from priorities. We feel in our minds like children in candy store or a spook house, far too excited to make good decisions or afraid to escape without being hurt. Thoughts engulf and rob us of confidence in the power to choose fresh initiatives; ones we’ve never...