“…[We learned] how to cook and bake and do all kinds of crafts. We cleaned our houses and fixed things we’d been meaning to take care of for years. We gardened. We learned how to use Zoom… We got creative with masks. We hid our smiles, but learned to smile with our eyes…” ~ Laurie McLean
Though Laurie, who is the founder of Fuse Literary Agency and the Director of the San Writers Conference, wrote this for her writers, her words above will resonate with everyone.
This was the year of change, all right. Much of it was not good, not good at all. But, we sure did learn.
One of my newest colleagues is an actor who just turned twenty-five years old. His profession keeps him in contact with people of all ages, but many of them are older than he by decades. This past weekend, while we were filming the pre-trailer for Lyvia’s House, he made an observation, (which I’ll paraphrase because, not being twenty-five myself, I don’t remember it word for word.)
In essence, he said, “What I notice with people is that if they keep learning, they seem to stay vital no matter how old they get. But those who stop learning, who think they know ‘enough,’ they’re the people who wither.”
Laurie McClean is one who seems ‘younger’ by decades than her birthdate indicates. She’s a learner, for sure. A learner, a doer, a creator, and more importantly, an ‘adjuster.’ She will adjust, as needed. When the publishing industry took a massive shift at least a decade ago, she didn’t whine about it. She adjusted her mindset and her business model. That’s why I admire her so. There are so many others like her I’ve been fortunate to meet–both younger and older–who, in times of strife and turmoil, find a new way forward.
Longing for past ways of doing and seeing things will only glamorize them in our memories. Like that unpleasant relative who is suddenly canonized by his family once he passes on, we look back on the past and think only of its happy moments, remembering them as far more ‘perfect’ than they actually were. And in that perception, the present becomes untenable, unbearable, and the unknown future, instead of appearing full of possibilities, becomes terrifying.
“Bad things” are just as much a part of living as “good things.” It’s how we handle the bad that makes us who we are. So at the end of 2020, I want to say to my colleagues, my former students, my readers, my friends and family:
I see you out there. I might not always comment, but I see you, as you overcome disappointment and loss, financial crisis, illness, the death of a loved one, and more. I see you as you find a way forward–a joke to laugh over, a child to hug, a song to sing, a view to appreciate, a new skill to learn. I see you become not bitter and disillusioned, but even more compassionate, as though your personal heartache has made you more attuned to the heartaches of others. You inspire me.
You inspire me, because I know how hard it is to do this. To not fall to pieces. To not be angry at the cruelty and capriciousness of our existence. To not become immersed in hatred.
Your ability to feel compassion, to adjust to change, is you at your best. It’s what makes you a truly brave spirit.
But, even as brave spirits, we’ll all have days when we fail to rise up. And that’s okay, for even the most courageous warriors need a time to rest, so they can channel the strength to rise up again.
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