Sometimes when I go to the movies, I completely lose myself in the story, like in that great Woody Allen movie, Purple Rose Of Cairo, where the hero falls in love with a woman in the movie theatre and comes down off the screen to seduce her. I can get so caught up in the plot, in the characters, in the premise, in the hair-dos. At other times, I am annoyingly aware of the guy sitting behind me chomping on popcorn, or the dust motes in the space between the film projector and the screen. But in the best of all movie experiences, I am both delightfully caught up in the action on screen, and thoroughly conscious of the act of watching a movie, This happy balance between awareness and participation is, I think, the key to living a happy life.
We are given a set of circumstances––stage directions, if you will––when we show up here on planet earth. And after that, we are actors, translators, interpreters. To some extent we are directors, but never completely so, because Life is a lot bigger and bossier than we are. But we do get to participate in composing our lives, and it is in this participation that the cool stuff happens. We have the power to define our own character, for example, to choose whether he or she is going to swashbuckle his/her way to glory or collapse in a heap of self-pity. But we don’t get to decide whether or not he or she is going to become ill or have war waged on his/her country or win the lottery or be built like a supermodel. We just get to decide how he or she is going to react to these circumstances.
We also, to some extent get to plan our day. All we have is the next 24 hours (and even that isn’t a guarantee). How will we use our precious day? How will we sculpt it and script it and write it and act it and draw it and draw from it, and take direction and hear the voice of the editor and the clicking of the metronome? To me, the truest artist is the one who takes the raw clay of the next 24 hours and transforms it into a thing of beauty, one that is full of integrity, creativity, friendliness, humor, service, whimsy, and good old fashioned hard work.
My mission as a mother, wife, life coach, as a musician, as a writer and as a member of the human race is to remember that all the goodies––all the joy, love, affirmation, success, abundance––we need are right here in our own hearts. That opening up to the joy, opening up to the God within, that unique voice which we will soon recognize as our own (if we are paying attention) will give us all we need. To touch that self-love with music, with kindness, with enthusiasm is to touch God. And to touch that true love makes a person yearn for––need to––share that love in community: the communion of a folk festival, the communion of family, the communion of true lovers locked in embrace.
And the other part of my mission is to free all, especially myself, from the bondage of our own resentments, anxieties, and depressions by taking up the tools to live that beautiful serenity prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr’s: to accept what can’t be changed, to courageously change what can, and to do the painstaking work of figuring out the difference. And to do this, we must confront our deepest fears, wounds, addictions and delusions. But we don’t have to do it alone.