Improvising a Better Plotline

Many people I know mutter about how little flexibility they have in their lives. Parents who run from carpool to carpool, workers who barely have time to react to the next meeting or memo, upkeep demands of the home or business or physical wellbeing—it never seems to stop. In fact, there is usually so much to do that we start to feel as though we are limited to reacting to our immediate circumstances rather than truly living our lives. Auto-pilot can seem like the only practical coping mechanism available. Feeling as though our roles are fixed, we may find ourselves mumbling something along these lines, “As long as I don’t think about it, I won’t feel so” overwhelmed/ disgruntled/fill-in-the-blank.


So, how stage managed is your life?


Of course, to face the opposite set of circumstances—having nothing that must be accomplished on any particular day—presents its own set of challenges. This scenario often rears its head when children leave the nest or people retire from decades’ long careers. All of a sudden, there we are, staring at this person we’ve been with all this time (mostly, I’m talking about ourselves) and having no idea how to interact with them or what we want to do next.


These are not new problems. Not everyone feels this way. But, do you?


I’ve confronted both dilemmas in my life, and I’m not even that old. During my last job, I was on a plane nearly every week, travelling across the country for a mere 24 hours before hightailing it somewhere else. It was exhausting, lonely, frenetic, and I rapidly grew to resent the burden of business travel. Now, I have no job and only the barest of social infrastructures here in the busy hive that is DC—talk about feeling isolated and listless! As much as I detest not having enough to do (and I really hate it), being too busy and encumbered by the incessant needs and demands of others takes its toll. Do you feel you have too much on your plate? Do you enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing?


As I see it, there are things I must do, things I should do, and things I want to do. As adults, life gets tricky when we find ourselves completely without any of the activities that satisfy the last of these categories. Can you recall the last time you had full-on fun, doing something you really wanted to do? I hope it was last night; but, was it?


I’ve watched a lot of people retreat in one way or another because they couldn’t cope with the imbalance in their lives. Believing that everything in their current circumstances was set in concrete, they felt they had no choice and could see no way out. Sound familiar? Such feelings are unrelated to age, socio-economic circumstances, or education levels—they happen across all spectrums—and the tragedy is when these sufferers don’t manage to carve out some tiny portion of their lives to engage in on their own terms, participating in an activity that fulfills them. This is the alpha and omega of re-booting because if we can harvest joy from our lives, then we have more to give to others.


Living life as a stage hand or on auto-pilot forecloses the possibility of any real happiness in our lives. Yes, there will be tough and demanding times. Yes, there will also be periods of great instability and loss, but retreating into a role because we don’t know what else to do and are too frightened to consider other possibilities, well it seems to me that the curtain has already come down.


In this blog, I use myself as an example of a person for whom the curtain repeatedly drops down on their head, but I keep devising new ways to push it back up. My stage may not be entirely clear, and there are a whole lot of props I need to eliminate, but I now trust myself enough to improvise. What about you?

Stage curtains



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