Tag Archive | success

Please Forget Me When I’m Gone.

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Where the sidewalk ends

 

I watch a man, a father I think, pushing a baby in a stroller who is maybe a year old.The father rolls his son right to the edge of the sidewalk overlooking the crashing surf below so that there is nothing but salty air between the child and the sea. He crouches next to the child and points out over the shimmering water. There are no words, nothing but the gesture, yet that simple wave of an arm is a lecture on eternity, a tutorial on infinity, of all things. It is a master class in perspective.

Later this day, I stand in line at the grocery store. There are several people ahead of me and only two checkers open in the village-sized store. The older woman ahead of me who is blocking everyone from passing because she seems unaware that anyone else exists, begins to complain loudly. This is an outrage, she complains, she has valuable things to do with her time. Her cart is filled with wine and expensive specialty items. And still she complains. When she looks to me to bitch along, I say, “I have been too many places where parents cannot feed their children for me to complain that I have to wait a few minutes for all of this.” I wave my arm in direction of the unbelievable bounty and choice available to us. “Whenever I have to wait,” I tell her, “I remind myself how fortunate I am to have so much abundance.”

Her face twists in sour indignation, but before she can wind up to vent off more entitled outrage, I shrug comically and say, “Hey, how else you gonna’ keep your sense of humor?”

What I really want to do is scream at her, “There are hungry children on the street outside! They will go to bed hungry!” But it will do no good, this woman has no experience in her ken that allows her to shrug off even this slight inconvenience because she has no gratitude for what she has, who she is, where she lives, the privilege she was born into, nothing. She has a grossly limited perspective. She knows only that the world is ‘supposed’ to be the way she wants it to be, the way it has always been for her.

It’s really such a very small way to think.

How do you change that in a ‘me first!’ society? Can you teach empathy? The issue, of course, is that it’s a matter of standards and awareness. To what do you compare any given thing? Do you see yourself as a member of a vast universe or as the center of the only story you know. The creator or the victim?

Let’s take my writing career as a sample. I have published eight books, I’ve had many people enjoy them very much, (which is the best metric for me), I’ve had glowing reviews, and I adore creating other worlds and lives. I am lucky. Compared to someone who has always wanted to write but who has never had the time, the agent, or the publisher to do so, I’m a success! Whoo hoo, go Shari!

But, if I look at the fact that I’ve never had a best-seller, I’ve never had a movie made from one of my books, and I’ve never been featured in Oprah’s book club, then I’m a resounding failure. Boo Shari.

So what do you think? I think it’s writer’s choice whether to call myself a winner or a loser.

Okay, I know some of you are choosing the latter description with a little too much enthusiasm, fair enough. That propels us into the realm of judging our worth based on what other people think about us, but that factor is so unknowable and immeasurable that the science to gauge it hasn’t been discovered yet.

So let that go, for now, focus on the question of whether you think yourself a success or a failure. Should you be happy with your lot in life or distressed?

Each person’s answer depends on what test they use to arrive at an answer. And what’s your time frame for this assessment? Is it what you are experiencing in this minute that counts? The last year? The bottom line of a balance sheet of your total life? And what goes into that accounting? Money made? Happiness felt? Relationships failed? Tears wiped from another’s face by your compassion? Will there be a statue of you or your name on a bridge when you’re gone? What standards apply?

Watching that man with his son on the edge of the ocean was such an amazing reminder to me to look up, to see and imagine the possibilities beyond my limited vision, to remember that there is so much more out there.

I don’t believe in bumper stickers or tattoos, because I have changed my mind so very many times, and I hope I always will, because the option to that is to stop learning and stagnate, fester, and rot. But if I were to have any kind of constant message or symbol to remind me who I am and what is important, it would be one simple word.

Mortal.

This too shall pass.

Ironic, I know, the idea that once I’ve rotted, or hopefully been scattered as ashes in some magnificent redwood glade, I will be far more enlightened and connected than in life. I don’t necessarily believe in life after death, but I do believe that energy and love never die, just morph into something new that is absorbed into a universe hungry for the infusion. I for one will be grateful to return when the time comes, I hope. It does not frighten me that I will be forgotten. It makes no difference to me at all. But making the world a better place while I am a part of it— that is everything.

Try it, for one day, instead of constantly needing to tell yourself how important you are, how fabulous, how great, and especially instead of having to think yourself more important than others, think this…

You will die. All this will be forgotten. It’s just a matter of how long. Even those who are desperate to believe they will be remembered (be immortal) throughout history must face the fact that all human history will eventually end. Even this planet. Only the echoes of our energy and our love will remain, reborn and blended into something new, something even more wonderful.

So, for today, be mortal. Run to the edge of the ocean, or the top of a tall building, or stand in the rain, or listen to Mozart and weep, and know that this moment is magnificent. Say hello, offer a kind word, slip a twenty in a sleeping homeless person’s shoe, laugh like a child.

It isn’t what you absorb, but what you project that matters.

It isn’t how you are remembered, but how you are that counts.

So count yourself lucky.

Stop complaining.

Know that your breath is shared by seven billion other people.

Seven billion.

We’ll all be gone before too long.

Leave something of worth, something more than a memory.

And when I’m gone, if you do think of me, I hope you smile.

And then forget me.

I’m okay with that.

I’m already part of you.

 

 

Shari. October 12th, 2017

 

 

 

 

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Walking on Water.

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So, you want to write a book or make a film? Welcome to two of the world’s most popular clubs! We’re so pleased to have you as a member!! Ours is an inclusive club, one where the process means as much as the result. Where the novices are every bit as respected as the ‘successful.’ Are you ready?

Did you know that water represents the subconscious in your dreams, and in this blog, by the way.

If you just want to be famous, well, that’s a different organization. Not much value in the process there. I do not belong. You will pay dues for this club as well, make no mistake, though the monthly newsletter, “Pay Attention to Me!” is unreadable for anyone with creative aspirations. But, I digress.

There are two perspectives on ‘creative success’, at least two. The first is how we define ourselves to others, and the second is what brings us contentment.

So, if you are just starting out in…say filmmaking, you will probably be more focused on the world view of you, being recognized and lauded. Outward gratification. If you’ve been in the business for 30 years, you are more likely in a position to pursue projects that truly mean something to you, you may have more freedom to express your uniquely creative voice and not care as much how the world will perceive it. Inward gratification.

Ironically, perhaps, it is almost always those pure expressions and visions from the inside that strike us as an audience with the most force, and go on to stand as classics or examples of the highest quality.

If you want to make a film, write a novel or a screenplay, produce a play, or any number of other creative projects, what’s the first place to start?

Precisely because you are starting out, the tendency is to look out. What is popular? What will people like?  What will make me look good?

Whoa, put on the breaks, screech to halt, back up and let the engine idle for a minute. If it were possible to  know any of those things, every single book, film, play, and song would be a smash best-seller.

But they aren’t. Mmm…it’s a mystery.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. All you have to offer is you. The only thing that you can give—that no one else has to offer—is your voice, your vision, your work. Trying to reproduce someone else’s style, art, or visual expression will only create a cheap, and most likely inferior, imitation.

Obvious, right? So, how do you begin? Some of the best advice I ever got when I was first writing was, “Write what you would like to read.” Frankly, I didn’t have the skill to write what I truly loved at first, because I loved some of the very, very best. A good goal, but a difficult place to begin. So. As a warm-up, I chose to write what I loved on a lighter, entertaining level. My first books are designed and written to be fast-paced, exciting, funny, and page-turners with complex characters.

Now, what I want to write is different, I want it be original. I want to get into the brain of my characters and share their lives, thoughts and feelings, their very unique view of the world with you. And I want to do it with language that speaks beyond the definition of the word. I want to write mountains and tantrums and storm clouds and fits of laughter. I want to express the embracing arms of your own bed after a difficult day, the screaming inside when a bully gets away with it, a feather caught in an updraft.

So what is your goal? What do you want to read, see, hear? And more than that, how do you want to say it? I’ve offered exercises for writers, on starting characters, scenes and stories in different blogs, and some of them really work for me. Just scroll through my past blogs and you will find them.

Screenwriting/filmmaking is a different beast by nature of outlay. By that I mean both monetary expense and group participation. You need equipment to make a film, you need a crew, you need to feed that crew, you need to rent expensive editing facilities and experts in color correction, the list goes on and on. And, you may have a very clear vision of the shots you want and how to put them together, but you will still have a director of photography and an editor with brains and visions of their own. To ignore their contributions would be wasteful. Qualifier— though there must, on any film, be someone with final say. Too many cooks…. But be careful, very careful, not to let your ego deprive you of what your team has to offer.

You begin the film process by  writing—or finding—a script that resonates somehow for you, something that offers, maybe not a new or unique story, but at least a unique point of view. Next, you interview people until you find the ones who understand your vision and will support and add to it. That’s how you begin the long road of film production. And when you find those people, keep them close, pay them fairly, let them contribute, and  give them the credit they deserve. Conversely, if they moan, complain, talk behind your back, or otherwise hamper the overall production, cut them loose—with blessings. Just like in your life.

Both the arts of writing and filmmaking begin with a vision, one that should be your own, not a compilation of other’s people’s ideas. Learn from, borrow suggestions, and practice examples of the greats in your chosen field that you admire, of course!! If it weren’t for Tom Robbins, P.G. Wodehouse, and Jane Austin, I wouldn’t be a writer, because I wouldn’t love books and words so much. But I can’t be them, I can’t write them, I can only admire and gently reflect some of the things I learned from them.

Study your favorite filmmakers, directors, photographers, writers, set designers, and include them all!! Of course.

Then let it go and see what bubbles up. The ideas are there,  as is all your attention and research, under the water you’ve peered into so intently, but you need to be above that, walking on the water. You are an amazing creative force, the Great Spirit, (however you define that, Creativity, the Universe, or that somewhat polymorphic entity, ‘God’) made you unique and it is your journey. If you choose a creative life, your path is to unleash your power and your talent. So that we can all revel in it, and thank you for sharing it with us.

It’s all there, just below the surface, trust it, swim in it, and let it hold you up.

Shari, October 20th, 2012.

The Shari Action Doll

 

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Here’s me in my NY modeling days. That’s Fifth Avenue I’m crawling across and a row of traffic coming right at me!! Let’s get Shari, she’ll do it!!

That’s me! ‘Shari Action’ is a nickname that a modeling friend gave me when I was sixteen. I was always moving, talking, jumping, taking chances, trying new things, and filled with energy. Always ready to try something new, and constantly busy creating or doing. Modeling was only fun when I got hang off the edge of a building or dance thru traffic on Fifth Avenue. (See above)

In fact I remember when a particular hairstyle was in vogue, it was a basket weave, very labor intensive. When a client asked a hairdresser who worked with me often if he could do that on me, the stylist responded, “Sure. Give me two sedatives and a neck brace and I’ll have her out in an hour!”  

In other words, I could not sit still. 

But my hyperactivity didn’t start then. As a kid there wasn’t a tree I wouldn’t climb or a fort I wouldn’t build—and sleep in! Now? I travel, cook, direct, produce, act, write, mom, volunteer and clean my own damn house thank you!! And I love all of it. I love driving carpools, cleaning up after my girls have wrecked the living room with their friends, brainstorming story ideas with my husband, helping to build sets, gardening. What do I love most? What I’m doing right now. In fact, writing this blog has given me a burst of energy and enthusiasm to get back to my new book. Can’t wait!

I’m lucky to still, at 53,  have a ton of energy and enthusiasm. And I love my life now, whatever that may bring. The more I do, the more energy I have and I fall asleep every night exhausted and excited for the next day. 

What I don’t do is live on past laurels. Ironic, perhaps because I used the above picture, but that’s because it’s from the time I got my nickname and illustrates it pretty well. Past laurels aren’t real anyway, you know that right? Memories are elastic, they don’t freeze in time like some event popsicle that never changes or melts. You can’t keep a six pack of accomplishments and pop one open to drink with dinner. It’s over, you drank it, your part in it is done. Memory is 50% recall, 50% invention, and 50% projection. (Yes, that’s 150%, we tend to add a bit as the years go by.) The only thing worthwhile is what you are doing now, and it only matters how it effects you, not what anyone else thinks of it. I know people who actually define themselves by some ‘success’ from 30 years ago. Really? What does it matter if you won a trophy or had a hit song or made a million dollars…then? What are you doing right now? How are you contributing? What do you give back? Do you enjoy it? Are you more concerned with how, or if, you will be remembered than you are with seeing the beauty and opportunities around you now? 

Look again. 

My experience with the children I’ve known with terminal illness has changed so much of my perspective. No one but their family and friends will ever know their names. Some of these kids won’t live long enough to rack up a list of ‘accomplishments,’ yet they show more bravery, life and courage than so many people I know who live to be one hundred, star on a soap opera, live in huge houses, are pursued by paparazzi, or any of the other superficial marks of ‘success.’ 

Yet those children leave a remarkable legacy, worth far more than being ‘known’ or having six million FB likes. Their legacy is one of courage and love and the priceless reminder to live every single moment with joy and kindness. 

Now that’s something to be remembered for. And something to remember.

I gave a lecture a few nights ago and afterwards an elderly lady approached me and complimented me on my energy, speaking and enthusiasm. That was nice, I love connecting with people and seeing what they know that I don’t, but what struck me was when she said wistfully, “I wish I was young.” 

I don’t understand that. I don’t want to go back a single day. I’ve done many things, good, bad, crazy, and even scary, and I enjoyed almost all of it. But the point is, I did that. Now I want to move on and do different things. I look forward to getting older, to giving myself permission to do nothing, to watch the sun set, to take a nap, to read all damn day if I want to. It will be a different stage of my life, and I hope to enjoy it as much as all the other acts.

Of course, I do understand wanting to be young for the sake of health. Nobody likes to be sick or in pain. That, I get. To quote Woody Allen, “I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” 

But I agree with the sentiment. I don’t think I’ll mind dying. I mean, what’s the alternative?  It’s not like I’m gonna get out of it.  Neither are you, by the way, so you might as well step up when it comes. And I believe that if you live your life desperate to be remembered, to create some kind of immortal sense of yourself, you are living a wasted life. 

Now, that’s not to take away from those people who truly have done great things and certainly should be remembered. But if I look at what I want out of life, the truth is, I don’t care if anyone remembers that I wrote that book, only that they found pleasure and humanity in it. That a phrase or a character touched them, possibly helped them in some tiny way at that point in their lives. I hope they remember that, not my name. I don’t need my performance as Viola in Twelfth Night to be celebrated or lauded, but I’m glad I made people laugh and shared their joy. I want my friends to think of me as a good person and my daughters to know I loved them. That’s it. 

I’m still Shari Action. I still do a hundred things in a day. Let’s take today for example. I got up, reviewed the final edit for “Scream at the Devil” and made changes. I picked apples from my tree and made apple jelly. The sound of the jars sealing as I write is as pleasing a satisfaction as any film I ever made, because it’s right now and I love it. I have a huge pot of Gumbo simmering on the stove, because my kids liked it so much when I made it last week that they demanded at least three times as much. I worked on my new novel, did some gardening, and wrote this blog. That’s it so far, but it’s only five o’clock! I didn’t hike because I wasn’t feeling well when I got up, but the more I did, the better I felt. 

And now, it’s hubby time. I’ll have to lure him away from the editing bay because, he, like me, loses track of time when he’s doing what he loves. We will sit together and watch the sun change on the mountains, we will laugh and share, and plan. 

God I love my life. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities, for all the moments, even the ones that aren’t easy, even the ones that make me look silly or bad. 

And as for making a name for myself and being remembered by people who don’t know me? 

Well…that’s not something I’m going to put too much energy into. The Shari Action doll doesn’t think much of that. She’s too busy and too darn happy. 

 

And she wishes the same, or better, for you. 

Shari, July 30, 2013. 

 

 

Mistakes and Successes.

gioia_cover_jpg  The cover of an Italian magazine called, Gioia

 

I once had someone send me an email, I can’t remember what they were commenting on, but they asked, “Why don’t you include your Playboy cover on the list of your accomplishments?”

My response was, “Because it’s not an accomplishment, it’s a modeling job.” One of hundreds. I flew to Chicago, shot several cover options, was paid my normal modeling fee, and went home. Months later, I got a call saying one of the shots had been chosen for the April cover. I said, “Oh, that’s nice.” No big deal.

Then it came out. It was shocking to me how much everyone else responded to it. You would have thought I had reached some apex, I had this big ‘success.’ It was very confusing to me.

I  mean, it’s a photograph, and not even one of my favorites. Yes, I prided myself on being a good model. I was known as one of the ‘smart’ ones. I understood the layout, the lighting, where the text would go, how to create a mood and not just a pouty look, etc. No matter what I do I want to do it well, but to me, that was so much less important than what my sister did everyday. She taught kindergarten. I admired her, and others like her. People like her are the ones who change the world, who make a difference every day. Models seldom do.

All my life, I think I’ve been confused about the way looks and fame are valued by people, for this simple reason; It doesn’t connect proportionately to any feeling of real value inside.

Looking back, I can safely say this is the reason I had trouble with drugs and relationships early on, (not to discount the relationships themselves, I made some bad choices.) I had no allies, no one who really knew me for who I was, I had no real sense of self-value, I was too busy pursuing what everyone else thought was impressive. Bad choice.

I remember, at one of my lowest points at that time, telling a good friend that I was so depressed and lonely, I felt that no one really knew me, that my life was without substance, and his response? “How can you be unhappy? You have what everyone else wants!” My heart fell through the soles of my feet. I was a ‘successful’ model, therefore I didn’t even have a right be sad, to be human. The immediate cure? Another hit, numbing myself for another night.

I had a friend who was a very famous comedian when I modeled in New York, at the time he was often subbing as the host on the “Tonight Show.” We would walk along the street and people would shout out. “Hey Dave! Hey Buddy!” they’d slap him on the back and shake his hand like an old friend. I said to him, “It’s like they think they know you.” He answered, “They think they do know me. I’m in their living room, every night!”

Of course, the comedian who was always ‘up’ and made them laugh was not the whole man.  In life, this man was very intelligent, quite serious, filled with old pains, and a gentleman of impeccable taste. He had stayed loyal to his friends from his very poor upbringing because he knew that they were the ones who truly ‘knew’ him and it kept him grounded, with all of his success. It was a valuable lesson.

We all need accomplishments, I think, to be content. And the athlete who wins the medal and the business person who lands the big deal have every right to feel exhilarated by the experience, they worked for it! But what I’ve learned over the years is that just as important, just as real accomplishments are the small things, the felt things.

Oh yeah, I’ve been down, way down. And I’ve had a lion’s share of exhilarating moments. But all these things have passed. And here’s the most important thing I’ve taken from all of it:

I learned so much more from the mistakes. The most valuable moments in my life have been the bad ones. Not the absolute lows, I don’t mean the frustrating moments when desperation weighs on you so that you can’t lift your head, much less get out of bed, but the second right after that, when I made the decision to snap out of it, to buck up, to get over myself and be of service to someone else.

So what is a success to me? Writing a book I’m proud of, certainly, creating a character on stage or film that resonates, of course. Those things take effort, learning and determination, and are therefore more fulfilling than someone thinking you look nice. But more important are the other successes—seeing my daughter fight through a conflict at school, tears streaming down her face, but holding her own against unfairness or bullying, the light in a parents eyes when my charity is able to help their desperately ill child through a terrible time, the level of trust and love that my husband and I have earned, and any moment of gratitude. Gratitude for a sunset, a spider’s web on a hike, the fact that I can skip down my sidewalk from the shear joy of being, the moment I can turn a stranger’s mood around with a few moments of patience, a joke, or even a smile when they didn’t expect it.

That is success to me, because that is what connects to my heart.

As for the ‘success’ of being in magazine pictures? It was living, but give me the triumph of a breakthrough smile from a waitress having a tough day when I commiserate with her over that any time. Playboy cover? Bah. But if I can get my favorite waitress at Coco’s, who is raising four kids and putting herself through college, to laugh about the rude, complaining SOB at table four, that warms me. Her smile makes my day.

Because that kind of beauty connects me to something deeper, truer, more human. That is what’s important. That is a success. It might not appear on any resume, or any website, or any other public forum, but it means so much more to me than any magazine cover.

And I’m trying to pass some of my painful learning experiences on to my daughters. Someone telling them they are gorgeous is very nice, but it is not an accomplishment. Visiting with a child at the hospital and lessening her boredom and fear, that is something worthy they both do. The difference of those values is something I’ve tried to make clear to them.

I’ve also tried to let them learn the hard way sometimes. It isn’t easy, letting your children makes their own mistakes and watching them feel terrible. It’s hard to insist that that they earn their kudos, that they fight for what they think is right, with or without the support of their peers, to value themselves for actually doing something in this world, but it’s crucial to them becoming the amazing women that I know they will be.

What I wish for for them is a  sense of value that will carry them through their lives. They will fail sometimes, of course, we all do, it’s what makes us better writers, actors, parents, salesmen, bosses, hell, it makes us better people.

I wish you all the eyes to see that every small kindness you do, every bad mood you work through, every difficult moment that you make better, is a success bigger and far more important than any ‘beauty’ photograph in any magazine.

See how successful you are? Yes, you are amazing.

Shari, December 1st, 2012