Let’s Try This ‘Next Act’ Thing Again

It’s December 26. Christmas 2020 is over. Thank god. Not that I’m against Christmas. I reverently watch the DVDs of my favorite holiday shows and movies every year. I drive around looking at Christmas lights, applauding houses with a modest display of the old, big colored lights — and cursing the plague of tacky inflatables. And who doesn’t like nibbling — or in my case, inhaling — festive holiday cookies?

Christmas has always been a nice diversion, a break from the stress of real life … particularly in these awful times. But in any year the holidays are also a distraction from getting work done. And this is something I don’t need. Not now. Not this year. Like many people, I’m looking forward to hitting the reset button for 2021. And for me, that’s gonna take a good deal of work.

Because my aim isn’t about getting back to normal, but to launch a new life. For a long time I’ve been bored to tears and eager for change. But it can be difficult to leave a comfort zone, even if it’s not ideal. So, to light a fire under my stubborn, lazy add, the universe whipped of a relentless shit storm for me. The past few years for me a relentless string of gut punches that included lost clients, family death, and living in a neighborhood that was declared a disaster area… literally.

To escape for a while, I headed for the refuge of the road, as Joni Mitchell sings. I took my son on a two-month road trip around the country… 10,000 miles and 27 states. It was invigorating, healing, and just plain fun.

After the trip, a friend lent me her beach house for the winter to write and figure things out. And I did. After years of hemming and hawing over multiple options for my life and career, I finally devised a vision of my next act that feels perfect — combining all of my skills and interests and values. A way to manifest my life mantra: Explore. Discover. Share. Enlighten. Empower. Inspire.

I was psyched. I had everything mapped out and was ready to begin an exciting journey of rebirth and rejuvenation. I was like Usain Bolt in the starting blocks of a race, ready to take off and blaze toward victory. And then just before the gun went off, the race was called off. It was mid-March, 2020.

I thought, “Are you fucking kidding me? I plan a new life of travel and exploration and telling human stories and giving figurative and real healing hugs… and the whole world shuts down and we can’t even touch each other?

Like many people, I’ve been riding perpetual waves of grief and fear. Anxiety and anger. Frustration and depression. The holidays — although much different like everything else his year — promised a little bit of brightness after months of despair and distress.

So along with most Americans, I embraced the season right after Thanksgiving. Singing holiday songs with abandon in the car. Delighting in Christmas lights. Celebrating the timeless warmth and genius rhyming of Dr. Seuss and the Grinch. It was nice. An odd blend of bittersweet joy. Healing and necessary.

But… I wasn’t getting any work done. Oh, I was meeting deadlines for the scraps of work coming my way. But I hadn’t been doing anything to create my next act. All of that stopped when the world as we know it stopped.

And it dawned on me this morning that, since March, I haven’t really been living. I’ve been existing. That’s no way to begin a new year, let alone a new life!

The holidays are over. It’s time to pick my sorry, tired ass up off the floor… and get my master plan polished and ready to go. Because 2021 resets the clock. The race begins again. That murky stew of bad feelings is still bubbling inside, but I’m also feeling sparks of excitement and confidence and optimism.

Creating a next act at mid-life (okay, post-midlife) is never easy. But for some people, especially me, it’s vital. And if there’s one thing I learned from this pandemic, it’s how tenuous life can be — and how the clock can be stopped, sometimes forever, at any moment. So every moment must be lived to the fullest. There’s no time to waste.

I’ll be sharing my adventures and feelings here about this Next Act journey. Along with other random thoughts. After all, I am and always will be a story teller. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

And so… December 26… To borrow from an old Billy Idol song (which has a very different meaning)…. “It’s a nice day to start again!”

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