Offbeat Advice

Life Truths I Have Learned From Scripts and a Screenwriter

I have a long-time neighbor and friend who is also an award-winning screenwriter. He has written screenplays that deal with murder, motherhood, loneliness, lust, insecurity, empathy, being a black sheep, being a fish out of water. While he can write horror and sci-fi, the majority of his scripts are realistic and showcase the thrills, chills, wonder, and weirdness that occurs in real life. Thus, reading his scripts — most for the screen — has brought me some revelations about life offscreen. (In the case of screenplays, art not only imitates life, it examines and evaluates and influences it.) A few things I have learned:

Conclusion does not necessarily bring closure. Situations — an unsolved crime, a family dispute, an illness — may come to an end, but that ending does not necessarily bring any answers or comfort to anyone. The killer gets caught but the victims’ families still grieve. The lonely guy makes a friend but still doesn’t find love. The alcoholic makes peace with his past mistakes but cannot stop drinking. The war is over but the winner is broke. The end of bad times may bring relief but not resolution. An ending — even one with revenge — rarely heals any wounds. This is true in movies and in real life. People may celebrate the end of a bad scene for a bit, but usually they just pick up and move on (and clean up).

When someone is horrible and you wonder what happened to make them that way, the answer is often NOTHING. Or at least nothing extraordinary. While there are people killing children or setting houses on fire due to one very traumatic event, most people are the way they are due to how they learned to handle the ordinary ups and downs in their lives. For every person who is shooting at cars on the freeway and points to a lousy childhood or some injustice or mistreatment of some sort … well, there is a successful business owner or a great teacher or other well-adjusted person who had a lousy childhood, grew up poor, and was picked on and does not rob people or melt down in public. Of course, they don’t get any press. The serial killer is way more interesting than the guy who owns the shoe store, If you scratch the surface, however, you may find they ain’t all that much different other than the store owner chose to take a more constructive path.

More on this subject at a later date … in the meantime, go to the movies!

Self Improvement

Moving on WITH Your Life …

A psychologist told me something years ago that popped into my head first thing this morning. (As the recollection came to me before I made coffee, I knew it was significant.) She told me that she was tired of having people come to her and say, “I want to move on with my life.” Yes, she understood what they meant. These folks felt stuck in some way — enslaved by bad habits, derailed by depression, trapped in toxic relationships — and they wanted to change their lives for the better. She had no quarrel with that — hell, helping people live more fully was the reason she went into counseling in the first place. What irked her was the way people said “move on with my life” with an emphasis on “move on”. Her clients felt their lives were stopped, stuck, on hold, and they needed to do something to get their life going forward once again. If they did nothing, they would remain frozen in the current moment.

In truth, life is always moving on. Life is simply our time on earth and time always goes forward. Actually, that is all time does. Whether we get up and do something or stay in bed for 24 hours, a day passes. Whether you are living a life you love or you are chronically unhappy, time marches on and you grow older. Nobody has to do anything to make time — and one’s life — move on.

What people really need to focus on is moving on with their lives — emphasis on “with”. The days are passing — how do you want to spend them? Seriously, how much down time do you want to have? How much time do you want to devote to your job, your goals, your dreams? Do you need the awards and accolades that require a lot of hard work or are you more content with a quieter life and more free time? Do you want a full social life or a lot of alone time? What are you doing in your life right now that feels insincere or just plain wrong? Why do you feel you are spinning your wheels? Life is a gift to be enjoyed and only you can decide the balance you need to feel fulfilled. This was something she felt was the key to “moving on” — deciding what it is you truly want for your life (not the life your friends or family think you should have) and pursuing it now because time is marching on and it is marching on toward death.

I have realized recently that certain goals and dreams and relationships I pursued earlier in life are simply no longer wanted. The forward movement of life leaves some things behind, and that can include friends, projects, hobbies, habits, living arrangements, even lifestyles. And while there is nothing wrong with changing one’s mind or mission, it is a pointless endeavor to keep pursuing a goal or dream when it truly does not interest you anymore. Your life is chugging forward like a train. You either get on board or you miss the ride, because the only stop is at the end.