Orlando R. Barone
is a writer in Doylestown
My grandson Cai loves theater. Having had thespian ambitions myself, I understand the passion. The other day I asked the 9-year-old what he thought was the most important thing to remember on the stage. He answered with no hesitation:
"When you goof up and drop something, leave it and move on, or, if you need it, pick it up in character and take it with you."
Similarly, a new year raises three questions. What do I drop and leave behind in the old year? What do I pick up and carry forward into the new? And what do I create and become that I've never had or been before? In other words, what will I forsake, take, and make in 2014? How do I remain "in character"?
Whatever my choices, I know exactly what I want the result to be. I want 2014 to be a year of contentment. I want that inner peace, quietness of soul, and wholeness of spirit everybody is wishing for everybody at this time of year. Which means I must determine what brings about my discontent; that's the stuff I want to drop on the stage and abandon once and for all.
Discontentment breeds resentment. Anyone dealt a bad hand - a kid born in poverty or in a broken family or in bad health, a teen injured in a car wreck, an adult bereft of a loved one, an elder suffering inevitable loss of strength and wit - might drink deeply of resentment's bitterness.
Resentment degrades my vision, throws the future out of focus, makes obstacles unscalable and opportunities unrecognizable. It erodes confidence. It siphons my energy into assigning blame for my setbacks and raging at those blamed.
So, that's what I choose to shed: my resentments. The wickedness of fate that kept me from becoming a Broadway star, the terrible boss who once fired me, familial responsibilities that curtailed so many vacations, all those malignant forces that have provided my myriad excuses for all the times I came up short, I toss you to the stage floor and kick you into the wings of 2013.
Shorn of my resentments, what I have left are my contentments, the people and things that give me wholeness, peace, a sense of being and accomplishment, the things I want to pick up. In character.
There is my spouse, recovering from a near-fatal illness and planning one of those vacations I didn't take so many years ago because of those familial responsibilities. Four of those little responsibilities are now successful adults who welcome us into their homes any time we wish, so we can ignore them and shower our seven grandkids with whatever their little hearts desire.
There are those Wharton MBA students I am so privileged to be coaching, matching my knowledge and wisdom to their vast energy and brilliance. They add to my contentment, but their boldness and drive remind me of my final new year challenge. What will I create? What will I become?
The great enemy of contentment is complacency, the tired belief that nothing needs changing, nothing new awaits, nothing is left to be learned or surmounted. The very meaning of life is growth and creation. To be complacent is to succumb to the life-limiting attitude that my only zone is my comfort zone.
So I press on into 2014 alive with the recognition that there is a world to be redeemed, justice to be sought, people to be nourished and clothed, minds to be opened and taught, love to be squandered indiscriminately and, inevitably, troubles and even tragedy to be contended with.
No matter. I will be content, at peace with myself. I have shed my resentments, stopped the blaming, stopped crying foul at the universe, stopped stopping myself. I have shunned complacency and await each dawn eager to take on the day's challenges with creativity, enthusiasm, and courage enough to say yes to the young and beautiful promise of a new year.
And if I drop something along the way, I'll just take Cai's advice. Either I'll leave it and move on, or, if it is something I need, I'll pick it up. In character.
The audience will never know the difference.