“Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” — Henry David Thoreau
This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different speeches that have been on TV these last few days.
Yes, I watched the president speak from the Oval Office on Tuesday about the wall and our government shutdown. I also watched the Democratic leadership’s rebuttal right afterward.
Neither of these speeches moved me. Instead, they just made me mad. They made me mad about where we are right now in our country. They made me mad that so many hard-working Americans aren’t being paid and are struggling to get by. They made me mad that our country’s leadership can’t come together and find some path to common ground. They made me mad because, if you ask me, it feels as if the president and the Democratic leadership have put up a wall between themselves…
These speeches left me feeling rather frustrated. But as I always say, I think it’s important (for your health and your sanity) to balance the bad news with the good. That’s why I’m grateful there were two other speeches on TV this past week that really moved me and inspired me.
One of those speeches was Jeff Bridges’ acceptance of the Cecil B. Demille Award at last Sunday’s Golden Globes. Bridge’s speech included a number of memories and lessons learned from his long and accomplished career, but the moment that really stood out to me was when he compared life to a “game of tag.”
Bridges said he learned that lesson after trying to back out of a role earlier in his career:
“I said to [the director], ‘Mike, I’m sorry but I think you made a terrible mistake. I’m not feeling this guy at all, I feel so inadequate. I’m giving you late notice, I know. Please fire me.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Jeff, you know the game tag?’ I say, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘You’re it.’
I said, ‘What do you mean I’m it?’ And he said, ‘You are the guy. You couldn’t make a mistake if you wanted to. The life of this character is coming through you, it’s a done deal.’ I said, ‘Oh, all right, that’s a wonderful vote of confidence and a great perspective to look at this thing.’ And I used it, of course, in that film and all the other movies that I’ve done, as well as my life. I’ve been tagged. I guess we all have been tagged! We’re all alive right here right now, this is happening.”
I really loved Bridge’s authenticity. I also loved the aliveness and the free spirit that came through in his speech.
And, I agree with him. We are all “tagged.” We are all “it” in the game of life. We’re “it” not just because we are alive, but also because we all have the power to chart our own paths. We all have the power to steer our lives however we choose. We are all, to use Bridge’s words, “trim tabs” — unique individuals who are also connected to our larger society. (If you’re wondering what the heck a “trim tab” is in real life, it’s a small rudder connected to a larger rudder that helps turn a ship.)
Later that evening came a speech from Glenn Close, who won “Best Actress” for her portrayal of an older woman in the throes of a troubled marriage in “The Wife.” Close used her speech to talk about the right of every woman to fulfill her own unique destiny, regardless of whether she is a wife, a mother or a daughter.
My eyes welled up with tears as Close spoke about a conversation she had with her mother at the end of her life. She said her mother admitted that she felt as though she had accomplished nothing because she had sublimated her dreams to her husband’s. She had simply been “the wife.”
Now, I never knew Close’s mother, but I do know many women who have felt that same way. They have felt invisible in the role of Wife, even if they love the person to whom they are married. They have felt unseen in the role of Mother, even if they love their children dearly. They have felt small in a society and culture that claims they value those roles, and yet doesn’t always treat them with the respect they deserve.
I believe that every woman juggling the role of wife, mother, daughter, caregiver, etc. deserves a Golden Globe. They deserve for our society to shine a spotlight on them and recognize them for all that they do. (I know husbands and fathers deserve that too, but I’m talking about women today, so don’t beat me up for it.)
After listening to all these speeches over the last week, this is what I have to say:
There is no doubt in my mind that I’ve been “tagged” in life. I know that I am blessed to be alive. I know that I’ve been able to pursue my dreams – both inside the home and outside of it – because of the women who paved the way before me.
I also know that I’m a “trim tab” in the lives of my children. I know that at the end of my life, I’ll be able to tell them that they are my greatest achievement. I’ll be able to say that the roles as wife and mother were way more complex, rewarding, difficult, fulfilling and challenging than any story I ever covered as a journalist. I’ll be able to say that my roles as a wife and a mother and a daughter taught me some of life’s most valuable, enduring and life-changing lessons.
One of the most profound lessons is this: walls don’t work. Walls are what keep love out. Walls are what keep us disconnected from ourselves and from those we love. Walls prevent us from being visible to one another, from sharing with one another and from helping one another. Walls put up a roadblock to our shared humanity and it is our job to break these walls down so that we don’t fear the other or our shared humanity. After all, no society, no person, and no relationship have ever thrived by being sequestered behind a wall.
I believe that every evolved person knows this to be true. And so as we approach a new week in this new year, I hope we will stop and take a moment to acknowledge the value brought to our lives by those who don’t feel seen or valued.
This morning, I hope you’ll go make the most of the one beautiful, meaningful life you have right here, right now. “Tag, you’re it.”
Dear God, please help me break down the walls in my life that are holding me back. Help me get closer to those I love and closer to the life I truly want. Amen.