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Memoirs and Crystal Balls are Fictions to Beware of…

We must overcome our flawed lenses on the past and future to be less fearful in the present.

I recently saw an interview with Jimmy Fallon and Jim Carrey.

Although I know he has a reputation of being a bit “out there” these days, Jim Carrey said something that struck me as quite profound when he said:

“Memoirs are a type of fiction to begin with.” Jim Carrey

Perhaps that is because we are all constantly writing and reviewing a narrative where we are the hero and or the martyr of our story? I think Jim’s point may be that the story and “the looking back” that entails are both potentially prone to error or exaggeration?

The same is true for our ability to predict and play out the novel of our future.

In previous posts I’ve written stories about my 98 year old grandfather, Pepop, and how he taught me to try to be full of CHIT (Curiosity, Humility, Intentionality and Teachability.)

Earlier this year, he was released from the hospital, a place he had not spent very much time in over the decades. This is most likely due to the fact that garlic and olive oil makes up approximately 96% of his blood stream and that had always provided some sort of magic elixir to anything more than a rare cold. Nevertheless, for a little while, that previous month, we, his family, thought this was it. It was scary. We anticipated the worst possible outcomes. The opportunity nearly came to go down and celebrate his life – nearly a century on this earth.

Months later, I can report that our imagined outcome, seen through the fuzzy lens of our looking glass into the then future was wrong. This week, my now 99 year old grandfather celebrated his birthday! My Florida family threw him a Covid-Free drive thru birthday party! My South Carolina based family video chatted with him on his birthday. Earlier this year, you would never have been able to convince us of his return to health.

In our lens, zoomed in on ourselves, a century is considered a lengthy ride, a great deal of time on this earth to live, make a difference and experience what life has to offer. While Pepop is extraordinary and has accomplished so much, it is important to reflect on how he has not done any of it alone. As life hands us challenges we will need to rely on one another to move from one challenging season to the next.

However, just like the most optimistic among us, we will have to grapple with and wrestle down fear as we do so.

We will have to manage well and put in perspective both:

our flawed forward looking predictive lenses

as well as our

equally unreliable minds eye memoir movie theaters

to do so.

If you are not quite to Pepop’s age yet, maybe you are only halfway like me (or a third of the way or maybe even a quarter of the way like my kids and some of their cohort) perhaps you aren’t going to spend much of your time on this review? Maybe, like me, you’re not taking that deep look back yet, but you may be glancing over your shoulder or looking in the rear view mirror occasionally? No matter how infrequently we do it, this habit can bring about some challenges as well as some opportunities. Even guarded with the knowledge that the memoir replay in our head may be more like Jim Carrey’s “type of fiction” and therefore, ought to be subject to scrutiny.

Especially now. Our perspective, memories and judgment about both the past and the future become the least reliable when we are in stress and fear.

Our future anxieties are triggered as we live with the fear in our daily lives with Covid-19 looming and in our work lives with news of job loss or cutbacks. We also currently live in a great awakening, where racial injustice is being brought forward in stark terms and with a modern accountability level that many of us have been unwilling or unable to confront, and that confrontation brings discomfort as we seek to find a better day and way on the other side. We see the existential realities and hard decisions played out as our community leaders grapple with decisions about what life looks like in a Covid culture impacted world, workplace and gathering place.

Here is the question for us:

How should we show up for others and ourselves with all of this in mind?

  • 100 years is a long time, but so is 20 and so is 1 and so is a month or a day (especially these days), especially when you are stressed and unsure of what to expect from the future.
  • Neither rely on your memories of “better days” from the past nor be so sure your most dire predictions or concerns about the future will come to pass.
  • Nor should you find a restless “resting place” in the fear and trepidation of the present born of what seem like daunting challenges in dismaying times.
  • Instead I also want to embolden you to rely on the talents and blessings that you have been given.
  • No matter what the future holds they will remain with you. More importantly, you still get to be you through all this, wherever you are!
  • The good news is you are not alone. We are in this together. Just like the people who drove through and handed gifts to my grandfather this week, your fellow humans have gifts for you. Count on one another, be a compass or a beacon or a ray of sunshine for the person next to you. Yes we will all commiserate and kvetch, but we will also spur one another on to move out and move on.
  • Through it all, have perspective. Carry the sense that what in the moment seems overwhelming, can be vanquished and will someday be in that rear view mirror.
  • Someday you’ll get a chance to write a piece of historical fiction about this time and retell the whole thing in the memoir of your mind.

So yes, fight hard, work hard, do all the things you are called to do. In fact, leave a legacy!

…but while you and we are doing it, let’s give ourselves and those around us lots and lots of grace and charity.

If you need a chuckle when you are feeling stressed and reminding yourself this will all someday just be a frame in the cloudy filmstrip of history, remember that the man I started out by quoting, the one that just wrote a pseudo memoir about his life in Hollywood, the same one that “waxes philosophical” at the beginning of this post – once made himself famous by doing impressions and playing characters like a goofy fire marshall character that, showed up with the intent of providing impactful education, serious advice and sober instruction, but could not stop setting himself and everything around him comically on fire!

“Not to worry folks. Everybody remain calm. I’m a fire marshall”

Fire Marshall Bill

#inlivingcolor 20th Century Fox Television

Precisely none of us are perfect and all of us need to laugh at ourselves, more than just a little, to thrive in the days ahead.

Be well my friends.

If, after reading this, you may accuse me of living in Carrey’s somewhat more serious, yet equally delusional, Truman Show, if so, that’s ok, it is all just food for thought.

Please leave your comments, this is how we get better! I also love it when I hear stories or receive requests for themes!

Just connect and / or shoot me a message and I will add your idea to my list.

    I Want 2 C U Soar!

    By J Johnson

    I am seeking to discover, find and share salt and light into the world. After growing up in financial poverty, but with a wealth of loving people lifting me up all along the way, I struggled for a good while to "do it all on my own." Until I finally found something indescribable in a mere "about me" section of a blog. Now I have the peace that discovery provides as well as the overwhelming urge to share everything I can with as many as I can. I am now trying to use those life experiences, my formal and informal education and my over 20 years of human resources and leadership experience to have a broader conversation with the world about that something, that Light, and about Love and Leadership...with a dose of Laughter along the way. 4 Ls to live by and to soar by. Four for Soaring.

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