Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cameras, Action....Rewrite!

I have long been a proponent of backwards planning. I have even given training on the subject. In spite of both, I have not always been a great example of what I was preaching.

Do you know what backwards planning is? It's planning, but starting from the end result and planning backwards to today; it's starting with the goal and building a reverse timetable of events and actions to get you to that goal. It's a great way to make certain things get done on time and that you never lose sight of where you are going. It gives you something to bounce your ideas off of along the way.

The news coverage and impromptu memorials following the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett have given me pause. It's interesting to see how people remember these very different but very famous icons within their own industries. Some folks focus on the positive contributions made to society, others focus on the negative moments in the media-riddled lives of the sweet, sincere, crazy, blonde bombshell/serious actress and the shy, kind, gloved, crazy, physically altered, white/black performer. I have wondered how Michael and Farrah would have wanted to be remembered, how each would have written their own eulogy...or maybe they did.

It's certainly a wake-up call when we stop to realize that we won't have any control over what is written about us following our death. People can do and say whatever they want; they can cry, laugh, tell the truth, make up stories, be kind, be brutal, bid us good riddance or put us on a pedestal. But the reality is, they will only say what they saw or felt when they were around us, or what they heard from others who saw or felt something when they were around us.

We can write our own eulogy, but the time is now. The only opportunity we have to "edit" those future comments that will be made in our absence following our death is right now while we are living. It's in the decisions we make, the way we treat others, how we conduct ourselves. And it's not only the things we do in public; it's the things we do in private as well. There are no secrets, no matter how much we wish there were. Maybe the details and realities of our actions "behind closed doors" will forever be known only to us, but the resulting personality shifts, the emotional baggage and the aura of dishonesty, of never being 100% truthful are unavoidable. We are drafting the outline with every choice we make in and out of the closet. We are writing our eulogies every day of our lives.

And I've been writing for a long time, tossing away draft after draft along the way as I emerge into who I really am. Who am I? Good question! At 54 you would think I would know!

How do I want to be remembered? And even better question. How does anyone want to be remembered? We know the pat answer - kind, loving, fair, honest, loyal, ethical, good worker, devoted spouse, perfect parent, adoring child, attentive grandparent, god-fearing, selfless, worked with the homeless...yada, yada. And yes, those are certainly the types of qualities we all should be striving for and living, but maybe this is something that deserves a bit more thought.

I suppose I shouldn't expect any more accolades than anyone else when I die, and when push comes to shove, I don't even want a funeral service, but it isn't the formal service that I am talking about, it's the memories, the impressions I will have left on others - not just those I love, or those who love me, but those I barely know, those I have a moment's opportunity to make an impression on, everyone that I pass by in life. I don't know about you, but right now I can think of a few that I have passed by who probably were glad to see my backside on my way out. This isn't good (and please don't put that in my eulogy).

Of the "yada yada" list above, I can pick and choose from those qualities and drag most into the draft of my eulogy, along with some relating caveats, rationalizations, justifications and exceptions in the footnotes. At this point in my life, I don't think I can smile, take a bow, and say "Yes, I did that perfectly!" about much of anything. I am not perfect, I have made mistakes and those are a part of who I am, but that doesn't mean I want to be remembered for those things.

It's sobering to realize that over the past 54 years I have been drafting my eulogy as I have lived my life. I wish there was a DELETE button for certain memories, because there are a few I wish I could erase from the hard drive of my mind and some other minds too. But I can't, and so the challenge now is to overload those hard drives with memories of better things, a life lived well - not a perfect life, but a life filled with the "yada yada" list and much more.

It's time for backwards planning. I need to start with who I am now and factor in how I want to be remembered. How I want to be remembered is really who I want to be, isn't it? I need to start making decisions NOW that will allow that life to be lived. I need to continue writing my eulogy with this new awareness beginning today, because how does the eulogy I have drafted to this point in my life match how I want people to remember me?

I am not absolutely certain, but I am fairly sure it needs a rewrite.

Tim McGraw "Live Like You Were Dying"

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