I’ve reached a point in my life and career where who I am as a person, and a professional are finally in sync. And so the things that matter in my life, and in the lives of people I work with, are of consequence, even if they are not ‘work-related.’ The more authentic I am, the more me I am, the more others are themselves, the richer our friendships become. Indeed, when working with others, it is a friendship I aim to build through trust, professionalism, and all the boxes that need to get checked to please the client. Then it opens up the possibility for more significant connections between us. These conversations could be about such things as:
- Paying customs officials cash bribes in order to enter and exit Senegal
- The experience of seeing the Northern Lights
- Saturday recording sessions getting in the way of introducing your spouse to the movie, Gremlins
- Sharing your 5-year-old grandson’s pronunciation of the word “earth” as “urf,” and that being the way you and the production team forever pronounce it
- Sobering moments about addiction, and now death
A year ago, when my daughter Sarah celebrated 5 years of sobriety, I interviewed her for my Drawn Together blog. During our recent trip to Belize (which was delayed by two years due to Covid), she celebrated her 6th year. Two days later she learned that a young man she met in rehab, whom she loved and he loved her, had died of an overdose. At the age of 30. The recent NYT article, A Rising Death Toll, documents the ongoing tragedies of lives lost to a disease for which we currently have no cure.
Actions Matter. But So Do Words
I made the mistake of saying what had happened to Matt was a waste. Sarah made me realize a tinge of blame in that phrase. When someone dies from cancer, do we say that was a waste? Matt’s mom had friends say, ‘I can’t imagine how you’re feeling,’ but for her, there’s little comfort in that. We all mean well and want to express our sadness, concern, love, and support. Sometimes I fear speaking the wrong words. Sometimes I can’t fathom the words to say at all– right or wrong. Nonetheless, we need the support– it’s what keeps us going when we think we can’t go any further.
The last time I wrote about this topic, the responses I got blew me away. They were filled with candor. Heartache. Hope. Devastation. Questions. Gratitude. Private confessions. So once again, I’m speaking publicly about this tragedy. There aren’t easy answers, and if anyone has seen the face of addiction, there is no uglier sight. But there is support for those who seek it, no matter which side of the problem you are on. Addiction is a family disease, and that family can extend to friends, colleagues, distant relatives, and ‘families’ one never wanted to be a part of.
Speaking of families, we suffered another loss quite recently, Doug Trumbull, Emily’s step-father, my son Josh’s father-in-law. To most people, he was the visual genius behind sci-fi movies like Blade Runner, Close Encounters of a Third Kind, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, to name a few.
He was a gentle giant: kind, warm and welcoming. We spent a fair amount of time together over the years in The Berkshires, and we even ventured away together once to Maui. He opened his home to us when Josh and Emily were married there. At 79, Doug did not want to die, and at 30, Matt didn’t know how to live.
So try to not sweat the small stuff. Try to find the win/win/wins in your daily interactions with people. Try to express your gratitude towards others with intention. Try to be kind to yourself, and one day at a time, we will be better and feel better.