As a huge fan of the Godfather, I enjoyed Francis Ford Coppola's appearance on Terry Gross's Fresh Air. I expected (and received) many wonderful tidbits about the production of the movie and remembrances of my favorite author, Mario Puzo. The main thing I took away from the interview was unexpected: Francis Ford Coppola mentioned that whenever he was working on a project, he always had a theme word. When he came to a decision as a director or screenwriter and it wasn't obvious, he'd go back to that word and apply it to the script. For the movie Godfather it was "Succession".
I love this concept. I almost want to go back and re-watch the entire Godfather saga just to look for these moments. I think of Michael guarding the hospital or being in the bathroom and nervously looking for the gun behind the toilet. "Succession"... how did it lead to "Succession". Michael told Kay never to ask about business, but just this once he'd talk about it - that he did not kill his brother in law. And he delivers the line in honesty, despite the fact it's a total lie.
The end of last year was rough, far from just the results of the election or the lack of sunshine in the shorter days.There were a lot of punches, more jabs than uppercuts to me, but many gut-shots to those I know. I've been in a haze, much like another famous fictional Mafioso, Tony Soprano, toward the end of the first season of the show which made his character famous when he started medicating (some prescribed, some self-prescribed) and went through his days as if they were living him rather than him living them. Until the carjacking scene (which in my opinion cemented this as an all-time great show.) From there on, Tony takes over the crime family and the rest is television history.
It took a week, but the word "present" came to me in a similar way. The city next to my home town has a stop light for pedestrians to cross in its busy downtown area. As my wife and kids and I were crossing well after the light had turned green for pedestrians, a car approached going too fast to make a safe stop at the light. My son was leading our family as we walked across and had just handed me my cellphone to make it brighter resolution and my head was down, scrambling with the phone. I saw the car out of the corner of my eye and instinctively grabbed at my son's jacket to pull him back. I felt the fabric of my jacket slip through the fingers as my son kept walking directly into the path of the car. Screeching tires. My son froze. God was there was the car came to a stop. It might not have even been that close. He may have missed hitting my son by a couple of feet or 10 feet. After I missed at my pass to grab him I froze. I was not there. I was an observer until the car stopped. I was in no danger myself as I was by a car in another lane that was at complete stop (probably the only reason that driver stopped). I wasn't mad at the driver. I didn't even look back at him or her. But I was awake. I became "present". Later on I asked my son about the incident and he did not want to talk about it. I had trouble sleeping that night, which is rare for me, thinking of what I'd be doing at the time if those few feet had not been enough to spare him.
Now I will not observe. I will be present. I will give full attention. I will act. I will speak. I will be here. Life is filled with distractions, multi-tasking and some of this is unavoidable. But the next time I need to make a decision, to force myself to do something against my desire that is for my betterment, I will think of that word "present", much like a script writer in my own life. Yes, there are some bad things going on now in the world. I'll never explain them. There are some people who are lost, either by their own choice or out of fear - they are gone. I let them go.
I feel that the fact I've used two fictional "gangsters" as an example may prove the wrong point- not that I am going to be a "tough guy"; I plan to be tough when necessary but not as a default or trademark or definition. I plan to be "there" when needed. I am present now for my family and those close to me. I am present for myself too. I too often observe my own life, afraid to interject or speak up, which is surprising for an extrovert like me. I will not be quiet anymore. If being present means speaking out, making others uncomfortable, I will do it.
There is so much to be alive for now, most importantly myself and those around me. My job. My interests. My voice. In 2017, I will be present.