My parents were really about as opposite from Archie & Edith Bunker as you could get. My father was an extreme liberal–he was anti-war and very, very, very pro-civil rights. We heard Martin Luther King, Jr. speak when my brother and I were youngsters and my brother got to shake his hand. My mother was truly, deeply beautiful and a Southern belle in the best possible sense–gracious, warm, charming.
But they had their Archie & Edith sides too–my pop, bless his heart, was in no way a liberal when it came to the (mis)behavior of his only daughter (ahem) and my mother, for all her beauty, was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. My brother and I swear to this day that no one could make us laugh as hard as she could. So my Archie-dad could be intolerant and my Edith-mom was a genuine, natural comic.
I learned a lot from watching All in the Family–as who among us in the 70s did not?
And I continue to learn from Norman Lear.
I could be about to really mangle this, but this is how I remember it.
Peter Segal, on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, the hilarious news quiz show I listen to to’ing and fro’ing from the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, was interviewing Lear who represented some lucky contestant that day. Lear, then 93, sounded just as zippy as ever, and Segal asked him, as one will, how he stayed so zippy.
Lear said that there were only two important words: “Over” and “Next.”
By that he meant that when one show, idea, phase, relationship, marriage, moment (I am lending this my own interpretation) has run its course, then it is OVER. No more hanging on. No more reviewing. No more chewing over. No more dragging around. Over is Over.
Lear had a LOT of TV show ideas rejected, it turns out, and he just let them go when they were. He didn’t resurrect or belabor or bemoan. He went on.
Because the other important word is Next.
When one thing is over, then another thing is about to be next.
He said something about existing in the hammock strung between these two concepts, living there, not in the past but also not fretting over the future but living in full expectation that it would show up in a timely manner.
One reason I hang on to things that are OVER is because I am pretty well convinced that there is no NEXT.
If I live in faith that there will be another moment, book, idea, relationship, experience, then I can much more easily release the one that is OVER and get ready happily for NEXT.
So–I am finishing the book I’ve been working on for years this fall. I have one more in my head. And then I am getting ready for a dream of writing that I’ve had so long and so secretly (from myself) that I can hardly believe even now that it could be NEXT.
And yet Norman Lear says so. And he hasn’t steered me wrong yet.