Many years ago, in the 1970s, I produced hundreds of local television shows in New York City that were similar to what Regis and Kelly and The View are now - morning programs aimed primarily at women which, over time, covered a wide variety of topics.
One of my favorite guests, when family issues were being discussed, was Eda LeShan. She was a family counselor who had once hosted a show on PBS titled How Do Your Children Grow?. She also wrote books, many of which are still available.
Eda opened one of those books with what she and I referred to as "The Lobster Story," which became, the more we talked about it, one of the important ideas we held about how we each chose to live. Here's the story:
One evening, Eda found herself at a formal dinner party, the kind where seats at the table are assigned with place cards. Following the cocktail hour, as Eda was settling herself in her chair, she realized her dinner partner was an oceanographer. "Oh, damn," Eda said to herself. "What am I ever going to find to talk about with this man?"
As the thought was running through her head, the man said, "Mrs. LeShan, I'll be bet you think we don't have anything in common. Let me tell you about the lobster.
"Every year, a lobster molts," the man continued. "It takes 72 hours for a new shell to form and harden, and during those three days, the lobster is the most vulnerable it can be. But, Mrs. LeShan, a lobster can't grow without making itself vulnerable."
Lobsters. People. No difference to Eda, after that story, in terms of vulnerability. She and her dinner companion had a sensational conversation that evening over good food and wine.
Eda and I came to believe that if we went for longer than a year or so without a crisis to overcome in our lives, we were not being challenged enough to continue growing.
In those days, I thought of "crisis" as always negative. If like me, you spent the majority of adulthood as a single woman, a crisis often involved a man - or lack of one. Other times it might be a difficult boss. Or being unemployed for a time. Or lacking confidence in one's ability to succeed in a new endeavor. Or the death of someone close.
Each of those events happened to me, some more than once, and they left me bereft for a time. But I never came out the other side of a difficult period without having gained a deeper understanding about myself, about another person, about life in general. So much so, that I came to rely on Eda's and my belief that one should have a crisis at least once a year and if too much time went by without one, I began to watch for something to overcome. It doesn't really work that way, but it's good to be on the lookout.
In recent years, I've come to see that the nature of the event that triggers some self- or life-examination doesn't need to be either a crisis or negative. Reading a new idea in a book, magazine, blog or in a movie - if it is original or striking enough (sometimes only its phrasing) - can set me on a new thought path and realization that I have changed in some manner.
For several weeks, I've been mulling a phrase from a statement made by Ang Lee, the director of Brokeback Mountain: "...the power of movies to change the way we're thinking..." which led me to consider how the power of blogging has changed the way I think (more on that some other time) in quiet, but dramatic ways. Who I am has been altered during two years of blogging, something I could not imagine when I began TGB.
And that thought, of course, led me back to Eda, who died in 2002, and how much I wish I could tell her what The Lobster Story, adapted to my later years, continues to mean to me.