In "Take 2: Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings," talk-show host and media personality Leeza Gibbons shares advice on how to make your life the one you want it to be. Drawing from her own career, relationships and experiences, Gibbons urges readersthat it's never too late to take your destiny by the reigns and reboot your life. Here's an excerpt.
Introduction: The Door Marked Change
“You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” – Louise Smith
Okay, my friends—are you ready for change? Is it time to shake things up, start over, and hit the reset button on your life? Congratulations on having the guts and the wisdom to call for Take 2. No matter where you were for the first take or who you were before, that was then and this is now—this is your moment. There’s nothing more important.
They say that our life’s work is finding our life’s work, but I was lucky. Early in the sixth grade, I discovered my calling was to be a conduit of information. It didn't matter to me the medium or the message. Just give me a microphone, and I’m rarin’ to go. I’m a storyteller—it’s all I've ever really wanted to be, and I've never looked back.
In storytelling and journalism, we use the term sagging middle. (Horrifying image, right?) This refers to the point in the story that seems dull and boring due to a lack of action. You've probably seen movies or read books that you described as being “slow.” Well, as a reporter, I can’t be slow. Viewers will change the channel in a nanosecond. And nobody wants a saggy middle! Authors, bloggers, journalists, and storytellers of all kinds avoid it at all costs. So should you!
It has been said that life is analogous to an epic journey, a hero’s tale. So I guess you could say that sometimes the story gets a little . . . saggy. Can you relate? If you’re in the middle of building your career or growing your family, what did you think life would look like or feel like at this point? If you’re farther down the road (like me), have you ever felt that somewhere between menstruation and menopause, things became a little too predictable? Have you ever woken up and said, “This is not the life I ordered?"
It may be time to take a deep breath and survey your situation. Look at your decisions, career, relationships, and physical and mental health. If the story is boring and not worth reading or reporting, it’s time for some creative writing, baby! Call for a do-over and reset yourself now in the direction you want to go. It doesn't matter if it’s not where you thought you were headed—in fact, that’s the point.
Interviewing people for a living, I've heard a solid cross section of what I call “life interrupted” stories from people who spent a lot of time figuring out who they were and what they should do when change came along and reshuffled the deck. They were divorced or separated, grew older or were fired. Someone they loved became ill or died. I've heard from many who have danced with the devils called depression and addiction. Some just forgot their steps once the music of their lives changed.
Life changes on the way to happily ever after, and often that change is an unwelcome villain. It’s an inevitable foe that you may want to fight, but it seems to keep winning—whether that means a new job or serious financial challenges like bankruptcy or the loss of a home. I mean, how much can a person take?
Maybe you've survived illness, stroke, a serious accident, or just a changing body. You might have empty-nest syndrome—but who knows for how long? The kids may be back. Somewhere between the ones who raised you and the ones you’re trying to raise, you can get stuck in the middle, struggling for a place in the ongoing saga of your own life.
Time for a dramatic twist! This is not the end of the story. This is where you learn about second acts, second chances, and new beginnings.
The Story Within Your Story
Have you ever noticed that the evenly split weight of the first and second halves of a story naturally cause a book to open at its midpoint? This is where the hero’s trial occurs—in other words, the good stuff. I’m telling you: Your middle doesn't have to be saggy (proverbially or literally!) if you recognize that this is where the real lessons lie, where the valuable experiences happen, and where you deliver re-creation and transformation in a bold second take!
I've been the writer and editor of my own story for some time now. Over and over, I've had to strip away the dysfunctional and out-of-date definitions of myself in order to achieve reinvention. I know that may sound lofty—to achieve reinvention—but isn't it better than succumbing to sameness? Sometimes the process was daunting and the introspection humbling. But other times, shedding the old notions of who I was and where I wanted to go was liberating. It helped me focus and reminded me that I needed to call for another take, or I’d risk becoming a minor character in someone else’s story.
The idea of life being under construction can be thrilling. We get to decide how it’s going to happen and who’s going to come along as we create our new self. Most of us edit our dreams and cut out our passion because we either don’t feel we deserve it, are waiting for permission, or don’t know how to eliminate risk. At some point, we have to figure out what our dreams really are now and what they’re worth to us.
We can start by identifying how we want to live—in terms of our relationships, career, financial life, and family—and asking one important question.
Now that I've grown up, who do I really want to be?
We give a lot of respect to loyalty in our society, and it has always been one of my core values. But why are we devoted to the people around us, and does that dedication still serve us? What about a love relationship that has just worn us to a frazzle? Friendships that no longer support our vision of who we want to be? Jobs that are suffocating our souls? We stay because we've been taught to do so and because society rewards commitment. It may be helpful to suspend that notion of loyalty while taking a life inventory.
The re-creation process can seem incredibly self-indulgent to those who were taught to go out there and climb mountain after mountain without asking why this mountain—or even why climb at all. But I don’t think we can even start the process of giving back, which I know motivates a lot of us, until we find our center, the best version of ourselves. The closer we get, the better it is for everyone else.
So despite the fact that I don’t fancy myself to be anybody’s guru, and my attempts at self-help have been erratic at best, I still think there are some basics that have helped me stand tall, buck up, transition, and transform—and I’m happier and more fulfilled than at any other time in my life. This book is a compendium of what I know now. I hope you find it helpful.
From "Take 2: Your Guide to Creating Happy Endings and New Beginnings" by LeezaGibbons. Copyright © 2013 by LeezaGibbons. Reprinted with permission from HayHouse.