I have friends who work at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and we were discussing the new movie Contagion, which is directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s 11, Traffic, The Informant) and stars a host of big name heavyweights including, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet.
Now as a filmmaker, writer and screenwriter, I’ve seen and critiqued hundreds of scripts and movies that focus on the world coming under attack either by a virus/disease, a nuclear threat or aliens. In Contagion the film centers on a virus that comes out of nowhere, spreads quickly and kills people within days. So, when people suddenly start dropping dead, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and other health agencies are panicked and at a lost as to what the virus is, how it came to be, or how to control it. And finding a cure, forget it; they don’t have a clue; well, not until later in the film.
People who haven’t contracted the disease fight and struggle to survive as the world falls apart. This is a definitely a film which gets audiences on edge because it deals with an unknown factor, a pandemic, and that always leads to chaos, violence, and self-preservation. In fact, the first thing my husband said was—”And you want to know why we need to buy a gun.”
So, back to my friends at the EPA who deal with environmental issues and often works with the CDC on certain concerns. When I brought up Contagion they didn’t respond with the usual—”Don’t worry, it’s only a movie.” No, what they actually said was something like this—”The way the writer put that theory together in the movie, well, that could definitely happen to us.” Later that day, I was watched Dr. Oz on television; he was also talking about the movie. Once again, the hair on the back of my neck stood up when I heard him state—”Something like that could, and probably will, happen in our lifetime.”
Since I couldn’t see the whole interview, I wondered whether Dr. Oz was talking about the virus or a combination of a disease like the one in Contagion along with the mass hysteria and loss of social order that would overtake people in our world if such a thing like this did happen.
But that really didn’t matter, because hearing all this got me thinking about my life. I realized I hadn’t been focusing on many of the goals I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime. For the past few years, I allowed other things to take precedence, like my marriage, work and family. I looked in the mirror and saw a shell of who I once was, a vibrant go-getter, who juggled four or five projects at a time. I knew I was older now, but I was still healthy, child-free (my kids are grown and out the house), and financially capable of going after my dreams like I have always done.
Other than my memoir, Here I Stand, coming out in January 2012, I hadn’t really focused on any of my other dreams and goals. Then, Contagion got me thinking. No day is promised to any of us and it doesn’t have to be the fault of some virus. We take for granted that we will wake up in the morning or we’ll get home safely from work at night. We forget or put aside the dreams and goals we once held so dear and precious. We are forced to deal with the stress of life, which comes in the form of work, family, spouse, children, college, community, church, and social responsibilities. Then after so many years go by, when we’re unhappy, or overwhelmed, or unsatisfied with life, we’ll look at that list we made when we were younger, the list of possibilities that gave us so much joy, and we wonder what the hell happened.
So, I took my list out my file cabinet, studied it carefully and realized I still could achieve all the things I put on that list. It might take me a bit more time, energy, discipline, and focus, but I could do it. And so can you. Get your list out or make a list of everything you’ve ever wanted to accomplish in your life and then put into motion whatever steps you need to in order to achieve them. Because if you don’t when that virus, alien or whatever else takes hold of you, the last words you’ll be saying are: “I would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve.” I’d rather be saying, “Damn right I lived life on my own terms, and I have absolutely no regrets for being blessed, productive, fulfilled, and happy. I can now die in peace.”