The day before New Year’s Eve I suffered a case of food-poisoning, with all the fun that entails. Appropriately, I ended 2018 feeling a little beaten up and drained! But the first day of 2019 is the sigh after the storm. The sun came out this morning, and — for today at least — nothing could taste more delicious than sparkling water and saltines! I think if there were a theme for 2018, it would be “perspective.”
(The theme for 2019, I have decided in advance, will be “pictures” since I am looking through my photos from this year and realizing I don’t have a single one with both Paul and me in the frame. We’ll use this as a stand-in:)
Paul and I still live in the top half of a Spanish duplex in Los Angeles. In the spring, we were sad (though happy for her) when our awesome housemate, Julie, moved to Brooklyn with her boyfriend. We lucked out when another friend, Sue, was in the market for a place. She’s a photographer, a former stand-up comic and has similar standards for cleanliness to ours so we’re getting along great!
In 2017, Paul helped out his friend from film school, Iman, with her first feature, a comedy about three young Muslim women balancing love, career ambitions and culture in the Big Apple. In 2018 he became an official producer, logging many hours on the phone and in the editing room (i.e. the editor’s bedroom … it’s an independent film!)
For me, 2018 was a “leap-of-faith” year.
I purposefully took no steady teaching or admin-ing in order to push forward my screenwriting career ambition. I developed several projects and a couple came close to the finish line of being sold — but despite hopes and promises, and many people claiming to be “excited,” it was not meant to be… in 2018 at least!
On the bright side, because I can write while traveling, I was able to take a longer-than-usual trip back to Indiana and New York where it was lovely to see family and old friends. On the flight to New York I also read a novel by friend and talented writer, Eric Sasson, called Admissions, and couldn’t put it down. I asked Eric if I could option the rights and he said yes! This was my first time optioning another writer’s work – it felt good to find and validate, even in a small way, another writer’s talents and efforts!
I took a video editing class and used my new, rudimentary skills to complete a three-minute film! (It stars my niece and nephew and had a very exclusive “cast and crew” screening at my sister’s home on Christmas Day.)
Day-to-day, the freedom /obligation to wake up and write into the afternoon was really satisfying. So was making it to the gym more often. I always wondered, if my schedule were more flexible, I would really make more time for the gym? I was happy to find the answer is yes!
I saw some great plays, and Paul and I both saw many movies. For a few golden months our MoviePass subscriptions provided a non-stop film festival at the nearby Landmark theatre.
Almost-free movies, classes at the gym, extra hours at my laptop – as well as sunny days, rainy days, and days when you just wake up feeling good – more and more, I am aware of how these are gifts. Maybe because 2018 has been so full of perspective-giving moments. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a year when so many friends posted about losing their beloved pets. I’m regularly brought to tears by friends grieving the loss of a parent or dealing with grave illnesses of spouses and children with a bravery, perseverance and poetry that stuns me.
In December, my mom and I traveled through San Francisco to Eureka, California, seeing old friends, family and Redwood trees along the way. The trip was over my birthday weekend, near the year’s end, and we had several hours to drive while looking at fields and listening to the Dirty John podcast. Basically the perfect conditions for woolgathering and taking stock– and, if one isn’t careful, lapsing into wondering why the universe hasn’t rewarded ones efforts in a way that’s “fair.”
This sense of why unfairness? might have been lingering in the back of my mind the morning we left Eureka. Mom and I were eating our free continental breakfast in the motel lobby when a mother came in with her four children under the age of ten. We tried not to laugh too obviously as one of the kids over-filled his cereal with milk and then carefully shuffled to the table trying (unsuccessfully) to transport the bowl without it spilling.
My mom, making conversation, asked the kids if they were “on vacation,” the six-year old girl replied, in the softest little voice, “No, we’re here because our house burnt down in Paradise.”
The mother told us that she and the kids had been at the motel for weeks while their father was on the road, looking for work and a place to rebuild their lives.
(Whoa, I didn’t mean to write myself into such a serious corner here at the end. I’ll try to wrap it up. Thank goodness this wasn’t a Christmas letter!)
Any year can be a year where our life plans—our life assumptions—get thrown off track, in big ways and small. If there’s a value in it, it’s probably that it makes us grateful for whatever remains—for me, there was a lot to be grateful for this year: health, the well-being of those close to me, people who remain resolutely kind and thoughtful in the face of the growing pressures in the world to be otherwise, friends, laughter, generosity, Skype, clean air, saltine crackers and sparkling water. And if you are reading this, you!
Here’s to whatever you are grateful for, and whatever mountains you have to climb in 2019!
Barrington and Paul