Thursday, December 22, 2016

A pendulum swings

In July, my eldest nephew and I took a road trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. We were looking for adventure with an eye on bungee jumping down a gorge. Though we didn’t find bungee jumping (confounding, I know) we found other thrills like white water rafting down the Colorado River and visiting an amusement park built on top of a 10,000 foot high mountain cliff. There we rode a swing that flung us out over the edge of the cliff, going higher and faster with each hydraulic push. Though we were strapped in with seatbelts, we were flung out high above the Colorado River that rushed thousands of feet below. It was a tremendous, heart shaking thrill to be thrown out and back over and over again. We rode this swing at least five times.
This ride is the most apt metaphor for my 2016. This year has been like that swing, like the pendulum of life that has no other choice but to swing from one extreme to another. This has been the theme of my year and a mantra that I have repeated to myself as my year has vacillated between the crushing lows to ascending highs that I couldn’t have even imagined at the year’s beginning.
As the year began, I was hustling for freelance work and working as a valet for a condominium on the country club plaza. In the evenings, I worked on a play that I came to hate and eventually burned it in my backyard fire pit. I know—and don’t worry, I saved it on my computer but then (THEN) my computer was hacked by ransomware and my entire laptop and its contents were obliterated-my creative work and identity lost. Cue existential crisis. In those days, the only mail I received was either rejection letters or mounting bills. I felt like a creative failure. To top it off, I had to be fitted for adult braces.
I had just gotten my new grill installed and was working a shift as a caterer when I snuck a bite of flank steak. Not yet adjusting to braces, I swallowed the meat whole and began to choke. Literally, I was choking and couldn’t speak or breathe. I stood in the kitchen and flailed my arms about without sound before one of the other caterers gave me the Heimlich and I spit up the steak. It was several minutes before I could even muster the breath to whisper ‘thank you for saving my life’ to my co-worker, Susan. It was scary for sure but even more frightening were the looks of alarm on the faces of my co-caterers that reminded me that I’d come close to death and cheated it.
Literally the day after receiving notice that I wasn’t hired for the job I’d spent three months interviewing for, my colleague at my former job called. He offered me the chance to return to the job I’d previously spent nine years before I finally quit due to petty and ineffectual leadership for which I have no words of kindness. In May, I returned to my former job to find a vastly different office culture than the one I left in the fall of 2014. Those who made working there unbearable had all been removed from their positions and seen for that which I knew them to be. It was validating certainly, but moreover, the office culture now is brighter, lighter, and I was welcomed back like a prodigal son.
After my Dad’s open heart surgery in the Spring, he gifted each of us three kids with notebooks containing our family history complete with pictures and newspaper articles of and about our ancestors.
It’s a gift I hold dear and it was only amplified by a trip on Memorial Day to our family cemetery where the ancient headstones sit in the back acreage under a large tree—a family tree.
I traveled a fair amount: Colorado, Seattle, Provincetown, Tampa, Wichita, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. From the top of the Space Needle to the glory of riding It’s A Small World After All at Disneyland, travel continues to be my greatest love and my most generous muse.
Notable events:
I wrote a couple short plays that were produced locally: Peggy and Paul at the Post Office in Provincetown and Sequoia.
I shot a print ad as a disgruntled pilot for Garmin and an infomercial as a delivery driver schlepping a dolly/cart.
I won a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 in a raffle.
I spent a good amount of time behind a microphone. I officiated a wedding. I eulogized my beloved Aunt who died on Father’s Day. I hosted the 18th Street Fashion Show and an International Awards luncheon for my job.
I received an Inspiration Grant from ArtsKC to seed my newest project, Shelf Life. It’s a live storytelling show—an update on the idea of Show and Tell. So far, I’ve produced three shows and the response is overwhelming. Shelf Life (and storytelling) reminds me time and time again of the power of the first person narrative and how unifying it is and can be. That which is most personal is often the most universal. It gives me hope that maybe in my small little corner at the Brick, I can enable enough people to share their own stories, and create a space for people to actively listen to each other without judgment. Storytelling is an incubator of empathy and compassion and in these divisive times, it seems not only like a subversive act but also like the salve we so desperately need.
My beloved truck died and I was forced to buy a new car. Let me tell you that going from driving a 1964 Chevy to a 2015 Toyota Corolla is like an Amish kid going on Rumspringa (Seatbelts! Power steering! Power brakes! Radio! Bluetooth!). Also, I’m due to get my truck back from the mechanic tomorrow. (Merry Christmas, Me!)
On Election Day, I closed on my first house-an adorable bungalow in Northtowne.
I finally move in on Monday, December 26 after the past two months of home renovation that have consumed me wholly. I’m ecstatic at the thought of finally nestling in where my kitty, Neely and I will make a home.
Where my year began and where it ended are two very different stories and this reminds me that a pendulum has to swing—often from one stark extreme to another. That’s the rollercoaster of life and the thrill of living. Though at times dire, it reminds me that anything can change at any time and often does. That’s the good news and the bad news. In the meantime, though, I’m holding on for dear life, just a’swinging.
Thanks friends for being on this journey with me.
Happy Holidays and warmest wishes to you and yours.

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