A new year’s resolution:
This year I would like to be the person who helps the laundry make its way back into the drawers.
And I’d like to start opening the mail.
I think I’d like to start opening the mail again.
I’d like to start eating meals.
This begins with cooking.
Popcorn, as it turns out, is not a meal.
My mother’s first sponsor told her to start small. When my mother called her each morning from the depths of panic, wondering how to start another day without drugs, her sponsor would tell her to make her bed and call her back. She followed these directions.
“Now what?” She would say.
“Wash your face and call me back.”
It went like this for years until she was doing these tasks without assistance and without drugs. I am quite certain that the panic of a new day has not changed for my mother. The solve for it has.
Morning doom, drug addict or not, I believe, is hereditary. I learned by observation, the soothing affect of starting my day in the right direction by making my bed. I won’t go into detail here about the extent to which keeping things tidy later became a crippling coping mechanism for me. But I have been religiously and meticulously making my bed for my entire adult life.
I learned the serenity prayer over stale toast in the car on school mornings. I was never on time for class. But those drives had some hope in them. My mother, a recovering drug addict, was working in a 24-hour diner, making the bed we shared every morning, and managed to drop 4 children — two by birth and two left in her care by a fellow user of drugs who had gone to prison, and had somehow figured out how to ensure that we were all fed and delivered to four different schools on week days. My high school was the last stop and brushing crumbs off me and bowing my head in prayer as we parted felt more important than those first minutes of math class. It was to me, miraculous to have made it there at all.
I suppose I feel this way about this new year. Miraculous to have made it here. Miraculous to have the ability to ponder resolutions at all. Survival leaves little time to ponder self improvement. And yet, as my mother says, “You can’t wait for your ass to be falling off to finally get yourself to the meeting.”
Insert your equivalent for a meeting or means of maintaining emotional sobriety here___.
2021 was a year of one foot in front of the other. It was a year of making the bed and saying, “what’s next.” It was teaching myself how to do jobs while doing the job and humbling myself again and again, saying I don’t know the answer, where do I get the answer, learning skills I never dreamed I would need, saying yes, and figuring out all the components of what saying yes would require. It was a year of asking for help, which for an extraordinarily self-reliant human, was not easy. It was a year of learning to say no to plans when what I needed was a bath and to water my plants and write. I did battle with my introverted tendencies while living in a new city, meeting new people, learning new positions on set, all while carrying a bag of sadness called the grief of what might have been. The many lives, places, people I left behind on the search toward survival and some semblance of serenity. My heart continues to yearn for New York City and the people I left there. But I am also certain there is something here for me that I must see through.
And always, there is the remaining struggle to make myself on time for things. There are mornings when it is more important that I bow my head or listen to that piece of music as I brush crumbs from my body, than it is for me to be on time. It is miraculous to have made it at all. I am learning, foot by little foot, that if I wake a little earlier, I can build these moments into my morning so that I can both have that extra breath I need before meeting the day’s people, and relinquish myself of the agony of being late.
I was late to my own birth. I don’t do a single thing before I’m ready. And I am forever trying to pack 10 pounds of time into a 5 pound bag, failing to leave room for the unavoidable daydreaming that consumes 90% of my day. This quality makes me the artist, the storyteller that I am and an unreliable keeper of schedules, deadlines, and spreadsheets. I am a work in progress. This past year often required that I put my artist self on a shelf so I could open the emails and pay the bills with skills that don’t come naturally to me. It is a special kind of torture to willingly put the artist part of me away in the name of survival. A still small voice inside me calling out to be used in the capacity I am made for. A horse at the gate, whining and hollering to be set free where they can run. All things in time.
A whisper: start by making the bed.
You may, at any time, return to the simple task of making the bed. The rest will follow.
My senior year of high school, when I told my mother I was going to forgo college and pursue a professional acting career, her response was, “then you’d better learn to wait tables.”
She got me a job in the hotel where she worked. We carpooled. We shared sent back steaks in the cutlery closet. I learned to polish glassware.
Later, now living in an apartment in Hollywood, I auditioned during the day and served celebrities, mobsters, and sex workers manhattans and spring rolls in a Beverly Hills hotel bar by night. I often snuck into the dark ballroom down the hall and sobbed about where my life was going. Re-entering the bar with a smile and seamlessly refilling glasses.
Later, working in a hotel nightclub where I’d learned I could make more money in less shifts, I stuffed PBJ’s in my mouth on the way in into the locker room where I changed out of boys clothes and into a bikini and served mojitos to drunk bachelor parties, dodged cigarette burns in a sea of sweaty dancing bodies while carrying trays of martinis in 6 inch heels. I learned to read drink orders on lips, let come ons slip, and ignored the hands groping my ass as music thudded. I learned how to get men to pay me to canon ball into the hotel pool. I wouldn’t do it for less than $500. They had to close out their checks in advance of my splash.
I worked holidays. New Year’s Eve was a coveted shift. I served glasses of champagne at midnight and watched my life from the other side of glass. I counted cash in the parking garage around a table of calculators with co-workers at 4am. I drove home with the sunrise. It felt like a holiday made for other people. Artists who had made it. People who thrive in 9-5 jobs. Trust fund babies. Whoever they were, they weren’t me. I never made resolutions. But at some point I did make a decision to alter the course of my life.
Years later, exiting college, when I did finally go, at a time most might consider late — go figure, I’d won the bid on my first big opportunity as a director of a network docu-series. We would film ten episodes across the U.S.
Imposter syndrome flared.
But I’m a waitress.
Nevertheless, I dove in.
While moving through security at the airport from one state to the next where our crew would conduct our next round of interviews, the TSA confiscated the wine key I had been carrying on my person since high school. I’d opened countless bottles of wine for guests with that bent wine key. It had become a totem, an 11th finger. I watched the TSA employee throw it into the trash and thought perhaps this is a sign. Relief. My life as a server is over.
I was wrong about that.
Months later, the production company I’d poured my savings and sweat equity into for a year ended abruptly along with the relationship I’d had with the creative partner and friend I’d built with. As you can imagine, securing directing work as an AFAB actor-writer-director with little directing credits and without a production company or agency behind them, is no small feat. Our paths diverged. He became a successful cinematographer near instantly. As for me, many botched meetings and close calls later, I was back opening bottles of wine with a new wine key. Perhaps I was not the artist I had believed myself to be.
2021 was the year I’d freshly picked up the pieces and followed my family to Austin, setting an intention to earn my living working in the film industry. I started by cleaning houses, delivering groceries. By the start of the new year I was on a set and the rest followed. Though the majority of the jobs I worked in 2021 were in roles other than directing, writing, or acting, 100% of my income came from film jobs. I made the bed. I showed up. I made friends with fear. I formed new friendships in a community more loving than any I have ever known and allowed myself to be seen by them. I decided that the way I earn money is not a measure for wether I have stories to offer this world. I cried a lot. Sometimes publicly. Sometimes privately. I laughed too. I created a home full of plants and animals with a guest bedroom that I love filling with friends who pass through this special town. I paused a lot. Took stock. Took baths. Felt my feelings. Gave for fun and for free to those in need. I showed up for my chosen family. I made mistakes. I spent time intentionally learning who I am when I’m not partnered and seen through someone else’s lens. I danced in my living room. I remembered who I am.
I still don’t know what to do with the night off on New Year’s Eve.
Perhaps this is a good thing.
In the end, I made my bed.
I made my bed
I made my bed
and then some.
I felt whole
And like it is a miraculous thing
To have made it here at all.