Friday, December 30, 2011

Leap Into a New Year....

On the eve of another new year I can't help but look back in wonderment at what a difference a couple of years can make.  Two years ago this time I sat at my parents' house on the couch and asked them if they would look after Otis for 6 months so that I could sell all my worldly possessions, leave my entertainment career in L.A. behind and move into a house in the middle of nowhere in England, a little cottage on the estate that I'd never seen before.  

I am a huge fan of leaps of faith.  The bigger the better.   But even for me this one was a doozy.

To be fair, it wasn't exactly the first time I'd done this.  I'd dropped a job at Microsoft to move to New York and be an actor.  A few years later, I listened to my heart and pitched the acting career and followed a short, slightly twisted path into script supervising and a life in L.A.  But each of those leaps had been, in my view at least, wildly successful.  Not necessarily the outcomes I'd dreamed of on embarking I didn't win the Oscar I set out thinking I wanted but they were life changing and made me stronger and self sufficient and shaped me for the better in more ways, significant and subtle, than I think I could ever really name. 

I do think that taking the leap becomes easier the more you do it.  You become braver.  You see that there's something to be earned, and something to be learned, whatever the outcome might be.    

I jokingly say that my parents were supportive of everything we did as kids as long as it wasn't illegal, but there's a huge kernel of truth in that.  As the child of two adventurers, a sailor who has been around the world at least twice and a former nanny who crossed the ocean from a small island in Finland to live in New York City, following your dreams and being willing to make huge, albeit calculated and educated, life changes was somewhat the backbone I think of what you could call a family life philosophy.   Perhaps even family lore.   So it never occurred to me not to go or that they wouldn't want me to go.   You can always go back.  You can always return to the status quo.  But if you don't take the risk, you don't get the reward.   

If you never buy a lottery ticket, you'll never win the lottery. 

One of the things that I've had to learn to rely on and to trust, most importantly of all, is my own intuition.  Female intuition or just, perhaps, human intuition.  Whatever its source, through the years I've learned to believe in my own instincts.  To have faith in myself.  In my intelligence.  In my own abilities.  In my stamina and  resourcefulness, to deal with what comes at me and to look for new opportunities to grow and prosper. 

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade there's a moment where Indy realizes that one of the tests to get to the grail is to take a leap of faith.  Step onto a bridge that he can't see but he is sure that is there.  In his case, there's both a mental and physical leap to be undertaken, but any leap of faith is a decision to believe in your own judgment, that what you believe to be true is true and what you are doing is the right choice.

And having faith in yourself and taking big risks are what dreams are made of.

Here, now, it's both fascinating and revealing for me to look back and see how right that choice was.  Two years on, I'm challenged, interested, enthralled, curious, motivated and excited about where my life is, on both a personal and professional level. As if all the experiences of my life before this point have been a set up to get me to where I am at this moment, eager to move forward and see what the next adventure will be.   

So, as my friend Molly recently said, let 2012 be the year of doing. 

Let's see what we can achieve when we take a little leap and have a little ourselves. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Who needs an umbrella?

The weather this last week in England has been a chaotic, ridiculous, glorious mess.

First it's windy,  then it's hailing, then it's beautifully sunny, then it's a torrential downpour, then sunny again with a chance of rainbow.  It's warm enough to walk outside in just a sweatshirt but an hour later you freeze in your winter coat.  

And I love it.  Every second of it.  My only wish is that we could get a little thunder in there to complete the package presentation.  

I love the changeability on a moment's notice.  The unpredictability of what will be next.   I sit inside at my desk and laugh, watching the dark clouds roll across the sky, dropping the afternoon sunlight to a dusky blackness, unleashing their havoc and then disappearing again in another breath. 

Four and half years of living in Los Angeles was four and half years of living without any variation in the weather.  Every day was like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day - the same sunny blue skies with wispy white puffs of overly cheerful clouds floating through.  The last year I lived there it didn't rain from February to August.  Not a drop.  There were four days in June that were slightly overcast and hinted at a potential drizzle, which those of us from out of town anticipated eagerly, only to be bitterly disappointed by the return once more of those boring blue skies.

During that last year I heard and became obsessed with the song "Grey in L.A." by Loudon Wainwright.  As he so eloquently put it, "When it's grey in L.A. I sure like it that way 'cause there's way too much sunshine 'round here.  I don't know about you, I get so sick of blue skies wherever they always appear. "  

Don't get me wrong.  It's not that I don't like sunny days.  They have their time and their place like everything else.  I like sunny days when there's a flea market or a wedding or a festival.  I like lovely warm, cloudless days picnicking in the park.  But as much as I don't want rain every day, sun every day is not just boring.  To me it's soul crushing and uninspiring, and drains away my energy and ability to think and create and dream.  Without variations in the weather what do we have to look forward to, to talk about, to wonder about?  If every day is predictable on such a basic level, the rest of your life takes on a monotonous color, like a series of paintings only painted in yellow and blue.  Much as you might like those colors, you occasionally want to look at something else. 

There's a Ray Bradbury short story called All Summer in a Day about a group of kids in a classroom who live on Venus where it rains all the time except for one hour every seven years.  Most of the children have never seen sunlight except for the one girl, a recent transplant, who remembers living on Earth and seeing the sun.  The kids tease her, taunt her and lock her in a closet...and then the sun comes out for an hour and they play outside...forgetting they'd shut her away.  They remember her only after the sun has gone and the rain has once again returned.  

My days in L.A. I often felt like that girl, except the opposite.  Surrounded by days of neverending sun, barely remembering what rain smelled like, tasted like, felt like.  With the lyrics of the song "MyTime of Day" from Guys and Dolls ringing in my head, "And the smell of the rainwashed pavement comes up clean and fresh and cold," I dreamt of that scent, that metallic, minerally smell of the sidewalk as the warm summer rain begins to sprinkle the dirt away.   

I love rainy days.  Misty grey to a torrential downpours.  Perhaps it's growing up in Seattle, but I know many native Washingtonians that think sun every day would be fantastic.  I admit I prefer to be inside when it's raining or in a car or in a tent, listening to the rhythmic pinging on the window or roof.   But give me a booming, window-rattling thunderstorm and I'm a happy girl.  

Otis, on the other hand, isn't too thrilled.  As he really doesn't like getting wet, he's not too fond of the rain, even in his bright yellow raincoat.   

Well, can't please 'em all.