(NOTE: This went out to my friends and family in email form but I know there are plenty of you who keep up via the blog, so...)
It’s the end of a decade – the end of the decade nobody knew what to call. “The Shrub Era”? “The Oughts”? Now people can comfortably settle into the teens and how nice that will be… I’m sure we all hope…
I would like to say a word or two about this past year, 2009, but before I do that – a word or two about this decade. You might say this was a pretty bad year for me, unemployed for 11 months without a nibble on a job or a sale, but please consider… I began this decade with the loss of my first wife and spent four or five or six or seven years finding my way out of those mires. I’ve lost friends, Megan foremost among them. I lost my father. I went to the Grand Canyon to try and kill myself and found that self-destruction does not end when you step away from the edge. All in all, there were other years I would wish to repeat far less than the one that just past.
This past decade held more than its share of lovely memories as well. This was the decade of Vicky. I won’t say we never have our problems but there’s no one I would rather have them with. This was the decade I returned to the stage. I wrote my first play in this decade. Imagine this for a second: in the last 10 years (yes, I’m going back to 1999 – sorry – chronology sucks), I have completed nine novels and 12 full-length plays. My sales record may be abysmal but I’ve had four staged readings and I can say that with every novel or play my quality improves just a little bit. I have learned that being an artist is not about making money and I have found fulfillment in that. This achievement is due mostly to my first book on philosophy, a memoir called Climbing Maya.
I’ve been blessed – in a completely unreligious, non-spooky supernatural way, I assure you – with the gifts of so many people. Annie and Lori convinced me to write my first play. Steve offered to direct it before he even saw it. Sherryl and Chris and Stephanie and Tony have worked with me along the way, supporting me with their amazing talents – especially Stephanie who is my most dedicated fan and who has cheered me on all along the way despite my lack of monetary compensation. Eric has inspired me to take my writing to the next level and, along with the Orange County Playwrights Alliance, have provided me a home amongst peers. Sean has been a friend who has stood by me every step of the way, through some of the worst times for us both. And my family – the screwiest bunch of lunatics you ever want to meet – has popped in and out, together and apart, for too many weddings and too many funerals and not enough lottery winnings. Then, there are those I met, those who came back into my life, and those who left, all adding to a cast of characters I could never measure up to in any of my writing. And then, there is Vicky. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have started writing again after a significant drought. She married me in the good times and has stuck by me in bad. Heck, she’s kept the trains running on time while I’ve been off on this artistic excursion. (Yes, we recently acquired trains…) She started out refusing to be “a fan” and is now one of my biggest. She’s the best friend I could hope for and she’s also a colossal pain in my ass and I consider myself lucky.
It’s been one hell of a decade, is what I’m saying.
So, this year hasn’t been the worst. It didn’t need to be the best… would’ve been nice, but… Say what you want about unemployment and what you like about the economy, here’s what I got. I’ve had eleven months to pursue being an artist, which is something most people don’t get. That pursuit produced eleven plays and the beginnings of my next novel – good work including a play about finding your way after the death of a loved one, crazy work including a Marx Brother’s comedy with one protracted poop joke, political work about the death of ethics, and one very surreal absurdist piece that makes me believe I’ve finally after all these years created actual art. It wasn’t the year I wanted. It was the year I got.
This might not have been the decade I wanted when I rang it in with a certain someone so many years ago but it was the one I got. So it is with everything. So it is with life.
And so I close with a suggestion that you may not have the happiest new year and the next decade may not bring everything you want, but it will be what it will be. Find the good times, find the loveliness, and share them with those who matter to you most. That’s what one decade has taught me.