Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Into the Deep Middle Ages

Yesterday I turned 45.

Just when I felt I was getting used to the Forties, I am heading towards 50.

I loved 44. I am a double digit girl and always have been. Double digits bring me luck and they run through my life like a magical current. I was born in '66, graduated from college in '88, and until a few days ago I was 44. (And yes, I loved 11-11-11, and it was a very good day).

It was a good year. A lucky year. A year of fruition after lots of years of slow, quiet and important growth. I ran a marathon, got two of my best magazine articles ever published (and the ones I am proudest of), hiked the Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, got a new job that is cool and different and doing some good for kids and schools, and am making the most money I ever have, when I wondered if I would ever make real money again.

I am growing, I am learning, I am lurching a little.

I am tired, I am excited, and I love my life.

A strange astrologist trained in an arcane system of Indian astrology told me in a small garden tea hut last January that my life would start getting better and more productive in the spring. Or at least new things would start happening. And that is true. He predicted a super productive five years (as long as I wore a moonstone on my wrist to balance my energies, which I am not doing).

I am still here and glad to be alive for one more year on this sweet earth.

For my birthday we went to Yosemite, the four of us, and spent two nights in a little tent cabin in Curry Village, with a heater and a single light bulb. We worried we would freeze, but ended up hot. The boys threw snow balls of dirty left over snow and prayed for a blizzard, and the Valley smelled like fall. On Saturday Benji said he felt like the next day would be Christmas. We hiked up to Vernal Falls and then Nevada Falls and my boys were so amazing they became celebrities on the trail. We ate dinner at the Ahwahnee, in the grandest dining room I have ever seen-one that bears an uncanny resemblance to Hogwarts.

Yosemite is one of my favorite places in the world, and after a weekend of hiking and climbing and soaking in that beauty my bucket is full and I am ready to forge on and do my best in the world. I will post a picture here, I promise.

This year I hope I will start my newspaper--for real!--fix my bike at the bike kitchen and do a triathlon, take guitar lessons and become really good at guitar, and go somewhere amazing I have never been before with my husband and boys. I hope Jonathan and I will start some amazing and bold venture together--something creative and different that will grow and do good and make us a good living.

To all who make my life rich, and sweet, Thank You. I am grateful.

Signing off for now, from the Middle Ages.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Follow Your Jealousy

Joseph Campbell tells us to follow our bliss. I believe in that--but sometimes I also believe you should follow your jealousy. If someone is doing something that makes you crazy with jealousy, with longing, that makes you agitated and restless and like you need to go running or DO SOMETHING!@#$#@! then maybe, just maybe, you should be doing more of that yourself.

I like my life. I do. I am grateful for so much.

But occasionally pricks of other realities come poking through and I have a glimpse of roads not taken, things not done, passions not pursued, lives not lived. An alternate Hilary universe.

This week it happened twice, and it was most uncomfortable.

First, my brother and his family went to Naples, Italy, where we lived when we were young. After a lifetime living in a villa on the Bay of Naples, our godparents (I claim them as mine, but really they are only godparents to my two siblings) will most likely leave their home (and our fantasy escape) forever and move to New Zealand. All three of us are filled with memories of Naples so deep and evocative that you can see that Italian influence laced through all three of our lives in different ways. Me, I live in a home that looks Italian on a hillside looking out on another hillside full of twinkling lights like a Neapolitan cliffside. The neighborhood is even slightly chaotic and dilapidated, like the Naples I knew as a child. At night, the smells are similar to a Neapolitan evening, and the herbs and plants and lizards that grow here are like the Italian city that seduced me for good when I was young, and left me searching for them ever since.

I am so happy for my brother, that he took his family to our beloved place. That his girls danced and explored and played hide and seek and pretended to be Roman statues just as we did. I love knowing that the taste of Neapolitan pizza and Italian gelato and Pompeian adventures is now stuck in their heads, too. When I saw his girls playing where we had played I was so happy it is hard to convey. I want that for my boys, too. I want them to eat zucchini pasta on Capri and to climb the Phoenecian steps. I want them to skip and run over Roman ruins and to see vespas with handsome men, beautiful women clinging to their waists, screaming up cobbled streets. I want them to look at Vesuvius looming over the Bay and to know what a real Neapolitan pizza tastes like.

Then, last night, Jonathan invited over a BBC correspondent and his new wife. They had moved here from Thailand, where he was a correspondent, and she was some sort of diplomat. They were wonderful, smart, worldly, curious and well-traveled. I guess they are what I was once--and what I thought I would be. And they still delighted me. I felt the jealousy surge--wasn't my life supposed to be like this? Full of tales of Thailand and Libya and celebrity and adventure?

I lived that life for awhile. Then stopped.

And here I am.

I can still go to Italy, and I will take my boys. I hope they will fall in love with Italy the way my brother's girls have. But the life of a foreign correspondent is dead to me--an option that has been truly shut down and put to sleep. I may travel again, and live abroad, but my former profession is dying and I would not put myself in danger with kids.

I love my choices. I love my screenwriter husband, my Hollywood life, my boys. I love California, the national parks, the sound of Spanish in this my unlikely, but adopted home of Los Angeles. I love our charter school and the life we have created here.

Still, for one week, as I approach my 45th birthday (eek!) I felt the surge of not-quite-regret, but of some slivers of dreams lost, choices made, options closed. Not forever. I can break them down and try to pick out the parts I want. But I guess it is a part of middle age that you come to terms with where you are, you do not lie, or fool yourself with promises of what can be. You look with cold hard eyes at what you have. Then you thank the world for all the things you have (and I have so much!) and figure out the essence of those things you wish you had, the source of those pricks of jealousy.

And you take them, and work towards them, to make them happen, before you die!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In the Land of the Zombies

The days are getting shorter, the mornings darker. Still, in a feeble attempt to keep my sanity I rise at 6:30 and try to run a couple of times a week before work. It keeps my nerves in check, and my breathing steady. I dread getting up, but it makes me happy.

When I started the day was bright, the sun up. I could see downtown when I crested my final hill. Now, I set out in the pitch black. I am running in the moment when the street lights have gone out, but the light has not yet come.

I run across the Hollywood Bowl parking lot, under the freeway underpass, and across into a sweet little neighborhood called the Hollywood Dell full of cute houses, lots of hills, and, early in the morning, coyotes, rabbits and sometimes deer.

But as the economy gets worse, and the mornings darker, I am seeing other wildlife. I am there when all the homeless people rise from behind their bushes and rocks and park benches. I am there when they come out of the woods and parks dressed in black, with their hoodies still pulled tight over their heads. They are half-awake, just like me, stumbling out of strange places to begin the day.

I do not scare easily. But the other morning, I suddenly felt I was in the land of zombies. All these people, who feel groggy and half-dead, and invisible to the world most of the time, were awake, with me. Alone on the streets.

Is this why zombie movies are so popular right now?

Because when you are awake when the rest of the world sleeps, this is the world you see?