Thick avocado. Starchy rice. That cold iron of Salmon. The bread and oil of fried chicken.
We both had an accelerated last few months of 2015, so catching up was a rare pleasure. A low hanging branch in the middle of the rushing current.
She looked over at me, her eyes are always alert and sharp, while I bumbled with the soy sauce. Multi-tasking between pouring liquid into a tiny dish, and surveying a conveyor belt of desires, is clearly not my forte.
"So, how have you been?"
It was an innocent enough question, but I grappled with it momentarily. Do I respond with the aloof decorum of the day? Or unpop the cork to my inner well of new year angst, made more acute by the simple fact that soy sauce seemed to hate me.
Why bother with decorum, I thought.
"I'm bewildered" I said. "I just was not ready for 2016 to start. The last three months of the year hurtled past, like when the Millenium Falcon goes into light speed. Now, it's late January."
I paused for significance.
"Know what I mean?"
My fellow filmmaker smiled politely.
"You just have to own it" she said.
Correct advice, of course. So much of the blockages we experience in our psyche are self-inflicted. Resistance to the passage of years being the worst of offences. Every time you gag at a fifty-year old in a hipster tshirt, you understand this truth on an intrinsic level.
Nevertheless, I smiled with clenched teeth. Pragmatic and candid were neither of the traits I was in the market for at that moment. I wanted impractical, self-defeating empathy for my recalcitrance. A chorus of agreement on the disagreeable.
So I doubled down. Well beyond the end of the sushi dinner. Into the hours and days that followed. The creative mind knows no bounds when it comes to excusing bad behaviour.
I blamed the holiday preoccupation with family events.
I indicted the mental energy I had expended on my array of film projects.
I negotiated with, whined at, and cajoled...myself. Shouting down that inner voice asking the questions you refuse to utter aloud.
"What are you waiting for?"
"I'm just not ready" I moaned.
The hands kept ticking. The calendar is relentless.
"Wait, can we just wait a second?!"
No lightning strike. No muse appeared. The tide surged on, sweeping away reason and logic. No time for fear. No moments for doubt. There was only forward.
And there was me, attempting to be the boulder in the midst of the torrent.
I'd like to tell you I came to my senses. That an epiphany drifted into my perception, clear and pure as a soap bubble.
My blockage eventually uncoiled under the pressure of two random events.
First, I had a health scare. I'll spare you the details, save for the fact that something didn't seem right, and the doctor agreed that a more detailed check was needed. The spectre of the dreaded 'C word' loomed momentarily and then, mercifully, was dismissed.
Alright universe, you have my attention.
The second was, simply, an incredible piece of storytelling.
I was driving through traffic, listening to a podcast called 'Reply All', when an episode called 'The Cathedral' began.
'The Cathedral' tells the true story of a boy named Joel Green. At one, Joel began a five year journey of living with brain tumors. Multiple times he was given months to live by doctors, but each time he both survived and thrived. A true rebel.
As a tribute to his son's incredible spirit, Joel's father Ryan began developing a game. In his words, the game was designed to evoke:
"I want people to love my son the way I love my son, and to love my son you have to meet my son. A video game gives the opportunity to meet my son and meet our family, and kind of walk with us in our shoes, but from a safe place."
The game is called 'That Dragon, Cancer'. By the end of the podcast, I was literally crying in traffic. It's a remarkable, moving and emotional piece of content.
But that's all I'll say.
I don't want to spoil it for you. From my perspective, all you need to know is that this story jolted my system. It forced me out of a malaise and reconnected me with my humanity. To feel the moment.
It's what the great stories can do.
They speak from the heart.
Their existence invokes an emotional experience for the audience.
Most importantly, they have something to say.
And, inadvertently, they can inspire others. To help them shake off the hangover of recent history and look forward. To own what's ahead.
So, to you all, best wishes for the year ahead. Whether you embraced it whole-heartedly, or took some convincing (like me).
May your passions be rewarded, and may your efforts produce the kind of work that resonates into the wider world.
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