I recently remodeled my house and part of the reason was to create a studio out of my old bedroom. I needed a room in which to store my fabrics, books, miscellaneous collections, typewriter, and tools. My pre-remodel house had a laminate wood counter which served as workspace, office, dining table, and I was tired of having to put away my current projects, just to make dinner. My new studio has a door that can be closed, so the mess can just hang out, waiting until after dinner when I will return. I installed four track lights in the 120sf room, so it has a lot of light, in addition to a large window.
The room has a great, creative vibe, but the strange thing is that I don’t actually work in there. It has become more of a display case and I still find myself at the dining table, drinking tea, at the computer, sitting right in the middle of my small house. Initially this realization bothered me, I wasn’t sure why I had just created this new room if I wasn’t going to use it. But, then I saw that I actually was using it, I just wasn’t sitting in it. It has become my stage, my backdrop, and my place where anything goes. I get inspired when I walk in and spend hours arranging the photos and images on the wall or repositioning the photos on top of the bookshelves.
I think the weather may also have something to do with it. In these early spring days, it is still quite chilly out, and my body craves the light and warmth which the southern facing windows in my kitchen let in. My studio faces north and as the days get hotter, I think I may find myself escaping the sun and cooling off in there more often. But, either way, who cares? If it is only ever my display case room, so be it.
Working as a costumer on films, I am frequently reminded of how clothing helps us convey who we think we are, or want to be, to the world. While working on a film, the costume designer, actor, and director bring their different visions together in order to best relay who the character is through clothing. The actor will arrive at a fitting in their customary uniform of expensive T shirt and designer jeans and will transform once the uniform is replaced with the costume. It is my job to then care for the costume, keep it looking as it should, and deal with a multitude of issues involving the actor’s comfort while wearing it.
While working, I have a uniform of my own, built around ease and functionality. Often working on location, out of a suitcase, at the whim of the weather, and on not enough sleep, I rely on jeans, boots, and layers of shirts in cooler weather. The heat presents more problems, because in the end all I really want to wear is a sundress and flip flops. I spend my days squatting down to tie shoes, climbing through odd, small spaces to get to actors, holding coats, fixing zippers, taping down lapels, soothing actor’s blistered feet, and dealing with any number of problems arising from uncomfortable clothing. The last thing I want to do is add myself to that fray. I have to be prepared for the unexpected dust storm, rain, and to be in mud up to my knees at any moment. When people hear what I do for a living and tell me how glamorous it must be, I laugh. While working on The Lone Ranger in Moab this past July, I finally embraced shorts to keep from turning into a puddle. Scarves soaked in ice water and wrapped around my head and shoulders were another necessity. It is a feat to try to look decent while working on what is really a dirty job site all day long. My life is too fussy for fussy clothing.
When I am not working I have another uniform of sorts, with moccasins in place of work boots and blouses instead of T’s, but jeans and leggings are a constant. I try to remember to wear the jewelry I forgo while working. Recently I was going through my closet, trying to see it as a costumer looking at a character’s line on a wardrobe trailer. Did it look cohesive and like it was one person’s closet? Or, were there pieces that had been bought on a whim, with the hope of becoming someone else for a moment, but had been hanging there ever since? After getting rid of several bags, I liked and related to the person I saw revealed in the clothing. She was someone I would like to be.
On December 31st, 2012, I filled out a worksheet that a friend emailed me. It asked me to look back on the previous year and forward to the next, answering questions and making lists about where I was and where I wanted to be. About half way through, it asked me to choose a word for 2013 and to think of what my word for 2012 would have been. Happiness, Confidence, Adventure, Love, Balance, and Fun all came to mind for both. 2012 had been one of the more amazing years of my life, full of weddings, a home renovation, new friends, a job that took me to five states in nine months, and a confidence I hadn’t felt in years. I looked towards 2013 with excitement and anticipation, but also slight trepidation because I really had no idea where it might take me. After some thought, I decided my word for 2012 was Confidence and, after much deliberation, settled on Centered for 2013. It didn’t sound exotic, but I realized that it could encapsulate all those more exciting sounding words within it. What I really wanted when it came down to it, was to feel grounded in my life but the keep the spontaneity I had become so comfortable with in 2012. I wanted happiness that couldn’t be taken when outside conditions changed. I yearned to feel the lightness I’d felt as a gypsy without the weight of not knowing when I would next be able to open my mail. I wanted to let go of the parts of myself I’d only just realized were outgrown and to feel solid in what remained. It has been over two months since I chose Centered as my new word and once again I am reminded to be careful what you ask for. You will without a doubt be given situations in which to practice that which you say you want. Nothing has gone how I thought it would as I sat writing my list on New Year’s Eve, but at the same time I know, without a doubt, that I am exactly where I need to be. We’ll see where I am on December 31st, 2013, before deciding if it was the appropriate word choice for the year.
Ever since Happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.
I’ve loved this quote from the first time I saw it hanging on my sister’s refrigerator. The idea of happiness as a living thing, searching for you, wanting to be with you, waiting until you pop around a corner and then wham, slamming right into you. Something to be cherished when it happens. And when it does, don’t waste time by worrying that it might be short lived or that you don’t deserve such joy. No, simply enjoy it and be present. As you become comfortable with it, happiness will find you more often and it will become normal. Still not something to take for granted and always something to cherish, but not unusual or frightening, as it may have been in the beginning.
Since my last movie ended, while waiting for the next to begin in March, I’ve had time to fall into a natural daily rhythm, of which writing these posts is now a part. Without work as an anchor, I try to keep to a schedule of sorts, albeit a loose one that involves afternoon walks, writing, and tea drinking. Trying to fill these empty days in a way that is meaningful and doesn’t just skip over them as the time between jobs, is something I’ve spent the past ten years figuring out.
I wake, make my way downstairs, and turn on the kettle. I open the curtain on the large, south facing, kitchen window and even on the rare cloudy day, light fills the main room of my house. With my tea and my most recent gluten free (more on that to come) breakfast discovery, I sit at the kitchen table, turn on the computer, and after first clicking on The New York Times to make sure the world hasn’t ended (sad but true), I end up on wordpress. I think for a few minutes of what I feel like writing and, more often than not, go with the first idea that pops into my head.
After posting my latest ponderings, I think of a plan for the rest of the day. Small tasks left over from my remodel kept me busy for most of January and February and recently I’ve turned my sights on my yard. It is still too cold to do much outside, but I’m coming up with a plan with the help of pinterest, books, and daily walks through the neighborhood, for what to do once spring arrives.
In addition to checking home projects and basic life organization off my list, I try to concentrate on things that I miss and have no time to do when working 80 hours a week on a movie. I cook, I baby my plants, I ride my bike around the neighborhood, I drink too much wine with friends on weeknights, I read until late, and I allow myself to be lazy. I get great joy out of organizing my life, whether perfecting a new filing system or decorating my house, knowing that these things will be my anchor once the days are too busy to think or deal with anything other than work and sleep.
It’s a strange, imbalanced life and has taken me years to figure out. At some point, when I was younger and new to the film industry, I realized that I was counting down the days in my life; I was either on a film waiting for it to wrap or between films, waiting for a new one to begin. I was never really present. This was a startling realization and one that I worked very hard to reverse and change. I now try to do small things while working that keep me involved in my life, whether it is a yoga mat on the floor of my hotel room, weekly dates with friends, or simply remembering to be present at work, realizing what a bizarre job I have and appreciating it, even when I’m tired. And, when I am off, I try to appreciate that time, taking care of business, going on trips, spending time with friends and family and taking time in the morning to talk to my plants.
By continuously counting down the days, always feeling like it should have been different than it was, or that happiness and contentment were things that would simply appear in my life when the outside circumstances were perfect, I spent years of my life unhappy and not really living. It was only when I became truly present, whether working or off or home or away, that I began to see the opportunities and beauty that were all around.
I’ve loved watching the Oscars for as long as I can remember, but who doesn’t? I know there are those who say it’s nothing but a bunch of lucky, attractive, wealthy people who make up imaginary lives and worlds and then pat themselves on the back once a year and pick a winner. But, I love the escape of going to the movies, watching one in my living room, or picking a favorite dress on the red carpet. For years it was a fascination with the fantasy of celebrity, wealth, beauty, and the city that spawned it all, LA, that drew me to watch the Oscars. But, after working in the industry for the past ten years, I now love to watch the metamorphosis of people I have actually worked with as they turn into beautiful, intriguing butterflies for one night. With some exceptions, they are often quite normal, likable, interesting people who are not only great at what they do but who, for that year, were part of a project that came together in the perfect way to showcase their talent. People always ask me if I can tell whether something will be good or bad when I am working on it and my answer is no. I have been shocked too many times when something I thought would be great wasn’t, and vice versa. My favorite categories are those not related to acting. Not that I don’t respect the actors, but it’s my fellow crew members who I really love to see getting the recognition they deserve. Only after seeing how many people it really takes to make a movie, how much stress, sleepless nights, and grand vision is involved, did I really begin to appreciate the achievement this award measured. Tonight I’ll be not only watching the red carpet and admiring the stars, but I’ll be cheering for the unfamiliar faces in the crowd, the ones not many people will recognize, but who helped the movie become what it did. Go Seamus McGarvey and Jose Anotonio Garcia!