Wednesday, December 3, 2008

State of the Nation

Yesterday Mrs. Word Player and I took a walk in the park behind our house. It was about dusk, and there was a thick haze in the air that had been hanging around since I'd referred to it as fog in the morning. The setting sun looked beautiful, the hills mysterious. The horse running circles around its trainer in the Equestrian Center next door kicked up dust of its own, adding to the sense of early evening obfuscation.

I haven't been feeling myself lately. I missed a haircut appointment before going to SF two weekends ago, one that was already overdue, and my hair is too big and curly. I feel fat. I hurt my Achilles tendon playing tennis a month ago, slipping just so on the court after a match delay caused by scattered showers. I've been walking with a limpy hitch in my step ever since, and even though I haven't been on the court since and have stopped my morning walks, it hasn't healed properly. I miss the exercise, especially during the Halloween-Thanksgiving eating season. You make so many forward strides physically by playing tennis two or three times a week for a couple years, and then it feels like you lose it all with a month away.

Work has really slowed down after a pretty terrific year. Whenever this happens, my mood invariably turns darker. I've all but shelved the book, which is what I thought I would work on during the slow "paying work" times. It's not that I lost faith in the idea, it's that I lost faith in the possibility of it ever doing anything other than sitting on my shelf next to my screenplays. At my age, I feel like I need at least a fighting chance of remuneration if I'm going to invest thousands more solitary hours into a passion project.

And so, with all this in mind, we went for a walk.

Walking the labyrinth in St. George, UT

Solvitur Ambulando. "It is solved by walking." We've found this to be as true as any saying is, and yesterday was no exception. MWP is no dummy, and could see that I had little cartoon storm clouds roiling above my head. And off we went.

Just as the election was for the previous twelve months, the economy has now become the jumping off point for practically every conversation. We talked about what the dry period meant for us in the short term, and then the long term. Was it time for me to pursue full-time, on-site employment? I've been a stay-at-home freelancer since the end of 2000, and I've dodged plenty of bullets during that stretch. Maybe now, when I'm sitting relatively pretty and have amassed a decent-sized portfolio, is a good time to jump back into the office job fray? If there were any jobs available in my field these days this may have taken longer to discuss.

But then, we asked ourselves, where will we be in ten years? Let's say that we both have continued, sustained success as freelancers until 2018: will we still be hirable when we're not quite as cute or hip and our rates are exponentially higher than our less experienced but ever more cute and young and hip competition?

Will we ever be able to buy a house when the money we've invested to save for it is shrinking rather than growing?

How could anyone in their right mind start a family right now without a sizable safety net? And what kind of world will they grow up in where only the wealthy can afford to pay for college and masked gunmen roam freely?


And then we smiled. My foot was hurting a little, but we'd walked the circumference of the park and were on the road back home. There's never been any way to know what the future holds, and there's little wisdom in making long term plans with any expectations of seeing them play out as diagrammed. Hey, we've made it this far, haven't we? Our operating history; as individuals, as a couple, as wage-earners, as creatives; projects that we will continue to at least be competitive in our field, if not somewhat successful. Right?

Even though the majority of what came out of our mouths could be labeled as pessimistic, or at least moany-groany, the simple act of walking while we were talking took a great deal of the negative power of the words away.

When life gives you lemons, take a walk. Odds are you won't feel nearly as sour afterwards.

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