I have always had a soft spot for films about escaping to Italy, or somewhere that is pretty much Italy. Under the Tuscan Sun, where she gets dumped by her cheating whore husband and goes on a gay tour her friends pony up then buys a house with the money left from the dream home her ex swindled from her —after a bird gives a divine sign by crapping on her head —and then lives happily ever after falling in love and rediscovering her writing talent by telling this very story which is then the subject of the film.
Or A Good Year where Russel Crowe plays a mercenary stock broker who has a come to Jesus moment and gives it all up for Marie Couillard to eat drink make love and be merry at his deceased Uncle’s winery in Provence which is discovered to have been worth a gazillion dollars, except he lets his cousin have it, because he is nice now, and it’s pretty much okay because he is already rich.
OR Stealing Beauty where a young Liv Tyler seeks out the true identity of her father after discovering a poem written by her deceased mother and after being played by the village player, getting drunk and throwing up in his lap in a moment of divine justice loses her virginity to a sweet boy who writes her letters likening his passion for her to an animal prowling in his heart (awwww).
Or Only You, where flighty eccentric Marissa Tomei hops on a last minute plane to Italy to track down a friend of her fiance’s who happens to share the name of her soulmate given to her by a fortune teller at a fair when she was a young girl and then meets the heavenly Robert DJ who has to help her find the elusive soulmate in order to woo her into accepting his self appointed role as her soul mate proper. Bonnie Hunt plays her supportive sis in law who ditches her rude selfish uneducated but secretly loveable husband to accompany Tomei on her impulse trip leaving him shocked to discover and proclaim “IT-lee. My wife’s in IT-lee!”
And so whenever the stress has escalated, but then also every other day of the week I would promise my family that if I ever went missing they could find me in IT-lee. I didn’t just want to visit there. I wanted to escape there. It was not just my dream but my plans B through Z. If it all went to hell in a hand basket, my favourite way to go to hell, BTDUBS that’s where you would find me, except that I would be avoiding you and have possibly escaped you, well not you friend, just the rest of you. Fantasy holiday? IT-lee. Retirement plan? Tea leaf reading granny on beaches of IT-lee. Win the lotto? Writing a novel in a seaside villa in IT-lee. SO imagine my SHOCK AND DISMAY when after a long few years of shit hitting the fan, and right in the middle of a pretty intense shit/fan incident, COVID arrived like a childhood bully and took IT-lee!
(In addition to the actual devastation which is not the subject of today’s musing *bows head in deference), the BACK UP PLAN, the dream reality was POOF, gone. Because every image from a film or movie, every carefully curated scene where I traded in my problems for pasta passion and bliss at long last, was wiped from the happy ending reel. One of the small and early ways the fuckery began to unfold, and unfold some more, like a hanky from a magician’s pocket, was to kill my fuck it bucket reel, my ejection seat, my way out ‘if it gets too much’, waiting for a bird to crap on my head path to salvation.
The problem with A Good Year that in all of the years of dreaming held me back from jumping from the imagination reel to the solid plan reel, was that I just plain forgot to get rich from being an asshole so I could trade in, or get a settlement from my divorce, or even come to Jesus over a name or some bird poo. But there was still time, friends. There was still space in my wild brave imagination for a silver lining that was secretly better than the sun it clouded.
And that vanishing was just the beginning of Bermuda Triangle like disappearances. Even reality was not safe! My daughters’ lost their Plan A’s, which were full to the brim with blood sweat and tears, with top marks and academic awards, and late nights of analysis and fine tuning, which like the 8 billion car pile up that this year has become, had the effect of displacing my Plans B through N or so, which had the effect of displacing my family’s N-Z or so. A health crisis became a mental health crisis. And I mean crisis, sans the hyperbole. Loved ones were depressed. Loved ones almost died. And all of this falling apart was really quite pricey it turns out. Shit storms are running at a pandemic premium.
THE PROBLEM and the announcement to THE PANEL OF UNIVERSAL PLANNING that I would like to make, is that all of us down here need our plan B’s. Not the birth control pill, though please don’t take that away (thank you Ruth). What do you do when your “cash up” was spent keeping heads above water? When you traded plan N for expenses. When there is no getaway, no mental reprieve from the World’s heaviness, because the whole world fell into the same boat. Without them, and without a new schedule of meaning dropped from the ass of a bird in an Italian Villa named after the very Sun himself, we gear into survival mode, and we grind. And grinding, as the verb itself so elegantly illustrates, wears down the essential parts of the grinder (please no, just don’t).
Our ability to hope, to rise, to reinvent and recreate, to imagine has in many cases and collectively been outdone by 2020 reality, that Diva, and our ability to sustain and endure has been maxed, and without one to buoy the other, there is a scary edge we have been pushed up against. As one of you called me up to express: It feels I am looking into a black hole.
It was Alphabet Soup and then it was WATER SOUP, because we were out of Alphabet.
And this has happened to so many of you, friends.
We can’t live on water soup.
I don’t expect you to. You are looking malnourished.
So, how do you go back to the drawing board with a stick and some watery sand?
Do you even want to build a castle now, Carly Rae?
What if you, me, WE weren’t in the mood to go down in history books for having lived during a time of epic fuckery? Did you even think about that Universe?
I am taking liberties here friends. I will be the first to tell you that Covid is not divinity at work. So you can scratch that out of your Daymare.
But seriously, what now?
Well turns out I have something up my sleeve. A healthy snack in my mom purse. I also have Band-Aids, mini-wine and a deck of tarot cards and I am willing to share.
Here are THREE essential questions, not made up of the alphabet that you can throw together into a bowl to feed yourself with right now.
1. What if you’re doing it all right? What if you, in all of your confusion, struggle, rollercoaster-ing, rising and falling and not seeing straight, have not made some colossal mistake? What if the decisions you have made, and the efforts, and the resistance, have been absolutely your best, the best and what was needed from you today and in this moment. What if you couldn’t have done any better, and you have just aced being you, inside your problem, inside your family’s problem inside the World’s problem, you cute little Russian doll, you. And all of the crazy stupid apocalyptic things going on around you, which growl at you like angry dog monsters, are not your fault, and you’ve made them all better by just doing what you have actually done? And holiness is smiling down on little you with pride and warm regard, nodding her head with an affirming “nice” and the white winged angels are gearing up for a slow clap?
2. What if there is some core part of you that is essential beauty, and not only can you NOT ruin or diminish that essential beauty, what if you can actually reach into it for some restorative power? What if you can convalesce there, like a healing pool, while the threads of life keep unthreading, but at the end of all of the unwinding there is something new, and glowing, and magical which has grown in its stead, with which to illuminate the World, author a new alphabet or civilization and imagine a new place to be?
3. What if you don’t have to fix a god forsaken THING? What if you don’t have to solve the problems, or find the answers, or move the mountains, or dig down down down to the belly of the earth for some new source of resolve just to have it given away at the price of Alberta oil. What IF you open up your white knuckled clammy little kid fists, and LOVE comes swooping and swooning like a Vaudeville trapeze artist to catch you mid-air? What if you stop fighting and all of the strain and pain of fighting gives way to light. What if you stop feeding yourself the LIE that says all of this destruction happens for a reason, is the twisted plot of benevolence, and expect that the Love and Benevolence and Reason exists beyond it, and in spite of it, and to reach one you must let go of the other.
Ask yourself these three magical “What If’s”, over and over, like a mantra this week and see what happens. They are just questions. They can’t hurt you. Yes, even YOU! I am talking to you, too. You don’t have to answer them. Just pose.
Then in a week’s time, if you would like some help with your Alphabet, if you would like some support with After the Final Letter, Chapter End Times, Would the Real Happy Ending Please Stand Up, if you would like to discover YOU, version two point o point two point o, then send me a note. I live for this shit, shining the light, connecting the dots, burning the dots in a fire and then drawing new ones with neon felt pens, blasting away all of that fear so that you can find a safe, warm space, and believe in yourself again. That is my Tuesday.
Get me or someone like me reading the signs. Hell, I’ll go so far as to drop bird poo on your head just in the nick of time if it gets you looking up. I’ll go the distance for you Baby. I am on my way there now. In my imaginary plane in the imaginary sky. I don’t know what to call it anymore, but I can make out a man pacing the streets with a poem and a shoe, and there are vineyards and hope rolling by.
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
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