I had taken on a job I didn’t want working from home, and the stress and frustration and utter failure due to other people not doing their jobs had driven me over the edge. I had a sinking feeling that Tucker might not be around much longer. And how could I justify spending 14 hours a day in futile misery if I only had a short time left with him?
The job finished a couple weeks later and the universe's response to my desperate plea was “And it shall be so”. Hollywood is always slow October till January, so I knew I’d have a couple months to just “spend time with my dog”. I scheduled Tucker’s cancer treatment for January, giving us a month in the Bay area where, if the treatment didn’t work (which it didn’t), we could spend our days hiking and enjoying our favorite area of California.
I had expected calls for jobs would come in for a February start, as that’s when the industry gets hopping again and with a strike expected in May, I assumed everyone would be getting in as much as possible before the strike, or if no strike, then at least before it became more expensive with the wage increases of any new contract.
Instead I got only one job: six weeks of work for a one day shoot in March and was sent home, the movie shut down on St Patrick’s Day.
And that was it.
So much for the luck of the Irish.
I thought maybe something would come along before the SAG strike, as films have continued shooting with finished scripts during WGA strikes before. But nope. No jobs.
I took it in stride. I had, back in October, rather emphatically informed the universe that I just wanted to spend time with my dog. And that’s what I got: time with my dog all summer. Surely things will be back up and running by Labor Day.
But nope, wrong again. There was hope in July for a brief moment with some gears starting to turn, but no greenlights, just yellow and red. And again in October there were four days of optimism, then radio silence as talks between guilds and studios fell apart again.
The last of the striking guilds ratified their contracts in December, right before the holidays. Surely things would gear up for a January start.
But nope, not yet.
And so here we are, the end of 2023, and I have had six weeks of work.
And forty-six weeks of spending time with my dog.
Ask, and the universe will deliver.
Granted, I spend time with Tucker while working too, as he’s in the office with me all day and visits with the crew in the office and loves going to set and checking out the equipment trailers at basecamp. But in the office I am working, often distracted at the computer or in the case of remote work from home, too busy sobbing in my garage to play tug.
It has been an unusual year. A year that many people lost a lot, some everything. The entertainment industry imploded. I worked more during the first six months of a global pandemic than I did in the entirety of 2023.
But I got to spend time with my dog.
I got exactly what I wanted.
We spent a month in Alameda, California hanging out.
We watched the fireworks on New Year’s Eve over the San Francisco Bay, from the east side this time.
We spent a long weekend in Pacifica in the summer.
We went to the High Sierras for my birthday.
We spent Thanksgiving in San Francisco.
We did Christmas in Cambria.
We visited friends, and we slept in, and we found cheap things to do.
We took in a little dog, taught him some things, kept him safe, and helped him find his person.
We let another dog couch surf for a short time before she got a ride to her new life in the Pacific Northwest.
I went through periods of depression and moments of panic over finances.
I cried when I thought Gordie, the little dog, would never get a home.
I had anxiety attacks over how I would pay for things and when the money would run out.
I spent a month attending career counseling.
I realized how much I miss making movies.
I realized how much I miss the talented and skilled people who transform words on a page into living, breathing stories on the screen.
I learned to budget my finances, something I hadn’t had to do since I was in my twenties.
I learned what I really needed, and what expenses I could cut and still enjoy life.
I learned to accept help from others.
I am grateful to all my friends, neighbors, the community and the universe for helping us stay afloat.
I am grateful that the major landscaping project I had planned fell through two years ago so I had a savings account to pull money from when the unemployment ran out.
I am grateful the leak in my roof appeared two years ago so the roof was replaced then and I needn’t worry about major construction projects.
I am grateful for my 24 year old trusty steed who continues to keep us safe and carry us wherever our hearts’ desire.
I am grateful that Tucker is healthy and still right by my side.
I am grateful to the people who gave me a shot and paid me for what I love to do: writing.
I am grateful to volunteer with an organization who helps people with their pets, as it reminds me how resourceful and determined people can be in extraordinary circumstances.
I am grateful to those people in extraordinary circumstances who entrust me with their stories so I may retell them in order to inspire others.
I am grateful to have kind and generous people surrounding me who have helped me through emotionally, physically, and financially with gifts of time, discounted necessities, and overpaying for my services. Some may never know how their kind word or phrase or an appropriately timed phone call was just what I needed to make it through the day.
I did not write as much as I should have this year.
I did not lose as much of the extra fat insulating my frame as I could have.
I did not make all healthy choices.
We did not celebrate New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.
We did not begin with a hike or mark the day before as an ending.
Because it wasn’t an ending.
There is no great cosmic washing away of the past, no reset button at midnight. We just continue where we left off in our story, whether that be the end of a chapter, the start of a new paragraph, or just mid-sentence in a long, drawn-out scene.
The ball dropped, and Tucker and I were far from the end of our story, not even close to the end of a chapter. We’re still deep in the plot, and while I can’t see where it’s going yet, I find that the most extraordinary adventures begin with a blank page and an open mind (and heart).
Wherever you are in your story, Tucker and I wish you a Happy New Year. And we hope your story in 2024 is engaging and entertaining and is filled with surprising plot twists, a cast of characters you’ll never forget, and joy and kindness on every page.