Something I Am Becoming

Who am I?

I seem to be transitioning into someone new. For the first time since moving to Toronto, and for the first time in many years before that, I am perfectly comfortable. Not happy. Not sad. Comfortable.

My career is going great. I took over the lease for the main floor of my house – which means that in theory, I can live in my home for free, if the loft and main-floor bedrooms rent out at near-full capacity on AirBnB.

No rent. No car payments. Low overhead. Few worries.

I would not trade this headspace for anything – although now I am passively looking for…

[Jarrett contemplates the next few words for several minutes]

…something.

I don’t know what that is. I don’t WANT to know exactly what that is. I’m not even sure what moving towards ‘something’ might involve. Some yoga perhaps? Reading? Running? Perhaps a routine of some sort?

Certainly writing.

I’ll have to give it all some more thought.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen_motorcycle

“Truth comes knocking on the door, and we say, ‘Go away! I’m looking for Truth’.”

The above is from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I just finished the audio book a few seconds ago. First time all the way through.

As mentioned previously, I kept giving away my paperback copies before making it all the way through the end. The book always seemed to resonate with me, and my desire to share it, always trumped my desire to finish it.

The book was a best seller and heralded as one of the most important philosophy texts of the twentieth century. After so many starts and stops, I can’t really tell you what it means. For me, it just sort of ‘is’.

We look at reality in different ways, carrying different perspectives. There is the idea of what something is made of, verses what something actually represents – the Classical verses Romantic dichotomy. Truth in this way, is fleeting.

There is the idea of the ‘Monkey Trap’ that comes out of the book as well – this idea that we could free ourselves from our bonds, if we could just let go of the values that trap us.

The exploration of ‘Quality’ – how we all know what it is, but cannot definitively describe it. If you read the ancient taoist text, Tao Te Ching and substitute the word ‘Tao’ with ‘Quality’, you can see the two words as interchangeable.

There’s also my countless road trips home to Regina from Toronto. I travelled through some of the same country that Pirsig describes in his book. I could relate the road stops, junctions, and motels with different points in the book, based on where I was geographically in my car, when I last heard them.

The book means a lot to me, even though I barely know what the book means.

It doesn’t even bother me that I have such a poor grasp of it. Just means that in a few months time, when I give it another pass, even more ideas will jump out. It’s the book that keeps on giving.

2016 Culture Tally;

Feature Scripts Read: 1
TV Scripts Read: 1
Movies Watched: 7
TV Seasons Watched: 4
Documentaries Watched: 1
Documentary Series Watched: 1
Audio Books: 1

One Year Without My Dad

August 2013. Golfing with Dad & Jazzy. We packed up after the 4th hole because Dad felt an unbearable pain in his foot. Five months later he was diagnosed with lymphoma.

August 2013. Golfing with Dad & Jazzy. We packed up after the 4th hole because Dad felt an unbearable pain in his foot. Five months later he was diagnosed with lymphoma.

It was a year ago today that I lost Dad, and there hasn’t been a day gone by where I haven’t been reminded of him, from some moment I find myself in.

I’ve lost people before. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other relatives. I thought I knew what it meant to appreciate someone, but losing Dad really took ahold of me. It was a loss that got down into my bones, then seeped into a rage against all the things that happen around me, that I am powerless to affect. I’m left sitting here, staring out a window, and taking a mental inventory of the handful of people remaining in my life, who truly matter to me.

You could say it’s down to a small manageable size now – which would be nice if I were talking about a to-do list, or some project that needs attention, but instead I’m referring to the number of people in my life, whom I truly love and care for. That realization slowly came out of the aether, to hit me like a slap in the face, and I find myself reeling from the naked truth of it.

There’s a clock ticking all around us, and we can choose to use it as a barometer to measure the good things we have in our lives, or we can ignore it, and wake up one day, caught in a vacuum, fighting for every breath that’s being sucked out our lungs.

I miss my dad. If I close my eyes, I can still hear his voice, calling at me from some distant memory. And in those moments, my thoughts turn quickly to those who are merely a phone call away. And most times, these days, when I hear that voice, I find myself picking up the phone and pressing down some numbers, with an aim to make small, the many miles between us.

Perhaps this new way of seeing things is my dad’s parting gift to me.

Three Years Later

photoThree years ago today, I began my life in Toronto.

I pulled up in front of my new apartment and Frank was there, sitting on the step, having a smoke with Robbin. The next thirty-six months of my life would see many surprising twists, turns, mistakes, and small victories. I feel like I’ve changed a lot since that day.

Things came too easy, too fast, and I mistook good fortune for everyday living. My sale to CBC was taken for granted. Some of the people who came and went from my life, were not fully appreciated. The life I left behind in Regina, was dismissed too easily. My ambition to break in as a TV writer was treated like something that would drop in my lap with a minimal effort.

I’ve long felt that life is a river that flows. We ride the current towards our destination. If the current moves away from where we wish to be, then so be it. The Universe will give us what we need.

And while I still believe strongly in that philosophical point of view, I failed to grasp something equally profound – a yang to the River’s yin.

There must be an active component to riding the River. Anything worth having, must be earned. It must be worked at, failed at, worked harder, and ultimately understood on a much deeper level.

While the CBC sale was an unexpected twist of good fortune, I should have taken that gift and used the money to buy time to establish myself in the DGC. While the sitcom I wrote seemed headed for production, I should have seen that script as an opportunity to learn more about my craft. When I thought a green light for my TV series Highwaymen was inevitable, I should have battened down the hatches and not factored theoretical producer/writer fees into my cash-flow reality.

I’ve been riding that River through Toronto for three years now, and I can look back and see my regrets – my missed opportunities – with great clarity. I can also now see the blessings in front of me with equal clarity.

I have attached myself to an incredible group of working writers. We meet every three weeks or so, and I seem to fit in well with them. Other writers have come into my life, read my work, and helped me to become better at my craft. I’m on the verge of completing the first draft of a new one-hour TV drama.

After four months, I find myself on the cusp of being established in the Director’s Guild. I’ve worked on Bark Ranger, Greatest Christmas Party Ever, Transporter, Lost Girl, Inland, Suits, and Reign. I have an interview on Monday with the team from from a series that starts up in a couple weeks.

Client work has also been on the uptick. And while some of it seems rather ‘unlofty’ compared to my other ambitions, I’m not afraid to admit that I enjoy the work. I look around at other established writers/filmmaker types, and they’re all taking the gigs they need to take, so they can keep their cash-flow healthy. Why should I be a snob about it?

I have amazing people in my life. There are a number so Saskatchewan peeps who’ve made the leap out this way. There are even more Toronto creatures who’ve drained pints with me on a regular basis. It can be lonely sometimes, being so far away from the prairies, but ‘home’ has now become the people I surround myself with.

And lastly I have Jazzy, the greatest blessing of all. She’s my beautiful little girl. She inspires me. She’s my family.

Leap of Rationality

I didn’t sleep well on Thursday night. A disappointing turnout at the table read meant I had to read one of the roles – which meant, I had to read the character who was based on myself – which meant, reliving my whole marriage all over again. I was not expecting to be so emotionally caught up with it, especially since I’d been working with that script so intently as a writer.

The end of my marriage was a major reversal in my life. Feels like a million years ago sometimes, and it feels like I was some other person when it happened. The decision to move to Toronto was another major upheaval. I still struggle sometimes, being so far away from the people I care about, and basically starting my career over from scratch. But this is where I am, and while mistakes were made, I would make those same decisions again.

A theme seems to be emerging in my life right now – ‘reflections on the past’. I dislike thinking about those things, because mostly I see my missteps along the way. Too many things I’d rather not contemplate. But still I go there.

Why? Why now? What lessons have I yet to learn from those days?

I got a call to do some location scouting for a commercial on Friday. I also picked up two days on Lost Girl after reaching out to Alan, who’s the 1st AD on the show. I’m up for an accounting position on another show. No start date yet. There also seems to be some coals in the fire, after I spent yesterday afternoon crashing 11 production offices, looking to  meet AD’s to pick up even more daily work.

After three months in the Directors Guild, I figured out that daily work as a Set PA, supplemented by the odd TV Commercial will keep the bills paid, while pursuing long term Production Accounting gigs – which in turn, will supply the stability that I crave. It’s a prudent course. Many are doing the exact same thing, so it’s not like I’m taking a leap of faith.

Leap of faith.

Another theme from the past eight years of my life. Diving headlong into the great unknown has always held great appeal for me. I’d rather embrace some unknown new direction, rather than build on what I already know intimately well. This came up in the read on Thursday. We were talking about my protagonist, but I was thinking about me. I saw a whole string of abandoned pursuits laying about my past. Women. Projects. Opportunities.  Mistakes.

And then as I write this, right here, right now, an idea floats through my mind. Perhaps I’m not as flighty as I think I am. When something’s not working, I change directions. That’s a good thing right? I look at my past and I see that pattern time and again. Maybe I just need to work on coming up with a better plan before I jump.

Dunno. I’ll have to give it some more thought.

A Time for Me, Myself, and I

So here’s how it is…

I used to race to my laptop and tap out the latest most trivial drivel from my day’s events, in an effort to make sense of it all – and possibly make myself appear interesting in the process. And to take the exercise a bit further down the line, it is a worthwhile effort, trying to make something out of nothing, as not every day in one’s daily life, can fireworks be found. Still, there were more than a handful of occasions where I lacked judgement, causing complications for my personal life.

Over time, I have become less eager to tell the world about myself. I’m no longer interested in appearing to be interesting. But I do possess a desire to preserve my personal history. I look back on my years and I can read the record of who I was, and how I thought during those times. I wish I could read my dad’s thoughts from years gone by. Maybe someday, Jazz might want to read mine.

These thoughts ran through my mind last night as I stood in the kitchen, cutting up broccoli for supper. I heard a song playing that took my back to my university days. Suddenly I remembered sitting in a particular theatre class. I remembered waking up in my dad’s house. I remembered the way I dressed myself. And I remembered a certain red head who occupied my thoughts.

For the first time in my life, I wanted to wake up and spend a day walking through my past.

And then another thought struck me – that somewhere out there in the aether, is a future me, reminiscing about who I am, right here, right now, in this time, standing in my kitchen cutting broccoli. And Jazzy is out with her friends. And Aubree is crashing on my couch. And news about my next gig has yet to arrive. And two days from now, a table read for Moment in Between at the Black Swan on Danforth is scheduled, and a room full of actors, friends, and creative types are committed to be there. And life is challenging right now.

But in the end, the problems will be forgotten, and the good things will live on in memory.

A Singular Moment in our Political Ethos

20130708-100036.jpgI am a voracious reader of newspapers everyday. The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, The Leader Post (back home), The National Post, and the Toronto Sun (for a laugh) all find their way past my scanning eyeballs in the morning. The headlines are mostly the same, and the takes on those headlines are mostly the same (the Sun being the lone, right wing paranoid exception).

I find myself drawn to the opinion columns. Politics captures my attention first. Articles on transit come next. For these reasons, it’s a great time to be living in Toronto – the place where City Hall has devolved into reality television, and transit has become some sort of ball our politicians kick around for sport.

The city is at a gridlocked crossroads, both politically and logistically. Queen’s Park is now driven by an ‘activist’ left-leaning government in Kathleen Wynn. Austerity measures from past regimes have been exposed for the devastating, socially divisive, and economically stagnant policies that they are. The next mayor of Toronto will be somebody who recognizes the need for collaboration and massive spending on infrastructure to repair the deficit previous political generations left us with.

Federally, the Conservatives have never been more unpopular in the polls, and this is due mostly to their own style of governance, and not the emergence of Justin Trudeau. The next 15 months could see a massive, massive shift in the ethos of our political landscape.

Around the world, austere right wing governments are falling. The first world gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider. America is at war with itself and ill-equipped to deal with the damn about to burst. Climate change is a reality, and our political thinking is two decades behind our scientific prognostications. Social media fuels a democratic activism in the political process that previous generations could only envy (or fear).

History is right here, right now. It’s exciting. It’s scary. And it all makes for a good read.

The Clarity of Seeing Less on My Plate

And now I have clarity.

One day after turning the Pyramid of Basic Needs upside down, I was offered a position on Transporter. It’s a week-long stint as a trainee production accountant, and if they like me, they’re going to keep me to the end of the run (mid August). I also have an interview coming up for another series, which would start just as my current series would be wrapping.

I’ve sent out hundreds of emails, and set up dozens of meetings since rejoining the Guild at the beginning of June. I finally landed the opportunity I’ve been clawing for – and the only niggly thing hanging over my headspace was the question of my acceptance into the Canadian Film Centre. What would I do if they let me in?

Fortunately the answer came only a few hours after landing the Transporter gig. No dice. I’ve been passed over for the third straight year, and this time, I couldn’t be happier. With a single minded sense of purpose, I can set about turning this production accounting opportunity into the next phase of my career. All I have to do is be great at my job, and the machine will push me up the ladder.

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop writing. Not by a long shot. But now I can focus like never before. I have two things to worry about, instead of twelve. I no longer have to feel like I’m sitting at home, working in a call centre as I tax my phone, and send my emails, looking to line up meetings, clients, and opportunities. I planted those seeds. Now it’s time to reap them.

And this feels incredible.

Upside-down Shit-Goggled Pyramids

There’s a pyramid of basic needs that I’m vaguely aware of. Food, water, and shelter are at the bottom, fruits, salads, Roughrider season tickets, love, happiness, great music, women, beer and art are closer to the top.

Probably I should google it, if I’m going to write about it, but too late.

My headspace was in an awful place yesterday, when Renee phoned me for a chat. She sensed I was off my game and decided to check in. I felt vulnerable and embarrassed as I began to rattle off the list of things that have been eating at me.

We spoke for nearly an hour – which is some kind of record for me. Phone calls are for making plans and networking. I never use one for conversation with a friend (unless that friend is 2,000 miles away). By the end of the call, I felt like a great weight had been lifted.

The pyramid of basic needs came up in our conversation. Renee suggested that perhaps we ought to be turning that pyramid upside down. Sometimes we get so focused on worrying about things at the bottom, we forget about the things at the top – the things that define us, fulfill us, and give us a reason for living.

She told me to finish my script because writing is what fuels my spirit more than anything else. Address the basics, but live closer to the ‘Jarrett’ things in my life. If I can do that, those basic things will take care of themselves.

There’s a world out there that’s great big and full of possibilities. We can look at it with rose coloured glasses, and gloss over the problems that exist, or we can don a pair of shit coloured glasses, and fail to see the light. Somewhere in-between is the healthy place methinks.

Love and gratitude to my dear friend. I feel great today.

A Perfectly Timed Phone Call

Dad has been on my mind a lot lately. Nearly everyday I see something, or think something that reminds me of him. I look in the mirror and I see him. I think about me, raising Jazzy alone in Toronto, and I’m reminded of him, raising me during those very hard years in Regina.

Mostly I feel cheated. Never got to say goodbye because we were too pissed off at each other. I called three times after we last spoke to each other in anger, but he thought he had enough time to punish me with the silent treatment before he expired.

Why is all this bubbling to the surface now?

When he was alive, we would go a couple months between phone calls. It was our way. He was always available to me, but never at the top of my mind. I just had to pick up the phone and leave a message.

I think about him and I feel a rotten knot in my stomach. Never in my life have I felt something so ugly and vile, that I couldn’t freely speak about it to anyone. Now, the topic comes up and I am so overwhelmed with broken thoughts that I have to eject myself from the conversation, lest I feel something I don’t want to touch.

That’s what I’m carrying around inside me right now, and I don’t know how to shed it.

Dad died a bitter and crusty old man. So many people shit on him, and so many things were taken from him, that he could no longer see the light. He hurt many people with his words and deeds over the years, but he was also capable of so much selfless love.

The light and the darkness swirled inside him – and in the end the darkness won.

I look in the mirror and sometimes I don’t like what I see. And sometimes I don’t even care. And mostly I struggle to be the light, because that’s who I want to be.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a million miles away from everyone I care about because that’s the reality of living in a new city with no long-time friends or family around. I imagine I’m not alone with this struggle. Six million people crammed into such a small space, a large number of whom coming from some other far away place.

I looked at my phone on Saturday night, and I was going to send Nadia a text. “Come to Toronto for a visit. I miss you.” But I quickly dismissed the idea. A passing half joking, half truthful wish. Then a phone call on Sunday night.

“Hey Jarrett! It’s Nadia. I’m in town. Let’s have supper!” She was on a business trip and was held over in Toronto.

And sometimes the world ain’t so big after all.

Everything’s gonna be alright. Everything’s gonna be alright. Everything’s gonna be alright.