Hollywood and My Grand Life Plan

I am home sweet stormy home, flying through a blizzard and fog to land on this dear Island of Rock. I am waiting now for a sun break, for a beauty break (which surely will come??)

But let tell you about last week. I flew to L.A., put on a skinny grey dress and black hose and my favorite cowboy boots and joined with my new friends, my co-producers Guy and Amber, and quietly followed the studio execs into a conference room. 

What is a Kodiak girl doing at a conference table at a production company in Burbank California? I can’t tell you exactly (apologies for that!), but I can tell you this.  This wasn’t part of my plan, my life plan, at all. 

In fact, do I have a life plan? (Do you?) I seem to stumble along one year at a time, one month at a time. And when there were many babies in the house, it was one hour at a time, when I was desperately hoping to steal one of those hours for a nap (remember that? Remember how you just hoped everyone would stay alive?)

When I was in college and grad school, and later teaching, it was one semester at a time. And as I’m writing, it’s one book at a time. (Well, sometimes two . ..) And during the summer season when we are fishing, it is one fishing opening at a time, one net-mending day at a time . ..

And I wonder, have I done this all wrong?  This week while traveling, I’ve tried to chip away at watching the movies nominated for Academy Awards. When I watch those actors, just as when I watch the Olympics or a cellist or an opera singer, when I watch people with great talent acting and singing and painting and racing and being just jaw-droppingly excellent, I wonder: have I wasted my life? 
They have pointed their whole selves toward one thing, and through devotion and sacrifice, they have done it. They have become an Artist, Actor, Concert Pianist, Bible Scholar, Chef, Olympic Athlete.

Annie Dillard writes about this in "Living Like Weasels," about discovering your calling, “your one necessity” in life: 

"I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. "

Don’t you want this single necessity?? To find that one calling? To live life so purely, instead of being pulled in 100 directions at once, as indeed I am, I always am? (Right now I am working at writing, speaking, singing, playwrighting, producing, cooking, acting . . .  )

And now, because of that meeting in Burbank, I am adding a TV project to the list. (I am joyfully adding a TV project to the list.)

Next week I will be talking to my (literary) agent, who will ask me this too. “Leslie, what is your plan for your writing?”  I know what he will tell me, again. The publishing world is changing so fast, and unless writers “brand” themselves with a single brand, a single subject area, and plan ahead, they wont’ make it. But I cannot do it.  The world is too big and varied for a single plan, a single topic.

And I wonder, at the end of my life, what will all my running and dabbling amount to? I'll never be a competitive athlete, a professional actress, a spectacular orator, a bestselling author . . . Am I doing it all wrong? Should I choose just One?

But I finish the essay. And Dillard says this, 

“The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse."

I believe I am doing this. To these voices then,that chide and defeat me for all I will not become or achieve, I remember this:

Our first Calling in life is not to a particular line of work or to a gift to be honed to perfection. Our Calling is first and most of all this: to follow Jesus. HE is that “tender live spot,” the very heart of Life itself. And if we are to live well, if we are to live at ALL, we must reach out and grasp and plug into that pulse with all of our might and never let go. 

And like this, Oh the places He will take us!! His love is so vast, his presence so everywhere present, we will find Him in all the realms he brings to us. There is no kitchen or stage or office or classroom or gym or conference room or ocean I have not found Him in and on. And He gives me delight in all of it, tinkerer and amateur though I am and always will be. 

My soul is stilled. I DO have a life plan after all. And you do too. This is our One Calling, our One Necessity: To be latched on to the very beating heart of Life itself and to go wherever He takes us---loving, dancing, cooking, writing, singing, quilting, running, resting with Him all the way to the end of our days.  

And what shall they say of us that day our friends gather to remember us? 

 I hope they will this about us, just this:

 "She followed Jesus---everywhere."

And I hope Jesus will say this, just this:

"Well done, dear and faithful daughter." 

What this Alaskan Loves + Hates About the Lower 48

I am still Outside as I write and send this off. Still a refugee from the unrelenting storms and hurling winds that seem to go on for weeks and months in the winter. Our poor house on the cliff has lost her grand posture. She slumps and huddles and even occasionally sniffles like a martyr against the onslaught.

This week, when I occasionally felt survivor's guilt for running around in the California sun with my husband and sons when friends back home were battling storm, rain and snow (though not much snow this year),  I remembered Mike Doogan's words, "In winter, Real Alaskans do not go outdoors. Real Alaskans go to Hawaii."        



While traveling Outside, I had many moments of oppositional emotions: envy and love for parts of your lives, dear readers, most of whom live Outside----and not a few moments of recoil, suddenly recalling why I left it all for Kodiak Island 37 years ago. Here, an honest partial accounting, starting maybe 

**Real Alaskans try to be upbeat and cheerful when people pump us for information about visiting Alaska, (even when we know they're trying to finagle a weeklong invitation to our fish camp, now that they've sat beside us for two hours on a plane).  But Real Alaskans believe in their state and answer questions politely, even enthusiastically at times. 

**This Alaskan loves the smooth highways, when you're not even sure you're making contact with the earth. Some of these ribbons are not real highways---they are Kodiak roads dreaming . . . .

Versus-------Actual potholes of a busy Kodiak street. Caution: holes deeper than they appear. Drunk drivers are easy to spot---they are the only ones NOT veering dangerously all over the road. 

**I love knowing I'll see the sun often, but every day I'm here I'm still shocked---yet ANOTHER day of sun?? How do I deserve this??

But I Hate that I feel so guilty when I "waste" this precious resource by not being out in it EVERY minute!  

**I love the possibility of driving ANYWHERE since there are roads nearly anywhere you want to go! 

(Here is Kodiak Island, roughly 100 miles by 150, with just over 100 miles of road mostly around town. That's it.)

But I hate that we end up spending so many hours each day  in the car! (Your everyday reality!! My sympathies to all you Road Warriors!)

 **I LOVE exploring new country and new places, since on Kodiak we are island-bound, 

But sometimes I hate what I see:

 (Confined animal feeding operation in California)

   (Is this fog or smog or smfog? How can anyone tell?

**I love meeting new people and doing exciting things (my co-producer friends Guy and Amber. The three of us had a fantastic meeting with a Hollywood production company yesterday.)

But I hate that visits are always short and the clock refuses to slow or stop and I always have to leave . . . 

**I love driving fast on the highways (highways!!!) , 

But I hate that everyone else is driving fast as well:

 **I love it that I can dash through the grocery store without stopping to talk to all my friends and neighbors for an hour. 

But I hate it hate it that everyone is a stranger . ...

I love . . . I hate . . .. I could go on . ... and I will another time.  

But it is still the New Year. I am still fresh with anticipation. Still reading through the NT each day, still trying to correct my  terrible posture, still reveling in newness and possibility. 

But my morning reading takes me down another road. Already, in January, reading one chapter a day, beginning in Matthew, the cross comes close far too soon. 

 "Take up your cross and follow me," Jesus spoke to would-be followers. I think of all the ways we do this--and all the ways we don't.  And where we live is part of this. No matter our address and geography, we all bear seasons of darkness and light, of immobility and unwanted speed; of danger and play. We lament April snows and summer drought. We are stuck on our islands or stuck in speeding cars on freeways. We don't have enough time or joy, and everywhere else seems better, brighter, happier. 

And the New Year comes and we're still here, in the same place, doing the same thing. I tell you, it is hard to leave the sun behind. Silly wimp that I am, it is hard to return to storm and dark.  But part of the work of the Cross is the work of reconciliation. That we are reconciled one to another. That we are reconciled to God--that most of all. But also that we are reconciled to the state and the places we live, to the people who live with us and around us, to the incompleteness of our lives and the sure presence of paradox---of loves and hates and disappointments who all take up residency within us. Even here, especially here, there is goodness to be found.  

I have quoted this before but I love it so well I say it again:

"As to the day, if you accept that this day was blessed of God, chosen by God with His own hand, then every person you meet is a gift of God, every circumstance you will meet is a gift of God, whether it is bitter or sweet, whether you like it or dislike it. It is God's own gift to you . .. . " writes Anthony Bloom. 

And I add to these words, Every place that you live, every bed that you lay your head upon, every cloud and slice of sun that is given or withheld to you, this too is a gift of God. 

I don't always know how or why, but I believe it. 

When I return to Kodiak next week, I'll probably slam into another pothole and get another flat tire. I may get another despairing email from a friend whose mother is dying. It'll probably storm and blast this week---in your state too.  We may all fight fatigue and depression . . . 

Even so, This January 2015, I hope we will recognize all that comes to us this year, bitter or sweet, is holy and chosen for us---and because of that---it WILL be good.  And when it doesn't look or feel good now----believe it will become good.

Needing Grace with you,