02 January 2012

Roses in December

I lost the first day of the brand new year nursing a hangover from Hades. (Created a new cocktail on New Year's Eve: Cosmospolitan martinis + Champagne = A Very Bad Idea) I am ashamed to say that I not only failed to make it -- across the road -- to church (and there were two services on the day), but made no attempt to no serious attempt to reflect upon the 12 months that have past.
(Oh, well, better late than never!)
It has struck me that this indicative of a larger pattern for me -- not the Cosmo-Champy hangover part -- but the seeming and literal lack of time to reflect and observe. This year, especially this past Autumn (Fall) has been a whirlwind of activity. I feel as if I have spent the past 12 months in perpetual motion. It is not surprising, of course, given my relentless quest to "make something happen" for myself here in the UK.
I wouldn't trade my little Warwickshire life, with my beloved DEB for anything! And, I really don't miss New York, or America at all. It is hard to describe what I do miss... 
(Warning: Shallow Alert) 
I miss the professional clout I had as a Professor at NYU. The respect and credos that went with the job. That utterly smarty-pants, bad-ass attitude that is bestowed upon NYU faculty as they walk through the Washington Square gate.  
The hours were long, the work demanding, the pay pathetic. I was alone and lonely. The students were great, but it wasn't enough. I would end each academic year feeling drained and morose. "There has to be more to life than this?" I found myself thinking again and again. So, I walked away. For a new life. Looking back, I could have done a better service to myself by making more of an effort to cultivate job prospects while I was on the other side of the Atlantic. But, you live and learn.
I hope and believe that 2012 will be my "phoenix year". That I will rise brilliantly from the ashes!
It has been that bad to tell the truth, I have landed on my feet, slowly but surely. It's just the "slowly" part I had not banked on. I suppose I allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security but the aforementioned 'smarty-pants, bad-ass attitude'. The world would be clambering at my door! Not so.
It has been a real struggle. I have had to learn and master the art of shameless self-promotion. (Not a natural state for me.) And, to accept routine rejection. I have had to be more creative about my career, and accept that my life is now a "portfolio" of gigs, and not a permanent post. I am the servant of many masters, now. That means juggling lots and lots of balls all the time. And that leaves very little time for reflection.
The past year, like most, has been one of highs and lows. 

New beginnings...

My lovely friend, Liz, with her dashing new husband, Noel
My friend, Liz, was married in October, and sweet, little church in Warwickshire. It was a blustery, but beautiful day. And the first English wedding I have attended as a married woman. (And, yes, it does make a difference!) I found a gorgeous hat from Next, that was quite the thing! It was such a delight to see Liz, who I have known off and on for years, but only recently have we gotten to know each other as friends. She is such a sweetheart, and her beloved is yet another darling English boy. 

And, endings...

Sheila Allen 
(22 October 1932 – 13 October 2011)

Sheila Allen was an incredibly gifted actress, and I am honoured to count her as a mentor and friend. Sheila was an early and ongoing champion of my work. She pushed me, and kept me focussed. At my book launch at the RSC in 2006, Sheila, Cicely Berry and my mother were the mighty triumvirate whose support had been indefatigable.
Sheila's funeral precisely the send off she deserved. Lord Melvyn Bragg gave a tearful and heartfelt reading from Shakespeare's Sonnets, and there was not a dry eye in the room. I wept like a baby throughout the service. And, have been so heartbroken at her passing that I have not been able to write about it, until now. 
Sheila was an amazing teacher, and she taught at BADA for over 20 years. She was delighted when I joined their ranks this past Autumn. In fact, less than a week before she died, Sheila and I had made a plan to meet for dinner. Due to other obligations, I requested we postpone. I'd give anything to re-live that choice now. (Maybe there's a lesson in that.)
I remember talking to Sheila in New York about leaving NYU, and coming to Britain. Life, she said, like acting, is about being brave and taking risks. After I made the leap, she wrote to congratulate me:

Dearest A., I’m glad you're back from the 'savage lands' of the USA! It's been a long sojourn and I'm sure filled with important, excellent things. Good for your Darling English Boy for winning you back for us! It may take time to adjust, but you belong with us!
Her words continue to inspire and strengthen me.
And so, the year ahead. There's something in the air, and signs all round like my vibrant pink rose bush is still blooming that give me the feeling that this is going to be a year of remarkable possibilities. And, a year of Love, and surprises, like the DEB arriving home on Christmas Eve with a dozen, long-stem red roses.  
For all my groggy grumbling, I am truly a lucky girl.


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