Part 1: Words of Wisdom
Man plans, God laughs.
It’s an old saying, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
I’m 45 now, and that qualifies as middle-aged. (Which means I’ve accrued enough life experience to know a thing or two about human nature, and its foibles.)
Furthermore, without ever intending to, I’ve become an opinion columnist, a political pundit, and a travel writer, in addition to being deeply versed in photography and art.
As I’ve been writing weekly here for so long, in a way, I’ve grown into a more mature, wiser, successful person during the course of this continuing narrative.
I’ve learned so much about the world, through the photographs I’ve viewed at festivals, the books people have sent along, and the trips I’ve taken to most of the great cities in America.
And yet, despite all that, some mistakes, I continue to make.
In particular, I still haven’t accepted that setting a deadline in life when things will get calmer, or easier, or better, never seems to work out well.
That idea, that we can externalize the process of getting that extra bit happier, or more rested, that we can outsource it to some future magical time, is a fool’s errand.
(Which makes me a fool, I know. So much for our reliable, omniscient narrator.)
This year, #2019, has been the most exciting, challenging and exhausting year of my professional life. I ping-ponged around the US, (and even the globe,) and you went along for the ride.
Thanks to my awesome, open-minded editor Rob, we took this column to new places, including straight travel reporting, restaurant reviews, and even film criticism.
Then I produced our Antidote retreats, had a huge museum show, co-designed my book, and ran my first crowd-funding campaign, all while full-time parenting, being a good husband, and volunteering at my children’s’ school.
So I should have known better than to say things like, “As soon as that Kickstarter campaign is over, I’ll get a chance to rest. Once we get to December 7th, things will be easier. I’ll finally have that mythical chance to recharge.”
(Like I said, that kind of thinking never seems to work out the way we’d hope.)
In this case, my daughter got super-sick, so we ended up at the hospital, and she had to be connected to an oxygen tank for nearly a week, because she couldn’t breathe properly.
I became her full-time caretaker during the day, and between that experience, the extra trips to the doctors, and the added medical expenses, my stress level shot through the roof.
All during the week I’d “planned” to chill out.
To be clear, most of the things I poured myself into this year were great, and I’m not trying to complain.
Rather, I want to do you a solid, and suggest that in the coming year, (with all the guaranteed political strife,) you invest in yourself a bit, in particular with self-care.
I know it can seem like a bougie concept, or perhaps New Age, but the truth is, if you don’t take care of yourself, who will? Exercise, classes, new hobbies, travel, walking, cooking, getting together with friends, making art, building community, all these things make us healthier on an on-going basis.
Just this morning, when I almost lost my shit after one extra unexpected stressor, I made a drawing, and called my best friends.
(And I’m writing, so of course my mood has improved.)
Even now, I’ve closed my eyes, and am imagining the calmest place I can think of.
I’m typing with my fucking eyes closed, all so I can conjure visions of the secret chapel at the far end of the crypt.
Say what now?
Part 2: Meet me at the London
Back in the day, I used to have a year-end column about the best work I saw that I hadn’t already written about yet. (I did it for years.)
Instead, I’m going to tell you about the best place I visited this year that I haven’t already written about yet.
After 5 London articles this summer, I hit the wall, and never got around to telling you about St. Brides of Fleet Street, the journalist’s church in London.
On my last day in town, my friend Richard Bram, after a brilliant fish and chips lunch in Limehouse, told me that if I wanted to see the oldest part of the city, (so much had been destroyed,) that Fleet Street was the place to go.
And while it was unintentional that I found it, after a long wander past St Paul’s cathedral, where I heard the bells tolling like a mad hatter, I soon realized I was in the vicinity of Richard’s recommendation.
Just a touch more wandering, and I found St, Brides. (What American isn’t a sucker for an old church, right?)
When I saw stairs heading down, I followed them.
Down into the crypt.
Down into the bowels of the city.
Down into the heart of European history.
(There was signage all around, explaining why the place was famous, and properly ancient, so you can read a bit about it in the photos.)
I walked past head stones, a coffin, and walls built in different centuries. It was quiet, and obviously creepy, but still, I followed the path, deeper underground.
Deeper and deeper.
What would I find?
I’d be lying if I told you I thought such a place existed.
The tiny chapel, when I found it, seemed like a modernist art installation, or the private altar of a stylish Billionaire in Miami Beach.
Anything but what it was; properly Christian, hidden behind ghosts and spirits, buried under one of the oldest cities in the world.
The white walls, the glowing green, the sound of silence.
I sat down on a cushioned bench, and didn’t move.
If teleportation existed, I’d go there right now. (No doubt.)
I prayed for the journalists out there, for the truth tellers, risking their lives to report on power. And I meditated, reveling in my favorite-new-secret-place.
So listen up, people.
If you can, go there.
If you go, you will thank me.
(I guarantee it.)
Even now, just thinking about it, I feel warm and fuzzy.
So as these will be my last words to you in this crazy #2019, (I’ll be off next week,) I wanted to say thank you for reading along this year.
For following my journey, and for all the kind words so many of you have passed along this year too.
We appreciate you!
Hope you have a lovely Holiday season!