I’ve been doing a lot of apologizing lately. If my own self-generated publicity is to be believed, I’m a creator of images (both moving and still), a writer, and an all-around creative factotum. The thing is, over the past several months, I’ve had very little to show for all this bluster. My blog, rather than full of behind-the-scenes stills, sketches and production logs, is full of excuses and complaints. The events of this summer have only compounded the frustration and I’ve come to realize that it’s probably best to offer some details. So consider this an explanation—a record—but not another apology.
This year got off to a difficult start. As parents of a preschooler, both my wife and I discovered first-hand the reality that all parents of preschoolers discover: you/they will be sick constantly during their first winter of school. Constantly. From January to April, there was little more than three or four consecutive days that I actually felt like a real human with functional lungs and an unfogged head. Days passed in a phlegm-clogged narcosis, as we both went through the routines of keeping a child fed, bathed and clothed, while simultaneously holding down our jobs and the house. Working on creative endeavors was on a burner, but I’ll admit it was toward the back.
As spring gave way to summer, all those maladies from previous months started to seem trivial and silly. Every visit to the doctor felt like a spin on some malevolent “Wheel of Misfortune”. It started with an eye exam. I had apparently been misdiagnosed with an astigmatism ten years prior in New York and, as a measurement of the curvature of my corneas confirmed, actually had a rapidly advancing case of keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease. After consulting with my ophthalmologist and a specialist, it became clear that the best course of action was corneal cross-linking treatment, a parasurgical procedure commonplace in Europe but not yet approved by the FDA. Because of this, I was only able to qualify as a subject in a “clinical trial” and, naturally, our insurance won’t chip in for any of the $4000 bill. So, still working out the schedule of our late summer/early fall engagements, we decided on a couple of weekends in October where, hopefully, my sight won’t be all that necessary. I actually felt a little settled for a brief period of time, the four grand notwithstanding.
Then, two weeks before our trip to the Northwest for a family reunion, I received more shitty news, this time in a twin dose. The first was a loss of a freelance client. In and of itself, not that earth-shattering of a development. After all, it’s a harsh reality of freelancing that clients will come and go with little to no notice. This client, however, had grown into a primary source of income; I’d been billing upwards of 30-35 hours a week for them, and an overly dependent relationship had developed that I don’t recommend for any freelancer. While it was a serious blow, it hardly came as a surprise. The work that I was doing for them had become obsolete, they were growing financially weaker as a company and, again, I was merely a freelancer. You never really know what job will be your last job.
Several days after that dilemma, I received the results from the biopsy of a pair of moles shaved several weeks before. My dermatologist had been mapping and monitoring the abundance of moles on my body and I made the mistake of assuming that diligence and scrutiny were all that were required to keep me in the clear. Whether out of avoidance or blind ignorance, I had prepared for nothing. I simply anticipated a positive result. The call from my dermatologist altered my thinking drastically. Both samples (one from the back, one from the arm) came back positive for melanoma. The only thing my mind could conjure at that moment was, “Huh. So cancer happened.” I don’t know if flippancy is a coping mechanism or just a result of being a dummy or maybe just an expression of numbness, but this is the point of the blog post where I must make a serious recommendation: never google a condition you’ve been diagnosed with. It really doesn’t help. So now I get a lot more doctor visits, know where my lymph nodes are, and I know how to check them. At least, I think I’m checking them. And I have two impressive scars that I can convincingly pass off as old wounds from a particularly savage knife fight. Empty handed I am not.
And while my recent (scant) posts have blamed fatherhood as an excuse for not getting anything done, I’ll reiterate that there is something to that, and it’s not necessarily negative. Yes, I haven’t been nearly as productive as I’d like but if you want your kid to have a somewhat healthy personality, it’s important to be there for him, not just taking up space, but engaged, connected and patient. And, luckily enough for us, our kid is pretty fun. That’s not to say that working from home has been sunshine and chocolate-covered bacon for either my wife or myself. It can be a strain. You can tell yourself that you’ll sit down at the computer and pick up the work of tweaking “the rest of that last shot” at night after everyone goes to bed, but when it’s your genes responsible for your child’s high octane imagination and he’s going through his first bad dream phase, it’s also your responsibility to talk him through it at two in the morning.
So there it is. I didn’t write this out of self-pity or to elicit any sympathy. Honestly, as my angry, all-too-self-reliant Welsh blood apparently runs pretty deep, sympathy is something I dread more than Texas politics. After all, this is the summer where I was invited to become a member of two support groups. There’s a surplus of shoulders to cry on. I’m purely proposing that the next time a friend or acquaintance isn’t quite up to speed on something, seems like they’re behind the 8-ball, working at a snail’s pace, or some other inane cliché, it’s possible that it’s not because they’re lazy or apathetic. Sure, don’t rule out that possibility, but maybe leave room for other reasons, reasons that they could probably appreciate a little help with. As for me, I’ll be fine. I have two short films that are nearing completion… yes, it’s the two that I keep rambling on about on this blog. And they’re going to be fucking fantastic. And I’m already in pre-production on another short and prepping yet another, with a feature on the horizon. I’m not sorry.