In 2020, I walked 982.6 miles. I had felt compelled to reach 1000 miles. Had I realized there was a way to see my yearly total of miles with maybe 15 days to go, I might have been able to crank it up to the 5.5 miles a day I’ve put on the fitbit in the last three days. But as happens, the calendar caught up with me and I wasn’t able to crank out another 17.4 miles in the remaining 7 hours of 2020. So it goes.

Considering on December 31st a year ago, I set the paltry goal of about sixty hikes (averaging 4 miles a hike that’s only 240 miles), I’m more than okay with quadrupling my goal.

I know you’ll help hold me to my goal for 2021. I’ll need your support.

2021 Miles in 2021

There I said it…

It’s important to have goals. Over Christmas, my goal was to finish the diabolical 1000-piece Victorian Christmas puzzle that my “former friend” Tina gave me. (Just kidding, Tina – all will be forgiven as soon as I mail it back to you and you send me a picture of it completed). I’ve always loved doing puzzles, from the time I was about 10 when I’d work for hours over the Christmas holiday visit in companionable silence with my maternal grandfather on puzzles of fine art paintings – Rembrandt is the one I remember most vividly. Not only did I find it grounding, but it gave me an appreciation for brush stroke, fine nuances of color and texture which ultimately fueled my choice of Art History as my field of study in college. This Victorian Christmas puzzle was a challenge not only due to it’s “Groundhog Day” repetition – I can just imagine the designer saying:

If you like this pattern once, you’ll love it four different times!

I worked on the puzzle constantly and with extreme focus for about a week. But the other night, with only six pieces missing and six completely unrelated pieces, I began to feel persecuted, not pleased, by the puzzle. I was definitely hijacked by my victim saboteur. So, I stopped and after sending a churlish ungrateful video of myself to Tina, went to my kitchen to prepare a bowl of soup. While I was eating the soup, I noticed the stray piece on the tablecloth. Aha! After eating, I went back to figure where in the four iterations of the patterns I’d missed a step and within about ten minutes, I’d finished the puzzle. Voila!

Facebook has begun dunning me to select a charity to raise money for on my birthday again. I’m taking a different tack this year. Rather than asking you open your wallets to demonstrate to the world or to Mark Zuckerberg that I’ve selected the appropriate fund to demonstrate my humanity, please keep your money. Donate it to the funds you think appropriate that reflect your values. Or if you must, open your wallet and give the next neighbor living on the street $5.00 and tell them “This is for me to demonstrate publicly my affection for a friend. On her birthday.”

As someone who has demonstrated repeatedly over the course of this past year my affection for friends through fundraisers, I had a hell of a time figuring out all the causes I’d supported this year while I was going through my tax receipts. Don’t we all want to be a little more conscious about our giving? I know I do.

So, back to my birthday non-fundraiser.

Instead of sending cash to Markie Z’s favorite charitable organization, I ask you to open your heart, your ears, your eyes, your fingertips to what is all around you in this amazing world. When you find yourself responding to something with brusque dismissal or disgust, stop and take a breath and ask yourself “Why am I responding like this?” Dare to put on your rose-colored glasses and your sage perspective. Earlier this week, I turned my head while in a zoom meeting and saw this outside my window.

Wow.

This has been a punishing year by any standards. Many have lost livelihoods, lives, loves. Facing into 2021, let’s dare together to think about what can be if we elevate our hearts with generosity. The other morning when I was walking at the reservoir, I fell in with some of the regulars. When I say regulars, I mean some of these folks have been walking there for 42 years!

In the 3/4 mile walk back to the North Gate, by asking how they knew each other (from their morning walks, originally), I learned that within their ranks, we had a Broadway actor and a long time graphic artist who were, like me, huge theatre fans. In those brief moments walking and talking, we lauded Gordon Davidson and his importance to Los Angeles Theatre. This ad hoc walking group’s leader is Bill, who in this photo taken just before Christmas, sports a Rudolph red nose over his mask and a jaunty cane. If we allow ourselves to be present, we can, even socially distanced, discover things in common with others who are on the same road as we are. It only takes minutes.

Over the last year I’ve had the great good fortune as a member of the Production Manager’s Forum to attend the 2020 Anti-Racism Series hosted by the Diversity Equity Inclusion Committee. Right at the end of 2020, the members of that committee shared a syllabus from the 20 weeks of meetings complete with resources and instructions. Though I was unable to attend all 20 weeks, this syllabus represents the outstanding generosity and learning we are capable of together. Each meeting started with these ground rules:

Assume positive intent. We are all working towards the same or similar goals.

Use “I” statements, speak from your own perspective and lived experience.

What is said here stays here, what is learned here leaves here.

Approach each conversation with self-awareness of your own biases and fragility.

Shaminda Amarakoon, Lawrence Bennett, Catherine Campbell, Ryan Gastelum, Cary Gillett, Brianna Parry

There are more but these are the ones I plan to carry in my pockets as I walk the next 2021 miles.

Last night, as I waited for the New Year to ring in, I did my final puzzle of the season, a colorful 300-piece puzzle entitled “Colorful Venice,” a Christmas gift from a colleague. As I spread out the pieces on the table, I relaxed into steady breathing, concentrating on the intense colors of the houses lining the canal and the shapes of the pieces. Three hours later, it was assembled. I had a great sense of accomplishment though the goal had been easier.

Speaking of very colorful Venetians, I received this picture around the New Year from my dear friend in Venice, Caro. As we kick 2020 to the curb, let’s embrace 2021 like an old friend and assume positive intent.

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