I watched Brooklyn again last night. It was my favourite film of 2015, not least because I was facing the decision of totally embracing my new life or returning to the comfort of the familiar.
Like Eilis in Ireland, I had a light-bulb moment in Wales of “I’d forgotten”, when a small-minded individual made some comments that were a salient reminder of why I’d crossed the Atlantic in the first place.
I have a wonderful career in the UK, and fantastic friends and family; but I’ve always sought new experiences, cultures and people. I think it’s what every writer worth their salt does – Scott Fitzgerald, D H Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway. Okay, they ended up dying of alcoholism, TB and suicide, but you can’t have everything. Travel takes it out of you.
So, I’ve been four days in my new LA abode and tomorrow I fly back to New York. I’m looking forward to it: a screening on Tuesday with Welsh friends, a party to celebrate the June issue of W42ndSt (the Hell’s Kitchen magazine for which I write a monthly column), and a meet-up with an artist friend over from the UK on Thursday. Plus, I’ll see my beloved sunsets over the Hudson after nearly three weeks away.
I’ve been enjoying a break following the sale of my house in Cardiff, and while I won’t be rushing back to Salt Lake City in a hurry, it’s been a much needed relaxing time, laughing with mega clever, funny friends, and sleeping right through the night for the first time in years.
It’s been a time in which I’ve allowed myself to be happy. I use the word “allow” carefully, as the nature of happiness sometimes carries a lot of baggage: guilt, when one sees the extent of suffering in the world; trepidation, because all happiness is at some point countered by its ugly twin, sadness; and also darkness - fear for the future, that one may never re-experience the intensity of joy.
The writer and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire said:
“Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
So that’s what I’ve been doing. Talking, looking at trees (the purple jacundas are at their most glorious in LA at the moment), walking and playing.
My friends Karl and Richard, who live in LA, treated me to a flight experience – in Karl’s living room. Insisting on strapping me in my seat, they lifted the sofa and shook it for turbulence; upon landing, I was detained by Customs and put in a cell . . . You had to be there, really.
It’s fun being a child again. Although I don’t have children (and absolutely no regrets there), I love them: their ability to live in the moment, even though at such an early age the fears that will be their future are present: two girls in New York, throwing their tiny hands to their mouths in horror when they saw a dead bird on the street; a boy in LA recoiling in disgust at some cigarette butts in a sand bin. But also, the abandonment that is the essence of a lack of expectation: a group in the late afternoon Californian sun, throwing a ball, their effortless laughter in a jacunda of calm.
I love laughter. Despite a difficult few years, I have never stopped laughing. I am blessed to have so many really funny friends, from all walks of life. To quote Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick: “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.”
No, none of us know what is coming; if we did, we’d probably jump off the nearest bridge to save ourselves the trouble of facing it. But we are resilient beings. We have words to help us make sense of life; we have empathy in our souls; and we have each other.
And so, moving on: thank you to everyone who has seen me through and given me such support in oh, so many ways. I might be hit by a bus this afternoon (I’ll try not to be), but at the moment I’m living for the laughter – the pause of happiness.
Just don’t make me watch The Revenant again.