Lights, Camera, Gratitude
BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL
OK, why don’t you all just go ahead and call me ungrateful and get it over with. Perhaps you usually don’t read my bio at the bottom of the articles, so I’ll just tell you: the script version of my novel Fat Chick, which was published back in 2009, has been optioned by a producer to be made into a movie. Whether it ever gets shown in theaters, who knows?
It might end up being streamed on Netflix or Amazon, or end up as a movie of the week on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel. Any of the aforementioned options would work for me. I’m even fine with the fact that because my production company, just like my publisher, is independent, I’ll be getting paid on the backend rather than upfront. On top of all that, I got quite the boost of support from two writers’ Facebook groups, which I belong to. Not only did I get an overwhelming surge of the word “congrats,” but there were people who shared their own hopes and dreams about, not just having their novels translated to film, but having their novels published in the first place.
I have a penchant for always focusing on those who are far ahead of me in their careers, and the Facebook situation just showed me that I’m not doing so badly myself. For everything I just described, I actually am incredibly appreciative.
So, then what the hell is my problem?
Well, it all didn’t happen sooner. There I said it. I feel badly because I will not have the words, “So young, so successful,” on my tombstone.
This is actually one of those times when life imitated art. I wrote a scenario similar to this in my second novel, Back to Work She Goes, when the main character—stay-at-home mother Lorelei—is trying to re-enter the workforce. She finds not the staff job she hoped for, but a freelance opportunity where everyone is, of course, younger than she is. Lorelei comes home from work feeling her age and her husband shows concern, which turns into a comical exchange:
“What’s wrong?” Ned says.
“I’ve outgrown Betsy Johnson.”
“Fun clothes…I can’t wear them anymore. I’m old.”
“Dear Christ,” he sighs as he shakes his head. “You’re not old. Isn’t fifty the new twenty? Isn’t that what all those idiotic women’s magazines say? Let’s wait a decade. Maybe sixty will become the new sixteen and we can go to the prom together.”
“No seriously. I’m not cool anymore. I saw this interview with Cher. She said that being uncool was the worst thing you could be.”
“Now we’re getting our wisdom from Cher?” Ned asks sarcastically.
“It passed me by. It all passed me by.”
We both fall silent. Ned takes my chin in his hand, lifts my face, looks deep into my eyes and says, “Oh shut up.”
Some people just know how to take command of a room, don’t they?
“That’s right, just shut up,” Ned reiterates. “Nothing passed you by. When you wanted to be in adverting you did it. You wanted to get married: here we are. You wanted children: they’re outside eating all the pizza, by the way. You wanted to stay home and take care of them – you did just that. And now you want to go back to work full time and you’re making that happen – not exactly the way you hoped — yet. Do you hear me? Yet. I don’t know who this Betsy person is, but if she’s our age and told you that you aren’t cool any more, then tell her to take the long haul back to high school where she belongs. Now, I’m getting what’s left of the pizza.”
In the real-life case of the movie script, my husband Neil was more succinct as well as a little wiser: “If it had happened for you twenty or thirty years ago, your success would be behind you. Now, it’s in the present. Live in the now for once.”
And so, I am trying my best to put aside not only my ego, but my fears that I may no longer be up to the task; my energy, drive and ambition—my fight, if you will—not operating at Mach 5 as it once did.
To prove to myself, and my husband, that I can indeed “for once” live in the moment, I will announce publically—and remind myself privately on a daily basis—that it is a good thing that my modicum of success is not reduced to an anecdote from my youth accompanied by Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”
It is an opportunity that I can share with mature friends, who unlike the competitive ones from my younger years, are genuinely happy for me, and with Neil and our children, who are proud of me. For this, there is just not enough gratitude.