Sitcoms in the Time of COVID

2020 has been a year. I think we can all agree on that! We’ve all tried to get through a collective trauma (actually several collective traumas) in our own ways. Mine has been rather unexpected. 2020 gave me an appreciation for sitcoms that I’ve never had before. To be clear, I’ve always liked sitcoms. There have always been 1-2 that I’d watch regularly. Then there were the ones that I have on as background noise while I write (yes, I write to sitcoms in the background). But this year, I’ve found unexpected comfort in half hour formats, and even the canned studio laughter.

A sitcom doesn’t demand much of the viewer. We’re not asked to invest huge chunks of time. We can just dip in for a half hour if we want. We’re not asked to follow a complicated plot, or long character histories. Most of these shows don’t even have a villain really. Antagonists? Sure. But we don’t really see characters who are fundamentally evil at their core. We can turn off our brain as we watch, and enter into a world where nothing is so bad that it can’t be solved in a half hour, where people make conversation filled with witty one liners. Yes, too much of that is probably a bad thing, but I think this year it was very necessary.

Some shows that really helped me through this trying time:

From spoilertv.com

I think I discovered The Good Place in it’s third season. I think I first described it as a combination of Parks and Rec and Sartre’s No Exit. I binged the first two seasons and then I tried to check out the new episodes as they aired. Most aired pre-2020, but the show concluded in January 2020. Just before the pandemic. Fortunately that means we have the entirety of the series to help us through the year. The main character isn’t likeable at first. She’s sort of an anti-heroine. But when she dies, she finds herself in The Good Place, due to some sort of error. Over the first season (there’s a twist at the end of season one) we watch as Eleanor tries to learn to be good. It’s a sitcom that actually discusses moral philosophy, and how to live a good life. It asks what kind of reward is appropriate for lifelong good behavior. And what should happen to those who are bad, but for good reasons? Some heavy ideas for a sitcom!

From Booklynvegan.com

I also discovered Schitt’s Creek in pre-2020 times. It starts off as a more or less standard fish out of water comedy. When the ultra-wealthy Rose family go broke suddenly, they move to the small, depressing title town, and live in the motel there. But from that beginning, the show builds beautiful characters. We come to root for the Roses as they learn to live on less, and discover how to be happy without money. We come to care about the residents of Schitt’s Creek as the Roses involvement goes from necessity to choice. I think that each main character had a complete arc in this series, they grew and changed in a fundamental way. It ended in April 2020, in the pandemic’s early days. But again, that means we have the whole series to watch as reruns and help us through the rest of year.

Both shows have a positive outlook on life, which is something that I found I needed this year. In The Good Place, even when the characters weren’t in such a good place, they attempted to improve it. Their response to a broken, rigged system was to fix the problems and build something better. In Schitt’s Creek, the Roses lose their money and their lifestyle, but they find connection as a family that they lacked when they were rich. They explore their passions and embark on a new chapter of their lives. I think that’s a narrative that I needed to see this year. Maybe there will someday be some positive that can come out of what’s happened. I hope so.

Both of these shows seem to have strong themes of friendship, family, and community. I think that’s been one of the biggest casualties of 2020: the ability to physically be together as a community. Yes, we’ve found alternatives via zoom chats. But we’ve also missed the experience of sitting in a theater with an audience, all watching the same show and feeling the same thing. We’ve missed scoring a great table in a crowded restaurant. We’ve missed in person game nights with friends, and family dinners with crowded tables. I think some of my sitcom viewing preferences are speaking to that absence.

These are the most recent shows I’ve liked, but when I’ll also binge Friends, Frasier, or The Big Bang Theory. Friends are like my friends. Like the song says “they’ve been there for me.” A lot of these I’ve seen so many times that it’s like background noise at this point. But having them on in the background while I write does help me work. There are some British sitcoms I enjoy as well: The Vicar of Dibley, and As Time Goes By and though I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, Coupling, I’ll write with those on in the background too, sometimes. I recently discovered I like The Golden Girls, so I’ve added that to my favorites list as well.

Have I forgotten anything I should definitely check out? What kind of TV has helped you through this year? Have you found comfort in anything that seems kind of strange at first?

New Year’s Resolutions 2019

toast party ball cheers

Photo by Caio Resende on Pexels.com

Every year I write down my new year’s resolutions and post them somewhere. It helps me be accountable. I am better at keeping them when when I write them down and share them.

So, while all of my 2018 resolutions still apply, these are some new ones for 2019:

  • Finish writing, and publish Frozen Heart. Also publish 1-2 other pieces during the year. Keep getting my work out there.
  • Continue to be vocal about things that I feel are important. This means calling representatives, writing letters, protesting, donating to causes I think make a difference and anything else I can do.
  • Try to spread happiness and positivity when possible. I feel like so much of what we’re faced with on a daily basis is bleak and hopeless. But I also think “seek and you shall find.” So I’m going to seek things that make me (and others) happy. I think just exposure to more positive things can break down the hopeless feeling that we can get.
  • Figure out my career path. It’s in flux at the moment and is fairly confusing!
  • Be more social. Don’t just fall into the staying inside and reading/writing/watching trap. Stay in communication more with people.
  • Don’t feel guilty for reading/writing/watching and staying in sometimes. In fact, don’t feel guilty about what I like/enjoy. Don’t apologize for liking, wanting, or consuming things that make me happy.

What are your 2019 resolutions?

 

Evaluating Last Year’s Resolutions

accuracy afternoon alarm clock analogue

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Every year I write down my resolutions. It keeps me accountable.  So how did I do in 2018? Let’s see:

  • Continue to write on a regular basis and finish my second novel. Also, I will think of a title for my second novel.

I’ve finished the first draft of my second novel. Does that count? I probably should have specified if “finish” mean a draft or the whole thing! The working title is “Frozen Heart” but that may change because I’m not sure if I like it.

  • Publish Beautiful this summer.

  • Make more of an effort to submit my writing to publications and to publish my work in general.

I’m combining these two because publishing Beautiful was a Big Deal. It was a lot of work! I did submit my writing to a few other publications and I had a story published in Z Publishing’s New York’s Emerging Writers anthology, and I’ll have an essay about indie publishing in an upcoming magazine, but a lot of my time and focus was devoted to publishing Beautiful.

  • Continue to bother my elected officials on regular basis about issues that I feel are important. Also look for other ways to make a positive impact on the world.  Fight for what I believe in.

I certainly bother my elected officials regularly and I encourage others to do so as well. More information about that is available here. I encouraged people to register and vote this past November, and I have tried to put more positive energy out there in different ways. Sometimes in something as small as a blog post even. One thing that has frustrated me in the past is that I don’t have enough disposable income to give to causes that I find important, so the discovery of the Charity Miles app was really great for me. It uses corporate sponsors to contribute to charity for every mile I log running, walking, biking etc.  This has allowed me to work toward fitness goals and help several organizations including She’s The First, Save The Children, World Food Programme, Operation Smile and Charity: Water.  The app is free and I recommend it highly. Remember that with both exercise and charity, doing anything at all is better than doing nothing.

  • Get out and be more social. I tend to be a homebody, which is fine sometimes, but I do value my relationships with my friends and my family and I want to do more with them in 2018.

This is something I need to continue to work on in 2019! Not that I was antisocial this year, but when you’ve had a long week sometimes it’s tempting to just stay in over the weekend with a good book, some take out, and Netflix. But I feel like investing in relationships is worth the effort it sometimes takes.

  • Don’t be afraid of leaving my comfort zone (or rather, be afraid but do it anyway!) Try new things. Be open to new adventures.

My first instinct is to say that I didn’t do this, but then I realized that I’m going through a career transition that’s scary but will hopefully lead me to somewhere positive and productive. So I guess I’ve been braver than I thought this year!

  • Try to relax and enjoy things more. Don’t analyse every detail of everything and try to plan for all possible outcomes. Go with the flow more, and enjoy the present.

OK now this is something that I need to work on! I did relax and enjoy at times in 2018 but I am still very much a worrier at heart. So this is a resolution that I’ll need to renew!

I’ll post my 2019 resolutions in a few days.

How did you do on last year’s resolutions?

Things I’d Tell 18 Year Old Me

At work, there’s a whiteboard in the teacher’s lounge where people write random questions that others answer. Yesterday someone asked what you’d tell your 18-year-old self. None of the responses on the board really hit home with me, but it made me think about what I’d tell myself at that age:

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  • College will be so. much. fun. I know you’re nervous, and that’s natural, but enjoy it. It’s time that’s exclusively for you. Life doesn’t give you many of those periods!
  • Your college acceptance will not be revoked if you get a B on something in your senior year of high school.
  • Your family will be there for you through everything in life. Spend time with them. Appreciate them. Love them.
  • You are not fat.
  • Get your drivers license because it’s good to have for ID. But don’t feel like you have to drive. Even years from now, you still won’t feel comfortable as a driver.
  • You will not regret not going to your high school prom. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you will.
  • Mom and Dad are right about a lot of things, but not everything. Value their advice; they know you well and they’re really smart, but don’t dismiss your instincts.
  • Keep writing.
  • You’ll make it. You are stronger than you think you are.
  • Don’t let anyone else’s opinion of you influence your self-worth. Other people have their own issues and those can influence their perception of you and your actions. But don’t let other people’s issues influence your own perception of yourself and your actions!
  • Value your health. Take care of your body. Eat right. Exercise.
  • It’s OK to let go and treat yourself occasionally.
  • Life doesn’t go according to plan. Even if you do everything “right”, bad things sometimes happen. That’s not your failure. That’s just life.
  • Read as much as you want. Never let anyone tell you that you’re being antisocial or unfriendly. Books will help you make some of your best friends in life. Books will be some of your best friends in life.
  • Read as widely as possible. Don’t close yourself off to genres that you think aren’t your thing because there are exceptions to every rule.
  • Try to always look forward to something.
  • Don’t feel guilty about not finishing a book if you really don’t enjoy it.
  • No one ever really feels like an adult. We’re all just faking it.

Would my life be different if I followed this advice? I don’t know. I actually did (and do) follow it at various times. A lot of it is still stuff that I have to work on.

What would you tell your younger self?

Evaluating Last Year’s Resolutions

pexels-photo-534031.jpegResolutions.

We all make them.

Occasionally we even keep them.

Last year, I wrote down my new year’s resolutions, planning to revisit them at the end of the year. My hope was that by holding myself accountable, I’d actually do them.

So how did I do? Let’s see:

To write more and make more efforts to publish.

I’ve been writing pretty steadily this year. As far as publishing goes, I published the flash fiction, Following the Ghost, at Toasted Cheese Literary Journal. I also published a thing (I guess you’d call it an essay?) on Judy Blume for Girls at Library. I also got a fair number of rejections. But that means that I’m definitely trying.  Plus I’m in the process of publishing my novel. Which I’m simultaneously excited and terrified by.

To be more involved in the world, active in causes that I feel are important.

I think that I’ve done this, though it’s something that I want to continue to do, and to do more.  I think that 2017 was the year my representatives started to hate me, because I call all the time about various issues! But the 2016 election brought home to me just how important it is, to not only vote (seriously, you. have. to. vote) , but also to speak out. Our representatives are elected to fight for our interests. They need to be held accountable. That’s the only way our system works. I’ve found that 5calls.org  is a wonderful way to do it. They give you a list of issues, who to call for each, the phone number and a script.

To get out more. Spend more time with friends and family. Be more social.

This is something I’ve tried to do. I have at different points. Often other things have interfered with that. Work, health, money…. When I was able to, I definitely did. But I want to do this more in 2018.

To be willing to leave my comfort zone and be open to adventures.

I suppose that depends on what I define as leaving my comfort zone and adventures. One thing I did this year was to begin the process of publishing my first novel (look for it this summer!) which is certainly far from my comfort zone! Actually each step of the way I fee like I’m daring myself to do it. It’s an adventure because not only do I need to make the book itself as good as possible, but I also need to put it all together. That means researching the market. Finding a cover that will hopefully attract readers (cover reveal coming soon!). Not to mention formatting, marketing, editing…. It’s definitely an adventure though unfamiliar territory. Hopefully at the end of it, I’ll have a book that I’m proud of.

I do think that writing this down with the intention of revisiting it helped me to stay on top of these a little more. Look for a post with my 2018 resolutions over the next few days.

 

On Being a Spinster

Websters dictionary defines “spinster” as an unmarried woman of gentle family, especially one past the common age for marrying. I suppose that by that definition, I’m heading into spinster territory.

Well, sort of: I’m not sure if I’m “of gentle family”. Nothing against my family, they’re wonderful and I love them. But I’m not sure that “gentle” is the first word I’d use for them. I’m also not all that far “past the common age for marrying”. After all, people get married at all ages. People get marries in their 80’s! I am past my late 20’s though and that seems to be the age when a lot of people get married. That was the age when I started getting asked “when’s your turn?” at weddings. Now it seems like when I meet people my age there’s roughly a 50/50 chance that they’re married. I’m sure those odds will change over the next few years though.

Am I a spinster by choice? Sort of. I haven’t met anyone that I particularly want to be married to, and I don’t see any reason to get married until I do. Would I like to fall in love and get married? Sure. But if I’m not marrying the right person, I’d rather be single. I’m not actively looking for love right now, because I’ve got a lot of other things on my plate. Maybe that’ll change at some point, maybe not.

But is “spinster” an “archaic” word as the dictionary claims? I don’t know. I do know that in the past couple of years I’ve found myself explaining why I’m still single more than I used to. For most guys in their early 30’s it’s not really much of a question. It becomes more of one later on, but less so than with women.

51rewp1rail-_ac_us218_I recently finished reading Spinster: Making a Life On One’s Own by Kate Bolick. It’s sort of a memoir/exploration of the idea of “Spinsterhood”. In her book, Bolick looks at how our society and past societies have viewed unmarried women. She also looks at the subject through the lens of her “awakeners”;  women of the past century who have inspired Bolick. These include essayist Maeve Brennan, writer/artist/social reformer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, columnist Neith Boyce, and novelist Edith Wharton. Were all of these women incredibly accomplished? Absolutely. Were they all spinsters? Surprisingly not.

Actually they all had different experiences of marriage. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was married at the age of 24, separated at 28 and divorced at 34. Edna St. Vincent Millay was married for 26 years but she and her husband both had other lovers throughout. Edith Wharton married at the age of 23 but her husband was mentally ill and Wharton traveled extensively without him.  Maeve Brennan was married at the age of 37 and divorced five years later. Neith Boyce married at 27 and had an open marriage. So were these women “spinsters” or simply women who had unusual/nontraditional experiences of marriage? And to what extent did this impact other areas of their lives?

Bolick could have found role models in women who never married. Just sticking to writers, there’s Jane Austen, Emily Dickenson, Harper Lee,  and Louisa May Alcott. And that’s just off the top of my head! So why does she pick women whose romantic lives and married lives varied so widely? I think because in spite of what the title of the book says, it’s because Spinster-dom has never meant living life alone. Bolick’s “awakeners” illustrate that for women with fewer options career wise, marriage didn’t necessarily mean babies, suburbs, and domesticity. Nor did it mean love. But most of the “awakeners” had rich, fulfilling lives full of friendship and love, regardless of what kind of love that was and whether or not it took place in the context of marriage.

For contemporary women it’s the same, despite the fact that we have more choices. People today get married for many reasons. Some of those reasons are great. Others are no so great. But  there’s an assumption that if a woman is unmarried by a certain point she’s doomed to a life of loneliness. That’s absolutely untrue. Bolick’s “awakeners” prove that there are all kinds of marriages out there. Happiness and love may be found in the institution in different ways. Or it may be found outside of the institution of marriage altogether.

So let’s stop asking women why they’re single once they hit thirty. And let’s adopt the same policy for men, while we’re at it. Being single doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them. It doesn’t mean they’re doomed to a life of loneliness and misery. There are many reasons for someone not to get married. And there are many ways to live a happy and successful life.

I’ve Been…

  • pexels-photo-248469.jpegSpending Thanksgiving with my family. Catching up with people, celebrating the new jobs, engagements, etc. I have a suspicion that holidays are a lot like social media: people present the best of themselves. They leave out all the rest.
  • Watching about a million reruns of Friends on Black Friday. I’m not much of a shopper, and shopping in crowds is definitely not my thing. I’d much rather spend the day digesting my food and chillin’ with Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, and Joey. I’m breaking up the Friends watching by joining my mom in an occasional old movie like Don’t Bother to Knock and The Lady Eve.
  • Reading A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick. I definitely recommend Chadwick to any historical fiction lover, though I’m not sure this is the one I’d recommend first.  It’s not very fast moving. I’m on page 189 (of 491 pages) and I feel like the plot has just been set in motion.
  • Sleeping. A lot! I didn’t realize how tired I was or how hard I was working until I had a chance to stop. I’m glad I did because I was more run down than I realized. I’m definitely going to try for more balance going forward!
  • Demanding that the FCC maintain Net Neutrality!

Hoping that everyone has had a great holiday weekend!