A Birthday Coupling: Sharing My Birthday With My Beloved.

My husband’s birthday and mine are one day apart in May (conveniently, mine comes first, so we basically get to celebrate my birthday twice).

Neither one of us is into astrology, nor have I ever analyzed or researched what this actually “means” beyond the fact that it underscores my certainty that he and I are spiritually paired. We share a unique bond, like Gemini twins.

On every birthday since we met, my husband surprises me with an unexpected gift that demonstrates he knows what I need, like a new iPhone, business cards for my writing and blogging promotion, or an artsy ring from a store he knows I like. I usually buy him clothes, because I’m lame, and because I know which store in Manhattan carries men’s XXL (Banana Republic, J Crew, no. G-Star, yes) and I’m too impatient for anything that requires craft.

He is the opposite. On my fortieth birthday, a few months after we had gotten back together, he surprised me with a “me” video montage that highlighted and celebrated my journey from divorcee to meeting him. When he proposed to me, on a beach overlooking Bermuda, his proposal came by way of a video card too. And for this birthday, I awoke to his most poetic card yet. Our story in title cards, set to a song with ethereal lyrics about how tiny and inconsequential we are in this vast universe, solitude imbedded in our DNA. And when we weave our souls together in love, like two intertwined DNA strands, it eases this solitude.

I assumed that was my present, until we got home that night from a party. I was recounting an anecdote from the evening, getting ready to wash up and he told me to come over to the couch where two large sketch pads and packs of charcoal and pencils lay.draw “I think you should draw again,” he said. “You’re an artist.”

An artist. I was. It was how I had begun. When I was a kid, I went through a vicious bought of insomnia, and would lay out paper and colored pencils on my desk, my comforting friends who I knew would be there for me later in the quiet loneliness of the night. I attended the School of Fine Arts in college. I see feelings in pictures and cheesy visual metaphors. But amidst life and my job, where I nurture and sell other artists, I had forgotten that I was one.

I stood there in shock, tears streaming down my cheeks. My reaction surprised us both. I hadn’t told my husband that I missed drawing, nor had I even had a fleeting fancy to buy some supplies. But I had been feeling frustrated with my writing. While my book is out on submission, I’ve been plotting other endeavors. Go back to revising my novel. Have it ready to go once the memoir’s fate is revealed. Write a new blog post. Write and publish an essay in The New York Times (as if the only thing that’s stopping me is writing it). Like Ann Packer wrote in a recent piece for the NYT, being between projects is a strange and anxiety provoking place – always feeling like you should be doing more, doing something. I had been feeling stuck in between indeed, but I didn’t know it.

But my husband knew. “I thought it might be good for you to be visual, get back to your basics. It could help your writing,” he said.

For a moment, I wished he had included some black pens in the gift, so I could make my typical ink designs, which are really just sophisticated doodles, but then he told me he left those pens out intentionally. IMG_1255 Doodling is my crutch, my safety blanket, my nervous energy worked out on a page. But I wasn’t going to grow from that. Doing the same thing I always do wasn’t going to inspire fresh ideas or manifest a buried emotion in a new form.

So this year, a new light was shed on the meaning of our back-to-back birthdays. Yes we share a midnight between two days on a calendar, but mainly, we share something more rare – the intangible and ephemeral. The gratification and fulfillment of being seen and understood, sometimes better than you understand yourself. It eases the gnawing sense of solitude we carry around as not only artists, but as humans.

Oh, and by the way, I’m not promising to share any of those would-be drawings, as programmed as I may be to share my private life and feelings. I’ll save that urge for this blog.

Detours on life’s main path.

When I tell some people about the careers I’ve had: I was a Fine Arts major, a screenwriter, an indie film producer, and an advertising agency producer (being a waitress for two weeks at UNO’s pizza in D.C. doesn’t count) before I was a writer/blogger and marketer – they either don’t believe me, or think I’m weird.
They have a hard time figuring out how all of these things fit sequentially on a single path (even though all endeavors can be classified as “arts and entertainment.”) And they’re right. Looking back, there does appear to be a lot of movement, or new starts, but at the time, the transitions didn’t feel abrupt at all.
I applied to the Fine Arts school of my University because I loved to draw and paint, and that was where I met my future ex-husband, who was an artist too. After college, he continued to paint, and then direct films. I admired his talent, and encouraged him to continue, and he inhabited the role of the “artist” whereas I became the producer, the facilitator of his talents and the executor of his vision.  For a significant time period, this was a fruitful and gratifying dynamic. I didn’t feel the need to be an artist anymore, and was comfortable with my creative spirit lying fallow.
And then I couldn’t find it anymore (although no doubt writing is a potent form of creative expression).
I abandoned writing and making movies, and didn’t feel the desire to create art anymore. I became fully entrenched in the business that is advertising. And while there are irrefutably many creative people in advertising, we are ultimately at the mercy of our client’s specifications to sell a product.
Six months ago I got another job, as the Director of Marketing for a production company. I didn’t change industries, since its still advertising, but it was decidedly a career change in that the skill set is different than those I previously employed. I’m not creating characters or plots for stories, nor am I overseeing budgets and schedules for productions. I’m networking, entertaining clients, and the wonderful by product of it all is that I’m making new and interesting friends.  And I’m promoting directors, talented artists in their own right, a role in which I feel comfortable, as it emulates the productive dynamic I had with my ex-husband.  
And then I had an idea (and when Cougel has an idea, case in point, this blog, look out!).
Why do artists that work in advertising have to remain closeted?
I decided to have an art show at my office (an artist’s style loft) for artists in advertising. A coming out party! It began with a vague sense that there were others out there like me, although very few people came to mind, and as I started reaching out to other producers, art directors, and copywriters, the response was overwhelming.  And moving. The influx of passion and enthusiasm – not to mention the scope of talent – that exists hidden behind corporate doors, was staggering.
I began planning this about three weeks ago, and since then, I don’t think I’ve been in a bad mood once. Even while PMS-ing, or without a boyfriend or any viable “future husband” potential on the horizon, I’ve been excited, inspired, and well… happy.  I had dinner with an old friend last week, who fifteen minutes into the conversation, responded to something positive I said with, “Who are you?”
I didn’t answer him aloud, but in my mind, I think I might have uttered something like, “Me.”
Perhaps it is because all of these seemingly disparate passions intersected at the right time, at the right place, awakening that creative spirit I thought I had left in the dust ten years ago.  Somehow, all the jobs I’ve had, the people I’ve met, and the experiences that masqueraded as pit stops, culminated into the promising path I am on now.
So I guess there is no such thing as a detour after all. It all depends on where those pit stops take you.