The Year in Sober Review, With Pinot Noir

Do we really want to look back on this one? I always tell myself we must, or how else can we expect to make ourselves and other things better?

I am not a person who makes resolutions, and when I look back on the year before I see the things I didn't do right and feel regret. All year long I beat myself up over why I am not a better, smarter model of myself and wonder how long it will take me to reach perfection. Because in the end, we have to be perfect, right? Meanwhile, I'm still disorganized and can't find anything in my sock drawer except a pair that doesn't match.

Sometimes I look back at myself when I was in my 20s and realize that compared to her I'm some kind of genius. Why can't we start our lives with great wisdom and go downhill from there?

Some of my friends, and some of my fans I suppose, think I have a glamorous life. They don't know there are times I sit in a cold cubicle with ants crawling on me waiting for a production assistant to bring me some lukewarm coffee, that sometimes make-up artists mistake me for a background player, or that I buy my underpants at Walgreens. They remember only the black sedans that come to pick me up, and forget the times I leave town in a taxi. They tell me I work "all the time" because they don't understand a lot of what they see me in is a re-run. They don't see me sitting in my living room with my dog, sipping a glass of fine Pinot Noir, watching The Real Housewives of New York City. They don't know I consider that doing something.

I recently did a Q & A at a theater and the moderator gave me such a long list of accolades before I came out he made it sound as if I were a success. When I got out on stage I told the audience that the 10 minutes it took him to introduce me equaled the amount of time in my life I've considered myself to be accomplished.

Who do you measure yourself against? Do we all do that? My role models are impossible to compete with. Georgia O'Keefe (why did I not apply myself better in art school?), Charlotte Rampling (why was I not an actress who chose her projects and chose not to work when roles weren't good enough), Emma Thompson (she got an Oscar for best screenplay and best actress, what can't she do?) Anne Lamott (a dear friend from way back who has written umpteen New York Times best sellers). There's Diane Von Furstenberg, Emily Dickenson, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sappho, and stop me please. Now.

I was asked recently when I was on a panel at a festival what my main charity was. Well, sometimes it's my dog, and sometimes it's my friends. Sometimes it has to be me. I have auctioned off dress rehearsal tickets for SNL a few times for a church I believe in in Chicago's Lincoln Park, but that only took maybe 90 minutes of set up phone calls over a few weeks and the hour I spent at the gala drinking free booze and eating a petite filet. To be fair to myself, I have at times reached out to the people in my life in need, and actually have helped or made a difference. That said, I am not a powerhouse fundraiser.

Nationally and internationally, last year was not one that will stand out as stellar on the world stage. No curtain calls for this one. We still suffer from mass shootings, including one inspired by Islamic extremists, and Police brutality and cover-ups exposed only because we all have cameras in our cell phones and cops wear body cams. Donald Trump took the stage and upstaged anybody who was talking sense and the more vitriol he spewed the more the media lapped it up. Now he and Putin are drooling over each other because they are the two biggest goons from two of the biggest countries. And the crowd cheers. We drone-bombed the hell out of innocent civilians to kill a few ISIS leaders and knock out their compounds, and though we agreed to take in Syrian refugees who tried to stand up to Assad, many states in our union won't take them in.

Give us your tired and hungry and we will send them back to where they came from.

In the face of what goes on on the main stage, I find it a better idea to shrink my world and try simply to be kind. Ashamed of my petty outbursts and selfishness, I want to make sure that my encounters this coming year amount to good. We are lacking in good. We seem to be mesmerized by the crude and the rude and are becoming weirdly addicted to the next terrible shooting that will play out on CNN like the dark TV drama's we otherwise watch.

So maybe we really ought to think about who we admire and why and what those people did with their lives that we can use to do good. I want to make more art. I want to spread compassion instead of fear. I'd like to watch less TV and take my eyes off my cell phone long enough to actually see the people around me. We are all in pain, and the hatred we are being peddled is killing our spirits, and also our sense of humor about the realities of life. The joke is always going to be on us.

We have to learn to live in joy amongst sorrow, even in the face of the darkness that has descended upon us. I don't believe the world has ever been much different than it is now, except that we we have a lot more automatic fire power and many of us are denying the severity of climate change. How's that working for us?

To end this year, I lost someone who was very dear to me, and important to me. He was a rare human being who had a big life and everyone who knew him was drawn into it. He welcomed that. He had the rare ability to charm a room just by walking into it, and when he sang he made life worth living. What can I do with all that now that he's gone?

I realize that a big part of life is having the courage to live on and do something with what was given by someone we've experienced as special. And I suppose that's a resolution. But more than that, I've got to put the resolution into practice. Maybe it really is practice that makes perfect.