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The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

JenniferFischerI was taking a long bus ride about 15 years ago from Cairo to Jerusalem to spend Christmas Eve in Bethlehem with my “new boyfriend,” who is now the father of my two children and both my business and life partner.

That Christmas Eve celebration was amazing – beautiful in so many ways, but especially for the people who were brought together that evening. Israeli Jews and Palestinians were celebrating side by side. German children performed, as did a chorus from Africa. We celebrated alongside Australians, Brits, Arabs and Jews, and it even snowed in the early morning hours, something extremely rare for that part of the world.

Looking back now, I realize how rare all of that was and how that is the power of Christmas in its ability often to bring together people who would not normally come together, perhaps to get families to cross bridges and step over differences to celebrate the holiday season together, to plant the seeds of forgiveness and to focus our attention on love.

I should focus on that in this piece, but instead I’m going to indulge myself a bit and go back to my memory of Christmas at Bethlehem and the weeks that preceded it in Egypt.

The weekend after Thanksgiving that year, I got stuck in an elevator in Alexandria, Egypt. It was an old elevator in a not-very-nice building that was a hybrid of a hostel and motel.

jf122014It’s an experience that could have been awful, but instead it was exhilarating and, to be honest, perfect, because I was stuck in that elevator with someone I desperately wanted to be stuck with; someone I longed to be near; someone I had been harboring intense feelings for under the auspice of friendship, when really my feelings were much stronger than that. Thus, the only terrifying aspect of the experience was confronting my feelings and wondering when or if I would confess them.

Eventually I did, but not at that moment in that elevator. Instead, we both climbed out of the elevator; he went first, then I followed and jumped into his arms. Well, I’m not really sure if that is what happened in actuality, but in my romantic, filmmaker memory, it is.

Our evening continued and included a rooftop dinner at a pretty good Chinese restaurant and a card game that ended with a first kiss, as well as a sleepless night and a shared sunrise amid the confession of feelings held inside. The excitement of young love swirled around us. My stomach was full of butterflies, and I had the feeling that my life would never be the same. I was right.

I’m sure being a filmmaker affects the way I view life, including the way I look at the past, but I remember having certain feelings even then. I remember that when I first saw this young man, I thought to myself: This guy is trouble. (Good trouble, though.) I was sunk. I knew it. It was just a question of whether he would ever know it.

He stirred things up. He shifted my worldview. He quite literally changed my life. But I changed his life, too. There have been twists and turns, bumps and mountains and lots of challenges, but now, 15 years later, I can safely and quite assertively say we made each other’s lives better. We’ve brought out the best in each other. We’ve pushed each other in important ways, and I’d like to think we still do that for each other.

The first time I saw him, I knew he mattered. I knew he would be a part of my life, but I never could imagine what having him in my life would mean. Now to have two amazing and beautiful sons with him and to run our own company together and to challenge ourselves daily to create art that moves us forward and while is complex, frightening and wonderful is something I never could have imagined.

Someday, I want to go back to Alexandria and Cairo with him – and with our sons. I want to revisit some of those streets we walked together. Perhaps we’ll even find that elevator (although I’d rather not get stuck in it this time). I want to revisit the place where it all started. I am grateful for the magic that was my 6 months in Egypt. Being completely pulled out of one’s comfort zone makes many things possible. It allows new relationships to develop. It encourages open-mindedness. It is challenging, but in all of the best ways. I’ve realized now how important it is to shake things up and stand outside of my comfort zone.

I’ve discovered that one of the most important relationships in my life grew out of an experience in which I was completely out of my comfort zone, out of my depth. I’ve discovered that, as an artist, doing work that makes me uncomfortable, work that pushes me out of my comfort zone, is so important. It is where the good stuff lives. I’ve discovered the importance of getting stuck in an old elevator and the magic of climbing out – and I’ve discovered that it’s so much better to shake up your life alongside someone you love.

How will you step out of your comfort zone in the New Year? How will you shake up your life? And who will you do it with?

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

 

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