I’m Alana Cymerman, I live in Montreal, Quebec.
My background is as a writer/director and I also worked within the film industry.
I started my family “late” and I’m grateful for it every single day. It’s amazing that we can push our biological clocks further. But what no one tells you about is the emotional train wreck of being a sandwich generation and having perimenopause all at once. I can’t change the timing of when I was able to start a family but I will advocate to tell younger generations to start sooner. The bottleneck on the other side is no joke.
I’m a dreamer and I thrive off absurd, magical storytelling. This meant I had to turn a blind eye to the tunnel I was about to enter. There have been many magical moments in my squishy sandwich and I feel like I’m only just crawling out the other side now.
Professionally speaking, film life is not a great option when you have a young family, let alone sick family members. We have subsidized daycare in Quebec but with frail immune systems, our kids caught every single thing there was to catch. Some people had standing appointments for their weekly blowouts, I had one with the pediatrician.. And if you’re a film director, there’s no calling in sick. When I participated in the TIFF Talent Lab, Christine Vachon the producer from Killer Films caused a hoopla amongst the women because she said to our group, “if you’re a mother, you can’t just say ‘ok, I’m taking off to Bulgaria for a shoot for a few months.”
We were irate. But, she was one of two mothers, and she knew that things can get complicated. Maybe some can manage to do it, but I couldn’t.
I always knew my scripts were ambitious and as a result, costly. I tried shifting into animation and that was just as complicated and funding heavy. When a producer suggested to me: “get your projects to have legs,” meaning create intellectual property with a “pre-audience,” I started to focus on smaller, more tangible work.
During the pandemic, in an attempt to take my professional creative life into my hands, I went down the marketing rabbit hole and on my way out found a magical branding group “The Bureau of Tactical Imagination.” The founder Amy Walsh is an artist herself and she gets artists and she understands business. Her program attracts people with visionary ideas. During that time I rose to the occasion of being able to be the wacky storyteller I’ve always been. I invented my own slow drip form of micro storytelling. It’s called “Tale-Mail”. It combines my fondness for comics, visuals, stories, and my love of absurdity without having to wrangle a ton of people to make it. It’s my way to entertain with humour, intrigue and while it’s laced with all the things in the world that irk me, it aims to inspire outlandish change.
So in a long winded nutshell, I’ve come home to my work.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40?
The biggest shift is acceptance. On all fronts. The 40s were a tunnel toward the light. Self- torment and I were long overdue for a breakup.
It’s become clearer that we all come to the table with lessons to learn and demons to face. If we accept that things will almost always get messy, there’s a lot more freedom to evolve as people.
The way I’m doing things is not going to be the way you do things. I can’t please everyone. And I can’t for the sake of my health and my children, stay up worrying about all of it.
It’s ok that I don’t float your boat on whatever front. I’m not for everyone and nor should anyone be.
If you’re scattered trying to please everyone, you tend to be too scattered to tend to your own inner longings and needs. At which point, your inner demon will move right into the void. So sit down with that demon for tea and say: “Ok, what’s up?”
Find out how old she is, what the heck she wants and get her to stop kiboshing your life! Demons are amazing at hijacking.
The self-awareness of my own limitations, of who I really am, of being completely honest with myself is where I find that peace. If I dig deep enough, I’ll see if I was being true to myself at any given moment. What I’ve discovered is mostly “yes.” The demon might not be thrilled about it but I’m the one with the bird’s eye view on myself!
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I’ve had many years gestating some of my stories, when if I were someone else, they might’ve seen the light of day much much earlier. It’s like being pregnant for way too long.
And yet, holding onto them was akin to my love for being pregnant! There were annoyances yes, but incubation periods have always been when I’ve felt my most powerful.
That said, just as I’m letting my kids out into the world, now letting out my stories makes me feel powerful.
What are the top 3 most important things to you right now?
- My own / my family’s health, happiness and continued blossoming is of utmost importance.
- That I continuously create/produce,”ship” and engage in meaningful collaborations
- That I show my kids how to be a satisfied, centered woman. Despite some of the challenges our family has, there’s always joy, light, laughter, making, art, costumes, and dancing to be had.
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
I don’t have much choice. I push away anything that doesn’t sit right. It turns out I’m a human design that’s like an oak tree – “un-influenceable” to some degree. So I need to write, process, have space and process again, to get to the root.
That translates into certain actions: waking up as early as can be, listening to the voice that’s dormant within the noise of daily life, believing in spirit, doing yoga, walking a lot. Staying off sugar as if it’s a cigarette as much as I can. Slowing down, listening carefully.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
When I was 13 years old, my French teacher referred to me as “the lawyer” because when kids couldn’t express themselves, I would come to their defense. Even though my stories are whimsical and absurd, there’s a fundamental need for justice. That seems to have come back midlife in full force even if it was there along.
I’m driven by anti-ageism, anti-bullying, emotional metabolism, and likely underneath it all, a desire to level shame so that it doesn’t have to impede lives. Shame of not being included, shame of poverty, shame of keeping up appearances, shame of disability, of cultural background. Shame of not being enough of just about anything. If I think about it too much I feel sick. If I could, I would dislodge embarrassment/shame from our brains.
What I’m planting -as best I can- is a path full of all of the above I can walk through for the next 50 years ;).
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
- Journal the crap out of yourself. Sometimes it takes time to get to it. But it’s right there.
- The inner child has needs but the wise person within knows your boundaries, what you’re capable of and what’s actually going to lead to your daily fulfillment. Listen closely.
How can people connect with you and your work?
cymermade.com is my recent site
alanacymerman.com is my film work
@alanacymerman is my IG handle