Month: March 2005

That shitty, shaky feeling

WoodsI know all about "what goes up" and "to every season" and all of the other old saws. I also know that a body in motion prefers to stay that way and a body at rest would just as soon you leave it the fuck alone, thank you very much.

While there are many wonderful things in my life right now (relationship, friendship, health, etc.) when I am forced to address the things that are less wonderful (taxes, cash flow, roaches for the first time in my L.A. life) it is all too easy to go to the dark place, forget what I do have going for me and embrace my loser-dom.

You started rewrites on your show how long ago and you’re still not done? Loser. You made how much last year and have what to show for it? Loser. You want to help other people change their lives and yours looks like this? Loser, loser, loser.

Right now, I finally think I get what Evelyn is talking about with her dwelve into the unknown. Like knights of yore on a quest for a big urn and The Zenmistress of Business herself, apparently, I’m standing at the edge of a big, tangled forest full of scary stuff and I’m really not thrilled about the prospect of heading in with nothing but a keyfob Maglite and a light jacket in case it gets cold. I mean, I know it’s gonna get cold. And I know this weekend’s tasks, taxes, billing, roach control, merely comprise leg one of a loooong journey. One I’ve successfully avoided embarking on for almost 44 years. It’s hard to shake that shaky feeling that I (loser) am going to be doing a lot of stumbling and bumbling about (loser! loser!) as I trip over unknowns in the forest (ignorant loser!).

On the other hand, I know that this, too, shall pass, both my big journey and this mini, weekend one. By Monday, my taxes will be
done, I’ll have adjusted to the new balance in my savings account and
my kitchen cabinets will be ringed with a Maginot Line of boric acid
and Raid. (Well, two outta three ain’t bad.) And at some later and probably less-defined point, I’ll uncover that piece of paper on which I wrote my current Three Things and think, "Hunh…wish I had that problem instead of this one."

But hopefully, not before
I realize I’m not a loser any more than I’m not ever a winner. I’m
just a person, muddling through, who knows some stuff and doesn’t know
a whole lot of other stuff and who, like most people, is happier living
in the former than doing much about the latter.

Which reminds me: time to get cracking…

xxx
c

TV is my friend

I don’t have a copy of Harriet the Spy handy, but to wildly paraphrase Ole Golly, TV is the perfect thing to do while you’re doing something else.

Since the “else” right now is tax prep and other boring-ish stuff, a little crappy TV really hits the spot.

I’m getting a little weary of the actual “American Idol” contestants (yaaaawn) but the freakish antics of Randy, Paula, Simon and teeny-tiny Ryan Seacrest are proving most entertaining. Even more (and definitely more intentionally) hilarious is the blow-by-blow recap on television without pity. As I told The Boyfriend, I don’t know whether to kiss or curse you for sending me the link; just see if you can stop reading last week’s 20pp treatise. G’wan…first taste is free.

xxx
c

P.S. The fiery trainwreck a.k.a. “Chasing Farrah” on tonight (Nick/10PT). I cannot WAIT to do my taxes…

Getting my house in order

lists

For someone who likes organizing, I’m not a particularly organized person. Oh, sure, I like the fou-fou labeling and 43 Folders and fetish trips to Office Depot aspects of it, but all of that is window dressing belying my real status as Queen of Mt. Perilous, that towering stack of unknown “to-be-handled” paper that I never, ever seem to be able to reverse-traverse my way to the bottom of.

I paid Asshole Tax last month, though, in triplicate (dinged thrice for automatic transfer of funds to cover payments out of checking) which so disgusted me, I made an appointment with my tax preparer for this coming Monday, which for me is the economic equivalent of throwing a party to make oneself clean the house. I have a high tolerance for nagging guilt (half-Jewish + raised Catholic = guilt bonanza) but an extremely low tolerance for wasting money. In fact, the only time I can take it is when I’m really sick, really tired, or on vacation. And, if the pricing on Tylenol in Las Vegas hotel gift shops is any indication, I am not alone in this.

But something has got to give. Despite my well-nurtured (but probably innate) bent for overachievement, I cannot, it is clear, do it all. And I’m of the belief that one can really only commit to three projects really well at any given time. Why three, I don’t know. But I’ve tried four, and I think it goes without saying that I’ve tried five to fifty-six, and really, three is the limit. Whether or not you have any kind of a life worth living outside of your to-do list, which, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll continue to enjoy.

So I’m starting right now. Instead of going to 43 Things and doing it, I’m going to out myself here. My three things. Bam, bam, bam: laserlike focus, until they’re done (or done enough) or i’ve decided they’re done (as opposed to defaulting into discarding them). Previously, my Three Things have included such super-fun tasks as…

  1. Write screenplay.
  2. Find attorney.
  3. Get rid of horrible rash on face.

or…

  1. Get well.
  2. Put on weight.
  3. Get off of medication.

But I have never, to my knowledge, made “Get house in order” one of the three things. So here we (gulp) go:

  1. Finish pilot presentation for “#1 & #2”.
  2. Achieve reasonable proficiency on piano and guitar.
  3. Get house in order.

I realize that #3, the thing that’s kicking “Blog every day” off of the list, is kind of a gigantic, squishy catch-all, especially when compared to (hey!) #1 & #2. I suppose it’s just such an intensely personal batch of items that I’m a little uncomfortable sharing it with all 47 of you. But Mt. Perilous is first, to be immediately (and I mean IMMEDIATELY) followed by tax prep. After that, I’ll see what I feel is appropriate for public consumption. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up making my whole process public, like Evelyn is so bravely doing.

But what I am definitely doing is giving myself permission to be less than perfect here. As communicatrix, the Blog, serves communicatrix, the Vastly Flawed Human Being, I’ll employ it, in service of this task, or as occasional diversion. Just maybe not as often. And maybe not as deeply.

Or who knows? Maybe it’ll be deeper and richer and better than ever.

Let’s see where the journey takes us.

xxx
c

Pho(ne)bia

Recently, I started returning my phone calls.

Not that I’d ever subscribed to the local shitiquette of blowing people off by not returning their phone calls; I’m far too Midwestern for that.

But for several months, oh, hell…a couple of years, really, I got into the highly antisocial habit of turning my calls around via email. All of them. (Or damned close to it, my now-deceased father did not have email.)

Initially, my eminently forgivable excuse was a life-threatening lack of energy. I was spending the few calories I could afford making high-fat tubs of yogurt and low-carb hunks of protein in an almost Sisyphean attempt to stay out of the hospital. I neither talked to nor saw much of anyone for a good four months, except when they were trotting by to drop off supplies or help with chores.

But even as my health improved, my aversion to phone contact continued. And I realized that for whatever reason, the phone meant too much contact for me, or too little control, or both. And, since I had bigger fish to fry, I let it go at that (a miracle of sorts right there, not worrying something to death) and figured the answer would come to me or it wouldn’t and either way, I’d learn to live with it.

Which I did. L.A. Jan and I even made jokes about it, the bizarre incongruity of someone who kept an Excel spreadsheet to track her online dating activity yet was often loathe to answer calls from her best friend.

Somewhere in those two years, though, things shifted. I think the shift had something to do with my readiness to connect in general, because it was right around the time I got into my first real relationship since DumpFest 2002 that I found myself occasionally brightening when a particular clutch of numbers popped up on the Caller ID screen. And today, about a year later, I’m not only pouncing on the phone when The Boyfriend’s name pops up, but marveling upon hanging up with him, with L.A. Jan, with my sister, that 20…30…45 minutes have ticked by while we’ve been yakking away. Again. Sometimes after I’ve just seen them. I’m even occasionally (gasp) picking up the phone when clients call. Okay, not every time. But it’s a start.

The thing of it is, letting my borders shrink for a bit and letting myself not sweat it was probably instrumental in those same borders expanding again, to maybe beyond their original circumference, later on. And as I continue to wrassle with my mighty, mighty infernal motherfucking lesson of P – A – T – I – E – N – C – E, it might behoove me to remember that sometimes, the quickest way towards two steps forward is one step back, from the phone, or whatever consarned annoyance is bedeviling one at the moment. Like a name one can’t remember. Or a riddle that’s driving one crazy.

Or a blog one hasn’t posted to in four days.

What can I say? It comes. It doesn’t come. It comes back.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few calls to turn around…

xxx
c

In case Vanity Fair never gets around to asking me about this, either

stang

The Proust Questionnaire.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being plugged into the source.

Which living person do you most admire?

Jimmy Carter.

What is your greatest fear?

Catastrophic injury stopping just short of the release of death.

What is your favorite journey?

A long car ride with little traffic, excellent conversation and great music.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Chastity.

On what occasion do you lie?

When it really, really, really doesn’t make a difference and would hurt someone if I did. Or when I’m too weak to tell the truth.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Super-(descriptor here)”; all swears (but especially “fuck”).

What is your greatest extravagance?

Digital cable TV, the second box.

What do you dislike about your appearance?

My bandy legs.

What is your greatest regret?

Having stayed in a situation past its usefulness to me.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

So far, writing.

When and where were you happiest?

Anytime I’m plugged into the source.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To write brilliant songs.

What is your current state of mind?

Restless contentedness.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

That they had been more courageous.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you suppose it would be?

I think I’m due for a masculine lifetime. Or maybe I’m coming off of one. That’d explain a lot.

What is your most treasured possession?

My paternal grandmother’s watch.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

To feel or be unloved.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Sensitivity.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Strength.

What do you most value in your friends?

Their courageous pursuit of Truth.

Who are your favorite writers?

Charles Bukowski, Jane Austen, Louise Fitzhugh, Richard Yates, Evelyn Waugh.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Oprah Winfrey, Eleanor Roosevelt and anyone who overcomes adversity to achieve his or her dreams.

What are your favorite names?

Lucy, Betty, Franklin, Homer, Arno.

How would you like to die?

Surrounded by loved ones, having led a good and useful life.

What is your motto?

“Tell the truth!”

xxx
c

Me being me being me

masks 49While Immense Personal Change rarely happens overnight, and while my own Immense Personal Change was afoot well in advance of my dramatic, blood-and-sweat-soaked Crohn’s onset, it is convenient (not to mention pithy) to divvy things up in terms of pre- and post-Crohn’s.Before Crohn’s, when I was not only dancing as fast as I could but had become really, really proficient at it, I lived to please. Because if I knew one thing, it was that I was Not Enough. So naturally, I compensated by being (or at least aiming to be) the smartest, the fastest, the funniest. Or, in those areas where I was less naturally gifted (e.g. math, science, anything involving hand-eye coordination) the worst. There is, after all, a pride to be taken in staking out that territory as well.

masks 50One strange side effect of my psychic orientation B.C. was an unsettling anxiety that would overtake me at the prospect of worlds colliding. When you are very busy making yourself be (or seem) all things to all people, the thought of those disparate parties coming together is very nervous-making. How to be the advertising wunderkind and the Lower East Side hipster and the aw-shucks, down-home Midwestern gal all at once? I’m deft, but not that deft.

So I kept my worlds apart. And if I lucked into a partner who had a wonderful network of loved ones already in place I just used his, and kept my own on maintenance contact only. Breakups were hellish, but really, when are they not?

masks 37But after the last big breakup, when, as usual (and let’s face it, appropriate) he got the friends and family, I took stock of the situation and decided I’d had enough of it. Of all of it: losing the friends, yes, but really, of contorting myself to fit someone else’s idea of ideal. The ROI on self-contortion had been pretty lousy, anyway, and I was older and more tired than I used to be.

Once I got sick, contorting myself was out of the question. I had no energy to spare, especially for such tomfoolery. And then, of course, my worlds started colliding with alarming frequency in my very own living room; unable to lift the laundry basket, much less carry it down two flights of stairs to the basement, I found myself happy to have them there, especially if they came bearing groceries or DVDs.

masks 25But the biggest shock came when I realized that the me that everyone was seeing, hapless, helpless, housebound and really, really unattractive, not only was enough, but was someone they treasured enough to go out of their way to do things for…without hope of anything in return save my return to health. And if all these good people thought I was enough, maybe I didn’t have to be anything else. Maybe I could just be me.

An acting teacher once suggested that the things we think are super-fab about ourselves are the things our loved ones tolerate and that the quirks and missteps and imperfections we try to hide are what make us lovable. In large part, I now believe that to be true; “perfection” (or our simulacrum of it) is about as appealing as trying too hard.

I may never be the shining orb of perfection that I once longed to be. But I am pretty confident that from now until the end of my time on the planet, I will be me, all me, all of the time.

Only, hopefully, with age and experience, more so.

xxx
c

Book review: Main Street

It’s hard for me to believe that Main Street was ever a groundbreaking work of fiction, but then, it’s hard for me to believe that I ever thought 256MB was a lot of RAM.

Was there ever a time when we (America, not the royal “we”) weren’t aware of our dissatisfaction with the status quo? Of the stultifying, enervating, soul-killing small-mindedness of small-town American life? And really, even way back when, were 500+ pages what it took to get the point across? I mean, if the definitive book on English grammar and structure can clock in at just over a hundred, how much space need be devoted to descriptions of uninspired home decor, gorgeous Minnesota in the raw and the dialectic journey of a main character who is more stock mouthpiece than compelling, flesh-and-foible heroine?

On the other hand, given the current state of domestic affairs, I can easily imagine some fellow American “a-yup”ing his or her way through Main Street, thumping the denizens of Gopher Prairie for being tasteless, visionless rubes before heading out in the Suburban to grouse about the ridiculousness of gay marriage and the righteousness of those who condemn it over an MGD and a blooming onion at The Outback. So there’s probably still a need for Main Street, or something like it.

I’m casting my vote for the latter. It takes a level of determination (or insomnia) for me to slog through Sinclair Lewis that, say, Theodore Dreiser doesn’t require. (I’m just 50 or so pages into Babbitt now, and granted, it’s more engaging than the obvious polemic that is Main Street, but it’s still…well, windy.) Jane Austen wrote scathing social commentaries that still stand up as ripping good yarns. Even Dickens crafted a more compelling read than Lewis and he took at least twice the ink to do it in.

What’s most irksome to me is that I used up credit at my favorite used book store to buy a crumbling, yellowed copy when I could have purchased an EZ-on-the-old-eyes Dover Thrift Edition for just $3.50. Or better yet, read it online or even downloaded as an eBook, for free. It’s not bad idea to revisit the classics once or twice in a lifetime and I’m glad someone’s preserving copies so I can do so, but good authorial intentions, and Nobel Peace Prize, notwithstanding, I just don’t see Main Street as a wise allocation of precious bookshelf real estate.

xxx
c

UPDATE (12/3/08): In a shameless and transparent act of caving, I’ve been replacing book and DVD links with Amazon affiliate links throughout the site. I MAKE MONEY WHEN YOU CLICK ON THESE. Like, a full 1/4 cent or something. Whatever. I’m happy if you borrow it from a friend or the library, or buy it used (I like half.com and alibris online) or, praise Jeebus!, from your local independent dead tree retailer. Seriously. The main thing is, read. Absorb. Enjoy. Pass it on.