truth

Fat pants, booze and the boy from New Jersey

fat pants

The BF and I must be happy, because we are fat. Fat and happy, fat and happy, go together like a pee and nappy.

Only like most things, it’s not as simple as that.

He is fat because he has been working 16 – 20 hour days on a hamster wheel of stress, pushing pixels for the Man, eating whatever carb-y thing he can grab in between worsening his carpel tunnel. He is fat because the writers and the actors and the directors are going to do big battle with the producers next spring, and there are too many dependents in his trust for whom the words “strike” mean nothing, but who require food, clothing and health insurance, nonetheless.

I, on the other hand, am fat because I quit acting. I am fat because where I once ran my thespianic ass all over the 25-square-mile playing field that is Actors’ Los Angeles, I, too, now park it in front of a keyboard for the bulk of the day.

But he is also fat because of the Lexapro, or whichever of those SSRI dolls he’s on to officially correct what he used to self-medicate. Whereas I am fat because, here it comes, I have been self-medicating. One, two, sometimes three glasses of hooch per evening. The creep has been slow but steady, a match reverse of my dip into the Valley of Monotony. And it’s time to stop before I have to Stop.

Last night, I dreamed I went to an AA meeting. Because it was a dream, it was probably unlike any AA meeting in existence (I’ve never actually been to one): there were a lot of forms to fill out for newcomers, and once I made it into the meeting (already in session), it looked more like I imagine a Cuban refugee camp might, with little clusters of people building shacks, playing card games, cooking over open fire.

It was an interesting dream to have last night, because of the day I’d had before it: work, rain, reading…and abstinence. Apparently, the perfect storm for creating self-awareness. A day just as long, filled with just as much work and solitude, but devoid of alcohol or the desire for it. Here’s what I’d sussed out as of this morning:

  • The work was engaging. I got my hands a little grubby with code, but went slowly and broke nothing. Knocked a big item off my to-do list, and felt pride of accomplishment on a lot of levels.
  • The rain gave me permission to stay inside and do it. One of the dastardly things about this relentlessly “perfect” place is the tyranny of perpetual sunshine. I’ve never liked the outside so all-fired much, but there it is, 24/7, postcard-perfect and in my face. No wonder Bukowski drank. L.A. should go fuck itself, sometimes.
  • As much of a powerhouse as I think I am, the truth is, I amn’t. I need rest and reading and quiet and solitude. I need space for puttering and play. The BF was two hours late to a rendezvous, we had promised to help celebrate a very important birthday, and as I’d passed them with a spectacularly engrossing read, I was sanguine. Well, for me, anyway. So QED.

And then, because I can’t possibly be expected to get it all myself, I was visited this morning by the Archangel Ira Glass, who sang a song of a 19-year-old saint from Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Since I gave up TV about a year ago, there are some gaps in my cultural knowledge. Everyone and his brother has seen the Nike basketball commercials starring freestyle sensation Luis Da Silva and heard his amazing story. (If you haven’t, here’s an extended version on YouTube. And here’s Luis all by his fantastic self.)

Just like that, the other piece of the puzzle turned up under the sofa: find that passion. Find it find it find it, and then keep a holy shrine to it in my heart, and on a screen saver and a bright-yellow rubber bracelet and any other talisman-reminders I need. When I’m plugged in, the rest falls into place. Good days, bad days revert back to plain old time, which I’m spending doing the thing I’m Here to Do (plus some attendant side tasks and the daily chores that keep me from being a callous monster.)

It seems pretty simple in the cold, clear light of day: find the thing I love, work hard, take breaks, get a refreshing night’s sleep, wake up happy, do it again. Abstinence takes care of itself when I take care of me. Fat pants and booze are the symptoms, not the root issue.

Thank you, Ira and Luis, for reminding me.

Thank you, Sofka, Leslie, Pema, Jack, Julia and Jiddu, for telling me in the first, and second, and third, and-and-and, place.

Thank you, dear reader, for keeping me honest…

xxx
c

Image by sidereal via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Can you lead an authentic life with fake hair?

pink hair

I make no secret of my age. (46, and if you haven’t wished me a “happy” yet, feel free to!)

I’m up front about my struggles to get organized, to get happy, to get my bowels in working order.

So why, oh, why am I having such a problem letting my hair go gray?

A little backstory: unlike many of the women on my mother’s side, while I had a few stray grays pop up as early as my 20s, I didn’t need to start actively coloring to cover them until my late 30s. And I was earning a nice living via acting at that point (with good health insurance…sigh…), so it made sense to make sure my hair matched my face, which for some reason insisted on looking 5 – 10 years younger than the rat’s nest on top of it.

But if I’m honest, and dammit, if I’m not, there’s little point to anything anymore, I wanted to look chronologically younger for me, too. In the late 90s, I’d just left my marriage of 8 1/2 years for a man 12 years younger than I, who looked 5 – 7 years younger than he really was. And who was also, shall we say, empirically good looking. It was frustrating enough for me and my fragile self-esteem to flit about with The Youngster in public; add to that the subtle and ongoing pressure from him to “look my best” (what is it with these empirically good looking people?) and you have a perfect storm for public deceit.

Well, I’m not acting anymore. And dye, in addition to being not inexpensive, is toxic and time-consuming. What could I do with those extra two hours per month? Those extra 1000 or so cancer-free years days of my life? Or, while we’re at it, the extra 750 bucks a year? (A steal in L.A., but still.)

I find myself obsessing over gray hair. It seems to be a trend, or a meme, the ladies lettin’ it go, perhaps kicked off by Meryl Streep in the otherwise forgettable Devil Wears Prada. Someone wrote a book about it. There’s a Yahoo! group devoted to it, a graying Botticelli’s Venus as their icon. (I joined.) There’s that idiotic Dove campaign.

I think it comes down to this: vanity.

Not vanity about looking my age, but about looking good for my age. Or maybe just looking good, period. I quit wearing makeup long ago, and I’ve let myself get woefully squishy around the middle; strictly from a design/style perspective, hair dye saves my beauty bacon. It’s the lazy gal’s way to look good (at least, until your face and skin tone stop coordinating well with dark hair. I am going to look like a raggedy-ass schlub growing out my gray if I don’t work a little harder to look good in other departments, like clothes and fitness.

Maybe that’s the thing: put “Pilates body” on the to-do list. Make it a big goal for…say…2010, and get crackin’. Then, once I’m leading the yoga class, shave my damned globey-head bald and wear all black or something.

It’s an option I’ve discussed with my patient, generous colorist. He’s amazing, really, basically helping me figure out how and when to fire him.

There are no easy answers to this. I would like to think I’m “there”, but clearly, it ain’t so. Whether I like it or not, going gray is a political statement in a patriarchal society where a woman’s currency is tied to her looks and reproductive status. As is toeing the party line with a box of dye.

I do not like the lies I am telling, and yet, here I am.

Now, where’s the way out, I wonder…

xxx
c

UPDATE 9/19: I wrote another blog post about aging (and lying about aging) here that may help illuminate some of this thinking.

Image by s.o.f.t. via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Happy birthday to me

we three

Birthdays are as good a time as any for starting a fresh page. And this year, mine came in with a full moon and a Jewish new year.

If that’s not a message from the Universe to do a little soul-searching, I don’t know what is.

Well, my appraisal goes thusly:

Over the past 12 months, I’ve written 5 posts on design, 12 columns about acting, 82 posts on marketing and god knows how much crap on this blog.

I’ve launched a monthly newsletter, been VP of Membership and President of my Toastmasters club, written 10 speeches and traveled to Portland to drink tequila with my fellow bloggers.

I’m actually too frightened to add up how many hours I’ve worked for money, but I’ve sent out 68 invoices. And some of them were for (gulp) multiple jobs.

I was hypnotized 30 days in a row and wrote about it. I’ve been to Disneyland twice and the ocean once. I watched my friend Mark’s business take off. I watched my friend, Uma, make magic happen from the depths of coma. And then I saw magic happen to her when she awoke.

I consulted with my ex-husband on how to be a good wedding officiant and accompanied my ex-boyfriend and his girlfriend to their bible study class.

I said goodbye to some people I will miss, and reconnected with some others I thought I’d lost forever.

I got really sick. I got a muffin top. I quit acting (not necessarily in that order).

I watched time speed up. Again.

From my vantage point of 46 years (hey! I’m an Elder!), I’m pretty sure there will always be more stuff to do than hours in which to do it. There will always be promises made that aren’t kept, roads not taken and wondered about, other roads taken and rued. With luck and paying attention, there will be less and less of all this as the years pass. At least, that’s how it seems to be trending.

Love the minute you are in right now. Love that pimple on your face (or your butt), love the horrible meal you just made yourself, love the crappy air and the noisy traffic and the terrible drivers. Love your boyfriend and your mail carrier and your crabby uncle and your impossible friend from high school. Love your p.o.s. car. Love your too-small house and your too-big bills. Love your love handles.

Love the piece of shit blog post you wrote just now. Just…love it all.

Because it goes fast.

Super-dee-duper fast.

xxx
c

Photo of my sister, Liz, my sister, Cathy, and me taken by our Aunt Patti last Thanksgiving.

9/13/06
9/13/05

When I snap my fingers, you will feel no fear

ugly dolls

This is a follow-up post about the Hypnotherapy Project, which I collaborated on in July and August of 2007 with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hoped to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

I have had a couple of follow-up meetings with Greg, debriefings of a sort. We did some tweaking, he tried out a few new tools he picked up at a recent convention (topline: they’re way cool, and Greg is slowly but surely turning into an unstoppable force.) Both times, he tiptoed around the issue of me following up, mainly, what was happening with me and why I wasn’t.

I could blame it on the heat, you can blame a lot on 96ºF weather, especially when it’s happening in your apartment*.

I could blame it on a busy work schedule, or the necessity of attending to various items that were somewhat neglected as I devoted up to four hours per day, 30 days in a row, to plumbing the depths of my psyche.

I could even blame it on mental exhaustion and it would be true: you plumb the depths of your psyche and expose it to the world 30 days in a row and see how sprightly you feel.

But the truth is, another big reason I haven’t written any follow-up analysis of my 30-day hypnosis experiment because I was afraid.

Afraid that my analysis would be wrong, how can I know what really happened to me, and how it’s affecting me now?

Afraid that my writing would be inadequate, how could analysis of something after the fact be as compelling as writing made raw and present by exposed nerves and immersion?

Afraid: isn’t that why I agreed to try the experiment in the first place, to deal with my fear?

Well, no. No, it wasn’t. I got into it to see what would happen. What I found out was, big surprise, there was a lot of fear under there, gumming up the works. We put names and faces and events to the fear, but hoo boy, was it startling to run up against so much of it.

Did I think that it was all going to evaporate once the 30 days were up? Once I could put names and faces and events to it? Apparently, a part of me did just that, and was astonished when, oh! there it is, it popped up again here, when the phone rang, or there, when I opened my checkbook register.

The bad news: the fear does not just evaporate when you turn the lights on.

The good news: it is easier to look at it in the light than imagine it in the dark.

Some examples:

  • While I still feel a bit of resistance come Thursday, when Toastmasters rolls around, it is nothing like the paralyzing fear I had (even if I was good at hiding it) when I first took over as President back in June.
  • I’ve had the money my father left me sitting in a low-interest holding account since he died three years ago this fall. I mean crap interest, personal savings account-level interest. It’s my last tie to him and I guess I was afraid to let it go, a not-uncommon thing after a loved one dies, apparently. This week, I wrote a check for the whole shebang and closed it out. The writing was a little shaky on the check, and I felt a little sick and nervous walking to the bank, but I did it.
  • I’ve started keeping a daily calendar where I actually slot out everything that must be done that day so I can see how much I’ve committed, and over-committed to.
  • As a result of the above, I am actually taking on less. At least, I think so.
  • Heaps of books, clothes and other goods have been making their way out of my life, I’ve made considerable inroads on the mountains of paper to be entered into various accounting programs.
  • For those of you into the woo, I had a pretty amazing thumbs-up from the Universe about 10 days ago. I’m not quite ready to talk about it now, but it went a long way towards validating the public writing work I’ve been doing over the past three years.

How much of the change is directly attributable to the hypnotherapy, vs. the regular therapy or even the super-regular process of living with my eyes and ears open? It’s impossible to quantify, of course. There’s no double-blind protocol when you are working on you, no matter how many of your sub-personalities have signed on for the test. But I assure you that great change has been set in motion.

And I will do my best to document it as it happens. Maybe not fearlessly, but openly, honestly and with the great hope in my heart that any step one of us takes moves us all forward a little bit.

xxx
c

*As documented by a thermometer purchased 10 days ago to prove to myself I was neither exaggerating nor going mad. And that’s with shades drawn, and windows blacked out with foam core and beach towels, and three fans blowing the sad stream of cool air generated by the portable A/C directly on my mainly-naked person. But hey, it’s a dry heat.

Image by ffi via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hypn07, Day 20: Yackity yak

girl talk

This covers day 20 of 30 for the Hypnotherapy Project, which I’m collaborating on with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hope to accomplish here.

Sometimes I come to Greg’s and talk.

And talk and talk and talk.

A lot of this “figuring things out as you go” stuff is debriefing. Or, as I like to call it, “talking.”

So on Wednesday, Greg and I talked for an hour and a half about the project, stuff we were learning, stuff that was happening in real life that might affect the direction for the project, which would (in turn) affect the learning.

And at some point, he’d had enough, which I grokked partly because he stood up, grabbed the headphones and said, “You’re going to listen to a tape today.”

And partly because I said, “If I’m going to listen to a tape, can’t I listen to it at home?”

Done and done.

Sometimes things work out and you get the talk you need and the time you want.

And an amazingly sound night’s sleep, to boot…

xxx
c

Image by late_blOOmer* via Flickr
, used under a Creative Commons license.

What’s your Learning Edge? (The hypnotherapy project)

little readers

This is essentially the first post about a 30-day experiment I called “the Great Hypnotherapy Project, which I collaborated on in July and August of 2007 with Los Angeles-based hypnotherapist Greg Beckett. You can read more about this experiment, what motivated it and what we hoped to accomplish here; you can read all of the entries in chronological order here.

While I don’t take naturally to change, I’ve grown to love it so much that I’ve learned a lot of hacks to help facilitate it.

One of them is the very public 21-Day Saluteâ„¢, as practiced here on communicatrix-dot-com. Building on the notion originally put forth by Dr. Maxwell Maltz that it takes 21 days to change a habit, I did my first three-week stint to Cheer the Hell Up, but I now use my little wind sprints to get myself back in the habit of blogging when I’ve fallen off the wagon.

Another one of the things is, NO DUH!!!!, enlisting help. Pretty simple from the outside, but when you’re born and raised in The Stiff Upper Lip Club, easier said than done. I’ve gone from flying solo to having:

  1. a shrink
  2. a business coach
  3. a designer’s support group
  4. a Toastmasters club, and…
  5. a women’s manifestation circle.

(Don’t freak out on me: most of the appointments are monthly or even bi-monthly; the only ones that happen weekly are Toastmasters and my coaching appointment.)

So when my good friend, Greg, offered me the chance to combine the two, I leaped (leapt?) at it.

Greg Beckett is an amazing hypnotherapist. He’s actually an amazing person, in general, but he has a true gift with hypnotherapy. And flan, of all things. Seriously. He has to hypnotize me to not eat the flan.

Which is what he’s going to do, at least to start with. I’m the very excited guinea pig for Greg’s 30-Day Experiment: 30 consecutive days of hypnotherapy with the same client, to see what happens. We figure 21 days to change a habit and a little extra for good measure (and a round number).

Initially, we’re going to use the sessions to get me back on SCD 100%, at least, that’s one of the things we’ll work on. Having done a little experimentation with Greg’s hypnotherapy before, I know that all this stuff, these blocks, these ways of avoidance, these willful fits of procrastination, is interconnected. Hell, you don’t need to have done hypnotherapy to know that.

All of this dovetails beautifully with a group project Adam Kayce (aka Monk at Work) initiated recently: What’s Your Learning Edge? His thought is that growth is contingent on continuous learning, and it’s up to each of us to continually re-ignite that passion for learning by going deeper, by finding the “edge” that leads us in. To participate, all you need do is one of two things (from Adam):

  1. If you’re not currently pushing the envelope of your intellectual horizons… or if you’re feeling a staleness in your life that you wouldn’t mind giving the ol’ heave-ho to… then I invite you to pick something that you’ve always been curious about, and dive into it with all the passion of a two-year-old on a playground.
  2. Write a post about your “learning edge” and what you’re into these days. Feel free to mention any books you’re reading, classes you’re taking, people you’re learning from or collaborating with, etc. Tell us about the gems you’re picking up, the fun you’re having, etc., especially if they’re shifting the way you look at what you do.

So that’s my Learning Edge, 30 days of me and a big, swinging, gold watch, getting sleeeeeepy…sleeeeeeeeepy…. (Just kidding, it’s a silver watch.)

I’ll be covering what happens on the project here. Greg and I have also discussed doing some kind of podcast. (Hey, we’re both former hams; might as well use what you know to share what you’re learning.) We were supposed to start yesterday, but I’ve been derailed by some nasty summer flu/cold thing, so Monday is D-day.

Meanwhile, I will invite, not tag, but invite, Bonnie Gillespie, Jason Womack, Chris Glass, Evelyn Rodriguez and Jeremy “Be Careful What You Wish For” Cherfas to share with the group.

I mean, it’s not like you’re not out there learnin’ it up, anyway…

xxx
c

Image by XI*Erica Simone*XI via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

When radio silence speaks volumes

drying underwear

A lot of what I do here on communicatrix-dot-com, or try to do, anyway, is externalize my process. Not because I’m a narcissist, but because I learn best from other people who externalize their own processes, so it’s kind of natural to do the same.

But the other reason I externalize publicly is to do my part to stop Nasty Crap in its tracks.

Nasty Crap is the stuff that kills slowly. It’s the cancer that chokes off love and hope and joy; it’s the fallout of fear. It looks like many things, sexism, racism, rectitude, and shapeshifts like a motherfucker. Nasty Crap thrives on darkness and complicity, proliferating freely via its carriers (the Unaware, the Willfully Ignorant and the Truly Evil), crippling the future and leaving profound collateral damage in its wake. Pretty much anything can be turned into a tool of Nasty Crap, alcohol, money, God, sex, provided it’s accompanied by by an awesome and towering willingness to ignore the Truth.

And of course, the more I turn it around in my head or bat it about in therapy, the more I see it really all boils down to (drumroll, please)…fear. (As if you didn’t know.)

A couple of things have gotten me thinking about this recently.

First, for the first time in my life, I’m fat. Not FAT-fat, like my slack-jawed countrymen prowling the Midwestern airport food courts this weekend. Still, I’m definitely working a serious muffin top. I could blame inertia and butter, but I know the real culprit is fear. Living out loud is hard (i.e., engenders fear); buffers are deadening and fattening. So there’s that.

Second, for some reason or another, I let the fear through recently. I’d been playing with it for a while, rolling it around on my tongue, bouncing it off of walls, but really dispassionately, like a scientist or a sociopath. When I actually sat with it, I had a Grand Mal meltdown that scared not only me, but The BF, as some of it had to do with my primary relationship, which much of that super-dee-dooper personal Fear stuff does. For me, anyway, Fear of Abandonment and all.

Here’s where it gets tricky RE: the blog. To be honest, truly honest and transparent, the way I need to be if this is going to work, I have to express it. But to be responsible, I need to release it in a way that is useful and that will not harm others. As I was reminded on a very smart mailing list I subscribe to, one should never say anything on the interwebs “that you wouldn’t want your mother, boss, children, spouse or the police to read about.” To that excellent list I would add, “or that might hurt an innocent party, without a really, really good countervailing reason.” You know, like stopping Hitler or something.

So this radio silence has been about me and my fear of moving forward, as has the muffin top and bad habit creep. I will not shed all my buffers all at once, I’m sure, but I’m back in the battle, or the saddle, again, fighting the good fight, airing my dirty laundry, mixing my metaphors.

I’ll keep you posted on the muffin top…

xxx
c

Image by Proggie via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.