riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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The Alchemist and Your Personal Legend

I’m currently re-reading (for the third time) THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho.

my tattered copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

my tattered copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s a brief explanation. It’s basically a fable, i.e. a short story with supernatural elements that conveys a moral.

The main character is a young shepherd boy from Spain who goes on a quest to find a treasure and, along the way, encounters mentors, friends and enemies, as well as many obstacles and setbacks, some quite dangerous. He also falls in love and has to overcome his own self-doubts and fears. All of these elements are part of the larger journey of his life, symbolically representing how we can get easily distracted or discouraged from what our heart truly desires. The moral of the story is that each person has a Personal Legend (the thing they were put on this Earth to do), and a person’s only obligation in life is to pursue that Personal Legend.

A friend gave me this book many years ago as I was about to travel abroad for a film festival. I read it again shortly after Kaz died. I’m reading it again now because I’m feeling many of the emotions the shepherd feels in the story. But I believe my “personal legend” is to be a story-teller and the upcoming journey to the east coast is part of that evolution. Writing is the foundation of my soul, the base from which all else springs.

Below are some favorite quotes from The Alchemist. You could spend hours meditating on each one, but as you read through them, think about your own personal legend. Do you know what it is? Are you pursuing it? 

“People learn, early in their lives, what is their reason for being.”

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

“There is a force that wants you to realize your Personal Legend.”

“Every search begins with beginners luck and ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

“Everything in life is an omen… There is a universal language, understood by everybody, but already forgotten.”

“Don’t forget that everything you deal with is only one thing and nothing else. And don’t forget the language of omens. And, above all, don’t forget to follow your Personal Legend through to its conclusion.”

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“The closer one gets to realizing his Personal Legend, the more that Personal Legend becomes his true reason for being.”

“I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.”

“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”

“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”

“Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

“What is the world’s greatest lie?” the little boy asks.
The old man replies, “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”

“Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World.”

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.”

“Naturally, (your heart) is afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won.”

“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So, it’s better to listen to what it has to say. That way, you’ll never have to fear an unanticipated blow.”

“When something evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well.”


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How To Lose “The Coat of Desperation”

It’s been two weeks since my last post. Life, class, writing, friends in town, sick puppy, and other general distractions have kept me away, but everything is good. In fact, I’ve learned some things these past few weeks from a variety of sources, beginning with director/producer Ava DuVernay‘s incredibly generous, wisdom-filled keynote address to the 2013 Film Independent Forum on Sunday, October 27 (watch full clip here).

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay

If you haven’t heard of Ava DuVernay, don’t worry. You will soon. She has already made several feature films, including I Will Follow which Roger Ebert described as “one of the best films I’ve seen about coming to terms with the death of loved one;” and Middle of Nowhere, for which she won the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the first African-American woman to do so. She recently directed an episode of ABC’s Scandal, and is slated to direct the upcoming Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma.

She also has a distribution company called African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), whose mission is to empower Black independent filmmakers with collaborative, simultaneous, theatrical distribution in multiple markets. [I admit, I have not seen Ms. DuVernay’s films yet (I fell behind in a lot of movie/TV watching the past few years). But they are now at the top of my Netflix queue, and I will be following everything she does from hereon.]

If it sounds like I’m gushing, I am! And I’m not the only one who felt a shot of adrenaline watching this talk. Like the best words of wisdom, Ms. DuVernay’s advice on October 27 was geared towards a specific crowd (filmmakers), but also universally applicable.

She begins by encouraging the audience to live Tweet her speech. “It’s important to share what happens in rooms like these, beyond rooms like these.” She commends the audience for being there, saying it’s good to channel inquisitive energy into events, workshops, seminars and other “rooms with like-minded people.” She reminds us why Los Angeles is such a great place to be. “There’s so much you can get your hands on.”

She then cheekily explains what she’s wearing and why.  Her “directing uniform” consists of glasses, layering a thermal shirt with a hipster t-shirt (“embrace your nerd-dom”), a jacket, a hat (“don’t touch my hair”), and most importantly comfortable shoes (“these shoes are from Rite-Aid”).  In this uniform she is who she feels she should be. She also feels like this because she took off something three years ago that was preventing her from reaching her full potential.

She took off her coat of desperation

What is the coat of desperation? 

It’s the aura that surrounds you when you approach people you admire with questions like, ‘Can you help me?’ ‘Can you read my script?’ ‘Can I take you to coffee?’ ‘Can I pick your brain?’

It’s when you come from a place of ‘what can you do for me?’ instead of a place of empowerment. Taking off this coat is the only way to actually achieve your dreams and goals. But how do you do it? 

Ms. DuVernay’s advice is simple:

Stop asking people for things! Instead, tell them what you’re doing.

Yearning and Non-Action = Depressing and Stagnate (repellant)

Yearning and Action = Passion and Movement (magnet)

Stop spending time thinking about what you don’t have and focus on what you do have.

Ask yourself ‘what can I do?’ And ‘Who wants to come along for the ride?’ People want to be on a moving train. Be on the ‘yo, I’m making films’ train.

Do the work and rise above the chatter.

You don’t need to go to film school as long as you educate yourself. Watch director’s commentaries, attend workshops, read books, and make your own films.

Apply to labs, grants, seminars, etc. but don’t wait to be accepted to move forward (Ms. DuVernay never won a lab or grant and she applied to them all).

You should be thinking about what happens after the film is made, before you make it.

Failure can teach you who you are.

Best quote:  “I have more mentors now since I stopped asking for them. A mentor is someone who cares for you – and you can’t go up to someone and ask them to care for you.”

Best goal:  “I want to be old and making films like Clint Eastwood. I want to be like Werner Herzog and have so many films I can’t remember all their names.”

Sounds good to me!

Can you relate to the Coat of Desperation? To taking it off?!


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Loss: From Nightmare to Normal

Today a friend posted on Facebook a NYT article entitled No Husband, No Friends by Charlotte Brozek with the caption “Wow. This is scary.” In the article, Ms. Brozek, a widow of one year, explains that because she and her late husband had no single friends, and because her married friends now avoid her, she feels isolated, confused and understandably depressed.

My friends headed for the hills. In the last years of my husband’s life, we had come to rely on two or three couples for entertainment, but they disappeared after he died. Were they afraid to face their own mortality, or was it that the dynamics we presented as a duo were lost with me as a widow?

This statement made me recall what another friend recently said to me: “No offense, but you’re my worst nightmare.” She was referring to my being a widow, and I took no offense at all. In fact, I totally understood what she meant. I used to be my own nightmare too, in the same way parents who lose their children personify other parents’ worst nightmares.

In his memoir A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis describes the inevitability of death (i.e. separation) that we’re all aware of when we enter into romantic relationships, whether we’re conscious of it or not:

… this separation, I suppose, waits for all. I have been thinking of H. and myself as peculiarly unfortunate in being torn apart. But presumably all lovers are. She once said to me, ‘Even if we both died at exactly the same moment, as we lie here side by side, it would be just as much a separation as the one you’re so afraid of.’

We all know that one day our lives and our loved ones’ lives will end. Some say the words “till death do us part” when they marry, but really those words could be said upon the birth of a child or the beginning of any committed relationship where the understanding is “we will be together until one or the other of us dies.” Yet, when death actually happens, even if it’s expected, it is both shocking and agonizing to the ones left behind.
Another friend once said to me that death (nothing from something), like birth (something from nothing), is incomprehensible. Intellectually, we know that it happens and what it means. But when faced with the reality (no matter how much we have “prepared” for it), our minds cannot fully understand how it’s possible that someone can be alive one moment and the next moment not alive, and never to return. The power of this total and complete finality is what shocks the system, and it’s that finality that we hate to think about.
C.S. Lewis describes the discomfort that his widower status produced in others:
At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.
Ms. Brozek uses the analogy of Noah’s ark, where only coupled animals were saved, to describe the inherant isolation a widow can feel:
I understand Noah’s plan — the world needed two to tango in the face of an annihilating flood. But he should have designated a section on the ark for us.
Two and a half years after Kaz’s death, I’m still experiencing the awkward encounters, less so the isolation. For one thing, I have a diverse pool of friends, including couples (unmarried, married, gay, straight, with/without children) and singles. I also have no qualms doing things alone, and time has helped to reestablish my equilibrium. Ms. Brozek also writes:
Someone once said that being a widow is like living in a country where nobody speaks your language. In my case, it’s only my friends, family and acquaintances who all now speak Urdu — it’s not the whole country. I discovered strangers possess more compassion than my own friends and family. 
One of the main reasons I cherish this blog so much is that I can discuss things here that I cannot comfortably discuss with most people. This has made me feel less isolated and continues to help me heal.
So, while loss is inevitable, time and expression can help us transition from nightmare to normal. It’s hard to remember when we’re in the thick of it, but life is cyclical… nothing from something, something from nothing… in finitum.


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Finding Freedom Within Order

Creative folks want need to be creative in order to function, much like an athlete needs routine exercise. We need to work in our office or studios, without interruptions, without noise (unless that’s your thing), without worries. We need physical and mental solitude, freedom, and space, within which our imagination can soar and the divine spirit of creativity can flow.

Pablo Picasso, Photo credit: Edward Quinn

Pablo Picasso, Photo credit: Edward Quinn

However, unless we’re Picasso or some other mega-successful artist who can hire nannies, maids, bookkeepers, gardeners, dog walkers, and so on, we have to take care of all these and other responsibilities ourselves. We might even have to work a day job until we make a living from our creative pursuits. Many of us find ourselves spending all of our time just trying to survive and manage our households, less time on our art, and very far away from “solitude, freedom, and space.” If we’re not willing to abandon our families, pets, jobs, or creative passions, what can we do?

One of my favorite quotes, originally sent to me by my sister (who got it from another person) several years ago: “Be regular and orderly in your life so you may be violent and original in your work.” What does it mean to be regular and orderly? Let’s break it down step by step.

Before doing anything else, you must get organized. Get a filing cabinet, some folders, paper clips, stickies, stapler, tabs, whatever you need to sort and order all the paperwork of life. If you work in a large office, you could always “borrow” some of the smaller stuff (just don’t walk out with a filing cabinet or shredder). Once you have your supplies, go through all your papers and

Throw shit out. You might think you need a hard copy of every bank statement and bill, but in this digital age you absolutely do not. Almost everything can be found online, which means you should throw out (or shred) the hard copy, including any random piles of articles, recipes or directions you printed out months ago. You can find it online.

Create piles. Whatever paperwork you keep, put in piles: automobile, children, medical, pet, mortgage, legal records, etc, etc. You might end up with six piles. You might end up with twenty. If you end up with 100 piles, something is terribly wrong. Remember, you should only be keeping what cannot be found online.

File the piles. Put the piles into folders, label the folders, store the folders in filing cabinet, put filing cabinet aside. Congratulations. You just created a lot more space and peace of mind.

Create a budget and schedule of expenses. This could be as easy as looking at your monthly bank statement and seeing how much money goes where/when. Make a list and consider programming your online calendar (or your phone) with reminders of when certain bills are coming up. Your expenses shouldn’t be a mystery and bills should never come as a surprise. You don’t want to think about money (or the lack of it) any more than necessary.

Create a personal schedule. It doesn’t have to be militaristic, but plan out your average day from beginning to end, even if you never refer to it again, just to see how you’re using your time. See if you can “schedule” some creative time into your day or week, then inform your family, “On this day(s), from this hour to that hour, I am not to be disturbed.” Post your schedule where everyone can see it, and stick to it. If necessary, lock your door to keep intruders out. If your intruders are too young to be left completely alone, then schedule your creative time for when they’re asleep, doing their homework, or not at home.

Create a long-term schedule. This could be a month, six months, one year, five years, or all of the above, but doing this will help you determine how to prioritize your projects and manage your time. Are you working towards a show, application or publication deadline? Where do you see yourself in three years creatively? What do you need to do to make that happen? Work backwards and set your deadlines. If you have no specific goals for now, that’s okay too. Sometimes we simply need time and space to think.

Create your work. Once you’ve organized your papers, taken care of all the mundane “life” stuff, informed your household of your schedule, locked your door and taken a moment to soak in the reality that you are FREE to create now… do your happy dance, set your spirit free, let your imagination go wild, be bold, and take risks. This is YOUR time.

Happy creating!


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Fear Is The Mind-Killer

Do you ever wonder what would happen if your dreams came true? I don’t mean your dreams of winning the lottery. I mean the dreams that you’re pursuing at this very moment, or the dreams that you would be pursuing if you had the time. For me, the dream is to write and make movies for a living. I don’t necessarily desire to be filthy rich, but I wouldn’t mind owning a house with a few acres of land so my dog can run around. Mostly though, I want to be working at what I love to do, creating work that affects people in a meaningful way.

To achieve my dream I am currently writing a memoir, a screenplay and two television pilots, all in my spare time. I’m taking a gamble on myself, investing hours upon hours of time and energy on projects which might, or might not, see the light of day. Sometimes I think what’s the point, why keep going, what are the chances of making it now at 42, almost 43 years old? Then I think, what if I do make it? What if I become a successful writer/filmmaker, one who has to navigate the business, talk to the press, give interviews, promote my work, promote myself, manage people and so on?

My therapist once pointed out that I have this habit of not finishing projects, or rather not following through on them enough. I get them to a good place, but I don’t do what’s necessary to take them to GREAT place, or to get them produced. It’s like I run out of steam at some point. Another way of looking at it is I actually have a fear of success. I want to be successful, but I also don’t want to be successful because I don’t want to be judged, held accountable or  scrutinized. I don’t look forward to the added attention that comes with success.

Some people crave attention and are masters of composure in the spotlight. Not me. I can be very social and fun, but also very shy and guarded. People have often said that when they first met me, I came across as aloof and standoffish. I used to be shocked to hear this, but now I sort of understand. I am not the type to be your best friend, or spill my guts, upon meeting you.  I’m more of a sit back and observe type of person until I feel comfortable enough to share my goofy self. Sometimes I am painfully inarticulate. I find it difficult to think clearly when under pressure (except when I’m on set or in a crisis). I am 100% more articulate and open on this blog than I am in real life. Okay, maybe not 100% but at least 75%.

Maybe I’ll never have to face my fears because I won’t be successful. If the opposite is true, maybe it won’t be so bad. One can be trained for public speaking and coached for interviews and so on. As Kaz would say, “That would be one of them good problems.”

This is one of my favorite quotes about fear from the book DUNE by Frank Herbert:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
 
Can you relate to the fear of success? Or is the fear of failure scarier?
 
 


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3 Tips for TV Line Producing

The other day I sat in on an inspirational conversation with the Line Producer of a popular half-hour comedy television show. The Line Producer is the person who “tows the line” of the budget, meaning she makes sure episodes are delivered on time and on budget. I won’t get into everything she said because they’re too specific to television production, but here are a few universal nuggets:

“Coming under budget is a bad thing because it means you’re producing scared.”

When you have a budget and deliver the episode way under, it means you’re not very good at your job. You over-estimated how much things would cost originally (i.e. inflated the budget). Then you committed the cardinal sin of not using all your resources on the screen. The studio wants a great show, a hit show. If you deliver $10,000 over budget you won’t get in trouble. If you deliver $100,000 under budget, you will.

“Line producing is like playing 3-D chess in space with math.”
As a line producer, your job is to protect the showrunner’s vision, protect the studio’s money, and keep your crew happy. You’re the one who signs the checks, so you better be sure you’re responsible for them. You have to be great with numbers, great at solving problems and managing people. You have to be comfortable making big decisions and small decisions. You also have to be willing to use the carrot and the stick.

“To be a good line producer, you must have self esteem.”
No one will believe your words if you don’t. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities. You should be able to go home and sleep well at night, not worry about your work. This isn’t to say things don’t come up. They will. But feel confident in your decisions and know that whatever happens, you know how to fix it. Believe your words.

At the end of the lecture, she mentioned having been inspired by the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken.

Here it is:

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

Happy creating!


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Two Years

In honor of Kaz’s passing two years ago May 3, 2011, and since I won’t be online tomorrow, I’m reposting Mountaintop, copied below. One love.

— — —

As I continue to heal from a state of heartbrokenness, I am reminded of the phrase stated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his last speech: I’ve been to the mountaintop.”

In the context of my life this phrase means, I have known, loved, and been loved by a Good Man.

I lost this man 3 years into our relationship (before we had worked all the kinks out), 11 days after our wedding, to a horrible disease which, coupled with a devastating motorcycle accident, was simply too much to overcome.

Shortly after he passed a girlfriend said to me, “Well, at least you’ve known love.” At the time, the pain was still so fresh I couldn’t find much relief in those words. But even on my darkest days I knew on some instinctual level that she was right.

I had experienced something few people do in a lifetime, the kind of love that makes you walk on hot coals to try and save the other, the kind of love that you read about in novels, the kind of love that makes you write love letters for a year after the other dies.

For a long time, and a variety of reasons, I didn’t always feel that I deserved this love. There had been moments when I doubted or disrespected it due to immaturity and insecurity. Just as the relationship was hitting its stride, he got diagnosed with a terminal illness and everything changed overnight. As things progressed at a deliriously fast pace, a part of me began to awaken, while another part began to shut down in order for the rest of me to keep functioning.

Once he was gone, I had a volcanic eruption of heartbreak and guilt, not uncommon for the surviving spouse/caregiver/less-than-perfect partner. Though my husband had forgiven my shortcomings, I found it difficult to forgive myself. Every time I thought of a good memory, a painful one reared up in front of it, like an eclipse blocking out the sun. It took every ounce of strength to not follow him to the other side.

Another friend told me, “Just hang in there and keep breathing.” Others reassured me that one day I would feel more grateful than devastated, more happy than sad. I couldn’t imagine it, but I also didn’t give up.  He never did and wouldn’t want me to.

Now it’s been 1 year, 6 months and 9 days since I watched him take his last breath, and I can say with cautious optimism that things are better.

I am still heartbroken. I still cry. I still talk to him, write to him, ache and reach out for him. But instead of feeling like my soul has been crushed, it more often feels lifted. Instead of dwelling on all that was lost, I think more often on how to rebuild. Instead of feeling guilty for not knowing better then, I focus on being better now.

Part of this transformation is simply Time. Part of it is all the writing and healing-work I’ve been doing this past year and a half. Part of it is the continued love and support of my family and all of our friends. Part of it is Ruby, my new puppy, who literally re-awakens and strengthens my heart every day.

So, I have been to the mountaintop. And I have seen the Promised Land. I couldn’t get there with my husband, but I have looked over and know that it exists. And in the knowing is the transformation.

Obama inauguration party 1/20/09

Wedding day 4/22/11


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He Who Hesitates is Poor

Yesterday I had a job interview, for which I took one week off from blogging and one day off from my day job to prepare. The job was staff writer on a FX Network show. In the past week I watched every episode of its 4 seasons (52 hours), read the short story on which the show is based, read half a dozen of their scripts, watched interviews and read articles about the producers, and even spoke with a former writer on the show. So how did it go?

Meh.

I wish I could say “It went great! Best interview of my life!” but that wouldn’t be genuine. It felt like it went just okay. I said some right things. I don’t think I said any wrong things. Maybe it was my imagination but there seemed to be too many pauses. Maybe the producers were tired? It was the end of the day. I was also a nervous wreck. Is it possible to over-prepare? I put so much pressure on myself, I literally forgot some of what I wanted to say. Plus, it started about 20 minutes late because the producers ran into Mel Brooks in the parking lot beforehand. Mel Brooks!!!! Tell me, how does one follow Mel Brooks? The man is a comical genius! The high of meeting him must have been exhilerating. And they came down from it while interviewing me.

Oh well. Rather than dwell on this so-so interview, I’m going to chalk it up to a learning experience. It was my first interview in 3 years, the first for a TV show. Now I know what these types of meetings are like, so I’ll be more relaxed on the next one. And I’m confident there will be more because the producers liked my writing. Whether they liked me enough is yet to be seen.

In the meantime, to lift our spirits, here are some life quotes from one of my all-time heroes, the man behind Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, The History of the World – Part 1 and The Producers (among others), Mr. Melvin James Kaminsky aka MEL BROOKS:

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”

“As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.”

“The only thing we don’t have a god for is premature ejaculation… but I hear that it’s coming quickly.”

“Hope for the Best. Expect the worst. Life is a play. We’re unrehearsed.”

“Look, I really don’t want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you’re alive, you’ve got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you’re quiet, you’re not living. You’ve got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy, colorful and lively.”

“Humor is just another defense against the universe.”

“Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him.”

“Everything we do in life is based on fear, especially love.”

“My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.”

“Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast-beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that one.”

“It’s good to be the king.”

“He who hesitates is poor.”


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Trying to be Zen and not Kvetch

For those unfamiliar with the Yiddish term, to kvetch means “to whine or complain, often needlessly.” Favorite use of the word in a sentence: “Is this truth I’m delivering up, or is it just plain kvetching? Or is kvetching for people like me a form of truth?” — Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint. I try not to use the blog to complain but right now all I can think of are the things that are annoying me. Don’t feel obligated to read any further. I just want to get these things off my chest, starting with:

1. I’m tired. Between losing an hour to Daylight Savings Time and getting up earlier for the longer commute to puppy’s new daycare, I am seriously struggling to stay awake.

2. I hate traffic. It’s a little easier not to feel road rage when there’s a cute puppy sitting beside you, but damn does LA traffic SUCK, especially since I still haven’t figured out the best route to get to new daycare. I miss the days in Vermont when I could either walk everywhere or drive on roads with no traffic to any destination.

3. The puppy is a handful. Yesterday I had to stay home from work because she threw up five times before 9:00am. On the way to the vet, I discovered one of the seat belts half-chewed away. The vet actually came out to my car to inspect. Did she swallow half the seat-belt? Or a bone? Or a tennis ball? Not this time (thank g-d) but she definitely ate something that didn’t agree with her. Now she’s on yet ANOTHER medication, at least for the next 4 days. I love her and will do anything for her, but she is driving me a little nuts.

4. I’m crankier when I’m tired. I’m trying to get up even earlier now than before, at 3:30am, to make up for leaving the house earlier for the commute. Except I keep hitting the snooze button, so the alarm goes off at 3:30, 4:00, 5:00 then 6:00am before I finally get out of bed at 7:00. I’m sure this is driving the puppy nuts.

5. I can’t stand my job. Rather, I am grateful to have a job, income, benefits, pleasant work environment, nice co-workers, a desk with privacy and a window, and a very cool boss, but I can’t stand not doing what I love. This is what you call a “day job” – a job that pays the bills, not a job you’re passionate about and can’t wait to get to. There is no shame in having a day job. And as far as day jobs go, this one is pretty sweet (they let me go to Vermont, after all). I can’t say enough about how nice my boss is. But I’d rather be doing what I love: writing, directing, producing, working with artists, working with children, making art, making a difference, using more of my brain.

6. There is never enough time in the day. I’ve been asked to volunteer again this Saturday and feel torn. I want to help out but I also want a weekend to myself. Weekends are usually busy: puppy class, doctors appointments, laundry, groceries, cleaning, dog park. Can I squeeze in another few hours of volunteering?? If I don’t, will they think I’m not passionate enough?

7. I really miss having a partner. Besides missing Kaz’s voice, touch, wit, wisdom and everything else, I also miss having some help with life.

8. I’m not exercising enough and am overweight. Need to either get up earlier and walk with puppy, walk at lunch, or hike more on the weekends.

9. I’m not making enough money. It’s frustrating to be 42 years old and still scraping pennies to make it to the next paycheck.

10. My writing is going slower than a snail’s pace, which aggravates everything else because it feels like there’s no momentum.

Do I feel better now? Hmmm, not really. Though now that I’ve listed my grievances, I recognize that these are issues everyone deals with. They’re all within my power to change. And things could be a whole lot worse. Shame on me for complaining about all this BS.

I’m lucky to have a job, a car, my health, a beautiful loving dog, friends and family, wonderful memories of a wonderful man, a great love, a city where the sun is almost always shining and exercise almost always possible, and a blog where I get to write every day.

So, no more kvetching.


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A Reading List for Grief (Part 3 of 3)

Wrapping up the Reading List, here are some books related to grief and/or caregiving which have been recommended to me but I haven’t read yet (all available on amazon.com):

The Truth About Death, Poems by Grace Mattern

Bitter and Sweet; A Family’s Journey with Cancer by Darcy Thiel (a guest blogger on this blog!)

Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude – Jim Perlman (Editor), Deborah Cooper (Editor), Mara Hart (Editor), Pamela Mittlefehldt (editor)

Nearing Death Awareness (A Guide to the Language, Visions, and Dreams of the Dying) by Mary Anne Sanders

Death and the Art of Dying by Bokar Rinpoche

I am currently reading Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (translation by Lydia Davis) and Panther Baby by Jamal Joseph. More about both in a later post.

Please feel free to keep sending recommendations or any thoughts you might have on any of the books mentioned.

Finally, here are some quotes which resonated with me from two books on Part 1’s list. I’ll refer to more quotes in other posts. Enjoy.

From MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Viktor E. Frankl:

“… Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.”

“A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how.’

“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”

“… Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into triumph.”

From THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho:

“Sometimes, there’s just no way to hold back the river.”

“Everything on earth is being continuously transformed, because the earth is alive… and it has a soul. We are part of that soul, so we rarely recognize that it is working for us.”

“There is only one way to learn… through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”

“When something evolves, everything around that thing evolves as well.”

“Death doesn’t change anything.”

“’You were always a good man,’ the angel said to him. ‘You lived your life in a loving way, and died with dignity. I can now grant you any wish you desire.’”