riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Can You Stop Complaining? (Seriously)

Years ago, one of my closest friends, a former cheerleader, called me to announce that she was going to stop complaining for a month. “That’s great,” I responded. “But maybe try 24 hours first and see how it goes.” We laughed. But she did pretty well. To this day, she always leads with the good and looks on the bright side when it comes to the bad. I adore her.

Other friends are the opposite. They lead with the negative — and stay there. I adore them too, but can only tolerate this up to a point. It’s not that I don’t understand hard times, depression, job/partner/life/money dissatisfaction. I DO. But once I feel a person has sufficiently vented (30 minutes is about all I can handle), the “fixer” in me starts suggesting things they could be doing to alleviate their situation.

“Have you thought of this or that?” I venture. “Well, no I haven’t actually,” the person responds. With some people, the conversation then moves towards a more positive direction. With others, it quickly veers like it’s avoiding a pothole, then continues in the same direction. Blah blah blah… another 30 minutes go by. This is usually when I hit the speaker button, place the phone down, and start checking my email. Wrong, I know. (Would it be better to abruptly say goodbye?)

Of my least favorite pet peeves (littering, bad driving, ogling, to name a few), chronic complaining is right up there. I don’t mean the kind of complaining that we do with co-workers around the water cooler, or those conversations with our closest confidantes where we get things off our chest and/or ask each other for advice. I also don’t mean the kind of venting people do when they’re grieving, getting divorced, dealing with a new baby or any other major life change.

I mean the kind of chronic complaining people do about situations they could actually change if they wanted to, but don’t.

You know the type I’m talking about. If not, this is how you spot one:

Friend complains to you about something. You listen and empathize.

Friend complains again about the same thing. You feel bad that they’re still dealing with the same issue and offer suggestions that might help.

Friend complains a third and fourth time. You start to wonder if the person considered (or even heard) any of the advice you gave the last time.

When the friend continues complaining about the exact same issue(s),  you realize this person isn’t looking for answers or helpful suggestions – she doesn’t even want to fix her problem(s). She’s a chronic complainer who wants you to listen to how miserable she is (and if you don’t listen, then you’re not a good friend). She is like this because she’s 1) seeking attention, 2) looking for ways to justify her unhappiness, and/or 3) unable to handle other people being happy or doing well (both trigger her internal “miserable” switch).

Of course, to suggest such a thing is preposterous. No one wants to be miserable, right?

Wrong.

I recently overheard a mother tell her daughter on the phone, “The doctors told me I don’t have the kind of cancer that’ll kill me, but come on. We’ll just see.”

(Really? Okay.)

I think some people are uncomfortable with optimism, or don’t feel like they deserve to be happy, or can’t be satisfied with what they have. They always want more/better, and the grass is always greener over there. Or they continue to think of some past period of their life as “the good ole days” when the truth is, they probably complained just as much back then (about other things).

I admit, I’ve had chronic complaining moments myself (it’s not uncommon to disdain in others the same traits we disdain in ourselves). Remember my optimist friend? She would always listen patiently while I rattled on about everything bad in my life. Then she’d give me practical advice and point out the good things too, all of which I appreciated. To this day, I always feel more upbeat after talking with her, even if I was upbeat to begin with.

Another friend and I still complain to each other, but we’ve jokingly nicknamed our bitch marathons “The Depress-offs,” a la a competitive game show. So, we’re actually bitching and laughing at the same time.

In general though, I try to complain less than I used to. Part of this is watching someone die young of a terrible disease and feeling like what the hell do I have to complain about? Also, Kaz would often remind me that the best way out of depression is ACTION, and I follow that advice as much as possible.

At the writing seminar I mentioned in the last post, the instructor said to us, “What if you were to accept your current life and be happy with the way things are right now?” Everyone gasped.

He quickly explained that he didn’t mean giving up on our dreams and aspirations. He meant hitting the pause button on our perpetual moaning, choosing to acknowledge – and be in – the present, and being grateful. We were alive. We were sitting in a room with a bunch of fellow writers and new friends. The sun was shining. We had homes to go back to. We had pets/children/spouses/friends who loved us. We were unique.

We went on with the weekend feeling more positive and energized. Nothing had changed, and yet everything felt different.

At drinks, later that night, someone asked the instructor, “So, what are your dreams? What do you want to do?” He smiled. “I’m doing what I want to do. I’m here with you right now.”

Do you think you could stop complaining? Have you ever tried?

Tree at sunset (photo: @nivaladiva)

Tree at sunset (photo: @nivaladiva)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Slippery Slope to “Dog Lady”

This past weekend a friend asked me, “You’re not thinking of getting another dog, are you?” “Well, actually,” I replied slowly. “The thought has crossed my mind to get another dog eventually, but only once I have more living space.” “When do you see that happening?” “Within the next three to five years,” I answered, adding that I’m currently focused on building the life that I want. If I end up meeting another partner, great. But I’m not seeking or waiting for that to happen before moving forward with my goals. “But that’s how you end up being a cat lady,” was the response.

For those unfamiliar, in America, the term “cat lady” has long been associated with the concept of spinsterhood, and in more recent decades, with “romance-challenged (often career-oriented) women who can’t find a man” (paraphrasing wikipedia). Perhaps in your country there is a different term, but you probably recognize the concept of the older, unmarried woman who finds love with her pets instead of a man, right? In my case, it would be “dog lady” as I’m allergic to cats.

Another friend recently told me she doesn’t like to see people using their pets as a “crutch.” When I asked her to explain what she meant by crutch exactly, she said “like when the pet is keeping them from doing things, like dating.” She also asked if I was thinking about getting another dog (apparently, a common concern), and told me it would be better if I dated a man who already owned a dog. “Then you could merge the two pets into one household.” I said, “That would be great, especially if he had a big yard too.”

The summation of these, and other, conversations has got me wondering. Should I be concerned that I’m spending all my free time with my dog instead of dating? Is she an emotional crutch? Am I becoming (the dog equivalent of) a cat lady??

While it’s true that my dog is somewhat of a child/companion/protector/project, I don’t necessarily see myself living alone with her forever. I also don’t see any rush in finding another mate. I feel like I’ve experienced the major romantic milestones in life: falling in love, living together, marriage, sickness, death. The only thing I haven’t done is give birth and raise a child. But isn’t having a dog good practice for parenting on some level? When I said that to my friend this weekend, he laughed, “I’ve seen the way you discipline your dog. Your child would probably rob me.”

I should add that my friends and I love sarcasm and ribbing each other. We might sound harsh, but it’s all in good, playful, loving fun. I really do appreciate that they want me to find love again, even their fears of me living in a house overrun with animals. I just wish they could understand that before I can entertain the idea of being in another human-human relationship, I need to get my shit together and re-define my life on my own. It’s not that I don’t want to share the joys and adventures of life with someone one day.

Or perhaps this all hogwash and I’m actually becoming a “dog lady.”

(credit: sarahleavitt.com)

(credit: sarahleavitt.com)


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Friday Night Frights

This will have to be quick. I have less than 6 hours to complete an application to one of the film studio’s writer programs. Truthfully, I should be writing that instead of writing this, but I wanted to share this funny interlude. Also, I might be addicted to blogging.

This past Friday night, I left my puppy Ruby alone for only the second time in 3 weeks (the first being Kaz’s birthday on November 5). The occasion was a night out with my best friend T, who is also a producer, and has been my producer. In keeping with the theme of this blog, T is hands down the baddest bitch I know.

Around Halloween, T sent me a link to a theater show with the message “bought us tickets for November 16.” I never clicked on the link – if T bought us tickets, I knew it would be good.

Turns out it was an “interactive horror play” called DELUSION, The Blood Rite, produced by Jon Braver and Neil Patrick Harris.

T and I (and others) showed up at a large mansion in Korea Town, where we were greeted by an Elvira-looking hostess who proceeded to tell us the “set up.”

“The year is 1918. You’re all soldiers returning from World War 1. You were drawn back to this mansion because you were all patients here once under the guidance of Dr. Frederick Lowell. Since his sudden death last year, his family is now trapped in the mansion under an evil spell. Only you can free them of the spell, but you will have to risk your lives and limbs to do it.”

Then she asked us for our blood types, followed by: “Who among you is the bravest?”

“T!” I blurted out.

“Bloody hell,” T said.

I should mention that T speaks with a mixed South African/British accent (that gets stronger when she’s in business meetings).

For the next 45 minutes, T led our group past a drunk gravedigger, many severed human limbs, an axe-wielding butcher, growling insane asylum patients, a possessed grandmother in a tub, an evil priest and a horned, furry beast – all of whom which she argued and haggled with, while I held onto her coat sleeve like a 5 year old.

Afterwards, we caught up at a local dive bar over some much needed drinks. Among other things, I told T about this blog. She immediately launched into a tirade about all the reasons why I shouldn’t use my real name.

“What if someone starts stalking you?”

“Oh, come on. Why would anyone want to stalk me?” I snorted.

The Bartendress chimed in, “I think you’re perfectly stalkable.”

“You see!” cried T.

“Well, certainly no one would want to steal my identity. I owe almost $200,000 in student loans!”

“Now you’re just being silly,” T said, smacking my arm.

After more harassment (it’s pointless to argue with T), I finally agreed to change my username on here. Perhaps the haunted mansion had left its mark. In any case, though it was a great night, I was relieved to come home and cuddle with my own little furry beast.

Curious if you blog with your real name or a pseudonym?  And why?

Btw, if you’re in LA and want to experience something thrilling and fun, definitely try and see this show: http://www.hauntedplay.com/home-2012

Happy Monday, folks.