Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.


14 Comments

What Makes a Home “Home”

Yesterday marked three months of living in my new home, and I’m happy to say that it’s actually starting to feel like “home.”

What is it that makes living quarters actually feel like that? For me, it’s a few things.

Decorating

living room art

Living room wall

The other day I finally unpacked all the artwork I brought with me from L.A. and put some of it up. This wasn’t as simple as it sounds. I now live in a 2-BR apartment, instead of 1-BR, and have significantly more wall space. Also, the living room is green, which is tricky. So, before I put anything up, I walked from room to room asking “which color theme are you?” and tried to listen to what each room told me.

The living room wanted only black and white artwork which won’t clash with the green.

The bedroom asked for the big yellow painting I used to have over my bed in L.A., and my mother’s pastel-colored artwork. It’s going to be a powerful, feminine sanctuary when it’s finished.

Bedroom wall

Bedroom wall

The hallway claimed all the rock ‘n roll artwork, including the Coop lithograph, which now hangs just outside the kitchen.

Hallway corner

Hallway corner

Coop lithograph

Coop lithograph

The kitchen and the bathroom are still undecided.

Most of the artwork used to belong to Kaz, and reminds me of him. But in L.A., every wall also held an image of Kaz. Now, only my office (the smaller bedroom) has images of him. My office is the most private room in the apartment, not only because it has two doors which I can close from the inside, but also because it’s where I do my most creative thinking, spend most of my time, and feel the most content. It feels right to have Kaz with me in this room.

There’s still a long way to go with the decorating (rugs, matching towels, TV stand, etc.), but putting the artwork up was a big first step.

Cleaning

I know it sounds like I’m getting all domestic, but seriously, once you start cleaning your house, it’s Home! The other day I spent a couple of hours vacuuming, dusting, tidying up and mopping the kitchen floor. It felt good! I’ve also decided to go to war with the critters. A clean house is the first battle move.

Candles

In lieu of no fireplace, I’ve been using candles to add, if not real warmth, then decorative warmth. Some of them are scented (nothing overpowering), and make the house smell lovely.

Cooking

Some of you may recall that, for a long time after Kaz died, it was difficult for me to cook like I used to, and this was painful because I really love to cook. Now that I live in the countryside, where restaurants are far and few between, I’m back in the kitchen on a regular basis. I’ve made Chili, Meatloaf, Quiche, Frittata, Pumpkin Pie and Ice Tea, which I heat up for hot sweet tea in the cold afternoons. Soon I will make my first soups. But my specialty seems to be Apple Crisp.

It started in late September when I went apple picking with some friends and came home with 20 lbs of apples! I made my first batch of crisp with half of those apples, and the rest of the apples I brought to friends in NYC. My mother and I used to make apple pies together when I was a kid and, to this day, nothing recalls that feeling of home to me than the smell of yummy, buttery apples wafting throughout the house.  A tip: don’t throw away the apple peel and grinds right away. You can boil them to make hot cider and/or add them to tea for flavor.

(had to go big with this pic)

apple crisp

Fresh Apple Crisp made with hand-picked apples (can you smell it??)

Traveling

The first two months of being here, I went to NYC four times (!) and Washington D.C. once. I’ve seen lots of my family and friends in the city. I even saw Kaz’s mother in D.C. But after all that visiting and traveling, I cannot express how nice it was to come home to the quiet, natural beauty and slow pace of my new neighborhood, the comfort of my own bed, and the peace of my own office.

Staying Home

I don’t know when I’ll be traveling to the city again (maybe Christmas). For now, it’s nice to just plant roots and settle in. I guess staying home reinforces the feeling of Home.

All of these simple things have helped me adjust to the new reality and feel less homesick. I’m building a new life and a new career in a completely new environment. It’s a lot. When I unpacked the artwork, it was like reuniting with old friends. A little bit of Hollywood in upstate New York. 🙂

Can you think of other things that make a place Home? Design tips welcome!


9 Comments

Words To Remember: Lights, Camera, Action!

Ironic that today’s Daily Post is about filmmaking. If you were involved in a movie, would you rather be the director, the producer, or the lead performer? (Note: you can’t be the writer!). I actually AM a director, or at least I was. I haven’t directed anything since 2010, which seems like a distant memory.  My last project – a music video – was completed the day before my late husband Kaz discovered he had a brain tumor. Since then, I’ve been writing, but not directing. What’s the difference?

For starters, writing is solitary. Most of us write alone, or rather with the voices in our head to keep us company. Directing is something you must do with others. Like the captain of a ship or a general at war, directing requires not only interacting with real people, but also leading them. It also means “acting” like a director. 

A well-known director once told me, “Directing is at least 75% performance.” Writers usually only have to perform before they write (when they’re pitching), or after they write (when they’re on a press junket for their work), but rarely while they’re actually writing. Directors, on the other hand, are almost always “on,” whether with investors, agents, actors, the crew, producers, studio executives, festival audiences, reporters, and so on. The same director who said directing was performance also once remarked, “How in the world does one do this job without alcohol or drugs?”

Secondly, writing costs nothing. All you need is time, a computer or typewriter, or pen and paper. If you can’t afford a pen and paper, you could write on a free computer at the library and use email to save your work. Or I suppose you could whittle a stick and use blackberry juice as ink like Solomon Northup‘s character in 12 Years a Slave. The point is you can write with absolutely no money.  

You cannot, however, direct a film with no money – even if everything is donated, you’re shooting in your own home and not paying anyone,  money will be spent. There have been cases of people making films with as little as $7,000 (Robert Rodriguez’s first film El Mariachi), but still… that’s $7,000 and a WHOLE LOT of energy to call in all the favors you need to complete the film, favors worth tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars.  As a former professor once said, “The cheapest way to make a movie is to write one.”

Third, the writing process affords flexibility, in the sense that you can change things. Your changes will have ripple effects, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them. Directing, on the other hand, requires commitment to the blueprint (i.e. the script) and laser focus to keep all the moving parts together in your head (especially when shooting out-of-order). You can change things here and there, but you can’t veer too far, especially once you’ve started filming. For example, you can’t change the sex of a character, or the tone of a movie, mid-way through production (unless that’s part of the story). You have to be flexible in other ways, but not in the same ways as the writer.

So, directing requires communication, performance, money, focus, and massive amounts of creative, mental and physical energy, none of which I’ve had much of in the past few years. I’ve gone from being a caregiver to a grieving widow, and now find myself in the process of redefining myself, both personally and professionally. I’m not the same person I was before Kaz. I’m not the same person I was when he was alive, or shortly after he died. I’m a combination of all of the above and something more, something new.

I’ve been re-editing my director’s reel over the last few months, and it’s been a great exercise in reflection, like a mirror to my past. Reviewing the films I wrote, directed and obsessed over for long periods. Remembering those moments and projects about which I felt such passion. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s been challenging to feel that kind of white-hot passion again. Though I do feel myself slowly being drawn to it, like to a distant fire on the horizon of a very long night.

To answer the original question, if I were involved – when I am involved in a movie again – I will definitely be the director. Even though I haven’t done it in years, I know I still have it. I love telling stories with images and sounds. I love working with actors and other professionals, each department providing its own unique, delicious ingredient to the overall piece. I adore the editing process, which feels most like the writing progress, solitary (save for your editor), flexible, and terribly creative. There’s a reason why so many of us say, “I’ll fix it in post.”

When I get nervous about my hiatus I remember that Stanley Kubrick took 7 years between The Shining (1980) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), and even longer between the latter and Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Terrence Malick took 20 years between Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998)his second and third films respectively. They certainly didn’t stop being directors just because they weren’t actively directing.  No doubt when they returned to the director’s chair, their life experiences made them better directors.

I look forward to testing that theory. The chair awaits.

skd283023sdc


9 Comments

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.


8 Comments

Birthdays, Milestones and Peacocks

Anyone who’s lost someone knows how bittersweet birthdays can be. One often feels guilty for having a birthday at all, while our loved one will never have another. Friends and family go out of their way to shower us with attention and make sure we have plans, lest we end up alone. Of course, more often than not, that’s all we really want… to be left alone. 

But then we feel guilty about denying everyone the opportunity to show their love. We might even feel guilty because we know our loved one wouldn’t want us to be alone and moping about. We know he/she would want us to do something special, if not for us then for them.

Today is my birthday. I am now 43 years old, the same age as Kaz when he died (technically, he was 43 years and 6 months old). Soon I will be older than him, which seems very strange indeed. I always thought of him as older and wiser. Actually, no matter how many more birthdays I have, I will always think of him as older and wiser.

Three years ago we had a big party for my 40th. I wore a very tight, red dress and invited all of our closest friends, not just for me, but to see Kaz. He was still doing fairly well then. It was an incredible night, forever immortalized in the many photos that people took. For some, it was the last time they saw him looking like himself.

The next two birthdays (without him) were more subdued. I turned 41 six months after he passed, while sitting in the rain at Occupy Oakland with a friend. The event had started only the day before (October 10, 2011). We sat on the plastic-covered steps of  Frank H. Ogawa Plaza while my friend’s 4 year-old daughter stomped nearby puddles in her red rubber boots. Something about the wet, serious, anonymous yet congenial atmosphere felt appropriate. I was surrounded by people but not required to talk. Tears blended with the rain.

I don’t even remember what I did for 42. I just remember thinking, “This is how old he was when diagnosed.” 

This year I feel stronger, more hopeful and grateful than before. Not coincidentally, the blog is almost 1 year old (on October 18) and my dog’s adoption date is a week after that. When I reflect on this past year, it was a year well-lived, a year of getting my “sea legs” back, so to speak.

The puppy and I lived for a month in Vermont. I made significant progress with the memoir. The blog was Freshly Pressed, and I’ve made many new blogging friends since then. I bought a new car, and drove my father’s Porsche. I got back in the kitchen after almost two years of not cooking. I interviewed for a writer’s gig, and even though I didn’t get it, the interview taught me a lot. I have steadily trained my puppy and hope we can take the Canine Good Citizen test before the end of the year.

The future looks bright as well. I just started a Television Pilot writing class. I’ve hired an editor to cut a new director’s reel. I’m updating my resume and making plans to possibly (finally) move out of Los Angeles. I’m also planning on taking a few months off to finish the memoir. All in all, life is good at the moment. I couldn’t have said that last year, or even six months ago. But life is like that, ever changing, moving and molding, like water.

A friend gave me a birthday card with a peacock on the cover. I’ve been so drawn to this image that I had to look up its symbolism. In doing so, I found this blog post that lists several meanings and their origin.

From The Meaning of Symbols.com: The peacock is a symbol of immortality because the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death… The peacock naturally replaces his feathers annually; as such, the peacock is also a symbol of renewal.

Renewal. That is what I’m feeling these days. May this year be the Year of the Peacock.

my friend's card

my friend’s card


1 Comment

Love Life (Photo)

image

Just found this photo from two years ago when I did the Brain Tumor Walk in Orange County, CA, in honor of Kaz and others. We walked 5K and raised thousands of dollars for brain tumor research. It was an inspiring day with lots of shared stories, embraces and tears. There were also lots of signs. This one was my favorite.


22 Comments

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)


26 Comments

Even Lava Cools Eventually

Photo credit: Nick Selway and CJ Kale (Caters News Agency)

Photo credit: Nick Selway and CJ Kale (Caters News Agency)

Last night I had this image of grief as a molten, bubbling, red-hot river of volcanic lava, unceremoniously destroying everything in its path and reshaping the landscape underneath. The image came to me as I was eating dinner and thinking about my relationship to food, and specifically the kitchen, in the last few years.

In my single days I used to cook for myself and have people over for dinner on a regular basis. When Kaz and I started dating, I cooked many meals (as any woman who’s good in the kitchen would). Cooking for him felt different than cooking for friends. It felt romantic and at the same time a bit old-fashioned. I would often think of my mother, who did most of the cooking in our family and was great at it. Kaz was an old school type of man. He loved both eating the food and watching me prepare it. Part of our courtship happened in the kitchen.

Once he became sick, he asked me to be in charge of his nutrition. I remember him coming home one night with some Cancer cookbooks and handing them to me. My job as “resident cook” had become official, and I took it very seriously making shitaki mushroom burgers, sweet potato soup, ginger lemonade iced tea, homemade granola with flaxseed, blueberry pancakes, apple pie, carrot cake, oatmeal cookies, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, and more.

One of the more painful aspects of his illness was how it affected his appetite and ability to taste things. At a certain point, he started asking me to order out instead of spending time in the kitchen away from him. Towards the end his appetite became a barometer of how he was feeling, of how close the end really was. I tried every which way to get him to keep eating, even though the hospice literature said not to. I couldn’t help it. Eating was a sign of life.

After he died, I lost my own appetite for a while. Food was just this stuff that I put into my mouth. There was no real pleasure in it. Then the appetite came back, but not the joy of cooking. I actually threw out most of the pots and pans (the cheap non-stick kind), thinking I would get new ones (iron or stainless steel). The trouble is I never got around to it, which left me with one small pot, a baking dish, and a cookie sheet.

Even if I had pots and pans, it wouldn’t have made a difference. I had lost the motivation, the energy. Cooking seemed pointless. Iwould only buy pre-made food, became an expert at heating things up, and would eat while watching television in the living room. I used to wonder if I would ever enjoy cooking or care about my own nutrition again.

Lately, I’ve started caring. Last week I made my granola for the first time. Some of it burned (the smoke detector went off), but not all of it. I also forgot how much granola the recipe produces. I now have a bucket’s worth of granola to eat for the next few months.

Last night I cooked myself an entire meal of baked tilapia with pine nuts, lentils, and green bean salad. The smoke detector went off again, but the fish didn’t burn. I sat down to eat at the dining room table complete with one lit candle and a glass of water (second week night without alcohol).  Instead of wolfing the food down, I ate slowly and savored each bite. I haven’t tasted my own cooking in over two years. It felt like being home again.

Cooking a meal and sitting down to eat it is something most people probably do on a daily basis without even thinking about it. For me, it was a moment, a sign of healing. I’m a long way off from having dinner parties, and I have yet to get through a meal without the smoke detector going off, but I trust these things will happen in time. Hopefully, faster than it takes lava to cool.


12 Comments

Structure: From Frankenstein to Brando

Last week one of my mentors emailed me asking if I had sent him the latest draft of my book. He couldn’t find it and thought he’d lost it. “You didn’t lose it,” I told him. “I haven’t sent it yet.” I was a little embarrassed but also glad that he emailed me. It was the kick in the pants I needed.

My memoir has been a labor of love ever since Kaz died. I’ve been writing and re-writing, putting it down, then diving back in. It has felt a bit like a time traveling project… every time I work on the book, I am transported back to us.

Since I’ve never written a book before, I’ve given the various drafts to several readers for feedback. The most recent reader was a woman who was referred to me by a mutual writer friend. Perhaps because she doesn’t know me personally she ended up giving me some of the best insight. She said that mid-way through the draft she started losing interest and only kept reading because she had to. She said some other things too, but it was this comment that really got me thinking because I’ve heard it before (in so many words) from other readers.

The problem isn’t with the story or the way it’s written. The problem is with the structure. The story reveals itself too much too soon, instead of in a way that makes the reader want to turn the page. It’s also the actual order of events, actual persons involved, actual sources, actual dates and so on. On a certain level, this is necessary for a memoir but on another level, it’s not.

As long as I’m not making anything up, what does it matter if certain things are condensed, re-arranged, placed in a different setting, said out of context, etc? I suppose if it’s too fictional I can always call it a novel. Frankly, this is the least of my concerns right now. My main concern is for it to be a compelling read.

So, I conceived of a new structure, one that is actually more simple than what I had but also more daring. This time I swore to myself I would not get on the computer to figure it out, nor would I index card it. I would do it the old fashioned way… a paper edit.

I sat down with the physical draft, several magic markers, a stapler, and a pair of scissors and went to town. Every scene became a loose piece of paper with a title at the top. I put each scene in a specific pile, in chronological order. Then I put dots on the pages to indicate whether I thought it would go in the first act, second act, third act, etc. With my dot method, I could always re-order the scenes to their original piles should I get lost.

Then I started putting the scenes in the order I thought they should go. Only when I was satisfied that I had an order that made sense did I open my computer to copy and paste scenes so the computer draft mirrored this new paper edit. It was painstaking work.

Now, I’m going through the computer draft and refining, condensing, filling out, also very painstaking and a huge gamble. Once I do this, it will be difficult to go back. I have literally dissected the story and pieced it back together again, like a Frankenstein draft. But the goal is to keep fine-tuning it so Frankenstein turns into a Marlon Brando.

It might take a while but at least I have a vision. It’s actually been in my head all along. I just had to reach the point emotionally where I could execute it as a WRITER, instead of a participant in the drama.


7 Comments

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


9 Comments

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Stage 21 (star wars)

Once upon a time, before I became a widow, before Kaz got sick, before we even met, I used to be a director. Not a famous one, but one with a decent track record and some minor but not insignificant accolades. I had several projects in the works. Kaz used to help me with them, reading my scripts, giving me notes, connecting me with his contacts. I was highly productive during our first two years together. I wrote one feature screenplay, directed two plays, directed and produced three music videos. The day he was diagnosed was the day after I completed and delivered the last music video. I haven’t directed anything since.

empty stage

During the year he was sick it was simply impossible. After he died, I lost all motivation. The only thing I could do was to write, and I wrote the entire time.

Writing suited me. It was solitary. I could do it in my pajamas. I could laugh, cry, scream or talk to myself all day long, in private.

old golf carts

Directing is a whole other beast. Directing requires communicating with people other than yourself. It is part vision-making, part juggling act, part performance. It requires listening, collaborating, convincing, defending, explaining, and answering question after question.

It requires hustle, especially if you don’t have a lot of money to work with. You have to somehow get professionals to help you for little to nothing, vendors to give you great deals, and actors more experienced and more famous than you to actually do what you tell them.

the lot

It requires a lot of professional fronting. “50% of directing is acting,” a famous director once told me. You have to act like you know what you’re doing even if you have no idea. You also need to be humble and gracious so that the crew doesn’t think you’re an asshole and walk off the set. Like my post about being an Alpha Bitch, it requires being a leader, which is to say, it requires an enormous amount of energy and people skills.

The other day I wrote that I can’t stand my job. The truth is I work at one of the biggest studios in town, but not in the capacity I want to be working in. It’s a double-edged sword. I am surrounded by the very thing I want to be doing. Yet I have not reached the point of being able to do it professionally.

Stage 8

Recently, there’s been a paradigm shift. Since returning from Vermont I have been quietly stocking my arsenal with projects that will hopefully get my career back on track. I’ll be talking more about them in the weeks and months to come. They’re going to take time so I need to be mentally prepared for the long haul. I have a ton of things to do, dozens of people to reconnect with, and probably 100 movies to catch up on. I’m not necessarily starting from scratch, but definitely starting over.

The time has come. One of my blogging friends just posted about wanting to be more than just one thing. I relate to this so much, it’s like she wrote what was in my head. I want to be more than just a widow, motorcycle rider and puppy-owner.

I am more than just a widow, motorcycle rider and puppy-owner. I am more than just a writer or blogger too. I am a director and producer. And sooner than later, I will be coming to this studio for meetings, shooting in these stages, and sitting in the director’s chair yelling, “ACTION!”

As they say in the Middle East, “Insha’Allah.” G-d willing.

high chair