riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Breaking Free of the Day Job

I’m currently working as a legal assistant at a film studio, have been for 3 years, ever since Kaz got sick. Before then, I was temping and working freelance production jobs while trying to get my writing/directing career off the ground. It’s a good thing I got this job. My boss – the entire department – was incredibly supportive. I don’t know what I would have done without it/her/them. Besides the steady pay and benefits, when things got really tough this place was like a refuge from the storm. I would come into work, bloodshot with worry and exhaustion, and be surrounded by what felt like normalcy. I was and still am lucky to have stability in an unstable time. But that doesn’t change the fact that I want out with every fiber in my being.

This is not where I’m supposed to be. I know it. My boss knows it. Everyone knows it. In fact, I’m quite sure many people wonder what I’m still doing here. Last year I walked into my boss’ office and told her, “I can’t do this anymore.” Then I burst into tears and gave her an out-date.

Word spread like wildfire. Was I really leaving? When? Why? Did something happen? At that time, it came out of the blue. Not just to my co-workers, but to my family too. Everyone tried talking me out of it, especially my father and brother. What would I do without health insurance and savings? Who would I turn to when I ran out of money? I didn’t blame them for being concerned. In fact, I listened to all their advice and told my boss I’d changed my mind. Since I had never written a formal resignation letter, on record, I hadn’t actually quit. I had faux-quit, we laughed.

Two weeks later, another assistant really did quit and I requested (and was granted) his cubicle by the window. I relished this brighter, more private work space and focused on appyling to writing competitions and residencies. Then I got accepted to Vermont Studio Center and after much hoop-jumping was granted a 5-week Leave of Absence with the understanding that, upon my return, I would stay with the company at least until May 2013. (They were afraid I’d come back and quit the next day.)

Now I’ve learned that the LOA was actually paid for with ALL MY VACATION TIME, including floating holidays. At the rate of accrual (1.5 hours every 2 weeks), I won’t be able to take a vacation day until September 2013. And if I leave the company beforehand, they will deduct the balance from my paycheck.

Sweet!

Every morning I think, is this the day? Can I make it through the end of the week? My job performance has decreased. I’m late almost every day, not on purpose but because I’m so unmotivated I’m literally dragging myself around the apartment in the morning to get ready. This, compared with how I was in Vermont, when I woke up early, went to bed late and wrote every hour in between, or more recently when I prepared for the interview so intensely.

When people complain to me about their lives, I usually say, “If you’re unhappy about something, take steps to change it.”

What can I change about my situation?

I could still quit and live off my meager savings, but then if anything majorly bad happened I’d be shit out of luck.

I could start playing the lottery.

I could change my attitude and make some difficult decisions.

Maybe instead of working, taking care of my dog, directing a play, blogging, trying to get a book published, rewriting a script and developing/writing a television pilot, I should focus on ONE thing, maybe two. Work and puppy aren’t going anywhere. So, that leaves blog, book, play, script rewrite, pilot.

It’s time to cut the fat and the bullshit. I’m going to sleep on it and get back to you with my decision.


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11 days in 90 seconds

It’s been a crazy week and a half, so crazy I had to stop blogging for a minute. Rather than write a long drawn out “this is what I’ve been up to” post, I thought I would just present the speed-reel version:

Thursday 3/21 – CLUTCH concert at House of Blues with Big B and his new lady friend. Clutch was Kaz’s favorite band. Two of their songs were played at his memorial. They play one of them at the show. I am crying, laughing and dancing at the same time.

Clutch

Friday 3/22 – Very hungover at work. Grateful that I scheduled the Sarah Gerkensmeyer interview ahead of time. Not grateful that I got the time wrong so it published at 8:00am in whatever part of the world WordPress is based, not 8:00am West Coast time.

Saturday 3/23 – Audition for Harley Davidson Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, which is seeking “female motorcyclists (size 6-8) who survived or know someone who survived breast cancer.” I am NOT a size 6-8 but fit the rest of criteria so WTF. At the audition, there are men and women, it doesn’t matter if you ride or not, and no one asks about breast cancer.

Ruby in car

Sunday 3/24 – Drop Ruby off at a behavior evaluation appointment at West side doggie daycare run by canine guru to the stars. Lobby looks like a hotel. Employees are overly formal and weird. Ruby passes test but I am not impressed.

Monday 3/25 – Work half day due to Passover. Yay Moses! Instead of Seder, I go home to write. My literary manager has stepped up pressure on the television pilot I was supposed to hand in 2 months ago. For the rest of the week I’m back to waking up at 4:00am, writing before, during and after work.

Tuesday 3/26 – Work half day due to Passover. Actually go to Seder this time, at a restaurant called Street with my good friend T (who has fender bender on the way). We sit at the bar. First time leaving Ruby alone and uncrated in the apartment for several hours. I figure it’s Passover, let her taste freedom too. Come home hours later to discover… apartment and puppy are fine! Elated and proud.

LA - passover at street

Wednesday 3/27 – Very hungover, tired, stressed. Consider breaking evening plans but haven’t seen this friend in 6 months. Show up to outdoor party with Ruby, who ends up vomiting 3 times in the middle of everything after eating wildflowers. Apologies all around. We leave early and both collapse at home.

Thursday 3/28 – Leave work early due to Good Friday holiday weekend. Yay Jesus! Go to El Coyote (infamous Mexican restaurant where Sharon Tate ate her last meal) to write. Manage to be productive on 3 margharitas. Write all night until dawn.

Friday 3/29 – HAND IN (very rough first draft) PILOT. Woo-hoo!
Sleep a few hours. Take Ruby to dog park, then to brunch with old college friend. Ruby chews threw her leash during meal but thankfully doesn’t run off. Go to pet store afterwards to buy new leash, then drop her off at babysitter. Spend the next 12 hours driving back and forth to San Diego with 4 other people in the car. We see a play called The Mountaintop about what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last night could have been like. Very good play. Worth 6 hours in cramped car with strangers. Pick up Ruby at 1:30am.

Saturday 3/30 – Take Ruby to a dog friendly beach in Santa Barbara, followed by stroll through the dog friendly Douglass Family Preserve (70 acre park with vistas of the Pacific). A beautiful and much needed relaxing day.

SB - Douglass beach trees

SB - Douglass beach - sandy dog

Taking it all in

SB - Douglass beach - sleeping dog

Sunday 3/31 – Clean entire apartment and do 4 loads of laundry while Ruby sleeps all day. Leave Ruby alone and uncrated again while I go to a Game of Thrones viewing party. Drink too much tequila. Come home to piles of poop (on the floor, not the rug). Clean it up before collapsing in bed.

Monday 4/1 – Hungover. But happy to be blogging again.


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Making Time to Write

It’s 4:00am. I’ve just woken up to write. Puppy is asleep. Coffee is brewing. Phone is off. It’s quiet. This is the new routine. I have so much work to do and not enough time to do it. For 9 hours of the day I’m at my day job. For 2 hours of my day I am commuting back and forth. For another 2 hours I am dealing with the puppy. Mornings, she is slow to wake (we are similar in this way). Once I manage to get her out of bed, we go on our walk or to the nearby field to throw ball for at least 30 minutes. When we get home, I feed her breakfast. Then she plays by stealing a shoe from my closet, or a sock from the hamper, and I chase her around the apartment. I put her in the crate while I take a shower and get ready for work. When I come home from work the routine is the same. After dinner, I try to write, but usually am so tired I end up sitting on the couch with her watching television.

When Kaz was alive, we got into a routine of taking an hour or two to ourselves after work, before dinner. I would sit at my computer, listening to music and writing. He would play video games, usually the football game Madden. Both of us would wear earphones so as not to disturb the other. Though I could still hear him vocalizing towards the screen with shouts of glee or frustration. After his game he would stand behind me and kiss my neck, “Dear, when were you thinking of making dinner?” I would respond, “Why don’t you make dinner this time?” He would laugh, “Cause that’s what I got you for!” I would shake my head but also laugh. He had this way of making me laugh even when I didn’t want to.

I also used to write when he went on motorcycle rides. He was a devoted weekend rider and always went up to Angeles Crest Highway, a long stretch of winding, curvy road which is a haven for motorcyclists. He would be gone for about 3 hours, a perfect window of time, and when he returned we would both be relaxed and happy to see each other.

When his illness progressed, I sometimes took little writing breaks at the hospital, when he was asleep, or during a long procedure, or during his Avastin transfusions. I would write on my laptap in his room, or downstairs to the plush lobby of Cedars Sinai, or sometimes, at the Coffee Bean around the corner.

After his motorcycle accident, it was harder to write. He would stay in bed for hours, not sleeping or watching television, just lying in bed. Even though it was quiet, I found it difficult to concentrate. Neither of us wanted me to sit there with him in the silence, but it also didn’t feel right to leave him alone. I would try to write, but more often would simply stare at the computer thinking of him lying awake in the dark bedroom.

After he died, I wrote obsessively for months. I wrote him letters. I wrote in my journal. I wrote in detail every memory I could muster of our time together. Good memories and bad, it was all excruciating to recall. But I was so afraid of forgetting things that I forced myself to do it. And it was cathartic.

Now, life is quite different. The only time I can get anything done is when the puppy is asleep. I’m trying to train myself to wake up a little earlier every day to take advantage of this time. I knew when I got her that having a dog would put a cramp in the writing time. But I simply have to make it work.

When do you write?


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Me Time

Sunset

This past Friday Ruby came home from daycare with a limp in her front paw. Her LA daycare mom said she had been playing a bit too hard. I didn’t get upset, but I couldn’t help but wonder if this would have happened in Vermont, where she was in a smaller group of dogs and watched carefully by that daycare mom. She also received obedience training in addition to daily off-leash hikes in the mountains. I actually questioned whether it was right to bring her back to a one-bedroom apartment in LA, where the only place she can run around is a dog park, to which we have to drive 15 minutes, 25 in traffic. But this is where we live. Unless I gave her up, she had to come back with me to the urban jungle.

Two days after we arrived, VT daycare mom texted me: Is she missing any dogs you think????

I looked over at the sleeping puppy. Was she dreaming about hiking and wrestling with her VT buddies? Both of us have been dealing with medical issues developed while traveling, and now she gets a nasty squirt of medication in her mouth every night. But despite this, the long car rides to and fro, and the fact that she has to walk on a leash again, she seems happy. It’s possible she misses Vermont, but here she is the center of my attention, doesn’t have to share the bed with four other dogs (and two people), it’s 80 degrees out and she hangs out at Venice Beach. I’ve also been training her more consistently than before we left and making sure she has plenty of exercise on the non-daycare days. It feels as if we have found our rhythm again and we’re both on the mend from our travel wounds.

That said, today is the first day since being back that I’ve been able to truly concentrate, partly because I put her in daycare instead of keeping her home with me. This morning I had to question whether it was worth the money. But if there’s one thing I confirmed in Vermont, it’s that I am a happier person when I’m writing.

My sister recently reminded me that our mother used to regularly go into her art studio and close the door. During this time, she was not to be disturbed for any reason other than an emergency. I know a dog is not a child, but she’s the closest thing I have at the moment. And as smart as she is, I don’t think she would understand, “Don’t disturb Mommy right now, she’s writing.”

Hence, she is in daycare on my day off (hopefully not playing too hard), and I am taking advantage of this Me Time by writing and strategizing my future. Time is of the essence.

Ruby in car