Slave to the red light.

Am I the only one out there who feels like the more connected we are, the less connected we feel?  Don’t get me wrong, I love my Blackberry and the convenience it affords me.  It’s great to always have email at my fingertips and a real time-saver to quickly reply to an important message when I’m away from home.  I use social media for work and for play, and am constantly amazed by its power to spread a message at lightning speed and to galvanize people around a cause.  But I can’t help feeling that the more that our daily interactions go online, that quality time is being abandoned in favor in quantity, in the form of an avalanche of meaningless messages.  Is life passing us by while our noses are in our smart phones?

I handle PR and social media for a small company, and part of my job involves sending out regular email blasts.  In response to a recent blast, I received the following automated reply:  ‘I’m swearing off email for the time being.’  Swearing off email?  What in the world?  I couldn’t conceptualize how, in the modern world, this could even be possible, nor could I contain my incredible jealousy.  How I would love to be able to just decide to  not engage in the method of communication used overwhelmingly by most of the planet.  What power.  What rebellion.  What luxury.

Because the truth is, as much as I love my Blackberry, I feel a little bit enslaved by it.  Every time it dings and that red light starts blinking, I feel compelled to check it.  Immediately.  Gone are the days of waiting until I get home from a class or from dinner to log on to my computer to check messages.  Oh no.  Now it’s right there, all the time.

And the convenience is a little bit maddening.  How many times have you been out to a movie or at a party or sharing a meal with someone, who won’t stop checking their phone?  It’s like, come on man, would it kill you to pay attention to the real life person who’s right in front of you, rather than this tiny computer that’s got you on an electronic leash?  Now I’m not claiming to be completely innocent in this department.  I’m guilty of compulsive message checking too, because for some stupid reason, emails left unanswered leave me with an unreasonable amount of anxiety.  But I recognize my compulsion and I’m trying to break myself of it.  After all, admitting that you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.  Yesterday, I even went for a hike and didn’t look at my phone for a whole hour.  And nobody died.

I don’t want to lose my humanity to a computer or become one of those people who only knows how to relate to others online.  I don’t want to miss out on having a great time at a concert or a sporting event because I’m too busy ‘checking in’ about the great time I’m having.  I’d still rather pick up the phone and call you than exchange 50 text messages.  But that’s me.

So with the weekend upon us (hooray!), I invite you to join me in unplugging from your devices (just for a bit, I promise it will only hurt a little), and logging some face time, instead of some Facebook time.

Until next time, friends.

Brain drain.

I’m not a fan of sitting still.  Which is why, as much as I need to quiet my overactive, worry-prone brain, I can’t meditate.  I’m sure I could meditate if I really put my mind to it (hah!), but the act of sitting still with my eyes closed focusing on one thought gives me the heebie jeebies.  Meditation just doesn’t suit my on-the-go, always busy, serial multi-tasking personality.  I’ve been told that is exactly why I should meditate, but the fact remains that I enjoy it about as much as I enjoy chugging wheatgrass:  it’s good for me but if I need to hold my nose to get it down, it’s probably not going to happen.

So what’s a girl who needs some stress relief to do?  Enter the morning pages.  I first learned about the morning pages many years ago, the first time I tried to complete the program The Artist’s WayThe Artist’s Way is an awesome 12-week course in awakening your creativity that includes weekly reading assignments, exercises, something called the Artist’s Date (a creative date with yourself), and the daily morning pages.

While abandoning a lot of the other stuff due to lack of time and focus, the one part of the program I’ve been relatively consistent with are the morning pages.  What are they?  Essentially, they’re stream of consciousness journaling.  According to The Artist’s Way, you should start each day by filling up 3 pages (longhand) with stream of consciousness writing; basically, just write whatever happens to be on your mind.  The purpose?  Brain drain; to get all the garbage that’s in your head out and on to the page so that you can quiet the noise and self doubt and stuff that’s getting in the way of the things you need to accomplish, and more importantly, your creativity.

I tend to write a lot and very quickly, so I often find that when I get to the end of the 3 pages, I still have more to vent.  (I’m sure those who know me won’t be surprised by this.  LOL.)  So, instead of a page limit, I commit to a fixed amount of time – 20 minutes – to sit down with paper and pen in hand and just spew out whatever’s bugging me.  It won’t be elegant – it’s not supposed to be – but I find that when I really commit to writing these pages, I generally have better days.  Think of it like going for a mental run first thing in the morning:  it releases endorphins and sets you up to feel better (and be more focused), for the rest of the day.

While there are no guaranteed results, if you commit to writing morning pages on a consistent basis, you may surprise yourself.  After a few days of scribbling mundane junk like ‘I’m tired,’ ‘I don’t know what to write,’ and ‘my co-worker is so annoying,’ you start cutting through the crap to things that are more meaningful, like generating some cool ideas or finding a solution to a problem that’s been plaguing you.  All through the simple act of putting pen to paper.  So, try something for me, will you?  Rather than rolling over and picking up your iPhone first thing in the morning, grab a blank notebook and a pen (and if you’re like me, a cup of coffee) and see where your thoughts take you.  Your brain, and your newfound peace of mind, will thank you.

Until next time, friends.

What am I doing with my life?

“What am I doing with my life?”  Someone said this to me the other day, and for some reason, it struck a chord.  It’s a phrase we’ve probably all heard (or uttered), but what really got me was that it came from someone I barely knew, in a moment that 99 times out of 100, would have been one of those superficial –  “How are you?”  “I’m fine, how are you?” – exchanges that we experience a dozen times in any given day.  But instead of the typical “I’m fine, how are you” response, this person paused, looked utterly at a loss for words, and completely gave up on the idea of even trying to fake being o.k.  “I don’t know.  I’m just. . . What am I doing with my life?”

Confronted with this naked honesty, I felt conflicted.  Part of me felt unsettled, because, totally unprepared for this response, I didn’t know what to say or do.   How could I relate to this person, or make them feel better? I think I literally just stared, said something witty like “oh,” and made an I’m sorry face.  Completely unhelpful to this poor lost soul in crisis.

But while the moment was uncomfortable, I also felt exhilarated.  What honesty!  What courage to just say exactly what you’re feeling and not give a damn what anyone else thinks!  Imagine if we all went through our lives this way, just telling the truth.

I don’t think the fact that this casual acquaintance happened to tell me something so out of the ordinary, so honest and so profound, was an accident. I think it was a sign from the cosmos.  Because the truth is, I’ve been entertaining this same thought quite frequently lately.  What am I doing with my life?  Yes, what indeed.

The last few months, I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads, faced with some uncomfortable but necessary decisions about the next step I want to take in my life.  And I don’t think it’s coincidental that since I’ve taken an extended break from booze (on day #43 of 55 now, woo hoo!), I’ve been having more meaningful and yes, uncomfortable, existential thoughts about the purpose and path of my life. For me, it is so easy to get stuck in the routine of going to work, going to auditions when they come up, going to the gym, and doing all the other responsible, yet passive things I need to do to get through my day.  And when the ‘responsibilities’ are done, I typically zone out in front of the TV or in front of my computer with a glass of wine and just don’t think about any of the more uncomfortable, big picture things. Not so, the last 5 weeks.  The detox, and the clear, focused mind it has brought with it, has forced me to think about the big picture things.  A lot.

I often preach about how people don’t like change because they’re afraid of the unknown, and so we stay in uncomfortable situations just because we’re used to them.  But change must happen, and so, in order to make us change, the heavy hand of the universe lays a cosmic smack down and turns the status quo into something so miserable, that finally we’re forced to make a change because it becomes our only option.  At the time, it seriously sucks, but only later with some perspective do we realize that it was the best thing that could have happened to us.

Over the last 5 weeks, I have been coming up against many what am I doing with my life moments.  And in the areas of my life that I know need some serious improvement, I have been experiencing the aforementioned cosmic smack down in a major way.  With the end of the month (and the end of my detox-induced much quieter and more focused mind) bearing down on me like the barrel of a gun (yes I know, dramatic), I’m feeling the almost vertigo-esque urge to leap off something.  Not literally, of course, I’m not that crazy, but the desire to jump off a springboard into the deep end of the metaphorical pool is undeniably there.

I have always been a ‘responsible’ person.  I typically always do the right thing.  And I’m not thumbing my nose at responsibility, nor do I think it should be taken lightly.  Depending on where we are in our lives, some people certainly have more than others – a marriage, children, a mortgage. But I also think there are responsibilities we put on ourselves, as an excuse for not really living.  How many choices do we make because we’re worried about what other people think, or because we’re too old to do that, or because it simply wouldn’t do?  How many things do we do, simply because we decided we have to do them?

Change sucks.  Taking a chance is scary.  But I think living with regret sucks even more.  I don’t want to keep asking myself what am I doing with my life?  I want to start figuring it out.

Mercury retrograde (is coming to get you).

Mercury is in retrograde again, folks.  For those not in the astrological know, Mercury Retrograde happens several times per year when the planet Mercury appears to rotate backwards on its axis in its path around the sun.  This phenomenon is dreaded in astrological circles, because, as the planet that rules communication and transportation, the action of Mercury moving backwards means that all kinds of things get screwed up.  Technology goes haywire (it is not recommended to buy electronic equipment during these phases), misunderstandings can frequently occur, traffic accidents are more common, and in general, people just are a little (or a lot) crazier than normal.  It is especially inadvisable to sign contracts or legal documents during this period, as you can get locked into an agreement you’ll later regret.

As a skeptic among skeptics, I know what some of you are thinking:  all of this astrological stuff is just a whole lot of hogwash.  However, I challenge the non-believers out there to have your chart done by a credible astrologer once in your life.  At the very least, you’ll be impressed by the sheer amount of math involved in plotting the positions of the planets at the time of your birth, in order to determine your precise astrological profile.  It’s so much more complex than just the difference between a Taurus and an Aquarius.

Mercury, as the planet closest to the sun, has a brief orbital period and therefore retrogrades about three times a year, with each retrograde period lasting a few weeks.  With Mercury Retrograde such a frequent occurrence, clearly we can’t afford to put life on hold every time this planet moves backwards.  If you’re unemployed and desperately need a job, it’s not advisable to turn down a job offer during Mercury Retrograde just to avoid signing a contract.  If your phone dies and you need to buy a new one, you can’t wait until Mercury Retrograde is over to purchase such a vital piece of technology.  And clearly, not driving your car is not a practical solution for most people.

But you can take some steps to protect yourself during these sensitive phases.  Read (and re-read) any contracts you’re asked to sign extra carefully before affixing your John Hancock to anything binding.  Purchase a warranty before buying any electronic equipment and keep your receipt and packaging, just in case.  And practice defensive driving (if you live in L.A., hopefully you’re doing that anyway).

Lest this whole post starts sounding like a serious gloom and doom scenario, there are some positive things you can do to make the most of the dreaded Mercury Retrograde.  Reconnect with old friends.  Reach out to business contacts you’ve already established about potential new ventures.  Work on creative projects you’ve already started and continue to perfect them.  Basically, any personal or professional relationship you’ve already established, or any project you’ve already begun prior to the retrograde period, you can continue to fine tune and improve.

I realize that no matter what I say, there are some of you out there who simply won’t believe in anything related to the sun, moon and stars, and that’s your prerogative.  But as of this past Monday (March 12th) until Wednesday, April 4th, don’t be surprised if things get a little bit wacky out there.  Watch your back.


Today, I’m introducing a new category of post.  It’s what I like to call the Extra Dry Martini Hero.  An Extra Dry Martini Hero can be a lot of things, including a person living or dead, or a fictional character that exemplifies Extra Dry Martini qualities.  They must have smarts, sass, and not be afraid to speak their mind.  Above all, he or she must be a true original, often imitated, never equaled.

To kick off the series, I’d like to nominate the fictional character Auntie Mame (of the film of the same title) as the inaugural EDM hero.  Ever since I was young, I’ve loved Mame, and her spot-on portrayal by the incomparable Rosalind Russell.  In later years, I discovered the book that the film is based on (penned by Patrick Dennis), and found it just as enjoyable.

Bold, brash, and impulsive, Mame’s sharp tongue is matched only by her big heart.  When the death of her brother deposits her ‘only living relative’ – her young nephew Patrick – on the front doorstep of her New York penthouse, Mame quickly instructs him on the finer points of life, including how to make the perfect martini:  ‘Always stir, never shake.  Bruises the gin.’

Thumbing her nose at convention, Mame gleefully throws a string of outlandish cocktail parties at her Beekman place penthouse, hiring bootleggers during the height of Prohibition, and entertaining foreign dignitaries, famed artists and intellectuals alike.

Her most loathsome adversary is always the insufferable snob, and whether it’s Patrick’s stuffy trustee at the Knickerbocker Bank, or his awful, empty-headed (but thankfully short-lived), fiancée Gloria, Mame always outsmarts the people we love to hate, doing it with such cleverness and grace that those who oppose her don’t have the faintest clue they’ve been outfoxed.

While her Extra Dry Martini stock is certainly helped by the fact that she enjoys a good martini – as young Patrick tells the Knickerbocker Bank trustee, ‘My Auntie Mame says olives take up too much room in such a little drink’ – what really sets Mame apart is her fierce wit and her unflappable joie de vivre.  Life is meant to be lived, by God, and as long as she’s around, she’s going to make sure she’s having a grand time.  While many of her antics – including redecorating her penthouse as often as she changes her glamorous couture – may be a bit over the top to use as a guidepost for everyday living, she does everything with style and heart, always looking out for the best interests of her ‘little lamb,’ Patrick, and reminding us to ‘live, live, live,’ because ‘life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!’

Another shiny happy Monday.

Hello and a very Shiny, Happy Monday to you!  For today’s happy thought, I’d like to give a shout out to a classic institution:  the newsstand.  In an era where print seems to be dying out – why pick up a book when you can get a Kindle, why look at a newspaper when you can read all your news online – there’s something about the simple pleasure of browsing through a magazine or even (gasp!) a paper that is worth celebrating.

While I’d like to believe that the colorful glossies will always have an audience, it does seem to be the way of the world that with everything moving to the internet, magazines could, at some point, go the way of the dinosaur.

But for now, there are still a handful of excellent newsstands in Los Angeles, and one of my favorites happens to be World Book and News on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood.  Open 24 hours, they have one of the biggest selections I’ve ever seen, including some pretty obscure titles.  Nothing sparks an idea or gives me a much-needed sense of escapism like thumbing through an exotic travel mag to plan my dream vacation, gathering remodeling tips from a décor magazine, or ogling cute pups in Dog Fancy.  World Book and News has it all and browsing there is always a pleasure.  (And with it being open 24 hrs AND located in the heart of Hollywood, I do confess to swinging by here once or twice after a few cocktails. . . )

But seriously, people.  When you are having one of those days when you really need a time-out, I recommend the following:  cruise by your local newsstand and allow yourself 20 minutes to browse titles you normally wouldn’t pick up (or the most gossipy gossip rag you can find – your secret’s safe with me!) and get lost in another world.  I guarantee it will be more satisfying than checking out the status updates of your 800 Facebook friends.

Wishing you a shiny happy Monday!

Je ne sais quoi.

Recently, I’ve become fascinated with the indefinable and the mysterious.  Specifically, I’ve been obsessing over that almost magical it quality that only certain people possess; that special thing that sets them apart from the crowd.  This it quality can masquerade as likeability, and while people who have it are certainly likeable, there’s more to it than that.  There are people out there who actually seem to be lit from within, and as such, attract others to them like moths to a flame.  The French have a term for it.  It’s called ‘a certain je ne sais quoi,’ which literally translates to ‘I don’t know what.’

I think the French have it right.  Because, while it’s nearly impossible to in pin down what it is, we all recognize it when we see it.  Movie stars seem to have it in spades, so is it beauty?  I don’t think so.  We’ve all known gorgeous people who can’t hold a conversation, as well as people who aren’t conventionally attractive, but there’s something about them that makes them irresistible.  So what is it?  Charm?  Grace?  Intelligence? Style?  Perhaps some combination of all those things?

Whatever it is, it causes us to elect presidents (I submit to you that Mitt Romney does not have it, hence the reason why the ‘inevitable’ Republican nominee is having such a hard time sealing the deal), to fall in love, and to elevate a bit performer into a star.

For a recent example of what I’m talking about, just look at the Academy Award-winning film The Artist.  A film populated by two lead actors who were so compelling, they didn’t need to utter a word (O.K., there were precisely two words uttered, but let’s not nitpick) to make the audience feel something as profound and universal as the love story that played out on screen. Yes, both Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo have it. (And they’re both French!  Je ne sais quoi, indeed.)

So what is it, and how the heck do I get it?  I am – after all – an actress, and I’m endlessly enthralled by what makes people tick, and how I can incorporate those qualities into the characters I play in order to make them more captivating, more watchable, and more it.

But can the it factor be learned, or is it simply inherited, like blue eyes or dimples?  Once someone has it, can they lose it, and once lost, can they ever get it back?

It’s likely that I won’t arrive at the answers to these burning questions any time soon.  Perhaps I never will.  I only know that it, whatever it is, intrigues the hell out of me.

Until next time, friends.

Shiny Happy Mondays.

Happy Monday, friends!  For this weekly post, I’m ditching the title Merci Mondays in favor of Shiny Happy Mondays.  I was going for alliteration, but after sitting with it for a week, I decided I hate ‘merci’ and most other non-French ‘m’ words.  I happen to really like the R.E.M. song Shiny Happy People, and since Mondays are usually anything but shiny and happy . . . well, there you go.

I’ve also decided that instead of generating a list of happy things (too much pressure), some weeks I may just choose to meditate on one happy thought.  Less is more.

This Monday, my happy thought is this:  beach toes.  ‘Beach toes’ is a phrase coined by my Mom.  The back-story:  my Grandparents own some beachfront property in a small town on Puget Sound in Washington State.  They bought the waterfront acreage and the little cabin situated on the property in the 1950s, when they were both working as court reporters in Seattle.  Meant to be their weekend and summer home, they called the property ‘the beach.’

My Mom often says that many of the happiest memories of her youth were spent during summers at the beach:  waterskiing, building bonfires and roasting marshmallows, and camping out with girlfriends.  And one of the favorite things she and her friends would do during weekend sleepovers at the beach was paint each other’s toenails.  Just for fun, they would paint each toenail a different color, and they called this look beach toes, for no over reason than they did it while they were at the beach.

So why is ‘beach toes’ my happy thought for this Monday?  A few reasons:  1.) It’s not really ‘grown up’ to paint every toenail a different color (you’d never display these babies through a pair of open-toed stilettos at a black tie affair), but it’s fun and quirky and celebrates being a bit unconventional, all of which I like.  2.) It’s a reminder not to take yourself so seriously.  3.) Because it comes from my Mom, who grew up as a child of the 1960s, it makes me think of think of a simpler, and likely, happier time.  And 4.) The bright colors make me smile.

So there you go.  Have a shiny happy Monday, friends!

Until next time.

I’m a failure.

I have a problem.  My problem is that I’m a perfectionist.  I have tons of things I’d like to do – stories (and blog posts!) I’d like to write, creative projects I’d like to launch, people I’d like to collaborate with – but more often than not, I find myself in a holding pattern, unable to start anything for fear that I won’t get it right.

I’ve heard this called ‘paralysis analysis,’ which basically means being so wrapped up in thinking about doing something – what to do, how to do it, when to do it – that you become paralyzed to act and never take the first step to actually do something.

In my case, I think (O.K., I know), that the root of this paralysis is fear.  Fear that whatever I do, it won’t be good enough.  Fear that because whatever I do or create will somehow be seen as an extension of me, that if I can’t get it absolutely perfect, I’ll be judged a failure.  Stupid, illogical and irrational, but there it is.

Take this blog, for example.  I’ve been a writer my whole life, and for many years I’ve wanted to launch a blog.  But the irony is, the more I learned about blogging, the less inclined I became to write my own.  All of a sudden, I became trapped by all the things I needed to do before I could start writing.  I needed a custom header, I needed to become a Photoshop whiz so I could create fabulous photos, I needed a corresponding Twitter account, etc., etc.

Well, I don’t have any of those things, but one day I finally just said screw it.  I’m going to pick a WordPress theme (thank you, Matthew Buchanan, Esquire is lovely) and start writing, and I’ll just have to fix things as I go. And this blog is quickly becoming my experiment in learning how to be O.K. with being a work in progress.

It’s not easy to let go of perfectionism.  It’s a disease.  And with creative projects in particular –which are most of the things I’ve been putting off – it’s particularly tough because they’re so uniquely personal that it feels even more vulnerable to put something out in the world that doesn’t feel ready or finished.

But (deep breath time) what’s the worst that can happen?  So, I open myself up to criticism.  It’s tough to hear, but it can only make me better, right?  So, I tried to do something and it totally sucked.  Oh well.  I failed.  Suck it up and try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.

So let me be the first to shout it from the rooftops:  I’m a failure!  I’m going to try many things and they’re not going to work out.  I’m going to fail, and I’m going to fail a lot.  But I would rather be a failure most of the time, and do something great once in a while, then be mediocre always and never venture outside of my comfort zone by taking a creative risk.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  In the oft-quoted words of Goethe, ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.’ So let’s begin.

Until next time, friends.

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