I’m very lucky. One of my closest girlfriends rents a beautiful home in South Laguna Beach, California. It’s on a hill overlooking Pacific Coast Highway, a long, bright, airy space with large windows dressed in soft, billowy curtains overlooking the sea, and a white wooden chair with a colorfully-embroidered cushion on which to sit and watch the sun setting over the ocean.


I’ve been feeling lost, adrift, bogged down under the weight of emotions I can no longer shake off or brush aside, at a crossroads and feeling overwhelmed by the nagging question, ‘what now?’ The world no longer feels safe or predictable; what was once familiar has turned foreign. And my little bungalow in Los Angeles – while charming – has hardly been a refuge. My girlfriend with the beautiful home by the sea has been working in New York, her home sitting vacant, and when she offered to let me stay there, I gratefully accepted.

It’s not easy to leave life in L.A. for more than a few days – too many commitments – but I cleared six days from the calendar, packed up my car and hit the 405 freeway heading south, past two airports, into Laguna Canyon, and out the other side, arriving at the ocean.

My trip didn’t exactly begin as planned. I arrived in Laguna, opened up my laptop, and connected to WiFi to learn the sad news that Robin Williams had committed suicide. I was heartbroken. Heartbroken, and at the same time, grateful. Grateful that in all the dark places I’d been over the past couple of years, I’d never been there: the darkest of the dark.

Moved by his passing, my scene partner from acting class texted me to ask if we could change the scene we were working on to something from the movie What Dreams May Come. I said sure. It had been years since I’d seen the movie and this time, I watched it with different eyes. Eyes that had known the type of grief and sorrow portrayed in the film. As I watched it, I wept. Wept at the beauty of it, the beauty of a love so powerful that it could transcend death, transcend hell, transcend the darkest, most twisted places imaginable. And I wept at the irony of it too, given that this beautiful, gifted man had, in the end, succumbed to the darkness. I wept for a man who made so many people happy while carrying such desperate pain.

The next day, returning from the beach, I turned on my phone to find more sad news waiting: Lauren Bacall had died. And I felt gut-kicked. Because I admired her tremendously, held her up as a film noir icon, a legend, a true dame. And it felt like some bygone Hollywood era that had already ended was now finally, officially, over. And I sat in the open-air trolley car on the way home, the wind kissing my cheeks, and I cried.


So the first two days I spent by the sea were sad. At first, I fought it. But then, gradually, I gave in. I worked a little, and slept a lot. I rose early and sat by the window and watched the marine layer break apart over the ocean. I walked down the long wooden staircase to Table Rock Beach and I lay out on the hot sand and tried to read important things. I made a playlist of happy, poppy, empowering music and I ran up and down steep hills, pushing myself to the top of one hill, past a street called summit, up to mar vista – sea view – telling myself not to give up, that I’d remember this moment, that it was symbolic (stupid writers, looking for symbolism in everything), that even though my lungs burned and my legs were heavy as lead, even though it hurt, that I could push past the pain, that I could still do it. And I did, arriving at the top, gasping for breath.

And little by little, I got lighter. I felt like having more fun. I wandered through lush gardens and took pictures. I browsed art galleries and daydreamed over watercolor paintings. I got dressed up and took myself out to dinner. I indulged in sunset cocktails on a terrace at the luxurious Montage resort, becoming the vicarious guest of an extravagant, breathtaking Indian wedding – in which the bride and groom arrived on bejeweled horses – unfolding on the grounds below.

I spent five days never needing to drive, traveling on foot and hopping on and off the free open-air trolley cars running up and down PCH. I’d stick my head out the window, like a dog sniffing the wind, watching the sun sparkling on the sea, my arms tingling with goose bumps as the ocean breeze whipped through my hair.


On my last day there, in an effort to pamper myself, I visited a CVS drugstore and loaded up on beauty products that I didn’t really need – salt scrubs and mud masks and lip gloss and nail polish. Standing in line, I grew impatient as the store’s only sales clerk spent an inordinately long time chatting with the elderly lady in front of me. They talked and talked, even though she’d completed her transaction, even though the line was steadily growing behind them. I sighed, checked my phone, rolled my eyes.

When it was finally my turn, the clerk gave me an apologetic smile. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘She just lost her husband. They were married for a lot of years.’

‘Oh no,’ I said. ‘Yes, very sad. Very sad,’ he replied. ‘But when God decides to take you, there’s nothing you can do.’ I nodded, said nothing. Knowing all too well.

Outside in the parking lot, feeling guilty and ashamed at my impatience – after all, where in the hell did I have to be anyway, I was on vacation – I approached the elderly woman as she was loading her car and asked if she needed help. Too late, as she placed a twelve pack of Dr. Pepper – the last of her purchases – in the backseat. ‘I forgot this was heavy,’ she said, indicating the soda. I smiled at her, knowing exactly what she meant, knowing how the fog of grief makes you forget, makes the ordinary seem strange. ‘I hope you have a good day,’ I said. ‘I’m trying,’ she replied. ‘That’s all we can do,’ I called after her, as she got into her car.

So I went back to the beautiful house by the sea, and I lit the healing candle I’d purchased at the new age store downtown on my first day there. The candle that I’d been lighting every night. And I thought about that woman, and I thought about the fact that even a place that was this beautiful couldn’t keep out suffering, that things are so rarely how they appear on the surface, that we all have something – all of us – that we’re carrying around with us. Something that we’re trying to make peace with. Something that we’re trying to let go.

And I burned that candle down and I said a silent prayer that I’d be on the other side of my something soon, and that a new something – something beautiful and unexpected and exactly what I needed – was on its way. That if I just kept going, kept pushing myself up the hill, kept moving through life with an open heart, that I’d find it. That it would arrive. ‘I’ll just keep trying,’ I told myself. ‘That’s all I can do.’ After all, that’s all we – all any of us – can do.

Until next time, friends.

Laguna Sign






It was a Saturday morning in early March, and I was helping to run a photo shoot at an Italian restaurant in Burbank. A photo shoot for a play series I was co-producing – a series of film noir-themed one-acts. I had just returned to Los Angeles after spending ten days in the Pacific Northwest on important family business, ten days that culminated in a freezing, cold, bleak weekend in Medford, Oregon, during which we buried my dad.

And now it was back to L.A., back to business as usual. I was already behind – I’d missed the first table read of the plays while sorting through clothing and property at my parents’ house, hadn’t been able to focus on production emails in between taking meetings and organizing funeral arrangements with my sister – so now there wasn’t any time to lose. The photo shoots were a start; black & white character headshots to be used as a marketing tool to promote the show. We’d booked actors in thirty-minute increments and one by one they arrived at the restaurant with their wardrobe and props. Many of the actors were close friends and as they arrived, they hugged me, asked how I was. ‘Fine,’ I said. ‘You know.’

One of the members of our ensemble made a comment, almost off-handedly, about the fact that bad luck seemed to follow me around when I produced this show. ‘Maybe you should stop doing it,’ he said. I flinched, shrugged it off, and kept going.

But in truth, he had a valid point. We were now in the second year of the noir play series, and ever since I’d been working on it, ever since my co-producer – my husband James – and I had developed the concept, bad things had been following me around. In the weeks leading up to year one’s production, our beloved dog succumbed to cancer, and just a few days later, my dad was also diagnosed with the big C, his prognosis terminal.

After dad’s diagnosis, my mother – I think, in a desperate attempt to feel better – booked a trip to L.A. to see the show, took one look at me and promptly fell apart. And when I say fell apart that is a grand understatement. She unraveled before my eyes. She went into an emotional tailspin during which she spent a week holed up in her hotel, too sick to travel, visited frequently by the hotel doctor. I passed the week on high alert, fielding her frantic phone calls, until, finally, she ended up in the emergency room. I kept vigil the entire day, helpless, watching the heart rate monitor as her pulse raced at frightening speed, as she maxed out on anti-nausea meds and still couldn’t stop vomiting, as the doctors were unable to diagnose her with anything other than severe anxiety. They sent her home with a whole slew of Ativan, and the next day she was back in Olympia. The show went on, though my mom never got to see it. And three months later she was dead.

Fast forward to year two of the noir play series, to the aforementioned photo shoot, to March of 2013. My father had just died, succumbing to pancreatic and liver cancer roughly nine months after his stage four diagnosis. Shortly before my mother’s death, my grandmother (my mom’s mom) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and the shock of my mom’s passing caused her to spiral suddenly and rapidly. She erupted in rage fits and it was no longer safe for her to live at home, so my uncle placed her in a full time care facility. When I visited her the week after my dad died, she barely knew me, though just three months earlier we’d talked on the phone nearly every day, mostly about my mom, about how sad she was, about how she didn’t understand what had happened. Now here she was in a wheelchair, with pink painted fingernails and childish plastic barrettes in her hair, a vacant look in her eyes.

And the show went on. In the space in between my parents’ deaths, in the months where I rarely slept through the night, during the days that every time a number with a 206 or a 360 area code appeared on my cell phone and my heart momentarily arrested (Dad? Are you OK?), I found a play that I fell in love with. It was called Speak No Evil, written by a Chicago-area playwright named Michael Moon, whose work we’d produced in the first year of the series. He had such a fantastic grasp of the noir genre, such a beautiful, lyrical way of writing, I emailed him and asked if he had anything else. And Speak No Evil arrived, a simple, compelling story about a mute street vendor who witnesses a murder, and enlists the help of a down and out private detective to clear his name. I didn’t care what other stories we produced, I wanted Speak to be the centerpiece of the noir festival. In fact, the play touched me so much that it inspired an even greater ambition: to produce it as a film.

And so time went on, filled up with acting rehearsals and directing rehearsals and production duties. It went and went and went and suddenly we were at tech weekend, the weekend that all theatre geeks know as ‘hell,’ because of the long hours in the theatre working out all the stuff that’s less than fun like lighting cues and music cues and scene changes and, well, tech. It was on a Saturday morning in mid-April, the very beginning of tech weekend, that I got the call. My grandfather’s voice on the other line, distant, strained, final, telling me that my grandmother had died. I had known it was coming – she’d been in hospice for weeks – but I didn’t know it would come quite so soon. I didn’t know it would come then. There would be no funeral, just a summer barbecue to celebrate her life, when the weather was better.

So I took the call, and I went to the theatre. And I told no one. Not my friends, not my half-siblings who’d already been through hell with me over our dad. Not even my husband. I kept it to myself and went on with the show. That seems crazy to me now that I did that; that I kept something like that from everyone. But the truth is, I was just tired. Tired of all the tragedy, exhausted from talking about it, tired of re-living the same sad events over and over, of having to manage the reactions and emotions of other people when I told them, tired of the ‘I’m sorry, I have no idea what to say’ look, or worse, the ‘there must be something wrong with you’ look, the look that caused a fellow actor to note that bad things kept happening to me while producing a show revolving around noir – a genre that literally means black – as though I had somehow invited this dark storm cloud to visit me and hang over my head, as though I had unwittingly cursed myself. As though this were all my fault.

I can see now that I kept myself busy to avoid feeling like the world was collapsing around me. I can see now that finding quiet, dark backstage corners to stifle sobs before they became uncontrollable and then going back to work wasn’t normal or healthy. But all I wanted was to do what I loved, to immerse myself in storytelling, to be creative, to find my heart again. All I wanted was to feel normal again. All I wanted was my life back.

So I became an expert. An expert at work, an expert at holding it all together, an expert at being everything for everyone. In a little over a year, I co-produced nine one-act plays, and took on the biggest creative endeavor of my life, Speak No Evil, the movie. While I can admit that the work was an attempt to manage my grief, I remain incredibly proud of the things I accomplished during that horrific year. But I can also see that I took it too far. That, in holding it all together, I covered up uncomfortable truths. I took care of far too many things – and people – that I had no business taking care of. And I never took care of me.

So now it’s another year. And there’s another show. And the show must go on. But this time, it’s going on without me. Because after all that time holding things together, I’m finally falling apart. The thing I never wished for – that grief would catch up with me and knock me sideways – has happened. Without my consent, against my will, it has happened. And while I wish that the grief hadn’t entrenched itself so firmly in my chest, it has nevertheless, found its residence there. I wish this wasn’t the case, but as a beloved teacher of mine once said, ‘so much for wishes.’

This week, thanks to the generosity of a friend, I’ve been passing my days alone in a beautiful home by the sea. A place where I can spend the week writing and reading and taking long walks and lying in bed with the windows open and the ocean waves lulling me to sleep. A place that’s safe and quiet and serene. I know a week isn’t enough time to process and heal from everything I’ve been running from, but it’s a start. Slowing down does not come naturally for me, but life has taught me that sometimes, you have to submit. To give up, and give in. And to have faith that when all the falling apart is over, I’ll be able to piece myself back together – stronger, better – and begin again.

Until next time, friends.

Alley Panorama 2

The same people with different faces.

Ever since I’ve been changing, ever since I stopped abiding by ‘the rules,’ ever since I’ve been less of whatever it was that I used to be, I keep meeting the same people with different faces, over and over and over again.

I would give anything to encounter someone who’s less predictable, less exactly-what-I-expected, less rule-bound and polite and politic. I’m exhausted by people who say the right thing and do the right thing, are nice enough and kind enough but only just enough, just enough to not really be anything.

Just enough is no longer enough. Not for me. Just enough is cold, impersonal, indifferent. Just enough feels like slowly dying.

I want to know who you are. I want to know what you believe in, what – and who – you are willing to stand behind. I want to know about the one thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, the thing that you’d be willing to risk it all for. I want to know what makes your heart beat, what stops your breath, the things you dream about when you’re awake. And yes, I even want to know your flaws, your struggles, your weakest points. Just don’t ask me to fix them.

Life is happening all around us, and I don’t have any more time for people who are not on fire for their lives. Where are the ones who greet the day with enthusiasm, bursting with passion for what’s next? Where are the ones who don’t rely on words alone – because they know that words are nothing but a false promise if not met by action?

Please be different. Please listen, please be aware, please be present. Please be willing to be wrong, to challenge what’s expected, to voice your opinion proudly, even if it means making enemies. Please embrace magic and wonder, please be engaged, be fascinated, please give a damn about something bigger than yourself. Please be alive. Be alive. Be alive.

Please don’t just tolerate me, or tell me ‘good job,’ or (the worst) ‘I’m sorry.’ Please inspire me, provoke me, even, but please, please, please make me feel something. Make me feel something, and I promise you, I’ll do the same.

Whatever you do, please just don’t be more of those same people with different faces. The ones who are everything to everyone and nothing to no one. Please be something more than that, I am begging you.

I am aching for the world to wake up.


Last Christmas, I thought that I had hit zero. A dark and depressing Christmas where – not knowing where else to turn – I said a desperate prayer to my mother while cradling a box of her ashes (an experience I documented in my blog post, Faith).

In truth, I hadn’t hit it yet. Actual ground zero was one week ago, last Monday morning, when I woke up with the heavy, oppressive realization that I had been lying to myself. That I could no longer live with one foot in my old life, one foot in my new one, trying to have it both ways. I couldn’t forge ahead into the future while still holding on to the security blanket of the past. I needed to finally give it up, all of it.

I miss my old life. I miss my old life, even though I know it’s not for me. I miss the rhythms and the routine. I miss the comfort in the familiar, even though the familiar was often discomfort itself. I miss always knowing what was coming next, even though what was coming next was often stressful, anxiety producing. And I miss the person that I used to live with, even though he made me crazy. Even though we fought. A lot. Even though I cried.

I walked away from my old life because I had to. Because in the midst of all the loss – my mom, my dad, my grandmother, my dear friend – I had also lost myself. I was drowning, and losing so many people that I loved in such tragic, jarring, devastating ways taught me that if I didn’t change, I was going to die too. In fact, I already was dying, but so slowly that I barely even noticed.

In walking away, I left my home, my marriage, my friends (some of whom, I would learn, were only ‘friends’), and a passion project that I am immensely proud of, an ongoing theater festival that I helped to create, that I worked tirelessly on, gave my whole heart to, and that involved collaboration with many people that I dearly love. Walking away from all of those things hurt like hell.

When I hit ground zero one week ago, I realized that in saying goodbye to so much that I anchored my identity to, I’m no longer sure who I am. I’m no longer sure who I am outside of a relationship that defined my twenties and that brought me both enduring joy and profound heartbreak. I’m no longer sure who I am outside of a company that I co-founded, a company that has been my creative home and my sanctuary from the soul-sucking world of Hollywood for the last five years. And I’m no longer sure who I am outside of my role as an exceptionally competent (what’s the point in false humility, it’s true) producer and caretaker-in-chief, the girl with the plan, the one who manages the to-do list, the problem solver, the go-to, the one with an answer for everything.

The girl in this new life no longer has a plan, save to keep going, to keep forging ahead, one foot in front of the other, into the great unknown. She’s a girl alone in a city where it’s easy to be lonely, a city where she’s not sure she belongs anymore. She’s an actress and a producer without a passion project, and a writer with so many projects that she doesn’t know where to focus, only that they’re all driving her crazy with their dizzying, disorienting, the truth is everywhere and it’s fucking painful, thoughts.

How did this girl, how did I, know that I had finally hit zero; that it hadn’t already happened yet? Because I couldn’t stop crying. Not for three whole days. Because anything – going for a run, ordering lunch, brushing my teeth – produced instantaneous, uncontrollable, sobbing. Because I couldn’t get off the floor, not for an entire afternoon. Because in the midst of all of this, I wrote myself a ‘get well soon’ greeting card, filled it with inspirational thoughts that I didn’t really believe, trudged over to the post office, and mailed it to myself. And when the mailman delivered it the next day, I didn’t feel better, as I hoped I would. I couldn’t even bring myself to open the damn thing, I just looked at it, bawling, feeling like an insane person, for fifteen minutes straight.

If this is what letting go feels like, then I fucking hate it. It’s the worst thing you can imagine. Throughout all the loss and the sickness and the death and the crises that I’d been managing over the last two years, I have never felt anything like this. And it’s probably because I’d never stopped, or settled down long enough to allow myself to feel it. I was producing a play when my mom had her nervous breakdown, another one after my dad’s death and during my grandmother’s. And then I went on to tackle producing an ambitious, thirty-minute film noir movie. Through it all, I worked, worked, worked, not because I was (at least, not consciously) trying to avoid feeling things, but because it’s how I deal. It’s what I know how to do. I’m the competent, problem-solving caretaker, remember? The one managing the to-do list.

I’m not a negative person. I’m not a defeatist. The rational part of me knows that the only way out is through, and that I have no choice but to wade through this until I get to the other side. But it sure doesn’t make it any easier. And when you’re desperate and searching, sometimes help can be found in the oddest places. Like Pinterest. While doing some work for my social media job, I happened upon a quote by the poet Mary Oliver. I had been introduced to Mary’s writing years ago, thought occasionally about her line ‘what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?,’ but couldn’t call myself a follower by any stretch of the imagination. But when I came upon her poem The Journey, my heart nearly stopped. It is so beautifully written, so profound, that as a writer I’m incredibly jealous that I didn’t write it. And I’m also overwhelmingly grateful that she did, because it encapsulates everything I’m experiencing right now so perfectly. Here it is:

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice – – -

though the whole house 

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

‘Mend my life!’

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations – – -

though their melancholy

was terrible. It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice,

which you slowly 

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do – – – determined to save

the only life you could save.

I’m not going to lie: I wept for a long time after reading those words. I read them again and again. I’m still reading them. And here’s the thing: I know in my heart that when nothing is sure, everything is possible. I know that there are many doors open to me, and I just need to stop waffling, choose one and walk through it. After all, if I’m not sure who I am anymore, that means I can be anything, right? I could haunt sidewalk cafes in Paris, and finally write my memoir. I could steal away to a village by the sea and forge a simple life. I could pull a Cheryl Strayed and give away all of my personal belongings and go on a months-long, soul-searching, danger-filled adventure. I could become notorious, and invite other writers to write things about me.

The exhilarating and terrifying part of true reinvention is the prospect that someday – in the not too distant future – I may very well look into the mirror and barely recognize the person I’ve become. What if, in starting anew, I lose parts of myself that I really like, never to be found again? But I guess that’s where faith comes in. Faith in myself. Faith in my intuition, faith in my inner voice, a voice that I ignored for far too long while it was screaming at me and stomping its feet, a voice that had been trying to tell me something for a reason.

After crying for three days straight, after barely being able to get off the floor, I woke up last Thursday morning, suddenly, inexplicably, lighter. I felt like getting out of bed, and doing something productive with my day. And so I did. And it felt good. And since last Thursday, I’ve been feeling mostly OK. I think this pattern may continue for a while. Some days I’ll wake up, feeling fine, and some days, not so much. But the important thing is, I’ll wake up. And I’ll continue to go.

So this is it. This is true ground zero. This is where recovery – where reinvention – begins.

It sucks. I fucking hate it.

But it doesn’t appear that I have a choice in the matter. So – onward I go. Into the great unknown.

Until next time, friends.

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