Away.

There was no parking on the good side. I was pretty certain there wouldn’t be. By the time Zoe picked me up and whisked me away from the cesspool that is LAX, by the time we drove back to my tiny bungalow, by the time we sat parked in the driveway chatting and catching up – me recounting stories from the long weekend spent getting reacquainted with my childhood home of Anchorage, Alaska – and by the time I’d deposited my bags inside the dark, quiet one bedroom, it was past eight-thirty. Well after most of my neighbors would have returned from work and claimed all of the good street spots.

vintage-travel-wallpaper2

I drove around for a few minutes anyway, vainly hoping I’d get lucky, but there was nothing to be found. Not for many blocks, and not on any of the streets that I deemed ‘safe.’ Ah, the beauty of L.A., with its sketchy neighborhoods rubbing elbows with the swanky ones. Just a block or so south of my Beverly Hills-adjacent Orthodox Jewish hood and a girl could run into trouble in the form of pawn shops and liquor stores and the questionable characters who hovered outside of them. No thanks.

So I gave up and returned home, setting an alarm on my phone as a reminder to move my car early the next morning for street cleaning. I scanned my apartment with weary eyes, suddenly feeling colder than I had during the nearly two-hour walk I’d taken with my sister Marion around Anchorage’s Westchester Lagoon, blanketed as it was in snow and ice. I surveyed the fridge – empty – and leafed through a stack of mail containing mostly bills and credit card applications, and mercifully, one honest to goodness greeting card filled with holiday cheer in the form of metallic gold Christmas tree confetti, a card that peeked out from the pile of useless papers like a tiny beacon of hope.

I eyed my suitcase with dread, not wanting to settle in, not ready to unpack. Should I open my computer and catch up on work email? Oh please, not yet. With no good options, I picked up the phone and ordered takeout from the Indian restaurant down the street. As I buttoned my coat and slung a scarf around my neck on the way out to grab dinner, I consoled myself with the thought that in just one week, I’d be getting on a plane again, away from here. Away from this place that had once held so much promise – a new life, a fresh start, a home all my own – but a place that, though it was filled up with all my stuff, had somehow managed to grow foreign, distant, and sterile.

Anchorage

These days, I like myself better when I’m away. There’s an energy that comes from toting my carry-on through the terminal, from rushing to meet my gate, from airport coffeehouses and bars and bookstores, from arrivals and departures. From checking in. And yes, from checking out. I like the pulse of travel, the pace of it. The sights and smells of different places fill me, inspire me. As long as I keep moving, I’m OK. It’s when I stop, when I settle, when I find myself in this place where I no longer know what to do with myself, that I start thinking about the big, ‘what am I doing with my life?’ question, and things suddenly become much more difficult.

I’m adrift. I don’t like where I am, but I don’t know where to go. I know that my current residence, the overpriced one bedroom bungalow at the corner of sketch and swank, is no longer right for me. Strange that when it came into my life just ten months ago, it was exactly what I needed: a quiet place with a sun-warmed patio that wrapped me up like a cozy blanket and sheltered me through a terrible life transition. But now, no amount of cleaning or decorating or incense-burning will change the fact that I’ve outgrown it. And so, with two months left on my lease, I find myself asking, ‘What now?’

I crave home like you wouldn’t believe. A safe place with a soft pillow to rest my head. A cushy, overstuffed sofa to collapse into at the end of a long, satisfying day. A secure, off-street parking spot (never more attractive than now). And yes, someone to share it with, to laugh with, to tell me in a voice that I’ll actually believe, that everything is going to be OK.

I guess I’ve landed on it. It’s not so much the place I’m looking for, as it is the way I’ll feel – the life I’ll live – inside of that place. Home is where the heart is, right? For me, that’s an eye roll-inducing cliché that’s also, irritatingly, true. Home is where the heart is. The problem is, ever since my heart was broken, I no longer know how to find it.

So for now, I’m living a life of not settling in. I’m making plans for the short-term. I’m thinking big but skimping on specifics. And every time it all becomes too much, I get the hell out of town. I’m sure I can’t keep doing this forever. But for right now, it makes sense. For right now, ‘away’ is simply the best place I can think of to be.

Until next time, friends.

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Day Thirty One.

Black and White Batgirl

Well, I did it. I officially quit booze and cigarettes – cold turkey – for thirty days. It was difficult, though not nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I definitely had moments where I wanted to cave, particularly when life got rough.

But, even though I’ve been feeling everything these days, my emotions didn’t overwhelm me like I thought they would. When left alone with thoughts too intense to handle, I was forced to get creative. Rather than my traditional cop out – pouring a glass of wine – I went for a run, or staged an impromptu dance party in my living room, or made a collage out of old photos, or – on one really tough day – dressed up as Batgirl and went out with Wonder Woman (thank you, Elisa) to dinner and a show on a Friday night in the heart of Los Angeles. I wouldn’t trade the interactions I had with curious strangers that night for anything.

Over the last thirty days, what I missed the most was the camaraderie that goes along with drinking, the social aspect of smoking. There was the collective tequila shot with acting class friends on a day when a tequila shot was a really, really good idea. There was the wine and gossip with girlfriends. And there was the late night philosophy that occurs while bumming a cigarette from a friend (or sitting on my patio, contemplating my future, blowing smoke into the darkness.)

But here’s what I didn’t miss. I didn’t miss worrying if I’d be OK to drive after a night out with friends. I didn’t miss starting my weekend already hung over from Friday night. And I certainly didn’t miss the bar tab. Thanks to the money I saved from abstaining from my vices for a mere thirty days, I was able to treat myself to a luxurious facial, a massage, a new dress for a friend’s wedding, and a whole bunch of new music on iTunes. Not bad.

I set lofty goals for myself to accomplish during my thirty days, which I’m sad to say, I fell short of. Most notably, I didn’t finish the first draft of my screenplay, like I had wanted. The prior-to-thirty-days-me would have beaten myself up about that, but I’m not going to. Because here’s the truth: the goal that I set in theory turned out to be way bigger than I anticipated when I put it into practice. I put in countless hours of writing – including two weekends where I essentially didn’t leave the house – and I ended up totally reworking my outline, scrapping a lot of what wasn’t working, and writing fifty new pages. As a result of my work, I’m way more excited about and committed to the story than I’ve ever been, and – while I’m a bit behind where I wanted to be – I know I’ll finish it soon because I can’t stop thinking about the characters and I can’t wait to see them achieve their (sort of) happy ending.

In the end, the most important reason for me to take this thirty-day break was to prove to myself that I could. To prove that I could navigate through a difficult time in my life in a healthy way and stick with it, despite an abundance of temptation. All the great things that came along with my detox – the money saved, the glowing, hydrated skin, the formerly tight clothes that are now loose-fitting – are just the fringe benefits of setting a goal for myself and accomplishing it. So, hooray. And now I ask myself the inevitable question that I always ask at the culmination of any project, endeavor, or challenge: what now?

Well, for right now, today, this weekend – I’m going to let my hair down. After thirty days of behaving like a schoolteacher, I’m going to have some fun. I’m going to enjoy quality time with some of my besties, I’m going to rejoice at the celebration of a dear friend’s wedding, and I’m going to get dolled up and go OUT.

And in a week, my much-anticipated summer vacation to the Pacific Northwest will finally be here. Ten days of relaxing, swimming in the sound, enjoying family time and doing what The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron calls “filling the well” – renewing my spirit with fresh life experiences, so that when I return I’ll hit the ground running and tackle the next project (whatever that may be) with gusto.

In the meantime, who’s up for some shots?

Until next time, friends.

Resistance.

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I’ve met the enemy, and its name is Resistance.

I recently revisited Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, a book that, in a very direct, plainspoken voice, cuts through the crap and correctly calls out all the ways we self-sabotage and rationalize our way out of designing the lives we want. The book is brutally honest, and it’s brilliant.

Pressfield identifies the pernicious beast that stands between us and our heart’s desire as Resistance. (Resistance with a capital ‘R,’ as it must be taken seriously.) What is Resistance? It doesn’t come from other people, or your life circumstances, or where you live, or your lame job that you hate. Resistance comes from you. It’s the judgmental voice in your head that tells you that you’re not good enough, the voice that leads you to make false comparisons between yourself and other people, the voice that causes you to make a million excuses for not living the life you want. Resistance leads to (among other things): procrastination, poor life choices, boredom, depression, guilt, addiction, and unhappiness. Pressfield calls Resistance ‘the enemy within.’

In The War of Art, Pressfield details his own daily battles with Resistance in his work as a writer. As I, in turn, struggle to get my story out of my head and onto the page, I identify with that battle. About writing, Pressfield says this:

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

He’s right. Sitting down is the hardest part. Because just the thought of it, the thought of staring at a blank screen, of struggling to string a sentence together, is pure agony. And I really like to write.

I recently gave up one of my favorite forms of Resistance, alcohol (and its sidekick, cigarettes), for thirty days. I did this to detox and cleanse my system, but also – mainly – because I have work to get done and I need to be super-focused in order to do it. I have a full-time job and countless other responsibilities in addition to my writing, so if I’m ever going to finish the screenplay that has been tugging at my heartstrings, there’s no room for zoning out over wine at the end of a long day until it’s done.

So here I am, sober as a judge on day five* of thirty days and barely any closer to completing the damn thing. I have found a million excuses not to start. I’m lonely and I’m sad. Being alone with the voices in my head is too much. I want to go out, call someone, distract myself. I remind myself that this time is a gift, that I’ve worked hard and sacrificed much in order to create space for it. I can’t waste it.

But the voice in my head is a real bitch. She tells me that what I have to say isn’t important to anyone but me. She tells me that even if I do finish my screenplay and even if I do have the courage to put it out into the world, that it will ultimately just be a waste of time. That people will hate it. That I’ll hate it. Or even if I don’t hate it, and other people don’t hate it, even if it’s actually good, then what? I’ll spend all of my money producing the movie, which is way too hard for me to do on my own, and I’ll screw it up and then I’ll be broke and have nothing to show for it. So really, what’s the point?

This is the sort of Resistance-style crap that leaves me finding all sorts of other things to do during my detox, like washing dishes and folding laundry and making grocery lists and painting my nails and surfing Facebook and posting too much shit on Instagram. And it’s dumb. And I hate it.

So I picked up The War of Art. I’ll keep picking it up and I’ll keep countering the negative voice in my head with Pressfield’s fighting words, to remind myself that Resistance never goes away. I wrote this blog post to remind myself that making art is an act of war and that we have to do battle against the Resistance that threatens to derail our dreams every single day. It’s not glamorous or sexy or all that fun to do our work, but, goddammit, the only way to get it done is to sit down and do it.

I don’t know about you, but when I do force myself to sit down and write one of these blog posts, or bang out a couple pages of dialogue from my script, the bitch inside my head gets a little quieter, and I start to feel ever so slightly relieved. Doing the work is hard, but it’s also – truly – the only thing that keeps the demons at bay.

So here’s to doing what’s hard. Here’s to the struggle. Here’s to waging war. Every. Single. Day.

I’ve pasted the last page of The War of Art – a section entitled The Artist’s Life – below. I hope it helps you along in your own personal war.

Until next time, friends

*It was day five when I wrote this post. It is now (at the time of publishing), day seven, and since spewing out this blog, I’ve revised the first twenty pages of my script, written twelve new pages, and have completely re-worked the outline. Go to hell, Resistance.

The Artist’s Life

Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

Bye bye, BlackBerry.

photoI have officially entered the ranks of people living in 2014:  a week ago, I bought my first iPhone.  As much as I love the conveniences that my sparkling new 5s has afforded me, it was not easy for me to part ways with my dinosaur of a smart phone.  Call me sentimental, call me stubborn, call me touch screen averse – all true.  I will admit to being slightly irrational for holding on to it for so long, but damn it, I loved that phone.

I got my BlackBerry Tour just over 4 years ago (4 years!  That phone was indestructible. I am convinced that it could have survived a nuclear holocaust).  Purchased at a Sprint store in Tacoma, Washington, it was a birthday present from my Mom and my first ever smart phone.  My plan came with a generous Boeing discount, because, in the words of the friendly (Yes, friendly!  Because everyone is friendly in the Pacific Northwest) Sprint employee, ‘everyone here knows someone who works for Boeing.’

It may be pretentious and kind of weird to personify a phone, but over the last four plus years that BlackBerry was as reliable as any of my besties.  It traveled with me to London, Paris, Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix, Amsterdam (to name a few), and all over the Pacific Northwest from Vancouver to Seattle to Olympia to Medford, Oregon with stops in between.  It was a vital tool in coordinating both creative endeavors (co-producing several plays, as well as my first film) and crisis management (planning details of my parents’ memorial services, fighting a bad case of identify theft, troubleshooting an insurance nightmare after a rental car break-in in Chicago).  Through it all, my phone was there, and with it, the ability to send lighting fast emails and text messages on my beloved keypad.

The truth is, I’m still a bit of an analog girl living in a digital world.  I love the smell of books and I’d rather hold one in my hand than read it on a Kindle.  I find sublime happiness in flipping through a glossy magazine.  And I’m convinced I do my best writing pen to paper, rather than fingers to keyboard.

Maybe it’s for these reasons that I resisted upgrading the technology of my phone.  Maybe (definitely) there’s a great deal of sentimental value attached to that pocket computer given who gave it to me and where it came from.  Maybe after all we’ve been through together, BlackBerry, it’s just hard to quit you.

But like all good things, this too had to come to an end.  For years, my phone was the little engine that could.  But when the battery started to go and I had to be plugged into a charger for any conversation lasting longer than 3 minutes, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

So bye bye, BlackBerry.  Bye bye generous Boeing discount, keypad and the beloved ‘ding’ you made whenever I received a text message.  Hello Instagram, super fast internet, convenience, and (gulp) a real cell phone bill.  You may be gone, old friend, but you’ll never, never be forgotten.

Until next time, friends.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes . . .

What do you want out of life?  Seriously.  When you think about where you are now, what’s missing?  If you could design your perfect life, what would it look like?

I’ve never been particularly good at goal setting.  I think it’s because when I start thinking in terms of my goals, I get swept up in the big picture, heart’s desire type of stuff like owning a beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills, spending long luxurious vacations in the South of France, starring in a brilliant film that makes a splash at Sundance, and turning this blog into a best-selling book.  Just to name a few.

And while all of these achievements are enough to get my blood going, the problem is, they feel so far away from the reality of my life, it’s easy to continue to relegate them to fantasy land and wistfully think ‘what if?’  Any motivational expert or life coach (or whatever you call those people) that’s worth their salt will tell you that this type of thinking isn’t the right way to go about getting what you want out of life.  While these grandiose things may in fact be attainable, the real trick to achieving your goals is breaking the big picture things down into small, more easily attainable pieces.  And doing this requires hard work.  It requires getting specific, discipline and focus.

For example, while turning this blog into a book that winds up on the New York Times Best-Seller List may be a (lofty) goal of mine, it doesn’t just happen overnight.  First of all, it requires me publishing a blog post more than once a month!  It requires that I have the discipline to show up to write every single day.  It requires that I explore all different types of topics until I find the exact right tone and voice that is best suited for me.  It requires that I write lots of bad posts and mediocre posts and get them out of my system.  It requires that I put my work out there as much as possible, try to get guest post opportunities on other blogs with a bigger following than mine, and risk lots of rejection along the way.  It requires TONS of work to pull together enough content that it will actually resemble a book, and then spending lots of time editing that book to make sure it’s as good as it can be.  And once all of that work is done and I have something that I think I can be proud of, then comes the process of trying to get published.  And once published, there is always the possibility that the book will suck, that no one will read it, and that I’ll be back at square one.

See why daydreaming is so much easier?  Hard work sucks.  And there’s no guarantee that through this hard work, I’ll ever end up attaining the lofty goal that I’ve set for myself.  How depressing.

But here’s something that’s not depressing.  If, instead of just talking about what you want, you start taking focused action, you’ll get stuff done.  The girl who’s out there making half a dozen short films a year may be no closer to Sundance than I am, but she’s getting stuff done.  She’s learning.  She’s making bad films so that she can make better ones.  She’s meeting people she wants to collaborate with down the line.  She may never get to Sundance. I may never get there.  I may never turn this blog into a book.  But by showing up and doing the work, I may wind up someplace else really cool.  Someplace I never thought I wanted to be, but someplace I was meant to be nonetheless.

Think about what you really want out of life.  Then make a list of all the tiny, little things you could start doing today to help you get there.  And then one item at a time, one day at a time, start tackling that list.  Show up, do the work.  And prepare to be surprised.

Getting more fun out of life.

When did life become so much work?  Seriously.  Have you seen that commercial – I think it’s for a cruise line – where the voiceover says something like ‘Do you ever feel like everyone’s having more fun than you?  They are.’ – and then they tell you to go to Aruba or some other tropical island to rediscover your fun?

I hate that commercial.  I mostly hate it because that damn voiceover guy is right.  Everyone is having more fun than me, and it pisses me off.

Even with stuff that is supposed to be fun, it always ends up being work, too.  Take, for example, the play that James and I are producing:  P L.A.Y Noir.  The whole point of producing a play is so that we can act and direct and do all the fun creative stuff that we love to do, play roles we don’t get cast in, and collaborate with our friends.  Super fun, right?

I’ll tell you what’s not fun:   all the crap you have to do as a producer to make sure the show happens, before you can get to the fun.  It’s not fun to wrangle schedules for 5 one-acts with overlapping casts, 12 actors, and 5 directors.  It’s not fun to send 50 emails a day about all kinds of logistical stuff you didn’t realize you needed to worry about, because it was supposed to already be taken care of.  It’s not fun to stress about finding rehearsal spaces, because the theater is never available.  And it’s not fun to worry about allll the stuff you shouldn’t be worrying about yet because it’s too early to worry about ‘potential’ problems that are still weeks away, when you have current problems right in front of your face that you need to deal with here, today.

Sigh.  Do you see my issue?  It’s quite possible that I need to meditate, or take a valium, or both.  But short of chanting or medicating myself, or taking a Caribbean vacation (I’m still mad about that commercial), what’s a girl to do to inject more fun into her daily life?

I think it has something to do with learning not to take things so seriously, to enjoy the journey, to take fun breaks (Really?  Am I at the point in my life where I need to schedule time for ‘fun’?), to not sweat the small stuff.  But for an admittedly type A control freak compulsive worrier like myself, ‘learning’ how to pause the craziness and smell the roses is damn hard.

I guess admitting that you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.  So here I am, admitting it.  I want to have more fun and not stress about everything, but I have no idea how to do it, or where to begin.  If you have suggestions – no matter how simple, or alternatively, how extreme – I’m open to hearing them.

In the mean time, it’s Friday, so I guess I should get started on that fun thing.

Until next time, friends.

Sometimes, you just gotta write.

This blog is dedicated to Danielle Lescure.  Thank you for inspiring me!

When I started this blog, it was with the goal of posting something 2-3 times a week.  This is partially because I have a lot to say (hah!), partially because I feel if I don’t post blogs on a regular basis, people will lose interest and stop reading, and partially because I’m a stubborn perfectionist and if I set a goal, well, by god, I’m going to do it.

Well, the last couple weeks, I’ve been struggling to get one post up a week, and feeling really guilty about it.  I’ve had a lot on my plate:  logistics for P L.A.Y Noir have been more time consuming than I could have imagined and I’d been feeling bogged down with casting (see last week’s post), coordinating schedules, and various other pre-production things.  In addition to the show, and work, James and I have also been caring for our sick and aging dog, who no longer likes to sleep through the night, and as a result, we don’t sleep through the night either.

So, I’m feeling stressed out, sleep-deprived, cranky, and missing the one outlet that always makes me feel better:  putting pen to paper (or in this case, fingers to keyboard).  This blog isn’t well thought out, it’s not carefully crafted, and it’s kind of whiny, but here it is:  I needed to take a break from all of the other garbage to sit down and just write something.

If I may leave you with any wisdom in the midst of something that is admittedly self-indulgent and hastily thrown together, here is what I think it is:

No matter how busy or stressed out you are, make time to do things you enjoy.  It’s far too easy to buy into the idea that you don’t have time.  Truth be told, there’s never going to be enough time.  You’ll always have something else to do:  some work, some responsibility, something you should be doing.  So take breaks (schedule them on the damn calendar if you have to) and don’t feel guilty about them.  The work will be there when you return, and you’ll return refreshed and with a better perspective.

I spent 20 minutes writing this, and it’s 20 minutes I should have been spending doing something else.  Oh well.  Nobody died, and I already feel better.

Until next time, friends.

Actions speak louder than words.

I sat down to write this blog as a rant about flaky people, and actors in particular.  We’re casting a couple roles in the film noir-inspired one-act play fest – P L.A.Y Noir – that James and I are producing, and held auditions last weekend.  When looking for actors, I first reached out to people whose work I know.  When the friends I wanted to bring in who were right for the roles we needed to cast weren’t available, I asked for referrals from friends whose opinion I trust, and when that still yielded few results, I resorted to my least desired option and posted a public casting breakdown.

Why would I be so reluctant to cast an actor whose work (and more importantly, work ethic) I don’t know?  Here’s why.  When putting together one round of auditions, I easily invested at least a dozen hours of my time contacting people, narrowing down selections, contacting more people, reviewing resumes, sending out audition sides and directions to the audition location, and then printing out/stapling/highlighting the appropriate sides per character.  I’m not complaining, because it’s a job that needs to be done, but I just want you to know that putting an (organized) casting session together is not a small feat.  It takes some doing.

As last weekend was a holiday weekend (Easter/Passover), I called actors we were interested in to check on their availability.  I talked to several of them on the phone; several others left me voicemails or emailed me to confirm that they were available to come in.  All told, by the Thursday evening before our Saturday auditions, I had confirmed 13 actors to come in and read for us.

By Friday afternoon, three of the actors who the day before had told me they were available had cancelled.  One of them had a legitimate excuse; the other two were pretty lame.  One girl actually had the nerve to tell me to call her the next time I was casting something.  Yes, because that’s exactly what I’m looking for:  someone who’s not even reliable enough to show up to an audition that they confirmed the day before.  Next.

By Saturday morning, another actress had cancelled on me.  Another flake, another lame excuse.  Something like, ‘the thing I was going to later that day got moved up by a few hours.’  Really?  Now we were down to 9 actors.  Still, not too terrible.  Let’s see if they actually show up.

All told, out of the 13 who originally confirmed, we read six actors that day.  Out of the 9 left on the ‘confirmed’ list, two never showed, and one called me to cancel while were at the audition (her story, that she got held up at another audition, I actually believed).  One of the no-shows didn’t surprise me, because, when I called to invite her to the audition, she answered her cell phone while on the treadmill at the gym, talked to me while running (I’m not joking), and when I told her why I was calling, it was clear she had no recollection of submitting for the project, and no idea what I was talking about.  A-mazing.

So what is the moral of this story?  As I said in the beginning of this post, I originally sat down to write a rant about flaky people.  But it has been several days since these events occurred and my irritation has subsided, so I’m looking at this from a more philosophical vantage point.  What strikes me as fascinating is why all of these people who claim that a successful acting career is their dream, who are striving to succeed in one of the toughest businesses on earth, when it comes down to actually having an opportunity to do what they say they love, would waffle.  Is it self-sabotage?  Fear of success?

And lest you think this was just an isolated incident, we’re holding another round of castings this weekend, and I’m experiencing a similar phenomenon.  So what’s the deal?  I can only speculate.  But I do know this:  while actors seem to be particularly guilty of the crime of flakiness, it’s not just them.  More and more, I’m noticing the phenomenon of the ‘maybe’ commitment.  In other words, agreeing to a commitment and sticking to it – a plan with friends, a job, a date, whatever – only if something better doesn’t happen to come along.

I know that stuff happens.  Life intervenes.  Things come up.  Plans change.  Have I never bailed on a commitment that I’ve made?  Of course not.  But I can tell you this:  in my life, as well as in my experience producing theater, the people who are reliable, the people who show up when they say they’re going to and who do what they say they’re going to do are like life rafts.  They are rocks of Gibraltar.  It shouldn’t be this way, but unfortunately it is.  Because, here’s the truth:  if you are a person who consistently and reliably follows through on your commitments, you are one person in ten thousand.  It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or how you choose to make your life, this act alone will make you stand apart from the crowd.  Because it does not matter what you say you’re going to do.  Talk is cheap.  It matters what you actually do.

Think about it.

Until next time, friends.

The company you keep.

At the risk of sounding like a snob, who you spend your time with is important.  The company you keep not only reflects on you, but it has a serious impact on your overall happiness and well-being.  Unfortunately, nearly everyone knows what it’s like to have a toxic friend in their midst, one rotten apple who threatens to ruin the whole bunch.

Think about your friends.  Do you truly enjoy and look forward to spending time with each and every one of them?  If the answer is yes, lucky you.  But chances are, there’s one or two in the bunch that don’t elicit the same reaction.  If, more often than not, you feel emotionally drained by someone who is never happy, is constantly complaining, who always needs to be taken care of and made to feel better, or (the worst!), someone who is unsupportive of your choices and cuts you down to make themselves feel better, you have a toxic friend.  Please run (don’t walk) in the opposite direction, as fast as you can.

In L.A., there is a particular class of toxic friend that you can find in practically every hipster coffee house in town:  the bitter buttercup.  The ‘I’m so talented, I should have made it years ago, but the world screwed me over and I’m never going to get a break because there are too many talentless hacks like (insert name of reality star here) around.’  These people (while they may be right about talentless hacks) are haters with chips on their shoulders and their attitude is so unattractive that you’d be advised to stay as far away as possible, lest some of it rub off on you.  I don’t care how gifted the bitter buttercups are, they’re never going to be successful because the truth is, they prefer failure.  They wear it like a badge of honor so they can point out to anyone who will listen how unfair life is, how screwed over they’ve been, etc.  Some people are happiest when miserable and I advise you to avoid these ‘only happy when it rains’ types like the plague.

Wouldn’t you rather surround yourself with people, who, instead of waiting for the world to give them what they deserve, have turned their dissatisfaction into action and rather than complaining, are creating?  Someone who doesn’t worry about what they don’t have, or what they didn’t get, but instead has chosen to love their personal journey and take positive steps everyday to be better, more innovative, and to live more fully?  Yeah, I not only want to have those types of people as friends, I want to be that person.  Relentlessly passionate, relentlessly creative, and relentlessly joyful.

Speaking of relentless, you’d be amazed at the power of relentless optimism in the face of cynicism.  Shuts it down every time.  So say goodbye to the haters, the toxic friends, the mean girls, the bitter buttercups, the wounded birds, and the whiners.  Embrace people who inspire you, who make you want to be a better person, and most importantly, who make you happy.    Life is short and it’s precious.  How you choose to spend your time and whom you choose to spend it with matters.

Until next time, friends.

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.

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