Tuesday, April 24, 2007

At Goal

The last two weeks at work have been ridiculously busy. Not 14-hour day busy, but the kind where you look up and realize almost the entire day has gone by and you haven’t eaten lunch yet, the kind of day that leaves you feeling sort of stunned after you’ve managed to stay on top of the constant stream of e-mails and phone calls. I’m feeling so exhausted right now. The thing is, I’ve been craving days like these for months. I’ve been so bored by my shortage of work, that I’ve dreamed of feeling so busy that I don’t even notice the clock. I thought that if I was busy I might like my job more, that the responsibility of taking care of a lot of projects would make me feel engaged and invested in my work, that I’d be energized by my job. That has not happened. I’ve had so many balls in the air that I dropped a small one today. There was no lasting impact, but I made a mistake. I don’t handle mistakes well. I react emotionally to them, I call my intelligence into question, I start believing that I don’t belong in this job at this place where everyone has a PhD. I wonder about my ability to do anything. I learned a very important check to this line of thinking at my last job, where I was overworked, overstressed, and overly emotional. I decided that any mistake that I wouldn’t remember in six months was not worth worrying about in the moment.

The problem is that I’m an editor. It is my job to find other people’s mistakes. I’m the goalie of the publishing world. I never wanted to be the goalie. There’s so much pressure. You screw up and that’s it, goal for the other team. No matter how many players one mistake went through before getting to you, you are the one that has to stop it or game over. I consider myself a perfectionist. You’d think being an editor would suit a perfectionist. It doesn’t. When it is your job to be perfect, not being perfect causes self-implosion.

I was hoping that being busy again would make me like my job more, but it didn’t. I hate having to be perfect and never really living up to it. I’ve asked to be put onto the highest level project available to me to see if that would make a difference in my overall happiness with this kind of position. But I don’t think it will and that scares me because I’m out of ideas. I’m basically on my third career and nothing has really stuck. I’ve never felt passionate about my work, I’ve always felt underpaid, and I’ve never been motivated to try to excel beyond just being “good.” These are bad things for me, The Perfectionist. I want to excel at my career and I want to be interested in it. I’m constantly trying to push my life forward with different choices and plans. Right now I have no ideas, so I’m essentially pushing myself, but towards nothing. I know that maybe what I need to do is to try to be comfortable and relaxed with where I am in life without trying to find a way out. Maybe if I just accepted where I am, some new ideas would come to me. I just don’t have faith in that. It feels like I need to constantly be searching for what’s next or I’ll just stay where I am forever.

I know a lot of this comes from a fear of ending up like my father. He had the same career his entire life and he hated it. The job made him miserable. But he stuck with it to help support a family and then later to get his pension. I don’t want to be stuck in life, yet no matter how hard I push and pull, I just am.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Like I Was Saying

I feel like I didn't get to finish my thoughts yesterday, so here's a little more on the topic of abortion a la why can't we all just get along. Like I said, I know that there are people with opposite opinions that feel just as strongly about their viewpoint as I do about mine. What bothers me is that there appears to be no room for compromise. Everything has to be black and white. If say, we could agree on outlawing abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy, save for those cases where the fetus or mother has a fatal condition, I could probably support that. But it should be between the mother and the doctor and all abortions up to the agreed point should be legal. However, that will never happen because prolifers are determined to outlaw every type of abortion, no matter the circumstances, which makes people like me hyperventilate with rage. So we all scream and yell at each other and become terrified as soon as the opposite party comes into power because there will never be a compromise--it's all or nothin'. What bothers me most, and I'm going to try to get this out quickly because I could go on forever, is the hypocrisy. Bush claims to support a "culture of life" yet is just fine with guns and the death penalty. These things just don't line up with a "culture of life," if you ask me, especially in light of this week's events. Maybe we can all strike a compromise, no late-term abortions (unless there are fatal circumstances), I won't take away your guns if you put tighter controls on them, and we all just agree not to murder anyone in prison. Oh, and can we please end global warming, stop the war in Iraq, and improve our education and health systems? And don't forget about social security! Things are sure a mess.

I woke up early again this morning. I am not a morning person and tend to roll over as much as my schedule will allow. I usually get up feeling very groggy and unhappy. But the last few mornings I've woken up early and felt entirely awake, like it was 3 PM. I can't get my mind quiet. Yesterday it was about Virgina Tech and today it was about a friend. She and her boyfriend had asked us to go to a show with them. We basically said maybe then finally said no yesterday, two days before. We probably should have said no earlier, but didn't. We got a pretty terse reply back and now I feel horribly guilty. Guilty enough that I was lying in bed at 5 AM wide awake. Even though I was probably in the wrong, we did get back to them and I don't like the feeling of being spanked like a child. They are really good friends, but it felt weird. And now I can't decide whether to apologize, which I don't really want to do, or just let it go, which is what I want to do because I don't feel like what we did was really that bad. And who knows, maybe the e-mail was interpreted incorrectly by me. It's just that it's been a tough week in the world and it's affecting me and I just didn't have the energy to be the perfect friend this week.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's Personal

It’s been my busiest week of work in 2007. Every kind of project I’m involved with somehow had to be worked on and finished this week. It’s making my brain hurt and I’m tired. Normally I’m bored and have too little to do. This is different. It takes me back to jobs of yore. Why oh why can’t I find a job that has the perfect amount of work? Something that keeps me interested and engaged in what I’m doing, but doesn’t require me to work a single minute of overtime? Something that makes the day fly by but that I don’t think about when I’m at home? It’s always been feast or famine for me. My life is like “The Three Bears” and I’m ready for my “Just Right.”

Combine a heavy workload with what happened at Virginia Tech this week and it’s been my worst week of blogging (you know, since I started it way back in March). Events like Virginia Tech are tough for me to talk about, yet I feel like they should be talked about, even though I know everyone else has already said it better. I guess I fear letting it sink in too much because I ultimately end up in a pit of despair about what humans are capable of doing to each other. It starts with VT, spins to the pain we’re causing children and families in Iraq, spins to everything happening unchecked in Darfur, and then lands right on the Holocaust. I start to feel like we never learn and that the world is never going to get any better, only worse. Which then leads me to wondering why I would want to bring a kid into all this. And eventually I sit wide awake in bed, like I did this morning, thinking about what it would have been like to have been in the VT French class as the gunman walked down each row just shooting people. Bad bad bad.

So I try to keep away from the news and think about other things. Thank god for the distraction of other blogs. I know a lot of people feel strangely about writing things they might consider trivial in the face of the VT massacre, but I am so grateful to have the opportunity to read about something else.

I thought I was doing a little better until the Supreme Court went and announced their judgment in the “partial-birth” abortion case. I’ll put it out there: I’m really liberal and I’m proud to be that way. I’m also very invested in politics and find myself frequently upset by what’s happening in our country. I take things very personally. Now, I also realize that there are people on the exact opposite side of the fence from me, and that they feel exactly the same way about their politics as I do about mine. I don’t think of [all] Republicans as idiots and I don’t think the Democrats always get it right, but I do know what it feels like not have any of my interests represented by our elected officials. I vote in every election and yet for the last 6 years very little of what I consider important has been worked on, while so much of what I disagree with has been pushed through. I’m sure there were Republicans who felt like this during the Clinton years. It sucks and I get really pissed off thinking about how only half the country at a time is getting what they want. It just doesn’t seem right. I could easily go on a tirade about everything that the Bush administration has done that I disagree with, but I don’t have the energy to go there now. But I do take it VERY PERSONALLY when the government starts telling people what they can do with their own bodies, whether that be abortion, euthanasia, or medicinal pot. I find the idea of abortions in the second trimester very upsetting, but there are rare cases when it might be necessary. This is a decision for a woman and her doctor to make. I can understand why people are disturbed by the idea of abortion. The thing is, it’s their choice not to have one. Everyone should have that choice. This ruling by the Supreme Court makes it clear that John Roberts has no intention of sticking with precedent and every intention of chipping away at my rights. This is as personal as it gets.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Adult v. Superhero

Something that will always make me smile is seeing little kids out in public wearing costumes when it’s not Halloween. The other day SH and I saw a boy who was about 4 years old wearing a Batman costume, including a full face mask. The blue “underwear” probably went halfway up his ribcage. I love the idea that parents indulge their kids’ desires to dress-up and pretend they’re something else. I’m sure many of those “indulgences” started with a screaming child refusing to leave the house without their ballerina gear on, but I prefer to just believe that the parents were happy to oblige their kid’s imagination. I mean, why not? When else in life can you get away with pink tulle in the middle of a grocery store? I think there are times when we all wish we could be a superhero, so why not let kids pretend while they don’t care what other people think?

Being an “adult” means losing access to an active imagination. Now all I think about are things like meeting my deadlines at work, getting an oil change, planning a damn wedding (should I really be obsessing about place cards?), and how to plan for my financial future. Reality is an imagination killer; the fantasy world so many kids have easy access to just disappears. I know that having an imagination can lead to worrisome fears about monsters under the bed, but how awesome to think that you just saw a dinosaur in a tree, or that the toys you’re playing with have real personalities, or that the teapot in front of your bear is holding tea given to you by the Queen of England. What a wonderful world.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

When No One Is Looking

Today on the way to work I found myself in a familiar situation. I drive on a road that has two lanes each way. The turn-off to my work is on the right. At a certain point it doesn’t really make sense to pass anyone because I’m going to have to turn soon. More often than not, I end up behind someone going too slow. (Has anyone else ever wanted to honk at the person in front of them just to get them to speed up a little?) I am so impatient that I can feel my stress level skyrocket in these kinds of situations. This morning the conversation I had with myself went something like “It’s okay. La-dee-da. Just going to work. No rush. Enjoy the drive. No big deal. Doot-dee-doo.” I knew it would be ridiculous, not to mention dangerous, to navigate the traffic to get around the one car in front of me even though I was almost there. So I stayed put and suffered.

My impatience can astound me. Part of it comes from the desire to be as efficient as possible, which involves making the best choices. The problem is that picking lanes can be so unpredictable that there is just no way to know if what you’re doing is going to work. The perfectionist in me hates that. At this point I’ve carefully evaluated which lanes to be in at different points along my drive so as to increase the chance that I’ll move along the most quickly. But there are times when the driving gods punish me and no matter what I do I somehow end up behind a bus that stops every 50 yards, a college student on a scooter that can’t go faster than 20 mph, or a bicyclist who doesn’t know how to ride in a straight line.

Sometimes I try to play games to trick myself into not caring about whether I'm in the best (read: fastest) lane. Recently that has involved watching people in my rearview mirror while stopped at a red light. It can be really interesting. It started when I noticed a young couple behind me. They were laughing and goofing off, pecking, and truly enjoying each other’s company. They had big grins on their faces, which made me smile. People do a lot of interesting things when they think no one is watching.

Of course this makes me wonder how I look to people who might catch me in their rearview mirror. Most of the time I don’t think about it, but when I do, I must look totally bored or angry. Is that my default way of being? Ugh, I hate the thought of that. I wish I was better at being patient and calm rather than irritated and grouchy. [insert cheesy quotation about enjoying the journey here.] I’m not that way around the people I know (i.e., when people are watching), so which version of me is the most true?

Okay! Enough introspection! Fun new car game! Assign points to what you see in the rearview mirror! Great for kids on road trips!

15 points: Seeing something sexually explicit being done to the driver (This has yet to happen, but it must be going on, right? Or is that just in the movies?)
10 points: Someone drinking coffee, smoking, and talking on their cell phone all at the same time (I saw this last week)
7 points: Someone grinning for no obvious reason (This can be a little creepy. Are they listening to something funny? Are they thinking about the affair they just had? Are they thinking about jumping out of the car and leaving it there?)
5 points: Two people arguing (trying to read lips can be entertaining)
5 points: Someone talking with their hands while on their cell phone (seriously, no one can see you gesturing!!!)
5 points: Someone picking their nose (Really? Is that necessary? You’re not invisible!)
3 points: Enthusiastic head bopping to the music on their radio and or singing along (5 bonus points if you can tune your radio to the same song they are listening to based on the rhythm of the bopping)
1 point: Just for looking

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Reality of Optimism

I think that when it comes to having kids, there is a certain amount of denial (some might call it “optimism”) that factors into the decision to start a family, because if everyone thought of all the things that might go wrong, humans would cease to exist. Like every situation in my life (grocery store trips, coloring my hair, buying a new car, writing e-mails, making career moves), I overthink the consequences of the choices so much that it often prevents me from making one. SH handles the grocery shopping in our household because it can take me twice the time it takes him. I have to look at all the options for each product, breakdown the costs, evaluate the store brand choice against the brand name, consider how things might be put together as a meal and then back track to pick up additional items…it’s ridiculous. So imagine the dialogue in my head when it comes to having kids. I’m a Gemini and though I know nothing about astrology, there is one thing that applies to me: I am divided into twins and they are constantly duking it out.

Twin #1: Oh, you loooove holding babies. They are so sweet. They make you happy.
Twin #2: Did you see the last episode of the Supernanny? Children will ruin your life!
Twin #1: But it’s a must-have life changing experience! Everyone says so!
Twin #2: Parents are stressed and sleep-deprived. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Misery loves company.
Twin #1: How sad for you if you never know what it feels like to be a parent. How sad to be old and have no family.
Twin #2: How AWESOME to save all your money and travel the world when you’re old!
Twin #1: Kids will teach you to be selfless and to know a kind of love you’ve never experienced before.
Twin #2: They will break your heart, tell you they hate you, become a fundamentalist of something you’re vehemently opposed to, and then never call you after they leave home. Ingrates!
Twin #1: Think of how full your life will be! You’ll experience so many new things in ways you can’t even imagine!
Twin #2: Children will wreck any chance of future financial stability!
Twin #1: Do what you love and the money will follow!
Twin #2: Idiot.
Twin #1: Hey!
Twin #2: Don’t blame me when your life goes to hell, you’ve forgotten what it feels like to sleep in on a Saturday, travel to foreign countries, talk about something other than poop, and have a social life.
Twin #1: THANK ME when you fall in love with your kids and can’t imagine life without your family.
Twin #2: Just wait a while longer, maybe you’ll come to your senses.
Twin #1: Hmmm, I guess it doesn’t hurt to wait a little longer, you know, to be more secure in the decision…

I could go on, but it’s pretty much more of the same (throw in some commentary on the state of the environment, global warming, and the violence that rages across the world—what kind of world will my kids grow up in!—and you get the idea). This is all complicated by the fact that SH’s nephew is severely autistic. We have witnessed the sadness, stress, and strain that has on his brother’s family and we fear experiencing it for ourselves. I know that his nephew is very, very loved, but it is also an unbelievably difficult and unending situation. I just don’t know if I could handle it. And even though we are all ultimately stronger than we realize, I still worry about it happening to us. Life should be about taking risks, but sometimes the costs are so great. Considering scientists are starting to believe there is a genetic component to autism, it feels like we are slightly more likely to have an autistic child. I think deciding to have kids will be a serious leap of faith for us, faith that it will be okay and that we will be happy. Actually making that leap is the hard part.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Slow down, you move too fast... You got to make the morning last

SH sent me an article earlier today about an experiment done by the Washington Post in collaboration with the world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell. The set-up: Have Bell play his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius at a Metro station in Washington, D.C. Would commuters notice? Would anyone recognize his skill and the beauty of the music? Would people stop to listen or continue on to work? How much money would be thrown into his case? Read the full article here.

The article is very well written and raises so many interesting philosophical and sociological questions. I can’t tell you the last time I was that engaged and impressed by newspaper writing. The article, combined with the video clips of him playing, left me feeling grateful for reasons that are difficult for me to explain.

I played the violin for about five years until the orchestra teacher I had started to make me hate it. She was unkind and disliked teenagers, and I couldn’t help but associate the violin with her. Plus, I knew that orchestra would take up an elective class and there were so many other things I wanted to take in high school such as French, German, ceramics, and sewing. Yeah, I wasn’t a geek or anything.

I’m still amazed by the amount of things I participated in when I was young. I took piano, sang in a choir, danced ballet, and played the violin. Eventually I quit everything but choir and tried out sports like tennis and cross-country. I also got straight As. I say that not to impress, but simply out of awe. I feel like I have so little energy for things outside of my daily routine. I don't know how to work in hobbies or classes or anything else (this also connects to my fears that I won't have the energy to be a good mother). Yet, I did it when I was young. Maybe because everything was a part of my routine, not something in addition to it, if that makes any sense.

Now, as an adult, I regret giving up things like the piano, just as my mother said I would (curse her!). I miss the creative and physical outlets, making music, and being part of a team. Sometimes I feel like music is the closest means to touching the divine. It transcends so many things and takes me to a different place. When I become discouraged by the pain of the world, it’s music that makes me realize what amazing things humans are capable of. And it’s music that puts me in touch with emotions that aren’t a part of my everyday life.

In my quest to find my passions in life, sometimes I wonder if I had everything figured out when I was 12 years old. I danced, sang, and played music. My life was full and now I continue to struggle with filling it up again. The Washington Post article made me wonder how I would have reacted should I have encountered Joshua Bell on my commute to work. Would I have stopped? Probably not. And maybe that’s my biggest problem: I’m so busy trying to get somewhere that I don’t pay attention to where I am already.

Rearview Mirror

I work out at my carpool partner’s apartment because she has all sorts of exercise equipment, including an elliptical machine, weights, and other such torture devices. The only thing that keeps me from quitting and grabbing the nearest bag of Doritos is watching TV series while we exercise. Distraction is the key for me (kind of like with small children). Some of the recent favorites have included The State Within, Wire in the Blood, and MI5 (all British). We’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Veronica Mars, Deadwood, and Entourage. God bless Netflix. Right now we’re watching Felicity because so many people seem to love it and I don’t think I caught a single episode while it was on the air.

Ah, young love and the confusion, embarrassment, and drama of the college years. It’s so great to be reminded of that time in life. In yesterday’s episode, Felicity and Ben were robbed at gunpoint (“How New York,” she says!) and end up talking all night, like “war buddies.” Those all-night conversations are deeply familiar. You feel so excited that someone is so interested in you that they just can’t go to sleep. You see the dawn and feel like you’ve transcended into another place of profound connection. When really, if you could hear yourself at that age talking about things like Plato’s Republic, your roommate’s bizarre schedule, and how unfair it is that your history professor refuses to give anyone As, you’d pretty much want to stab yourself in the eye.

But there’s something wonderful about those kinds of moments. You feel special and alive. You want so badly for the other person to feel the same way you feel about them, and you figure they must, because they spent all night talking with you—the next day’s exam be damned. It’s all just very sweet, the revealing of one’s self to another in the middle of the night. My skin zings with energy from the emotional memory of it. I think about how I’ll probably never have that moment again and it’s okay, because I’ve ready been there. But I do marvel at universal experiences like those and wonder what is yet to come my way that I don’t know about yet. Sometimes life is just yummy.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Go Panthers

I mentioned in a previous post how I rarely notice celebrities, and how if I do, I'm never inclined to say something to them. Well, for the first time this weekend, I was a little starstruck. And by someone most people probably don't even know. Oldest Friend, SH, and I were on a hike in Runyon Canyon this Saturday. It's a nice hike that gives you great views of the city. The hike is really popular, so there are always a lot of people (and dogs) to watch. As we were coming down, I caught sight of a t-shirt with "Panther's Football" written on it. Now, that doesn't mean anything to me except Friday Night Lights, one of the best shows on television. I looked up and stared right into the eyes of Big Tim Riggins #33. I looked down (good Angeleno behavior) but couldn't help myself and looked up only to make eye contact with him again. Holy crap is that guy cute. Holy crap do I love that show (and I don't even like football). I know that no one reads this blog, but since no one else in my life listens to me, I'm sending an appeal out into the ether: Please watch Friday Night Lights. You won't regret it. The writing is some of the best on television. I'm sure it will come out on DVD this summer. WATCH IT. Then tune in because I just can't stand the idea of the show getting canceled. It's just so freakin' good. And I really want to watch more of Taylor Kitsch. Wow. I had no idea I could sound like such an immature dork. Did I mention how hot he is?

PS: Don't start watching FNL this week. It's the season finale and will ruin everything.

PPS: Instructing people that don't exist is a little creepy, like I'm talking to myself. Maybe a little Rainman: "Friday Night Lights, yeah. Friday Night Lights. Tim Riggins is hot, yeah. Number 33, yeah."

City of Angels

My oldest friend was here to visit for the weekend. She is 20-some weeks pregnant and adorable. We met when we were five, but didn't become fast friends until I enrolled at the same elementary school in the fourth grade. After that it was all about birthday parties, sleepovers, trips with our families to Central Oregon, camping, skiing, notes written in class, talking about who we did and didn’t want to go to dances with, promising that the first one of us to get a boyfriend would give the other flowers, whispering about which of the boys we knew we’d want to marry…Funny thing is, we’re actually still with those boys. And we’re both happy. Oldest Friend is married to her high school sweetheart. I’m marrying the guy that was my pen pal in high school. He and I met at summer camp. I think if you asked either of us whether we expected that, we might say, “no.” But I think secretly we would think, “yes.”

It’s amazing that she and I have grown up together and seen each other through every stage of our lives. How bizarre to know what someone was like at age 10 and then to see them pregnant with their second child. And though we’re at different stages, we’re still struggling with issues of identity and how to create the life that feels the most right to us.

It’s a little hard for me to know she’s on child #2 when I’m on child #0. I had this fantasy of our two families taking vacations together like she and I did growing up. And now that she’s farther along, our children will never be the same age and will probably have little interest in each other. This is sad to me and sometimes I regret waiting so long to move things along in the family department. But I wasn’t ready and she was, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Having her here to visit was wonderful. She’s never seen my life in Los Angeles, so it was nice to introduce her to parts of it. But I always struggle with introducing a new person to LA, a city that I really like. All I can see when I take someone new around are the ugly things and the traffic. I think I see the city through the eyes of someone looking for its faults, rather than what is great about it. I think a lot of Angelenos have self-esteem issues when it comes to our city. So many people trash talk about LA (usually either New Yorkers, San Franciscans (?), or people who have never been here) that it’s easy to become self-conscious.

LA has so many wonderful things about it: the weather, the ocean, the multi-culturalism, the wide open spaces, amazing parks, great food, shopping, and every movie made gets screened here. I love the mixture of architecture, and how the city continues to push the boundries of contemporary design. Though many people might think of Angelenos as being stuck-up, image-obsessed, and shallow, the people I know here are so normal, laid back, smart, and welcoming. As a city made of transplants, people in general are more open to meeting each other and making friends. It’s great.

But this weekend the weather was gloomy and all I could see was the ugly and that makes me sad. I don’t know why I feel like I need my choice to live here validated, but I do. I want someone to tell me that I made the right choice, that they can see why I’m happy here, that it’s okay I haven’t “settled down” yet, that I’m doin’ good and that that’s enough right now.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Shape of a Non-mother

I took a sick day yesterday. I never take sick days because I don’t get sick that often, and when I do, it somehow manages to be in the middle of something I really have to get done. So I took one yesterday, even though I wasn’t that sick. I’ve just been really tired all week, and I had a sore throat and minor cough. Really, it was the best kind of sick day because I wasn’t miserable and I didn’t feel like I was cheating by not being at work. I got all sorts of shit done while also loggin’ plenty of couch time.

Here’s the rub: I’ve been so tired this week that I haven’t been working out. I feel all kinds of guilty about that and I’m convinced I’m going to slide backwards as a result. I started getting serious about working out January of 2006 because of how terrible I felt about my body. It was squishy and giggly and it made me frown every time I looked in the mirror. Since then I’ve consistently exercised about 4 days a week (I’m trying to push it to 5, but it’s tough). The process has been discouraging for me. I wanted to lose pounds and look toned. In total, I don’t think I’ve lost more than 10 pounds. I have gone down one size, but that is all. I don’t feel or look as toned as I’d like. But I know I’m healthy. I know that is what is most important, yet I still feel really discouraged.

One of the reasons I wanted to lose weight is because I felt like it was my last chance to look the best I could. I’m going to be 31 this spring and some day I’m going to have a baby. I feel like everything gets shot to hell and that point, so this is the magic time. It’s kind of a Use It or Lose It attitude. I know this line of thinking is ridiculous, but that’s how I feel. I know the stretch marks, veins, cottage cheese, and floppy skin are likely, so why not look the best I can while I can? There’s this Web site that really, and I mean REALLY, freaked me out. It’s called The Shape of a Mother.

I love the idea of this Web site. It’s so encouraging and supportive and loving. And so goddamn scary. I don’t think I was prepared for everything I saw on there. Now, I’m the kind of person that researches things to death. I like to know what I’m getting into. I want to choose something with eyes wide open, which is one of the reasons I read blogs written by mothers. I want to hear and understand their experiences because it helps me know what I will face someday. I know there is no way to actually be prepared for parenthood, but I’d rather know some of the good, bad, and ugly beforehand. I don’t want to be surprised by bad things. We live in a world where motherhood is raised up as this glowing, beautiful, of the Earth type of experience. I’m sure it can be that way, but seriously folks, let’s put some reality into the picture. Birth is horrible, painful, bloody, and not pretty. Babies have diaper explosions that can take out an entire car. Toddlers can refuse to eat for days at a time.

Anyway, back to me. Oh wait, we were already there. I stare at the little runner girls outside with such envy. I feel like I put just as much effort into my body as a lot of people who look great. Why don’t I look great? Why can’t I look like an athlete? I know I could take it to another level, but it many ways I just don’t think would be healthy for me, mentally, that is. My average routine lasts about an hour to an hour and a half and involves cardio, abs, legs, and arms. I’m a vegetarian who eats healthy, decently sized portions. I don’t want working out to take over my life, but I wish the results made me happier.

I understand all the forces that create a mentality like this, and I bore myself even talking about it because I feel like it’s one topic that every woman can talk about endlessly, but my body takes up so much of my thoughts that there are times when I need to purge to make room for something else.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Why, thank you for asking, James

So I love watching Inside the Actor's Studio. I adore movies, and even though I ranted about celebrity culture in my last post, it doesn't mean I don't get excited to read the occasional People or US Weekly. For me, and maybe for a lot of people, it's fascinating to see what people are like beyond the roles they play, which is one of the reasons I like the show. It's a forum where actors seem more at ease, a little less defensive, more open and willing to share. I find the show really inspiring. Here are people who have achieved enormous success at their craft. It's so great to listen to their stories, hear about their choices and failures, soak in their advice and wisdom. I guess it just feels so real to me, and I love real.

And then there's James Lipton, the host. There are times when I actually cover my face with my hands because he is making me so uncomfortable. He is obsessed with people's tattoos (creepy man!) and getting them to dance or sing. He's pretty weird and completely self-obsessed, but the show wouldn't be the same without him or the questionnaire he asks every actor towards the end of the program (everyone answers the same questions and I find it fascinating). SH (my new pseudolicous name for the boy) and I will occasionally answer the questions for ourselves, and at times we also fight over a good answer. SH came up with a great answer for the "What's your favorite word?" question and I've told him I'm using it if I get on the show before he does (ha ha). So I'm going to answer the questions here today. And in the spirit of the show, I'm not going to think about the answers ahead of time, but rather answer them right away so as to get the most raw responses.

Q: What is your favorite word?
A: Indubitably

Q: What is your least favorite word?
A: Cunt

Q: What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
A: Laughter

Q: What turns you off?
A: Pain (mine or anyone else's)

Q: What is your favorite curse word?
A: Motherfucker

Q: What sound or noise do you love?
A: Baby laughter

Q: What sound or noise do you hate?
A: Sirens, people making noise in the apartment below me, people vomiting, helicopters

Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: Screenwriter

Q: What profession would you not like to do?
A: Anything to do with the human body

Q: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
A: You did the best job you could have and I'm proud of you.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Saturday Morning Special

I was waiting for friends at a movie theater on Sunday afternoon when a huge group of teenagers walked into the lobby. I would guess they were about 12 or 13. I watched them like an anthropologist for a long time, paying attention to the chatty leaders, the ones that stood around the periphery of the group, the props they held (skateboards, cell phones, purses, etc.), the ways they interacted with each other, the gender division and those who bridged it, the way they all looked simultaneously insecure, yet rebelliously defiant. I could see and hear a lot of the adults standing around me and the common thoughts for all of us were, “WOW” and “I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore.”

What struck me as I watched them was the realization that the girls that used to intimidate me with their popularity were THAT age at the time. They were THAT little and immature. Yet they held so much power over me, essentially igniting insecurities that exist today in some form or another. But on the other side of the coin, seeing those girls for what they really are (young, clueless, naïve, insecure) made me realize that those girls who used to hold all the power no longer did. That may seem ridiculous, that I let go of the teenagers that had power over me half my life ago, but it was a relief.

I switched from watching the teenagers to watching the adults coming in and out of the theater. In comparison, the adults just seemed more natural and at ease, they were relaxed and utterly themselves. I realized that people do grow up. I’m a grown-up. This really doesn’t ring true to me most of the time. I still feel like a kid, especially since I still sorta look like one. I always get carded. When I worked at a school in my mid-20s I was often mistaken for kids half my age. I could never look convincing as one of those dressed-up New York businesswomen. And it doesn’t make sense to me that I have responsibilities, that I’m getting married, that some day I might have kids, that I need to save for retirement. A lot of the time I’m not convinced that who I am today is that different from who I was at 18 years old. But I guess I am.

I think part of the reason that accepting myself as an adult is difficult is that sometimes I’m completely dismayed by how childlike adults are—one just has to look at the absurdity of our behavior, the wars, psychological games, prejudices, desire for power and control. The inhumanity and cruelty of the world gets to me. It seems like we should be wiser than that. We should me smarter than that. We should have learned these lessons and moved on, making the world a better place as we grow-up. There is just not enough growing up happening in the world.

I think part of the problem is that we hold on to the insecurities that are instilled in us as teenagers. I loathe being around the hipster scene in Los Angeles because it feels like the “popular kids” all over again. The same thing goes for celebrities, they are the nation’s popular kids. We watch and gossip about them at the lunch table. Everything is about being seen, wearing the right clothes, going to the right places, the perfect pair of sunglasses. I have no desire to follow but I also hate sticking out. This is the teenager in me. I’m perfectly happy when I can blend in, when I can avoid being seen. If I can do that, then I can avoid the judgment, the dreaded judgment.

I think so much of being a girl and a woman is finding a way to deal with the judgment of all the people that see you. Some handle it spectacularly, they embrace the attention and use if powerfully to further themselves. Others, like me, struggle to find who they are amid all the fitting in.

My whole life I’ve been unhappy with my wardrobe. I can never seem to find the clothes that fit me while also correctly reflecting my personality. It wasn’t until recently that I figured out that the reason I was having a hard time finding the right clothes was because I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be. I’ve always been so jealous of the people who look so put together—whether they are vintage clothes horses or fashionistas—I just wanted to be put together in my own way.

The same goes for jobs. I’m always jealous of the people who targeted a passion or career early on and have fought ambitiously to work their way to those goals. I’ve never known what I wanted to be and so constantly feel behind those who hit the ground running after graduation.

I think it takes confidence to be successful: you need to know who you are and where you’re heading and have complete faith in the fact that you can do whatever you set your mind on. I don’t think successful people doubt themselves very much. How does one get to that point if they didn’t start out that way? The teenager in me really, really wants to know.

I really don’t know where I’m going with all this. I can see the life experiences that form who we are as adults. I can see that in the good and bad choices we all make. I understand the urge to be liked and admired, but I don’t want to be liked and admired for anything but who I truly am and what I want for myself. I want to be able to embrace certain things about being young (the energy, desire for the future, imagination, heart, openness to the world and its experiences, love for friends, appreciation for independence) while I reject others (insecurity, self-loathing, being self-conscious). I want the world to use our collective wisdom to make grown-up choices, I want us to rise above power, greed, popularity, and expectation—to make life more free and enjoyable, to allow people to be themselves without judgment or harm. I guess I want to be a grown-up, a happy grown-up.

Check out this interesting article in the New York Times about amazing girls and the burdens they carry as they enter adulthood. I know all too well who they are and I hope they can rise above the expectations they have for themselves to discover who they truly want to be.

And here ends this slightly nauseating Saturday Morning Special. Be Yourself. Thanks for tuning in. God I wish I were better at writing funny anecdotes.