Machiavelli’s Reign Ends Here (Or I Break Up With Fear)

When I was 15, my European History teacher asked the class, “If you were king, would you rather lead your subjects with fear or love?” (We were studying Machiavelli. Or something.)

He picked students at random. The first guy he asked quickly responded, “Fear.” So did the second, and the third.

The first girl he asked?

Said love. The answers went along gender lines for some time. It was as if we were lining up at a middle school dance: guys on one side, girls on the other. The Sweet Girly Love Camp on one side, the Powerful Scary Man Camp on the other.

And then he called on me.

“Fear,” I answered without hesitation.

I was the only one in the class who bucked the gender trend. I’ve often wondered since then if the answers truly would have fallen so clearly along male/female lines had the question been asked anonymously. I’ll never know, and ultimately it doesn’t really matter anyway.

What the exercise did was illuminate the way my classmates wanted to be seen — and the way I wanted to be seen.

I was a vicious competitor in those days, and I was fueled by fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of being imperfect. Fear of being unlovable if I fell short of expectations.

Later, when I began to fall short of my narrow definition of perfection, my fear of failure somehow shifted to a fear of my own voice, my own power, and maybe more importantly, my own success. Many people who know me may be surprised to hear this. Others? Not at all.

Many of us are afraid to do what we truly love — not only for fear that we might fail at it but also for fear that it actually might be amazing.

So today I’m here to tell you that I’m no longer afraid of failure. I’m no longer afraid of what I truly love.

And what is that, you ask? What does this dog-owning, cupcake-baking, home-redecorator really love?

Movies.

I love writing movies.

That other stuff is pretty awesome too, but its relationship to my calling is merely tangential. So, this is me saying thank you for coming along with me on this ride. Thank you for reading about all of those things while I found my voice again — while I explored everything that inspires me — and everything that doesn’t. Thank you for bearing with me while I sank into the abyss of despair again and again.

Thank you for being the place where I grew, fell, and picked myself the fuck back up again.

There’s so much more I could say about all I’ve shed this year, but this is not the time, the place, or the post for that.

Instead, I’ll leave you with this. I made it. And I’m not afraid to post it even though it has a typo in it. It’s not perfect, and I don’t care. I like it a little better for its imperfection anyway.

rocky and drago

I’m off to write a movie, people.

#love

Keep Swinging, Cupcake (Or I’m Coping)

I leave for Michigan in three days. During the seven days I’ll spend with my family we’ll say goodbye to my 31-year old stepbrother and celebrate my grandmother’s 87th.

I’m making cupcakes for both occasions. Carrot for Noah’s memorial. And lemon for my grandma’s birthday.

I have to admit it took me a long time to pick out the appropriate cupcake liners this morning. After basically swapping life stories with sweet Ben at Sur la Table, I selected these for Noah.

Fall cupcake liners from Sur la Table on Dogs Dishes and Decor

They seemed right somehow.

Then I did the thing I’ve been saying I’d do.

One way to cope with grief. Dogs Dishes and Decor

I went to the batting cages. By myself.

And I absolutely ripped about 60 softballs all over the Burbank Bat Cade. I can’t bring Noah back. I can’t ask for one more day so I’d have a chance to tell him I loved him. But I can keep swinging at life.

I can bake him cupcakes and hope he’s looking down from heaven smiling his big smile as he watches us eat them.

And maybe when I’m back? I’ll take up boxing…

‘cuz I’m gonna go one more round.

#love

I Just Can’t Talk About Elephants (Or I Admit I’m Sad)

Right now I want to talk to you about this.

photo-347

It’s the elephant themed baby shower I threw for one of my closest friends.

And I kind of want to talk to you about this whole situation.

photo-346

Both the meaning of what’s on my wall and the massive home “to do” list next to it… but right now?

I just can’t.

Instead, I want to talk to you vulnerability. Yuck, I know. Totally monstrous. But hear me out.

About two weeks ago, I got into a car accident on my way to a nail appointment. I was all lost in my head about 14 different things (per usual), running late (always) and particularly stressed out about the being late part. See, the mani/pedi was a gift from my aunt and it was with her manicurist of 20 years. I am BY FAR the most disorganized, air headed person in my entire family, and I feel like I’m always letting them down with my general tardiness and scatterbrainity. (I should mention I was also three months overdue in scheduling said appointment.)

So anyway, I was checking my phone to see how far away I was when I crashed into the back of a Lexus. So that sucked. I had been planning to call the manicurist to tell her I was going to be 5-10 minutes late. Instead I had to call her and admit I’d just crashed into an LS 400 and was going to be more like 30 minutes late. None of this was awesome… and it’s only the beginning of my story.

The next morning I had to have this conversation with a guy that I was simply dreading, but I knew running away from it was a far worse option, so I made myself call. After leaving a message for him, I talked to my mother and she started telling me things that are going on with my family in Michigan that made me simultaneously devastated and relieved that I live 2500 miles away. (I will not get into it here because they are not my stories to tell. Suffice it to say, you would not wish any of it on your worst enemy.) She also said I should call my grandmother because her sister in Canada had just suffered a massive stroke. While this would be devastating news in and of itself, it’s only a fraction of what my grandmother is actually enduring. See, when Greta passes away, she will be grandmother’s third sister to die in two years. In those two years my grandmother has buried her husband of 67 years and her 25 year-old grandson.

I cannot even begin to fathom this sometimes.

I usually call my grandma on Sundays to chat but called her immediately to cheer her up. The guy called me back as I was wrapping up with my grandma, and I had the conversation I was afraid to have. By the end of it all, I felt like I had just gone 15 rounds with Ivan Drago hitting me in the face. And the thing is?

There was nothing I could do about any of it. Nothing at all.

So I blasted Macklemore, made some soup, and danced in my kitchen. See, that’s usually how I deal with life. I dance. I do nice things for other people instead of asking them to help me. I cover shit with glitter, making it look all cute and fancy. I throw elaborate dinner parties where I flit around like a cheerful little bird in high heels.

And usually?

I smile when I want to scream.

Part of the reason I’ve been so absent from my blog is not just that I was working on a huge project for the Oscars that was taking all of my time. It was also because my usual I’m-happy-everything’s-fine routine has been feeling really false since my cousin committed suicide in November.

Most of the time I’m the dependable drone who puts her head down and gets the job done no matter what it costs her. Whether it means sacrificing sleep, my social life, or my sanity, I just do it. I’m the kind of person you want around in a crisis. I’m focused. I’m in command. And I’m moving 100 miles an hour. The problem for me is when the crisis ends. Or worse yet, when there isn’t a resolution for it at all.

What then?

I used to go the batting cages and absolutely beat the ever loving shit out of balls flying at my face when I was upset. It was a way I could deal with the rage I felt about the things I couldn’t fix. And today I’m close to picking up a bat and swinging at balls until I can’t lift my arms again. The problem with this option is that the guy who used to take me is 2800 miles away, married with two kids, and prepping for a huge trial. And I could go alone, but right now going to the batting cages without him might just be another reminder of everything in my life that is gone.

I was in Costco this morning (again with low blood sugar – WHY do I do this to myself?!?) and I was close to having a screaming fit because I couldn’t find the peanut butter or the V-8. I wanted to scream “WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU PUT THE FUCKING SKIPPY, YOU ASSHOLES? I’M STARVING AND I WANT TO PUT ALL OF THE FUCKING PEANUT BUTTER IN NORTH AMERICA INTO MY FUCKING CART AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!!”

But I didn’t do that. My WASP roots prevailed and instead I silently, stoically, and methodically went up and down the aisles suppressing my rage until I found the Skippy stash. I did this when I wanted to go absolutely postal.

See, it’s easier to really let go and scream about the things that don’t matter like 32 pounds of peanut butter. It somehow hurts less to get upset about Skippy than the things that are really tearing you apart. It’s easier to scream “Where’s the stupid Skippy?” when you really want to scream, “Why was I up so late working that I missed my chance to say goodbye to one of the most important men in my life?” “Why did my cousin have to hang himself over a couple of bad grades?” and “Why does every company or project have to fold, get sold, or come to an end when I’m finally getting back on my feet?”

Why?

And the truth is, it doesn’t matter. Finding an answer to all the “whys” doesn’t solve anything anyway. Sitting with the pain does. Leaning into the pain instead of running from it — that’s the work. Telling someone how bad it really feels? That’s what matters. So I’m starting here. I’m admitting it here.

I’ve spent most of my life being strong. For myself. For others. And I think maybe what I’m learning is that in life…

You have to be strong enough to break.

Because that’s where the real healing starts.

Now you should totally watch this TED talk because it’s all kinds of amazing, and Brene Brown is much smarter than I am.

I’m off to blast Rebecca Black’s Friday because I can’t sit with the pain for too long. I need to dance in my kitchen. And maybe? I also need to channel some Ivan Drago and take up boxing… because no matter how hard it gets, I’m never going to stop swinging.