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Friday, May 29, 2015


I’m fairly certain I’m right about this, but it’s something I’m just working out myself, so bear with me.  Obviously, “quitting” is not part of the American credo, except when it’s in a “Take This Job and Shove It” kind of way.  And even then the preferable tactic would be to somehow take over the company you work for and fire your boss.  Woo-hoo, that’s inspirational…can I get an Amen, somebody?  Seriously, quitting pretty much anything is frowned upon across the board, even if it’s something that is actively causing you pain.  We are all hard-wired to “feel the burn” of our discomfort and sit in it like life is really an Iron Man competition in pain tolerance.  We stay in jobs, relationships and situations of all varieties that make us utterly miserable because we feel it is the “right thing to do”.  A nation of martyrs, we pride ourselves on our perseverance in the face of our own suffering.  Suffering builds character, right?  Good men (and women) don’t “leave”.

This is the premise many of us were raised with, so whenever we decide we have had enough (take-this-situation-and-shove-it) rather than acting on it, we often sit in a limbo.  A limbo of depression and anxiety; a limbo of inertia.  Because we believe we should be able to “fix” what ails us, we should be able to find the silver lining, look on the sunny side of things.  So wonderfully American of us, really!  In this limbo we struggle with our “failure” to fix or find or look in a way that can fool ourselves for any meaningful amount of time.  And the situation drags on.  We also have a great driving belief in Deus Ex Machina—the hand of God, the fortunate coincidence that rescues us from our misery.  If this intervention does not happen, then we think it is a sign that we are meant to maintain the status quo.  Trudging like good little soldiers through our own personal war zones, ever mindful of mines and the possibility of bombs dropping from the sky.  We live our lives in the trenches, waiting for the end of the war that is raging inside of us.  Do I want to be “good” and dutiful and steadfast, or do I want to be happy?
Obviously it all depends on what happiness means to us as individuals.  I definitely know people who are “happy” in their martyrdoms—they have a sense of righteousness and superiority.  I know people who absolutely LOVE to complain—in fact, some days I suspect I may be one of them.  It is a part of the human condition to brag a bit about our misery; believe me, I am on Facebook, so I should know.  But if you have a job, a home environment and some relationships that generally speaking bring you satisfaction, then generally speaking you are happy.  All petty complaints aside, you have a good life.  But if even one of these is seriously askew, then you are living in place of unnecessary suffering.  I hear people say that a divorce “ruined” their life and I wonder, would spending the rest of your life in an unhealthy, unhappy marriage have been preferable?  It might be good to challenge some of the beliefs we have about success, too.  If you make enough money to support you in a lavish lifestyle, but the stress or politics of that job are shredding your soul, is that an admirable life?  What is happiness?

I am asking these questions because this is all a part of my very own newly minted “mid-life crisis”.  I have never been a “quitter”.  I remained a Girl Scout until I graduated to the “Cadettes”, and then, even though I was new to the town, I was elected President of my troop!  Whenever I tell people this, the most common response I get BY FAR is “Wait…there are Cadettes?”  Ask any of my friends, I am one of the most IMPOSSIBLE to shake people who ever lived.  Kind of like Bob, in “What About Bob?”, I keep showing up until you just surrender and include me (or try to kill me).  Not to brag, but I also have some first rate head-banging-against-the-wall skills.  I can be quite touchingly optimistic about the efficacy of such behavior.  No, THIS TIME when I bang my head against the wall, it will REALLY get his/her attention!  Who was it that said the definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviors and expecting different results?  Color me insane, because I’m guilty as charged.
However, I have recently come to realize that all of my stick-to-it-ness and head banging is actually making me quite miserable.  I feel like a hamster in a wheel, or the Griswolds in “European Vacation” when they keep driving by Big Ben…at first things seemed okay, but now I realize I MAY BE IN HELL.  And this is what is making me consider that the old head-banging joke may be true:  it will feel really good when I stop.  I look at the people in my life who have “quit” things—jobs, marriages, social obligations, self-destructive behaviors, limiting belief systems—and I don’t see “quitters”.  I see incredibly brave people who took a stand for themselves, their health, their well-being and their futures, often in the face of judgment, often with the consequence of losing a support system, always with the chaos that major life changes bring.  These people are not “quitters”.  These people are heroes.  Change is the biggest, scariest part of life and they took it on, head first.  Maybe it's time to realize change is inevitable.  Maybe it’s time to realize quitting can be a triumph of growth and forward movement.  Maybe “quitters” are after all the bravest souls we have.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Right now, anyone who really knows me is looking at that title and wondering, “Is there a guest blogger this week?”  I am not exactly famous for my people pleasing skills.  I am of the “everyone is entitled to my opinion” ilk and would not hesitate to call myself out on being obnoxious, albeit in a Cat in the Hat sort of way.  That is, I am obnoxious while I-hold-up-the-cup-and-the-milk-and-the-cake-and-these-books-and-the-fish-on-the-rake!  Kids love me!  But adults often just don’t know what to make of me, it’s true.  I’m whatever the opposite of passive aggressive is (aggressive passive?); confrontational and unwilling to abide with “unspoken tension” in my relationships.   This naturally means there is a great deal of spoken tension to contend with…but I believe in putting my cards on the table with a flourish.  If you like them, that’s great!  If you don’t, then we shouldn’t waste any more of each other’s time. 

So why, at this late date, have I decided I want you to “like” me?  And why am I putting “like” in quotes?  One word, my friends and my “friends”:  FACEBOOK.  That moment I have been dreading since I saw “The Social Network” has finally arrived; after years of swearing it would never happen, I finally broke down and joined the Facebook.  And to be blunt (I usually am—one of my many unpleasing characteristics) my primary motivation for doing so was to chase down those previously uninteresting “likes” for my articles on the Huffington Post, which btw have proven quite difficult to come by.  Facebook is not for sissies!  My earnest plea for a click on the “thumbs up” icon is often quickly drown out by work troubles, cute kid/animal pictures, nostalgic flashbacks, funny cartoons and all manner of assorted stimuli.  People can be very cutthroat when gunning for position on your timeline, and my articles are no match for new babies, political outrage and awesome videos of Barbra Streisand singing Burt Bacharach.  No match at all.
I think a big part of the reason I have been resistant to Facebook is that one of the ways in which fortune has blessed me has always been my friends.  I have been insanely, stupidly lucky to meet and bond with some of the most incredible people I could ever have hoped for; I am not only a friend but a fan to all of them.  I know sublime musicians, brilliant academics, gifted healers, powerful activists, supernaturally talented performers, artists, writers, world class teachers and just damn fine people, to name a few.  I often feel like the proverbial kid in the candy store—can all this be for me?  I am privileged and flattered by my friendships and feel very content in that.  Also:  in spite of my big mouthed blogging habit, I do not consider myself a personality suited for mass consumption.  I am very much a one-on-one person; how better to distract you from my insufferable opinions than hopping-on-a-ball-while-I-fan-with-a-fan? So, I thought, who needs Facebook? 

But then something happened.  My puny little blog with its loyal but possibly disturbed followers started being picked up by the Huffington Post.  Of course this had been my goal all along, and initially I was delighted.  But delight quickly changed to panic as I realized I now had to somehow “drum up business” for my articles.  I e-mailed pretty much everyone I had ever met and begged them to click that “like” button, all the while realizing the hypocrisy of my request.  I wasn’t clicking any “like” buttons for them, why should they exercise the power of the mouse (or touchscreen) on my behalf?  So after two attempts to start a grassroots campaign I had to concede defeat…I needed a “social network” to help me climb out of the sub-basement at Huff Po and that was that.  With a pit in my stomach I enlisted a neighbor to help me set up my page.  And life will never be the same again.  Like having a baby, Facebook changes everything.
I thought I would hate Facebook.  I was right.  I hate the way it makes me feel, like I am in a foreign country with no understanding of the language and customs.  I also “like” Facebook.  Because it has put me back in touch with some people who make me very happy and every day gives me some reason or another for a good laugh or cry or whatever it is my soul is seeking.  When my friend Joseph, who has been badgering me to join since day one, saw that I had finally broken down, he posted on my timeline:  “Welcome to hell”.  It is sort of a hell for me, a person who stopped caring if people “like” me a long time ago.   But still a person who is not actively seeking a rumble; I wouldn’t actually fly kites in your house, as tempting as that sounds.    I learned to trust rejection a long time ago—some people are my people and some are not and that is all good.

So while I am slowly trying to adjust to this new normal, the horrible futility of begging after those elusive “likes”, I am finding something strange and possibly wonderful is happening.  I am sitting so far outside my comfort zone that I might as well be in outer space, observing my home planet through a telescope.  And, not unlike the astronauts, I am noticing for the first time how small it is.  And thinking for the first time that maybe all of my ball-hopping and cake-balancing is not so much an over-extension of my obnoxious personality, but rather an attempt to make up for it?  Ironically, my last article on Huffington Post went over like lead bricks, so I started the e-mail campaign again, owning to each recipient that it is obnoxious that I keep doing this.  One friend said “Stop beating yourself up!”  Another said, “Stop apologizing!”  And here’s the truth:  I didn’t realize I was until they pointed it out.
I don’t know if I will ever truly “like” Facebook.  I just don’t feel as if I have the right temperament for it.  Yes, I am reconnecting with some wonderful people from my past and that is a good thing.  Also…I am connecting with some new people and finding out the truth—you really can never have “too many” friends.  I am amazed at how touched I am by this little window into people’s lives and how generous so many of them are about sharing themselves.  But here’s the most important part:  it is teaching me that expanding my comfort zone is a both necessary and positive change.  It is making me a little braver…possibly a lot braver, to be honest.  Maybe it’s time to get off that ball and put down the rake and just be myself.  Maybe finally I am not “saving it for the librarians”—and if you get that joke, it has all been worth it.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015


My husband loves the expression “Anything worth doing is worth doing well”.  He thinks it is a credo of meticulous effort toward a pristine result.  Due in part to the fact that it takes my husband FOREVER to finish a project, I think it is the subtitle of “The Procrastinator’s Handbook”.  Ha.   But I dismiss it mostly because I, who to the outside observer might appear a little uptight and controlling, have actually been half-assin’ it since 1967, to steal a friend’s motto.  Half–assing is my natural state of being and truly the only way I can multi-task with any success. 

Fortunately, I am not a brain surgeon and don’t have much come up in my life that requires precision (like being a Rockette) so my half-assed efforts produce quite passable results on many, many tasks.  And occasionally a good job, when the mood hits.  But I am never at the mall Christmas Eve or stressing a last minute birthday gift or turning underwear inside out to re-wear because as a result of the relative ease of my half-assed efforts, I am generally speaking ahead of the curve.  And that is just where I like to be.

I think this may all go back to my status as the quintessential middle child.  Not the oldest or the youngest or (in the case of my family) the only boy, I didn’t really have a role assigned to me to play.  I was what I think they call in office-speak “a floater”—the one who kind of goes from job to job and shift to shift within a company as need demands.  I had no true alliances with my siblings—they all had their defined places and would pass me around as their circumstances demanded. 

I was my little sister’s protector…unless she and my brother were ganging up on me.  I was my oldest sister’s baby…unless she was busy and then I was the older one who “should know better”.  Because there was no clear path and I never knew ahead of time what my “assignment” for the day would be, I had to learn how to play both ends against the middle and be flexible enough to jump from role to role without transition time.  So in order to do all of this and keep my head above water, I started half-assin’ it.  And it just kind of stuck.
Now, that part of my personality that causes others to think I am uptight and controlling is the other piece of my successful life as a non-procrastinator:  I think anything worth doing is worth doing yesterday.  In Arnold Lobel’s brilliant series of children’s books Frog and Toad Are Friends, there is a great tale called “Tomorrow” in which Toad refuses to get out of bed to do his many chores, insisting he’ll do all of them tomorrow.  Until he realizes that by putting them off he is now absolutely dreading the next day.  That’s how I am. 

If I know something is hanging over my head, I just can’t enjoy myself; it’s “out there”, in Harry-and-Sally speak.  And so I enthusiastically roll up my sleeves and do a half-assed job because A) half-assed jobs are much easier to do than jobs well done and B) now I am looking forward to tomorrow.  I half-assedly vacuum, iron, garden, you name it and nobody has ever said to me, “Gee, your clothes are a bit wrinkled and there is still some dog hair on the floor and what is up with the clover in your garden?”  Because, as with most things in life, NOBODY CARES if you did it perfectly or not.  They just appreciate the effort.

Of course with any rule, there must be exceptions:  for me, the most glaring example of this is my closet, which is on FEMA’s watch list.  Every spring and fall when the time comes to rotate out cold weather clothes and rotate in warm weather clothes (and vice versa), I procrastinate like a pro.  Not to make excuses (well, maybe a little) but this is partly because of the climate I live in, where cold weather clothes often need to be accessible until June.  But also…I just dread it, really I do. 

I’m not sure why, because intellectually I know that it never takes as long as I think it will (because obviously I will do a half-assed job) and I always love the week or so afterwards when I actually have a (relatively) neat, organized closet.  I also have a bad habit of letting junk mail and magazines accumulate to a point where going through them becomes a Herculean task instead of just dealing with them as they come in.  But for the most part, when there is something that needs doing, I jump on it.  And rarely do I ask my husband to do ANYTHING I want accomplished in a timely manner.  Which is most things, frankly. 
Procrastination may feel luxurious in the moment but I promise you in the long run, like crime, it never pays.  It is MUCH more luxurious to be a half-ass, like me.  Before my son was born my husband and I lived on Long Island for a few years; we had a neighbor who let weeds and wildflowers take over his yard and he posted a sign that said “Serendipity” as his excuse.  When I look at my slightly wrinkled clothes and kind of hairy house and subtly weedy garden, I think:  “Serendipity”.  Even my monstrously chaotic closet gets this label. 

It is a fortunate happenstance to be here, half-assing it since 1967.  And in the midst of the understated disorder that is my life, I truly look forward to tomorrow.  A tomorrow rarely hinged on obligation and deadlines, but instead on bustling, cheerful disarray and the time and space to engage with the people who bring me joy.  So I will keep on half-assin’ it as long as I’m here and rely on serendipity to fill in the gaps.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

MAE WHITMAN IS HOT! (Why it Doesn't Matter)

I have had the great good fortune to know the actress Mae Whitman personally since she was a little girl; like any doting adult, I have been proud and amazed to watch her grow from an incredible child to a beautiful, astonishingly talented woman.  Many millions of people have also had this great pleasure, as she has been a consistently working actress since she was “knee high to a grasshopper”, as the expression goes. 

One of her very first roles was in the now ubiquitous blockbuster “Independence Day”, playing President Bill Pullman’s daughter.  I mean, President Thomas J. Whitmore’s daughter.  I would now like to pause for a moment to objectify Bill Pullman’s absolutely gorgeous head of hair!  YOWZA!  And speaking of objectification, turns out they are making a sequel to Independence Day, and while the majority of the cast is returning to reprise their roles, Mae’s part has been recast.  Apparently, this beautiful and astonishingly talented consistently working actress is not “hot” enough.  Check it out if you don’t believe me:

Now for the record, in spite of my personal bias I would like to mention that Maika Monroe, the actress who apparently IS hot enough to play President Bill Pullman’s daughter (she does have nice hair) recently appeared in the low budget horror film, “It Follows”, which I very much enjoyed.  I do not want anyone to construe this as an attack on her even though based on experience alone she empirically cannot have Mae’s chops.  This is an attack on the concept of “hotness” and the absurd assumption Hollywood seems to have made that it is not a totally and completely subjective standard. It is also an attack on the idea that "hot" is a valid objectifying factor in casting ANY role that includes lines and is not called something like “The Playboy Bunny”. 

Charlize Theron once referred to her now ex-b.f. Sean Penn as “hot”, God bless that gorgeous girl, and if that is not definitive proof that hot is in the eye of the beholder, I don’t know what is.  Sean Penn gets great roles because he is a great actor.  Therein lies the real issue: unless the President’s daughter grew up to be a Playboy Bunny and that is an intrinsic plot point in ID2, her subjective level of “hotness” should not matter even one little bit.

Back to the beautiful and astonishingly talented Mae:  she recently starred in a successful little movie called “The DUFF”, which I loved and recommend to you.  The irony of this delightful star turn is that The DUFF, for those of you not hip to the lingo, is the “designated ugly fat friend”.  Basically a girl version of “The Wingman” (interesting how men get a less insulting nickname); or, in Harry-and-Sally-speak, the one with the good personality.  And guess what?  A lot of people were not happy with this piece of casting news either, because Mae is most obviously not fat or ugly.  Well, except apparently to the producers of “Independence Day 2”. 

Ooooh, mind melt!!! Too hot for one role, not hot enough for the other and I say:  MAKE IT STOP.  Hot is not a cup size, a waist measurement or a perfectly symmetrical face…hot is confident, strong and willing to take chances.  YOU decide if you are hot, and nobody else.  Nobody else has any right to tell you that you are not hot (#nothot) because it is not about them.  If you believe you are hot, believe me, you are.  It is up to others whether or not they can handle it.

Beautiful women, beautiful people come in all shapes and sizes and this is something as a society we are struggling to accept.  But it sure gets a LOT of press and air time these days, because it is an important conversation to have.  But in the year 2016, I think we need to accept the notion that the objectifying label of “hot” is perhaps the most fluid on the planet…a good damn thing too, because it would be a sad world indeed if we were all attracted to the same handful of people.  Mae Whitman can be hot, and Maika Monroe can be hot and I can be hot and you can be hot and the beauty of it is, no one’s hotness in any way shape or form diminishes anyone else’s.  We can all be hot or #nothot, as we choose.  But let’s stop throwing it around as a label or definition that has the power to excuse what is good old fashioned sexism:  because some dude (or dudette!) in charge says you’re not hot enough, you’re out. 

What other industry could get away with rejecting a fully qualified applicant based on sexual standards? Why isn't it humiliating for studios to openly admit that they are casting pivotal roles based on the number one criteria of who they deem more “bangable”?  It’s pitiful, really, that adults in this day and age still feel comfortable issuing these sexist mandates.  The role in “Independence Day 2” should have been Mae Whitman’s to refuse by any fair or rational standard.  And again, for the record, IMHO Mae is HOT…not that it has any bearing on whether or not she is the best choice for the role.  And so I am, and you may be too.  Just always remember it’s YOUR CALL and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

See this also on the Huffington Post and click "LIKE" for me, please!