Lexicon

Wherein we explore, a year into the process, exactly what the hell a "communicatrix" is supposed to do

tele10.JPGI had an interesting session with my shrink yesterday. In the four years (off and on, give or take) I've been seeing her, we've done a lot of the heavy lifting towards self-actualization, leaving room to focus on some "problems"* that are really luxurious in nature: you know, the philosophical biggies like "why am I here?" and "how can I best use my talents to help others?" rather than "how can I keep myself from sticking my head in this oven and making the rest of my family's lives a living hell on earth?".

So...why am I here? And what the hell should I do with my life, or what's left of it?

tele3.JPGThe truth is, while over the years I've become a passable copywriter, a decent actress, a fairly good designer and made money at all of them, nothing** has proved as rewarding as writing this stupid blog.

Not financially, of course: you make a helluva lot more jack shilling for General Mills and Toyota than spewing random meanderings. But occasionally, I'll get a comment or an email or even a face-to-face exchange where someone actually thanks me for what I've written and/or says it's helped them in some way and boy, howdy, let me tell you, that shit is better than the finest sipping whiskey. It's the feeling of plugging in to the universe, the all-that-is, the matrix/collective-unconscious/what-the-bleep pool of love that epiphanies, Singular Glorious Moments and holding fresh babies are born of.

tele2.JPGThat, along with my recent shrink-rap, have gotten me thinking: maybe I'm just supposed to share. Maybe the reason I went through hell and made it through to the other side was to show other people how they could get there, only without the hell part. Or if they're in the hell part, maybe I could help them see the gently air-cooled room at the other end of it.

I'm planning to spend the next few months really focusing on what it is I'm "supposed" to do, and my winter holiday jumpstarting the process by reading Is Your Genius At Work?***, a book I found via Dave Pollard's excellent How To Save The World.

In the meantime, I signed up for a lens at Squidoo, Seth Godin's new social bookmarking/aggregating/web-2.0-ing venture where, as they say, everyone is an expert at something. I maybe would shun the term "expert", but I know a fair bit about happiness, specifically, the kind you're not born with. (I've met those people; I marvel over them.)

Anyway, I know that a lot of the people who come here do so for the random meanderings or the reviews or the pissy rants about stupid Vegas and stupid online daters and stupid Hollywood horse-pokey. And that's okay, because I dig writing that stuff, too. Hey, I'm a generalist!

So rather than suck all the fun out of communicatrix-dot-com, I figured I'd continue to post all the wacky things that make me, well, me, but occasionally, do a more of a how-to entry that I can link to (Squidoo is more of a pointing device than a place for long-winded diatribes...er, lessons.) We'll see how it goes. I'm actually a big fan of the oblique method of nudging, kind of a wax-on, wax-off approach rather than the three-steps-to-kicking-ultimate-ass way we like here in the U.S. But maybe it'll be a good exercise for me to help clarify some of my own thinking on what's necessary to get to happy (or tequila-mastery, or whatever else I decide I'm an 'expert' at).

xxx c

tele9.JPG*Please understand, I am fully aware of what a luxury it is to have the time and money and lack of immediate food/shelter/clothing worries to see a shrink at all. I'm painfully aware of the below-subsistence life that so many on the planet are forced to live right this second, and for the foreseeable future. I'm just trying to leverage the good that I have into something better for everyone. Namaste, and all that.

**With the possible exception of the writing and performing of #1 & #2, my collaborative piece on illness as the road to wellness. The #1 refers to my writing partner's interstitual cystitis; the #2 stands for my Crohn's. Or poop, if you prefer.

***The author uses the word "genius" to define that exact particular thing that you and only you are good, nay, the best, at. Not genius. I am not a genius. Believe me, I only wish I were a genius.

Images via kunstradio. Danke schoen!

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What lies behind blogjam

Having signed on to this writing-out-loud thing just prior to the blogging bubble bursting, I'm still relatively new to its attendant ups and downs (and techie widgety time sinkholes), but I've already experienced that thing known as blogging burnout, several times, to my great chagrin.

As any blogger knows, on occasion offline life intervenes, making blogging difficult. Sometimes the magnitude of a very blogworthy event is stultifying. Sometimes, well, sometimes it seems like there's just nothing going on.

Seems like.

Writer/actor/producer Shane Nickerson has an excellent and brave post up at Nickerblog about Blogjam, those times when yeah, there's something going on and yeah, if you did even a little poking around the thing that was going on (and the 47 things behind it) would bubble right up to the surface but nah, there's no way you're gonna tell anyone, much less everyone, what it is. In it, he ascribes his recent struggle with Blogjam to his current albeit quietly raging conflict with desire vs. reality. As in, I have the desire to be/do/have x and that's not really what's happening, at least, not in the way I'd like it to.

He wrote about acting, which is something I can and probably should address in a blog post at some point, but with such specificity that, of course, it manifested as something universal. Who among us doesn't have a deep, deep (and sometimes dark) secret we carry around, whose weight and density become ever greater and more burdensome even as our ability to access it grows weaker and weaker? Who wouldn't rather let life intervene in a million daily ways, rather than undergo the painful excavation of this truth, not to mention the irksome reality of it sitting around our mental living rooms, tatty and dirt-covered, reminding us of our shame?

Okay, maybe that's a little overwrought. What do you expect? After all, part of my secret dream is to be an actor, okay, a much-beloved oracle-pundit. The desire to yak the truth out loud in front of people (and to be much-beloved for it) cuts across a few job descriptions.

And yes, it's a wee bit frivolous (not to mention guilt-inducing) to ponder on such things when there is so much very big, very real, very horrible news all around us about people and things that need our immediate, physical attention.

But Shane's post, and, hopefully, this one, is a good reminder not to let too much time roll by. Yes, try to maintain a sense of proportion, but also please tend to yourself. Put on your oxygen mask, or make sure its readily accessible, before you attempt to assist the passenger in the seat next to you.

Because you either deal with the truth or it will come back somehow, someway. Either you will wind up in the hospital, 20 lbs underweight with blood pouring out of your intestines or you'll get the c-a-n-c-e-r or you'll you'll find yourself, at 88 years old, sitting at your kitchen table with your grandchild, tears pouring down your face as you finally acknowledge, out loud, that if you had it to do all over, Colleen, you would have done it all differently.

I have seen too many loved ones die with their truths unrecognized. Note that I'm not saying their dreams unrealized: who knows if Gramps could have directed pictures or Mom could have been a movie star or if Dad could have been a singing cowboy? There wasn't much call for singing cowboys after 1938. Actually, there wasn't much call for singing cowboys ever, but I'd guarantee you dollars-to-donuts that Dad would have died, and probably lived, a much happier man if he'd gotten down with that truth.

So by all means, let's keep sending checks to rebuild and fighting for democracy and reducing/reusing/recycling. But let's also stay in touch with what that kid from New Hampshire in all of us came out to Los Angeles to do, or what he really wants to do now. Because not acknowledging what's really going on in ourselves, whatever fear or desire or strange bugaboo haunts us, is the first step on the road to isolation from everyone and everything around us.

It's not easy. Sometimes, it's not even simple. Often, it might even feel frivolous. But it is so, so necessary if we're going to make this any kind of a world to hand over to the next shift.

xxx
c

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Working 'clean'

In the end, the people who do what they believe in, who have something to believe in... in the end, they last longer.—Hugh MacLeod

Hugh MacLeod posts a little story today about a smart guy who lost his job for the right reason: he stayed true to his beliefs rather than the party line. The details of the story, and of Hugh's post, have to do with marketing and PR and the future of both; that's nominally what Hugh's about, and he's much better at defining his niche and sticking to it than I am (unless you can call "crazy generalist" a niche, in which case I'm on target 100% of the time).

But the nugget, the juice, the moral of the story is universal: in the end, the people who stay in touch with their own truth and make sure what they're doing aligns with that truth... in the end, hell, in the beginning and middle, too, although it may not seem so by traditional markers, they win. Maybe not at a particular job or relationship or pursuit, but in the über-sense: at work, at love, at life.

I talk a lot about how much I hated being in advertising; even more often, I club myself over the head about all those wasted years writing copy and sitting in stoopit meetings. But the truth is, up until my last few months as an employee, I always believed fervently in some aspect of what I was doing. (What can I say? I'm a dazzling mix of optimist and asshole.) And so really, on some level, I was right to stay; there was something still to be gained from the experience. (I am also a dazzling mix of 'slow' and 'learner'.)

To keep myself honest about where things sit on my own appropriateness spectrum for dharmic happiness, I've adopted a mantra that's also a helpful metaphor: work clean.

In the world of contamination control, "working clean" is methodology for keeping product or results pure; in the world of the communicatrix, it's about shining the cold, hard light of truth on anything and everything, then following through with the appropriate action in a timely fashion. (In the world of standup comedy, it's about making the joke safe for Christians and network television, but I'm strictly an agnostic, cable-viewing type.)

Once I'd put the idea of "working clean" in my head, it became harder to ignore the insalubrious and simpler figuring out what to do about it. Not easier, but simpler. (More pain and confusion has resulted from people confusing those two words than any other pair, with the possible exception of "love" and "lust".) Admitting that Being An Actress is no longer fulfilling the way it was 10 years ago has not been easy, but the truth of it is (painfully) clear and defining future actions much, much simpler and even, lord help me, kind of fun. Ending my last two relationships wasn't exactly what I'd characterize as "easy" (or fun, while we're at it), but man oh man, the swiftness and precision with which I was able to do it not only was humane, but downright elegant. You gotta love that.

Especially when you compare it to the exquisite misery I managed to make last for months or even years at a time in my younger, cloudier days. I don't know who I thought I was doing a favor by ignoring the gigantic elephant crapping in the corner, but it wasn't me. And given the volume and potency of elephant crap, it probably wasn't anyone else in the room with me, either.

Of course, this is all a work in progress. Learning where the light switch is (or, in the case of elephant crap, the push-broom and the Lysol) is only half of the equation. And I'd be a big, fat, un-clean-working liar if I said my life was the streamlined, aerodynamic model of zen efficiency I long for it to be. Working clean is a tool, but it's not a magic wand that's changed my life.

It has, however, made me much happier living it, dirt, elephant crap and all.

xxx c

UPDATE: David Parmet, the subject of Hugh's post, found this little entry via gapingvoid and posted a lovely comment below. What a man of grace! And smarts, too!

Anyone reading this who's in a position to help David out, either with leads or a big fat juicy PR/marketing job please do yourself a favor and jump on it. Let us create beautiful blog symmetry: fired for blog, rewarded tenfold by blog.

You can find David via his (non-marketing) blog here, or via email at david - at - parmet - dot - net. Merci!

Stamp out hackting!

While searching for links for my last post, I was dismayed to find not a single definition, mention or even blog entry using a word I feel should be in wide circulation in the English language, hackting. Not being one to sit on my ass (and being a monstrously competitive type hellbent-for-leather to put my grubby thumbprint on the lexicon) I took time off from writing that post to submit the following definition to the Collins Word Exchange:

hackting (n) egregiously bad, superficial or ham-handed acting; performance undertaken for the sole purpose of adding to one's wealth or fame: "phoning it in"; from "hack" and "acting"; also “hacktor” (n) one who engages in hackting

After a brief registration (which will allow you to add other words you stumble upon or dream up by your own, very smart selves), you can submit this definition yourself. I of course think it's such a no-brainer they'll add it immediately, but it can't hurt to have a little backup!

Go here to register. I, along with critics and discerning, English-speaking performance patrons everywhere, thank you in advance for your support.

xxx c

"Follow that asshole in front of you!"*

sheeple: (sheep'-el) (n) a portmanteau word combining "sheep" and "people" to indicate a mindless mob that accepts the party line without question. I'd like to give a big shout-out to my boy, Ken Robinson, for turning me on to whatreallyhappened, where I first encountered my new favorite word, which, from the look of things, has been around since at least (and fittingly) 1984. (Where was I? Oh, yeah. In advertising. Talk about irony...)

Happy Inauguration Day, everyone!

xxx c

*The Sheeple Motto, via sheeple.net.

Landmarks in language

Jeremy Wagstaff has highjacked a number of actual U.K. village names and put them to excellent use in his Geek's Lexicon. My favo(u)rites:

  • aynho (n) Someone who forwards inane jokes, hoax virus alerts and cutesy e-mails to everyone in their address book, however much they're asked not to. Usage: Who is the aynho that keeps sending Saddam jokes?
  • foindle (v) The (usually) unconscious act of stroking a much loved gadget in public.
  • melbury bubb (n) The noise of people talking on their handphone on public transport, unaware they are driving fellow commuters to distraction. How was your day, dear? Fine, but the melbury bubb on the train home was awful. What's for dinner?

Unhappy with the time it's taking for these excellent new-to-us words to enter the mainstream, Wagstaff has seized the reins and submitted a few to Harper Collins' new Living Dictionary/Word Exchange project:

  • chettle (collective n) The debris, such as crumbs, dead insects and lint, that gets stuck inside your computer keyboard.
  • hordle (v) The noise a modem makes when it is trying to connect to the Internet. As in: My modem isn't working. I can't hear it hordle.

  • whitnash (n) The pain in your shoulder at the end of a long laptop-carrying trip. As in: The trip went fine, but I've got serious whitnash and need a bubble bath.

Supporting these wonderful additions to the, um, English language requires but a trip to the Word Exchange and a brief registration. Come on, you know you wanna. I mean, what are you, some kind of aynho?

xxx c

Dwelve on this

In a recent post, the ever-insightful Zenmistress of Businessâ„¢ (a.k.a. Evelyn Rodriguez) discusses the role of flexibility, living in the now, in a long and happy life. Jon Kabat-Zinn, whom she quotes extensively in her post, calls it "full catastrophe living": not living your life at the high level of stress we might associate with perilous events, but staying relaxed and in touch enough to take things in stride, no matter what those things are. As a tsunami survivor, she knows whereof she speaks; as a thoughtful and practiced writer, she speaks it eloquently (as always). At one point, talking about the renewed commitment she wants to make towards fully integrating this skill, she talks about wanting "to dwelve into the book and a face-to-face MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) course."

Dwelve?

Yes, dwelve. To delve and to dwell. Or maybe to dwell, then to delve.

Gee. That it works in two directions makes it just about the greatest portmanteau word ever, I think.

xxx c

Asshole Tax

I used to call my mistakes "lessons", as in, I didn't see the "No Parking/Street Cleaning" sign and got a $35 lesson or "I waited too long to buy so-and-so a birthday gift and had to FedEx it last minute for a $40 lesson." That is, I called them lessons until I realized I would likely repeat or, in fact, had repeated my errors and wasn't learning a damned thing from them, ergo the word "lesson" was a misnomer.

"Asshole Tax," however, was right on the money.

Think about it. Essentially, you're forking over a premium (tax) on top of what you'd ordinarily pay because you: (a) did not organize your time properly; (b) remember what you shouldn't have forgotten; or (c) otherwise wantonly disregarded the plainly obvious, i.e., acted like an asshole.

It's heavy on my mind because the holidays, with their crazy time compression, are typically a time of heavy Asshole Tax Assessment for me.

Paid $4 for a bottle of water at the airport because you were too slammed for time to pick up one at the supermarket? That's a $3.40 Asshole Tax.

Buying your hosts a (crappy) $15 bottle of wine because you forgot to add one to the cart at Trader Joe's? A $5-10 Asshole Tax, depending on how skinflinty you were to begin with.

Of course, there are circumstances under which Asshole Tax is not Asshole Tax, namely, when they fall under my other-favorite financial designator, Value For Your Dollar. Like this morning, when technically I had left myself enough time for (free) street parking but was too tired to hike the four blocks to the hair salon; I paid $2.50 to park a half-block from the salon and believe you me, I got every penny's worth.

Sometimes it gets tricky to discern between the two. For instance, if I pay for takeout because I am too busy to make myself dinner (because of dietary restrictions, I almost always have to make myself dinner), I could call it Asshole Tax because I didn't plan my time properly, but I could also call it Value For My Dollar since a well-balanced meal is probably going to serve me and my intestinal health better in the long run than calling yet another fistful of cashews and cheese (my fast food) "dinner." (Believe me, those 11-day hospital stays don't come cheap.)

What's fascinating to me about the Asshole Tax/Value For Your Dollar equation is how it is not at all amount-dependent. I know I'll grumble over every cent of gift shop Asshole Tax that those pantyhose/false eyelashes/tampons I forgot to pack for my upcoming trip will cost me. But I couldn't care less about the premium I'm going to pay to park my car at the airport for six days because I'll squeeze every drop of value out blowing off Super Shuttle.

Unless, of course, I've already missed the chance to make my parking reservations at a reasonably-priced lot.

Asshole Tax, here I come...

xxx c