On writing, soulmates and why prayers aren't the answer to either.
I have friends who claim not to count envy among their personal challenges, and I have had them long enough to know that they're telling the truth. I still look at them a little bit like I imagine a psychopath must view normal people with their normal emotions: That's interesting, but I have no idea what you're talking about. (And, in the case of the psychopath, "Now I'm going to eat/murder/rob you.") But I'm coming along, really, I am!
One reason is that while I suspect that envy and jealousy have, at this point, been baked in as reactive modes, I've found what's become a sort of curious end-run around them.
Oh, good: that thing is done.
As in, thank GOD. Now I don't have to worry about painting that picture, composing that opera, writing that sentence, delivering that joke; someone has taken care of that for me. Now I am free to do whatever it is I need to do next, or one of these other eleventy-seven billion things on my to-do list. That other thing. Thank you, Person I Might Otherwise Have Felt Jealous Toward; thank you for that kindness.
A couple of things to note about this newish-to-me way of thinking:
First, it is collaborative. Historically, I've looked at the world as this gigantic blank space I'm supposed to paint all by myself, and at a Sistine Chapel ceiling-level, not a Navajo-white, rented-apartment-wall-level. Lately, I've been noticing how much easier and more fun it is when I share the work and the credit. Sure, my heart just seized up writing those last two words, but that's conditioning for you.
Second, it comes hard on the heels of my participation in two highly successful and significantly collaborative ventures: co-hosting the wonderful monthly Biznik meetups with the charming Heather Parlato and co-facilitating the amazing first PresentationCamp here in Los Angeles with the amazing Cliff Atkinson and the equally amazing Lisa Braithwaite. I threw myself into the former not knowing I needed help, but astounded by how much easier and more enjoyable everything was for everyone, myself included, when I was not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. And I signed on to the latter not knowing I'd get volunteered for my least-favorite thing, ASKING STRANGERS FOR MONEY ON THE TELEPHONE, then astounding myself by the reasonably capable job I managed to do. With help. Of course.
If you have no problems with envy or jealousy, good for you! And yes, I envy you for your lack of them! You're probably already so fluid and open, you've figured out five ways to apply the lessons I've learned in ways I have yet to dream of. (I know you'll share them, because that's how you roll.)
If you're like me, and have the occasional tussle with the green-eyed monster, give this "Oh, good; that's done!" thing a try. I'd be interested to hear if it works for anyone else...
Between a nostalgic visit to my old acting class and last week's abysmal (and final) audition, I've been thinking a lot about the lessons I learned from my time in the business.
Or rather, of things that were told to me back then that I didn't necessarily get or believe, but which, many years of processing later, I've finally understood to be true.
Take my faults, please.
Like most people, I'd like to pretend they didn't exist. That I didn't grapple with envy or self-centeredness or apathy. Or at the very least, I'd rather draw your attention to the very lovely and spectacular qualities I'm choosing to showcase, my grace with words, for example, or my sense of humor, or my engagingly earnest nature, that you might overlook the petty, small-minded, grousing, greedy bitch of a slob I share this carcass with.
Take my jealousy, please.
Of all the things I hate in myself, more than anything I hate the streak of schadenfreude that I wear like a skunk stripe along my back. Because it's not enough that I loathe myself, or my inability to achieve the things I want, or to covet the success of others. Oh, no. I have to actively derive a certain soupÃ§on of joy from the misfortune of those who have some measure of the success I'm coveting. Which, you know, makes me a spectacularly gorgeous specimen of humanity.
The thing is, though, it kinda does. No, schadenfreude is not excellent or sexy or anything to aspire to. But it's one possible human feeling to have and therefore, an indicator that I am, in fact, human, and not a robot. To get back to the acting lesson I brought up earlier, one of the chief mistakes most new (or old, but self-conscious) actors make is failing to show their failings. As an audience, we embrace truth, not perfection. A drama with no drama is someone putting the kettle on. A drama with drama is wondering what's going on while that kettle is being put on, and who it's being put on for, and what just happened, and what ever will happen next.
Conflict is drama, and drama is the stuff of life. I may like all the nice traits in Column A, but the stuff in Column B is what's going to get me through the long haul. The stuff in Column B is my combination indicator light and to-do list, if you will. It both tells me when there's engine trouble and gives me something important to work on.
That's important, of course, the working through of things. You don't want to just hunker down with your Column B and say, "Well, that's it! I'm an intolerant sonofabitch who fears change and is tight with a buck, amen," because if you do, your life will probably play out a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge's, minus the happy ending. And trust me, brother, you do not want to be 80 and realize you pissed your life away being slothful or small or rageful, because I've seen a few people in that position and it is a thing so scary I wouldn't even wish it on the people I wish it on. Much.
I'm currently grappling with a few things I never thought I'd have to grapple with. Like my friend, Chris Guillebeau, I was extraordinarily fortunate when it comes to making a living with ease, until I suddenly wasn't; like women everywhere, I'm finally dealing with weight gain that's not easily lost. It's a bitch, baby, and when I don't get enough rest or exercise or self-love, so am I.
The thing I cling to as I grapple with the green-eyed monster and other personal beasties is this: that which I can identify, I can deal with. One of the reasons I'd never go back to being 25 or even 35 is the lack of perspective that was a hallmark of those ages...for me. Not enough spins around the globe to see patterns, not enough hardship to have a sense of proportion. And then, of course, there was the sheer terror of falling completely to pieces if I took any one part of me out to examine closely in the light. GOOD GOD, PUT THE CARD BACK BEFORE THE WHOLE TOWER COLLAPSES!
Now I have books about my problems, and lengthy discussions about them, and, ta da!, this blog about them. I won't lie, it's always a little scary putting some of my ugliness out of the table for us all to look at; on the other hand, there's also always this accompanying sigh of relief that I'm not keeping this HORRIBLE secret to myself.
The other nice thing, of course, is that I get to hear about all the ways in which people who share this particular area of overlap deal with it. And we get to shed a little light on what must seem like baffling behavior to our human friends who don't have this particular indicator light installed.
So how's about it, fellow travelers? What pearls have you to offer about jealousy or (damn your eyes!) the lack thereof?
TIP-EROOSKI: For what it's worth, when I get stuck in some kind of nutty emotion, I like turning to a tiny snack book called The Little Book of Moods, by Jane Eldershaw. Lots of quick insights and how-tos that are surprisingly effective at pulling me out of a crazy spiral.
UPDATE 2/17: A reader sent in this link to an article on this exact topic from the Science section of today's NYT. Great publishing minds, etc.
UPDATE 12/20: I finally wrote a detailed review of The Little Book of Moods on the blog.
One where I actually had to make something, and a not-unsubtantial something (because for better or for worse, I am no good at half-assing things).
Now, I'm no Orson Welles, hell, in my best ad ho daze, I was no Hal Riney or Mark Fenske, if you want to get technical, but after 20 years making a living in the business, I know how to write a reasonably on-target and entertaining commercial, and how to act in and edit one as well. This video I made? It may not be worthy of being voted up, but it's hard to see what about it makes it worthy of being voted down.
Only it's not. Because I know what the voting down is about; it's about winning by making someone else a loser. That's the nature of hating. And, as my pal, Pamela Slim said in a very nice email to me about the subject, "Haters really suck, there's no way around it."
The reason I know this is because (gulp) I used to be a hater. Or, if not a hater, one of those people who believed there was a finite amount of x to go around, where x = love, happiness, good fortune or anything else.
Honestly? I have no idea who or what to blame for this burned-in rationale. The drill in our house was that you had to earn everything, every compliment, every bit of praise, and yeah, you kind of started from zero each time. I'm sure there was a lot of sound, bootstrap/depend-on-no-one/Depression-era rationale behind this, but damn, it sucked to be me for a long time. Because when you really want to be happy winning second or third place? You really don't want to be reminded that it could have been first, if someone else hadn't won it. If you had just worked a little harder, like we know you can.
What's sad is that I will always have to override that green monster trigger with every instance of someone else's success. Or maybe it's not sad; maybe it's good to have a reminder that a lot of people are still grappling with it, and that the world is still fueled too much by fear and anger (and I'd argue that a lot of anger is just fear in a different Members Only jacket.)
Whatevs, as the kids after me but still long ago used to say. I hope you will go watch the video and vote me up (or at the very least, not vote me down).
Even more, I hope you enjoy my little video, and the effort and goodness of people it represents. All those people in the video who helped me. A whole lot more who either sent stuff I couldn't fit in (there was a :60 limit, which I went over a little anyway with that fade to black) or had freak A/V problems or just other stuff in their lives that needed tending to.
The good people will win, even if my video doesn't.
But vote it up anyway, okay?
9/22/08 - UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who supported me, but it just wasn't good enough. Well, not really; I made it to the final 10, thanks to you, and then nowhere, as the rest of it was on them. Which is neither particularly surprising nor disappointing. Although I still hate losing. Regardless, please do not hold my losing against what appears to be a perfectly good airline. You are now free to move about the cabin, or show them the LUV, or whatever it is that floats your boat. Er...pilots your craft.
Vote here. Thanks!
VIDEO CREDITS!! (or, "It Takes a Village" Dept.)
In my haste to get out the video, I screwed up URLs, misspelled names and generally screwed up all manner of pertinent info. And the first two people in the vid, Jack & Chris, don't have titles over their names b/c I am a goddamned artist, goddammit, and I felt like having titles too early would give away the joke. Forgive me; I fully recognize what a colossal pain in the ass I can be about stuff like that.
In order of appearance:
Jack Lyons (@sidereal_)
Chris Ereneta (@cjereneta)
Angie Tapia & Company
David Eckoff (@davideckoff)
Scot Duke (@MrBusinessGolf)
Jon Deal (@zuhl)
Pamela Slim (@pamslim) (and vote for her SXSW panel here)
Mignon Fogarty (@GrammarGirl)
Peter Shankman (@skydiver)
Havi Brooks (@havi)
Karen Putz (@deafmom)
Laura Moncur (@LauraMoncur)
Mary McCauley-Stiff's Coffee Mug
And of course, HUGE shout to The BF for purchasing and learning to play ukulele in 12 hours, as well as for sound massaging (mm...massaging...) and remaining on an even keel while I spun like a (bitchy) top.
There are other people who VERY KINDLY sent video, stills and offers of help, but for time and space reasons, could not be in it or, sadly, credited. (Drumroll, please!)
@SeoulBrother (OMG, you guys, I SO WISH I could've fit that one in)
Joe Hage (Ditto...so much good stuff that didn't, I know, I should shut up, already)
John Dickerson (@JohnDickerson)
Dawud Miracle (@DawudMiracle)
Elisa Camahort (@ElisaC)
Evelyn Rodriguez (@eve11)
Susan Bratton (@SusanBratton)
Scott Simpson (@scottsimpson)
Jay Hathaway (@strutting)
Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan)
Dani Nordin (@danigrrl)
...and anyone else who, in my haste, I may have forgotten. But this is the Internet, TELL ME, and I'll add you.