Hellish & Heavenly

You gotta take the bad with the good.

Consider This The Memo

OfficeSpaceTheMemoDear Everyone,

This is in no way directed at one person, but I’m sure there is more than one person who will take this personally. Don’t. Really. It’s a waste of time because, if this were directed at you, I would take great pleasure in saying it to your face. Really. If you know me in real life, you wouldn’t doubt that for a minute.

Also, this is incredibly overdue. I should have written this about 17 months ago, but I’ve been busy. So, please, consider this the memo. Print it out, frame it and, for the love of God, do your best to abide by it.

First, I must confess that I fucking hate Facebook Messages. Truly. Hate them with the passion of a thousand suns. I get that they can be convenient when you are trying to message a group of people, or if you don’t know the person that well. I get it. But I fucking hate them. Especially if you know me in real life, because then you have my cell phone number and email address. Use one of those for fuck’s sake. I mean, you really want me to have to go into Facebook and then over to Messages to get some random information that you could have personally emailed me? Yeah. Don’t. Really. Facebook is not the center of my universe. It should not be yours either. Branch out.

Second, I fucking hate texts. Yes, I do. I mean, they are great for a quick bit of info (“Running late,” or “Got a table in the back,” or “What kind of martini do you want?”), or for secret conversations you must live-blog to a BFF or something. There are always exceptions to any rule. But, if you have to text me more than three times, you should just email me. And, sweet Jesus, if you are attempting to have a full-on conversation via texts, don’t. Pick up the fucking phone. You know, that thing that you are texting me on? It makes calls, too! And — this one is the kicker — if you know that I am driving, especially if I’m driving to see you, why the fuck would you send me a fucking text? Do you not know the law in the State of California? There is signage everywhere. It’s fucking illegal to text and drive. It kills all sorts of people and makes you look like an über douche while you are doing it. And, what’s worse (because, in case you thought it couldn’t, it does), is the series of texts that I receive while driving demanding a quick answer to the text I previously ignored because I am driving. I am on my way to meet you, asshole. What the fuck do you want me to do? Crash because you need to know if I want Indian or Chinese? Relax, for chrissakes. I’ll be there shortly. Otherwise, I would have called to let you know I’d be late.

Also, I hope you realize that, every time you hit enter/return on your text or Facebook Message, there’s a noise that’s made. And, for those of you who send every single sentence separately, that’s a whole lot of fucking noise. Irritating doesn’t even begin to describe it. But, “needy” might. And, do you know what I really, really, really abhor? “K”. Getting a chime-y, chirpy alert for a one-letter response is the ultimate ass chap. It’s just not worth it. But what I can’t wrap my head around are the truly smart, highly intelligent people I know lessening themselves for: “U R gr8. BRB. TY.” It just leaves me SMH. I mean, have they come up with an emoticon for a middle finger salute yet?

Trust me, I have tried, and tried, and really, really tried to get into the text thing. I’ve respected friends who needed to communicate in that manner while I cringed at every chime. Life is a give and take. Everyone has their thing. But, it didn’t stick. After five years of giving it a go, I’ve had enough.

See, I write. A lot. Sometimes, even for money. So, the last thing I want to do is type texts to human beings that I could actually talk to. And I realize the incompatibility of this, because many of my friends talk for a living. The last thing they want to do is chat more. These are the friends I’ve learned to communicate with telepathically. Try it. There’s a learning curve, but it’s worth it. I might speak to these treasures once every other month, email now and then, and see them once a year, but we are still close. It’s not necessary to know every minuscule detail of our lives. Not that I would mind knowing. But I don’t want to read it, and they don’t want to say it, so we just accept it. And, maybe our friendships are even better for it.

I know I am in the minority here. I realize that the way of the world is all text and Facebook. I get it. But I don’t like it. I’m not that enamored with my cell phone (though, I do love my Galaxy SIII) that I can’t put it down to have an actual conversation (once I check in on Foursquare and maybe send out one *really* share-worthy quote from you on Twitter). My cell phone represents work to me. It is not an extension of my personality. It’s not the connective tissue of our friendship. So, please, don’t treat it as such. And I know that this view will hold me back. It’s already kept me from dating 28-year-old men.

I had a great first date with this youngster. We talked and talked for hours. Closed the restaurant. But, after that night, I never heard his voice again, because all he did was text me. Charming, sweet, funny texts…but just texts. Then, Google Voice and Samsung had a falling out, and I stopped getting text messages from my Google number, which the young lad had because I don’t give out my real cell phone number to just anyone. Anyway, it took me a while to realize what had happened. I logged into my number via Gmail to apologize and let him know that I wasn’t getting texts on my phone. And, you know what he did? He kept texting. Only I didn’t have time to keep logging in to check texts because I am busy and, if I can’t reach someone via text, I actually fucking call them…especially if I have been told texts aren’t the best way to reach them! Finally, Google and Samsung started speaking again, and I got this really old, kind of sad text from the boy that said, “Guess I’m not getting that second date. Sorry to hear that.” Oh, the irony! At the end of the day, it never would have worked out between us. Not necessarily because he was younger, but because I can’t sleep with someone who doesn’t know how to use the phone.

So, there you have it. This is the memo. Communicate with me however you choose. I’m not going to tell you how to live. I am going to say that, if you don’t hear back from me, you might want to try another method. xo

Permission To Have A Bad F@#king Day

On occasion, I’ve been known to post on Twitter or Facebook that I’m having a rather unpleasant or challenging day. And, sometimes, I don’t bother saying it with that much finesse. On Twitter, when that happens, I typically get a few @ replies with, “Me, too!” or “Hang in there. Sounds like you’re having my yesterday.” On Twitter, I have cultivated a community of like-minded lovelies. Basically, I follow and am followed by smart people who don’t shy away from sarcasm or snark. And, I love those people.

On Facebook, however, I’ve ended up with quite the hodge-podge. There are the people I knew back in high school; a few more from college; some former colleagues; actual friends (people I know and socialize with in real life); social media friends (people I’ve come to know and love, but have never actually met in real life); people I’ve met once and felt I should accept their friend request because they are friends with my friends; people I’ve never met, but felt I should accept their friend request because they are friends with my friends; and people who are friends of friends that I want to stay friends with and so I friend them. For the most part, my Facebook folk are pretty cool. But, there is a fair percentage of people — both in my feed and those of friends — who really, really have a need to blow sunshine up your ass, especially when you’re having a bad day.

After I posted “The ‘I’ of the Sh*tstorm”, I got a lot of calls and emails from friends — some giving their support, feeling bad because they had no idea what had been going on, and others who were knee-deep in their own shitstorm relating to what I had written. What I got from a lot of those in the storm was a disclaimer as we talked: “I know I’m really lucky because at least I have a job…” or “I know it could be worse and I really shouldn’t complain…” and “I’m grateful to be working…” And I would stop them right there.

Of course it could be worse. Duh! The list of the ways it could be more rotten are endless, so don’t even bother with giving one example. We’ll use our vivid imaginations.

Of course you are grateful for your job, no matter how shitty it might be. That’s a given. When was the last time you heard anyone say, “Oh, gawd. Can you believe those people actually are paying me today? Geez. Now I have to go to the bank and deposit that money. Now, all of my checks will clear and I can pay my rent. FML, you know?” Seriously.

Most people don’t need disclaimers because we already *know* what the alternatives are. No shit it could be worse. But how bad does it have to be before someone is simply allowed to gripe without being criticized by those who are disappointed that you don’t see how lucky you really are, because, you know, you really don’t have it *that* bad.

In that sentiment alone is a great deal of assumption. We seem to feel that we know everything going on in everyone’s lives because social media is rife with TMI. One might believe you know it all about everyone in your feed because, surely, they would share their most intimate details in a status update, right? Wrong. Only my closest of close friends knew the extent of the shitstorm I was in earlier this year. What was I supposed to post? “Still haven’t paid rent and it looks like I’m going to be on food stamps soon. Holla!” I don’t think so. Clearly, it could have been worse because I was able to post my rants (and joys during that time, believe it or not) on social media, which meant my smart phone and/or internet were still on. Bonus!

I get that some folks really need to find the upside to everything. I used to admire that, but now I find it to be a pathology. I mean, seriously, how silly would it be for people to post things like: “Having kind of a crap day. Lost my job, got a parking ticket and my rent is going up…but, hey, at least I’m still alive! w00t! Drinks are on me!!!” without any hint of sarcasm? It doesn’t work that way. Sure, we could simply skip sharing the bad stuff altogether, but isn’t that what friends are for, too? To help you when you are down? That’s sort of how it works in my life. And thank God for that.

I hate to break it to the overly-optimistic (some of whom I suspect are on mood elevators), but everyone is allowed to have a bad fucking day. And they are allowed to have one without having the upside shoved in their faces. Know why? BECAUSE THAT’S THE WAY LIFE WORKS! Some days are good, some are bad, some are glorious, others are awful, and most of them are a heady mix of all of the above. Bitching about a bad day doesn’t mean there’s a lack of gratitude for all that is good and wonderful in our lives. It just means we are having a bad fucking day.

Before you feel the need to point out the obvious good in someone’s life, why not take a moment to go through the streams of these seemingly negative, gloomy people and take note of the posts that show the gratitude of good friends and lovely days, the lucky breaks and, yes, the happy hours. Most of us post as much about the good as we do the bad. Granted, there are some people who are perpetual victims, those emotional vampires who are dead set on sucking the life out of you. I don’t have friends like that anymore. Those are people you are better off blocking, hiding, de-friending or un-following, both on- and offline. But most people who post something snarky are just having a bad fucking day. Let them have it.

What I find most irritating are the comments that say, “It could be worse. At least you don’t have cancer!” Right. That’s the alternative? I am only allowed to have a bad day if I have cancer?

Well, what if I had a friend with cancer — one whom I used to go up and stay with, visit with her and her family, make her lunch, them dinner, take the boy to and from school, do some laundry, try to make her laugh, try to distract her from her pain — and what if that friend was taken by that cancer only a few months ago? Can I have a bad day then? Because I can tell you that everyone who loved her is having their share of bad days. And we all do our best to pull ourselves out of them, sometimes by focusing on things that make us happy…and sometimes by finding something else to be pissed about. Whatever works.

I realize stuff like that is an innocent mistake. Some people just don’t know what you are going through. Believe it or not, I really don’t post every emotion, thought or feeling I have…even though it may seem as if I do. I think that the people who make the cancer comment haven’t really had cancer in their lives. So, I kindly ask that everyone please leave the cancer out of your comments. Not only is it potentially hurtful, it’s simply inappropriate. Because we’re all allowed to have a bad fucking day no matter what our health status is. Venting is healthy, goddammit! There. I feel better now.

Sometimes, when we put up those seemingly negative posts, it’s because we find our bad day funny on some level. Because, you see, we aren’t negative people refusing to see the upsides, we are just having a bad fucking day. It’s allowed. And, when you have your bad fucking day, I’ll let you have it in peace without the need for disclaimers, descriptions of gratitude, or the sunny side of life shoved up your backside. Because, yes, we all know it could be worse. But, right now, it’s just bad enough, isn’t it?

You also have permission to hate your crappy day job all while being extremely grateful for it. You get to be frustrated that your life isn’t going the way you had hoped or worked for, and still feel blessed for all that you do have. Know why? Because you are human. You get to be a walking, talking paradox. You are likely a passionate, creative person who wants more from your existence. And that’s a good thing. That’s something I have great respect for. So, when you are around me, please know that you have permission to have a bad fucking day. Scream, rant, laugh, cry, eat, drink, feel it all or just numb out. Yeah, tomorrow is another day, but who gives a shit? If right now sucks, you have permission to let it.

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Side Note: Currently raising funds for my film, Black Coffee, on Indiegogo. Please check it out: http://www.indiegogo.com/BlackCoffee2013

The “I” of the Sh*tstorm

Pursuing a dream sounds like a romantic quest. Heroic, even. You fight the good fight, full of integrity and determination (or at least piss and vinegar). People call you brave or inspiring (instead of batshit crazy). And you return their praise with a slightly confident smile (because you’ve learned how to wince from your stomach cramps with style).

Really, pursuing a dream is a shitstorm of unpredictability, poverty, stress, isolation, frustration, coffee, chocolate and vodka. Until you run out of vodka…and can’t afford more. Then, it’s Angry Birds. Lots and lots of Angry Birds. They have a cathartic-yet-numbing effect.

Add in the awful economy and pursuing a dream becomes an even more spectacular adventure. Double the unpredictability, triple the stress and frustration, and ten-fold the poverty and isolation. At that point, there’s not enough Angry Birds in the world. And staring at the empty spot in your freezer where your vodka once lived is the pathetic cherry atop the crap sundae.

The past six months were a special hell. I was unceremoniously sacked by the world’s bitterest old man in November. You would think someone so close to popping his clogs would work on being nice in the event there is, indeed, a maker to meet, but not that venerable turd. His career peaked somewhere in the early 70s, and he’s spent the last four decades having to explain that he was once somebody, and knows people who are people, and some of those people were once his assistants, and *that’s* why he should have *that* table (which, at the end of the day, was pretty easy to get…because most reservations at 6pm are). I suppose that would make anyone cranky, but seriously. If you confuse the word “email” with “fax” and go on to emphatically demand that I email you something, you really don’t have the right to scream at me the next morning because I didn’t fax it to you. I put up with this brand of pleasantry for six months and did so with a smile, because he was gone a lot and while he was gone I was able to re-watch all of “Thirtysomething”, “Twin Peaks”, “Mad Men” and “Rescue Me” on Netflix Instant, and write a new screenplay. Believe it or not, I was sacked not because of watching Netflix or writing screenplays, or because I was bad at the job, or even insubordinate (I was fairly confident with his poor hearing he wasn’t catching what I said under my breath). I was sacked because I was “too fast”. Not in a slutty way, I assure you. That’s totally gross and really inappropriate for you to even silently suggest.

Here’s the bitch of it: The night before I was unceremoniously sacked, I had a meeting with one of my producing partners and three friends who are helping out with funding. [Side Note: The “dream” I’m pursuing is getting at least one of my screenplays funded before I pop my clogs.] After the meeting, the producing partner and I went out to a cheap Thai place for dinner and, while I was high on half a bottle of Singha, I declared: “I want to *not* need this job by December 20th. I want us to get these films funded so when [redacted name of asshat boss] gets back from New York, I can give my notice and we can start pre-production.” My producing partner smiled at me like I was missing a few marbles and said, “All right, then. Let’s see how it goes.” Because he’s a man and doesn’t get that when you put your mind to something, it can happen.

I thought I was pretty clear in my declaration of the timeframe I was aiming for, so imagine my surprise when the very next day I got the boot. What part of “December 20th” did you not get, Universe? Because I got sacked on November 3rd. While I didn’t relish the fact I would no longer have steady income, I did accept that, hey, I created this. In some weird Witches of Eastwick way, I conjured up my own sacking. Sure, Fate or whomever completely ignored my requested end date, and the fact that I wanted the films to be actually funded before calling it quits, but I had literally asked for this. I was going to embrace it and trust that everything was going to work out just fine.

That feeling lasted about two weeks.

See, I was still recovering from 2009, when the economy first kicked me in the moneyballs and I enjoyed eight months of unemployment. During that shitstorm, friends were kind enough to lend me money to keep me in my duplex and off their sofas. I appreciated their generosity and kindly ignored the fact that they were more or less paying for me not to live with them. By that November, I actually found work and ended up taking my first gawd-awful, clockwatching desk job working for two emotionally and financially unstable, Rush Limbaugh-listening semi-retirees…although, they referred to themselves as “entrepreneurs”. I was just happy to have a job, as soul-draining as it was. I stuck it out for eighteen months. Then, I landed the job with the old charmer.

The underbelly of pursuing a dream — especially in this economy — is the jobs you have to take in order to survive. And, yes, you are grateful to have work. Even if it is work where you watch your life slowly tick by while chained to a desk. If you were doing anything at all productive or constructive, you would leave at the end of the day feeling pretty good. Assuaging egos is not akin to curing cancer. It also doesn’t really stoke the creative fires. At the end of the day, I would drive home, crawl onto my sofa and pray for Friday to come.

So, when I took the job with the growling senior citizen, I swore it would be my last desk job. Ever. Of course, that’s because I thought one of my four screenplays would be bought, optioned or funded (which really isn’t as much of a pipe dream as it sounds because three of them have attachments and two of them have had offers — shite offers, but offers just the same). I believed it would finally happen. And I believe in believing in things. You have to have faith in what you do. Otherwise, you just look stupid. Because why would you put yourself through this kind of torture if you didn’t believe it was worth it?

Here’s yet another bitch of the situation: Because I was working as an independent contractor, I didn’t get unemployment benefits. And, all those friends who were so kind to have helped me in 2009? The economy hit them in the moneyballs in 2010. I had no cushion when I took this fall. I went right into the eye of the shitstorm.

Looking for work around Thanksgiving and Christmas is right up there with getting a root canal, rectal and pap smear all at once — and you get to do it all day, every day while cheery holiday songs are blasted ad nauseam. You pray things will get better after New Year (because that’s what your headhunters tell you). But it doesn’t, really. And you would think this would be the perfect time for me to network and try to push the film projects, but it’s hard to invite people to coffee or drinks when you can’t pick up the tab. Not to mention I didn’t really have gas money to get across town for any office meetings, or feed the parking meter. No, seriously. Quarters were used for laundry only.

Two headhunters and not one lead. When you send out dozens of resumes on Craigslist without getting one response (and, believe me, an auto-reply would’ve been overly welcomed), you sort of reach a whole new low. Thankfully, old clients hired me for day jobs.  If I was lucky, I would work two days in one week. My property manager let me be late with the rent (and by “late” I mean it would usually come at the end of the month). When my cable was shut off, I curled up on the floor and cried. I could live without HBO, but functioning without in-home internet was more than I could bear. A friend whose social media I was helping with agreed that internet was necessary, and that bill was kindly paid.

Car registration and a smog check could not have been more poorly timed. You can make a list of all the things you can cut back on (food) and live without (social life), but when it comes to contacts and lens solution and tampons, these things are not inexpensive, nor can you just decide to skip them for the month. Other personal items, like shampoo and toothpaste, were purchased in “travel size”. It was enough to get by until the next day job came. And all those odd smelling soaps you get as random Christmas gifts you never think you’ll never use? You will.

Then, a friend hired me to ghostwrite and edit her book, and the financial hemorrhage slowed. At the beginning of March, I finally had an actual job interview. A month later, I actually landed that part-time position (thankfully, not a desk job). Then, I got another book client, and another consulting client. And I stocked up on vodka (because it was on sale and I fully understood the benefit of stockpiling needed items when you could). It’s great to have work (and vodka) again, and have money coming in, but it’s also like putting on a Band-Aid after you’ve bled out. The bleeding might’ve stopped but, without a transfusion, it’s going to be a long time before I’m fully back on my feet.

But, here’s the deal: I created this. I decided to work less to spend more time writing. I decided to have a haphazard lifestyle in order to craft this someday-career. I am the “i” of the sh*tstorm. Hitting the skids is one of the prices to be paid for pursuing this dream. Friends who have watched me rollercoaster over these last three years say, “I don’t know how you do it.” But I know more than a few of them think, “I don’t know why you do it.” I do it because I have no other choice. A dream is like a demon inside of you. You are driven by it. And, sometimes, it drives you pretty close to the edge.

For now, I’m back on track and working to make up lost ground. One of the screenplays is out to a hot, young director (and, hopefully, one day, he’ll actually read it). The creative juices are flowing again and other artistic friends are inspiring me on what to tackle next. It seems I have survived it. And all I can do is enjoy the calm and sunshine before the next storm hits. Because, when you live a creative life, you know there will always be another storm. And, that’s okay. It’s the price we have to pay. All I can hope for is that I’ll be able to batten down the hatches a bit better next time, and have a better stash of supplies.

{Annoyingly true. Only the lows can be much lower.}

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