Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Let Go and Let God Part 2

Okay, part 2. If you're just joining us, you missed a post, go back down and read "Let Go and Let God Part 1" Because we're analyzing the Folk Wisdom of "Let Go and Let God." Or rather, I'm stumbling through it, and you all are watching me and laughing. HA!

So, summing up last post: Last year, I had a meltdown in a car, I told God to take over my life, nothing seemed to change and then I made a lame analogy with The Lost Boys. And Jason Patric as Michael Emerson in that movie is beautiful beautiful.

I have a spec script I’m working on currently, and the genre is more than just “Romantic Comedy” or “Thriller With Stock Characters And Implausibilities Galore”, or “Coming Of Age Claptrap.” The genre is, in fact unique enough that I don’t feel comfortable saying it here, so as with most other identifying details on this blog, we’ll go with an assumed name and say the genre is “Purple Monkey” ‘cause that phrase makes me giggle.

I am working on a Purple Monkey spec script, and I started it last year, and I felt like it was really something that could do something for me. It was commercial, I could pitch it to people saying “it’s (title of this movie) crossed with (title of that movie)” and people would go, “Mmmmm” in one of those “Holy Crap, she is so RIGHT. A Purple Monkey movie hasn’t been done in a while! It’s exactly what we need! Here’s a blank check!”

I started the Purple Monkey script in September of last year, and the first week of this month, I cracked open the trades and saw that a Purple Monkey TV series was being prepped. Okay, don’t panic. Don’t panic. I’ve been in this situation before, where people went out with a script of mine in a different genre, which was, um, a Yellow Platypus script. And it didn’t sell because it was coming on the tail end of a tidal wave of Yellow Platypus’ sales, and I certainly didn’t know it when I was writing it, I was writing it just to write it, and once I figured out there was a trend and it was almost over, I halfway hoped that people still wanted a Yellow Platypus script. And they didn’t. And at the time, I stomped, and yelled, and shook my ineffectual fist heavenward, and basically behaved like a brat. That was many years ago (yes, I know some of you are thinking, “Sheesh, nothing’s changed.”)

Now here I am, with a Purple Monkey script, and there’s a Purple Monkey TV series being prepped, and I gotta get GOING on the rewrite, but it’s not a trend, it’s not a trend. Calm down, calm down. Put that ineffectual fist away.

And then I opened the trades last week and saw that another writer sold a Purple Monkey pitch.


Yes, that is what I would’ve thought, if I had thought it. But the small vital truth is, I didn’t think it. Okay, fine, I thought this much:


And that’s all I thought. Everything else in that above all caps rant, is well, embellished for your benefit. Take THAT, James Frey! I'm honest FROM THE BEGINNING!

Because yes, I had the two second freak out. And then, it was gone. I did think, “You better get yo’ ass in gear on that rewrite, chickie!” and went to finesse another 10 pages of the script.

But the quite crystal clear thought was so what. They have their Purple Monkey scripts. I have mine. My Purple Monkey script is different from their Purple Monkey script. I’m pretty sure that my Purple Monkey kicks their Purple Monkey’s ASS.

And I also don’t care if I get done with the rewrite, call up my agent and manager contacts, and they all read the script and say, “Mmmm, gosh, you know, if only that other Purple Monkey pitch hadn’t sold, and if only that other Purple Monkey TV series hadn’t sold, and I just think that the studios are all full up on Purple Monkeys right now.” ‘Cause I’m not stopping. I know my Purple Monkey script is worth something. I’m not panicking, and I’m not stopping. If that’s God taking over my life then…okay. I was hoping for a little more strength, a little more guidance, a little more I’ve Killed The Head Vampire OOOMPH about it. But okay. We’re going the subtle route, looks like. Maybe it should be Let Go And Let God And Lose the Expectation.

But who’d wanna hear that, right?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Let Go And Let God Part 1

“Let Go And Let God.”

Sigh. I’ve heard that particular phrase a couple of times at different churches. Let Go And Let God. Let go of what? My anger? My frustration? My psychological roadblocks that prevent me from bridging the gap between me and God? Why am I the one doing all the reaching anyway? He’s GOD. He’s more powerful than me! How hard would it be for Him to stretch His hand like a Divine Plasticman and give an assist across the breach?

Let go of your emotions, most likely. Yeah, because Folk Wisdom usually applies to the intangibles, which is why they’re so supremely aggravating to me. HOW do you let go of your emotions?! If I was hanging onto a branch on the tree in my backyard, I could let go. If I was hanging onto a door, a person’s belt loop, a trapeze, the handle when I’m water skiing, a car bumper, something solid and real, I could let go. Then I’d know what you’re talking about. But letting go of something intangible, something emotional, something that’s oh so painfully real, but not solid, something that exists somewhere inside me and I don’t know where? Let go of THAT? HOW!?

And yet the metaphorical Pastoral Twit struts upon the stage with a little self-satisfied smirk as he says “Let Go And Let God.” And the crowd goes “Mmmmm” in one of those “Holy Crap, he is so RIGHT.” And I’m sitting there thinking, “Um, doesn’t anyone wanna ask him HOW!?”

How, oh how does one let go of their emotions? Maybe they’re trying to say don’t let your emotions rule your world, take ‘em to God. Okay, cool. Let’s give it a whirl.

Dear God. I am pissed off that You don’t return my calls. Would you ever so kindly take away my anger towards You? Um, hello? Hello? God? Care to answer, God? Hey God? I’m angry at you! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Needless to say, I still have issues.

Let Go and Let God. Maybe that means give up control. Oh cool! I already did that. See, last year, I have a razor sharp memory of me having a meltdown in the car. I have most of my meltdowns in the car. If you ever spot me driving, it’s a 50/50 percent chance I’m having a meltdown, so it’s best you stay far away from me, lest I crash into you. On the flip side, if I’m not having a meltdown, I’m most likely praying for all the cars around me, so you might actually want to get in my sightlines. Potential accident or blessings from above. Risk/reward, up to you.

Anyhow, I have a very SPECIFIC memory of this meltdown, though unfortunately, I can’t remember what exactly spurred it. In the halcyon days of 2005, when I was gleefully unemployed, I would have meltdowns at the drop of a hat (and oddly enough, it never was because I was unemployed.)

So I can remember things about this meltdown like, it was after my play had closed (so that puts it somewhere after May), it was in the morning on a weekday, I was coming back from the La Cienega LA Fitness gym (so that makes it a Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday), and I was driving west on Olympic towards my house, but I don’t remember what triggered it. Sigh. Well, it’s probably one of three things:

1: I don’t feel the presence of God, and I feel like I’m cracking up.
2: I’m awfully, terribly, desperately lonely, and craving the arms of a strong strong man around me.
3: I’m never going to sell a script ever, and I feel like God is just waiting for me to figure it out and give up so He can steer me to a life of working as a secretary at a church where I would live a spiritually correct and lamentably celibate and otherwise boring life.

‘Cause most of the meltdowns can be attributed in part or full to one of those three.

Anyhow, here I am, driving down Olympic, passing Crescent Heights, sobbing big heaving sobs, the kind where your jaw is permanently unhinged and stuck in the Gape Position, so should any car glance over and see you, they’d be really worried (but since it’s Olympic, and not Robertson or Sunset, nobody’s looking over.) And I remember quite clearly, saying


There ya go, metaphorical Pastoral Twit. I Let Go, And Let God. Okay, it’s more I Let Go, And Told God To Take Over.

That was last year. Sometime last year, between May and September. And here I am now, and…I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel like someone else took the wheel.

Okay, here’s a completely stupid example. One of my favorite movies in the world is The Lost Boys. Because there is nothing finer in dreamy 80’s beefcake than Michael Emerson in that movie. Would you just LOOK at that man on the left? Sigh, sigh, sigh. Yes, I’ve heard Jason Patric’s a dick in real life, and doesn’t wanna be remembered for his work in that movie alone. I didn’t say Jason Patric was dreamy. I said Michael Emerson was.

But that’s just a convenient excuse to put more photos to break up the text. Basically, The Lost Boys is a vampire movie, and it supposes that there are such things as half vampires, which are people like Jami Gertz who’ve been bitten by vampires like Kiefer Sutherland, but won’t be fully vampire until they make their first kill. But all half and full vampires know there is a Head Vampire, and the only way to turn half vampires back to normal is to kill the Head Vampire. (I believe the full vampires are screwed regardless what happens to the Head Vampire. There may be a coup for succession? Suffice to say, it doesn't come up in the movie.) And in the climatic third act in Grandpa’s house, which involves a lot of wire stunts, and annoying actors named Corey running around, Mr. Dreamy Michael Emerson finally kills who he thinks is the Head Vampire, only to have Jami Gertz pipe up in the corner after the dust settles that “I don’t feel any different.” Meaning who they thought was the Head Vampire isn’t, because obviously if they had dusted the dude, everyone would FEEL it.

Is it too much to ask that if God took over my life, I’d FUCKIN’ FEEL IT!? Half vampires can feel it when their Head Vampire dies and they get to go back to being human and kiss Michael Emerson on a beach that looks like Santa Cruz. God is bigger than the movies, so why would His influence be smaller than that?

Here’s what happened after the meltdown: I made it home. I ate lunch. I worked on my scripts. Life went on. The months went by. The car broke down. The computer broke down. The money ran out in fixing the car and the computer. I got a job. I work for decent people who I will never ever blog about. I continue to work on my scripts. I don’t feel any different. We didn’t get the right Head Vampire. If this is God taking over, it feels suspiciously like I’m still at the wheel.

WAIT! Wait, wait, before you start sending the comments about how I’m so blind, God sent me the job working for decent people who I will never ever blog about, WAIT. There’s more. But this entry is already too long, and I’m TRYING to write reasonable sized entries so…part 2 comes later. Very soon. I promise.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Proof That There Is A God

I’m practicing inserting graphics into text, so you guys don’t have to read words and words and words on a page. That must get pretty boring. So here we go.

Proof that there is a God: He gives me such pretty scenery on my TV:

Exhibit A – James Marsters:

Spike on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel." He's obnoxious, arrogant, he's in love with Buffy who's a tiny tiny twit, he's a vampire, and both his shows are now canceled. Sigh. isn't he dreamy? (batting eyelashes)

Exhibit B – James Marsters’ Separated At Birth Twin Brother Julian McMahon:

Dr. Christian Troy on Nip/Tuck. He's obnoxious, arrogant, he's a walking petri dish from all the women he's slept with, and season 3 of his show was pretty dismal. Sigh. isn't he dreamy? (batting eyelashes)

Evil can be so alluring. Why can't angels look half as tempting? Look, here's David Boreanaz from Angel:

No comparison, nope nope. Good guy vampire. Bland looking Angel.

And you don’t need to tell me how superficial and shallow I am because God’s existence is in the birds and the trees and the sky and the pretty pretty sunsets, because I already know. Yippee for you, go pick a flower and praise God. I will look at these guys instead.

I don't wanna sleep with them. I don't even wanna talk to them. I just want them to walk around my house in work jeans with no shirt and clean my bathroom, 'cause the bathtub is old-school-no-porcelain-sheen, cleaning it is a pain, and Roommate Heckle's not good at cleaning anything.

Okay, maybe I wouldn't mind kissing them. Once or twice. Or a lot.

But I definitely don't need to talk to them.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Jesus Rides Beside Me

That’s from one of my favorite bands of all time, The Replacements. The rest of the lyric goes “He never buys any smokes,” which is theologically correct (why WOULD Jesus buy cigarettes) but makes me laugh at the thought that someone’s pissed that He didn’t.

But I like the idea of Jesus riding in the car with you. No, I haven’t seen Book Of Daniel, where apparently He does that. But I’ve been told by many a church that you should pray whenever and where ever the mood strikes you, including sitting in traffic.

I’m the type of driver that rarely sits in traffic. I’ll take side streets galore, even if it means getting lost, just so I don’t have to sit still (and yes that can be applied to the rest of my furiously multi-tasking lifestyle, and yes, I know that’s where a lot of my problems in trying to connect with God start. Yes, I know. I know, I know, I know. Thanks.) But since I have a car that’s older than Moses, and the tape deck (see?) doesn’t work, and the radio sucks so much of the time that it’s better off being turned off, there happens to be silence in the car a lot of the time. So I pray.

There is the dilemma of praying where you can (in my car) versus approaching a conversation with God with the appropriate reverence and respect (on your knees in a church), but irreverence is me all over, and God has to know that, since He’s the one who created me, so praying in the car it is.

So the other day, after I imagined Jesus yelling “Shotgun!” and jumping into the passenger seat, it hit me that maybe I should try praying for other people that I see while driving. And I liked that idea very much. Because it meant I didn’t actually have to talk to them. I’m not really good with people I don’t know, which would be…everybody outside of the car. It’s a drive by praying! Sign me up!

And it’s kinda vague at first. “Lord, please bless that car…and that car.” Then I thought I should get more specific, because if I’m not, God may not actually bless the car I wanted Him to bless, But you SAID that car! So I blessed that car! How was I supposed to know you meant the other car!?

So again, “Lord, please bless…the white car. Please bless the maroon car in front of me. Please bless the Honda that just let me into his lane. Thanks Honda! Blessings on you and you don’t even know it! Rockin’! Lord, please bless the silver Camry....no wait, they’re trying to make a left turn when the signs clearly say you can’t do that. I TAKE AWAY MY BLESSING ON YOU! You’re cursed, Camry! You’re cursed and you don’t even know it! Ptooie on you!

I pray for the person pushing an overloaded shopping cart. Please give that person peace and rest and a safe place to stay for the night. I pray for that mom and child holding hands while crossing the street. Please love that family, Lord. I pray for the hottie in the track suit. Let him find the love of his life, even if it’s not me.

I pray for the girl in the Juicy sweats. I pray that she knows happiness in whatever form it takes today. I pray for the two skateboarders. Please don’t let them break their necks, their moms would be very sad.

I pray for the person applying mascara in the car in front of me. I pray that where ever they’re going today, you give them the confidence they need to meet the situation with a smile and batted mascara laden eyes…oh wait, it’s a guy. Oh wait, it’s not mascara, it’s a cell phone. Well, bless the guy anyway, Lord. And please let me remember to find an optometrist this week, so I can finally get those glasses I obviously need.”

And at first, it did feel kinda dopey, driving by and thinking at break neck speed “blessingsonyouandeveryoneyou’rewithhaveaniceday!” But then again, nobody could hear me being dopey. Jesus is probably trying not to laugh, but I have a feeling He does that a lot of the time with me. Clamping both hands over His mouth, shaking with suppressed laughter, not being successful, coming out in little snorts and wheezes. Jesus had to snort at some time, didn’t He? I think so.

But the more I did the drive by praying thing, the more things I asked God to bless – the cars, the people, the dogs, the very nice police car behind me – the more it got me into a giddy frame of mind. Is THIS is peace of God? No, this is you acting like an idiot. But still, feeling giddy is much better than feeling annoyed, which I think is what 99 percent of Los Angeles drivers feel.

Yes, it’s superficial. If I really wanted to be helpful, I’d stop the car and help every single person I saw to the utmost of my ability, which would, well, be impossible. So baby steps it is. Drive by praying it is. Next time I think it’s praying for people in the grocery line. We’ll see.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Further evidence that the metaphor breaks down...

Here I am, up late at night writing, singing my heart out (Twilight Singers, 'cause Greg Dulli is a hard hard habit that I don't wanna break), and Ginger Puppy, who we clearly identified as Jesus in the last entry, has run into her crate to hide. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT, JESUS!

I'm not that awful. I promise. Seriously. Don't make me bring out the guitar. I just got the B string replaced.

Ha ha ha.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Metaphor Gone Horribly Awry

I’m housesitting up in Los Feliz this week for some really great guys, Albert and Abbot. I dig the housesitting gig for a bunch of ridiculously selfish reasons (like Their House Is Better Than Mine, They Have More DVDs Than I Do, An Empty House Means Amy Sings Her Heart Out And Nobody Hears Her), but the MOST important reason are their dogs, Basil and Ginger (yes, the dogs fall under the Assumed Name Rule as well.)

Basil and Ginger are Westies, and the best way to describe them is they kinda look like Sam Sheepdog from the Bugs Bunny cartoons, ‘cause their hair is all in their face. Like so:

I am a HUGE dog person, despite the fact that I link to a site called stuffonmycat.com. There doesn’t appear to be a stuffonmydog.com, and damn if seeing pictures of things that people put on their cat aint the funniest thing in the whole world. Seriously. Go check it out and come back. I can wait.

Anyhow, I’ve been trying to come up with some kind of metaphor for my spiritual struggle, and I’m reminded of something that happened at the housesitting house last year that may or may not make sense.

Basil is an older Westie, around eight or nine years old (Ginger is still a puppy going on 2.) And Basil is, without a doubt, a diva in a dog’s body. I say this with all love for him.

See, in the beginning, it was just me and Basil, in a different house (because I’ve had this gig since 2003), and Basil was very lukewarm to the idea that his masters were gone and he was going to be stuck with me for certain periods of time. He would keep his distance when I would watch movies in the living room (“C’mon Basil! It’s Notting Hill! What’s wrong with Notting Hill! It’s just for research!”), he would keep his distance when I’d take my laptop out on the patio and write (I wrote the first draft of A Muppet Midsummer Night’s Dream out there, still one of my best scripts.) He really wasn’t keen on the I’m A Dog Person And I LOVE You aspect of me.

But by the time Albert and Abbot moved to their current location, Basil seemed to accept me, or perhaps it was the strangeness of new surroundings and he wanted to hang around anything that seemed familiar. We now got along famously, and when I’d come home to feed him, we’d have the Jumping Olympics, because I’d come home, let him in, and he’d be so excited, he’d jump as high as he could in the air, which I’d try to match, then he’d try to match, and if I timed it right, we’d both be jumping in the air together, and we could’ve been a serious contender for Ice Skating Pairs in the Winter Olympics if, y’know, Basil could skate. And not be a dog.

Then Ginger came into our lives. I love dogs, and that includes puppies, so I was excited to expand the circle. Basil, not so much. Oh, he tolerates her enough, but he’s older, wiser, and not to mention he was FIRST in this household. And he got very diva-esque. When I came home to let them in, of course Ginger would get there first, she’s a puppy with an inner rocket, she’s so excited about EVERYTHING. She’d get to the door first, and jump jump jump like she knows she’s not supposed to, because she’s been to Obedience School. And the second I’d lay a hand on her, Basil would hightail it back into the backyard, affecting the classic You Don’t Love Me routine (in human terms, this is when the distraught girl leaves the bar and hopes the guy catches up to her in the parking lot to tell her “No, no, don’t go. You’re beautiful, you’re wonderful, I’m attracted to your inner sensitivity, I’m attracted to your outward appearance which includes a SLAMMING ass, can we go get coffee and talk about it somewhere far far away from this maddening crowd.”)

So I’d have to hike into the backyard to coax Basil out. No, no, YOU’RE my favorite, Basil, I promise. The puppy means nothing to me. You were first. I’m attracted to your jumping abilities, I’m attracted to your aloofness. We’ve got a history together, we sure do, and, um, you wanna come inside the house now? It’s kinda cold out. I’ve got jerky treats! Everybody loves jerky treats! And eventually Basil would come out from whatever bush he had crawled under and we’d go inside. I’d like to think it was my superior powers of persuasion, but it was usually the jerky treats.

Which brings us up to last year. I was running late, and I really needed to be gone, like, fifteen minutes ago. Ginger Puppy is inside, patiently watching through the door going, “Is she coming back? It’d be SO COOL if she came back! I haven’t seen her in all of a minute and a half!” and I’m in the backyard, trying in vain to lure Basil the Diva inside.

Whether Basil’s sulking because I lingered a split second too long on Ginger Puppy, or whether he senses that I need to be somewhere else other than here with him, today he has chosen his sulking spot under a very large bush, where the branches are so low, there is no crawling beneath to get to him, but I can see him quite clearly. And he’s just lounging, really. All he needs is a beach chair, a mai tai, and a couple of drunk college girls on spring break to complete the picture of complete and total Diva Boredom.

And I am frantic. I’ve got fistfuls of jerky treats, I’m begging, pleading, “Basil, please, you wonderful exasperating dog, you. I love you all to pieces but I HAVE TO BE GONE NOW, please, please come out from underneath the bush. Whatever I did, I am so so sorry, I didn’t mean it. I need to be more attentive, I need to be more sensitive, can we go get coffee somewhere and talk about it, metaphorically speaking because I need to go…BASIL! I didn’t mean it! It’s ALL ABOUT YOU, BASIL!”

And I kid you not, Basil looks over at me, yawns, and puts his head back down on the ground, stretching a four paw stretch that essentially means “I see right through your pathetic human pleading. I aint going nowhere. Deal with it, lady.”

Somehow, I got him out from under the bush. There were a lot of scratching branches involved, and a few colorful phrases of profanity from me at the scratching branches. But I got him inside, Ginger jumped around a lot because she thought it was an Amy Came Home! party, I set them up upstairs, and off I went.

But several months later, when I’m trying to figure out how best to craft the perfect metaphor that would poetically and perfectly depict my struggle of trying to experience the presence of God, I keep coming back to that moment. And if it’s all that keeps coming back, then I’d like to think it’d God trying to turn my head. Or it could be me basking in another round of navel gazing. It’s entirely possible with a Writer, by the way. Fair warning to you, readers. Writers are perennially engaged in the act of Navel Gazing. It’s all about ME, folks. Basil has figured it out, and he’s a dog.

Anyhow, when I look back on that experience, my first impression was this:

You’re you, and God is Basil, and you’re trying desperately to get God’s attention. You can see Him, you can’t reach Him, it’s frustrating as hell, and your pleas and promises do not move Him. He knows that you’re only begging for His attention because you’re trying to accomplish something else, and He prefers to yawn in the face of your entreaties and take a nap, because He thinks He’s on a beach in Cancun drinking a mai tai while drunk college girls are trying to get Him to turn their water into cranberry vodkas.

And I lived with that impression for, dunno, about a week, or so, when it suddenly hit me that the impression was inverted (and unfortunately, I can’t identify what switched within me, although I’m sure that’s where a potential sighting of the presence of God came through. But I think it was something along the lines of This Metaphor Seems Off. Go Deeper. Don’t Be A Pastoral Twit.)

So the second impression was this:

You’re Basil, and God is you. YOU’RE the one lounging underneath the bush, dreaming of mai tais on a Cancun beach, wondering why mai tais on a Cancun beach don’t satisfy like you thought they would, and why aren’t there any cute guys to see me in my bodacious black bikini, and all the while, God is frantically trying to get your attention with a handful of, um, spiritual jerky treats? And you look over at Him and say “Hmmmm? You want me to do what? Oh, well, I’m kinda cool where I am, thanks. Got anything else? You’re not really thinking about me at all, are You. You’re trying to accomplish my spiritual salvation because you need to be somewhere else, don’t You.”

And that’s the impression I had when I started this entry, which was, oh, about an hour ago (I overwrite like hell, and editing takes awhile.) And then, midway through typing, it hit me at this sentence.

“Ginger Puppy is inside, patiently watching through the door going, “Is she coming back? It’d be SO COOL if she came back! I haven’t seen her in all of a minute and a half!”

Oh it’s so obvious. Obvious in a painful Sunday School Story kind of way.

God is not Basil, ignoring my pleas to come out from under the bush.

God is not me, trying desperately to reach an unresponsive Basil under the bush.

God is actually Ginger Puppy, patiently waiting at the door, desperately wanting me to come back, because we’re gonna have a party when I do. Regardless if I’m bringing a Diva Dog back with me, regardless if I shut her upstairs and leave her two seconds after I come back. It’s gonna be a party when I come back, whenever I come back, that’s all Ginger Puppy knows. God is Ginger Puppy in this metaphor gone horribly awry, and boy, is Basil gonna be pissed if he ever figured THAT out.

Ugh. I just reread the entry, and I don’t think I could get my head up my own ass any harder if I tried. Gross. Gross, gross, gross.

Whether this was the conclusion I was supposed to come to, not before I wrote the entry, but WHILE I wrote the entry, or whether this is winning the gold medal of Navel Gazing Blog Entries, I feel exactly the same. I think I know more, but I feel the same. This was an intellectual revelation, all in my head. If I think about it any further, I can come up with a billion other explanations, “God is the bush Basil is hiding under. God is the jerky treats I’m using to get Basil out from under the bush.” Matter of fact, when I arrived at the house today, that bush in the backyard is now GONE, they’ve bulldozed it because they’re putting a pool in, so maybe that means Albert and Abbot are God. Hell, I’m not so sure that God isn’t me, trying to get a hold of an unresponsive Basil. Though that might be Basil’s subliminal influence, trying to bend me to his diva ways again

I want something I can FEEL. Out of my head, into my heart. I want to feel something I recognize WHILE it’s happening, not something I look at in retrospect however many months after the fact and say, “Oh, well, DUH. God is Ginger Puppy.”

Or maybe I just want a simple metaphor that doesn’t take three and a half pages to explain. Sigh.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pastoral Twits and The F Word

If my Mom has somehow found her way to this blog, even though she thinks that blogs cause viruses on your computer, I apologize in advance for the language in today’s post. There is a post that I’ll do later entitled “God Knows About The F Word.” But to sum up – I’m trying to use it only when I’m really pissed off. (see separate post in the future entitled “God Thinks It’s Better To Say “Pissed” Rather Than The F Word, But If You’re Really Angry, He Understands. I Hope.”)

So there are two church services I go to on Sundays, because I am Amy Overachiever, and I think attending two church services will increase my chances of getting into heaven. Kidding! I like certain things about this church, I like certain things about that church. I dislike certain things about this church, and I dislike certain things about that church. So if I go to both of them, I usually get 100% of a full fledged church experience that I can agree with.

I’m not gonna name the churches here because…um, I don’t know. I don’t want to, yet. So for our purposes, they will be 9 o’Clock Church and 11 o’Clock Church.

And I was disappointed with 9 o’Clock Church’s service today, which is unusual. I dig 9 o’Clock Church because they have lessons with bullet points that I can write down and refer back. But today it was more of a free form ramble introducing their next sermon series called “The Great Gamble – Living Beyond Myself.” The only time bullet points showed up was when they said here are four things you should do to start Living Beyond Yourself.

1. – Come to hear the sermon every Sunday this month.
• Great! No problem, I do that anyway!
2. – Buy this book for $10 in the lobby that the sermon series this month will be based on.
• Wha-huh? Um, I’ll be skipping that, thanks. I don’t come to church to be shilled at. Call me old fashioned, but
the only book I wanna read in church is the Bible.
3. – Before you leave the church today, do one simple act of kindness for somebody else.
• Do you suppose telling the Hottie sitting in my row that he is a Hottie qualifies as a simple act of kindness?
4. – Before you go to bed tonight, do one more act of kindness.
• I wonder if I can retro-act my act of kindness to yesterday, when I put Roommate Heckle and Jeckle’s dishes in the
dishwasher for them.

So this service is having an off day, no big deal, let’s just go ahead and get the benediction so I can hightail it to 11 o’Clock Church. And then the Pastor says he wants to do something different. He wants us to take a few moments just to “Wait On God.” You can come down to the front if you feel so led and pray, or you can pray where you are, but “Let’s all just take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives and change us from within.”

Well…okay. Oh, sorry, I mean, yes, absolutely, sign me up with twirling pom-poms! If I’m reluctant, it’s only because I ask the Holy Spirit EVERY SINGLE DAY to show up and say howdy. I’d be overjoyed if It did. And so far, nothing. But sure, let’s try again. Maybe it’ll actually work this time. I don’t mind Waiting On God. I read a devotional the other day saying I should do that. Like you’re at a bus stop, waiting for the God Bus to swing by and pick you up, ‘cause you’re going to, um, the Mall Of Salvation. Okay, that’s lame, sorry.

So I close my eyes and pray. "Holy Spirit, please show up in my life. Please change me from the inside, and please do it in a way that I know it’s you, as opposed to some brilliant idea that I came up with myself, because my brilliant ideas aren’t that brilliant these days anyway."

They’ve got the band playing behind the Pastor, and they’re singing a song at half volume, like an underscore to your prayers. I glance up, and there’s plenty of people down at the front, hands in the air, hands on the stage, swaying, standing still, yippee for them.

Waiting on God here. Waiting for Holy Spirit to show up and zap me. Waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Then the Pastor starts saying things like “Surrender to God! Yield your heart to Him! Ask Him to take away the obstacles to you loving Him more!”

And suddenly, I start to get angry. ‘Cause the Pastor won’t stop. “Surrender to God! Yield your heart to Him! Ask Him to take away the obstacles to you loving Him more!” In that anguished voice, where, if this was a movie, people would be fainting in the aisles because they’ve been Struck By The Spirit.

And I am angry.

What the FUCK does “Surrender to God” MEAN!? What the HELL does “Yield your heart to Him” MEAN!? Don’t orchestrate this whole Waiting On God To Feel His Holy Spirit thing, don’t exhort me in increasingly urgent and louder tones to do shit THAT DOESN’T HAVE MEANING FOR ME!

This Pastor isn’t the first joker I’ve heard saying this bullshit. C’mon, if you’ve spent any time in any church, if you’ve ever cracked a devotional book, you’ve heard the platitudes. Surrender To God. Yield Your Heart To Him. Cast All Your Cares On Him. Let Him Lift You Up. Find Yourself In Him.


Can any Pastor out there, can ANYBODY out there go deeper than this Hallmark Card bullshit!? Can’t ANYONE tell me EXACTLY what “Surrender to God” means!? What do I have to DO to surrender to Him!? TELL ME! Don’t stand there and give the gentle platitude because it sounds nice and spiritual to the swaying masses at your feet. GO DEEPER THAN THAT! I dare you, I double dog dare you, I TRIPLE dog dare you, to go deeper, and say exactly what SURRENDERING TO GOD means.

Because I have. I HAVE. Given the fact that Surrendering To God is an abstract concept anyway, I’ve done the best I can. I’ve asked the Holy Spirit to show up and say Howdy a BUNCH of times. I’ve tried Casting My Cares on Him as best I know how (which to me means praying about it every single day. Maybe I should take it to some sort of symbolic level and throw rocks off the Santa Monica Pier. A future post, maybe.) And nothing. I’ve gotten NOTHING. I’m operating in a vacuum here, much like posting in cyberspace. I have no idea if I’m getting through to myself, to anybody, to God.

Yield My Heart!? WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN, YOU PASTORAL TWIT! Saying things that sound religious and have no practical meaning. Yield My Heart!? What, I’m supposed to rip it out of my chest and lob it at the Twit onstage? HERE YA GO! SEND ME THE HOLY SPIRIT PRONTO PLEASE! Actually if I had a knife handy, and if the Hottie wasn’t sitting in the same row as me, I might consider it.

You’re a Pastoral Twit. I don’t give a fuck if you’re a Pastor, you’re a Twit and I wish I had the balls to tell you so to your face. Because I have the very sneaking suspicion that you don’t know what Surrender To God means. Because if you did, you’d tell us. Spouting off something like “Cast Your Cares On Him” puts the burden of figuring out what you mean on ME, so therefore, if I don’t get it, it’s because I’m not doing it right, not because you didn’t tell me. So if I DON’T happen to feel the Holy Spirit at this moment, (though I’m feeling Mr. Furious And Pissed Off pretty hard), it’s not YOUR fault, it’s all on me.

I’m pissed off. I’m so fucking pissed off, and I’m in church. I think the preacher is a Pastoral Twit. I’m going to hell. Sorry, Mom, did my best.

Finally we wind up this mini revival and I hightail it out of the church and on the walk back to the car I start the talk with God and it went something like this:

“Okay, this is not directed at you, God. That Pastor is a Twit and I’m pissed off at him, not you. I don’t even care if the Holy Spirit forgot to stop on my brain when It made Its rounds through the church just then, because that’s business as usual in Amyland. But I demand a deeper answer than Yield Your Heart To God. I DEMAND A DEEPER ANSWER! FUCK THE PASTOR, I WANT AN ANSWER!”

Can I do that? Can I demand stuff of God? Isn’t that, like, begging for a smiting or something? Little small person shaking my ineffectual fist at the Almighty? Standing on the cliff in one of those Road Runner cartoons, and the bolt of lighting hits the thing, and I fall down and splat on the canyon ground accompanied by a sound effect? SHOW UP, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!

I was working with a counselor last year, Counselor Gladys, and she often said that it’s not a recipe, you can’t mix flour, add two eggs, a half teaspoon of vanilla, bake at 350 degrees, and POOF, instant Presence Of God. A mainstay of a formula for connecting to the Almighty. Because if it was that easy, everybody could do it, right?

My frustration is that I’m trying SO HARD to do the shit that you’re supposed to do to connect with Him. Even if it’s different for everybody, there’s still, like, basic building blocks. Go To Church. Read The Bible. Pray Daily. Wait On God. Be Nice To People. Put Roomate Heckle And Jeckle’s Dishes In The Dishwasher. I do all of that, and I still get nothing but listening to a Pastoral Twit exhorting me to do abstract shit. Fuck off, Pastoral Twit. Fuck the fuck off.

I make it to the 11 o’clock service, which has a guest speaker talking about his adventures in Morocco, which isn’t resonating with me either, but at least he doesn’t say crap like Surrender To God. It’s the little things, I guess.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Green Handprints

For the first Sunday of the New Year, my Church decided to do one of those services that have a bunch of Activity Stations things. A whole slew of them, you’re not expected to hit them all, just whatever ones call to you. Which to me means, do the ones you don’t want to do and you’ll learn more about yourself than you thought you would.

These things are always a riot to me, because yes, it’s symbolic, and yes, the memory you’ll take away with you will probably stick more than being preached at for another Sunday, but I always get the strangest giggle thoughts just from the mechanics of the stations. Everyone else is solemn, and deep in thought, and deep in prayer, and I’m off on a meta level, thinking how silly this must look to anyone who picked today to visit this particular church. Wow. You guys do this stuff, like all the time? Do you have the dancing chicks in the white robes too?

So first I go over to the Influence Station, where you dip your hand into a pan of paint, and then put your handprint on the wall and pray for God’s influence in you when you make your mark, or something like that. The guy running the thing assures us that the paint’ll come right off, and there’s a disinfectant bottle, and paper towels, and the like.

I’m in the line with other folks, and I’m supposed to be focusing on connecting with God, and praying that if I do have any influence with my talent, with my abilities, if I happen to be influencing anyone else (and God help them if THAT’S true) to please let Him be somehow wiggling His influence in there instead of mine. But instead I’m eyeing the pans of paint, and wondering if I can wait until I get the red pan instead the blue pan. I’m wearing a green sweater, and I think red would be nicer compliment than blue.

But no, you deal with the pan you get, and my pan is green, so I’ll be matching my sweater anyway. Yay! Thanks, God! I gingerly dip my hand in the paint, trying to get the least amount of paint on my hand and yet still able to make the boldest handprint on the butcher paper on the wall. Squish. I make a somewhat respectable mark on the wall, and say a quick prayer that goes something along the lines of Dear God, if I happen to inadvertently influence anybody this year, please come through instead of me, since I don’t really know what I’m doing anyway. And then step over to the table to wipe off the paint. The paint leaves a bigger residue than the guy running the thing had led us to believe, and now my hand is a lovely shade of faint green. And I wipe and wipe and wipe, and the giggle thoughts start to hit You’re trying to wipe off the Influence of GOD! SHAME ON YOU! Be proud of your green hand and show it off to the WORLD! So I head off to the next station, pretty sure it can’t get any messier than that.

The next station is the Finance Station, where you take a piece of fake paper money and write on it In God I Trust. You’re then supposed to keep the fake money with you through the year, and it’s symbolic that you’re trusting God with your money. So I look on the table and grab a $100 bill. Wow, that’s a lot of fake money. I look for a smaller bill, since, I dunno, I think I’m worthier of like, a $1 bill, or a $5 bill. But I can’t find any. Maybe everyone else went here first when I was wasting time wiping off the Influence Of God. There is a $1,000 bill, and suddenly the Bible verse From Everyone Who Has Been Given Much, Much Will Be Demanded flits through my head. ACK! Where’s that $1 bill! I want a $1 bill!

Alas, the smaller denomination is my $100 bill, so I stick with that and write In God I Trust on it. Then I write Honestly. Truly. I’m sure God knows I mean it, but I felt like I should add some sort of personal touch. I should’ve gone with a smiley face.

The next station is the World Station (it was probably called something else), where there’s a globe, and you can pray for the world in general, or pick a specific country, or you can pick a name from the basket of the mission team members going to India in a few weeks, and pray for them for the rest of the month. I’m looking at the world, and trying to pray Deep Thoughts, and what I’m coming up with is a general The World Is Sick. Like, all over. You can take that sentence anyway you want to – culturally, politically, economically, weather-wise, whatever – and be right. So a quick prayer here – Lord, please heal the world. And then off to pick my mission team member to pray for this month. I make sure to grab one from the very bottom of the pile, because you know THAT person is gonna get shafted, since everyone else picks from the top.

The worst station is coming up. The one I absolutely do not want to do, and therefore it means I have to do it. The Mirror Station. They’ve set up a few mirrors along the wall, and you’re supposed to sit in front of it, look at yourself, and try to see yourself as God sees you. Man, I don’t want to do that. I hate mirrors. I hate mirrors so much that when the one mirror in my room broke a few months ago, I danced and danced. No mirrors mean I never have to confront what I look like currently, or how much older I’m getting, and what do you mean, you’re this old and not as far as you should be for a comparable person of your age who lives in Middle America. What’s wrong with you? So no, I’m not digging the idea of The Mirror Station. So I decide to sit on the steps to the stage and pray about it. Just for kicks.

It’s not as though I’m sitting on the steps to the stage and everyone is staring at me. It’s more of an informal mob milling here, there, and everywhere. Some people are sitting, more people are at the stations against the wall, some people are in the lobby discovering just how hard it is to wipe off The Influence Of God. But when I sit on the steps and close my eyes, for a few seconds there, it feels like I’m the only person there. Is this it? Is this me and you, God? And then the tears start to come. Which would be embarrassing, except I did note that the guy sitting on the steps a ways away from me was also crying with his face in his hands, so I am officially declaring this spot as The Crying Station.

Anyhow, I try to reason where exactly the tears are coming from. I think it’s got something to do with the fact that I really really really DON’T want to look at myself at the Mirror Station. I can’t bear looking at myself and trying to see what God sees. Because I see a mess, I always see a mess. I see a grouchy, grumpy, cellulite-on-my-ass- that’s-never-gonna-go-away-even-though-I-work-out-five-days-a-week, misanthropic gal who needs to up her screenwriting skills if she thinks she’s ever gonna sell a script. It’s impossible that God could look at me and see anything else. But of course He does. He sees me as something wonderful, something special, a child of His. And I’ve often thought Well, can’t we just say He thinks I’m wonderful so I don’t have to? It’s the great struggle of my life, really.

At any rate, I tell myself that if we can get through The Mirror Station, we can reward ourselves by going to the Unconfessed Sin Station, where you get to light things on FIRE, and won’t that be cool!? Let’s go!

So off I wobble to The Mirror Station, and take a seat in front of one, and immediately put my head down. I’m praying! Leave me alone! I try very hard to stop the tears. I try to focus, to concentrate, to connect with the Great Unknown In Which God Is Supposed To Be Hanging Around. See yourself as God sees you. God likes me so I don’t have to. What am I gonna see? Wouldn’t it be awesome cool if I looked up and saw someone that actually wasn’t so bad? What would that look like anyway?

Okay fine, get it over with. I take a deep breath and look at…me. In the mirror. Shiny wet eyes and red nose that indicate I’ve been crying. Trying to breathe through the snot in my nose. See yourself as God sees you. It’s me. There’s not a brand new face on me. There’s not a brand new person. It’s just me, same as ever. Whatcha seeing, God? Do you see the mess I see? Do you see why I see the mess I see? I wish I could say inspiration struck, and my head was flooded with insight, and I had a huge breakthrough and suddenly loved myself, but no. No, no, nothing like that. I was pretty stoked there weren’t any green Influence Of God marks on my face. And my hair didn’t look that bad, actually. But other than that, it’s the same old Amy. With shiny hair. How anticlimactic. What in the world was I crying for in the first place? Sigh.

On my scrap of trick paper at the Unconfessed Sin Station I write down a whole mess of stuff. Self loathing. Self Hatred. Self-Bitterness. Self Inflicted Pain. These aren’t technically unconfessed sins, I’m pretty good at the Confessing Sin in the day to day of things. God, look what I DID! What’s WRONG with me! Pride, write down Pride. I take it over to the candle and light it. FOOOOOOMP! It goes up in a nifty little flame thing that doesn’t leave any ash. It just kinda…disappears into thin air. If only it really was that easy.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Assumed Name Rule Of This Blog

NOBODY in these entries will be mentioned by their real name, except me (yes, my name is Amy. If I had been born a boy, I would have been John Thomas, and my parents would have called me JT, which sounds infinitely cooler than Amy. I have a sneaking suspicion that I would be much farther along in life if I was a boy named JT. Just a theory.)

The Assumed Name Rule is to protect the innocent, the guilty, my roommates Heckle and Jeckle, and the people who had no idea I was gonna start a blog with Christian undertones, overtones, or any tones.

And also because I want to single handedly start a movement to bring back all those great names of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Nobody names their daughter Gladys anymore. Or Hortense. Nobody names their son Melvin or Hugo. Therefore, whenever I reference anyone that I have real life experience with, their names will be Phyllis, Myrtle, Oscar, Winifred, Clarence, Herbert, Lawrence, etc.

Party like it’s 1945, I say.

The First Post Of The Blog

Welcome to the first post of the blog. Yippie Skippie.

This blog is an experiment. There is no guarantee that it will work. Thus, I’m gonna blog six months at a time, the effectiveness of which I’ll evaluate at the end whether to continue or pull the plug. And, because I am VERY familiar with the daily ritual of checking my friends’ blogs only to tear my clothes and gnash my teeth when there is no new entry, I make this promise: there will be a new entry every Monday. Maybe more than that, if I’m feeling especially frisky (or if I’m trying to procrastinate on working on my current script.)

There is a reason behind this blog and it’s not This Is What I’m Doing Today. I keep my own journal for that kind of nonsense, and it’s kinda boring to read about if you’re not me (but if you ARE me, it’s the greatest story ever told. Honest.)

No, no, the reason behind this blog is fairly straightforward: I’m a screenwriting chick trying desperately to feel God’s presence in my life.

I aspire to work in an industry that some would say is Godforsaken personified. I’m actually pretty good at the whole writing thing, and I can say this without blushing for the same reason that I know I’m a good kisser – too many different people have told me that I’m a good writer and/or a good kisser for it to be some kind of conspiracy to tear down my self esteem that I’m not. Plus I’ve got reviews, folks. Reviews from the LA Weekly. On my writing! The endorsements on my kissing, well, that’s an entry for another time.

I aspire to work in an industry where you can make money telling stories that have nothing to do with God. Let’s be honest, the stories I want to tell (and have told in the past) actually don’t have a THING to do with God. Does that make me a bad Christian? Can I only call myself a Christian if I put my hand over my heart and swear that I will only tell stories that feature Christian protagonists, or stories direct from the Bible?

Am I supposed to chuck it all and go be a secretary at a church? Go look up the writing staff of Veggietales and try to get a job there? Would that mean I’m truly living in His light, in His Purpose? At one point, I honestly thought that’s what I was supposed to do.

But I don’t wanna write for Veggietales. I write really whacked out stuff, man. I write stuff where fairy tales are subverted, where Muppets recite Shakespeare, where chicks have phone sex scenes with each other, where ghosts are caught by curses, and a thousand other different things. Is God there? One wouldn’t think so. Does that mean I’m going to hell? I don’t think so (or at least I really really hope not). What DOES it mean?

I think it means that I have this talent that, for whatever reason, is God given, because really, there’s no other explanation for how a child born of a father who got a masters in Physics and a mother who got a masters in History turned out like me.

And if this talent is God given, as I think it must be, and there is the desire to NOT write for Veggietales, then what do I do? I have these stories that I DO want to tell, and they have NOTHING to do with the Bible, am I allowed to tell them? Should I be allowed to tell them? Who’s the joker who came up with the concept of being allowed to do this, that, or the other anyway, huh?

So that’s partly what this blog is about. Me, the screenwriter chickie who’s also a Christian but may not necessarily be writing stuff that’s dripping with God, and wondering how to sort it all out.

The other part is my spiritual journey. My “Walk with Christ,” as they call it. Except it’s more like me skipping, and going “Hey, look at me! Look at this! Look at THIS!”, and Him going, “Um, okay.” And then I trip and fall down and He goes “Um, yeah. Let’s start over.” And I get up and start skipping again because I haven’t learned a damn thing and He kinda sighs and follows me down the beach, waiting for me to trip again, ‘cause He knows I’m gonna.

The question is not whether I believe in God. There is no doubt that He exists. Of course He does. There is no way I could have gotten where I am (bearing in mind that this is not where I want to be, and yet so much farther than where I thought I could have gotten) without Him.

The question is, I believe in Him, and yet I can’t FEEL Him. I pray to Him, I know He can hear me, I don’t FEEL Him. Sometimes I can see where He answered me, but it usually takes a year after the fact before I see it. Usually on a New Year’s. Usually accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol. And I can’t help but think if He really wanted to get through to me, He’d do it in a way that didn’t involve a haze of tequila.

I can’t help but wonder if I was a better person, if I was a more religious person, if I just chucked it all and went to Write For Veggietales (which will now serve as a metaphor for “I gave up everything, got a job as a secretary at a church, and wrote nothing but screen adaptations from the Bible. My mom is very happy.”), would I feel Him more? Would I feel His presence more because I’d be solely, squarely, firmly ON THE ROAD TO GOD?

Because, right now, I don’t feel anything. And that really, really, REALLY distresses me. I make good decisions, sometimes. I try to make the right decision all the time. But I don’t make it all the time.

I’ve made some jaw dropping, astoundingly BAD decisions in my time. (Oh yes, I have, oh yes I have.) And the entire time, I was in communication with God, and the conversation went something like, “Um, hi. God. See, here’s the thing. This guy, see. He’s, like, REALLY hot. C’mon, You should know. You made him, didn’t you? Sure You did."

"And whether this Tangible Example of Hotness Who Just Kissed Me And Said I Was A Great Kisser And Would Like To Take Me To Bed And Do All Sorts Of Things That I’m Pretty Sure Aren’t Sanctioned By You (Song Of Solomon Not Withstanding), was made by You to be this Supremely Hot because you want to send him to Guatemala to build a church for Portuguese nuns because they’ve never seen a Supremely Hot Guy like this guy and they need to be tested more than me, well, that’s…okay, that’s a little weird, because he’s not in Guatemala, he’s here in front of me and I’m really really just…okay, I’m sorry. I’M SORRY. He’s the Golden Ticket, God! He’s the Golden Ticket of Supreme Hotness, and…yes, I’m grabbing him, God. If he was a test for me, I’m FAILING, God. I’m failing with BOTH HANDS here.”

So yeah. I’ve made some bad decisions. I’ve made some good decisions. But I don’t feel the presence of God either way, and that’s the part that distresses me.

So what’s a screenwriting chickie who believes in God though she’s never felt His presence to do?

Start a blog, I guess. See if that jump starts anything. See if anyone else out there feels the struggle I do. And probably chuck it all in six months.