Sunday, September 30, 2007

Yay For The Moment

Sometimes, if you’ve read a columnist long enough, or listened to a speaker speak more than once, you will eventually stumble upon 1 of two things:

1. They will recycle their talk. I’ve heard this done at church actually. That’s how I could tell I had been going to a church for a looooooong time, when I recognized that the pastor’s “Second Choice” sermon, about Leah, of Jacob-Rachel-Leah OT fame and how second choice doesn’t mean second best, blah blah blah, was what he pulled out when he didn’t have time to prepare a new sermon.

2. They will talk about preparing for the talk. How it’s hard to pull together a column/sermon/review every week, how am I gonna do it, how am I gonna do it, oh the PRESSURE.

I don’t really have anything to say tonight, so I won’t do either one of those things. I will say I’m enjoying the mix that Pandora is spinning right now.

1. Fragile - Trauma Pet
2. Wishing (A Picture Of You) – Flock of Seagulls
3. Tiny Vessels – Death Cab For Cutie (this is one of my favorite songs in that unfortunate category of Gorgeous Melody/Really Mean Lyrics. Elevator Love Letter by Stars is in there too.)

I’m trying to train myself to be in the moment. To just be. Be still and know that I am God. I only worked one day this week, and I’m teaching myself not to panic about it, no matter what my bank account says. Because I’m trusting God, and apparently God didn’t want me to work that day, I THINK He wanted me to work on my outline, so work on my outline I did. And God didn’t want me to work the next day either, but that became pretty obvious why, as it was so I could be available to race Basil the dog to the vet in the afternoon when he started quaking in his paw pads (turns out the poor guy was constipated.)

And currently, I only have one day of work lined up for this upcoming week (but it was a request! A request from the TV network! I am a rock star assistant and people remember that!) and I am again choosing not to mash the panic button.

I choose to recognize that I am in a place right now where I am still. Metaphorically. Things could be abrewin’ on the horizon on a number of fronts, but I know better to talk about them and look like a dumbass if they fall through later.

But I will say that every night last week at 10pm, I jumped in the hot tub in the backyard. Basil chose to hang inside the cabana, but Ginger Puppy, never wanting to be too far away, curled up on the second step to the hottub. And we watched the full moon above. Well, I watched it. This is Ginger Puppy and her view (yeah, it’s blurry. Shoot me.)

I turned the lights off so it was me in the dark water, with the full moon above, and the Los Angeles city lights turning the clouds a better-than-it-sounds shade of brown.

And it looked like, it may have even felt like a moment where I should have made some important decision about my life. But my head was empty. I have no burning questions, no nagging issues. Life isn’t where I ideally want it, but it’s not troubling me at this very second (I reserve the right to be troubled later.) So it was me, and the dark water, the puppy on the stairs, and the moon up above. Be still and know I am God. I’m still. I know. You’re God. I’m me. It’s up to You what happens next. So, um okay, cool. Thanks for being God, God. I’ll just, uh, wait and be still, I guess.

And that’s really all I have to say tonight. Except Pandora just gave me a new song, “It’s Not Easy To Live That Well,” by Headlights (listen here . ) Yay for the moment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I don't deserve anything I have. What to do, what to do.

In the early hours where last Friday night turned into last Saturday morning, Roomie Heckle called on the cell and roused me out of an alcohol and Benedryl stupor (and I probably shouldn’t be combining those two, but I’m still here so hey, praise God!) to inform me that someone had broken into the house. Further conversations through the weekend revealed that the bad guys did the deed at 4pm on Friday afternoon, so even if I had been living at home instead of the housesitting house, it wouldn’t have changed anything, except my stuff would have been stolen with Roomie Heckle’s.

But no. I’m here with Basil and Ginger Puppy. My computer, my camera, my ipod, even my external hard drive, all here with me. It took me a day to remember my jewelry, though, and I called Roomie Heckle on the cell to try and direct him to the location of said stuff in the bathroom. Roomie Heckle is a clinically diagnosed ADD head with no insurance, and therefore no medication, so needless to say, he couldn’t find it, and got pissed off that I even asked him to look.

So the jewelry was gone. Which bummed me out, and I felt completely unjustified that I was bummed. My parents had given me the jewelry over the course of my high school years. They were my birthstones, aquamarines. A necklace, earrings, a bracelet. I loved them dearly because they were unique, and my parents gave them to me, and I really don’t need jewelry gifts for the rest of my life, because I’ve got my “luckies,” my aquamarines, which I bring out on special occasions, and if this event has taught me anything, it’s that I needed to wear them MORE, because you never know when two punks are going to break into the house you’ve lived in for years and years without incident and spirit them away to pay for their crystal meth addiction.

I immediately wanted the power to curse the Luckies. Those Luckies are only Lucky when they’re with ME! If anyone else touches them, especially if anyone steals them, they are officially cursed and will bring nothing but DOOM to whoever touches them. That means you, Crystal Meth Punk. That means you, Pawn Store Owner because you know the Crystal Meth Punks didn’t just happen to come in with an aquamarine set because they bought it for their girlfriend who didn’t want them. That means you, Pawn Store Shopper, knowing that such a nice jewelry set in a seedy Pawn Shop didn’t get there by willing means. The Luckies are doomed. DOOMED. They will bring DEATH to you until you give them back to ME, in one of those twisty turny ways that independent films are made of! Muah ha ha ha HA!

I had all this petulant bratty anger, which was completely unjustified, and I couldn’t get rid of it. How dare I mourn the loss of my Luckies when I still have my computer, my camera, my Ipod. In the grand scheme of things, the loss of the computer would absolutely have been more devastating. So why am I whining about the loss of jewelry? Be happy! Rejoice! Praise God! Forgive the Crystal Meth Punks! You have your health!

I couldn’t get to the house until this past Sunday, and no later than five seconds after I walk in the house, there’s a knock on the door. My neighbors are there with a breathless report of what they saw that day, and how they’ve given their statement to the police, and they’re so sorry this happened, and they’re trying to be vigilant, and we need to get our landlord to put bars on the window, to cut away the tree in the yard, la la la. I am stunned that my neighbors care this much (though one of them calls another one “Nosy,” but in this case, Nosy works.) You don’t expect to have such helpful neighbors in Los Angeles. It’s rare that anyone talks to their neighbor in Los Angeles, much less write down what bus the Crystal Meth Punks got on when they got out of the house. I thank them profusely, and when they’re gone, go to the bathroom to check on the drawers.

And the Luckies are there. They’re there, in a box in a box at the back of one the bathroom drawers. Roomie Heckle’s ADD clouded his vision, and the Luckies are safe and sound, as they always were.

So now I just feel like a dumbass. A bratty dumbass. I don’t deserve to have anything, and yet I have everything, and I don’t deserve a speck of it. I am blessed but I am not worthy. It’s a little difficult to skip through life knowing you don’t deserve anything that you have. You want to enjoy these things, but you feel guilty for doing so. I wonder where the line is. Yes, you may enjoy this, but no, you may not take them for granted.

Oh trust me, I was talking to God the entire time about it. When I thought the Luckies were gone, when I discovered they were still there. “ThankyouGod,thankyou. ThankyouGod,thankyou.” Has become every third breath I take these days. Maybe it needs to be every second breath. Hmmmmm.

Enforced Secret Joy #52 – I’m not working today! I have stuff to do tonight, but I’m not working today, and I’m blogging with this as my view! That water’s damn cold, lemme tell ya! That’s Ginger Puppy! Waiting for me to stop typing and start petting her! I told ya she had eyes! ThankyouGod,thankyou. ThankyouGod,thankyou. ThankyouGod,thankyou

Monday, September 24, 2007

At least I'm honest when I say...

There will be no post today.

Maybe tomorrow if I can get my crap together

Meanwhile, let's enjoy the lovely weather!

(or something like that)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Moment Is Not My Moment

You all might be proud of me, I just got back from another retreat and managed not to cry! Or kill anyone! Or come back and slide into another puddle of paralyzing depression! Is this a sign!? Is this a SIGN FROM GOD!?

Ah, I think it’s more about the fact that the retreat was quite small, and God wasn’t the sole focus. It was the kickoff for the Act Two screenwriting class, (it was in Idyllwild, quaint little town in the mountains between Los Angeles and Palm Springs), there’s only eight of us students there, and I THINK the idea was for us to get to know each other before we’re separated into groups of four for the rest of the time. I’m a little unclear, because we didn’t do a lot of writing (well, I did, but it was late late at night), there weren’t a lot of talks, and we spent a majority of the time eating. Three meals a day. Blarf, blarf blarfy.

But there was one talk that got my hackles up was the one where Group Leader wanted us to go around the room and share “The one moment or timeframe in your life where Jesus became real for you.”

Ah hell. As we all know, I don’t have a moment or timeframe like that. I wonder if that means I fail. You know how some writers (or actors, or anyone who’s successful at what they’re doing) feel like sometimes the Person Who’s In Charge is gonna stomp in and unmask them, “You FRAUD! At last I have apprehended you! You have not escaped my notice, and I denounce you as talentless to the WORLD!” I feel like that at these retreats. No, I have not had my Special Shiny Jesus Moment, Ergo, I Must Not Be A Christian, Ergo, I Must Not Believe Enough, Ergo, I Must Not Be Doing Something Right, I Am Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

So round the circle we go, with everyone sharing their Special Shiny Jesus Moment, except for the one girl who says she doesn’t feel Jesus so much as she feels God, but she had a Special Shiny God Moment to contribute.

Gentle Reader, you understand by now that I’m not knocking these stories, right? You understand that I’m super green with envy, because they’ve encountered Jesus and/or God, and I’m still floundering in dark waters, right? The stories are nifty, compact, tied with ribbons of understanding. This is How I Met My Husband, This Is How I Became a Christian, This Is How I Was Crippled With Doubt And He Pulled Me Through, This Is How I Heard Him Calling Me To This New Career.

I don’t have a story. My story is still in progress, and I WISH I had a ribbon of understanding to tie the whole thing up with because right now it looks like a half-baked mess. And I know, I know, we’re still baking the thing, but you know what? We’ve been baking for years and years. I might be overdone and crusted over at this point, can we pull me out of the oven please? I’m not saying God hasn’t been there for me, because He has. But surely, there’s going to be a bigger, much more important story I can tell than God Gave Me A Job, or God Sent Me People To Fix My Car.

(A funny sidenote. Wella, the savior who fixed my car, is in the room, and when he goes back to his cabin, Stella asked him how the talk went and he reportedly said, “Amy did NOT like that talk.”)

I even start to feel the tiny prick of tears behind my eyes. Oh no. You are NOT going to start crying to a small group of people because you don’t have a moment where God and/or Jesus was real for you. No you don’t, no you don’t. I’m over this whole Crying Over The Absence of God business anyway. Grow up. You don’t have to have a Special Shiny Jesus Moment to be a writer, and that’s what you’re here for. So suck it up, punk. Be yourself, be honest, and THINK OF SOMETHING TO SAY RIGHT NOW!

So I do. I say I don’t have a moment. I say that’s why I started the blog (so if anyone who was in the room is now here reading the thing, HI! HI! HI! I’M SURE I’LL SAY SOMETHING OFFENSIVE IN THE NEXT SIX MONTHS AND I’M APOLOGIZING FOR IT NOW!) that I’m still searching for connection, la la la.

And then I share a moment. But it’s not mine. It’s Kate Braestrup’s (and yes, I gave her full credit.) She’s got a story, it’s an awesome, poignant one. She was married to a police officer who was killed in the line of duty, and searching for meaning, she became ordained as a Unitarian-Universalist minister and was installed as chaplain to the Maine Warden Service. She accompanies officers on search and rescue missions in the woods and lakes all over the state, to minister to the ones awaiting word on their lost loved ones, to the people searching for them, and to the bodies they pull out.

She wrote a book, it’s called “Here If You Need Me,” and it’s about grief, love, and miracles. In one recollection, she’s sitting with a brother whose sister had committed suicide in the woods. The brother says that his sister had attended a church the week before where the pastor said that suicide was the one sin that God never ever forgave. What does Kate think? So this is what Kate says:

“Look around…the game wardens have been walking in the rain all day, walking through the woods in the freezing rain trying to find your sister. They would’ve walked all day tomorrow, walked in the cold rain for the rest of the week, searching for (her) so they could bring her home to you. And if there is one thing I am sure of – one thing that I am very, very sure of - it is that God is not less kind, less committed, or less merciful than a Maine game warden.”

That really hit hard for me, the idea that God would care that much, even if I’m not lost or dead in the Maine woods (I might be, metaphorically speaking, but let’s stay literal today.)

Then I said that God seems to be the most real to me when I hear other people talking about Him, and what He’s done in their lives. I did not mention the green envy pearls that usually follow, but but but He’s there for THEM! Why isn’t He here for ME!? Because that’s the bratty two year old inside of me. They’ll figure out that brat’s there soon enough. No need to unveil her quite yet.

Group Leader nodded, and we moved on with the rest of the weekend. We ate more food. We took an hour hike in the Idyllwild woods, in thirty second intervals so we could be alone in our literal walk with God. No, nobody got lost. And no, God didn’t talk to me, even though I invited Him to, and didn’t clog the airwaves with my usual litany of requests and prayers for myself and other people. I was silent, I walked, and nothing happened. But it’s okay. I’m used to it by now.

Enforced Secret Joy #51 – Housesitting for Basil and Ginger Puppy again! It’s the annual two and a half week gig, and all construction in the backyard is finished! Meaning the pool, the hottub, the cabana, they’re all MINE! This is the view from the cabana when I write. And that lump o’ fur is Ginger Puppy, waiting for me to put the computer down and pet her. As usual.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Will You Run With Me?

In sixth grade, I was the gangliest thing that you ever saw. All knobby knees and elbows. My eyes took up the top half of my face, I looked like one of those pictures of those sad bubble head kids you see in the dentist’s office. I didn’t weigh much, because I didn’t start eating real food until, oh, about eighth grade. It was all cereal, peanuts, grilled cheese sandwiches, Cheetos, and my mother banging her head on the stove, convinced everyone in town was talking about her malnutritioned daughter, and blaming my mother for it. (It wasn’t her fault. I was a very stubborn child.)

I was also running cross country in the sixth grade, and hating every single minute of it. We didn’t have an official cross country track team. It was more like there was a Cross Country Running Club, their course was out by the old abandoned airport, and it seemed like all the other athletic kids in sixth grade were doing it, so ever the sheep, I followed along.

While the other kids would grow up to seriously pursue cross country as a sport where their team would win state championships, they’d get scholarships to college, and battle anorexia, I knew instantly that cross country running was NOT for me. It was too far. It was a mile. A mile was too far for me. There are two types of people in this world – the ones that run outside, and the ones that stick with the ellipticals, because they can fool their body into going just as far as the Outside Runners, since they’re staying in one place. I am that fool. My body is that dumb (but with an amazing ass ☺ )

But in sixth grade, I had gotten myself into an impossible situation. I hated cross country, but to drop out would subject me to sixth grade scorn and ridicule about how I just wasn’t strong enough, to hack it. And damned if I was gonna let THAT happen.

So the last race of the year was a mile run competition, and I’m pretty sure it had a stupid name like Spring Fling or Fall Chase. They divided you up according to your grade, fired a starter pistol, and off you went. For a mile. And scattered among you would be the older high school runners. They didn’t get out too far in front of us, they stuck to the middle of the pack. They weren’t competing, their job was to be our Pacer Rabbit or something, there for Buck Up Little Camper words of encouragement.

So here I am, knobby knees and elbows, running as fast as I can simply so I can be done with it, because it’s the last race of the year, and next year when I hit seventh grade I am NOT running cross country, I’m gonna run regular track, where the distances are 100 meters, 200 meters, maybe even try hurdles, but never again a mile run.

I also happen to be in first place currently.

The girl who had won previous mile run competitions was a Miss All Around named Priscilla. She was pretty, popular, smart, and was unconscionably nice to everyone. This was also going to be her last mile run, as when she hit seventh grade, it was Cheerleader Country all the way to high school graduation. There was no question about it, she was a Bright Shining Star and everyone knew this to be her destiny, that she would continue to be pretty, popular, smart and unconscionably nice about it while she picked up nearly every single title one could have in high school: Class Representative, Beauty Court, Homecoming Queen, etc.

But right now she’s somewhere behind me on this mile course that I really don’t wanna be on.

I can’t remember where I had placed in previous runs, but it wasn’t anywhere close to top ten. I’m Amy The Writer, I just won a sixth grade poetry contest with my stunning entry that began “Time is a funny thing, it flies like birds, but without wings.”

I’m Amy The Writer, not Amy The Runner. And here I am, pounding the dust with my shabby Nikes, following the trail as it darts in and out of the woods with strange dips and turns, and everyone’s behind me, which had never happened before.

If I had started the race with a burst of YES! LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH! I’m now fueled by SHIT! I’M IN FRONT!

I can’t be this far in front and not stay there. It will be embarrassing to let up, even a little bit. It will hurt if Priscilla blows by me, never mind the fact that she’s supposed to, that everyone’s expecting her to. I’ve been running this race for three minutes now, and I’ve been in front the entire time. And while nobody knows that I’m only running this fast to put this whole cross country nonsense behind me once and for all, the fact that I’m in front when by all accounts I shouldn’t be, means I have to stay there, or risk ridicule from my peers about how in the world did I think I could really snatch away the victory from Priscilla that was supposed to be hers practically by birthright.

That’s when I notice a Pacer Rabbit coming up next to me. He’s a high schooler. He looks like he’s going too fast to be a Pacer Rabbit, he’s probably training for something else, like running a mile is an appetizer for him, his main course will be a 10 K tomorrow or something.

“You’re doing great!” says Possibly Pacer Rabbit as he lopes along. Two more seconds, and he’ll be ahead of me, and I can chase the back of his shirt for the rest of the course.

And while I’m huffing and puffing already, I manage to get these words out.

“Will you run with me?”

“Sure I will!” Definitely Pacer Rabbit replies cheerily, and slows his pace to match mine. And for the next three and a half minutes, he runs with me.

There’s not a lot of conversation. I remember as we came up upon the tricky last bend, the one that looked like it would only take 15 seconds to get around when it really took a minute and a half, he said, “I predict victory for you!” to which I wheezed, “Don’t jinx it.” He also said he was gonna let me run the last 100 yards on my own, which I remember wasn’t surprising, I think all Pacer Rabbits had to drop back at that last thoroughfare. I thanked him for running as far as he did, and he smiled and said no problem.

I’m thundering down the last 100 yards, and the crowds are cheering, and I sense Priscilla practically at my elbow, at the edge of my peripheral vision, and now I’m REALLY running, dear GOD help me, bring that f’ing finish line closer, get me out of this already.

Running so fast that everything blurs, and I can’t see anything, not until a race official grabs me around the waist to stop me, and hold me upright as I wheeze and wheeze and wheeze for breath, my cheeks, lungs, and heels of my feet on fire.

To this day, I don’t remember what Definitely Pacer Rabbit looked like. I don’t remember if he came up to me at the end of the finish line or not. But I remember that he was there.

It’s a comforting memory. And even if Definitely Pacer Rabbit really was honestly and truly a real high schooler, and not an angel like some sappy people would think he was, I don’t mind using the memory to illustrate how I think my walk with God/and/or/Jesus is like.

It’s not footprints in the sand, it’s not dewtracks in a luscious meadow. It’s me scared out of my mind, running for my life, pounding down the dust in a race that I didn’t want to be on in the first place. But I’ve got a Definitely Pacer Rabbit who slowed down to run with me when I asked him to.

That makes me feel better. It would make me feel better even if I hadn’t won.

But I did. ☺

Enforced Secret Joy #50 - The Gospel Brunch at House Of Blues. All You Can Eat Southern Buffet, bottomless glasses of Mimosas, and the Holy Rollingest Gospel Choir you're ever heard (lead singer looked like she belonged on a weddding cake in the middle of Mardi Gras, another singer had the longest red talons you've ever seen in your life and they stayed on the entire time.)
We were singin', praisin', wavin' our napkins around. There was joy in that place and I had a big stupid grin on my face. How can you not love a choir who belts out, "Aint no party like a Holy Ghost party!" I totally reccommend it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

This Is The New Year (No, Really.)

I was filling out an application for Act Two, a higher intensive screenwriting class and the next step after Act One, which I completed last year. Filling out Christian applications are always funny to me, because I can’t answer questions like “DESCRIBE YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY since completing Act One. What are specific spiritual challenges that you’ve faced, and how have you dealt with them? What challenges do you anticipate dealing with as your career unfolds? What is your strategy for dealing with these challenges?” with a straight face. Since most of the faculty at Act One knows me or has heard of me and my big fat mouth by now, I figured I could answer honestly, so I included the line, “…one of the things I’ve learned about how to deal with spiritual challenges (other than alcohol helps. Kidding!) is that you don’t walk away from them.”

But in addition to that Danger Will Robinson Line, I wrote this, “August 2006 to August of 2007 has been such a battle for me on all fronts: spiritually, professionally, personally.” And though there wasn’t much thought behind it as I was writing it, the truthfulness of that statement hits me like a ton of bricks now.

August 2006 – August 2007 blew. It just blew. There were little blips of happiness here and there, but the rug kept getting yanked out from under me, so much so, that even when I did have a happy moment, I was never sure I could trust it. People let me down. Past experiences didn’t lead to logical present conclusions. Writing goals were set, were met, and went no further even though they were supposed to. You follow the instructions on the bag of chocolate chips, and a stinky soufflĂ© came out of the oven instead of cookies. In other words, nothing made sense.

But now we’re out of August 2007, and I’m trying to convince myself that Amy’s Fiscal Year O’ Happiness starts now. Never mind what I said here, NOW we’re really gonna start living. NOW things are gonna knit themselves together into a lovely Afghan O Stability.

At that Act One closing reception where I tended bar and did my best to get everyone rip roaring drunk, the party shifted to a rooftop Jacuzzi of an apartment complex where one of the graduating students lived. I found myself in conversation with him as we sat on the edge of the Jacuzzi, dunking our feet (which seems so quaint in these days of 103 degree temperatures, even though it was maybe two weeks ago.) I recognized that Deer In The Headlights look of what the hell am I gonna do next that many Act One students sport towards the end of the session on his face, so I asked a few questions, got him talking, and he finally heaved a big sigh and said, “I just want things to be stable, so that I know what’s coming next.” And without thinking, I blurted out, “If it’s at all possible to make peace with the fact that instability will always be part of your experience here in Los Angeles, it will go better for you.”

Why is it I can say these things to other people, and they believe me (since he gave me a big hug at the end of the night), but I can’t convince my own damn self of it? Am I one of those bozos that can’t take my own advice? Should I split myself in two so I can sit myself down and have a good talking to? Now Amy, listen to me. I know better, I really do. No you don’t. You’re just me. Yes, but everyone else that you offer advice to, seems to think you know what you’re talking about, so just listen to me. Listen to the collective we, why don’t you.

The thing is, Amy, that timetables and deadlines are kinda meaningless in the grand scheme of things. If it makes you feel better to contain it with months of Augusts as your bookends, then okay, but I’m worried you’re gonna pull your hair out if September turns out to be just as sucky. Now it probably won’t be, because it’s hard to imagine a worse few months then what you just came out of, but you never know, and you’re paranoid enough to still believe in jinxes, even as you admit in the next breath that you believe God is sovereign.

Can you make peace with the fact that instability will always be a part of the process?

Can you accept that it will always be a struggle?

Can you believe that God is still watching you, over you, is sitting beside you as you type right now (and even He thinks your mattress needs to be replaced as soon as you can afford it.)

Can you understand that He cares, that He hears every word you tell Him, that He’s there watching every tear fall (and He’s also there with every half smile you sport when you see an impossibly cute dog.)

Can you agree that He has your absolute best interest at heart and He knows the road ahead even if you don’t?

Well theoretically, sure. I mean, what other answer can I give to loaded questions like that? “Um, nope. Nope, nope, I don’t believe a word of it.” I know me too well to believe in it fully. Other people don’t know how craptastic I can be, so sure they would believe if I told them all of that.

But personally, it’s an automatic knee jerk yes, even if I don’t fully BELIEVE believe it. Just say yes now, and understand it later.

My application was accepted, by the way. I get to embarrass myself to a new group of teachers and students. I can’t wait.

Enforced Secret Joy #49 – My Iron Man Marathon of seeing three Shakespeare plays in as many days, thanks to the Independent Shakespeare Company. While I didn’t get a picture of the pug puppy watching Richard II, I did get these shots of these guys watching Midsummer Night’s Dream (no dogs on Macbeth night. Wonder what that meant. Hmmmm.)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

It's too hot to post on time...

Go stick your head in the freezer and go back to sleep...