Our Beyonces, Ourselves

tumblr_n1aosbe8a91rqgjz2o1_1280

If you’re wondering where I’ve been (and I know you spend hours worrying about such matters), I’m sad to report that I haven’t been hanging out in very nice places. It shames me to admit that my wit and candor can be largely seen in the comments sections of pop culture blogs these days. I know, I know. The internet’s equivalent of a roach-infested dive bar. Lately, all I can muster up, creatively is a one-liner and comments sections or Twitter are easy places for them to live.  One-liners about James Franco, one-liners about Nicki Minaj, one liners about anything really. One-liners, zingers or terrible puns are how I express myself. I’ve always been “funny”, “sassy”, a “smartass”, what have you. However, the psychological community at large tells me this is a defense mechanism. This need to make jokes about everything is a leftover from old childhood behavior to simultaneously diffuse tension while seeking attention and in general is a way to conceal hurt or anger. I’d  like to tell the psychological community that while I agree, sometimes I just really want to make fun of Beyoncé.

Pepsi-Max-Beyonc-Mirrors--Official-2013-video--BeyHereNow

In my defense, Beyoncé is really easy to make fun of.  I mean…

119819

Plus, I think people with dead-eyes and no sense of humor are actually hilarious and ripe for satire. From the lyrics of Irreplaceable and her performance in Dreamgirls to that elevator thing and her Pretty Hurts video, I just think she’s comedy gold masquerading as a pop music icon. But then again, I saw Tina Turner in concert at a young age so perhaps Beyoncé’s powers would have never worked on me.

Of course, none of this is actually about Beyoncé. Or Kimye or Nicki Minaj’s ass. It’s about me. Truth? I’ve been kind of depressed lately. Depression is one of the many colors I represent in my mental illness rainbow. Lucky me. For my first five years of sobriety though, the bitch hasn’t really been an issue. Turns out, she was just sitting in the corner sipping her tea, waiting to pounce.

tumblr_ma8nccGkrl1rfduvxo1_400

Thankfully, I am now aware enough to take action when she shows up and wants to knock me out. While I’m not on medication (and don’t have any issues with folks who are) I do take certain physical and spiritual measures when depression becomes a problem.  For me, I know depression is a chemical thing because the honest to God’s truth of my life is that it’s pretty terrific. The evidence is staggering that despite minor glitches and little areas for growth, all things in Seanland are undoubtedly fabulous which makes depression’s appearance all the more baffling. But when things get rough or my thinking is off, getting sober has taught me to ask myself,”So whaddya gonna do about it?” (Because when I ask myself questions I sound like a pawn shop employee from New Jersey.) Part of that answer is “Write more!” My second sponsor, in her infinite wisdom, once told me that, “Self-esteem is built through esteemable acts.” As we’ve discussed, writing makes me feel good so why not write more and write thru whatever I’m feeling and maybe, gee I don’t know, feel better as a result?!?

Duh_duh_duh

But let’s not get overly excited here. I’m stopping being a smartass anytime soon. It’s kinda who I am. I would argue that making jokes about the Kardashians or Chris Brown has at least kept my creative juices flowing. And as readers of this blog, I laugh just as much at myself as I do at Beyoncé. My sarcasm is all-inclusive and equality opportunity.Plus, making people laugh is a tiny way I can be of service. So just for today, I’ll aim to be a more productive, more spiritually fit clown and not a sadsack, comment section clown like this guy.

6870503_f520

follow me stereo jungle child

Somewhere in the ethos, somewhere in VHS tape Narnia. Somewhere in a Memorex/memory junkyard exists that videotape of me. No, not “videotape” in a Kim K. Ray J way. Mercifully, I never made a tape like that. Mainly because I could never think of why I’d want such an item. “Hey there’s nothing but reruns on. Good thing I have that old sex tape!”  Yikes. No, the tape I’m discussing is the filmed evidence of the  super weird, super gay, super crazy kid I’ve always been. On said tape, I can be found lip synching to Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper.  From what I remember, it’s a pretty entertaining performance. I was 11-years old and had studied Lauper’s every dance move and facial expression. For 80’s kids who worshipped at the church of MTV, lip synching skills and a repertoire of dance moves were essential skills and mine are on display in this tape. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I was spectacular.

Not spectacular in the same way the icon on display in the video above is but spectacularly a kid being 100% himself. Gay, weird, creative me dancing and lip synching and genuinely not giving a shit about what people thought about me. I danced to my own drummer and usually it was in my living room to  Cyndi or to this song

or this song

or this song

I didn’t need some dumb coffee cup to tell me to “dance like no one was watching.” I did it anyway. In fact, I danced, colored, played, lip synched with my whole heart, regardless of what people were watching. Simply put, I was free which is a powerful thing to type when you spent as many years as I did being alcohol’s bitch. But on that elusive video there it is evidence of my freedom and my spirit. Despite being knocked down, drugged out, battered and bruised, the free version of me was possible. The video proved it. So did the drawings, the glitter covered Christmas decorations, the crazy poems.

1267560085001

While that tape may no longer exist, I’m happy to report that my freedom does. Recovery has truly helped me get it back. Right now, I’m in the middle of rewrites and finishing drafts on projects and remembering that kid filled with freedom is an important thing for me. Too often it’s that voice that says, “You are not good enough! Why bother!” that keeps me out of freedom and in total paralysis. I guess what I want to say on this rainy Wednesday is that my life is better when I remember to take care of that free crazy, authentic little being inside of me. He needs to be put on the dance and given permission to spin around.  So I hope you let your wild child dance today, even just for a little while. Remember what a wise woman once said, “All you need is your own imagination. So use it that’s what it’s for. Go inside, for your finest inspiration. Your dreams will open the door.”

 

 

 

 

What Made Me Wild

050812-maurice-03

 

“Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!” might be the best line in a children’s book ever. But Maurice Sendak created so many great lines and images and moments, it would be impossible to pick just one. Sendak would have been 85-years-old today (if you haven’t checked out the Google Doodle in honor of Sendak, please do so now) and his legacy is a profound one on me. I remember reading and rereading Where the Wild Things Are over and over again as a kid. It scared me. It sadden me. It made me laugh. Where the Wild Things Are was passed through our family with its ripped pages, torn cover and scribbled on backside. Books like this one along with Where the Sidewalk Ends and everything Jim Henson touched on television were the things that made me want to tell stories of my own. My appreciation for Sendak certainly grew as I got older. When I worked at my parent’s bookstore in high school, I saw firsthand how kids were still in love with his books. It’s a special artist whose works endures and touches so many generations and Sendak was certainly that.

Alligators StoryboardA-L 1_300

 

Last year, I watched the incredible Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak and again my love for the guy exploded. So brilliant, honest and open Sendak isn’t shy about who he is and what he believes. As a gay man, Sendak had to hide his 50-year relationship in fear that it would ruin his career as a children’s book author. Also incredibly moving are Sendak’s stories of his much loved siblings. Being a person who loves their brothers and sister, I related big time. And he was also very, very funny. For proof, please watch his hysterical, no-holds-barred interview on The Colbert Report. 

5046284320_1540d3139d-e1336487337870

 

So Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak! Thanks for teaching me how to be a wild thing.

12 Days of Blogmas: Write Christmas

Well, hello there! Just in case you care, I’m combining our fifth and sixth day of Blogmas not just because I’m lazy (although that of course has something to do with it) but because both posts are all about writing!447802176

The tricky topics of putting the old pen to paper, banging our heads on our laptops and slaying the dragon called writer’s block provided some of my favorite discussion with you guys over the last year. Writing, by nature is a solitary sport, so when we all got a chance to honestly talk about our process and how we survived it, magic seemed to happen. This transpires with my writing group regularly and happens when I read works from other writers about writing too. Also, tend to get really butch around writing and act like”Yo! I got dis. I don’t need no help.” But really it’s nice to have help and to say, “I’m stuck” or “This is hard.” And sometimes writing about, well writing, demystifies my own work and knocks some perspective into my think skull. (By the way, if you’ve turned this blog post into a drinking game and taking a swig of alcohol every time I’ve used the word “writing”- congratulations! You’re hammered.)ernest-hemingway-writing1  I wrote about writing a lot over the year but the  two posts chosen for the 6th and 5th days of Blogmas are The Glamour of Getting it All Down and The Voices in My Head-The Musical, respectively. The first talks about the blogging while the second is more about play writing  Each have memorable photos (Gotta love the Sybil poster!). And they both kind of deal with the mental road blocks involved with this writing thing. Working with other writers along with other people in recovery really feels like what I was put here on this Earth to do so the posts where I got to talk directly to both sets of “my people” felt special indeed.

So check out the Glamour of Getting it All Down and The Voices in My Head-The Musical!, why don’t you?  And while you’re here, please leave me some of your thoughts on writing and your own writing practice in the comments section!

The Stuckness

I was cruising right along, minding my own business- writing, creating and pumping out printed words at a feverish rate.  Happy clients, pleased editors and even some enthusiastic readers all confirmed that hey, maybe I can do this writing thing. And then it happened. The Stuckness.

For five sluggish days, I was barely able to squeeze out a Tweet. Last night, as I was forcing out  a simple puff piece about social media trends and noticed the degree of difficulty was more akin to that of composing a dissertation on the current economic climate in Cambodia, I had to realize that I was knee-deep in the Stuckness. I call it this because of the all encompassing feeling of paralysis that I experience while I’m in the Stuckness. “Writer’s block” seems too simple and “uninspired” is too defeatist. The Stuckness is a destination. A gray, bland shithole that no quip, one-liner or tagline will get me out of. And it’s not an out and out shithole because at least that would be inspiring. No, the Stuckness feels like looking at a test pattern and waiting for the television show to come back on but knowing in your heart you might be waiting forever. Being the dramatic homosexual that I am, whenever I wind up in The Stuckness, the thought temporarily crosses my mind, “Well, here it is. It finally happened. The well has run dry. I am out of ideas. I should go apply for a job at paperclip making factory and be done with it.” Thankfully I know this is not the truth and I also realize it’s hard to write abut recovery and inspiration when I’m feeling like Eeyore waiting to refill his Cymbalta prescription.  Yet, perhaps there’s some value in The Stuckness. I picked up some classic books I’ve never read before at the library. I’m blasting random music while creating new dishes in the kitchen. We’re watching shows on Hulu and YouTube that aren’t on our usual menu. The point is creativity was here the whole time and determined to push its way out.

Being here, being stuck is something that has happened before in my career as a freelance writer. Thankfully, my job is so deadline ridden that I usually can’t pay much attention to it. I have to grab onto something and let it yank me out. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times. As I wrote and re-wrote the same dumb lines for the same dumb article, I realized what I had to do. I looked around and said out loud,”I’m stuck.” I stared at The Stuckness and noticed it’s bleak stranded quality, realized I was truly there. I even tweeted about it. I read other blogs and chatted online with other writers. And that’s when It happened. I was rescued. It sounds simplistic but just by saying “Yeah, I’m stuck. So?” the whole thing stopped being a big deal. No, the rest of that piece did not come easily. And honestly it kind of sucked.  No, I wasn’t able to bang out several chapters and a few scenes right after. But the acknowledgement alone set me free. As an addict, this act seems to happen a lot. Realizing I’m fucked, saying out loud “I’m fucked” and then asking for help-divine or otherwise is a routine we recovery types have to get into. So winding up stranded in The Stuckness is no different and luckily I have my tools to help me get out of it. This being said, The Daily Inspiration will return tomorrow as will more blogs etc. I know. Longest explanation for a blogging absence ever. Enough of me, now it’s your turn.

So fellow bloggers, writers, artists and creative types, tell me how do you get out of The Stuckness? What kinds of things do you do to stay inspired and how do you avoid burnout? Let me know all about it in the comments section! 

little old normal me

“The important thing is to go below the clichés to touch the texture of your experience. Your mind is hungry to be alive. You give us that gift by laying down your true mind on the page. We read it and you open up fields of our own imagination.”

Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away

Sometimes I need Natalie Goldberg to write. I always need coffee. I  always need to shower first.  I often need music. But only in tricky times do I call on the writing goddess that is Natalie Goldberg to help get me started. And she always delivers. The quote above this Pegasus thing (initially chosen for its title but made the cut because I actually started to like it) is in response to a student of her’s who worried that she couldn’t write a memoir because her life was too “normal.” In a way only she can do, Goldberg assured this student and then readers of her book that all  true experiences have worth. This passage, entitled “Ordinary”, really spoke to me today.

I’m in the process of reorganizing this here blog and my web presence in general and naturally when projects which require sensibility and objectivity arise, I like to slip into something less comfortable like my old buddy self-doubt. Like the student in the chapter, I’ve been worried about being normal. Now I’m secure enough to know my multiple diseases and inherent sparkly self are enough to keep me out of permanent beige town. But what if I’m too quirky that it becomes annoying? Or what if I run out of clever things to say (perish the thought!). What if my life has stopped being crazy and I have nothing left to write about? Goldberg answered all of that and essentially told me to “shut up and keep going.”

And if you think about it-normal is an adventure for people like me. After decades of self-created drama, the challenge today lies in living the truth. Things like calling people back, following through on plans, paying bills are out of the norm for me. In addition to honoring my day-to-day experiences, I need to embrace “normal” life and go against my programming to be, dare I say it, happy! Talk about drama and the ultimate fish out of water story! I owe it to myself to keep going because this normal adventure is really interesting.

So if you just paid your phone bill or cleaned your house or showed up to work on time today, congratulations! If you are used to living in calamity and uncertainty and today your life is pretty quiet, I salute you! If you can now be counted on and trusted, way to go! You are deliciously, unabashedly normal. And I think that’s pretty spectacular.

The Glamour of Getting it All Down

From the time I was 16 until I was 22, I worked at my parent’s bookstore. Okay, it was really my mom’s store. My cop dad was just along for the ride.  Her love of books and art made her quit her accounting job and buy a funky bookstore-poster shop-framing business combo in South Denver. I gleefully became her employee. My other attempts at teenage employment were tragic including a brief stint at McDonald’s wherein a manager said with zero irony in his voice, “You might be the worst person that ever worked here.” Such a critique didn’t really break my fifteen-year old heart which longed for something else. Naturally, working around books was a dream come true. Because as much as I loved Chicken McNuggets, books and writing were always the true loves of my life.

In my years as a bookstore employee, I must have looked at thousands of book jackets and author’s photos.  But the jackets of Dame Barbra Cartland, romance novelist extraordinaire never failed to crack me up. Cartland was always photographed with that fuzzy Vaseline on the lens look in an ornately decorated room and flocked by small, poofy dogs. Writing Cortland style looked so fabulous. I never read the books but I had to admire the sparkly manner in which she lived.  Little did I know that writing full-time is sometimes not so pretty and other times really fucking hard.

I bring all of this up because in this six month journey of writing this blog, I’ve realized for the jillionth time that this writing thing is not for wussies. The creative blockage, the rejections, the buckets of self-doubt are exactly the things that kept me from pursuing writing while I was drinking and using. As a copywriter for the last two years, I’ve been blessed to get my muscles in shape. I have articles, blogs, product blurbs, press releases and the like due for clients daily. I don’t have time to tell myself that I suck and no one will ever read what I write. This is an extreme blessing. Left to my own self-sabotaging devices, I would wallow in coulda been ideas and wonder if there wasn’t a way I could become a glamorous, famous writer without ever actually having to, you know, write. Cue the Tom Waits and the jug of whiskey.

Luckily, this steady stream of work opened me up to the possibilities of bigger ideas hence the birth of my first play and my second one on the way. I started this here blog right after my first play went into production. Mainly because I was given the excellent advice to keep writing and tackling the next project on my list. So I knew I wanted to write about being an addict and alcoholic and gay and HIV positive. Not that I’m an expert or have any startling revelations about any of these things but because I couldn’t find a book that talked about this stuff that also had a sense of humor about itself.  There’s a great quote by Toni Morrison which says, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” So that’s what happened. I think I pictured writing these clever musings about recovery down, the world applauding and a giant check like those big phony ones they give away on the Price is Right arriving at my door. Instead, I’ve been extremely touched humbled and baffled by then process. Talking about this stuff that nobody likes to talk about opens the door for more people to say, “Oh! Me too!!” Which has been the unexpected and brilliant gift with the whole thing. I’ve been turned on to a world of  amazing writers that I would not have found otherwise. Many of them from backgrounds just like mine.  Also, I never  anticipated how many feelings revisiting my old life would bring up. I thought all of the hours of crying in 12 step meetings zapped the power out of most of that stuff and it has for the most part. But it’s still exhausting and at times terrifying traveling back down roads that once tried to kill you. I’ve had posts that take the wind out of me or take me days to write due to my emotional response.

Ultimately, it feels great though. I’m halfway in my journey and I can see the book I wanted to read start to take shape. Glamorous? Hardly. But doing what I want and staying out-of-the-way of the process the best I can.  And that makes me like that fabulous author on the back of the book jacket.

glittering cloud

He was there all along. He was just hiding. Like he was known to do. But a few years ago,out of nowhere, he poked his curious little blonde head out. After being smothered and silenced for years, the real me came back for good.

After a year or so of being sober, I read that a human’s personality is fully developed by age 6 or 7. This totally made sense to me. I remember being that age and knowing who I was. I would lay on the floor of my bedroom and watch the clouds move back and forth. My imagination was always concocting all kinds of reasons why this was happening. I’d make up stories. I’d write poems about the things I saw or wanted to see. I had a million little tiny creative worlds I was building all at the same time. Somewhere inside me, I had this feeling that this is what I needed to do and who I was. He was a lovely little individual that six year-old version of me. “We remain recognizably the same person. This speaks to the importance of understanding personality because it does follow us wherever we go across time and contexts,” said Christopher Nave, the author of the study that pinpointed age seven as our personality year.

Yes this personality, the one that been described as too girly, too gay, or too weird did follow me. But when you’re a hot pink, glitter marker in a world filled with dull blue Bic ballpoint pens, you do what you can to not stand out too much. Especially in those delightful middle school years where children were run out of town for packing the wrong thing for lunch, much less being super effeminate kid who wrote letters to Cyndi Lauper and collected scratch and sniff stickers. Thankfully, my homies drugs and alcohol were a great equalizer. If I could drink with people and drink more than they could, maybe they’d think I was cool or at least they’d be too wasted to see what I freak I was. The downside of hanging out with those two thugs was that over time, my light really went out. 20 years later, that kid who marveled at sparkling skies and wrote crazy stories was all but dead.

Luckily, I saved him. Or maybe he saved me. Regardless, he came back.  The other day, I realized as I was planning my writing projects for the next few months and pitching some creative ideas for other things I’d like to try, that I’m really living the life I want to live today. There’s no end and no saying no. I want to try all sorts of wild things and take all kinds of creative risks. I want to write whatever the fuck I want.  Mainly, because now I can. And because I’m sober. Turns out it’s a lot easier to chase your glittering clouds when you don’t wake up feeling like hammered hell 7 days a week.

Yeah I’m not silencing that seven-year old anymore. This time out, he gets to stay up as alate as he wants, be as sparkly as he wants and build as many pretend places as he wants. After all, I’m really proud of the little guy and it’s the least I could do for him.

The Voices in My Head: The Musical!

You and me, we have a special relationship. I routinely tell you about how batshit crazy I am and you politely read and even comment. I like it. So in the spirit of our lovely little back and forth I might as well tell you how I talk to myself and hear voices in my head. I say this not to appear  interesting or eccentric.I bring this up because maybe it’ll help others. See, I always just assumed I was nuts, turns out I’m just a playwright!

Ever since childhood, I’ve had in-depth conversations with myself and whoever else was banging around my head. I kept it hidden for years. Finally, when the Bluetooth era exploded I felt like I could come out of the closet. I could safely walk down the street while deep in conversation and no one would question it. Not like anyone ever questioned it in LA to begin with. That’s an entire city of cuckoo birds who wander around chattering to themselves. Nevertheless, the Bluetooth gave me a thumbs up to talk to myself out on the open. Towards the end of my drinking, the out loud conversations with nobody became for frequent and more desperate. I was always telling myself “You’re gonna be alright. Things aren’t that bad. You can get through this.” These mantras were usually followed by whispers of plans that might help get me out of  whatever the mess of the moment I was in and oddly enough, random numbers I would say out loud. Sometimes even cries for help can be mumbled to ourselves I suppose.

As I’ve recovered and changed my life, the conversations continue and  the voice still  pop by to say hi. But it’s not of “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi” variety anymore. In fact, these conversations are now incredibly useful. In my new incarnation as a playwright, I basically try to find stuff for characters to talk about that will propel some sort of a story while entertaining the audience. This task, in the beginning, scared the crap out of me so I knew it was going to be something valuable and miraculous. Eventually. As I started writing, I painfully forced words into the characters mouths and it all sounded incredibly phony and awkward and literal. During the 77 billionth rewrite of my first show and after a late-night breakdown, my husband and creative collaborator asked bluntly,”Why are you writing this show?” I told him through a cloud of tears and bad attitude that I was writing it to get to the heart of how technology has changed the way we communicate and that in the end I think we’re all just trying to make real human connections. “Then do just that,” he told me. I sniffled and calmed down. I realized in that instance I just had to get out-of-the-way, trust the story and keep writing. I went back to the drawing board (I don’t really have a drawing board or even know what that is but I do like that expression) and then the miracles happened. When I shut the naysayers in my mind up, the characters just started talking! All I had to do is write it down. They told me everything as long as I just let them talk. It was that simple. These voices I’d had rambling in my brain since childhood, weren’t trying to hurt me, they just wanted to be on stage! Of course. Even the voices in my head are attention whores.

While writing this new show, the voices are now like old friends. But sassier. They tell me to be quiet so they can keep talking. They tell me to stop questioning the process. They tell  me to let them speak so others can hear their stories. And I happily oblige.

Writing! It’s Better than Happy Hour.

I’m currently researching and getting ready to write this play about fear, disappointment and karaoke and the other night it struck me how enjoyable the whole process is. I’ve been a giddy little kid watching karaoke videos, taking notes about characters, singing to myself as I write. In fact, for a brief minute I found myself thinking that I enjoyed my new creative life way more than I ever liked drinking.

This, of course, is insane. Like something more than I liked drinking? I loved drinking. Or did I? Okay maybe I loved it for a while but then it didn’t love me back. Regardless, I truly believe that my life today is more exciting and enjoyable than it was when I was a blacking out five nights a week. Go figure. More remarkable still, is the fact that writing and being creative is far more thrilling and satisfying than anything drinking could ever provide. I was talking to a fellow creative person in sobriety the other day and we we’re lamenting about how we weren’t those types of drunks who were more productive when they were loaded. From what I’ve learned over the years, me and my friend are in the minority. I’ve heard dozens of artists, actors and writers say they were afraid to get sober because they thought their work would suffer. I admit I’m kind of jealous when I hear tales of creative folks who create masterpieces while intoxicated. I could never write drunk. It seemed too dangerous. Like I couldn’t control what was going to happen and besides if I was writing I couldn’t exactly keep drinking now could I? So now writing, a gift I’ve cherished my whole life and one that has set me free since childhood, yields the same power as a really good cocktail. I’m free. I’m elated. I take chances. I face scary things. I speak my mind. All while writing. And all while sober.

It’s crazy that something so good for me can make me feel so good. Part of the high it provides, I believe, comes from finally doing what I’ve always dreamed. I’ve always written and always told stories. So to live my real authentic life doing what I love is totally exhilarating.  The best part is I don’t wake up after an evening of writing wanting to bash my head in or wondering what I said to whom. With this current cocktail I’m sipping from, I just get the joy of doing what I love and living a life I’m proud of. And to that I say, ” Make mine a double!”