FOUR LESSONS I’VE LEARNED IN THE LAST TWO MONTHS

Over the past two months, I have had the great pleasure of being unemployed. It is a rare luxury for most (unless you work in the entertainment industry) and one that society often tells us is to be avoided.

With my free time, I pulled an “Eat Pray Love” and did a lot of self-reflection. I spent time in Utica with my mom (a place you never need to visit), journaling daily, meditating, spending hours in a dark theater and drinking heavily. In October I did a month-long yoga teacher training which was transformative. Without sounding too kumbaya, I’ve learned some things in the past two months. I learned a few lessons that I really needed. I haven’t mastered them by any means but I’m striving to remember them and allow them to inform my actions daily. Here’s what I’ve got:

  1. I am not my job.
  2. Some people are passionate about a career. Some people are passionate about creating a life they love which is supported by a career. It’s too soon to tell which category I fall into. Either one is great.
  3. Not everyone is going to like me. As long as I like me, even if some don’t, I need not be affected by them.
  4. If you practice the art of not giving a f*** (when appropriate) it gets easier and easier.

MOMENTARY THOUGHTS OR THOUGHTS ON THE MOMENT (August 24- August 30th)

(Photo by Jordan Amchin)
(Photo by Jordan Amchin)

August 24, 2017

A truck beeps as it backs up outside my window, faint but still audible. The absence of the air conditioning hum means the room is growing slowly warmer. The beeping has now been replaced with a faint siren. I am itchy. The cat walks around the room attending to things she sees, or thinks she sees. The itchiness makes me feel like there are bugs crawling on me. Folding over the coffee table I am once again keenly aware that I am not as flexible as I once was. My hips feel tight in the creases. I am growing hot and thirsty. I feel the need to look at my phone, what a stupid thing. An extra limb.

August 28, 2017

My hands cramp as I write. A low rumble underneath me, the train moving ever forward. I am uncomfortable. The seat is hard against my back but cool. Vacant stares in front of me. Surprisingly few looking at their screens. Five stops to go. My exposed toes cold from a draft of AC. A high-pitched screech now and then when the train jostles side to side. A fragrant bouquet of various perfumes. A fluorescent light inside and quickly passing tunnel light bulbs outside. Hand still cramping and now sweaty.

August 29, 2017

The air feels thick, the clouds low and swollen with rain. It is dark in this room, it seems to mirror my insides. My body feels heavy, so does my brain. Slow and sluggish. Quiet besides the barely audible ticking of a clock and a car passing by now and then. The faintest smell of nature, in my mind I believe it’s the smell of rain coming through the open window. The bench beneath me is hard as is the table I sit at, the grains of wood brushing along my wrist as I write. I feel reluctantly anticipatory about what this day and week will bring. Can I go back to bed instead?

August 30, 2017

A bird is quietly singing out of my window and the sound of my cat relentlessly scratching at the pretty blue upholstery of my chair. The tv plays in front of me but without sound. Somehow it makes me feel less lonely. The sun is shining in that glassy crisp kind of way that makes you feel like fall is near. Or do I just imagine that? Trees dance beneath the bottom of the shaded window. Breakfast is ready.

MOMENTARY THOUGHTS OR THOUGHTS ON THE MOMENT (August 21- August 23)

August 21, 2017

I sit uncomfortably on the couch feeling the mix of bread and cheese which I consumed not too long ago groaning and moving in my stomach. The air conditioner hums and the dancing trees cast ghostly shadows along the floor. The light is that of an early summer evening. The sun is lower in the sky but the heat is still capable of choking you.

August 22, 2017

My skin feels awake, tingly from the cold air of the air conditioner. The rest of me throbs. A dull underlying pain lingering and reminding me of the mistakes I made yesterday. My legs grow tired and uncomfortable in the pretzel position they are in. My body tells me I’m not as young as I imagine myself to be. The constant hum of the air conditioning occasionally spitting like it’s displacing water which has gone down the wrong pipe. The cat crouches in the hallway, eyes focused on something I cannot see. I feel as though I’m in my cool safe haven, afraid to go outside for fear that the heat will consume me.

August 23, 2017

Vivaldi plays in my ears. Actually, Joshua Bell playing Vivaldi plays in my ears. The theater feels suddenly quiet. There is a coziness to this vast space. The red velvet walls feel like they are hugging you. The work lights turn a giant room meant for dramatics into something seemingly more approachable. Sirens ring outside above the soothing music in my ears. There is a slight chill in the air, perhaps the only thing keeping me from wanting to lie down and take a nap. My body hurts in places I didn’t really know it could. The side of my right big toe and the part in my hair. A female voice… someone is on the phone in the mezzanine speaking loudly and I am reminded that not everyone is brought up with the same social rules ingrained in them. My lips tingle in that way just before they become chapped. What is that thing that I’ve heard about becoming addicted to chapstick? A prop man comes around to clean the seats and the smell is sharp and tickles my throat.

MOMENTARY THOUGHTS OR THOUGHTS ON THE MOMENT (August 18-August 20)

August 18, 2017

The slow hiss and purr of the air conditioner overwhelms the room. A sound of dripping water in the background. The air is vaguely cool. The light is that of dim sunshine trying to poke through a sky full of clouds. Though I can’t see outside I sense it is puddle filled. Will there be more rain? I fold myself in half facing the wrong way on my bed. It was comfortable but now quiet aches are growing louder in multiple places. My stomach and head want me to stop writing but I’m telling them no for now. A low dull pressure starts at the base of my skull.

August 19, 2017

I sit just one speck on a giant stage usually packed with people. Warm leather beneath me, a smell of old dusty curtains, a low hum of energy constant above me and yet it feels quiet. Three people chatter in the distance and the sound comes to me in waves. Sounds of children even more distant. The set is resting. It worked hard to impress those who inhabited (temporarily) its home and now gets a moment of respite. Empty chairs (and empty tables) still cooling from the bodies which were recently attached to them.

August 20, 2017

I lay uncomfortably sprawled across my bed. The things we did as kids aren’t as comfortable anymore. The shower water runs in the other room, another human’s presence. Music plays in another room. A quiet comfortable lazy day. Home. I am not too warm and not too cool. The soft bedspread beneath me not yet plagued with copious amounts of cat fur. My belly pleasantly satiated and a lemony aftertaste lingers in my mouth.

MOMENTARY THOUGHTS OR THOUGHTS ON THIS MOMENT (August 12-August 17)

Lately, I’ve noticed that I spend most of my days thinking about the past or considering the future rather than keeping myself present in the moment. I’ve been trying to ground myself more and really observe what is going on around me in an effort to stay more present. I’ve attempted to write in a journal daily and when I do that, I usually take a moment to describe exactly what is going on around me. I write down what I see, feel, hear, and smell. I don’t edit what I write or attempt to sound any particular way. I’ve really enjoyed going back and reading these excerpts and thought I’d share them here in hopes that they might inspire you to stay more present as well. Or maybe you’ll just get a good laugh. I’ll also try to include a photo taken on one of the days I’ve written about just for funsies.

Saturday, August 12th

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Ceramic bowl crusted with a sugary thick layer of milk, not the color it started out as. The AC purrs beside me blowing a slightly too chilled draft across my face. Toes separated from one another resting on a metal pipe. Coffee in a sweating glass, caramel colored, not quite as milky as I’d like. The cat wanders around the house and around me, circling her prey. Clouds gather outside, the sky is a thick hazy gray which looks pregnant with rain water. I can feel the ache in my body pre-emptively as if preparing me for the long day ahead.

Wednesday, August 16th

I sit in a tiny room high above a completely empty Broadway stage. The fast hum of a fan above me and an otherwise silent mass of space. The air feels empty, lonely even, having just experienced an exodus of the masses. I try to fold myself comfortably onto the rug, I am not as nimble as I once was.

Thursday, August 17th

A small shallow hallway which I’ve spent months loitering in. The dull hum of an air conditioner and an icy draft which only hits the right side of my body. The walls talk a bit, a bump here and a groan there. A vague sound of the city street. The carpet I sit on does not provide any cushioning but yet some sense of comfort. Soon these walls will be filled with bodies. Happy, hopeful, disappointed, bored, anticipatory bodies. Moving knowingly through the space. Every step calculated and every direction pre-determined.

SO AFRAID TO FAIL THAT YOU CAN’T EVEN START

I haven’t been blogging much recently. I’ve been trying to unpack the reasons for that because it is something that brings me great joy and I’d like to continue doing it. One of the perpetual themes in my life is a crippling fear of failure. This fear rears it’s ugly head in the most unwanted places and leaves me feeling like I can’t even start something because what if it sucks and everyone hates it, and everyone thinks I’m stupid, and I think I’m stupid, and why did I even think I could do this anyway?

The funny thing about this thought process is you usually have to suck before you can be good at something. You also do in fact have to do something in order to become good at it.

People often ask: “if you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” If I could do anything in the world, I would be a singer-songwriter. I’ve dreamt about it for decades (all 2.8 of them). Do you want to know what I do about that dream? Nothing. I don’t write songs, I don’t practice guitar or any instrument regularly, I don’t even sing all that often. I’m intensely afraid that if I wholeheartedly pursued this dream, I would be terrible at it. And what’s more heartbreaking than being terrible at something you love?

Could it be never having done it at all?

Yeah, I know.

Thoughts? Helpful tips? Sympathy? A good slap in the face? Anyone?

 

THE 90% RULE

This morning I went for a run in my neighborhood and while I ran I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, The Marie Forleo Podcast. One of the episodes I listened to was called “The ‘90% Rule’ That Puts You 100% in Control (Of Everything)”. The premise of the 90% rule is, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. While this theory is certainly not groundbreaking new information, I believe that attempting to put it into practice can change how you move through the world in a dramatic way.

I want to give a few examples of what I mean, but before I do what I want to make a public service announcement. When I write I am often tortured by the inner monologue running through my head. Today my inner monologue is saying “Emma, everyone is going to think you’re standing on your soapbox telling them about how you and your mom just walk around looking at life through the rosiest glasses and ‘it’s so easy you can do it too!'” Listen, it’s not easy, and we aren’t always that cheerful. I’m not the best at any of this but I find that talking about it and writing about it is very helpful. My hope is that it might be helpful for you as well! So, adios inner monologue! I’ve addressed you, you may exit the building.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. How many times have you been delayed at an airport, or stuck in traffic, or waiting for a bus that doesn’t seem to be coming in a part of New Jersey that you’ve never been to before during a tornado warning? That last one hasn’t happened to you? Oh weird. Well, all of those things have happened to me and my attitude during those events significantly changed my experience of each one of them. I am not naturally great at finding the silver lining at times when I am frustrated. However, my mom REALLY is and I can tell you that the dichotomy between simmering in anger and frustration versus making the best of a situation is astounding.

If you choose to find the positive aspects of annoying circumstances, it radically changes your experience of those circumstances. Let’s say you are stuck at the airport and you’re frustrated because your flight has been delayed for the 3rd time. Getting angry about it isn’t actually going to affect whether the plane takes off on time (newsflash, you’re not that powerful) so why don’t you relax and enjoy the newfound time you have to read a book you never get to read or drink three glasses of crappy wine?

This morning as I was on my aforementioned run, I got to the track in my local park and there seemed to be some kind of field day event going on. There were probably 150 young kids in the center of the track playing relay games, screaming, laughing and enjoying themselves in the most beautiful childlike way. Up until that moment, my head was still spinning from news of another possible terrorist attack and I was feeling heavy hearted. As I watched the kids playing I realized that there is still so much joy to be found in the world that can’t be taken away from us. Each day it feels like there is another horrific news story bringing more sadness into our lives. But again, if we give ourselves moments to grieve and then continue on in search of beauty and joy, it will make all the difference.

Give it a try! Let me know how it goes! 

25 THOUGHTS I HAVE WHILE RUNNING A HALF-MARATHON

1) Why did I ever think a race at the crack of dawn in the winter was a good idea?

2) 13.1 miles. That’s doable, right? That’s like 6 miles two times plus a little extra.

3) This isn’t so bad. I love race day energy.

4) A water station after the first mile? What kind of wimp already needs water?

5) Ok maybe a little water would be nice. I’ll skip the next water station.

6) These people who are passing me are probably going out too fast. They won’t be laughing when I’m passing them at mile 12.

7) I’m really cruising, all that training paid off.

8) “If you want my body and you think I’m sexy….”

9) This is starting to hurt in places I didn’t know could hurt.

10) I thought I’d covered all the chafe-able spots.

11) Think happy thoughts. What will my first post-race meal be?

12) “Is this how I die?”

13) Would I be considered an American hero if I died during a half marathon?

14) Shut up, Emma.

15) Ok halfway there, that’s good!

16) HALFWAY FU***** THERE? I have to do all that again?

17) There is a literal layer of salt forming on top of my skin.

18) French fries, french fries, french fries, all the french fries.

19) The winner has already been done for like an hour.

20) If I quit my job and dedicated my life to running could I win this thing?

21) I probably could.

22) I don’t even like running.

23) Maybe I should be a professional swimmer.

24) Ohh finish line I see you! I SEE YOU!

25) That was kinda fun, maybe I’ll do a full marathon next time.

I USED TO THINK “FEMINIST” WAS A DIRTY WORD

I used to think the word “Feminist” was a dirty word. I associated it with angry, loud, man-haters who just wanted to find things to yell about.  I am ashamed to say that, but it’s true. However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to recognize that this perception of feminists is a symptom of the sexism that is still very much alive and well in our world.

In many ways I grew up in a very liberal, forward thinking bubble. It was not difficult to find strong females to admire and emulate. I went to an all-girls school where we were taught we could grow up to do and be anything we wanted. The “popular” girls were simultaneously intelligent, athletic, philanthropic, gorgeous, and probably going to an ivy league college post-graduation. If that wasn’t enough, I was raised by the strongest woman I know. She had a dream as a kid of being on Broadway and she made that dream become a reality tenfold (I believe it’s 11 Broadway shows at this point) and she did it all while raising a child.

I’m not sure whether my hesitance to accept myself as a feminist was a result of not feeling obviously marginalized or whether I was rebelling against the strong females in my life. I often wonder whether I would have felt more of a need to fight for equality had I grown up in a more glaringly patriarchal community. However, as I grow and observe and learn, I see just how prominent the inequality still is.

On the day following the election, a friend of mine came into work after having spent the day with his mother. She had been crying all day and in an attempt to help him understand how she felt she said: “America voted and with their vote they said that the least qualified man in the country was still better equipped to be the President than the most qualified woman in the country”. Of course, now we know that Hillary won the popular vote by 2.9 million people (more than any losing president in US History), but I think this truly speaks volumes about the inequality which is still alive in our country.

I will never be the kind of person who is offended by a man holding a door open for me or offering me his seat on the subway. I will never yell at my boyfriend for trying to pay the bill for dinner. Those acts of generosity and chivalry don’t upset me. I also don’t expect them. The goal is for us to be equals. I will just as gladly pay the bill and hold the door open for my male counterpart. I won’t look down upon another woman for deciding to take her husband’s last name but I might question whether there was a discussion about this decision. Again, can we make moves toward equality?

Nearly half of this country (46.1% of the population) voted for Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States. Donald Trump was heard on video very clearly saying the following things:

I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look…I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

The excuse that people make for this behavior is that it’s “locker room talk”. Ok, fair. I wouldn’t want to be quoted on things I might say to my girlfriends when I think no one is listening. But I also don’t want this man anywhere near me and I certainly don’t want him representing my country and the women who reside in it. THIS is inequality. It’s blatant misogyny. It’s disgusting. Sexism, just like racism and homophobia, is still very present in the world today and if nothing else we need to continue to be vigilant.

And with that, I leave you with this photo of a time when I had very big  (or dare I say ‘yuge’) aspirations for my future:

25 THOUGHTS I HAVE WHILE GETTING A CHEAP MASSAGE

1. I wonder if this massage table has bed bugs. 

2. Is a $50 hour-long massage worth bed bugs?

3. Too soon to tell. 

4. I never know how much to take off. Will the masseuse be shocked at the level of clothed/unclothed I am when they come back in?

5. Is there a camera recording my nakedness right now? I could be starring in a porno and I wouldn’t even know it. 

6. Ok, that feels like a woman’s hands, don’t think I’m starring in an adult film. 

7. Although…lady your hands are getting a little too close to my unmentionables. 

8. Ow

9. Ow

10. Ow

11. If she does that one more time I’ll tell her to be gentler. 

12. Ok she did if five more times and I still haven’t told her. 

13. Why do I always choose to suffer in silence? 

14. Am I going to walk out of here paralyzed?

15. I guess if I became paralyzed I wouldn’t walk out of here at all. 

16. Am I going to be wheeled out of here?

17. Does she have a license for this?

18. I’m going to leave this massage more tense than when I went in. 

19. Why haven’t I learned by now?

20. Ok she’s asking me to flip over, now I finally get to see the face of my potential killer. 

21. This random lady just saw my boobs. 

22. I wonder what she thought of them. 

23. I don’t think you’re supposed to press so hard on that. 

24. Yep that’s definitely a bone. 

25. Thank God that’s over, never again.