Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quiet Courage

Today marks a decade of our country living in a state of persistent war and global terrorism, but it also commemorates acts of incredible courage.  Not just from the passengers of the hijacked planes, the firefighters and rescue workers, but also the survivors whose loved ones perished in the 9/11 attacks and the rest of us who watched helplessly as our fellow Americans suffered.  That day marked a line in the sand for us: we can be sad about these tragic events and we will never forget, but we must go on and we must live, with gratitude and with intention.

I spent this morning with a dear friend of mine, whom I met while working on the college paper.  We sat next to each other at graduation, swigging champagne from a bottle under her seat.  She got me my very first job after school, at a PR firm (which I sucked at, and I had to quit or risk being fired; seriously, I wasn't cut out for the pressure), then found me my first apartment (right next to hers in Hollywood). Because of that magical apartment, I met my neighbor's brother Rafael... and the rest is history.  In addition, she showed me how to smoke pot gracefully, taught me how to make trifle, and took me to my first yoga class.  I can hardly express how much I have gained simply by saying hello to a very pretty blonde girl in the newsroom more than 20 years ago.

Anyway, we met at a yoga studio and did an intense 90 minutes of flow yoga and breathing, then had breakfast nearby to catch up.  After I jumped off the PR train, she continued on, advancing to bigger and better jobs in the entertainment industry.  The last time we spoke - I'm ashamed to admit that, apart from Facebook chit-chat, it's been about a year - she was at a big network with all sorts of glossy reality shows.  It was stressful and fast-paced and she was expected to keep her BlackBerry on her hip at all times.  

As we ate breakfast, a former colleague of hers came to the table to say hello and it became clear to me that she no longer worked at that network; instead, she works for a much smaller, lower-profile network.  "What happened?" I asked.  In PR, generally, you climb the ranks higher and higher, dealing with more and more stress, and your main reward is the cache of where you work and the money that rolls in.  But you pay for it, working so hard that you can barely recognize your priorities.  It's like, "Oh man, I want to see my kid's preschool Christmas play, but I'm supposed to go to the Botox party of a 'reality star' that's going to be in People Magazine..."  Her life was a juggling act and I was constantly in awe of how even-keeled she remained, in spite of the chaos that's inherent in Hollywood.

Anyway, she mentioned that the BlackBerry thing ended up being her undoing.  By a twist of fate, she didn't have it with her on a Sunday afternoon as she and her family took her parents to a garden show. A PR "emergency" (meaning: no one died, nothing happened, someone just didn't show up for an interview) sprung up and my friend was caught without her BB.  Her boss in NYC wanted proof of something from an email that my friend couldn't access while she was out with her family.  On a Sunday.  It was a thing, and it came up in her review (don't even get me started on this -- my friend helped launch so many of the media phenomenons that are in our TV culture now that it baffles me how her boss could single out the BB incident and berate her for it).

My friend was disappointed but, with years of mindful thinking and yoga under her belt, went back to her office and let it all go.  Let it wash over her and out of her system.  And went back to work with a quiet resolve to just do her job, do it well, but keep things in perspective.

A week later, she got called by a woman who wanted her to work with the smaller network. It was a lot less stress, an easier commute, shorter hours, a reasonable boss... and MORE money.  The main catch was that she would no longer have the high profile shows she was used to... and that really made her think. But the kicker was quality of life - she could have a great job AND have a great life, too.  Naturally, she took it, and she hasn't looked back. Her health, family, psyche and soul have benefited greatly from this leap of faith and courageous first step toward a new life.

On this day of remembering courage, I wanted to point out that courage comes not only in tidal waves, but also small ripples.  Each wave, each ripple, makes a difference.  It seems the only fitting tribute to those who lost their lives: to live well for them, to do right by their memories, and to continue making our best choices despite the inherent fears around us. We may live in a world filled with terror, but we do not need to be terror-filled.

Take a deep breath with me here.  Inhale courage.  Exhale fear.  It only takes one step.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Barbie Sunday

I was walking past my daughter's room and saw that Emme was arranging the hand-me-down Barbies that her friend Mallory gave to Marlowe.  The older girls had "grown out of" playing with Barbies, they agreed, but they consented to helping Marlowe set them up in the playroom, which led to hours of hanging out with the Barbies (hot tip: when you have middle schoolers, you don't say "playing" anymore, apparently). 

Anyway, when I caught Emme in the playroom, I had to stop and capture the scene.  "You'll love these when you're older," I said.  I pictured her as a teen, grimacing at this ludicrous statement.  "Much older," I added.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

This morning, I read a friend's blog post about turning 40, and then I met a girl at my Bar Method studio who is about to turn 30.  Each of them had the same fear, anxiety, worry, discomfort about the unknown number ahead of them.  I won't lie: my 39th birthday filled me with a white-hot fear that life as I knew it would be over in 12 months.  And then all I heard was this: tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock...

What do you want to do with your life? my inner voice asked me.

The answer, in response to Max's death and the fears around me and the seemingly careless cycle of life, was simple: Live.  

And when I blew out my birthday candles, the only wish I had was to travel.  Italy, I wished, with all my might, and then I blew those crazy candles right out.

The smoke from that wish curled high up into the air, past my kitchen ceiling and into the ether.  And my wish came true, not only with a trip to Italy, but to more faraway places than I could have imagined.  Deep soul-searching and relaxing sight-seeing, party-all-night sorts of places and quiet, reflective ones, too. With family, with friends, alone... It was a year of finding myself, over and over, in the present moment.

By the time August rolled around once more, I was happy to welcome a new decade.  As they say, the 20s are fraught with frenzy and craziness, and then the 30s are rife with self-reflection and searching for yourself and getting all of your messiness dealt with (if you're lucky).  Rounding the last few weeks, I realized that, with a few very significant exceptions, most of my very closest, dearest friends were not only past 40, but closer to 50.  And they are luminous, shining women, self-aware and smiling, wise but silly, happy to suck the marrow out of life.

And I wanna be just like them when I grow up.  

Hello, 40.  Where've you been all my life?

The Reason I Haven't Been Blogging

When you get a horoscope like this one, you have to sit back and breathe.  Then you get to work on the extraordinary.