The Louise Log and I are going to be verrrrry quiet on facebook, twitter and Instagram for a few weeks. See you back in full force on January 11, 2016. \o/
Just to clear things up for anyone confused by my ‘dancing’ video in the last blog … the video was not shot as I danced my way through the pitch. My phone and I were dancing in the dressing room at Century 21 while I tried on clothes to pitch in. I haven’t even written the bloody pitch (much less rehearsed it…). The mere word ‘pitching’ is still sending icy fingers of anxiety down my spine. But, best news of the … YEAR?? … An old friend (who happens to have an Oscar nomination for screenwriting under his belt (among other things) BUT WHO’S COUNTING) wrote me, and I will quote:
“I have a feeling you'd be very good in a pitch. Enormously good, actually.”
Unfortunately, he went on to darken the mood:
“Like anything, it's a question of starting.”
GAAAAAAAA. I’d so much rather be dancing in fitting rooms at every cut-rate store left in New York than actually start working on the pitch. I've got to comparison shop for godssake!
Fortunately, a few years ago, I discovered a force of nature in the form of Marie Forleo. She’s really smart, she’s really successful and her blog/vlog topics are like crack: ‘get more done in less time’, ‘addicted to work?’, ‘overcome fear and self-doubt’. You see why I'd be interested.
In a recent vlog/blog, Marie recounted a Stephen Covey story. A professor showed his students a jar chock full of rocks and asked them if it was full. The students saw that no more rocks could fit in and answered “Yes!”. The professor poured a bag of pebbles over the rocks, filling a lot of the empty space with the pebbles and asked them again if the jar was full. Embarrassed at having been tricked they were reduced to muttering “Well now it is.” Of course the crafty professor had another trick up his sleeve and poured a bag of sand over the rocks and pebbles and filled every open space in the jar. The shame-faced students sat quietly in their seats.
Next, the professor poured everything out of the jar and then proceeded to put only the sand back into it. Then there wasn’t even room to fit all the rocks back in, much less the pebbles.
The moral of the story is time management. Let the rocks of your life, the big things which really matter to you, be what you schedule first. Marie Forleo shared her own priorities (and one of them was ’time off’ ahem). (That’s another blog.)
Obviously getting this pitch together is one of my rocks. I can’t let my new infatuation with Instagram or spur of the moment distractions be the sand which fills my days and crowds out time for my rocks.
I hope this was helpful! Thanks for reading!
So the Go Big or Go Bust thing is now resting squarely on this pilot script for our Fake Reality Show.
I’m determined to get it together and do what’s necessary to pitch it. Naturally, after spending a glorious weekend with my sisters (talking, laughing and eating), a mountain of work awaited me today. But I felt so relaxed and happy, like any sane person, I took myself right over to Century 21 to look for clothes to pitch in. Naturally I ended up dancing around the fitting room. Hey, they happened to be piping in music. I knew you’d want to see.
(You know I'll be looking to see if anybody hit the Like button... so please just DO IT. And you get your secret prize right away... : > Thanks!)
Blame it on Anita Goa who gave me an hour long Instagram tutorial by skype from London in September. Or blame it on Jennifer Sklias-Gahan who years ago hinted, ever so gently, that Instagram is really fun and that every time she walked out of a meeting everyone was grabbing their phones to check it.
I was up til 3AM the other day trying it out so now tonight I have to go to bed NOW.
I promise I'm going to learn moderation. Promise. Very very soon.
Not sure what’s going on besides trying to make tracks with this ‘Go Big’ plan but I am feeling Vulnerable, Anxious and SAD.
Maybe it’s because it’s getting dark at 4:15?
Or could it be astrological?
Or is this just … life?
Then after a good cry, I like to fall on the floor laughing at this MAD tv video with Arden Myrin.
Bobby Lee Dates Arden Myrin (3:25)
And then there're a few minutes left to try and squeeze in a little productive work before it's bed time.
Anybody else having a hard time? Any tips to share?
(Click on the Like button for an instant heart warming micro-treat.)
This t-shirt and Louise scrambling through forty-three episodes is, unfortunately, not pure fiction. I, like Louise, am an anxious person.
Without a looming deadline, I’m generally in a state of worry that I’m not where I’m supposed to be, not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Low blood pressure sometimes gives me an aura of serenity, but scratch the veneer and you’ll find a seething mass of desire, self-recrimination, apprehension and angst, a shredded copy of Sartre’s Nausea my constant companion.
But I hit a vein of gold in meeting Jonas Mekas for lunch last Friday.
Convinced that a lock on time management would alleviate my anxiety, I’m always ready to ask how other people do it. I wanted to know how Jonas Mekas is overseeing the massive Completion Project for Anthology Film Archives while, according to a recent article in the New York Times, devoting most of his time to his writing and films. Mr. Mekas responded that, in a shift, he’s now spending half of his time at Anthology.
His voice was ringing in my ears over the weekend until it suddenly hit me why: this seemed in contradiction to what I’d read in John Leland’s article in The New York Times:
“…he wakes up without intention or worry. “I’m not seeking… and I’m not planning.”
But ‘half my time’ sounds like planning to me.
“…he has become more "obsessed” with his writing and filmmaking…because he has cut down on the time and energy he spent at Anthology Film Archives…”
As I folded a third load of laundry, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
Jonas Mekas doesn’t plan his days, but there’s obviously some template he’s following. Could it be that his obsessions are his guiding force?
Having my own issues with obsession, it seems appealing, even practical to stop fighting and trying to control obsessions and ... give in! There would be no anxiety. The big decision, about what to spend time on, would have been made by taking a frank look at the overriding obsession. And this would explain why Jonas Mekas could tell me at lunch that he just does what’s in front of him (see 'next' blog entry below). And he can do it without intention or worry or seeking or planning.
Could this be the dawning of a new day?
I had the honor and pleasure of being invited to lunch today with the lovely Sebastian Mekas and his father, Jonas Mekas, a hero of mine and of art and of independent film. In 1990, Jonas Mekas was responsible for giving my feature film a month-long run at Anthology Film Archives, the cinema and library on 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street in New York’s East Village which he founded and continues to oversee.
“…he wakes up without intention or worry. “I’m not seeking,” he said. “I’m not a thinking person, and I’m not planning…”
“…In a 1974 essay, “On Happiness,” Mr. Mekas concludes with a meditation on a plate of grapes that might serve as his summary of his life. “This plate is my Paradise,” he wrote. “I don’t want anything else — no country house, no car, no dacha, no life insurance, no riches. It’s this plate of grapes that I want. It’s this plate of grapes that makes me really happy. To eat my grapes and enjoy them and want nothing else — that is happiness, that’s what makes me happy.”
With my apparent addiction to feeling 'anxious and tense', I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out how he maintains this attitude. And so I asked him, how do you do it? How do you live like this without expectation or desire?
He looked me straight in the eye and then he looked away, pausing for a moment and looked back: “You just do the next thing in front of you. Live your life! … There’s no answer to this question!”
Anthology Film Archives is planning a $6 million Completion Project which will make it the largest repository of independent film-related material in the United States. The drawings of it look gorgeous. It'll even have a café and a Sky Room and Roof Terrace with a catering pavilion.
On May 7, 2016, there'll be an auction to benefit this work. Artists, cinephiles and others are invited to give and to make contributions to the auction (signed movie posters, props, an acre of land in Vermont, a piece of music to be written for a special occasion or purpose … “It’s a wide window.”) and to spread the word. “It’s best done in person.”
So it’s getting down to the wire over here. I mentioned to a friend (let's call her Susan Miller) that I want to go out and pitch this pilot idea in January ... February?
She emailed me back:
friend: It just occurred to me -- who is setting up your meetings? Do you have an agent or a producer who is scheduling these?
me: I have neither an agent nor a producer. This is the root of the problem. I’m tackling the thing twig by twig and hoping they don’t all snap off.
friend: Do you want to go over your plan with me? I mean, how are you getting in the door to producers/studios/networks?
me: I don’t really have a plan. I don’t have the connections to get in the door.
friend: Maybe we can have a regular phone convo. Because I'm concerned about your not having a plan. But maybe you have viable or possible ideas.
me: I have a list of people … people I sort of knew… once. One guy I worked with thirty years ago.
friend: Anne, you can’t go out to LA without meetings set up.
me: Who said anything about going out to LA?
friend: Well you said you were going out to pitch…
me: I meant going out of the HOUSE.
Stay tuned. And please leave comments if you have suggestions on how you or someone you know successfully stormed the doors of HBO, Netflix, Amazon, etc.
Also please click the Like button for a special surprise.
In honor of Cyber Monday, I thought I'd share in tedious detail the pride and joy of my cyber life: a scavenger-hunt-style standing desk.
There are few downsides to having spent most of the past eight years sitting at my desk editing and getting-distracted-from-my-job-of-promoting The Louise Log. But one glaring downside is the time not spent on exercise or even movement. You've probably heard that 'sitting is the new smoking'.
After listening to me hint about how much I’d like to be able to work at my computer while standing, Mr. Green made me this gorgeous standing desk for my studio.
But not everyone has Mr. Green in their life. And even I don't have the room for an extra desk in our NYC apartment. I needed something which would take up no space at all.
Here’s my solution: a deconstructible standing desk which, when you get tired of standing, can be taken apart in 12 seconds so you can sit down.
Here’s what you need:
I'd love to hear about your life hacks for life online ... please write them in the comments. Oh and, the best cyber treat of the day is awaiting you ... just click the Like button. Not kidding.
(This post is a continuation of Wednesday’s. The first paragraph is repeated from that last post.)
I spent the rest of the next six years trying to become the most popular girl in the school. I’m not sure if my classmates would agree that I succeeded but I did get elected to a lot of positions. And I felt popular! Hey so what if I barely graduated?
The bad news is, appearing ‘cool’ (at least to myself) didn’t solve anything. If you scratched the surface, I was still as insecure as ever. And so this need to be ‘popular’ followed me to college where, even I could see that I wasn’t going to have the time or the energy to win over enough people to make a dent.
So like water changing its shape to get around a rock, I changed mine. I took on a whole new goal and identity and lived (with some righteousness) as an unknown, outsider ‘real’ artist. Hey, it’s cooler, actually, to be under the radar than to be mainstream. I majored in art history and could even give you a few examples.
This was all well and good … until I wanted to make a second feature film. You can get away with making a no-budget feature when you’re willing to live and work like a guerrilla film maker. With a baby, there was no way I could pull that off. But to get financing from the powers that be in Hollywood, you have to ‘know people’ or put time and energy into meeting them. And for that, your personal cool has to be tested by jumping through some pretty extreme hoops.
One of the great benefits of aging is tied to the great downside of aging: you realize you’ve only got so much more time and if you don’t get it now, you might just never get it. This awareness brought me squarely face to face with the fact that I didn’t have the courage (or the finances) to take on Hollywood in the way I would have to to get financing. Pitch meetings require a) relationships b) proximity to LA and c) more cool and courage than I had.
This is why I ended up making The Louise Log. Because I could. A one-hour tape cost $3 and I could do all the jobs (except acting) myself. I didn’t have to pitch or deal with anybody. I didn’t have to be cool. All I had to do was convince one person (eventually more) to do something on camera. In this case it was to convince Christine Cook to go to the farmers market, buy some vegetables and sit in a cafe. I immediately put myself on a schedule of cranking out an episode every month which ratcheted up the pressure and turned The Louise Log into the equivalent of intensive psychodrama therap. I was going to have to work out my issues.
Asking asking ASKING for help, for favors, for more help and more favors and then running out of subject matter and having to resort to … taking lines right from my journals?!! I was working at least 12, often 19 hour days and even with my ox-like strength and stamina, the experience pretty much broke me-- in a good way. It forced me to face and reveal a lot of stuff I’ve always kept well-hidden. Who knew that this stuff was the material of my life’s work? Listening to Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection this past week, I’m realizing that a lot of us are ashamed of who we are and that it’s in talking about it that we accept and get over it. And, as everybody knows, self-acceptance is the basis of true cool. Some people are lucky and are born into circumstances which instill them with a sense of their basic worth and worthiness. And then there are the rest of us.
I can’t say that I feel like I’m ‘cool’ today, but in fact, at my age, the expectations are a little different. I’m operating from a basic acceptance that I’m not cool and so what. And I’m determined to do what’s necessary to get into the rooms to pitch. I have The Louise Log as proof of concept and you as proof of an audience. And as my friend and colleague Jessica Arinella pointed out, it might not be that hard, the right people may appear, the right opportunity may just show up. In a nutshell that's how things worked with The Louise Log -- meeting Victoria Trestrail and Mathilde Dratwa on LinkedIn, Julie Clark Shubert on facebook. What's the likelihood of that??
I’ll keep you posted as I start taking the steps toward pitching our fake reality series to television. Stay tuned…
(And click on the Like button for a no-cal treat.) \o/
As I see it, there are three types of people: people who are cool, people who are not cool andpeople who, through an alchemy of body type, style and self-restraint (silence is a great tool), manage to give the impression that they're cool.
I fall into the third category. Or I did. And let me tell you, it’s a sad life. And it’s exhausting. With all that energy going into creating an impression, into pretending excitement, empathy, interest and everything else. I always felt like the inside of a pumpkin, hollow and a little slimy.
To get somewhere as a filmmaker, you pretty much have to pitch. And the essence of pitching plays into all of the darkest fears of someone who doesn’t feel cool, who has a fear of rejection, of being publicly humiliated, who has, let’s just call it what it is, a fear of *annihilation*. And so, up until now, with one miserable exception in front of a Brooklyn arts organization and one horrifying weekend at IFFCON (a pitch festival by invitation only, GOD HELP ME) I have avoided pitching. That is about to change because I want to make this fake reality show for television and am going to have to pitch the idea. I feel compelled to explain the depth of my anxiety.
In middle school, new to the area, I asked the girl who sat next to me in study hall if we could be friends. I agree it seems more like a question from a pre-schooler than from a seventh grader. Hey, I was young for the grade. Anyway, she had an interesting long nose and was serious and thoughtful. She answered me the next day: her mother wanted her to be friends with girls who lived in town. Dagger to my heart. We lived way out in the country, far from school and she lived in town. Obviously, the cool people lived in town.
I spent the rest of the next six years trying to become the most popular girl in the school.
I’m not sure if my classmates would agree that I succeeded but I did get elected to a lot of positions. And I felt popular. Hey so what if I barely graduated? I felt cool.
(To be continued)
With everything that’s behind and ahead of me in wanting to get this pilot in front of the right people, I’m pin balling through every phase of the emotional wringer.
And then early Saturday morning, I had a dream. It was just around daybreak when a person’s lucky to be able to get back to sleep, much less have a dream.
A 20-something, Middle Eastern-looking woman and I were talking in the hall of a building at 14th St and 8th Avenue. There was nothing fancy about the way she looked or dressed but she radiated a beautiful strength and confidence. She mentioned that she meditated two or three times a day for an hour each time and was cutting back on the people she sees. She mentioned that ‘Henry Fun’, who is dying, is one of them. It felt like I was not someone she’d be making time for.
And so I drifted off in thought, thinking about what a pity it is that I’m not a sitting meditation person, that this is obviously why she’s so strong and confident and I’M NOT. And suddenly, I remembered something I was supposed to be doing and let out a whole body cry of frustration.
She looked at me with a look of wonder and horror, as if to say: “How old ARE you, anyway? THREE?”
In that flash, I got it, something I’ve been struggling with for decades. This is what self-will run riot looks like and I don’t have to fall victim to it anymore. I can let go. I can get into the darn river and go with the goddam flow.
You might wonder why, after eight years, we’re only now coming out with a trailer (see below if you've somehow managed to miss it).
I know it’s a burning question and though there’s a long answer, here’s the short answer which is actually not very short.
The main reason we’ve made this Official Trailer is to get The Louise Log out to a wider audience on a new platform, Vimeo.
A second reason is that, with the show’s ‘loose ends’, it’s an attempt to resolve some of them for new viewers. By ‘loose ends’ I mean, for example, the way actors playing lead characters change with alarming frequency. Though sometimes we ‘explained’ the switch … what the heck ever happened to ‘Ava’s husband’ the French Phineas??
And though even if the trailer doesn’t resolve these issues, it at least lays them out at such breakneck speed that maybe you won’t notice.
There’s also a third reason. Remember that pilot Mr. Green, William M. Hoffman and I wrote which missed the Sundance Episodic Lab by a HAIR? Well, guess what, it involves The Louise Log. And in the near future, we’re going to be pitching it to television as a Fake Reality Show. *
Naturally, I hadn’t imagined, in my wildest dreams, that ‘getting into the room’ to do the darn pitch would be as big a challenge as everything else in life but very shortly that will become my main job. That and making some really fun Go Big or Go Bust sketch videos starring yours truly.
Thank you for reading. And if you want to click the 'Like' button, leave a comment, or write to tell me how to get through to a showrunner, an agent or a powerful television executive, please don’t hesitate. My email is email@example.com.
*Thank you for this term, Julia Wrona!
Over a year ago, Marion O'Grady pointed out that in order to properly spread the word of this show, we really should have a highlights reel (AKA trailer) which would give someone unfamiliar with The Louise Log a sense of all three seasons of it.
I figured that, with help, I could slap something together over a month, maybe two.
Ever hear the expression: "Many a slip twixt the cup and the lip"? There were so many false starts I've lost count. I had no idea what a huge undertaking it would be -- or maybe I did which is why I had taken on this mad challenge.
Anyway, with suggestions from colleague Mhairi Morrison of Feathers and Toast, help from the soul of generosity, superfan Marie Pope, who organized a focus group of people unfamiliar with the show, hard-boiled feedback from marketing coach and consultant Mudd Lavoie, Seed&Spark CEO Emily Best and finally from Mr. Green, I am THRILLED to finally present the final result.
I am beyond grateful to Julie Clark Shubert for letting us use her delicious song “I Want To Know You”.
But just so you don't get the wrong idea, getting the material cut was only the first step, one which took about a year, more actually. Next there was the fun of going back into old hard drives. I was determined to find the original files which are of higher resolution than in the episodes I had uploaded to YouTube.
Too bad there aren't any pictures of super-tech me (NOT), surrounded by hard drives out of their boxes, all with their different power cables, plugging them into my old computer which was limping along with my only copy of the editing software used to cut most of the episodes.
Mr. Green was subjected to the extremes of my moods: alternately exhilarated that I'd finally figured out the proper way to extract and/or compress files, or plunging into the depths of depression, certain that I would never be able to master this much less finish the job. It was way over my head. It was going to eat me alive.
It's thanks to Patrick Carey of the Apple Store at West 14th Street's third floor that you're getting this trailer instead of dark reports about me. Patrick saved the day regularly for months and there's not an ounce of hyperbole in that.
I hope you enjoy this trailer. And if you do, please share it! Thank you!
Here are two links for easy sharing:
CAST (in order of appearance)
Kenneth B Goldberg
Marie Christine Katz
“I Want To Know You”
written and performed by
Julie Clark Shubert
written by and used with permission of
and Directed by
For months now, I've been calling it a 'highlights reel' but am suddenly so sick of that term I can't say it one more time. 'Official Trailer' sounds so much more, well, official.
Whatever you call it, this 142 sec. video is the product of more work than you can imagine. (details to follow on Wednesday) In the meantime, ENJOY!! And please don't hesitate to share the link. Thank you!
My heart and thoughts are with Paris and its people.
It's the season for hibernation ... but I'm going in the other direction - I'm coming back to life! After almost a year of thrashing around and trying to figure out the next step, I've got a plan.
Here's a (2:00) clip to start the ball rolling. More soon. (Please click the 'Like' button and be instantly rewarded for your big heart.)
I’ve spent more than a couple of Christmases at home alone at my desk. Not that I’m complaining, The Louise Log has rarely felt like work. But so a social life has always been pushed to the bottom of my schedule.
So when my pal Veronica James recommended that I join her at the annual weekend retreat of Women At Woodstock, with a group of women (mostly) over 50, I hesitated. It’s risky to a) spend money to go to a conference and b) to take time away from what feels like a mountain of projects I want to get to.
All Veronica, an extremely hard-working and effective (but fun) person, had to say was: “Come. It’s really good.”
And so I went. And I wasn’t disappointed. There were authors, career coaches, a photographer, a website designer/social media marketing expert, bloggers, a tarot card reading life coach, a financial adviser, a pharmaceutical saleswoman, two dating and relationship coaches, an elected official and more. It was such a mixed group that it sort of felt like a campfire on the beach - no pecking order, no competition.
There were workshops and talks as well as lots of time for having a real conversation with almost everybody. It felt like a weekend with friends of a friend … which is actually what #WAW sprang out of, when Ann Voorhees Baker was going through a divorce after a long marriage and invited a group of friends, who didn’t know each other, to a cabin in the woods.
The atmosphere of support and honesty, of sharing knowledge and encouragement, with people revealing their dreams and their doubts, asking for feedback, asking for help. It was truly moving. It was also inspiring. And it seems like it could even prove to be materially valuable.
This blog was started as a way of keeping you, dear reader, up to date on my efforts to get The Louise Log out to a wider audience. (The urgency to reach more viewers is financial - this show needs to become self-sustaining in order to continue.)
I thank you for giving me a wide berth as I’ve gone down meandering paths into my past life, trying to see if there’s some obvious pattern at work here and, if so, how I might be able to break it.
The good news is that, in spite of me and my personality still at the helm, we have a very exciting plan in the works which I’ll be able to say more about in the next week or so.
Until then, here’s some of what I’ve learned from making this show.
I used to routinely face a wall of anxiety too tall to see over and too wide to get around. The only possible way to deal with this is, obviously, was avoidance, otherwise known as procrastination. As you may have read, in what is by any standards an epic mastery of this approach to life, I managed to stretch out the rewrite of the script for my ‘second feature’ for SEVENTEEN YEARS. Making The Louise Log taught me a number of tools to deal with this demon.
Tool #1 is limitations. Having ‘wasted’ so many years on one miserable script, I was like an over-primed pump ready to explode. It helped that I was fifty-five years old and well aware that people start dying at that age. So before mine got me, I started to set my own deadlines. Mr. Green had been writing a blog once a month for years. I decided that I’d make one video a month.
Tool #2 is a variation on Tool #1: Start where you are with what you have.
In film, I’d worked with Camera Operators and Directors of Photography. I knew nothing about shooting and less about video. Furthermore, in 2007, no self-respecting filmmaker was shooting video with a camcorder and putting it up on YouTube. Fortunately, as previously outlined, I had the gift of desperation. There was the family camcorder which, guess what? Like cell phone cameras, camcorders are point and shoot. A two year old could press the two buttons and probably get something worth looking at.
I’d worked as a film editor and had always been intimidated by video editing. Apple’s imovie is so simple, two year olds can now edit the video they’ve shot. I went to the Apple Store’s One-to-One sessions and learned imovie until I broke it with overly complicated sound tracks. Then I learned Final Cut Pro.
Which brings me to Tool #3: Baby Steps
If the first episode had been with more than one actor, I probably would have broken out in hives and cancelled the shoot for not being able to breathe.
But by the fourth episode I was working with two actors. By the fifth episode, there were four actors (two of them children), props, several shots crossing the very busy Seventh Avenue and a rented location (the local public school),
By episode forty-three we had four SAG actors in their underwear, a fifth (fully clothed) SAG actor 900 miles away on Skype and a crew of five.
Tool #4: Practice Makes Perfect. Well, yes and no.
On the one hand, working constantly, my craft exploded. I learned more making The Louise Log than in making all my other films combined.
But a great thing about digital technology is that you don’t have to get it right the first time. Or even the seventeenth. For Season One, we didn’t have a professional sound mixer on set. The sound for the first seventeen episodes was whatever the camcorder picked up. In the episode in the Principle’s Office (12), the air conditioning noise was so invasive, it ruined an otherwise strong episode. Yes we had to lose thousands of views, but we took down the original uploads of almost all the sub-par audio, dubbed them and re-uploaded a lot of Season One.
Tool #5: Collaborate and Ask For Help
Digital technology makes it possible for one person to do almost every job. Please don’t ask how I know this. Unfortunately, the chances of a one-person project reaching a wide audience are greatly diminished. If only for the (extremely important) fact that the marketing and promotion will be easier if a lot of people are involved and invested, work with a group.
Tool #6: Story Trumps All
Make sure the script is strong or make sure you have the leeway to salvage it in the editing if it isn’t. A voice-over saved us more times than I can count.
Don't miss out! Special bonus delivered INSTANTLY if you click the 'Like' button.
At the end of the last post before this blog was hijacked by the saga of How To Be Louise, was a ‘suggestion’ that I would finish another story:
< < The clenched-fist-and-teeth approach to career success carried me through pretty much to this Summer. >>
Wishing I’d made some notes to know just what that was referring to, I’ll try to muddle through.
Blame it on my childhood. Or, as Dr. Kumar (Vedic Astrologer) would say, “Blame it on your karma!”. Everybody’s more or less afraid of people, right? Well, I fall squarely on the ‘more’ side of that equation. And along with that fact, as far back as I can remember, I’ve had the feeling that it was my job to put on a show - not only a show that I wasn’t afraid but, notching it up, to make a convincing case that I really liked everyone and was an all-around ‘nice person’.
An accepted fact of life in our house was having to hug and pretend to be at ease with distant relatives who showed up out of the blue. This was usually restricted to major holidays and I’m pretty sure all of my sisters colluded with me on that. It was part of the deal. We curtsied. We passed hors d’oeuvres at our parents parties. And we hugged old relatives who we didn’t especially know or like.
But one afternoon, when I was at most seven years old, I distinctly remember that all of my sisters ran the other way while I walked into the belly of the beast. We were still living on our grandparent’s farm with a large herd of Sardinian donkeys. My mother announced that some ‘reporters’ from The New Yorker had come to write a story about the donkeys and that it would be very nice if some of us went out to meet them. We lived over two hours from New York City in the rolling green country of Warren County, New Jersey. I had less than no interest in New York City or The New Yorker. I vividly remember a wave of exhaustion passing through me, my eyes rolling back in my head and the silent scream “Noooooooooo.” “Can’t Lee (my older sister) do it?” Lee liked to read and was always in the middle of something she couldn’t put down. And Lee had a laboratory in the basement where she could always say she was in the middle of an experiment. Lee definitely had some great valid excuse. But the funny thing is, I don’t remember my mother insisting. I remember some feeling of pushing myself. “Aww righttt.” I gave in, lowered my head and submitted to my fate. I’d go meet the darn grownups and put on a show of being a nice person.
As an adult, I once saw a clipping of the account of that visit (in the 'Talk of the Town'?) It featured a little sketch of my sister Victoria and me with our hair in our eyes but I don’t even remember if we were mentioned. Much more vividly, to the marrow of my bones, I can recall that feeling of so many more decades ago, that I was wasn't enough as I was, that I'd have to ‘rise to the occasion’ to go meet these grownups.
Living from a tap root of the conviction of my inadequacy is what (I think) I was referring to as ‘the clenched-teeth-and-fist approach to career success’ (and to life, for that matter). I’d like to think that that belief has been falling away for decades. It may have taken a more decisive hit this summer ... but only a look through those free-writing pages will jog my memory on the details.
(to be continued)
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