Tag Archives: life

What I’ve Learned In 53 Years of Living

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That sounds pretty grand, right? Like you should sit down and ready yourself for me to drop some wisdom on you, right? Well, we’ll see. I’ll ask at the end of this what you think.

Some of these things have cultivated over the years. Some I’m still trying to fully grasp and work on them, daily or weekly or whenever I remember I need to. Some are so new I feel all fluttery in my belly even sharing them.

  1. Eat Chocolate as much as you can. Now, you have to define how much that is, how often, milk or dark, with nuts or not, in bars or cookies or off spoons standing in your kitchen. Just get some if you need it. I’m no longer of the “DON’T EAT [INSERT THE YUMMY FOOD HERE]”
  2. Same goes for sugar. Yes, this shit can wreck havoc on you so take that into consideration. If you can and like and want sweetness, get it. I can’t. I try with such might but I can’t. I’m officially in a mourning period about that. Fall of 2016 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. I had ulcers and all these not-so-lovely symptoms that could fall under TMI for this blog. After a year of diet change, supplements, herbs and therapy for trauma and grief (my mom died Feb of 2016), my scopes revealed no more active Crohn’s. But I do have IBS. Yeah…chronic pain is bitch. And eating sugar or specifically dark chocolate drenched caramel popcorn is not a good idea for me. I hate being a fragile fuckin flower but there it is.
  3. Dance when you can. How you can. Where you can. Chair dance. Wave your hands in the air like you JUST DON’T CARE! Or car dance. I LOVE to car dance. Sometimes my back and joints hurt or I’m battling nausea so throwing down like I’m a MC Hammer back-up dancer like I used it isn’t always possible. BUT I’m still a proud member of the Rhythm Nation so you just know that I’m dancing when I can.
  4. Get cool about your gray hair. This is one that I’m really working on. I go back and forth about when to go gray. Or let the world see I’m gray underneath my black curls. I spend hours on Pinterest and Instagram looking at BEAUTIFUL gray haired women who share their journeys. It’s not easy. It takes time. And it means something. Of course, it does. Even those who say they don’t give a fuck what others say, THAT is a sentiment that has had to been developed, cultivated, honed and now honored. That means something. For me, I go a couple months and even declare I’m no longer dying my hair and then after spraying my roots to go out, which indicates that I’m not ready, I dye my roots and to be honest, feel like I’m letting some part of me down. Like I just did something to my own value as a woman. BUT THEN I tell myself to knock that shit off, focus my dramatic thoughts to the page and just get on with the day. There are just as many amazing women who don’t have gray hair, now or won’t ever. The point is, I’m learning to get cool with mine.
  5. Come to an understanding about “give no fucks”. This one I’ve been thinking A TON about. For a few years now. I have post-its on my desk and in my office reminding me of this. But there’s also a note by one that says “except for those who deserve all the fucks” cuz there are those. Like family, friends, sisterhood, brotherhood, those who are suffering, those lost in pain, those who have less, those who need more. There’s a list that deserve and have my fucks. I think the give none goes to those who hate me for my skin color, my race, my gender. Those who want to step on my neck and nail me to the ground. Those who don’t like me. Or won’t love me. I won’t ask for them to. I sure as shit won’t beg. I want to be seen, though. I want to be heard. But that’s not possible with some folks. Bigots are not going to be down with me. Trump lovers will hate me. Mansplainers, white folks coming at me with their privilege don’t dig me, either. I can’t make them feel any different [INSERT SERENITY PRAYER HERE] so those folks I don’t give a fuck about. BUT BUT…they are suffering, too. So, how do I remedy this? My need to cultivate kindness and promote peace and give them no fucks? What I’m learning is that it’s possible to give none to their opinions and be aware of their power in the fight, because we are in a fight. A fight for our lives.
  6. Be a warrior. And define that however you need to and want to. And know that being a warrior means protecting yourself so if that means taking breaks from social media, turning off the news, working out, or binge watching Netflix, sleeping in, or whatever you feel needs to happen for your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health- then you’re fighting.
  7. And cry. Cleanse your soul. Honor the life you’ve lived when you’re pain because of the losses in it, the hard and lonely times. It’s okay to feel.
  8. Soak in some children’s laughter. If you can’t get in real life then find some online and play it loudly until you laugh, too.
  9. Do something creative. Every day. That doesn’t mean you have to write or paint. Or sew. Or anything you may define as ‘art’. Being creative is about using your mind to create something. Cooking, gardening. Singing. Caring for your children. Creating anything with your imagination- DAY DREAM! I was a big daydreamer as a kid and teachers would snap me back to class by calling on me to pay attention. Kinda hated them for that. Sure, I understand that I needed to focus on the lessons but the value of my imagination is immense. Yours is, too.
  10. Give hugs. Friends. Lovers. Pets. Pillows. When you give hugs you usually get one back.
  11. Pray.  

Okay, so that’s the 11 that are on my mind this morning of my birthday. I don’t think I’ve shook up your world with my thoughts. But thank you for reading. Thank you.

Peace and love

Toast to What I’ve Learned in 50 Years

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What I’ve learned in 50 years could either be a long list, perhaps written in a roll of toilet paper because that’s it worth, or it just might be a short tweet on my struggling Twitter account. Or smaller still, a slogan. A bumper sticker. A tattoo. One word:

Shit. Nothing. Breathe. Dream.  Run. Defend. Attack. Dance. Chocolate.  

Toast.

Or many words. Pages and pages.  That’s the internal conflict.  So many questions. Why at 50 do I still have so many questions?

Why do I ramble? Meander?  Is it because life feels that way at times? Random yet moving…forward? Should I charge ahead? Have I done that? Did it work?  And why am I just so fuckin tired? Why can’t I marathon watch Frazier and just let life slide on through the room? “I’m cool. I got a blanket. Some tea and toast, I can chill here.”

As I figure out the answers to these questions, I’ll start with the top 10 things that come to mind when I ask myself what I’ve learned in 50 years.  And just so you understand this list,(which could be totally different tomorrow) this is where I am today. It’s an early dark and cold January morning in Minnesota. I’m in my in-laws’ kitchen. It’s been weeks since I’ve been home to Los Angeles and I feel that. Last of my sticky oatmeal is drying in a bowl.  There’s hot tea with smooth and creamy flax milk in a mug. I’m on my way to babysit my god daughter this morning before spending the day at the movies.  And yes, I have strep throat. (On antibiotics so I’m not a health risk to anyone but myself…but I feel shitty nonetheless). Happy Birthday to me. 

So here are the 10 today:

  1. Family is everything.  If you got some in your life and they’re good to you, cherish them. If they’re not so good, know that you can create family with folks who are. If they hurt you, know that it’s not okay that they did. And also know it’s good for you to forgive them even if they don’t change, even if you don’t/can’t have them in your life. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. 
  2. Being a good friend goes a long way because when you have good friends who give you love, support and acceptance back, your life is lit up in ways you never dreamt. Besides…
  3. Laughter really is good for your soul!  Laughter with a friend is priceless so try and do that often. And loudly.
  4. Tending to your needs is okay.  Give yourself permission to do that. And if you can’t do that, then find someone who will.  In fact, if you’re reading this, then I give you permission, if that helps.
  5. Dreams can come true but I guarantee you they won’t show up like you dreamt it. That’s the thrilling joyful part of life. Don’t let being afraid of the dream being anything different than how you see it or write it in your head be the reason they don’t manifest. Be open.
  6. Make sure your partner/spouse is your best friend because when things get shitty, and they will, treating them as a friend, with basic kindness, compassion and understanding could help you through the shitstorm as it hits.
  7. Shitstorms can be damaging but also can be fertilizers for the new to grow.  (and yes, sometimes this one is  a hard stretch for me to believe while I’m running for cover but it’s true)
  8. You won’t die of a broken heart.  You may hurt for a long time. Even forever. But it can’t kill you.  How you handle it could.  
  9. Figure out “how many f*3ks you have to give”. And if it’s none, then right on.  If you have a few for family and close friends who include you on their list, then alright, too.  Remember though, everyone makes mistakes. All the freakin time. Allow for this. Understand this. Forgiving humans for being human means forgiving yourself, too, because you should be on your own “give a f*#k list”.
  10. And the 80’s still rule.  And 70’s classic rock is the best. And it’s totally okay to embrace that. I have with full force. I sing along to the Bangles and dance to Sheila E and still swoon over Prince.  I don’t wear the shoulder pads or rat-comb the hair any more but I am a child of the 80’s and for all that’s holy and neon, it’s a decade that still rules. And some days working out is just air-jamming to Heart or Foghat in my car.  It counts.  

Toast! to Toasting…and movement

Good morning,

I’ve been thinking about doing this for awhile now- to get this blog back up and moving. Moving. Moving. Moving. That’s what I feel I need to be doing…always moving forward. That’s been difficult this summer, there seems to be alot of obstacles for that…first the breast cancer scare which kept me stymied in a state of fear for a month. Movement was chaotic and emotional. I felt blind and lost. Abandoned and confused.  So when the verdict came back that I was okay, the lymph node is recessive and that I have til December before I need to pick at it again..I took a deep breath, gathered up the lessons I learned about myself and thought..”awhhh…yes, now to move forward!”   But then my arm and shoulder didn’t heal, the nerve pain intense. And just as I began to treat this, I got into a car accident. My fears loomed up from the back seat as my car was totaled and I got stuck. Again. Sure, we continued with our plans- vacation and traveling, precious time with family, but the pain kept me from moving forward as much as I wanted. As much as I needed.

Physical therapy, drugs, a spiritual and astrological reading, hours with friends, chocolate, forgiveness, and therapy – all doing its job has me ready to move. And that’s brought me here – back to this blog.

I am blessed more than I could have ever dreamt for. I am supported by the people who matter the most- my husband, my daughter, my family and friends. They believe in me as a storyteller, as a filmmaker. They hold me up when my critic gets loud (and she can be a total bitch at times) and I think my work is lousy when really it’s just draft.  I have days to do what I want to and need to…all to feed my creativity. And that’s a huge blessing.

There was a time in my life, a very long time when I struggled. Every day. I was very poor. And a single parent. Working and in school, always trying to move forward, always trying to heal, always trying to define and keep my dream alive…and to think that I’m on that path, now, living creatively, that it’s all happening as it should, as it was meant to be, as I dreamt… makes me stop in my tracks. That’s not an obstacle to movement, it’s a…present breath that surges me forward.  

So part of honoring this dream and moving forward is this blog,Toast!  For the month of October, I am committing myself to do an entry a day. Toast something everyday, something that honors my creative life.  I hope some days it’s poignant, other days, more literary, like the great story I’m reading. It could be more…technical exploring an element of screenwriting, like toasting character development discoveries or that dark writing pit towards the end of Act II where you discover if the story works or not. There will be blogs coming to you from Mexico- we’re there in three weeks to celebrate dear friends getting married…on the beach, baby. I foresee blogs about my people; friends who influence me, who make me laugh, who always make me smile. Friends who tell me I’m a good friend when I need to know I’m doing right by them. Friends who have space in their worlds for me, just as I do for them. Friends who hold my heart. There will be blogs about my current projects, what’s in pre-production, what’s brewing. I know there will be blogs about family and love and support. There will be blogs about being a socially-conscious writer, about being a COC (chick of color), about being over 40 and rockin it hard…there may even be a blog about how I would embarrass my gorgeous creative daughter if she heard me say “I’m rockin it hard..”  

Every day I’ll make a Toast! 

…last night the government was shut down. I’ve been grieving losses, again. I woke at 4 am with a heavy heart. But got up and wrote this blog…so, today’s Toast! is to movement.  We have to move. Go forward. Take that moment to feel the ground beneath you, breath into Mother Earth and hear your breath connect your heart to the world around you. Then no matter how tiny the step, take it. Take it with intention, with love, with purpose. We can’t afford to sit back. Move. Towards

Peace.

 

Toast! to my…lymph node…?

Toast to…my lymph node…?

Am I really toasting my lymph node? And just one? Yeah, man, I think I am.

I have this one lymph node under my arm that has become the focus of my being this past month. And it got poked and torn a bit for drawing attention to itself. But it also took this writer on a full-on, anxiety –ridden, choking down panic with pastries journey that brought on waves of tears, screaming and…o man, get this…healing.

Beginning of the month I found out that my yearly mammogram revealed a lot of breast density making the mammogram possibly inconclusive.  Okay. News to me. Thank God for a new law stating results have to state this for women so we know this.  Sucks to know, though.  And a wee bit scary because if my mammogram isn’t taking the pictures I need it to, then…what next?  I spoke with my doctor, who I dig because she’s cool and smart and diligent and wears really sweet shoes. We decided I should get an ultrasound to get a clearer picture. So I did that at this beautiful women’s center downtown LA.

While I waited for Lisa, my radiologist technician to review the results with the doctor, she came back in the room and asked if I had just gotten over being really sick, with the flu or something?  I said “no.” and she said “Are you sure?”  When she left the room, I found a tiny spot on the ceiling tile and tried to focus on it. I imagined it growing larger, a tunnel, or was it more of a rock. A pebble on a beach? Or the center of a donut. Yes, it was the dark center of a donut.

Lisa came back with the doctor who explained they had found a lymph node “of concern”.  He asked again about any illness, unexplained infections, etc… And while holding a tiny towel over my breasts, I sat there and calmly said again, “no”.  He told me “maybe, probably…most likely…his best bet…it was nothing.”  Not reassuring words.  Then he said that if it made me nervous I could get a biopsy but he thought it was nothing.

First- you don’t tell a dramatist “maybe it’s nothing” and expect me to not conjure up multiple scenarios of what the Nothing really was.  Shit, you tell any WOMAN, “maybe” and expect her not to take quick tally of her life and see herself telling family, her friends, watching her hair fall out, her breasts removed… for me…the wave of fears rushed at me and I could do nothing but sit there, choking on that shit.

Over the next few weeks I’d come up for air.  I waited four days to meet with my primary doctor to review my choices which meant me telling her I had already made up my mind–I wanted that biopsy. I needed to know what was growing in me and I wanted it out. I needed to know immediately. I needed it gone.   So, she made that call to set up the procedure but due to schedules at the women’s center, I had to wait….TWO WEEKS.  Two.

Peter had an already scheduled work trip to Alaska he had to take so he left. I had a pass to the Los Angeles Film Festival, major deadlines to complete a script about a woman having to wait to see if her son serving in the army was dead or alive, and rewrite a script in pre-production about a mother haunted by an evil slaveowner who wants her son. I had stories to tell, work to do, people to see. Life to live. And the waves came.  I’d go to a film and come home and cry. I’d meet with my director and producer and drive away crying.  I was living a life that could all be swept out from under me because of whatever was growing inside of me.

I was scared and out of control in a way I hadn’t felt since my sister died years ago. I couldn’t save her, so what if I couldn’t save myself? What if I wasn’t strong enough to fight this? I spent hours reading blogs of amazing women who fought breast cancer, who did incredible healing things in their lives, in their communities, who found activism, parenthood, intimacy and healing…healing.  They healed.  And I was so scared I couldn’t do any of that.

I cried to my shrink, my best friends, my husband, my sister, my herbalist. I started saying out loud that I was scared. Inside, the fear was that I would battle this alone, that I was already battling it all alone. It grew to a mountainous size, consuming me with it’s suffocating grip.  This fear of being abandoned, of facing the hard truth that nobody really loved me would not just bubble up  to the surface but would erupt from someplace deep and shower me and my day with darkness. I ate to stop from chewing my own damn arm off, I think.

I made heart-breaking plans. I wrote the script in my head of how to tell my daughter, Bird, I was sick. I wrote the emails I’d send to friends asking for prayers for Peter and Bird and my family but begging them to not post on Facebook. I had long and angry conversations with my insurance about covering procedures. I even asked them to make sure they recorded me as I ranted one morning about the many problems with health insurance in this country and that when women like me needed them most, the fear of not being able to pay thousands of dollars for a freakin scan or biopsy or TREATMENT was like accepting a FUCKIN DEATH SENTENCE!  I shook and screamed a lot. I ate more. I went to cycle class at the gym. I didn’t sleep. I paced. I lifted weights like a dude. I watched sitcom reruns for hours at a time. And I ate more.  And I tried like hell to be present and take on what was coming my way. And I fought feeling like I was victim to that fear.

I already knew about it, that fear, it’s been around for years. Decades.  It’s a bigass monster that shapeshifts at will, that lives under my bed, in the basement through the hot furnace grid of my childhood home, that lurks outside my door, in my showers, in the backseat of my car, down the street, and watches me while I sleep.  I also knew that only I feed it. I keep it alive with my beliefs, my emotions. Life was sometimes pretty awful when I was kid and I see now that my belief was that those I love wouldn’t love me back and they’d hurt me.  I believed that being disregarded, left to be alone, kicked aside, ignored, unheard, betrayed….hurts more than being laughted at, or…hit. Cuz when you’re fighting at least you’re being seen. When you’re hit, at least there’s contact.   I believed that I deserved all that.

BUT…to not let you stay too long in the nightmares of my mind…this is what I DISCOVERED….

The BEAUTY OF FORGIVENESS.  Forgiveness is not condoning the wrong-doing done to you. It doesn’t pacify or deny the pain. It doesn’t mean that you..I am wrong for being hurt. Hurt is my emotion. Pain is mine. And underneath that pain is fear and I am doing the work to take on that monster, to squash its power, to shut its fuckin mouth…I’m doing that.  AND…I have decided that the space that pain held in my heart is mine to fill with love and peace…through forgiveness.   And truth.

So…I finally said out loud the responsibility I have for relationships that didn’t work. I reached out and got real with them. I apologized for pain that I have caused others. I made true apologies based on my need to let them know I was sorry and not a need to know if they were sorry for hurting me.  I defined capabilities and finally saw that what I wish for myself, to be heard, understood and forgiven, are the very same things that they might want and need, too.. I said “I miss you”.  I said “I love you”.  I reached out and HELD ON LIKE MAD to the fierce women in my life! I told them I was scared and I needed them and they showed up.  I didn’t just say “I’m blessed” because I KNOW that…with family and friends, yes, I’m blessed. But I wrapped myself in that blessing.  And…I was loved. Me. Go figure.

Peter came home and as I thought I was forgiving him for leaving for the two weeks, I discovered he never left me and that I was on a journey of healing at warped speed.  I had an emotional eruption, a final push to get me through this cloud of darkness and fear.

I want to see who I am on the other side.  I want to be better than who I was when this all began…and by begin that doesn’t mean just this past month but these past three years of menopause and living in pain, that means further back to becoming a wife, to when I decided to pursue a life as a filmmaker, to when I became a writer, to when I lost my sister, to when I became Bird’s mom, to when I was stumbling through life in bars and making up shit to tell folks that I thought made me cool, to when I was a little girl scared because we were alone.  I want to know who I’ll be now.  I got ready.

Yesterday, I finally found out that the lymph node is benign.   A benign recessive lymph node. No cancer. No cancer.

As a writer, this experience has made it mark on me, on my craft, I know it. I feel it. It will continue to do so as I go on. Of course, I have to quit crying, but those tears of gratitude will taper off…or  maybe they won’t and I’ll just be a fierce, writing, tear-streaked artist mama from here on out.

So yeah, man…today’s toast…?  It’s a  Toast! to my lymph node.

Thank you.

Much peace.