Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

And the Oscar goes to . . . .

Oscars

Like millions of people all over the world I watched the Oscars on Sunday night, and at some point during the overlong broadcast that they seemingly tried, and failed, to shorten, I realized a few things.

My first realization is that I really don’t give a damn who wins “Best Actor” or “Best Director” or whatever they’re calling it now because they don’t want to say “Best” anymore. I used to care. I used to get caught up in the drama of it all, and I would root for my favorites and be happy and/or disappointed for them, depending on the outcome. I used to look forward to the pageantry and the red carpet interviews and the endless commentary about dresses and designers and hairstyles and all that stuff.

Now it leaves me cold. I don’t give a rat’s ass which designer so-and-so is wearing, and I feel badly for these women that they have to answer the same stupid questions over and over as they run the required gauntlet of press before they are allowed to go inside. As I watched, I imagined that they made the carpet red to hide the bloodstains in case some Oscar-nominated actress suddenly snapped and ripped Lara Spencer’s throat out. God knows I wanted to.

And the men. Jammed into tuxedos, smiling and trying to be gracious to the throng of giggling entertainment correspondents making fools of themselves in their tight dresses and bleached smiles. Bless the actors who do something a little different with their ensembles. They may come off looking like a ’70s prom date, but at least they tried.

The program itself is also more and more of a mystery to me. Why do they insist on trying to make this thing entertaining? It would be so much better if they just admitted that it’s incredibly boring for people to sit for hours in an uncomfortable seat in uncomfortable clothes, afraid to blow their noses or adjust their strapless bras for fear that a momentary human gesture will wind up going viral on Twitter. It’s torture for them, and not much better for us, having to endure the parade of stiff celebrities reading that horrible, trite, demeaning copy from teleprompters which sometimes don’t even work (Terrance Howard, I think you’re a terrific actor, but if you ever get into a situation where your teleprompter goes dead and you haven’t memorized your lines, just wait for the techs to fix it – don’t try to improv your way out. It was painful, for all of us).

And then there’s the host. I’m going on record to say that I love Neil Patrick Harris; unlike most of the people he shared the stage with, he is a performer – in every sense of the word. The times he’s hosted the Tony Awards have resulted in some very memorable moments (“Go, Neil, Go!”). But even he can’t save this godforsaken show. I’m surprised he didn’t figure that out before appearing on stage in his tightey-whiteys. No, Neil, even that stunt can’t save this thing.

Which made me wonder why? Why is this all SO WRONG?

Quite apart from the rampant misogyny and racism (which is a whole other conversation that’s happening right now), the weight of the thing has gotten completely out of hand. It’s this huge machine now, and has lost all contact with its original humanity. It has its own trajectory, and, like the Titanic, is difficult to turn, and almost impossible to stop.

I also think that the fundamental premise of the award is deeply flawed. More than one of the recipients said the same thing – how can you compare one film or one performance to another? The answer is, you can’t. It’s impossible. There is no objective measure for how “good” or “bad” a work of art is. It is an entirely subjective determination. How can anyone possibly say, for sure and certain, that Patricia Arquette gave a better performance than Meryl Streep? Is that even possible? How can you say one movie is better than another? Yes, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” is not as good a movie as “Citizen Kane” – but you know, I bet there’s more than one person who would disagree with me about that.

But that’s the point. It’s all about what we agree is good and bad. And, in the case of award shows, the award is given to the person that the majority of the members of the voting group feels did the “best” job. Or maybe they give it to the person they felt was most deserving that year. Maybe, in their heart of hearts, they really felt like Meryl gave the better performance, but for goodness sake, can they give them ALL to her? Maybe they thought, “We’ll give it to Patricia. She was really good, and she’s probably never going to get another shot.” Or some other deep, unsaid motivation that threw the vote her way. Who knows?

The point is, there’s no stopwatch and no scorecard. The “best” is in the eye (and the preconceived notions) of the beholder.

So why do we give these awards? What are we trying to accomplish? Is it that we want to honor excellence in film making? What if we did that instead of giving away these made-up awards?

Think about it. What if we just had a big celebration of the bygone year in film and invited everyone who had been involved in the making of the films to get together? And not just in Hollywood. There would be gatherings in Atlanta and New York and Austin and Chicago. Everyone would mix and mingle and be on an equal footing – the actors, the cinematographers, the writers, the directors, the sound designers, the editors, the makeup artists, the costume designers, the producers, the grips, the assistants – everyone. There could be a program, and some of the really memorable (not just financially successful) work would be honored. The teams that put their blood,sweat and tears into these films would be recognized, and the reality that it takes a lot of very committed people – people who will never, ever get invited to walk that red carpet, but who are just as responsible for the making of that film as Matthew McConaughey  – is celebrated. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I bet you Keira Knightly’s Oscar goodie bag that there isn’t a single one of those celebrities that would miss this annual obscenity of excess in favor of a non-televised, un-publicized, designer-free evening of getting together with friends and colleagues to recognize the greatness of the work and not of themselves. Because that’s what’s getting lost here – there’s actually some good, deep, honest work being done, even by those too-perfect, too-rich, too-tightly-coiffed-fake-looking people that walk slowly past our collective eyeballs every February. Our obsession with looking at them is robbing us, and them, of what’s real. That makes me sad.
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photo credit: 34.366: Shiny, Pretty Oscars via photopin (license)

 

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What Day is It?

Calendar

I find myself, more and more, having no idea what day of the week it is. I have to stop and think about it, sometimes for several moments. “What was I doing yesterday?” “Was Downton Abbey on TV last night?” These are the clues I follow to locate myself on the calendar.

In my old job I used to get confused about what month it was. My work, then and now, involves planning for events that are many months in the future. I remember often having to correct myself when I would write at date as “June 17” when it was actually “February 17”. I still do that, but now it’s gotten even more complicated because I can’t seem to remember whether today is Tuesday or Wednesday or Friday. It’s gotten beyond the amusing phase to the downright annoying. I’m afraid it will get to the inconvenient, when I start showing up for things on the wrong day. “You’re telling me that my doctor’s appointment that it took me three months to get is tomorrow and not today, when I have rearranged two meetings so I could come today? And I re-arranged them for this time tomorrow? Really?” It hasn’t come to that, but I’m waiting.

I wonder what’s gotten into me. I think it may be the hormones – I’ve been warned about “Menopause Brain.” It’s very early days for me, but my symptoms (if that is indeed what they are) seem to manifest themselves in an overwhelming desire to disengage with the days of the week.

To be fair, I’ve always had to work at keeping track of what day it is. For a certain period of my life when I was living alone and working in an office, I had a fool-proof method. Every morning I would get up, go get my coffee, and bring it back to my bedroom to drink while I was getting dressed. Inevitably I would leave my empty coffee cup on my dresser, which at first felt unsanitary until I noticed that I was using the coffee cup count to tell me what day it was. One coffee cup – it was Tuesday! I would wake up every morning and groggily inspect the number of mugs so I would know what lay ahead. Four mugs meant only one day to go until the weekend! On Saturdays I’d clear them all away in preparation for the new week. Don’t judge – it worked for me.

Now I just seem to walk around in a constant state of confusion about what day it is. I had almost convinced myself that today was Wednesday (it is Tuesday), and that I had missed my regular blog post day – again. I work from home, and most days are pretty much the same, unless I have a meeting outside the house or something. Even that won’t necessarily tell me what day we’re on unless I put it on my calendar, and even then, I catch myself staring blankly at the little squares with numbers in them thinking “Wait – tomorrow is Thursday? I thought today was Tuesday!”

Today is Tuesday, right?
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photo credit: Menonite calendar via photopin (license)

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For Eric

Trevi Fountain 2008

20 years ago this week, I got a phone call at the office. The guy on the other end was an actor I had worked with on a play some months before – I was the stage manager. He was calling to ask me out on a date. I’ll never forget how nervous he sounded, and how the invitation came out in a rush. It sounded like “Wouldyouliketogoouttodinnerwithmesometime?” And when I said “Yes” he said “You would?” It was sweet.

When I got off the phone I went straight to my friend Karen’s desk and told her I’d been asked out. “It’s not a big deal, you know, it’s just a date,” is what I said, or something like it. My words were nonchalant, but I was excited. It had been a long time since I’d been asked out on a proper date.

But at the same time I was on my guard. I had been unlucky in love, as the saying goes, and I had decided that I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes. I wasn’t going to give my heart away only to have it carelessly tossed back to me – again. I approached the whole idea of dating from an aggressively casual posture; there was no way I was going to be out-cooled. I could be just as disinterested as any guy; just wait, you’ll see.

As I said, I had known him for a few months. I had had a little crush on him during the show, and I tried to let him know that I liked him, but he never asked me out. I figured he wasn’t interested.

But we had been running into each other a lot after the show closed. We were on the same Christmas and New Year’s party circuit, so for a few weeks over the holidays we saw each other pretty much every weekend. And then, finally, a few days before Valentine’s Day, he called and asked me out.

We didn’t go out ON Valentine’s Day. I thought at the time that he thought it would be way too awkward for a first date, a sentiment with which I agreed. Now I know that it was because he took someone else out that night! Yes, he was a player – for the first couple of months he and I dated, he was also dating at least two other women. To be clear, he never tried to hide these relationships – I always knew about his “other girlfriends”. It bothered me, but after a while he gave them up.

Just sayin’.

We dated on and off for two years. When I say “off” I mean OFF – we broke up a few times. The last time I didn’t see him for months, and I really thought it was over. It turns out that we were both miserable being apart, and eventually we worked things out and got back together. Not long after that he proposed, and I said “Yes” to him again.

It wasn’t supposed to last. I can’t tell you how many people expressed their surprise that I would consider marrying this man, or who told me to my face that it was a mistake. Why? Well, my darling husband is 29 years my senior.

He’d lived a life before I was even born and much more until he met me, and what a life it had been already! He’d traveled around the world; he’d been married and divorced. He had discovered his passion for acting. When I met him he was 56 and I was 27. It thought he was funny and sexy and talented. He thought I was too young for him.

I tease him that it took me ages to convince him that I was serious about our relationship, and that’s true as far as it goes. What I never told him is how hard it was to convince myself that I could let myself love him.

Yes, love is largely outside of our control – it is chemical, and spiritual, and elemental. You can’t choose who you love, and once you love someone you never don’t love them, so unless you spend your life with the only person you ever fell in love with, all of us wind up dragging a lot of broken relationship baggage around. If you’ve ever had your heart broken, and I mean well and truly shattered, you know how hard it can be to risk it again after you’d finally put the pieces back together. My darling and I both had a lot of mistrust and hurt to work through – me as much as him.

But one by one he put my misgivings to rest, just by being himself. And the wondrous thing is that a large part of being himself is tied up in the fact that he is so much older than me. Our age difference does matter, just not the way most people thought it would when we got together. It has been a huge bonus being married to someone who has lived more than I have, seen more than I have. His perspective is so much different because of it, and I benefit from his longer life experience.

It also doesn’t hurt that he’s the greatest guy ever. I’ve never met anyone as completely without artifice as him. When we started dating, he didn’t know how to play the games, and I had to learn how to relate to a man in a whole new way. With him, I know exactly where I stand, all the time. When he’s mad, he’s mad – about the thing he says he’s mad about, not about some other thing. It took some getting used to, but its one of the things about him that I value the most.

And he loves me. I can’t believe sometimes how much he loves me. He shows me he loves me in everything he does. He is thoughtful, and generous, and kind. He spoils me. He takes care of me, which is not an easy thing to do. He forgives my early-morning crankiness and my episodic bad moods and my self-absorption. He reads this blog EVERY WEEK, and not just glances at it – we have conversations about it. He is my biggest fan, and my firm foundation. I have never been loved as much or as well, and I am so grateful for him. I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve him. He’s the best husband anyone could want. And he’s mine, so hands off!

Happy Valentine’s Day, darling. I’m looking forward to our curry dinner, and cuddling up with you and the cats on the couch to watch TV. That’s all the romance I’ll ever need.

Unless you want to go back to Rome and kiss me in front of the Trevi Fountain again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Long Game

long game

Sometimes I like to look back to see how far I’ve come. The other day I scrolled through my old posts, and the distance I’ve traveled from the time I started writing this blog to today seems like a very long way. There are a few major differences between where I am now and where I was back in June of 2013:

  • My work outlook has significantly improved;
  • My financial situation, although still uncertain, is less precarious;
  • I have accepted that I am indeed a writer, albeit a nervous one;
  • I have returned to my first and truest love – the theatre;
  • I have learned to by happy with my life the way it IS, not the way I want it to be.

The last point is the most important change. For the majority of my life I’ve looked forward to a time when everything would be great.

When I get my driver’s license, life will be great. 

When I go to college, life will be great.

When so-and-so asks me out, life will be great.

When I graduate from college, life will be great.

When I get that job I want, life will be great.

When I make $$$, life will be great.

I enjoyed all of those things when they happened, but they didn’t magically transform my life into the fairy tale I envisioned they would when I was dreaming about them. Because when the longed-for event happened, it happened to ME – who I was at that moment – so as long as the ME it was happening to wasn’t happy or satisfied, no huge transformation was possible. I was the same old ME, just with a driver’s license, or a college degree, or a new boyfriend.

The greatest gift these years since I was laid off have given me has been my perspective on what it means to be happy. I have been forced to look at my life in a way I have never had to before. For years prior, I was so busy running around acting like I ruled the world that it was easy not to ask myself “Are you fulfilled? Are you satisfied with your life the way it is?” If I had asked the question back then, it would have surprised me to hear that the answer was “No, I’m not satisfied.”

What a thing to say! I had a great job, a job I loved. I got to travel to amazing places. I met interesting people. I learned new things all the time. People looked up to me, admired me, sought me out. But even in the middle of all of that I found myself searching for something to look forward to. Most of the time all I looked forward to was the next trip to Europe, or Asia, or Australia. But I knew, even then, that something wasn’t right. I was always anxious and stressed out. I was so wrapped up in my own life I barely had time for my family and friends. I was turning into a soulless, career-driven caricature of myself; a person who I now know isn’t someone I want to be.

And now? I’m glad you asked. Now, I’ve figured out that the way to win at life is to play the long game. I’ve stopped expecting transformational change to happen in an instant. I’ve stopped believing that something has to happen before I can be happy. Do I want to be outrageously successful in my chosen career? You bet I do. Do I want to make lots of money and travel the world with my husband? Oh yeah – that’s at the top of the list. Do I need these things to happen before I can be happy?

No. Not anymore.

The long game means that I don’t look at my life in terms of what I don’t have now. It means seeing where I am in terms of the journey I’m on; I’m not where I was, and I’m not where I’m going. This perspective has given me the freedom to be happy right now. I wake up in the morning and look forward to each day, because it is absolutely chock full of possibilities! What amazing thing can I do today? What fun can I have? What can I do to show a loved one I care for them? What work can I do to take me the next step forward? What can I do just because I enjoy it? What stranger’s life can I brighten with a smile and a kind word?

I have never seen my life this way before now, and it didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years of learning to stop struggling and striving against the forces I felt were conspiring against me. I have tried and failed many times in my quest for success, and each time I’ve become more patient. Life is a long song; sometimes it’s marching bands, sometimes it’s love songs, and sometimes you just hum along between choruses. It’s up to you to enjoy the music.

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Photo (c) 2015 Amanda Taylor Brooks

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