Day Forty-Five

Bah humbug. It’s Valentine’s Day.

I got up this morning and went to yoga. I’ve been doing that more and more lately because it just feels good to start my day doing something healthy and positive. I knew it’d feel especially good to have some healthy/positive me time on this particular morning. So, while most of you were in bed, rolling over to a significant other, kissing good morning; I was in a hot, dark room unrolling my yoga mat and bracing myself for the inevitable “love yourself” speech that I was certain my instructor would give before class started.

Instructor: Good morning, yogis. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m sure you guys were expecting some kind of “love yourself” talk before class…
My Inner Monologue: Yup. Called it.
Instructor: …But I’m not going to do that, because I think it’s bullshit.
My Inner Monologue: Hold up. What now?
Instructor: Because sometimes, loving yourself is hard.
My Inner Monologue: Yup.
Instructor: Especially on days like today.
My Inner Monologue: Preach.
Instructor: So, let your heart rest today if you need it to.
My Inner Monologue: *sobbing*

Why are we so quick to jump to “love yourself” or “I don’t need a man” and “all the single ladies” on days like today and other days when we’re feeling lonely or left out or just a little shitty?

Can it be okay to feel those not-so-positive things and maybe even sit with those feelings for a little bit?

I say yes.

If you’re feeling lonely or sad or excluded today, feel it. It may be a little uncomfortable, but get to know yourself in that discomfort.

Give your heart a rest.

Because life is super weird. One minute you’re walking around with a lovestruck smile on your face, and the next you’re crying into a jar of store bought frosting.

And both ends of that spectrum are okay.

That’s my two cents today, take it or leave it, but I gotta go buy more frosting.

Day Twenty-Nine

If you’re one of my OG readers, you may recall that the first few months of my 2015 sobriety were, well, nothing short of a shitshow. By mid-April of that year, I had lost my job, I lost my apartment, and I had my heart broken. One of the reasons I wanted to do a year of sobriety all over again was because I felt like this time around, I was in a much more stable place. It was almost like I was challenging the universe by going sober again. “Whatchoo got for me this time around?”, I’ve thought a few times in the last month, as I skipped merrily along, rubbing my stable, happy life in the universe’s face, until finally, I had the wind knocked out of me last week… a few times.

You ever have one of those days, when you throw your hands up in the air, as you ugly-cry, while blasting Miranda Lambert in your Prius on the 101 south, and you can’t help but wonder what you did to piss off the universe, or God, or whoever is in charge around here, because what’s coming at you feels like it’s too much and you have no idea how your supposed to get through all of it? Asking for a friend.

On a more serious, and honest, and vulnerable note, the last couple of days were really, really hard. And, I couldn’t help but wonder… why is this happening to me again? The details of what transpired this past week will remain in my diary, for my eyes only, but I will say, those details are eerily similar to what happened three years ago. Of course, there were differences, it wouldn’t be fair to the people involved to say it was exactly the same. I think what I’m trying to say is the way it felt, feeling like you’ve been knocked on your ass and you never saw it coming. The last time I felt that was three years ago.

I’ve always looked for patterns and repetition in my life. I’m one of those people who gets déjà vu and considers the possibility that I might actually be clairvoyant. Comparing past events with my present and drawing conclusions is a way I feel some control over what happens. That’s always been a big thing for me. This need to control things that most people easily realize are uncontrollable. My mom always tells me that I can’t control what happens, I can only control how I react to it. Instead of absorbing that wisdom, I see it as a challenge. “Oh, I can control what happens. I got this”.

Even at thirty years old, I give into the residue of my rebellious teenage years and set out to prove any authority, especially my mother, wrong.

Well, last night, I decided to get out of my sweatpants, slap on some makeup, and go out. My roommate was part of a storytelling series being held at a theatre in our neck of the woods, and though the task of washing four days worth of dry shampoo, grease, and tears out of my hair sounded daunting, I knew it would be good for me. The theme of the evening was “Groundhog’s Day”. My brilliant roommate took the theme literally and gave a well-written, eight minute eulogy to Punxsutawney Phil that had me belly laughing the whole time.

Then, another woman got up. She took the theme of the evening less literally. She latched on to the movie “Groundhog’s Day”, specifically, the repetition that takes place throughout the film. She was about to read a poem, but prefaced it by talking about repetition in life, she called it an “echo”. I have no idea what she said after that because that word was ringing in my brain so loudly. I loved it and loathed it at the same time. It was the perfect word to sum up, not only these last few days, but that need to control that I’ve spent most of my adult life giving into.

Then, an epiphany: I’ve been so focused on listening for the echo, I’ve hushed all the other noises around me.

My best friend, Chris noticed this about me and stated it in a different way the other night. He came to my rescue with Chipotle and boy advice. I tried to tell him that it was happening again, I tried to explain the patterns I was seeing and the echos I was hearing, and he shut me down real quick, as he does when I’m being ridiculous.

“Quit trying to paint the picture, Amelia, just be in it”.

That’s a scary thought for me. Giving up the control or the façade that I have it in the first place. I wonder what would happen if I did though? What would happen if I wasn’t waiting for an echo, if I just lived in the moment, in the picture, if I listened to my mother….

I guess we’ll find out.

 

 

Day Eleven

We interrupt this regularly scheduled sobriety post to talk about current events in the media.

(But, for those of you wondering, yes I’m still sober, and it’s going quite well this time around).

I, like most film and tv hopefuls in LA, watched the Golden Globes last Sunday. Award season is my favorite time of year. I am always inspired by the glitz and glamour and (mostly) brilliant films being honored and the excitement in this city is palpable. Every time I sit down to watch a red carpet, I think, “this time next year…” Of course, that hasn’t happened yet, but I still hold out hope that on one of these award show Sundays, I’ll get to trade in my yoga pants for a sparkly ballgown.

Last Sunday, I was particularly excited about the red carpet after hearing that the unofficial dress code for the evening was black, to show support for the “Me Too” movement. I personally loved seeing all of my favorite actors dressed in solidarity and speaking out about sexual abuse, not just in the entertainment industry, but talking about the issue as a whole.

With that being said, I spit out my sparkling cider when I saw James Franco on the red carpet sporting a “Times Up” pin on his lapel. And here’s why, James Franco doesn’t have the best reputation ‘round these parts. We all remember the seventeen year old who released screen shots of her text conversations with Franco a few years ago. Texts that were, well, explicit in nature. On top of that, it’s kind of a known fact that he’s a womanizer. I’ve heard plenty of stories about him sleeping with his acting students and creating side projects, which normally feature at least one nude female. From what I know, I would steer clear of him if ever that situation presented itself, which is why his choice of accessory on the red carpet last week seemed laughably ironic to me. Would I classify him as a Harvey Weinstein-esque sexual predator? No. Based on what I know, I don’t think Franco’s treatment of women is criminal. I think he falls more into the Al Franken and Garrison Keillor category, both of whom, I think were unfairly persecuted by the allegations brought against them.

This is just my two cents based on all of the articles I’ve read and newscasts I’ve tuned into. I don’t know any of the women coming forward in these particular cases. I could be sorely mistaken and jamming my metaphorical foot into my proverbial mouth by cementing these thoughts in writing on this blog. But, I don’t think that’s the case.

I think we are all starting to realize that there is a “sliding scale” when it comes to sexuality and harassment and I think it’s something that this country as a whole, is trying to grasp. So, I’m going to do my part tonight and try to help everyone out a little bit. Below is a list of rules I’ve complied for both men and women to avoid situations that may get either side in trouble or cause someone to feel attacked, harassed, or assaulted. This probably goes without saying, but I’m not an expert on any of this, so whatever is said here, please feel free to take it or leave it.

MEN:

Rule #1: Keep it in your pants.

I apologize for the blanket statement I’m about to make, but here it goes… No one wants to see your dick. Dicks look weird and they really aren’t the most attractive part of your physique. Personally, I’m an arms girl. Flex me a bicep, and I’ll swoon… whip out your glow worm and I will either laugh-cry or punch it, depending on the situation. This of course does not apply when you are in a consensual situation and both party’s clothes are coming off.

Rule #2: Know your audience.

If I have to listen to one more guy tell me that they continuously and relentlessly hit on a girl because he thought she liked it even though she never agreed to go out with him, I’m going to find an all women’s gladiator island, Wonder Woman style, and move there. You know when you’re making someone uncomfortable. We all know when we’re making someone uncomfortable. But, if you’re feeling real stubborn about this one, then please see below for the rules about this particular rule.

a.Body Language: Is the person you’re speaking to crossing their arms? Are they avoiding eye contact? Are they slowly moving towards an exit? Is their breathing labored? Does their face seem pale or oddly sweaty? Have they vomited or cried in the time that you’ve been speaking to them? If the answer is “yes”, you are making them uncomfortable and you need to apologize and show yourself the door.

b. Word Language: Has the person you’re speaking to said “Stop”, “Please Stop”, or “Shut up”? What about “No” or “Leave me alone”? Maybe not those exact words, but something close to it? Maybe a synonym like, “Fuck off”? If you hear anything even close to these examples, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, but do apologize for being a creep.

c. More Words: Has the person you are hitting on ever accepted your advances and agreed to spend more time with you? If you’ve been trying to chip away at that hot, but “playing hard to get” co-worker, please stop. You won’t chip away at her disgust for you, but you’ll probably chip away at her self-worth if you keep that shit up.

Rule #3: Keep your hands, your hollers, and your whistles to yourself.

Women don’t want their pussies grabbed, and I mean that both literally and metaphorically. About eight years ago, I was at a concert. My boyfriend and I were trying to make our way out of the stadium to the parking lot and it was really crowded, I could barely move. I held his hand as he pushed through the people ahead of us. I was wearing a skirt and some predatory douchecanoe (I refuse to call him a man), literally grabbed my vagina, full palm. I jumped back and let go of my boyfriend’s hand, in shock at what had just been done to my body. By the time my brain caught up with the experience, the pervert was gone, probably shuffling through the crowd, scooping up more fistfuls of lady parts. I remember my boyfriend looking at me and asking me what was wrong. I was probably wearing the assault all over my face, but I couldn’t bring myself to put it into words. I still have never told this story out loud. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever told that story. And guess what!? When you whistle as I walk by, or beep your horn, or yell, what you think is a compliment, out of your car window, I feel that same fear I felt when I was physically grabbed. I think a lot of women do. It’s aggressive and unwelcome and yes, it is verbal assault. I don’t need you, a complete stranger, to validate my appearance. I promise you, I looked in a mirror before I left the house this morning, I know I look good.

Rule #4: It’s better to ask for permission than forgiveness.

I’ve heard the opposite said a lot when it comes to other things in life, but when it comes to relationships, especially sexual ones, ask! I was with a guy once, we were getting into bed; I had my pajamas on and he was standing, somewhat awkwardly, in the corner of my room. As I flipped back the covers, he asked if it was okay if he got undressed. As far as I could remember, no guy had ever asked me that before, and I thought, “Why don’t more guys do that?” He checked in with me. He didn’t want to do anything that might make me uncomfortable and he didn’t want to overstep, especially since we were just getting to know each other. By asking that simple, straight forward question, he made me feel safe and respected, and I obviously said “yes”. Asking for permission won’t kill the mood or harsh your vibe or whatever other bro term is passing through your anxiety right now. We appreciate it. We like it. It turns us on.

WOMEN:

Rule #1: The difference between sexual harassment and I’m-just-not-that-into-you.

While watching James Franco parade around the Golden Globes with his “Times Up” button, I coined a term, “The Franco Effect”. The Franco Effect is when a man, whom society has deemed “attractive”, does something questionable and gets away with it, while a man considered “unattractive” does the same exact thing and is persecuted for it. For example, Garrison Keillor, now again, all I know is what I’ve read and heard from multiple news outlets, but it sounds like Garrison touched a woman’s back in an attempt to console her, as a friend. That woman was wearing a shirt that exposed her back, so his hand didn’t meet cloth, it met skin, and that warranted a sexual misconduct accusation, and caused Keillor to lose his job. I’m sorry if this makes me sound like an asshole, but I really want to know what that woman would have done if it were Brad Pitt who had touched her back. No, I am not victim shaming or blaming. If this woman genuinely felt assaulted by Keillor’s actions, that is heartbreaking. I just want to ask these questions because I know I’m not the only one wondering. I also want to be sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to the definition of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The only way we end up taking a step back from this movement is if we start crying wolf. We can’t afford to cry wolf.

Rule #2: The difference between sexual assault and regret.

If you know me, you know that for the better part of 2011, I was messing around with a famous actor. At the time, I felt pretty cool. I was sleeping at his giant house in the hills, and going to dinner with his famous friends, and picking out his ties for press junkets. When it abruptly ended, not only was I heartbroken, but I felt like an idiot. I let this dude walk all over me. I made my life so much about him and his schedule, that I completely lost sight of myself, and I regret that time in my life. There was definitely a part of me that wanted to spray paint “[Insert Famous Name Here] is an ASSHOLE” all over this town. But, I didn’t. Instead, I picked myself up by the bootstraps and tried not to Google him so I could move on with my life. I’ve recently heard a lot of stories about girls who have dated famous men and are now trying to call them out for “using their power to take advantage of them”. One of the women coming forward against James Franco admitted to being in a consensual relationship with him and says that one time he asked her to perform oral sex in his car, and she really didn’t want to, but she did it anyways, and that’s assault. Another girl says she was his student, and he asked her to be in a short film, which he paid her $100 a day to do, and she had to do a nude scene, and she did it, but she didn’t want to, and that’s harassment. I’M SORRY…. WHAT?! Ladies, if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it! You can’t do it, and then try to claim assault because you regret what you did or because the guy you did it with turned out to be an asshat. That’s not how this works, and once again, you’re taking away from the movement and the victims coming forward. I can’t say it enough, if I’m missing the facts someone please tell me. In this instance, I sincerely hope that I am missing the facts. Also, I realize that these allegations ruin my “Franco Effect” term. Not the point, but it does further my frustration.

Rule #3: Speak up.

Men and women have very different ways of communicating. Iliza Shlesinger said it best when she stated, “Men and women communicate so differently I’m surprised we can be in the same room without ripping each other’s genitals off, quite frankly.” It’s on both sexes to do better when it comes to speaking and listening. Yes, women’s voices have been suppressed, historically speaking, and yes, a lot of us have been scarred and silenced by past experiences, but you know what’s even more true than all of that shitty shit? Our voices are strong and they matter and it is not only important, but necessary for us to speak up if we are ever in a situation that is uncomfortable or unwanted. I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty lucky to be living in a time where I can speak what’s on my heart and on my mind, and I know that I will be heard and I know that I have an army of women standing behind me, ready to speak up too.

Rule #4: With great power, comes great responsibility.

This pretty much sums up all the rules. We are finally living in a world that is listening when we talk, so let’s not fuck it up.

MEN AND WOMEN:

The only rule: Keep the conversation going.

Ask each other questions. Call each other out. Speak up if they aren’t listening, and listen when they speak. The only way we are all going to get through this together and better, is if we keep talking.

Day One

No, you didn’t fall asleep in a time machine and wake up in 2015 and yes, you read that right… Today is day one of my second year of sobriety.

A few of my close friends and family knew this was coming, and if you’re just finding out now, your reaction is probably similar to theirs.

“What? Why?”

Well, I have my reasons. Some of which I’ll share, and some of which will stay in my diary (oh I’m keeping a diary again too, only for the really dirty laundry though, don’t worry).

Reason #1: My current hangover.
On January 1st 2016, I gathered a bunch of friends to help me celebrate my year of sobriety. We went to a bar and I drank… a lot. I celebrated 365 sober days, by binge drinking and making some questionable life choices that night. Alanis Morissette could’ve written a verse or two about that irony.
The next morning, and by morning, I mean 4pm when I finally could get out of bed, I called my mom, and she said something that hit me like a ton of bricks. “Did you just go right back to where you started?” She was talking about who I was before my year of sobriety, which sounds harsh, I know, but she had/has a point.
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do a sober year was to understand my relationship with alcohol and re-introduce it back into my life in a healthy, adult way.
Since I started drinking again, I’ve struggled a lot with this. There are some days I don’t feel the need to drink and there are some days that I do, and on those days, sometimes it’s difficult for me to have just one, sometimes it’s not. I don’t know if this is normal or if it’s addiction or if I’m just feeling guilty about all those times I didn’t have just one. What I do know is that I’ve repeated the binge drinking, questionable decision making a few too many times since my first day back in 2016, and honestly, I’m getting too old for this sh#%. Which leads me to…

Reason #2: I miss my sober body.
I was in the best shape of my life in 2015. Not only was I not drinking all the sugar and extra calories found in wine and spirits, but I was also really bored a lot and so I worked out all the time. By mid-April in 2015, I was running 5 miles a day 5 or 6 days a week. (I was also on the breakup diet which may have contributed to some extra weight loss, but whatever). I miss my sober body so much!
I literally (and I mean literally, not just white-girl-literally) just placed an Uber-Eats delivery for a breakfast burrito from some place I’ve never heard of in North Hollywood (not the nice Arts district, I mean real North Hollywood) because it’s the only greasy spoon open on New Year’s Day. This habit of drinking the night before and eating greasy food the next day to curb a hangover has been, well, a habit for me lately and I feel like a real garbage person because of it. That doesn’t mean I won’t treat myself to the occasional cheat day this year, it just means that when I do eat like garbage, it won’t be to feed the party demon still lingering in my body from the night before.

Reason #3: I need a do-over.
I think I made a few big mistakes coming back from my first year of sobriety. I think I was overly-confident and somewhat blind to everything I went through that year. I think I pushed a lot of bad stuff down and didn’t deal with some things, that maybe deserved a closer look. I realize I’m being extremely vague right now, but I’m just not ready to go into detail yet. Maybe I will be at some point this year, or maybe it’ll be an entry for that diary, but either way, I’m ready to clean out the rest of those dusty, old skeletons in my proverbial closet.

Reason #4, #5, #6….
There are tons of other reasons for this decision. Some of which, I probably haven’t even realized yet. Maybe I will, or maybe there aren’t, or maybe this is my last ditch effort to get this blog to go viral, just kidding, I think. Regardless, I will be here this year, sharing my thoughts and experiences with any of you who care to read them.

I’m a bag of mixed emotions right now, excited, scared, a little barfy, but I’m ready. I hope 2018 is ready too.

 

Presently: Talking

This week, I posted a status update on my Facebook, weighing in on the Harvey Weinstein allegations and in that post, I promised a new blog entry. Well…. Here it is.

There has always been a stigma around the entertainment industry. You hear about casting couches and slimy producers and directors having affairs with their leading ladies. There’s always a scandal. Every week seems to be focused on a different headline. This week it was Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein is/was one of the most powerful men in the industry. He’s had a film in the running for Best Picture at the Academy Awards every year since the early 90’s and he’s won five of those golden statues. His is a name everyone, in and out of the industry, knows.

I’ve never met him. But, as I said in my Facebook post, I was warned about him. To re-cap, another big Hollywood producer told me to be careful of Harvey Weinstein. His exact words were “never be alone in a room with him, he’s the worst of all of us”. Yeah, my producer friend put himself in the same category as the man who is now being accused of rape, sexual harassment, and sexual assault by dozens of women, including some of Hollywood’s biggest actresses. And yeah, that didn’t stop me from seeing this producer again, on multiple occasions.

I’ll start from the beginning.

I met a man, who, for the sake of this article, I will refer to as M. I met M through a mutual friend. Our first encounter was at Soho House in West Hollywood. My friend at the time said she wanted to introduce me to someone who could help me, because I had just started writing/producing/starring in my first short film. She told me about this man’s career and I did some of my own googling. I was really impressed. This guy is responsible for some of my favorite movies, and probably some of yours. I was excited to meet him.

Before I could finish my first glass of wine that night I realized, I wasn’t being introduced to a producer for guidance, I was being pawned off on a man my friend was trying to appease. I realized this, but I still ordered a second glass of wine. I still gave this man my phone number, I still giggled at his awkward advances, and I still let him kiss me on the cheek when we said our goodbyes.

I spent the next four years dodging mouth kisses and smiling at inappropriate name calling and placating language that I’m too ashamed to type out right now. From all of that, I got one audition, for two lines, in a feature film that was a box office flop.

Now, if from all of that, I would have become some huge movie star or series regular, would that have made it okay? A week ago, I would have said yes because a week ago, I didn’t realize that what this man did was sexual harassment.

When I moved to LA at nineteen, I was told by a lot of people that I could easily sleep my way to the top. Not only that I could, but that I should, because if I didn’t do it, they would just find someone who would. You know how when you get a new job, you have a few people who’ve been working there, giving you advice on how to stay afloat and be successful in your new environment? It’s usually things like: “don’t park in the boss’ spot” or “write your name on your lunch so no one steals it” or “the printer jams, so be careful”. My training from people who were already in my industry was: “let the powerful men grab you if they want to” and “don’t ever reject advances from a producer” and “don’t say anything if he makes you uncomfortable” and “always smile and laugh it off”. I was silenced years before I found myself in one of these situations. That’s how this industry trained me to be an actress.

I was so well-trained, that when these Weinstein stories broke last week, I barely batted an eyelash. I didn’t understand why everyone was acting so shocked and outraged. If me, a no-name actress knew this had been going on for at least the eleven years I’ve been pursuing a career, how are we supposed to believe that Weinstein’s board, and The Academy, and Ben Affleck, and everyone else finally speaking out against him, didn’t know? Trust me, they knew, everyone knew.

So, why didn’t anyone say anything? For the women, it was probably fear and embarrassment. That’s the reason why I never called out the producer who spent four years asking me, “why won’t you just fuck me?”, and “at least let me see your boobs”. I was afraid he’d never hire me and I was embarrassed that I kept agreeing to see him even after multiple inappropriate advances that left me feeling uneasy, to say the least. I thought that if I just said “no” enough, he’d finally get the picture and take me seriously as an actor/writer and offer some guidance and support. That never really happened and now that I’m thirty, he’s told me that I’m too old for him anyway. I spoke with him a few months ago and asked him to read my feature script, he declined.

As for the men who knew about this and said nothing, I think some of them were equally afraid to be blacklisted and I think the others just thought that’s the way it is because that’s true, this is the norm in Hollywood and I’d really like to help make that a thing of the past.

The women need to stand up and speak out. Talk to each other about your own experiences. That’s what me and my actress friends spent last week doing. For the first time, I talked about the producer and didn’t just laugh it off or make it sound okay or not as bad as it really was, and my friends shared their experiences, one with a casting director, one with another producer, one with a director. We all had a story about a guy in a position of power, abusing that power.

All. Of. Us. Had. A. Story.

None of us need any more stories, so if you ever find yourself in a situation, don’t be afraid to let that person know that what they’re doing is wrong. I think the best thing that’s come out of all of these unfortunate circumstances, is that women finally feel like they have a safe space to speak out. We’re finally starting to feel supported and heard and our community is finally speaking out with us to say, this shouldn’t be the nature of the entertainment industry and something needs to change.

As I said in my Facebook post, there are plenty of others who should be sinking with Weinstein, you know who you are, and it’s time to cut it out. Get help. Apologize. Know your place. STOP TRYING TO USE YOUR JOB TO GET LAID! That’s called an abuse of power, which is still ABUSE! That nineteen year old girl who giggles as you tell her how pretty she is and how much you’d like to take her on a date, doesn’t actually want to date you, but she doesn’t know how to say that without risking a potential audition or job. If you’re a man in a position of power, in this particular industry, it is inappropriate and predatory to ask a younger, actress to have dinner with you. You know your place, you know how you affect people struggling to make it or fighting to stay in it, and if you’ve used that knowledge for sexual or personal gain, you should be ashamed of yourself.

And to that nineteen year old girl who has just been told that she’ll need to have drinks or dinner or sex with someone she doesn’t really know or like if she wants to have a career, that’s a lie. Don’t ever let a man’s power intimidate your strength and talent and self worth. You are better than the casting couch and the Weinstein’s and all the other despicable cliches. Work hard, fight harder, and be confident knowing that you have an industry full of badass females backing you up.

Women talk, and we will keep talking, so please listen.

Presently: Positive

The other night, in my acting class, we did an exercise. The instructor (the amazingly talented and wise, Jamison Jones… shameless plug), asked the class to get comfortable and close their eyes. Now, to any civilian, that sounds like a lovely idea, to an actor in an acting class, it’s a setup. I rolled my eyes, and prepped my brain for what I assumed was going to be some weirdly uncomfortable drama therapy.

Now, to be fair, I was having a shitty day. I mean, a REALLY shitty day. It was one of those “why is nothing going right, when do I get a break, throw-your-hands-up-in-the-air while screaming WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”, kind of days. So, when Mr. Jones asked us to think about our top five happiest moments in our lives, I laughed out loud. Great timing, right?

But, nevertheless, I was given specific instructions in a classroom setting, so I decided to play along. I sat there, eyes closed, clutching my legs, for a solid eight minutes digging through my memory bank for my top five. And nothing came. I would have a thought like, “The day I moved to LA was pretty happy”, but, “Oh yeah, I spent my first night alone in a cold dorm room with no blankets because those didn’t fit in my suitcase and I couldn’t sleep because the constant sirens going down Hollywood Blvd. terrified me”. Onto the next, “What about that audition for ‘Once Upon A Time’ a year ago? You were SO excited about it!”, and then, “Yeah. But I didn’t get it.” One more try, “Remember your first date with (names have been omitted to protect the not-so-innocent)?”, which was immediately followed by, “I wish I could forget it”.

Cue: Pity party!

Time was up, and I listened to people share their happy memories. First kisses, engagements, traveling, childhood… all beautiful stories with happy endings. Why didn’t I have that?

Well, I do. I was just having a little trouble seeing it. In the past thirty years, I’ve made countless happy memories. Sure, I’ve never been proposed to or left the country, but I’ve lived and loved and laughed, just like all those hallmark cards tell us to.

My point is this. It’s so easy to focus on the negative, to settle for an un-happily ever after, especially when you’re at a crossroads and nothing seems to be going right. We have a tendency to default to the bad stuff, to think about how things didn’t work out or what we’re lacking. You know what that does? Yes, my mindful meditating, Michael A. Singer reading, spiritual gurus, it creates more lack. The more you dwell on loneliness, emptiness, and scarcity, the more of that you’ll find looming into every aspect of your life.

Let’s be done with that, okay? Let’s choose to focus on what we do have. Instead of waking up every morning thinking, “I didn’t get enough sleep”, how about we wake up grateful for a bed and a home and the iPhone blaring that very loud alarm noise. Instead of thinking, “I don’t have enough time today”, let’s be thankful for our jobs and meetings and appointments.

With that being said, I’d like a do-over on that acting class exercise. One of the happiest moments in my life was the day I moved to LA. I was nineteen, the odds were against me, and everyone thought I’d come running home within a month. Eleven years later, I just woke up in my apartment in North Hollywood, next to a freshly bathed Shiba Inu, with the biggest smile on my face because I’m still here, and I’m really freaking grateful for that.

Presently: Improvising

Ever felt like maybe you should’ve stuck to the script? I’ve been feeling like that lately. I had an audition a couple of weeks ago for an episode of a TV show. During the audition, after I had said all my lines (and totally nailed it, might I add), the casting director didn’t stop rolling, so I improvised a little bit. I didn’t book the job, and now I’m wondering if maybe that’s why.

And, a few months back, I blogged about staying single. You guys remember that one. The night I posted that blog, I went on a date, and as I was walking over to the bar, I thought, “How ironic would it be if I fell for this guy?” Well, Alanis Morrisette, it was very ironic.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know, I fell for the guy. I went off script. I had written this beautiful scene for myself where I said goodbye to relationships and embraced being a strong, independent woman. But then, I started to improv a little.

And unlike the previously mentioned audition, I didn’t crash and burn. For the first time in my adult life, I found myself in a stable, supportive, happy relationship. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d be able to type.

Now you’re probably expecting me to write “And we lived happily ever after”, right? Well kid, in Hollywood, things are never that easy. Cinderella didn’t get her Prince without the wicked step-mother, it took seven years for Rachel McAdams to find her way back into Ryan Gosling’s arms, and there’s no story if Julia Roberts isn’t a prostitute.

So, where’s the rub? This week, he moved… 3000 miles away.

I realize that sounds terrible. And it is. Getting used to having a person, and then suddenly not having that person is really, really hard, especially when that person made you really, really happy. I spent a lot of time this week feeling like I was right back to where I was four months ago; alone, sad, and trying to convince myself to embrace my new-found, unwanted, independence.

Plot twist: I’m not going back to where I was four months ago. I’m a different person because of this relationship. Once I put down the Ben and Jerry’s, turned off the Adele music, and stopped feeling sorry for myself, I started feeling gratitude and strength and excitement for the next, un-written scene.

In four months, this guy gave me so much. I know what a healthy relationship is now. I have a better understanding of balance and self-love and what I deserve from a partner. I broke those bad relationship habits that had me running around in circles, chasing after Los Angeles’ finest fuck-boys (sorry for the term, Mom, but there really is no other way to put it).

So maybe, when it comes to love, it’s best not to have a plan. Maybe none of this needs to be written yet. I could probably write some epic end scene, where he stands outside of my bedroom door, holding a jukebox over his head, blasting Peter Gabriel, but if this relationship taught me anything, it’s that life is best lived improvised.

Presently: Quitting

Eight years ago, I worked at a cupcake store in Burbank. I remember the job interview like it was yesterday. I sat on a bench outside of this fresh heaven with the owner who asked me the usual questions. Where are you from? Do you like consuming large amount of sugar? What’s your availability? How do you commute? And then the question every struggling actor in need of a day job dreads… Why are you in LA?

I’ve had lots of answers to this particular question, depending on the job I was interviewing for. Sometimes I told the truth, sometimes I lied by omission, other times, I just straight-up lied. I once told a company that I didn’t go to college because that was better than telling them I had a degree in acting. You’d think in a city saturated with dreamers; restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, etc. would learn to embrace and sympathize with our struggle, that’s rarely the case, but I digress.

On this particular day, I decided to tell the truth, because learning the secrets to buttercream for $9 hour didn’t seem worth the bad karma I would probably get for trying to convince this nice lady that I moved 3000 miles away from home to bake cupcakes in Burbank. Her response to my honest answer changed me.

I said, “I moved here to be an actor”. She said, “Well, someone’s got to make it. Why not you?”

Yeah. Why not me?

As you all know by now, I’ve quit acting a lot over the last ten years. I quit this week. But, what keeps me coming back, besides some well-masked need for validation stemming from a childhood trauma my therapist can’t quite put her finger on yet, is what this woman said to me that day.

Why. Not. Me.

The last week was a rough one for Amelia, the actress. I had not one, but two auditions on Monday and when you’re averaging one audition every two weeks, having two in one day is exciting and overwhelming and completely wonderful.

The first audition was for a role I was perfect for, in a play I love, with a theatre company I really respect. I worked my ass off on this audition. I coached with my go-to guy (Jamison Jones for all you LA actors looking for an incredible teacher), spent all weekend with my script, I even cheated a little and watched the movie to find more inspiration. I showed up on Monday feeling prepared and nervous, my favorite combination. The audition was good. I left feeling good. Not great. But that was okay because I was sure I’d get a callback and be able to make the adjustments I wanted to make then. On to the next!

The second audition was for a small role in one episode of a new Hulu pilot. The project was big, the role was small (and don’t give me any of that “there’s no small roles” crap, there are small roles, this was one of them). This job wouldn’t have changed my life, but it would’ve been a nice credit for my IMDb, maybe a cute clip for my demo reel, and it definitely would’ve been a good casting office to book with. I showed up to the studio lot nine minutes late, wearing black spandex short-shorts and a blue polka dot sports bra. When I checked in, security said I had a ten minute walk ahead of me. Glad I was wearing my sneakers, not glad that my feet were the most covered part of my body. I laughed at myself as I walked past important men in suits and TV sets and famous actors, sticking out like the sore, naked, 30 year-old thumb that I was. The audition itself lasted less than a minute and before I knew it, I was trekking back to my car, holding the sides of my “shorts” down in an attempt to keep my butt from actually swallowing them.

I drove to my now day-job (which I actually really, really love) with a big ol’ smile on my face because I felt like a working actor. What can I say? I’m in love with the hustle.

If this were a movie, I would drive my Prius into the sunset as the screen cuts to the next day when my phone rings, and it’s my agent on the line saying, “Dollface, you got the part!”. But, this is not a movie… yet.

My phone did ring the next day. It was a pre-recorded call from Gary in Seattle who wanted me to stop what I was doing and listen to his “very important message”. “Fuck you, Gary”, I said as I hung up and slammed my phone down.

I did not get a callback for the role I was perfect for in the play that I love and I will not be saying two lines in one episode of a Hulu pilot.

So, on Tuesday, I quit acting. I spent most of the day deciding if I should go back to school or just start popping out some babies. And as I began leaning towards breast feeding and diapers, I remembered cupcake lady from 8 years ago.

Why not me?

Someone’s got to, and I really, truly believe, that I am that someone. I can not and will not let one theatre company or one casting director or one anything tell me any differently. I get a say in this, and I say, “Why. Not. Me?”

I think when we get discouraged or something doesn’t go our way, it’s easy to default to a “why me” mentality. Let’s change that. When life throws you a curve ball, catch it. If you get a lemon, make the freaking lemonade. Don’t ask “why me”, instead, declare “why not me”!

Today, I quit “quitting”. I realize I’m going to have thousands more auditions and I’m not going to book a single one of them. I’m going to want something so bad I can taste it and I’m not going to get it. That’s the nature of the beast. That’s life. That’s my life. But one day, that will change because…. Why not?

Presently: Learning

I’ve been studying acting for almost eleven years. I started my training at a conservatory in Hollywood, where I obtained a BFA in acting and an ego that thought she knew everything. After a few embarrassing auditions, I sought more training, and found a home with a wonderful teacher and mentor who has guided me for the last decade. In fact, I’ve studied a lot, with a lot of amazing people, who have taught me some pretty wonderful things. And that got me thinking.

I have this theory that all these “wonderful things” I’ve been taught, may not just be acting lessons, but life lessons.

Let’s put my theory to the test. I want to give you guys an acting lesson today. And hopefully, we’ll learn a little about life in the process.

Lesson Number One: BE PREPARED!

I’m going to admit this right off the bat, I hate preparation. I hate memorizing lines (my acting coach refers to it as “learning lines” because I should be learning about the character as I memorize, but whatever, it’s still boring AF). I also hate blocking (that’s when you decide what movements/actions you’re going to take throughout the material). And I hate dissecting a script. None of that feels very creative to me. I just want to get on my feet and start feeling all the colors and emotions written in the dialogue. I want to cry or laugh, and I want to make you cry or laugh or feel something, anything really. The problem is, if I try to do any of this without memorizing, blocking, or dissecting, the only emotion I will evoke from you is that of secondhand embarrassment. The preparation is necessary. Want to know what great actors do? They prepare like crazy and then when the lights go up or the director yells “action”, they throw it all away and they make it look like everything they are saying and doing is happening for the first time right in front of your eyes.

So, what are you preparing for? What goal are you working towards and are you doing everything you possibly can to be ready for the day that goal is met? When your life’s director yells “action” are you going to be so well rehearsed, so off-book (that means you know your lines), so confident, that, though you may be doing something for the first time, you’ll move through the newness with nothing but ease?

Yes, preparation is necessary, but when giving a stellar performance, it’s not the only thing an actor needs. Which brings me to….

Lesson Number Two: BE PRESENT!

There’s a really wonderful YouTube video I watch on a weekly basis (sometimes daily when the auditions are really rolling in). It’s of a women named Patsy Rosenberg, who is a brilliant voice coach and theatre director in London, (hence spelling “theatre” with an “re”, I swear I’m not usually that pretentious). The video is called “The Second Circle”. Patsy talks about three circles of energy. I’m not going to go through the whole thing because I think if you’re reading this you should stop right now and watch the video, then come back to reading my blog.

But, for all the fools who didn’t do that, the gist of the lesson is that a great performance lives in the second circle of energy or “presence”. I think a great person lives in the present. I’ve written about this before because it was the most important thing I wrapped my head around during my year of sobriety. That year, I finally learned what it meant to be present and it made me a better actor and a better person. Live in the moment. Don’t just live in it, be in it. Whenever you catch your mind trailing off down a windy path or setting sail down a sea of anxiety, stop, breathe, and notice your surroundings. Even if your surroundings are four cubicle walls you’re preparing to break free from. Notice that. Notice you’re breath. Realize that you are a miraculous bag of bones on an incredible and weird journey. No matter what your current circumstances are, stopping to recognize them will bring out gratitude and joy, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment. Enough fleeting moments can really add up.

There’s another reason why presence is so important, and that reason is…

Lesson Number Three: LISTEN!

I didn’t realize I was a terrible listener until I became an actor. And the night I realized I was a terrible listener (after an eye-opening acting class), I called my mom to tell her about my epiphany. I’m pretty sure she cried tears of frustration. As a kid, I had a really hard time retaining information because I was always too in my head to hear what I was being told. I fell into that trap as an actor too. I was sort of a shitty actor in the beginning. Instead of listening to the person I was acting with, I was checking my upstairs compartment to make sure my next line was on deck and ready to walk out of my mouth at any given cue line I hopefully heard, even though I wasn’t really listening. As a result, my work was never engaging and I missed a lot of opportunities to be spontaneous. And that spontaneity is what actors dream of as they prepare to perform. (Fun fact: Dustin Hoffman’s “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!”, wasn’t written in the script of Midnight Cowboy. A taxi cab “accidentally” drove through the scene and really almost hit Hoffman, he was just so present and he was listening so well, that he was able to react as the character, creating one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history).

As a species, I don’t think humans listen very well. While we engage in conversation, our minds are going a hundred miles an hour with things like “Did I leave the stove on?”, “I wonder where she got her nails done.”, “Is there food in my teeth?”, “Should I call him?”, “Is it bedtime yet?”, “God, I wish he’d stop talking.”, “Wait, I don’t even know what he’s saying!”, “He’s looking at me.”, “Am I supposed to respond?”, “What’s my line?! What’s my line?!”. Usually we mutter something like “Yeah. Totally!”, and then we part ways with zero recollection of the conversation and for all we know we just agreed to go with some half-stranger to a PBR drinking contest in Echo Park.

My advice to you is simple: Listen. That’s it. If you find yourself trailing off into a weirdly insecure inner monologue, do what I do in a scene. Start repeating what the person is saying to you in your head (don’t do it out-loud, you’ll look crazy). Repeating their words, internally, forces you to stay in the moment and listen to what they say. People will enjoy talking to you more, you’ll enjoy talking with people more, and at the very least, you will never end up on the east side of town with a long bearded, birkenstock-wearing, furniture maker, trying to convince you that bacon-flavored tap beer is the new “thing”.

Lesson Number Four: HAVE FUN!

I took a really wonderful class with a really popular casting director a few weeks ago. I’m not going to lie, I took the class hoping to wow this casting director enough to get an audition or two in the near future. I looked at it as a networking opportunity, but to my surprise, it turned out to be a learning opportunity. This guy reminded me of something that’s easy to forget after eleven years in the industry and thirty years on the planet. He reminded me to have a little fun. After all, I don’t act for the money or the fame (because, spoiler alert, those actually don’t exist in real life show business). I act because it’s fun. I do it because drama class was the only class I looked forward to in high school. I do it because I remember coming off stage after my first performance ever, smiling so much my face hurt. I do it because, like a really fun and scary roller coaster, once I’m off the ride, I just want to get back on and do it all again. I chose a fun profession, but it’s easy to forget that after all the preparation, all the hard work, all the “no’s”.

Like my job, life is supposed to be fun! And like my job, that can be really easy to forget because life is full of preparation, hard work, and “no’s”. But what if it didn’t have to be? Tonight, I’m going to say to you what this casting director said to me. (Though it won’t be an exact quote; I was having some problems listening that night, hey, I’m a work in progress too). What he said was this(ish), “Your work is there, I see it, but did you have fun? Do it again, but this time, have some fun”. And so I did it again and I took the pressure off and it was really fun! When it was over, I was smiling so much my face hurt and I thought “I want to do it again!”.

Your work is there, trust that, and have some fun. 

Lesson Number Five: LET IT GO!

This is the most important lesson.

About two years ago, I auditioned for a really big part on a really big show and came really, really close to booking the job. I left my audition for this show feeling like my life was about to change because I knew I had nailed it. I spent the next three days staring at my cell phone, willing it to ring, picturing my agent’s phone number on the caller ID, hearing him say “congrats”, and getting pissed every time the phone did ring and it was one of my girlfriends or an email from my old yoga studio. I started rationalizing the time that had past, “the show shoots on the 8th, so they have to let me know by the 7th, but that’s a Sunday, so I’ll probably hear back by Friday, but now it’s Thursday and I still haven’t heard”. Ok, you get it, I went a little crazy. In one of my more lucid moments, I texted my favorite coach/mentor, and because he too is an actor, he could hear the obsessive desperation in my text message. He responded via email, with an article about meditation. He was telling me to relax and let it go, two things I’ve never been very good at (ask, literally, any guy I’ve ever dated).

I somehow managed to crawl out of the deep, dark, twisty hole I had spent three days digging, and take his advice. I started meditating on a daily basis, which has a slew of benefits, but the biggest, for me at least, was learning how to let things go.

Like one of my favorite lady bosses says, “Shake It Off”. If I can forget about a series regular contract with a guaranteed $25,000 per episode, you can forget about the co-worker who stole your lunch or the doofus who didn’t call you back or the neighbor who won’t clean up after her dog.

The more you start letting go of these little things, the easier it is to let go of the big stuff.

Let go of all the heartache, let go of whatever heavy burden has been holding you down, let go of all the negativity. Just let it go. Letting it go will make room for so much good stuff.

And that good stuff is what it’s all about. I’m not just talking about good acting, but good living. We all just want to be good, right? I think these lessons can help us do that. I think with enough preparation, a lot of presence, maybe some listening, definitely a bit of fun, and a whole lot of letting go, we can all be really good humans (and hopefully some of us will be good actors too).

Ok. Class dismissed. For now.

 

 

 

Presently: (almost) 30

In two days, I turn 30. I’ve been counting down the days for a while now and usually, when I state the countdown out loud, I follow it with a barf noise (you know, “blllaaahhh”). 30 is kind of scary. When I was a kid, I thought 30 was pretty old. I figured by the time I was 30 I’d have a house, a husband, a kid or two, and definitely a career.

Today, two days before 30, I live in a tiny, cheap apartment in North Hollywood, I don’t have a husband or kids (does a six year-old best friend count? no? what about a dog?), and my career is still a big work in progress. I can hear my fifteen-year-old self saying, “loser”, as she reads this. Jokes on her though, because I don’t feel like a loser.

I’ve obviously been thinking a lot about my 20’s lately. They were a disaster. They were a big, beautiful, trouble-filled, tear-jerking, comedic disaster. And they were perfect. A lot of people tell you, your 20’s is a time to grow and figure stuff out, and I think it’s safe to say I did all of that. I spent most of the last decade learning every life lesson the hard way, and even have a mugshot to prove it. I fell on my face. I cried over guys that didn’t deserve it. I lost friends. I lost jobs. I lost auditions. The list goes on and on and on and… you get the point.

But all of that loss, produced a pretty big win.

I’m turning 30 in a tiny, cheap apartment, with a dog I sometimes refer to as my son, and no idea where my next acting job is coming from. And I couldn’t be prouder.

The fact that I survived my 20’s is enough to make me and anyone who knows me proud, but I didn’t just survive it, I thrived. (I sound like one of those manifest-your-destiny life coaches right now, I realize that).

I didn’t know it at 21, and definitely not at 25, 28 may have hinted at it, but I know now that I’ve spent the last ten years becoming a woman who is going to walk into the next decade of her life feeling nothing but love, accomplishment, and gratitude. If your 20’s is when you figure your stuff out, your 30’s is when you get to let all that stuff go and just be the wonderful human that you’ve created. And I’m excited to be that person because right now, two days before 30, I’m completely in love with her.

So, 30’s, I’m not going to follow you with a barf noise any more. I’m ready for you. Let’s make a lot of love, tons of art, fewer mistakes, and maybe even a baby, who knows. Who knows what the next ten years will bring, I sure don’t. But, I can’t wait to find out.