Quirks.

I was going to tell you about the meeting I had a month ago with a personage who got known for doing one thing and then had a second career doing another thing (both equally successful, both equally lucrative). I was going to tell you how excited I was to meet this person, and how I did a ton of reading about them the week before, and how they showed up 20 minutes late, and how I felt all bottled up and explodey when they sat down, and how I talked nonstop for maybe 40 minutes straight, and how at some point they asked if I had ADHD, and I said I did, and then they told me I should be medicated, and I said I was, and they said it’s a good thing I have help with my work or I wouldn’t be successful, and I said I was successful before I had help, and then it went downhill from there.

But I won’t tell you that story because there is no story. It’s just information. A lot of people like me have trouble containing themselves in high pressure situations. I do understand it’s not easy to hire someone with explosive manic energy like mine, especially when they (aka, “I”) don’t seem to have much control over it. What’s so annoying is that this is actually the controlled version of me. They should see me off my meds! (No they shouldn’t. No one should.)

But also, I spent plenty of years feeling bad that I couldn’t make myself behave normal in front of the right people. Now I try to find fewer reasons to be bummed about things I can’t change. Instead (and this is advice you hear all the time), I imagine all the other people like me who might feel a little bit better knowing they aren’t alone. And then I talk to them in my head: “It’s gonna be ok, guys. I’m writing about it.”

I have two projects I’m working on now that portray a woman with some of my aforementioned quirks. One of them is a movie that is very close to my heart for many reasons, and I hope someday I’ll be able to share it with you. The other is a pilot. Neither may ever see the light of day, but it is really fun (and also really harrowing) to graft your most exaggerated features onto a character who you want an audience to enjoy, cringe at, feel bad for, have a crush on, etc….

INT. CLASSROOM - DAY

College classroom. The students chat with one other, sleep, text. After a bit. CJ, 35, bursts in to the room wearing a bike helmet. She is petite, not unattractive, smiley, with a lot of nervous energy. Nerd glasses, unwashed hair, cute thrifted outfit. She has pit-stains and is sweating. Her hands are covered in black grease. The students are amused. Weird prof.

CJ removes her messenger bag and her helmet. She digs for some tissues. She finds notebook paper instead. Rips a few sheets out, wipes her hands on them, then wipes them on the back of a chair. She grabs some chalk. Writes the following words on the board: 

"HELP ME."

TO BE CONTINUED…

Voyeur.

Our last NYC apartment was in Carroll Gardens. We were on the third floor. The apartment below us jutted further out than ours, so we used its roof as a perch. Long adjacent courtyards stretched between the backs of the buildings, which meant lots of open space to gaze upon our neighbors. One young dude was always brushing his teeth on his fire escape. Another lived with his mom and wore a hoodie and fought with his girlfriend on the phone every night. One old man woke up at 2am most nights and wandered around naked.

We also had a subway stop near us. The train would rattle the above-ground tracks a half-block from our perch. Our walls shook every ten minutes.  The train slowed down as it pulled into the station,  and we’d get a perfect slow-mo view of all the folks on their way to Manhattan late at night.  Mostly graveyard shifters and club kids. The occasional woman dressed in business attire.

Around the time we moved to the west coast, the older folks in the apartments were replaced by young white women holding newborns at night.  Just like me.

Currently I’m working on a thing with another writer that’s gonna be at a gallery in NYC in April. It’s based on a photo by an artist who’s also interested in such things.  I’ll tell you about it later, but here’s the photo:

From the ‘Out My Window’ Series by Gail Halaban.

… and here’s an except of the work-in-progress. It’s from the point of view of the woman in the aqua shirt:

Apartment in Chelsea. Kid toys, etc. GRACE opens a drawer. Grabs a lighter and a bowl. Picks at the bud with her fingernail. She listens/speaks into her iPhone earbuds.

GRACE
Hm-hm. 
(opens her window, lights the bowl, takes a hit) 
[…] 
Hm-hm. 
(blows smoke out the window, peers across the street... the man who lives in the building across the street is not home yet)
[…] 
They’re all at the lake for John’s dad’s 80th. I had a migraine, so. 
[…]
The entire weekend. 
[…]
Probably. 
[…] 
Hm-hm. 
[…] 
Uhhhh… Indica. It’s for my anxiety. It helps. I feel great. I feel pretty fucking great. I’m like, I dunno. I lost two pounds. I did yoga this morning. I bought a couch. 
(sits on her new couch)
[…]
Yes I did. Yes I did. I totally did. Oh my god, Aaron. It’s soooooooo beautiful. The fabric is called “bouclé.” It means “curl” in French. “Bouclé.” Isn’t that beautiful? 
(runs her hand along the fabric)
[…]
Uh kind of like this nubby woven texture? Like something a cat would claw. Rowr. 
(giggles, moves toward the window with her bowl, looks out)
I can’t stop touching it. I’m like literally addicted to touching it. Wanna hear what they call the color? It’s fucking amazing. Wait. Let me describe it first. 
(turns to scrutinize her couch) 
It’s like… it’s kind of grey-ish beige-ish… but like, delicate? Like a quail’s egg? But without all the speckles? Um… 
[…]
No. More like a warm antiquey champagney oatmealy buff-ish taupe-ish kind of… Ok so if color were sound? This would be a sigh. But not a tired sigh, or an exasperated one. The sigh you make when you slide into a hot bath. 
[…] 
Nope. 
(lights up her bowl, takes a hit) 
[…]
Nope. 
(exhales out the window, looks for the dude... still not home)
[…] 
Not even close. 
[…]
Ready? “Orla putty.” 
[…]
“ORLA PUTTY.” Isn’t that gorgeous? 
[…]
No, a file cabinet is “putty colored.” This is “orla putty.” 
[…]
I have no idea what “orla” means. It’s a nonsense word. It’s a sound. It floats from your lips and flutters across the street and lands at the feet of a dangerous woman. 
[…]
Two thousand dollars. Cash. 
[…]
Well you shouldn’t be. I’m feeling better than I have in years. 
[…]
Because it was the floor model and they didn’t wanna sell it so I paid extra. I didn’t plan it out. I wasn’t like, couch shopping on the internet or whatever. 
[…]
Because I’ve been trying to run into him. Like for about a week. I hit the dry cleaner, the post office, the CVS, the florist. Friday I pass the furniture store… There’s a couch in the window. His couch. The same exact one. And so I walk in and find a saleswoman and go, “I’ll take that.” And she’s like, “Oh, that’s back ordered. You’re welcome to browse the showroom and whatever whatever.” And I go “no, I’ll take that one.” And she’s like it’s not for sale, and I’m like I’ll pay cash. I’m like I’ll pay double. Whatever you want, lady. 
[…]
Why not? It’s my fucking money. When they delivered it I took a picture and texted it to John. He sent me a thumbs up emoji. 
(glances out the window a moment... dude is still not there) 
[…]
Nope. Nothing. Nada. Maybe he didn’t notice. Maybe he noticed and didn’t care. Maybe he noticed and is freaking out, and tonight he’ll come home and close the blinds and never belt another TV theme song from the 80s out the window again. 
[…]
Not a clue. You know I’m making shit up as I go, right… 
[…]
Well yeah. I had to get rid of a couple things to make it fit. 
[…]
Uh, the accent chairs from Ikea, Mom’s old stackable tables, Katie’s easel, the ugly bar cart John got at the Brooklyn Flea… what else… 
[…]
Oh right. The nursing chair.
 
Beat. Something changes in her. She takes another hit.

Advice vs. kindness.

A student reached out to me this week because she felt lost, in all the ways one feels lost when she is unsupported and insecure about her path and hasn’t found her tribe yet. In other words, any writer at any given moment.

I don’t take cries for help lightly. I think it’s a ridiculously brave thing to reach out to someone you admire and ask for help. And in most cases, I’ve found people are really just looking for kindness.

Luckily, I can totally do that! Yes I’m a neurotic terrified human who has trouble pausing, which makes it harder. But hey! You don’t have to be perfect to be kind!

I DO wish I was better at being kind to myself, though. I give that advice a lot but I don’t always take it.

Maybe it comes with practice.

Like flute.

(Flute?)

(I never played flute. I played clarinet. For like five seconds. I got kicked out of band. I kept squeaking my reed because I wanted to play LOUDER.)

(WHY IS BEING A PERSON SO DIFFICULT? Discuss.)

(Nah. That’s boring. Don’t do that.)

Here’s my response to her, at any rate. Hopefully it makes sense out of context:

“Well surviving rejection is good training, even when it hits you in a supposedly safe space. It’s one of the hazards of the job. You will always ALWAYS get more rejection then you will get reinforcement. Knowing this doesn’t make it hurt any less. But it’s the most true thing I can tell you. Confidence comes from doing it over and over again in spite of that. When you survive another, and another, and another, you know that it doesn’t kill you. So you keep going. As the saying goes.

“One of the kindest things you can do for yourself as soon as possible is find your tribe. Find the people who make you feel good about your work, who understand it, who you feel safe with, who will be there when the worst of your fears about yourself are somehow confirmed. You’re not there right now. It’s OK. Keep reading the women you respect. Keep the balance in your life tipped toward those who enrich you, not those who zap you. Look for opportunities. If you don’t see them, make them. More nourishment. More voices.”

PS speaking of tribes… here’s mine ♥️♥️♥️: