One Writeous Chick

Stuff I think a couple of hopes and dreams, and maybe a fear or two thrown in the mix...

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Come visit me at my new home:

See you there!!!



Friday, June 15, 2007

In Gratitude...

Well, I had wanted today's posting to be an exuberant announcement about how my play won in The Samuel French Festival last night and that there was going to be another chance to see it as it would be going on to compete in the finals on Sunday. However, it didn't exactly happen like that.

I was told that the night's winner would receive a call between midnight and 1:00am, so when I returned home a little after 11:00pm feeling very satisfied about my play and in the after-glow of my after-party, I busied myself arranging my flowers and checking email. A little after midnight I crawled into bed and proceeded to roll over every 5 to 7 minutes to check my cell phone for the time, and to see if I had missed any calls that had mysteriously and inexplicably gone straight to voicemail. By 12:38am I was starting to feel like that girl who is home alone on a Saturday night, lying awake, waiting for the emotionally unavailable man who she is madly in love with and who may or may not be out on a date with another woman, to call. At 1:04am I drifted off into sleep thinking that it would only be a few minutes until I would be awakened by the loud ringing of my phone...

Lately in my life I have become obsessed with looking for the lesson in every single situation because as it turns out, there is really a lot to learn out there from all experiences, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, you know the drill. The thing is, I've noticed that I sometimes like to impose my own lesson on things. For instance, with my play, I thought the lesson was going to be: You find great people to work with on a project you are deeply passionate about, you work hard, and then you are rewarded because you WIN! (And then you are even further validated when you are PUBLISHED!) Unfortunately, that pesky Life can be sooooo uncooperative and disobedient.

Which got me thinking. OK, that wasn't the lesson that I wanted to learn, but there's gotta be another one in here somewhere, and fortunately, it was not at all difficult to find. Simultaneously, I have been trying to come up with a topic that I really wanted to write about in my June newsletter when this little experience/lesson fell into my lap, so I give you my Writeous Chicks Newsletter, June 2007:

About seven years ago I started writing lists of things I was grateful for in a small spiral hardbound notebook every night before I went to bed. I think I initially heard this suggested by Oprah. So I did this pretty conscientiously for several years and filled several notebooks, and then, when I was going through a challenging time that seemed beyond gratitude about four years ago, I gave this practice up. Two years ago at a teacher's suggestion, I went back to it, only this time I type it up daily, in the morning before I start my day, and email it to a close group of friends, and they in turn all email me their daily gratitude lists, which has resulted in a circle of friends I think of as my Gratitude Girls.

It seems like such a simple little practice, but really, it has helped me dramatically transform the way I think. Whereas I used to walk through my days cataloging all the things that were going wrong ("Damn it, I just missed my train!" Internal Dialogue: Why me? "Sh*t, my pedicure chipped!" ID: Why can't anything ever go right? "&*#@$&^!!!! I spilled coffee on my brand new skirt!" ID: When will Life just cut me a break already???), which resulted in a downward spiral of despair, taking time every morning to note what I am grateful for has reoriented my thinking throughout the day, so that I now catalog all the things I am grateful for, all the things that are going right, as I make a mental note to remember them for my list, and as a result my Internal Dialogue is much more pleasant and less of a total downer to hang out with these days...

So with that in mind, after the initial disappointment of figuring out that my play did not win last night, I was flooded with an abundance of gratitude, and I would like to share my daily list today with all of you.

Today, I am very grateful for/that:

*My play was performed last night!
*For all my wonderful friends & family who came out to see the play and to the after-party!
*For all my former co-workers from Time Inc. who filled a row of seats
*For PARENTS of the KIDS I GREW UP WITH who came out last night and who come to see every play I write and follow my career!
*For the crew of The Samuel French Festival for their assistance, support, enthusiasm, hard work, dedication, and for giving me this wonderful opportunity
*My Dad, who spontaneously decided to treat the entire after-party to a round of drinks
*My Mom, who brought to the party an enormous box of cookies from my favorite bakery, which is the place where she got all my birthday cakes from growing up
*Zanzibar for getting a great back room for us asap when the bar was filled up, which turned out to be the perfect party venue
*The great music they played, including Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" which was my anthem in Sept. '06
*The Sage Theatre for their help
*D for making 150 COLOR COPIES of my program FOR FREE!
*The outpouring of emails I received this week from friends near & far who could & couldn't make it, to wish me congratulations and luck
*Congratulations emails from one of my all-time favorite playwrights, and one of my all-time favorite writers, both of whom I admire tremendously, what an honor!
*The outpouring of emails I received last night and today asking how it went
*My dear friend K who supports me in everything I do, and who even carted around my giant GAP shopping bag filled with flowers all night!
*For beautiful opening night flowers!
*My wonderful friend Diva JG who took it upon herself to be the historian and take pictures all night, and that she actively sought out great photo ops!
*A friend who shall remain nameless (you'll see, I'm protecting her identity) who skipped a work function last night because it was so important to her to be there to support me
*Jason's classmates from Rutgers attending the play, and how supportive they are, and passionate about theatre
*The most incredible theatrical collaboration with fantastic talents and just wonderful people in general - Holli Harms, Jason Cruz, and Megan Ofsowitz. If you ever get the chance to work with any of these people, JUMP ON IT!
*For everyone who told me they want to know what happens next for Brooke & Miguel. This one-act is also the first scene of a full-length play, so stay tuned, there is more story to tell...And to any producers on this mailing list: Call me! We'll talk!
*That because my play will not be performed on Sunday, I can spend Father's Day with my Dad, and then take a big, long, juicy, delicious NAP!
*That when I went for my daily coffee first thing today at my neighborhood Starbucks, they were rocking a Prince song LOUD even though the normal morning soundtrack is usually of the easy listening variety, and that this instantly lifted me out of a crummy mood
*Feeling so absolutely supported, doing what I love
*Sharing an incredible evening, and an incredible experience, with wonderful family & friends
*Everyone on this list for being a part of this community
*I am grateful I am fiercely determined & persistent and I don't have any intention of giving up. Like, ever.

*I am grateful that although one of my greatest struggles is that I am a results person, always looking for the next, bigger, better thing to just make me happy already, I had the presence of mind to recognize that happiness & enjoyment can truly only ever be found in the process, and that everything about this process was amazing & inspiring down to the very last drop!

So while, yeah, it would be very nice to win awards, that is not why I write. I am very ambitious with my writing, and I have much bigger goals. I write to give people something to think about, something to talk about, to seek out and awaken to the sparkling magnificence that is always present amidst the simple everydayness, and so that they, and I, can maybe, hopefully, feel more understood, or more accepted, or accept ourselves more. I write so that people can stop, and sit still, in this crazy, hectic fast-paced world that can be far too individuated and isolating for my liking, and we can share a moment together, in a theatre, or on the page, or in an email, of...connection. And I absolutely, without a doubt, feel that I accomplished my goal last night, so thank you all. I am so grateful!

Heaps of love!



Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Garam

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Glorious Success of Failure

Yesterday I saw a panel at The Tribeca Film Festival all about Superheroes. Zak Penn, a notably successful screenwriter, whose credits, notably, include the X-Men 2 & 3 movies, was one of the panelists, and during the Q&A at the end, a woman asked the panel if there were plans to feature a strong female superhero anytime soon. Zak responded by saying something to effect of: "Well, hey, I made Elektra, and that sucked!"

This, caught my attention.

He then went on to detail the mistakes he had made with that movie, and how he could have made it differently, and perhaps, better.

This set off a sequence of flashbacks in my mind, and I recalled how at several times throughout the panel, Penn had tossed off casual references to "failures" he had been a part of, to standing up for things he felt strongly about against the studios and then "being fired," to a "big mistake" he had made on X-Men, and then, in my mind, this little failure montage culminated with his Elektra comment.

I could not believe he was copping to so many mistakes and failures! And he is a successful screenwriter! It was so refreshing!

Our society presents success as a finished product and props it up on display for the rest of us to Oooohhhhh and Ahhhhhhhhh over. I know deep down that every new venture takes trial and error, but I don't often spend much time actually contemplating this truth, or how it could relate to me, and my life. The conditioning that success is born of success is that strong. But. This isn't true. Success is actually born of failure. And sometimes. Of lots and lots of failure.

How this relates to me personally is fairly obvious - I hate rejection. I can sometimes be afraid to even try something new unless I have a pre-guarantee that it will be a smashing, well-received, success.

However. Failure can be, and often is, the catalyst for an ever greater success. A few years ago, when I decided that I absolutely must be a writing teacher and that this was my passion, I applied to several MFA Graduate School Programs. Many of you already know how this story ends. I got rejected from all of them, and was devastated that my dream of teaching writing would never come to be. Until. I decided to start my own company and teach the writing workshops that I wanted to teach, exactly the way I wanted to teach them. I believe that my success, and my feeling of pride in what I do, is so much greater because I was able to create it for myself, according to my own terms, and in line with my own passions, even after others had told me, quite definitively: "No!"

I was struck by how powerful it was for a successful writer to be publicly cataloging his mistakes and failures, and reminding me that every project I undertake does not have to have a pre-guarantee of fabulous and absolute success. Every project does not even have to succeed, as long as I can learn from my failures and use them as catalysts for even greater future successes. Reminding me how powerful it is to step out, with your enthusiasm and your passion behind you and within you, get really messy, and maybe But do so gloriously, courageously, and even...successfully. To take a chance, because there is no way to succeed without lots of big, glorious, juicy, and sometimes even humiliatingly sucky failures under your belt, and there is not one Success Story out there who doesn't have their share of disastrous mistakes paving their path to success.

Have a great weekend! Live large, and take a chance on failure!

And if you want to share one of YOUR glorious successful failure stories, you can do so right here! I'd love to hear from you!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back to Basics: A Treatise on "The Bachelor"

When I started this blog last summer, I used it as a place to write down my impressions about what was going on around me on a regular basis, whether it be spotting an abandoned Sweet Valley High book on someone's stoop and being transported back to my adolescence, or my take on Justin Timberlake's SexyBack, which also somewhat transported me back to my adolescence, in terms of well, being fanatic about a cute, scruffy-faced, hip-thrusting, VMA-Award-strutting pop star.

Since then, however, my blog has evolved, and it has become a place where I post my Writeous Chicks newsletters on personal development, growth, and self-betterment themes. Which is all well and good. But sometimes. It can be fun to revert back to the basics. Which is why, while watching The Bachelor: Officer & a Gentleman last night, I knew there was someplace all my thoughts that were cropping up just had to go, and I knew that that place, was here.

Ok. I am pretty obsessed with relationships. Analyzing them. Figuring them out. How to create one. And then how to make it work, and continue to cultivate, nurture, and sustain a healthy, mutually-supportive, equally-beneficial partnership. And I have openly admitted in the past that the how-to's of this process have traditionally been unclear to me - I missed the day in class when the teacher explained Relationships, no one ever gave me the notes, and I have been doing my best, my darnedest in fact, since then, to catch up.

So is it just me or does The Bachelor and shows like it reinforce every negative thing we, as a society, have learned about relationships? Every thing that we then subsequently have to unlearn in order to be a healthy, well-balanced individual with a complete and fully developed and individuated and non-codependent sense of self that is necessary to be in a partnership?

I mean, The Officer and a Gentleman dude is gorgeous, in that physically perfect kind of way, if you are into that sort of thing. And he even seems to have some sort of depth, and while he can seem scripted and awkward at times, he does have moments of sincerity, sensitivity, and ok, I even believe that he is there for the right reasons that he keeps mentioning, i.e., to find true and lasting love.

But there are a few things that I find highly disturbing. Like all these women vying for Andy-The-Bachelor’s attention, being interviewed and offering really personal information about themselves - their passions, dreams, and deepest desires, and even traumatic events and challenges that they have been though. And they all exude that "Pick me, pick me, please pick me!" vibe that my dorm-mates and I coined in college during Sorority Rush when we were on our best behavior, ready to put forth only our most stellar and exceptional qualities and really sell ourselves, desperate to be selected by the older sorority girls, deemed worthy, and validated. And all the women on the show are so ready to reveal themselves to Andy, but really, what do we know about this guy? Really? It seems to me that they have exposed themselves much more than he has. When presented with a great-looking, accomplished, intelligent guy that yes, does appear to be a "good catch," why are women so willing to decide within minutes that this is the guy for them and that they need to win his approval, and validation? This seems extreme because it is on a TV show, and all the outifts are swanky, the dates are creative and elaborate, and the lighting is flattering, but this exact thing happens in real life all the time! Five minutes into a great date, so many women (myself included), can be ready to make a decision that because of chemistry and an instant connection, this is the man for them! This is the man they are (I am) going to marry!

A wonderful coach I work with teaches about relationships and has posed the question, when you spend your entire life getting to know yourself, why are you then ready to jump into a committed relationship with someone you've known for 5 minutes? Or 5 days? Or even 5 weeks, or 5 months? It takes time and it is a process of truly revealing yourself and also gaining information about this other person to know what they are all "about," to quote The Bachelor himself, and if who they are and what they are about is right for you, and a good, healthy, beneficial match with what you are all about.

So why aren't any of these women interviewing The Bachelor? I was so excited when Tina asked him what his flaws were last night! (I do get really into it!) And it gave him the opportunity to reveal something about himself, and to be vulnerable, which are the moments that forge true connection. But I would love to see a woman feel really good about and complete in herself and not express that she needs some sort of completion in him, or has already fallen instantly in love, and instead, that she wants to know about him, and then choose if he is a good match for her. I know that wouldn’t make for as good TV, and that this is a show based on the Prince-like man choosing his Princess, and having them all try the shoe on (“the shoe” being the group dates, one-on-one dates, two-on-one dates (?!), “quality alone time” etc.) to see who fits into the mold but…it's totally weird! Marriage is big deal, y'all! This is WEIRD!

And, while I do see Andy-The-Bachelor's appeal and find him somewhat charming and endearing, I have some serious issues with things that I would now like to highlight. When Bevin hurt her ankle, he left his group date to ride in the ambulance with her and spent time with her in the hospital, which impressed me and I have to say, won me over. But then, cut to: him frolicking with several bikini-clad hopefuls in a giant mud bath while Bevin remained at the hospital alone. Plus, she won the rose! Because she hurt her ankle for him! It was an expression of just how dedicated she was to him, and this process! It really pains me to even start to think about the implications of this sentiment. And then, I found it problematic that the other girls in the house were jealously gossiping about Bevin and the "alone time" and attention she got from Andy. Hello, she was in a HOSPITAL!!! Because she was INJURED!!!

Or, I will believe that he feels he has forged a sincere connection with one of the women, and shares a sweet kiss with her. But then. Moments later, it appears that he has a sincere connection/sweet kiss moment with another woman. This. Would bother me. If I were one of the women being connected to.

And lastly - and this may just be me because I am English major and picky about weird grammatical quirks but I think I can speak for most people when I say that this is irritating - he refers to people in the third person when they are right in front of him. As in, "I'm just getting to know Bevin" (said to Bevin), or "I'm here trying to talk to Amanda" (spoken to, you guessed it, Amanda).

But most importantly, while I pretty much despise everything The Bachelor stands for, and abhor the way it teaches women to undervalue themselves and act as if they are less than until validated by a man, until they "win the game" and snag a husband, while I feel that the template it establishes and reinforces about how relationships are to be created and maintained based on unrealistic fantasy from group mud baths to romantic yachting adventures for two to the Rose Ceremony is so very damaging to our society, relationships, and the institution of marriage itself, I CAN'T STOP WATCHING IT!!!

What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinions on this season of The Bachelor, relationships, fairy tale fantasy vs. reality, ALL OF IT!!!

Thanks for reading and taking this journey back to the basics with me!

Lots of love!


Monday, March 26, 2007


Good morning!

I went to a wonderful reading last night of great new original work at WRITERS WORKING, and I am extra excited because I am going to be participating in this series and reading some of my writing there next month! If you are interested in attending please SAVE THE DATE - Sunday, April 29th at 7pm. Details to follow...

Have a supremely-fabulous week!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo

Monday, March 19, 2007

What Are You Excited About Today?

I know. It's Monday. And there's a snow/ice/slush/mush mixture on the ground that is starting to turn dirty and gray. BUT. Since there was such a great response to last week's email about being here and now and creating a kernel of excitment for yourself in every day, I thought I'd keep the theme going...

SO. If you'd like to share and brag about some of your time-tested or even brand-new hot-off-the-presses strategies for creating a kernel of excitement for yourself in your day, you can do so here! Who knows, you just might inspire someone else to try it!

Enjoy your day!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that here was in me an invincible spring." - Albert Camus

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


"When you're anticipating some future good, you're preventing that good that is all around you from expressing through you...[Don't] put life on the layaway plan and try to anticipate that it's going to get good in the future."
-Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith on Oprah "One Week Later: The Huge Reaction to The Secret"

In first grade I had a pair of lavender Jordache jeans with dark purple stitching, The Great Bead Machine, and beautiful long hair. My class had a pet salamander and we planted lima beans in tiny containers and watched them grow. Reading was my favorite subject even though I wasn't in the advanced reading group, and I also liked music, art, and tire swings. Life was good, just as it was.

In second grade my best friend moved to Japan, my remaining group of friends kicked me out of the interpretation of Annie we were going to perform which was my idea in the first place, my teacher got sick and was out for most of the year, my grandfather died, my parents got divorced, and I got lice several times resulting in a very short, very unflattering haircut. It was not a good year.

Thinking back, I believe that this may have been when I started the pattern of thinking: "If I can just get through this day/week/month/year, then maybe the next day/week/month/year will be better."

In fifth grade I thought that my social life would surely take off in middle school. In sixth grade I thought that once I was in eighth grade and the oldest in the school, I would have more confidence. In eighth grade I was ousted from the popular group and I thought I would have more social opportunities once I got to high school. In ninth grade I remember locking myself in my room for days working on an Earth Science research paper, thinking that if I could just get really good grades and get into Princeton or Harvard, then I would be happy. In high school I lived for the weekends and school breaks - summer vacation, winter holiday, spring break, mid-winter recess - and the parties and adventures they would bring. Senior year I crossed off days on my calendar with big X's counting down until college. My junior year of college I transferred, hoping for a better fit and more happiness. Senior year of college I couldn't wait to graduate and start my life in New York. Living in New York pursuing acting and writing, I worked hard and sacrificed socializing more because I thought my life would truly begin once I had more recognition, success, money, a graduate degree, and/or a boyfriend, or at least a book deal lined up, and then I would have plenty of time for a well-rounded and balanced life.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The list goes on, but lately I have been realizing for the first time in my life that there is no "If I get (fill in the blank), then I'll be happy." It is actually a complete lie, and we all know it deep down. If it were true - that all we needed were money, success, and a mate to be happy - then that would mean that everyone who is rich, successful, and in a relationship would be deliriously happy, and we all know that this is not the case, and further know people who have a lot of the outside accoutrements and very little if any of the inner happiness.

In the past year, I have achieved many of my dreams, and some of my saddest and loneliest moments have been after achieving something I have spent years thinking would fulfill me and change everything, only to realize that I felt...exactly the same. But this is good news because it confirms that the power to be happy does not lie in outer circumstances and with other people, but within us.

There used to be a sign painted on the sidewalk down the street from where I live that said BE HERE NOW, and almost everyday I would be rushing somewhere completely lost in thought - either ahead in future or replaying the past - when I would catch a glimpse of these words, and I was always grateful for the reminder to stop and bring myself back to the present. This growing realization has made me mindful of standing still (here and now) and recognizing, appreciating, and enjoying all that is already in my life, and everything that I have already accomplished, rather than holding out all my happiness and self-congratulations for some future event or person, or possible bigger and better achievement.

This can be a challenging practice when we are conditioned to sacrifice now for future payoff. Feeling that what you have, where you are, and who you are - exactly as you are now - is good enough, can go against a lifetime of just "getting by" and "making it through," hoping that some future event, acquisition, achievement, or person will one day validate you and make you happy. And this kind of thinking does serve a purpose to help anesthetize and comfort people during difficult times, but taken as a repetitive pattern over the long term, waiting for your life to begin at a future point (when really, just to state the obvious, it actually began on the day you were born), can limit the joy that you are open to experiencing in the present moment.

This time of year, it is so tempting to jump ahead in anticipation - it is almost Spring and in a few weeks, it will warmer, I will be able to wear flip-flops, I will be happier, and everything will be better! But instead, take some time to slow down and be present to and enjoy the transition, and each and every day, whether it be 70 degrees and spring-like, or revert back to the cold winter weather.

I recently read a wonderful Barbara Jordan quote about this subject in which she had stated: "I live a day at a time. Each day I look for a kernel of excitement. In the morning, I say: 'What is my exciting thing for today?' Then, I do the day. Don't ask me about tomorrow."

Speaking from past experience, it is easy to let many days - huge chunks of days even - slip by without having anything I was excited about for weeks at a time. But I realize that I can take responsibility for my days by being excited about something that already exists in my plan for the day, and if there is nothing there that already excites me, I can create something new to be excited about. This can be as simple as taking a spontaneous walk in the park, making the time to sit down for a cup of coffee at Starbucks and read a chapter from a good book instead of taking my coffee to go in a mad dash to somewhere else, or calling a friend I haven't spoken to in awhile. So as winter transitions to spring, I encourage you to find and/or create something special, a kernel of excitement for yourself every single day , and then compassionately guide yourself back to the present moment to enjoy the heck out of it!

Have a truly exciting day!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxoxo

Friday, March 09, 2007

Looking For Some Fun Weekend Reading?

I have two brand new articles on DivineCaroline - check 'em out!

"Get The Wax"

"A Touchy Subject: Integrating Eroticism In Your Writing"

Also, a woman I went to college with writes for the site and has some wonderful articles posted! Her name is Emilie Rohrbach and you can find her articles here:


Jen xoxoxo

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Um, YAY! Check out my newly PUBLISHED article!!!


I am so excited (I get Southern when I am excited!) to say that an article I wrote was recently published on an AWESOME website for women called It is a great website and a wonderful resource for women and I love it! Check out my article when you get a chance, and let me know what you think (but um, only if "what you think" happens to be totally supportive, positive, and encouraging...)!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo

Monday, February 05, 2007

96% Angelina Jolie; 100% Myself

"Iris, in the movies, we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason, you're behaving like the best friend."
-Arthur (Eli Wallach) to Iris (Kate Winslet) in "The Holiday" by Nancy Meyers

I forget things. Like: I'm pretty. I forget this allllllllllllllll the time.

Last summer, a friend of mine, while procrastinating on studying for her finals, decided to play around on one of those websites where you put in a picture of yourself, and with their "space-age face recognition software" (quotes hers), they tell you which celebrity you look like. Apparently she didn't have a picture of herself on her computer, but she was so committed to procrastinating that she sorted through her files and found a picture that I had emailed her, from my 30th birthday party. And then, she emailed me to report that I was a 96% match with Angelina Jolie, and instructed me to "Go get Brad, girl...then come and pick (her) up."

Ok. No one would ever, ever confuse me with Angelina Jolie. And I think the reason for this outcome was that, in this particular 30th birthday picture, my hair was blown out, and I was wearing a shirt that showed a lot of skin, and perhaps accidentally had some sort of flirty come-hither eye thing going on. But the thing is, I am pretty. And I had totally forgotten it at this point in time, and was spending a lot of (um, almost all of my) time crying over and pining after a guy who was not particularly interested in or able to return my pine, or pursue any sort of relationship with me.

Sometimes I remember that I am pretty. I know this because, Angelina Jolie thing aside, people have compared me to Juliana Margolis, Minnie Driver, and Andie McDowell, and they are all pretty. And also, and more importantly, sometimes I will catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and be in such a mood to appreciate my very own, unique, non-celebrity lookalike brand of beauty.

When I was growing up, starting with a bad haircut at the age of 7 that made people confuse me with a boy, and had train conductors asking my Mom how old her "son" was when she purchased train tickets to know if I qualified for the child fare, I often felt ugly, awkward, and all-around dorky and uncomfortable in my own skin. When I was in fifth grade, I was out sick one day and my friend called me to tell me that this cute boy I had a crush on was telling everyone he liked me during roller skating that day. I was so excited, I mean, could this be true, the boy I had liked forever, who was leagues out of my league actually liked me? Like, liked me, liked me???!!!! Overwhelmed by my excitement, and my imminent status change and overall transformation from dorky-girl-with-a-bad-haircut to girlfriend-of-the-cutest-boy-in-the-whole-wide-world-ever, I called him to confirm this, and he (uncomfortably, for me) told me that he in fact did not like me, and that he had just said that to make my fifth-grade arch-nemesis jealous, who, by the way, he did like. I fell for this routine again a year later when that very same boy, whom I had forgiven, asked me to be his date to the Valentine's Day dance, which essentially meant, in sixth-grade-speak, to be his girlfriend. On a class trip to the mall, I pined excitedly over Valentine's Day cards, finally deciding on and purchasing my very first Valentine's Day card for my very first boyfriend. He wound up canceling last minute as ultimately, this Valentine's dance thing was just another way to get back at my (still) arch-nemesis, whom he (still) liked.

I seem to have this best friend/leading lady disconnect, and still, although less and less, carry this inner dork, this scared girl afraid of rejection, with me, instead of being able to fully own and appreciate my beauty, and have had moments throughout my life when this inner disconnect has been illuminated in the outer world. After college, when I was in acting school, a classmate visited me in my hometown, and we went out for drinks the night before Thanksgiving, where we ran into a guy I went to high school with. He was a year older than me and I had never really talked to him, and I wasn't even sure he had any reason to know who I was. He drunkenly told my friend that I would never give any of the boys in high school the time of day, and that I was so pretty and no one was ever good enough for me to date, whereas, my memory of high school was being lonely and in constant fear of rejection, of not being good, or pretty enough, to date, or to ever have a real boyfriend. And, if anyone ever did like me, in high school, in college, and even after, I could never really believe it was true, and I would wait, in disbelief, for the other shoe to drop, and to find out that ultimately, it was just another joke.

So the 96% Angelina email from my friend reminded me that I was living too small, and somehow, not fully. Why was I pining away for this guy who couldn't be interested in me, living like some inadequate, shy, mousey, rejected girl, when that's not how I have to live, and furthermore, when that's not even me? Why wasn't I out there, metaphorically, getting Brad , remembering who I really am, and living large??? It was a reminder that I could have been enjoying myself so much more, and having so much more fun, and happiness.

Every-so-often I will come across pictures of me from sleepaway camp, a time I recall as one of my most painfully ugly and awkward, and I will see this beautiful, perfectly imperfect gap-toothed big-bright-eyed sun-tanned freckle-faced smiling girl looking back at me, and I feel so sad that I was never able to enjoy and appreciate my own beauty or my own self back then, and how instead I chose to spend so much time condemning and criticizing myself, because, I could have lived so differently if I had known the truth...

And I think, I don't want to make that same mistake again. I don't want to be 75-years-old looking back at pictures of myself on my 30th birthday, thinking, Why didn't I know? Why didn't anyone tell me I was beautiful then? Why didn't I ever bother to tell myself???

I know a lot of women, and I know very few of them who can say (and believe) that they are beautiful. We all feel so guilty, and like if we said it, it would be a lie, and we would get found out, or that, even if we did believe it, it is somehow wrong, immodest, and obnoxious to think let alone say. So many women will, if they do manage to say something nice about themselves, qualify it, justify it, modify it, or apologize for it, to try to make themselves and everyone else around them feel more comfortable, like: I am having a sorta ok hair day, or, I guess my skin looks alright in this light, or, Yeah, I lost some weight but I am such a loser and I can't keep up with my gym routine because I have no discipline so I am sure I am gonna pile the pounds right back on my fat ass in no time!!!

What's with the epidemic of self-hate?

I am beginning to understand that this - knowing, acknowledging, claiming, and celebrating our own beauty - is not only ok, it is our right. And that to do so, gives others permission to enjoy and celebrate their own perfectly imperfect unique brand of beauty. And that it is ok to say: "I look DAMN FINE and I LOVE MY FABULOUS PERFECT ASS/RACK/insert body part of your choice here!" Hey, why not, I guarantee that will bring a smile to your friends' faces, and probably to your own.

So, in thinking about Valentine's Day, and this month of the celebration of love, and remembering back to disappointments and rejections from 20 years ago, I think it is about time to get serious about falling in love. Falling in deep, mad, passionate, unapologetic love with our fine, beautiful selves - our inner confident Angelina Jolies, and our inner awkward afraid dorks, flaws, imperfections, and vulnerabilities - equally.

Remember that you are always, in every single moment, the leading lady in your very own life, so you may as well take some time to act like, and believe this. And then take another moment to remember, luxuriate in, and celebrate, that you, just as you are, are a total f-in' hottie, from the top if your head to the tips of your toes to your perfect-just-as-it-is ass! This month, and really, always, give yourself permission to shine, and enjoy being 100% yourSELF!!!

Happy Valentine's Day, and wishing you heaps & heaps self-love!!!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxoxoxoxo

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Don't Be Afraid Of Dogs That Are Far Away

Every ten years or so, I come across my New Year's Resolutions from 1981, one of which was Don't be afraid of dogs that are far away. And I think it's kinda cool that, even at the age of 5, I was still, SO ME: interested in my own betterment, comforting myself, and giving myself advice - about overcoming fear no less - much like I am still doing 26 years later. Other resolutions included the oh-so-wise Apple juice in the morning, Milk at night (I was very concerned about overnight sugar-induced tooth decay), and Don't lock little sister in the closet. And in my defense regarding this last point, I was only 5. Plus it was a walk-in closet, with a window.

But anyway. Getting back to those dogs. As I recall from my 80's version of me, there were some dogs that lived in my neighborhood, and they would bark, and even when I was in the safety of my own home, even when these dogs were very far away, I would be afraid. And I imagined them to be much worse than dogs - coyotes maybe, or lions AND tigers AND bears ALL living in my backyard, and if not mine, then definitely in the backyard of my friend from nursery school who lived down the street, and had a HUGE backyard, which seemed, to my 5-year-old self, to be a forest, or possibly some kind of enchanted woods.

So today, in 2007, I still find myself from time-to-time, afraid of and worrying about "dogs" that are very far away, my anticipation often much worse than the actual events or circumstances. Looking back on 2006, I had two Big Changes, which of course can be scary, and the bigger the change, the scarier (but also, the flip-side of this can be true: the bigger the change, the greater the seed of opportunity). The first one came in the middle of the year, and I saw it coming, and anticipated it with fear. I'd like to think that as a result of my self-help obsession and yoga practice and eternal quest for knowledge and self-betterment, I would have handled this situation with the calm, ease, and grace of the Buddha, or at least that of Deepak Chopra or Marianne Williamson, but the fact is, it totally...sucked. It was incredibly scary and painful, even worse than I had imagined, and I handled it by crying. A lot. But somehow...I got through it.

The second Big Change came months later, and was something that most everybody, including myself, would fear. But then, it happened and...I wasn't afraid. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as I had anticipated. I just did the next indicated thing then the next then the next, and focused on staying in the present and it - and I - was totally...fine.

So as the New Year begins, take some time to think about what your scary far-away dogs are, you know, the ones that keep you up at night, or that pop into your head throughout the day and agitate you with their far-away barks. And you know what? If these things ever did happen, sometimes you will be prepared and handle them with calm, ease, and grace, and sometimes, they will just totally suck. But maybe just maybe, by focusing on this moment, and being present to what is, now, you will discover that those Big Bad Dogs are nothing to lose sleep over after all, and perhaps they are just a group of yappy Toy Poodles with a collective attitude problem.

Here's to being fabulously fearless in 2007!!!

Lots of love!!!

Jen xoxoxox

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lookin' For Love In All The Wrong Places

I have an addictive personality, and luckily, relatively harmless, non-glamorous addictions to go with it. Coffee. Diet Coke. Work. Checking email and voicemail. (I don't text. I am already obsessed enough with my aforementioned inboxes to add another element into the mix of my media diet.)

And. I've figured it out. Here's the thing: I'm looking for love in all the wrong places. No, not with bad boys and "men who can't love," but in my inbox. And honey, my inbox ain't never gonna love me back.

I get this little stomach flip whenever I check my voicemail or email, like: This is going to be It. There will be some message in there that will change my life as I know it. Just pluck me right out of my life, which can be, at times, frustrating, exhausting, disappointing, boring, and just so damn real, and plunk me smack-dab in the middle of my dream existence, which will be ever-exciting and chock-full of razzle-dazzle moments befitting of my best and brightest self drinking eight glasses of water and getting eight hours of sleep while simultaneously eating perfectly portion-controlled macrobiotic meals and meditating in headstand pose on a zero-humidity good-would-be-an-understatement hair day.

Like, for instance, I will be visited by an email from some great big, significant theatre that wants to produce my plays, or a publisher offering up a three-book deal, or an uber-agent, or someone from the great beyond who will take my career to this whole nother level, in the realm of my dreams and most wildest of wild possibilities. And it doesn't even have to be limited to something I have submitted for - this email or voicemail can come from something even greater, bigger, and more magical.

Or maybe the Message-To-Change-My-Life will come from a man; some fabulous and possibly perfect man from my past (I can't believe I never saw him in this light before!) or future (oooh, time travel, neat!) will step out from cyberspace or through the phone lines to declare his love for me.

Other not-fulfilling places to look for validation and approval include (but are by no means limited to), in the number of: messages, comments, friends, friend requests, pokes, whatevers on Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Whatever. (Side note: I was "heavily involved" with my MySpace page for approximately three days before I realized that this was an obvious recipe for disaster re: my precious time and see also: my self-esteem. In a world where a book or a movie can make more friends in a day than I can ever hope to have in a lifetime...that's just weird, right?) Oh, and this one's pretty rare, but do you happen to know anyone who is addicted to their CrackBerry???

I am a dreamer and a believer, a hope-ful romantic, and I know that this is a very good thing. Where it comes around to bite me in the boo-tay is when I rely on others - real and imagined - to tap me with an e-wand and sprinkle cellular fairy dust over me and make all my dreams come true. To validate me. Approve of me. Love me.

The holiday season brings its own kind of magic into the air, and also its own set of expectations, obligations, disappointments, stresses, worries, expenses, and anxieties. It is also a great time to give gifts to yourself (which, as I confirmed with a shopping-bag-laden acquaintance in the elevator the other day, can turn out to be the most rewarding and fulfilling gifts of all; no surprises, disappointments, or unmet expectations!). If you have similar techno-addictions, think about taking a cue from Victorian Moran's book Creating a Charmed Life* and give yourself the gift of "Banning the Buzz" (ie take a break from phones, computers, emails, Internet, television, DVR, iPods et al. Yes, that includes BlackBerries. Just put it on the ground, put your hands in the air, and step away slowly...) for a day or two this holiday season, and look inside yourself instead of in your inbox or on your MySpace page for that happy fluttery feeling of joy, contentment, possibility, and hope. And while you're there, give yourself heaping doses of validation, approval, and love, from yourself, to yourself. And maybe throw in a spa treatment or two for good measure. I find that a pedicure and/or a massage never hurts to nudge yourself in the direction of feeling great...

Enjoy the holidays and Happy Writing!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

*For more information on Creating a Charmed Life and Victoria Moran, visit

Monday, November 27, 2006

Trust Me On This One...

Trust is what I've been "working with" (would be the more positive, self-help-y way to describe it; "struggling with" would be more accurate and descriptive, and "struggling against" would capture what it really feels like even more) lately. And more specifically still, trusting myself. Which, at first blush, it would seem like trusting myself would come a lot easier than trusting others. After all, I can't see into anyone else's minds and know if they are telling the truth, or if they have some sort of ulterior motive, or are flat-out lying, whereas I can see into my own mind. Sort of.

Only. I have been known to um, lie to myself. Or give myself advice that is not always well, good. I sometimes enter into a state of denial. I have even been known, once in a while, to have ulterior motives with myself. And from time-to-time, I flat-out self-sabotage.

When I have to make a decision, big or small, one method I sometimes employ is this: I roll it around in my head, which offers many, often divergent, viewpoints. Then I add more opinions in the form of advice from others and maybe a book or two, and on top of that, throw in the perceived expectations of friends, family, and co-workers, fold in societal expectations at large, and then mull that whole brew over as well. And by the time this process really gets going, I barely know right from left, and second and third and seventeenth guess myself and my every thought on the matter at hand until I land someplace very far away from my confident inner knowing and peaceful personal truth, which I know is in there somewhere, as I think I remember passing it along the way to my detour to complete inner chaos.

So. With so many voices - inner and outer - trying to pipe in and state their cases on every decision, how do you know which one is the real you, your true voice trying to whisper the answer to you amidst this din of despair?

I recently read the best way I have ever come across (and I have been looking for a long time!) to distinguish your truest most true inner voice from all that competing noise. In Michael Neill's book "You Can Have What You Want," (p. 81) he writes:

"If you're ever not sure whether you're hearing the voice of inspiration or "that voice inside your head," use this simple guideline: The still, small voice within doesn't think you suck." (for more info, go to


One way to cultivate and nurture trust in yourself is this: Don't get mad at/hate yourself (wherever you may fall on any given day on this continuum) for everything you haven't been able "get" or "get right." Instead, try loving and accepting yourself for all you have be able to, and while you're at it, for all you haven't, too. There is a reason certain things, areas of your life, people, relationships, recurring issues and themes etc. have been difficult for you, and kindness, compassion, and acceptance (as opposed to anger, hate, and resistance), are the only ways you'll ever be able to understand what that reason is, how it has benefited you in the past, and why it is ok to let it go now.

So listen to that non-sucky voice within and it will tell you exactly what you need to hear. It will always tell you the truth.

Trust me on this one. Or more importantly: Trust Yourself.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John Mayer Gets Anxiety Attacks, or, My Twitch

Winding it down and wrapping it up on the month of obstacles and John Mayer, there is one more thing I think you should know about him:

John Mayer gets anxiety attacks. It's true. I read it in Rolling Stone. ("...Mayer started having crippling anxiety attacks, which he's only conquered in the past two years - to this day, he keeps a Xanax in the small pocket of his jeans at all times as an insurance measure." -9/21/06 p. 70).

A few weeks before I started teaching my first writing class, I started to worry at a higher frequency than normal. And as a result, I developed this twitch under my eye that was:

a) fast

b) furious

c) constant

d) totally. completely. visible. all. the. time.

It was um, more than annoying.

I called my doctor and he told me that it was normal and I should try the following:

a) cardiovascular exercise (I'll try it...I'd been looking for a reason to buy cute new running shoes and what better reason than doctor-recommended?)

b) hot compresses (Sounds reasonable)

c) cut back on sugar (Wait, 'cut back' means I can still have some, right?)

d) lay off the caffeine (WHAAAAAAAAT?????!!!!)

He reiterated that it was perfectly normal, there was nothing to worry about (!), and then he volunteered that his wife's lip twitches when she gives presentations, ostensibly to make me feel better, but this just gave me one more thing to worry about: You mean my twitch can spread??? To an even more visible location???

It was also suggested to me by concerned friends, relatives, people in the medical profession, and a recovering alcoholic, that I should drink more (a glass of red wine every now and then wouldn't hurt!), and oh yeah, try to relax.

Ok, this is how it played out in the day-to-day realm: Me and all my anxieties were totally transparent. Like, I couldn't pretend to be calm. I would be talking to someone, and they would say something that stressed me out, or their person or presence or essence alone would stress me out, and the twitch would start up even faster, and more furious, and then I'd have to run away. I was your basic, anxious, open book, parading every nuanced fluctuation of every anxious thought for all the world, or at least everyone who saw me, to see.

Here are some more highlights:

-I'd start off every day with an email to my friend: "Day Three of My Twitch" or "Day Four: Still Going Strong!"

-I saw an ex from afar and dodged him through a serious of intricate alternate route maneuvers as I knew he'd set it off.

-I was so anxious about relaxing it even twitched in yoga class!

Life was so much easier, and I was so much more calm and less twitchy when I wasn't trying to transcend past limiting thoughts and overcome patterns of resistance in pursuit of my dreams! It made me kind of want to chuck it all and hide my twitchy self under my covers and just let my dreams slide this time around...maybe I would do better next time...

But in the end, what this whacked-out mind-body connection taught me, was that I had to get control of my thoughts and keep moving forward. And I had this handy little visual aid to help me view my progress. Calm thoughts = no twitch.

I am totally fascinated with how people who are living their dreams overcome fear, or if they even feel it all. A few years ago I interviewed a young singer who had performed one night in front of a packed house and record label executives, and from that performance had scored competing bids from major labels. And I was so curious like, what was she thinking, doing, and feeling right before she went on that night, knowing that this was going to be this grand moment in her life, this career-making, life-altering moment? What did she do to not totally choke and f*ck it up? How did she summon up that much courage, that much trust, and that much faith? And she said, that right before she performs, she always...hates herself. And curses herself like, Why did I choose this profession? Why do I do this to myself??? And then she goes out there and rocks the house.

When I am really afraid, and shaking either in my metaphorical boots or visibly, for the world to see, it kind of tips me off that I am going in the right direction, and as much as I want to crawl under my covers and take a personal day (or 365), I have to keep moving forward, through the fear and, as a yoga teacher I had used to say, out the other side. Cause the tricky sticky thing about fear is, you can't run away from it. You have to go through it to come out of it.

But dude, JOHN MAYER GETS ANXIETY ATTACKS!!! And if he can do it, so can I. And so can you.

We all can.

Happy November!

Lots of love!



John Mayer Recap: Here are some fun YouTube links to John Mayer songs that I have mentioned this month but have not yet linked to!

"Waiting on the World to Change"

"I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Keep Me Where The Light Is

When I was maybe 3 or 4 years old, my Dad took me to Six Flags Great Adventure, and you had this option to drive in the regular way, or you could drive in through this Wild Safari complete with real live animals, so I'm sure to create some great adventure for his young daughter, my Dad chose the safari route. Only, when we were driving through, the animals didn't really have a proper respect for boundaries, and these insane hyper monkeys starting jumping up and down, like crazy, as if they were purposely tormenting us, on the roof of my Dad's very nice, very new car. Like I said, I was only 3 or 4, but I can imagine that my Dad, inside, was like: "Those Motherf*ckers!"


In Buddhism it is called monkey mind. In yoga class they often refer to it as chita vritis. In Nathalie Goldberg's book Writing Down the Bones she calls it "Something that creates busyness to keep us away from our true heart." It is that constant discursive thought, the inner monologue that plays continually throughout the day and into the next. And my chita vritis can be crazy! Some days my mind will move, without rest, from worry to worry, to do to to do, stress to stress, concern to concern, until I fall asleep, and then start fresh as soon as my alarm goes off the next morning:

-"Why did I say/do/think/feel that?"

-"Where did I put that?"

-"What do I have to do next?"

-"What if (fill in the blank)?"

-"I'll never (fill in blank)."

-"I don't have enough (fill in the blank) to (fill in the blank)."

-"That was/this is/I am (insert negative word of your choosing here; usually some variation on the theme of "not enough")."

Sound familiar?

Some days all I can think about them, inside, is: "Those Motherf*ckers!"

It has been pointed out to me that it is the mechanism, not the individual thought, that causes the problem. Like, it doesn't so much matter what I thought I wrote on that Post-It that I have since lost that is probably something really important that I have to remember to do, that I have since completely forgotten. The object of stress is irrelevant; it is just a symptom of the overarching problem - the attachment to, or the habit of, being stressed, and focusing on what is wrong all the time.

There are moments when, walking around, I remember this, I remember that all I have to do is quiet my thoughts for a second and take in what's around me, what's happening in the present, and that this is enough. And in these brief moments, I have lost my breath at the overwhelming beauty of - life, the trees, the street, the people, the brownstones, the day - whatever is around and in front of and within me. I'm not sure why, but it can be so difficult to just bliss-out in the present and let go of worries, because that goes against what we are all accustomed to do, how we have been conditioned to live. It can scarily feel like free-falling to just enjoy what is, now, and acknowledge that it doesn't matter what is on the Post-It, or where it is, and know that, if it is truly important, it will come back to me anyway when I need it. It can feel like that line in the movie American Beauty: "Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it...and my heart is going to cave in." It actually feels exactly like that.

Relating this back to John Mayer, as I promised, he has a song (on his fabulous new cd Continuum) called "Gravity":

(Check it out on YouTube...

Gravity is working against me

And gravity wants to bring me down

Oh I'll never know

What makes this man

With all the love

That his heart can stand

Dream of ways

To throw it all away...

...Wo-oh, gravity

Stay the hell away from me

Wo-oh, gravity

Has taken better men than me

How can that be?

Just keep me where the light is

Just keep me where the light is

At this point he repeats that line a whole bunch of times and this choir comes in ooo-ing and ahh-ing to emphasize his point. It is very dramatic.

Ever the English major, I can't resist a good analysis and interpretation. Therefore, I take "gravity" to mean his monkey mind (would his non-monkey mind intentionally dream of ways to throw everything away?), and "the light" to mean that soft, calm, fuzzy, blissful, buoyant, airy, light space between thoughts, the place that your quiet mind, your true self, rests. This is the point of creation; a place to write from, and a place to live from.

I was in yoga class last week when the teacher was explaining oujai breath, the audible breathing practice used during asana practice. She said that it means "victorious breath," which I had kind of assumed was so-named because it went with the "warrior" theme of the poses, but what she said was, it is so-named because what you want is something to focus on so intensely that you can have victory over your own thoughts.

This week, tell your monkeys to play nice, or even better, give them a Time Out, so you can have some peace, some quiet, some breath, some space, and some light. And then, even if just for a moment, you will be victorious.

Keepin' it where the light is,



Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Who The %^*$# Put That Brick There?!

Hey there!

Hope you are enjoying this fabulous fall, rainy weather and all! I am in still in O for October and (letting go of) Obstacles month, here are some updates...

I co-taught the very-first ever Releasing Obstacles Yoga & Writing Workshop last weekend with the incredible Robin Pickering and it was a great success! We spent the day with a truly phenomenal group of women yoga-ing and writing, and I even put my money where my mouth is and let go of an obstacle myself on-the-spot! I got up (and stayed up!) in headstand curl, my own affectionate term for that pre-headstand pose where you are balancing on your head and your legs are curled in. I have been practicing yoga for 8 1/2 years and have had a major fear of this pose the whole time! I remember early on in my yogic career hearing somebody say that it took them 5 years of practicing to get up in headstand, so I was like: "Cool, good to know, I have plenty of time," and then I let myself off the hook for the next 8 1/2 years without really trying, and just opting instead to kind of make a show of rolling around on my head and killing time for a few minutes during the headstand portion of class, before resting in child's pose. Phew. That resistance/avoidance thang is exhausting.

This is how it always went. Until last weekend. I was so excited I got (and stayed!) up, I was wiggling my toes the whole time like, "Look, Ma, no, er, feet!" hoping that the teacher (Robin) would see, since I was afraid to speak, thinking that any vocal vibrational frequencies might topple me over. Anyway, it wasn't a fluke, and I have since repeated this feat, and these days you can find me, you know, hanging out upside-down balanced on my head and wiggling my toes whenever I get the chance...this of course can be some great metaphor for my life, which I am still in the process of narrowing down and figuring out...

And speaking of metaphors, I am taking a week off from the sub-theme of this month, which is John Mayer, but rest-assured I will return to him again next week unless some new, better inspiration (is this even possible???) crops up between now and then. This week, in sticking with the obstacle thang, and the metaphor thang, I am republishing a posting from my blog about a time I felt stuck...

Thanks for reading and HAPPY WRITING!!! Have a phenomenal week!!!

Lots of love!


See: "My Bathtub is a Metaphor for My Life" - Monday, August 21, 2006 (The title of this posting only makes sense when cross-referenced with that particular blog posting. And then it will all come together. I love when that happens...)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Waiting On The World To Change

I have been thinking a lot about obstacles lately. Ok. I'm always thinking about obstacles. Mainly because, those little suckers are usually the only thing standing between me and, well, my dreams. And in honor of the upcoming workshop that I am co-teaching about releasing obstacles, and because October starts with the letter 'O' as does 'obstacles,' I have decided that those pesky little dream-deferrers would make an excellent focus this month.

Let me preface this by saying that on September 12th, I got so excited about the release of Justin Timberlake's new cd, and with good reason, but that this turn of events also had a downside, in that it overshadowed the release of another fantastic cd on that very same day - John Mayer's Continuum. And let me further say that the first song on this cd is entitled "Waiting On The World To Change." And for the purposes of this essay, I am going to (almost) entirely disregard his personal life, and focus solely on his talent, which I find to be ample and abundant, and his lyrics, which I find to be insightful and deep, often encapsulating a feeling I have experienced just so as to give me a gasp of an A-ha! Moment. An example of this is a lyric on track 2 where he plaintively inquires: "Who do you love? Me or the thought of me?" And can I just say that in that moment I was like: "Woah, Johnny, I've so been there! I've totally loved the thought of at least one man, and at least one man has totally loved the thought of me, and between us, me and said man, we couldn't find a real him or a real me anywhere, and this of course, leads to problems in the relationship, more or less down the road."

So I feel, on certain topics, John Mayer just gets it right, and listening to "Waiting On The World To Change," I couldn't help but think that this is one of those topics.

Here's the thing: any spiritual guru will tell you that many if not most obstacles are self-created. Deepak Chopra, for instance, totally says this. Which can be annoying if you are trapped in the middle of what feels like infinite insurmountable obstacles and you're like, "Duh, why would I do this to myself?" There are, of course, endless reasons, some explainable and some not, but the fact is, it happens.

Following are a mere few examples, a small sampling if you will, of obstacles that I may or may not have had more or less experience with: low self-esteem, negative self-talk, unhealthy relationships, lack of purpose, excessive and unnecessary drama, complaining, self-defeating patterns, habits of resistance/avoidance, perfectionism, obsession with tabloid journalism (major time-suck!)...the list goes on...and then, on top of that, attachment to any of the aforementioned items, which again, like: "Duh, why would I be in a bad situation and then get attached to it???" But you know, it happens. You may or may not have experienced anything like this. (Please note: 'attachment' is pretty much code for 'obstacle.' If you have an attachment to anything, it might as well come with its very own, personalized, customized, just-for-you obstacle course.)

Following is an example of one of my personal favorite self-created obstacles: I have wanted to teach writing for years, but at some point I made this decision that I couldn't do it until I had a graduate degree and one of my plays was on Broadway and had potentially won a Pulitzer Prize. And a few years ago, I applied to some grad school programs, and I got rejected from all of them, so I was pretty much like: "Ok dream, it was nice knowing you. Thanks for all the memories..." On one of my rejection letters an admissions officer had even hand-drawn a smiley face and written something to the effect of "Don't give up!", which seemed to be moving in a more positve, cheerful direction as far as rejection letters go, but still, it was just that, and NOT acceptance.

A year post-rejection, I was having drinks with a friend one day and she was like: "Why don't you teach writing?" And I was about to go into the litany of reasons why I couldn't, but instead, I decided to do something radical, and just try it, Pulitzer-prizeless and lacking $100,000 in educational debt. I love it so much, and it turns out that my beloved obstacles weren't as concrete as I believed them to be.

We can wait for the world to change, or wait for ourselves to change, or wait for our obstacles to disappear on their own, or we can do something. We can start something. We can create something simply by beginning it. We can pick one of our favorite, time-tested, self-created obstacles and just, fire it. Just for the month. And you can get it back next month if you decide things were better off with it, but I am guessing that this won't be the case.


Happy Obstacle-Free October!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxoxo

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Member that class in grade school? Where they explained Relationships? That I missed? Well, this week, I feel like someone(s) slipped me the notes!

Thank you for the incredible response to my last week's newsletter about "The Last Kiss," and for sharing everything from personal stories and concerns, to relationship coaches and workshops! I am so grateful for all your thoughtful emails and comments, that I'd thought I'd share a few of "the notes" this week.

Overall, the overwhelming response was that - and this may be incredibly obvious but is worth stating I think - committed relationships require kept promises, work, and well, commitment. Without any further adieu...

"...Relationships are just like your job -- it you coast in the office, you get canned. If you coast in your relationships they fall apart. A lot of people refuse to acknowledge this fact. They figure you fall in love and you can go on auto pilot. Nothing could be further from the truth. The longer you're with someone, the harder you need to work."

"You ask a lot of good questions. Relationships ARE tricky, and, I think, inherently difficult, but doesn't something difficult make the trying all that more rewarding? Media tends to view modern love relationships with with either a rose colored lens or an eye of skepticism and what I call the eye of the "Casualty Vampire." How many magazines have you seen that suck on the "what went wrong" of this or that relationship? Purely for balance do you see one that focuses on "what's going well"? We have become a society that loves to look at what is going badly because it makes us feel better about ourselves and puts our lives in perspective. However, it has become a fear-based obsession. It seems to me that, like Zach Braff's character, many of my friends are avoiding relationships for fear of what might go wrong, and many more avoid marriage for the same reason. I strongly believe that were America to turn off its televisions, we'd have a much easier time living in relationships and letting them evolve without judgment."

And one of my personal favorites:

"Amen, sister."


So, with love (and how does it all work???) on the mind, I got an email this weekend with the subject line "baby pics" from a friend I haven't been in touch with for years. I met him three and a half years ago on a yoga retreat, and at that time he was in his mid-40's and recently divorced from a woman he had been married to for 17 years, lived with for two years before that, and dated for three years before that even. And this email I received, three and a half short years later, contained pictures of his second wife's sonogram, along with her upcoming due date. I didn't even know he was dating anyone!

I emailed him to congratulate him and get up-to-date, and it turns out that he met her a few months after the retreat when they were seated next to each other on an airplane, they got married last year, and now they are expecting their first child. He is so excited, and says he feels like he's started his life all over again.


So there's a huge divorce rate. And stories. And movies. And TV shows. And magazine articles. About infidelity. About problems and fights, disagreements and disappointments. About how men don't understand women and women can't understand men. About how marriage will forcibly, violently, suck all the life and joy out of you and then leave you for dead, emotionally wasted at the side of some ditch (See: Fox's "'Til Death," and don't even get me started!). Or about how relationships must be perfect or you need to get out, and fast! (like, now for instance) and hurry up and get something/one better, setting unrealistic (See: impossible) expectations, that nothing/one could ever live up to.

But still. I know way more than 3 couples who are happy together. And Zach Braff's actual, unparaphrased line in the movie "The Last Kiss" was that he will marry his girlfriend when she can name 3 couples that have lasted for more than 5 years. And I know way more than 3 of those, too, who have been together for way longer than that. Hey, I know someone who started over and is starting a family at 49.

I am reminded of the title of the Raymond Carver story I read in college "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," and that I can choose what to talk about, what to think about, and what to believe, when it comes to love, and when it comes to everything really. So despite the numbers that are being thrown at me, at us, by society, and the media, I have my own numbers to go on, and they have taught me that I enjoy a good, real, true love story with all its juicy up-and-down-ness - all the complexities, complications, triumphs, and more - and that above all, I believe in love.

Stay tuned for next week, I have decided that October is the official month of OBSTACLES, namely, KICKING THEM TO THE CURB! And there might be some John Mayer mixed in there somewhere, you know how I love those pop influences. I'm pretty sure I can make it relevant...

Until then, Happy Writing, and live and love it up this week!



Monday, September 18, 2006

Some Thoughts Re: Love, Writing & "The Last Kiss"

I was listening to Z100 yesterday, the Top 40 countdown (as I've already established last week, I love pop music and I'm proud of it!), and there was an interview with Zach Braff so I listened harder. He was, of course, talking about his (great!) new movie "The Last Kiss." I don't want to totally misquote him or anything, so let me just toss out a disclaimer up front: what I am going to do is hugely paraphrase what he said, and then mostly extrapolate what I took it to mean.

He said that the institution of marriage is in trouble, and it is like this big pink elephant in the room that no one is talking about. And it just kinda seems like that is what everybody does - go down that Marriage/Baby Track on auto-pilot, without stopping to question some of the problems, or think about the 50% or whatever divorce rate. And he talked about how, in the movie, his character (Michael) says to Jacinda Barrett's character (his pregnant girlfriend, Jenna) something to the effect of (to paraphrase): "I will marry you when you can tell me three couples you know whose relationship isn't in trouble." And then Zach went on to say that he actually tried to play this game with people who interviewed him, but using only Hollywood couples, and no one could ever come up with three, and the happy couples they could find were all on their second marriages...

Anyway, his overarching point was, or what I took it to be at least was, that this movie opens up a discussion about what nobody is discussing.

Ok, I know three couples who have great relationships! Actually, I know (at least) NINE couples who have great relationships, who are wonderful together, and happy. So if you see Zach, tell him I want to play that game with him and I will WIN IT times three (!), because I love competition, even when something (like, uh, this) is clearly non-competitive. But maybe this is just a statistical anomaly. Back to the movie (for now).

I loved it. So much. I want to marry it. I heard that it had gotten terrible reviews, so just to be journalistic-ish and try to see both sides, I looked up the review in The New York Times Which (paraphrase!), basically says that Zach/Michael is unsympathetic, and that Jacinda/Jenna has the potential to be a strong character, but isn't fleshed out enough. However, this is what I loved about this movie: It is honest (this is something The Times review and I agree on). And the characters are so flawed, and so struggling, and so lost, and so scared, and making mistakes left-and-right, but for the most part, they are trying. They are doing the best they can, which often isn't good enough (do you know that feeling?), but it is. What it is. An attempt. And a big ol' mess. All at once.

And this is where I diverge from The Times and we go our separate ways, because I felt for Zach/Michael, in a sympathetic way. Which, I am totally not Pro-Cheating, and if you ask me to take a stance on cheating I will come out very strongly in favor of Anti-Cheating, in a No-Exceptions kind of way. But this movie does not make it so easy. It does not say: here is a Bad Person doing a Bad Thing - hate him!!! Instead it paints this murky picture of right and wrong, where things are not so clear-cut (um, like things are sometimes known to be in real life), and people make mistakes, and it is the opposite of easy to just dismiss them. It is rip-your-soul-apart-feel-the-consequences painful, confusing, and just plain old-fashioned sad. And by the way, ZB has one of the best, most agonizingly edge-of-your-seat human moments I have ever seen in a movie when he has to make a tough decision and it - his face, his decision, this moment - is so scarily real I could feel it from my seat (which I was at the edge of and) which was so very far away from him, across the country even, and to me, that's a pretty good and rare movie to do that.

And as for the conversation that no one is having, I have often said that I feel like I was absent the day that Relationships were explained in grade school, and no one gave me the notes. What seems so obvious and easy for others has traditionally been confusing and difficult for me. I have felt like I am the only one who doesn't get it. Like, why won't anyone talk about the complexities and challenges of relationships? Not the (often self-created) "drama," which people do talk about, myself included, but the nuts-and-bolts of how two individuals can become one loving, healthy, couple in a loving, healthy relationship that really works, that isn't in trouble, that makes its participants more happy than sad. I know and believe it's possible but. I have questions! I want answers!

Well, this movie will not give you any answers. What it does do is ask a shitload of questions. I hate rules, and if you ask me to take a stance, I will come out very strongly Anti-Rule, Anti-Grammar, Anti-Punctuation, Anti-Everything!, but what screenwriter Paul Haggis does in "The Last Kiss" is one of my favorite "rules" of writing: always. Always. ALWAYS. ASK MORE QUESTIONS THAN YOU ANSWER. This is why I aim to do this in my own writing: I don't have all the answers (no one does!), and I could not even begin to think about pretending to. And also. What this does is: it starts a conversation. I hate. Hate. HATE to the point of RAGE (which is potentially my own, separate issue), when books/movies/plays/anything give me all the answers and then tie everything up with a cute little pink bow (even though I love the color pink). First of all, I feel like doing that assumes the far below-average intelligence of the reader/viewer/anything/me, and I hate being assumed to be below average; I find it offensive and, as previously stated, rage-inducing. And also: the neat little bow is a huge conversation-stopper. After you get the answers spoon-fed to you, who cares anymore? Unanswered questions and unwrapped bows leave something to wrap your brain around, something to haunt you, and most importantly, something to discuss. And maybe some clarity will emerge out of that discussion. Nothing will ever emerge out of the idiot-proof pink bow.

So, in conclusion, keep asking, keep talking, and if it is what you want to do in your life, KEEP WRITING! To quote Tom Wilkinson's character (Jenna's father, Stephen): "Do whatever it takes." And maybe some clarity will emerge...

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo