Life in General

My Happy Wrinkles.

Who wouldn't want this feeling and all the expression it brings?!
Who wouldn’t want this feeling and all the expression it brings?!

There are milestones in life that we look forward to. Mostly when we’re younger, of course. When you  are five it feels like Christmas or your birthday will never come. You wonder in July if it’s too early to start the list for your Santa letter, and then comes the cruelty of December when gifts start to show up under the tree but you can’t open them yet! Then at fifteen it’s “Mom, mom, mom, MOM! When can I get my driver’s license?” (a word that is interchangeable with freedom at that age.) Then it’s can’t wait for 21 so I can legally drink a beer, which seems only fair, since you’ve been legally able to die for your country since you were 18. Of course, you can get yourself a fully automatic assault rifle and a grenade launcher before you go to kindergarten—”Go ‘Merica! We’re number one!” Why? “Because my toddler can open carry! I don’t got no college fund for him, but I got him this here arsenal! Feel the freedom!!” Of course that a slight exaggeration—key word, slight. (I’m from Georgia. Seen it, lived it, was horrified by it.)

But now, I have a really big milestone coming up. I mean, this is the queen mother of entitlement. In November I will be 55 years of age and I can order off the senior menu. The anticipation is exquisite. Hell, I even heard that Red Lobster will send a bus to pick me up. Bring on the cheese biscuits!

Sweet!! I will get discounts at so many places, and as a second plus, I can be crabby and bitch about the ‘good old days’ and nobody gets to tell me to buck up and get over it. Which is ironic, because I wouldn’t go backwards for all the wrinkle-free skin in California. That’s not so much of a sacrifice, since so much of that ‘younger looking skin’ was created by botulism poison or the surgeon’s knife, and I’m am not okay with that! No because I think it’s unnatural or any crap like that, but because I earned these wrinkles, and dammit, I’m keeping them! Why would I want to erase my smiles or my tears or my most fabulous adventures walking through rainstorms alone or sailing in a rough sea with my brother when we were teens. I’ll keep my moments, and if you think for one minute I care that someone says I look older, you’re right. It makes me happy!!

What a relief growing older has been really. I get to be friends with women without them feeling they have to resent or compete with me, or vice-versa. Men believe that I’m intelligent without that pathetically ignorant look of surprise on their face when I use big words and know what they mean, (and they often don’t.)

At one of my last doctor’s visit, I told my physician, who has known me for many years socially as well as a doctor, that I thought I was having memory loss because sometimes I occasionally couldn’t think of the right word. He laughed, really loud, and then said, “No, I think that’s just you trying to find the perfect word. Big difference.” Bastard wouldn’t even give me an out.

My husband thinks I need a hearing aid, but I’m too smart to tell him he mumbles sometimes. (In my experience, which is vast because, as previously stated, I’m old, it’s easier not to contradict your mate unless it’s life-threatening.) Oh, and please don’t try to tell me some crucial piece of information from your desk in the library while I’m standing at the sink in the kitchen with the water and the dishwasher running simultaneously. I may have lost some hearing range, but I prefer to think of it as hearing selectively. Another benefit to aging. You can pretend the people at the table next to you did not just say something that stupid.

Because my life long impulse has been to correct people, to call them on their bs. I’m still that way when I feel people are being cruel or unfair, I’m not afraid of a fight. If there’s one thing I have learned it’s that some people never do. To me, learning is everything. It’s the point. You can’t ever know everything. But if you keep listening and reading and learning, then knowledge of life and love is the penultimate experience. (That means next to last. Last of course, is death and what comes after, we don’t get to know that until the train leaves the station.)

As always, it comes to choices. I still love the Christmas season, which I define as whatever you choose to celebrate, religion, mythology, philosophy, the seasons, nature, etc. but it’s about the giving now. My favorite part is making Advent calendars for my nieces and nephews. I wrap 24 tiny presents for each of them and number them with the days. They’ve been such a big success that even at 17 and 18, they still enjoy them. Look under (“How to be the favorite Aunt” in my archives for tips.)

I love my birthday because it’s in fall, my favorite season, and because I went into labor with my second child on that day and her birthday is the next day. In truth, I feel guilty about my birthday because people always feel like they should do something for you. I think they should do something for my mom, she’s the one who did all the work! So I send her flowers or call her to wish her happy ‘birth’ day. As a milestone, birthdays don’t count as much to me. But this one…55!

So psyched! I’ll even get 30 percent off on Tuesdays at my favorite thrift store.

I’ll just have to wait for, let’s see, seven Tuesdays. It would be six, but my birthday is on a Wednesday this year.

Come on 55! I feel like a kid again.

Shari, Oct. 8th, 2015

Acting & Experiences, creating character, family, Life in General, writing

I’m Write and You’re Wrong.

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Backstage at “Much Ado About Nothing” with three women who are terrific friends.

As the publication date of “Invisible Ellen” looms ever nearer, and the premier screening of “Scream at the Devil” is less than two weeks away, I find my focus turning to two things, reworking the book’s sequel, “Emerging Ellen,” and making time for my neglected friends.

I’ve been in a work frenzy for the last year, and I have a rather large family, who must, by needs, often come before friends. But now I find myself longing for that simple shared laughter and warm support that only a long time friend can offer. And friends, I realize, could sometimes benefit from some attention from me!

As for the new book, I am doing something I’ve never done before, (though that, in itself, seems to be a theme in my life!) I am removing one complete story line and replacing it with another. Not because I don’t like it, not because it doesn’t have it’s value, heart and excitement, but because I think I’ve gone one plot point too far, and I want to spend the wordage on the building of character.

Sound familiar? They are both the same thing, aren’t they? I could continue to focus on work—which is to say, plot, story, complexities, etc—or I can balance it with time spent with friends—character, laughter, tears, and the arc of developing relationships. As always, I choose both, but my focus, and therefor my time, will be split more evenly.

There’s no right or wrong way to live your life, there’s no ‘supposed to’ or ‘rules,’ there is only what you can do with the strength and passion you have. There are only the choices you make. Do you spend your time seeking ‘success’? Money? Fame? Or do you give to family until there’s nothing left for you? Do you know that there’s a place in between? For us all, there are times, times of great sadness or stress, when we have nothing left to give, and that is when, hopefully, we can turn to others, for a little while, to cast the net that keeps us from falling. And sometimes, we are the ones who need to ‘spot’ our friends, to catch them when they fall.

One good friend just had a baby. She was not trying to get pregnant, did not particularly want children, but it happened and she embraced it, but now finds herself overwhelmed. She said to me, “I don’t really know who I am right now.” Everything in her life is being redefined. I will do what I can to be there for her, to take the baby for a few hours so that she can breathe and remember who she is. I will take her for walks in pretty places so that she not only remembers who she is, but also discovers the magnificent new person she is becoming. And I will devote some of my attention to lauding her for the strength it takes.

I have another friend whose husband passed away a month ago. He drank himself to death, and in the process of his destructive behavior, he left her in a legal and emotional battlefield which she must now face alone, deserted by him. I cannot bury my face in my computer and ignore her pain and need. I might not be able to fix all that, but I can remind her of her grace and class, buoy her up to face the legion of lawyers and the nightmare of uncovering the depth of her husband’s betrayal. I will talk to her as often as I can, I will take a day off to visit a museum with her and remind her that life is bigger, that there is more, that the future holds beauty.

These things take time and energy to do well. That time and energy will come from other areas of my life that will have to slip from fevered pitch to low idling hum. But I feel lucky all the same.

What more can we do? I cannot live others lives for them, they must do that, I am only a character in their story. Writing a book, I can change the story, I can effect the change that brings about the ending as I want it to be, and I truly believe that it is the same in life. We create our friendships and relationships in a different way, and to a different degree, but we can rewrite our story, we can be a strong supporting cast in the dramas that belong to others. And this, we must do, not because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do, but because it makes us complete.

I decided long ago, or perhaps ‘realized’ is more the mot juste, that I need balance to make a real life and be happy. Success to me, equals happiness, not fame or money, or the envy of others. I needed something besides the pursuit of stardom and big houses, that is to say, the things that other people tend to envy. What I needed was to contribute sometimes, and sit back and revel other times, in sunlight on leaves, on the victories of others. What use is a life lived only for how it appears to others? The greatest danger there, in this world of social media and constant exposure, is that people invent themselves to look good to others… and then they begin to believe it. And then they can’t live without that approval and admiration, because they have nothing else.

It reminds me of Michael Caine, when we were working on “On Deadly Ground.” We were sitting in the makeup trailer and I was laughing about a story I had read about myself in an Italian rag magazine that stated that I had been institutionalized for mental illness, overwrought with jealousy. I said, “It’s crazy, the Italians just make stuff up and print it!”

And Michael leaned around his makeup artist and said in that charming cockney accent, “The Italians have got nothing on the British. In England, they make it up…and then they prove it!” We laughed about it.

So, make up your own story, but live it honestly, and make the story about you, not about someone else. Do it for you, not for what you think others see. Give because it makes you better, spend time supporting and cheering for your friends, and even strangers, because it fills your heart and reminds you that we are connected and that without that connection, we are unfulfilled and no trip to the mall, no McMansion will ever fill that frightening void of separation. Remember only this, other’s lives belong to them, yours to you. Own it, fill it, live it, share it, and do it for love and joy.

Write your own story, so that when you read it back, you smile.

 

Shari April 23, 2014

Life in General

Competition, Contests, and other Crap

ImageOkay, here’s my second blog of today, and it’s because of a request someone sent me, (No names!!) to write about competition in the workplace. 

First, let me be clear. I know nothing about ‘the workplace.’ Sadly, I’ve never had a ‘regular’ job. Never been a waitress or a teacher or an executive. I’ve only been an ice skater, a model, an actress and a writer. 

So I do know something about competition. I was raised with it. It screwed me up, big time. Let’s start with life, I was the second of four children, I don’t remember a time in my childhood that my mom didn’t have another kid who needed her attention. And what a group, between the four of us we sang opera, danced, skated, painted, were labeled ‘gifted,’ and on and on.There was only one way to stand out in that group of siblings, and that was to excel. If I wanted mom’s attention, I had to win something. 

And that takes us to ice skating. Here’s the deal. I would go train in other cities, sometimes countries, I would live with a group of other girls, they were my ‘friends.’ Until competition day, then what I wanted most was for them to fail, to fall down, to mess up, so that I could win. Tell me that’s not a twisted way to develop relationships. 

Yikes. Moving on to modeling. A sliver more room for support, I mean there could be more than one winner here, after all, but I still had to get that job over my ‘friends.’ I still judged myself constantly against others, and worse, I was judged, constantly not by my sense of humor or personality, but how I looked on the outside. 

Am I screwed up enough yet? Getting there. Now let’s move on to acting. I sit in a room full of women who look an awful lot like me, we weigh each other up, feel threatened if the casting director seems impressed by their reading, and hope against all hope that we, and not them, are the one who wins the part. 

Now I’m cooked. 

Then I began to do theatre, and the heavens opened, and the sun shone down, and I finally had allies. We had a common purpose, I could truly root for the other actors, I could understand that if they were better, I was better. 

Hallelujah! About friggen’ time. It only took me into my early twenties to get it. The next step was to stop competing with myself. That’s another several years of therapy, money well spent! Did I really need to hike eight miles until I puked? Or could I turn back at four? Why was it that if, in a single day, I wrote a chapter, read to kids at school, hiked, auditioned, cleaned the house and cooked a gourmet dinner, I still went to bed feeling that I hadn’t done enough? 

Competition. 

Now, it isn’t always a bad thing. I heard a saying recently that said you should compete with yourself because then you both win. That’s clever, but not true. What I have found is that the child inside that needs the attention, needs to be exceptional and special, that feels hurt without it inside, also needs a mom. 

Not my mom, she’s great actually. But if there are two people in me, then one of them needs to be the mom and comfort and love the other one, the child. Tell her that it’s okay, hug and rock her. 

It works. And guess what? We both win. 

As for the workplace? Well, all I can say about that is do your best, kick ass, expect the same effort from your peers, but encourage them too, comfort them, ask for their help, and take it when it’s offered. We are better together than we are apart. If you get the promotion, take somebody up with you. If they do, back them up and call in your favors. 

Unless you’re an ice skater. Then baby, you’re on your own. Embrace it, and get some friends who don’t skate. 

This is flippant, I know, but you try summing up one of your major life shapers in less than five hundred words. 

So compete away!! But celebrate too, your successes as well as others. And remember it’s what you are competing for that counts. The gold medal is great, but dying happy is the real goal here. 

That’s the measure of success.

So here’s to the winners. The ones who look back on their lives and say, “I wouldn’t have had it any other way.” 

Shari, December 8, 2012

 

 

Life in General, Nature: Hiking, Wildlife & More

Snakes without Fangs

Snakes without Fangs

I posted a picture on FB of me holding a snake I found on a trail and the comments were interesting. It was clear that people are afraid of the snake, not because it can hurt them or because it’s poisonous, but because it’s a snake. There’s one kind of snake that survives by imitating a rattle snake, the rat snake. That trick works in nature, other animals are fooled, but with humans, well, let’s face it, they just try to kill it anyways.

That’s nothing but ignorance and media gullibility. Snakes do not chase you down, like in Anaconda. (Except maybe black mambas, and I try to steer clear of them.) And living with these amazing creatures is a joy and a gift. I’m no snake expert, but I have bothered to learn what’s dangerous and isn’t in the area where I live and hike, and my life is richer for it. That’s just smart. If I lived in the Serengeti I wouldn’t take a stroll out into lion territory without some way to escape or a knowledge of where the lions are hunting that day.

I relate this fear of the unknown to so many people I know, and things that have happened recently. People get bitten by snakes for two reasons, they step on it, or they poke at it with a stick. If they weren’t afraid of it, they’d take a picture and move on.

Where did we get this fear of what we don’t understand? I recently had someone make a slew of accusations about me on the web, and trust me, it’s not easy to read a bunch of lies about yourself, your husband, and your children. It was someone who thinks she has reason to fear me, and was hissing to try to strike back, but in truth, I see her and her comments, as the fangless, harmless snake poop that they are and the behavior as that of a baser type of creature. Information is a good thing. I know not to fear a rat snake, or even a rattle snake if I’m aware. I know I’m a good mom who works very hard and has made choices in her life to make less money in the short run in favor of a life filled with community and art and mom-ness. I was raised with money, so it isn’t such a motivator for me as it is to someone who comes from nothing. I have a loving family, so I understand that someone who doesn’t, can’t relate to the value of that over a bigger house. Yes, those are my choices. If I wanted what someone else had, trust me, I would have it. I have exactly what I want, a loving, talented, husband, an unbreakable bond with my daughters, my writing, my many incredible friends, and a beautiful home that is a place of laughter, nature, and retreat. I want for nothing, I have an amazing life. Everyday I am thankful for it.

These choices might be impossible for someone to grasp who hasn’t got it. Jewelry and cars cannot replace true accomplishment and contentment, I know this because I have had so much of both. But how would someone know that when they are looking at life through eyes that see only the preconceived? It’s like the harmless rat snake, it can’t hurt you, but you fear it out of ignorance, because you were taught that they’re scary, or worse, because it serves you to try to scare others with the falsehood.

Can’t you just hear that human’s rattle going? The hiss, hiss, of the upset reptile, which really means, of course, “I’m afraid of you, stay away.”

So, as much as I might like to poke certain snake people with a sharp stick, I know better not to, I learned that from snakes. And, come on, it’s just common sense. I’ll keep admiring the real snakes and ignoring the human ones.

So, in conclusion, don’t fear the noise, don’t fear the scales, look at the snake, see how beautiful the pattern of its skin is? How beautifully it moves through the grass?

And the rattle goes, trrrrrrrrrr. Sounds like music to me, part of the symphony of life. Rich, stark, profound and trite, it is all magnificent.

Don’t fear snakes, fear ignorance.

Or just accept that we live with both, and be happy.

Shari, 10-6-2012