Full of Thanks

A year ago for Christmas, a friend of mine gave me a gratitude jar. Every time I was grateful I was to write my gratitude on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, I could look back over everything for which I was grateful. I’m sorry to say that jar stands on my bookshelf empty. (Sorry, Tana.) However, it is not because I was not grateful. If I’d actually followed through, the jar I was given couldn’t possibly have held all the paper slips I would have put into it. A gallon jar, maybe.

I am so very thankful. Lately I find myself thankful for the most basic things. We’ve had some rain, and it made me so grateful that I can afford a warm and dry home. This is not a “yada yada yada, I need to try to be grateful” thought. I am sincerely thankful for the financial resources to have rented a decent house. That has not always been the case. There was a house in LA that I loved simply because it was a house with a yard and I’d been living in apartments. House is being generous. It was a shack. The roof leaked. There was missing siding, and that, combined with the cracked drywall, meant that there was a breeze in my bedroom. No central air or heat. No insulation. Threadbare carpet. Mold under the curling linoleum. I lived that way for 15 years because it was the only way I could afford to live in a house in LA. Now I appreciate a home with a solid roof and walls, and the ability to pay for it more than I ever would have if I’d never lived in that shack.

I am thankful for the people here who welcomed me as if I was a friend who’d been away for a few years and had come home. Uprooting 25 years of life and starting over is absolutely terrifying. They made it seem effortless. I am grateful for each and every person who has graced my life with their friendship and made me feel instantly at home.

There is immense thanksgiving for a job I love. Six months ago I was struggling to learn the names of our clients and put them together with faces. Now I know the names and faces, and enjoy seeing them whenever they come in to work out. Work is a constant flow of friendly faces sharing stories, jokes, and laughs.

Even more, I am thankful work provides variety and outlets for creativity. Years ago I was watching an episode of the Daily Show where they were saying goodbye to a producer who was moving on to another show. Jon Stewart described how he started at the bottom, was really good at what he did, and they thought, “Huh, I wonder if he’d be good at this, too. And he was.” And that happened over and over again until he was producing. As he told that story, I literally started to sob. That was the experience I thought I would have at CBS. I thought when I got to a national network, and people saw me as hard working, responsible, and pleasant, they’d think, “Huh, yeah, she’s good at prompting, but I bet she’d be good at this, too.” And up, up, up and away I’d go. Instead what I experienced was, “She’s really good at this thing and other people aren’t always so good. She’s dependable. She does whatever we ask. Since it makes our lives easier if she keeps prompting, let’s make sure she keeps doing that.” It felt like such a betrayal, though I’ve since learned that’s standard operating procedure there. Why, I have no idea. Seems very short sighted. Anyway, I am now in a situation much closer to the Daily Show.  Yes, some of my duties include taking out the trash, invoicing clients, collecting money, and answering the phone. However, I know on any given day I might be asked to write a press release, or design a flyer, or take on a task that my boss believes I can handle even though I’ve never done it before. Shoot, they even got me to be on camera in a comedy sketch. Work is challenging. There are possibilities. Having been without it for 20 years, I am so thankful for that!

The list could go on and on and on and on and I could probably do a paragraph on each thing I’m thankful for. I’ve come to realize that the things I’ve listed here, and many others, are all the sweeter because I have been without them. So, the very final slip of paper I’d put in this year’s gallon jar of gratitude is for those periods of lack. It’s not something I could have done at the time, but now I see that they have given me much of my joy today.

So, today I am full of thanks… and pumpkin pie… but mostly thanks. May you be as well.

And Tana, next year, I promise… I’ll start actually filling the jar.

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I Yam What I Yam

As I had hoped in last week’s blog, there is positive news to report this week. Regardless of whether or not the sale falls apart in the last few days, I am leaving LA on Friday. My car has been sold. Reservations have been made. It’s so exciting I can barely stand it. There have also been sad goodbyes along the way. I just don’t understand why my friends don’t move wherever I move so we can keep hanging out. I mean really!

Whole30 came to a rapid close when my digestive tract decided to absolutely flip out. At the moment, eating anything but yogurt makes me nauseous and I have constant heartburn. Those are just the symptoms I’m willing to talk about. I lost 2 days to really miserable intestinal pain. I’m 50 so one of the first things I do when I get to my new home is find a doctor and get that fabulous colonoscopy scheduled.

But now the lazy, joy-following period is done. I’m glad I had it because recent weeks have allowed a lot of introspection and have been a revelation to me. As I have felt free to be myself, I have found joy again. When I first came to Hollywood I worried that it would change me. It did, but not in the way I expected. I was worried that I would become arrogant and entitled. Too big for my britches. Instead, I got too small for my britches. I became diminished. It didn’t happen quickly. Over the past… oh… 15 years, I have undergone a gradual transformation into someone I didn’t like much. Now that I’m out of that situation, I see so much more clearly. I look at that person and think, “Who was that?” I look at myself now, and think, “Hey, you’re pretty fun! Let’s go have an adventure”

So how did it happen?

The first 10 years of life in California were freeing. I grew up in rural South Dakota, a sensitive, liberal, creative person who just always felt out of place. In California, it felt like I’d finally found a place where I wasn’t different because everyone was different. First, I was freelancing, meeting new people and new celebrities every day, which was just thrilling. Then I was on a quirky late night talk show that nobody watched and so nobody paid much attention to our motley little group. I was the only woman on the crew, which meant I was often excluded, but on the good side, there was little pressure to be anything other than who I was. I fell into the traditional female role of the mother of the stage. I brought the baked goodies. I organized gifts and cards, and gathered funds for them. I had a role.

When hosts switched and our show became a little more mainstream, the staff and crew grew. As an introvert, I began to feel lost and constantly overlooked. Other people were more exciting and interesing… more shiny, as one friend says. My role disappeared and I wasn’t quite sure how I fit in with this younger, more hip Hollywood crowd. That’s when the gradual changes began. I started dressing differently. Got interested in the things everyone else was interested in. Quit talking about the things I was passionate about. Yes, it took until I was in my 40s but I finally succumbed to peer pressure. I began to be a warped version of myself. I was there, but not quite.

For the most part, my methods seemed to work. On the surface, I fit in. Superficially it all seemed fine, until one day I learned it really wasn’t. When others faced trouble, I’d seen the wagons circle, but for me they scattered. Feeling alone and vulnerable, I armored up. It was a painful period because I realized that I was tolerated more than included. Not only had I failed to be accepted, but now I was left with this person I didn’t like much. I slipped back into a familiar coping mechanism when faced with something I had to endure. I suited up with thick plate armor, looked neither left nor right, and marched down the field, warding off whatever blows came my way until I got to the other side. After one hiatus, wonderful periods where my true self would surface and gasp for air, I was talking on the phone with a friend and joked, “Yeah, hiatus is over, now I have to put on the armor of bitterness and anger.” We laughed, but it was actually heartbreaking.

Did I really need to have such strong protection? Of course not. It was just the method that had worked so well in the past. This time, having processed the entire episode as an adult, I am hoping to avoid going through the pattern again.

In fact, I am making myself a promise to help prevent it. From now on, I refuse to be anyone other than who I am. I’m going to like what I like, think what I think, do what I do, dress how I dress, and if those things agree with you? Great. Let’s hang out. If not, have a lovely life with people that are more your speed. If that means I end up alone, well at least I will have the company of someone I like.

I yam what I yam.

So now, the yam I yam is off to adventure. I’ll try to post from the road but we shall see.

The leap is about to commence….

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