Why We Fight.

For Seasons, sitting on concrete in tears for no reason, or reasons I don’t understand. It’s for the grey days with rain and clouds, or just the threat or rain when the threat of what could happen is better than what does. The storm cloud that comes out of nowhere, rolls in from the lake, black and looming – a 10-minute window before all hell breaks through. The beautiful hell of laying in my bed with a Dunhill, brutally hot, a lighting storm streaking the sky, the fan mimicking an air conditioner in form but not function, sweating, dreaming, under red lights. Not being able to have the things that I want, or getting the things I want and not being good enough. Looking like but not becoming. Being afraid, terrified of myself, of being noticed me while desperately wanting to be seen.

The holy women, the men who get it.

Manhattans and movies, cheap beer and bloody Mary’s, pub crawls that end in confusion and echo back years later after different paths and failures and hopes and nothing. The clean, precise mistake of missing out. The thing that is still alive.

The red shoes, paint-splattered, track laid down, frozen in fear. Strange Cargo, Blind Faith, Unicorn. Intelligentsia, Joe, I Deal, Octane, H.

Driving in the rain, lost, but knowing everything, Love for Sale. Alone, down a two-way street for once.

For River Euphrates on repeat, waiting for the last T. Hot shots and tall beers, art over money, and feeling the different versions of what could have been. Never doing what feels natural, not being able to say no, only saying no.

Amtrak, airports, subways, Red Line, Purple line, Green line, silver line, Ts, metro, LIRR, Yaris, Focus, Le Sabre, Impala, the M4.

Porcelain, heavy water/I’d rather be sleeping, How Soon is Now, Closer, Alphabet City, Black Bomb, Bloodstain, Hunter, Reason in Remain, Long Long Long, Time Baby III, I’m Free Now, Squalor Victoria, Odd Said the Doe, The Trees, Caramel, I Can’t Stand It, Blue Dress, Like New, Atmosphere, Dissolved Girl, Aftermath, Soon, Prison Girls, Caught a Lite Sneeze, Riverman, How to Disappear Completely.

Hearing my voice, free-form, correcting grammar and mishearing Brian Eno, playing the same 3 songs over and over like a missive to no one who’s listening. Home at dawn, dorms, apartments, sitting on stoops wondering where everything went wrong, or not yet quite right.

And later, fully formed, amorphous but wondering still. Contemplating an imperative, thinking it will never start, knowing that nothing is ever finished, the story is never over.

april 2

Last week I had a catchup phone call with a dear friend whom I had not spoken with in depth for far too long. The call took place during a particularly low point of my pretty below-sea-level year. I apologized for falling apart, for having my desperation play in my voice and, horribly, my tears. There was a lot of laughter too, as it is with people you love – people who understand you and will be there for you no matter what. Truthfully, this is something I’m only learning now, at 33. That people will be there for you. I’ve cut a lot of people out of my life to spare myself pain. Sometimes they deserved it but most of the time it was incidental – failures of communication on both side and the march of time that creates an uncrossable distance. But I’m trying to get better, be better. Better to myself and others.

My friend is a writer. The excuse for the call was to talk about one of his projects and the anticipation that the care would be returned on one of mine. There was a lot of bad to catch him up on – my mom’s stroke, my dad’s cancer, my joblessness and periodic, momentarily waxing depression – so it was all a bit too much to not laugh. At one point I asked him why we write – why we still do this to ourselves. Allow the constant tide of disappointment and blank pages. This question was rhetorical, of course. In addition to the other, more tangible problems I’ve been having, writer’s block has also reared its ugly, predictable head. Obviously this is an ironic response to my situation – all the time in the world and no resolve. (Water, water everywhere, etc.) Part of this is discipline, my inability to set up and stick to a writing schedule. But I have to honor the emotional aspect of writing and it’s been hard to focus on something as ephemeral or uncertain as a pilot or movie.

Honestly, I am completely unable to separate my emotional health from my work. I have learned to take things less personally, I know it’s not me on the page, I understand how the world works, how creativity is only a small percentage of the end result, and how ideals are rarely maintained through the process of making a movie/show. Still, hardening myself entirely won’t work. Because at the end of the day, I seek art – its power to transform, heal, entertain. I never bought the art vs. commerce dispute and I don’t think that makes me naive. Though the grim reality of this past year has stripped me of starry-eyed dreams, I’m hopeful in a different way – not that I will ever make enough to live extravagantly or maybe even well. Trying to say something that matters to someone – even if only to myself – is not wasted time.

Zazen Day 25 – 28 – must have skills and experience with words

At minute 18, I notice my foot starts to tingle with pins and needles. It’s the same every day, each sit. I only become aware of the time passage when this happens, the body preceding the mind.

Last week I finished my 28 days. I’m still sitting, though I’ve admittedly skipped two days since. The first time I skipped I had an awful night’s sleep. Last night was okay, because I read before sleeping, which activates the same parts of my brain.

As the proof of the pudding is in the eating*, the proof of the sit will be in my work this week. I’m finishing a long-incubating project and also looking for work. Both prospects are equally demoralizing, but in different ways. Zazen has evolved from a way to examine my weaknesses to dealing with them. Hopefully as I continue to sit, this confrontation will allow me to overcome them. The whale is still there – it always will be – but I don’t have to be willingly swallowed.

At the close of the 28 days, I was surprised with how little I felt. There was a sense of accomplishment, of course, but an acceptance overrode that feeling. It’s become a part of my routine. I don’t dread it even if I’m not in the mood to do it. The doubt has largely vanished. But that routine can still be broken; I allow myself to break it. To throw another idiom at you, it’s the exception that proves the rule. By choosing not to sit, my relationship with Zazen is more intimate and personal and respectful. I respect the sit, not the obligation to sit.

I feel very much caught between knowing a lot and not knowing anything. I’m trying to find my place in the world, which is extremely unsatisfying. I know I have to make my place in the world, to carve out that niche rather than ask to be rewarded with something that doesn’t exist yet. At this point in my life, I thought I’d know more, I’d have done more, and I’d just have more. The one thing I still have – will always have – is me. I barely know who that is, but I know who she’s not. And I know what she could be. I have to find a way to find her. Or allow her to come out more. There’s always a tension between the way the world is and the way you think it should be. It’s worth remembering that there are no rules. You can say yes or no or fall off the grid. You can sit or not sit, read a book or play a game. Having this much power or control is terrifying – even if control is all we say we want. Oddly, in giving up some of that control each day, I found it easier to access it the rest of the time.

My neighbor’s dog is howling in time with the music.

I miss my mom, the only person who never minded getting my drunk calls from the back of taxis at 2AM.

My phone is on Do Not Disturb more often than not.

I’m a little jealous of the snowfall in the east.

A CGI tiger made me cry.

I’m excited to sit later.

I will try not to fail today.

*I hate that this idiom gets mangled – you can’t shorthand the point.

Best Online Thing I Read Today: Sell Out by Simon Rich / The New Yorker

Song I Loved Today: Heavy Water / I’d Rather Be Sleeping / Grouper

Zazen day 24 – homestretch

My reports are at least a day behind, as I’ve been sitting before bed for about 10 days. I think it’s probably more beneficial to do earlier in the day, in the afternoon before I start writing…or, before I intend to write. In tackling some stuff head on the past week, I’ve let the writing lag but I also started another project right before the lag, so I’m choosing to be somewhat proud of myself.

Finishing seems to be the problem I’ve had since the spring. A project that was supposed to be completed months ago I’m just nearing the homestretch in now — which is dovetailing nicely with this project. I asked my boyfriend (whose suggested 28 Days of Zazen* to me in the first place) if he expected I would stick with the program and he said no. I appreciated the honesty; I didn’t think I’d go all 28 days. Tonight’s sit will be 25, and I’m choosing to be proud of myself.

I do wish I stuck to the program regarding the blog. It would be nice to have more of a record of each day’s progress, but I do think I plateaued a bit where the gaps are. That’s not a bad thing, it means I just need to change something up slightly – add a few more minutes to the routine or, ideally, start sitting twice a day. Sitting at night helps me relax and fall asleep but it also feels a bit like a mind-dump – whatever I’ve pushed aside that day flows forth during the sit, which defeats the purpose. I think when the 28 days are up, I’ll attempt to sit twice. I do want to keep this up here and there, to mark progress as the trial period becomes a true routine.

The Super Bowl is this weekend…..I don’t care. I’ve only been to one Super Bowl party (that I can recall) and it was weird, to say the least. I like sports a lot, though football’s not my favorite, so I like watching the game just fine. I find it odd that it’s such a cultural event. Because I love hockey so much, I’ll watch pretty much any playoff game, but I won’t feel invested in it as much as if my team was playing. Maybe hockey isn’t quite analogous because the Finals are a 7-game series and not winner-take-all-win-or-go-home. (Don’t you also go home if you win…Win and go home?) I mean, I sorta live-tweeted it last year. We had come to look for an apartment over the first weekend in February. We were staying a few blocks over from where we eventually ended up living, in an Airbnb owned by a film composer with a pithy name. Every time I pass Berendo, I say his name in my head (it’s very similar to Steve Holt). The apartment we live in was only the 3rd or 4th we had seen. Looking for a place in LA is different than NY; there are more options, you don’t feel like you’re speed dating with a bunch of rabid ferrets. We got lucky for sure, so we ended up spending Super Bowl night watching a live feed without commercials and intersticials and then ate tacos. It was pretty sweet.

Which means I’ve been in LA almost a year which is…insane.

Best Online Thing I Read Today: Double Agents in Love by Lorrie Moore / NY Review of Books

Song I loved today: And This is What We Call Progress / The Besnard Lakes

*Sometimes I want to write that as (28) Days of Zazen…a mindful romantic comedy sequel to 28 Days Later.

Zazen Days 13-23 – honest

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I blew through the halfway mark without commenting on it – which, in and of itself, is a comment. There’s something natural about zazen to me now. Just as natural as blowing off this blog, apparently.

I was at a get-together last weekend and the worst question ever came up – what’s your favorite movie? True to form, I gave a blurted out answer with a preamble (“in college I used to say A Clockwork Orange”), then owned up to the first thing that popped in my head (“Blow Up” ::crickets:: “It’s Italian”), and then after everybody had their turn, an addendum (“But the movie I wish I wrote is Moonstruck”). It’s an impossible question to answer, but I tried to go with the flow and tamp down my social anxiety (red wine!) and just kind of blurt what was in my head. Most people chose something classic and mainstream; my boyfriend said Seven Samurai, which was deemed almost as pretentious as me. After the fourth person gave their answer, a guest thanked her for her honesty – a pointed comment I believe was directed at me (social anxiety! narcissism!). I had never met these people before in my life and may not see many of them again, so what were the stakes involved for me to lie? Pretty low.

Honesty came up last night when I went out to trivia with my friend. We did okay, except we both heard “zip codes” when the question was about area codes, so we were soundly out of the running for top of the pack (beer!). We were talking about femininity and how there are sometimes skeleton keys to unlocking “the female experience” that neither of us have ever felt strongly. She mentioned a study she took in college as part of a freshman seminar that measured a person in relation to gender norms. She told me she scored somewhat in the middle of the 100-point scale, more feminine than masculine, but nowhere near “as feminine” as the rest of the girls in the class. The boys were all totally bros. I’ve often identified with male characters, or felt more inspired by men – at least that was quite true when I was growing up and entered my formative creative years. I’m much more political than I have been before, and I gladly, loudly, excitedly champion feminism and feminist causes all the time. All the books I’ve read lately have been written by women, I find more content by and for women appealing, and write pretty much solely female protagonists.

Still…I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like a girl in the construct sense rather than the physical sense. Last night we also mentioned Lena Dunham and tried to unpack and untangle some thoughts/jealousy. The flak she gets should largely be aimed at the system that normalizes privilege and only lets in women one at a time. My friend said that at the very least she’s honest. And that’s true. Art should always be about truths you tell in the dark, but in film/TV it’s so much easier to reinforce the standards. We both hoped that maybe this will open doors to more truth-telling women…but we’re not so sure.

I’m also re-watching Six Feet Under now and it remains one of my favorite shows of all time (honestly) – and that show is about characters who, if they tell the truth, would explode. I’ve felt like that most of my life. Even when I was happiest or the most confident, I still felt like I couldn’t quite express who I was. Especially when I worked around women. I’ve lied a lot, little white lies to strangers at parties, and I try not to do that any more. So when I was indirectly accused of being dishonest about my movie choice – I stand by my choices, by the way – it was hurtful. Because there was some truth to it. So I try to be more honest these days. Because when I am, I can’t hide.

Best online thing I read today, part 1: Running Away From Running Away by Jill Talbot / The Rumpus

Song I loved today, part 1: Question Mark / Elliott Smith

Best online thing I read today, part 2: The Terror Of “Twin Peaks”: His Name Is BOB by Matthew J.X. Malady / The Awl

Song I loved today, part 2: Never Can Say Goodbye Via BBC’s Whites

Best online thing I read today, part 3: Saturday Rumpus Comic: All I Ask by Yumi Sakugawa / The Rumpus

Song I loved today, part 3: Bar Italia / Pulp