Society has rules, and I don't like them

I've been breaking out in hives lately.  Its been happening for 6 months. At first I thought I was allergic to gluten...which still might be very true, that or I'm allergic to wine which would suck just a little. French fries and red wine are kind of my favorite things, which also might say a lot of about how much time I have to take care of myself (I'm working on this, as well). 

I thought the hives were food related and I was committed to eliminating the things that would be causing them, one by one I went through the list; red wine, gluten, dairy, beer. I googled hives, the cause of hives, "what the F causes hives" I typed one frustrated evening. 

And then they would appear. No gluten, no wine, no dairy. They were just appearing, at this point really whenever they felt like it. So I started really examining what was going on. What is the common denominator in this highly unprofessional science experiment I am doing on myself? 

Answer: Not saying no. 

I know that is not in a food group. I know that is not in a dieting book or written somewhere in a scientific journal. But literally when I find myself overcommitted, under-loved, forgetting to feed myself, putting myself in situations that only serve the OTHER person's needs I am breaking out in hives. 

Literally. It's uncomfortable. Sometimes they make it hard for me to breathe. Sometimes I am so itchy I think I am a distraction to other people in whatever non-essential meeting I am in. They also happen to appear when I am wearing a mask. 

No, not a real mask. But that mask where I pretend to be someone else or I hide my opinions or ideas to make other people comfortable. 

Listen, I know society works on these underwritten rules of behavior and expectation and "politeness". We stroke ego's of people we don't want to stroke because those are the rules. That's how you win the game. That's what has to happen. 

But is it? Because pretending to not be smart, pretending that other people have better ideas when I really really believe in my idea, or pretending that I don't see what is actually going on, it is making me break out in hives. And I don't like hives. I don't like Benadryl either, which seems to be the only cure for hives. 

I feel as if someone put me in an alternative universe where there are all of these rules that NO ONE likes but EVERYONE plays by because, that's the game. But what if I don't want to play? What if I don't want to pretend? Wear a mask? Act as if I don't see the truth? What if I want to go where people only speak the truth. Where people say, "Hey I am breaking out in hives because I am overcommitted and the emails keep coming and people keep asking for pieces of me and I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING LEFT. 

In one of my TV binges the other day on an episode of Grey's Anatomy there was that incredible scene with Cristina Yang where she says this:

"Burke was- He took something from me. He took little pieces of me, little pieces over time, so small I didn't even notice, you know? He wanted me to be something I wasn't, and I made myself into what he wanted. One day I was me Cristina Yang, and then suddenly I was lying for him, and jeopardizing my career, and agreeing to be married and wearing a ring, and being a bride. Until I was standing there in a wedding dress with no eyebrows, and I wasn't Cristina Yang anymore. And even then, I would've married him. I would have. I lost myself for a long time."

And if I am being completely honest, if I am speaking my whole truth and nothing but the truth. I think society is my Burke. I think society is taking pieces of me over time and I don't think I am the only one. 

I think maybe the other women around me, the ones I meet and spend time with and get to know, I think they feel like Cristina too. And maybe some men too, but especially the women. 

And I think, for the first time in my life, that I am not going to let society take any more of me. I am not playing by the rules. I am not wearing a mask and breaking out in hives. 

I don't know how it is going to work. Maybe it will be slow at first, the saying no and the boundary setting and the not wearing of a mask. Maybe it will lead to a life of pure isolation living in a tent somewhere. Maybe if I don't play the game by the rules I won't be able to play at all.

But maybe that's the point. 




I am a privileged white woman

I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am a boss and an employee, a consultant and a writer, a producer and a creator, a business owner and a networker. I am a friend and a confidant, a cousin and a niece, a mentor and a girlfriend. I am a facilitator of connections and possibilities and progress. I am a dreamer. I am a community builder and an equality advocate. I was recently a student and I am now a graduate. I am a coach. I am a white woman. 

I am a white woman. 

Last month I flew to Napa to capture interviews with Latin American leaders and bosses and businesses owners and creators for a documentary I am producing. We talked about equality. We talked about the lack of equality. We cried listening to Leslie Miley talk about his journey through Silicon Valley as a black man.  We rolled our eyes at the ridiculousness that we are still talking about diversity, or the lack there of. 

I am a privileged, white woman. 

I am a college graduate and a daughter of a PHD. My parents raised me to look words up in the dictionary, speak my mind, strive for greatness and to come home at curfew.  They taught me right from wrong and said, "I don't want to see your name in the paper unless it's for the honor roll. Your name is all you have. Don't disgrace the family name."

I am a well educated, privileged, white woman. 

I am the granddaughter of Italian immigrants. A generation or so removed from a gas station owner and an 8th grade educated floor mopping, daily church going, private chef (if you count the thousands of meals she cooked for the family). "Get an education", they told my father, "They can't take that away from you". 

I am a well educated, third generation, privileged, Italian woman. 

I am the daughter of an Irish/Lithuanian daughter of a Deacon in the Catholic church. A church and a prayer, a smoker and a joker and a pear tree raised my mother to be a diversity preaching, community building, life saving therapist. She died from cancer at the age of 54. 

I am a motherless, well educated, third generation, privileged, Italian, Lithuanian, Irish woman.

Lately I have been reading headlines about sexual harassment law suits and pay offs. "I wonder if I should share my stories of sexual harassment, too?" I say to close friends. 

Privilege is so relative. When I think about equality it does become so complicated.  The judgements, the assumptions, the bias.  The fear and the broken system and the competition and the striving to hold on to the little power we all tell ourselves we have. 

When we break it down, when we look back generations and generations and generations, where does it begin? Where does the separation start? When do you become better than me and me better than you and them better than us and us better than them? 

What makes you afraid to walk home alone at night? The black man on the street corner or the simple reality that you are a woman?  

Have you thought about why that black man is on the street corner begging for food? I have. It's not an easy weight to carry. A lot less easy for him. Easier to ignore, I know. 

The simplicity of diversity does not come from our approach to running our businesses or changing our hiring policies. Policy is not necessarily the problem, yet it can be a catalyst for a fire we can't seem to stop from spreading.

The simplicity of diversity is about remembering that we all came from somewhere else. It is about remembering that the human condition is our common ground. 

When you are up I may be down but when you are down I may be up. Change is constant. 

I don't presume to have the answers to the questions. I don't presume to know the solutions to our problems. Before my mother died she taught me to open the door for those that need a place to stay. I find myself wrapped up in smaller things without her here and sometimes I forgot how easy it really can be to just open the door and welcome someone in. 

When privilege is used to help others altruistically the benefits are endless. A ripple occurs. 

You can tell me it is complicated but I am not so sure it is. 

I am a privileged white woman. But I am also so much more. The scars that I wear from the things that I have seen or overcome are hidden behind my style and grace. "Your name is all you have", they told me. I took them very seriously. 

My privilege is that I am awarded the opportunity to cover my scars (and my history) with department store clothing and well framed degrees. That doesn't necessarily or tangibly separate me from the black man on the street corner except that we say it does, except that we give value to department store clothing and well framed degrees assuming that without those things you have little value at all or that the access to those things are inherently equal. Assuming that the chase of the "American dream" is started on equal ground. 

I guess the question we could start with is, how are you privileged? 

In partnership with Lisa Morales Hellebo I am producing a documentary about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley and what we can do to solve the problem. If you are interested to learn more visit us: Diversity Theater

I've Got to Buy My Own Coffee for Awhile

I am sitting in a coffee shop in a town outside of Pittsburgh.  I came here to focus and get some work done for awhile, including writing, since its been too long since my last post. I am currently juggling two entrepreneurial endeavors, one is in full force and has a deadline and the other is only capped in time by my own mind and expectations.  Needless to say, there is a lot to be done. 

So I find myself at a coffee shop outside of Pittsburgh while visiting family, trying to get in a couple of hours of focused work in between laughter and board games. The pressures of 31 being right around the corner and a legislative session and trying to say yes to all of the things that seem to align with my journey, to build a network of women who together will change the world and also trying to live up to the societal definitions of what it is to be female, have gotten me a little turned around. For the past few weeks I have been kind of hoping someone would just come save me. Tell me the answers. Do it for me. Show me the way. There has to be a freaking roadmap for all of this, right? 

I am not alone in my desires for a knight in shining armor-and I am not even talking about just the romantic kind. Nor am I far off from somehow fulfilling some prophecy from my youth. The guy always saves the girl. The guy always comes for the girl when she finally decides to try to do it on her own.  He swoops in, with his abilities and makes shit happen. Making her wonder why she ever doubted him in the first place. Guys are president. Guys are CEOs. Guys are in charge. All that topped with this concept that my gifts are best used in the home.  Some days I feel like I give the world a little bit of my true self and kind of wait to see what the response may be; asking the question "Is it okay to be me?". Then if I don't feel an overwhelming acceptance of that part of myself I reconsider and ask,  "Should I go back inside and recalibrate?" 

The truth is, I asked for all of this responsibility.  Last year I wrote in a daily journal about my need to lead, my desire to champion something and be a part of something bigger than myself. Well, prayers answered.  But they don't prepare us for what that means.  The road less traveled is extraordinarily isolating. When I asked my father over dinner the other night who he consulted when he made all of his big decisions he simply said, "I didn't consult anyone. I didn't doubt that I knew what was best." 

What a concept. 

So I've been searching for a few weeks for the person who is going to come save the day.  I keep testing those around me to see if they know better, if they have the answers, if they are going to tell me what move to make next. And no one is stepping up.  To be quite honest some of them are just practically refusing to step up.  Denying me the support I am begging for.  And when they do that I become angry at them for not knowing. What do you mean you don't know? Society told me that you have all the answers. What's up with that?

And I am wavering constantly on which move is the right move and it is causing this undeniable chaos inside of me. When you combine chaos with unnecessary recalibrating you get 20 hours of Netflix and a woman who was supposed to be changing the world hiding inside away from it all. And I think it's because the woman inside of me, the strong, capable, independent, fiery, beautiful woman is tired of me running around asking for the answers and she just wants me to take over.  She says. "Screw recalibrating we've got what it takes".  She wants me to stop seeking permission. She wants me to save the day. What kind of plan is that, though? Where is the safety net in that plan? Like, I am not going out there, (gasps) alone...

And so I sit here in this coffee shop and I contemplate what it would mean to go it alone. To take the reigns, stop seeking permission, stop wishing there was a perfect plan and just freaking jump.  And a man walks over to tell me that he is thankful for my beautiful smile and asks, "Do you need a coffee?"  And here in this moment, in this coffee shop I decide to simply say, "Thank you, But I've got to buy my own coffee for awhile."

Baby steps. 






You are the keeper of your magic

In the sixth grade I fell in love with a boy. He was a quarterback and a first basemen and so freaking adorable and he came to my birthday party and I almost passed out and then I loved him until I was 19. Before him I had a little girl crush, the kind where there is only one boy in our first grade class worthy of our love so all the girls pretend not to like him while we play M.A.S.H and secretly hope we get him for who we will marry (who invented this game anyway? It’s terrible). It is embarrassing really; my worth has been in the hands of various freckled, acne faced, immature boys my entire life. And ironically, unbeknownst to them, they held all of the power.

I have no idea why this started so early, why it lasted so long, why I thought love, or rather, external love was the answer, but I did.

So last month, when another, no longer acne-faced but now adorable, strong, funny, frustrating, successful, immature man departed my life in a not-so-welcomed exit, I had a choice to make: Let it break me, or let it be.

As a strong and independent woman I always want to err on the “let it be” side of things. But too many games of M.A.S.H and many teenage nights of rejection have led me to put my value in the eyes of the beholder. Unfortunately this strategy fails every time. The result is that when someone chooses to walk away, or things don’t work or a person doesn’t like you, you suddenly feel like you can’t cope and that they stole all of your magic.

And this time it was a lot harder to “let it be.” This time I had to squash all of the images I had in my mind of us getting married, of us buying a house and throwing paint on each other as we tried to be all DIY-like, and of us running through the streets of Japan attempting to speak Japanese and making amazing new friends. This time I had to tear off the strong grip his hands had on my heart, finger by finger, and hope that I wouldn’t lose too much of myself in the process.

What matters is what you value in yourself, in your choices, in your work, in the way you treat your family, in the way you are there for your friends, in the person that YOU decide you want to be. 

But here is the secret they don’t tell you in grade school when you’re playing with your friends and stressing out about whether you are going to get a shack or a mansion: Your value does not come from the man you marry (or don’t marry for that matter). Whether the quarterback or the first basemen or the bratty eight-year-old likes you doesn’t really matter.

What matters is how much you like yourself. What matters is what you value in yourself, in your choices, in your work, in the way you treat your family, in the way you are there for your friends, in the person that YOU decide you want to be. You get to decide mansion or shack, you get to decide Johnny or Billy, and you are the keeper of your magic. 

So I am handling this heartache a little differently. It was an adult breakup. The strangest thing about adult breakups is that they are less messy and really quite simple. I love you, but this isn’t working. I love you but we don’t want the same things. I love you but you don’t want a family and so on. So the love sticks, it sits in the pit of your stomach and in the reflection in the mirror and in the phone no longer ringing and in the nights you have to eat Chinese takeout alone and wish he was there to eat the salad rolls because you hate them but order them in an attempt to be healthy. 

I finally realized that my value is defined by me, that he does not hold the power, that love is just a bonus to this wonderful independent life I was gifted.

And it sucks. I am sad. I miss him. But I am also thankful for the things he taught me and for the nights he held me like no one has before while I cried my eyes out because I missed my mom so much I couldn’t breathe and the way he slowed down his running pace so we could run together and the inside jokes and the lazy Sunday cuddles. It’s true, I sometimes wish he was here and that it had worked out and that we were enough for each other. But, because I finally realized that my value is defined by me, that he does not hold the power, that love is just a bonus to this wonderful independent life I was gifted, I can let it be. 

I can wake up in the morning and say, I love you; you are strong, you are smart, you are funny, you are a great companion, you can do anything you set your mind to, you are a loyal friend and you are worthy of love. And then for dinner I call up a new Chinese restaurant and I order the spring rolls because obviously they are way better than the salad rolls and I hate wasting food and eating alone isn’t so bad especially when you realize how much you enjoy your own company. I move on, I stop looking back, and I laugh at the idea that I ever thought a freckle-faced boy was the keeper of my magic.

Choosing anything is terrifying

When they say it isn't easy, they aren't kidding.  When your friends look at you and say "I could never do that" they aren't kidding.  Going out into the unknown on your own is the best and the worst thing you will ever do. Chasing anything; a job, a dream, a goal, a boy, a passion, a is all scary.  Choosing anything is terrifying. 

And here is what will happen:

You will be tested.  

You will find yourself on a subway platform in a really bad neighborhood in Brooklyn at 5AM crying because you are lost and you don't have money for a cab and you have to be at work in 30 minutes and you can't get cell service because well, you just can't. And no one will speak English and you won't be able to find the stairs to get out of the subway station and you won't know north from south and you will want to ask someone on the street for directions but you don't even know where you are trying to go. And you will be late, and you will get yelled at and you will say you are really sorry and then you will do shit work for shit money and you will get back on the subway and try to find your way home. And later that night when you are spending what is left of your $200 alone at a bar you will meet a stranger and they will make you laugh like no one has made you laugh before and they will tell you stories you can hardly believe and you will end up singing karaoke until 5AM and making plans for the next night and wondering why you were ever so sad on the subway platform in Bushwick. 

And that's why you have to live in Manhattan, at least once. 

You will decide that nothing is more important than your dream. 

And you will miss all of the parties. You will miss the Holidays and the reunions and the weddings and the funerals and the regular things that everyone you know gets to do but you do not.  Because you are broke. And you are chasing. And you will cry on Thanksgiving when you get so drunk going from random Thanksgiving to random Thanksgiving and all of these people you have only known for six months or a year are inviting you into their homes, because it's New York and that's what they do. And you will wish you could hug your dad and tell your sister you love her in person with a really cool gift you bought in Soho but you can't because you are not home with them you are here with strangers.  And you will be happy-sad, which for those of you that don't know, is this emotion where you cry and laugh at the same time and you are just utterly confused. And your friends will post their inside jokes on Facebook or whatever social media platform that has been invented and you will want to unfriend them because you are so jealous and you are so alone in the most crowded city ever and you are eating some weird Indian dish that you have never had because again, you are at a New York Thanksgiving. And then you will end your night at a speakeasy in the East Village that you can only get into if you know the secret password and the secret entrance and you know it because that really cool stranger you met that one night you were sad is now a close friend and they always know what's cool and you will dance in the empty streets because ironically New York City is dead on Thanksgiving and there are no people and no cars only a few lost souls who stay up late just like you and wonder what life is all about and why we are all supposed to be so damn thankful in the middle of November when the weather is atrocious. 

And you will realize that all of these strangers that you didn't know six months ago are now your New York family and that is well, it is something that changes you, forever. 

And then you will move away from New York. 

Because you are tired. But you haven't given up on your dream you have just decided that you want it to be a little different. And plus, you are running and when you are running you have to keep moving or the crap you are running from eventually catches up to you. But you will blame it on the dream, because you are chasing, right? And if you wan't this thing that you gave up all these other things for, you better be all in.  So you tell yourself a new city will make it better and will give you new opportunities but what you won't realize until you get there is that it takes a really long time to make New York friends anywhere else, as a matter of fact you will learn there won't be people like the people that you learned to love in New York, ever. But it does get better and you will learn new streets and challenge yourself in new ways and you will take all of the things you learned out east to this new place and you will be more successful. You will now have $600-$800 in your bank account and you will feel rich, and like, accomplished.  And when people ask you what it is like to live in New York you will act like it is no big deal while you secretly remember all of those nights you cried on the subway. And you will get better jobs, because you are more experienced and your New York experience anywhere else is like gold.  And you will do some really really cool shit and meet some super talented people and then the show you are working on will get cancelled. And just like that the $600 you have in your bank account is suddenly going to your landlord. And all of those tweets of that awesome set you got to go to every day and act like producing television is actually a job and not just a bunch of fools making shit up you delete because you are embarrassed that you are unemployed. And you cry. And you take a shitty job that pays shit and you commute on the crappiest most depressing highway ever 45 minutes to a job you hate and you listen to NPR hoping to get inspired.  And you are just sad, for like three months. And you doubt yourself every morning when you wake up and your mind suddenly stops reminding you of all of the amazing people you met and the amazing things you did and it just talks to you about how much the commute to the job you hate, sucks. 

And then one morning you wake up, you go to Office Depot and you buy a whiteboard. And you write your dream in giant letters on the board and you hang it above the bed.  And the dream says "You can and you will. You are going to move to Hollywood and you are going to make movies for a living. Never, ever, ever give up again" And you will start a count down. 

And the day will come and you will move to Los angeles. 

And for a little while it will feel like all of your dreams have come true. And you will play beach volleyball and go to bars where Ryan Gosling frequents and you will start talking only about movies and reading only about the upfronts and pilot season and you will have "working lunches" where you like read a guys script and then talk about it. And you will get a job at a really fantastic studio and they will pay you shit, because they can, but you won't care because you get to watch movies for a living. And you will go to all of the networking events, I mean like all of them. And you will meet really interesting people but you will notice that they only talk about the movies, ever. But you love it and you are eating up the panels of major TV execs talking about why they buy what they buy and how to write good television and you are tan. You are so freaking tan and it's December. And one day you will wake up and you will feel empty.  It's not that you still don't love driving down Sunset Blvd and almost not breathing when it breaks and you see the ocean, no that is still really amazing.  It's just that, you feel this void, this really deep and heavy void. And you will have piles of scripts next to your bed that you never read more than 30 pages of because they are terrible, just terrible.  And you will wish you could just be creative, just actually tangibly get your hands dirty and feel a part of something.  Because this? This is just like the business of movies. This is just someone slapping a really good marketing campaign on complete crap and selling it to the masses. This isn't the dream, this is the death of the dream. 

And you will get a call to move again. This time the opportunity is just undeniable, right? Such good money, such good experience. And you will walk into your bosses office (who you love) and you will cry and you will say I can't work for peanuts and something is wrong and I love working for you but I just, this isn't the dream and I think this other thing is the dream so I have to go. I have to run. 

And you will move again.

And this time it is just for a brief period of time, you tell yourself. You are just going for this one gig and then you will return to the dream factory where you felt a void but believe it can be fixed because it is always sunny. And you will work this incredible gig and get all of this experience and do really hard work and meet really talented people that get work all of the time, which in this business is like, impossible.  And you will miss more weddings and reunions and funerals and you will start to feel guilty because, I don't know, you just do. But it won't stop you, you will still be chasing. You still believe. And then you will take off to Europe on your own because everyone says you have to, you just have to.  And you will ride the train in Germany alone on your birthday and you will walk the grey streets of Berlin alone, on your birthday.  And you will instagram and blog about how incredibly liberating it is to be alone in Berlin on your birthday but not be so sure. And then you will meet a beautiful interesting Australian women. And she will take you on the train to Hamburg and show you a part of Germany that wasn't even on your radar. And a man selling roses will come to the table and you will leave with hundreds of roses and stay in some weird hostile and wake up and drink coffee in a little shop next to the river and you will understand why everyone said you must go to Europe alone and that this is how you chase the dream. 

And you will come back to the states and you will get recruited again by another awesome company that seems to have all of the things dreams are made of and you will move again, because at this point you're really good at it. And you will arrive in another new city with all of the energy and excitement you always have. And you will dive right in and you will work until 7 even though you are the only one in the office but that is really strange because you are used to working until 10 so, 7 is like a half day.  And then eventually you will only work until 5 because that is what everyone else does.  And you will sit in meetings and learn a lot of new things and meet people unlike all of the other people you know.  And you will live in a stellar apartment that overlooks the mountains and you will wake up in the morning and think to yourself, okay, this is what dreams are made of. And you will think, this is going to work, ok I can do this.  And you will come up with all of these ideas for your position and you will push some of them through and really enjoy it and get a lot accomplished but eventually, you will need to chase.  

And you will meet a boy. 

And you will fall. Really really really hard.  And it will be so confusing.  You will want to give up everything for him, all of it, all of the dreams, all of the running all of the chasing.  You will want to stop and be and breathe and rest and love.  You will convince yourself that this is your new dream, that this is the thing maybe? This was what you were doing all along? Making your way to him? And he won't be ready, but you won't care because you are a dreamer and this is the dream so this is the thing that you will do. Because you believe that anything is possible. 

And you will lose yourself in him. And he will break you, unintentionally. He will make you doubt everything you ever believed in before.  Some days he will make the cold, rainy subway station in Brooklyn at 5am look like a dream.  And other days he will make the movie sets and the Ryan Gosling bars seem like a joke. And you will be so confused. You will say I've always given up everything for the dream and it has worked.  Remember the New York Thanksgiving and the stranger? Remember the whiteboard and Chicago? Remember Santa Monica and the night you went to the premiere of that show on the Paramount lot and met all of those famous people? Why isn't this working? I am chasing, and I am floundering. 

And you will wake up and decide to leave.

Because you are a runner and you've gotten really good at leaving when the dream no longer feels so dreamy. And you will say no, this isn't the dream, I can't. The dream is supposed to feel good, the dream is supposed to be beautiful and glamorous. I am not supposed to be so afraid, afraid was for Brooklyn, afraid was for the security line at the airport when my mom died. I already did afraid. I am supposed to have it figured out. I am supposed to have success. I am supposed to have it all together and have the career, and the lover and the family and the money and the dream. Wait, what happened to the dream? Who am I? How did I get here? Why am I so lost? Where did my dreams go?

And you will go home.

You will sleep in your sister's spare bedroom, the same sister you wish you could have seen that Thanksgiving and brought a cool gift to her from Soho. You will get a new job, a different job a way off "the path" job. You will write a reflective blog post about your last relationship and hurt his feelings, accidentally. You will feel guilty but at the same time not, because he took all of your dreams from you, or at least so it seems. You will attend brunches with your friends who talk about their husbands and hold their babies in their beautiful houses and you will wonder what you are supposed to do with all of this experience and knowledge and history and story. You will wonder if you will ever be on a film set again, if you will ever make it back to that place in Malibu where you can drink wine and listen to music with your friend Will. You will wonder if that part of you has to die because you came home and no one here knew you there.  You will wish your ex would call because it seems that he does have a few of your dreams somewhere in his jacket pocket and because of that you've decided to give up on those specific dreams, the dreams some people refer to as "love". 

And then you will talk to your sister about Thanksgiving and get all anxious because the whole family is coming and all of these other people and you can't just go be alone in New York in that speakeasy in the East Village and forget about how your mom died. 

And you will suddenly, in this random moment of clarity and perspective realize, that the dream was never Manhattan or LA, it was never the fancy job on a movie set or the mountains of the Pacific North West or being in the arms of your lover, it was you.

You are the dream.  

And you will realize you weren't chasing a job, a dream, a goal, a boy, a passion or a purpose. You were chasing yourself. Like a dog chasing his tail, you were chasing you, your talents, your identity, your emotions, your sadness, your happiness, your gumption

And you will start to take care with the dream.  You will be gentle and patient and kind.  You will be more deliberate and thoughtful and you will stop running. You will plan and think and stew and collaborate and you will realize that all of these crazy pieces of you, all of these ideas and tests and nights in Manhattan and "failures" that they are what actually makes the dream. 

And that without them, there never would be any dreams that actually come true. 

The invaluable lesson my Mother taught me before she died

About a month before my mom died we were sitting on the back porch of our house talking.  We had done this a thousand times before, especially in the summers. The back porch with all of my mom's lively plants was our favorite place to gather.

Just two weeks earlier I had sat in that same spot with one of my best friends.  It was the afternoon we got the news that they were stopping all treatment and that my mom would have six weeks to live. At my call my best friend sped over and showed up with a pack of cigarettes and we cried and smoked marlboro lights like a couple of delinquents. At 22 what else do you do with this kind of news? 

The following days were full of visitors and casseroles and old stories.  It would sometimes get to a point where my dad would make a "no visitor" rule so that my mom could get some rest and we could spend our own personal time with her.  That was my mother, inspiring people to come together to celebrate life and share love, this trying time was no exception. 

Finally alone that summer afternoon I had no idea what I was supposed to say.  All of the pamphlets they send you home with from the hospital tell you that you must tell your loved one that it is ok that they go.  I didn't feel like it was ok, I didn't feel ready. Saying it out loud felt inauthentic, like I was lying to my mom and sure that she would know. 

We were quiet, but so much was being said between us.  "Is it soon?", I asked her with my eyes. "Are you sure you have to go?" I nudged by holding her hand.  I had never been so scared in my life and for the first time I was realizing that soon my mother wouldn't be here to help me.

I will never forget our conversation that day on the porch. She shared with me parts of herself that I wish I had gotten more of but time did not allow. I was the youngest so who my mom was as a person, Elizabeth the woman, was kept from me. That is the part of your parent that gets shared with you when you are older, I unfortunately don't have the luxury. 

She sat calmly, legs crossed, arms folded and finally broke the silence, "I should have been a better mother. I should have had more time for you girls, been there more for you.  But I didn't know how to balance. I was this woman with my own goals and things that I wanted to do but then I also was a mother. I should have been better."

Being all of 22 I couldn't really understand how my mom could possibly feel like she hadn't done enough for us.  I watched her for years cook dinners, show up to sporting events, pick me up from school, wake up at 5am to braid my hair.  I remember her staying up late holding me as I cried and cried unsure of how to handle the things life was throwing at me and sitting by my hospital bed as I lay sick as a child.  I remember her standing and clapping at my solos during choir performances and dragging all of her friends to come and see me perform. I remember a trip to New York and California and a Clinique shopping spree on my 12th birthday and love, all of the freaking love you can imagine. 

But that isn't what she saw weeks before she died.  She saw a woman pulled in many directions unsure of the best path to choose.  She saw a woman who wanted a career and to help others and to be a wife and a mother and a friend and a boss and a giver to her community.  She saw missed volleyball games and busy schedules and untapped opportunities to show up for her daughters. 

And it is a shame that she saw all of that.  Because if she were here now I would tell her how unbelievably impossible it is to do it all. I would tell her that these are the conversations I am having with my friends at age 30.  How do we do it all? How do we do it all well? How do I pick my kids up from daycare and still get dinner on the table after working a 10 hour day and also run a side business so I can pay for their daycare? 

Should I have kids? Would I be able to do that well and have my career and give to the world and be the person I aspire to be?  Am I supposed to take care of my husband or him take care of me or us take care of each other? Did I do enough at work today? Was my performance good enough? Was my parenting good enough? Am I enough

And I am spinning. We are still having these conversations and doubting our worth and questioning our value and never feeling like we are enough. I am sad that on that summer day weeks before she died that my mother felt inadequate too.  That instead of her knowing deep down in her soul that she was the best damn mother any girl could ever ask for that she was doubting the very thing I thought she was an expert in.  That she couldn't see that all of those hours she worked taking care of other people and giving therapy to kids that she was teaching me what it was to be a strong, independent and influential woman and to do good in the world. 

And I am dumfounded that we still get paid 75 cents on the dollar until I sit in a room and the guy meeting with us won't even look at me when he is talking. And I am suddenly reminded how gigantic this whole problem really is. That's right, I am not exaggerating. The guy only spoke to my male colleague.  Because for some reason deep down inside he believed that I did not bring value to the discussion.  He couldn't see that I am a stakeholder in the decision making for our organization because I am a woman. And wait for it, during the meeting I actually thought to myself, "Did I send off the wrong vibe to this guy? Is it my fault he doesn't think I have value here?". 

And I am tired of reading articles on Hillary and hearing the Bernie vs. Hillary debate on which way women should vote.  Just shut the f*ck up already. There is no should.  You don't have to do anything. You don't have to be anything. Vote for whoever, do whatever, be whoever.  Do I wish for a woman president? Do I see, clearly, the uphill battle that Hillary has fought to get where she is now? Do I cringe at the scrutiny and the discussion on her clothes and her hair and her marriage to former President Bill Clinton? Of course.  Because its stupid and petty and grounded in misguided beliefs on what is important in our society.

But I am not going to tell you what to do.  Because I am so tired of being told what to do by society and others that I could vomit. 

And the more and more I reflect on that day on the porch sitting with my mother the more and more I see how she carefully planted this seed in me. That was the day my mother taught me how important it is that other woman do not feel the way my she did when they reflect back on their lives. That the pressure never get the best of us. 

And I look around me and I think, "Oh my God, it's an epidemic". We all have the I am not enoughdisease and we are spreading it like wild fire. 

And if she were here I would ask her to join me as I fight for us to stop. Stop comparing ourselves to others, stop acting as if other people's problems are worse than ours and placating others but punishing ourselves. Stop scrutinizing the first ever potential Woman President for her wardrobe because it's not f*cking about that. 

I read a powerful post on medium the other day, Having it all kind of sucks and I really loved it so much that I shared it with a few friends. But there was something she said that really stuck out to me:

"Instead of changing the systems, we tell women to lean in. Because of course, it's our fault for not taking initiative. Fuck you. I'm leaning so far in I'm falling flat on my face." 

I totally get what Amy is saying here. How the f*ck can I do any more or be anything else? I'm drowning here. But as a huge supporter of the Lean In initiative I don't think Sheryl Sandberg was ever saying that we should do more.  Leaning in is about having these conversations.  It's actually exactly what Amy is shouting. It's about being easy on ourselves and coming together to say. "Damn it I feel that way too," and "How do we fix this?". 

It's about showing up for each other and saying I am sick of making 75 cents on the dollar and being ignored in meetings with male colleagues. And saying yeah I have laundry all over my living room and I'm making frozen pizzas for dinner and my kids never got changed out of their pajamas today and I am not sorry

It's about helping each other learn how to be easy on ourselves. Don't you think my mother would want us be the generation that figures this out? Don't you think she'd rather have us drinking cocktails and singing karaoke four weeks before we die instead of reflecting on how we were never good enough?

Of course she would. Let's not disappoint her. 

Gut check, does it feel like a maybe? Then it's a hell no

I've had a series of excellent conversations with the people in my life lately. Last week it was with my long time friend and colleague about how to simplify my mission to help women and get straight to the point more creatively. (enter Tiny Little Robots 2.0) 

Yesterday I talked with a new connection about cultivating a brand and learning to say "hell yes" and "hell no" to opportunities.  Gut check, does it feel like a maybe? Then it's a hell no. 

Steve Harvey shined a big old light on my tendency to peak over the cliff and never jump. Why am I always on the edge of the cliff and watching all the other people soar? My failure to jump. 

Today I sent a text to a good friend asking what he thought about Sky Diving. Maybe literally jumping of the cliff will help me manifest it in my bones. 

Coach and writer Bri Seeley posted on her blog this week that simply having a mantra isn't enough, you must find ways to integrate it into your life physically and routinely.  Give it time, commit, believe. It takes work. 

Gratitude, creativity, inspiration--it's all around me.  The past two years I have had a tendency to let the negative manifest and take over. I've been locked in a cage of negativity, pessimism, self doubt, fear, apprehension, blame, mistrust. It's been terribly lonely and terribly paralyzing. I had to make some big decisions to get myself out of the cycle. All those big decisions led to a period of exhaustion, reflection, rebuilding, a little more self doubt and apprehension, and of course the occasional relapse. 

Setbacks are normal. Setbacks are what show us what we are really made of and teach us what we don't want in our lives.

The cold hard truth is that we work just as hard cultivating a life we want and that serves us as we do cultivating a life of disappointment and heartache. The energy is the same, you get to choose. 

And it's fascinating. The more I spend time with doers, dreamers, optimists the more my own dreams seem within reach.

The more kindness, support, love and creativity I allow into my life, the more I feel like jumping. 

Steve was right when he said we are all born with a gift. And even more pertinent is that those gifts can be just about anything.  It doesn't always mean rock star, actress, billionaire, President, CEO. It can be carpenter, photographer, teacher, banker, therapist, dog walker, gardener.

You do nothing for the Universe by ignoring your gift, by hiding from your gift, by pretending your gift isn't special.  

When you give your gift to the Universe it gives back tenfold. 

Gone are the days of watching other people soar all around me, it's time to jump

The losses are there to wake you up

This time two years ago I was on a train bound for Berlin Germany.  I didn't know anyone, I was in an interesting state of mind and I thought I wanted an adventure.  I had never traveled Europe alone (or at all) and as I looked at the New Year blazing toward me I wanted to run really fast in the other direction.

I had just lived one of the best years of my life (as far as I knew).  If you would have asked me in the middle of the year if it was the best year of my life I am not sure I would have said yes (isn't that always the case? Hindsight is 20/20 my father says).  By the time 2013 came to an end I realized I had accomplished a lot of things on my "career check list". I was proud of my work, my newly acquired knowledge and I was inspired by the people I was blessed to collaborate with.

There is something about the arts that gets into our veins like a drug.  Any theatre actor or director will tell you that when a play's run comes to an end it can sometimes feel like you are mourning a death.  The film industry, for some of us, isn't any different.  The trouble with me is I love the art, I love the business and I am as sensitive as they come.

In 2012 I fulfilled a life long dream, I moved to LA to start out on what I thought was a forever journey as a California girl destined for Hollywood greatness.  I don't mean fame and fortune I mean greatness in movie making, I mean sitting around with the best minds in the business and creating epic entertainment.  At the end of 2012 I landed a job at a really great company and was learning everything you could know about distributing a film.  By 2013 I was in a groove.  I was attending networking events, helping my friend get started producing his first (and very good) short film, I was spending Saturday's playing beach volleyball and I was making new friends by the minute.  I was home.  I had arrived.

Then I got a call to come back to Chicago for Transformers 4 and I couldn't say no.  The money was better, the possible opportunity was endless and I wanted to know what it took to pull off a major Hollywood action film.  So I packed up my Brentwood apartment, tossed that stuff into storage and with big tears billowing from my eyes I got on a plane at LAX and headed for my next adventure.  I knew I was leaving my home but I swore I would be back.

The summer of 2013 was really incredible.  Be it the most stressful it was also a learning and growing opportunity.  We pulled off some crazy stuff, I learned more about contract negotiations than I ever imagined and I barely slept. Chicago in the summertime is pretty damn amazing, I was closer to family, I was working nonstop on what I LOVED and I was meeting new talented people in the industry.

When T4 ended my next gig took me to New York where I also have incredible "family" and got to work with a really great team of people on some television development projects.  But remember earlier when I said sometimes for artists when a play's run comes to an end it can feel like you are mourning a death?  Well I was.  I didn't know which way was up.  My gumption was covered in mud and I couldn't find it anywhere.  I was fumbling the ball (as they say) and when I sat down to try to figure out what to do next, where to go next, I couldn't see a damn thing.

So there I am, on a train bound for Germany and hopeful that my gumption or my clarity or my compass was hiding somewhere near the Berlin Wall.

Unfortunately, it wasn't.

Let me tell you something about your gumption.  You'll never find it hiding near the Berlin Wall, or in the next job or in the hands of a lover. Your gumption comes from within, your gumption is in your gut, your heart, your soul.  And if you search and search and search for your gumption in other things, you will only find yourself further and further from finding it.

To re-locate your gumption you have to do the work. You have to grieve the loss, face the music, focus inward and really listen.  Sometimes it can take months, sometimes you find yourself begging the Universe, your mother floating up above you or even a beautiful full moon to just give you a break, just for five minutes can I have my gumption back? I promise I will use it wisely.

In my particular instance it took all of 2014 for me to get my gumption back, and I have to be honest, I am still kind of digging it out of the dark corners of my soul.  I've punished myself for months as I reflect on the past year.  I look back on all the decisions that I made and they feel so far from who I really am. I took jobs not aligned with my inner truth, I moved to towns I never desired to live in, I made interesting financial decisions and I probably burned some bridges that I really wish were still in tact.

So here I am, letting that inner voice win.  It's telling me I am lost, it's telling me I made all of these mistakes and it's telling me to run. Run run run run run, leave it all behind, all of the mistakes, all of the challenges, all of the burned bridges.  My mean little voice wants me to abandon myself and stop digging for my gumption.  She's tired, and honestly so am I.  But this is when it really counts. This is when Rocky Balboa finally makes it to the top of those stairs, this is when in the third act Matt Damon's character Will Hunting realizes he's got to go see about a girl.  This is when it matters, when it gets so tough that your little inner voice is telling you to abandon the challenge.  This is when you really have to show up for your life.

I stumbled upon this video the other day and I can't tell you why, but it has changed me.  I've listened to it each morning ever since.  It's Oprah Winfrey at a student led interview at Stanford Graduate School of Business.  She say's a lot of really valuable things and while I am not an Oprah Winfrey obsessed fan I can't help but acknowledge that her words hit me in my gut.  The biggest takeaway from her talk is this:

"There's a supreme moment of destiny calling on your life. Your job is to feel that, to hear that, to know that. And sometimes, when you're not listening, you get taken off track.  You get in the wrong marriage, the wrong relationship, you take the wrong job.  But it's all leading to the same path.  There are no wrong paths, there are none. There's no such thing as failure really, because failure is just that "thing" trying to move you in another direction. So you get as much from your losses as you do from your victories.  Because the losses are there to wake you up."

I can see my gumption in the distance.  Sometimes the inner voice is so loud that it causes me to pause for a moment and think about giving up, but we have to keep moving forward, we have to keep digging.

What will you do with your supreme moment of destiny?

The then and the now. The now and the what if?

I found an old photograph of my mom.  I was unloading boxes with my father in his new home and he laid a pile of photo albums next to me. "What should we do with these?" he asked. 

My father is notorious for throwing things away without thinking twice. "I need to simplify." he will say.  I can't blame him, losing her was the hardest thing he has ever faced. These days whatever he thinks will make him happy gets my vote.  With time he has learned to ask us before tossing something that could be considered a 'keepsake'. 

I turned 30 this month. In the picture my mother is 26 and pregnant with my older sister. The day after my 30th birthday I read an article on medium about another 30 year old woman in San Francisco who is injecting herself with gonadal-stimulating hormones and freezing her eggs. 

Is this what I am supposed to be doing? I thought as I tried not to cry. 

It's no surprise to probably any woman reading this that I imagined myself married by now.  Listen, it's not like I have spent my post college years focused on finding love.  I took the career route. "You can't stop me", I thought as I boarded a plane to New York City to chase my dreams at 22. But of course I have thought about it, a lot, actually. 

Life just seems more fun with someone by your side. Most of my friends are married, some have children. Those that aren't married seem to be living the modern couple life-- sharing rent with a significant other and talking of marriage but not, you know, "trying to rush anything". 

 "That's the result of societal pressure" one man I loved said to me. 

Is that really it? Am I just conforming? Or do I really want that? 

It's scary, turning 30. Don't get me wrong, it is also liberating, it is almost as if I have been waiting for my 30's to get here since I was in kindergarten. I was practically born 30, an old soul. But it is terrifying. I am a single woman who needs to start thinking about freezing her eggs and getting tested for the breast cancer gene. Yikes. 

I don't really think about kids.  I mean I do. I love children. When I see pictures of my mother I think, "What a gift that I look like her, I'll be an adorable pregnant person." But I don't spend my evenings imagining myself running around the house chasing after three year olds. That seems really advanced. Like adult stuff..and remember, I am only 30. 

And then I see pictures of me, at age 3 and some sort of excited weird warm feeling comes over me.  Oh my gosh, what if I got to have one of these little people? What if I could give her all of this love I have inside of me? 

And then there is the freezing of my eggs. Is that what I have to do to have that? Does the reality of being a modern day single woman mean that I have to, alone in my apartment, inject myself with hormones and put my eggs in a cooler to ensure that I can have children? Or is it more simple than that? A solution. Technology. Just evolution without so much emotion? 

I think I need a cocktail.  

And then there is the divorce, and the infidelity and Ashley Madison. And I vow to never get married because I refuse to ever let someone do that to me. What if I get sick like my mom did, will they leave? 

Will anyone really ever promise to be there and then deliver? Are men of my generation capable of that? Do I even need it? 

I just don't know. 

Maybe I should freeze my eggs just incase. 

Crap, societal pressure again. No? Yes? 

It's really foggy up here in my 30's. The hope and the fear and the excitement and the heartache. The choosing someone. The discovering you were wrong. The having to start over. The learning to forgive yourself. The old photos of my mother. Time. 

Do you think I could just call her, just once? I would be brief if that means I could ask her just a few things. Only a few.  I would say, "Mom, do you think I should freeze my eggs? Is that really necessary? Do you think someone will love me soon? I know that I don't need anyone, but it would be nice. Is this what it feels like to be a woman?"

I guess this is what it means to be a woman. The joy and the fear. The excitement and the apprehension. The then and the now. The now and the what if

These are just some of the many thoughts that come with being a woman. It's still pretty exciting even with the freezing of the eggs and the marking of single on my tax forms. It's all about perspective, right? There is still so much more to come.  

and I guess, at the very least, I'll always have the photograph.