Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

Taking Charge September 17, 2012

Get it? This is Charles, from “Charles in Charge”? High five for the awesome 80’s reference!

The problem with thinking that you are a hostage, is that you start to forget there’s any other way to be. You start to settle into the situation, despite how unpleasant it is.

After writing that blog post this weekend about being hostage to our health care system, I had fresh perspective on how ridiculous it was, and I was all “I’m breaking out of here. Hand me a shovel!”

And by “shovel” I mean my insurance card with the number of member services on it.

I’d contemplated this route a few times over the last two weeks, but each time I thought about it I pictured myself lost in a maze of menu options and terrible hold music. Instead I tried going into my profile on my health insurance website to see if there might be information there, but only found a list of all the claims that had been approved. Along with the percentage of each bill that I was responsible for. After I finished dry heaving and posting all of my belongings on Ebay, I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with sitting on hold all day.

But that was more than a week ago. Today I pulled out my insurance card and dialed before I could change my mind. Then I settled in for an afternoon of web surfing while a recorded message tells me they are experiencing a higher than normal volume of calls why don’t I try getting what I need from their website? Which is more annoying than actually being on hold, because  isn’t the internet almost everyone’s first step anyway? Does anyone choose to be on the phone when the internet is an option?

But before I could even get on Jezabel.com, I was speaking to a customer service representative. A real person who spoke clear and accurate English. It was like I was in a dream.  She explained to me that only a nurse could discuss my claim with me. She transferred me and even told me the name of the nurse I would be speaking to.

Which I immediately forgot, so when a few seconds later someone else picked up the line and asked who I was holding for I said something like “Um, a nurse…who was going to…um…tell me about my claim…or something…” The woman said “you’re holding for Valerie”, which immediately sounded familiar, but before I could agree, I was speaking with Valerie. Something feels entirely wrong with the world when the best customer service I’ve gotten this year is from a huge insurance company that is otherwise fucking up my life.

Valerie told me that I couldn’t have an MRI without a biopsy. I pointed out that I’d had a biopsy. Valerie responded that I’d only had one biopsy but the report indicates I have two lumps. Valerie informed me that I needed to biopsy the second lump before having the MRI. “But the doctor can’t see the lump very well, which is why she wants the MRI,” I explained. “There are other options you can explore, like a guided biopsy, ” Valerie said in a tone that was both condescending and bored.  Apparently she was very accustomed to us lazy people trying to get away with these willy-nilly breast MRI’s. On account of how fun it is to be topless among strangers while sticking your boob through a hole in a table before being put into a tiny enclosed space. Although it is much preferable to  being topless while strangers stick needles into your boob. Before I could respond she explained this was an inflexible policy and that the only options I had were to have my doctor appeal it, and to then appeal it myself, which would take months and probably wouldn’t work anyway.

So I hung up with Nurse Valerie and called my radiologists, who was the one pushing for the MRI, and explained the situation.

She said that she was afraid this would be the outcome and agreed it wasn’t worth wasting the time to fight it, and so we should just move ahead.

She gave me two options: 1) have a guided biopsy using mammogram technology (I’m assuming that means they squish my boobs in a mammogram machine and then shove a needle in, but I could be wrong. Hopefully I’m wrong. She started to explain the procedure but I stopped listening after “mammogram”), 2. proceed with the surgery that has already been recommended from the first biopsy (not malignant, but will just keep getting bigger and more painful) and take the second lump out at the same time and biopsy it then.

The downside to the second option, is IF, by some random and unlikely chance the second mass is malignant, then I may have to have a second surgery because the surgeon likely wouldn’t have removed enough surrounding tissue. I’d rather have another biopsy than have to have two surgeries. Also, I like the idea of the surgeon having as much information as possible before going in. So guided biopsy it is.

It’s scheduled for this Friday, and I’m sure its gonna be a hoot.

While I was doing all of this – talking to the insurance company and the radiologist – I felt super empowered and grown up and in charge of my life. It felt good getting these things sorted out.

But as soon as I hung up the phone, Stockholm Syndrome kicked in and I was all “What the hell did I just do? Now I have to actually go forward with these procedures!” and immediately became nostalgic for the frustrating yet safe feeling of captivity. Because back then it was all theoretical and my emotions were focused on the ridiculousness of the medical system and the trials of being captive. Now I have to think about what new awkward and painful things were going to be inflicted on my lady humps.

But the good news is that the lumps have totally shrunk back down to the size they were before. Clearly they know they’ve been put on notice.

So at least there’s that 🙂

 

Held Hostage September 15, 2012

I cried in the middle of CVS the other day. But what’s important is not that I cried, but that I only cried a little bit, and not for very long, and there was no screaming or throwing of products up and down the aisles.

Because given the circumstances, that’s super impressive.

Chris and I were in CVS because we were waiting for his prescription of Oxy-codone, because he’d just gotten out of the hospital after having surgery on his shoulder for the second time. Only this time, they also did a bone graft from his leg. So he has double the pain, and double the difficulty getting around. We’d arrived at the hospital the day before at 10:30am, and now at 6pm the following day, all we wanted was to get his pain meds and go home and forget the laundry list of frustrations and indignities he’d been subjected to (including waiting in pre-op for 4 hours because his surgeon was late, having a random part of his leg (not near the incision) shaved with what I can only assume was a dull butter knife, being catheterized, having to ask for hours for ice for his leg, and being forced to eat hospital food, to name only a few).

For my part, I’d been at the hospital the day before from 10:30 am until 11pm, and then gone to work the next morning and then to the hospital at 3 where I sat with him until he was discharged at 4:30. We got lost getting out of the hospital, (completely my fault. I suck at being in charge), and it meant he had to walk really far on his bad leg. Now we were at our second CVS because the first didn’t have any Oxy in stock, and now there was a problem with the DEA number on the prescription that the intern had written. We’d been in this CVS for over an hour, I was freezing, and hungry and losing patience with the entire medical system in this country. Chris’s pain was etched all over his face and for the millionth time in the last two days I had to see that and know there was nothing I could do about it.

As we stood in the middle of the store trying to find something to distract him from his pain induced nausea, I kept thinking “We’re hostages. Hostages of the medical system.”

That’s when I wanted to start screaming, like an actual hostage would, in the hope that someone would hear and be able to rescue us.

Because it wasn’t just Chris who was captured in the system and divorced from all agency and recourse. I was trapped too.

And not just because I am Chris’s partner. I have my own medical dramas going on.

See, about 6 weeks ago, I found a lump in my breast. I’d had a benign lump removed about three years ago, so I assumed it was scar tissue.

After seeing my doctor, and getting a referral to the Breast Diagnostic Center where I had my first mammogram (a story for another blog post), and an ultrasound, I was scheduled for a biopsy. And around then finally accepted that it wasn’t scar tissue.

After the biopsy, the radiologist decided I actually had two lumps, and she’d only biopsied one of them, but needed me to have a breast MRI so she could better visualize the second lump before doing another biopsy.

So I made an appointment for the MRI. All of this took place in the span of about 2.5 weeks. Everyone I interacted with from schedulers, to techs, to the doctors themselves were helpful, warm, pleasant and reassuring. I felt confident that the lumps were nothing, and that everything would be sorted out and it would all be a distant memory by Thanksgiving.  I was really calm and remarkably unstressed out. For me, anyway. I mean, I was still a gigantic baby about the biopsy and acted like I’d had a piece of my boob removed with a hunting knife, but for ME, that counts as being a trooper.

Then, the day before the MRI was scheduled, I got a call from the Breast Diagnostic Center that they had to cancel it because my insurance company declined to pay for it.

Cue screeching record sound.

There were a lot of calls and messages back and forth between me and the radiologist, the radiologist and my primary and my primary and me. At the end of the first week, the theory was that only my primary could sort it out.  I talked to her and she promised to handle it and to stay in touch and that if she didn’t follow-up, that I should call her. In the week that followed I left two more messages and she hasn’t called me back yet. Which seems out of character for her, and so my theory is that the women who answer the phones aren’t giving her the messages because they always seem super annoyed that I insist on talking directly to the doctor instead of leaving a message in the physician’s assistant’s voice mail.

The last message I left her was right after they took Chris into surgery, and I’d been waiting on pins and needles for her to call me back.  I was really  needed to have an update, some information, so I could have a sense of agency, of control,  over this one part of my life, since I had no control over anything happening to Chris.

But no. No call back. No information. No forward motion. Also, I’ve become convinced that in the downtime since the MRI was canceled the lumps have tripled in size. Like they know they’re unsupervised and are running rampant.

And there’s nothing I can do. Again. I’m a hostage of a medical system that lets insurance companies make decisions about care, and receptionists that think they know everything.

I want to scream, and tear things off the shelves in this CVS, and kick and scream until someone hears. Until someone rescues us.

But really, I know that’s not going to do anything but get me arrested. And that would definitely be a step backward in this whole quest to be in control thing.

So instead I cry. (But JUST for a minute or two.) And Chris shifts into the position of caretaker, gently hugging me with his one good arm.  And I’m aware that I’m supposed to be taking care of him, not the other way around, and I start to cry more because I feel like a terrible girlfriend/person. But then I think, “Who am I kidding?” because these are the roles we’re most comfortable in anyway. Chris is a caretaker to his core, and I’m constantly in need of care, and I think this is a big part of why we work.

Once I stop crying I can tell Chris’s energy has shifted, and he’s gone from withdrawn and cranky to  cheerful (albeit forced), and when the pharmacist calls his name, he acts like a man receiving a prize as he limps up toward the counter, like he’s not at all frustrated, or in overwhelming pain, and I can’t help but smile.

So fine. I’m being held hostage.  But if I’m going go through this, at least I’m going through it with him.

 

New Year’s Resolutions Progress Report July 2, 2012

Remember back at the beginning of the year when my bossy know it all, very wise BFF, over at Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy? wrote my New Year’s Resolutions for me? Well, since we’re about half way through the year, we thought it was time for a progress report.

I have to admit, I took these resolutions much more seriously than I’ve ever taken any of the resolutions I’ve ever written for myself. I’m not saying my success rate will be any higher, but I definitely thought about them a lot more and have more guilt over the ones I ignored failed to achieve. Although, the year isn’t over yet, and like in grade school, a progress report is nothing more than a heads up to get your act together. I expect to report nothing different great things at the end of the year. And also like  school progress reports and professional performance evaluations, I’m full up on defensiveness an creative explanations.

Behold:

1) Find and make a home. A real home. Whether it’s by yourself or with your man or with a cute little kitten named Rhett. Find a place you adore and want to stay in for a long time. A place that feels like yours. It has to hold all your important stuff, like your shoes and your books and your random photos. I’d really like to add a caveat about keeping it orderly and clean-ish, but I feel that might make your place less yours, which entirely defeats the purpose.

Technically, I didn’t do this. BUT, I would like to encourage a more liberal than literal interpretation, in which case I’m not doing too bad.  I moved out of the crazy place I was living in, and into a (so far)  nice normal place, and I like the room very much and feel more comfortable and more at home there than I ever did in my last place. And Chris gave me a key to his place, which made me feel more at home there as well, so I think if you add up my place and his place, I’m at least more settled and anchored than I was when this was written. Grade: B-, and I suggest that it get carried over for next year. Bonus Points: my room is actually quite neat and orderly, which I’ll bet no one saw coming:

2) Do not text and drive. Ever. As your mom says, you need to “concentrate”.

I do a pretty good job of this although, in all honestly I could probably be a little better. Grade: B+. Bonus Points:  I NEVER talk while I’m driving without my hands free device.

3) Continue to stay in touch with your body. Exercise, nourish, and strengthen it in the best way you know how. I want you to feel and be healthy for a very long time. It’s not impossible that we’ll be in the same nursing home someday and I want you to stay cute enough to rock a colostomy bag.

I’d like to say I thought about this resolution a lot, but really, any achievements I’ve made on this point are coincidence. But that still totally counts. So, I got back into Pilates, and its made a huge difference in how my body and I get along.  Chris and I have also made an effort to be active as much as possible on the weekends, and I can now hike 3 miles without wanting to stab him in the eye, so that’s something. We also joined a gym (that’s technically still under construction, but whatever) but I’m very excited for their big indoor pool and Pilates/yoga room. OH, and I’ve also gotten really good at following my new low sugar, gluten-free diet and have learned more about what my body responds best too.  Most significantly I’ve learned that if I under-eat by even a few hundred calories a day, my body will retaliate by swelling up like a water balloon. So I don’t do that anymore. Grade: A. Bonus Points: I’ve taught myself to like buckwheat granola. Its got all kinds of raw, and “sprouted seeds” in it, which are super healthy (apparently) but taste suspiciously like dirt.

4) Decorate your own Christmas tree. Like a real one, where you go and pick out at least 75% of the decorations and put a lopsided star on top. May I suggest candy canes as decoration?

I totally get a pass on this one because it would be weird if I had decorated a Christmas tree between January and July. Ohhhh, but if I was smart, I totally would have gotten a tree and decorated it, just so I could get an A+ on this one. Damnit. Grade: N/A.

5) Get moving on this book we’re supposed to be writing. I look to you to be the leader on this project. Lead by writing, as I’m greatly influenced by peer pressure.

Ummm, well. Ok, here’s the thing. I have written a couple of essays that would go with the book, but then I started rethinking the focus of the book, and then I got caught up in learning how to publish books, which is totally going to help us when we do finish this book. And that is taking up every minute of my free time right now, so… technically, the book hasn’t moved forward. BUT because I’m becoming an expert at publishing and promotion, once we do finish the book, everything else will go so much faster. Grade: C++

6) Keep your standards high when it comes to your romantic partnership. I know this whole “grown-up relationship” thing is kind of new to you, but I really think you’re getting the hang of it. I would like to shake you really hard to ensure that you learn from all of my mistakes, but I think this long, drawn-out, whiny way that I communicate about my failed relationship seems pretty effective.

I think I’ve made some progress here. I’m much more comfortable with the whole “grown up relationship” thing than I was this time last year, or even six months ago. I’ve still got some work to do, but I’m actually pretty impressed with myself. Most of the time. Grade: A- (But maybe I should actually have Chris grade me on this one?)

7) On a somewhat related note; don’t be afraid that you’re going to screw up this whole love story that you and Chris have going on. You’re not. If it gets screwed up, both of you will be able to take a bow. So just . . . be present in your relationship. Recognize where you are emotionally. And please, don’t be afraid to plan ahead for the life you want to have together.

I’m working on it, and as I said above, I’m getting better. But I still have attacks of insecurity that make me ask, in all seriousness, if the fact that I don’t like roller coasters will one day make him feel like he settled. I see now the absurdity of that question, but at the time, it felt really reasonable. And I’m totally better at the planning for the future thing. I mean, I signed a year contract at the same gym as him for Pete’s sake.   Grade: B- Bonus Points: For doing this.

8) Keep storytelling. It’s a gift you have and it should be shared. Most importantly, make sure to post it on YouTube. If I can’t be there, then I need to be able to access it later.

I’m assuming you define “keep storytelling” as getting on stage and telling stories. Which I did. Once this year. BUT, if we define “keep storytelling” as “stay a part of the community, keep learning about the craft, keep finding new ways to stretch myself creatively” then I’m rocking this. So far this year I’ve: taught one class and one boot camp, directed my first show, started writing a weekly column for the SpeakeasyDC blog, which, by the way I also started and am the Managing Editor of, so…  Grade: A-.

9) Consider getting a kitten. Like, one you’ve picked out yourself and named after some random fictional character or a TV star from an 80s sitcom.

I wish! I want a kitten so bad. One that will cuddle with me, and chase imaginary bugs along the wall, and let me make funny YouTube videos of her…but kittens aren’t allowed at either of the places where I live. So really I’ve made the responsible choice in not following this resolution. Grade: A Bonus Points: I haven’t bought a stuffed kitten yet that I pretend is real.

10) Self-host your blog. Get legit, girl.

I have plans. It’s not time for this yet, but I have plans. Grade: C+

11) Tap into your insight when it comes to your own emotions. Listen to yourself. Listen for that little tingly noise that sounds when your comfort level has been surpassed. Once you hear it, do something about it. Talk to someone, write it out, sing in the car in your loudest voice. Just don’t stuff it down until it erupts in a flood of tears and incoherence. You’ve got a bunch of people who’ve got your back but we’re only useful when you communicate, even if it’s initially in a series of bumps and false starts.

I think about, and reference this resolution ALL THE TIME.  Usually when I’m crying incoherently. I think I’ve made some progress… Ok, so I WAS crying when I asked Chris about feeling like he’s settled for me over the roller coaster thing, BUT I was not crying incoherently. Grade: C-

12) Leave the country at least once in the year 2012. You’re the type of person who may very well get old and become a homebody who doesn’t drive and eats ¼ cup of raisins for breakfast every morning. You need to travel while you’re still spry and can figure out how to use a bidet and tolerate people with weird accents.

This might not happen. I was going to go to Denmark again this summer, but the discount airline stopped flying from the US, and as of now I can’t afford to pay normal airline prices to go to Europe. Plus, it ate up a lot of my vacation time last year and I’m kind of liking the idea of having flexibility for more domestic travel, like, ahem, trips to Charlotte, NC. For example. Grade: N/A Bonus Points: we could decide go to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls when we go visit my parents in August.

13) Make a three-year plan for your career. Map out something long-term and realistic, but challenging. It could be writing a novel. Officially becoming a freelancer. Searching the want ads until you find something that you’ll really love. I can’t pretend to guess what would be the absolutely perfect job for you, but I want you to focus on figuring it out. You are so talented and I would like you to be emotionally and financially satisfied by the work you do.

I think I’ve figured it out. I’m not ready to lay it out for public inspection yet, but I’ve got the makings of a plan and I think it’s a really good one. And might happen in less than three years. Grade: A+

14) Attend BlogHer’12 with me. I promise you, you will be inspired.

Did we miss this? Because I’m totally in. Grade: N/A

15) Challenge yourself physically at least once this year. Like, run a 5K. Swim across a small lake by yourself. Go camping without the benefit of an electrical hookup. Something outside of your comfort zone that requires the use of your body.

I was totally going to do a 5K run thingy, but it sold out before I could register. But, I did go to a giant amusement park and rode several rides, including a roller coaster, which was WAY outside my comfort zone, (and technically required the use of my body – there was a lot of walking and climbing into and out of seats. Fun Fact: I’m super uncoordinated when it comes to climbing into and out of rides) and I’m going to go back and do it again at least two more times this summer. I’m also going to go kayaking more than once this year, maybe one time in a solo kayak even, and that is definitely outside my comfort zone and requires physical exertion.  Grade: B

16) Acknowledge the fact that you are not some sort of grouchy curmudgeon who believes the worst in people. Yes, you had Drew pegged long before I did. Yes, you are better than me at ejecting people from your life who are toxic. But at the end of the day, you are this loving, positive force to the people around you. Own it. Own it enough to direct it toward yourself.

False. I AM a grouchy misanthrope, and my co-workers and anyone who calls my office will back me up on this. Grade: F

17) And lastly, I’m going to save the best for last,and quote your very words back to you. They’re brilliant. Never waste a second of your time or energy on anyone who doesn’t immediately find you hilarious, brilliant, talented, loving and perfect just the way you are.

Since I don’t like people very much its very easy for me to walk away from people who don’t find me hilarious. Not that that’s ever happened, mind you, but if it did, they’d be history in a nano second. Grade: A


You can go read her progress report on the resolutions I wrote for her, here. And I just want to say its totally not a competition.

(But if it were, I’d totally win.)

 

My First Job June 18, 2012

My first job ever was as my dad’s secretary. (This was the early 80’s – before the term Administrative Assistant came into use).

I was really little. So little in fact, I don’t remember how it started, I only know that the story goes that it was my idea, and I was around 3, maybe 4, and my main job responsibilities consisted of answering the phone (for real) and probably things like bringing stuff to my mom and moving things from one part of his office to another. But really, what I remember most in those early years is answering the phone.

Two things you should know: My dad has never been good at saying no to me, and his clients and colleagues had a very good sense of humor.  And the ones who knew my dad really well weren’t surprised he let his toddler answer the phone, and the ones who didn’t know him that well learned a lot about him from those few seconds of phone time with me. People who had a problem with me answering the phone probably weren’t going to get along with my dad very well.

As I got older I continued to be his “secretary” off and on, although it eventually became more of a running joke. When I got old enough to understand what answering the phone actually meant, I lost interest in it (an interest I’ve never really regained. Much to my current boss’s dismay).

Since I didn’t want to answer the phone anymore, my job description throughout most of elementary and middle school consisted of applying mailing labels and stamps to thousands of newsletters every month, (along with my mom and younger brother), at a rate of $.05/piece. (This was way before the days of electronic newsletters). When I got into high school I still had to help with the newsletters, but also got trained on the art of collating and using the binding machine so I could help make his training books and presentation materials. I probably got paid for that too, but I don’t remember how much. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t doing it for the money anyway.

I was doing it because I was really bored. I wasn’t very popular in high school.

My dad was a Sales Trainer, which meant that he trained people how to become sales people, or how to become better sales people. He was self-employed and like many self-employed people, the work spilled over into other aspects of life. Child labor issues aside, my dad often relied on the principles and methods from his sales training to inform his parenting. It worked better than you might think. At some point I’ll blog about that specifically.

When I was an adult and starting my own business, I relied on that lifetime of sales training to help me get clients and close deals, and while ultimately I learned that I’m not a natural salesperson, I also learned I can do well enough to get by, but more than anything, the philosophies of his sales system really do double as useful life lessons.

Which is why, when my dad went into semi-retirement 3 years ago, he asked me to help him write a book about his sales system.  It seemed a natural fit because he had about 30 years worth of experience in his head, but no idea how to organize it into a book, and I liked to call myself a writer, but also knew the selling system, so theoretically could easily organize the information into a book.

We estimated it would be a roughly 3 month project.

Three years later, it’s finally done. But three months, three years, whose counting, right?

The important thing is that its done! AND it’s for sale on Amazon! Right now its only available in digital format, but will be available in paper back as well within a week or so.

My original plan had been to have it go on sale on Father’s Day, and surprise my dad with it,  but technology and the space time continuum conspired against me. But given the way this project has gone, one day late is basically ahead of schedule.

And the coolest part, aside from having had the chance to do this project with my dad, is that it’s given me the opportunity to learn a lot of new things.

I’ve learned that taking a pile of information and organizing it into a coherent, organized and universally accessible book is a lot harder than it seems. I’ve learned a lot about digital printing, and Amazon specifically.  I’ve learned the basics of a graphics program, and I’ve been inspired to starting to learning basic web design and language.

It feels good to be learning again, and I feel like this could be opening some potential new doors for me down the road.

It kinda feels like the whole, secretary at 3 years old thing, has come full circle in a way.

But anyway, if you have any interest in sales, or negotiation or even strong communication, you should check out the book – Sell More Easily, by Howard Maslich (edt. by Meredith Maslich).

And if you do happen to buy it, and read it, please leave a review on the Amazon site – that’s one of the fastest ways to increase its ranking. Which is important, because after three years, the ROI on this project needs to be really high. Really, really high.

 

Two Timing March 22, 2012

Dear Tiny Bit of Crazy,

I’ve been neglecting you. I know this. But I have an excuse.

I hope you’ll hear me out.

At first it might seem like a bad thing, but if you keep an open mind, I think you’ll see, this is good for everyone.

So, the truth is… I’ve been writing for another blog. But not just any blog, and not just writing either… I’m the managing editor for an awesome new blog about storytelling. Its SpeakeasyDC’s blog. I’ve been working on it for a few months, and it just launched this week.

I’ve only written two posts so far, but I’ve spent all the rest of my time finding the other posts, editing them, thinking of new themes and ongoing series to make sure there would always be fresh content. Making sure it doesn’t get stale, or look neglected.

What’s that you say? Like you? Oh.

Oh, well, yeah. I guess so. But only because I’ve learned from you, learned how not having reliably fresh content can kill the momentum. See? I’m better because of you.

But I’m not leaving you, I swear. You’ll always be part of my life, you’ll always be the first place I turn to record all the crazy. I promise. But this other blog is new, its young and it needs me more. But it won’t always be this way, I promise.

But I’ve also learned something in my time away. As much as I love you, TBoC, I’ve always struggled with an internal debate between being a blogger and a Blogger. Being a Blogger requires much more effort, much more intention not to mention attention, and I’ve been afraid to make that commitment, afraid I wouldn’t be able to follow through. I just don’t have as much source material as niche bloggers, like those lucky mommy bloggers for example.

What? Oh yeah,thing did start to look better for a minute after Ambien Chris came on the scene, but there’s only so far that could have taken us.

But aside from the issue of source material, which I think falls into the attention category, I’ve never been sure if I’d want to be a Blogger even if I had the content, which is the intention, I think. As I talked about here, I think I’m happier behind the scenes. And my time with the SpeakeasyDC blog has helped me to confirm that.

I’ve loved the time I’ve spent thinking about topics, coordinating writers, editing posts and figuring out my editorial calendar. On a bad day, editing someone’s blog, discussing a new series, or obsessing over the editorial calendar cheers me up.

But it won’t always require this much of my time, I swear. Pretty soon habits will be in place, routines created, short cuts identified, and content stock piled. And then I’ll be back, TBoC, I’ll be back. Not that I’ve ever really even left you. I think of you daily, writing posts for you in my head several times a day. I just haven’t been able to sneak away and write them.

Except for this one, so hey! maybe this is the beginning of the shift! Maybe the worst is over and before we know it we’ll be back to our old ways, spending hours together, obsessing over witty phrases, when to isolate a line for emphasis, and which tags will offer the best SEO.

Just like old times. Only better, because now I know myself better, I know what I want to be when I grow up, and that can only be in both our best interests.

Take a look at what I’ve been doing while I’ve been gone. I think you’ll like it. Or at least respect it.

This is going to be a weekly column (don’t get jealous – I’m not nearly as funny there as I am here) – http://www.speakeasydc.com/2012/03/social-storytelling-vs-performance-storytelling/

and then this one :http://www.speakeasydc.com/2012/03/choose-your-words-carefully/

And just know, Tiny Bit of Crazy, whatever else happens, you’ll always be my first love. That’s got to count for something, right?

Faithfully,

Mer

 

 

If Its Love February 27, 2012

Filed under: Future,It Ain't Easy Being Me,Work — Meredith @ 4:38 pm

While I’ve made references to my other life as a storyteller on this blog, I haven’t directly talked about it…

Until now.

So, yeah, I have this other part of my life, outside my blog and outside my office, in which I’m a storyteller.  But not just in the sense that I make even the smallest moments of my life into a story that I force my friends, and strangers in elevators, to listen to. But as in, I get on stage (occasionally), and tell carefully crafted, true stories from my life in front of hundreds of people.

This isn’t what you take your kids to at the library, and it isn’t what you might stumble across at a folk festival. Its adult storytelling, (but not ADULT, as in XXX), and its true, autobiographical stories. No folk tales. No third person. If you’ve heard of The Moth, then you already know what we do. And by we, I mean SpeakeasyDC, the organization I do all of this with.

I am also a teacher with SpeakeasyDC so I can help people who learn how to turn their lives into entertainment, which is super fun and rewarding for me.

But recently, I had the opportunity to direct a storytelling ensemble show. I was actually co-directing with a woman who has directed a handful of these shows and who has been performing and coaching storytellers for way longer than I have. I wanted to learn from the best.

And man, did I learn. A lot.

I learned lots of technical and philosophical stuff about being a director and balancing the needs of performers with those of the venue and those of the organization and my own ego. But that’s what I was expecting to learn. And I’ll write about that in another post some other time.

What I didn’t expect to learn, was how much I loved directing. I loved the process of moving from the auditions to the first rehearsal, through subsequent rehearsals to opening night, watching the stories transform and deepen and take unexpected turns.

By the time we were done, I had listened to each story at minimum 8 times. And yet as I sat there on the second and final night of the show, I still got goosebumps, I still laughed out loud, and I still felt my heart melt at these stories – often in new ways.

I realized what an honor it is to be allowed to help someone craft an autobiographical story, and that these tellers, most of whom I met for the first time at their auditions, trusted me enough to open themselves up to me and allow me inside their story.

Coaching storytellers for an ensemble show is a little different from helping a student get ready for their show case at the end of the course. In an ensemble show we have to balance each individual story arc and tone against the arc and tone of the entire show. We have make sure the stories stay unique enough to show a range of experiences around the subject (in this case, the show was called Sucker for Love, and all of the stories were somehow related to the topic of love), while still feeling cohesive. We want humor as much as possible, but without losing heartfelt moments and those beautiful moments that bring an audience to baited silence.

The process of helping each storyteller craft their stories is one  that requires me to be objective and sort through the details of their stories and decide what is interesting, what is pertinent, what is useful. It’s a delicate job, and one I tried very hard to do well.

I came to think of the cast as “my storytellers”, and found myself with growing maternal and protective feelings for everyone. I was as nervous as each one took to the stage as I would have been if I was the one performing.

And when they finished, I was more proud of them, and proud of myself, then I’d ever been after one of my own performances.

Let me repeat that, because I had to say it to myself a few times to get it: I felt more pride and satisfaction at the completion of this show I co-directed, than I had ever felt after a show I’d performed in, even on the rare occasions when I killed on stage.

.

Turns out, I’m a behind the scenes sort of girl.

.

I’ve always known that I’m not a natural or gifted performer. Not like some of my storytelling friends, who can hold an audience in the palm of their hand and sound as if they are coming up with the witty one liners and hilarious observations on the spot.

I mean, I do ok, I’m not what anyone would call a bad performer, but I’ve never fooled myself into thinking performing is my “thing.”

And while I’ve enjoyed the attention, and the adrenaline of being on stage, I’ve never really loved it, or thrived on it the way many of my storytelling friends do. I have to work really, really hard, put in many, many hours to get a story to the place I want it to be when I get on stage, and even then, I’m never fully satisfied. And the more I perform and don’t meet my own expectations, the less motivated I am to put in the work, which makes for less than perfect performances, and so on and so forth.

But now that I’ve experienced directing, I don’t feel bad about that anymore. Now I know that I’m meant to be behind the scenes. I’m still planning to perform occasionally, but just because its hard to teach/coach/direct others in something you don’t do, but I’m going to stop thinking of it as the centerpiece of my storytelling life.

.

In addition to directing this show, I was also the host for the first time. This meant that I did a quick story at the beginning of the show to warm the audience up, and then I introduced each storyteller, made sure their mic was adjusted correctly, made announcements, hyped upcoming shows, and things like that. The host can go a long way toward setting the tone for the evening (good or bad), keeping the energy up or down between stories, and giving new people a general impression of SpeakeasyDC- whether we’re organized, fun, something they want to see again, etc.

Before each of the two shows we did, I couldn’t decide where to focus my nervous energy – on performing my story, or the responsibilities of being a host. It was disorienting and I think (though no one in the audience would admit it), that it showed in my performance on the first night. On the second night, I had found my groove and did much better. And fortunately, the second night was when the video and photography people were there.

I did learn that I enjoyed hosting more than I thought I would though, so there’s that.

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And I’m going to post a video of my story on this blog, for the first time ever. Because for all the issues I have with my story from a performance aspect when I step off the stage, they are made ten fold by watching the video. Even when I like my story, and feel my performance was good, I usually hate the video.  By watching the video I’m now able to critique not just my story, but my performance style, my hair and my outfit.

And this story is no exception. Take, for example, my outfit on this night. I left my cardigan unbuttoned because it was baggy and when it was buttoned up looked kind of shlumpy. And I thought the white bisecting the pink was a nice pattern.

In my mirror, I looked stylish and slim.

On film it looks like I’m too fat for the sweater to close. It looks like the sweater is two sizes too small. Maybe because the sides got caught on my pants and pulled back? I have no idea, but I’m never wearing that outfit again. Ever.

Fortunately, there were a few photographs where I looked pretty close to how I understood myself to look, and that might be the only reason I’m not throwing out my mirrors. And if I show you one, it makes me feel better about showing you the video.

This is me, doing the host thing

Also, in the video my hair looks like it’s in my eyes. But it wasn’t in real life. Part of the problem is that the camera was up above pointing down. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

But all of that said, I do like my story, mostly because it’s about Chris. And that’s also partly why I’m willing to share it, because I think it’s a cute story. It’s not hilarious, it’s not a tear-jerker, it’s not going to change your life. But it is cute and sweet and I’m perfectly OK with that.

So, now before I let you see the video, I have to set the stage a little. What you’ll see when you click youtube link at the bottom of this post is me performing my story about the first time Chris met my family. What you won’t see is that as soon as I finished, the lights went dark and a picture of me and Chris flashed on the screen. It looked like this:

and the chorus of  “If Its Love”, by Train played, which sounds like this: (chorus starts around 1:02 on this video)

So after you watch the video, think of the picture going up and the song filling the silence. It was my favorite part of my performance. You might want to have the Train video up on your computer, cued to the chorus, and then click over to it as soon as my video stops, to get the full effect. Not that I’m trying to direct every aspect of your experience, I’m just offering ideas.

And after you watch my video, I REALLY hope you’ll also watch the other stories, because for me, that’s where the real magic for the night happened.

If you don’t see the other videos at the bottom of the screen when you watch mine, you can find them here.

And just cause I’ve got em, here are some other pictures from that night:

Me and my brilliant co-director

 

Guest Post: 2012 New Year’s Resolutions for Me. January 24, 2012

Please welcome Tara from DoTheseKidsMakeMeLookCrazy. She let me write out her New Year’s Resolutions for her, which was way fun because I enjoy telling people what to do. Then I let her write out mine.

Now she thinks she’s the boss of me.

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But that might be ok.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mer and I have been friends for 23 years.

That’s longer than twice the length of my marriage.

It’s nearly four times the age of my youngest child.

It’s over five times the amount of time I’ve lived in my current home.

I totally wrote all those statistical-sounding facts because math confuses Mer and I want to remind her that I’m smarter than her.

Why is it important that I appear to be smarter?

So she’ll let me control her, err, make decisions for her.

Kind of like how Britney Spears’ dad gets to spend all of Britney’s money because she shaves her head and drinks a lot of alcohol when she gets sad.

But Mer, regrettably, does not have a lot of money. And she has a freakish amount of hair that she only rarely brushes, let alone shaves.

Therefore, I have to assert my influence over her via less, um, dramatic ways.

I’m writing her New Year’s resolutions.

Me. Divorced, broke, questionably employed, chronically hungry, mother of two.

Don’t worry, I’ve totally got this.

I learned it from watching her.

Are you ready, Mer? Listen up, girl.

Find and make a home. A real home. Whether it’s by yourself or with your man or with a cute little kitten named Rhett. Find a place you adore and want to stay in for a long time. A place that feels like yours. It has to hold all your important stuff, like your shoes and your books and your random photos. I’d really like to add a caveat about keeping it orderly and clean-ish, but I feel that might make your place less yours, which entirely defeats the purpose.

Do not text and drive. Ever. As your mom says, you need to “concentrate”.

Continue to stay in touch with your body. Exercise, nourish, and strengthen it in the best way you know how. I want you to feel and be healthy for a very long time. It’s not impossible that we’ll be in the same nursing home someday and I want you to stay cute enough to rock a colostomy bag.

Decorate your own Christmas tree. Like a real one, where you go and pick out at least 75% of the decorations and put a lopsided star on top. May I suggest candy canes as decoration?

Get moving on this book we’re supposed to be writing. I look to you to be the leader on this project. Lead by writing, as I’m greatly influenced by peer pressure.

Keep your standards high when it comes to your romantic partnership. I know this whole “grown-up relationship” thing is kind of new to you, but I really think you’re getting the hang of it. I would like to shake you really hard to ensure that you learn from all of my mistakes, but I think this long, drawn-out, whiny way that I communicate about my failed relationship seems pretty effective.

On a somewhat related note; don’t be afraid that you’re going to screw up this whole love story that you and Chris have going on. You’re not. If it gets screwed up, both of you will be able to take a bow. So just . . . be present in your relationship. Recognize where you are emotionally. And please, don’t be afraid to plan ahead for the life you want to have together.

Keep storytelling. It’s a gift you have and it should be shared. Most importantly, make sure to post it on youtube. If I can’t be there, then I need to be able to access it later.

Consider getting a kitten. Like, one you’ve picked out yourself and named after some random fictional character or a TV star from an 80s sitcom.

Self-host your blog. Get legit, girl.

Tap into your insight when it comes to your own emotions. Listen to yourself. Listen for that little tingly noise that sounds when your comfort level has been surpassed. Once you hear it, do something about it. Talk to someone, write it out, sing in the car in your loudest voice. Just don’t stuff it down until it erupts in a flood of tears and incoherence. You’ve got a bunch of people who’ve got your back but we’re only useful when you communicate, even if it’s initially in a series of bumps and false starts.

Leave the country at least once in the year 2012. You’re the type of person who may very well get old and become a homebody who doesn’t drive and eats ¼ cup of raisins for breakfast every morning. You need to travel while you’re still spry and can figure out how to use a bidet and tolerate people with weird accents.

Make a three-year plan for your career. Map out something long-term and realistic, but challenging. It could be writing a novel. Officially becoming a freelancer. Searching the want ads until you find something that you’ll really love. I can’t pretend to guess what would be the absolutely perfect job for you, but I want you to focus on figuring it out. You are so talented and I would like you to be emotionally and financially satisfied by the work you do.

Attend BlogHer’12 with me. I promise you, you will be inspired.

Challenge yourself physically at least once this year. Like, run a 5K. Swim across a small lake by yourself. Go camping without the benefit of an electrical hookup. Something outside of your comfort zone that requires the use of your body.

Acknowledge the fact that you are not some sort of grouchy curmudgeon who believes the worst in people. Yes, you had Drew pegged long before I did. Yes, you are better than me at ejecting people from your life who are toxic. But at the end of the day, you are this loving, positive force to the people around you. Own it. Own it enough to direct it toward yourself.

And lastly, I’m going to save the best for last,and quote your very words back to you. They’re brilliant. Never waste a second of your time or energy on anyone who doesn’t immediately find you hilarious, brilliant, talented, loving and perfect just the way you are.

I love you. Now go kick 2012’s ass.

Tara

 

 
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