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This Is 30

Or, was 30. My birthday was this past Monday. About a month back I read an article in the New Yorker about how the Apatows’ version of 40 in This Is 40 doesn’t quite match up with a lot of other people’s. I haven’t seen the movie, but I highly doubt I’ll be anywhere near where the characters are in 9 years. So this is my more realistic version of a “sort-of prequel” to This Is 40 (which is the “sort-of sequel to Knocked Up,” according the trying-too-hard marketing tagline).

January
Last January was a busy month.
Things got kicked off with the first Boston One-Minute Play Festival! I had two little plays in it. Both were sad. I was still in a rough place in a lot of ways.

My Birthday!
I decided to have a party for my birthday, which I’ve never really done before. It was 80s themed and it was awesome. It left me wanting to have another 80s party just for the hell of it. I spent too much money on ridiculous outfits.

KCACTF
The end of January saw a return trip to the Kennedy Center’s Region 1 American College Theatre Festival in lovely Fitchburg, MA. I wrote about a big red button. Not unlike this one:
Colleen and Button

Right after KCACTF, I got my permit and bought a car. Allan’s car had died right before my birthday, and I had decided that I had to get my license because it was ridiculous not having one. So I bought the car to learn with. Then I had a rough first outing behind the wheel and progress was slow moving for awhile. But the car is adorable.
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This is one of the “real-life” parts that I’m talking about. Paying for real-life things like an apartment or a car or college sucks. Sometimes it’s hard to get by towards the end of a pay cycle. The characters in This Is 40 don’t seem to have had to deal with any of that.

ANYWAY.

February and March were pretty uneventful.
Shadow did this:
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I worked some more on a scarf that I only just finished earlier this week.
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And that’s about it.

April
Marmalade got out when our old roommate came in late one night and didn’t close the door fast enough. The following morning it poured and he was nowhere to be seen. I started putting up lost cat fliers the next day and put pictures all over facebook and twitter. I left food out on the porch, but all it did was make Oskar and Shadow want to go outside. I also searched the neighborhood every night, sometimes with family and friends and sometimes by myself. I met this cat who I named Not-Oskar.
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Here’s Oskar for comparison.
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After being gone for 8 days, Marmalade just showed up on the front porch one morning. It was the best day ever. He slept a lot the day he came home.
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Late-May/Early-June
Lots of graduations!
My cousin Erin graduated from high school the same day my friend Pam graduated from med school. And my brother Connor graduated from college!
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June
My year as a New Voices Fellow at New Rep ended with our Festival of New Voices. It was only the second full-length reading I’d ever had and I was a bit terrified. But I loved working with everyone and it was an awesome year.
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Photo by the lovely K. Alexa Mavromatis for the Playwrights’ Perspectives BPT blog.

Other than that reading, June was rough. I felt gross and decided that I needed to start losing the weight I’d put on after my dad died. The reading was just before the one-year anniversary of when he died (it feels weird to use the word “anniversary” for something awful, but my brain isn’t able to find anything else). I think after all the stress about writing that play was suddenly gone, and the friends who were in town for the graduations went back home, I had no more distractions from how I was feeling. There were a particularly rough couple weeks before I started to be able to pull myself back on track.

July
Oskar got really sick. He was spending a long time in the litterbox, and it happened more than once, so I called the vet on a Saturday to get him seen. Turns out his bladder was blocked, which is potentially life-threatening if not caught early. Luckily, we had caught it early. My mom drove us up to the emergency animal hospital in Woburn, where they were going to have to keep him for a few days and place a catheter to get rid of the blockage. Leaving him at the hospital was really rough. But there was good news… when they were prepping him for the catheter, his bladder unblocked itself. So he only had to stay one night for observation and didn’t need the procedure. He came home and let me know he was ok by peeing in his carrier on the car ride back. He wasn’t happy about how they shaved his front legs for the IV though.
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This is another real-life thing. Animals get sick, and it really freaks you out and you cry and then you feel bad that you cried taking your cat to the hospital but not during your dad’s funeral. And vet bills are a lot of money. When you buy a car, you know what you’re getting into financially. But you’re never really planning for your cat to have a bladder obstruction. The pet insurance was very good investment in this case. But you still have to pay up front and then get reimbursed.

But July also had some good real-life goings-on. It was two years with Allan! This picture is not from July but it’s one of the few from this year that I have of us.
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August
Annual fun with playwrights in NH! Sadly all my photos came out really bad because I took them all at night. But believe me when I say that it was a weekend full of fun, fireworks, swimming, and wine. Lots of wine.

I also started taking real driving lessons towards the end of the month. See above about slowly picking myself up and back on track.

September
Not much going on. Some months are like that. Marmalade played in the sink.
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October
The kitties had Halloween fun.
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And I really amped up on the driving lessons and started to not feel freaked out when I was driving. Which led to–

November
I got my license finally! yay! But all the expenses from paying for the lessons and road test and the licensing fees really hit me hard and I’ve been poor for months now. And all the holiday craziness started. Thanksgiving was with my family and Christmas was supposed to be with Allan’s, but–

December
First flights got insanely expensive. Then when we decided to take the train, that shot up in price to be almost as expensive as a flight. So we ended up having Christmas in Boston. It was nice being with my family, of course, but I’ve only met Allan’s family that one time and he hasn’t seen them in forever, and I really want to fix that sometime soon.

So that was my 30. No fancy house, no kids, no unique artsy job that somehow pays for all my expenses and then some. It’s more like struggling to pay bills, feeling guilty when you order food (or buy 80s outfits), conquering ridiculous fears like driving, celebrating small victories whenever possible, and cats. Lots of cats. But all of that probably doesn’t make for a good movie.

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Remembering what’s important

I was searching through HowlRound’s archives trying to find a particular article I liked (about writing characters of a different race than your own) and in the process came across this piece by Polly Carl that really resonated with me. I haven’t posted very frequently lately–I’ve been struggling with a lot of different things–and sometimes it’s really refreshing to read something that makes you want to get back on your blog and share it everyone:

If we let it, life will drown us in transactions. The life of transactions is not a satisfying way to live. I prefer transcendence over transaction. Which is why I have chosen to work in the theater—for those moments in the rehearsal room that lead to something revelatory, something glorious or more than anything I could accomplish on my own. No money is exchanged, and in the very best moments transcendence feels within reach.

One major struggle I’ve been dealing with, though certainly not the only one, is finances. I feel like I don’t make enough to live. I mean, I do, but then there’s rent, student loans that are almost as high as my rent, utilities and other bills, food, and random crap that comes out of nowhere right when you least expect it. Like my kitty Oskar needing to go to the emergency room on Saturday. I have pet insurance, but it’s the type where you pay it all upfront and then submit a claim. I was worried about having enough funds between what’s left on my credit card and what’s left in my bank account to cover it. Luckily, that all worked out, and he come home earlier (and more affordably) then originally expected.

I would put off things that might help some of my other problems and stress, like seeing a therapist, because I was afraid of the copay being too high. It’s often been a game of “can my bank account hold out until the next paycheck comes through?” “Will I have enough to cover the next bill that comes in?” It’s so stressful and so frustrating. I start feeling guilty and beating myself up if I do something “fun” like buying something I don’t need (like the patio chairs and tiny little grill I bought a few weeks ago) or ordering food on days I’m exhausted. Ordering food is extra guilt-inducing because I feel financially irresponsible AND fat at the same time. Between working in publishing and writing plays, I feel like I have one job that pays poorly and another that doesn’t pay at all.

So it’s really refreshing to see this essay talk about the idea of transcendence over transaction. The times careerwise that I’ve felt most confident and happy were when I had moments like this. One I love looking back on is my first Boston Playwrights’ Theatre holiday party. Jake was making a speech about how wonderful the local theatre community is and how great it is to belong to it. I had this moment of “wow, this is really what I want to be doing with my life” where it all sort of made sense. I also felt a lot of this clarity when I got to go on the Freedom Art Retreat last year. It was a whole week of collaborating, of feeling like I could actually contribute to a group of artists and have something important to offer, and of knowing that the things we created together were better than what would have resulted if I’d attempted it myself.

It’s little moments like this that I have to think back to when things get particularly stressful. It’s good that I was reminded of it at a time when I’m trying to get everything in my life back on track. Knowing that eventually things at work will get better, that that will help the finances fall into place, and that my whole life shouldn’t be spent letting this anxiety get to me because I risk missing out on the moments that make all of this worth it.

AND I just realized we have chicken nuggets in the freezer, so I don’t have to grill the chicken that I’m not entirely convinced is still fresh! Lazy dinner that does not involve spending money on ordering food. yay!

*EDIT: I just want to add that the rest of the article goes on to say pretty much exactly how I feel about the state of theatre in this country and it’s a great read. I was just jumping off one little quote that felt really personally relevant right now.

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8 Ways to Rationalize Not Writing

I should be writing right now.

That’s something I find myself saying a lot. I say it way more often than I actually listen to myself and start to write. I’m an expert in procrastination and rationalizing my reasons not to write. Here’s some of my rationalization favorites:

1. I’m so tired/stressed/overwhelmed right now that if I tried to write, anything I wrote would just be total crap.
This is bullshit. Often it just takes the simple act of getting started and lines start to get written. It’s like magic… you sit down to write, and writing happens. Insane, I tell you! I spent basically all of undergrad feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and sleep deprived (hooray for double majors!), and I still got all my work done. And (usually) did well. And even if what I wrote that day WAS total crap, there’s a little thing called revision to fix it all later. “I’ll fix it later” really is a wonderful mantra.

2. I’m in the middle of [insert book title, or better yet, book series], and I should finish that off before I start a new writing project, because otherwise I’ll get distracted from the book and forget what’s been happening.
There’s probably a reason why I decided to finally pick up Harry Potter this past spring. On book six now! But yeah. It’s called “read a little after that night’s writing session.” Problem easily solved. And yet it’s one of my favorite excuses.

3. The cats like to climb all over my desk and my chair, so I can never get any work done.
Coffeeshop, anyone? Library, perhaps? Or even just “work from the couch”?

4. Updating my website or posting to twitter counts as being “writing related” because it’s part of the whole “self-marketing” thing.
Because it will do a LOT of good trying to get local theatre companies to learn more about me if I never have anything to actually send them. And as you can see, I’ve had trouble lately even feeling like I have something inetersting enough to blog about. Still, this is a particularly dangerous excuse, because techically I am doing something tangentially related to writing, which can easily be rationalized into feelings of productivity. Ohhh yes.

5. Watching this movie or tv show or reading this book is helping me research my next play.
This is something that totally CAN be true. Research is good and often necessary before diving into the writing stage. But there’s a point where it becomes a convenient way to put off starting the actual writing. I’m good at this one because it’s kind of related to #2 on this list, only it’s much easier to rationalize because the time-waster is at least somewhat writing related.

6. I don’t have to get this done for another three weeks because that’s when my writing group is meeting next.
This one is probably my biggest problem. I’m terrible at getting things done if I don’t have a deadline staring me in the face. Then I inevitably stress out and churn something together as it gets down to the wire. I have to stop working like this. Or at least get better at pacing myself.

7. I suddenly need to vacuum the living room rug, scrub out the bathroom sink, do the dishes, and organize my bookshelf by genre, author, and book size.
I think one speaks for itself.

8. I am suddenly obsessed with these videos of people playing 80s and 90s hits on Mario Paint and I need to watch them for an hour while Final Draft sits open in another window.
This almost killed me when I was working on the final paper for my Pulitzer Prize-Winning Plays class.

Does anyone else out there have any other favorite forms of rationalization? Or any tips on combatting them and just getting started?

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Barking cat

The best part is when he notices the camera and is like, “umm… I mean… meow! ..Nothing to see here.”

Sometimes you need things like this to get you through the day.

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Hanging on

My father died unexpectedly a week ago. He was only 57, and it was a complete shock to my whole family. Those of you who know me pretty well know that he had ongoing health issues, mainly that he had seizures due to a brain injury from a car accident he was in a few years before he got married. They were issues that my family and I had learned to deal with. It was normal for him to have to be sent to the hospital once every few months. He also survived prostate cancer a couple years ago and a pretty serious gum and sinus infection from a polyp in his nasal cavity. We all knew he had ongoing health concerns, but they were under control as much as possible. When he suddenly had trouble breathing last Monday morning, my brother called an ambulance right away, but no one expected it was going to be as serious as it was. He had stopped breathing, and by the time they got to the hospital, there was nothing they could do. The doctors think it may have been a pulmonary embolism.

My brother called me from the hospital. I had been outside searching for my cat Oskar, who had somehow gotten outside the night before even though he hates the outdoors. I had to go into autopilot to throw my aerobed and laptop into the car and have my boyfriend drive to pick up my youngest brother and then head to the hospital. My brother was there with my mother. He had to go pick up my third brother from the train station. It was just horrible.

But when we got home from the hospital, our house was already full of people. One of my mother’s sisters was there, as were about four or five of her really close friends, with coffee and donuts. My mother’s brother had been working on my grandmother’s living room in the apartment upstairs from ours, so he was there too, and one of her other sisters was on her way over with pasta and the ingredients to make sauce. Two more of her sisters showed up later that afternoon. The day felt so long—from the hospital to the funeral home a few hours later and then the florist—but it was made bearable by the outpouring of support from everyone we knew. I felt lucky that my mother was part of such a big family (five sisters and one brother). They all lost their dad far too early too, so they understood in a special way what we were going through. My dad’s oldest brother was there at the funeral home with us, and his other brother and his family flew up from Florida and visited on Tuesday.

My friends were also the most amazing people in the world. Friends and even parents of friends came to the wake and the funeral. Coworkers stopped in, and the company sent beautiful flowers to the funeral home. My entire MFA class still living on this coast came to the wake. People have been emailing or calling daily just to check in and see how I’m doing, and my college roommate came to visit this weekend to make sure I was ok. I can’t tell you all how much it helps having such good people in our lives. After the wake Wednesday night, there was a large group of friends and family at my house cheering on the Bruins in Game 7 as they won their first Stanley Cup in almost 40 years. My dad would’ve loved it.

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