Upcoming event in NY!

Hey, New Yorkers! I'll be doing a public event at Mohawk College in Utica on October 27th and I'd love to see you there. I'll be talking about my experience with mood disorders and the tools that help make life a little easier as an introvert who struggles with anxiety, depression, and a panic disorder.

But it's gonna be FUN, I promise!

You can get tickets here.

cup2ftuwiaaxqnk

Authentic creativity at Hippocamp: a whole fancy PowerPoint talk

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 8.21.25 AM I'm super excited about the Hippocamp nonfiction writers conference in Lancaster, PA this weekend! I'll be giving a talk about how to find your own unique creativity: how to refine it,  own it, and how to make sure you never get blocked from it. I've got PowerPoint slides full of embarrassing old photos, helpful tips and cartoons. It's gonna be fun.

There are still some tickets to the conference available, so come hang out and talk about words with me and a whole bunch of extraordinary writers.

And no promises, but last year at this conference - they had a mashed potato bar.

Just saying.

with love,

~Lisa

(If your school, conference or company is interested in having me come speak - you can see my speaking kit and contact me for more information.)

Why you are never old enough to be too old

I am so old. I've been working at the same job for eighteen years. What else can I do?  I am definitely too old.

This was my constant inner monologue. 

When I was twenty-two.

I was an actor, living in the epicenter of our youth-obsessed culture: Los Angeles. Other people might have defined me as "successful" but success was a mirage that inevitably dissolved every time it seemed like I could grasp it. I signed autographs while out at restaurants or late for my root canal. But I got to a point where the joy was drained out of me. I was barely old enough to order a cocktail, but I felt ancient and hollow.

I assumed that my existence would always revolve around movies. Since I was four, my life had been wardrobe calls, accent coaching, and craft services - acting became my identity. It was the only thing I knew how to do. 

It was who I was.

At the age of twenty-two, I realized that who I was - was mostly miserable. I was struggling with the rejection, the focus on physical appearance, the constant competition, and loss of privacy. I felt trapped in a world that I was supposed to love.

But I was too old to do anything else. It was too late for me.

It finally occurred to me that every time I said, "I'm old," it meant: I'm scared.

I was terrified to make a change and overwhelmed by all the things I thought I should have figured out already. I was exhausted by Hollywood. Used up. Washed up. Deeply frightened of my future.

I didn't know that I was just getting started. 

I had to leave L.A. and retire from acting learn that we are all allowed - even at the age of twenty-two - to write the script for our own lives. We get to set our own priorities. It was painful to face the fear that my only worth came from my resume. There is nothing inherently wrong with the acting profession, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with being a cardiologist or a professional snowboarder. It's just that none of those things was the authentic path for me. We all have the right to change our mind about who we want to be.

I am now 37 years old. I really like being 37 years old. 

I can see the world in a larger context now. It's not all about me and my problems. I have more grounding in who I am and what I want to contribute to the world. I no longer feel the need to impress the right people and wear fancy shoes I can't walk in. I don't need to adhere to someone else's definition of success. That's the reward I got for surviving my twenties.

Of course, there will be times when we all get lost in moments of panic and insecurity. We might obsess about our past heartbreaks, our uncertain future and our hair that won't behave itself for even one damn minute. But we don't have to live in that place of painful mental anguish. We can just wander through every once in a while, visiting that dark, sketchy neighborhood, and then we can quickly remember the route home. We can choose to live in a place that is a little kinder and more compassionate.

I'm married to my best friend, a man who has known me for more than half my life. He knows to open the car window on curvy roads because I get motion sickness, and he can talk me down from a nightmare at 3 am without actually waking me up. He knows I love alliteration and hate raisins. We get all these beautiful moments for one reason - time. We've had time together that creates this bond and understanding. 

Time brings experience. Wisdom. Clarity. Whether we are twenty-two or thirty-seven or eighty-six, we get to wake up every morning and decided how we want to engage with life. We are never too old, or too young, to be who we were meant to be. We just tend to forget that we’re that powerful. 

Instead of picking on ourselves and avoiding every mirror, maybe we feel gratitude for the body that has hugged crying friends. The crow’s feet that resulted from late night giggle fits. The grey hair that was earned, while desperately waiting to hear the car pull into the driveway safely. The mature mind that realized that the high school boyfriend with the fondness for Goldschläger wasn't actually our soulmate. The years that have offered the chance to understand what the world needs and how we can use our inherent talents to shine a light. 

Regardless of our age, let's not be ungrateful for our lives. Let's not be paralyzed by all the things we haven't done, and let's look at what we can do today. Let's not feel old or desperately attempt to be young.

Let's wake up and simply embrace who we are – because that is truly courageous.

————– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter

You might also like:

Follow your bliss...backlash

I think you can find criticism for pretty much anything. I recently had someone say he was never going to read anything else from me because I wished for peace for everyone in the world. Eating healthy? That's the wrong kind of healthy.

Helping people? Don't help them too much.

Cute cats? Hey, why are you discriminating against dogs?

So, it shouldn't be surprising that there is some push-back about this idea of living a life based in passion.

And I get it. People like to argue about things. But I truly believe in this whole follow your bliss thing - even if it is a phrase that seems like it should be cross-stitched. The problem is that the intention behind the idea of pursuing your dream is sometimes misinterpreted.

I don't mean quit your job and move across the country

Yes, I get it - that is actually exactly what I did. But leaving my career wasn't the first step for me. First, I realized I was miserable and started exploring what I might find exciting in my life - then I read books about art history and going to law school and working for non-profits. I kept doing the job I had, the job that was paying my mortgage, but I took community college courses, too. Living authentically and with passion is about waking up to your life, not just sleepwalking and missing the whole thing. If it means signing up for a photography class on the weekend or volunteering at a shelter, that's amazing. If it means spending one evening a week checking in on your lonely neighbor or working on that freelance idea you've had for years - spectacular. Your job is merely one aspect of your life.

I don't mean that if you don't know what your passion is, you're doomed

I hear this one a lot. People say that it annoys them to hear "follow your passion" since they don't know what that is. When I left L.A. I had no earthly clue what was next for me. None. I had no skills beyond a film set. I didn't have a back up plan or helpful things like a high school diploma. And yes, that was terrifying but I kind of loved it, too, because there was no pigeonhole waiting for me. If you are similarly clueless, I am so excited for you. Because you get to play. You get to try stuff. Here are some of the random things I tried and failed at:

  • I volunteered at a museum and helped little kids glue goggly eyes on a neckties and turn them into snakes. That didn't last long because of my lack of glue gun skills and my affection for profanity
  • I was a teaching assistant for a college course, but when I realized that was mostly about collating paper and buying tampons for students who needed them, I decided to stop doing that
  • I worked at a radio station but again my use of bad language made me not a great fit
  • I was a tutor for an adult literacy program which I loved but found heartbreakingly devastating
  • I designed websites for non-profits which I also loved mostly because I got to make pretty things while wearing sweatpants
  • I took a certification class to become a mediator and realized that when people yell about getting divorced, I mostly cry

If you don't know what your talents are, or what you love - there is nothing wrong with you. You just get to go on an adventure with your own soul. Are you mildly interested in heirloom seeds? Greek mythology? Helping people with addiction problems? Great. Step one in Project Passion: go to the library and take out a bunch of books on the topic.

Look at that - you're already living a passionate and engaged life.

Go, you.

I don't mean that you should plummet your family into poverty while you pursue your dream of being an Ultimate Fighting Champion

I expect you to be a reasonable human being here, and really look at how your passion might affect you or those you love. Some dreams should just be dreams. Might you be hurting someone? Then maybe it's time to look at ways to embrace your passion in a way that is less all-encompassing, or maybe it's a chance to keep yourself open for something else you might love.

I don't mean that it's easy

Of course it's not easy. Why the hell would I bother talking about it so much if it was easy? Living authentically might be one of the harder things we ever do in our lives. It's scary and vulnerable and people criticize you. It's painful getting out of your comfort zone and sacrifices are inevitable. Sometimes it downright sucks. But the inner peace that comes from feeling like you are living a life that reflects who you are - that is entirely worth it.

I'm actually not telling you that you should do anything

I'm simply saying that my life got a whole lot better when I stopped pretending to be someone else and started focusing on what I thought success looked like. If you're happy with your life, I'm thrilled for you. Don't let anyone tell you how you are supposed to live. But I like talking about passion because I never thought I deserved it. I thought it was more important to keep other people happy. I thought I was too old (at twenty-two!) to take on something new. I felt the need to live out of momentum and not rock the boat. I assumed I was incapable of doing anything other than acting, so I was destined to be dark and tortured. But really, I was just scared and didn't think I deserved something that felt better to me.

If you feel like you need permission to live passionately: here it is. Permission granted.

You deserve to feel that puppy-love spark about your life. And if you don't know what would offer that, you deserve to give yourself a little time - ten minutes a day - if that's all you have, to listen to your heart and explore the world and see what warms your soul. Because when you are happier and more fulfilled - you are able to give more to the world. And I don't don't know if you've looked around lately, but the world really needs it.

For me - it all started with the tinniest little whisper from deep within my core:

I like books.

——– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

You might also like:

There's real famous. Then there's me.

It is possible to leave Hollywood.

It's not easy.

People wrinkle their foreheads at you and ask "why?" in this tone that makes you feel like you have just announced your intention to dress yourself entirely in tinfoil. People say you're crazy for walking away from a good career just because it wasn't making you happy. But it can be done. You can leave the film industry and do new things and you can almost leave it all in the past. Almost.

Certain things tend to linger.

I've been friends with people for a while and they have no idea that I used to be an actor. They know me as I am now, a writer and a yoga teacher and a wife and a dog-mom. My acting past is simply not relevant. Usually, it will come up because I have to explain why I never graduated from high school or why I have DVDs of the movies that are still in theaters on my coffee table.

It's not like I'm legitimately famous. It's not like I walk into a room and I'm Jennifer Lawrence and everyone starts squealing. Occasionally, people recognize me. Often they squint at me and ask if we knew each other in high school. Or, it's just odd.

My past creates certain challenges when making new friends - because I don't know if they know, either from recognizing me or hearing about it from someone else. So, I don't say anything, because saying something would be obnoxious. Why does my old job matter now? Who's like "Oh, just so you know, 15 years ago, I worked at The Olive Garden, I hope that doesn't make things strange now."

So when I dance around the issue of my past, when I get flushed and nervous and look at my feet while using vague language like, "I was in Honduras once, for this...um...you know...work thing...." I look like I might be a repentant drug lord.

So, I test the waters and mumble "Oh, dunno if you know or not, I used to be an actor, so um...yeah...there's that." And I nervously wait for their reaction and try to come up with an excuse to check my phone.

I've had people get weirded out and uncomfortable, thinking this somehow makes me exotic and un-relatable because actors are apparently made of different stuff than regular folk.

I've had people get too excited and too comfortable and then they only want to talk about whether or not Fran Drescher really talks like that.

And then there is my all-time favorite reaction. When one of my friends found out, after months of knowing each other, she looked at me and said "Oh my God, it's like, you're....fake famous. That's hilarious. Hey, hand me that yoga mat."

She's right. I am fake famous. I have this little bit of recognizability, but I don't get mobbed in public or walk the red carpet anymore. I never enjoyed those things, they just sent my anxiety into overdrive. I like my life so much better now.

As it turns out, the authentic me is much happier being fake famous.

————– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter

You might also like:

Embrace your weird

Me. At my wedding. I've always felt like I was weird.

I'm goofy and dorky and awkward. I make faces like that when I'm supposed to be a composed bride.

Sometimes people stare at me. There is pointing. And whispering.

I didn't go to school the way most other people did. I had different experiences and I didn't know things that other people knew about. I didn't know how to play hopscotch or jacks, I knew how to play poker and craps - those were the kinds of games we played on set.

I was super insecure about that. I liked my job as an actor, I enjoyed working, but I also felt ashamed because it made me different.

I felt like I'd never fit in anywhere.

But I've realized that the vast majority of people feel like they are different for one reason or another. They think that they don't fit in. That they have to hide something about themselves so that other people will accept them.

But the problem with that fear is that it isolates us and keeps us in situations that stifle our talent and true purpose.

That thing that makes us feel weird is actually really important. That thing can make us powerful. Because if we can learn to embrace that, we can do anything. If we embrace our weirdness, we can be our true selves and bring our own unique perspective and experience to the world.

Hiding and feeling ashamed just doesn’t work. The desperate desire to fit in only makes us invisible.

I was always terrified to share my writing because I was worried that people would tell me that I sucked...and I didn’t know if I could recover from that. But I realized that I'd never be happy if I didn’t at least attempt thing I was most passionate about. It got to the point where it was more painful to stifle what I loved than it was to be criticized for it.

After I started this blog -- that really scary thing actually happened. There were some people who told me I sucked. Anonymous Huffington Post commenters said all the terrible things I worried people would say, that I was washed up and irrelevant and a bad writer and it made me cry and feel miserable.

It felt like a punch in the face.

But it didn’t kill me.

Because, actually, it didn’t matter what they thought of me. There are plenty of other things those people can read on the internet. There are lots of things about cats wearing sunglasses and endless Buzzfeed lists -- and I hope they enjoy those more than my work. Eventually, I stopped crying and went back to my desk and I wrote more. Because my job is to write. Because it's none of my business what those other people think about me - it matters most what I think about me.

That's what happens when you embrace your weird.

When you get comfortable with your weird, then you no longer feel the need to pick on someone else for theirs.

In embracing my weird, I wrote my first book. And then my second book. I started giving talks at colleges, high schools, and conferences. I brought to light everything that I was once ashamed of. I talked about how I never graduated from high school, that characters in books were my best friends, that I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks.

I've gotten to the point where I would rather fail than quit - and that's when cool things become possible.

——–

(By the way, this is pretty much what I talk about when I do workshops and talks. If you think your school/conference/company might want to hear more about embracing your weird - contact me - LisaJakub108@gmail.com) You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

You might also like:

"You look so familiar" : what it's like to get recognized

I recently got an email asking me about the "recognizing thing." I get this question a lot, so I thought I would answer it here. People want to know if it still happens (yes, but not as much as it used to) and if I hate it (hate is a terribly strong word. I hate bigotry and raisins. I don't hate getting recognized).

But most people say something like "I don't get it - is it invasive if someone just comes up to say hello?"

The answer is no, it doesn't make me angry or upset or annoyed - it's nothing that simple or dramatic.

It makes me kind of embarrassed. It makes me shy. It makes me awkward. (Okay, more awkward.)

It's never something I got accustomed to, so every time someone approaches me, I'm surprised. I worry that:

  • I'm going to say something stupid to you
  • you are going to see the pimple on my nose
  • I'll try to be funny and I'll just be odd
  • I'll make a goofy face in the selfie we just took and that you'll have that forever
  • the friend that I am with - who is a nice, normal non-Hollywood mother of two - feels weird about me getting recognized and is now laughing uncomfortably and looking for an escape route

I never feel like I should be...human. People tend to call me by my character name and I feel the pressure to live up to whatever they thought Lydia/Alicia/Sandra/whoever should be. And should I be who they were at age fourteen? Or am I supposed be a projection of who those fictional characters would be in her mid-thirties? See? It's complicated.

And then I get the people who think we went to high school together. They are absolutely convinced and won't let it go. And then I never know what to do, because I can't say, "maybe you know me from movies" -  without looking like a self-obsessed-Troy-McClure-jerk.

So, no, I don't find it invasive when someone just comes up to say hi. I find it flustering, just in the same way that I get flustered when someone at Whole Foods asks if I need help finding anything - I'm just not skilled at talking to strangers. (See: introvert.)

To be honest, what happens most often is something much more tricky to manage. It's staring. It's whispering. It's pointing. It's attempted incognito photo-taking. And I've never known what to do about that, so I just try to sit there and not feel too much like a zoo animal.

beer

And then there is the really icky stuff - the stuff that started when I was a teenager and made me feel non-human to begin with. There is the feeling of being treated like a commodity and not a real person, like when someone yells "Hey, Doubtfire Girl!" across a room at me.

There is the lack of boundaries and demands of things I'm not willing to do, like the man who approached me at a hotel pool when I was sixteen and wanted me to take a photo with him in my bathing suit. When I asked him to please wait until I could put some clothes on, he said I needed to do it now because, “You’re an actor. You owe it to me.”

I could tell you lots of stories like that - several more appear in my book. I wouldn't say it's common, but it happens, and it hurts.  So, now I have the moment of feeling on guard, wondering if it's going to happen again.

When someone says they just don't understand how getting recognized could be anything other than fun - I get that. When it happens in movies it looks fun. I am grateful that people want to express their appreciation for something that I have done. That's lovely. But the attention and the feeling of being not-quite-human was never something that I was comfortable with. It was one of the many reasons for my retirement.

So, if you see me somewhere, you are absolutely welcome to come say hello. And if you want to help make me feel more human and comfortable about the whole thing - just ask about my dog or tell me about yours.

As long as you understand that I will totally make you look at photos of Grace on my phone.

——–

You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

You might also like:

Through the looking glass of fame

Photo courtesy of USC Photo/Gus Ruelas The University of Southern California recently bought a letter at a London auction, penned in 1891 by C.L. Dodgson. The only reason that anyone cares about a really old letter from C.L Dodgson is because he wrote books under a pen name -  Lewis Carroll. It's a three page letter, on sepia-toned paper with perfectly old-timey slanted script. The letter seems to have the sole purpose of explaining to his friend, Mrs. Symonds, why Carroll hates being famous. He says:

“All of that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books, and to my being pointed out to, and stared at by, strangers, and being treated as a ‘lion.’ And I hate all of that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all."

It's fairly shocking to learn that Lewis Carroll was so appalled by fame that he had some regrets about writing Alice in Wonderland. (It's also surprising to learn that he was such a fan of underlining.) But clearly, he really didn't like that whole celebrity thing.

What did it even mean to be famous in 1891? What was it like to be a celebrity in the days before TMZ and paparazzi and Twitter fights? Were people hiding in the bushes at Thomas Edison's house? Did W.E.B. Du Bois get hounded for autographs while getting his mustache groomed at the barber shop? Could it really have been all that bad?

Yes, clearly for Carroll it could, because some people are just not cut out to be famous.

I am also one of those people. Now, let me state this clearly, before anonymous internet commenters beat me to it: I am not claiming any major type of fame here. I had a taste of that celebrity lifestyle when I acted in movies that did well at the box office. I had that mobbed-in-malls, autograph requesting, red-carpet walking lifestyle for a few years -- until I was 22 and realized, like Carroll: I hated it. I found the rejection, the lack of privacy and acting as a puppet for someone else's writing to be increasingly harsh and unsatisfying. It threatened to completely overwhelm me. Panic attacks struck and I found myself gasping for breath in dark corners, clutching my chest in an attempt to keep my heart from ricocheting off my ribs and busting through the skin.

So, I quit.

But sometimes when people find out that I used to be an actor, they often ask, with this wide-eyed expression, why I would ever leave Hollywood. I try to explain that it's just a job, with all its pros and cons, and sometimes you get tired of a job and want to try something new. Some people give me this look that apparently people have been giving for 124 years, because Carroll references it in his letter:

"Of course there are plenty of people who like being looked at as a notoriety and there are plenty who can't understand why I don't share that feeling. And they probably would not understand how it can be that human beings should have different tastes. But it is true, nevertheless."

Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, likewise, not everyone is cut out to be famous. Yet, unlike being a doctor, most people think they would be pretty good at being famous.

But we see people who are bad at being famous all the time. Some celebrities crash their cars, go on bigoted rants and get dragged out of theaters in handcuffs. The problem comes when we fail to remember that these are people simply doing a job. If someone is a bad bartender, they get fired, but unfortunately, it appears to be quite difficult to fire a celebrity. Poor job performance just seems to get them promoted up the celebrity hierarchy.

This disastrous behavior could be blamed on money or power or access to every indulgence imaginable, but I believe it's the result of being treated - as Carroll said - as a "lion." It sounds enviable, after all, who wouldn't want special treatment? But in reality, "special" inherently means "different." And it's hard to be different.

I've recently realized that in my desperate attempt to not be a lion, I became an ostrich. By pretending that 18 years of my life never happened, I was simply sticking my head in the sand. We all have a past that stomps its feet and demands to be dealt with. My past pops up during 90's movie marathons, regardless of whether I acknowledge it or not. While the past is not deserving of a staring role in the present moment, it can be worthy of a little thank you in the credits somewhere. Because where would any of us be without it?

I hope that Lewis Carroll got to a point where he could see that the work he did meant something to people and realized that he was not required to be a lion or an ostrich or even Lewis Carroll.

All he ever needed to be was C.L Dodgson.

————– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter

You might also like:

Don’t just do something - sit there

  Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 9.03.43 AM The search for a deeper understanding of self is both inherently natural and completely exhausting.

That kind of self-reflection can leave you sweating and chewing your toenails if you aren't prepared for it. It’s the reason that we have reality television -- so that we don’t have to do the hard work of sitting with ourselves and trying to figure out who we truly are. But we do reflect, because it seems more selfish to just wander through life and not think about what you want your contribution to be.

Since I was a kid, I've had a nasty habit of getting so anxious about things that I hyperventilate and black out. It could be about a phone call or a party or merely pondering what the hell I am doing with my life. Panic attacks can happen anywhere. I can be in my living room or in a restaurant, when suddenly there is gasping and shaking and trying to fight the tunnel vision and convince myself (and anyone else who might be present) that I'm not actually dying.

My shrink recommended that I try meditation. She sent me home with stacks of books and the instructions to just sit there and breathe. Just sit there. Alone. In silence. With my own self. I would have preferred a recommendation to massage my eyeballs with sandpaper.

I had an entire film career based on the fact that I could let my thoughts run away with me. Acting required me to completely believe the worst possible scenario, such as the fact that my computerized house was really trying to kill me, and let my body react accordingly. My mind was the master, and my emotions needed to follow.

However, I tend to do what I'm told and so, I sat. Every emotion that I wished would stay lurking under the bed, got in my face. Those voices pointed out all the other people in the world who understood how to do this life thing just fine, and how pathetic it was that I had massive anxiety about going to the grocery store.

But I still sat.

I started going to a weekly group that did Yoga Nidra, a deep form of meditative relaxation. Most of the other people in the group were vets from Iraq and Afghanistan. They possessed this disconcerting combination of looking both very young and very world-weary. They picked at their cuticles and talked about their PTSD. They mentioned their lingering pain from combat injuries and they pulled down their sleeves and tried to cover up the scars.

I stayed quiet at the gatherings, deciding not to bring up the whole “I’m stressed because I’m a former child actor” thing. It lacked the drama of mortar fire and made me feel like a massive jerk.

Instead, I just listened. I listened to these young warriors who knew more about sacrifice and suffering than I ever would. One guy told me he hadn’t been able to sleep more than a couple hours a night since he got back from his tour. He said this "chanting hippie shit" was not his scene, but he had actually started sleeping since doing a meditation practice. So, he was happy to trek down the pathway, which was draped in Tibetan prayer flags and Obama signs, to come to this little shed near the chicken coop in a yoga teacher’s backyard. He’d do whatever it took.

We sat together and breathed deeply. We sat with the voices that tormented us and we sat with the uncomfortable unknown. We didn't fight with the doubts and fears and regrets, we just stared them down until they exhausted themselves and slithered away. We let go of the past and the future and simply practiced gratitude for this moment right here. Eventually, I noticed that I was spending less and less time gasping like a fish who had just leapt out of her bowl.

It wan't like some lightning bolt where I saw God.

But I saw some peace.

And then I saw that maybe those are kind of the same thing.

————– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter

You might also like:

Viva L'Italia

"If we get married, we should have our wedding here because it's so romantic." I choked on the chocolate chip gelato I was shoving in my face.

"Dude - you can't just say shit like that."

(I've always known how to ruin a moment.)

But the thing was - I loved him exactly because he'd say shit like that. He was confident and authentic and didn't play games.

We'd been dating for all of 3 months - but we'd been friends for 5 years before that. And suddenly one day, I couldn't imagine life without him. He was my partner. He felt like home. And he was right, Italy was incredibly romantic.

But, I was 22 years old, I swore I'd never get married, and I wasn't totally sure that I could give up the habit of making out with my co-stars in my trailer during lunch breaks. But he was the first guy that really made me consider it. That's why I had brought him to Italy.

For the year or two prior, I had been contemplating a slow exit out of acting - I thought maybe I'd be happier working behind the camera. I produced a short film called Day After Day and it was selected to be in a showcase at the Cannes Film Festival. What a perfect way to show off to my new boyfriend.

So, three months into our relationship, I invited him to come to France on my work trip to take the film to the festival. We traveled around Italy as well - which is where he made me choke on chocolate chip gelato.

Four years later, I realized I really was done with kissing boys in my trailer (and actually, I realized I was done with the trailers and the films that provided them, as well) so we went back to Italy and said vows.

Jakub 007

And now, after 9 years of marriage, we are on our way back to Italy to celebrate my husband's 40th birthday. Because I married the kind of guy who says that what he wants most for his birthday is to go back to that very romantic place.

He always has the best ideas.

So, I'll be back in a couple of weeks. I'll eat some gelato for you.

——– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

You might also like:

Childhood choices: is it okay to recruit a 9-year old?

Jaden Newman is 9 years old. She also just became the youngest person ever recruited by a college program. Jaden plays basketball. I'm no talent scout but I saw a 30-second video of her playing - and she's damn good. Clearly, the University of Miami thinks so, too.

While I understand why many people are celebrating this fantastic achievement, it still makes me squirm a little. I'm not sure that we should be celebrating colleges recruiting 4th graders.

It's wonderful that Jaden is such a talented, hard working kid who has found something that she loves to do. But can't it just be left at that? Isn't that enough? Why does basketball need to be something that defines her future right now? There's a lot of baggage that comes along with being labeled a "phenom" before you hit double-digits.

I'm not sure why a university needs to take ownership of Jaden's future at this point. She should have the freedom to wake up next Wednesday morning and decide that she doesn't want to play basketball anymore and that she is much more interested in the debate team. Childhood is all about being free to explore who you want to be for the rest of your life. And if there is pressure of a college scholarship and this precedent-setting recruitment, I worry it will stifle her vision for herself.

Maybe Jaden really did find the thing she wants to do for the rest of her life at the age of three. Maybe this is just giving her a great option down the road. I hope that is what happens.

When I was three, I started my career and I identified myself as an actor for the next 18 years. Then, when I was 22, I slowly realized that I didn't want to do that job anymore. I had never even bothered to ask myself what else there was, because it hadn't occurred to me that there were other options available. I assumed I was incapable of anything else. Suddenly, I had no clue who I was. I identified myself as an actor before I identified myself as anything else. If you had asked me who I was, I would have said:

1. An actor

2. A girl

3. A Canadian

So, if I wasn't an actor anymore, was I anything at all?

For me, it worked out - I don't have any regrets. I was able to find a new path and eventually found my self-worth somewhere else (thank you, therapy). But not all kid actors end up in a good place. I hope Jaden knows that she has the ability to be something different if she wants - even if it doesn't come with the media attention and the prestige of college sports. Just because she is good at something doesn't mean she is required to do it.

When little kids say they want to be firefighters, we don't suit them up, put an axe in their hands and send them out there. But with sports, music and acting, it seems like the rules are different.

I believe that it's always important to know, wherever you are in life, that you are allowed to change your mind. None of us have to be just One Thing. If we all had to commit to what we wanted to be when we were little - there would be a whole lot of firefighters and ballerinas. And my husband would be a bird.

So, go do what you love, Jaden. Kick ass and have fun - whether you want to be a basketball player, a firefighter, a ballerina or a bird. I'm pretty sure you'd be awesome at all of them.

——– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

You might also like:

 

 

 

 

 

The things we leave behind

The smell of humidity and rot was strong in the air. But it was a pleasant smelling rot - the gentle softening and giving way of enormous trees to a million tiny insects and bacteria. Butterflies sliced zigzags through the air and landed on sun-warmed rocks to splay out their saffron wings. Branches strewn out on the path suddenly lifted their serpentine heads and lazily slithered into the brush. What my Dad wanted for his 60th birthday was to go hiking with me. I'm not sure, as a daughter, what feels better than that. So, Dad and I went hiking. We crossed an icy river, our feet tingling from the cold and slipping on moss-covered rocks. We waved away the little flies that buzzed persistently behind our sunglasses.

The old stone chimney was hiding just off the path, amongst over-grown vines and fallen trees. It was all that remained of a cabin. When the Shenandoah National Park was formed in the 1930s, most of the residents left the area - but the man who lived here decided to spend his final days in his cabin. After he died, the cabin was destroyed. Only the chimney remains.

CameraAwesomePhoto

It got me thinking about the things we leave behind. I've always been pretty aware of my own mortality and physical limits. Maybe because one of my early acting jobs involved being shot and killed in a restaurant when I was 6. Maybe because I broke my back when I was 11. Maybe because my dearest friend died of lupus when we were 19.

I've never felt invincible.

The wonderful and terrible thing about movies is that they last a really, really long time. I find that disconcerting for many reasons. One reason is that there is footage out there of me singing - which is a total atrocity. But also, in many ways, it feels like what remains of me is a lie. It's frame after frame of me wearing things I didn't pick and saying words I didn't choose. It's me pretending to be someone I'm not.

Maybe that's one of the reasons I write - so that I leave something lasting. Something that is truly me, not simply the shell of me, acting like someone else. I think it's natural to want to create something meaningful that endures beyond yourself. Andrew Carnegie called it the desire to "do real and permanent good."

Personally, I've never felt the desire to have children and pass on my DNA, so I need to find another way to leave my mark on the world. It doesn't need to be perfect or spectacular. I don't think I'm going to cure Alzheimer's or rid the world of bigotry. It doesn't have to be bigger or better or more impressive than what other people have done.

It just has to be a true reflection of me. It has to be my best effort. My passion. The thing that my heart feels is right, the thing that refuses to be defeated by my relentless worries and insecurities. It's what happens when I finally get out of my own way and do the work I was meant to do.

That's what our mountain man in the Shenandoah National Park did. He found a way to live and die in his little place in the woods. That was his legacy. His passion. And what remains is that chimney he built. Strong, solid, proud.

The forest will come and claim the chimney at some point, just as eventually everything changes into something else. Nothing remains static forever. Even the movies and words will fade and become obsolete. That's just the nature of impermanence.

But for at least a little while longer, it will all mean something. It will mean passion and persistence and it will reflect the inherent beauty of creating the life you truly want to live.

————– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter

You might also like:

Things change and nothing changes: Mrs. Doubtfire 2 debrief

I have a pretty normal routine when I get up in the morning. The dog goes outside to sniff around the yard. I do my meditation and yoga. We both have some breakfast and I make tea. Then, just before I sit down to write, I quickly check email - which usually consist of friends sending me links to farm animals on Buzzfeed and an exciting opportunity to turn my computer into a money-making machine by working from home. But last Thursday, I woke up to an interview request from Brazil.

I figured it might be a weird day.

And it was. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Mrs. Doubtfire 2 was in development. This was the first I had heard of it. Suddenly, I was being swamped with questions about whether or not I would be involved.

But here's the thing:

No one has asked me to be involved.

It's kind of like going ring shopping at Tiffany's after your first date. Everyone just needed to take a deep breath for a minute.

I'm not sure even sure how I would feel about a sequel, let alone what my feelings are about being involved. I am retired from acting - it's not the life that I want for myself. But if my friends/former co-workers ask me to consider something, I'm going to listen to what they have to say.

And really, who knows if the film will actually make it to production, or if my character, Lydia, will actually be in it, or a zillion other things that could come up in the meantime. There is no need for decisions yet.

The most interesting thing I had planned for the week was staining our back deck, but suddenly I found myself the topic of internet chatter. On Wednesday, I was just saying stuff. On Thursday, I was "making statements."

It got a little overwhelming with emails and unanswerable questions and interview requests, especially because my answer to everything was a legitimate, yet wide-eyed, "I don't know." It felt like suddenly everything in my life was changing - it was totally out of my control. Chaos was swirling around and from where I stood, this Doubtfire thing seemed to be all everyone was talking about.

So, I did what I do when I feel stressed and ungrounded. I turned off my computer and went to my volunteer job at the animal shelter. I'm always more comfortable with animals and when I can stop thinking about my life and help someone else.

When I walked into the area where I usually work, there was a woman who I had never met before. When I opened the door she turned to me with a sudden look of joyful recognition.

"Are you the one that I've been hearing so much about?" She asked.

My face turned red. I really wanted to stop thinking about Doubtfire 2 for just a couple of hours. I wanted to just do my regular life stuff without hearing another opinion about what it means if I do it or don't do it. I stumbled around and said something eloquent like:

"Uhhh. Oh, I donno."

"Yes, you are! You are the one who has been working with Pumpernickel! What's your name?"

Pumpernickel is a cat that came into the shelter about a month ago. She weighs barely 5 pounds and had been run over by a car. The clinic saved her and she is now up for adoption. She is absolutely adorable, but she has been deeply traumatized and tends to lash out unexpectedly. Pumpernickel has been my project and I've been socializing her -- she recently transformed from attacking anyone that got near her, to being a snuggly lap-dweller and giver of tiny kitty kisses.

The vet heard she was doing well, and came to see Pumpernickel's caregiver and say thank you. She doesn't know anything about my life outside the shelter, and she doesn't give a damn about what HuffPost Live was saying.

It was one of the prouder moments of my life.

I suddenly realized - that's the shit I want to be famous for.

My priorities snapped back into line like a well-cracked knuckle. You know where else this "news" of Doubtfire 2 didn't matter? At my yoga studio. At the farmer's market. With my dearest friend who, after checking to see how I was doing with it all, mostly wanted to talk about the fact that she just learned she'd been buying the wrong bra size for years.

Sometimes, it's easy to get whipped into a frenzy over entertainment news - especially when it involves being misrepresented in an Us Weekly headline. But the truth is, it doesn't really change anything.

We all have those distractions that threaten to take over our lives. Those moments of drama where it appears that something is important just because everyone else is throwing their opinions around. That moment doesn't have to define you. It's can be interesting, sure. But it doesn't need to displace the real things. It doesn't need to become something bigger and better than the priorities you intentionally set for your life.

Whatever the outcome of this whole Doubtfire 2 thing - I'm still the same person who giggles at Buzzfeed lists, knows a lot about her friend's new bra and tries to convince Pumpernickel to not scratch someone's eyes out.

——– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

You might also like:

 

Coming up: speaking engagements

I love writing best, but talking is good, too. I'm thrilled to say that I am now doing speaking engagements. Here's me looking really dorky/nervous at my first one.

IMG_1365 This fall, I'll be doing a two-day visit to Elizabethtown College in PA. I'll be talking about writing, authenticity, "success" and what it was like growing up in the film industry.

I'm really excited about this new aspect of my writing - reading my work for a live audience is quite a rush. I'm grateful to have the opportunity meet readers in person so we can discuss those universal themes of purpose, happiness and the desire to write the script for your own life. (And yeah, I'll probably make you listen to a story about my dog.)

I'll be doing more talks in the future, so if your school/organization/group is interested in having me visit - please send requests to LisaJakub108@gmail.com.

As long as you'll forgive me if I wear my Chuck Taylor's and swear a little, I'm pretty sure we're all going to have a damn good time.

(Unless your group is a church or something - then I promise I'll wear grown up lady shoes and watch my mouth.)

---------

You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter!

Psych 101: memories and lies

I was 28 years old and starting college. I had never really been a student before. I started working as an actor just before I turned four, so school always came second. Sure, I went to school sometimes, but it felt like something I did just to fill the time until my next job, like cross-stitch or tennis lessons. But as I neared my thirties, I figured it was time to try that thing that other people did - get educated. I bought a backpack and a lot of pens.

The school thing went okay. Socially, it was challenging. I tried to just fade into the background but people would yell "Hey, Doubtfire girl!" from down the hall, and then they'd get nervous and run away when I turned around. I didn't really have friends, but that was okay -- I had all those pens.

I took an Introduction to Psychology class. The professor came into the room on the first day, shuffling a stack of impressive looking papers while extolling the importance of early childhood experiences on the adult psyche.

She asked us all to recall our earliest memory and share it with the random stranger next to us. I couldn't have been more offended by the intimacy of this assignment if I had been asked to whip out a nipple for my seat-mate.

The truth is, there is footage of my earliest memory.

cottonelle

I am on the set of a Cottonelle toilet paper commercial. A man is standing on a ladder, pouring a cardboard box full of cotton balls on my head. The commercial will be in slow motion: me with my unusually large eyes, joyously attempting to catch the fluffy cotton balls that rain down on me. I'm thinking it's strange that this grown man’s job is to dump cotton balls on my head. My job also feels ridiculous - catching aforementioned cotton balls - but I am barely four years old. I reason that it's okay to have a silly job since I'm just a preschooler.

But that was just not a memory to share with a complete stranger on the first day. It would have led to more questions and the kind of attention that I was trying to avoid. I was already desperately attempting to blend in with kids who were 10 years younger than me, kids who didn't have a husband and a mortgage and a 10pm bedtime.

So, I lied about my first memory.

"My first memory is of my grandfather," I said to the teenager next to me, who was twirling her hair and trying to look interested.

"He was pacing the upstairs hallway of his house. He had a heart condition and was pretty much restricted to his bedroom and that one hallway. I was walking behind him, my hands clasped together behind my back, mimicking his gate and posture. He always sang these Scottish bar songs and he would close his eyes when he got to the high notes."

This indeed is an early memory of mine - it's just not the first. This particular memory appears to indicate that I am a born follower and some sort of copycat. And a liar.

What does it mean that my real first memory was on set?

I'm not sure.

Maybe it means that my identity as an actor is so deeply rooted that I can never completely rid myself of it.

Maybe it means that I always questioned the viability of acting as a long-term career for myself.

Or maybe it just means that trying to catch cotton balls is pretty fun.

-------

Here's the whole commercial - if you are feeling nostalgic for Canadian toilet paper commercials from the 80s.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td1IVbBpNh0?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

——– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter

You might also like:

Now and then: lessons from a shelter dog

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 8.41.49 AMThree years ago today, my own personal guru moved into our house. My husband and I went to the animal shelter just to "look."

We went to look for a puppy. What we found was an eight-year-old malnourished little mutt with eyes that were two different colors. She was not at all what we wanted. We couldn’t imagine adopting a senior dog and having to endure the loss of her so soon. We hadn't even completely recovered from the loss of Cleo a year earlier.

But when we sat with Grace in the courtyard of the shelter, I burst into tears. Jeremy immediately knew that this dog was our dog, because whenever something important happens --  I burst into tears. We decided that we didn't care how old she was. Whatever time we could have with this sweet soul was completely worth it.

We paid our $50 and we took home our Catahoula leopard dog/blue heeler/who knows what else.

We joyfully surrendered to the unknown.

But Grace was kind of a mess.

We knew very little about her past, other than the fact that she had been living on the streets for a while. Her claws were so long they wrapped around and dug into the pads of her feet. Half of her teeth had to be pulled because they were rotted. She didn’t know how to play. The sound of clapping made her cower. She had terrible nightmares that left her snarling and whimpering and snapping at anything she could reach. Life had not been easy for this dog.

Even with that history, watching her come into her own over the past three years has taught me incredible lessons about stillness, joy, acceptance, love, and indeed -- grace.

She reminds me that everyone has a past, sometimes wonderful and sometimes challenging. We need to acknowledge it, learned from it, and then let go. I don't know exactly what Grace has gone through. She has a deep affection for the sound of an ice cream container being opened, so she's clearly got some fond memories from her old life, too. But really, the details are irrelevant.

That's the amazing thing about her. Grace doesn't care if you're divorced or you got fired or your parents sucked at showing affection. She just cares about this moment right here. How it feels to be present together. Nothing else matters to her.

As I transition from total denial of my former acting career -- to embracing it and defining its place in my current life -- this is an incredibly valuable lesson.

We all carry connections to our past. As we should. Those experiences made us who we are and homage should be paid. Grace still gets excited when she sees a dumpster since that was presumably the only way she ate for a while. Similarly, I still retain some of my old acting skills like hitting a mark and memorizing dialogue effortlessly. But those things don't need to be in the foreground anymore. They don't need to take precedence over what is going on - just here, just now.

So, Grace and I learn how to put our pasts in the proper place. I still love and accept her when she feels the need to defend her food, and she does the same for me when I roll my eyes at the red carpet coverage of the Oscars. Then we both take a deep breath and feel gratitude that everything that ever happened brought us to this moment right here.

And there is a lot to be grateful for. Grace reminds me that just going for a walk can be an absolutely thrilling experience.

And sometimes sitting quietly on the porch and watching the birds is the best way to spend an afternoon.

And when you love someone unconditionally, you wait for them right outside the bathroom door, because it's just nice to be close by.

She teaches me that we are all in this together - this struggle to live the best way that we can while deciding how we want to respond to the world around us. We might not have control over everything, but we control our perspective and how we want to live in the uncertainty. Despite everything, Grace has chosen wholehearted joy.

And since we are all in this together, love is always the answer. Whatever wounds we have can be soothed by the love that comes from waiting outside the bathroom door for someone  - when you know they would totally wait for you, too.

Happy birthday, Gracie.

ETA: Grace passed away in 2016, but she holds a permanent place in my heart. 

——– You can leave a comment here, or join us on Facebook or Twitter

 

Conversations in Common: March Madness Edition

When it really comes down to it - we're all the same. Even, unfathomably, me and this guy. This is my friend Jim Miller.

LJ7

Jim and I have many things in common. Like:

- we were both more famous in the 80s than we are now - we both wore short shorts for our jobs* - we both retired in our 20s and needed to figure out what the hell to do next

But unlike me, Jim wasn't an actor - he played basketball. When we first met, I didn't know anything about him. I was mostly just concerned that the 17-inch hight difference between us meant that I needed to talk louder. But, it turns out that he could hear me just fine up there and we became friends.

And then people said stuff to me, like "Do you know who that is? That's Jimmy Miller."

There were actually italics in their voices.

The italics were well earned. Jim was MVP of the 1984 NCAA Eastern Regional championships as the University of Virginia advanced to the Final Four. He was a Parade All American, Converse Academic All American, he won a Hertz Number One Award that OJ Simpson presented to him (and no, he's not sure how to feel about that either). He played with Ralph Sampson. He was drafted by the Utah Jazz. He played in Austria and Spain. He was on little cards looking very sporty, like this:

BiJ4ZJ0IYAEKe7s

After years of having people whispering about me, now they were whispering to me, about Jim.

Let me make something clear: I think Jim was more famous than me. There was actually a POSTER of him that college students used to hang in their dorms. Sure, I was on the Mrs. Doubtfire poster but I was one of five people, and my face was mostly obscured by Robin Williams' breast. So I'm pretty sure this means Jim was more famous than me.

But regardless of who was more famous, we have a lot in common and that's incredibly comforting since I have spent so much of my life feeling like a weirdo. It's good to know that other people have left high-profile careers and are doing just fine.

I sat down with Jim recently to talk about his past and his experience with retirement - things we had never talked about before. After several hours of comparing notes, I was even more reassured that the superficial differences between people are so misleading.

When he thinks back on his career, his favorite things sound just like mine. He found that relationships and travel were the most rewarding part of his job. It wasn't all about the fancy things like sitting in the VIP section of a club on Sunset with Lawrence Fishburne. It wasn't all about the awards that he keeps in his basement somewhere. It was about the people. The places. The experiences.

I was most interested in how he made his decision to retire, and wondered if it had been as difficult as my decision had been. After being drafted by an NBA team and released, Jim was playing in the Continental Basketball Association - the minor leagues - playing with guys who were 10 years older than him. They were well into their 30s and still clung to their hopes of playing in the NBA. That possibility became less likely by the year, but they were still chasing the dream. Seeing that made Jim realize that he didn't "want to be one of those guys, lost in the CBA."

That instantly reminded me of a very similar moment in my life. I was siting in a waiting room in a casting office. It had taken me two hours in L.A. traffic to get to the audition and it wasn't even a script I was excited about. I saw a woman in her 40s come out of what must have been a bad audition. She looked exhausted and decided to take it out on the receptionist and yell at her about why they didn't validate parking.

There are moments in any profession where we get a glimpse of our own future - and it might not jive with what we want for ourselves. I was 22 years old. I really didn't want to be 40 and still going to crappy auditions where they decided to hire the buxom blond instead. I didn't have a devotion to the work that could fuel me through the hard times.

Jim and I talked about the difficulty of deciding to retire, even when the job was not fulfilling anymore. With professions like ours, you feel obligated to stick it out, give it one last try. But, finally, he said you just have to "have your 'Come to Jesus' moment and look in the mirror" and make the hard decision.

In his mid-20s, Jim retired from basketball - the thing that had been the center of his life since he was 9 years old. He had to figure out who he was beneath the basketball player, but he felt that since all his energy had been so focused, he was not properly trained for the world outside of professional sports.  I totally related - it seemed that neither one of us had any direction after retirement. So, he took to a trial and error approach, just like I did.

We both felt the pressure to do something "important" to fill that void. We needed to do something that somehow justified our decision to leave. Something that seemed just as cool. But really, what were either of us going to do to fill the massive void left by Hollywood or professional sports? Those careers have been idolized to such a degree (just check out E! or ESPN for a reminder of the extent of the hero-worshiping) that it's hard to imagine where you go from there that doesn't seem like a disappointment to other people.

But as Jim said, it can be really dangerous when you tie up your self esteem with what other people think of you. Because then you are living for others, not yourself. Your sense of self-worth needs to come from somewhere else, somewhere deeper than your resume. But that can be difficult when you've tied up your identity with one thing for so long.

Jim now loves being a husband, a dad and running his own financial consulting firm. He talks about this phase of life being his halftime. He is assessing the things that looked important in the first half of his life, and seeing if they still deserve his focus and energy. He is making adjustments. He is choosing to do some things differently in the second half. He's not afraid to change the line up of his priorities.

I find that so inspiring, because I think many of us operate from a place of momentum. We do what we've always done. We think we are too busy/tired/stubborn to do something different, even if it would make a huge difference to the quality of our lives.

But if we can just give ourselves a little break and really examine where we are, we can get back out there even stronger and play this life according to our own rules.

*proof of Jim and I in our short shorts.

shortsx2

——– Have comments? Please join our conversation over on Facebook

You might also like:

The Tiger Mother: race, success and lessons on the wrong thing

The Tiger Mother is at it again. She's getting folks all riled up by saying that the parenting style of some groups (such as Chinese, Indians and Mormons) primes their kids for success more than others.  Personally, I can't offer any opinion on parenting, since we've not chosen to go the kid route. My only parenting advice is that liver treats work well for convincing Grace to not attack the neighbor dog. People are getting all flustered about the racial implications of what she's saying - but I keep coming back to one thing:

What the hell does "success" mean?

Tiger mom says it's clear - income, occupational status and test scores. That kind of makes sense. It's a nice, clean, empirical way of measuring something.

  • Higher income = more success
  • Higher status = more success
  • Higher test scores = more success

That seems to be a widely accepted definition in our society. But I'm not sure I like it. By those measurable accounts, I was much more successful when I was 15 than I am at 35. Twenty years ago, I had:

  • Higher income - I got paid more.
  • Higher status - I was more "famous" (whatever that creepy word means).
  • Higher test scores - I rarely went to school, but the movie marketing people told me that I "tested well" with screening audiences, which resulted in more work.

But what about...oh, I don't know...happiness? Where does that rank? What about passion? Purpose? Authenticity? How do you measure that stuff and roll it up into success? In our culture it's pretty simple: you don't. You toss them to the side because you can't buy yourself a boat with purpose.

I have so much more joy and passion now than I did when I was an actor, but those intangibles don't seem to carry as much weight in some circles.

I recently made a list of the things that equal a successful life for myself. It mostly had to do with my family and friends, contributing to the greater good and taking care of my mind, body and spirit. None of them had to do with being on the cover of People Magazine.

But it took me a while to develop this way of thinking. When I left my acting career, I was scared of what people would think. Would I get thrown in a pile of useless "has beens"? Was I, at 22, washed up and destined to never do anything as good ever again?

I went through a phase where I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I even visited a law school to sit in on classes and went to their campus store and looked longingly at the sweatshirts. At least if I was a lawyer, I'd have a fancy degree I could wave around. Something that proved to other people that I was still worth something.

It finally dawned on me that I didn't want to be a lawyer (no offense to the lawyers out there...especially my dad). I was just trying to feel like I had a justified place in the world and people would think that I was still successful. But what I really wanted was to be a writer. That less prestigious, less financially rewarding occupation was what made my heart flutter.

Ambition is wonderful. But I was being ambitious about the wrong things.  What I really wanted was a life that really fed my soul - not just my bank account and other people's opinions of me.

Being successful now means that my life has meaning. Being "known" never made me feel successful. Doing interviews didn't do that. Getting invited to fancy parties didn't do that.

What does make me feel successful is volunteering to clean litter boxes and write thank you notes at the animal shelter. Or getting an email from someone who was touched by something I wrote on this blog - which I offer for free and get paid absolutely nothing. Or making my husband laugh.

So, what if we thought about success differently? What if we thought about:

  • passion instead of income?
  • authenticity instead of status?
  • happiness instead of test scores?

I'm not sure that the Tiger mom would understand, but you couldn't pay me a million dollars to go back to being "successful." I'll take my poorly-paying, lower-status profession that makes me deliriously happy. And besides, I don't think lawyers are allowed to wear sweatpants to work.

——– Have comments? Please join our conversation over on Facebook

You might also like:

Open doors: thoughts on being proud

Most people probably assume actors would be good at being proud. Why wouldn't they? What, with all those parties and photographers and fans fawning all over them. Maybe there are some actors that are good at it. I certainly wasn't. And none of my actor friends seemed very adept at that emotion, either. The industry culture is just not set up for that.

A lot of us were too worried about getting to the next thing - the next audition, next job, next premiere - to take a moment and feel good about what we just accomplished. We were always terrified that we had said the wrong thing to the wrong person or wore the wrong thing to the wrong place. It felt like shuffling along a narrow pathway on the edge of a sheer cliff. We were always just one tiny misstep away from losing Hollywood's fickle affections and falling to our deaths in obscurity.

Growing up in that environment, combined with my inherited Canadian tendency for overly-aggressive humbleness, continues to make pride something of an enigma in my life. I baffled my husband when he was telling me over dinner that he was proud of something he accomplished at work.

Him: So, it went well and I was really proud of that.

Me: You were?

Him: Yeah.

Me: What does that mean?

Him: Am I using hard words?

Me: No, I mean, can you literally explain what it feels like to be proud of something?

Him: Well, ummmm...are you serious?

I was serious. And that seemed like a serious problem that I could not even identify what that emotion felt like. Because if you are not able to be proud of your accomplishments, that means you are relying on other people to tell you if you are doing something good. You are just sitting there like a poor, neglected animal, waiting for a pat on the head. You are completely beholden to other people's opinions of your actions, instead of relying on your own sense of purpose.

That sounds like a terrible way to spend my life.

Which brings me to the other day.

We have this bathroom door that closes by itself. It's annoying. The dog accidentally gets trapped in there and we have to keep it propped up with a giant bottle of hydrogen peroxide, which I end up tripping over on my way into the bathroom in the middle of the night.

It had been like that for, like, 6 months but last Saturday, I decided that I had enough of the stupid door. I googled something like "how to stop my door from closing by itself" and found a video. I got a hammer and screwdriver and removed the hinge pins and hammered them a little so that they were slightly crooked. Then I put them back, and that created enough friction that the door doesn't close by itself. The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes, but I had to go up and down stairs a lot and I also had to find the screwdriver.

When it was done, I stood there in my pjs, hands covered in greasy door-hinge stuff and watched my bathroom door not moving of its own volition. Something inside my chest felt light. My face got a little warm. I smiled. Oh my God, I'm proud. This is it! I'm doing proud!

It's not like I had saved the world and I'm not claiming that I'm the world's best door fixer and if I'm still talking about fixing this door a month from now, clearly I've taken pride too far. But this is different from boasting or bragging or being full of yourself. It's just the pleasant, glowing stillness that comes from being satisfied with something you accomplished. It's about being happy with the present moment and your place in the world. It's about not feeling like you need to get to the next thing in order to be content.

Even if it was just fixing a silly bathroom door, I succeeded at making something just a little bit better.

For one glorious, flickering moment - I felt like a fucking wizard.

——– Have comments? Please join our conversation over on Facebook

You might also like:

Why would we want Mrs. Doubtfire 2?

premiere November 24th, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Mrs. Doubtfire. It's astounding that people see me, a 34-year-old writer who lives in Virginia, and still recognize Lydia Hillard.

Ever since the movie came out, people have been wanting a sequel. Maybe Mrs. Doubtfire could be working as an undercover cop? Masquerading as an international spy? Blowing the lid off injustices in the beauty pageant industry? There is no end to the possibilities of contrived silliness.

While I'm grateful to have been part of a movie that touched so many people, I can't help but wonder why that isn't enough. It doesn't make any sense that there would be a follow-up to the story, but that doesn't seem to matter. Mrs. Doubtfire 2 doesn't have to be good - sequels almost never compare to the original - but people seem to want more anyway.

As we dive into the holidays and this Season of Wanting, epitomized by commercials suggesting that a Lexus with giant bow would be a great gift, I'm reminded that this is just how we tend to do things. We want more of everything. We are a nation of consumers, ready to trample each other to death for a cheap blender or stab someone over a parking spot at Wal-mart. We make long lists of things we don't need, but we suddenly feel empty without them.

We can easily mistake the endless wanting for ambition, but in reality it looks a lot like self-imposed suffering based on our own fears of not being good enough.

Because for that one flickering moment, we get more of __________ and then we feel like we've accomplished something meaningful. It seems like a tangible indication that we have a place in the world. For one second, we can take a deep breath...until we see that Williams Sonoma is having a sale on simmer sauces and we begin the wanting all over again.

And then you throw in a little nostalgia. I get it - there was something wonderful about the 90s. It was a simpler time. I, too, long for those days when you could walk someone right to the airplane gate and everybody could eat gluten. When "Whoa!" could be a catchphrase. When The Real World presented reality television as a groundbreaking social experiment, instead of a way to get famous for being rich and idle.

But, as countless people discover at this time of year, it's really hard to go home again. The world is a constantly changing place. And sometimes, in trying to recapture the past, you can ruin the memory of what you had. It's kind of like wearing a mini-skirt when that's no longer a good idea.

Maybe Mrs. Doubtfire had its time. In 1993. It seems greedy to try to squeeze more out of it. It's flattering that people want more, but maybe we can just be grateful for what already exists. Maybe we can take that deep breath and just be content with what is.

I don't know if there will be a sequel. Maybe there is a way to do it well. But I come back to the original question: why do we want it? Why do we want more of something that is just fine as it is?

My life has moved on since 1993. After I retired from acting, I spent a long time pretending that movies never happened, because when I talked about my childhood, people looked at me funny or accused me of not getting over it. So, I didn't talk about it for 10 years, and then I was accused of running from my past. I realized that I needed to stop caring about those outside opinions and do what felt right.

There will really never be total dissociation from Doubtfire. When you are part of a movie that is on TV almost every Sunday afternoon - a movie that people quote to you in line at the grocery store, a movie that has become a part of the culture of the 90s - it's just not really possible.

So, I embrace it.

Finally.

And then I let it go.

——– Have comments? Please join our conversation over on Facebook

You might also like: