Premiering The MaryLee Herrmann Show (Talk to me like I’m 50!)

Hello, it’s me. When I left my Hollywood apartment last spring, I had no idea how long I’d be gone from LA. A month? Six months? Years? And, like many people, my life still has so many unknowns.

Although, unlike so many people, I am very fortunate to have had somewhere to go when the pandemic struck, and I became unemployed, back to Colorado.

And so it goes that I am here, nine months after leaving Los Angeles, sitting in my Sweetheart’s living room on a gray, chilly, end-of-December morning, a crackling Amazon Prime ‘fire’ glowing on the TV with jazz music playing in the background and writing this post.

Over these months, I’ve dealt with an incredibly wide range of emotions. I am sure you have, too. So much uncertainty. Between Covid-19 and the incredible topsy-turvy ride the political scene has us on, it genuinely is difficult to know which way is up. And ‘up’ is a different direction for each of us, based on our situations and our individual priorities.

At times, I felt the quarantining and isolation was robbing us of opportunity. “Why bother doing anything? ‘Why even try?”

On those days. I’ve often found myself plopped in front of the TV and watching movies (I’m still amid my Meryl-a-Thon!) or binging The Voice and The Masked Singer.

Other times I’ve tried to look at this time as an opportunity. “What can I be doing in order to come back from this pandemic stronger and more confident? What can I focus on that will enable me to feel as though I have utilized this time well, smartly, in a manner to really feel I am in a stronger position to build my career?”

A million random thoughts in-between and all over the place have also gone through my head and heart, varying day-to-day, sometimes even significant shifts from morning to afternoon or evening.

Between nightmare logistics of trying to get a diagnostic mammogram and verify whether I had breast cancer (finally resolved and I do not, but it was a worrisome couple of months) and needing a root canal, a crown, and three fillings, health issues, and how to pay for them, anxiety has been at an all-time high. More things to preoccupy my mind.

This summer I did start a podcast, The Muse & MaryLee. I’d hoped it would be something that would pull me up–I’d be creating content and feel as though I had something to really ‘show up’ for regularly. Due to my tendency to be worried how I’ll be judged and in trying to make each one perfect it was a struggle to complete each recording as I was compelled to write every one thoroughly and wanted my delivery to be spot on. It was time and energy consuming and I was not particularly enjoying the process.

After airing a number of stories, ten total in fact, doubt seeped in. I wasn’t sure anyone was really listening, it wasn’t getting much feedback. I will likely return to recording more episodes of The Muse & MaryLee someday, but for now, something wasn’t feeling quite right, and I’ve stepped away from it.

I have been writing a one-woman show, though not diligently. Fortunately I came across a woman in L.A., a solo performance artist herself, who guides weekly meditation and writing exercises via Zoom. So every Wednesday morning I do get inspiration and motivation to keep pushing forward. I’ve even signed up for a workshop for the latter weeks of January on Creating Captivating Characters which I am hopeful will push me even further.

It is fun to see the efforts prominent professionals on screen and stage are making online to keep us all connected and to help their respective branches survive and thrive through these times. But sometimes I’ll view something and feel saddened I am not an established part of the community I’m witnessing join together to do a reading, a Q&A, or some level of performance.

Overall, some moments it is really tough to believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I am 56. How much more time, how many more opportunities and chances do I have to claim a level of success I so desire in the entertainment world? And now the industry is completely shaken up and though I am sure it will come back, it will be so different from the one I’ve spent most of my adult life attempting to learn and find a way into. Perhaps that will be a good thing, though, and there will be new opportunities I can’t even imagine.

In some amazing way, throughout these instances of discouragement and mental slumps, has come:

The MaryLee Herrmann Show (Talk to me like I’m 50!)

Yes, I started a YouTube Channel! For the first time, as ‘me’, I am putting myself in front of the camera and creating shows unscripted. Because I am always pursuing perfection, it is not an easy switch to speaking off the cuff. Lesson learned from the podcast, without a team to write, shoot, and edit for me (yet 😉 ) the most efficient way to make this happen is to simply talk.

So, I’m excited to be creating my show! Because I am a woman, and in my 50’s, the focus will lie in that demographic. Sure, I’ll probably talk about things like hot flashes, but there will be a variety of issues many women and men of differing ages can likely relate to such as self-care, quantifying success, and struggles with self-doubt.

If you are interested in following along, I would love if you Subscribe (Click the red SUBSCRIBE button at right under the video on YouTube). Added bonus–if you subscribe by midnight tonight, Monday, December 28, 2020, and your YouTube profile is public so I can see a name, you will be entered into a giveaway. You can find more details in one of the episodes.

My new show: The MaryLee Herrmann Show (Talk to me like I’m 50)

My hopes are to build a community where everyone participating by watching and providing comments can benefit. However, I’ve no idea who will watch, and that has to be okay. It is about bringing something earnest from inside me and allowing it to take whatever form is intended.

I do know two things…I will personally be empowered by overcoming the fear of not being perfect (a huge factor that I have allowed to hold me back my entire life). And by creating this show, I do not have to continue hoping to see a light at the end of the tunnel. By being creative, I can focus less on the dark. I am my own light.

Say Good-Bye to Hollywood (For Now)

As I opened my eyes to the early dawn light shining through the crack between the curtains, I paused to soak in the reality–this was the final morning waking up in my Hollywood apartment.

In a matter of hours, two women friends would arrive with the truck they use for their moving business, carry out the little bit of furniture I have, along with all the boxes that had been hurriedly packed over the past few days, load them onto their truck, drive them to a storage facility, and unload everything–other than some of my clothing and a few items like my laptop computer that I would keep with me–into my newly-rented storage unit.

My focus transitioned from soaking in the light on my face, embracing my last morning in this space, to looking at the curtains themselves. Almost a year ago, after searching online and in stores for what would be the ‘perfect’ drapes for my cute bedroom decor, I’d settled on the subtly bohemian ones that hung before me now. Though the inspiration for the room had been 1940s Hollywood glam, with cost and features in mind, I told myself no one else would really ever see them, and as they are a solid color, the boho-chic pattern was hardly visible.

Bedroom

When it all came down to it, these window coverings were cute. And though I’d been looking for something more refined to complement the velvet headboard and elegant bedspread I had also searched high and low for as I bargain-shopped, the blackout noise-reducing curtains had done their job. Indeed, when they were completely closed, I would often be surprised how bright it was outside as I’d climb out of bed and spread them open to start my day.

They were also sound-reducing, but unfortunately not ‘soundproof’. Therefore, most noises, voices, loud screams and raucous behavior coming from the surrounding areas in this very urban environment, and sometimes even directly outside my window, easily found their way into my sanctuary.

“I need to remember to take those down and pack them before the movers get here,” I thought to myself as I pushed off the covers and rose out of bed. It was time to get dressed and do my final packing and sorting in preparation for moving day.

Mid-morning the two ladies arrived to do the hauling to and from the truck, as well as another friend who was kind enough to be there to guard the truck and my belongings so the movers could come and go as they needed without the very real concern of anything being stolen.

For efficiency, and so they could get a good sense of exactly what there was to stack into the truck bed, I had put everything into the living room, except the mattress and box spring. Once they took a look and decided how they wanted to proceed, they began wheeling items out to the front of the building to load. They went about their work, and I scoured the other spaces bringing out any last-minute items, adding them to the boxes.

Everything out of the closet? Yes. Even the drawers? Yes. What about up on the high shelf way in the back corner? Yes, cleared.

The bathroom? All good.

The bedroom? The mattress and box spring, along with the velvet headboard, all wrapped separately in plastic, had been taken out to the truck. The only thing remaining was the curtains. I quickly grabbed a step stool and took them down, then unscrewed the curtain rod from the wall. I realized there was a box in the living room they would fit in perfectly and I hurried to make sure I got it all in there before anyone took the box outside. Folding up the curtains and putting them in along with the disassembled rod, I secured the box with packing tape, just as my friend came in and I told her the box was ready.

We placed the box, and several other items, including my vintage glass top nightstand onto her cart, and I watched for a moment from the doorway as she wheeled through the courtyard, alongside the pool, past the mailboxes, between the palm trees, and out the front gate.

It took two trips to the storage facility with a fully-loaded truck and my Subaru Forester jam-packed to where I couldn’t see out the back window. Eventually, everything was out of what had been my ‘charming apartment with the art deco features and original 1940s hardwood floor’ and my Hollywood life was now stowed inside an 8×10 unit.

A dear friend had been kind enough to allow me to sleep on her couch that night. It was a restless sleep, as I still had more to do the following day before I would officially have vacated the apartment.

The next morning, I made my final visit to finish cleaning, lock up and leave my keys in the dropbox as instructed by the building manager. I’d also left my sage stick there the night before. I figured I would do one last smudging, an expression of gratitude. After all, even though I did not feel safe there by the time I left, when I first moved in, and for several months, I had been giddy at how much I loved the space.  Often, I would stand and look around the apartment in awe, or out the large bay windows, and consider how fortunate I was, and  how adorable this space was that I had of my own.

And, oh, how I had enjoyed finding bargain furnishings from an old wood dresser I repurposed as a TV stand, to the retro clock in the kitchen to go with the black and white checkerboard tile motif, and even the curtains that had taken me over a month to select, all to complement the already present vintage style.

Many times I had gazed at the pushed-out wall space (similar to an RV slide-out space) where a Murphy bed had originally been installed back when the building was built to create housing for the myriad of people flocking to Hollywood with jobs as studio employees or those with dreams of stardom. All situated just downhill from the Hollywood sign. I often would wonder who had lived here? Perhaps a timeless script had been written there on a worn down table by a lousy bare lightbulb lamp. Or an aspiring actress rehearsed her lines over and over clutching to the hope this audition could be her big break. What stories could these walls tell me? Dreams fulfilled? Dreams coming crashing down? Hope? Despair?

The walls, cabinets, bathtub, and countertops scrubbed down, the baseboards dusted and the hardwood floors mopped for the last time, I took one last look around. Alas, though I’d had big hopes I would live here awhile and this would be my inspirational nest from which my career would emerge, I was leaving as simply another unknown tenant. As I reached for the sage for the final smudging, it occurred to me-in my haste to pack, I had not kept any matches to light the sage stick.

How appropriate.

Twelve months ago it had been a complete ritual smudging of the apartment before I moved in. This was where I was going to settle in. This was where I would spend late nights writing and developing my projects. In this space I would do rewrite after rewrite, This is where I would build my LA life. To burn the sage was an honoring. Removing any negative energy so I could be here and create. From the sage I’d bought at a local metaphysical shop between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards, to the perfect vessel I’d selected (a gift of a ceramic dish from my sweetheart) to collect the ashes, it was all deliberate and planned. I was creating my space.

So much for plans, all I had was a dry stick in my hand and no fire.

I took the sage from room to room anyway, and though there was no smoke to direct, I waved it into each corner just as I’d done a year ago, and on a few full moons in-between. After all, the space itself wasn’t the problem, and though I had to leave, my cute apartment had afforded me the ability to be able to say “Yes, I lived in Hollywood, one block from the Walk of Fame and the famous Musso and Franks restaurant, right down the street from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the corner of Hollywood and Vine.”

The following day, car packed, after getting my oil changed and filling my gas tank, I headed for the highway. It occurred to me, there was no telling what my situation would be when I return. No way of knowing what film and television production, studio and independent, would transform into via new health safety requirements. Hollywood itself has been through so much transition over the years, yet almost stays the same as it maintains its status as an iconic location for tourists to come and see the stars.

I’d been frustrated I couldn’t find a place in the LA area to move; however, with no current income, and no real idea when business would resume, it made sense to head to Colorado to ride out the storm.

As I drove down La Brea Avenue, my eyes began to fill with tears. Though relieved to no longer be in the precarious living situation I’d been in, I was so sad to be leaving Los Angeles, even if it was temporary. I’d made good friends, some connections, and worked on a variety of projects. Now, in the current pandemic climate, I had no idea when I’d be back.

Glancing into my rearview mirror, through blurry eyes, I glimpsed a box in the cargo area among my suitcases and bags. Was it the one in which I had folded up my bedroom curtains and intended to store? Wiping away tears I looked more clearly and saw it was not. Then I thought of that brown box, tucked away in a dark storage unit in a town I was leaving behind–at least for the now.

It has been two months since I left California. Though I obviously still have concerns of all sizes, as most of us do, over the weeks I have been able to release much of the heavy anxiety I was experiencing. I am fortunate to be in a safe, comfortable retreat at my Sweetheart’s home where I can safely go for walks, enjoy breakfast with him in the morning sunlight through the window, reconnect with friends here, and sit at the desk space he has set up for me to continue writing my stories.

I promise you, LA, it’s meant to be–I will be back. Once the dust has cleared a bit, you will continue to have no shortage of dreamers and doers flocking to your coast, and I will be among them. I will find a great place to live with windows and a new world to view. And there I will hang my curtains and open them on the next part of my life, the sunlight shining bright on my face. And as I am doing now in my haven in Colorado, I will keep ‘doing my dream’.

Women Drivers

“Safer at Home” (or not? ) a.k.a. Lockdown

Day 33

IMG_8684Although my writing on this blog has been in first person (I) , as I began to type my most recent posts, for whatever reason, it came to me in third person (she).  It was a bit of surprise to me to have my own story come to me as though I was telling the tale of another woman’s experience. However, I allowed the story to unfold in the manner of its own desiring. Instead of attempting to manipulate to make it fit an established format, I sat still and allowed the muse to breathe and share what was a very anxiety-filled time for me in the manner she deemed fit.

Perhaps she was protecting me, because even though I am no longer in that volatile, frightening space, as I wrote recently of the darkness of days past, tears streamed down my cheeks as I was haunted by the memories of hopelessness.

I knew that in order to move on from the fear I’d felt in those past weeks, it would be important to get it out of me. I would need to bring it onto the page.

Whether to share it publicly was an entirely other matter.

Part of me was embarrassed that I had allowed myself to get into that unhealthy position, and, therefore, concerned about judgement from others. I was also worried because, although I have been open about some less than upbeat parts of my life, particularly surrounding my grief surrounding Daddy’s passing, the subject matter was much more somber than my usual storytelling, and readers might find it disturbing and turn away, stop reading.

After all, what did having a breakdown on the floor of my apartment brought on by the crime and health threat rising right outside my windows have to do with moving to Tinseltown in the film business to find my ‘tribe’, or creating and developing projects, being a storyteller, or ‘doing my dream’? Where was the fun? People said they were living vicariously through me. No one would want to live this.

As I re-read the post upon completion, still reluctant to make it public, reality tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear…”This is your experience, your story, your truth, and it has everything to do with ‘doing your dream.” Yes, to be truly authentic, it would require that I am open and honest about even the bleakest of situations I might find myself in. I took a deep breath,  accepted I would need to own those dark days, and clicked ‘Publish’.

Far from the first time I have discussed the subject, the more I trust, the more of my personal journey unfolds before me, empowering me to make decisions where necessary and move forward, whether those decisions require action, or need me to sit still and do nothing, as I allow the Universe to ‘be’.

Why is that so difficult to do? Why is it so easy to lapse into conceding and letting fear take the reins as I sit cowering in the back seat, especially when I know the rewards and personal abundance I gain, when I jump into the driver seat and have faith, are great? Why am I using so many metaphors today?

As the days began melding into each other after sharing that first post, and as I remained in my apartment and news continued about the spread of the Coronavirus, and everywhere things grew confusing as to what to do, not do, how to be safe, go for walks, don’t go anywhere, don’t travel, what was projected to happen, hearing the increasing number of sirens and helicopters all around, I’d often find myself seeking refuge curled up in my vintage, gold velvet swivel chair, a fleece blanket pulled up over my shoulders.

There I would remain for hours watching movies as part of my Meryl-a-thon, as well as finding cheerful movies I was sure I could depend on. This was also an attempt to drown out the boisterous gatherings that took place at the encampment on the sidewalk in front of the building next door.

Even with the comfort of my favorite movies on the TV in front of me, in my mind I’d go over and over options struggling with trying to figure out what to do and how to escape the predicament I was in.

  1. Stay where I was, feeling vulnerable in a ground-floor apartment in a rough part of Hollywood–who knew that Hollywood could be so unsavory– and risk even more of my well-being as circumstances worsened?
  2. Continue to hope a safe haven I could somehow afford to move to would present itself, even with the fact that I am out of work?
  3. Move everything into storage and head to Colorado to stay with my sweetheart? With the state of physical distancing (and my bank account), how would the logistics of that plan even work? I’d have to give notice to my landlord, pack up my apartment, rent a storage locker (something I was completely unfamiliar with doing), then make the drive through several states while putting myself, and other travelers, at as least risk as possible. Do I rent a U-haul and a trailer for my car? Or do I simply load up any valuables into my car, lock up the apartment and make my way east?

Regardless, if I did opt to leave town, no way I could make the drive in one day. So where would I stay overnight with no real way of being assured how diligent any specific hotel is being about sanitizing? And though I really wanted to be able to stay in the L.A. area, there were moments I felt so shaken, I gave thought to packing a suitcase, leaving everything and getting a flight to Colorado.

Then there are the hours spent on the phone wearing out my good friends as well as my sweetheart, going over and over all the possibilities and exploring each detail to the ‘nth’ degree. No relief for days–unsure what direction to take as the stress continued to build.

Knowing that bringing up gratitude in my heart can distract from my own matters, each day I would send text messages to at least a couple of different people who I was grateful for, letting them know I was thinking about them, and was checking in to see how they were doing.

One particular day, nested in my chair, I had sent a message to lady who is a sound mixer I had worked with on a film. She let me know she and her girlfriend were doing okay, and mentioned they had started a business to scrape through these tough times when there is little work available.

I looked over her message a couple of times to be sure I was reading the name of her business properly: “Two Women and a Truck.”

We continued back and forth and I opted to be open about how worried I was in my current place. She shared they were considering leaving town for a couple of months to seek affordable housing. She encouraged me to do the same.

And there it was. A trustworthy friend with a truck who I could safely hire, as well as being someone who understood my situation and suggested heading out of town for at least a couple of months and come back whenever the situation would allow.

I have another dear friend who had also advised my going to Colorado given my circumstances. And I was on the verge of making that decision, yet had still felt trapped by the details of how I would execute the move.

Once I’d received confirmation from my friend with the truck that she could indeed move my things to storage, it was time to take action.

So you know what I did? I froze.

Seriously. For about two days I did almost nothing. I did not pack. I did not research storage unit prices. I did not give notice at my apartment.

The things I did do were important though. I connected with the same friend who had been supporting that I go to Colorado and she gave me a bunch of boxes.

I contacted two other friends, one in Scottsdale and the other in Albuquerque and asked whether I could sleep in my car in their driveways while on the drive, giving them the approximate dates I’d be coming through. The reply from both was the same: No, I could not sleep in the driveway, they would figure a way for me to be able to come inside and use their guest room, one even saying I could climb in the window into the guest room when I expressed no wish to put her family at risk if there was even the slightest of chance I might be carrying the virus.

During those first two days, I also communicated with two other friends who both offered to help me pack should I need it, and one who was able to give recommendations for storage businesses  that would likely best suit my needs.

IMG_8683Although I had accomplished a few vital tasks, I had not packed a single thing, did not have anywhere near enough boxes, and I was moving out in four days.

On the third morning, I woke up, journaled, meditated. Then I rose out of bed and got dressed and diligently began putting things in boxes. In a few days I would be leaving my charming, one-bedroom Hollywood apartment with the original 1940’s hardwood floors. Such a bittersweet moment.

But, it was all finally happening. I would no longer be trapped. I was finally in motion. By putting aside my own fears for a moment and checking in on a friend, I was gifted with an answer and a way out. Now, it was up to me to take charge and make it happen.

And with the support of dear friends, I gave myself permission to move to the driver seat and go.

Glow In the Dark

“Safer at Home” a.k.a. Lockdown

Day 28

IMG_7764Curled up under her weighted blanket, she begged for sleep in the darkness of her Hollywood bedroom. She laid awake and her body tightened as she heard a familiar noise on the other side of the window to the outside as someone shuffled back to the encampment on the sidewalk out front. Both afraid and disgusted, she tried to not think about what the intruder had just done on the driveway which she was separated from by only her curtains and a cheap, thin piece of glass. As much as she tried to put it out of her mind, it was almost impossible to not think about how her driveway had become the “public facilities”.

Should she call the cops again? There was little they would do. The camp outside had grown from a tent and two people to a larger tent and a couch and a boisterous group of drifters coming and going, smoking excessively, playing loud music during the day, often having loud violent outbursts during the night. For this reason she’d had to keep her windows shut for months to keep the smoke and noise out. All the while, the most the police had ever accomplished was occasionally getting the group at the encampment to keep the volume down.

Though she had not prayed in years, the words, “Our Father, who art in Heaven…” entered her consciousness. “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…” What comes next? “Our Father, who art in Heaven…”?

“Hail Mary full of grace, full of grace, pray for us sinners…” That’s not right. Why couldn’t she think? She’d recited these prayers by heart for years in church and Catholic grade school. Oh please, please, what were the words?

The abrupt sound of a helicopter in the distance was almost a welcome distraction, until the whirring continued directly overhead for an hour and a half likely indicating a manhunt or assault in her neighborhood.

It hadn’t always been this way, and she hadn’t always been so fearful. When she first moved to her cute apartment, the noise of the police and news choppers had merely been an aggravation, an occasional disruption. It was city living, which she actually loved. When the loud buzzing would keep her awake when she had an early morning call time, she would remind herself she was grateful for the presence of law enforcement.

IMG_2340

How it looked when she moved in. Not how it felt when she needed out.

However, conditions in the neighborhood worsened with incidents of break-ins in the area, and with more and more encampments of people in tents living in unsanitary conditions, with garbage everywhere. Accessibility to her ground floor apartment led her to feel increasingly vulnerable. The apartment complex had a gated courtyard, but not a gated parking lot and the back security gate was often left unlatched at all hours of day and night, an invitation to strangers to access the courtyard outside her front windows and door. The floor-to-ceiling bay windows which had originally been so much of the appeal when she first moved in now felt an advantage point for anyone entering the courtyard with intentions to break in.

In a month-to-month lease, having lived there a year, she had been searching for a new place to move. Unfortunately, work had been slow for the past few months, and she was unable to show landlords at potential new apartments the monthly income they required, and her bank account had begun to deplete. She would ask the Universe to please bring forward a living arrangement she could afford, a place conducive of her situation–journaling her request every morning, meditating her wishes every night.

A glimmer of hope came in the form of a multi-day booking for a background acting job, and an interview for a full time receptionist job through a temp agency.  However, these both were snuffed out as news began to spread of the growing Coronavirus pandemic. Businesses began telling employees to stay home and productions shut down. 

What was she doing here, she worried. With limited possibility for earning an income, a virus that was closing in, and crime that was on the increase, anxiety as she had never known had taken hold.

Which is why she found herself the next day hardly able to move. The skies had been gray for a week. Feeling trapped, yet so petrified in her own apartment, once a haven, now dismal, she collapsed to the hardwood floor–the same floor she had delighted in when she first moved in, “original hardwood floor from the 40’s” she’d excitedly describe when anyone asked about her new apartment.

The world was transitioning into ‘social distancing’, conflicting information: don’t need a mask/need a mask, need gloves/don’t need gloves, just wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay home. Feeling trapped, and lost as to what to do, and hardly able to breathe, another fear arose in her mind.

“What if this was it?”

What if she would never be able to create the projects that she had begun over the past few years, yet never finished, too distracted to complete, too fearful to proceed? What if none of her hopes and wishes she’d always had were ever to come true?

She had moved to Los Angeles with intention and purpose, and though she had made some connections and been part of some great projects since first arriving, she was far from courageous when it came to asserting herself into making her stories.

What if she didn’t survive the pandemic? What if she survived but ended up in some even more challenging situation than she was now? What if she never would have the opportunity to fulfill so many of the desires she’d felt sure were within reach ‘if only’ she were in L.A. and had her chance.

She vowed,“If I can get out of here, if I can get to safety, I will approach my projects fearlessly. I will bring them to fruition. I will do my dream!”

Going forward she realized that meant using what she learned the past two years and working on real schedules, making deadlines and delivering.

She wished she had more time. But right now everything was turbulent. The world was being turned upside down, and nothing, least of all time, could be counted on. 

She felt a tear drop from her cheek to the wood floor only inches from her face.

She looked up when she heard her computer on the other side of the room, magically, without prompting, come to life several feet away, its glow from the screen filling the room.

She crawled to the desk and pulled her trembling body up into the chair and stared at the monitor.

It came to her, she had no idea what lay ahead. She would first have to make decisions to free herself from the worrisome place she found herself in, and contend with whatever the challenges executing that plan would bring.

She realized, she had no way of knowing how much time she would have to fulfill her life dreams. The only absolute was that she had now. This moment.

After staring at the monitor for what seemed like hours, she took a breath and began to type…

Safer at House” a.k.a. Lockdown

Day 1″

 

[Spoiler Alert: I am safely out of the apartment. To be continued…]

I Look Like a Fool

“Safer at Home” a.k.a. Lockdown

Day 13

IMG_8583Happy April 1st! Or, as it will go down in the history books, Happy March 32nd!

Countless suggestions abound to take advantage of this time of self-quarantine to go through your closet and purge what you do not wear anymore.

Great idea! My wardrobe can always use some scaling down.  Slacks I purchased but haven’t worn because I never felt it was the right occasion, there on the hanger, so pretty, but almost taunting me. Cute dresses in like new condition, free-to-me from a friend who gave them to me when she was doing her own clearing out her own space. Those designer jeans I got a great deal on? A few pounds less and I’ll be able to get the zipper up. And some items I might have no idea where they came from, but wow, wouldn’t that skirt be so fun to wear to a summer pool party? I have not been invited to a pool party in about 20 years.

IMG_8584These things might look really cute as they hang in the closet, though some are folded on an upper shelf where I cannot even see them, but ultimately I have to face the fact– having things in my wardrobe that I don’t wear is not serving me well. It clutters up not only my physical space, but also my mental/emotional energy.

So why am I clinging?

I am fairly confident one of the main reasons I hold onto them is with one intention…they are for the life I want.

I started to type what my daydreams are for the life I want, but decided to delete. I have learned so much since coming to L.A. and I need to honor the situation and regroup and make sure those daydreams are the same as they always have been. After all, things do change.

Director, actor, and writer still? Yes. But I think this is a good time to not only decide what matters most in my closet, but also what my personal priorities are.

In the meantime, I am sure there are things in my wardrobe that I can look at and accept that I will never wear (but it looked so fabulous on Heidi Klum!) and set them aside to donate when the thrift stores re-open.

And if there are things I feel so attached to I cannot imagine parting with them, I will do as suggested in the Simple Abundance book for April 1, ‘Playing Dress-Up: Empowering Your Authentic Self with Fun’, is to take advantage of the whimsy of April Fools’ Day and see what happens if I look at them with fresh eyes and try them on in different ways. Putting outfits together I would never have imagined. What? That sweater with anything but the same blouse I’ve always worn it with? Crazy! Those boots with that dress? OMG, fool!

Wow, a whole new wardrobe without leaving the house.

Sounds like a plan that might work in other parts of my life as well.

Imagine It’s Not Cheesy, No It’s Worse

“Safer at Home” a.k.a. Lockdown

Day 12

IMG_8580After waking to use the bathroom during the night and returning to bed, I was unable to fall back to sleep, even though it was actually peaceful. No noise from bars on the boulevard. No helicopters circling overhead. No loud chatter from the encampment on the sidewalk.

I tried taking slow, deep breaths and meditating on my own to no avail.

Deciding a guided mediation would help, I reached for my phone on the nightstand. For some reason the video Gal Gadot compiled ‘singing’ the John Lennon classic, Imagine, along with other celebrities came to mind. I had not watched it, but I had heard it described as “cheesy”.

I easily found it and clicked on the play button. I was stunned. It isn’t cheesy. Cheesy, to me, would imply there was maybe something cute about it–overly cute, in fact. Not so.

Coming from a woman who gave everyone she knew a 45 of Do They Know It’s Christmas  written by Bob Geldof in reaction to the famine in Ethiopia, sung by supergroup Band Aid, and sold worldwide to raise charitable funds, and from a woman who sobbed on the outside, but was so filled with hope and inspiration on the inside every time she heard We Are the World, I was so saddened to find out this existed.

I realize Gadot, presuming she is the one whose idea it was (and why is she standing in such an awkward, almost creepy position?), was not necessarily trying to recreate either of the above anthems. I can only guess she thought it would be inspirational to put celebrity friends on the spot–it is undeniable how uncomfortable some of them look, and I doubt it has to do with their poor singing–and have them attempt to sing one of the greatest love songs to humanity, from their personal places of quarantine.

CaptureThere is something so incredibly ineffectual about the video, I cringed.

/ You may say I am overly critical /
/ but I’m not the only one… /

“…as is evident by responses all over the web, including this NY Times article.

It made me sad that these performers, who are loved and respected in so many other ways, used their celebrity in such a misguided manner. It would probably have been difficult to have said ‘no’, especially as they are all likely feeling very emotional, as are the rest of us, contending with their own concerns and issues during this pandemic.

However, unlike many of the rest of us, I would imagine their success in the entertainment industry results in fewer immediate worries. The video makes me feel they are unaware of some the major challenges facing so many people, which I know probably isn’t true, but it really does feel that way. In order for countless people to ride this out, it isn’t simply about being required to stay at home with varying levels of comfort, often not in designer homes. It is also trying to figure out where we are going to get the money to pay to keep the lights on, buy the food, pay the rent. And also with those funds how to grocery shop or get medicines picked up or delivered without catching a deadly virus.

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A comment on the YouTube video

I realize the above is a sweeping comment, and I think the people in the video do care, and perhaps they felt this was a way to show that concern for their fellow human beings during this global crisis. However, if Gadot was feeling “philosophical” as she claims, I would have been much more comforted if instead she had embraced the empathy of her Wonder Woman character, and provided some words of compassion instead of this silly mashup.

As I sat in the dark in disbelief, the song continuing on, I suddenly heard a man yelling from down the street. As best I could tell, it was gibberish. I wish I could describe it better, but it was an incredibly surreal moment, watching this video of well-known faces that is more offensive than inspirational, feeling anxious in my own world, and hearing this anonymous voice, likely homeless, perhaps mentally ill or an addict based on his rantings, yelling out into the eerily desolate Hollywood night.

Simon Says…

“Safer at Home” a.k.a. Lockdown

Day 11

 

IMG_8578don’t touch your face!

Although I generally meditate every morning, some days I cheat myself and do not take the time to really be in the moment. I’ll go through the motions…sit comfortably, close my eyes, begin taking deep breaths, and do my best to not let outside thoughts distract. Some days I do reach a place of ‘calm’, but others I can’t completely clear my mind and things like what I need to get done that day will keep popping into my head.

A few weeks ago, a friend had suggested a meditation app called Insight Timer. It was before this situation began, and I had never looked into it.

However, aware how my anxiety has risen during this crisis, I have started being more diligent about my morning meditation ritual, knowing it will make a significant difference in my well-being. Hoping guided meditations would help me reap the most benefits I can, I downloaded the app onto my phone.

There are 40,000 free meditations, all with different intentions sorted into a variety of categories, assorted lengths of time, and so many different teachers all with different voices, different tones. There is even a section for children which I think is wonderful, because they might not always understand exactly what is going on, but they can certainly feel the tension. And there are a number of other resources on the app that I have yet to explore.

I used it for the first time yesterday morning and could tell already this was a great decision. At first I was tempted to click on ‘Learning to Meditate’ because I am sure there is much I can attain from the lesson. However, I opted instead to go to ‘Coping with Anxiety’ for the moment, and I will go back to the other.

I listened to one my friend recommended, ‘Divine Comfort & Reassurance: Feel Held & Supported During Challenging Times’ taught by Aluna Moon. I really appreciated being able to close my eyes and let someone else do the ‘thinking’ as the soft tone of her voice led me, allowing me to simply listen and be there, only there. No outside noise, no inside-my-head voice trying to hash out a to-do list. Only that moment.

To be honest, that might have been what gave me the peace of mind to get out of bed yesterday.

Perusing through the app this morning to see if I wanted to do the same or change it up, I came across one titled, ‘Keeping Calm During COVID-19’ with teacher Robert Davis and decided to give it a try.

It was very comforting and reassuring but in an almost scientific way. One thought that did come into my mind early on in the meditation was the similarity between his tone regarding the crisis and information he shares and the video below, Protecting Your Family From COVID-19 by Dr. David Price.

Price is a critical care pulmonologist caring for COVID-19 patients in NYC at Weill Cornell Hospital. He is literally ‘on the front lines’ of this pandemic and he is able to give clear explanations and provide the common sense solutions to how to protect yourself and your loved one.

One main takeaway from watching the video? Do not touch your face! For this reason I’ve started wearing my glasses all the time, to potentially keep me from rubbing or scratching my eyes. And I pull my hair back entirely so it doesn’t hang on my face, tempting me to push it back with my hands without even thinking.

These two resources, Keeping Calm During COVID-19 and Protecting Your Family From COVID-19 by Dr. David Price really go hand-in-hand. I feel that along with the Mental Health Wellness Tips from Dr. Eileen Feliciano I shared yesterday, I can begin focusing my approach to reducing anxiety and maintaining wellness amid all the chaos and noise in the news and on social media.

(Wish We Could) Share the Same Space for a Minute or Two

“Safer at Home” a.k.a. Lockdown

Day 9

IMG_8555Lately most of my posts here have been fear-based as I try to make decisions based on a lot of what-if’s. And though I am usually sharing my own experiences, today I am taking a moment to consider the particular anguish many others are going through that I hadn’t yet given thought to.

Yesterday morning I logged onto Facebook and the first thing that showed up was my friend Lauren Flynn’s Facebook Live session. She is a musician sheltering in place on Whidbey Island and has a daily live broadcast she calls Coffee and Oversharing. It was the first time I’ve listened in.

cI enjoyed being a ‘fly on the wall’ sipping my hot tea as she sipped her morning java and shared what was on her mind, similar to what I do here, and as she responded to comments her friends posted that I saw pop up on the screen. And after her discussion, she picked up her guitar and sang one of her songs. It was a pleasant way to start the day.

Her topics ranged from coffee itself, to sand dollars, to how she fulfilled her dreams of playing the musical hot spots on Sunset Boulevard like Whisky-a-Go-Go. Wish I could have been there!

She also brought up a subject we often aren’t considering in the craziness of our own home confinement: the reality many people are currently suffering when a loved one dies during this crisis. No funerals, no in-person celebration of life, no gatherings of friends and family to grieve, no hugs to console and try to take on any of the hurt from a spouse or child or parent.

I really cannot imagine the pain.

And because it is necessary to prohibit all visitors, those who are passing away from the coronavirus disease, and all other conditions, are all alone in the hospital.

A friend of Lauren’s sent a Facebook comment during her show that someone he knew has COVID-19. Sad enough to hear, but even more devastating when Lauren asked if this was the “same person”, and he said it was not. He knew two people who had been diagnosed.

What was incredibly heartbreaking was to find out that his brother-in-law had died of the virus, and now his sister, who just lost her husband, has to quarantine in her home alone. No one to hold her, no one to be with her in these intense days of extreme grief. So, this man was sitting in his car and crying outside her house so as to be as close as he could be, because that was all he could do for her.

As much as many of us are ‘in the same boat’, each of us is in varying situations and we have no clue how much other people are having to contend with on their own. If you are in an okay place at the moment, and you meditate or pray, or journal, or write songs, or any way you personally put out energy, please take some time to hold in your heart those stricken with this virus or any other ailments who are suffering away from the assuring touch of a family member, as well as those who are forced to endure alone the painful loss of a loved one.

And turns out, as Lauren pointed out, in incredibly trying times, we need each other that much more, and there really is no such thing as oversharing.

If you could use something to get you through a tough moment, on her YouTube channel I found Lauren’s ethereal version of the Talking Heads song, This Must Be the Place.

I Love Hugs This Much

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“Safer at Home” a.k.a. Lockdown

Day 8

image1Some dear friends, as well as some people I have never met, have reached out (with messages through the cyber world, not with their arms in person) to let me know they they are grateful for my posts, and to share their own experiences or moments, and to send supportive and encouraging words.

In a post a few days ago, I said that I write to express something, to get something out of me. And the external responses I receive are great and very much appreciated, but not why I do it.

During these extraordinary times though, I have decided I am going to do some back pedaling.

If you and I have met in person, it is most likely we have hugged. I am a hugger, always have been.  I wrote about hugs and how they were a significant part in enhancing his, as well as my, well-being, in our day-to-day during those last months Daddy and I had together.

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As The Happyologist wrote in The Shocking Truth Behind Hugs, “Oxytocin, also known as the “love drug”, calms your nervous system and boosts positive emotions. ”

Hug Scientific ResearchActual research has proven the difference hugs can make to our nervous system. If there were ever a time for every bit of stress relief possible, this is it. Obviously though, during this crisis and the necessary orders for ‘social distancing’, the only accessible hugs are the family and/or friends with whom we are sheltering in place.

I have a number of friends who are already extremely devoted pet lovers, and I can tell by the photos they are currently sharing they are that much more grateful to have their furry friends for companionship and hugs while they are burrowed into their homes.

dog shoe hug

However, all over the world, there are many of us entirely alone in our physical isolation.

Each of us is experiencing this differently. Being a homebody, I am okay with staying in, keeping myself busy, doing many of the things I tend to in ‘normal’ times–writing, watching movies, reading.

Others who are social animals might only be able to hang in there so long before they begin to have feelings of sadness from disconnection. I am grateful to those of you who are going through this and fight the urge to gather in groups, as tough as that is.

Although I am content with being in my own space to do things I love to do, my personal situation is beginning to take its toll. I am worried about the possible escalation of crime and disease right outside my window and that it will find its way in.

Ever see the Gladys Cooper episode of Twilight Zone titled, ‘Nothing in the Dark‘? Okay, you probably remember it as the one with a very young Robert Redford.

In this episode, Wanda Dunn (Cooper) has locked herself into her dilapidated apartment as she attempts to hide from death. Rod Serling’s intro:

“An old woman living in a nightmare. An old woman who has fought a thousand battles with death and always won. Now she’s faced with a grim decision. Whether or not to open a door. And in some strange and frightening way she knows that this seemingly ordinary door leads to the Twilight Zone.”

You can watch the episode in its entirety on Netflix. Heck, watch all the episodes of The Twilight Zone because that is what we are living.

The image of Wanda hiding away in her dark, cold sub-basement has gone through my mind several times lately. Though perhaps death isn’t my immediate fear, as I self-quarantine, I know that in my apartment everything has been sanitized, including any mail I bring in. At the moment, as best I know, I am safe. But every time I open the door, I am worried what dangers could creep in.

That is why it is so difficult trying to decide what to do. I feel a strong need to get out of this place.

I am considering putting my things in storage and making the drive to Colorado to my sweetheart’s house and riding out the storm there. But even that plan is not without extreme challenges. First to get my things from here to a storage unit. Once on the road, every stop for gas and to use the bathroom poses a risk. Where could I sleep along the way of the 3-day drive? (Two days if I took the northern route, but not a good time of year with spring snow, so the southern route is safer.) And is dear, old ‘Subie’ (my Subaru Forester) up to the journey?

There are also times I feel like I am being weak if I leave. As though I am letting ‘fear’ win. I have supplies, including plenty of toilet paper and peanut butter. Other people are not going anywhere. “Come on, ML, get tough.”

Or am I foolish for staying? Should I be heading for the hills ASAP?

Ugh!!!

No wonder I could really use a hug. Scientists have proven hugs are great medicine, and so many memes and quotes out there encouraging hugs say there are “no side effects.” Little did the writers know we would one day be facing a worldwide situation where a hug could not only make a person sick, it could lead to death.  Hugging is Powerful Medicine

And how ironic that with all the proof how therapeutic hugs are, I am nowhere near to receiving one when I need it so much.

A few weeks ago I picked up a little figurine from a flea market for my friend who liked these little statues when she was growing up. I set it on my shelf figuring I’d mail it to her for her birthday gift or just to send a little something in the mail. I have no idea if she would really want, or have a place for, something like this in her home in Texas.

I am not a keeper of knick-knacks. I call them dust collectors. My bookshelves are for books and framed photos. Yet, whenever I would go past the shelf, her big eyes and sweet face would be there looking up at me and make me smile.

Because of the feeling I would get when I saw her, I decided perhaps I should hold onto her, at least for now, and moved her over to my writing desk where I could gather img_7896inspiration from her as I sit delved into my creative projects.

I think it is cute that she has pigtails like I wore as a little girl, and often still do. Yesterday as I was at my desk and when she caught my eye, I realized something. As her arms are outstretched  to show, “this much” they also look like she is reaching out for a hug.

I believe this little girl might be my ‘spirit animal’ to help me through the loneliness and the chaos.

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Last night I was watching the movie, The Blind Side. Based on a true story, Sandra Bullock’s character, interior designer Leigh Anne Tuohy, a headstrong, southern woman, and her husband Sean Tuohy (Tim McGraw), an affluent owner of several fast food franchises, adopt Michael, a young, timid African American boy of high school age who has been in and out of foster homes. On Michael’s graduation day, as everyone else shakes his hand and gives him congratulatory pats on the back, a choked up Leigh Anne informs him, “I think I need a proper hug,” continuing to establish the strong bond these two would share. My eyes teared. In the final moments of the film, the family say their good-byes on the university lawn as they drop Michael off at college. Attempting to remain stoic, Leigh Anne gives him a quick squeeze from the side ‘good-bye’ and heads to the car under the guise of not wanting to hit heavy traffic. Michael goes to her at the car, taps on the window, and once he gets her to roll the window down, he tells her, “I need a proper hug.”

As I watched the credits roll through tear-filled eyes, and began to come back to the reality that lay all around us, I realized, I need a proper hug.

This is where the back-pedaling comes in. I will keep writing because it is what I need to do, it’s what gets me through each day and if you are ever genuinely moved to comment or send me a message, I will take it as a personal hug.

With no idea when I will see you next, and what the circumstances of the world will be, (if we can safely hug) don’t be surprised if I squeeze even harder, and hold on even longer than ever.

next-time-i-hug-you-i-probably-wont-let-go-for-a-long-time