I am excited to be writing for Mom.Me these days. I often vacillate about what I should share on this site as I like it to remain my tabula rasa to some extent.
BUT I obviously have let a lot hang out, especially if you hop on over to the video section.
At the beginning of the year I wrote about something I have never shared before and has taken me years to figure out and talk about. Getting or rather, trying to get, a family member into rehab and mental illness. You can read about it here over on Mom.Me.
I’m happy have another space to let my freak flag fly. Because in doing so the world continues to feel less freaky.
Last night I finally made it to a WomenHeart of West Los Angeles meeting.
Amanda Daniels has invited me for a year now. I met her via an ExMo alum Abby.
Amanda co-founded the WomenHeart of West Los Angeles support group, a peer led group providing education and support to women living with heart disease. Through her work as a trained WomenHeart Champion, and as a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, Amanda has appeared as an EXTRA special correspondent on EXTRA TV, Good Day LA, Studio 11 LA, Fox 11 news, KTLA 5, KCAL 9, Fox 5 Atlanta, The Marie (Osmond) Show, CBS 8 Las Vegas and FOX 5 Las Vegas.
Essentially I ignored my heart in the Fall os 2012. It started beating very fast. Even just by bending over.
I would lay down and watch with some amusement as it pounded, nearly out of my chest. It ended quickly and I wasn’t one to worry about my health. Over Thanksgiving it actually went for 30 minutes but my mom, who is a nurse, was here and she and my husband said to lay down. Possibly without 3 kids at home, two who were very young, I might have gone to the ER but who had time for that?
So I kept drinking 4 cups of coffee, not nearly enough water, too much wine, we had just moved, my parents divorced and the stress was so incredibly much I started smoking, secretly when I could.
Staring at the new trees in my suburban backyard thinking what the shit, f#$%, hell I’m stressed.
But I kept on keeping on.
Until my big episode on January 1st.
Last night at the meeting it turns out two other women had heart attacks on January 1st, 2013, the same day!
One of them had her doctor, a female mom cardiologist at the meeting, unheard of! In fact there were three cardiologist there.
There were probably 10 of us. I believe I have the least severe thing there. One woman had even had a heart transplant.
Amanda talked about Mindfulness and not allowing ourselves to get too stressed. I heard from grandmothers talk about the stress they feel as well as us moms to younger kids. Sure we all feel stress but when think about it stress really effects your health.
Yes, some of us are born with issues but these can rear their heads due to stress.
I was very nervous being there, as talking about it makes me nervous but I left feeling very calm.
And I’m going to switch doctors and now see one over there as how amazed I was by the other cardiologists joining the meeting.
They too emphasized how much handling stress and meditating can improve your health.
I hear stories from other women who were too ashamed to ask for a ride to the ER and so they did only to show up and be told they were having a heart attack and would have died if they didn’t come in.
The doctors said, do not ever be embarrassed about going to the ER. They want you to say you are OK, go home.
Heart disease is the #1 cause of death to women.
Ironically the meeting took place on the same floor where I used to get pre-natal check-ups.
For so long going there so big and pregnant.
I find it completely meaningful that I was brought back because I need to work on my own heart.
Burying things and taking on too much is no longer an option for me because it can cause me to have an attack.
It’s a relief almost.
I mean don’t get me wrong I’m petrified to have the procedure if I do but it’s a relief to now know I don’t have to do all those things I did for too many years do make everyone else happy.
I of course want to make my family happy and friends and strangers but I need to be healthy in order to do it authentically.
The Women Heart of West LA meets every second Monday of the month. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org
This afternoon I took my three kids to Descanso Gardens.
It was a particularly gorgeous Los Angeles day. Cool, some clouds, sun and the gardens in bloom.
The grounds were spectacular.
My kids roamed and fell into their imaginations. I wondered if I coddled my 7 1/2 year-old boy too much as I sat on a bench waiting for my 2 1/2 year-old to finish her pretzels.
I wanted to freeze time as I look at my two sons bent over brilliant, shining, green grass looking at something they had found. Their two heads touching as they squatted, almost forming a heart.
Towards when it was time to go I could feel my heart acting funny. I have the most common SVT called AVNRT.
My heart can go from a resting rate to 150 and upwards all the sudden out of nowhere.
I suddenly started to feel “funny” and I know that “funny” feeling means my heart my go.
When my heart does go it doesn’t me that anyone has to call 911 but I have been told I might pass out. That scares me because I don’t want anyone to call an ambulance. I have an hour to convert my heart.
My littlest had to go to the bathroom. I looked at my oldest boy and said, honey, my heart is being funny I need you to take her in and take care of her. Really, he asked?
I looked over at a now vacant bench that was filled with two adults moments before.
Just me and the kids and my about to die phone.
I can’t concentrate 100% when I start to feel funny because my nerves kick in and sometimes I feel light headed. I didn’t have my purse with me, with my medication so I quickly texted my husband.
What delighted me while waiting for my husband and doing some things to calm my heart was overhearing my oldest step into the shoes he needed to fill.
That of a mature child knowing his mom, really needed help at that moment.
At one point, he said, mom, seriously the toilet is so big, it made me laugh, just lift her up I said, then I heard her tell him she had a weiner and I laughed a bit more.
I listened to their conversation outside of the stall I had locked myself in to take some deep breaths and rest my head against the wall.
I heard my middle child running back and forth.
I giggled too at how normally my oldest would never do this as he’s grossed out very easily.
The laughter along with his on-set of maturity at a time I needed him to be made me feel calmer as I waited for my husband to arrive with my medication.
Turns out he was yelling my name into another bathroom at Descanso when he arrived because my phone died. People were staring. More reason to laugh.
Once we were all collected as a family and my heart was normal and I had some meds I told my oldest, don’t worry honey, if that happens the worst that can happen is that I will pass out.
Then, what do I do, he asked.
You call dad. I began to explain how to use my phone and then he suddenly blurted out, I need a bank account and then bounded off to chase his younger brother, slipping into the role of care free child.
I was proud of my little guy taking over for me when I needed him to, albeit if only for a few minutes.
Curious if any of you have SVT? I haven’t found many women my age with it. Have you had an ablation? Do you take beta-blockers.
When I was younger the Oscars used to promote excitement in me.
Then as I grew into my late teens and early 20’s the Oscars began to become a marker of my own success, or lack there of.
I remember crying after Gwyneth Paltrow won her award in 1998 for best actress. I was 21 and I thought shit, I’m too old, I’ll never get to where she is.
And envious of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon when they won for best screenplay the same year. It was the most exciting Oscars for me, ever.
I came to LA to pursue acting and directing. I enjoyed both and knew if I didn’t pursue acting I might regret it. I went on auditions and stopped at 25. I do not regret pursuing it or trying it. It is something that has always felt right for me.
I felt like my strength lay behind the camera and I returned to it. I stopped watching the glamorous actors with any envy when they accepted their awards.
Yet, it still bothered me when I would watch a film that I admired win in an award and I had yet to finish my first screenplay…
Finally, around 26 I did finish my first screenplay. It is titled “Stuck.” It is about a 22 year-old who suffered lots of anxiety at her post collegiate job in a city and ended up returning home to bartend and start filming people’s stories about what they did starting off in the world.
I received some notes on it.
It needed work.
I was working various jobs hoping to find a female director mentor.
Then I became engaged, married and pregnant.
I thought it was over for me.
When I was pregnant with my first I shot a short film.
The day of the Oscar’s in 2006 we filmed at my home in the hills which happened to have a birds eye view of where the Oscars were held so you could see the helicopters swirling all around.
It made me feel good to know that I was working on something the day.
Today, I went to the grocery store, in my sweats and clogs. I thought about watching the arrivals with my oldest but then thought eh, maybe, maybe not.
I don’t really care that much anymore.
I thought about how I used to think it was “over” for me if I hadn’t won an Oscar at 21 or 25. And now at 37 I see contemporaries sharing their stories about being moms on the stage and making their own projects and I can’t help but feel thrilled that things are changing for women in this regards.
I’ve talked to so many young struggling actors in LA, obviously.
Seen many return home.
And seen a few make it big.
I’ve watched way too many talented people not be given even a chance because they simply couldn’t get an audition due to a crappy manager.
I felt so ashamed when pursuing acting out here. I was embarrassed to even admit it. It felt like everyone was doing it, probably just because I was surrounded at the restaurants I worked at, the classes I took etc. by young people doing just that.
And on Oscar day now, as I have been doing for the last few years, I think of all the people struggling to make it.
I no longer hold myself up to the barometer of have I failed yet again by not winning an Oscar(ha) but rather I delight seeing some people recognized and enjoy sharing my crazy struggling actor stories from when I first came to LA.
Circling auditions in BackStage West with my friend Polly.
Buying monologues at Samuel French.
Becoming very thin.
Working very hard mostly.
So hats off to all of you out there hustling and a high five to those of us who have become mothers and have chosen to pursue our art in a slightly different path then we might have thought when we first drove from where ever it is you came from.
There is always a a strange transition from going to staying up late, wearing red or sparkly lipstick, heels and hearing thunderous applause for something you’ve poured your soul into juxtaposed to the next early morning with your kids.
Greeted with hugs and hustling and thoughts swirling around your head the days tasks seem a bit harder for me sometimes.
I’ll never forget flying back from NYC after a week of putting the show on there in ’09 and quietly sitting with my 3 year-old at his little table and draping my cardigan around his shoulder and watching him eat.
I’m so grateful for being able to experiencing both but there is an Expressing Motherhood hangover.
Part of me wants more.
More nights off from putting the kids to bed, more nights to connect with other adults to feel connected to humanity.
I look forward to four more shows this weekend.
Every time the show ends I began to retreat and think about where to take the show next. Every time I tell myself don’t rush into the next one, enjoy your kids.
I do enjoy my kids.
I spend a lot of time with them.
I’m not sure where we’ll go next but I’m thinking by the end of Sunday night my intuition will scream at me to do this or that next.
It always helps the Expressing Motherhood hangover last not quite so long. Knowing I can pour myself back into it again. And for the performers, I’ve seen countless numbers of them jump into other projects. Solo shows, more writing, etc.
As I type in my go to mom outfit, yoga pants and tennis shoes, the only reminder of the show are my bright red and sparkly nails, the co-existion of both sides of me.
(I wrote this post last night but censored myself and didn’t post it until today)
Today, had me, mid-day in tears.
Maybe it was the dry heat mid-November juxtaposed with the freaking Christmas stuff I see up already juxtaposed with not even knowing what we are doing for Thanksgiving juxtaposed with trying to explain to my kids why there is no Chanukah stuff up and why mommy and daddy have different religions.
Navigating the holidays is proving trying and I dislike that.
All I care about really is to feel spirtually connected to what I believe in and to be around people I love.
I have a very small family. Like really small. Well, outside of my 3 kids.
We don’t do traditional holiday things.
But I have vowed not to have a lonely holiday.
I mean shit, I think a lot of people who moved to LA probably came here to escape some kind of thing back home. I just didn’t realize the thing I ran to escape would vaporize. Making LA my home. One in which I can’t now escape.
And so I am trying to carve out traditions for my kids.
The one tradition my husband I have kept since I was 24 is our annual holiday party. I have become superstitious about it as we only haven’t thrown it one year since it’s inception, 2007. And if 2008 wasn’t a shit storm. Yes, sorry we caused the writers strike and the economical depression all due to my lack of a holiday party.
Lately though the holidays are becoming very sad for me.
I troll Facebook and see people going back home wherever they are from and I feel as if I don’t have that.
But I have to remind myself that there must be a lot of other people who come from these types of backgrounds.
And I’d like to invite you over to my house for Thanksgiving.
But screw it.
I am going to attempt to just do something different this year. Maybe we’ll go to the beach on Thanksgiving? That’s just nuts.
Perhaps when the temperatures dip again here in LA my spirit will lift but right now it is heavy.
I have always known that my favorite gifts are my family and friends.
I don’t know, with a lump in my throat and some censorship rising up I stop there. But to all of you already worrying about the holidays or feeling like a failure know that you are not alone.
It has been a day full of whining and crying at my house.
I’ve felt exasperated. Not sure if it’s due to his asthma or what, but I think my husband nailed it on the head. Halloween is freaking my 3 1/2 year-old out.
We have a 2 year-old as well and for a week she’s been saying, “I want Halloween.” I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know what it is but it’s big and looming in her mind as well as my 3 year-old’s mind.
When my oldest was in pre-school, he went to a school that didn’t celebrate holidays. It was very low key that way. If the kids started talking about how they were noticing pumpkins the school might walk the kids over to Trader Joe’s and buy some pumpkins.
My husband and I have no family in LA so our holidays are very quiet and I like them that way. The first Christmas we bought our child nothing. Call us assholes but it was quite nice and easy. He does have two sets of very doting grandparents who love to give presents BTW.
But slowly, by adding a few more kids and really trying to incorporate Chanukah and Christmas traditions onto our family, the stress of buying presents and trying to avoid holiday stress has become, stressful.
I’m determined to not let this happen again this year.
My husband and I just came up with a game plan this Monday.
Since Chanukah and Thanksgiving overlap we will just give presents on the first and last night. The grandparents can give a gift on the first night and us the last night. We might go camping. The end.
For Christmas, one present each. Maybe two but that’s it, again, the end. Think we’ll go on a hike that day as well.
“Where are all your decorations?” My mom has asked before.
Putting them up stressed me out, taking them down is just more work.
I put up a tree, a menorah and some artwork from the kids and that’s about it. I don’t think that the more decorations one puts up equates a better chance of getting into heaven.
When I was younger I loved the holidays because we had larger family get-togethers. You could divide and conquer. I’d play with my cousins, the women would cook and I don’t know what the men did but it was great.
I have learned though to stop beating myself up because I do not have a traditional holiday. It might be 75 on Christmas, there will be no snow, more then likely. We don’t have family around.
So instead I’m just going to make it our own and call up some friends who might also be having un-traditional holidays and invite them to meet in a park for some shared egg nog.
I’m not sure.
I’m not going to make too many plans, put up too many decorations or buy too many presents.
Maybe I’m a scrooge.
But what I really want is a more peaceful me and a more peaceful home.
The National Play About Motherhood – Established in 2008