Archive | September, 2006

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

27 Sep

Member that class in grade school? Where they explained Relationships? That I missed? Well, this week, I feel like someone(s) slipped me the notes!

Thank you for the incredible response to my last week’s newsletter about “The Last Kiss,” and for sharing everything from personal stories and concerns, to relationship coaches and workshops! I am so grateful for all your thoughtful emails and comments, that I’d thought I’d share a few of “the notes” this week.

Overall, the overwhelming response was that – and this may be incredibly obvious but is worth stating I think – committed relationships require kept promises, work, and well, commitment. Without any further adieu…

“…Relationships are just like your job — it you coast in the office, you get canned. If you coast in your relationships they fall apart. A lot of people refuse to acknowledge this fact. They figure you fall in love and you can go on auto pilot. Nothing could be further from the truth. The longer you’re with someone, the harder you need to work.”

“You ask a lot of good questions. Relationships ARE tricky, and, I think, inherently difficult, but doesn’t something difficult make the trying all that more rewarding? Media tends to view modern love relationships with with either a rose colored lens or an eye of skepticism and what I call the eye of the “Casualty Vampire.” How many magazines have you seen that suck on the “what went wrong” of this or that relationship? Purely for balance do you see one that focuses on “what’s going well”? We have become a society that loves to look at what is going badly because it makes us feel better about ourselves and puts our lives in perspective. However, it has become a fear-based obsession. It seems to me that, like Zach Braff’s character, many of my friends are avoiding relationships for fear of what might go wrong, and many more avoid marriage for the same reason. I strongly believe that were America to turn off its televisions, we’d have a much easier time living in relationships and letting them evolve without judgment.”

And one of my personal favorites:

“Amen, sister.”

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So, with love (and how does it all work???) on the mind, I got an email this weekend with the subject line “baby pics” from a friend I haven’t been in touch with for years. I met him three and a half years ago on a yoga retreat, and at that time he was in his mid-40’s and recently divorced from a woman he had been married to for 17 years, lived with for two years before that, and dated for three years before that even. And this email I received, three and a half short years later, contained pictures of his second wife’s sonogram, along with her upcoming due date. I didn’t even know he was dating anyone!

I emailed him to congratulate him and get up-to-date, and it turns out that he met her a few months after the retreat when they were seated next to each other on an airplane, they got married last year, and now they are expecting their first child. He is so excited, and says he feels like he’s started his life all over again.

***********************************************************

So there’s a huge divorce rate. And stories. And movies. And TV shows. And magazine articles. About infidelity. About problems and fights, disagreements and disappointments. About how men don’t understand women and women can’t understand men. About how marriage will forcibly, violently, suck all the life and joy out of you and then leave you for dead, emotionally wasted at the side of some ditch (See: Fox’s “‘Til Death,” and don’t even get me started!). Or about how relationships must be perfect or you need to get out, and fast! (like, now for instance) and hurry up and get something/one better, setting unrealistic (See: impossible) expectations, that nothing/one could ever live up to.

But still. I know way more than 3 couples who are happy together. And Zach Braff’s actual, unparaphrased line in the movie “The Last Kiss” was that he will marry his girlfriend when she can name 3 couples that have lasted for more than 5 years. And I know way more than 3 of those, too, who have been together for way longer than that. Hey, I know someone who started over and is starting a family at 49.

I am reminded of the title of the Raymond Carver story I read in college “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” and that I can choose what to talk about, what to think about, and what to believe, when it comes to love, and when it comes to everything really. So despite the numbers that are being thrown at me, at us, by society, and the media, I have my own numbers to go on, and they have taught me that I enjoy a good, real, true love story with all its juicy up-and-down-ness – all the complexities, complications, triumphs, and more – and that above all, I believe in love.

Stay tuned for next week, I have decided that October is the official month of OBSTACLES, namely, KICKING THEM TO THE CURB! And there might be some John Mayer mixed in there somewhere, you know how I love those pop influences. I’m pretty sure I can make it relevant…

Until then, Happy Writing, and live and love it up this week!

xoxox!

Jen

 

Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Garam.  All rights reserved.

Some Thoughts Re: Love, Writing & "The Last Kiss"

18 Sep

I was listening to Z100 yesterday, the Top 40 countdown (as I’ve already established last week, I love pop music and I’m proud of it!), and there was an interview with Zach Braff so I listened harder. He was, of course, talking about his (great!) new movie “The Last Kiss.” I don’t want to totally misquote him or anything, so let me just toss out a disclaimer up front: what I am going to do is hugely paraphrase what he said, and then mostly extrapolate what I took it to mean.

He said that the institution of marriage is in trouble, and it is like this big pink elephant in the room that no one is talking about. And it just kinda seems like that is what everybody does – go down that Marriage/Baby Track on auto-pilot, without stopping to question some of the problems, or think about the 50% or whatever divorce rate. And he talked about how, in the movie, his character (Michael) says to Jacinda Barrett’s character (his pregnant girlfriend, Jenna) something to the effect of (to paraphrase): “I will marry you when you can tell me three couples you know whose relationship isn’t in trouble.” And then Zach went on to say that he actually tried to play this game with people who interviewed him, but using only Hollywood couples, and no one could ever come up with three, and the happy couples they could find were all on their second marriages…

Anyway, his overarching point was, or what I took it to be at least was, that this movie opens up a discussion about what nobody is discussing.

Ok, I know three couples who have great relationships! Actually, I know (at least) NINE couples who have great relationships, who are wonderful together, and happy. So if you see Zach, tell him I want to play that game with him and I will WIN IT times three (!), because I love competition, even when something (like, uh, this) is clearly non-competitive. But maybe this is just a statistical anomaly. Back to the movie (for now).

I loved it. So much. I want to marry it. I heard that it had gotten terrible reviews, so just to be journalistic-ish and try to see both sides, I looked up the review in The New York Times http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/09/15/movies/15kiss.html. Which (paraphrase!), basically says that Zach/Michael is unsympathetic, and that Jacinda/Jenna has the potential to be a strong character, but isn’t fleshed out enough. However, this is what I loved about this movie: It is honest (this is something The Times review and I agree on). And the characters are so flawed, and so struggling, and so lost, and so scared, and making mistakes left-and-right, but for the most part, they are trying. They are doing the best they can, which often isn’t good enough (do you know that feeling?), but it is. What it is. An attempt. And a big ol’ mess. All at once.

And this is where I diverge from The Times and we go our separate ways, because I felt for Zach/Michael, in a sympathetic way. Which, I am totally not Pro-Cheating, and if you ask me to take a stance on cheating I will come out very strongly in favor of Anti-Cheating, in a No-Exceptions kind of way. But this movie does not make it so easy. It does not say: here is a Bad Person doing a Bad Thing – hate him!!! Instead it paints this murky picture of right and wrong, where things are not so clear-cut (um, like things are sometimes known to be in real life), and people make mistakes, and it is the opposite of easy to just dismiss them. It is rip-your-soul-apart-feel-the-consequences painful, confusing, and just plain old-fashioned sad. And by the way, ZB has one of the best, most agonizingly edge-of-your-seat human moments I have ever seen in a movie when he has to make a tough decision and it – his face, his decision, this moment – is so scarily real I could feel it from my seat (which I was at the edge of and) which was so very far away from him, across the country even, and to me, that’s a pretty good and rare movie to do that.

And as for the conversation that no one is having, I have often said that I feel like I was absent the day that Relationships were explained in grade school, and no one gave me the notes. What seems so obvious and easy for others has traditionally been confusing and difficult for me. I have felt like I am the only one who doesn’t get it. Like, why won’t anyone talk about the complexities and challenges of relationships? Not the (often self-created) “drama,” which people do talk about, myself included, but the nuts-and-bolts of how two individuals can become one loving, healthy, couple in a loving, healthy relationship that really works, that isn’t in trouble, that makes its participants more happy than sad. I know and believe it’s possible but. I have questions! I want answers!

Well, this movie will not give you any answers. What it does do is ask a shitload of questions. I hate rules, and if you ask me to take a stance, I will come out very strongly Anti-Rule, Anti-Grammar, Anti-Punctuation, Anti-Everything!, but what screenwriter Paul Haggis does in “The Last Kiss” is one of my favorite “rules” of writing: always. Always. ALWAYS. ASK MORE QUESTIONS THAN YOU ANSWER. This is why I aim to do this in my own writing: I don’t have all the answers (no one does!), and I could not even begin to think about pretending to. And also. What this does is: it starts a conversation. I hate. Hate. HATE to the point of RAGE (which is potentially my own, separate issue), when books/movies/plays/anything give me all the answers and then tie everything up with a cute little pink bow (even though I love the color pink). First of all, I feel like doing that assumes the far below-average intelligence of the reader/viewer/anything/me, and I hate being assumed to be below average; I find it offensive and, as previously stated, rage-inducing. And also: the neat little bow is a huge conversation-stopper. After you get the answers spoon-fed to you, who cares anymore? Unanswered questions and unwrapped bows leave something to wrap your brain around, something to haunt you, and most importantly, something to discuss. And maybe some clarity will emerge out of that discussion. Nothing will ever emerge out of the idiot-proof pink bow.

So, in conclusion, keep asking, keep talking, and if it is what you want to do in your life, KEEP WRITING! To quote Tom Wilkinson’s character (Jenna’s father, Stephen): “Do whatever it takes.” And maybe some clarity will emerge…

Lots of love!

Jen xoxoxo

 

Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Garam.  All rights reserved.

Let’s Bring Sexy Back!

12 Sep
It’s no secret that I’m madly in love. With Justin Timberlake. I love him with all my heart and to the depths of my soul; I love him for his luscious body, his juicy soul, and his dirty-sounding rock ‘n roll.

I love him in a way that does not preclude nor compete with Cameron – I love him in a way that leaves room for all of us. (By this I mean emotionally, I mean spiritually; clearly, sexually, there is only room for two in any given relationship, and I would not advocate otherwise, even if I meant that in doing so, I would get to sleep with Justin. And anyway, my love for him transcends all that.) I know that I am 31 and not 13 but I can’t help it. I. Love him. He. Completes me.

And today is the day: Justin’s much-anticipated and long-awaited cd FutureSex/LoveSounds drops. I have been waiting for this moment for an entire week (I fell in love with him last Tuesday or Wednesday, I’m not sure exactly when as this past week has been a whirlwind of passion and, if I am being really honest, I have to say that I re-fell in love with him last Tuesday or Wednesday, re-affirming my feelings from years ago (circa 2000-2002; during his late *NSYNC, early solo career days)).

What happened, you might ask, to reignite my (now eternal) flame for JT? Simply stated: YouTube. More specifically: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvmADln_PeQ. I discovered this last week and I think (ok, I know) I may be personally responsible for a sharp decline in many people’s productivity as I forced them to WATCH IT and LOVE IT! I forced someone who knows me very well to view it, and when he saw how many views it had gotten (I believe it was something in the neighborhood of 117,000 at that time) he (accurately) asked me, “How many of those views are yours, Jen?” Some people know me so well. So okay, full-disclosure, I watched it, um, more than once. And maybe sometimes when I watch it my jaw might drop and hang in the wide-open position, and I may have difficulty breathing. Sometimes.

But seriously (if you will allow me to get serious about Justin for a moment), what is it about JT that makes my jaw hang open, my heart beat a little faster, my adrenaline rush, and my spine tingle? Allow me to enumerate. He is:

1) truly, purely, doing his thang

2) intensely passionate (gulp)

3) captivating (and dare-I-say, magnetic)

4) taking chances, artistically and creatively

5) This relates back to #1, but he is doing what he loves, and clearly, having a blast doing it, and this is contagious

And you can hear this in his music and see it in his performances (see above, YouTube etc.). He not only completes me, he inspires me.

I double-dog-dare you to play “SexyBack,” plug in your headphones, and not have fun. And not be affected and lifted by his energy, and his music. Because man, it is powerful stuff. In anticipation of today, I busted out Justified last week, and I’ve been listening to it on the subway, in the morning, during the rush hour commute, and let me tell you, when I’m listening to him, I don’t give a sh*t that I am in this rat race to midtown, pressed against total strangers who are possibly rude with potentially substandard hygiene practices. Because all I wanna do is SING ALONG; all I wanna do is DANCE; all I wanna do is S-M-I-L-E.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is: look. Look for that something, whatever it is (even if it’s not you-know-who), to inspire you and take you higher today, and hey, maybe every day (why not?). Let something fill you with energy and excitement, drop your jaw, tingle your spine, and raise the hairs on your arms. What have you got to lose? I know what I’m picking today…

To quote the incomparable Justin (“Like I Love You”/Justified):

“You know, you think about it

Sometimes people just destined

Destined to do what they do

And that’s what it is

Now everybody dance.”

How many of us can say we live like that? And yet. And yet. We can all live this way, and from this place, we all have that inherent ability. And I, for one, want to. I want to do what I’m meant to, what I’m made for; I want to fill my days and live and breathe this way. And then I want everybody to dance.

So here’s another double-dog-dare. Why does Justin get to be the lone martyr bringing sexy back? I think he could use some help for his cause (which is a good, and noble one!). What can you do today to BRING SEXY BACK? What small, but important ways can you GET YO’ SEXY ON? What can you do to feel alive, sassy, flirty, filled up with vitality, overflowing with enthusiasm, excited, inspired, energized, sexy, and really really good?

Think about it. Now go ahead be gone with it/and get your sexy on. Take ’em to the chorus…

Getting my sexy on,

Jen

Hey you – YES YOU – do you ever forget…

10 Sep

*Who you are?

*What makes you smile?

*Your deep dreams?

*What you are passionate about?

*What you wanted to be when you grew up? What you still want to be when
you grow up?

*That everything is possible?

**********************************************

When I first moved to New York City I lived in a
one-bedroom-converted-to-a-two-bedroom-with-three-of-us-living-there
apartment in a Luxury Building on the Upper East Side with two of my best friends from high school, and I was in acting school full-time. I think my rent was $500 even, or very close to it, and this was before I developed a Starbucks addiction, so my expenses were low. And I remember clearly, one shiny perfect back-to-school fall day, my first year living in Manhattan, crossing the street during my lunch break with a couple of friends from my class, and maybe our arms were linked or it just seemed like they should have been, because we – I – was having so much fun. And I was smiling, totally unselfconsciously, and just purely enjoying myself in a way I don’t too often do anymore, when a cop interrupted my state-of-bliss to ask me where I was from. “New York,” I told him, which actually meant the suburbs thereof, but I felt I could rightfully claim New Yorker Status having grown up a short Metro North ride’s distance from the big cit-ay.

“Really?” he exclaimed. “You don’t seem like it.” And then he said something about, you know, not losing “It,” whatever “It” was that made me seem more like a cheerful, wide-eyed, open-hearted, smiling Midwesterner than a tired, cynical, shut-down, grimacing New Yorker.

Well. It would be obvious to say that, at the age of 23, I never thought I would lose “It;” I believed I had an endless stream of energy and vitality and that everything would – always – go my way, and all my dreams would instantly come true. I believed that this effortless ease and a life populated with all my dreams and desires, without compromise, was what I deserved.

However. I don’t walk around the streets of the city smiling, my arms linked and intertwined in those of my friends anymore, and no one has stopped me to ask where I’m from lately. I feel, often, tired. I forget, frequently, who I am. What my dreams are. What it feels like to know that they are all possible. It seems like it takes all the energy I can muster to get from

Point A to Point B on my To Do list, and then I am pooped, and I need a nap. I don’t have the time to relish in my deep dreams as much as I once did, as much as I would like. This is not to say that I’m a craggy scraggly hardened New Yorker.

Most people who know me would likely describe me as friendly and warm, but I know that I used to be friendlier and warmer, and now I am, harder.

A few weeks ago, something happened to remind me of who I was, because as you well know, things happen, priorities change, disappointments come to pass, bills need to get paid, and it is far too easy to forget all this great important stuff about yourself for far too long, only to wake up to it all these years later and wonder where it had been hiding, and by the way, what happened to that person who was supposed to be guarding, taking care of, and nurturing your dreams? (Oh right, that was ME! Shit, I passed out, I haven’t been paying attention, I got distracted, etc. Sor-ry!) Dreams that you once held with the highest of enthusiasm and the best of intentions can get famously deferred, downgraded and compromised, reevaluated, and then downgraded again, until they (almost) don’t even exist anymore, except for barely, and by a thread. In short, hope, and and even more than that, belief, can get…lost.

I often feel like the New Year really begins in the fall, when you buy your fresh notebooks and unsharpened pencils and new back-to-school clothes and penny loafers, and wonder who will be in your homeroom class, and if the football team will be any better this year. So this year, my New Year’s Resolution (September-style), that I am very excited to share with all of you is this: to grab onto that thread, hold on for dear life, and REMEMBER.

And hey, if you feel like it, post YOUR deep dreams, especially the hidden ones that you may have forgotten about, and we can remember together!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxox