Archive | June, 2012

My Essay on The Huffington Post!

28 Jun

I have an essay on the HuffPost Women section of The Huffington Post!

“Why I Had an Affair With a Married Man”

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Just Write the Next Thing

24 Jun

Computer screen

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how I stepped on a rat, and then met my favorite singer, Maxwell. I loved this post. And not just because I love Maxwell. I loved everything about it. It was an unbelievable, miraculous story. I wrote it well. The twists! The turns! The dramatic arc! The culmination in a life lesson! I felt like it was possibly the best thing I ever wrote or would ever write again. I wanted to relish it and bask in it and savor it.

What I did not want to do was write the next post. I always want to go out on a good note, quit while I’m ahead. Like being the one to get off the phone first when I’m talking to a guy I have a crush on–right after I’ve said something charming and adorable and funny, and before I turn tired and boring and run out of things to say. I wanted to freeze my writing with my Maxwell-and-the-rat post, hold onto it so everyone would think that everything I write is always that perfectly crafted.

The thing to do in this situation is to just sit down and write that next thing. Get over the hump, break through the resistance.

So I sat down, and wrote about going to a vision board party. I liked this post. It was honest. Open. There were some funny parts, and a pretty kickass playlist. It wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve ever written, would ever write. There were lots of reasons to scrap it (there always are) and they all seemed valid (they always do). Like, posting my vision board felt like taking a picture of my journal entries and publishing it. Like, nothing spectacular or miraculous happened. Adam Levine didn’t show up at the party and make out with me or anything.

But it was a solid post, and the most important thing was to get it down. Disregard the reasons to hold off and wait for some elusive bigger, better idea. Just write the next thing. And then keep writing.

The longer I go without writing, especially after writing a piece I’ve fallen madly in love with, the harder it gets to write that next thing. The more of a big deal it becomes. The more I need to have some fabulous idea or riveting story or life-changing lesson. The more I get bogged down and stuck, rejecting every possible topic that is anything less than off-the-charts incredible. The more I don’t write.

For writing to not become a Big Deal looming dauntingly in front of me, it has to be a regular part of my life, something I am consistently doing. Even on those days when I’m not sure what I’m going to say, and in those moments when I question if I have anything to say.

Writing my next story or post or kernel of an idea, I write my way through resistance. Through good enough writing. And I write my way back to writing that makes my pulse race, lights me up, gives me chills. To the best thing I’ve ever written or will ever write. I fall madly in love again. And then I keep writing some more…

My Vision Board, Sans Perfectionism (and Plus Playlist)

12 Jun

My vision boardThis weekend, that fateful day finally arrived: my return to self-help. In the form of my friend’s vision board party that I excitedly, yet with some trepidation, RSVP-ed “Yes” to. Would I be triumphant, happily reunited with collaging as if we’d spent no time apart, and the past seven years since my last vision board were just an insignificant blip? I had my doubts.

As the day approached, collaging anxiety crept in. Plus, I had volunteered to make the party playlist and was starting to feel the burden of responsibility. I felt like I had to prep. Go shopping for an array of magazines that represented all the areas I wanted to cover on my vision board. Swing by a few home furnishings stores to pick up catalogs. Buy art supplies. Decide on a vision board base–should I put everything together on one huge piece of poster board, or break up my collages by category on scrapbook pages with labels? Then I’d have to print out category labels. And I couldn’t just bring labels for myself, I’d need to bring extras for the rest of the guests. I’d started a file folder a while ago of images I liked and wanted to use in a future vision board. But I couldn’t find the file anywhere, and felt like I’d lost part of my vision. A few days before the party, I made the mistake of looking at the last vision board I made seven years ago, pre-self-help detox, and it was A-MA-ZING (categorized scrapbook pages, labeled). A sheer thing of artistic beauty, I couldn’t believe I had created it. There was no way I could live up to my collaging past.

And then there was the playlist–all the new songs I wanted to buy on iTunes, and how to organize them for optimum flow.

What happened was this: my perfectionism was taking over, turning a fun afternoon with friends, glitter, and glue sticks into an oppressive list of tasks and To Dos. So I decided to scrap everything–all the planning and preparation (it wasn’t even my party!), and just do the absolute minimum. As if I was cramming for a final, I quickly made the playlist at 11pm the night before with nary a newly purchased song, or a second thought the order. I wanted the music to be uplifting, so I just did one round of edits where I stripped out all the codependent love songs about needing someone else to be able to live or breathe.

An hour before the party, I picked up three magazines–a yoga one, a home one, and a vacation one–and found the ideal compromise of half-sheets of poster board at an art supply store. I let go of trying to locate my image file, and embraced the idea of creating my vision afresh in the moment. Pounding an iced coffee for sustenance, I was ready to collage. Imperfectly, dammit.

Me with my vision boardAt the party, my friend read a few vision boarding suggestions before we got started, like keeping some white space in your collage to leave room for other things to come in, and so it doesn’t look chaotic and clutterred. Flipping through magazines, I still doubted my artistic abilities, but reminded myself that this didn’t have to be the end-all-be-all vision board, just one attempt.

I was a little behind, only on Phase 2 (deciding which images to use) when everyone else was on Phase 3 (gluing), but somehow mine came together quickly in the end. While I’d thought my vision board would be significantly career focused, and had even brought cut-outs of the New York Times Best Seller list and logos for places I wanted to write or teach, I tucked them underneath my poster board before I started and none of them made it on. Mostly my vision board wound up being about joy, relaxation, playfulness, fun–and a balanced life. And by the way, I love it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that my playlist was a huge hit. Someone even said I should make playlists professionally, if that’s even a thing. Other than like, DJ. And someone else asked me if I’d publish the playlist, which was the inspiration for this blog post. Having recently met Maxwell, it’s a little Maxwell intensive. But as I told my friend who was hosting the party, it was a major accomplishment that my playlist wasn’t just: “Maxwell CDs.” So here it is, codependent love song free, and guaranteed to uplift!

Vision Board Party Playlist
1) “Imagine Me” – Kirk Franklin
2) “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” – Maxwell
3) “Superwoman” – Alicia Keys
4) “Beautiful” – Christina Aguilera
5) “Brand New Day” – Joshua Radin
6) “Declaration (This Is It!)” – Kirk Franklin
7) “A Star Is Born” – Jay-Z feat. J. Cole
8) “Closer” – Goapele
9) “Best Of My Love” – The Emotions
10) “Seasons of Love” – Original Broadway Cast, RENT
11) “Just Fine” – Mary J. Blige
12) “F**ckin’ Perfect” – Vicci Martinez and Niki Dawson on The Voice
13) “Party” – BeyoncĂ© feat. AndrĂ© 3000
14) “Over the Rainbow” – Glee Cast Version
15) “Pretty Wings” – Maxwell
16) “My Love” – The-Dream & Mariah Carey
17) “September” – Kirk Franklin
18) “Ganapati” – Girish
19) “Guru Brahma” – Jai Uttal & The Pagan Love Orchestra
20) “People Everyday” – Arrested Development
21) “Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
22) “Lifetime” – Maxwell

What songs would be on your Vision Board Party Playlist?

How Something Really Bad Can Turn Into Something Really Good–Oh, and Holy Shit, I Met Maxwell!

9 Jun

Maxwell GAP ad

Maxwell in an ad for The GAP

Last week I was racing across the street in flip-flops when, before I could stop it, my left foot landed on a pulverized rat. This was upsetting. Standing on the curb taking deep breaths, I decided to turn around and take a second look. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.

Closer inspection revealed that I did indeed just step in rat guts with nothing more than a thin flip-flopped sole between me and them. Trying to stifle my gag reflex, I peered down at what had once been a rat but was now just a flattened layer of mush pressed into the concrete, a tail and one foot the only discernible features that remained.

Walking away, I tried to convince myself that this was not a big deal. Maybe I’d actually only grazed a sliver of the rat, or missed it entirely. A few blocks later I gathered the courage to look at the bottom of my shoe. There was black gunk on the upper left corner, and some reaching up along the left side of my shoe, centimeters from my bare pinky toe.

Not a big deal, not a big deal, I thought as I practiced Lamaze breathing. But I knew that there was no amount of scrubbing and disinfecting I could do that would make me feel OK about stepping foot back into my apartment in these shoes. However microscopic, I would never step soundly again knowing there could be rat entrails on my floor.

I looked down at my flip-flops. I loved these flip-flops. I’d gotten them at The GAP last summer so they probably didn’t carry them anymore. They were super-comfortable and the perfect neutral shade to go with everything. And I was super-broke and not excited about shelling out money for any unanticipated expenses. But the ratty flip-flops had to go.

On my way to meet a friend for coffee, I thought about cancelling and immediately heading to The GAP for my replacement. But he was going through a hard time and needed my help so I felt like I had to show up. I spent an hour with my friend, silently praying that I wasn’t at that very moment contracting the Bubonic plague. I’d planned to go to an event afterwards, but there was no way I could sit through even another five minutes with this rat on my foot, so I changed my plan and walked in the opposite direction towards the closest GAP.

Why does this shit always happen to me? I thought. Who the fuck ever steps in a smooshed rat?!? It wasn’t enough to feel sorry for myself on my own, so I called a friend.

“I’m on the way to buy new shoes,” I said. “Because I just stepped in a fucking rat!!!”

Which was when I walked past a guy who looked a lot like my favorite singer, Maxwell, but it was kind of hard to tell because he had a full beard and was wearing a baseball cap. I smiled, and he smiled back.

I kept walking, but I had to take one more look to make sure so I turned around. He was looking at me (checking me out?), AND IT WAS TOTALLY HIM!

“Gotta go, bye!” I said to my friend, hanging up. She texted me right away, “Feel better, the Universe just wants you to have new shoes!”

“The Universe just wants me to meet Maxwell!” I wanted to text back, but I had more pressing things to attend to first.

“Maxwell?” I asked, and he nodded yes.

“This is so crazy. I was just buying shoes,” he said, nodding at the shopping bags in his hands. “I can’t believe you recognized me.”

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!

“I’m Max,” he said, reaching out his hand.

Holyshitholyshitholyshit!

“I’m Jen,” I said, shaking his hand.

Let me semi-digress for a moment here to say that if I could meet one person in the whole entire world, it would be Maxwell. That I’ve been very vocal about my love for him for a long time (as evidenced in this, this, and this blog post), and went through a brief period in 2009 where I proactively hoped I’d meet him.

I was shaking and totally overwhelmed so I said, “I can’t believe this! I’m shaking! I’m so overwhelmed!”

He stood there smiling as I traced my love for him through the years, beginning when my first roommate in New York City introduced to me to Urban Hang Suite in 1998 to the present. Some highlights included when I took a half-vacation day from work three years ago to see him perform on a morning television show and told my boss I was taking a “Maxwell Half-Day;” how I went to see him in concert at Madison Square Garden by myself because none of my friends would go with me, and in the elevator at home that night I ran into my neighbor who was coming back from that same concert and I discovered that another die-hard Maxwell fan lived a mere four doors down from me; and how I listened to his music in my cube so much at an old job that whenever I came back from being on vacation, if an issue of TIME or People Magazine had come out while I was gone with an article about Maxwell in it, my boss and coworkers would leave a copy of it on my chair. I talk fast, so I was able to cover 14 years’ worth of stories in a relatively short period of time.

Me and Maxwell“You made my day, you made my day,” Maxwell kept saying, and hugging me. Multiple times. Needless to say, I no longer cared that I was standing in rat.

“I put your songs on so many uplifting playlists!” I said, clutching my heart. “Your music has brought me so much joy!”

“You made my day,” he said, and hugged me. Again.

After Max and I parted ways, I found my way to The GAP in my post-Maxwell haze. I couldn’t believe that they had the exact same style and color as my beloved flip-flops, circa 2011–the second miracle of the night! Unfortunately, they didn’t have my size, so they directed me to the GAP on 5th Avenue which allegedly would.

Walking into the second store, I pointed to my feet. “Where are these flip-flips?” I asked a woman who worked there.

“We don’t have those,” she said.

“But the GAP I just went to said you’d have them in stock here.”

“This is Bebe,” she said.

“Oh! I’m so sorry! I just met Maxwell!” I said, by way of explanation.

“I LOVE MAXWELL!!!!” she squealed. “I walked by him once but I would have had to leave my little brother in the middle of the street in oncoming traffic to say hi to him so…I didn’t,” she said, with a look of remorse that conveyed this had been a difficult decision, and she wasn’t sure she’d made the right choice.

“He’s my husband!” she exclaimed.

“Mine, too!”

Our sisterhood cemented, we hugged goodbye and she wished me luck finding my shoes.

Then I stumbled into the actual GAP a few doors down, and while they didn’t have my size either, they assured me that their Chelsea location would. That was the next stop on my shoe mission, and I found flip-flops in the exact color, style, and size to replicate my beloved pair. And–miracle number three!–they were on sale for only ten dollars! I put them on right away, and tossed my contaminated pair in the nearest trash can.

As soon as I got home, I called a friend to give her the play-by-play of my night.

“The best part of that story is the rat!” she said laughing.

Having lived through it, I was pretty sure the best part was Maxwell.

“We give thanks for the rat who gave his life,” she said solemnly.

“–so that I could meet Maxwell,” I finished.

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

Stepping in a pulverized rat on a New York City street is an unbelievably crazy bad thing that is almost statistically impossible. Running into Maxwell on a New York City street is an unbelievably crazy good thing that is almost statistically impossible. Which just goes to show you, sometimes a terrible thing can change your course and put you in exactly the right place for a wonderful thing that you would have never experienced had you not had rat guts on your foot.

The catch is, to fully experience the miracles that can unfold and surprise you in life, you can’t get attached and expect them. You just have to be present to what is, present enough to notice when you walk by Maxwell in a full beard and a baseball cap. And not get attached to the bad things either, feeling sorry for yourself and lamenting why they happened. There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle,” and I’d amend that to be, “Don’t give up five minutes before you meet Maxwell.”

So sometimes, when an unbelievably terrible thing happens, an unbelievably amazing thing could be right around the corner if you just keep your head up, and keep walking.