Hello, my name is Lisa Jakub and I used to be an actor (Or: The answer to “why did you quit acting?”)

This is a weird thing for me to write about. You see, I’ve been spending the last 10 years running from my past. A friend said that I’m so dodgy about my old life, that I behave like someone who killed her entire family and moved out of state.

I’m that elusive about it.

But I didn’t kill anyone.

I was just an actor. Continue reading

Why you are never old enough to be too old

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

This was my constant inner monologue. 

When I was twenty-two.

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

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

It was who I was. 

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

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

It finally occurred to me that I wasn’t actually saying that I was old. 

Every time I said, “I’m old” I meant, I’m scared. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regardless of our age, let’s not be ungrateful for our lives. Let’s not be paralyzed by all the things we haven’t done, and let’s look at what we can do today. Let’s not feel old or desperately attempt to be young. Let’s wake up and simply embrace who we are – because that is truly courageous.

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Looking back: lessons of 2015

I tend to be a pensive person anyway, but the fact that Christmas, my birthday and New Years all cram into one week – I go into major reflective mode.

It was a complicated year in many ways. But isn’t that how it always goes? Ups and downs, success and challenges, joy and suffering. But I learned some important things this year:

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable can have some serious rewards

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This one shocks me. Public speaking seems like a terrible idea for an introvert with social anxiety. But I get to talk at conferences, schools, libraries and organizations about the topics I love – authenticity, passion, living your true path even if it’s different from what people expected. It’s never easy, but every time I do it, I realize that it doesn’t kill me. It’s actually good fun and I’ve met some incredible people. I’m looking forward to the events I have scheduled for 2016.

 

Need something? Start something.

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Here’s the thing about being a writer – you spend a whole lot of time alone, starring at a screen. I love talking to other writers at conferences, but realized I was missing that at home. I wanted that kinship but I didn’t really know where to find it. So, I created it. I invited a few writers to have tea with me on the first Wednesday of the month and talk about our work. And books and words and pens.

This little group now brings me such joy. We get together to talk about things that spark or challenge us and we commit to accomplish certain things by our next meeting. It’s all very responsible and keeps us accountable. But more than that, we have a deep sense of community and connection. We send  little messages of encouragement and vent to each other when Salon.com doesn’t return our email. (Ahem.)

It’s so important to have a support system – but these things aren’t automatic. I had to reach out and create the community that I was missing. I didn’t know the people in my writing group very well when I invited them to tea, but now they are my sisters in words. It takes some courage and effort, but it feels amazing to mindfully create the things you need.

 

Being a teacher doesn’t mean you have all the answers

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I started teaching an online memoir writing class this year through Writing Pad. I was scared out of my mind to do it. Like, two hours before the first class started I was pacing my house and crying. What if my students grilled me about non-defining relative clauses? What right do I have to tell anyone anything? I don’t have any fancy degrees. Hell, I was tossed out of high school.

And at the end, my class and I were all swapping information and saying how much we loved each other.

I found that my job was to encourage others to be their most brave selves so they could share their stories. My job was also to be myself and put my own spin on things, like talking about the Hero’s Journey as it pertains to Dr. Seuss. I’m thrilled to be able to teach another class in January.


I’ll be a student forever

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Yoga isn’t just exercise for me – it’s a way of life. I wanted to learn more about the practice, so I took a yoga intensive teacher training this year.

Yoga for me has been such a powerful tool for getting my anxiety under control. It’s a full body/mind/spirit cleansing. Whenever I get overwhelmed and need to get my head right – I hit my mat. I love being able to share that with other people. And it’s fun to do yoga-pretzel poses at parties.

 

Marking death is celebrating life

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My Gramma passed away this year and that loss is still sharp for me. But I get my love for words from her, so I feel like I get to continue in her footsteps. She was my first yoga student and one of my first blog readers. I will continue to work on my terrible spelling in her honor.

 

Everyone defines success for themselves

I got to open a big box and it was full of my words. And while it’s fantastic that my memoir You Look Like That Girl was published, I’ve been staying away from the reviews, sales stats and the Amazon rankings. I don’t want to get caught up in those traditional markers of status. That stuff doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as getting a note from someone who said they enjoyed it and felt that it resonated with them somehow. Besides, I figure if I made it to some best seller list or won a Pulitzer – someone would let me know.

I write because I think words are an incredible way to connect. That’s why I love personalizing books for people. There is something really cool about the idea that the book goes directly from my hands to yours. And recording the audiobook was crazy good fun – I like that I get to keep people company on their commute.

 

Book tours and interviews are cool…but…

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I did a book tour for You Look Like That Girl and read in bookstores all over the place. Sometimes lots of people showed up, sometimes not so much. I did live interviews on morning television and I called in to twelve radio shows in two hours. Sometimes I was eloquent and witty, sometimes I got tongue-tied and spilled something on my shirt. Some interviewers were great and others made me respond “I’m not going to answer that” – repeatedly. It was fun and I’m grateful to have had the experience because it allowed me to connect with even more people. But it was also nerve-wracking and I had to wear nice shoes and they put lots of makeup on me. Life is this continual balance, and I’m just learning how to surf those waves without falling on my face.

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What is 2016 going to be about for me? More writing. More connecting. I’m working on my next book – it is about anxiety, panic attacks and depression. It’s my story, as well as the stories of others, told with love, humor and a whole bunch of legit sciencey research. This topic is incredibly important to me, and a big thank you to those of you who have contacted me to say that you are looking forward to reading it. That keeps my fingers on the keyboard, even when there is a Downton Abbey marathon calling to me.

As always, I am entirely grateful for all the support I’ve received from readers. I could not be doing any of this without you and so thank you thank you thank you. The community that we have created around this blog and social media has given me faith in the humanity that can be found in the world. There is a lot of crummy stuff out there – and there is also so much kindness. Y’all rock.

Okay, now you go. What were the coolest things you got to do in 2015?

Happy new year, everyone!

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Panic in the produce aisle: dealing with loss at the holidays

I think it was mostly about the way the collar of her denim shirt was flipped up all wonky on one side.

I couldn’t stop staring at the woman in the Whole Foods. I watched her shuffle along, pushing one of those tiny carts with just a few lemons and a box of salad in it.

Her hair was thin and silvery and it flipped in at her jawline in a way that thin hair doesn’t do naturally. She must use those pink plastic foamy rollers. I would find those little rollers randomly strewn around my house after my grandmother would visit – they’d be sitting on the side table, stacked up on the Kleenex box, lost under the guest bed.

This woman reminded me so much of my Gramma that it took my breath away.

Literally.

I have a panic disorder, so when something startles me – like thinking I see my grandmother, who died in ten months ago, contemplating avocados – I tend to hyperventilate. My husband was putting red peppers in a bag when I grabbed his arm and managed to say something about stepping outside.

“Are you okay? What happened?”

“Fine. I’m. Outside.”

I don’t tend to get my words right when I have anxiety.

I almost slammed into the sliding door as I stumbled outside. The December air felt good on my flushed face. I hid behind a pile of locally made Christmas wreathes.

Tears poured from under my sunglasses as I continued to gasp like a fish. I’ve had these attacks since I was eleven years old, so I know the drill. I started with my breathing exercises. I counted my inhale for four counts. Hold for two. Out for four. I propped myself up against a pile of scented pinecones and felt the pleasant burn of the cinnamon in my nostrils. My breathing started to normalize, but my hands were still numb. I moved on to my grounding exercises. I counted my fingers. Pressing each one to the opposite palm. One. Two. Three…

My Gramma loved Christmas, so this holiday season – my first one without her – is feeling thorny for me. Over the past few years, she has given me many of her favorite Christmas things. The little nativity set she and my Poppa got in Europe back in the 1960s. The hand-made gold spray-pained angel that now sits on my bookshelf year round. Various tree ornaments with sentimental meaning to her – the details of which I’ve now forgotten and they are precious just because they were hers. As I unwrap each one from the plastic storage box, I’m hit with memories that are both sweet and feel like an ice pick to the chest.

But it was the unexpected sight of a flipped up collar that had me undone. I was always flipping the collar of Gramma’s denim shirt down. I don’t know how many denim shirts she had, or why the collars were so troublesome, but it seemed to be my eternal karmic job. If I wasn’t flipping her collar, I was twisting her necklace around so the clasp was at the back. And she’d do the same for me. She would attempt to smooth down my hair – mermaid hair – she called it. We had a lot of similarities, but my thick, wild curls are one of the few traits I clearly didn’t get from her. I will never be in need of those pink plastic curlers.

In the most simple of ways, we took care of each other.

I walked back into the store and found my husband, who gently rubbed my back. Knowing I needed a distraction, he asked me if we needed bananas.

I didn’t accost the woman and fix her collar. I didn’t sob into her denim shirt and tell her that she reminded me of someone I still can’t believe isn’t here. I didn’t tell her that the holidays are nice and all but sometimes they are really really hard. Instead, I let her finish her shopping.

And because the Universe finds things like this to be hysterically funny, we ended up in the check out line right next to the denim shirt woman. And I saw her trying to snap closed that familiar elderly lady wallet – stuffed full of receipts and coupons and newspaper clippings.

In the middle of my sadness I found a chewy center of joy – memories of the tiny acts of love that live on forever. What a wonderful thing, to know that kind of love exists – that someone has smoothed our frazzled hair, fixed our collar, rubbed our back in the produce section. They tried, in some simple way, to make something better for us. Those seemingly tiny gestures live on and reaffirm love at every moment. And my pain dissolved, as it always does, in the face of gratitude.

What a stunning act of love it is, to say:

“C’mere. Let me fix that for you.”

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Follow your bliss…backlash

I think you can find criticism for pretty much anything. I recently had someone say he was never going to read anything else from me because I wished for peace for everyone in the world.

Eating healthy? That’s the wrong kind of healthy.

Helping people? Don’t help them too much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at that – you’re already living a passionate and engaged life.

Go, you.

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

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

I don’t mean that it’s easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like books.

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I’ve got a box of books, you’ve got presents to buy…

In case you want to get your holiday shopping done right now, you can order signed and personalized copies of my memoir – You Look Like That Girl – by clicking here. You don’t even have to put on real pants and leave your house.

And yes, international shipping is available! Don’t forget to include the name of the person that you want it inscribed to, and I’ll write (almost) anything you’d like me to write.

As always, I am wildly appreciative of all of you.

Happy December,

~L

 

“So, what do you do?”

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I met someone recently and attempted to do that small talk thing, which, as an introvert, I generally find as pleasant as a paper cut to the eyeball. But just when I was expecting that boring old “So, what to you do?” question  – she shocked me by asking me how I “spent my time.”

I loved that. That had such a sense of depth to it. Because none of us need to be defined by our jobs.

Since bailing on my acting career and starting over, I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve been an animal shelter volunteer, voracious reader, homemaker, student, yogi, wife, blogger, dog mom, bills manager and a quilter of quilts for all my friend’s babies.

But none of those really fits what people are looking for when they meet you at a party and ask what you “do” – they want to know what you get paid for, it’s become a short hand for easy categorization. It’s all about money and striving and external perceptions of success.

I’ve always found it an uncomfortable question. When I was an actor, that answer tended to take the entire conversation hostage, and instead of being able to quietly listen to someone else, I’d have to say for the 764th time that yes, Mrs. Doubtfire was fun to film. Then, when I became a writer, the answer didn’t get any easier, because I didn’t feel like I was allowed to say that I was a writer. Often, creative jobs don’t come with official credentials. Claiming to be an artist is sometimes greeted by a head tilt and an eyebrow raise that might be an appropriate response to a toddler claiming to be a seahorse.

Even for those who have more traditional jobs, titles hardly tell the whole story. My husband’s job in marketing doesn’t communicate his soft spot for iambic pentameter or his devoted yoga practice. So why do we often tend to start, and stop, with that one limiting question?

All my life I’ve wanted to contort myself, Cirque du Soleil-style, into a neat box that is easily labeled and categorized. I’m now beginning to wonder why such a restrictive confinement and sharp corners look so attractive to me. Because in truth, all the various ways that I “spend my time” now, make me feel like I am making a more significant contribution to the world than my old acting gig that came with the paycheck and the prestige.

When did contribution to the world become only measured in dollars? Why do we think we understand someone if they say that they are an interpretive dancer or a construction worker or a banker? Their job might tell us something superficial about them, but isn’t it more meaningful to know that they they raised foster kids or speak Italian or won a Frisbee golf championship?

Maybe your job is your passion. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it fulfills you, maybe it doesn’t. A job is merely one aspect of a person. You can live a meaningful life, one full of passion and purpose, even if your job is less than ideal. There is so much more to life than work and it doesn’t have to define who you are.

Even though I absolutely love what I do, being a writer is not the whole story of who I am and what my life is about. When I was an actor, I let that job define my entire identity – and that didn’t go that well for me. I’m trying to do it differently this time.

So, this is just a sincere thank you to those who do not define another’s worth by what they fill out on their tax form. And a gentle reminder to myself that asking someone what they “do” might not be reflective of their entire being.

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An open letter to artists (I’m sorry, but it’s for your own good)

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“Throes of Creation” – Leonid Pasternak

Dear writers,

I love you. You are my people. But please, please – stop whining about writing.

I recently read the introduction to a book that started with the author going on for eight pages about how hard it is to write a book. At the end of it, I felt like telling her – good God, don’t write a book then! Go knit a sweater or paint something or join a soccer team! Do something that makes you happy! Why do I want to participate in something that you call a misery?

But this seems to be a trend with writers.

“Writing is hard work and bad for the health.”

 – E.B. White

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than other people.”

– Thomas Mann

“There is nothing to writing. All you do it sit at a typewriter and bleed.”

– Ernest Hemingway

I don’t mean to be calling bullshit on Hemingway, but let’s face it – no one complains like writers. No one can translate suffering into such beautiful prose.

But I have a problem with it. It perpetuates the myth of artists as fundamentally tortured and mentally unhealthy. Personally, I want the world’s artists to be okay, to stay alive and vibrant and pour their joy into their work. I don’t want to think that the book I hold in my hands nearly sent you over the edge. And I certainly don’t want my own life’s work to be the death of me.

Why don’t we see contractors or veterinarians flinging themselves to the proverbial fainting couch over their vocations? Why are there no quotes about scuba diving instructors torturing themselves for their work?

I have a theory. I think it’s because as writers we worry that we need to earn our place in the world. If we tell everyone how hard writing is, we can justify the importance of our work. We think that suffering means we are serious.

It’s time we let go of that.

There is nothing glorious in pain. Let’s stop inflicting artistic misery on the world and thinking that makes our work seem vital.

Our work is vital.

Art is vital.

You know how I know this? Because the first evidence of humans making art is forty thousand years old. The first evidence of any sort of agriculture is only ten thousand years old. This means, as a species, we thought about making beautiful, essentially purposeless things thirty thousand years before we thought about coming up with a reliable way to feed ourselves.*

Yes, writing can be hard. It is emotionally engaging in ways that can be uncomfortable. It makes you dig deep into your own stuff, finding harsh truths and accessing universal struggles. You are inventing entire worlds. But it is also among the most cushy jobs on the planet. You’re not tending to leprosy victims in a rural clinic or calling the parents of a car crash victim. You are not picking strawberries for twelve hours in the blazing sun.

The world will not have a greater appreciation for our work if they think we are dragging our souls through the mud for it. We don’t have to be martyrs to do impactful work. Scars are not badges of honor.

Everyone has a voice. How amazing is that? So, let’s use it. Proudly. Let’s enjoy the work that we chose to do. Let’s sit down to our work and pour our love and enthusiasm and passion on to the pages. Let’s ooze delight all over the keyboard. Let’s ditch the insecurity and believe that we earned the right to tell our story, just because we are alive. Let’s not contribute to the negativity of the world – the tortured writer is such a cliché. It’s boring.

And if writing is really that painful for you, if the vulnerability of creative expression really does send you to bed, paralyzed with endless writer’s block and shivering with agonizing self-doubt…maybe it’s time to close the Word document do something else.

There are plenty of other jobs available that are filled with rejection and pay next-to-nothing.

*for more on this, check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic

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For the love of an old dog

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photo by Sarah Cramer Shields

My best friend is walking a little slower these days. The dog who once drove me crazy begging for her dinner, now mostly sniffs it and needs to be coaxed to eat. She is deaf. She gets confused. She still gets excited to go for walks, but when we get four houses down the street, she’s ready to go back home again. In the morning, she pauses at the top of the stairs, nervous that her legs might not work the way they used to.

So, I carry her down the stairs.
And clean the floor when her bladder gives out.
And hand-feed her scrambled eggs when she doesn’t want to eat.
And massage her stiff hips.

There are Good Days and what I optimistically call Less Good Days. But I’ll be there for all the days until the end, making her as comfortable and happy as I can. And when there is no more comfort and happiness to be had, I’ll be the one who has to decide that it’s the end.

This is the deal we make when we love. This is the brutal contract we sign when we open our hearts. Whether we adopt a springy young thing or, like we did with Gracie, adopt a senior dog, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will leave and we will be shattered.

My husband and I walked into the SPCA four years ago and she was waiting for us. She chose us. And when the sign on her cage said “senior” – I winced. I winced because I didn’t want to feel this helpless pain so soon. I wanted at least a decade with this crazy, speckled, toothless mutt. But she was our dog and she made that clear. So we brought her home and bought a bigger bed so she could sleep with us and we promised to be grateful for however long we got. We agreed to the deal.

But now I want to amend the contract. I want to negotiate for more time.

I’m dreading the day when there is no one waiting outside the bathroom door for me. The day when there is no one using me as a pillow as I binge-watch Breaking Bad. What is the point of 11 am if there is no walk with Grace? My shadow will be gone and a piece of me will be gone with her.

But that time is not now. Now, my job is to care for her in this final chapter, for however long that is. My job is to put her comfort above my sadness. I am here for her, in these times that are much less fun than the hikes and trips to the beach that we used to have. I don’t turn away from the hard parts, it’s my responsibility to be as devoted to her as she has always been to me.

This is love in action: I rub her back and give her medication and clean the floor for the third time today. I pester our vet with endless questions. I try to be thankful for these days, even as I know the heartbreak is coming.

The heartbreak is always coming.

This is what it means to be truly alive. To show up and feel what it is to be human – to not turn away because it’s unpleasant. We have to surrender and lean in to the whole of it. We fully experience love and loss, joy and pain, happiness and suffering. There is no way to have one without the other. They are intrinsically linked and no amount of negotiating with the universe will unravel them. Trust me. I’ve tried.

We are all brave as hell – those of us who love so entirely. We expect to be broken by our love. But we still do it, again and again, offering up our tender hearts, our endless devotion and our unconditional love for those wise souls who teach us how to be better humans.

And really, I’m not sure that there is a more beautiful way to be broken.

Speaking events in Elizabethtown, PA

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Pennsylvania, I’m coming to visit! I’ll be at Bowers Writers House at Elizabethtown College this weekend!

There will be three public events:

Dinner and Conversation with visiting author Lisa Jakub. Friday Oct. 16th, 6-8pm (wherein I try not to talk with my mouth full.)

You Look Like That Girl book signing. Saturday Oct. 17th, 2-3pm (wherein I try to spell your name correctly.)

Reading and Reflection: a special evening with visiting author Lisa Jakub. Saturday, Oct. 17th 7:30-9pm (wherein I read and reflect and try to make it special for you.)

For more information and to reserve your spot – click here.

 

There’s real famous. Then there’s me.

It is possible to leave Hollywood.

It’s not easy.

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

Certain things tend to linger.

I rarely talk about my old job in my daily life. I am now a writer who lives in Virginia, and my acting past is simply not relevant. I’ve been friends with people for a while and they have no idea that I used to be an actor. Usually, it will come up because I have to explain why I never graduated from high school or why I have DVDs of the movies that are still in theaters on my coffee table.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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