I may or may not have eaten a stick of butter yesterday.
And by “stick” I mean a block of substantial mass and girth. It was in fact, a French country butter made from cows who I suspect, graze on daisies from a majestic hillside. This was a block intended to provide the greasing of a skillet for two dozen eggs, the melty topping for a pound of biscuits, the batter for a twelve year-old’s birthday cake or a family reunion size portion of Alfredo sauce. This was no lonely stick of butter found at the end of the dairy aisle sold expressly to singles looking to cook for one. And somehow, I managed to work my way through an entire block in the course of an evening.
To admit this means certain defeat. To admit this means eyebrow raises, heads shaking in disbelief and the inevitable “tks,tisking” sounds from the lips of those who have read it. And I get it. It probably doesn’t sound like a reasonable thing to do alone without the accompaniment of fully formed recipes to support its ingestion. Normally I would feel embarrassed to be sharing this information with anyone, including myself. What must you think? Oh this girl has a problem, this sounds like butter abuse. (Hang on. That makes it sound like I’m taking the butter to the shed out back and punching it in the face.)
But here’s the thing, prior to the butter incident, for the last two weeks I’ve had wrenching stomach pains due to who knows what. Perhaps it’s my life stressors: career insecurities, relationship woes, wondering if my landlord will stop videotaping my living room, or how to get the neighbor’s cat to stop bullying me. Or maybe it’s the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons aimed at Los Angeles and Neo Nazi’s are having a, “Let’s get white and destroy shit” dance party in this country. It’s hard to pinpoint where the stress is originating. Also, there’s this other little thing I’m doing which has me both wildly excited and completely terrified: I’m preparing to film a television pilot based on my life.
Crazy, amazing, awesome, what the what?!
More on this to come. But in the mean time, while in the throws of it, I’ve been trying to get to the proverbial “skinny”. No one’s pressuring me to look or be a certain way, but I am a human woman with an ego and an id and a substantial booty size.
And I wasn’t born yesterday. (I wish.) So because I want to make the very most of this incredible opportunity, I want to look my best and feel my best. This includes me eating extra healthy in an attempt to skinny my way to success, love, stardom and complete validation. I kid. But come on, we try to get fit for useless things like class reunions to impress kids who once called us, names like “fart nugget” and “nerd prancer”. So it should come as no great shock I want to feel comfortable in my skin in front of a camera.
Mind you I’ve not done anything rash. I’ve just upped my exercise, increased my intake of kale, broccoli, chia seeds and cauliflower. I’ve also cut out all the foods which bring a person joy and comfort: bread, sugar, meat, starch, dairy and alcohol. The result has been my pants fitting slightly looser, but my stomach for some unknown reason has felt like I’ve been on the losing side of a boxing match with Manny Pacquiao.
While I am crazy excited to be shooting this pilot, I am also worried that what I have written is not funny. I am worried that my acting is not funny. I am worried that my face is not funny. And the only thing that is, is the hysterical notion a person (me) would have the gaul to make something so terribly mediocre. Because my biggest fear is not being terrible, but being just okay. Think about it. You know when your buddy takes ten minutes to tell you how terrible a movie was, how every actor was godawful, how the story was rambling, how the filmmaking was unambitious, how the soundtrack was painful to hear? Your pal still felt compelled to waste ten minutes of your lunch break to passionately tell you about the piece of art garbage he spent $15 dollars to go see. I mean, have you seen Jupiter Ascending? This is one of my favorite horrible movies ever made. Channing Tatum is a rollerblading angel who makes jokes about having gas in outer space. And it’s a drama. A drama!
But when someone’s response to a piece of art is, “Meh, it was ok. I don’t really have much to say about it.” This is just cause to panic. I am wrecked with the worry I am creating mediocre art.
I’ve at least known when it comes to my singing, people have a strong opinion about it. Take for instance the passionate comment I got from ScredStr8 on YouTube when I sang a John Legend cover: “Your singing makes me want to do the suicide.” Or the fiercely empowering comment from Arsenal Games. Here, I’ll let you see this gem for yourself.
See, even Mr. Arsenal feels strongly about me! Usually though, and thankfully I admit, the response is overwhelmingly positive. This is great to hear because it means me practicing for the past 25 years has not been in vain. But jumping into this new arena of writing stories and scripts and acting…it’s enough to send me to the antacid aisle at any given moment.
Two nights ago I went to see a show. I won’t say whether is was music, theater, or of the filmmaking genre, just in case anyone involved may be reading and I very much don’t want anyone to feel badly about what I’m going to say. But as I sat there watching with my passenger of gut pain, I began to worry even more. The show was, in my opinion, not very good. It wasn’t engaging, interesting or inspiring to me in any way. Yet, afterwards everyone was talking about how great it was. Now either I was surrounded by a room full of idiots, or they were just being nice to the creators of this piece after the fact. This got me really worrying. What if everything I’m doing here and now is like that? What if my writing isn’t funny and people are just telling me nice things while their inside voices are thinking, “That was like staring at a pair of tan pants for an hour.”
My anxieties got the better of me and I found myself after the show at a nearby pub with some friends trying to forget about the thing I had just seen that was completely forgettable. In a moment of wanting to not remember my woes and dive into the deep-end of self sabotage, I walked up to the bartender and ordered what I thought would be the most comforting of foods for my heart and mouth, but not necessarily my already burning stomach: a grilled cheese sandwich. I told the bartender I was throwing caution to the wind tonight and also could he please serve me a glass of fizzy water. Because tonight I was telling my mindful eating practice to go suck it. So what if I was heading straight for another sucker punch. I may as well go down eating something I enjoyed and had lately been craving more than a boyfriend.
With a strong look of pity and confusion, the bartender brought me back a cheesy sammy and a bottle of fizzy bubblech. My gooey, bready goodness in hand, I sat with friends and talked about music and life choices and I dove into my meal with reckless abandon. I also partook in my friend’s french fries which were covered in some sort of special sauce comprised of cheese, onions, thousand island dressing, whiskey and unicorn tears. My pal’s girlfriend is a surgical nurse and I couldn’t help but ask her about ailments of the stomach. Because she is not mediocre at her job, she proceeded to tell me about the detailed inner workings of the stomach. This included a brief tutorial on bile, acid reflux, GI surgical procedures and medications. She then walked me through possible scenarios of what can go wrong in surgery when dealing with gastric issues. Folks, I am a Jewish woman. And sometimes we can’t help ourselves. We just have to chit chat about all the icky possibilities. I struck gold that night. By evening’s end I thought I was surely done for. That sandwich was going down to the depths of Hades inside my bowels and the only thing coming out was going to look like misery, failure and regret.
But then something strange and amazing happened. At the end of the evening, I meandered back to my car full of lactose and worry. I thought to myself, “To hell with it all, maybe I’ll just become a professional dog walker”. Crumbling softly into the driver’s seat I reached into my glove box, took a swig of a growler sized Pepto Bismol and immediately felt better. Was it psychosomatic? Was it the pink tar that was coating my tummy or the talk of gastric intestinal diseases? I don’t know. But for the first time in two weeks, I didn’t go to bed with a scathing stomach ache. I woke up the next day feeling a bit better and thought, this has to be a good sign! But as the day wore on, my worry started to creep back in. What if I’ve been wasting my time writing a show about me? What if my pursuits about finding love, paying rent, reading comic books, singing songs, obsessing over frosting and worrying about the country falling into utter ruin didn’t resonate with other people? The pains in my stomach were still hitting back at me and by last night I found myself thinking, “Screw it, I’m not going to worry about having a little butter with my vegetables.” I plopped down at the dinner table with my plate full of broccoli and that marvelous block of organic Frenchie cow butter. I then thoughtfully scooped a reasonable person’s amount of butter squarely on top of my steaming shrubbery. I logged onto Netflix and proceeded to watch my new favorite obsession, “The New Girl”, mindlessly laughing at the characters exchange of stories about lost virginity, food poisoning and accidental over usage of body lube. Now that’s comedy.
Maybe it was the onscreen use of too much lubricant that made me both completely hysterical and utterly disgusted. Or perhaps it was the crispy salty greens in between my fingers. Or maybe it’s the deep seated conditioning that has taken root when I eat and watch moving pictures, that has me shoveling bite full after mindless bite full into my mouth. Whatever the reason, before I knew what hit me I had slathered butter onto every square inch of that lee of brock.
But. I. didn’t. even. feel. badly. about. it.
The fact that I had eaten a county fair’s worth of cholesterol, in what I’m sure amounted to five thousand calories in French cow fat, didn’t ruffle my feathers the least bit. Listen people, I eat healthy a solid eighty-seven percent of the time and yet still was somehow feeling like a punching bag. So what if I’d decided to embrace the Girls Gone Wild version of dietary behavior. At least I was laughing and not stressing.
Much to my surprise, I woke up this morning with my stomach feeling less bruised and battered than it had in a week. Granted I did fall asleep on my couch, in my clothes, and with a tiny bit of drool pooling at my neck folds. But I legitimately felt better. I rolled over in my stiffened jeans, which had now formed a permanent indentation into my belly, and did what most of us do first thing in the morning; I checked my email. There in my inbox, glowing at me like a cartoon heartbeat in love, was an email from a dear friend of mine who is a comedy writer who’s opinion I deeply respect.
He read my script and told me he loved it. He wrote a positive and constructive email and with the exception of telling me I had some grammatical issues (no shock there if you’ve read anything I’ve written thus far) he really enjoyed it. This email made me very, very happy and I let out a dual purpose groan expressing both my joy and my morning joint pain. I was going to be walking around all day shaped like a love seat, but dammit I got good news! I wrote him back and thanked him for taking the time to write me as it meant a great deal. I also asked him to show me whatever tough love it would take to make the script great. Because I want it to be Really. Fucking. Great. There can’t be room for anything less. If he’d told me to scrap ninety percent of it and keep working on it, I would have honored that too. Yet what I’m realizing now in my post-morning butter good-news bliss is, even if he didn’t completely feel that way, those words of encouragement meant so much to me. I was reminded of why it’s so important to cheer on people who we believe in. It’s why no one told the creator of the show the other night to quit writing and consider becoming an actuary. We all benefit from the positive feedback, one way or another. Not to mention, art is subjective and everyone that night very well may have loved it and I am simply, an asshole. Either way, the encouragement I received from an outside source was the push I needed to get my head back in the game.
It has also forced me to examine more closely my relationship to food, stress, self-expression, art, truth, language and what it means to succeed wildly and fail miserably. I am discovering I have to learn to roll with the punches on the inside first and then the ones on the outside won’t be quite so painful. Maybe the first step is giving myself permission to calm down and revel a little more in this marvelously messy life process. At the end of today, at least I know I’ve gotten to enjoy a delicious meal and some pretty fabulous compliments about my truth. And that can only be a good thing.