What La La Land Really Teaches Us (Besides Ryan Gosling Being Hotter Than We Thought Humanly Possible)

la_la_land_ver3.jpeg[7 minute read]

Before La La Land sweeps the Oscars this weekend*, I find it apropos to highlight its timeless theme which fills our dry well of dreams. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it?  That’s because that thought  IS depressing.  La La Land shows us that it doesn’t have to be that way. La La Land is the glorious wake-up call to all of us to reignite the heartwarming and juicy dreams that we are allowing to dry up and atrophy while they lie dormant deep within us. Not a pretty picture. La La Land is the tough love arm grab.  That call our soul is making to our heart that we mistake for an annoying butt dial and then dismiss and silence? Well, here’s how THAT goes down…

That ping of jealousy. That bristle of frustration. That ache of longing. Those are all little nudges to your dream to WAKE UP and stop hitting SNOOZE and answer the damn call! The alternative is not that it goes away. No, no, no. Instead, it manifests into a billion dollar anti-anxiety and anti-depression pharmaceutical industry.

The beauty of La La Land is that it shows rejection and frustration and grit and determination.  It’s real and honest and yes, the dance numbers keep the hope alive! The singing voices and dance moves are not off the charts incredible (although sweet and lovely) and that’s what makes the movie so endearing and charming. It’s relatable and makes it…possible! It’s a push to open your eyes to what you can do when you mix passion with perseverance. These old standbys aren’t fan favorites because:

a) Passion makes us vulnerable. And vulnerability in our culture is a sure fire way to get your “cool card” revoked faster than you can say, “Aaaaay”. (Ironically, Henry Winkler, don’t worry Millenials, I got you, aka the actor who played The Fonz in Happy Days, created this catchphrase to hide his undiagnosed dyslexia. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think? A little too ironic and, yeah, I really do think…) Okay, back on track. Back on track.  We like seeing other people be passionate but, ask us to do it? Eh, not so much. Passion risks us looking out of control and like fools. Passion has us dancing in way too close quarters with being wrong. (This is MY dance space and this is YOUR dance space! I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine!)

b) Perseverance uncovers your normalcy. You’re really NOT a golden god?? Wha?? Perseverance is loved by some and feared by many. It shows your true character. Your level of resiliency. How you deal with failure…and success. What are your metrics for each? God FORBID we actually put in an effort. Oh boy! We’re really hanging out our dirty undies now, aren’t we? What if we’re found out that we’re not naturally talented at writing, baseball, public speaking, math, business, dancing or Tetris?  When did we become a society that turns our noses up at those who really shine at what they do AND put in the effort? Those who solve problems AND are ferocious readers on the subject matter? Those who seem to have it all together AND are making sacrifices to live their life on their terms? We need to show and broadcast our effort from every rooftop and mountain top possible. Let’s vow for stick-with-it-ness to stick once and for all.

Our culture of scarcity is total, for lack of a better term, ass-backward! We need more effort shown. We need more collaboration. We need more brave souls putting their dreams into the world. We need less fear and way waaaay less feelings that we’re undeserving and need proof that we’re good enough to make our dreams our reality.

“Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become.”
Angela Duckworth, Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success

Just for fun, let’s go down the treacherous road of no dreams. No hope. No desires. No passions. It’s cold, gray and bitter. All of the role models that you admired as a kid are non-existent. The musicians, writers, and leaders? Nope. Zilch. Done. Eleanor Roosevelt? Gilda Radner? Huh, who? Martin Luther King Jr.? Ella Fitzgerald? Benjamin Franklin?  Lucille Ball? Mel Brooks? Nelson Mandela? Nelson…Nelson. I think he dated my cousin. They’re just names. No dreams, no inspiration. That just sucks the life right out of you, doesn’t it?

Even on our darkest days, the glimmer of hope that comes from pursuing our dreams and making a little more room for them on our list of priorities is a huge step in the right direction. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture of anything. No one even needs to know…at first. Eventually, yes TELL US! Please tell us. We all need to learn from the brave at heart and gain courage from knowing others’ stories of overcoming adversity and stepping out into the sunlight even when we feel dirty, weak and dark. There are a gazillion people in the world so you have to have faith that the odds are in your favor that your initial act of courage will ignite a spark in at least a dozen. 12 people out of 7,000,000,000. That’s pretty great. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe it will just keep your spark going. Although it won’t because once you give your spark attention then it gradually turns into a flame. Then, people can’t help but notice the lightness in your being. The glow in your eyes. It’s like falling in love all over again. It’s contagious. And no, not everyone will like what you’re doing or what you have to say.

“I’m going to do my best. I don’t know if anyone will like it and it’s absolutely none of my business if they do.”

– Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

They won’t relate to it or they’ll think you’re “too” entitled or full of shit or smug or cheesy, lame, offensive or sensitive. Take your pick. We don’t have to like everything that everyone puts out. If we did? Ugh! That’s just as bad as a depressing world. Everyone likes all the same stuff? Goodbye, art. Goodbye, authenticity. Goodbye, freak flags. Adios. Catch ya on the flip side. Or not. Really. No side. We will be catching you on no side because when everyone likes all the same stuff then there is no flip side. The only flip side is the danger zone. The only flip side is the other side of the tracks where the trailblazers and creatives and cuckoo birds live in little yurts in the shadows.

We become: “The Other.”

Our main fear of not going for our dreams is that we will be outcast. Found out. Cast aside. If you really go worst case scenario on this one, I’m putting all my chips on: you’re wrong. There I said it. You’re wrong. It may not sit well but there it is just the same. Now you may be cast aside from people. For sure. As the old saying (kinda) goes: If you didn’t see darkness then how would you know when you found the light? If there was no darkness then there would be no stars. If there was no darkness then there would be no late night sweaty and unhinged Sauvignon Blanc dance parties in your kitchen.  And we all know THAT can’t happen!

We need YOU! We need YOUR humor. We need YOUR perspective. We need YOUR take on life! We need you to share what makes you laugh and cry and jump for freaking joy! Not to name call but you’re being kiiiiiindof a selfish punk if you keep this all to yourself. We are in des-per-ate need for people to share their stories in any way that speaks to them so it can speak to us. This is the united link that transcends everything to connect and bring us together instead of keeping us in this divisive state of confusion and rigidity.

The best and yes, absolute scariest, part is that once you stick your toes in showing who you are to the world, you will realize who closest to you will stick around and who will peace out. It’s like taking a sieve through all of your nearest and dearest to see who are the gems who stay close and support you and who are swept away by the current of jealousy and judgment.  It’s totally worth it!

And you know what? If they call you crazy, claim that you’ve lost it, or that you’re going off the deep-end, then print out my all time favorite lyric from La La Land’s “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and stick it somewhere you’ll see it every damn day!

_A bit of madness is keyTo give us new colors to seeWho knows where it will lead us_And that's why they need us_So bring on the rebelsThe ripples from pebblesThe painters, and poets, and playsAnd here's to the fool-1.png

*Well, except for our stud man, Ryan, he won’t be winning a gold statue but he will be winning over our hearts as he humbly supports our glowing girl, Emma.

La La Land (2016, dir. Damian Chazelle) A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.  

Mia: Maybe I’m not good enough!

Sebastian: Yes, you are.

Mia: Maybe I’m not! It’s like a pipe dream.

Sebastian: This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!


Get Low


[6 minute read]

The other night my husband and I got into a fight over funerals. Not just any funerals. Our funerals.

That’s right. We fought over dying. Not just dying but who would pay homage the best.

It went something like this…

(Blood, Sweat, Tears’ “And When I Die” playing in the background)

Vic: I want this to play at my funeral.
Me: Got it. (pause) Wait a sec. So, you plan on dying first?
Vic: I’m just saying if I do…
Me: That totally makes sense. You need to die first.
Vic: Why??
Me: I would give you such a better funeral! It totally makes sense. (thinking) I could ask my sister to give my funeral. She would give me a WAY better funeral. But then I would have to die before her… hm??

Off Vic’s look, I was able to pause long enough to remember that our kids were at the table. (Whoops!) We quickly shifted gears to Peppa Pig or dessert or air drumming. Something other than dying.

Our culture doesn’t like to talk about dying. It’s sad and morose and dark. Most of us don’t celebrate at funerals and reminisce about the person’s life. We ache and cry and sometimes get really really pissed off. Listen, I get it – especially if it’s sudden or tragic or someone under the age of 85. And yes, even when people over 85 die, it’s sad and we often miss them immediately. However, the difference that I’ve experienced is that when someone who’s reached the golden age of dentures and walkers passes on, there’s more of a celebration and music and laughter for them. For shits and giggles let’s say that we all live a long, happy and healthy life. That’s what we all want. Of course. So, we need to start thinking about dying. Not dwell, but think about the fact that we are not immune or special, and that we will one day kick it too. Otherwise, we just groggily go through the daily motions and don’t appreciate each other and ourselves. Let’s not have a life taken to be what puts our own into perspective. Every time someone dies, the inevitable shallow promises of: “Be grateful for every day.” “Love the ones you’re with.” “Don’t be petty and trivial.” “Don’t hold grudges.” instantly fill the airwaves. It’s like New Year’s all over again with everybody making sweeping resolutions. We morph into temporary self-righteous versions of Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama until the first post or comment (digital or IRL) brings on the ol’ familiar twitch and we’re back to being pissed off or jealous or {fill in the blank} to any feeling or reaction that just minutes ago we vowed to banish. Then all gloves and bets are off.

That’s why it is so so worth putting the time into thinking about what we value and how we want to feel in this life right now. Not when someone dies. Not when we face disappointments or setbacks. But right freaking now.  When we take moments out when things are going great and we’re loving life to write down how we’re feeling or reflect on our five top core values* (yes, you read that right), or give thanks to the precious people in our lives then it’s all coming from a beautiful place. Those are the bedrock practices that anchor us all in times of distress and grief and confusion.

We need to practice strengthening our joy and laughter muscles. If we’re mad as hell, we’ll probably burn what we wrote while we scream at ourselves to suck it. Here’s the thing, if we practice and pay attention to lightening up, the situations that made us want to punch someone in the face or wallow in a self-pity puddle of tears begin to lighten too. Maybe not go away, but definitely, lighten. We all have the strength within us even on the days when we feel the all too familiar creaking and creeping of self-doubt and fear bubbling beneath the surface. Writing down the good stuff allows us to see in our own handwriting (yes, handwriting – screens down for this one!) the values and strengths that make us vibrant and resilient. It’s not reading someone else’s story line or listening to someone else’s advice. It’s you helping out you! It’s you knowing that if you experienced that incredible feeling before then there’s hope to feel it again. Now, if you’re dealing with tragedy, it’s a totally different story. What I’m talking about are the moments when we need a boost and are ready to get back up. It shows us what really matters to us and reminds us to keep doing those things and being around those people. Grief, frustration, and disappointment are inevitable but we have a choice of how we respond in these situations. Just because we lessen our extreme reactions of name calling, judging, or straight up punching walls, doesn’t mean that we’ve turned into emotionless zombies. Instead of we’ve turned in to fine-tune what we choose to care about.

In the under the radar movie, Get Low, Robert Duvall plays, Felix, a hermit who decides to plan his own funeral…and attend it… alive. He goes to the local funeral director (big ups to Bill Murray) to make it happen. Felix wants to see what people say about him and what he’s remembered for – like it or not.

Can’t we all relate? Maybe you haven’t thought up attending your funeral while you have a pulse but don’t we all want a bird’s eye view of who shows up and who doesn’t? Who speaks up and who can’t because they’re just so choked up with tears about how important we were to them. I sure do!

So here’s an exercise for the brave at heart: Take a minute to imagine who shows up at your funeral. That’s right. Take five seconds to get past the shock of doing this and then come back. You know you’ve done it before, c’mon. Ready? Okay. Close your eyes (after reading this, obvs!). So you’re standing on the balcony of the church, sitting in the last pew of the temple, popping a squat on the beach – okay, you’re there. Really get yourself there. Listen to the sounds and then visualize who’s there. Who do you expect to be there? Who do you know will be there? Who do you want to be there? Now, go through each person. See their face. Clear as day. Mentally check off your list your good standing with them. See those who bring tears of joy to your eyes, warmth to your heart, and a sweeping tingle of love. Beautiful. Now, take a look at those who tighten up your throat or your butthole, make you feel the rumble of your blood boiling or make you feel any inkling of regret. THESE are your people. These are the people who you have to either forgive, wish well, or find a way to get over. You can do it over coffee, the phone, a letter (even if they’ve passed away, write them a letter), a therapist. It doesn’t matter. Just get it out. Get out the regret, the resentment, the anger, and the sadness. We want to live our lives lighter and more joyful. We all do. Even when we’re faced with the  “do you want to be right or happy?” predicament. It begins with you. You make the choice. Only you know what that is. Do you need to take the burden off your shoulders or hold yourself more responsible? Are you blaming or shaming? Whether you’re doing it to yourself or to others there’s no good there. It’s not useful. Punishing ourselves or others through our behavior? Talk about a stressful speed trip to an early grave! We need more levity in the world right now. We need to not just lead but learn from example. From each other. We’re all we’ve got.

To review:
1. Solid solo dance party to “And When I Die” to loosen up.
2. Funeral exercise.
3. Stream Get Low 

* No one needs to know that you did this exercise. This is for you and you alone. For some reason, we’re embarrassed to admit that we take the time to help ourselves. We feel weak or vulnerable or not talented enough for it to come easy. Too much effort. Ick!
Little secret: The self-help industry is a billion dollar business so cat’s kinda outta the bag on everyone.

Comment or message me for a direct instruction on the value exercise. If you have or work with kids, it’s a really fun exercise to do with them!

“Get Low”(2009, dir. Aaron Schneider) A movie spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party… while he was still alive.

Felix Bush: Bout time for me to get low.

Rev. Gus Horton: Get what?

Felix Bush: Down to business. I need a funeral.

Rev. Gus Horton: For whom?

Felix Bush: For me.

Bad News Bears

bad-news-bears{3 minute read}

A car accident.

A plane crash.

A fire.

A death.

A fall.

A scare.

A chance.

THE chance.

Is this what it takes? Some horrific eye-opening bad news bears life experience for us to actually gather up the courage to finally do that thing.
Take that trip.
Write that book.
Start that business.
Train for that race.
Register for that class.
Quit that habit.
Hug that kid.
Say “I love you.” to that person
And “Enough” to that one.

Are we so past the point of no return that the threat of Death’s door is now trumping the threat of Mom’s judgment? C’mon! Say it ain’t so. We need Death to give us the pass? Really?

We all tend to fall into a viral complacency that masks and numbs us. It allows us to blame others for the dreams we never fulfilled and to shame those who really went for it and didn’t “make it.” The failure of others tends to strengthen our resolve in a See, I told ya so condescending mentality that only pisses us all off. What’s behind all of it is, you guessed it, fear. See, I don’t even have to tell you that. You know that. You do. So, why then are we allowing ourselves to get swept up in the current of fear that has taken over our entire society? Why are we not swimming against the current or even grabbing a visible root to take a breath? Again, yes, I know, it always comes back to fear. I wish it didn’t.  So, how to crack it. I guess the first question really is, do you want to crack it? Do you want to face the unknown with steadfast courage and whip-smart resolve? Do you want to face the known? All that you’ve been bottling up for months, years, decades. When we become too comfortable with the chronic uneasiness of resentment it’s much harder to take a solid look at ourselves. It’s way easier and ego-boosting to point fingers, and give fingers, to everybody who is holding us back.

We don’t even give ourselves the chance to mess up our dreams. We convince ourselves that everything is alright. We whip out our gratitude journals or mentally list all that we are grateful for. We tell ourselves that we have enough. That we’re being greedy. Who do we think we are to want more? The worst part? We actually end up believing ourselves and think that we’re taking the higher road.  How do ya like me now, Uncertainty and Fear? 

Thing is, if we never have a go at facing the blank page, lacing up our sneaks, booking that flight, hugging that kid, then fear wins in freaking spades! Whether it’s fear of what people think, that we’ll fail, or that we’ll actually succeed, that little nugget of desire doesn’t just miraculously melt away. It manifests and hardens into a delightful cocktail of anxiety, depression, jealousy, resentment, and regret. We don’t need any more pissed off, alcoholic, overweight, financially ruined people in the world. Speaking of…

“This quitting thing, it’s a hard habit to break once you start.” – Coach Buttermaker

Coach Buttermaker, Walter Matthau’s character in Bad News Bears nabs three of the four aforementioned traits like a champ and still manages to teach us all that it’s not about winning the game, it’s about believing in yourself, being true to yourself, and playing the game. Getting in there and getting dirty. Taking the chance. This is not just Hallmark card B.S., folks. No, fear doesn’t go away. No, the I just threw up in my mouth feeling doesn’t disappear. But it definitely diminishes. What increases are the feelings of self-worth and child-like excitement (on most days) of your commitment to follow through and show up for yourself. You show up, you grow up. Right? Yes, people may squirm a little at your newfound laser focus and unflinching determination, but, c’mon you’re actually helping them take a look at themselves. Not everybody will be thanking you for that. Not your problem. Keep your keepers close by and you’ll have a shock-proof support system.

We need more dreamers. More chance takers. More why-the-hell-not-ers. We need you! Desperately.

Today, if you dare, take just 15 minutes to do that thing that you’ve been wanting to do (or dreading – same coin sometimes). Write, paint, google Costa Rica flights, research that class, tie up those sneaks, make that call. We all deserve to live truly now. Not later. Not at 65. And hell no, not after surviving one of life’s wake-up calls. Now.

“Listen, Lupus, you didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.” – Coach Buttermaker