It Was A Joke


His dad and I  provide the curly-haired kiddo with a joke every day to tell when he walks into school. How a flat-souled lady like me birthed a beautiful, and often tearful empath, I’ll never know.  The riddles started as a way to get him smiling in the morning.  Because who wants to go to school when you just want to Lego and chill with mom?

He loves the jokes. The more awful and cheesy and punny, the better. That head-back, open-mouthed giggle is really lovely. But he’s usually laughing alone. Lately I just smile and say, ‘that’s funny’.

Yeah. That’s not how you do it.

Today, especially,  was my version of ‘how not to do it.’

Feature length. Commercial free. Unabridged and not edited for content screening of how not to do it.

Today was a call back day. Call backs are not usually such sweaty, nervous business. For me, at least. But seriously, the shirt I was wearing stood up on its own when I finally peeled it off tonight.

Why the stank drippiness? It wasn’t jitters or fear. Nothing that simple.  I just knew I was going to miss. I was positive I  would step up to the plate, get Death Star sized balls lobbed at me with every pitch and I would whiff every last one. And so it went.

Maybe I didn’t shank every last one. It felt like I nailed a few moments. I got in some of the beats that I found honestly in my preparation and I came back to them during the read, and did them justice. I did think I was able to take direction and adjust my performance in a nice way. But all the rest of the moments? Jesus in pinstripes they were just ugly. Just like the trailer had promised, I had missed.

Jokes aside, I’ve lost something. Like a crucial piece of luggage was lost along the journey my body and brain have taken over the past few years, and now it’s as if it never existed. It really does feel like a loss. It often plays like  a loss I’ve forgotten, until I turn to look for what I need, and it’s not there. Going back into my bedroom to pick up a metaphorical shirt, and not finding it. Dropping an imaginary book on a nightstand and hearing it thud on a make-believe floor, because that piece of furniture doesn’t exist anymore.

And it scares me. Sad? I’ve done that. Angry? Oh, hell yes I’ve done that. A lot. But numb? This is the hardest.

I worked that scene for tonight for no small amount of time. First, I barely had the lines, but that just being old. The heart wasn’t there like I wanted it to be. Like it needed to be. It wasn’t the writing or the direction. Those were both spot on. It was my numb.

Sense memory work? Did that. Emotional memory work? Hell yes to that, too. Even wore a pair of earring that I was wearing when I got to a true place of the heart in a workshop scene once years ago. Yeah. Scraping the bottom of the inspiration barrel.

Nothing. I could not get it up in that room tonight. And worst, I knew I wouldn’t. Christ, I even went to my kid and asked him to write something for me. A note to help me focus on the guts of loss and what it means to walk away. I tucked the paper into the waist band of my pants and fingered it between cameral rolls.

KId is brighter and happier that me.

KId is brighter and happier that me.

Still, nothing. Maybe not nothing. But definitely not what it needed and not what I knew I could do.

Is it gone? It feels like it. But how do you get empathy back? How do you get back the courage to break down a little, safe in the knowledge that you will come back together again? I really don’t know.

(Hint: don’t try a drink with maybe ex. That only makes everyone feel worse. But the laughs and surprise find at a comic book store with him later somehow did help. Power of the force, I guess. But still, don’t try that.)

(Another hint: Don’t force your smile and laugh too much, when your child loses his third tooth while he is miles and miles away from you and that breaks your heart. Because kids will see through that bad acting and will call you on that shit. Your directors will try to encourage and give you another take. Your kids? They are shouting ‘next’ and hustling your ass out the door.

I really don’t want to be numb. I really want to laugh at the joke and not twist the punchline into an imagined jab or belittling. Maybe I’m just trying too hard.

A wise someone I know uses the phrase ‘have fun’ as his signature sign off or valediction. I heard it again today as the simple, concise but astute note for my scene. Shut down your head. Give your heart the reigns. Have fun. Be in on the joy. And laugh.

I’m stabbing at my numbness with fun. I’ll break through it or fall on my ass in the process. Then I’ll laugh. Because this all just might be a joke.

Beautiful Where You Are Broken

Yes, yes. Bitches be crazy. That’s what we are told everyday. By the fluff pieces of ambling DNA that are easily shrugged off, but also by the ones that are supposed to love us. 

I wasn’t called crazy. I personally was called ‘terminally neurotic’ and I’m sure I was supposed to laugh that one off, too. Hi-sodding-larious. 

You know us silly, crazy girls with our silly, crazy lady brains. Always not behaving. 

But, as our ancestral not-behaving women might have said, after pricking their fingers while doing the expected mending of their husband’s garments…

Fuck. This. Shirt. 

(See that? My unstable girl brain making a feeble little pun. I should stop. We all got the memo that women aren’t funny. )

But guess what? We are funny. You put four fantastic women in a room, like the one I was privileged to sit in last night, and you will laugh your ass into next Thursday. 

Are we crazy? Sure. Are we Amy crazier than the four ex-husbands and various other ex-somethings that were mulled over? Not possible. 

The fact that we were there in a business capacity, for real and invigorating project work, and not just to bitch about lousy men is heart-warming. Because I had more support around that table last night as a friend, as a mother, as a hopeful sexual being, as an artist, as a human than I have had in a long, long time. 

That’s not how we’re expected to comport our female selves, is it? Aren’t we all supposed to be competing for the same men? Three of us are auditioning for the same acting role this weekend. Shouldn’t we be contaminating each other’s wine glasses with strept bacteria and dysentery?

(Although I was handed a suspicious tea bag sometime during the night…)

The point here is that I am so proud to be included in such an amazing group of women. Where we can talk about kids that smell like Guinea pigs and a vagina that looks like a stegosaurus. 

But then we also talked about production resources and story structure and business plans and creative directions. And it was god damn beautiful. 

Fate and its minions have knocked me around a bit lately. I’ve had to gather every one of my own resources to keep my head up and then somehow put one foot in front of the other. Some of the knocking was deserved and my fault and I’ll own. Some of the knocks were certainly not. With help, I’ve been able to tease out what is illness and what is plain assholery. 

And it’s a gift of no small measure to have someone look you in the eye and say, “Yes. You are going home alone. But you aren’t alone. You have a hand to hold and a sounding board for your crazy lady ideas. Yes. You are fucked up. We all are. But you are worth the trouble. When you speak. When you write. When you love. Don’t stop fighting for who you are and what you want. Don’t let anyone make you small. Be big in thought and presence and wants.  Take up lots of mental and corporeal cellular space. Keep being brave. And keep being awesome. ”

I haven’t been happy in a while. Not really been sad. Been numb. And that’s still a thudding implant in my brain.  Requires some smacking and rubbing to be sure all the parts are still there. (Spoiler: the are. I just have to remember where I hid when for their own protection.)

And I wasn’t happy driving home after the meeting last night. Bonkers. I should have been manic-level elated. No.  Still kinda sad. But this morning, I was inspired. And hopeful. And feeling like there was a hand to grab me if I reached out into the scary dark. 

Love you girls. You beautiful broken girls who shine where you’ve bound yourselves back together. You make me want to celebrate my own broken and risk another rent in my facade for the chance to gleam. 

Time to go to work. 


“Wow. I’m sorry you’re spending Friday night out with your mother.”

Yeah. That’s like your bookie telling you why you shouldn’t bet and showing you the odds to prove it. I don’t like odds.

Courtesy of the one with my priority.

Courtesy of the one with my priority.

But, this is what I was told Friday night. With more that a small shot of pity on the side. Said by my own, actual mother. Who was sitting right beside me and buying me a noodle bowl. She was not impressed with my order of vermicelli with tofu. And she was really not impressed that I was alone and available on a Friday night. My instinct was to be righteous and offended. But mothers have an infuriating way of being right. Her pad thai was better than my tofu.

Adult relationships are odd beasts. Mothers are the oddest. And I get it. My relationship with my mother changed when I had a kid. Hers changed with me when she became a grandmother. There are similarities. I want the absolute best for my kid. I’m sure my mother wants the same for me, and as an extension, for him. But, those two might be squarely at odds, if not in direct opposition. What is good for my son, might be the thing that breaks me. Or what I want more than anything could bring a change that disrupts his little world  with something less than his happy first choice.

Modern parenting dogma says the child wins this battle. His choice and happy over yours.  You sacrifice. You choose the best you can for him. You make the kid the priority. That last one is a fairly new concept.

Maybe not one, but let’s go two generations ago. The idea of making a kid a top concern  would have been laughed out of the jammed up multi-generational house. First, of course, there would have been ten kids, not one. So, obviously no one kid took priority. Only by bleeding or puking or becoming quarterback drew enough attention to merit attention and featured precedence. (Feminist sidebar: girls weren’t supposed to play hard enough to get hurt; they probably puked silently alone in bathrooms and their job was to date the quarterback and give him just enough pert boob and moist hand to keep him interested and her uncompromised. So good luck taking priority, young lady. There’s still some overlap of that  in my current situation. But, that’s another post.)

I feel expectation, self-imposed and external, to always make my son a priority. Always. Friday night. Wednesday at noon. Thursday at midnight. Saturdays morning at 6 AM. And that’s okay. I auditioned for this role, and I got it, so I’ll play it as hard as I can.

But here’s the rub. When there’s one priority, everything else lines up for second place. And, sadly, that includes every one else. I have willingly given up vital parts of who I am for motherhood. Willingly. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Doesn’t mean it isn’t hard as hell to sit and witness my friends succeed at doing the thing I love, while I sit and watch. Except on the nights when it’s too hard to watch and I instead eat all the take-out sushi while driving home and all that’s left when I get there is a droopy wasabi flower with mushy ginger petals. Sometimes you just want to run away. Run away to, I don’t know, Detroit, just to get out of the house and out of my head. But I don’t, because the kid got there first and gets his way. And just reading that, oh my gods, am I building a selfish and entitled little jerk? Making a world where his in the always and only way? Because that’s not my intention with this part. Someone has to live with this kid someday when he’s flown away from me, and I’m afraid I’m not making it easy for that future partner. Or maybe I’m just rationalizing a pending selfish decision of my own.

People go to school, start careers, get re-married and move to Michigan after having a kid. They do. It’s not an urban myth or sidewalk fairytale. It’s a thing. It happens. I’ve seen it.

How in the hot and sparkling hell do they do it?

How do you maintain the core focus and feeling of love and importance that your kids needs while maintaining any kind of real and palpable and salvageable relationship as an adult? Because I have no idea. I’ve tried. And I’ve failed. Failed in big-scale, impressive fashion. I can’t…no…that’s not fair or true. I won’t get out of my head long enough to set it right. I’m taking steps to fix that one. (Expensive steps. Why does sitting  and talking cost so much? Again, another post.)

There has to be a way to make your kid feel loved and make him know that he is a critical, irreplaceable part of  your life and heart but still make space in your life to make someone else important too. It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive, does it? Because I really don’t want it to be. Now, I don’t need that. I don’t need that something or someone else in my life. But I really do want it. Being back on stage and have that One in the audience watching.  Not just because I don’t want to spend Friday night with my mother. Because that was nice. But, because I think I can. I think I can make something new and lovely and something that can be a good place for me and my son. I know it can be.

The odds are against it. I know. Don’t care. I’m trying.

All Apologies


I’m not doing much these days.

Sure, my usual things. Trying not to ruin a kid. Day job working. Attempting a relationship. I’m not putting out much writing work that’s worth advertising. I’m sure not getting any acting work. Which I should probably not at all be advertising. (Casting directors: It’s a self-imposed hiatus. I promise. For training and focusing. Truly. Sorry. I’ll be available. But, like always, my availability is limited. And, also like always, my hair looks nothing like it does in my head shots. Sorry. Call me.)

Not much. But you know what I am doing? Apologizing. Saying I’m sorry.

A lot.

Sentiment and hair inspiration courtesy of Kurt Cobain.

Sentiment and hair inspiration courtesy of Kurt Cobain.

By the barrels. To everyone. And they’re sincere apologies. To me, they really are. Each one. Not some silly, flippant self-entitled sorries. The flagrantly vapid ones perpetrated by toddlers and teenagers and mafia hitmen in confessionals. The ones where just the perceived debasing act of apologizing is thought to absolve any wrongdoing or general, albeit intentional-at-the-time, assholery on the part of the perpetrator. No. I’m putting some earnest mea culpas out into the world. Because I feel like I should. Could just be the way back Jewish ancestry or the twelve years of Catholic school. But I feel like I’m letting everyone in my life down in a big, bad way.  I know I’m coming up short and I want to be sure that it’s hard that I recognize not only that fact, but that I see with bright clarity that it’s not all right. And I want to properly apologize for it.

These are just the sorries I sounded off  today:

  • To my son, who I snapped at as we tried to hustle out the door to school. Kinda negated the fun of looking up our daily joke. (Doctor, doctor, I broke my leg in two places! Then, don’t go back to those two places.) I apologized for the snap and the joke.
  • To my always understanding and awesome girls at work, who got my sorry as I came in late from school drop off.  These are all business-handling working mothers, making it happen everyday on their own, who frankly don’t have time for my shit or my apologies about it.
  • To every patient we made wait today. Because health care is always over-booked and short-staffed and excuses don’t make it any better.
  • To the other reluctant participant of a relationship I’m really bad at supporting. This one was for letting me unload my bad brain thoughts and frustrations. There’s been not a small number of those lately. My thumb seems to always be  on the scale for my side and that’s not fair.  Doesn’t inspire next-step confidence and I know and regret that.
  • A second time on the way out the door to my superwomen at work, for not staying later to help finishing bailing the ship. They all deserve raises. Big ones.
  • To my son, again, and my mom, for being late to collect everyone after I finished work. No food court, MSG-laden noodles for us tonight because I was way behind schedule for birthday shopping.
  • One more to the kid when we couldn’t find what he was looking for in the way of  birthday swag. (Although that one may not have been on me. Far as I know, I am not the purchasing manager for that particular electronics outlet.)
  • And again, to the young man, for keeping him out late. Because I should be able to bend the rules of time and physics when it comes to school night shopping. And we know how kids hate to stay up past bed time.
  • Last one of the night, I think, was a muttered, exasperated exalt to anyone listening. Might have been to the driver behind me, laying on the horn, because I didn’t jump the red light and actually waited for the green. Could have been to my mother who was bothered by that jackweed driver’s noisy reminder. Could have been a one-last-time-for- good-measure sorry  for my son, who was fast asleep in the back seat and missed the pathos of the whole thing. Don’t know. Just know I was sorry.

By my count, which shouldn’t be trusted, that’s nine big ones. Just today. Is that a lot? Too many? Not nearly enough? I have no idea.

I do know I feel guilty all the time. I always feel like there is an “I’m sorry” to be sent out there somewhere. Does that instinctive, emetic ask for forgiveness instead dilute the potency of a truly uttered and said-in-real-remorse apology? I hope not.

Because I really am sorry for all the things I’m not. For the things I don’t seem to be able to do or be to the people I care about, even if a true and aggressive effort is made on my part. If we go Jung, maybe I’m sorry for all the ugly things I’ve done to and thought about the little blonde girl who grew up to be me. But that’s a pretty tangled-up mind-storm for a plain, cold Tuesday.  Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe I do need to stay up later, cook more, read more, bake cookies. Maybe just pay more attention. Maybe try less and stop circling around my own head. Just be and stop apologizing and do.

Something to consider for tomorrow. But, for tonight, still twisting and twining thoughts about what I screwed up and what needs fixed. In what I say and the actions I choose. And in me. So more pauses and delays and sudden stops and un-signalled turns until I figure out what’s causing that catch and clunk in my particular engine. I’m trying to learn how to live and not apologize. It will take a while.

And I’m really sorry about that.