November 20, 2014

Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend.


Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

"I once was having dinner with an old friend back when I was on SNLBaby Mama was coming out and I was in the middle of one of those weird press pushes where your face is on taxis and you are doing talk shows all the time. My friend, who was as funny and talented as me but chose not to be an actor, was talking about how he was seeing my face everywhere. He went on and on about how he was seeing my face everywhere. He pointed out that people were really starting to know my name and asked me if I "could believe it." "Yes," I said. I had worked for over a decade to get to this moment. I hadn't just dropped my script into someone's lap on a train. "Can you?" I asked him.
But I was lucky. Your career and your passions don't always match up. Plenty of talented people don't have the careers they want. Plenty of untalented people make millions and make movies. There is a difference between determination and talent. Hard work doesn't always matter. You can be the best at making contacts and going after jobs, but then suddenly you want it too much. Suddenly everybody feels how bad you want it and they don't want to give it to you. Even at six years old Archie is learning to stop paying attention to the toy he wants. He knows that if he lets on how bad he wants it his four-year-id brother will snatch that whizz up in a hot second. Pretending to not want something can work. Really not caring if you get it takes a lifetime of practice."
(p. 221-2)

"Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, "I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going." That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world. Your creativity is not a bad boyfriend. It is a really warm older Hispanic lady who has a beautiful laugh and loves to hug. If you are even a little bit nice to her she will make you feel great and maybe cook you delicious food.
Career is different. Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control and then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren't. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and make you truly whole. Depending on your career is like eating cake for breakfast an wondering why you start crying an hour later."
(p. 222)

"You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look. 
I realize this is extremely difficult. I am not saying I am particularly good at it. I'm like you. Or maybe you're better at this than I am. 
You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, "I made it!" You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other. Our ego is a monster that loves to sit at the head of the table and I have learned that my ego is just as rude and loud and hungry as everyone else's. It doesn't matter how much you get; you are left wanting more. Success is filled with MSG.
Ambivalence can help tame the beast. Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don't depend on it. It will reward you every time you don't act needy. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you. If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else."
(p. 225)

Can you walk? Stop complaining.


Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

A good list, from page 103:

November 17, 2014

I am getting to a place right in the middle where I feel good about exactly how much I apologize.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

Bookends to an honest, beautiful chapter about apologizing & forgiveness:

"I say "sorry" a lot. When I am running late. When I am navigating the streets of New York. When I interrupt someone. I say, "Sorry, sorry, sorry," in one long stream. The sentence becomes "Sorrysorrysorry" and it's said really fast, as if even the act of apologizing is something to apologize for. But this doesn't mean I'm a pushover. It doesn't mean I'm afraid of conflict or don't know how to stand up for myself. I am getting to a place right in the middle where I feel good about exactly how much I apologize. It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for. It takes years to find your voice and seize your real estate."
(p. 65)

"Look at this woman. This beauty. What an act of grace. What a gift she gave me. Shame makes people abandon their children and drink themselves to death. It also keeps us from true happiness. An apology is a glorious release. Anastasia gave me a huge gift. That e-mail changed me. It rearranged my molecules. She has lived a life of struggle and decided not to pick up the armor. She teaches me about compassion. She makes her journey about open hearts. She is not ashamed.
Thankyouthankyouthankyou."
(p. 79)

November 09, 2014

People are their most beautiful when they are laughing, crying, dancing, playing, telling the truth, and being chased in a fun way.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

"Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier."
(p. 21)

"Improvisation and sketch comedy helped me find my currency. My plain face was a perfect canvas to be other people. There is nothing I like more than picking out wardrobe for a character. An SNL hairstylist once told me I had a great face for wigs. A Great Face for Wigs! What a compliment. (And also the title of my second book.) Looking silly can be very powerful. People who are committing and taking risks become the king and queen of my prom. People are their most beautiful when they are laughing, crying, dancing, playing, telling the truth, and being chased in a fun way."
(p. 21)

"Yes please" sounds powerful and concise. It's a response and a request.

Yes Please
By Amy Poehler

Every year I discover -- late -- a new comedy to fall in love with. I refer to it as my comfort comedy because I start to binge-watch it obsessively as a means to relieve any tension & to send me into bed & sleep with good feelings. The year after I graduated from college, that comedy was Friends. (Super late!) The year after that, it was Arrested Development. Earlier this year it was Parks and Recreation, which I think is safe to say is my favorite of the three.

When I learned Amy Poehler was publishing a memoir, I became so happy. I knew it'd be good. She is strong & successful & smart and I knew she'd write things I'd want to read, and that she'd write most of them in a funny way.  Corny, but: I am grateful to the show (and the amazing cast!) and to Amy for making me laugh/cry hysterically during moments I needed it most and for videos like this and this for making me feel like a better human.

"It's called Yes Please because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would you like to be left alone? Yes please.
I love saying "yes" and I love saying "please." Saying "yes" doesn't mean I don't know how to say no, and saying "please" doesn't mean I am waiting for permission. "Yes please" sounds powerful and concise. It's a response and a request. It is not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman. It's also a title I can tell my kids. I like when they say "Yes please" because most people are rude and nice manners are the secret keys to the universe."
(p. xix - haha)

October 30, 2014

Like a sailor in distress, she would gaze out over the solitude of her life with desperate eyes, seeking some white sail in the mists of the far-off horizon.

Madame Bovary
By Gustave Flaubert

"Deep in her soul, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she would gaze out over the solitude of her life with desperate eyes, seeking some white sail in the mists of the far-off horizon. She did not know what this chance event would be, what wind would drive it to her, what shore it would carry her to, whether it was a longboat or a three-decked vessel, loaded with anguish or filled with happiness up to the portholes. But each morning, when she awoke, she hoped it would arrive that day…"

I have not read this book. But I did read Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl, and this was printed on the page before the table of contents and I thought MY GOD, why have I never seen this excerpt I so completely identify with before? I have felt that to be me so many times. And I'm glad someone has already expressed those feelings so beautifully.

As far as an excerpt from Lena's book, I have none at this moment. I marked a few things mentally, but didn't jot any page numbers down & now I'm too lazy to go back and find them. I thought her memoir was OK. There are moments when I feel, maybe because I'm still in my 20s, that yes, I can relate to that. I know how that feels & what that is like -- and I felt that a lot watching GIRLS, especially during season 1. And other times Lena's life and experiences seem so far apart from mine, so trivial too, in fact -- that I feel I can't find any interest or care in the things she is saying. But I don't regret reading it. Anyway, I am now reading Amy Poehler's Yes Please which, 8 pages in, I'm already in love with! Excerpts soon.

October 19, 2014

And sometimes during my waking hours I think, wouldn't it be something if this life was just a dream too?

This Is Where I Leave You
By Jonathan Tropper

I was not expecting this book to be so, so funny & it's the first in a long while I enjoyed immensely throughout. The story is good, it's fine, but what made it great for me is the way in which it was told -- Jonathan Tropper is a great, funny writer using such expressions and metaphors to describe personal and intimate situations, anecdotes, family dynamics, in ways that made me literally laugh out loud. Given the circumstances of the family, especially the main character, Judd, it was a dark comedy of sorts.

The two following passages don't necessarily reflect the humor (this book is another case in which sometimes I was enjoying it too much to jot everything down) - but more the poignancy of the darker moments Judd experiences. Wish I could remember all the good lines! (Goodreads people captured many.)

"I have a recurring dream in which I'm walking down the street, all foot-loose and fancy-free, when I look down and realize that beneath my pants, one of my legs is actually a prosthesis, molded plastic and rubber with a steel core. And then I remember, with a sinking feeling, that my leg had been amputated from the knee down a few years back. I had simply forgotten. The way you can forget in dreams. The way you wish you could forget in real life, but, of course, can't. In real life, you don't get to choose what you forget. So I'm walking, usually out on Route 120 in Elmsbrook, past the crappy strip malls, the mini golf, the discount chains, and the themed restaurants, when I suddenly remember that I lost my leg a few years ago, maybe cancer, maybe a car accident, whatever. The point is, I have this fake leg clamped to my thigh, chafing at my knee where my calf used to descend. And when I remember that I'm an amputee, I experience this moment of abject horror when I realize that when I get home I will have to take off the leg to go to sleep and I can't remember ever having done that before, but I must do it  every night, and how do I pee, and who will ever want to have sex with me, and how the hell did this even happen anyway? And that's when I will myself awake, and I lie there in bed, sweaty and trembling, running my hands up and down both legs, just to make sure. Then when I get up to go to the bathroom, even if I don't have to, and the cold bathroom tiles against my feet are like finding fifty bucks in a jacket pocket from last fall. These are the rare moments when it actually still feels good to be me.
And sometimes during my waking hours I think, wouldn't it be something if this life was just a dream too? And somewhere there's a more complete and happy and slimmer version of me sleeping in his bed, next to a wife who still loves him, the linens twisted up around their feet from their recent lovemaking, the sounds of their children's light snoring filling the dimly lit hallway. And that me, the one dreaming of this version, is about to shake himself awake from the nightmare of my life. I can feel his relief like it's my own."
(pp. 83-4)

"…I am three years old and riding my red plastic motorcycle in the park. It's cold out, I'm wearing my navy blue ski hat, and my nose is running copiously into my scarf. The plastic wheels of the motorcycle clatter loudly against the cracked asphalt as I push off with my feet to propel myself around an Olympic-sized sandbox. I don't know if I'm going clockwise or counterclockwise. I'm three years old; I don't know from clocks. Suddenly, a kid appears in my path, tall and fat, two lines of snot running equilaterally down from his nose to the corners of his mouth. He holds a gray milk crate over his head like the Ten Commandments being brought down from Sinai. "The Hulk!" he screams at me. I don't know what he means. I'm years away from Marvel comics, and even once I discover them, The Incredible Hulk will never make sense to me. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? You're never really sure, and moral ambivalence has no place in childhood. I'm three years old, and I have never heard of The Incredible Hulk, but this kid clearly relates to him intimately. And maybe he's pretending the milk crate is a car, or a house, or a large boulder, or an archenemy, I don't know. Whatever it's supposed to be, it hurts like hell when it hits my face. And then I'm off the motorcycle, lying on my side, the grit of the cold asphalt biting into my cheek. My nose and mouth are bleeding, and I'm coughing and spitting and crying, gagging on my own blood.
And then I'm borne up into the air by powerful arms, lifted high above the fat kid and my plastic motorcycle and the earth, really, my face pressed into my savior's large shoulder, which is somehow hard and soft at the same time. I bleed into the fuzz of his peacoat as he rubs my back and says, "It's okay, bubbie. You're okay. Everything is fine." And then he stands me up on a bench and pulls out a handkerchief to softly wipe away my blood. "That little bastard really nailed you," he says, gently picking me up again. I don't know what a little bastard is, I don't know who the Hulk is, I don't remember what exactly happened, but my father is holding me safely above the fray, and I'm burrowed hard into his powerful chest, and I'm aware of the fat kid somewhere down below but I know the little bastard can't reach me up here."
(pp. 188-9)