Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Alone and loved.

Last Friday I had a very scary morning.

“Do you have someone in the waiting room?”

“No?”

“You are here alone?!”

“Yes.”

“Oh...”

The ER nurse went from a look of confusion to a look of sadness.  What was going on in her head?  Did she think I was so alone that there was no one there to support me?  Did she think I was an idiot  driving myself to the ER?  Did she just feel bad for a girl who is my age with no one around?

Just a few hours earlier, around 2am, in the middle of rehearsal, I had coughed and a pain in my chest (that I knew well from a sickness a couple weeks ago) returned with a vengeance.   I pushed on my chest waiting for it to subside like it had so many times a couple weeks ago, but this time it stuck around.  And a few hours later, around 4am, while watching Grey’s Anatomy at home, it felt like someone stabbed me in the chest with the biggest knife you can imagine.  I felt like someone pulled my breath out of me and my whole body tingled.

I calmly called the after hours nurse and while on hold, it all happened again only worse.  Ok, time to get in the car and get to an ER.  After the second episode I started shaking so awfully that I couldn’t even read my medical number off of my card.

The shaking was going in waves, so when I arrived at the ER I looked and sounded fine.  The nurse was confused why I was even there until another wave over took me and I couldn’t even talk correctly.

Her first thought was that I was a meth addict coming down.  I laughed and it made her smile.  Then she asked me if I was responding to any prescribed medication.  I said “Nope, fit as a fiddle.”  Then she asked me if I was maybe having a panic attack.  Look lady, I don’t care about McDreamy that much.

After multiple EKG attempts (they couldn’t get a good reading because of my shaking), blood work, heart monitoring, and an IV, the doctor came in with the best and worst news.  “You look completely healthy.”

I sat there waiting to be discharged and looked around my empty room; the plain beige walls, the smell of sterile equipment, the tubes of my IV, and the lonely beep of the heart monitor speeding up every time another wave occurred.  During one of my shaking spells, I thought back to that nurse who wanted to know why I was alone and teared up a little.  I guess it’s true, other people probably have a significant other or at least someone with them, but I have trained myself to do things on my own.

But as the weekend went on, my roommate was pissed I didn’t ask her for help, and my parents wanted to bring me things, and my work team asked how they can help. It all reminded me, just because I am alone doesn’t mean I am not loved.

I am loved deeply by people all around me and I don’t need someone sitting in my ER room to know that.  I think that ER nurse is good example of how some people may look at us single people.  We seem alone, we seem unsupported, we seem unloved, but the reality is that no matter what other people think, I am loved, I am supported by so many, and sometimes my “loneliness” is actually a sign of great courage and strength.


There has been no answer to what happened to me and it took me a good three days to even be able to stand for longer than 5 minutes, but everyday I have made huge improvements and I’m almost back to feeling 100%.  (Sometimes God just wants to slow you down and making you stay in bed for three days is a good way to do it.)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Little Tiny (Gigantic) Doubts

The shoes I wear when I hike are ridiculously old.  And I love them.  They tracked through Germany with me when I was the Ambassador of Disneyland and ran me to the finish line of my first triathlon.  There are little holes above my big toes and the front of the shoes are coming apart which sometimes flings dirt forward as I walk.  But I can't give up on them.  They fit my feet perfectly, they have been so good to me.

However, last night Matt and I were hiking.  I had mentioned to Matt for the last couple weeks that my shoes are more slippery with every hike we took.  But I still attack every hike the same way.  Yesterday, we were on our way down a pretty steep bank and my shoes finally gave up and my leg flew out from under neath me and I slammed onto the ground.  It hurt.  My hip was throbbing, I scraped and bruised the bottom on my leg, and my hands were stinging from catching me on the jagged rocks.

Matt and I decided that the path we were on was probably to steep for my little old shoes, so i knew if we headed back up the mountain, I could dig my toes into the mountain and succeed.  So we started up the steep incline.  I won't lie, I was scared.  It was steep and I doubted that my shoes could do their job, but I went forward anyway.  I went ahead of Matt and only about 10 steps later, my shoes gave up.  I started to slide down the cliff and my shoes would not grab on.  My hands grasping for something to hold onto, but I wasn't stopping.  I screamed to Matt, and he reached out and grabbed me.  Thank God for Matt and his solid shoes.

We gave up and ended up hiking parallel to the cliff until we were on a path that was flat enough that I could hike safely.

I can't stop thinking about how I can't remember the last time I fell while hiking.  And yet, I had just had two pretty bad falls right in a row.  Maybe it was my shoes.  Maybe they really had hit there breaking point, but also maybe it was me.  The first fall had put doubt in my mind, I had started wondering if these shoes could really get me through this hike.  I wonder if subconsciously I had started hiking differently because of that little tiny doubt in my mind?

Tiny little doubts can start making you live differently.  They can get into your mind and you start making decisions out of fear that you don't even know you are making.  The thing is, sometimes you need to change your shoes, but sometimes you  just need to stop making decisions because of fear (or at least start noticing when you are).




Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Truth and Sadness of the FirstRateSingleLife

Let's get real.  The worst night of the FirstRateSingleLife is tonight; Christmas Eve.

It's just horrible.

Ever year, after candles are lit, carols are sung, and presents are wrapped, I dejectedly tuck myself into the child size bunk bed in my parents spare room.  It's a wonderful room perfect of my nieces and nephews, but to me it's just such a glaring slap in the face reminding myself of where I am in life.  In my 30's, no man, no kids.

It was in this very bed 5 years ago that I cried myself to sleep wondering why I couldn't find a man who loved me.  How had I missed the boat?  Where was my fairytale? What was wrong with me?

So, that night, just before sleep took over, I made myself a deal.  I wouldn't watch a single romantic thing for six months.  Although they feel fun while I watched them, they ruined me when it was over.  So, no more romance; no Grey's Anatomy, no New Girl, nothing.

I also decided to take every moment by storm.  More rock shows.  More friends.  More time using my talents.

It is no coincidence that this was the year the FirstRateSingleLife began.  It was a freedom I can't explain.  To not be tied down by the ridiculous expectations society pushed in my face with every ad, tv show and movie.  I got to start seeing relationships in a real way.  And I was able to see that my life is freakin fantastic, just as it is.

So, here I am back in this very room 5 years later.  Still single, still pursuing the best life I can find.  And although this bed makes me want to scream, waking up alone in an empty house Christmas morning by myself is so much worse.

So I will crawl into this bed once again.  And I will forcefully put my foot down reminding myself that I am exactly where I should be.  I can't force a man to love me.  I can't make a publisher sign my book.  I can't stop these small lines forming around my eyes, but I can live each moment to the fullest.  I can laugh with my whole heart.  I can love those around me.  I can dance until I can't stand.  I can eat great food and watch fantastic rock shows.

This life will not pass me by while I wait for a man (because he may never show up).  But I will show up in life and continue to see the world.  I will enjoy sunsets.  I will buy myself flowers and treat myself like I deserve to be treated.

Every FirstRateLife has a hard moment.  This is mine.  Every year.

But in the morning, I will wake up and my brother and sister's family will come over and there will be laughter and shrieks of joy.  There will be stupid presents and perfect presents.  And I won't be able to think of a more perfect moment.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Running to Hope

I recently started a rigorous work out routine and today was a long distance run.  I knew that I had to pace myself, but my pacing was off and I found myself walking sooner than I wanted to.  So I made myself a promise – I would walk to the end of the song I was listening to and then I would run hard for the entire next song.

What Did I Get Myself Into:
The moment of horror came when the next song came on and I remembered it was a 15 minute song.  This was totally unfair.  I had only walked for about 2 minutes and now I had to run hard for 15 minutes.  But, I had made myself a deal and sometimes commitments aren’t exactly what you expect, but you still have to go for it.  So, here we go.

I Can’t Do It... Or Maybe I Can:
About 7 minutes in, my mind was telling me to stop.  Why should I keep going?  This was so unfair.  I took one walking step and I said to myself, “What are you doing?  Why are you walking?   Your true character is shown when no one else is watching and you made a commitment.  GO!”  And before I could take one more walking step, I found myself running again.

The Constant Torture:
The next 8 minutes were torture.  Absolute torture.  My calves were stabbing me with every stride.  My lungs were screaming, begging me to stop.  My heart worked as hard as it could to get blood to my arms, but my fingers would tingle every now and then.

But every time I would want to stop and walk, I would think about the benefit of hardship because suffering leads to perseverance which strengthens my character which leads me to hope; hope that I can do better next time, hope that I can make it through things I don’t think I can do, hope that there is something bigger out there that will move me forward.

This Is Just A Firedrill:
When it got so bad that I couldn’t think about anything except giving up, I would remind myself this is just a fire drill for the true commitments in life.  I was proving to myself when the real emergencies came - like giving up on my dreams, or giving up on a fast, or giving up on a marriage someday - I would know that I could do it because I did this.  And I would repeat again and again, “suffering to perseverance to character to hope...  suffering to perseverance to character to hope...”

The Surprise At The End:
Finally the song faded and on the downbeat of the next song I allowed myself to walk.  My legs pulsing with pain, the blood running through my legs trying to repairs the muscles that I had just tortured.  I pulled out my iPod to see exactly how long the song was and to my surprise, the song was actually 22 minutes long.  No wonder it seemed like the longest 8 minutes ever.  I had actually run hard for 15 more minutes.  Instead of pulling out my iPod over and over checking the time, I had focused on building my character and trusting what I knew to be true.  And thus, I found that I could do more than I could imagine just by putting my focus in the right place.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Same Kind of Lonely

Today I was rollerblading in Newport Beach.  Like usual, my headphones were on, blaring my song of  the day.  I'm pushing myself along at a quick pace when I slowed down because there was a couple rollerskating very slowly in front of me.  The girl was very unsure of herself, holding a tight grip on her boyfriend's arm.  Then, they stopped and were standing in my way - fighting.

The girl obviously wanted to stop and go back.  The guy was obviously trying to convince her to go on.  She shook her head and the guy threw his hands in the air and went on without her.  He left her standing there, alone and unable to move without assistance.

I pulled out my headphones, and started to offer her my arm just in time for her to start to fall and grab on.  We both laughed.  "Thank you" she said with an embarrassed smile.

"No problem, let's get you facing the right way."  We got her steady and facing the direction that her boyfriend went and we started on our way.  Her steps were tiny and slow and we laughed and she told me how she hadn't been on skates in years.  I told her that she was doing a great job and we would have her skating in no time.  Discouraged, she says "That's not what he thinks."

"Well, he's wrong."  She gave me an insecure smile.

As we skated along, keeping her on her feet, I realized that whether you are single or have an awful boyfriend, it's the same kind of lonely.  You have to figure it out yourself (or find a kind stranger to help you).  I don't know their relationship.  I don't know why she stays with him, but I know the kind of relationship I want to be in.  I would rather be alone and lonely, then with someone and lonely.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hiking With Matt: Ask for Help

If you read my blog, you might already know Matt.  He and I have been friends for about 14 years.

A couple of clowns. (Electrical Parade - 2001)

We disagree on who should win So You Think You Can Dance, we love different TV shows, we even see spirituality differently, but our differences don't even compare to our thirst for adventure, our desire to inspire others, our love for those around us and the constant desire to be better people.

Matt and I try to go hiking every week.

This week, Matt and I arrived at the trailhead and I looked at him with a look of disappointment.  He looked at me curiously and I looked down at my feet and wiggled my toes.  I was wearing flip flops and had forgotten my tennis shoes in my car back at his house.

"Do you wanna go back and get your shoes?"

"That's crazy, let's just hike... as long as it's ok that we don't run and I'll have to go slow sometimes."

Flip flops it was.

We were hiking at Runyon Canyon which is just gorgeous around sunset.  The Hollywood sign glows in the golden sun.  The lights of downtown LA start to sparkle.  It's almost enough to forget how hard this hike is in flip flops.

We had made it down one side of the mountain and were heading back up the other side.  Even though my feet had slipped out from under me a few times I had never fallen.  We got to the point where we had decide if we were gonna go up the mountain on the hard trail or the easy trail.

"So?"

"Let's go up the hard way as long as I can hold on to you if I need to."

We take a left.  I've never been good at taking the easy path.

It was about 15 minutes later, I found myself in trouble.  The hard path was maybe a little too hard in flip flops.  The slippery loose dirt would move around under my feet and there was no traction in these dumb sandals.  So finally I say, "Matt, can you hike just in front of me?"

He slowed down and got right in front of me.  I put my hands on his shoulders and depended on him just being there to keep me from falling.

At the end of that hard section I realized that I had asked for help with no shame.  If you know me, I'm a pretty independent person.  I like to do things on my own.  For a while I worked at Disney in a costume that took two people to put it on, but not me.  I figured out a way to do it on my own.  Classic Liz.

Then I realized that it was because we had a mutual understanding that this hike was harder because I was wearing flip flops and that needing help was a pre-arranged agreement.

I suddenly realized how true this is for life.  When we have something that holds us back that is socially acceptable - we need help moving, we can't change a tire, we are jealous - we will ask for help.  But when we find ourself in a place of needing help and it's not socially acceptable, we hide our struggles and do it all on our own.  We try to battle that eating disorder on our own.  We keep spending on our credit cards when we are in tremendous debt.   We let hate grow in our hearts because we don't want to confront the problem head on.

How much easier would life be if we could just ask for help with no shame, realizing that our friends would be happy to stand in front of us and let us depend on their strength to make it through.  Being vulnerable is so hard and so necessary.

And sometimes we will be Matt.  Allowing people to be vulnerable with us and all we need to do is be there to let our friends have the confidence to tackle whatever is in front of them.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Lessons from Celebrities: Angelina Jolie

It’s just another day at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  I’m sitting at the entrance to the hallway that leads back stage.   My job is to protect the backstage area (which would make you laugh if you saw my small 5'2'' dancer frame).  I held the list of people allowed backstage and it was my job to make sure those were the only people back there.

The first few hours of this job are painstakingly boring.  Mostly, I just greet the famous people who are going to be on the show that day.  Most of my time was spent leaning back on the rear legs of chair and counting how many seconds I could stay balanced without falling over.  1... 2... 3... 4... 

The day usually looked like this.  First, the band would show up.  They were always the first to show up because they had to do camera blocking and sound check before we could load in the audience.  

Then, the second guest of the night would show up.  I always loved the second guest of the night.  They were usually the up and comers who showed up wide-eyed with a smile, excited to be on The Tonight Show.

Then, the first guest of the night arrived.

Ugh.

I would hear the stirring of a large group of people outside.  And before I knew it, there would be a group of people standing in front of me.

The entourage. 

They were all busy talking on their phones or checking their email or trying to look important.  And almost every time, an assistant or publicist would be the only one to speak to me.  I'm not important enough for the famous person to take time out of their day to speak to me.  After introducing myself to the group, I would escort them to their dressing room and there was very rarely even a thank you from the famous person.  It was expected that I would know them and I was to serve them without even a thank you or being acknowledged.

This time, it's Angelina Jolie. 

She has a bigger entourage than any I had seen.  One woman is carrying a bag full of shoes.  There were at least 10 pairs of brand new shoes still in their boxes.  Two women are carrying multiple dresses so she could chose.  I’m nice to the assistant who checks in with me.  I try to say something funny, Angelina is unamused and then looks at her assistant and says "Can we move on?  I don't need to be standing out here being bothered by random people."

Oh man, I get mad.  I feel like a cartoon character and that line of red was moving up my face.  (When I look back, I have no idea if she was calling me one of the "random people", but I do know that I took it very personally and just thought of her as a jerk who was way too high maintenance for my taste.)  I mean really, who needs that many clothes for one 10 minutes spot on a TV show?  And seriously, she has one of the biggest entourages I had seen.  Why do you need all of these people?  What are they doing and why do they need be here for the one day you are at The Tonight Show?

After work, I go out with my friends (who aren’t part of the Hollywood industry) and tell them all about the jerk, Angelina Jolie.  I tell the story of the straight out rudeness of her telling everyone that I bothered her and how she was so complicated...

They suck up every word.  Every eye is glued to me, every word cementing in their brains.  And they say things like “I could tell she was like that.”

Fast forward a few months and I see on the schedule that Angelina will be on the show again.  I let out a great sigh.  I’m quite the opposite of excited.  I've seen people skip work and their lunch breaks just to see her walk by, I would have done anything to get out of this.  I don't want to put up with her high-maintenance needs.  I don't want to have her eyes roll at me or make me feel like I'm a nuisance.  But like always, I will put a smile on my face and be as kind as I can.

My stomach knots up as the time draws near for her to arrive.  I look over quickly when the door from the outside opens, but it's just two people.  I sit back in my chair waiting for the entourage.  I lean back on the rear legs, 1.. 2.. 3... 4...  I tip forward quickly onto all four legs when I realize the two people are standing in front of me. 

I look up and it's Angelina and her assistant.  Her hair is down and soft with a beautiful smile on her face.  Her one assistant is carrying her one dress. And to my shock, she introduces herself and on the way to dressing room asks me how I’m doing and then genuinely thanks me as I left.

I’m confused.  Who was this woman?  She's a jerk...  Right?

So, dazed and confused, I head back to our pre-show meeting and I’m telling my friend Ryan about what just happened, and how I’m confused because she's usually such a jerk.  He looks at me shock on his face and says, "What are you talking about?  She's a sweetheart... to everyone."  And everyone in the room agrees.

Suddenly I realized, you know who the jerk is?  Me.

I took one small interaction with a person and judged her by that.  I spread false information about her and her character because I got attention for it.  I know that what I think of Angelina Jolie probably doesn’t matter to her.  I know that telling my small group of friends something won't ruin her reputation, but it ruins mine.  I showed my character by jumping to conclusions and trying to make myself seem more important by telling this disparaging story about her.


I know that I would be terrified if someone, knowing no information about my day or situation, drew an opinion of me by judging me on a bad day and then told others that was what I was like.  I will keep my eyes open and give people multiple chances because that is what I would like done for me.  Grace.  I just need to remember grace.  And spread it around like crazy.

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