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.


"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.


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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