Friday, October 25, 2013

Burping, Farting and Virginia Woolf

Okay, burping and farting. I’m not gonna lie, it happens a lot in my house. I’m not a prude about it; I really don’t have that luxury because I live with three guys. So, it happens, and I can tolerate it to a point, but when it becomes so commonplace that the occurrence warrants no vestige of common proprietary remorse, but instead a disproportionate display of pride, that’s when I wish I had my own apartment. Yes Virginia Woolf, a room of my own; except in my case it would be a quaint one-bedroom apartment with vintage appeal and all new appliances.

And in this apartment there would be order. There would not be sweaty socks and sports clothes on the living room floor or wedged between the sofa cushions. The only shoes I would trip on would be my kicky pumps, which were a steal at DSW. I wouldn’t find dirty dishes in odd places like under the bed or behind the radiator. I could watch whatever I want on TV whenever I want. Everyone who lives there would love whatever I made for dinner. I could have flowered sheets on the bed, and lots of funky yet homey pillows that don’t get tossed to the floor and swept under the bed into a morass of dust woodland creatures. The bathroom would not have tufts of shaving cream lingering dangerously close to my toothbrush. The house would smell like the ocean and not a heady mix of ass, Axe body spray, and Chef Boyardee Mini ravioli. It would be an oasis of comfort, quirkiness, girliness and serenity.

I know you think I wish I was single. I don’t. I love my smelly, gassy, messy guys. I just don’t want to live with them all the time. I just want a little Mary Tyler Moore Haven(we’re talking her first cozy personality-driven apartment, not the clinical neutrality of the second) that I can retreat to and pretend life is uncomplicated, neater and smells better.

Yes Virginia Woolf, I need a room of my own, but not for the lofty reasons you originally implied. And, in fact my impressive literary reference is based purely on a cursory understanding acquired through conversations I had no right to be a part of since I’ve never actually read your book.  My need for fulfillment is not to enrich my soul and strengthen my independent voice, it is in fact to selfishly reacquaint myself with peace and quiet and leave all references to Middle Earth, the latest Vine Video and an encyclopedic knowledge of all things football behind in a noxious cloud of burps farts and the general male musk of territorial entitlement.

I do not need this. I do, however, want it. Badly. The allure of being in charge of my own schedule, life, and general environmental aroma in the midst of the beloved and wretched chaos that is a family. Until such a time exists I will find a room of my own wherever I can; in doing a crossword puzzle on the porch before everyone's up, in a glass of wine accented by cheese and bread whilst they feast on fried chicken, french fries, and Orange Crush, in a late night viewing of Sense & Sensibility on the rare occasion when they are all out of the house at the same time. And then I will metaphorically return home refreshed, balanced, and ready for anything for at least a moment until the silence is pierced by the next burp or fart, or that unique symphonic confluence of both happening at the same time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Road Not Taken Isn't Always Paved

I do most things wrong. And I don’t really live in a world of right or wrong. But, empirically, I have made the wrong choice time and time again.

Upon graduating from Northwestern with a theatre degree and then an advanced degree from a prestigious London acting school instead of moving to New York or LA or even Chicago, I went to San Francisco. Why? Simply because I wanted to live there. It was not, in the early 1990s, a teeming metropolis of theatrical activity, but that is where I chose to start my career.

I did eventually make it to Los Angeles to work on a two-woman show with a college friend. When that was over I had a decision: stay in LA and do the LA thing, or move back home to Philly and save some money to move back to Chicago. Guess which one I chose? Fast forward 21 years and my college friend, Ana Gasteyer, who did the LA thing, has gone on to conquer Saturday Night Live, the Broadway show Wicked and continues to tear it up in TV and Movies. Me, I’m still in Philly.

As my “professional” life evolved I chose to specialize in improvisation, which I love and maintain will save the world one day. Now, you’ll notice that I put “professional” in quotation marks. Why? Because by and large, to be a professional means you get paid. And, by and large, to be an improviser means you do not. So yes, I have dedicated my life to an art-form that is “by and large” a volunteer job.

I chose to have children, and we all know how that one’s going.

I chose to marry a lawyer who chose to work for the city, which chooses to make fiscal decisions that prevent even cost of living raises for its employees.

I choose to go to the Acme instead of Whole Foods time and time again

I choose to eat more than one chocolate chip cookie a day.

I choose to knit over cleaning my house or feeding my ambitions.

I choose to read books that I’m embarrassed to recommend to friends because they are on the best-seller list instead of the Pulitzer Prize list.

I choose to feed my kids food with preservatives because they are cheaper and I work for free and my husband works for Philly(which is almost the same thing).

I choose to feel sorry for myself more than I let on.

I often choose ignorance over enlightenment because, quite frankly, I’m tired.

So, by most logic-minded, credential building, agenda-adhering, survival of the fittest humans I have made the wrong choice over and over again. And the thing is, when I made and continue to make most of these choices, logic rarely plays a part (except with the Acme, because Whole Foods really is over-priced). Most of these choices were made because I felt there was no other choice.  Wait a minute. I mean no better choice. On paper most of these choices look wrong, but at every step I chose what felt right.

As a result, I’ve gotten to do a lot of really kick-ass things. I’ve made some remarkable friends. I’ve discovered strength, resolve and vulnerability I never knew I possessed. And yes, I’ve mourned the things I will never get a chance to do.

I often say to whomever will listen (so not my kids then) that we choose the lives we have, the good and the bad. Circumstance and surprise are realities, how we react to them is still our choice, whether intentional or instinctual. They are not always easy; they often lead to the bumpy path not taken; but they are the choices that we can live with, that we are ultimately proud of, and which, by and large, define who we are.

And still there are those days when everything feels wrong, and I often wonder what would have happened if I made that choice instead of this. And then Captain Regret comes knocking. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I invite him in and we have cookies together. But then I choose not to let him stay in my guest room and leave his wet towels on the floor. I bid him a good day and get on with the next choice, which usually involves whether to work out or not.  And you can surely guess which way that one goes.