My Desperation

I worked full time with rarely a vacation or a day off for 10 years and 2 months. I started my senior year of high school and stopped when I was laid off from my job in 2009.

I started at a restaurant and rose through the ranks to become a manager by the time I was 19. That turned into regional training manager by the time I was 20. I was good at management. I learned quickly, delegated well and had an innate knack for efficiency and creating systems.

Because I progressed so fast (and to be frank, made such good money) and had never really been expected to go to college, I didn’t. I just kept working, thinking because I was doing well for myself now, there was no reason I wouldn’t continue doing well for the rest of my life.

I switched companies and turned that restaurant management job into other management jobs, such as office, loan, and business management. I was very successful and worked hard. If I wanted a job, I tended to get it.

I was Assistant Operation Manager at a very large food manufacturer when I was 27 in 2009. I had just had my first daughter and had been back from maternity leave (the longest I hadn’t worked since the summer before my senior year of high school) for two months. My husband and I had just gotten married the Sunday before when on Tuesday, my boss informed me that I was laid off.

Due to the recent economic crash and the beginning of the recession, company wide lay offs were happening. They had discovered while I was on maternity leave that a cheaper employee could do some of my job while the operations manager would absorb the rest. They also decided that a my job paid too much for someone without a college degree.

That last problem would haunt me for the next several years. After I was laid off, I immediately began to look for a new job. I’d never been out of work before. I brushed up my resume and submitted it all sorts of places. But most every job I applied for, they wanted a college degree. And most of the other applicants had one. I didn’t.

In one year, I had 2 interviews. The first one, I didn’t hear back from afterward. But 9 months after being laid off, I accepted a very part time job as an assistant Bed and Breakfast Manager. It mostly consisted of a few hours a week helping the husband and wife run the B&B and then covering for them on the random weekend off and for their big summer vacation. It was a good job and I was thankful for it but that was the best I could do after almost an entire year of endlessly applying for jobs. That’s just what it was like here in the late aughts. Hardly any jobs for anybody.

I had started to notice after my daughter was born that I wasn’t quite the same as before. My quick mind wasn’t quite as quick and I was so tired.

I attributed these things to being a new mom and not having a job to stimulate and motivate me.

After my employers vacation came and went, and after having some inspiring talks with my female boss, I decided to go back to school. And due to the short time frame, the availability of government grants and a previously subdued life long passion for doing amateur hair and makeup, I decided to go to cosmetology school.

In order to afford school and rent, I used the grant, some student loans and almost all of my husbands inheritance from his grandmother. This didn’t seem risky at the time because I was ambitious, motivated, and had decided on a field with unlimited potential. I was going to do big things. And I’d be able to pay him back.

Hind sight being what it is, that’s a risk we shouldn’t have taken. I didn’t know what the future was to hold.

I’d begun going to the doctor to figure out what wasn’t quite right with me but I was doing okay. I was working my ass off in school and was understandably worn out from it.

I was the top student in the school. Perfect grades, perfect attendance. I participated in every extra curricular. I was in school for only 4 months when I participated and won a competition against the best (and most senior) students in the school. I won trips to a Long Beach hair expo (where I met several hair stylists in the big leagues and was personally invited to apply at a prodigious hair salon in NYC) and a trip to a Chicago hair training course. After my 5th month in school I was chosen by the head of the school to do her very picky mother in laws hair. In my 6th month I was picked as one of two students to assist doing hair and makeup at the Sundance Film Festival. I was not your run of the mill beauty school student. I was already going places. And of course, I expected things to keep going my way. What could go wrong.

With 2 months to go, 2 job offers already under my belt (1 at the school owners salon, the other to teach at the school myself after graduation), and a trip to NYC for job interviews planned for after graduation, I had a breakdown. I couldn’t get out of bed due to pain and lightheadedness, I’d pulled out all of my eyelashes and was picking holes in my skin, I was having blinding headaches, and was completely miserable. I had to take a break from school. I didn’t go back for 6 weeks. I spent most of that time collecting diagnoses and possible diagnoses from a lot of different doctors. Some of those labels I still have. Fibromyalgia, Narcolepsy, Chronic Migraines. Some luckily didn’t come to fruition. Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, and a few other autoimmune disorders. I started treatment and went back to school.

But nothing was the same. I made mistakes I never made before. My grades dropped. My attendance was spotty. The head of the schools mother in law was transferred to someone else. I had a hard time standing up for my appointments and the head of the school started letting me take breaks when I needed to. She had lupus and because we had history and she liked me, she helped me finish up my schooling so I could graduate. Concessions were made for me and I was lucky. I graduated in December of 2011.

I haven’t worked since. I had to decline the job offers because I just kept getting worse. Not long after I applied for federal disability because I needed to support my family somehow. It was an 18 month long process that thankfully ended with approval almost 4 years ago.

To be frank, that was the easy part (and it wasn’t easy at all). The harder part was not working. And being okay with not working. Luckily I loved being a parent and my daughter was a fun toddler so I spent most of my days focused on her. And then my son was born and I got to do the same with him. They were wonderful distractions. It was almost as if it wasn’t that I “couldn’t” work but that I was staying at home with my children instead. Almost.

My daughter is 8 now. My son turns 4 in 3 months. We’re done with the night time feedings, the several naps a day. They don’t take up all of my time like they use to.

I’ve been not dealing with that for a while now. The last 6 months have been some of the worst I’ve had in a decade. I have been writing this blog as an outlet for my mental health. But I’ve also been writing a screenplay. That in itself is it’s own story. And during that time there’s been a hint of something floating around in my head.

Writing this screenplay isn’t just something to do.

It’s the only thing I can do.

I have nothing to offer anymore. I can’t stand or sit. I can’t perform motor functions proficiently. I can’t concentrate consistently or reliably.

Everyone once in a while, I can write. And that’s the only thing I can do anymore to support my family other than being sick.

So for me writing isn’t a hobby. It’s not even a prospective career. It’s a desperation. It’s all I have left of the once motivated, ambitious, successful over achiever I used to be.

It’s me grasping for any semblance of mattering, or participating in a life outside of my home and my family (who I love unconditionally).

There was one line he wrote. It hit too close to home.

“Housewife with medical problems. Self obsessed with you not pulling your own weight.”

He was correct. He was a dick but he was correct.

I’m not sure there is anything I can do about it other than what I’m doing. I’m living my life every day just like I was before. Only now, I’m taking the words out of my head and putting them somewhere else in the hopes that someday they may help me change my life.

Does that make me pathetic? I don’t think so. He can be accurate with out being right. I can be those things without them being an insult. I’m doing the best I can and still trying to make my life better. I think those things are virtuous struggles. And I’m not going to be shamed by them.

Turning that frown upside down. Showing that clouds silver lining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Editor Fall Out

For the last 36 days, my life has been kind of a mess. I’ve had a flicker of inspiration that  I tried to keep alive. When I had words, I pored them all into my screenplay. I was sick a lot and there were many days that I had no words at all. I’ve watched a lot of TV and movies in the last month. When I was tired and empty but felt productive I focused on my other creative outlet, crochet. Yes, I’m 35 and I crochet. I’ve been making a grannie square afghan for over a year and I’m a few rows from being finished. That at least gave me a sense of accomplishment. The last thing that has filled my days has been trying to find a new home for my family. It’s been very hard and very discouraging. There might be places in the U.S. where I can get a two bedroom apartment (we should really have a 3 bedroom, one for each kid) in a good school zone for $800 a month but it’s certainly not anywhere in fucking Utah. We’re planning on leaving Utah soon but can’t yet. More on that another day.

So it’s been a rough month. I have been sick a lot. There have been more days than I can count that I didn’t get out of bed. My pain has been terrible, I’ve been exhausted without relief and mostly in despair with small glimpses of hope and at the very most, okayness. Once in a while I would have days that weren’t just complete shit.

At the end of May, I’d done so much work on my screenplay that it stood at 90 pages. It’s almost done. But there was still some stuff missing and no matter what angle I looked at it, I couldn’t figure out what it was. So I turned to my editor.

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Musings on the job at hand – Logline

So I started a blog but then my computer froze and I kind of don’t feel like writing that one anymore. I’m not sure what I feel like writing now.

I have approximately 25 minutes left sitting here in this mcdonalds while my son plays and my husband is at his own therapy appointment.

I told myself I have to write everyday. But whether that be on the blog, in a journal I have yet to start, as free writes or actually on my screenplay is up to my mood that day.

Having written that, I’ve decided what it is I’m going to write.

The dreaded log line. Or one line. The one to two sentence summary that from what I read can kill your screenplay if it sucks and can get a producer pretty excited if it’s good enough.

I have started reading Save the Cat because it seems that trying to write a screenplay without reading that book is basically just giving up. The first chapter is all about the log line. The author basically says, if you can’t write your log line, then there is something wrong with your screenplay and you need to fix it.

I have several ideas as far as screenplays go but for right now, I’m starting on the big one. The first one. The one I was inspired to write when inspiration struck me for the first time in 5 years. It’s based on one year in my life. Not the worst or even the most eventful but the most literary or cinematic for sure.

I have written log lines already for the next screenplays I plan on writing. But I’m stuck on the current one. I have about 70% of it written and even pretty polished. There’s a chunk in the middle that I hadn’t finished fleshing out before I had to hiatus myself due to my mental and emotional incapacity that’s taken over my life the last two months.

So I’m trying to write my log line. But I’m having a hard time compressing the complicated themes and plot into two intriquing sentences. I’ve got some work to do. Maybe I should just keep writing and hope it’ll come to me. I’d rather not waste anymore time.

 

 

THE END.

I just wrote the entire ending of my screenplay.

The last third of it. All in one sitting. All the way to THE END PERIOD.

I’m still kind of in shock.

I didn’t think today was going to be a writing day. I had planned to finish reading The Disappointments Room screenplay by muse/hero Wentworth Miller and see where that left me. I should have known.

The haunting nature of the screenplay left me with an uncomfortable knot in my chest. There are some difficult themes involved that I’m particularly sensitive to. In that uncomfortable space, I thought to myself. “I should write the fire.”

I knew it was coming. I knew it needed to be done. And I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

I was 5 months pregnant and alone when I was woken up and told there was a fire.

I watched my home burn down while my daughter kicked in my stomach.

It’s a difficult position to find yourself in and distressing to revisit to write about. But I did. Because of the frame of mind reading his screenplay left me in, I sat down and the whole thing poured out of me.

And I didn’t stop. The catharsis of vomiting out this part of my past, left me vulnerable and emotional and nostalgic enough to write the last scenes. It’s incredible.

I’m not sure muse or hero quite cut it. I owe all of this to him. He has inspired me to do all of this. Every word I’ve written is because of him. I hope he knows what a difference he is making. I want him to know how important he is, and how grateful I am for him.

Thank you, W. With love and admiration, R.

The work (or not)

I was so proud of myself for all the writing I did on Sunday! I felt so productive! Then I did some research, and some free writing and made some progress and then… Got a cold. And then started my “meat and chocolate diet”. I plowed ahead even though my head wasn’t in it. And I had a few Eureka moments yesterday. At least I thought I did.

What was it Hemingway said? Was it “write on Nyquil, edit on Dayquil”? No, it wasn’t that at all. I know that now. I think I have to give it some space before I can decide if ravens, milk glass candy jars, thimbles and a Pushing Daisies kind of vibe are fully needed in my screenplay.

So I’m gonna take a day. Watch my new favorite movie, Mr. Right, that I’ve watched 5 times this month. Is it crazy? Yes. Is it weird? Yes. Is it romantic and violent? Hell yes. And I love it. How can you go wrong with Sam Rockwell as a dancing brain damaged assassin and Anna Kendrick as (per usual) my favorite person on the planet.

That and a bath and a dr. pepper sound like a pretty okay substitute for creative outletting on a day as brain fogged and post nasaly drippy as today. Fun times, kids.

Outlet

I meant to start this blog as an outlet for my depression. I accidentally, on the way, found a new outlet and it’s taking over my life a little bit. I’ve been using all my words up so I have none left to write for my blog. I’m not complaining here. It’s been f-cking great!

I spent two hours today sitting in a Del Taco (with a play center for kids!) watching my kids play, eating “street tacos” and writing my screenplay. I have 3 finished scenes. I have the entire script planned out, and every scene outlined. I can’t believe that I’m actually doing this.

I have an editor! I connected with an old high school friend who just so happens to have a lit degree, worked for 8 years as a journalist and writes comics. It’s been great! He’s helping me yank some feelings out of my boarded up chest that I’ve kept buried for a very long time. It hurts and it made me want to get violently drunk (I didn’t) but it’s also so incredible. He’s actually the perfect counterpart because he’s all heart and motivation and structure. And I’m all grammatically correct, logistically solid and semantically precise. He’s making me get messy. Super helpful!

And now, to bring it back down. There’s one unfortunate aspect of this. When you become disabled, you begin to mourn. You go through the 5 stages of grief (again and again and again) for the life that you lost. The life that you would have had were you not sick. That process started for me 6 years ago when I had to stop working. I mourned

I mourned the me that had plans to move to NYC to become stupidly successful.  The me that was ambitious and determined and devoted to doing whatever was necessary (and unharmful) for me to get where I wanted to be. I had to be okay with less. I had to be okay with my life becoming smaller. Find contentment in the littler world that became my space. I had to turn my career work ethic into parental work ethic. I had to learn to find greater satisfaction through the things I could learn, see, and hear rather than do or experience for myself.

My son was born during this time. I loved being pregnant with him and have loved every single day of his little life. He has made the adjustment from an ambitious motivated doer to a sedate, tranquil watcher much easier than it would have been otherwise. But he’s 3 now. He demands much less of my time.

That brings me back to my screenplay. What I found last month when I was lost and depressed was something like hope, and ambition and commitment. I haven’t had those things for a long time now. I’ve learned to live without them. I’ve learned to do “what I can when I can” and not expect more from myself. Because for a long time, there was nothing else to give.

So while this is great and fantastic and inspiring, it’s also a bit painful. And startling. And terrifying to be honest. I wasn’t prepared for this jarring change in my life. I wasn’t prepared for this rock dropped in my pond. What if I end up just hurting myself? What if all I end up doing is failing.

That thought is almost enough to make me stop. To self preserve myself into a coma. But I’m not okay with that anymore. I’ve felt that spark of hope in my chest. I have that kernel of inspiration in my head and it’s not going anywhere. I will be cautious. I will be practical. But I am going to do this work. And in the end. I really am f-cking excited about it.