A True Broadway Revival

One of the things I’ve been working the hardest on in my recovery (and there are a LOT of things) is being able to feel alive again. Back in May, I got an email from The Writers’ Store that said Jen Grisanti was going to be leading a TV writing workshop in New York in August and my intuition was practically screaming at me to go. I knew I was going to be leaving my job in the next couple of weeks and couldn’t really afford a vacation, but I knew I had to go. I’m proud to say that I went this weekend and my trip was even more amazing that I imagined it would be.

But let’s rewind for a second because the beach is where it started.

I’m a Pisces, so being around water is something that I need more often than not; and even though I live on the Atlantic Coast, I don’t get to the beach nearly as often as I should. In June, I went to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for the first time in nearly three years. The last time I went was not a good memory for me even though I love the town, so I talked my family into going since they’d never been there.  As it turns out, digging my toes into that cold sand under a glorious sunset was just what my soul needed. It was a much needed first step towards reconnecting with the Universe, humanity, and myself – something that I’ve been looking for a way to do for a long time. We ate sandwiches at Louie’s Pizza with a big shared bucket of Thrasher’s fries, went to a fun little restaurant on the main drag called Dos Locos, and I finally got a nice kite and a little steel model of the Empire State Building that you can put together at the Rehoboth Toy and Kite Company. Everyone had such a good time that we went back in July and Lord Voldemort came with us the second time.

 

 

I got a tan! I had delicious non-dairy ice cream! I got my pants all wet getting smacked by a wave! (Trust me; this happens nearly every time I try to dip a limb in a natural body of water, no matter how calm it is.) I was so relaxed that I even started going to bed at a decent hour; but when we returned home, I was once again stuck in my stagnation suckhole. I was stuck on the pilot I’ve been working on, paralyzed by the prospect of freelancing (even though I know I can do it), and falling into a major funk of the monotony of every day. I needed a way out of this that no amount of mediation/affirmations/exercise /journaling/personal growth has been able to fix. Dent, yes. Fix, not so much. But I was still really happy! (Gratitude – now that will get you somewhere.) And I knew my trip to New York was coming up! I love New York City. I really, really do. It’s a known fact that I really wasn’t on board at first, but it grew on me like a fungus on the subway walls. Like all true loves, mine has grown over time; and after this trip, I love New York now more than ever.

I took the Amtrak up on Friday morning and the creative juices were flowing by the time I got to Philly. CC#1 serenaded me and then I put on a little Frankie Valli (I just have to listen to the Four Seasons when I’m in Jersey. It’s an internal law. They’re my all-time favorite group and it makes me happy. And we all know how much I love Frankie.) Stuff just started to flow.

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Oh! Hey, Philly!

I’d written another couple of pages of notes in the next half hour or so; and by the time I saw the New York City skyline, I felt this indescribable feeling of being at home. At true peace for the first time in a long time. I got off the train and walked over a mile in 94-degree heat (read: melted for the first of many times this weekend) with a suitcase and a bag and ended up walking further than I had to because I couldn’t find my hotel. And I was totally okay with that.

You’re probably asking, “Melissa, why didn’t you just get a cab?” The answer to that is one of the following: I didn’t want to spend the money, I like the exercise, I like to explore, or I’m a glutton for punishment. Probably all of the above.

I stopped and asked a couple of different people a couple of different times which way the Mayfair is, and they both pulled out their phones and Google Maps’d it for me. New Yorkers get such a bad rap for being rude, but I have yet to meet a surly New Yorker. They’ve all been quite pleasant.

Finally, after about an hour of going, “Where the hell is it? It’s supposed to be right here!” I realized that I passed it about four times without even noticing. It’s an adorable little walkup that was probably once someone’s house at the turn of the century (I truly love those kinds of hotels) right in the heart of the Theater District (which I didn’t even realize – score!) only half a block from Times Square, right next to the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. I was in heaven. For real. But let’s talk about this room because I just fell in love with it.

 

Little nooks! That wallpaper! Remote controlled air conditioner! A step-in closet! How adorable is this? And with soundproof walls? YES! (*Note: You know you’re in New York when you ask how soundproof the soundproof walls are and the staff doesn’t think you’re weird. I have singing exercises to practice every day and night. I’ve been taking singing lessons since May. I’ve always wanted to. I’m pretty fantastic and it’s lit a whole new fire in me.) I also found a great little plaza that would become one of my favorite little spots for the duration of my trip right behind Mother Burger.

Jen’s workshop was OUTSTANDING and I came away with some new friends, some new perspective, and a little more internal angst than I’d gone in with but in a good way. Basically, I’d been advised that I have to make sort of a Sophie’s Choice of dreams, at least in the beginning, and put laser focus on only one of them. One requires me to be in New York, the other in Los Angeles. I’m still trying to figure out which one to pursue first because I love both of them equally.

After the workshop finished on Saturday evening, I just wanted to walk around the city and explore a little more. It’s something I do every time I travel, even if it’s somewhere I’ve been many times, because I always find something new. I’d never thoroughly explored Broadway/the Theater District, so I went on a mission to see as much as I could. I found the August Wilson Theater (home of Jersey Boys) and the Neil Simon Theater (hooray!) at exactly the wrong time.

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More pictures!

 

It was a fortuitous thing because I met a really cool couple coming out of Cats, which has apparently revived and stars Leona Lewis! (I still love Bleeding Love.) This just happens to me in New York. I always make friends with a really cool couple. I also found out that I was right down the street from Caroline’s, I watched a guy light a cigarette with a candle lighter, got catcalled a couple of times (I think – it wasn’t in English or Spanish), saw another couple having a nothing fight, melted some more, found a Scientology church, and had a Frozen Blue Hawaiian at Caffebene – delicious. Refreshing, too. Highly recommend. Oh, and I melted some more.

On Sunday morning, I was really hankering for a bagel before I had to check out at noon, so I checked out Yelp! and found a place nearby that had tofu cream cheese. I took the long way around again; but I eventually found Pick A Bagel, a little place on the outskirts of the Theater District that is famous for great bagels and long lines. I’m happy to say that it moved quickly and the bagel was absurdly huge, delicious, and filling. I checked out and hung out in Central Park for about three hours, got some information from Ellen’s Stardust Diner (if you haven’t figured out Dream #2 yet, you should know by now), picked up my bags, watched my phone almost get run over, and melted some more.

More places that I checked out (and you should, too):

  • Blossom du Jour – Hell’s Kitchen – I got the Buffalo Wrap and wasn’t disappointed.
  • Pick A Bagel – Theater District – Whole Wheat Everything with Tofu Cream Cheese (YUM!)
  • The Pocketful Food Truck – Falafels are excellent and the pockets are enormous
  • ScentElate – 48th Street – A tiny crystal store with a lot of cool gems and metaphysical stuff

On the way home, I was still buzzing with creative energy when I got stuck in the Great Northeastern Corridor Fiasco of August 14th, 2016 (Train 135 – woot woot! More on this and how I dealt with the absurdity of it over at melissawillis.net. Here’s the link.) And I finally put together the little Empire State Building model today.

I feel so rejuvenated, so creative, so inspired, so sure that good things are going happen for me, and that both of my dreams will survive and thrive no matter which I choose first. My intuition and the Universe will make sure of it. I came away a different person – the thrill of Broadway and all of its possibilities still pulsating through me – one who’s not just living, but truly alive. That, my friends, is priceless.

 

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Stop – Ledecky Time (And Other Things I’m Excited about for Rio 2016)

Maryland-printable-flag

Greetings, friends!

My humble little state has been in the spotlight quite a bit lately. Not for having the best flag in the country this glorious flag, unfortunately, though it should get more attention for that. It’s a little busy. There’s a lot going on there, I know. Seriously, though – is there really another one this cool? (No. The answer is no.)

Anyway, the news hasn’t all been great; but I wanted to take a minute at the beginning of this post to celebrate the 7th state because it’s where I was born, have lived most of my life, and I share that honor with these two prime examples of Olympic Badassery.

The greatest swimmer of all time and the person who may challenge him for that title. Michael Phelps is doing Michael Phelps things. Katie Ledecky is doing superhuman things. And I’m loving every minute of it. Other Marylanders on the US Olympic Swim Team include Jack Conger and Chase Kalisz, so I’ll be watching them, too. We also have endless soundbite favorite Ryan Lochte to look forward to. Fun story about Katie Ledecky: She threw out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game I was at sometime in 2013 and she was really adorable. She was all of 16 years old – and she was already an Olympic gold medalist. Just think about that for a minute.

I’m also loving the shade between the Russian and American women’s teams. It’s like Rocky IV, only with women and swimming. Lilly King is my spirit animal. I can’t wait to see how this drama unfolds.

While I’m really excited about all the swimtastical goodness, my absolute favorite is women’s gymnastics. I am rooting so hard for these girls, I can’t even tell you; but the person I’m the most behind is Simone Biles.

She has overcome seemingly every obstacle possible to get to this point and she flies higher than everyone else (forget for a second that she’s only 4’8″). I want greatness for her and for her grandparents. What a great story. And I just love Aly Raisman. I love them all. I especially hope that 41 year-old vaulter medals because she’s 41, she’s still doing it, and she still looks great doing it.

I had the interesting thought the other day where I’m usually considered too short to do most Olympic sports (obviously volleyball and basketball would be huge stretches, pardon the pun), but probably too tall to ever be a gymnast. One of the Russian girls is 5’3″ and that freaked me out a little bit because she’s an inch taller than me. Weird.

Whatever the outcomes, I know all of our athletes will make us proud.

GO TEAM USA!

Photo Credits: Michael Phleps via CNN; Katie Ledecky via The Washington Post; Simone Biles via USA Gymnastics; Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team via USA Gymnastics 

 

 

 

We Won’t Forget You, Molly

There’s certain moment of clarity when a national disaster turns highly personal. What started as a week of celebration – Monday was Independence Day here in the U.S. – quickly turned into a week of tension, turmoil, and murder. I was disturbed when I read about Alton Sterling. I was deeply upset to see what happened with Philando Castile. I watched in horror as police were gunned down live on national television by an unstable, angry man. But nothing – NOTHING – could prepare me for this weekend.

This is Molly.

Molly

Dr. Molly Macauley. Up until about two months ago, she was one of my two bosses. I was her assistant for a little over a year. As the Vice President for Research and a Senior Fellow who had her own research projects, one of the few space economists in the world, and a member of several prominent boards (including NASA), she was always incredibly busy and her schedule was always jam packed. When she offered me the job, she said, “Just because I email in the middle of the night doesn’t mean I expect you to.” We had an excellent working relationship. We talked about my dream of becoming a screenwriter and she always had unwavering faith that I would succeed. When I went to the Austin Film Festival last October, she left a stuffed elephant and a good luck note on my desk before I left. At our holiday party, she dragged me and our other team member into the photo booth and took goofy pictures with us. When I decided to leave in May to pursue writing full-time, she gave me a card that said, “With every expectation that I’ll see you on the red carpet,” and told me how brave I was for making such a decision. That was just Molly. She was one of the kindest, brightest, most supportive people I’ve ever met and she had that effect on everyone.

I received a call from a dear friend on Saturday morning, sobbing, to tell me that Molly was murdered on Friday night – stabbed to death, just down the street from her home in Baltimore by a currently unknown assailant while walking her two dogs. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. Molly Macauley: Sophisticated, brilliant, charming, light-up-a-room Molly. World-changing economist Molly. Molly, who always supported and encouraged my dreams, who treated me as a friend despite the fact that I was her subordinate, and who loved and was loved by everyone she met.

I don’t want to think about how she died. How scared she must have been and how much pain she must have been in. How she was in one of her favorite places near the alma mater she loved, in the city she loved, with the dogs she loved. About the lunch we were going to have that will now never be. About a good woman who brought so much to the world that someone decided to rob us all of. I want to think about all of the good memories I have of her – and there are a lot – including our last conversation and hug. That’s the Molly I’ll always remember.

So why am I telling you, a bunch of strangers that I’ve never met, about my personal recollections of my now-deceased friend/former boss? Because her life mattered. It mattered to everyone she knew. I don’t want her to be some statistic that ends up lost in the chaos that our country is in right now or some cold case that everyone forgets about. She was a real person that many of us who knew her cared about. I want her legacy to be about the great things that she did as an economist and how she touched everyone she met. I want people to know about the Molly that I knew. I don’t want her legacy to be as a murder victim that furthers racial divide in this country because she would never want that. She’d want better for all of us.

It’s been really hard to find the good in the world this week. It’s been really damn hard. My heart is broken. It breaks for my country, the innocent lives that were lost this week and the ones that are sure to come next, and for Molly – a beautiful soul taken from us way too soon. Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I’m looking, and that, too, is really damn hard. I’m trying to find the good in people despite seeing some really hateful things from too many this week. That has been the hardest thing yet.

But I refuse to believe that this is our reality. We’re better than this. We need to talk to each other, listen to each other, and not make everything a pissing contest about who has it worse. We need to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. We need to realize that we are all someone’s puppet and they are enjoying watching us literally destroy each other. One of the greatest things I’ve learned on this new spiritual path is that everything in life is a choice. Everything. We can choose to be victims or choose to be champions. We can choose to keep killing each other or put it all aside and get along. My choice is that I will not let any of these people die in vain. I choose to love everyone. I choose to be a helper. Which will you choose?

Rest easy, Molly. I’ll miss you beyond words.

Photo Credit: RFF

I’ve Made Some Decisions – I’m a Badass

universe

Lately, I’ve become really committed to working on another part of my life that’s gone really haywire in recent years – spirituality. I’ve spent most of this particular journey looking for ways to improve my life and get out of my own way in my writing, my career, my creativity, and my life in general; and in doing my due diligence, I’ve found many of the answers I was looking for. I’ve never been one to fear walking away from things that no longer serve me, so it should come as no surprise that I quit my job a little over a month ago. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve also decided that I will never be pigeonholed into a position that doesn’t reflect my values, limits my potential, or takes me three steps backward when I should be moving forward ever again.

In moving forward, I spent the next two weeks binge watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and writing (what I hope is) an unproven yet totally kick ass spec that I submitted to the Warner Brothers Writers’ Workshop along with my old New Girl spec. I spent every waking minute on it and hours of sleep were few and far between. It was laborious, but I loved every second of it. I couldn’t wait to start my next project.

Only I didn’t.

I’d planned to write a Togetherness spec because I really loved the show, it was on the approved show list, and I had already started working on some plot ideas before HBO announced that it had been canceled; but I ultimately decided it would probably be in my best interest to work on a show that was still on the air.

But I didn’t do that either.

My whole plan for making money after I quit my job was to do some freelance work because I feel like it’s something that I could enjoy, I would have the flexibility to do my work whenever and wherever I please, I’d get to practice pitching every single day so I could be an elevator pitch pro when the moment arrives, and I’d be my own boss. Not a bad gig. But guess what?

I haven’t pitched anything yet.

So I’ve been digging deeper to see what my problem is and why I keep self-sabotaging. Why can’t I make myself do the things I desperately want to do? I’d been following Amy Jo Berman’s Masterclass advice to turn things around and things seemed like they were really starting to change. It works. It really does. But I wanted to dig deeper still. So I listened to Marie Forleo‘s  Make Every Man Want You (I know, the title is exceptionally eyeroll-worthy and I would have probably passed on buying it because I’m just not down with that kind of cheese or topic), which was more about manifestation and living in the moment and being your fabulous self. I also listened to her current freebie, How to Get Anything You Want. Lots of good information and helpful tricks that piggybacked Amy’s, but I needed more. So then I went to the Queen of Manifestation, I started tapping with Brad Yates, I began to use a lot of Rhoda Shapiro‘s exercises and wisdom, and yet still, I just couldn’t make myself do it. Finally, I bought these two books: You Are a Badass on an uneventful trip to Target and How to Journal and Make Shit Happen today on Amazon. Finally, we’re getting somewhere.

What I came to find out in my spirituality/self-discovery journey is that I’m not quite the agnostic I thought I was. I’ve dipped my toe in Lake Fickle when it comes to what I believe in – Jesus, Buddha, Hindu deities – I’ve even been to a Reform Jewish service. I still sample from the religious buffet. I like elements of each and I’m not getting rid of my crucifixes or Ganesha or Tara or Buddha statues anytime soon. Spirituality is all about what you want it to be – your relationship with the great unknown – and I choose to hold on to elements of all faiths because they’re all sort of similar anyway, but I’ve found my spirit match in learning all about this manifestation business. The Universe. To some, it might even be God. It still could be, but I’m not assigning it any name other than what it is to me and boy is it GREAT!

What I’ve learned about the Universe is that it wants to give you everything you ask for. In fact, it does! You just have to be aware of what you’re asking for and that you’re asking for it. With this newfound information, I’ve been changing my life all over the place. I know that the Universe is paying attention to what I say and think, so I’m changing my words and thinking by ridding myself of unwanted limiting beliefs and replacing them with affirmations. I’m using the power of visualization. I’m keeping a gratitude journal and writing down at least 10 things that I’m grateful for each day. I even manifested an extra $750 into my checking account just by asking for it, eliminating my limiting beliefs about money, and visualizing it. Amazing stuff.

But still, STILL, I feel a little stuck. So I thought about this a little more and now I’m ready to kick some ass. Here’s a piece of what I wrote in my journal tonight, as my parting thought:

I keep thinking about all these things that are stopping me from being exactly who I want to be and doing exactly what I want to do and it pisses me off. IT’S MY CHOICE! It’s ALL my choice! If I want to live in New York City or Los Angeles or both (and I do!), I will live in New York City and Los Angeles! If I want to be a famous Broadway badass a la Lin Manuel-Miranda or create the next Kimmy Schmidt or write/make an independent film, I will do them all! If I want to date ____* (and boy do I!), he’d better get ready because he’s mine. The truth is that I am unstoppable – as unstoppable as a freight train full of fuck yeah!** – and the only thing that’s stopping me right now from doing all of those things is me. And I choose to stop cockblocking myself of bigger and better things. I’m ready to kick some serious life ass. I don’t care what anyone says, thinks, or does because in the end, this is no one’s life but mine and will be no one’s regret but mine. And I’m not about having regrets. My life is my story and it will be a damn good one.

Now I’m going to go kick some ass and get all the stuff I’ve been putting off done. I hope if you’re reading this that you do, too.

 

*CC#1, who’s name is obviously redacted.

**From How to Be a Badass.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Thomas via Unsplash cc

Penny Dreadful Post-Mortem: John Logan Killed Us All

 

Episode 309
Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). – Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME – Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

A few years ago, I heard about this little show that Showtime was creating about supernatural monster-hunters in Victorian London, using classic literary characters, with death as one of its major themes. I was on board well before I knew that Josh Hartnett, who plays an expatriate American sharpshooter from the Old West, the formidable ex-Bond Timothy Dalton playing a forlorn explorer, and fan favorite Who-vian companion Billie Piper as a doomed prostitute, were cast. I was not prepared for the awesomeness that is Eva Green, our lovable yet cursed heroine, Vanessa Ives, or Rory Kinnear as Dr. Frankenstein’s social outcast “first born.” They are stellar. If they don’t each walk away with an Emmy this year, there is something seriously wrong with the system; but I’ll get back to that in a minute.

I’ve been a faithful viewer of the Penny Dreadful demimonde since the pilot, “Night Work,” first aired. Though the episodes could be a bit slow, the stories were always riveting, the characters were always true to themselves and their nature, they left us the most subtle of hints of things that were to come – so subtle, in fact, that if you didn’t hang on every word, you’d miss a clue – and the writers never glossed over the particularly unpleasant parts of Victorian life in London. In fact, they embraced them and shoved them in our unwilling faces; and we, the faithful of the demimonde, loved every second of it. The thing that really made Penny Dreadful a standout series for me, though, was the dialogue. As someone who happens to write scripts, I can attest to the fact that dialogue is often the hardest thing to perfect and the dialogue in Penny Dreadful was always perfect – flowery and sumptuous, like a Keats poem being whispered in your ear. Easily one of the best shows on television.

Last night’s double dose of a season finale had all the makings of an epic battle that had building all season – all series – long. The Lupus Dei vs. Dracula. Good vs. Evil. Light vs. Darkness. Vanessa vs. Herself. Add to that the sub-themes of misogyny vs. misandry and the rise of women’s rights, the ethics of medicine and how far is too far, and a reluctant hero who just wants to save the woman he loves from evil. And Patti LuPone. Patti LuPone fighting a herd of vampires. Just when you think this world couldn’t be more fantastic.

The first episode began with the crew searching for Vanessa, who had finally submitted to evil after falling in love with the charming Dr. Sweet/Dracula (Christian Camargo aka The Ice Truck Killer. Apparently this guy has serial killer written all over him – but he’s great.) A fog has fallen over London, killing citizens by the thousands, and the city has become a veritable ghost town. Sir Malcom (Dalton), Ethan (Hartnett), and Kaeteny  (Wes Studi), Ethan’s spiritual father, return to London to Sir Malcom’s mansion to find her only to find a hanging wolf corpse and more people looking for her – Dr. Steward (LuPone), her therapist/alienist, and supreme badass Catriona Hartdegen (played brilliantly by Perdita Weeks), new friend and death expert. Eventually, Dr. Seward is able to manipulate her turned secretary, Renfield, through hypnosis to lead the gang to where Vanessa is so they can save her. YES! Our epic battle! While Ethan and Kaetenay enter from the rear (hey oh!), Sir Malcom and Co. decide to fight and die to save Vanessa and the world. If you needed further proof of the badassery of Catriona and Patti LuPone, it’s here. Sir Malcom asks them if they’re ready to accept their fates, to which Catriona replies something like, “It’s different from any other Tuesday,” and Dr. Seward looks Dracula straight in the face and says, “Fuck him.” Ethan and Kaeteny finally arrive to save the gang and Ethan goes to find Vanessa. She’s in a room full of lit candles, alone, brooding, knowing she’ll never escape either Lucifer or Dracula. They have a loooooooong discussion back and forth of –

Ethan: Come with me, Vanessa. I’ll save you.

Vanessa: Please kill me.

Ethan: Okay

-and he finally grants her wish, shooting her once in the abdomen and sealing it with a kiss of love. D’awwww?

As for the others, Frankenstein releases Lily (after an amazing 8-minute monologue that is probably also Emmy-worthy for Piper), infuriating Jekyll, who reveals he will now be Lord Hyde with the death of his father. John Clare/The Creature’s (Kinnear) happy family reunion is no more as his son finally dies and his wife asks him to take him to Frankenstein to resurrect him. He takes his wrapped body to the Thames and lets him go, essentially letting his wife go as well, letting little Jack have a dignified death rather than the have him experience the pain he has and will forever have to live with. Dorian kicks all of Lily’s acolytes out of his house and mercifully murders her HBIC, Justine, who says she’d rather die on her feet than live on her knees. Lily returns to find her there, dead, and she and Dorian discuss immortality – he says it’s easier not to care and she just can’t bring herself to that level of unfeeling. She leaves him and he says he’ll wait for her to return. Or not.

Back to the warehouse. Ethan carries Vanessa’s dead body out into the fracas, the fog lifts, they bury her. Creature hides in the woods at her funeral and caresses her grave when they leave. Then, those two brutal words – “THE END.”

*Deep breath*

Okay, so I have a lot of thoughts and questions about this.

  • John Logan is a brilliant man. He gave us Gladiator! But what the hell was he thinking not telling us that this was a SERIES finale rather than a season finale? He said in an interview today that it was a surprise and, in life, death is immediate, so he wanted it to be true to life. BUT, SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL???
  • Where did Dracula go when Ethan carried Vanessa’s body out? Wasn’t he pissed? Did he just fly off all emo-like to Transylvania? Was it “Eff this shit o’clock?” He just looked into the distance and they cut scene.
  • If three seasons was John Logan’s plan all along, why did he even bring in Jekyll who, IMO, was completely under-utilized? Or Catriona for the same reason? We hardly knew ye, and we deserved more.
  • If three seasons was John Logan’s plan all along, why did they still leave so many loose ends?
  • I’m still annoyed that Ethan and Brona/Lily never ran into each other after she was resurrected. I’ve been waiting for that reunion this whole time.
  • Something about Vanessa’s death still doesn’t sit right with me.
  • Can we have a spinoff with Catriona and Dr. Seward? Pretty please?

I feel a lot better about it about it about 18 hours later, but I wish we’d had one more season. It’s hard to invest multiple years invested in these people and then have them gone without warning. With acting this phenomenal all around, it’s hard to single out anyone for awards because they were all so good. Even Brian Cox’s two-episode turn as Ethan’s dastardly bio-dad was mesmerizing. But I think the standouts, for sure, were Green and Kinnear. They were just unbelievable. You don’t have to look any further than “A Blade of Grass,” which was the most outstanding episode of the series despite only three characters appearing in it.

I’m going to miss this show more than words can say, but thank you to everyone involved for making my Sunday nights a little more inviting. And a special thanks to John Logan for sharing his world with us.

 

 

 

There Are No Words (Or Too Many)

orlando

I’ve been thinking all day about what to say about what happened in Orlando last night and I’ve been rendered – maybe for one of the only times in my life – speechless. I keep trying to come up with words to express my sorrow or even just how I feel and there’s nothing but emptiness. I can’t even guarantee that the words will come out right on this little platform o’ mine, but I’m sure as hell going to try.

I don’t know why this is so surprising. It’s commonplace in the good ol’ US of A these days to express condolences to the friends and families of someone (or a lot of someones) being senselessly gunned down at work, at school, at a club – just living their lives until they aren’t anymore because some nut with a gun and an agenda decides it’s time for them to die. It’s practically a daily occurrence anymore. The latest high profile attempted mass shooting happened just the night before, also in Orlando, when another lunatic shot Christina Grimmie as she greeted fans after a show. And before that, just a week and a half ago on the UCLA campus when some dude got all pissy about his PhD and killed his mentor and his estranged wife. I could go on and on and on. But for some reason, to me, this one is different. Not because it’s the worst mass shooting in US history. Not because it happened in the backyard of the happiest place on Earth. This piece of human excrement targeted a specific group of people because he didn’t agree with their lifestyle choices. As if that’s reason enough to kill upwards of 50 people. To add insult to injury, gay men still cannot donate blood after the an all-out attack on their community.

Tonight, I grieve for the lives lost in this horrible, inexplicable tragedy. I grieve for the futures deprived of these people, the potential we all lost in losing them, the goodness the world has been robbed of with them in it, and the partners, parents, siblings, friends, and loved ones of these poor souls. I grieve for the survivors who will never see the world in the same way. I grieve for those who were injured who will find out that their best friend or partner didn’t make it. I grieve for gay men in Orlando who feel helpless and urged to do something, but are still being turned away simply for being who they are. I weep for America and its 2nd Amendment identity crisis. I hurt on behalf of the LGBT community for what they must feel right now and what they must face every single day of their lives. I fear for a future where no one is safe anywhere anymore because they could be snuffed out by a psycho with an assault rifle at any second. Take a quick look around. The world looks like a horrible, hopeless, heartless, terrifying Dystopian reality.

But it isn’t.

For as many awful things that happen the world over every single day, there is always goodness to be found. The lines for the blood donation centers in Orlando today. Some people waited upwards of seven hours to donate. The unity people have shown with the LGBT community since this terrible tragedy. How much of their time, money, blood, and tears people are willing to give after something like this happens. It’s hard to see; but if you look closely, the world is full of hope. It’s that hope that keeps us going. It’s the hope that there is a brighter future and we won’t have to experience things like this every day – or at all – anymore. The hope that someday this will all be a horrible period in American history that still seems like it never happened.We can hope for a future where we don’t have to wait for a list of victims’ identities or shooter identifications or share our condolences with an endless number of families. Sometimes hope is all we have.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy. May you soon find peace.

For anyone who wishes to, you can donate to the Pulse Nightclub victims or Christina Grimmie‘s Go Fund Me pages or if you’re in the greater Orlando area, please visit  www.oneblood.org  to find a donation center near you. 

Great Expectations

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Over lunch today, I overheard an interesting conversation between the ladies at the table next to mine. Woman #1 was lamenting to Woman #2 about how some guy she’d opened her heart to blew her off and how disappointing it was, especially since he was so disengaged in the final conversation with her. Then she said she went on a date with another guy last weekend and it wasn’t really working out because he was cocky and kind of an asshat, so she decided to tell him that she wanted to leave. He said, “We should go to my car first.” Woman #2 says, “What does he mean ‘we’? There is no ‘we’!” Woman #1 agrees with her and says, “But we went to his car and he gets out this bag and I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ and he says, ‘Oh, just grabbing my overnight bag.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa! I’ve only known you for about 20 minutes.'”

I wish you could see my face right now. I’m indignant on this woman’s behalf. Who the hell does this guy think he is? (Hill Douche, I’m guessing. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior isn’t Hill Douche exclusive, though.)  You might be asking yourself, “Melissa, why are you so upset about this? You don’t even know her.” Why? Because I’ve experienced similar acts of disrespect. Because this problem is all too common for women in this day and age. Because this shit needs to stop. Right fucking now.

Naturally, I started to think about the times when I wanted to smack some dude’s lips off of his face for being a raging imbecile who was thinking with the wrong head, and I had a handful of examples in under 5 seconds. Like the guy several years ago who responded to my Craigslist ad about something completely unrelated and kept insisting I send him pictures of my boobs despite the fact that I a) only talked to him once – on AIM; b) was teaching at the time; c) I had the flu. He wouldn’t let up, so I blocked him in all ways possible. Or the other guy who responded to the same ad and told me he wanted a “friends with benefits situation” during our first conversation with each other. His definition of “friends with benefits” stated that we would not share meals together, we would not hang out together outside of the benefiting, I would come and go when he told me to, and some other bullshit that I don’t even remember. That is not a friend with anything, buddy -that’s a prostitute. The only person benefiting is you. And I’m sure it’s not even that beneficial. If he’s that selfish outside of the bedroom, imagine what he’s like in it. So I blocked him, too. The two guys in the club not too long after that who kept smacking my ass while I was just trying to dance with my friend until I belted one of them. Most recently (I think – I hope), the guy in Austin who spent all night canoodling with my friend and tried to hook up with me after she left. The other guy who asked my friend why girls don’t put out more. And those are just the ones I could think of that quickly.

All of those guys wondering why poor, innocent, nice them can’t get laid. Girls are mean and just don’t understand them. Why don’t girls ever go for the “nice” guy? Well, fellas, I have your answer(s).

The problem isn’t us, it’s you. You’re not as nice as you think you are, for one thing. For another, we’re not girls and we’re not sex objects (unless we choose to be in a fun and frisky (and safe) way – we’re women. Finally, because we have standards. We’re not going to jump into bed with you or show you tit pics or whatever the hell else you want just because you have a penis. It doesn’t make you special. There are literally millions of other guys men out there who have the same equipment who might show us a modicum of respect. They might even *gasp* make an effort to get to know us first. Without sexual harassment! Was this guy and all of the others listed above hoping they might get some good hate-screwing out of a bad date? Is that even enjoyable at that point? You’re not entitled to anyone’s vagina. No one would have to “get lucky” if they were doing it right in the first place.

So here’s a novel idea for you, guys: Stop treating women like objects, be at least a little bit charming and genuine, and try to make it through at least half a meal together before you start expecting us to worship your penis, okay? Then we wouldn’t feel the need to complain to our friends about it over lunch. Or blog about it.

Remember what I said earlier? Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that dick.

That should be my motto or something. Maybe I’ll put it on a t-shirt.

Contractually Manifesting My New Life

 

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Good Saturday Evening to you (or Sunday, wherever you may be on this wonderful, vast planet)!

I’ve had, what the psychology folks call, a “watershed moment.”

I just finished Gala Darling‘s “Radical Self-Love,” (I keep wanting to call her Gayla Peevey for some reason – totally not the same person) which doesn’t need much explanation because it’s pretty self-explanatory. This was my Thursday night impulse buy and I’m done by Saturday night – record time!* I’ve also been listening to these Deepak Chopra affirmations every morning on the bus and every night as I go to sleep. I’m not sure if it’s those two things or something completely different, but something has finally clicked.

For a few years now, I’ve been trying to “fix” myself. I’ve been trying to fix my PTSD for almost two years – mostly contained – and fix my creative block, which is still iffy. I’ve also been trying to fix my inner voice, which has come a long way lately. There’s nothing wrong with a consistent effort to improve yourself, right?

Here’s the thing I realized: There’s nothing wrong with me.

Well, nothing except my relationship with myself. To say it’s been…tumultuous…would probably be pretty accurate.  I haven’t always been great to myself and I often put others ahead of myself – their feelings, their opinions, even their happiness.

What in the ever-loving shit is that about?

Then I wondered why bad things would always happen to me. Why did I seem to always attract frienemies, abysmal teachers, soul-sucking jobs, and, for the most part, even worse men?** I mean, how did this motley crew of assholes keep finding/picking/targeting me?

I’ve had an inkling for a while now that, despite my polar-opposite conscious belief, I’ve been dealing with some subconscious victim mentality shit. I’ve had some non-productive and sometimes destructive inner dialogue that doesn’t jive with who I really want to be and doesn’t serve me anymore. It never has. And so, as it were, I have some public declarations to make. Proclamations, even.

My Contract with the Universe – March 19, 2016

I. I, Melissa Willis, right here and right now, take full responsibility for the course of my life up to this very moment and, thus, pledge to have thoughts, make decisions, and take actions that will serve me well and are in my best interest. It’s no one’s responsibility but mine to care for me or love me unconditionally.

II. I agree that my relationship with myself is now the #1 relationship in my life and is a top priority. I promise to love, honor, and care for myself religiously from this day forward with proper sleep (ooooh, challenging!), nutrition, exercise, mental clarity, stress management, fun, creativity, and pampering.

III. I also agree that my second most important relationship is with the universe. I agree to love myself unconditionally, to end all negative self-talk (which I’ve essentially done for months now, but occasionally that asshole inner critic calls out from under their rock), to put good thoughts out into the world, to stop worrying, stop complaining, and put maximum effort into being happy every day. (Three days in and the difference is already palpable.) I also believe that I am 100% taken care of. I’m all-in and ready to make any and all necessary changes to live the life of my dreams and a life that I love. To throw caution to the wind. To ride or die. I trust the universe completely to take care of the rest and manifest what I desire as long as I continue to ask for it. (Successful writing career and the pull to be in some of my own stuff, Celebrity Crush #1 as my main squeeze, house by the beach, touch as many lives as I can…just to name a few.) I understand that what I think and feel I manifest, and I choose nothing but happiness and dreams.

IV. I understand that de-cluttering all aspects of my life is essential to my well-being and vital to my growth and manifestation. I also understand that Packratism is not a genetic disorder. The things I decide to bring into my life and home should serve a purpose for long-term happiness rather than momentary pleasure. Happiness should come from within rather than from the outside world and filling my life with nonsensical things leads to a cluttered living space, a cluttered mind, an empty bank account, and no solution to my problems.

V. I agree that this is the first day of the rest of my life and I can’t wait to begin!

Sincerely,

(Insert signature here)

Melissa Willis

I never imagined things could get this good. I used to spend my Saturday nights getting drunk off of Valenzano while watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which, let’s face it, is still a pretty rockin’ Saturday night because Valenzano is delicious and Jason Segel is amazing***. Now, I’m using those nights to improve my life, set goals, and think of ways to write my own signature story. It’s still something I will do occasionally (*cough* drunk dirty talk to the Segel *cough* Don’t tell CC#1!), but only as a treat.

I no longer wish to live in perpetual subconscious fear or self-loathing. I want the very best for myself and my life and I will do everything in my power to get it. There are possibilities everywhere. Everything is awesome! (Good luck getting that out of your head now.) I hate what it took to get me here, but I love being where I am now.

*Note: Except for the Harry Potter books. I’m a slow reader. Womp womp womp.  

**Note: Not all of them were bad. There a few really nice ones in there that didn’t work out for whatever reason. Usually bad timing or growing apart. 

Note: If for nothing else, just writing that movie; but he’s amazing anyway. 

Hear this Monkey Roar!

Hi there!

In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard, it’s the year of the monkey! Having been born in the fabulous year that was 1980, I am a gold monkey. Solid gold, baby!

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From: http://www.chinesenewyearin.com/

There must be some truth to this because it says I should watch out for traffic accidents and I’ve seriously almost been hit by a car twice – this week. It also says Celebrity Crush #1 and I are totes compatible in the best of ways (so there’s that, too – a match in Eastern AND Western astrology!) Some say it’s bad luck to be a monkey in a monkey year, but I say nay – nay, I say! I’m roughly 36 hours into my 36th year and I’ve had a fantabulous time of it so far. 36 looks amazing on me.

But let’s pump the brakes (unlike the self-important asshats who both tried to hit me this week), hit reverse, and go back to last weekend when I rocked the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half Marathon. (I totally did. Well, most of it.)

Picture it: DC. Last Saturday morning. I’d had 4 hours of sleep. The run I had a few days before was lackluster to say the least. I was existing under the threat of potential rain, no real training leading up to this moment, muscle fatigue, and what I like to call “the runners’ shits.”

Note: I’m sort of on this whole life improvement journey, as those of you who’ve been along for the ride already know. Part of that is extreme motivation/positivity/ abundance/Law of Attraction stuff. Let me just tell you, this stuff works.

So anyway, I tried not to think about any of that and told myself I’d handle any obstacle that came my way. I set two goals for myself: To run the first 6 miles – 1.3 more than last year – and I would allow myself to stop there and walk up that disgusting, infuriating hill in mile 6, which is apparently called Calvert Hill. Who knew that bitch had a name? Let me just say, for the record, the pictures don’t do it justice. It’s awful. And I would run until I stopped otherwise. Second, I wanted to finish in under 3 hours.

Note 2: I realize this is not optimal fitness planning and a good way to get hurt, but hey, I always say go big or go home and I didn’t have daylight to train in. Sue me.

So I did. I ran to mile 6 (with the help of CC#1 there at the very end and Frankie along the way) and walked up that hobag. 6 miles, 1:17:00 – a 2:30:00 pace! Not bad, girl! Not bad at all! I was ecstatic about this whole thing even though my quads were screaming and my knees had been since mile 2 (that makes for a loooooooooooong 13.1.) But I’d already decided that my mind was going to compensate for my legs today and my lungs felt great. So I decided to keep going, which I did for the next 3-ish miles. What an amazing feeling. I even got that elusive Runner’s High somewhere around mile 8.5 going down the big fun hill. I felt like I was invincible, like I could do anything in the damn world I pleased. I even started thinking to myself, “I’m queen of the world!” I couldn’t believe that I’d actually willed myself into this state, which is exactly what happened. I kept telling myself that I could do it. And I damn near did.

Until my feet started acting a fool. My arches went apeshit. My hammer toes were starting to bark (I get really gross, painful, HUGE blisters under my second toes that lost me both toenails my first time round 2 years ago.) I tried to push through, only a couple of miles from the finish line; but in the end, it wasn’t meant to be. I got a tingling feeling in my left ankle that shot up my calf and that was the panic button telling me to STOP. And though I was ever-so-close to my goal, I finished in just over 3 hours. It was infuriating. I don’t consider this a failure though – this is a wild, awesome success. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from myself. I proved a lot to myself that day. I also found several lessons (as I’m oft to do). One, never underestimate the power of mental toughness, tenacity, and strong will. You can do absolutely anything. Two, I saw it as a metaphor for my writing. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be able to do what I did last Saturday and it’s something I’ve been struggling with in writing, too. I’ve felt voiceless, expressionless, and paralyzed with fear for so long now. I’ve been trying to push myself through it, but it never seems to help. It just comes off as inauthentic – not here, but creatively. And I thought to myself that writing a screenplay, getting a job writing for a living – all of those things I aspire to – it’s not a sprint, as much as my impatient ass would like it to be. I’m in this for the long haul and just believing I can do it is more than half the battle. It’ll probably be painful along the way, but the glorious highs will be worth every bit of it.

And I got some really spectacular news today! Following a tremendous birthday with fantastic weather, book-ended Four Seasons, and lots of true happiness, I found out that I’m a Quartfinalist in the Stage 32 Comedy Writing Contest!!! I did not expect that at all. This is the very same piece that another unnamed company just completely skewered. And as I said before, as much blood, sweat, and tears I put into this particular project and as much as I love the main character, I recognize some weaknesses. I’ve learned a lot – a shitload – since I submitted this exactly a month ago to both places. Even to be a Quarterfinalist among such talented people as those in the Stage 32 community…what an honor. Truly. Do I think I’m going to win? Not likely, but damn if I’m not picturing myself being flown to Los Angeles and meeting Jerry Zucker. (Airplane! is one of my favorite movies ever. EVER.)

The Law of Attraction/Manifestation thing, man. It just may be the new love of my life.

Also, this book.

Everything is really starting to come together. Holy shit, I’m so excited about my life right now! I really need to start working on that screenplay that’s been nagging at me all week.

I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Narcissists aka The ‘Kanye Complex’ by Stop & Focus (BLW Contributor)

100% accurate. So easy to spot now. I think this is what lends to Trump’s “charisma” – outlandish confidence. Some see it as strong leadership. I see it as assholery.

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It has come to my attention that there seems to be a rampant streak of narcissistic people who have been in the news as of late. Politics always has them. The music industry? Uh. yeah! Actors? Well, where do you think the term ‘HollyWeird ‘ came from, they’re top tier nut jobs over there. And we all have known one, or at least will in our lifetime. But let’s get to some prime examples, shall we?

Case in point (don’t pretend to be shocked): Mr. Donald “I’ll do as I damn please because I had to “struggle” and make it on my own with a loan of a Million dollars my dad gave me, and that was tough, ya know? Oh, and I went to an elite boarding school for rich kid douche bags like me which had some military like structure, so that means I served and know what it’s like…

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