Last weekend Bryan asked me to join him watching a movie – Synecdche, New York, written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. This movie tells the story of a troubled New York playwright who is obsessed with his own mortality and sets out to construct a massive play that he hopes will give meaning to his life. Now I’m not a fan of Kaufman’s movies, so this one wasn’t high on my priority list of films to see. But I decided to give it a chance for one reason only: Philip Seymour Hoffman.
I finished the movie with the same opinion of Charlie Kaufman as I did before starting Synecdche. But there was one opinion I had that was confirmed by this trippy film. Hoffman – who played the lead in Synecdche, New York - was nothing short of brilliant.
Hoffman was one of the greatest actors I’ve ever watched, embodying his characters so much that it was almost eerie. Just like in Synecdche, he brought immense talent and realism to the screen that you actually forget it is Hoffman playing a character at all.
I was shocked when I heard about Hoffman’s death this past Sunday. I am devastated when I think about the talent that is lost and his children who are left without a father. And I’m haunted thinking about the manner in which he died and the demons that must have plagued his life so deeply.
But more than the sadness, I’ve been almost speechless at the comments people are writing throughout the Interwebs — how Hoffman chose drugs over his life, that he was selfish and wanted to die.
Addiction is a scary, all-consuming beast. Drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, sex addiction, shoplifting, smoking, over-eating, over-spending … taken to the extreme, these are all addictions that can be as dangerous as shooting heroin.
People don’t set out to become addicts. It’s not a career objective that’s written at the top of a resume. Addiction is a way of life that becomes almost inescapable.
It saddens me that people pass judgment about Hoffman’s life (and so many others) without for a minute thinking about how much pain (physical and emotional) he must have been in at the time he died.
I personally cannot go a day without a cup of coffee or two Excedrin because otherwise I will be overtaken by a horrible caffeine-withdrawal headache. Do you think I’d like to stop consuming caffeine? Absolutely! But you know what happens? The headache takes over and all I want is relief from pain.
Now I’m just talking about caffeine, a legal substance. Can you imagine the physical pain a heroin addict is in? I, for one, cannot. And I’d be willing to bet that a lot of the other people on the Interwebs passing judgment about Hoffman’s choices cannot imagine it either.
I am glad we watched Synecdche, New York the week before Hoffman died. I think it would be too heartbreaking to watch now, mainly to see Hoffman play such a sad and lonely man, trudging through a very difficult life, full of utter pain. More to the point, it would be too difficult for me to watch Hoffman portray not just another amazing character, but himself on screen.
The other night I was thinking about my father and the influence he’s had on my writing. My dad is a great writer and a superior editor. When people ask me if he’s helped me on my writing journey, my answer always comes back to a childhood story I’m going to share with you here.
The summer before I entered 8th grade, I had to select a classic piece of literature to read and then write the dreaded summer book report. I chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Ever the under-achiever I was in those days, I selected Alice mainly because I was already familiar with the Disney animated classic and I was looking for something easy. I read the book and then followed my teacher’s directions to write the book report, which was essentially to write a summary of the book.
My father was always concerned about me getting the best grades possible. So he insisted on reading all my papers and editing them with his signature red pen. My former colleagues who also had the pleasure of working with my dad are quite familiar with said pen and know this habit has not changed over the years.
Needless to say, he took that red plan and marked the heck out of poor Alice and my attempt to analyze her wonderland.
“You can’t just summarize the book.” dad explained. “You need to pick three situation in the book and write about those.”
I thought what dad said was the all-powerful truth, and as a result, I did exactly what he said. After all who was I to argue with my esteemed father with a PhD and career in higher education? (Okay really, who was I to argue with my father?) So without questioning him, I rewrote the book report doing exactly what he said to do.
The thing was though, in my gut, I did question what he said. I knew that was not what my teacher wanted.
I turned in the assignment and waited with anticipation for the essay to be returned. What was given back to me was not what I expected. My teacher told me the essay was well-written, but not what she asked us to write. She asked for a summary of the book, not a synopsis of three plot points.
Ah hah! I thought. Dad was (gasp) wrong! I was the one who was right all along. I went home, dug out my old book report, turned that in to the teacher, and received an “A” on the assignment.
The Alice in Wonderland assignment taught me my first lesson in writing: go with your gut when you have something to say. It may not be the popular choice, or what others think you should write. But if you hear a voice deep down that tells you to write what’s in your heart, then listen to that voice.
And also be careful about who you chose as your editor! Needless to say, that was the last essay my dad proofread for me.
Other Posts You May Like:
- My Beloved Homemade Dollhouse: A Tribute to My Mom
- Wynona the Redwood Tree
- My Childhood Bedroom
- The “Blogger’s Block” 15 Things About Me
I like simplicity. I’m not the type of person who needs tons of stuff and things in my life. Clutter makes me feel anxious. And I’m not just talking about physical clutter; mental clutter is also a big anxiety-provoker for me. So when the calendar changed to 2014, I decided to take time to de-clutter my life a bit.
I am constantly getting rid of old clothes and books (I have a donation bag in the car at all times so if I see a drop-off location, I dump the stuff). So I focused my efforts on the “lesser-known” things that cause clutter, digital clutter being a big one. Some of the changes I made are easy things, but make a world of difference. I thought I’d share my techniques with you in case you’re feeling the need to simplify your life too.
Recipe Files – Many of the recipes I use are now pinned to my Pinterest boards or stored on this blog’s Recipe page. But before the days of everything being online, I kept my recipes in a big recipe binder or I used cookbooks. I took out the VERY big recipe binder and started tossing all the recipes I didn’t like or realistically will never make. It was a lot of paper! Now the binder is better organized with the recipes I actually use. I also donated a lot of cookbooks I don’t use. I hated to do it, but there’s no point in keeping one cookbook if you only use one recipe in it. Either tear out the recipe page and keep that, or find the recipe online.
Internet Bookmarks – It was ridiculous how many sites I bookmarked. I went through the sites and did three things. First, I deleted the sites I no longer needed. Second, for the articles I wanted to keep (because I may use them for reference for future writing), I added them to my Delicious feed. Delicious is a great way to store articles (and post your own). Third, I reorganized the bookmarks I did keep and my toolbar so I can better find what I need.
Delete Blogs – I read a lot of blogs. Like a lot – more than 200. I have them all in my Feedly account, which is like the now-debunked Google Reader. As I was reading the blogs, there were always those that I would only skim or skip altogether. So one day (while watching TV is a great time to do this), I went through all of the blogs and deleted the ones I don’t read. It was liberating! And now when I go to read my blogs over the weekend, my stream of posts isn’t as overwhelming.
Facebook and Email Clutter – I don’t know about all of you, but I’m getting so sick and tired of what’s showing up on my Facebook feed. I used to love Facebook to connect with people, see pictures, and have conversations. Now it seems like it’s just Buzzfeed articles and memes. I have no time for this crap! So I went through an un-liked so many pages. And if you don’t want to unlike pages, you can also go to the page and select “hide from newsfeed.” I also unsubscribed from a slew of email newsletters to keep my email inbox less overwhelming.
Cell Phone, Cable and Phone – I HIGHLY encourage you to review your bills often because chances are, those sneaky bastard cable and service companies are charging you way more than what you need. I found out that I was being charged for the option to call internationally and all these fancy features on my landline. I reduced the phone plan to the bare minimum since the landline is rarely used (in fact, we are thinking of dumping it altogether).
The cell phone is another BIG one. We were being charged for this ridiculous amount of data that we’ve never even come close to using. I downsized the data plan, which saved us a big chunk of money. And honestly, we don’t even use the current allotment.
Finally, we are making the move to dump the cable, which will save an obscene amount of money. We opted for a Roku with Netflix and HuluPlus subscriptions. I am SO excited for this change!
Pantry, Fridge and Freezer – I tossed a lot of old food. It was so nice to go through the kitchen and get rid of stuff taking up space. And I’m not talking about rotten apples. I mean the condiment jars that are beyond the expiration date. Or the boxes upon boxes of teas I will never use (I give this stuff to my sister who loves tea). The stuff that I froze thinking one day I will use it, and now is way passed it’s prime.
Computer Documents – I finally emptied the trash on my MacBook, and either archived all documents or deleted them entirely. I also transferred a lot of stuff to Google Drive in order to free up hard drive space and keep documents safe that I didn’t want to lose.
So that’s what I’ve done so far and it feels SO liberating! I need to do other things – like go through old photo albums, organize pictures, and organize my hard files. But I’m happy with the work I’ve done so far and feel like 2014 is off to a great start!
How do you de-clutter your life? Did you get rid of any unwanted stuff lately?
Other Posts You May Like: