Category Archives: Inspiration

An Ode to Lena Dunham and Girls

I have a confession to make. I’ve been obsessively googling “Lena Dunham interview” videos on YouTube for the past few days – sneaking them in the background at work, while I cook, while I tooth brush. Not to mention the frantic episode review searches every Monday, since no one in my circle is a devoted Girls Season 6 follower (that, or they don’t have cable).

Part of it is nostalgia for sure, since the series finale is tonight (how?). Part of it is because Lena Dunham and I are the same age, with similar neurosis and evidently, similar dreams. Perhaps it’s based on identifying with three of the main characters (35% Marnie, 40% Shosh and 25% Hannah), going through similar painful life lessons at roughly the same time.

The younger, poorer and more vulnerable Sex and the City knock offs circa 2012

The younger, poorer and more vulnerable Sex and the City knock offs circa 2012

The Courage To Create From The Heart

I first heard about Girls shortly after accepting a content and programming role at a telecom (“TV Everywhere”, they call it). Reps from HBO were very excited to share the premiere news, like all networks that pitch and pimp their fresh meat in order to get more marketing and merchandising love.

When I watched Season 1, I loved to hate it. And then I tried to watch Tiny Furniture and fell asleep. I thought Lena Dunham was overrated and a little weird but mostly I was just jealous that she had hustled and created her way to producing, writing, directing and acting in a fearless series that was based on her most shameful, raw, vulnerable moments and observations.

Lena Dunham’s commitment to portraying the truth, from awkward sexual experiences to UTI’s, Facebook stalking to brawls with best friends, masturbation to silicone penises is a sharp contrast to the veneers we share on social media and the benign pleasantries we exchange at work.

It requires facing the judgmental voices in our heads and the fear of being found out. Because once our most shameful traits and memories are out in the open, we for sure won’t be lovable. At least that’s what’s kept me cocooned in writer’s block half of the time.

What will my current and future employers think? What will my Ex’s think? What will my parents and grandparents think? What will my unborn children think if I published the moments that mattered most? Surely I would never get married, get hired or live a normal life again.

But maybe the relationships we’d outgrow are the ones that would fade out or temporarily hold anyway. Maybe we’d attract a tribe like Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner who celebrate and support the real us. On that note, the oral history of Girls in The Hollywood Reporter is a fascinating, must read about the universe conspiring.

The Courage To Keep Going When Critics Say No

Lena has faced an inordinate amount of scrutiny and criticism since the debut of her show from valid journalists and critics to random trolls on twitter. They’ve criticized and applauded her appearance, torn down and built up her work, questioned her morals and values. There were even lawsuits from stories in her book. I had my own experiences with critics (outside of myself) and it didn’t end well.

In grade 12, my friends and I entered the “Sears Drama Festival” with an ensemble play about a group of friends and I was to play Martha, the one they could barely tolerate. The plot line cut a little too close to home, as I often felt like an outsider in our group of friends. Her character had the greatest emotional arc, with a breakdown at the end as her carefully crafted façade came tumbling down.

I remember crying backstage during our dress rehearsal because the Director wasn’t feeling it and I felt blocked internally and like I would fail. True to form, the festival judge praised a couple of my classmates but told the room that, “Martha just wasn’t believable.”

I was devastated…and he was probably right. I really wanted to deliver a flawless and inspiring performance that would validate my childhood actress dreams and help win us a prize. I wanted OUTCOMES. But I’ve come to learn that perfectionism kills presence and vulnerability, two key attributes for creating inspiring work.

That same year I tried halfheartedly to get an agent but was told very kindly by one to take acting classes and come back (spoiler alert: I didn’t). Another female agent told me the bags under my eyes were so deep that “not even stage makeup could cover them up”, among other harsh opinions. I cried during the car ride home with my dad, feeling like an idiot. Who did I think I was?

I decided that I didn’t have the thick skin required to endure endless rejection in that industry and so I focused on business school, a place where I could rely on my intellect and relentless work ethic to thrive and feel good about myself. It was 100% a fear-based + ego saving move. I didn’t realize then that the corporate world could be full of critics too.

SO, even if you manage to silence your inner critic enough to produce a work from your heart and soul, you have to continue to stand by your conviction, believing that you belong in the arena, while being open to perspectives that can truly help you grow. In Lena’s case, learning about diversity inclusion and racial sensitivity.

Slightly less entitled more aware versions of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa & Shoshanna

Slightly less entitled more aware versions of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa & Shoshanna in the final season

The Courage To Live Your Values AND Use Your Voice

Finally, Lena is a woman of cause and conviction. She is a huge advocate for mental health, sharing her own struggles with OCD and anxiety, so we can all feel less alone. She’s passionate about feminism and Planned Parenthood and sisterhood. YES, she’s in a position of power and influence where she’d naturally be more “role-model” conscious. AND these activities benefit her personal brand and therefore wallet. BUT her actions still feel authentic to me.

When the Women’s March happened around the world shortly after the US election, I realized I’ve never protested for anything. Been more of a blah, sit on the sidelines, “what’s the point?” kind of girl. But I want to give a sh*t and put my money where my mouth is now.

I want to be the 12-year old girl who auditioned for a drama program with very little experience, put her heart into it and got to jump up and down on her modest porch, smiling from ear-to-ear after receiving her thin acceptance letter in the mail. It felt like magic. And I think that’s the last time I took any major action from the heart.

So thank you Lena Dunham, I’ll be watching for an untidy and realistic ending to the confusing cluster f*ck that is our 20’s, reflecting back on how far (or not) we’ve come.

PS this very emotional interview with Jemima Kirke ( the character “Jessa”) is worth a watch.

PPS Who inspires you lately? Tell me in the comments. Remember what you see in them, you have in yourself. xo

Review: Stories We Tell and the questions it raises

Stories We Tell is a documentary on love lost and found. The subject matter is Sarah Polley’s vivacious, deceased mom Diane and her love as a wife, lover and mother. The stories are told by those she touched (all but Sarah) and expand upon the theme of love to include friends and acquaintances. At its core the film studies Diane’s love for herself and life at large, letting us gawk at one family’s dirty laundry. You can google reviews on proper filmmaking matters; this account is visceral and personal.

Stories We Tell

Through Diane’s life choices, we examine our own what ifs. What would make us leave or stay? How would we have handled divided loyalties? Would we rather hurt someone we love or ourselves? Would we label our heart and soul’s yearning as wrong?

How often have we created assumptions in our minds about how others would react to our truths? Too afraid to reveal our inner vulnerabilities and secrets, we stifle the truth and suffer the consequences. Which raises the question of how well can you ever really know someone? Have you seen them with their mask off for realz?

The part that really got to me is how you can die without ever really knowing your impact on someone else’s life, whether you knew them for 5 minutes, a day, 5 years or a lifetime.

Lately I’ve found myself mulling over the past and desperately trying to make peace with it. The guilt and shame I carried went largely unnoticed until experiences like watching Stories We Tell would trigger it, sweeping me up in a tsunami of suppressed emotions.

I was forced to develop compassion for my former self and the relationships I had in those self-loathing times. In the case of my former best friend, I was able to reach out and share my new perspective and it was such a lovely and healing exchange. In the case of my now married EX, I just have to trust that on some level he knows how sorry I am for past transgressions and that I’ve finally changed for the better (that’s the word on the street :P).

You see, the love I had for these people got caught up in my own shit until it was unrecognizable and I thought I was better off without them. I’m not even talking “romantic” love just “no name brand” human being love. On some level, the separations were necessary for growth. That’s just how life goes sometimes.

All we can really do is love ourselves a little more each day and try to apply lessons learned from the past to our present day relationships.

Like life, Stories We Tell is heartbreaking and victorious all at once. Definitely worth watching and deserving of the accolades it has garnered.

How well do you know yourself and those around you?

Spike Jonze Her is an absolute must-see

Her is one of the must unique scripts to hit the screen in a long, long time. A true labour of love from the formidable Spike Jonze, you can feel the heart and soul in the musical score (Arcade Fire!), vibrant and glow filled cinematography and hauntingly true dialogue (so many profound and tweet-worthy lines).  There are also jarring silences or scenes without dialogue. Scarlett’s presence fills the screen.

The subject matter is so complex, since it explores the growing importance of technology in society and how it can impact real human relationships. It’s also about love, loss, friendship and ever expanding corporate boundaries.

Poster for Her the Movie by Spike Jonze featuring Joaquin Phoenix

Look at those baby blues

I could relate to both Joaquin’s anti-social, fearful character, struggling to come to terms with his looming divorce and Scarlett’s curious and hopeful Samantha, who is excited about life, even though she can’t experience it in 3D like the rest of us.  She is a Siri-like operating system, with the capacity to grow and change over time based on her owner’s personality. Her child-like sense of wonder and awe rubs off on Theodore as he proclaims, “I love the way you look at the world.”

After years of life feeling like a giant game of Dodgeball and where I run for cover, I’ve started to recognize the beauty and symmetry of this planet.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been with someone I feel totally at ease with.”  – Theodore

It’s amazing how free you can let yourself be when you don’t have to face someone eye to eye. The layers melt and you stand exposed. Perhaps that’s why so many people meet and fall in love on vacation; there just isn’t enough time to keep up the bullshit façade you wear in regular life.

Dr. Phil Moment: before you can feel at ease in someone else’s presence, you need to feel at ease in your own.

“You always wanted a wife without the challenge of actually dealing with anything real” – Theodore’s Ex, played by Rooney Mara

The premise is similar to Ruby Sparks, where a struggling writer manifests his ideal partner by bringing her to life through his novel.

Both bruised, creative males experience life with women whose initial focus is pleasing him.  Unfortunately, as in real life, we cannot control our partners, no matter how hard we try. Things are going to go the way they are going to go and we can only control ourselves. Creating rules and conditions that limit someone else’s freedom is a recipe for disaster.  Believe me, I’ve been on both sides.

“I can feel the fear you carry around. I wish I could help you let go of it because I don’t think you’d feel so alone anymore” Samantha to Theodore

Theodore is very tentative with life, although he starts to throw caution to the wind and open his heart. I recently realized that I was afraid of falling Drunk in Love – because then you have something on the line, something to lose. Not unlike my obsession with a massage ending 5 minutes into a 60 minute session. But after a recent experience in the Dominican I realized I want to feel ALL THE FEELINGS.

Better to feel them and lose them than never feel them at all. There is no protection in fear based living; just a cage to contend with. Baby steps.

What fear would you like to conquer this year? 

What the Rolling Stones can teach Gen Y: 2013 50 and Counting Anniversary Tour Review

Watching the Rolling Stones perform at the Air Canada Centre during their “50and Counting” 50th Anniversary Tour managed to nullify my raging quarter life crisis and bring me back to life. They may be wrinkly but don’t count Mick Jagger (69), Ronnie Wood (65), Keith Richards (69) or Charlie Watts (71) out yet.

A Gen Y and Baby Boomer enjoying the Rolling Stones 2013 50 and Counting Tour Together on May 25 at Toronto ACC

The Man who exposed me to the Stones and is a big fan. Thanks dad.

On Mick Jagger and Why Limiting Beliefs and Haters Should be Ignored

Some might say his ship has sailed but Mick Jagger proved he still the same pipes, dance moves and charisma that made him famous. Devoid of self doubt, Mick performed like no one was watching.

Every tongue wave, hip shake and arm bang was executed with commitment, rousing baby boomer fans into a tizzy and putting this Gen Y girl to shame (did someone say dance off?).

If I am 27 going on 70 then he is moving in the opposite direction. Never again shall I say that I am too tired or old to do anything.  On that note, if I could host a dinner party with Betty White and the Rolling Stones I think I just might learn how to live a happy, full life.

Mick Jagger performing at the Air Canada Center in Toronto on the 50th anniversary tour 50 and Counting.

Beautiful wrinkles – signs of long and full life.

On Keith Richards and Why Drugs Are Good For You

Keith sang “You got the silver”, “Before they make me run” and “Happy”. He got down low with his guitar and trademark smirk in tow.

“It’s good to be bad” Keith said, and while I have never done drugs, the proof just might be in the pudding. Not only will you retain a full head of hair well into your golden years, but you’ll also have enough stamina to perform for 2.5 hours straight, while deluding mental illness in order to relive your dirty glory years. How is that for a PSA?

And it would seem that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford shares his philosophy, as he made international news for alleged substance abuse. A highlight of the show was when Jagger threw a couple well placed jabs at Ford. Now that is how you bond with local audiences.

Bromance Showmance. Badass at 69.

Two Words: Bromance Showmance.

On The Rolling Stones And Why Positive Intentional Thinking Works

By the time I checked for Rolling Stones tickets, the only tickets that were left cost $450 or more. Dismayed, I joked that I would head to the stadium to get tickets from scalpers. This could be my last chance to see them live and nothing would stop me!

Lo and behold, my dad’s friend called us the day of the show with lower bowl tickets at 50% off from his scalper connection. You could call it blind luck but I call it positive conviction.

Never have I reaped rewards from pouring blood, sweat and tears into anything. Let us all approach new “goals” with quiet conviction and erase traces of worry, doubt and desperate action. After all, whatever will be, will be.

Oh yea, Carrie Underwood was there.

Oh yea, Carrie Underwood was there.

Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts take a final bow on May 25 2013 at Toronto ACC during 50 and Counting Anniversary Tour

Living Legends toasting to a job well done.

2013 TOUR VERDICT: Watch The Rolling Stones Live While You Still Can

Yes the ticket price is exorbitant but these are seasoned professionals who truly love what they do and leave their souls on stage. It did not feel like a final money grab attempt.

Their music was revolutionary and remains relevant today. “Satisfaction”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Emotional Rescue” encapsulate 2013 for me thus far.

The fact that none of the band members are dead (from drugs, assassination or old age) and that their bond has outlasted many modern day marriages, is a miracle. Often imitated <insert Hanson Jonas NKOB Backstreet One Direction reference here>, but never duplicated; they just don’t make Rock N Roll bands like they used to.

Share your favourite Rolling Stones song or anecdote in the comments so we can reminisce together. 

Mick Jagger cajoles Charlie Watts into taking a bow at the 50 and Counting tour stop in Toronto on May 25 2013

Forcing Charlie Watts to take a bow. He might be an introvert.

Mick Jagger salutes and waves goodbye to the Toronto crowd on May 25th on the 50 and Counting 50th anniversary tour.

Mick Jagger blowing kisses: shine on mon ami.

On Finding Your Silver Lining from Liberal Arts, Your Voice in My Head & Losing Clementine

On Finding Your Silver Lining from Liberal Arts, Your Voice in My Head & Losing Clementine

The first three months of this year have been a soul searching, existential struggle. After an urgent and unplanned escape to Jamaica, I have a renewed sense of hope to share with you.

MOVIE WATCH: Liberal Arts

I caught this gem of an indie movie on Air Transat’s in flight experience, but it also available on Netflix. The premise revolves around 30something year old Jesse – recently dumped and uninspired by his job in college admissions.

His retiring professor invites him back to his alma mater for a final hurrah. While there he meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olson), a sophomore bursting with possibility and maturity beyond her years. Side note: I now have a girl crush on Olson who is so authentic and delicious to watch. Think Maggie Gyllenhaal meets Jennifer Lawrence.

This film could have become a predictable rom com but the Zibby/Jesse relationship is really just a catalyst to explore the fact that adult life has not lived up to 20 year old Jesse’s expectations.

On a personal level, I connected with this yearning to go back in time. To shrug off the chain-linked cloak semi-adulthood has gifted me. The past always looks rosy through hindsight’s glasses. But we all have to keep moving forward and embracing the next phase, which was emphasized by the Professor’s departure (Richard Jenkins).

As Jesse struggles with his decision to get intimate with Olson, he’s really wrestling with igniting passion back into the adult version of his life. But how and does the fire still burn? If you feel lost, this movie will make you feel less alone.

MUST READ NOVELS: Your Voice in My Head / Losing Clementine

Both pieces of fiction revolve around female protagonists who are clinically depressed yet successful in their creative careers. Don’t be put off by the heavy subject matter – these women see humour in everything and are endearing because of their self deprecating and honest world view. Both books are page turners that will give you perspective.

Your Voice in My Head is a memoir written by Emma Forrest (coming to theatres in 2014), who developed self defeating behavior in adolescence (bulimia, cutting, attempted suicide), despite growing up in a normal, loving household.

Emma sank deeper into self loathing behaviour after unhealthy relationships with both men and women until she met her therapist Dr. R. She ultimately gained freedom from her demons after dealing with his untimely death and a heart wrenching break up all on her own.

Emma’s writing is breathtakingly beautiful, here is a taste:  Time heals all wounds and if it doesn’t, you name them something other than wounds and agree to let them stay.

 

Losing Clementine review

Losing Clementine, a great beach read.

On the other hand, Ashley Ream’s Losing Clementine is about an artist in her late 30’s who cannot overcome her scarring past with therapy or medication. She was abandoned by her father and raised by a single, maniacally depressed mother who ultimately died alongside Clementine’s sister.

Clementine gives up and hatches a meticulous and thoughtful suicide plan. She has 30 days to tie up loose ends and live each day like it is her last. It is her pursuit for closure that forces her to confront forgiving herself and her family history.

A Caution on Comparisons

If I were to give advice right now to myself and by extension to you, it would be to stop blindly comparing yourself to people who have more than you because you are ignoring the other half of the population that has less. #1 doesn’t really exist and the race is in your head.

Despite the bombings in Boston, the universe is doling out energizing surprises to everyone around me. It is easy to  ignore the blessings we already have and engage in self pity. Let’s choose to believe that the positive energy is contagious and we’ll be eating fistfuls of confetti sooner than we think.