Monday, August 8, 2011

A Behavioral Bucket List

“Everybody’s dying!  Everybody’s dying!” my mother said to me during a phone call earlier this month.  I felt as if I was having a conversation with Chicken Little – only a more pessimistic, more morbid version with a Jamaican accent.  “You’re there one second and then it’s all over,” she continued.  Well, I didn’t think everyone was dying, but I understood where this sentiment was coming from.  Two people she had known a good portion of her life had recently passed away.  

Once I hung up, I tried to put the conversation out of my mind, but Jamaican Chicken Little’s words kept nagging at me.  I’ve already been to three funerals this year.  Before that, I had probably only been to seven my entire life.  And only one of the three funerals was for someone who would be considered senior.  It all got me thinking of the people who had passed away and how they were eulogized – and if they could, what they would have wanted to change about their lives.  Then I thought about what I wanted to change about my own life – what would be at the top of my behavioral bucket list.  Among the leading contenders: mismanagement of time, not sleeping enough, over-consumption of sweets, not working out enough, the frequency of which I drink my own bodyweight in liquor, not involving myself in charity quite as much as I should…oh, the list went on and on.  But I surprised myself with what ending up topping it  - my reliance on the number one.

Spending my childhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn, the skinny, smart-alecky child of a single mom who worked all the time, I had to “get grown” really fast.  If there was a problem, I alone had to figure out how to solve it.  Schoolyard bully, I had to come up with a way to outwit her – or as ended up happening, punch her in the jaw and run away so she didn’t break my ankles.  No one to talk to at home, I invented one or two or four imaginary friends to keep me company.  Learning independence and self-reliance was great, but there was a negative effect - an overwhelming dependence on one person... myself, even when involving others might be more beneficial.

Looking at my career, there’s also an individual bend.  I might work on soundstages as part of a crew, but being a script supervisor, I am boss and employee of probably the only one-person department on a set.  In my personal life, I am single…and like it.  Again the number one.  Even in selling my first book, I did it on my own - no agent, no publicist.  Correction, I did have a publicist…guess who it was…me.  I just went under a different name.  I was like a literary superhero – mild mannered writer Carolita Blythe by day, and by night, her persistent book pushing alter ego, Toni Miller.   But you know what the problem is, going about things solo and not asking for help is a lot more time consuming and a lot less lucrative.

 Since my last post – two eons, an ice age and the extinction of the dinosaur ago – I’ve gotten an agent (now I’ve upped the number from one to two), and she’s helped to get the second book out to publishers (the numbers continue to increase).  And while this is a good thing, this newfound reliance on others has got me feeling a little unbalanced and without control.  The agent constructs the query letters, she pitches the book, she filters whatever feedback there is.  And even without the book having sold yet, she’s been helping to come up with some marketing ideas for me to implement.  I’ll be reaching out to my personal village of friends (numbers climbing into the hundreds here) and the broader literary village (dare we say thousands?) to try to get a buzz started.  For someone who has been a lone warrior her entire life, this reliance on others, which goes hand in hand with learning how to ask for and accept help, has not been easy.  But I’m vanquishing the number one.  And once that item on my behavioral bucket list has been conquered, it’s on to the others.  Next step, laying off the beer and removing all the KitKat bars from my kitchen.

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