I was one of those kids in school whose hand always shot up with answers. Well, to clarify, that was in history and English — and probably not ever in math or science.

All through college, in almost all of my classes, I always had plenty to say.

When I went into the work world, I was confident and ambitious and quickly found that my talents lay more in writing. It became easier for me not to speak, but to convey thoughts and ideas on the page. I began to shift into the introverted side of my personality, raising my hand less and less often, enjoying the safety and comfort of the world of my own thoughts. And in the male-dominated work world, it felt like a brilliant refuge — easier, less of a stretch.

Years ago, when I was between writing jobs, I went to a career coach and he asked me about my life. As I was telling him my story, he began laughing. Read More →

When I was young, I was relatively fearless—I loved climbing trees and diving off high diving boards.
After college, I sold my car and went to Europe to travel for several months and when I returned, I moved 3,000 miles away from my family to Los Angeles to pursue a career in show business.  I moved with a boyfriend, but quickly broke up with him when I realized I was only 23 years-old and had no desire to get married right away.
I had an interesting dating life, slow at first, but the highlight was my boyfriend, Doug, whom I adored and who happened to be the stepson of Art Carney.  We hung around with Art, Doug’s mom, and people like Robert Altman, Lily Tomlin and Lucille Ball. 
If I was intimidated to be in the presence of some of the greats who came to parties, you wouldn’t have known it.  I admit to being too shy to play charades with Lucy. She often jumped up after someone finished their turn and said, “Wait!  This is how you should have done it!” —and then proceeded to act it out her way, which quite honestly was always better.
One Father’s Day we were at Chasen’s and a parade of celebrities joined our table, including Frank Sinatra, Jack Haley (the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz”), David Janssen, and Liza Minnelli.  I appreciated those incredible opportunities to meet  people whose work I admired so much while my own fledgling career was beginning to take off.  For my birthday one year, Art wrote me a poem.  This was the first stanza:
Here’s to our dear Robin Amos,
who at this point is not quite so famous.
But she’s sure a fine gal and much more than a pal,
and I’m sure that in time she will tame us.
I became a television writer at 27 (“The Young and the Restless”) and then a couple of years later, I started making the rounds at studios to pitch movie ideas—and that was when my confidence started to wane.
There weren’t many women screenwriters in those days.  Nora Ephron wasn’t well known yet and the adage, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it” felt true for me.  I soon got married, retreated to New York (telling myself that there were many great screenwriters in New York) and became a mother.  Though I kept writing, I still struggled with confidence and watched enviously as my photographer husband travelled around the world for work and I kept plugging away at writing. 
I had readings of screenplays and plays and started writing for a website, Club Mom.   Ten years ago, my own mother got really sick and for the last 7 years of her life,  I found myself becoming a caregiver.  It was one of the accomplishments of my life I’m  most proud of and yet the endless doctor’s visits, hospital stays, hospice care (twice), late night phone calls, racing out to emergency rooms… all made me put my writing on a back burner. I began to feel lost—and when it was all over, when my mother finally died—everything fell away.  My marriage ended, my daughter (now grown) moved 3,000 miles away and in my 50’s, I had to totally recreate my life.
Talk about fear.
There’s a phrase I’ve heard: “catastrophe is what often re-orders our lives.”  It felt like a catastrophe when I didn’t quite know what to do with myself after a 23 year marriage and all the care-giving I had done.  All I had left was two dogs and myself.
And…two big phobias.  One was flying.  I had always loved flying, but on a trip when my daughter was four and we were on a flight from Cancun back to New York, we flew through a Nor’easter, hugging the east coast.   The flight attendants barely stood up.  Fortunately, my daughter slept through the entire flight.  If she had woken up, she would have seen me clutching the armrests or holding the hand of the stranger sitting next to me.  After that, flying became something that I avoided—and if I had to fly, I would do so with a bottle of Valium or Xanax, ready to take the entire bottle, if I needed to. 
My other fear was speaking in public.  I was one of those kids in school who often raised her hand (except in math) and had always been comfortable speaking up, but after so many years as a writer, I was used to living a more solitary life and had no need to speak in front of groups of people.
At one point, I went to career coach and when he asked me to tell him the story of my life I had him laughing so much that he announced, “You must write and speak!  You are a performer!”  I said, “Yes!  I love that!”  and walked out of his office and told everyone I was going to be a writer and speaker—then never once had the nerve to try it.  Everything I wrote I gave to others to perform, even though a part of me thought, “I would like to try that…”  But fear stopped me cold.
Three years after my husband and I separated, I found myself in a public speaking class called OWN THE ROOM. I was terrified.
Privately, I said to the coach, Bill Hoogterp, “What if I’m the only person you’ve ever taught who could never get it?”  Bill laughed and told me to tell everyone in the classroom what I said.  They all laughed—they all felt the same way.  I found my voice in that class and around the same time I performed a solo show about being a caregiver to my mother called “Not My Mother.”  The first time I performed it I discovered what “cotton mouth” means—you literally cannot speak, your mouth is so dry.  It was embarrassing, but I learned to always have a bottle of water nearby, just in case. 
Now, exactly one year later, my life has taken a 360 degree turn.  I coach others with OWN THE ROOM, something unimaginable to me before, and I love it.  Our soon to be new mayor, Bill DeBlasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, shared about her own fear of speaking in public in a recent article in the Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/chirchirlane-mccray-fear-public-speaking-article-1.1541131#ixzz2oKwTrEgU] Addressing a room full of people, she froze. “Inwardly, not outwardly, I was shaking,” McCray said. “I just stopped.”
McCray also came to OWN THE ROOM to overcome her fear and has become a great speaker.  As she says now about public speaking, “It’s not that there’s any magic to it. It’s like a muscle. You just do it, and do it, and do it again.”
Life and fear seem to walk hand in hand, but I see when I step through the fear, life gets bigger.  And more scary.  And more fulfilling. The bottom line is that when I coach others and help them be more effective speakers by sharing their stories, I find the strength I need to tell my own stories. 
Breathing helps—and knowing that if you have a message, taking it out into the world requires courage and a big bottle of Xan…no, never mind. 
Courage.   It requires courage. 
Zoe jumping from the plane

“Our own suffering, if we turn toward it, can open us up to a loving relationship with the world.” — Pema Chodron

Whenever I hit a valley in my life and I feel hopeless or worried, somehow if I can lean into it, sit with it, turn toward it, it always seems to pass.

This is an example of what I mean. Say you’re on an airplane about to jump out and you’re attached to a very tall, handsome (or beautiful) instructor. You’ve learned everything you need to learn before getting in the plane and it takes off and you’re okay and then suddenly it’s your turn to jump and you refuse to move. Read More →

I haven’t written on this blog in a long time.  It’s mostly because I’ve been extremely busy and so much is happening.

Our play “Scrambled Eggs” is opening this coming week.  It’s very exciting and also very stressful.  I have never had much confidence, so this is really a stretch for me.  I know that every creative endeavor, when you put it into the world, requires some nerves of steel, which I don’t have.  But I do have the awareness that life is about taking risks and sometimes you come out okay and sometimes you don’t.

The fun of this experience has been in the work.  I have enjoyed writing this for a long time and working with this cast is a joy.

Also, I’ve continued writing for the Huffington Post on various subjects – faith, loss, grief, dancing, divorce, women leaders.  It’s been a great outlet for me to write anything I am interested in.

Today, I have mostly been obsessing about the play and how the dress rehearsal had some major mistakes and that the leading man, like me, seems to have terrible allergies.  And on and on……my mind can go into the most imaginative and creative disasters.

So once again, Pema Chodron came to the rescue. I was cleaning out my wallet and I came across this passage, that I carry around with me (and forget to look at):

My teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged us to lead our lives as an experiment, a suggestion that has been very important to me.  When we approach life as an experiment we are willing to approach it this way and that way because, either way, we have nothing to lose.

This immense flexibility is something I learned from watching Trungpa Rinpoche.  His enthusiasm enabled him to accomplish an amazing amount in his life. When some things didn’t work out, Rinpoche’s attitude was ‘no big deal.’  If it’s time for something to flourish, it will; if it’s not time, it won’t.  

The trick is not getting caught in hope and fear.  We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress.  Instead, we should just go forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead.”  

As I published this, I noticed that my last blog post included this same passage!  Interesting coincidence.  I guess it’s important that I take this in.

…that is terrifying me.  It really seems to be happening.  It’s called “Scrambled Eggs” – and it’s about a woman’s journey from childhood, dating, marriage, kid, career, hot flashes, you name it. 

So for anyone who’s ever dreamt of getting your work out into the world and having a play or being on Huffington Post, or doing public speaking (which is what I am working on next) — it’s scary.  IT REALLY IS.

But I just have to take it a day at a time and have faith that it will be fine. 

Years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles, I had meetings with studio executives in huge, fancy offices on studio lots and they were effusive about my writing, “You’re like a female Barry Levinson, or Woody…”  And that terrified me.  I didn’t want that kind of pressure, so I bailed.  I got married and moved back to NYC and had a baby and quietly did my writing and didn’t try all that hard.  I tried, but being a woman, and being out of LA makes it very difficult.

I wouldn’t change a thing, it is all perfect.

I went through hell for a few years, it was one of the most intense and elevated periods of my life – divorce, death (my mother’s) and now I can write about it all and watch the play get produced next spring and hopefully inspire other women (and men) to not give up on their dreams.  It may not happen in the time you imagine it will, or the way that you imagine, but it can still happen.

Last month, one of my Huff Post blogs landed on the mainpage of AOL.  I even heard from my divorce attorney!  I heard from people I haven’t heard from in years.  This is such an adventure and as scary as it feels sometimes, it is exciting and fun – kind of like a roller coaster.  Oh, wait, I hate roller coasters. 

You can follow this journey, I will post updates and info along the way. 

One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn, struggle with, accept – was something my therapist, Michael Eigen, always tried to teach me.  I couldn’t get it for years.  Then Buddhism and 12 Step rooms re-enforced the concept and now I still struggle with it, but I’m getting better at it.  The lesson is to not fight whatever feelings are in me – to accept them – to welcome them.  The more you fight them, the more they linger.
It is like drowning.  When you fight the waves, when you struggle and exhaust yourself, you drown.  When you relax into the water, when you find the moments you can breathe and trust that you will not drown, then you live.  That was my experience in a rip tide when I was in my early 20’s.  I was in Malibu, swimming on a beach with no lifeguards.  I went out into the waves, confident, having grown up on Long Island beaches, and I experienced, for the first time, what a rip tide is.  At first I was tossed around underwater and I was terrified.  My first thought was “this is it. You are going to drown.”  And my second thought was, “Do not panic.  That is how people drown.”  Since there was no one there who could save me, I had to do it on my own, I somehow managed to stay calm and not exhaust myself, and I lived.  It was a lesson in trusting myself and that inner voice that knows the truth.  I wish that I had remembered it all these years – it’s a good way to live.  Quietly, listening to that voice. 
Not the other voices, that are louder, and more critical.  You’re doing it wrong, you’re a fuck-up, you’re going to make a mistake, you’re not good enough.
No.  Just calm down and trust.  That will be my mantra for today.  Let’s see how it goes. 

I imagine there’s a way to look up how many times “fear” has appeared in the title of these blog posts.  Many times, I am certain, would be the answer. 

It’s a constant, although not always acknowledged part of everyone’s lives, I believe.  And the more you try to live a more conscious life, the more you are aware of it. This doesn’t mean it should stop you from taking risks and enjoying life, but it does mean you have to learn how to live with fear.  

“Intimacy with Fear” is the title of the first chapter of “When Things Fall Apart.”  

“If we want to go beneath the surface and practice without hesitation, it is inevitable that at some point we will experience fear.”  

Yesterday we met with two general managers to talk about the play and where it should go next.  It all sounded great – they are enthusiastic and interested and believe it has definite commercial potential.  As our director says, “We have a lot of ducks to get in a row.”  Fortunately, we only need to get one duck at a time.   

In Steve Chandler’s book, “Time Warrior” he quotes Michael Jordan:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost more than 300 games.  Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life…and that’s why I succeed.”  

Last night, I found out from a dear friend that her husband has been in and out of the hospital much of the summer.  I am thinking of her and praying for them both.  I hope I can do more than that, but for right now, that’s all I can do.  

This morning I woke up with a headache and with fear.  I read that The S & P lowered the U.S.’s rating and I immediately went deeper into fear.

Fear has a way of expanding in record time.  One minute you feel a little sad, a little headache-y and the next minute, you’re thinking, “Life completely sucks, I just want to go to bed and never get up.”

So I did my mediation this morning and eventually I heard Pema Chodron’s voice say, “Sit with the fear.  Welcome it.  Don’t fight it.”  

And gradually the fear lifted a bit.  Not a lot, I’m still contemplating getting back into bed after I walk Lucy.  But then I thought about the ending of my play and I started writing and suddenly I was occupied and not thinking so much about the fear.

So the pain this morning led me to that.  I can’t erase fear, or escape it, I just have to sit with it and let it lead me to where I am supposed to be led.


I just did my daily readings and found this quote:

“Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.”  Martin Luther King

Whenever I have to do anything in public, a reading, a performance, speaking, anything, it scares me so much that I want to leave the country.  And, on the other hand, when I don’t do anything that scares me, life seems too tame.  So I have no choice – I have to put my work out into the world and risk rejection and risk shame.

Speaking of shame, I’m reading a great book by Brene Brown called “The Gifts of Imperfection.”  The subtitle is “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.”  

I’m very excited about the reading of my play and I’m also scared to death.  And I love that the actors are cast and the director is terrific and the theater is perfect and everyone’s doing their jobs and all I really have to do at this point is show up.  Which is not an easy thing, especially when a trip to Borneo is on my mind.  Where is Borneo exactly? 

I think that one of the greatest gifts of being a human being is having other human beings in your life to give you love and support. (And to also give love and support to them as well.)

I just spoke to one of my dearest friends – Charley – I’ve known him for almost thirty years. Is that even possible? We met in an acting class and became scene partners. I think he is one of the most talented people I know, he’s funny and a great writer and musician and actor and I love him. He’s a dear friend and even though we haven’t seen each other in a few years, I always think of him and his family and I miss them. They live outside of Portland.

He told me a great story about Lily Tomlin and her one woman show. I really needed to hear this story. On the night he went to see her on Broadway, she suddenly started to cough and couldn’t stop. She had to get water and she was miked and it was really awkward, but she kept the audience involved and after those few moments of difficulty, the audience was even more with her and she recovered and continued the show.

I was telling him how nervous I am about performing again and just hearing that story about Lily Tomlin and remembering that everyone gets nervous – even comic geniuses – and that you don’t have to do it perfectly. That coughing or dry mouth (which is what happened to me) and feeling your heart pounding out of your chest, or having your hands shake, or your knees shake, or whatever is shaking, is perfectly acceptable because we are human beings.

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