A few years ago I thought that I had gone through some tough times and that life would spare me at least for awhile.  But now I know there is no sparing — there are, in the course of every year, beautiful, joyous times AND really bad, difficult times.

This year was no exception.

The beautiful joyous times were simple days of spending time with my daughter, Zoe, with friends, traveling around the country and a trip to Dublin, all for work.  Riding my bike along the Hudson in the summer and taking long walks in Central Park in every season. 

There was a visit to Emily’s house in the country — bittersweet because of her absence, but still pleasurable.

My play performed at the Beckett Theater this year, with friends from all areas of my life, old friends, new friends, everyone showing up to see it and lend support.  And a cast and crew of the most wonderful people and the challenges that go along with every creative project.

There was the grief of losing my best friend, Lucy, my beloved beagle, who was with me for 13 years and who died at 17 years of age.  I miss her daily and am deeply grateful for having had her for all those years.  She was truly a faithful companion.

I’m grateful that my ex husband and I were able to forgive each other and start up a new… friendship.  I would not have imagined this a few years ago, but forgiveness is a powerful tool — and cancer seems to completely change the landscape.  He really showed up for a harrowing summer and survived and we are all so grateful. 

2013 ends quietly… I feel that life has forced so many of us to seek comfort in being quiet, by going within. 

One of my favorite pieces of advice I heard recently came from the playwright Tracy Letts: spend at least 30 minutes a day staring at the wall, or looking out the window.  I don’t have much of a view, but I think I will start at my wall and give thanks for this past year and gratitude for the coming one.  Just being alive is reason enough to be celebrate. 

Emily Squires’ pond in Lake Ariel, Pa.  August 2013.

…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. 

This is my latest Huff Post, which came out of a workshop I did last week on public speaking.  I told the story and everyone liked it so much, I decided to write it up.

Out of the Depths
It was the lowest point of my life.  My 23 year marriage was over. We’d been talking about it for a long time, but finally he was ready. 
I wasn’t.  I had just lost my job.
My daughter, who was 21, decided that she wanted to move to San Francisco.  Three thousand miles away.
I was thankful that my mother was still alive, having survived two hospice stays she seemed indestructible.  And then she died suddenly.
I never felt worse, or more terrified, or more alone.
One afternoon my cell phone rang.  It was an area code I didn’t recognize and normally I would have let it go to voice mail, but I picked it up.
It was a director, Matt Penn, calling to tell me that he wanted to do a staged reading of a play I had written with Gary Richards, at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. And that the reading would be happening in ten days. If I hadn’t been so out of it, I would have panicked, a big, ugly hyperventilating panic.
The play was to be performed on a Wednesday night and I took the train up on the Sunday before. I waited at the station and watched as everyone got picked up or drove away and soon I was all by myself.  I tried to call the intern but got her voice mail instead.  I stood there thinking, what the hell am I doing? It seemed just like my life—I thought I knew where I was going and why, only to find myself stranded and alone.
Finally the intern called, apologetic.  She had picked up the actors, but had forgotten about me.
She came back and we drove to a little meeting house in the woods outside of Great Barrington and I met Matt and the rest of the actors.  Everyone was incredibly friendly and kind. Gary couldn’t come until the night of the reading because he was teaching. I’d seen readings of this play, Scrambled Eggs (the sub-title is, in my mind is: “The Wisdom of Insecurity”).  It’s a comedy about an everywoman – Karen – who is overwhelmed by life and she is loosely based on me and parts of all my friends.  She’s married to Dave, who is not so much based on my ex, but a fictionalized (funnier) version of him.  We see Karen at various stages of her life – struggling to figure out how to do it all – and how to maintain her equilibrium. 
We were all invited to Matt’s beautiful home for dinner that night and I got to know the cast members.  At one point, Matt was barbecuing and he asked me to join him.  He and two of the other directors of the Lab were talking about the play and how much they loved it, but thought that the ending needed some work. 
Didn’t they know that I was essentially out of my mind and couldn’t concentrate enough to write a grocery list, let alone a new ending??
I tried not to look like I was having a nervous breakdown and when we got back to the inn, I took my cell phone out to the parking lot, the only place I could get a signal, and I called Gary.
“Gary, they want a new ending!”
“Ah, don’t worry about it.  Just write something funny…you can do it.”
“GARY, I don’t know what the f*#k to write!”
“What?  I can’t hear you…”
I lost the signal. Amy Van Nostrand, who was playing Karen, saw me as I re-entered the inn and offered to go over the script. 
YES. Yes!  We went up to my room and read almost the entire play aloud and we bonded when we discovered we were both getting divorced.
We talked about the ending and we had some good ideas.  The next day I raced to type it up as the actors went into rehearsal.  I ran over at the lunch break and showed Matt what I had. He laughed and said, “close, but not quite.”
NOT QUITE???
So I kept writing and running over and finally by the end of the day he was satisfied.  Then I had to race back to Manhattan for a tech rehearsal of a solo show I was performing at the Midtown International Theater Festival. Nothing to do that entire summer except that one week I had the reading and three performances of a solo show. In one week.  And I could barely get out of bed and brush my teeth. 
I went back to Great Barrington Wednesday afternoon in time for a run-through and then Gary arrived right before the show.  At every other reading of my work, I’d generally felt the need to be sedated, but this time I felt pretty calm.  I didn’t know a soul in the audience.  Maybe no one would show up?
The Mahaiwe is an incredibly beautiful theater that opened in 1905 and was newly renovated.  Gary and I sat up in the balcony and watched as the theater filled up.  We didn’t know this at the time, but Matt had done a local NPR interview about the play and said, “this play is headed to New York.”  So the theater was packed, there were at least 450 people.  We could watch people laughing hysterically,  slapping their knees and elbowing the person next to them.  I started to laugh and I laughed for ninety minutes and watched the actors bring the play to life and the audience eat it up.
At the end of the reading, I felt something I had forgotten was possible.  I felt happy. I could breathe… for the first time in months.  I could feel the power of laughter, to bring you out of despair and to make you feel alive again.  
I also realized that I if I truly had a purpose, making people laugh is not such a bad purpose to have in life.
Three and a half years later…life is so much better.  Divorce didn’t kill me, it made me stronger.  Amy is stronger too.  And she will be starring in a production of the play next April, at the Beckett Theater in New York City, just as Matt predicted. 

Three years ago this week, my play “Scrambled Eggs” had just had a fabulous reading in Great Barrington at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab.  My solo show had just been performed at the Midtown International Theater Festival.  My daughter and her father were just driving cross country to move to San Francisco.  I was alone, in Brooklyn, with my two dogs, Lucy and Lola.  My mother had just died.  To say that I was in a dark night of the soul, would be an understatement.  I was completely, utterly bereft and also grateful to have seen the play, perform, and I couldn’t stop crying.  Well, I stopped long enough to see the show and perform the three shows, thank God.

Life is better.  So much better.  Zoe is moving back to New York City next Tuesday and I am thrilled.  She will be staying with us here on Crosby Street until she can find a job, a place to live and hopefully a roommate.  I hope that all of that will come together easily for her.  It has been difficult to have her so far away for these past three years, but also in some ways a relief.  For so long, I felt responsible for everyone in my life and after losing Lola, the only responsibilities I have had, honestly, were to take care of myself and Lucy.  And of course, go to work and write and be a good friend and do everything that is important to do.

I am working on a book about Post Traumatic Growth – “transformation through loss.”  In doing my research, I have gone back to read this blog and also my journal, as well as finding all the quotes in countless books, and writing about everything I learned at Friends In Deed about loss, caregiving, life-threatening illness.  As someone said, “It’s a great comeback story.”  I don’t feel totally back, but I do believe now completely in the statement “the only way out is truly through.” For the first year and a half, I thought there would be no end to the tears.  There was.  There is.

I just found this funny old question-answer thing I wrote in February 2010 and I thought it might be fun to re-answer it now.  Some answers are the same, so I will change the color of the new answers:

Your cell phone: iPhone
Your hair: Brown
Your mother: Dead
Your father: Dead
Your favorite food: ice cream (it’s summer)
Your dream last night: no memory
Your favorite drink: iced lattes
Your dream goal: Writing and making a living at it again
What room are you in: living room
Your hobby: dancing
Your fear: a painful death
Where do you see yourself in 6 years: Writing and in love
Where were you last night: at Qoya, dancing and doing yoga
Something you aren’t: Daredevil
Muffins: banana

Wish list item:  Book contract or play produced
Where did you grow up: Long Island
Last thing you did: took a nap
What are you wearing: a dress
Your TV:  is mostly on my iPad 
Your pets: One beagle
Friends: fewer, but more devoted
Your life: Up and down, mostly up
Your mood: happy
Missing someone: My daughter
Vehicle: Feet
Something you aren’t wearing: shoes
Your favorite store: Lord and Taylor (because no one else is there)
Your favorite color: purple
When was the last time you laughed: yesterday in a meeting
Last time you cried: last night, watching a replay of the Olympic opening ceremony
Your best friend: Lucy
One place you go over and over: Central Park
Facebooking: Too often
Favorite place to eat: home


I was reading Steve Chandler’s book “Fearless” this morning and the message was about doing. Not dreaming about doing, not planning to do, not thinking about doing, but just doing.  Whatever you can.  One small thing, one big thing, a few small things – just do.  

I’m still having days when I feel lost and sad, but they are fewer and farther between.  Mostly I am doing and I’m enjoying it.  Brene Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” is also great – because knowing that you can take risks and put yourself out there (despite whatever feelings come up) is the only way to live a “whole-hearted life.” 

I spent last night mostly feeling sorry for myself and watched a “Friday Night Lights” marathon, but the writing was so good it inspired me — and this morning I woke up, posted on Facebook that we are having a second reading of “Scrambled Eggs” on June 2nd – invited people to the reading, wrote to my co-writer, decided to sign up again for Match.com and this time actually go on some dates, and accepted how little control I have over the outcome of anything, all I can do is take actions.  Small actions, big actions – any kind of action counts.  And today, I’m going to see “Bridesmaids” because I could really use a good laugh! 

 

That song came into my head and I was trying to remember what movie it came from. Recently I’ve been watching some old movies about divorce. (I wish I could remember all the titles, but I can’t.) I watched the First Wives Club two nights ago and a couple of months ago I watched “Starting Over” with Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh and Candace Bergen.

That song “Better and Better” (if that’s the title) is what Candace Bergen sings to Burt and it’s very funny. It’s a good movie. I think that the one scene people remember most is the scene in Bloomingdales, when they’re looking for a couch and Burt has a massive anxiety attack. A crowd gathers and his brother, a psychologist, played by Charles Durning, asks if anyone has a Valium and almost everyone takes out their pill bottles to offer one.

I need to watch comedies these days, although I’m still hooked on “The Wire” which is a brilliant show. And actually, McNulty, played brilliantly by Dominic West (he’s very sexy) is going through a painful divorce, so aside from all the brilliant police work and excellent characters, that storyline runs like a thread through the seasons.

All I can say is I am doing better. I still feel sad, lonely and angry sometimes. And…more and more I feel excited and joyous and alive. This is a good time really. I can move forward and live the life that is more authentic for me.

I met with my writing partner yesterday and showed him some Pema quotes. I loaned him the pocket book that I usually carry with me all the time. He loved the quotes I showed him. We have to work on a re-write of the ending and that is my focus these days. I’m hoping that we will have another reading with most of the same cast members that we had in at the Berkshires Playwrights Lab. (Or better yet, a workshop or a production.) That, finding work, writing, moving, seeing friends, taking care of the dogs, writing letters to the White House regarding the public option for health care, solving world peace, buying a few clothes that fit me, and having some fun, are my priorities right now.

When I started writing “Scrambled Eggs” almost all of my friends were going through perimenopause. Now almost all of them are dealing with divorce, relationships that are struggling, or trying to survive a difficult economy without it affecting their relationships. I think that divorces seem to be rising in part because of the financial uncertainty of the times we live in. I just heard that a friend of mine got pushed out of an amazing job in an organization she has worked at for over thirty years. She’s too young to retire. In her case it’s not the money that she’s worried about, it’s that she loves working and being productive. I know she’ll find something eventually.

Next up: “Scenes from a Marriage.” Anyone have a Valium?

Last night I felt, for the first time, that I really loved standing in front of an audience and that as scary as it was, the pleasure factor, the ability to make people laugh and tell a story was so much fun that I actually enjoyed myself. I ACTUALLY ENJOYED MYSELF.

I have to repeat that because tomorrow, a few hours before I have to get up there and do it again, I will be thinking about leaving the country and wondering why I put myself through this really scary shit.

Several people came over to me afterward and told me how I had either captured their families, or were dealing with parents who are sick, or kids or whatever. And the laughs were there – although I know it always depends on each audience and that I just have to work with whatever is happening each night. So I have tonight off and I will rehearse. Zoe’s here, going through her things and I will help her this afternoon.

I figured out the ending for “Scrambled Eggs.” I also think maybe it should just be “Eggs.” But I can’t wait to sit down next week after all of this crazy stuff is over and start a re-write.

For today, I am grateful for all the good that is happening in my life and even though there’s plenty to worry about, and feel sad about, there’s also a lot to be excited about. I guess that’s life.

I don’t have time to write much, but the reading of “Scrambled Eggs” at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab was a big hit. The cast was brilliant, the lead was amazing, Amy Von Nostrand coudn’t have been better. She was everything I hope for in an actor playing the role. We got huge laughs, we see the ending needs work, I think I have a better idea how to fix it and also places I want to re-write. Matt Penn was a fantastic director, the theater was so beautiful, we had a large crowd (around 200), I laughed (and I never laugh at my own writing.)

Tonight is the first night of the solo show and I am very nervous/excited. I will write more tonight or tomorrow. Zoe’s in town and I haven’t seen her yet, I can’t wait to give her a big hug. I missed her so much.

I don’t feel like writing much tonight – but it’s been ages since I wrote anything. For two days I was in Great Barrington at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab, working with actors and a director on a play I co-wrote called “Scrambled Eggs” (crazy title, thought up by Eric Bogosian, so you can’t turn that down.)

It was very challenging. The night of the table read, Matt Penn, the director, said the ending isn’t quite there yet, so just re-write. The actor who’s playing the lead, a lovely woman named Amy Von Nostrand, came to my room at the inn and we talked through the play until midnight. And then the following day I sat at the computer and worked on a new ending. It’s not quite there yet, but it’s getting closer. One of the best things about theater is that the play can keep on evolving.

Then I raced home last night in time to be here today for the tech rehearsal of my solo show and I got to see my dear friend, Jake Lipman’s show tonight too. “Up a River and Down the Aisle.” She was fantastic.

Tomorrow I go back up to Great Barrington (which is quite gorgeous, by the way) for the reading. I am prepared for a talk back afterward which will probably be difficult – it usually is. People like to put in their two cents and it’s not always flattering. But I feel that I have to be there, not only because I have a chance to see the play in front of an audience, but because I really like the actors and want to be there to support them. I know we’ll get laughs and I hope it works as a staged reading. I cringe a lot at things I would like to completely re-write, but at this point, I don’t have the chance.

Zoe’s flying in tonight from San Francisco and we will probably just miss each other tomorrow morning as I race to Grand Central. I have to say this is very very stressful, but in a good way. It’s amazing that it’s all happening in one week.