PLOT TWISTS

“The whole magic of a plot requires that somebody be impeded from getting something over with.”

– Renata Adler, Speedboat

Okay, I admit that I’m struggling a little bit with the concept that it is 2014, and I am still wrapping my head around the gratitude bubble of where I am right now. I just wrote my rent check, and it kind of blew my mind. One- because I almost wrote 2013 as the year, and two- because it’s a rent check. As in, not a mortgage check (thank GOD), and for a rental home, in East Sacramento, in the most quintessentially charming abode in which I have yet to have the privilege of dwelling. This is kind of a big deal, like I’m borderline concerned someone is going to knock on my door and tell me that the movie set I’ve been living on (in?) is getting packed up without me. But the cool part is- it’s not.

Because for sure my life is just like a movie script. Totally. Like I think this might be a blockbuster hit. Actually, in the last year during this journey of self-actualization, my life kind of has been legitimately like a movie. It’s been surreal almost. I have had more moments in the last twelve months where I have stepped back and thought “holy shit, this is my life? This is f#cking awesome” than I did in the previous 32 years combined. It’s not that I was never happy before, I just didn’t really, well, get it, or at the very least I didn’t understand how to recognize and appreciate it like I do now. And for full disclosure, it also had several “ow, ow, ow, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, now what?” temporary panic moments; I have just learned to deal with them differently.

You know when you see a movie again that you watched for the first time as a kid and all of the sudden you get it, like really get it? This was probably followed by some uncomfortable realizations (awkward, much)as you realized there were layers of understanding that you just plain didn’t understand the first go around and now make infinite sense to you? Yeah. Ditto. And that keeps happening in my movie life too. Those lessons that the universe keeps handing me – they are starting to get a little clearer. The focus has improved, the lens magnified and the stage readied. Apparently reliving critical scenes a half dozen times is finally working out because my understanding of the lessons keeps improving (and yeah, it’s about damn time).

My personal life has been a fairly standard drama to date, a comedy in large part and a thriller at times even. Whooo. Goosebumps. Damn if there haven’t been a whole lot of high speed chases, boy-meets-girl screenshots and romantic blunders, dramatic pauses, legitimate brushes with death, epically bad parenting fails, screenwriter award worthy arguments, and a whole lot of comedic montages. But mostly, there have been a solid set of incredible, powerful, unexpected, unanticipated, and sometimes undesirable, changes in the storyline.

Try as I might to plan my future, a great deal of what I have done has had nothing to do with where I had envisioned myself actually being and a whole lot to do with experiences, relationships and opportunities that arose. Plot twists, as they were. And there are so many more to come. This show ain’t anywhere near over yet. The movie reel is still rolling, the suspense is building and the main character, having finally sorted most of her shit out, has emerged.

I could choose to see this as terrifying, but I don’t. I think it’s pretty damn awesome. I am in awe of, inspired by and motivated because of the juxtaposition of forces in my life and the sheer serendipity of it all. By the balancing act of wants, needs and facts. Of where I want to go with where I’m actually going. Of what I want to happen with what is and will. I am fascinated by the fact that the more positive energy I put into creating my own happy reality the more happy my reality becomes. That when I visualize, it materializes.

While I certainly don’t have any control over a large majority of the script, I do get to write my own dialogue and at least to some extent, choose the characters with whom I interact. I hold sole charge in my reactions and responses to each new climactic convolution in screenplay. This is where the message lies and the way in which I will ensure my own success in whatever situation, be it perceived fortuitous or not, comes my way.

Witnessing this, seeing it, especially when and while it is happening, has been undeniably impactful. Living through an experience present and mindful enough to keep it chill, hold it down or otherwise simply breathe and recognize is what is allowing me to star as the protagonist in this feature film. It has turned category five storms into scattered showers, tiny accomplishments into giant celebrations, mountains into molehills, an opening act into the headliner.

On a keeping it real level, it has reduced my stress so significantly that I went from taking OTC heartburn medication daily to not even remembering which brand I used to use. From borderline dangerous blood pressure to the kind that is so low the nurse comes back to check to make sure the armband is actually in the right place. From surviving, cup to cup, on caffeine, hardly sleeping, and overreacting when I faced adversity at work or home to consuming one cup of coffee a day (usually), getting 6-7 hours of solid sleep at night and managing most stressful moments with a calm and composed demeanor and tone (disclaimer- I said MOST, not all. MOST, as in I have made improvement here people, like passing the 50% mark, finally).

For example, when I’m driving and some assho-, I mean, uh, someONE, cuts me off, I don’t get upset and yell at them anymore (as if they could actually hear me anyway . . .). I just chalk it up to their own agenda resulting in their mistake, watch to see that it doesn’t impact me any further and shrug it off. When someone makes an asinine remark at a social event I don’t take it personally, their perception has to do with their issues, not mine. I am who I am and I’m good with that, if you don’t like me that’s YP baby (and don’t worry, I’ll like you back anyway, I’m cool like that).

When people don’t live up to my expectations I remember that the problem in the first place is that I held expectations for them at all (oh, and I totally crank up “Hang Me Up To Dry” if I am having a little trouble letting that one go. . . I think a four minute session with the Cold War Kids is reasonable, if not recommended, when one really wants to get.that.shit.out., just sayin’). If I miss a deadline I don’t waste time beating myself up about it, I just keep moving forward and get it done already.  When my day doesn’t go like google calendar said it was going to, I just (gasp) delete or rearrange the boxes that didn’t end up on the day’s Hot Ticket list.  Scary, I know. Shiver. All this flexibility and positivity and zen and go with the flow nonsense. One might think I was regularly practicing yoga or something. . .

I am working on teaching these skills to my children, but more about that later. For now, let’s just say that I am making solid progress on mastering the art of contortion. I am learning to be flexible when things don’t go my way, to stay focused on the big picture and to generally maintain the leading role in my real life cinematic production.

In the spirit of visceral wisdom that all good Pinterest quotes carry (insert snarky remark here . . . ), let me suggest that “when something goes amiss in your life, yell PLOT TWIST, and move on.”

“When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.”

Charles Baxter, Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

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