A few weeks before I got sober in 2010, I decided to create some kind of forum for my own voice again because I knew I would go crazy if I didn't.
So I started a Tumblr and called it "I Shouldn't Be Telling You This." I made it private soon after its creation. But I looked at it tonight, and immediately it took me back to being on the verge of being ready to make a major change in my life. And it happened. Literally less than a month after writing this, I stopped drinking. And it stuck. Three years now, it has stuck.
Reading this is incredibly embarrassing and raw and earnest, but I love it all the same. In fact, I love it because of that.
You'll also notice -- I never once mention alcohol.
I do mention several times grappling with the challenge of being able to believe in myself.
And now, I'd like to share it with all of you.
May 31, 2010
At a certain point the person inside you needs to, begs to come out.
It's always here with me, but as an old friend said, calling me tonight, "I like your new Tumblr. It's like how you used to blog." I know, I said, thank you, thank you, I know. That's why I started blogging in 2004. To rediscover my voice. And I haven't lost it, but I'd say that I'm so focused on "parlaying" (that's a book I'd be great at writing -- advancing the story, as we say in media) in my career that it's easy to lose sight of all of that authentic humanity that's buried deep inside the person that may not come across in 140 characters or in jokes or in snap razzledazzle first impressions.
I'm great at that. I'm great at putting on a show, but perhaps because I don't have an intimate relationship with someone, to me, writing brings out a certain life force energy that makes me feel wildly alive. It's important to feel wildly alive when you are living.
My to-do list grows ever longer. I bought a candle today. I wish I was better at relaxing. I'm just constantly so overextended. So are most people in New York. And in the New York media entertainment complex? Forget about it.
Don't get me wrong. I know how lucky I am, I try to radiate that gratitude, breathe it into what I do. So why... why do I fear or not treat myself with the love I'd treat others? Today, Sharon and I met at bikram. I made it, just barely, but I made it. I looked in the mirror, face broken out, puffed with sodium and sugar and stress, and I said, "I'm ugly. I look ugly."
"You don't look your best," she said. "But you don't look ugly."
Later we were walking and at one point, having just had the how-do-I-look-question-again, I nearly stopped a hot dog vendor to see if he thought we both looked pretty. Pathological. I realize. I asked him about the weather instead.
I want to relax. I want to believe. I want to know and love and nurture my own beauty in a way that goes beyond superficial insanity. Because that's all that is. It's insanity. I'm trying. I just know that there's importance in where I'm at right now, meaning -- there's importance in not letting these moments slip through my fingers.
It's so interesting. I don't think of myself as hyper-competitive, but I know that others think of me that way. I think of myself as hyper-ambitious. But -- do I actually think life's a competition? I think that... no. I think I'm afraid of wasted opportunities. That's all. I've just learned the importance of heat and buzz and advancement and movement. And then there's my standard my-dad-is-a-blind-nearly-killed-combat-vet-card. It's my card. But it's influenced my whole life.
DON'T WASTE IT. That's the tattoo in my brain. Don't waste it. But -- oh and isn't this interesting. Because perhaps that's all the fear represents: is waste. How spectacular to realize something like this. Ditch the ego-filled fears, and I stop soiling all the beauty.
See, that is -- this is -- why I write. I don't want to waste my life. So first things first: get rid of the waste. Meaning: Stop wasting time with gunk and the sludge in my doubts and my mental beat-ups that does no one any good. One step. One foot in front of the other and enjoy every moment the toes step down in to the carpet.
Oh, and here you go. Here's my caveat, my speech on the discomfort of reading about someone assessing their own talent is this... So that you know I'm not some narcissistic megalomaniac:
1) To do anything in the world of media entertainment you have to employ an almost monstrous self-belief to do it, because otherwise: uncomfortable. No one wants to see that. You have to know you're a star. Otherwise, go home. Seriously.
For the most part, people only want to see an entertainer, a person, a writer, or any label you might want to put on me (or anyone) who relaxes you, takes you out of your element, introduces you to another world that makes the world as a whole seem both bigger and smaller. Who is NOT apologizing, qualifying, hemming and hawing.
That's where I'm at in my life now. That's the importance of wrestling the demons of self-doubt and not joining in the dance of hatred and detraction. "People like to be around you," one non-date said to me recently. "I know," I said, sparkling. "I get that a lot."
And I do. And that is good. Now I just need to like to be around me. Instead of letting anyone else's energy affect me. I am the life that I want to live. It's true. I believe that. Because yes... people like to be around life force. It's like gulping in air.
2) What I say to others who struggle with big-picture self-belief oil-spill-near levels of negative self-talk toxicity (myself included) is this, If you've ever even dared asked the question of, Am I an asshole? Then no, friend, you are not an asshole. Those with no self-awareness never worry about these questions. They are too busy being assholes.
One thing I do know about me, about everything, about life: My happiest knowledge comes in knowing that there is strength, there is victory, there is utter and complete release and relaxation to the point of near dissolution... in the principle of HAVING FUN. God, that's all I want. As in, that's my prayer. To just enjoy the journey.
I told my therapist I was seeing in 2005 who looked like a chubby Christian Bale in Chicago when I was getting divorced, I said, "I know I'm going to be successful. So I've decided to just relax and have a great time along the way." And he gave me that little blink of hesitation and worry that he was dealing with a crazy deluded person, and I had never felt more confident in my life. Why would I then now, when things are only going wonderfully, be so filled with doubt?
Maybe because it's not... it's not doubt, exactly. It's more just exhaustion. And as my dad might say, that exhaustion is trying to tell me something. And I think the message is to listen to Mandy Who Schooled Her Therapist in 2005.
Get in touch with the naivete of total confidence. Say no to others. Say yes to myself. Give myself a break. Trust. Just trust. I can't do it all. Enjoy the journey. Laugh at the pitfalls, do my best, and oh my: enjoy the journey. Because -- if, if it all goes away, if I am, as I like to joke, one day homeless and on the subway saying, "Outrageous sexual commentary and first-person narrative for a dollar... anyone?" then that's fine. That's okay.
Because, and I really believe this just so much: You have to risk. Life rewards it. Life rewards it so much. Look at me. Total re-invention. And I've loved every second of it.
There's a speaker I like, Wayne Dyer, and he has this one talk I've listened to a few times with Byron Katie. Someone asks, "What to do with disease? What to do with that?" And she answers (Byron does), "Love it. Just love it." That's my tactic lately.
Seeing the angels hidden within the devils of self-doubt.
And just love them.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.