"My whole life is a coping strategy."

While seeing my physical therapist the other night, he asked if I liked my eating habits (an odd way to ask the question, but it got me thinking) and I babbled for a few minutes about the little things I’ve picked up on eating, hunger, diets, and the like. b/w line art drawing of coping

I told him about how I was at 250 lbs. in my mid-20s, my work with a nutritionist where I learned that starches shot my weight up like nobody’s business, the various diets I’ve been on in my life, how food and money are both lifelong meditations since I tell myself so many stories about what they say about me, how fasting one day a week has taught me the difference between hunger and cravings, and the little tactics I weave into my life: make a plan for how to navigate the dessert table at the family reunion, put a hand on my belly and ask myself “Am I hungry?” when I stand in front of the candy machine (for some reason, I can’t lie to myself when I do that), using the No S diet eating plan when eating normally through the week. And on and on.

He smiled and said, “Sounds like you have some great coping strategies, there.”

To which I replied, without thinking, “My whole life is a coping strategy.”

(There’s probably a blogging rule somewhere about not making the punchline the title of your post, but I’ll deal with the blog police later.)

I repeated this line to my mastermind group later and they laughed and said, “You’re right.”

Not quite sure what to do with this self-appraisal that bubbled up out of nowhere, but it’s something more to meditate on.


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Social behavior boils down to the “Morris Theorem”: “Change is caused by lazy, greedy, frightened people looking for easier, more profitable, and safer ways to do things.” These people are much the same everywhere. Their societies develop along similar paths. Geography explains different outcomes. “Maps, not chaps,” as Morris likes to say.

“The agency of individuals actually matters much less than historians tend to assume,” Morris tells me. “It’s hard to find any examples of decisions made by single individuals that ­really changed the big story very much—until you get into the 20th century, when you’ve got nuclear weapons.”

I recently said to a director, ‘Audiences are like furtive strangers standing outside school gates with bags of sweets. You follow them at your peril.’ They lead you down the wrong path, and then they say, 'We don’t believe you’ at the end of it when they’ve laughed and laughed and encouraged you to be funnier and funnier. They drop you, and you’re dumped as a character and as an actor, so always stay true. That’s the point.

Few writers have managed more fully than Stacton to bear out Gore Vidal’s maxim that writers shouldn’t “write what they know” but, rather, what they imagine or suspect. The Stacton oeuvre also flies in the face of Michael Frayn’s droll advice that authors do well to write the same book “over and over again, just very slightly different, so that people get used to it”.

IN THE SUMMER OF 1999, the Holy Spirit directed Rick Karr, a 51-year-old Texan, to answer the calls made to a phone booth located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, 15 miles from a highway. He spent 32 days camping beside the phone booth on the desert playa in scorching heat. During that time he answered over 500 calls, many of which came from someone named Sergeant Zeno, who said he was phoning from the Pentagon.

No one can accuse me of pandering or writing purely in the hopes of having a commercial hit. I doubt I could do that if I tried anyway. My friend pointed out that I also have a track record that establishes that I’m not fixated on having commercial hits. I forgot that part.

But the hallmark of a good writer is not avoiding script calamities. They are unavoidable. It’s responding to them - working hard to get the story right, being prepared to sacrifice every part or piece of the story and ultimately the episode itself to get the story right so the jokes will fly. It is hard work, but it’s mostly indoors, done with a MacBook Pro, nearby copious amounts of coffee, so it’s not all bad.

[In other words, the only way out is through.]

Story-surgery is required at a number of stages - and is more easily done early on in the process. That’s why is worth being brutal with your story or outline before you start writing a script. It’s like baking a cake. Mary Berry says to make sure you measure the ingredients carefully. If you don’t, it’s very hard to remove flour from a cake and add an egg when the cake is in the oven. The script equivalent of removing flour from a cake is through-the-night rewrites, caffeine overdoses, panic, sweat and weight gain. This, in my experience, can be exhilarating, once or twice but is mostly no fun

On realizing when my vacation started

The next morning, the 24th, I ran out of hot water about halfway through my shower. We then went to the Publix grocery store to buy some necessities for the week and ingredients for a dish Liz would make on Christmas Day. Shopping and navigating my cart through the aisles reminded me of driving through Orlando the night before (i.e., dense, crowded, lots of defensive driving, and being stoical in the face of madness).

After the shopping, we went next door to the Mexican restaurant for lunch. We ordered, I drank my iced tea, and I started to slow down. At some point, while sitting at that table, eating chips and salsa, I relaxed because I realized -- for the first time in a couple of months -- I was not in problem-solving mode anymore. I didn't have to plan my work for that afternoon, craft a last-minute PowerPoint presentation, juggle time to buy Christmas presents, deal with my insurance company, calculate car lengths and speeds on the fly, or endure a surprise cold-water shower.

For Liz, her vacation started the minute our wheels turned for Florida. For me, it started when I had the leisure and space to just sit and relax and enjoy what was in front of me.