Monthly Archives: February 2013

Alone and Smiling

Yesterday, I spent the entire day alone.

I woke up alone, ate breakfast alone, worked alone and took myself to dinner, alone. I sat at the noodle bar at Momofuku in the East Village, next to two men who were also alone. Not a word was spoken between the three of us, even though we occasionally elbowed one another as we reached for our water glasses, or picked up splintery, wooden chopsticks to resume eating.

After I finished my exorbitantly-expensive-yet-delightfully-delicious bowl of ramen, I had nothing else to do but head back to the apartment in West Harlem. I had long since thrown out my plans to hit the gym, but the thought of hurrying home to be alone for yet another evening was almost too much to bear.

I decided to take a walk. It was quite nice out. The rain had stopped, the sky was clear and 44 degrees actually felt comfortable.

I made my way towards Union Square, passing by quaint, candle-lit restaurants packed with couples and parties of friends, enjoying their meals with full glasses of red wine.

I began to notice how many other people were out, walking. Each person had a place to go, with such purpose.  People briskly passed me by, chatting on their cell phones, heading to yoga or home from the grocery store. Couples kissed on street corners. Some argued. Businessmen closed one last deal before entering their apartments. Women in heels hailed taxicabs. Children either played with toys, or slept in plastic-covered strollers. Dogs in sweaters relieved themselves.

As I walked and observed, the street numbers kept growing.  Soon, I had gained twelve blocks. Fascinated by the life around me, I continued on foot.

I decided to conduct an experiment. I would look at each person who passed, and try to make eye contact. If they met my gaze, I would hold it. If they stared back, I would smile.

I know. It’s totally creepy of me.

At first, it was hard to grab anyone’s attention. Most New Yorkers walk with their heads down or eyes glued to their cell phones. Granted, if it’s cold or raining out, we bury our faces in thick scarves or protect them with gigantic umbrellas.

Soon enough, people’s eyes began to meet mine. Almost instantly, however, they would break contact and look down, or away, towards traffic in the street.

I kept walking and searching faces.

At 5th Avenue and Bryant Park, I noticed a little red-headed girl with bouncy curls, holding tightly to her father’s hand. I surmised they had just come from the ice skating rink. I smiled at her sweet face, and then made eye contact with her father. Almost instantly, his face erupted into a beam of gleaming, white teeth. It was the widest, proudest smile I have seen in a while. I couldn’t help but feel my own smile grow, and, soon, tears sprang into my eyes.  

I started to feel less alone.

At East 42nd Street, across from Grand Central Station, I noticed a very attractive man in a business suit. I singled him out and stared him down. He felt my gaze, met it with intensity, and flashed a warm, almost-flirtatious smile. I blushed and hid my teeth.

I wanted to run after him but didn’t. It was enough just to be acknowledged. (All right, I may or may not have placed an ad in NYC’s “Missed Connections”.)

Still, street numbers grew. I strolled past the infamous Apple Store, horse and carriages, joggers and dog-walkers in Central Park, towards the Upper West Side. At times, I forgot my experiment and transformed into a woman with a purpose. As I quickened my pace, I became frustrated with slow movers and tourists (as all New Yorkers do), but ultimately remembered I had no reason to hurry home.

At 66th Street, across from Lincoln Center, I walked by a homeless man on my right, who was pushing a very heavy shopping cart. Two very expensive-looking, fur-clad women passed us at the same time.  The man boisterously called out to them.

“Hey, babies, how’s about ten dollars?” His voice mimicked that of Louis Armstrong’s, and I could tell he had a sense of humor.

I burst out laughing, and whirled around to watch the exchange. The rich ladies ignored the man, but his eyes met mine.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking!” I shouted to him.

He grinned, and opened wide his arms. “You gots to try, don’t ya? You have yo’sef a lovely evening, young lady!”

I beamed again.

“You, too!”

Sixty blocks and five miles later, with my heavy bag still slung over my now-aching shoulder, I decided to board the train at 72nd Street and ride the rest of the way up to West Harlem.  I slid my Metro card, pushed my hips through the turnstile, hurried down the stairs, stuffed my ear buds in and sat down in an empty, orange seat on the 3 train.

With music softly playing, I scanned the crowd. Slowly, subtlety, people began to smile at me. I almost forgot the Cheshire grin, still affixed to my face.

Eventually, smiles faded, and we returned to ourselves. Yet, somehow, I know we all felt a little less alone.


Clichés and the City

Last night I rode the train home after seeing my old college friend perform in a sketch comedy show at the Magnet Theater.  When I rounded the corner on 28th Street, I heard the train approaching.  I scurried down the stairs, through the turnstile and heeded the familiar musical warning that the doors would soon be closing.

There, I saw him: a beautiful specimen of a man, holding the subway doors open for me.

We rode the train in silence. I avoided eye contact but inched as close to him on the crowded train as possible, hoping for the screeching brakes or sudden jerk of movement to propel me into his arms.

Eventually, he sat down, and I sat next to him, only to have him give up his seat for an elderly woman.

The fire in my heart grew.

At 110th Street, he disappeared. I was left disappointed, but relished in the blissful memory of twelve subway stops of unrequited love at first sight.

I shared this story via social media, half-laughing at it all.  Yes, the man was gorgeous, and yes, my heart skipped a beat when his pant leg brushed against my black leggings. Yet, for all I know, he’s got a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Or both. Maybe he’s a narcissist, or serial killer. He might have sleep apnea or an abhorrence to brushing his teeth. There are a million ways why this fantasy love story will never work, and I know it.  Still, it’s fun to imagine. I’m somewhat of a hopeless romantic.

The commentary that immediately followed on Facebook, Twitter, in person and over text was astoundingly full of clichés. It was almost as if I had shared my story, desperate for an answer. Quite the contrary!

I know everyone is trying to be helpful, but if one more person delivers a cliché in response to my tales of singlehood, I’m either going to scream, or vomit.  Perhaps both.

The following are a list of phrases I will pay to never hear again.

1.  The right one will come along, or God will bring the right one to you.

First of all, I’m not one to just sit around, waiting for things to happen.  Secondly, how can I argue with a cliché, starring God? He is in charge of everything, but He’s never promised me a second husband.  At this point, I’m just trying to get a decent date.  Furthermore, I do not believe in “The Right One” or “The One”. I believe you pick someone, and make it work. In all my years of therapy, I have learned chemistry and compatibility are the two most important factors that make up a relationship.

Chemistry: You’ve got to want to make out with the person all the time, because eventually, they will annoy the crap out of you.

Compatibility: You’ve got to get along with them initially, and have similar goals, because eventually, they will annoy the crap out of you.

But, you make it work, because love is always worth the risk. 

2.  When you stop looking, you’ll find him. 

Thank you for insinuating I am so desperate for a man in my life, I am constantly looking for one. There are days I rejoice in my freedom, and there are others when I am trying so hard not to look, all I see is dog poo on the sidewalk.

The truth is, anyone who is single and desires to be in relationship WILL NEVER STOP looking, hoping, wondering and dreaming, no matter how much we try to deny it.

3.  Do what you love, and the rest will follow.

This statement is actually less an annoying cliché and more frustrating truth. I moved to New York to pursue my career goals, not to find a man. At the same time, refer to cliché #1. If a man happens to cross my path (perhaps on the subway), I will not reject him. But if he’s not interested, I’m not going to stalk him. (Okay, maybe a little…)

At this point, I am doing what I love, and what I hope to immediately follow is a hard-earned paycheck.

4. Timing is everything. Be patient. Maybe he’s not ready yet.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to wait around for someone to figure out what to do with me. I want to be in a relationship with a man, not a boy who doesn’t know what – or who — he wants.

5.  He’s out there, somewhere.

Whenever someone says this to me, I immediately think of the love of my life, floating silently through the galaxy in one of those heavy-yet-gravity-free, badass space suits. I giggle at the mental picture, and then start to feel sorry for him, being all alone “out there, somewhere” (most likely, lost in the time-space continuum).

Maybe he’s in Indiana.

You know what else is “out there, somewhere”? Giant water buffalo. Babies being groomed to become sumo wrestlers. Dogs who wear sweaters. A cure for cancer. The next teary-eyed winner of a reality television talent competition. The eighth wonder of the world. My Tony, Oscar, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize Awards. Buttermilk.

6.  I don’t understand how someone as smart, talented, articulate and beautiful as you can still be single.

The right one hasn’t come along yet. God hasn’t brought him to me. Maybe I’m looking too hard. Perhaps I’m too focused on doing what I love to do. Maybe it’s just not the right time.

Or maybe you should just ask me out.

Raindrops in a Sea of Grace

I woke up late this morning to raindrops on the fire escape. The tiny beads of water line themselves up in rows of eight to twelve along each metal railing and stair. They linger until the moment you look out the window and catch a glimpse of all the fire escapes on the surrounding buildings. The chorus of raindrops glitters and gleams as high as your eye can see. Slowly, one by one, they flutter to the pavement.

I decided I needed to write today.

Besides finding stage work, one of my goals in New York is to finish my book. I think I’ve been talking about completing it for almost ten months now, but haven’t written one word past Chapter 72. I know I have to end the story of the divorce, for the sake of the book.

At the same time, and not to make any more excuses, I feel as if I’ve been living the ending. Two years after pleading with God to help me end my divorce and move to New York, I am finally here.

The details matter, of course. I just don’t want to re-live them.

A few days ago, I started to write the “real” Chapter 73. I opened up my old journal and emails, and began plugging away. The more I read through three-year old communication with X, however, the angrier I got.

Why did I stay married to that guy for so long?! I screamed at myself. Every word of his on that computer screen reeked of bullshit; mine of desperation. It’s amazing how love can blind us. Yet, when two people choose to love each other, it can paint an incredible, rich canvas of life. Everything is redeemable. Anything is possible.

* * * * *

After an audition yesterday, I met up with a lovely, talented actress/director friend who just so happens to be divorced, as well. She is happily re-married to a faithful, loving man.

“Can I ask you something personal?” she asked, her piercing teal-blue eyes staring straight into mine.

“Absolutely,” I responded, my mouth full of hot bread and warm olives. Traffic outside our corner window table started picking up. Gentle flakes of snow fell to the ground, and the busy street transformed into a palette of color: grey sky, yellow cabs, black umbrellas and bright, multi-colored scarves.

“Have you been able to fully forgive X?” Her question was direct.

I paused, about to pop another green olive into my mouth.

“I don’t know,” I sighed.  I carefully placed the olive back on my plate.

I began to explain how I think I have forgiven X as much as I am humanly capable. The rest is up to God. If I stop and think about how X betrayed himself, first, then me, our marriage and everything for which we stood, I get angry. It looks like he got away with all of his shenanigans, and moved forward, almost seamlessly, into a whole new life, without consequence.

He’s actually been blessed.

The honest, human part of me wants him to suffer, perhaps just so I can feel like the fourteen years I spent in relationship with him were not a total waste.


God’s incredible love, combined with the mystery of grace, is so powerful. I cannot think about what my ex husband has and I don’t. It’s a waste of time, emotion and energy. My new life has already been set in motion, and I get to live, free. I am free to pursue my dreams. I am free to love again, and I truly believe that love will be deeper, stronger and more incredible than anything I have ever experienced.

I also realize, in telling my story — even in re-living those painful, sometimes embarrassing details, God is able to continue to heal parts of me that are broken.

I am swimming in a sea of grace.

* * * * *

As the rain continues to fall this briskly balmy Saturday afternoon in New York, I think of each individual drop as contributing to that sea of grace, of forgiveness.

One by one, each raindrop falls. Some, harder than others. Others linger on the fire escape, until just the right moment, when you’re ready to recognize the life and beauty in a single drop.  Eventually, you’re soaked from head to toe.

And the most painfully beautiful part of it all is realizing everyone gets as much grace as you do.

New Me in New York, Part Deux

I’ve been in New York for two weeks now.

Even in winter, it’s everything wonderful I remember: towering architecture, flashing marquees, glowing stage lights and bright, yellow taxicabs; crowded subways and quaint cafes filled with people from all walks of life. The bustling noise and busyness is always offset by a quiet, wooden park bench, and the harsh wind and cold, made warmer by the coo of a lone dove perched on the fire escape.

I love this city with all my heart.

I’m staying in my friends’ apartment in West Harlem, while they are away for several weeks. A couple of months ago, while I lay sick in my bed in Pasadena, I declared over social media I was going to allow people to love me this year. Almost immediately, I received a phone call. My friends responded with, “Come to New York, stay in our place and pay what you can. And by ‘what you can’ — even if we don’t get a dime, it’s okay.”

I burst into tears, accepted their more-than-generous offer, and started packing.

Here I am, and I even survived – I’d say frolicked in — the big blizzard of 2013.

I heart blizzards.

I heart blizzards.

There is always beauty after the storm.

There is always beauty after the storm.

It’s hard to not project into the future, however. I started looking for apartments so I can live on my own, but quickly got discouraged because I can’t afford it. I’ve been auditioning as much as I can, but nothing happens overnight. I need work, and badly. I want so desperately to be able to support myself and really make this happen. I am determined to not have to move back to Los Angeles, with my tail tucked between my legs, and nothing to show for my time here.

I’ve been given a second chance and do not want to fail.


I’ve lived in New York City before. I moved four years ago, on February 13, 2009.  X accompanied me on the plane ride out, for I didn’t want to go alone. I was still reticent about the decision we had made – and prayed for – together, but somehow I knew it was a huge step forward in my life.

We arrived at JFK and lugged my three tattered suitcases through the subway, towards Morningside Heights (Harlem). The same couple housing me now had offered their couch for a couple of weeks while I waited for the room I had rented in Queens to be available.

As we crossed the threshold into my friends’ tiny apartment, I immediately felt at home; peace.

X and I sat down on the blue, velvet couch and sipped homemade coffee with our friends. We all marveled at how I had finally arrived in New York, with a job, and an opportunity to shoot for the stars — at least for six months. I complained about having to swing the off-Broadway show I was in (I want to go back and slap my entitled attitude!), and worried about how I’d manage a six-month separation from my beloved husband.

The answer was simple: we’d endure. It was only six months. The potential opportunities were worth the possible struggle of loneliness and separation.

Yet, those six months – February to August, 2009 – were the cruelest, saddest and loneliest times I have ever experienced in my life.

“I love you more than anything, Leslie,” X reassured me, after we had finished our coffee, and were waiting on the curb for his airport cab to arrive, to take him back to Los Angeles.

I kicked a chicken bone out from under the heel of my boot and brushed the tears from my eyes.

“I hate the thought of not being with you,” I cried. “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and your unwavering support and encouragement means the world to me. I could not do this without you. I honestly couldn’t have dreams without you, because I think you believe in me more than I believe in myself.”

“I support you one million percent,” X replied.  “I will hate being away from you, too, but we’ll make it work. After all, we love each other and are most important to each other.”

The cab arrived. My husband hugged me, slid his tall, thin frame into the back seat, and drove away. I would see him in New York just once more in the following six months. Little did I know then, I had already lost him.


Four years later – I have gained a whole new me.

As I have wandered the city these past two weeks, I know I am different.  I feel it.  I may be alone, but alone doesn’t necessarily mean lonely. I have bigger dreams than I ever had the courage to dream before.  I feel calm. Humbled. Confident. Expectant. Excited. My future has never been more unsteady or unsure, but I know it will be all right.

I am not worried about failing.  Just by being in this vibrant city this very moment, and every millisecond that follows — for however long I am able to remain – I have already succeeded.