Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Living on “The Edge…”
Playing It Safe…A Cautionary Tale

I’m supposed to be on a train right now going into NYC to try out some new stand-up comedy material at an open mic night. Instead, I’m working on next week’s column. I want to get it down on paper while the feelings are still fresh. Besides, by the time I finished cleaning Mama up, it was already too late for me to catch the train.

In polite terms, Mama had a “loose bowel” moment. She’d either forgotten or was just too ornery to put on her disposable underwear this morning…and then she didn’t quite make it to the bathroom in time. So, I just spent the last two hours giving her a bath; washing, blow-drying and rolling up her hair; washing her soiled clothes, cleaning up excrement caked to the toilet bowl and all around the bathroom floor, and finally, taking a shower myself, because after all that I didn’t smell too good either.

I swear, if I had a dollar for every time somebody said, “What a blessing for you to be able to do that!” to me when they find out I’m the daytime caregiver for my 91 year-old mom, I’d be a very rich woman. But they might feel otherwise if they knew my mother.

I’ve heard it said that as we get older, the more we show the world who we really are because we no longer have the energy to pretend. Well, on a good day, Mama’s a narcissist; on a bad day, she’s angry and bitter. This is not new behavior, though. She’s been that way, if not all of her life, at least all of mine.

Much of her anger is projected onto my sister and me, since pretty much everybody else she’d be mad at is dead…except for the oncologist who saved her life, but whom she swears gave her cancer. Still, I think most of it is directed at herself.

She’s nearing the end, now, and she’s filled with regrets about all the things she didn’t do…but ladened with excuses over why she didn’t do them.

I am grateful to my Mama, though, because she made me the woman that I am today. She was my role model for what not to be. She ridiculed every aspiration I ever had with: “Who do you think you are…you’re not that special.” And I took that as a challenge to prove her wrong.

Believe me, the kind of resilience that built up over the years of my childhood came in mighty handy as an actress! No rejection from any producer or casting director could compare to that which I had already experienced from my Mama. I never thought of failure as a foe, but simply as something I had to go through to get to what I wanted. And the way I saw it, even if I didn’t get it, that disappointment couldn’t begin to compare with the unhappiness of not trying for it.

Mama had played it safe all her life, I was determined to take chances. Baby steps at first, because it was unknown territory, but eventually my motto became “feel the fear and do it anyway.” (also the title of a 1987 bestseller by Susan Jeffers, )

So, even if up till now you’ve played it safe all your life, don’t let fear keep you from pursuing your dreams. Set your destination and the course you’re supposed to take to reach it will begin to unfold. The most important step is the first one, because, to quote the German writer-philosopher, JohannWolfgang von Goethe:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”


I very seldom write an entire column in one sitting and it’s been five days now since I left off…and you’ll never guess what’s happened!

Two hours after “the incident,” when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to make it to that night’s open mic, I got a call from my stand-up teacher who invited me to be one of the stand-up comics for the kick-off of Broads on Broadway, a new “chick comedy” show starting up at Caroline’s Comedy Club!

Then, since I missed Wednesday’s open mic, I decided to go on Friday night instead. When I got to Stand-up New York, there was a camera crew and a woman from MTV shooting footage for a documentary on why anyone would decide to go into stand-up comedy. It was one of the best sets I ever had…they shot it for the documentary, and she’s coming to see me at perform at Caroline’s!

Had I gone to the open mic on the night I’d planned on going, I wouldn’t have gone on the night I was supposed to…

“…raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way…”

Don’t you just love it when that happens?!


PS – Mama had a good day today. We watched The Price Is Right, ate ice cream together and played checkers. She won and that made her happy. It did my heart good to see her smile. And even at 91, it did her heart good to win at something.

* * *
Mariann will be appearing at Caroline’s on Comedy Club, 1626 Broadway (at 50th St) in New York City (www.carolines.com) on Wednesday, January 30 & Monday, February 11. Both shows are at 7 pm. For Reservations call 212-757-4100. Mention that you’re coming to see Mariann and get the “Friends and Family” rate on the cover charge. Pay $7.00 on Wednesday and $5.00 on Monday…saving $10.00

(Mariann also blogs at Lee Bailey’s Electronic Urban Report)

1 comment:

Esther said...

Fantastic article again this week, Mariann! I feel your pain with the narcissistic parent, though reading yours, maybe mine aren't as bad as I think. You give me strength to not let their bs get me down. Thank you!