Monologues and the Truth: Thoughts on Life from a “Scandal” Fan

Shonda Rhimes, Recipient of the 2014 Diversity Award from the Director's Guild of America

Shonda Rhimes, Recipient of the 2014 Diversity Award from the Director’s Guild of America

Shonda Rhimes. That lady can freakin’ write. It’s undeniable. At the end of last season, Vulture.com featured four Scandal actors’ favorite monologues. (A note here. If you do not watch and/or have not watched Scandal, we cannot be friends. Lol. Also, if you do watch Scandal but you have somehow found a way to reduce the main character to an inaccurately used, tired old stereotype, I respect your opinion but we can’t be friends either. #nb4r) The article features some pretty epic moments from Season 3 (Four Words: “You are a boy.”), but my personal favorite Scandal monologue (of all time!) happened long before Rowan Pope became a daily part of Olivia’s life on Capitol Hill.

To get into it, we have to back track to Season 2 and jump into the personal life of the president’s unbelievably ruthless Chief of Staff, Cyrus Beene. I scoured the internet for a clip of the following speech and was sorely disappointed when I could not find one. Fortunately, Vulture once again came to the rescue with a recap of “Molly, You in Danger, Girl,” Episode 18 of the show’s second season.

Cyrus Rant of the Week: During their fight, when James [Cyrus’ husband] accused Cyrus of making him perjure himself, Cyrus said, “This is who I am, this is who you married, this is who you love. You chose love, you chose me — you could have put me in prison or brought down the White House, and that is not sitting so well with you now. This choice is rotting deep inside; it’s not the choice, but the fact that you now know you are capable of making that kind of choice. You can pretend it’s me, that I’ve infected you with my bad, bad ways, but you did this, this is the man you are, and I love you anyway, because that is the man I am.”

Amazing, no? Ugh! Shonda, how I envy you. But what I love more than the depth of this monologue is the cold, dark truth. James so wanted to blame Cyrus for the lie he told in the name of love. But Cyrus, who never misses a beat, explained to James rather eloquently that his husband’s darkness is entirely his own.

In my own life, I have experienced this same moment. The accusation. The overconfidence of a loved one who is determined to make me responsible for their reactive choices because of the (admittedly unwise) choices I made. Well. I will always take responsibility for my mistakes. Always. But it’s not my job to carry the weight of your actions too.

The late Stephen Covey actually explained this distinction in his bestselling personal development book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Life throws a lot of stuff at us. Any and everything that happens is a stimulus. Things other people say and do. Lucky breaks. Freak accidents. All of these things are stimuli. And just like every cause has an effect, every stimulus has a response. But what we frequently overlook is the space between. The grand opportunity to choose what will happen next now that the proverbial ball is in our court.  If someone cuts you off in traffic, you can give them the finger and curse them out, or you can breathe, let it go and turn up the radio. Similarly, when a loved one hurts or disappoints you, you can scold them, accuse them, retaliate in anger and then try to make them responsible for your enraged actions, or you can rationally express your disappointment and anger, love them anyway and find a constructive way to move forward.

Like it or not, that is reality. You have more control over a situation than you think, even under the direst of circumstances. The truth of the matter is that even if someone else puts you in an awkward position, you are under no obligation to stay there. And, much more importantly, there is more than one escape route. Thank goodness for outstanding writers like Shonda Rhimes who have the gift of making this kind of truth sexy, badass, biting, and absolutely irrefutable. Life lessons are everywhere, people. Are you tuned in?

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On Purpose

I’m a big fan of Upworthy (I even applied during their last round of hiring), and one video amongst their myriad, thought provoking pieces has stayed with me for a while. Stephen Fry of the British Humanist Association narrates a three minute video on what life can mean for any one of us. When I first saw it, it struck me as odd that some people live lives of contentment through simple things like gardening or watching television and talking with their loved ones. That’s it? I thought. That can’t be someone’s entire goal in life…. Can it? But, it can be.

I had a conversation about this a long time ago with a friend of mine. His goal is to “J.E.T. Life.” Just Enjoy This Life. Coming from the Christian background that I grew up with, such a notion is really difficult for me to understand. Like, for real? You don’t want to live your life for something bigger than yourself? Having time and money to spend on stuff that you like is all you care about? Really? Another friend of mine who is openly and decidedly humanist once told me that he loves it when people post whole music albums to YouTube.  He finds it useful, and he joked that maybe one day he would do the same.  I mean, it might have been only a joke and I will admit that we were having a light conversation. But I was still utterly baffled. That’s all you aspire to? Uploading one video of someone else’s work that may get a few hundred views or a few million views, and may brighten someone’s day once or twice, but which otherwise does nothing to notably change the world for the better? Are you serious?! I just don’t get it.

Despite all my efforts to be humanist, empathic, understanding etc., etc., sometimes I fail. This is one of those times. I find it very difficult to imagine a life lived only for myself. How could someone abandon the notion of service, or of living for a greater good, or constant self-improvement or of the pursuit of creativity through art or scientific innovation? How could you not want to change your family or your community or the world at large in any way? That’s just … weird.

Still, I want to try to see the other side of this discussion. Is it possible that my friends are the type of people that can have a happy life doing things that make them smile, but I am the type of person that has a preference for leaving some kind of legacy behind me? Is it possible that both of these ways of life, though very different, are each valuable and good? I think it is. …  I think. Lol. I mean, if what you do with your time on earth isn’t immoral, illegal or unjust, how bad is it really? [shrug] Maybe it’s actually a perfectly nice life. And if I choose to live my life differently, who am I to judge you for how you live yours?

What about you? Do you believe in “giving back,” forging a legacy or living for an individual purpose? Do you believe in thriving in the experiences the world has to offer while you’re here? Let me know in the comment section. Talk to you later.

~Pastiche

Forget You and Your Freakin’ Post Grad Analysis, Scooter Magruder!

Have I told you how much I like you, Scooter? Because despite the snarky title, I really do like you. If I wasn’t, like, a billion years older than you, I would date that. (And fellas, notice I said “date that,” not “tap that.” I’m a lady. I have standards.) But as hilarious and cute as you are, you really broke my heart with this video.

Uggggggghhhhh!!!! No, Scooter, no! When I first saw this rant forever ago I was determined to write an angry response proving you wrong and showing you that life after college can be perfectly awesome.  The problem though? You’re kind of right.

After I graduated, I took a lot of jobs that I really didn’t care about. And for a long time, it didn’t bother me. After all, those crummy jobs were paying my bills. I could buy myself things I wanted here and there, and I didn’t have the stress of required reading, tests or group projects. Even my parents were proud of me! I was a responsible adult, just like they’d always dreamed.

In Fact, College Wasn’t the Best Time of My Life

Actually, Magrutes, if we’re being brutally honest, the best time of my life was my first 2-3 years of adulthood after college. I had great friends and we partied multiple times a week, often after a full day’s work. We hung out at each other’s apartments playing cards and drinking literally all day on the weekends, and we even went on lavish vacations that I couldn’t afford I will never forget.

We’ve all since grown apart, but the lesson of that time is that all you really need is a pack of badass friends who like the same stuff you do, and who are more or less on the same level as you.  If you have that, life after college can be brilliant. You can even enjoy getting late twenties (and early thirties?) old together. … That is until everyone gets married and has kids. (#MFAM, anyone?)

Some “Grown Man” Stuff (Which You Might Like, Scooter … Since You Are One and All)

There’s also the “attitude is everything” approach. A have a couple of way-too-wise-for-their-age friends who don’t miss their college days or their early twenties at all. They have more of a “best is yet to come” mindset, and they are really happy with the women they are now.  One in particular is always reminding me how sad it is that we make the college experience and the singlehood thereafter the apex of our lives as fun adults. I mean, really? The most fun you have in your WHOLE life is between the ages of 20 and 30? And then you (unfortunately) keep living for another, like, 50 years? Really?!? That’s depressing.

Plus, as previously mentioned, in that 25 ish to forever span, most people get married and have kids.  Personally, I don’t want to have children, but I would imagine that if you choose that path (as most people do), you have to find the fun in family life. (Case Study: these people at Christmas.) Otherwise why have a family? And for all the people like me who just want to work and spend time with their friends and loved ones? Once you’re making the money that you want to make, you can live as adventurously (or as quietly) as you like. The options are truly endless, and that is the beauty of adulthood. The power of choice.

But You Are Spot On About Passion

Passion is key. And life is too short to spend 40 hours a week at a job you feel “meh” about. (Or worse.) That is why I eventually ended up quitting my job so that I could follow my passion: Writing. Writing any and everything I can imagine. It’s what I love to do, and it will make me stable money one day. Check back in a year or two and ask me how I’m doing. 😉

Honestly, I believe that those first few years after college were just the best time of my life so far. I’m staying optimistic about future fun. And who knows? Maybe one day the education system will teach kids things that are actually valuable to the reality of being an adult. Until then, keep making videos, man. You’re the coolest.

~Pastiche

Dating Advice from Unlikely Sources

I am slowly but surely developing a crush on Ramit Sethi. I mean, c’mon. An intelligent Indian American man with big beautiful eyebrows who wants to teach me to be rich like he is? It’s love.

In a recent post on his blog, he asked his numerous followers how they might use his principles of business and finance to find love. That’s right. Ramit believes that a strategic, entrepreneurial mindset can get you a date. I was skeptical at first. But as his followers came up with example after example of how they’ve adapted what they learned from his programs to their love lives, I had to admit it. This guy might be on to something.

One comment in particular stuck out to me.  A user named Jonathan wrote a detailed response critiquing the notion that everyone had a plan for how to get someone, but no one had a plan for how to keep the person they find. He explained very thoughtfully how he works out, stays focused on his goals and, most importantly, maintains a positive mindset so that he has something to bring to a relationship, whenever it eventually happens. While I was offended by one comment he made about how women don’t “jump on [his] cock,” – Really, dude? You were doing so well up until that point. – I agree with his main argument: the key to success in dating is to have something to offer.

Another cool thing is that if you apply this kind of thinking, you can rip relationship advice from anywhere. I follow Shameless Maya on YouTube and one of her latest videos features some straightforward, no nonsense networking tips. But those concepts can easily be transformed into dating advice. Be genuinely curious about the other person. Find a way to be helpful so you can sneak in some extra quality time. Offer him (or her) something of value. However, Maya’s fourth tip is my personal favorite, and I think it lends new depth and insight into our topic: Get a life.

Having a life gives you something to talk about. Having a life makes you interesting. And interesting people are very attractive. Just like cool stories about sky diving and tattoo shops can lead to better interviews and new connections, they can also make you super freakin’ hot. Now, Shameless is fortunate enough to be beautiful in the traditional sense as well. (I’m not jealous. I’m not. … ) But for the rest of us average folk, authentically upping our hotness factor is not as hard as it seems. Learn to give more than you take, get a few solid hobbies and useful skills, then meet people and trade stories. And there you have it. Easy as that. Get your sexy on, boo.

A Humanist’s Prayer

I finally broke down and prayed yesterday.

Maybe that’s not weird to you. Maybe you’re the type of person that prays every day. Well, I’m not. My views on life and the world around me are increasingly humanist in nature. So praying? It’s weird. It’s really weird actually.

I used to be fairly strongly Christian, at least outwardly anyway, so you would think that praying would come naturally to me. But when you know like I do that praying doesn’t actually change your situation, taking time out of your day to close your eyes and look to up to the skies (or out to nature or in to, I don’t know, something) is … odd. Intellectually, it doesn’t fit.

But mentally and emotionally? It does. It totally makes sense. Now, I’m sure there are many freethinking skeptics out there that would disagree. Out of respect to them, I will modify that statement to, “it totally made sense for me.” Praying gave me a sense of calm that I otherwise could not find. For a brief moment I was at peace because I was able to say, “I’m scared,” and “This sucks.”

On the other side of the argument I can already hear the Religious Ones yelling at me. “You felt calm and peaceful because you prayed and Christ gave you grace.”  Umm, no.  I felt peaceful because prayer and meditation are inherently peaceful practices. More specifically, it has been scientifically proven that mindfulness and meditation can help you decompress and slow down the chaos of life. My problems are not solved. My worries have not been erased. But for the moment, I am not completely stressed out to the point of distraction because I chose to be real with myself. Sometimes you just have to find your center. Sometimes you have to stop and regroup. That’s what praying is for me. It’s a moment to stop, hit the reset button, and then will myself forward.

To the humanists, atheists and agnostics out there reading this, I encourage you to try prayer or meditation if only for curiosity’s sake. This guy does it. This guy too. And they are both intellectually content. To the Religious Ones reading this, I don’t believe in your faith, but I honestly respect your need to take the time out to talk to someone, even if it is just talking to yourself.

Men are Upworthy (And We Could Do Better)

I was in a room full of women once at a meeting, and one woman’s son began to cry. (His older brother got to play with a video game before he did and that made him sad.) Nearly every woman in that room told him, “Stop that crying. Boys don’t cry.” Women! We who are supposed to be “natural nurturers” denied a child the opportunity not only to express his emotions but also to grow in emotional maturity. To understand concepts like sharing and patience. To know that his feelings are valid and to learn that there are healthy ways to work through disappointment. And all because that child has a penis.

A man walked in the room and the little boy immediately toughened up. No tears allowed in front of another male. Less than ten years old and this precious child already innately understands “posturing.” Faking it in front of other males so he doesn’t appear weak. Never backing down. And just like clockwork, the man began to tease the boy for his tears. “I know you weren’t up in here crying were you?” The women laughed quietly, and the little boy answered the man with only silence and a mischievous smile. A mask to cover up his feelings.

I cannot explain to you how much this moment angered me. “Boys are allowed to cry!” I said, nearly shouting. And suddenly the air in the room became thick with discomfort. My outburst was perceived as awkward, unwarranted, and strange. I was an outcast. Because I stood up for that young boy’s emotions when he couldn’t and when no one else would, I was the crazy one. But how can that be? How is it that only one person in the room believed that we are failing our young men? Because we are. We are FAILING them.

When I see videos like this one, and I remember moments like that day in my meeting, I, personally, think of the death of Trayvon Martin. Barring the racial issues that I honestly still don’t know what to do with, I see two men who did not know how to walk away. Two men who were motivated by the same thoughts. “I am going to teach this guy a lesson. I’m a man. I will not back down.” And that mindset caused a violent and unnecessary death that tore this country in half. It is not okay to tell our young men to stuff, and hide, and erase, and deny their emotions and face off with other males in order to become “real men.” We are failing them. And we are failing each other.

A Snapshot of an Interesting Forty Days

Recently one of my Facebook Friends posted a link to the website fortydaysofdating.com. It’s about two New Yorkers in the same circle of friends who decide to date each other for 40 days to see if they can fix each other’s relationship issues.  She jumps in quickly and is almost instantly committed and monogamous for the long haul. He dates two or three women at a time and always leaves before it gets too serious.  In a general sense, this sounds kind of like classic male and female roles. The woman always wants more, but the man is always “needing some oxygen.” (Shout out to you, Common.) However, when you read the nuances of why they do what they do in relationships and their history together as friends, it makes for a pretty interesting past time. Honestly? The second I knew what the premise was, I was totally obsessed with this website for, like, a week.  I read every.single.post. And now I get to share my past week’s obsession with you.  You’re welcome.

Perception and Conflict (Spoiler Alert… kind of.)

It was really interesting to read what each person was thinking as they were thinking it. The two of them process things so differently. Toward the end I found myself nearly yelling at my lap top:

“No! It’s your fault this is happening, not hers.”

“Wait. Why did you say it like that? No wonder he’s upset.”

“Oh my gosh! You’re getting it all wrong! You guys just need to trade surveys.­”

When they’re in conflict, she’ll either be very calm, logical, and direct, or she’ll blow it off all together. He’ll get emotional and show that he’s deeply affected by an issue, but he won’t be willing (or able? … or both?) to say what’s really bothering him. Essentially she likes resolutions without conflict and he likes drama conflicts without resolution. Imagine the fights.

New York City

Ok. First it was movies. Now it’s the internet. Why does everyone make NYC look so stinking fabulous? The dates these people went on! My God!  Granted, they are semi rich white people and I am none of the above. But still! I was so jealous.

And Speaking of Semi-Rich (Racist Qualifier Omitted) People

Let me also point out how intimidating these two are. Jessica Walsh is the partner of a design firm. A partner! Her name is in the title! Timothy Goodman is an award winning designer/illustrator/ art director with his own design studio. And I don’t think either of them is even 30 years old. Geez. My life is an insignificant drop in the ocean compared to the waves these two have made in their field.  They are really doin’ it big. I mean, clearly I need to step my game up, right? Does anyone need an opinions columnist?

Anyway, I thought it was a highly intriguing project with equally interesting people.  And since they’re both designers, the visuals (created by friends and colleagues) were thought provoking as well. Now, I don’t recommend reading every post like I did – Please. Have a life. Seriously. – but it’s definitely worth checking out. More opinions someday soon. Ciao for now.