Big Country Blues Trailer

Big Country Blues Trailer
Sarah e Jacobs recognized as OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES at LA Webfest! And nominated for BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA at ITVFest! Click to watch the trailer!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

One on One

We sat on the Upper East Side rooftop. I hated the words coming out of my mouth. I hated the way his eyes looked. They were so wide. And with the lights reflecting from the skyline backdrop, it was like the whole city fit inside them.

“I just...I don’t see us going much further.”

The scenario affected me more than I expected. It’s been a while since I’ve so tangibly hurt someone’s heart. And with my very visceral knowledge of the feeling he was experiencing, it was horrible. For us, both.

Dating is hard. It’s a convoluted game with many players and few rules where hardly anyone wins. We’re all walking around loaded weapons. The battlefield, tables and bar stools in dark bars, candle light softening our hardened features like an Instagram filter on real life. Sharing bits and pieces of ourselves, guarding where we feel we have to. Fighting wars with ghosts of people past, falling into the middle of civil war conflicts that go far back in a person’s personal history. And finding ourselves caught in the crossfire of shrapnel insecurities and scars left over from wars we never started, paying reparations for predecessors we never knew.

You get to a point where if it really matters, it’s rare that dating leads to both parties walking away unscathed. But I guess that’s just the thing of it — within the experimentation of the science of “Us” and “We,” if no one is getting hurt, then it’s just two people killing time in a space of uninspired breathing and mediocre feeling.

Recently, while meeting for lunch, an old friend who was going through a very tough break-up paused, then asked, “How do you spend so much time alone?” I was mid-chew. Almond crusted chicken and kale, a perfect bite at a very imperfect time. Suddenly she was fighting back tears, and I realized — this question was why she asked to see me. Specifically. Me.

 I’ve been single for six years as of this month. I know exactly, because my life fell apart and I found myself packing up its broken pieces and moving them to Brooklyn on October 31, Halloween, 2009. Six years ago.

As a woman in my early 30’s, I frequently get people asking why I’m still single. They seem to think it’s as easy and arbitrary as picking a ripe avocado at the supermarket. I often get commentary from acquaintances on the years my eggs are most viable. Condolences rather than congratulations when my best friends are getting married. And, it’s also fairly usual that people assume that I’m resentful of my friends with growing families. ...And, it sucks, because even if I try to disagree, everyone looks at me with pity, assuming that I’m just trying to convince myself out of unpleasant feelings. But, I can honestly say that my uterus is relieved when I hand back over my nephews, and some of the happiest times I’ve ever known are from the past few years, celebrating my friends’ marriages.

I’m not saying that I don’t eventually want those things, and I’m certainly not saying that I never get lonely — my most recent attack was one night while trying desperately to open a particularly tight Kombucha bottle cap. It’s amazing how something as banal as a trendy bottle of probiotics can provide such a poignant commentary on life... But people talk about loneliness like it’s leprosy. Everyone’s afraid to be left alone with their inner voice for fear of what one might hear.

When my friend asked me that very direct and affecting question, after some thought and fully chewing my paleo chicken finger, I came to the conclusion that I actually feel very lucky that I’ve found comfort in being able to sit with myself. I’ve had the time to ask myself questions, prove and disprove my own answers. Being alone has been so useful. Now, no matter how much distraction comes into my world, I know that my own voice will always be the loudest in the room.

In these six years of dating, I have been through a lot. I’ve been raw and exposed. I’ve been blunt sometimes, and I’ve been shady occasionally, too. I’ve been lied to and taken advantage of. I’ve been grabbed at, belittled, and disrespected. Forced into things I didn’t want to do. I’ve been out with guys with OCD, and Tourette’s, and fetishes. I’ve heard about ex-wives, recently-ex-girlfriends, and children left in other cities. I, myself, have cried, fairly uncontrollably, in a stranger’s kitchen. I’ve made good decisions, and plenty of bad ones. And I’ve been mortally embarrassed on more than one occasion...

I’ve swiped and matched and charmed and winked. I’ve been misrepresented by a fake profile as a lesbian on a popular dating app. I’ve watched as a guy talked to his alarm clock... and she talked back. I’ve conversed over more meals and cocktails than I care to think about, and sent more texts than some people probably do in a lifetime. I’ve said incredibly tough things at incredibly tough times — even gotten the nerve to share a few famous choice words with someone after years of tucking them far away, only to find out that he couldn’t say them back. I’ve also been doted on, and loved hard, and pursued intensely. I’ve wounded more than a few hearts, unfortunately, too.

And because of all the creatures I’ve known, conversations had, texts deciphered, and kombucha bottles I couldn’t open... I have learned. Now, I read people less like a novel, and more like a children’s book. Pictures more important, actions telling truths that words try to cover. I’ve developed an immense sense of compassion and resilience, and incredible skills for communication — I can see now that six years ago when my relationship disintegrated in a midtown living room that my ex and I were trying to form sentences out of a language we didn’t know yet. Like tourists, we were reduced to translating through hand gestures and shoulder shrugs, trying to make clarity out of confusing and overwhelming feelings.

I’ve also had time to observe. Take myself out of the context of another and just watch. I see how we’re all so enthralled with the excitement of beginnings. We get blinded by the start, then sort of muddle through the mess of the rest. Everyone thinks single equals lonely, but it seems to me that coupledom and the solo-sentiment aren’t exactly mutually exclusive. I see people every day take their “significant others” for granted. I listen as they speak to each other as if they are anything but significant. Touch each other like they’ve forgotten that there’s a person inside that familiar skin. Fall into a rhythm that removes all magic from something that I know is anything but ordinary. But as someone that, for a long time, has only known perpetual beginnings, I wonder if I’m being naïve to think that there’s magic, too, in the work in the middle.

I guess I won’t know until I know.

But what I do know, now, is that a relationship doesn’t automatically equal happiness. I won’t let fear dictate decision - not be too scared of change that I’m not open, and not too scared of being alone that I’m okay with just okay. The immediate goal is just to minimize the casualties along the way. And until I meet the work in the middle, I’m appreciating all of the varied reasons why people are so enthralled with the beauty of beginnings.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Life's Lesson

It was this weird rush. Like everything that I wasn't was suddenly brought to my eyes all at one time. There I stood in the store, looking for a gift for a close friend. I wanted to buy her everything - she would look so cute in that and that and that... I wanted to buy something for myself. Replace my jeans from six years ago that I recently had to retire because holes now made wearing them an illicit act. The store became a sad metaphor for my current feelings about my life. Bringing to light a host of things I want and need, but can't quite seem to get...

I left the store feeling like these shortcomings had a solid grip on my ribcage. Thumb and forefinger of "nope" and "not yet" wrapped tightly around my torso. I stepped out into the sun. In stark contrast to my ripped denim, the midtown rush of expensive suits and uncomfortable heels was on hyper speed around me. Midtown was not my usual spot, but I had been running around from thing to thing. Entrepreneur/actor/girl-just-trying-to-make-it-work... I had been them all that day.

I sat down on a step at the side entrance to Radio City, and just watched Manhattan unfold in successful mechanism. The people passing each other like the teeth of well-oiled gears. I felt like a glitch in the machine. A mistake in the assembly line of city-life.

Recently I've been tired. Literally and figuratively. My legs are definitely moving, but gaining traction is (and, for a long time, has been) tricky -- both professionally and personally. Part of my anxiety is time. Somehow it's September. I feel like months have been stolen. They say that time heals, but there's a lot of hurt that can come from the pressure brought on by the tug of a ticking clock. It morphs things, too. Time swallows history and digests it into bits of memory and broken down truth. Half real life, half opinion. A bit of imagination peppered in at the end just for flavor.

There's a very specific feeling in my bones around this time of year. The onset of the fall brings out left over vibration that's stuck in my DNA from when I was young. An odd, and no longer applicable, mix of back-to-school excitement and nervous energy. I can't help but feel like the walls of pencils and Trapper Keepers at the drugstore are still somehow meant for me. It's time to pick out which design I might want on my 1st period folder...

The same day as that fateful midtown shopping trip, I ran into a girl I hadn't seen in a very long time. Well, not in person anyway. Apparently our social media upkeep was quite on point. After a hug and some pleasantries, she said excitedly, "So, you're doing amazing! You're killing it!"
I was very confused. I knew where her information was coming from, but I've always tried to remain so authentic online. Not falling into the trap of social media's tendency to create false gods. With a smile, cheeks ruddy from embarrassment, I said, "Ohhh. (*awkward laugh*) No, not really." Then, like a living resume, she proceeded to list off my various accomplishments from recent months - a few commercials, published writing, assistant directing my first film, running a business, taking up spoken word poetry... I mean, her list was all true, but she didn't seem to understand that none of these things are making for a wild success. Definitely all parts of my life. But, the same life that earlier brought me down in the middle of a buzzing town with feelings of inadequacy.

A few days after the girl listed my activities in scarily accurate succession, I opened up Facebook to a few new messages. They were all pretty random. People that I hadn't heard from in years that had somehow found my posts. After some words on their connection to what I had written, they all ended their messages imploring me to keep writing. Some were direct, "Please. Don't stop writing."

A few days after that, a homeless-looking man stopped me mid-run on my way back from yoga. It was early, and while usually I would have just waved politely and kept going, for some reason, his motioning hands slowed my feet. I de-earbudded and the music faded. He sat on a bench, his bare feet covered with a cloth. He had a thick, old school Italian accent and claimed to be a famous painter. After some talk about art and history, he cordially invited me to his birthday party on September 26. I smiled, thanked him for the invite and said I'd do my best to make it. He cocked his head, looked at me weird, like he knew me from some distant past. "Hm." He said. " Don't worry. You're... going to do okay." It was random. My eyes narrowed. "See you at my birthday." He concluded nonchalantly as he leaned back on the bench. "It's going to be a damn fun party." He started to hum letting me know the conversation was over. I said goodbye and walked away completely confused. But also completely covered in an odd sense of calm.

A few days later I was venting to my mother on the phone. Explaining my continued frustration with my life's choices and the power that persistence was holding over me. In the middle, she came out with, "You can't quit." Definitive. The words sounded unfamiliar. Like a curse word she should have been scolded for. I have a pretty decent vocabulary, but this was one word I didn't recognize. And I didn't even realize it, but it was that exact one whose definition had been knocking around in my head for the first time in my life. The Q-word: "Q*it."

I had actually been thinking about quitting. About what would happen if I stopped building this wellness business I've worked so hard on. Stopped acting and performing. Stopped writing these posts. Stopped being so open about my inner-most things. What if it all just went away?...

But... between the above interactions and a few other similar ones, it seems that the world is talking. And who am I to challenge the world? With my thoughts thick with self-doubt and frustration, and the loud noise of inner voice clamoring inside my head, the world is telling me that it's time to shut the hell up. To listen. Like coded information, find the right station, dial in so that the words come in clear. The season's change is here, and the Pollack of freckles on my skin is fading like memories of this summer's events. It's a good time to change perspective. See problem as opportunity. Dig in my heels.
2015-09-22-1442948327-7406151-work.PNGThe starting point for everything is where you are. The past, I guess, should be used like plans found in a dusty attic that speak to potential, but are not a blueprint for the future. The work is the point -- in both the professional and the personal. The words typed, the dates with boys (even the ones that "aren't"), the meetings with potential clients... Life is moments - the perpetual in-between. I need to reinstate faith that if I focus on that, all these points of pixilation will somehow come together to bleed into a recognizable picture.

I guess that back to school feeling never leaves us for a reason -- life is the lesson. We're all still just scared kids sitting in the back of the classroom, sure that everyone else is smarter, afraid that if we're called on, our lack of answers will prove it.

When it comes down to it, I may not know the answer, but I still absolutely do have a response. And maybe it's not really about that anyway. Instead it's about the work, about keeping my eyes on my own paper, and persisting in raising my hand and asking more and more questions.

Monday, July 13, 2015

When Things Don't Just Suck, They Bite

It's that feeling that the world is vicious. Like in a scary movie, trees and cityscapes come to life with grimaces and cackling laughter. Life suddenly loses its sense of humor and just spilling your morning coffee is an act of God against you. I was feeling like I was bleeding energy. Giving it out at random and leaking it from my pores. I needed to stop. Keep some things to myself for a while.

Recently, every time I sit to write, I get angry at my fingertips. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I don't want to relive the story I have to tell. Writing means not only going there, but sinking my feet in, steeping and assessing the position of my toes.

It's hard to publically admit, but the truth is that life has kind of sucked recently. 2015 will not go down in history as my year. And I know that I'm the girl that finds an upside in the murky haze of shitty days, and I'm supposed to be the girl that has it all together. But what happens when I'm not? When I'm hyperventilating on the phone with my mother, and the world gets mean, and I feel like my hands are too small to deal with the hugeness of it all? What happens when my puzzle changes shape and all of my jagged pieces no longer fit all that "together."

So, I could go into detail explaining to you about starting the year heartbroken and deceived, and maybe more upset than I've been in a long time. I could drone on about feeling heavy from that, when I suddenly learned that I had to move from the safety of my apartment. I could write about having less than a month to sift through a ridiculous amount of stuff that belonged to ghosts of roommates past. And I could ramble about the incredible task of packing up my life and moving, all on my own.

I could pour over how I finally wanted to get settled in my new place and about how I hoped for a fresh start and new energy, only to have rats move into my walls and keep me from sleep night after night. And, trust me, I could GO ON about the subsequent horrific infestation of mites that then descended on my pristine new bedroom when aforementioned rodents died in the sheetrock beside my bed. And I could explain how I tried to keep my sense of humor through it all. How I tried my best to laugh through tears while dealing with my uncaring new management company. And how, for my own sanity, I tried to crack the hint of a smile from a socially impaired exterminator, a Hasidic entomological savant (he was a tough crowd...).

2015-07-13-1436803176-8778748-exterminator.JPGI could paint the picture quite nicely of my entire body bleeding, and being peppered in mite bites, and feeling like sandpaper had been taken to my limbs, stomach, neck. I could elaborate on the PTSD associated with having tiny bugs crawling all over my skin. I could tell you about sleeping on the couch for two weeks and living out of a plastic bag, and about having a team chemically bomb my new apartment. About having to wash everything I own in piping hot water, which inevitably ruined a fair amount of my wardrobe. About stressing over of the cost of it all, and trying to keep up with work and life... and I could write pages and pages about how the weight of it all on my lungs made it impossible to take in enough air. And about finally, finally reaching the point where it all fell apart. Where I fell apart...

I could talk about all of those things. Because they're all true.

But I think you get the point. And beyond that, really, what's the point? The pragmatist in me assesses the "why me" mentality and I see nothing but a dead end, with a winding road to get there. And while recently, I swear, I've felt like an unwelcome visitor in my own life, I'm pretty determined not to stay in that uncomfortable space for long. They say healing is an art, and no one has ever accused me of not being creative.

But the funny thing is that up until now, I've thought that fighting and feigning strength was the way to do it. I've overextended myself with challenges, expecting things from my mind and body that I would never ask of other people, unwilling to accept this cosmic call for rest. And as it turns out, it seems that never wanting to be the girl that breaks is a recipe for shattering.

I think back to when I was sitting on a stoop a few doors down from my Driggs Avenue apartment just before moving day. Coffee hot in my hands, my eyes were sleepy in a way that sleep couldn't fix. And, I remember watching as strangers picked up things from the box I set in front of my door, a sign slapped to it that read: "Free shit. Mom doesn't want me anymore." It was my subtle nod to the potential new owners that the belongings came from somewhere warm -- someone.

A vase. A pot. A picture frame...I watched as the passersby would roll the items around in their hands. Assess their value. Look for defects. Tuck the chosen ones away under their arms with a satisfying raise of the eyebrows, or set them back in the box, unimpressed. It was an odd exercise watching strangers appraise my belongings. Out in the open. On a corner I'd called home for a number of years. It was terribly unsettling. But I knew it was a necessary step in the conscious uncoupling of me from my usual.

And I wonder -- maybe I should quit fighting. Holding onto things so tightly and just allow them to run their course. Maybe I need to let it be hard. Get overwhelmed. Listen. Accept the lesson. Remember that sometimes tears are the only thing that can clean the slate.

So while I have wanted to keep my internal things internal, writing this admission to you was step one. I needed to get my fingers moving again, so that maybe my feet can follow.

During my move, I shed so much material stuff. And now it's time to look at those things less tangible. Thoughts, habits, people... roll those around in my hands for a while like those strangers on the street. Assess things with fresh eyes. Rodent mites aside, what else in my life can I let go of that's eating me alive.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Keeping the Faith

She walked up to me. I hadn’t seen her in so long. I’m sure that if it weren’t for social media, she wouldn’t have even remembered who I was. Her hands wrapped around my upper arms. One of those intimate moves between almost-strangers that somehow is perfectly okay. Then, in the most generous and warm words, she explained how inspired she was by my writing. …I think I probably laughed awkwardly. I’m not sure, I blacked out for a second. Completely blown away by how raw and just plainly nice her words were.

I’m always so amazed that anyone other than my Mother reads anything I have to type, and when I’m reminded that these words go out into the ether and reach real lives being lived, it’s a phenomenon that I will never fully understand. But I will surely never, ever take it for granted.

Her words came at an interesting time. I was feeling buried. Far, far less than inspirational, I was feeling overwhelmed. And very, very small.

My mental state recently has followed the chill and energy of this crowded town during the winter season - where the streets are lonely with hurried boots and there’s no time for eye contact. Stinging eyes and frozen fingertips top priority. My inner self taking cues from layers upon layers of wool and down, covering and hiding. Curling up to just endure.

I haven’t written in quite some time. There are times when it’s best not to publish biographical materials as they’re unfolding. It’s better to wait until you gain perspective. When you’re in the middle of it all, you catch shards of truth and emotion as they come whizzing by, but it’s not until after the dust settles and you step outside that you can really see. And, it’s not that you aren’t still completely covered in debris, but at least at that point you can look back at the scene and see the place in which your body once stood.

Without going into too much detail, after nearly six months of instilling trust in someone, I was faced with some harsh realities. I had taken a leap, allowing myself to feel things that I wasn’t even sure I was capable of. But finally, late at night, with tangled limbs, and conversation rife with disappointment and hard decisions, it came to an end. I was hurt. And very tired.

Add that to the roller coaster of my precarious living situation – I’m left scrambling to find a roommate or risk getting kicked out of my apartment (which is an inevitability in the coming months anyway). Not to mention, there’s nothing like fretting over a three bedroom Brooklyn apartment at the age of 31 to make you reevaluate your life choices…

Every listicle on the internet wants to reduce life to numbered bullet points and linear moves. Make you believe that you can find love in 5 easy steps. Simplify happiness to 8 mantras. …How patronizing. No one seems to be breaking down 3 simple steps to kicking a crack habit or little known tricks to birthing a baby. Not that I have experience in either, but I’m guessing that that’s because those seem to be fairly hard and complicated things to do. And as someone who lives a real, and sometimes hard and complicated life, I know that there are decisions, and choices, and acts of extreme bravery that no listicle can lay out.

Life is … a lot. Every so often, I feel like the last kid to be picked at recess thrown into an Olympic level dodgeball game. And despite my best efforts, sometimes doubt infiltrates - accomplishments aren’t big enough, relationships aren’t anything enough, work not successful enough, life not…”enough” enough. Thoughts linger longer than necessary or helpful. And I worry. While the common idiom is not to “dwell in the past,” I think the real trick is to plan for the future, but not to dwell there either.

One cold and very early morning recently, completely taken by these insecurities, I came upon my Grandmother’s journal. I’m not sure what led me to pull the binder out for a read. Just one of those things. I remembered seeing it – the photographic memory of the black binding on my shelf. I didn’t read the whole thing, her handwriting was curvy and scrolling in a way that makes my eyes cross. A headache to ensue.

It was found in her room right after she passed. Tucked away. No one knew she had been keeping it. She was a religious woman – Catholic to be precise. Irish Catholic to be precise-er. And while I’m not the Churchiest of girls, I do believe the Universe must have known I needed the read.

She wrote word after word, explaining her unexplainable faith in things she can’t see. Her acceptance and strength in knowing that something else knew better. That there was a plan. And while I’ve never really believed in a plan, I do believe in the power of choice and in finding opportunity everywhere and in everything. Even in discouragement, and even in a hurting heart.

Unlike my Grandmother, I’ve never been a religious person. Chalk it up to my love of science, or my Jewish father, whatever the case, the only reaction church elicits is hives and irrational anxiety. But my faith, it seems, does appear to be just as strong as hers. A place of quiet knowledge inside that comes with practice and with intent. So, for lack of a more graceful mixed metaphor that she would approve of – it seems that when the shit hits the fan, there’s really no better time to stop and smell the roses. Take inner stock and be grateful. I guess it means we’re really awake. How nice it is that we feel so much. How lucky we are to have things that matter.

In the middle of working on this post, I went to Yoga hoping I could sweat and Namaste my way out of a hectic, buzzing mind. Afterwards, I walked up Broadway, yoga mat strapped to my back, snow boots making my gait a bit clumsier than usual. As I came upon the corner of Union Square, suddenly, like lightning strike, I was slammed in the head. Hard. I stumbled. Almost hit the ground but caught my footing just in time. My eyes saw starry fuzz. I was in shock. I held my hand to my head, still burning from the impact. It was wet and cold. I felt the drip of melting snow roll down my face.

I looked around for someone to commiserate with. But there was no one. No one stopped. Nothing changed. The world kept going, like absolutely nothing had happened... Upset and confused, I yelled, “What the fuck!” It was out of character, for sure, like I had temporary Tourette’s, but somehow it came so naturally. And, sure enough, a handful of people stopped dead, mid hurry, to stare. They looked at me like I was let loose from an asylum. I started laughing (which didn’t help my case), but I was taken by the fact that a random avalanche in the middle of Manhattan is apparently less conspicuous than a 5 foot 2 yoga nerd screaming the F word on 13th and Broadway.

I bowed my head. Smiled to myself. I guess it’s true what they say - It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react that really matters. It seems inspiration doesn’t come from being unaffected. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It comes from being honest about all of that damn debris.

There are no quick fixes. No steps simple enough. No listicle long enough. I’m just keeping an eye out for falling debris, and trying my best to keep the faith. After all even Hail Mary’s are thrown with a background of experience and wholehearted hope.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fear of Falling

My roommate’s night out and her exhibiting the beginnings of a cold were the perfect storm that woke me abruptly at 3:30. Unable to slow the drip of thoughts that kept REM cycle just a dream, luckily it’s been one of those mornings where I felt I wanted to sit with myself rather than get lost in sleep, anyhow. My brain took off for morning before the light could catch up.

So. Here I am. 5:30. New York Muffins. Double Almond Milk Latte… (forgive me for any overly sentimental or lyrical words, there’s some irrational sense of protection that comes with the darkness of very early and very late that makes a person a bit more sensitive.)

I love Brooklyn at this time. It has a quiet darkness that the city never has. And, here, the people up before the sun are a different breed. Not groggy and crusty eyed, but bright. Emitting energy that I’m pretty sure must power the sun.

My favorite town. My favorite season.
And I love this time of year. It always gets me thinking. My body feels a very visceral change from Summer to Fall, an ease as my limbs relax into cozy fabrics and my morning coffee is hot and perfect. It’s no surprise that I like being warmed from the inside out, rather than Summer’s tendency for the other way around.

I’ve long tried to explain my love of Fall. It could be said that it’s because I was born then (I turned an impossible 31 last week). But it goes far beyond that, I think. Fall is an in-between. An odd mash up of boots and bare arms. Light layers. It’s a bridge that links two extremes, finding some cozy and comfortable balance between the two. Call me trite and all-too-literally a Libra, but I like the balance. That somewhere in-between.

Birthday party.
We may be old, but we are no less ridiculous.
I think that’s why I don’t miss my 20’s and seem to be settling into my 30’s quite nicely. I used to feel like I was waiting for my life to start. But now I know: this is it. No light at the end of the tunnel, the whole damn thing’s illuminated. Every second important because it’s the collective. And while I still think it’s completely bizarre, this whole getting older thing, I respect the changes and I’m grateful for the ability to step outside and see aging as a sort of experiment.

A while ago, I was on a date and in the middle of my talking about something (can’t remember what), The Charmer looked at me like I was a science fair project. In a condescending tone, as if I had made a mistake and was using the wrong words, he said, “You seem to think a lot of things are ‘interesting’ and ‘amazing.'” He formed his mouth around the two words like they tasted bad. …My response came after a moment of silence and some serious thought. I sifted through my rolodex of vocab words, wondering if he was right, but soon answered, “Yup. I do. …And, I won’t apologize.”

Rach and Me giving a workshop,
making Gut Bacteria fun at a downtown office.
That being said, while I am in awe and I do feel more balanced, the older I get the more risky the decisions I have to make. “Failure” has a harsher connotation. I’ve never been one to throw caution to the wind, but I am a firm believer in calculated risks and vast leaps of faith. Starting The Wellness Project is a jump that’s proving fairly hard to get my feet off the ground, and I mean that in many senses. It’s not for lack of trying, or passion, or motivation. But starting a business is difficult. Every day is an intense roller coaster of emails and phone calls. Ideas and opportunities. And I find myself uneasy. A lot. But we are moving, and I do so believe in our passion-powered ability. We’ve got some seriously exciting things going down. So it might be at a speed requiring patience, but we do seem to be getting somewhere.

"Sarah Jacobs: Playwright," as listed in a program.
...writing's been my outlet, recently.
And then there’s my creative life. I’m currently feeling the need to Act maybe more than ever before. The fire in my chest when I think about jumping into a script is so hot that I swear you could feel it if you put your hand to my heart. And while I do continue to audition a fair amount for commercial gigs, I have to trust that I will get back to the Art of it sometime very soon. And in the meantime, I pour my creative self into my projects at hand. And continue to work on some that I have going on behind the scenes.

And then… there’s my personal life. A person I previously solidified as a fairly intense memory came back to my material present, and the leaps are made daily. Allowing all of the stuff that I buried over a year ago to surface and re-appear raw is not an easy task. Trusting and letting go, while knowing all too well the consequences that could come takes a lot. But with release of my own ego, I choose not to dwell in the past. And I made the adult decision that I’d way rather risk a possible unfavorable future than miss the reward of right now.

 …So while I don’t throw caution to that ever present wind, there is a certain amount of sway. After all, the ubiquitous “they” always say that the leaps you don’t take are the ones that hurt the most.

She's got TWO nuggets in there!!
So I’m just staying open. Trusting in transitions. Not glued to any one outcome (Lord knows I never expected to be doing half the things I’m doing now). And, whether I’m ready or not, looks like life is headed this way - my best friend just moved out of NYC. I get texts with pictures of positive pregnancy sticks (and we’re happy about it). Friends’ parents are passing away. People ask to see my neck when they hear my age. My brother is about to have twins. And I’m finding it harder and harder to dress myself fashionably. …It comes…

And, the truth is that I am kind of scared shitless. But worry never changed an outcome. And while fear is a main character in life (as is failure), it informed the plot much more when I was young and it made decisions for me. Like when I was 15 and learning to drive - I only made right turns, because left meant leaving the safety of the neighborhood.

Things do change.

So, it seems even this season’s name itself shares a connotation with some of my intrinsic traits. Fall. Be pulled by the rules of nature. Gravity the leader. Submitting to the whim of things inescapable. Between events. Between moments. Between people. Somewhere along the way I learned that left turns were inevitable. And while I usually make sure to look in both directions first, here I zig zag. Thinking it’s all ‘interesting’ and ‘amazing,’ raising my hands and laughing while I lose my stomach on the ride.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Picture of Health

“You need to call me.”

It’s amazing how you can read into your Mother’s text messages. It wasn’t necessarily the curt nature of it, that’s fairly standard in texts from my parents - it’s a generational thing. It was the period at the end. The word “need.” The directive – you.

As I walked back over the Williamsburg Bridge from my Sunday night yoga class, I hit Mom Cell from my phone’s favorites list. Her voice was deeper. And very authoritative. …Shit. She was in Mom-Mode.

“He’s okay…” she started.

“What.” I spat out. Knowing that “okay” is a spectrum state of being and not sure yet who “he” was, immediately my arms sprouted goose bumps. My body braced for the worst.

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure how the rest of that particular conversation went. I heard “Dad,” “Hospital,” and “Heart,” in the same sentence and it was like no other words existed in the English language. It’s amazing how the whole world disintegrates in moments like that. As I walked home, the city backdrop chipped away and my universe solely consisted of the thin air that surrounded my body and the voice on the other end of phone.

The next few days were a series of text messages and calls - Good news, bad news, good news, bad news… It was a terribly shitty week.

Grill Masters while on vacation in June.
But now, after the fact, I can happily say that, at the end of it all, my family really lucked out with this one. After a few procedures and a lot of stress, my Dad really is pretty far right on the Spectrum of Okay. But, it could have been bad. I don’t even want to think about it, but if they hadn’t gone to the hospital, that initial phone call with my Mom would have started with very different words…

I get asked ask all the time why I’m so into health and wellness. And I’ve touched on it before, but I’ve been reluctant to tell you all my own health’s story. Mostly that’s because of fear and self-consciousness - scared of taking the personal, too personal. But after my family’s recent scare, I feel that it’s more important to be transparent about it than ever. So…

View from an evening run.
If you look at my Instagram feed, you see swingsets, blues skies, and cityscapes. I’m smiley. I’m young(ish). I take pictures of broccoli and document my love for odd and challenging workouts. When you meet me, I’ve been told my energy is “up front,” and “intense,” and my hands have been known to knock over a wine glass or two in fervent explanation of something I’m passionate about. …You’d never know it, but the truth is, that I haven’t always been this annoyingly energetic.

My own health’s decline was steady. Looking back I can see the writing on the wall - It started slowly, years ago, with random illness after random illness. Frequent digestive issues and odd internal temperature fluctuations. Eventually, my stomach began waging war on every bite I put in my mouth. A long time vegetarian, I was known in my circles for being an incredibly “healthy” eater, but by June of 2012, every meal invoked a battle in my intestines. Somehow, even salad became the enemy. I loathed every time I had to eat.

And I was tired. Holy hell I was so tired. My body felt heavy. Usually agile and very adept at physical challenges, my limbs became like lead on even a single-mile run. It was unbelievable. I was 28 and couldn’t get up my 3 story walkup without sitting on a stair to take a break.

I sat in lobby after lobby of Doctors offices and Specialists. Outwardly I looked fine, and every one of them said the same stupid thing – “Look at you! You’re healthy!” I would come in and face the Doctor with a list of possible ailments (Candida, Fructose Malabsorption, Lupus, Celiac…), and, very literally, I got laughed at. It was infuriating. After a basic blood work-up would come back normal, they’d tell me it was in my head and try to put me on antidepressants. Upon my refusal to take prescription drugs without a diagnosis, time after time, I was shown to the door.

At the urging of a nutritionist, I went on the FODMAP diet eliminating lactose and gluten and my mainstays like garlic, onions, apples, stone fruits, artichokes… most vegetables, really. My friends became reluctant to ask me out to eat because they would feel awful as I sat there foodless while they enjoyed their meals.

My mystery illness soon took over my life. My days were shortened. I would go into the city for one audition or a meeting and would drag my body home to lock myself away and recover from the outing.

I knew something was wrong. My body felt like someone else’s, but over and over, I heard the same thing - “Sorry. Don’t know what to tell you. You’re fine.”

I was so deep in different diets trying to figure out my problems on my own. Eliminating food groups systematically, wondering if I was allergic to eggs, or tomatoes, or maybe it was something less apparent like black mold in my apartment, or toxins in old paint. I looked into so many possibilities and was left confused and completely disheartened.

Believe it or not, the turning point in my health came at the unlikely location of the hair salon. My usual Guy, Xavier, shampooed my hair and I sat down in front of the mirror. Gave him the same directions I always gave, “Whatever you wanna do, I just can’t look too different because of headshots.”

He started chatting, combing my hair, joking that one day I’d let him really do what he wants and chop it all off into a pixie cut. …and then he stopped dead. “Hmm.” He said delicately. “Sarah, hun, I don’t remember this being here…”

“What??” I said, so confused.

“Don’t freak out. Ok, hun?”

I remember thinking, uh-oh. He used “hun” twice… He handed me a mirror and spun me around. Lifted my wet hair…

Immediately, I started crying. My body, which had been a confusing puzzle for months was trying to tell me something, and I could not figure it out. I was scared and I was so frustrated. But a part of me felt oddly relieved –  finally, I had proof.

…or so I thought. The next few weeks were a series of incredibly painful cortisone shots and more Doctors. Even with a body that was shutting down and a perfectly round bald spot that popped up on the back of my head - “you’re healthy,” was still the common reaction. I was in shock. Everyone tried to tell me the various symptoms plaguing me were unrelated and there was nothing to be done.

And then I got pissed. “Fuck that,” I thought (…and actually may have said to a few particularly pompous medical practitioners... Whatever, they deserved it.)

I Dr. Housed my symptoms every night, googling until early morning hours. Finally, late one night, deep in a google-click-fest, I stumbled upon a Holistic Dermatologist that, while unconventional, seemed to know his shit. I sent an email – a very direct and somewhat desperate one. It was past midnight, but he sent a reply within minutes.

I remember asking if I was going to have
any left inside my body...
After a FULL health history and major blood work-up, he devised a plan for me. To say that his practices were unconventional is putting it lightly. But, the truth is, that after a year of working with him and systematically treating my situation using only diet and lifestyle change, and supplementation, the improvement is mind-blowing. And you simply can’t argue with what works. (His name is Alan Dattner, btw, and aside from his healing properties, he's also seriously Good People. Feel free to contact me for his info.)

People think I grew up with green juice in my sippy-cup and kale chips alongside my chicken fingers. But it’s just not so. It’s been a long-time learning experience for me, too. I came to realize that I needed to stop fighting my body, and start listening – a lesson that I carry into many aspects of my life.

Many times, now, people don’t even believe me when I mention I was sick. And, really, I guess I’ve done a pretty good job at keeping it personal. Most of my close friends don't even know what I went through. And you certainly won't see most of these pics on my Instagram...

When I say I’m a Holistic Nutritionist, many expect me to go on a rant about GMO’s or tout Veganism as the be-all-end-all. What they don’t expect is a fervent flow on the importance of an individual’s microbiome, the power of neuroplasticity, and how to spot subclinical thyroid issues. When I talk about gut bacteria, and gluten, and meditation, it’s not about a fad diet or a bikini body - I’m talking about preventing another person from being that girl that was curled up in pain, and I’m talking about preventing another person from hearing the numbing sound of Mom-Mode on the other end of the phone.

The body is an incredible machine. I have such a respect for the mechanisms that keep us alive and how intricate and interconnected our systems are. I know what it feels like when it works, and I know what it feels like when it quits.

Today, my hair has grown back and I have more energy than I’ve had in my whole life. Every day is different, and it’s a constant learning experience, but I’m doing very well. And I am so grateful to my unfortunate situation – all of it. The fear, the frustration, the mess of probable causes and attempted cures. The whole experience provided me with passion and knowledge that I wouldn’t have otherwise. And it has put me in a position to help others.

With the launch of The Wellness Project, I get to talk frequently about other people’s health. I get asked random questions all the time about Juicing, and the Paleo Diet, and food allergies. And (aside from talking Acting and character development) the fastest way to get me excited is to bring up probiotics or the American food supply. I truly love talking about all of it – because, at the crux, is my own experience and my passion for sharing that with others.

So, of course, if you have any questions for me, I’m always available to answer. But, I will say, that the answer isn’t always what you want to hear. I spent two years on very strict eating plans and a long list of daily supplements. It was definitely not easy. I even cooked myself sugar-free, grain-free Thanksgiving dinner alongside my family’s meal of stuffing and pumpkin pie when I was healing. In today’s world Health is not the simplest choice. Trust me, though, the work is definitely worth it. And popping a pill is very very rarely the answer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Universal Language

I sat on the makeshift bleachers in the middle of the trendy Soho office. An office I’ve been in multiple times over the years from my days as a promo model, hired by the Events company that inhabits the colorful space. In the past, I would be there to get briefed on the upcoming event I would be working. Usually it entailed standing on a street corner for long hours in all weather patterns selling or explaining someone else’s product that started as someone else’s dream.

From the event.
But this time was different. This time my Business Partner and I were invited as young, creative entrepreneurs and Co-Founders of The Wellness Project. We were invited to add to a wine-abetted conversation about what it means to Protect Your Magic, a movement started by another young, creative entrepreneur. I sat there, conversation swirling about the room, teeming with passion and purpose, and ethereal intelligence, and I couldn’t help but have a slightly less grandiose version of Oprah’s “full circle moment.”
How in the hell did I get here?
I don’t write much about The Wellness Project, but my life right now is consumed with my building this business. And there’s something that people don’t really tell you when they’re in the thick of building something new. It usually comes out later, and they say it with some nostalgic look on their face, as if it wasn’t really affecting, it was just something that happened and was left in the past. But here goes – starting your own thing is fairly terrifying.
Rachel and Me. Boots on the ground in SoHo.
And, I’m not a stranger to anxious energy. I’ve made a life of feeling terrified as I stand, costumed, in the wings. The light spilling from the stage to just before my waiting toes. It’s a discomfort that, over the years, I grew to find comfort in. But recently, the discomfort comes in waves unfamiliar to me. I’m trying to find my legs in a foreign sea of KPI’s, google documents, and PowerPoint “decks.” And aside from the general challenges of starting a business, I’m finding that I’m having to explain myself to certain people now more than ever…
Him: “So, what do you do?”
Me: “I’m an Actor and Nutritionist. Currently starting a business - a Corporate Wellness Program.”
Him: “Oh. Really? …That’s …so cute.”
Or after giving an overview of TWP’s program, I've gotten, “look at you sounding like you know what you’re talking about…”
Ugh. I wish I were kidding.
With certain men (it’s just fact that no woman has ever responded like this) it’s like clockwork. He crosses his arms and the air around us becomes dense. His voice deepens, resonating in the space between us. Macho bullshit taking precedence over substance and progress. Without even knowing our business model, all sentences start, “you know what you should do…” or “let me tell you what you need…” And the questions come in swiftly and in numbers, the language getting more convoluted and ridiculous. I’m no longer participating in a conversation, I’m in front of a firing squad.
I am tired of my curves and long hair informing obnoxious assumptions. Sick of my face’s symmetry being confused for unintelligence. My conversational, friendly demeanor being mistaken for naïve exuberance. And my open and sentimental heart being seen as weak. It seems I have to lash my sharp tongue in order to get people to pay attention for the right reasons, and even then, I’m regarded as sassy or bossy – because it seems people have a hard time saying “smart” and “assertive” when it comes to describing women.
What upsets me even more than the feral condescension and immediate doubt is how it sometimes affects me. Frequently, I can very effectively shut down any joker that meets me with haughty resistance. But other times I seem to fall back, windless sails, and allow for such bullshit to commence before my eyes. My knees buckle, Nancy Kerrigan style, beneath my unsuspecting body.

I’d love to say that my skin is impenetrable, a force field of self-acceptance and confidence. But honesty is my goal here, not perfection. And, while I’ve clearly always accepted my sentimentality (this blog can attest), my sensitivity is something I’ve been fighting my whole life. I grew up with people constantly saying, “Sarah, you’re too sensitive.” And the pugilist in me always said, “Psh. Whatever. You don’t know me.” But #truth - they know me. And the honest fact is that despite what my face reads and my demeanor implies - I feel it more. Genuinely and quite viscerally, my body translates it to sparks just under the surface of my skin.
And I’ve been “feeling it” a lot lately. (Not to mention having made myself vulnerable in my personal life recently. More so than I have in years. …it didn’t fare well, but that’s a story for another day…) Anyhow, on top of the stress responses like wanting to eat cake for breakfast, this can be a bigger detriment if I allow it. But, I’m learning it can also be an incredible asset.
My authentic handwriting. that of a 7 year old.
Back in the cool, SoHo office, in passionate discussion about "Protecting Your Magic," I fervently explained with conviction how I must protect my Authenticity, my chosen Magic. And I do this by investing in myself, saying yes and saying no, and by knowing when to fold.
The Devil’s Advocate came in the form of an Interior Designer sitting to my right. He kept arguing, “Why Protect? Why walk away? Why not share with everyone, spread your magic without boundaries?” The room joined in the bandying of ideas and thus the conversation got oxygenated life. I had already started writing this post, so my position in that room was timely. And my passionate disagreement with the Interior Designer (whom I hugged it out with immediately afterwards and we're now Facebook friends, btw) got me thinking. Am I being too protective?…
But after some thought, it’s not about not sharing. It’s about not giving it all away. It’s coming to the table with openness and complete vulnerability, but knowing that I will get up from the table with the same energy as when I sat down. That I will be as authentically me and as willing to put myself out there moving forward. And sometimes, that means being the one to push my chair back first.
Staying open is a daily practice, one in which sometimes I fail horribly. On occasion, reactionary, I do curl up, knees to chest and make myself as small as possible. And this goes for in my personal life, too.
But, I’m learning to use the porous nature of my skin to my advantage. Inspired by a common theme at SHEsummit, a conference I attended recently - succeed not in spite of my gender, but because of it - turn all of this energy I’m collecting, and make the decision to use it for fuel. Kindling that gathers at the base of my sternum. And when I do find myself in vulnerability hangovers, I work to pry my legs away from my chest and unfurl my ego from the fetal position. The key is to remain resilient – give credence not to the curling up, but to what happens afterwards.
So, I do need to protect certain parts of myself, like my Authenticity. That's contributed to how I got here. And it’s how I’ll get to wherever it is I’m going, while maintaining that same sense of who I was when standing on that street corner selling someone else’s dream.
On a run, lost somewhere in South Brooklyn, my mind was gripping onto various conversations I’ve had with naysayers, and I was missing relationships I’ve recently let go of. I turned an unfamiliar corner, hoping my brain would take cues from my body’s pivot. And on the next block, I was met with this –
I laughed. Out loud.

Then, about 10 or so blocks after that, I came upon a swingset and settled in. I faced the opposite direction of the little girls on the other end, opting for the view with more trees. On the backswing, between the links of a high fence, my eyes settled on the top of a distant building. And in bright pink letters, there it was again:
Ha! There are no accidents. Coincidence is merely listening when the Universe decides to talk.