Seattle happens on the left side of the “but”

When anyone uses 'but' in a sentence, throw away everything to the left of the 'but.'

I shouldn’t be here now. Living. Writing. Relationshipping.

Seriously: I’ve done everything wrong.

I shouldn’t have left my job-job 16 years ago (and counting). Not that Real Job, with its corner office view and its fancypants title and its fatty paycheck and its sweet bennies.

I shouldn’t have moved out to Los Angeles to chase a half-baked dream. I definitely shouldn’t have then dumped the half-baked dream for the even loonier one of becoming an actor.

I shouldn’t have left the hospital that weekend. I shouldn’t have gotten rid of the Similac and everything else on the doctor-recommended BLAND diet and gone on the non-doctor-recommended Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I shouldn’t have worn extra layers of clothing and filled my pockets with change for my first weigh-in, to buy myself more time.

I shouldn’t have left my marriage: we loved each other; that’s supposed to be enough, right? And I certainly shouldn’t have entered into a committed relationship with a married man.

The older I get, and, let’s face it, the less authority figures whose worry-laden calls of inquiry after my current madness that I have to take twice weekly, the more comfortable I am with doing the stuff on the left side of the “but”. The craaaazy stuff.

I’d like to try parachuting but

I’d like to take a sabbatical but

I’d like to try the chicken tikka masala this time but

A couple of things worth noting here. First, some people really don’t want to do any of that stuff; they just like jaw-flappin’. That’s cool, but you know what? If you’re here, putting yourself through the very specific agony of reading all these verbal gymnastics to unearth some pearl, odds are you aren’t of the fish-mawed yarnspinner variety.

Second, not all of the stuff on the left side of the “but” need be executed. Or, given your current circumstances, is even executable, by a sane and responsible citizen, anyway. If you’re the sole means of support for a family of seven, I’d consider you a prize shithead if you ditched them to pursue your left-of-the-but dream of…well, anything.

What you are allowed to do, what we all must do, and always, because we are not fixed in stone, is to stay awake and keep your finger on the pulse of your desires. Provided you are not just talking for the sake of hearing your own voice (and if you are, well, dang, there’s a little something you could study for a bit, isn’t there?) the stuff on the left of the but, in my experience, is the you that’s a few steps ahead calling out for a little help, here. Whether that voice is a canary in a coalmine, tweeting your tatty and inevitable death-by-not-being-alive or a quietly shining light guiding you through an approaching fog to the next safe harbor lies largely with how you treat it.

The big breakthrough for me was starting to look at the stuff on the left side of the “but” as a bit of guidance: a place to start. Is there something about parachuting that’s interesting to me? What is it? Or them, all of them? And while we’re at it, let’s have a look-see at the stuff on the right side. What, exactly, is this thing that is stopping me? How do I feel about that? Is it even true, or is it a rutted road, an old story, something I don’t particularly like or believe in anymore, but have come to accept as a fixed given?

You don’t have to parachute; you just have to sit down and make a list. Surely, you can sit down and make a list. (Yes, I can. And don’t call me “Shirley.”)

I speak of the list both literally (I am a big listmaker) and metaphorically (hello, therapy!). This is about you, getting down with you. Use whatever time and tools necessary, because really, you aren’t going anywhere until you do. That thing about your shit following you around? About the Universe, in its infinite diaffected jackassery, delivering the lesson to you time and time again until you learn it? Living proof, right here.

At the end of your listmaking, literal or metaphorical, you may decide that yeah, parachuting is just the thing, and what the hell are you waiting for? You may find that you actually hate the idea of a sabbatical but you hate your job even more. You may find that this fear of ordering anything but korma is the tip of a particular iceberg you might want to start addressing…by having the tikka masala.

Or not.

The thing is to look at the thing. Pay attention to the thing, both sides of it, and how they intersect (or don’t). Since I started applying this thinking, I’ve not done as many craaaazy things as I have done, but I’ve considered them all. Considering costs you nothing but a little cold, hard light on your interior works. Which I realize is more than some of us are willing to do, ever, and that any of us are willing to do always, but again, you and I are both here, so I’m guessing we both get down with the craaaazy from time to time.

Which is why, like the subject line sez, I’m heading up to Seattle later this week. For a month.

There are plenty of good reasons to not get in my car this week and drive 1,135 miles just to do there what I do here, or much of it, anyway, god willing and the creek don’t rise. Gas is crazy-expensive. The drive is long. I leave behind unfinished, L.A.-specific projects here. Not to mention an excellent boyfriend and his equally excellent dog.

But there are other, less-Good reasons to go. I fell in love with the PacNW when I visited it last year, and want to see if what I saw and felt was true. I’ve “met” a lot of folks from parts north-by-northwest and feel like it’s time to actually meet them.

Biggest of all the fuzzy reasons to go: I’m coming up on my 16th year here in Los Angeles, and it gets harder to see stuff when you’ve been looking at it for so long. Or, it seems, to make stuff.

So here’s me, doing the craaaazy thing. Going to Seattle to meet people. In the middle of fall. To make stuff. To talk about it all.

It took a long time of things lining up in my head (listmaking! therapy!) and a fortuitous clutch of circumstances to do it, but I’m going. I’ve been surprised at how non-surprised, even supportive, the people I’ve told have been.

Maybe we all want to do the stuff on the left side of the but more than we know.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking about it…



  1. *new reader waves hi* (:

    Yeah! Right on!

    One thing that I really like to do when I find myself on the left side of the but is to ask myself, “What bad things would happen if…?” What’s my worst-case scenario? Is my worst-case scenario actually likely? Or even realistically possible? And if my worst-case scenario did occur, what could I do to get back up on my feet? What are my backup plans and contingency plans?

    Fear lives in the dark places. If we shine light into those dark places, there’s less room for the fear to hide. I’ve found that when I think about the bad things that could happen, they turn out to be a lot less bad than I had initially feared.

  2. Have a nice trip and a great timein Seattle.

    There’s always two sides to every “but”. Thanks to that I quit my day job for freelancing. Let’s see what two sides the next “but” brings…

  3. Pace – Hail, new reader, and well-met! Agreed on shiny lights and dark fears; I also like to remind myself that even if it is exactly as bad (or worse) than I’d thought (hey, it happens), at least I’m closer to dealing with them and moving on.

    Sizzle – You are biased, but you are right, so in this case, it’s okay to be biased.

    Michael – Congratulations, my friend! I predict it will bring you things both strange and wonderful. Like, together, at the same time. (It’s good, and way better than the usual corporate mixes: strange and awful, predictable and awful, and plain predictable.)

  4. Oh dear, what are we gonna do with you? I’m happy you’re doing what YOU want to do and I’m sure everyone is behind you OR will be when they realize this is what you want/need!

    Have a safe trip, hope to catch you updating here or twitter. We still need our daily dose of C! And if you don’t, know that we’ll be here when you get back….lucky you. ;)

    Just replace BUT with AND and git er dun, we’ll do it with you!

  5. We in the Pacific Northwest welcome you with open arms. Just between you and me, it’s definitely where all the cool people hang out. Make sure to come visit Vancouver, and enjoy the adventure.

  6. Hey C, Good post. I like the idea of the left-side-of-the-but. Too often people spend all of their time working out the reasons why something can’t be done rather than focusing on the reasons why it should be done. I guess it is also that half empty/half full dilemma. Us left-side people tend to be more glass full people as well! Enjoy the break. Life is too short not too take these chances.

  7. It never ceases to amaze me. I’ll think over things and think them over….and over….and over…..and over. And then I’ll say out loud to someone else, “I’m going to do this thing that I know sounds crazy” (like start a business or something)……and they always say things like, “Wow! What courage!” I’m always astounded at the support.

    I’ve moved a lot in my life. And I moved someplace (MA) that I fell in love with once, not really knowing anyone there. And it was fan-friggin-tastic!

    I’ve been starting to look west myself lately. So I look forward to your reports and hearing how things go for you!

    Congratulations on having the courage to do this!
    Enjoy your new adventure!
    All the best!

  8. Angie – Copy that! Part of the directive is to get reinvigorated about my output here and elsewhere. More soon!

    DrS – I wouldn’t call myself a left-side person. I would call myself a right-side-struggling-to-focus-left person. Aside from your generous inclusion of me with the happening kids, I’d say you were spot on! Thanks!

    Deb – It always seems so BIG when it’s echoing in your head. Maybe because I have a big head, I don’t know. West is good. Will report more soon.

  9. Hey C, I moved to from NYC to Seattle almost 20 years ago with a duffle bag and $200 cash (oh, and a brother with a house who already lived here, but still). I don’t consider myself to be particularly brave person, but I felt brave when I took that jump. Same with learning how to dance.
    Life is full of these “do or do not” moments.

    To choose is what’s important; the choice, not so much.

    Have a fantastic time here in Seattle! I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s very “writerly” and friendly.

    Selfishly, we Seattlites who subscribe to your musings hope you’ll have a little gathering some place fun so we can meet you and shmooze a little.

    Easy traveling! Stay on 101 for some amazing scenery and a thoughtful drive.


  10. Hey! Thanks for letting me use your quote in my blog. I found it online when I googled “relaxing quotes”. I assumed all the people who had left quotes were dead. Or would never, ever reply to my blog post. How cool! :)

  11. Rummuser – Amen.

    Suzanne – Thank you! I’m really looking forward to it. And sure, I’d love to get a group together. You guys have some good coffee places or something, right?

    Hez – I’m pretty sure most dead people wouldn’t leave comments, but the blogosphere is definitely the poorer for it. You’re welcome. And I hope this doesn’t mean I’m gonna die soon.

    Neil – It does, dunnit? Not-so-secretly, I’m hoping this is the first of many–maybe a whole, new nomadic lifestyle. I’ve dreamed of it for years, but meeting my newest non-imaginary friend, Jeff Fisher, made me believe it might be more possible than I thought.

  12. i fell in love with the pacific northwest (albeit in Canada) many years ago and this year, while on leave from my job, i spent five months there. i’ve now discovered a new passion (farming! who knew!!) and i’ve got a plan to return to the west coast in a year to pursue it.

    so i say “yay you!”, go for it, you won’t regret it a bit. can’t wait to see what you discover.

  13. Joan – Between you, me and the fencepost, I really hope I don’t discover some hidden love for farming. Or fishing, or any other expressly outdoorsy stuff. But I’m keeping my mind open…esp. as regards our lovely neighbor to the north.

  14. I wrote that wrong originally – and I realized it, but didn’t feel like deleting and re-writing my post. What I meant was – I figured most quotes posted on “quote pages” on the Internet were from people who had said these little nuggets of wisdom long ago. And were long since dead. I hope this doesn’t mean you’re gonna die soon, too. :)

  15. Wishing you the best on your exciting adventure. The Pacific Northwest is fantastic-just got back from a trip there in June and I am trying to find some clients in that area so I can eventually move there. I love what you have to say about eliminating the left side of the but-so true in all aspects of life. Enjoy every inch of your time in Seattle-it’s great fun.

  16. Hez – I know, but it was too delicious a set-up to resist. The joke is king! All hail the joke!

    Sarah – Thank you–it is an amazing place, right? The whole PacNW. I’m pretty mad for Portland, myself (it’s a little grubbier, which I like), but Seattle came up as an opportunity, so boo hoo. Poor me :-)

  17. Seattle is the best! I grew up there and still miss it. I’d happily live there again, but…heh.

    Just bring your parka and waterproof shoes. ;)

  18. When I had my “Age 28 Epiphany,” I decided to live my life with a new motto (or rather, a question asked before deciding how I really felt about doing anything).

    “What would I think about this if everyone I knew were dead?”

    And it’s not to be morbid, but to be sure my opinions are my own and not those of my (then-living) mother or my friends or my past-me or whatever.

    And that’s what led me to sell everything I owned on eBay and move back to LA to give acting “one more try.” And thank God. Because my grad-school-level survival job to support that acting career is what led me to what I was really meant to do: cast, and more importantly probably, help guide actors to better, more business-minded choices in pursuing their dreams. (Helping make sure they’re pursuing dreams, not delusions.)

    So, that’s how I got on the left side of the but. And I’ve tried to stay there this past decade. So far so good. :) No regrets, anyway. ;)

    Hope Seattle is awesome and inspiring and beautiful and exactly what you need it to be at every moment. {{{hugs}}}

  19. Jamy – So I hear. Of course, I drive in and it’s nothing but sunshine and t-shirt weather. Weird.

    Deidre – Thanks!

    Bon – *That* is derring-do. But this ain’t bad…for an old broad :-)

    BF – What can I say? I live on the edge.

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