Things My Brain is Thinking About When No One is Looking – Part VIII

My train of thought today –  I really should use my power for good.


  • Tonight is bar trivia night.  I lerve trivia.  And I know stupid shite like Debbie Gibson’s middle name (Ann), that a rat can last longer without water than a camel (longtime NYC residents unite!), and that Leonardo da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other simultaneously.  More importantly, my team’s name is “We Don’t Care about Your Kids,” and I didn’t even name it!  Ah, kindred spirits.
  • It’s possible I’m wearing mom jeans today. I can’t decide.  I suppose if their fashion status is questionable, the answer is yes.
  • Speaking of mom, I’ve been evolving these past two years into her clone. Habitually, I use the word “slacks” instead of pants, calls people “pills” when they’re being annoying, and strongly believe that “Nothing good happens after midnight.”  I go through two books a week on tape and constantly tell Mac the dog that “the kitchen is closed” whenever he looks at me and wants more food. It’s like instead of Revenge of the Sith, it’s Revenge of the Sheila. She always said we’d end up like her.
  • Speaking of Star Wars, why are they making three more Star Wars movies?  I love me some J.J. Abrams and all, but why, why are we doing this?  Have we learned nothing between the years 1999 – 2005?  It’s like that saying, “Fool me once, shame on me.  Fool me twice, and I will toilet paper the entire campus of Lucasfilm.”
  • As an unemployed person, I have a request (and let me point out that I know you mean well and are being polite). BUT – please stop asking me “And how is the job search going?”  It’s unsettling and makes me want to hit the bottle.  I WILL TELL YOU. Thankfully, through this process I’ve learned that “I am not my job,” because losing a job would mean that I, too, as a human being are lost.  Even though this identity struggle has not yet involved barbiturates, it kind of makes my self-esteem plunge south.  Then I want to ask the following of you:
    • How is your parents’ divorce going?
    • How is that STD treating you?
    • Lose that last ten pounds yet?
    • Did you get fired?
    • When are you ever going to get married?
    • Or my favorite…. Are you pregnant?

Again, I know you mean well.  Thank you.  I recognize your well-meant interest in my personal and professional well-being. Now stop.

  • Why in the sam hell (another ‘Sheila-ism’) are iphones made of glass?  We put men on the moon 60 years ago, but we are making our phones out of GLASS? Things we poke at while jogging, shove to the bottom of our purses, and give kids to distract themselves.  Glass.  We childlock a shoe closet, but we give our children in a high chair a glass object with which to throw around.  Fortunately, when I got my iPhone5, I remembered I was a klutz and signed up for the “I will definitely drop this within the next 3 minutes” insurance, and so only had to pay a small fortune to get it replaced. If I can offer you any advice (in addition to “Never get involved in a land war in Asia”), get the monthly insurance. Because Steve Jobs didn’t like plastic.
  • Speaking of Jobs, have you seen the trailer for the Ashton…oh, I can’t be bothered, I have to get ready for trivia night.

Things My Brain Is Thinking About When No One is Looking – Part VI

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  • I’m a smart gal.  But for the past 4 months, I’ve lived with no health insurance.  COBRA is a joke and a half, and I’m still trying to figure out what the Christ Obamacare is.  It sounds great, thanks, so where is it, and why as a girl with an incredible education who has been employed and paid her 30% of income tax not able to receive it when I need it?  Now I’m paying a ridic amount of money every month just in case some schmuck runs a red light and creams me in the pedestrian crossing.
  •  Why can’t I invent something?  People create stupid shite all the time, stuff that is amazing.  Knives that cut through tin cans…the ShamWow….hell, I practically invented the Snuggie. Except I didn’t, nor have reaped its $200m in revenue.  Sometimes I just want zits so I can use ProActiv.
  • The below quotes are from real life, but will not be attributed to any specific human beings, as to keep their anonymity, self-respect, and livelihoods in place. I am always referred to as “Me” because I don’t give a shite.

Me: …Taking care of the pooch…

BFF: You’re such a good mom.

Me: This is the closest I’ll get.

BFF:  Shut it morbid mammary. You’re gonna have a litter of kids some day, and I’ll be the cool gay uncle.


Me: Well, why do you think he’s a jerk? I mean, you were there on the golf vacation, don’t you like golf?

He: Oh, I golf… but he thinks its important.


At the Genius Bar in the Apple Store:

Me: Um, ignore the rotating desktop wallpaper of Bradley Cooper images on my laptop. I’m just having battery issues today, if you can fix that.

Thomas, Genius Bar employee, 70 years old: I’m sure that you’re not the only girl in here who has a crush on Bradley Cooper.

Me: it’s not a mere crush, Tom.  It’s an obsession.

Thomas: Well I promise to fix your battery to allow the obsession to continue. Although, if I couldn’t I’m sure you’d find a way around it.

Me: It’s like you know me, Thomas.


After a bad date:

BFF: You rejected him like a bad transplant.


Me: If I hear “Eileen Burke, party of one” called out in a restaurant or seen on a placecard one more time…

BFF: Better than saying “Eileen, plus Party of asshole…”

Yes, yes it is.  Eileen, “Party of One” does not suck. In fact, that’s the title of my next book.

Things My Brain is Thinking about When No One is Looking – Part V


1) I don’t need a man, I need a handyman.  And they happen to be cheaper than a regular man. Added plus – you can find them on craigslist, and they won’t kill you.

2) According to HGTV’s ‘House Hunters,’ based on my savings, I can only own a home in the suburbs of the suburbs of Atlanta.  This is highly disappointing.

3) My leather chair, still new from Pottery Barn, is now in the shape of what I call ‘The Juxtaposition of Eileen.”  It’s my arse in leather, with a size 6 footprint in the ottoman.  I need to retire from my life of leisure. Help. Help. Help.

4) Bar Method, a trendy workout here in San Francisco, is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Tears have almost run down my eyes in pain, words have passed my lips that would make Mary Magdalene blush.  Please, I dare your gluteus maximus, gentleman,  I’ve never seen a grown man cry. Join me, and make a gal grin.

5) Owning a dog is hard.  Just borrowing a pup for one week showed me that I come second. But if you have floppy ears and like having your belly rubbed, you’re my people. I cancel dates, I dissolve engagements, I run home. To take out the wagging tail at my door. I’ve never seen someone so happy to see me.  Is this what relationships are like? HAHHAHAHAH….no.

6) Never sleep with your feet over the edge of the bed.  Dark is a precarious situation, you never know what will nibble on your toes.  I wake in a sweat every night, shocked I am not besieged by another kind.  If they do come, I think they will like my dvd collection.

7) After being happily unemployed for a few months, I do need to start selling stuff on ebay.  Like my body.

8) Sometimes, the best way to get someone’s attention is to stop giving them yours.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Yeah, you. Yes, you.  I’m talking to you. Jesus. Really.

9) Zac Efron dancing at the end of the awful movie “New Year’s Eve” almost made it worth those painful two hours of my life watching it that I’ll never get back.  Almost. Fast-forward that shite and thank me.

10) Julia Child was 45 before she started cooking as a profession.  I’m going to be ok.  I could be amazing at 35.  Just you bitches wait.

Self-sabotage is boring.


I’ve never been a gray person.  I’m a firm believer in the black and white.  You are or you aren’t.  You do or you don’t.  You can or can’t. You should or shouldn’t.  It’s about having a spine. Knowing who you are.  Making a damn decision.

I’ve always thrown myself into everything once I’ve made the choice to be a part of it.  I’m not saying it’s the right way to go about life.  Sometimes it has served me, and sometimes it hasn’t.  But it’s the only way I know how to truly live. There have been plenty that don’t get it.  They like gray, from cool to charcoal.

To better explain: I don’t watch one episode of Dexter, I stay up until 4am to finish the season I’ve pirated on my laptop. I don’t buy a coffee table, I paint my walls and retile the floors.  I don’t write a blog entry, I write a screenplay. I don’t go to the store for milk, I have to rent a car and buy enough chicken cutlets for a small army. I can’t go for a jog, I must train for a marathon.

Unfortunately the same goes for things that are bad for me.  I don’t eat a handful a chips, I eat the entire bag of Lay’s Sour Cream & Onion.  For no one can eat just one, right?

While I wouldn’t know how to live my life in any other way, with it comes a kind of imprisonment. Without participating in the entire shebang, there is discontentment.  Giving up the unhappiness would mean to throw my ego into the gutter, to completely let go. This prison of incompletion, while safe, makes me fear constantly that I will not be deemed a success, by my own or anyone else’s standards. While the mantra “Patience, patience” enters my thoughts, I simultaneously pray, “Let’s get on with it already.” Many can’t deal with a process like this, as expressing your creativity and your calling has incredible mountains and valleys.  Some deem it easier to steal things a better man has built.

Mostly, I am scared when I cannot find the motivation to create.  I doubt my own ability to do something worthwhile  – something worth looking at, reading, studying, exploring, being immensely proud of. It’s a vicious circle of ego and fear, self-love and loathing.

I do know this: I need to be creating, in whatever form.  It is more than a form of expression, it is a need, like breathing, eating, or drinking Spottswoode Cabernet. I want to create, but I don’t know the best way to do so. I suppose there is not a best way, there is just a way. So I’m asking you, and the Universe for help, and good wishes.  I’m a firm believer in the power of the mind. You send me yours, I’ll send you mine.

Creative people are not happy unless they are being creative.  I can vouch for that.  So while I sit here going the corporate route, I silently hope frequently that I never hear back from my inquiries.

I read this today and it made my heart beat fast and tears well in my eyes:

Creative people appear on this earth and they don’t ask to be creative but they are driven to be creative and they are not happy unless they are being creative. They aren’t happy unless they are making things or discussing making things or putting things they made in the mail or painting the things they made or selling the things they made. That’s why people live in lofts and join caravans because the only time they feel alive is when they are drenched in the colors of their being. In a loft with buckets of paint. In a studio with instruments and knobs. On the road. In an attic room with a view of the river. Barefoot in a stranger’s bed. Waiting for a train on a vast prairie. You will only be happy when your mysterious need to create is being serviced, addressed.

I suppose the first part is getting past the ego.  Not only putting it to bed, but crucifying it. I don’t need my creativity to make me wealthy, I need it to fill my soul. Maybe I won’t find it fully in a day, or months, or years. Maybe that’s the point of living a lifetime.

Today can be a demarcation from the self-sabotage, if I choose it to be.  Self-sabotage is getting boring.  Instead I choose to watch the entire second season of Game of Thrones, and read a book form cover to cover.  I shall see the sun rise.

What is My Africa? – Part 2


As I sit here, unemployed and genuinely as pleased as a stallion at a breeding farm about it, my brain is moving from TLC’s “Long Island Medium” (excellent programming, I’m hooked) to my resume, to pondering how long it would take for someone to find my body if I were to suddenly keel over on my white IKEA couch.  With no attempt to be morbid, I wonder this, as I have no place to be at 9am like the rest of civilization.  I mean, it’s possible that I wouldn’t be found for a while, it happens all the time on CSI.

Anyway, I live alone and in a building with only one other apartment that remains empty. And while I’m thrilled in knowing that each towel on the floor is only there because I carefully placed it so, and that there will be no stumbling upon The Beginner’s Guide to Wicca suddenly on the coffee table from a questionably sane roommate, sometimes the silence is just that.  Silent.

So you tell me: How long would it take?  Hours of not hearing from me?  Gosh, a day?  I imagine the conversation now.

Friend 1: “Eileen hasn’t posted anything on Facebook today.”

Friend 2:  “Let’s swing by her apartment to see if she’s dead.”

I like to think my absence would be immediately obvious, and not because I have a well, let’s call it a decisive presence (read: loud mouth).  My silence would mostly go noticed in the viral universe, as I’m tuned in all the time, to instragram, facebook, G-chat, AIM, email.  No wonder I needed a new eyeglass prescription.  I live my life in Arial size 10 font. Depressing?  Or amazingly hip?  Hmmm?  Ok, depressing.

In an attempt to let my laptop’s white glow fall into a temporary sleep, I decided to repurpose my newfound freedom and organize my life. Opening up my semi-organized closets, I went through paper by paper.  I find I am the Howard Hughes of recycling. Joy can be found when you just throw…stuff….away, OCD-style.  Having this apartment down to a science, I know that if there were any reason that the Navy Seals were hovering in a Blackhawk above my apartment in an attempt to bring me in, I could pack up this apartment in mere minutes.  They wouldn’t stand a chance.

Which leads me to wonder if I’m watching too many reruns of Alias….

If said Seals, or any normal civilian for that matter, come searching for me, I have one habit in place. Simply as a precautionary measure, I erase my internet browsing history every night so no one knows the extent of my obsession with Kate Middleton.

Back to the closet.  It didn’t take too long to pristine it, but I came upon a box with uncracked packing tape, a sure sign it has been forgotten for some time, named unimportant and disregarded like a rag doll that a young child outgrows.  Under its bent lid, I found the first draft of the novel I wrote when 32. Underneath that dust, a pile of extensive research for a television series mapped out when I was about 23.  At the bottom, a screenplay written when I was fifteen, a romantic adventure about the Knights of the Round Table.  I haven’t yet delved into the pages of each, as my resume has been top of mind, but I will.  And I will most definitely laugh until it hurts.

So while I ponder the woes of the upper middle-class, (“should I stay in this apartment? It’s too big!”), and pause my student loans in the absence of a bi-weekly paycheck (“what’s the difference between owing $60k and $65k, really? I’m never going to be able to pay it off…”), I wonder what’s next.  Sublet my apartment and travel?  Dust off those manuscripts and look at them through 34 year-old, mature, wiser (read: old) eyes?  Ask myself what the sam heck I should do with an eat-in-kitchen when what I really need is a bar?….ooohhhh maybe I can make it into a bar…. I look to the future, and the question I have asked myself repeatedly over the years and now have the frame of mind and self-awareness to answer, what is my Africa?

I’m quietly going about my business of changing my life. And maybe yours, if you’re lucky.

For twelve hours, in a cold conference room, I attempted to arrange my small bum in an even smaller metal chair.  I sipped tiny Dixie-size cups of water, ate beef jerky for dinner, and crouched over a notebook.  Simultaneously, I was moved, inspired and ready to take on the world.

Today, I started my last course in the Curriculum for Living, that began with the Landmark Forum several months ago.  You’ve read my tales from that extraordinary weekend and then my takeaways from the Advanced Course, followed by a 10-week seminar.  I haven’t been on board (in Landmark-speak: “present”) the whole time, and I even ended up quitting my Relationship Seminar – the irony of that statement is not lost on me, ex-boyfriends of mine.

It’s a running joke for some friends who shall remain nameless (cough, Nelse) when I begin another one of these long weekends:

What are you doing this weekend?

I am otherwise occupied.

Ahhh, Cult Weekend?


But I say that any cult that moves people to incredible, important action in their lives, not only for themselves but also their community, is a cult I want to join.  I’m not jumping on couches.  I don’t believe we hail from aliens.  I’m quietly going about my business of changing my life. And maybe yours, if you’re lucky.

And it has changed my life.  It doesn’t have anything to do with abandoning the religion that I’ve been born under, and I recognize my demons.  I am in no way healed or better than anyone else.  And that’s not what I’m being taught – I’m learning to reconnect with the best version of myself possible – one that is authentic and honest and true to the core.  It’s about creating possibilities in your life, and announcing them out loud so that you are held accountable for them.  I hide behind humor, there I wrote it.  And I stood and said it to 75 people tonight.  Humor is my defense mechanism – it is my warm blanket when I’m sad, is my role to play when I’m happy, and well, let’s just face it, I’m pretty much an all-around effin’ joy to be around.  Seriously.  Don’t pretend you don’t know this.

But anyway, enough about me, back to me.  My possibility for the last few months, has been (and you need to say it in this language: Who I am is the possibility of being whole, complete, and perfect as a single woman, regardless of what my past, present, future relationship status is. So with everything I do, every action, every word that escapes my lips, I connect with that before I think, say, do.

This course is much different from the previous.  The first was about what was inside of us, leaving behind the past, living in the present, and the fact there is no future.  (What? What? What? You say.  Come talk to me, or better yet, take the course).

The Advanced Course was about holding yourself accountable in your community being responsible for each and every person.  For example, that being late is a more than an oversight; you’re telling people that they don’t matter enough.

Now we take it to the next level, the Self-Expression and Leadership Program.  We look for something that is missing in our community – and create it.  Past graduates have started charities, businesses, a walk for autism that raised  $1.4 million. One graduate of this course, who just finished two months ago, became an advocate for  six sex workers in San Francisco (aged 15-17), having gotten them off the streets, placed in stable homes and in the education system. She’s like 26.  With a full-time job, husband, and plenty of other stuff to do. Just like you.

The Wachowski brothers, creators of The Matrix, are graduates and based a lot of their learnings on this program (remember the Red Pill?).  Chuck Palahniuk, upon graduating, wrote Fight Club (you are not your f*ckin’ khakis) – see the patterns here? So, while I have no plans to write, produce, and direct an Academy Award-winning film or write next Great American Novel, the pressure’s a bit ON to do something magical.

I’m at the very early stages, and over the next four months you’ll hear more about my project as I continue to understand it myself.  But I do know that it involves creating a safe haven for animals –  getting them off the streets of the Bay Area, out of abusive homes, away from neglect, far from slaughterhouses and cruelty –  and adopted by families that love and nurture.  That’s what I’m up to.  Keep you posted.

Life lessons from a dog.


I was looking very forward to this weekend, because I was taking care of my dear friend, Katya, my first friend here in San Francisco and the best dog ever. But this weekend was not without its trials. She has been diagnosed with something esophageal, and she’s been struggling with keeping her food, water, and meds down recently.  Despite some lethargy, she remains in impeccable spirits and high energy when ready for a walk.  But after her 40th vomiting session of the day and four rolls of paper towels later, I lost my cool and yelled at her as she threw up on my white couch at 3:15am, through the blanket that was put there for such an occasion.  And as I picked up the sodden blanket, I just started crying.  Out of frustration, fear, sadness, and all that I’ve been holding inside these past few months. I imagine this is what moms feel like when their kid is sick – exhaustion from the lack of sleep, helpless in their efforts to make it better, vulnerable in their fear. I cried because I was mad at my impatience with her. It was less anger at cleaning up another load of bile and entirely about being alone in this experience.  But she doesn’t know that.  She just hears the tone of my voice.

Thankfully she was quick to forgive, and walked slowly back over to me, her tail wagging, despite her continued gagging slowing her steps.  For hours more, she was restless, and I finally my head hit the pillow at 7am, both of us exhausted from the experience.  The load of laundry I did before the sun rose was evidently done with my eyes closed.  I neglected to see a red sock left in the washer and I sit, now typing, on a pink couch cushion.

I’ve been overly busy recently, doing everything but withdrawing from life. I’m meeting tons of new people, and trying to take care of myself. But really, I am exhausted – physically, mentally, emotionally, and my faith has suffered.  I’m so fearful, and far from peace today.  I know that coming out here was the best thing for my career, and I’m grateful that I’ve found a place that forces my skills to sharpen.  But I’m so afraid – that my nieces will not recognize me as they grow, that my friends will forget me, that being out here is too hard to do alone,  and that this quiet will continue.

So Katya seems to have opened up my floodgates, as I have tears running down my face while watching a priest cry on 60 Minutes. And maybe that was her purpose for this weekend – to teach me to accept what I’m feeling and to express it. To not distract myself from my challenges, my anger, and lack of understanding – but instead to learn to not be scared of them, and ask them to stay a while.  To warm themselves by the fire, and take a load off.