Hustle Hard Interview Project: Felicity Huffman

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To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that bring me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.

#6: COMMITMENT

Although I’m not shy about giving compliments, I rarely refer to anyone as “hardcore.” It’s a term I save for someone who is effortlessly graceful and tough and real and sharp. Emmy award-winning actress Felicity Huffman is, well, undeniably hardcore. And because she’s blown me away each time I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and chat with her, it was difficult to pinpoint just one quality to celebrate.

Before meeting with Felicity for brunch a few weeks ago, I browsed through posts on her latest project, What the Flicka, an entertaining self-help blog that Forbes named as one of the Top 10 Parenting and Homemaking Sites for Women in 2012. It was for “interview research purposes,” but I got distracted by her Health and Fitness posts and stared at her well-defined arms and awe-inspiring physique for half an hour instead of doing actual research. Sure, go ahead and judge me for being creepy. It’s one of my better qualities.

During all of my laborious “research,” my thoughts kept going back to a comment that Felicity made about her husband, William H. Macy, during another chat last fall. It wasn’t the words I found so memorable. Without thinking, she smiled a little more as she shared a story about Bill. Sixteen years of marriage these days is a major coup. To see someone smile because they just can’t help it after sixteen years of marriage…that’s hardcore.

EJL: How did you meet Bill? I love….love. And I love all love stories.

FH: I went to this acting studio while I was at NYU, David Mamet’s studio, and he was my teacher. All the girls crushed on Bill because he was so cool. After we graduated, our theater company was doing a season up in Vermont, and he came to see us. Somehow, as we were all leaving the play and going to a party way out in the country, he and I ended up taking the same car. As we headed into the party, Bill asked me to take a walk with him. He took me up into a field and kissed me. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Why he chose me, I’ll never know.

EJL: The whole concept of marriage fascinates me because until I married my husband, I don’t know that I even believed in it. My parents were miserable for a long time. How did you know you wanted to be with Bill?

FH: I knew what a good man looked like because I have six older sisters. I listened to their stories as I was growing up. Bill and I broke up for quite a few years, and I was so miserable without him. Just as I was becoming okay on my own, he came back. The perspective I got from losing Bill for such a long time and then having the opportunity to be with him again made me know what a good guy he was.

EJL: Did your time apart make the second incarnation a different experience?

FH: I was finally able to say, “I’m not a perfect girlfriend.” And he still cherished me. He gives me a lot of room. The day after we got married, I sat in my family’s kitchen surrounded by my sisters and cried for about 4 hours because I thought my life was over.

The next day, Bill and I went on a backpacking trip, and I brought a shitty paperback novel. Every time we stopped to rest, I whipped out my book and started reading. When I pretty much hadn’t said anything for two days, Bill asked me what was going on. I said, “I think my identity is done because I married you. I feel like this was a huge mistake.”

He calmly replied, “Okay.”

And because he gave me all that room, it was like a mountain wasn’t there anymore.

EJL: There are men who are uncomfortable with their spouses pursuing their own passions or becoming successful. I think these men are afraid to see women shine. But, you’re…so shiny. Do you think you could have the career you do now if Bill wasn’t so supportive?

FH: It would be impossible. Bill gives me a lot of room, but he does it because he knows that my importance or worth is not defined by him.

EJL: When I married my husband after dating him for just 18 days, I was afraid that when he started to know everything about me, he wouldn’t love me anymore. It’s still a fear I have. It’s impossible to know the inner-workings of a marriage, even a successful one, but do you have any thoughts on…how I’m supposed to…do this thing and not mess it up?

FH: I’m glad your husband lets you be yourself. I don’t know how to keep a marriage going, but I do know that I can still feel a spark every time Bill comes home. I don’t put in effort all the time. I don’t dress up. I wear workout clothes all the time. And he still cherishes me.

EJL: Thank God. I’ve worn yoga pants for 15 days in a row. Wait. I think I have the wrong takeaway here.
_____

Throughout brunch, I made references to hip hop and rap artists, and as we were getting ready to leave, Felicity asked why I liked rap so much. I had never been asked that question before, and it gave me pause. It dawned on me that the music that I still love so much today has been one of the few consistent things in my life over the past two decades. And because Felicity is Felicity, she said, “Would you write me a list of stuff to listen to? I’m not into that ‘fuck bitches’ stuff though.” If anyone were to ask me for a moment of kindness that someone showed me, this might be near the top of my list. I didn’t realize what a profoundly positive impact it makes to show curiosity for someone else’s passions until it happened to me.

Please help me make a list of must-listen rap/hip hop music for Felicity. And no “fuck bitches” stuff.

Get connected on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress).

 photo credit: Stephen Busken

Monday Dare (& Some News): Ugly People

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Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the link to see the complete list of Monday Dares or to learn about its origin.

This week: Trust others less. Trust myself more. 

I set aside a few hours each week to work on rap lyrics. Cal is going off to college in 4.5 years. Instead of feeling forlorn and displaced with my new empty-nester status, I plan to use that time to build my rap career. It’ll be an excellent way for me to stay in touch with Cal because I could do a college tour, and I’m pretty sure she would want her school to be one of the stops. Maybe she could bring her friends. I’d give them a once-over to be certain she’s not hanging out with a bunch of hooligans, and also, that would be more people at my show. Two birds + One stone = Winning at this crazy thing called life.

I’ve been reading a lot of self-improvement books lately because I don’t want my rhymes to be about just bitches and tricks and Bentleys. Sure, that might work for the young bucks, but when you come to the Rap Game as an Asian female in her mid-thirties, your lyrics have to offer something more. I want to be insightful and inspirational, and the best way to do that is to work on myself and become a solid person. When you rap from a place of truth, the sky is the limit.

There seems to be a trend with these self-improvement books. It doesn’t even matter what broader issue they’re trying to address. Nestled in each is a browbeating about being less judgmental.

I’m always pressuring myself to be less judgey because, come on, who knows the real back story of why the balding man standing in front of me at the Burger King in Barstow with the Papa Smurf tattoo near his left eye and extremely clogged nose pores is wearing an ankle bracelet? Maybe the crowbar really DID slip out of his hand 17 times. Maybe no one’s ever taken the time to show him the benefits of a Clarisonic face brush. He’s an imperfect person. I’m an imperfect person. Should I judge?

YES.

I’ve spent some time surveying the people I’ve let into my life over the past decade. I decided not to look at the years before I was 21 because everyone is really stupid before they are 21. A lot of people are still stupid afterwards, but for the sake of my exercise, I had to draw the line somewhere.

I have allowed too many Ugly People to pass through my life. It’s probably because I lack the ability to pick up on things quickly. Ugly People are hard to spot sometimes because the most Hideous of the bunch are often the most skilled at hiding their true nature. They pretend to care about your well-being. They send you thoughtful text messages and emails because they haven’t heard from you in a minute. They invite you places and introduce you to people and laugh at your jokes and stroke your ego. Everything around them seems shinier. This is not an accident.

Everyone’s true character comes out…eventually. When I start to see the cracks and inconsistencies, I usually doubt myself. There I go, being all judgey again, I think. I let one injury slide, and then it becomes seven jabs, and before I know it, I’ve allotted years of my life to friendships that were never a “real thing” in the first place. It’s not a “real thing” when the other party is incapable of giving.

When I think of all the time I wasted on fuckjobs because I trusted our friendship more than I trusted myself…I ain’t gonna lie, I get pissed. But to operate out of spite and piss-offedness (that’s a word, yes?) would make me an even bigger loser.

The next time I read about being less judgmental, I will cross that nonsense out with my large-tip Sharpie. I may not be all that smart, but my instincts deserve to be trusted. You too. Follow your heart. That shit is legit, yo.

Monday Dare: C.R.E.A.M. aka Cash Rules Everything Around Me

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Every week, I challenge myself to a Monday Dare. Click on the link to see the complete list of Monday Dares or to learn more about its origin.

This week: Spend wisely

Between 7:46-7:49 every Tuesday and Friday evening, I cycle through intense waves of disappointment and depression as I digest the fact that I have, YET AGAIN,  been passed over by the California Mega Millions Lottery. It used to take a lot longer for the tightness in my chest to subside, but I’ve condensed the grieving process down to less than five minutes these days. I guess that’s what happens when something as fragile as hope is sullied over and over again. It becomes hard and ugly, and each new assault is less apparent.

Harv will rub my back and say some bullshit about how I have to buy a lottery ticket in order to win. “The lottery is a ‘pay to play’ deal. That’s how they get the jackpot in the first place. How do you expect to win if you don’t even have any numbers to match?”

This “pay to play” idea scares me. It’s not that I’m unwilling to fork over one whole dollar twice a week. I just don’t trust myself when it comes to making solid decisions about my dolla dolla billz.

Money, or rather, the lack thereof, ruled my life for a long time. Whoever is going around perpetuating the myth that money doesn’t buy happiness is either really rich and doesn’t give a shit or really poor and self-soothing. Being poor is fucking miserable. Working a series of low-paying, soul-sucking jobs colored every decision I made.

Cash ruled everything around me.

When Cal was five, a young photographer offered to do a Mother and Daughter photo session for $75. I was working the front end at a dry cleaner, settling tabs, rifling through pockets, and noting stains for $8 an hour before taxes, and the thought of wasting two days’ wages on something we couldn’t eat or put on our backs seemed ridiculous and unnecessary. I didn’t even give the offer a second thought.

A friend who had taken advantage of the photographer’s offer challenged my decision. This homegirl’s background in advertising really helped as she campaigned for me to change my mind, unafraid to mention that I would regret not having “nice pictures” someday.

My hands shook a little as I wrote the $75 check, mostly because I was afraid it wasn’t going to clear, but also because I was mentally scrolling through everything I would have to give up for the next few weeks to make those stupid pictures happen.

When it came time to order pictures, I passed on most of them, ordering just a handful in 5×7.

What I didn’t realize then…What I know now, is that I should have been glad to sift through dirty suit pockets, extracting crumpled receipts and used condoms (come on guys, what the fuck compels you to put these back in your pocket?) for the chance to capture this slice of time with my kid.

My favorite 5×7 is clipped to a floral pinboard, and each day, when I’m looking around my office instead of doing real work, my eyes land on it. I am reminded of the time when it was just the two of us.

When I got married, I let cash rule my life again. I suddenly had more. And I was determined to spend the shit out of my newfound cash flow. I didn’t even know what I was buying most of the time, but damn, it just felt good to buy it. YES, I WILL TAKE THAT CAFTAN IN EVERY SINGLE COLOR. Do I wear caftans? Fuck no. But I have ‘em, just in case.

I am now coming to a middle place. A middle place where I know the real value of a dollar fluctuates, determined by the experiences I trade it in for. I emailed that photographer. I hope she still has our pictures on file. I plan to buy the biggest fucking size of every single shot.

View more slices of life like the Mother/Daughter picture above on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress).
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