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Adapting to Big Changes in Midlife with Humorist Annabelle Gurwitch

Erin: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, where we uncover the unconscious rules we've been following, we break those rules, and we find a new path to being freer, happier, sexier, and more self expressed. I'm your host, Erin Keating. Today, I talk to author and actress Annabelle Gurwitch about aging, downward mobility, charity, judgment, sexuality in your fifties, and so much more.

Annabelle uses stories about her own life to elucidate what's going on in the culture around us. And in her wonderful most recent book, "You're Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility", she really takes on aging against the backdrop of income inequality. And the gig economy. And it's [00:01:00] really funny. She's really funny. It's a magic trick to be able to talk about such a deep and difficult subjects that she takes on and still make us laugh. It's a real gift she has. I think you're going to enjoy this conversation so much. I really did. Here it is.

Annabelle Gerwitch is a New York Times bestselling author, actress, and activist whose most recent collection of essays, the hilarious "You're Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility" was a 2021 New York Times favorite book for healthy living, a Good Morning America must read, and a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor Writing in 2022, which is a big deal if you are in the funny people world. It's a hilarious book. It's so deep. and so relevant. Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, Annabelle. 

Annabelle: Oh, thank you so much. I've taken you into my writing office. 

Erin: Yes, I love it. For those of you who are listening and not [00:02:00] watching, there's just books everywhere. It is a writer's book everywhere. So you've been a writer and an actress for several decades. Among other things, you published five books. You've been on TV and shows we've all seen. Your writing appears everywhere. You guest lecture from all external measures. You are a success. At the same time, this book is about downward mobility. And so I just want to dive in and ask the question, how did you find yourself downwardly mobile?

What was the combination of factors that Made you define yourself in this way and made you experience life in this way. 

Annabelle: Well, I'm so glad you asked. So my interest in writing is always been the same since I started as a commentator on NPR. I like to use my personal experience to illuminate things that are happening in the social zeitgeist with humor and this [00:03:00] downward mobility that I've experienced in midlife is really very recognizable, I think, to anyone who's not in the top 1 percent of the top 1%. I think what we've seen in our economic life in this country, in America, as well as across the world, is this dropout of the middle class. It's been the wage gap, like between CEOs, there's, it's a good all or nothing. Winner take all.

And I think it's just no different in the literary world, in show business. And I mean, I just want to be sure we're talking about, I know we're talking about the same thing, which is that I have, I am sheltered, although that's a situation that is also, you know, fluid. I'm going to be selling my house because of my divorce settlement in a couple of years.

There's relativeness to this. I'm not talking about living below the poverty line in America, but I think many of us [00:04:00] and particularly women, we know women are still impacted more by divorce in midlife, you get a divorce and it just decimates your financial planning. And I feel right there with you, my friend, right?

And so suddenly, okay, uh, Oh, and I, how many earning years do I have left? And all these issues become a really important. And then there's the trend that is been in the arts of just these huge salaries at the very top, including the reasons why we went on strike with WGA and SAG with the incredible CEO pays versus people who actually create work. Although I prefer writers and actors as opposed to the word creator, that creator, I'm with Emma Thompson on that. That word is just a nightmare.

Erin: It's a weird social media word. Yeah, for sure. 

Annabelle: Yeah, it is. It's like, what does it mean? So this is a situation I found myself in. And in the very [00:05:00] particular point of that, this book starts is when my kid goes off to college and I realized I've got to pay the mortgage myself as well as look towards the rest of

my life on my own, on a one person income as opposed to a two person income. And I decided I would do what many people do, which is rent out a room in my house. And the book starts from this premise where I think this is going to ruin my life, which I really did think, Oh my God, I've turned into the blousy house. So I, from the 1950s with a cigarette and I'm going to be making oatmeal in the morning for my tenants and I'm just, 

Erin: Your boarders are moving in and out.

Annabelle: I'm going to be in bedroom slippers and a house dress. And I just, I had this idea and in fact, I have had all of these amazing experiences, including opening my home to young people experiencing homelessness. And so the [00:06:00] thing about this experience and what I wanted to write to also the larger topic of this book was really could I have a bigger imagination about this point in my life than I thought I might need to have and also could I find joy and purpose and how defined am I by what I perceive is my status or my place in the world, because I think all of us, we're challenged by these, I don't think that's anything new, but I think that at certain points in your life, there are these moments where it becomes really urgent that we examine these things, because in some sense, our survival depends on it. It's really tough if you've defined yourself in a way that doesn't work for you anymore.

Like if you've defined yourself only as the person who is always on a TV show staff or always has a new book coming out or always was the [00:07:00] youngest and most beautiful woman in the room. Of course, those are relative terms, but I think those are. things that we all bump up against as working women. I started out and I started working when I was 19, 20 years old. So I was always the youngest person in the room. And now I'm like, I'm the village elder. 

Erin: I'm here to bring the wisdom.

Annabelle: I don't know why I keep using this voice, but I like it. I like it. You know, it just, it is this funny, funny thing when you realize, Oh my God, I'm not that person. I have exchanged roles and there's a tremendous opportunity in it as well as you just have to like wake up to the reality of where you are. In my opinion, I've tried to embrace my age. I really tried to do what Jung described as the volitional acceptance of the obligatory to not fight what's actually happening. 

Erin: Hmm. Yeah, I think that's so [00:08:00] relevant to so many of the things we talk about here on this podcast about reinventing ourselves in midlife.

Annabelle: You know, that's a phrase and people use that phrase when they talk about me. I know. 'cause I was an actress and I reinvented as a writer. Well, sometimes I just feel like, okay, well how many more reinventions do I have in me? Because as an artist, you have to keep growing and changing and putting out work if you want to remain in that conversation, but you can't, you run out of reinventions.

I think, I think that word is a, it's a really loaded word and I'm a little suspicious of it because I think it sort of implies. This overhaul that requires Herculean strength. And when I hear reinvention, I think, aren't we all exhausted by just saying that word out loud? I love it. Can we just, like, slide over a little bit, like, do we have to say reinvention? Fuck. I mean, that's a lot to [00:09:00] put on someone. That's a lot of work.

Erin: It's a lot of work. It's a lot of work. I really appreciate the interrogation of the word because I do use it kind of, you know, easily, because I feel like that's what, yeah, I feel like that is what is required of us in this weird economy that we're in, in this moment in time that we're in, and especially for those of us who are going through a divorce or trying to figure out what happens after they get laid off, you do have to take a look at yourself and say, Okay, what's been working?

What can I keep? What do I need to get rid of? What beliefs do I have? And I think that's so evident in your work is questioning, what do I believe in? What do I care about? What's important to me? And I guess in, for me in this phase of my life. I'm just deep in that exploration too, where the externals really did matter a lot to me and I'm not sure they don't matter still.

Annabelle: Oh, I, you know, that's the thing is that I think we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. [00:10:00] I don't know why I'm saying that. I have unrealistic expectations of myself. I have unrealistic expectations of myself. Yeah. And I, when I think I'm, you know, gotta detach entirely from, no, I'm a vain person. I like nice products. I enjoy wearing pretty clothes. I'm a little attached to my creature comforts, a little, but a lot attached to them at the same time.

I have to detach on a daily basis from ,there's a saying compare and despair, comparative status update, because there's always someone that I compare myself to that I am failing to, to meet up to that standard. And even I'm failing to be as resilient, I'm failing to reinvent. I, in my, in this book, in you're leaving one in particular, I use the word. And you could say this is semantics, but I prefer the word adapt because, you know, [00:11:00] resilience again is one of those words that I feel like is very enervating. And so for me, I have adapted continually.

So for instance, when I left acting and television hosting, I had done this dinner and a movie show for many years. And I did a bunch of other shows for many. We're always on TV. People don't remember these other shows. I do, though. And that I had really, at a certain point, I had made a choice, actually, where I was choosing these hosting roles over the acting roles because I felt I had more career opportunity there.

So I, in a sense, I think that was, I mean, you try not to look back and regret, but it's not so much regret as just perspective that that wasn't a decision that panned out in the sense that suddenly there was a world in which reality stars were hosting TV shows. So that turned for me, and there was just an end [00:12:00] point where I saw the writing on the wall that the hosting market as people who were working as television hosts.

And I felt I had something to offer in that world, but that wasn't going to be a career path that was going to continue for that much longer. Acting wise, I felt like the age range was really saturated in terms of my position in it. And I felt I had a opportunity and this is where I do try to have some detachment in my life.

I felt what can I do? Where's my opportunity where I can make the most unique transcribed contribution in the arts that will be satisfying to me, but also have a potential for success. I mean, I have to earn a living. I'm not in it with a trust fund or family money. So [00:13:00] I determined that I would go full force into writing.

So, you know, these choices I've made have been driven not only by my interests, but also financial concerns and just actually just looking at the market and thinking, what's my best opportunity? How can I adapt? So in that sense, I do feel you need to develop a certain amount of detachment. I think if your work is something that you want to continue, I was going to say it's an art, but it's not just in the arts.

I think everyone has to determine and make these sort of marketplace. What can I live with? I mean, some people could not live with the freelancer kind of life. That, that we, you and I have been living and it's not easy. And I don't think if I actually really understood what it was, I would have done that.

Erin: I mean, I chose a direct deposit life for the last 20 years when I decided I wanted to be a grownup in my [00:14:00] early thirties, I was like, I have to stop freelancing. I have to stop taking gigs. I have to actually commit to a thing that has a career with a capital C. And I think there were real benefits to that.

Literal benefits in the form of health insurance and retirement savings and regular income, but also a career path, a ladder to climb, a way to become more successful over time. But I always envied the people. Who were outside being self determined being driven by creative projects and for me I was a facilitator of other people's dreams as a development executive and producer and then at a certain point it all kind of blew up two years ago and I have now chosen this path for the time being, right?

Like I can make all the proclamations in the world that I'm going to reinvent and be a freelance person now and be totally self determined, but I still have the practical concerns and I still have two kids at home for the next five [00:15:00] years. 

Annabelle: It's really all of those things. And I think that the freelancer muscle, if you would call it that, of how you learn to live as a freelancer is something that I've developed over many years.

The dinner and a movie job that I did for, that was the longest job I held. That was like six or seven years. And I had done a couple other series that I got a couple seasons out of those really helped me establish a kind of some financial stability. So I feel very fortunate that I've been able to have this freelancer's career for my entire life.

It also is meant I've made absolutely specific choices to make that possible. So for instance, I've always earned the nickname, the squirrel from my friends because squirreling away savings. I've always lived a little below my means or a lot below my means if I [00:16:00] didn't have income coming in, in order to make sure I had some financial stability.

So I've definitely made choices that made that possible. There are times when I, right before I fall asleep at night and I think about the jobs that had more financial stability, even in the business that I turned down. And I think, Oh my God, what would my life be like if I had taken this radio job, or if I had done a better job on my audition for friends, things. Things like that, but just because by the way, I've never been the person who's really up in grade at predicting cultural trends. I read for friends and then I went to the taping of the pilot and I turned to my husband at the time and I said, 'this will never last.'

Erin: Amazing. I passed on Schitt's Creek when I was at IFC. Because it just wasn't [00:17:00] right for the brand and I, I thought it was too broad. You know, we had another show with a female comedy duo when I was there. So we passed on Broad City. Like those things happen. I have a friend who always says, just take the meeting. You have to take the meeting.

She's, she's British. She's like, you just don't want to be the one who passes on meeting with the Beatles. So I at least took the meetings, but I made the wrong choices. Oh my God. They were right for where I was at the, I mean, whatever. You can only do what you can do in the moment with the information that you have. 

Annabelle: Yes. A friend of mine, Craig Bierko, my first book was a compilation of stories about being fired. It was a collection of essays I edited based on my own first essay that was about being fired by Woody Allen from a play, which I let that turn me into a writer for a couple of reasons. That was my first book and I put that together as a traveling show. I just, it became a documentary, a Showtime comedy special. I really worked that -- 

Erin: Leverage the shit out of that.

Annabelle: Yeah, totally. [00:18:00] But the thing is, it wasn't just about the story about Woody Allen firing me. It was about the change to the gig economy in America. And not only that, but in a personal level, what could be learned from the opportunity of being fired, you know, I mean, not saying being fired is ever good, but what does it do to your life?

And in some cases I had people all over the country I collected stories on I was on NPR at the time people told really fascinating stories about being fired in different industries everything from working on an assembly line in Lansing, Michigan to Craig Bierko who he's he says he fired himself from his career because he, at one point, before he won a Tony Award for Music Man and has done lots of great series since then, but he turned down, he was offered the role on Friends, played by Matthew Perry, and he turned that down because he did another [00:19:00] pilot called Best Friends, where he got better billing and he played best friends with a monkey. You just live with that one, you know.


Erin: I chose the monkey over the cultural juggernaut and the infinite wealth, right?

Annabelle: That's just like, okay, how are you going to pay for a therapist? Kids to go to college. There's that one. Yeah. 

Erin: Yeah. Yeah. You don't know in the moment. What do you have? You have your gut to go on, you have your experience, you have your needs.

Annabelle: Everyone has stories like that though, in, in show business.

Erin: And in every, I think in every, everyone's life, there's the thing that didn't happen. There's the thing. The road not taken.

Annabelle: Exactly. Yes. This is why people end up going to their high school reunions, reconnecting with someone they like went on a prom with and then [00:20:00] getting married. I, I wonder about those, that choice, but it's always that I think if we should have gone out back, you know, stay together.

Erin: I liked you when I was, had a purity of heart.

Annabelle: I think for some people, I know some success stories that way. So sometimes you have a chance to rectify those decisions very directly. I also think if you meet someone and it's late enough in your life, at least you won't have too many years to get tired of them. How's that for some logic?

Erin: Yeah. Yeah. I'm dating someone who I'm not going to live with like, I have kids. He's not going to be their stepdad. He's the guy I'm dating. He's my boyfriend. That's a whole new reconfiguration and it makes me feel young. It makes me feel young.  

Annabelle: Yes. It's a very interesting thing to be in a situation where I am seeing someone as well. And to be in a [00:21:00] situation where you're not going to have children together, you're not going to launch your life together because you're already in the life that you're leading, so then what is it? In a way, you really have an opportunity to rethink what it is you're looking for from a relationship. I was just amazed at myself in this relationship first that I'm doing it because I wasn't really

Erin: Well, in your book, you were extremely reluctant and everyone was telling you after your divorce, you have to get back out there, you have to date, you have to have sex, you have to do this, you have to do that Mona Lisa vaginal rejuvenation in order to get your pussy ready to have sex.

Annabelle: Yes. And it worked and it worked. It did work. Yes. I really could not, I couldn't do, I could not have sex yet. It really did. You know, your vagina, the skin [00:22:00] loses collagen and the ability to produce moisture. And also it's just that kind of cushioning that the collagen gives it.I t's a good, and anyone who's listening, just don't, don't picture it, but picture it. Sure. 

Erin: Well, just think about your own body.

Annabelle: You know, it's exactly like the face. If you get too thin, you lose the sort of padding and then you, you look sort of snake like.

Erin: So, um, people have said you either get a good face or a good ass.

Annabelle: Well, now everyone gets their ass fat injected in their face, but so it really did  help, but I really wanted to think about what I was doing, having a relationship if I was going to do that. And it's really interesting and it's a challenge for me. I've always been, even in my marriage, something of a, of a loner.

I like my alone time. Of course, that all goes away when you have children and then you get it back if you're lucky enough and they leave home. And so then like the [00:23:00] idea of sharing my time and so I have to really think about that now we are living together. So this is a whole new iteration of challenges. And as it turns out, I'm such a bitch and I'm just trying to challenge myself to be a better person and to be generous and a lot of things that don't come easy to me. I mean, let me just want to say as a mother, I loved doing all this stuff. Cause that's a different kind of  relationship. 

But I have a, this is maybe sounds embarrassing or just ridiculous, but I do have a very intimate relationship with my work. I am very involved in my work. I'll think about, I mean, writing is weird. It just goes around and I woke up last night at 4 a. m. This is not usual for me because I've sort of trained myself to not do this because I need sleep, but I woke up at four and I made coffee and I started working on something that I'm on a deadline.

I just [00:24:00] could not. Turn it off. And you know, that's, 

Erin: That's the muse, right? I mean, when you're a creative person, you have to accept that your life is not going to look normal. It's going to be peculiar. And from the outside, other people will not understand your patterns, your motivations, your process. And And you've got to work that out. That's got to be okay. And the people in your life have to be okay with some level of, you know, lack of convention. 

Annabelle: Yes. My sister who I'm very close with before I started seeing someone, she was out here during the pandemic living with me for a couple months, which I'll talk about, but she came out and was living with me.

And at one point I was in the kitchen and she started to speak. She just asked me, do you want an omelette or something? And I said, don't speak to me, I'm writing. And it was [00:25:00] so awful. And she just was joking when I started saying my current boyfriend, she's like, don't say that. I was like, I'm not sure who to be in this relationship.

She said, try to be someone who doesn't say 'don't speak to me, I'm writing.' Try to be that person. And it's a challenge sometimes because I'm writing in my head. I look like I'm in the kitchen making coffee, but I'm not. I'm actually somewhere else working on a sentence. And it's so crazy being a writer. Like who gives a fuck about your sentence, but like,

Erin: Well you do and you have to care about it so much in order to live that life.

Annabelle: It's ridiculous. It is ridiculous.

Erin: Yeah, but you feel it on the page. Your voice is super clear and you walk a beautiful line between being sharp and funny. And then also being like, Ooh, yeah, I get that. Ooh, I feel that.

And I think that's so much of what [00:26:00] struck me in reading your work. I'd love to rewind a little bit to talk about what it felt like. To bring people into your home, the home where you lived with your husband, the home where you raised your child. Now you're an empty nester and you started taking in borders.

And I was particularly struck by the piece about the couple who were unhoused young people who were young unhoused, who had come out to LA to pursue their own opportunities from a dying town back east, all the assumptions you made about them and the assumptions they made about you. Yeah, it was just really fascinating and very humane.

The whole thing felt very humane to me, the revelations about just what it is to be a human being in relationship with other human beings.

Annabelle: Well, you know, this story starts with me trying to, uh, rent out rooms in my home, and it was completely unexpected. [00:27:00] Now, I do do a number of things. I mentor kids at the local high school. I work on them with their high school essays. I kind of present myself as less of a do-gooder than I am. I don't like to really talk about that kind of thing, but  

Erin: But charity and community and service are hugely important to you.


Annabelle: Those things are very important to me. But this in particular, but I wasn't looking to invite people who are unhoused into my home. That was something that was not going to happen. Uh, that was not what I thought. I thought when I heard about this organization, that unhoused meant foreign exchange student, I was completely under the wrong impression. This did not understand this at all.

And I showed up at this sort of mingle to meet potential housemates to share for people who had extra bedrooms. And I want to, I might can make it clear. [00:28:00] This is a program, a supportive housing program that exists now. When I started it, it was really in its infancy.

Erin: But you didn't know that. You thought it was fully established.

Annabelle: No, I didn't know that. They said it was their second season, which I assumed hundreds of people. I was the seventh person in Los Angeles. to participate in this program. So I had no idea that this was as new as it was. And now it's in 40 different cities, just by the way. But so there is a fee that homeowners receive, and I wouldn't have done it without that because I was. It's in it for the money.

Erin: Not to get rich, but you need it to make money. 

Annabelle: Yeah, definitely. I think I got paid like a thousand dollars, something like that. So it's not get rich money. It was just money to help me maintain my life and make my mortgage payment. So this was the reason why I showed up there. And when I was introduced to Kiana and Jesse, who have given me permission to [00:29:00] tell their story, I looked at them with their face tats and said, anybody but them.

Also, they had a rabbit, a pet rabbit. I have cats. This is not going to work. But then when the social worker told me that they were living in their car, I really thought about what it was like, in particular, to be female. And have your period and need to go to the bathroom. What if you had a UTI? I was really thinking about the female experience in particular, thinking about what that would mean to be living in a car, having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

And what that would mean in addition to the other indignities that come along with living in your car, not having a permanent address, the difficulty that you have in trying to maintain employment, or in many cases in California, we have a very large amount of students who are living in the community [00:30:00] college students. It's an epidemic. And the real reason I'm telling that story is to look at the misconceptions I had about who they were, who was unhoused. And to look at that very close line between my experience. And their experiences in the world and how close they were and what separated us. And so it means a lot.

That's really the centerpiece of that book and the heart of that book is that experience. And it really did change me. It really changed the way that I see my neighbors who are unhoused in Los Angeles and understood how precarious our economy is.

Erin: Yeah. And they had reasons why they had face tattoos and they had reasons why they had come to LA and they had things that had fallen apart that they thought were stable.

Annabelle: [00:31:00] And, and that was, yes, that was an interesting thought. And I'd like to share that because it really speaks to who gets to make art in our culture. So a friend of mine said, Oh my God, Annabelle, aren't you, if you write about this publicly and you speak about this, aren't you saying, Oh, come move to LA and become rappers. Now, I never encourage anyone to go into show business or the music industry or the arts, cause it's really tough.

But, um, After getting to know my house guests and hearing their stories about growing up in this town that has been decimated by fracking, where even the local mall disappeared, there was absolutely no culture left. I thought, well, Wait a minute, if we're going to have arts in America or in the world, isn't this who I want to hear from?

Aren't these the people that it's important to hear them? I want to [00:32:00] hear what they're singing about. I need that voice. So I'm still in touch with Kiana and you can follow Kiana Nicole on Instagram. She makes music. She is doing her thing. And I'd be just as happy if she were doing any other career. It's not like I in any way have an attachment to their success and to her success.

I'm not in touch with Jesse now. They split up. I'm not attached to that outcome. I just wanted her to be safe, secure, have shelter, and she does, and she's also pursuing her art, and I'm super proud of her. And I did one little gesture, there's a saying in Judaism, a teaching, it's called Pirkei Avot, and I really love this idea. The idea is, and I'm a secular person, but I have a Jewish upbringing, and I am informed by some of these principles. And that saying [00:33:00] is that just because I can't save the world does not absolve me from taking actions that I can have influence in.

I think I'm butchering that a little bit, but that's a general idea that we can each have a part in contributing to society. It doesn't mean I'm going to be able to change the unhoused experience in Los Angeles. Maybe I could help one person. Maybe that's all I could do. And that's okay.

Erin: And that's a stand against impotence and hopelessness and apathy. You know, one thing that I saw during the pandemic was lines and lines of cars lined up, like decent cars lined up for grocery pickup, free groceries at Santa Monica College. And I thought, what the fuck? Like how do people, they can afford their cars, they have to in Los [00:34:00] Angeles, but they're struggling with groceries? And so I give a little bit of money every month to the LA food bank, even though I'm figuring out my own financial situation, but I feel like, well, I can afford that. Like I can afford to help a little bit and it's better than not doing it.

Annabelle: You know, I, write. I've always done service. It'd be, I'm not Bill Gates and who of us are except Bill Gates, but there's always a way to offer. service. I was a big sister for a little while on the big sisters program and then volunteering at my local high school. I am very purpose driven. I feel like that helps me to keep the balance on my desire to be the best selling author. I mean, I am very competitive person. I, I am attached to having my work out there and be having a voice in society and [00:35:00] that I feel like is, if I balance that out by doing, and I know I'm talking about it, but you know, anonymous works, volunteering work that doesn't depend on me being Annabelle Gurwitch, that's really...

One of my favorite things to do is I have been the closed closet lady at Safe Place for Youth, which is the organization that matched me and my unhoused guests, house guests, in what's called a host home program. If you're listening and you're wondering, what is this? Look up host home programs, but I love this job of working the clothing closet because it's hilarious. It occurred to me one day that when some young people were coming in, they're entitled to get through this organization, one new set of clothing each day, because it's hard to keep track of your clothing if you're unhoused.

As the clothing closet lady, I stand there and greet people, help them to put together an outfit if they want my help or show them where something is. And one day, Uh, [00:36:00] young man comes in and he starts talking to me, picking up a conversation that we had not been having. And I realized. Oh my God, I'm just anonymous, old clothing, I'm like, I'm just, we all look the same. We're just older ladies who do whatever and just, it just cracked me up. And I just, I love doing that because it's nothing to do with me. How many books I sold, did I get the work done on that script? Did I find the right sentence? It's just a complete act of service. And I just. Love helping these young people as well.

Erin: And it's not like a dress for success scenario, right? It's not like a, you're going to try to dress them up as a business person so they can go on the interview and get the corporate job. You probably get to see all kinds of young self expression in that clothing closet.

Annabelle: It's true. Let me just say, so first of all, I love dress for success. Let us not--

Erin: [00:37:00] I'm not disparaging, but that's a different model, right? That's a different model for a different community. 

Annabelle: It's a hilariously, it is a very different thing. And so one day this beautiful young person, hearts not parts, I have no idea what kind of person this is, just a beautiful human, this sort of ethereal person with a little flower behind one ear comes in and I say, afternoon, what can I help you with something today?

I don't always greet people with that much intention, but it depends on if the person looks open to it and wants some help. young person said, well, this year I'm only wearing white. And I thought, Oh my God, you're unhoused. I can barely wear white. This is going to be a long year. Okay. But I'm like, God fucking damn it. I'm going to do my, I like, we had to scour. We scoured. I had to go in the [00:38:00] bad, fine, unearth a box. Fucking crap. We got a beautiful white outfit for this person. And I just thought, you know what? Okay, my work is done for the day. I can go and feel like I contributed just a tiny bit. The tiniest, minuscule bit.

I just did a little bit. And if we each do a little bit, I mean, I do subscribe to that. And I try to keep that In mind for myself, if I can, sometimes I just don't want to write. I'm not someone who likes writing and then like people are like, Oh, I just love writing. You know what? First of all, the only people I know who say that are people who don't earn a living as a writer.

Yeah. But. Okay. Sure. Once in a while, someone says that they mean it. Not me. I love having written. I am that person. And I just, I have to make a bargain with myself and I'm going to be completely honest with this one.

Okay. You ready? Yeah. Erin [00:39:00] Sometimes the bargain is you can eat a muffin. If you. I mean, it's stupid. I mean, it's not an eating disorder, it's just sort of a reward thing.

Erin: Everybody needs rewards. My ex used to say, there's always going to be things in your work that you don't like. That's why they call it compensation. You're compensating for what you have to do.

Annabelle: But sometimes even that doesn't work for me. And I'll just be like, okay, and I'll have to say to myself. Just do an hour. Can you just read over this draft? Because I am the person who works on 30, 40 drafts or something. It just takes me a long time till I feel satisfied. And then at a certain point you have to say, okay, I've just, I've got to get it out there and I have a deadline.

It's really hard for me to let go. Yesterday it took. I'm not going to lie, I'm not, I'm not that happy about that because one got stuck on my chin and I now have a [00:40:00] pimple. I'm not kidding. I got a little pimple. Oh, punishment for that.

Erin: I will say to you, Annabelle, just back to the story about the clothing closet.

What is remarkable about that story is your lack of judgment. Is that you wanted to be there and be of service to this person for what they wanted and what they needed. But there's none of this tut tut, like, you should be blah blah blah, why are you wearing all white, and what are you doing, and that's not practical, and Well, how do you think you're going to live?

And you know what I mean? I feel like we are burdened by those cultural narratives, especially around young people and people who are making decisions that we wouldn't necessarily make, or in situations that we believe we wouldn't have found ourselves in. It's easy to sit in your judgment. 

Annabelle: It's. It is. And I think this is where being a parent is not for everyone. I've thought that about myself, even though I'm the mother of a 25 year old, but I really wasn't intending to have children, but I have [00:41:00] loved the experience. I continue to love the experience, but it really kicks your ass. And it really has challenged me to go beyond my thoughts.

And I think for parents in this generation, my child has been identified as non binary at different things at different times. And I am trying to, to be the best mother I can. I'll just share this though. Recently, my child came to me and said, Oh, I'm using the pronouns, he, him again. I said, no, you're not. I'm still saying they, and they said to me, well, what I said, listen, I made the switch to they, them. I'm not going back now. I mean, I'm, I'm kidding. I, I just used, they're okay with being interchangeable, but it's just really funny because it was like, listen, I worked really hard on they, them, I'm all for it.

You cannot tell me now you're going back to he, him because I just, so I don't know. I just, whatever he, [00:42:00] him, they, them, I love them. I love him, whatever. Yeah, but really, kids will really challenge you and then to take that into the world, I think is our challenge as as parents. And it's not, I feel for our young people right now, this It was so hard that the pandemic was so difficult for them.

Erin: My kids were in fourth grade, third and fourth grade during the pandemic and it fucked them up. It fucked them up. And they refer to it as a dark time, you know, and I'm like, you were eight.

Annabelle: It was a dark time. 

Erin: You were nine. It was a dark, like. Oh, yeah. I'm so sorry.

Annabelle: I know. People in every generation go through different things. None of us have a lock on suffering or challenges, but this was so disruptive in terms of the isolation. I think I see my child coming out of that now. And that's, you know, [00:43:00] this is a long time. Many years later.

Erin: Yeah. Annabelle, I've asked everyone on this podcast one question. And I'll ask it to you, which is, are there any deal terms in your life today, literal or figurative, that you would like to renegotiate? We lock ourselves into these agreements that we're not even entirely conscious of, and we always have the choice to renegotiate. 

Annabelle: You know, it's so kind of Erin is such a great question. So I am, in the last couple of years, I'm going to say this very briefly, I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer out of the blue. I'm doing very well on gene targeted therapy. This has incited a renegotiation.

I grew up in a very unstable family financially, which has informed much of my life and the choices I make, and not just financially, emotionally, a lot of different ways. [00:44:00] Over the years, this has been my life challenge. How do I create stability? How do I not give in and be, let my life be determined by this anxiety that that very young experience gave me, and over the years I've had triumphs falling back, triumphs falling back, and I, at this point in my life, I try to say to myself, how do I challenge myself?

Even just a little bit. I do not want to be determined by my fears all the time of failure, of failure. Becoming myself unhoused. I live with that in a visceral, emotional way, and myself all the time. And this has been a call to action for that.

So for instance, I just recently have taken a pause in this I've been doing, which I've loved called tiny victories because I'm working on a book. And that's [00:45:00] hard for me to not want to do everything at once because it requires me to take a chance on something that may or may not fly another book.

Now I've had a lot of success as an author, but publishing is really tough these days. So this going for a more long term goal as opposed to the short term goal is my big challenge right now. Really digging into putting off the satisfaction, going for a longer term satisfaction as opposed to short term satisfaction. That is my renegotiation right now. And it's fucking kicking my ass. 

Erin: Yeah. It's funny. We've been talking about that on the podcast about how the long term goals, that's where the depth and the meaning and the real change comes from. 

Annabelle: I know. And it's the hardest thing.

Erin: Right. And we have to double down on those. And [00:46:00] yet the quick fix things, the fast solutions, the like, this makes me feel good in the moment.

Annabelle: The dopamine hit. 

Erin: Right. Or even just the, I accomplished something. Yeah, a short term accomplishment as opposed to the longer term, bigger picture things we are. But that's where meaning comes from and that's where real change comes from.

Annabelle: Yeah, I'm committed to it. But hence potato chips yesterday and four a. m. Wake up, started writing.

Erin: Good. Good for you. That's inspiring.

Annabelle: It's not. I don't. No, I don't usually do that. I don't recommend that. Yeah, it sucks. 

Erin: But it's inspiring because we can do these things. We just often psych ourselves out because they're hard.

We have a couple more minutes and I usually like to end on the question, but I want to talk about the tiny house chapter in your book. So in the book. It's a sort of series of emails that Annabelle sent to a group of girlfriends, all who had decided like, when we get older, if our circumstances allow, we're all going to [00:47:00] start a tiny house community and we'll live together and we'll take care of each other.

And my best friend and I have talked about this, not tiny houses because I'm a big girl, I'm not going to be in a tiny house, but living together and or living next door to each other and looking out for each other in our dotage. Right. But the hilarious thing about this chapter is that people are falling out one by one. So I wanted to hear you talk about it. Is this something you really considered? 

Annabelle: I'm so glad you asked about this because, uh, now that is the only chapter in the book that's a complete satire. Uh, none of those, the letters actually existed. Everybody has this fantasy. I've talked to people in other countries about this. They're like, we're all going to live together one day. We're going to get tiny houses or a big house. But like, Oh, can we really do that? And so I was really asking that question and making. fun of that. Of course I have that fantasy because I still have these close friends.

Two of my closest [00:48:00] friends are been my friends since we were 11 and 15 years old. So I mean I am that girl. I am that girlfriend girl. So Erin, I just signed a deal. I have taken that story as inspiration and I'm writing a movie for Hallmark for Andy McDowell, who's a friend of mine, to star in. And I'm writing that with my best childhood friend, who is an Emmy award winning writer on Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I'm living the dream. Even if the dream isn't in a tiny house, we're writing the movie together.

Erin: Amazing. Well, if it gets made and in success, please come back on this podcast and talk about it. All of you, please, because I do think it is a fantasy that we have that we can all take care of each other in our old age.


Annabelle: Yeah. And honestly, the way I've survived these last few years have been through my sister. And my friends have just been [00:49:00] so amazing and it's been a really profound experience of having a community around you and realizing how important it is to invest in our friendships. And I'm very grateful and lucky.

Erin: Well, I feel lucky to have had this conversation. Thank you so much for coming on and talking. Where can people find you and your work? It's just 

Annabelle: Oh, yeah, that's the best thing right now. I'm home, chained to my desk, but I, that's the best place to find me because I'm not always good on the socials because I can lose myself on a rabbit horse all day.

Erin: We all can. That's what they want from us. Yes. 

Annabelle: Thank you, Erin, for asking great questions. My conversation is just my favorite kind of thing.  

Erin: My pleasure.

Thanks for listening to Hotter Than Ever hotties. Thank you for continuing to rate and review us on Apple podcasts. This is what Jenn X [00:50:00] 73 had to say. She spells it J E N N letter X. Seven three, very clever, Jenn X. She says,

"Listen up five stars, women of the world. Listen in to align yourself to living free and fearless. So many of us have suffered in silence, trying to live within arbitrary rules. F that hotter than ever. We'll have you empowered and emboldened to live your dream in a hurry. Great host. Amazing guests and vital topics. Binge it now."

Thank you so much, Jenn X. You know, the reason I do this podcast is because I need to be reminded through these conversations that we have the opportunity to live free and fearless, that we can be empowered and emboldened, that we can take risks and do life differently than we're quote unquote supposed to. I'm so glad for your support. Thank you so much for leaving a review.

In 2024, [00:51:00] which is right around the corner, I'm going to be doing two episodes of hotter than ever every week and one of them will be an advice episode. Do you have something that you would like a second very biased opinion about? Do you want me to tell you to do something you know you already want to do? I am here to give you permission to live out your dreams. Are there issues around love and sex and relationships, career, aging, divorce, motherhood, daughterhood, friendship, or something else you would like my unvarnished but hopefully thoughtful take on? Here's how you can get that information and that insight. DM us. on Instagram at hotter than ever pod, or call and leave a voicemail or text your question to 323 844 2303. That's 323 844 2303. I would love to answer your question in a future episode.

Hotter Than [00:52:00] Ever is produced by Erica Girard and PodKit Productions.

Our associate producer is Melody Carey. Music is by Chris Keating with vocals by Issa Fernandez.

Come back next week when it will be the year 2024. 2024, what the fuck, people? It was 1994 about 20 minutes ago. Time is flying. Get out and live your one and only magnificent life.


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