Spirituality in LA

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I’ve been focused on maintaining my spirituality lately and I was reminded recently that I live in a city that can be cruel, competitive, unkind and lacking in moral value. It’s only a matter of time before someone offers you drugs in LA or you find yourself drinking unreasonable amounts too many nights a week, but it’s totally acceptable cause that’s the scene — everyone is out and about, supposedly networking, stressed out, trying to accomplish the impossible, getting high and drunk in search of some kind of comfort.

I lucked out. I caught myself before anything got worse. I experimented here and there at the beginning, nothing drastic. When I moved to LA officially from Lake Arrowhead at the end of 2010 with my sister, I remember sitting at a restaurant in those early days saying to my younger sibling, “No matter what. We cannot do cocaine. This is a drug city and I’ve read enough to know that nothing will bring you down faster than hardcore drugs.” Of course I didn’t realize that later on I’d start drinking too much, blacking out, acting obnoxious (alcohol seemed the lesser of all the evils). A lot of it came from the feeling of failure as a screenwriter. I wasn’t dealing with my emotions. I’d drown them out with wine, but the un-dealt emotions were there – so they’d come out in a drunken rage. Suddenly I had a switch instigated by alcohol that had never been there before. But after one too many incidences I did something to save myself. I went to AA, then to therapy. And from AA I discovered that I needed to reclaim my spiritual base and somehow I found myself converting to Judaism. Best decision I ever made!

LA/Hollywood is an insane soulless city at times and certain parts more than others, which is why I am so happy to be living where I do – I’m in a neighborhood that has a high percentage of hasidic Jews. The area has good energy. I’ve never felt unsafe unlike the other places I’ve lived – downtown LA, Los Feliz  (it’s just creepy and unsafe).

That said, a lot of people do lose themselves here. You come to LA with hopes and dreams, you’re young, impressionable, you get sucked into the wrong crowd and before you know it you’re in rehab (that’s if you can afford it, otherwise you’re on the streets).  Yesterday, Harris Wittels, a talented Jewish comedian writer was found dead, apparently from a drug overdose. He was only 30 years old.

My sister sighted him at a cafe where we were writing one of our specs not too long ago. She pointed him out exclaiming how amazing he was, a writer/producer for Parks and Recreations, only 30 years old. I should’ve suggested we approach and say hey, but I didn’t do that, instead I felt like a 34-year old loser in comparison. Whoo-hoo for him, he’s successful and I’m just at that stage where I’m wondering, what happens when you discover your best just isn’t good enough.

Today my sister wrote a post on FB saying how she wished she had said hi to him when we were at that cafe and I realized how wrong I was in my perception that we should keep our distance because successful people don’t need groupies. What if I had struck up a conversation with him? What if we both had something to offer each other and we were given that opportunity for exchange by being at the same place at the same time. He was Jewish, I had recently converted, partly as a means of overcoming alcohol addiction or abuse. He was struggling with overcoming addiction. Meanwhile, perhaps he could’ve imparted some wisdom on how to be a better writer/comedian? These are all speculative thoughts. Maybe he would’ve shooed us away. Who knows? But now he’s dead and there will never be another opportunity to find out.

My point is that spirituality is so important, especially in unsafe environments and demonic cities like LA. You’ve got to keep track of yourself. Sure, life is boring sometimes, even the process of Shabbat or going to synagogue can seem like a drag. What I do know, is that when I make the effort, I feel better and I avoid bad happenings. Creatives in particular seem to have a terrible history when it comes to drug and alcohol addiction (artists, writers, actors). But I want to prove otherwise. That a good writer can be entirely sober and still produce amazing content.

When I’m so focused on my own microscopic self in the world, I’m depressed and I feel insufficient. But spirituality gives me this wider view of the world. Life is short and my own personal accolades and accomplishments are not really what it’s about. I’m a participant here for a short time, but in that time I get to experience the awe of this world.

I’m so thankful that I found my spiritual home in the chaos of LA and for the rest of my life I will be making it a priority to maintain my spiritual self, cause without that part of myself intact, I so easily put myself in danger. Spirituality provides grounding and a sense of completeness. Things are not perfect for me right now. My fiance has been struggling financially, I’m still on hold with all my creative endeavors and am not contributing enough financially. I’m not out of my bohemian rut. But today I eat, I have shelter and I have faith. Shabbat Shalom!

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