When the going gets tough … | AspenTimes.com

When the going gets tough …

Alison Berkley

Believe it or not, there are days when I don’t feel like baring my soul to the entire town of Aspen, and today is one of them.For a long time, I managed to stay immune to small-town trappings and was able to rant and rave about whatever I damn well pleased without giving it a second thought. Now all of a sudden I find myself wanting privacy. I have allegiances now.Relationships. I worry about hurting people’s feelings or worse, running into those people in a dark alley. So even if I have some horrific/hilarious/ironic experience that would make for brilliant column fodder, I’m afraid I can’t write about it unless I want to deal with having any enemies in a town the size of my boarding school campus. To make matters worse, I’ve exhausted all my “safer” topics. We all know, for example, my parents are ex-shrinks turned psycho-athletes/Over The Hill Gang members/retirees living in Steamboat. We know my dog has some “issues” and has been on as many drugs as Hunter S. Thompson. (Though none of the illegal variety. Why didn’t I think of that? All the crazy mutt probably needs is a big ol’ bong hit). We know all about my hair (too dry, too curly, too short, too brown), my skin (yes, it eventually healed after the Skin Arsonist “treated” it), and my body (I lost 25 pounds only to discover there is such a thing as “fat and happy.” Don’t get me wrong, I love squeezing into tiny sizes and wearing glittery belly button rings and all that da-da-da, but weight loss is a lot easier when you’re depressed).My problems are so cliché that even I’m bored of listening to myself talk about them. You just can’t get any more run-of-the-mill than the 35-year-old-single-girl-in-Aspen racket. I’m on a fast track to spinsterhood blah-blah-blah. The odds are good but the goods are odd, etc., etc. The only good men in this town are gay. (Stop the presses! I don’t think I’ve written about that one yet). I’m confused about why I have no money even though I have a closet full of designer jeans and expensive shoes (I’m pretty sure HBO did a six-year television series on that). All my best friends ran off and got married and pregnant (or the other way around) and don’t care about me anymore, yadda-yadda-yadda. I’ve turned into one of those obsessive-compulsive workout chicks I used to hate. Blah, blah, blah. Jesus Christ, enough already!Lately I’ve gone to the wayside, writing about random crap like philosophical meanderings and even sinking to the lowest tier – publishing letters people wrote me because I can’t think of anything to write about (just in case you didn’t see right through that).Yesterday, I was sitting in one of the panel discussions for the Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival listening to Joyce Maynard, a New York Times reporter/syndicated columnist and novelist who wrote “To Die For” (adapted to film starring Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon), and her memoir “At Home In The World” among other things. This chick really struck a cord with me. She was down to earth and funny and reminded me of, well, me! Or at least who I’d like to be: a successful writer with enough money in my pocket and significant published work under my belt to sit up there at one of those tables with drapes all over it, sipping ice water and talking to a room full of people who paid to hear what I have to say. During a discussion about adapting novels to the screen, she said her books are merely an expression of the movies she sees in her head. “As the writer, I get to be the director. I get to be the screenwriter, set designer, and all the actors. I get to be the star!”And I was like, oh my God, I want to be the star of my own movie, too! I go to these writer’s things and they just smack me right in the middle of the forehead. Bam! Get off your yogafied ass and start writing! Or maybe skip that yoga class for one freaking day and sit on your ass and start writing! I listen to these accomplished writers, and I watch them, and I see what’s between me and them are these two little words: hard work. (See, being skinny isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Just think where I’d be if I’d spent time working instead of working out.)Then she made some offhanded remark about truth and honesty being the key to good writing.I went home and looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Good God. I spent all that money on those God damn skin products and they’re really not working.” And then I thought, “You are so full of it. Sit down and start writing the truth.”I got so upset about my inability to tell the truth that I thought about taking a sabbatical until I could. When things get tough, there’s only one thing to do. Run away. Fast. So I made the mistake of telling someone in the local media about this one day when I was feeling kind of down. I didn’t even think about the fact that her boyfriend works at the competing paper. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was called out on a decision I hadn’t even officially made yet. “So, I hear you’re taking time off from your column for a couple months,” yelled an Aspen Daily News staff member at the concerts the other night.Good lord. It was exactly what I was running away from and I hadn’t even left yet. It could only mean one thing: I have to stay. Maybe the truth hurts, but not telling it is killing me. The Princess is baaaaack and will get to the juicy stuff real soon, so stay tuned. Send your e-mails of encouragement to alision@berkleymedia.com