Jane Lynch: Party(ing) Down & Growing Up

Alright, alright: I know I tend to say this with every book I copiously type remarkable quotes out of review on my beloved Southern Aristocracy, but Jane Lynch’s 2011 autobiography is–wait for it–one of the best I’ve read in awhile. (Shall I link back to the review of Jane Fonda’s autobio where I said the exact same thing? I actually won’t, as some might accuse me of plagiarising myself. Oh, who cares–here’s that one.) No, but really, I was flabbergasted as I breezed through Ms. Lynch’s 302-page life story. To say we have a bit in common is a gross understatement. Some of those things are very personal, but one of the things that I had no clue she’d dealt with was alcoholism. Like, I didn’t even know that tidbit when I found the book at TJMaxx for $3 last month. By the time I finished reading the book, I’d laughed many times and cried a couple of times. I’ll jump right into the quotes, as she’s funny, poignant, and wise all at the same time. (Not to mention that I still have the attention span of a four year-old these days…but that’s getting better week by week.) BTW, the blog title refers to the horribly underrated television show that I know Jane from: Party Down. She actually left that show when she was offered Glee, and I can proudly say I’ve not seen one ep of the latter show.

Ryan Hansen & Jane Lynch partay down in ‘Party Down’, 2009

“I finally came to terms with the idea of quitting drinking on a winter night in 1991, when I was on the phone with [her best friend] Chris. […] As we were talking about nothing in particular, I poured myself some red wine into a big green glass goblet I used to drink from. I looked at it, then went to the sink and poured the whole thing down the drain. ‘That was my last drink,’ I said to Chris. Though I had been aware of how destructive my drinking was for me, I hadn’t conceived of giving it up. The resolve felt like it came out of nowhere, and all of a sudden I couldn’t be a person who drank anymore. I was ‘struck’ sober.” (page 104)

“Nine hundred dollars a week was a lot of money to us–more than any of us had ever made. Living in NYC wasn’t cheap, so everyone got places together…except for me. Truth to tell, no one asked me to bunk up with them. Yes, I was newly sober-ish (still taking Nyquil) and they were not. But I think the real reason they didn’t invite me to share an apartment was that I still viewed myself, and thus made myself, separate and outside. I could have piped up and asked, but I felt unable to deal with the possible rejection and humiliation of asking and being turned down. […] They probably just thought I wanted to keep to myself.” (page 108)

“When I stopped drinking, I stopped self-medicating and had no way to dull the edges of my anxiety and loneliness. Though the Nyquil helped at night, the days were empty for me and dragged on. To pass the endless hours before I could leave for the show without being ridiculously early, I’d close the drapes of my tiny room, take a swig of Nyquil, toast with a simple ‘Bye-bye,’ and go into a deep sleep.” (page 109)

“When I met [her current best friend] Laura in New York, I had always been quick to end friendships. I would semiconsciously build a case against them, and at some point it would come to a head and I’d have to say, ‘I’m outta here.’ Laura would not let me do this, though I tried in dramatic fashion more than once. […] I was a wreck, still hurt that she wouldn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, but more than that I was afraid I’d gone too far with my anger. I had pushed her away, and I found myself terrified that she would actually go. But Laura said, ‘You know, Jane. I’m not going anywhere.’ And I started to cry. It had never occurred to me that a friendship could survive a huge blowout like that. I tended to whip up a gigantic outrage (something at which I excel) so that I could dump my friends before they dumped me. I believed it was ‘one strike and you’re out.’ But Laura and I have been friends for 20 years now. I credit the longevity of our friendship to that moment in the car at Runyon Canyon. It was the turning point for me. Trust replaced tests.” (pages 117-18)

“Of course I went to the [AA] meeting. I walked into the appointed room at the appointed time and saw my would-be sponsor sitting in a chair, rocking back and forth, bawling her eyes out. […] I searched my mind frantically. What did I do [to her]? I racked my brain. I was certain that somehow my 15 minutes of coffee and conversation with this woman earlier in the day had caused her to have the nervous breakdown I was witnessing. I thought I was such a bad person that I could have that kind of huge, instantaneously negative effect on someone. There’s a saying in AA about how in the same moment we can be both self-condemning and grandiose: ‘I’m the biggest piece of shit in the world.’ I excelled at this. The meeting started, and I could barely listen for my self-mortification. I wanted the hour to end so I could ask her what it was that I had done. And then, all of a sudden, it hit me–boing! This had NOTHING to do with me. I felt a wave of relief, an internal shift like I had just had a chiropractic adjustment. I realized that I had made something that had nothing to do with me into something that was all about me. I saw that I had been doing this all my life.” (page 139)

“Right after I shot ‘Best in Show,’ as I was sitting on a tumbling dryer at Bubble Beach Laundry in Santa Monica, I had a sudden thought. ‘I can’t be forty and still be doing my laundry at a laundromat.’ I was thirty-nine, and no matter how I tried to deny it, I was an adult now, with a bank account and a career. It really was no longer necessary for me to schlep down to the corner and drop quarters into an industrial-size washing machine. I’ve always felt young, though not in a breezy, devil-may-care kind of way. I was just immature. This was probably because I spent so much of my young adult life drinking, and being drunk makes learning to be a grown-up kind of hard.” (page 177)

“I decided to celebrate my newfound adulthood by throwing myself a [40th] birthday party. I hadn’t had one since I was a kid, and it felt like it was time again to start celebrating getting older. […] The only thing I knew how to cook was salmon with teriyaki sauce, so I made that on the new Kenmore gas grill that I’d bought right after moving in. I also cooked up some burgers and bought bottles of ketchup and mustard for the very first time in my life. When I ordered my birthday cake, the woman at the bakery asked if I wanted anything written on it and I said, ‘Yes–Happy Birthday, Jane.’ ‘Great,’ she said. ‘And what’s your name?’ ‘Uh…Jane.’ ‘Oh, that’s okay,’ she rushed to say. ‘Lots of people order their own birthday cake.’ I had a house and a menagerie of animals and friends; I had condiments and appliances, but I still didn’t have someone special to order my birthday cake for me.” (pages 182-83)

“I also stopped going to Alcoholics Anonymous. I had been going to AA meetings steadily for more than eight years, and I was starting to drift away. I didn’t have any urge to drink, and hadn’t in what seemed like forever. I was getting my succor from my friends. I left my identification as an alcoholic behind and went about being just myself. […] I also readily dispensed with the fear of that unspoken AA notion that if you stop going to meetings, you will surely drink again. I felt I could have my sobriety and take my [Nyquil], too. I have a great gratitude toward AA, but my association with it had simply reached its conclusion. Part of me was still unsettled, but I coped through more adaptive methods, like latte consumption and clutter prevention.” (pages 186-187)

“At this point [taking care of her ailing parents] it really hit me that I was no longer a kid. The people who had taken care of me now needed me to take care of them. When her fever finally broke, Mom walked to the stairs to yell down to my dad, who was set up [for hospice] on the first floor, that she loved him.” (page 193)

“I finally allowed myself to be part of the group after hopping around, and to my great surprise and satisfaction, I found I actually preferred my own company; I liked hanging out with me. I had a lot of free time, and I took most of my days off solo, walking around the huge mall near my apartment, carrying [her dog] Olivia in a shoulder bag, spending all my per diem. I was having a ball.” (page 201)

“I felt that I had asked the universe for a regular gig, and with it I had also gotten a lesson. By sticking around in one place [her ill-fated Lifetime sitcom ‘Lovespring International’ in 2006], I was able to see past my initial impressions and assumptions about someone, and to see as well the limitations of my judgment about how [they] did things. I was also fortunate that [the director] forgave my bitchiness and we became friends.” (page 215)

“As I pondered my reaction [to ‘Glee’ being a hit], it occurred to me that I might have actually matured a bit over the years. Had this level of adoration been heaped upon me in my younger, more insecure days, I would undoubtedly have disappeared into the hype, believing it all. This would have been disastrous, because inevitably the excitement dies down, and once that happened I would have been left without a firm ground of self-esteem to stand on, chasing praise, endlessly. Luckily, at the tender age of 48, I was neither dependent on the attention for validation nor was I unmoved by it. I could enjoy it for what it was and put it in the context of the stronger sense of self I had developed.” (page 246)

“While I was all go, go, go, anxiously looking for the recipe for success, hoping for someone to hand me the keys to the kingdom, Providence was able to sneak in there and lead me to exactly where I needed to be next. In this way, my life really has been a series of happy accidents. […] I would love to be able to go back and tell that young girl sitting at the dining room table in Dolton, Illinois, pen in hand [writing to movie stars], to trust herself in the world. I’d tell her, ‘You don’t have to drink, and you don’t have to be anxious. You just have to be you, and everything will be fine.’ I can say that I do finally have faith in my life. I would never presume to give anyone advice on how to walk their own path, as I have no desire to deprive anyone of their unique journey; as you can see, my own has been customized to fit my needs and my particular brand of humanness. But I will offer this in the way of counsel (and I defer to the infinite wisdom of [her hero] Carol Brady when I do): find what it is you do best and do your best with it.” (page 302)

Lara Embry, Haden Collette Ryan-Embry, and Jane Lynch at Embry & Lynch’s 2010 wedding

“You don’t have to drink, and you don’t have to be anxious. You just have to be you, and everything will be fine.” That quote applies to me right this very minute, and I’m so thankful she included it on the last page of the book. Jane learned the lesson that every alcoholic has to learn in his/her own time: no amount of liquor will ease your anxiety, pain, and heartache. It’s only when–as I said in my last blog when I previewed writing about Jane Lynch this week–Jane learned to take life by the horns and deal with her emotions and feelings instead of drowning them in booze, that she learned to be truly happy (and to embrace the happy accidents life threw her way to the point that she gave her book that title). She also grew up along the way…imagine that! She quit cutting off friends; quit depending on praise from others for approval; quit trying to make everything be about her. She started taking ownership of her life and her decisions; started making efforts to be a part of a group; started realizing she wasn’t always right about her perceptions of people and situations.

Jane Lynch grew up, and so shall I.


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1 Comment

  1. Jonathan

     /  October 20, 2012

    It’s nice to learn its never too late to feel like a grown up, and that the big group therapy session eventually ends. I’ve seen this book before, I’ll have to make a point of picking it up.


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