Tell Me Everything A Memoir by Minka Kelly

I was amazed by how honest and vulnerable she was being throughout the whole memoir. She has clearly lived a tough life.

Here were the passages that stood out to me. This was a pretty emotionally draining book for those of you who cannot be a lot of trauma. It will certainly bring up a ton of emotions for anyone reading this.

“As I dance and try to lure him in, I remove myself from the room as much as I can, steal myself away from my body, try to blot out my consciousness. I make myself numb, repeating in my mind that this peep show is not really similar to what Mom had to do. No lap dances here, no touching. It’s safer, here. Really. Tina’s boisterous moaning, though, combined with this man’s unnerving stare, waiting for me to turn him on, tells me something different.”

“By the end of the night, I knew Mom, like the rest of them, would walk away with an impressively thick rolled-up wad of cash, and the next day, I’d get to do something nice with her because of it—maybe a barbecue by the pool in the apartment complex. I knew the world they lived in was seedy, but I figured it must be worth it. I also knew Mom was different from the others who worked here. The rest seemed content to come in and do their shifts, but Mom gave it her all and was the creative force behind the acts. She choreographed dances for the other women based on her favorite musicals, like West Side Story. (One skit was a riff on the Officer Krupke song and she’d erupt with laughter every time at the final line: “Gee, Officer Krupke, Krup you!”) To my eyes, she was unique, creative, gorgeous. I adored her.”

“Hoots and claps thundered. “Oh baby!” someone cried. All eyes were on Mo. They loved it. The music dialed up a notch and Mom twirled and shimmied with abandon, peeling layer after layer, revealing a stunning, statuesque woman in a golden bra and G-string. Crumpled bills pooled around her feet. I was excited, not just to see her surprise the room, but because their howls meant she’d get good tips. It meant crayons, coloring books, and groceries.”

“It was as if she had split personalities: Among people she felt comfortable with, she was all touchy-feely and sweet, chitchatting, getting close. But with those who might judge her, she retreated and stayed hidden. She was the most skittish at my school. When the boys from my class or their fathers got a peek at her, though, they stared, slack-jawed.”

“I was an observant child, noting every shift in her, an amateur meteorologist trying to get a bead on the change from high pressure to low. When she was being all secretive, like now, I recognized her fidgety energy and edgy mood swings. It was on me to manage those moods and make sure I didn’t upset her. If she was stressed out—or, like today, exhausted from too much partying—she could become unpredictable. I needed to be careful. Almost anything could set her off.”

“Her anger, when it came, was like a sudden thunderstorm, taking us both by surprise. She didn’t mean to hurt me at those times; still, I’d grown feelers acutely sensitive to her moods. My question about the powder was my way of letting her know I wanted her attention. I hoped she’d see what she was doing and decide to prize me instead of the drugs. But the powder always won.”

“Being with Mom could be great sometimes, the way she injected playfulness into everything we did. When she finally got up, she’d take me to Jack in the Box for deep-fried Monster Tacos we’d dip in ranch dressing, just like she’d taught me. We’d laugh and have fun again. Often, I thought I had the best mom in the world. Other times, though, I wanted something more normal, whatever that meant.”

“How We Got Here We all like to think magic sparked in the air between our parents when they met, that the glimmers of love that united them became so intense and golden that they exploded into new life, that our parents had intentionally tried to conceive their special, beloved child. It’s a nice thought, but that’s not my story.”

“Rick looked at the unshelled peanuts in his hand. He tried to smile as he lobbed one at her, landing it with precision in her teased hair. In no time, they were chatting. At the time, Rick was twenty-eight and soon to replace Brad Whitford backing up Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. He was cocky and charismatic. He made her laugh and she beamed a hundred-watt smile at him. In no time, they moved in together. Soon, though, Rick was packing to go on the road with Aerosmith—all his hard work as a musician was about to pay off. And besides, they weren’t really a couple in a committed sort of way. They’d just hooked up and taken it day by day. Or, more to the point, night by night.”

“Mom told Rick he was off the hook, saying the decision was hers alone. With that, Rick drove away, unsure of what he’d just done but certain about his future. The tour’s charter plane was leaving the next day for his once-in-a-lifetime break. He wasn’t going to miss it for anything.”

“Was my mom’s plan a solid one? Would it have worked out the way she and Renee hoped? I’ll never know and neither would my mom because a few months into her pregnancy, her mother died abruptly from a brain aneurysm, leaving Mom pregnant and alone, with no source of income. Throughout my childhood, my mother showed me pictures of her mother and cried. Sometimes, she’d call out for her mother. “I need you so badly, Mommy.” Something in her shattered with her mother’s death. Sometimes, I’d see glimpses of the bright-eyed, spunky young woman she used to be and wonder where she’d gone. I never found a sufficient answer.”

“Minka, there’s someone I’d like you to meet,” Mom said. I lifted my head and looked at him. As Rick remembers it, I had these huge doe eyes, and my hair flailed in every direction. “Is that my real dad?” I asked. “Yes,” Mom answered. I put my head back down, not sure what to make of this guy. Rick softened in that instant and began to recalibrate. Mom looked great and now that she had a kid, she seemed to have changed a bit, had matured. I like this, he thought. Let’s give it another shot. To hear Rick tell it, he fell in love with Mom at that time and really tried to make the relationship work. “I was off the drugs and I took you and your mom on the road,” he told me. “You were great. Steven loved you, of course. You seemed comfortable with whatever was going down. I could bring you anywhere. Quiet. I liked to think you were just happy to be with your dad.”

“Rick thought that maybe, back in L.A., they’d clean up their act. So he moved his little family back to the West Coast. Returning to Hollywood and Claudia’s apartment on Fountain, though, was like adding kerosene to their already fiery lifestyle. Soon, Rick and Mom were out until all hours. One night, Rick told me, they left me with a makeup artist friend. “I didn’t know she was a full-blown junkie,” Rick explained. When Mom and Rick came home, flashing EMT lights lit up the street. The babysitter had overdosed.”

“After all, I’d gotten back in the water the next day, ever the fearless little girl.”

“Mom was working as a limo driver at the time, and she drove Rick to the airport. A Paul Young song came on the radio: “Every Time You Go Away.” When Rick heard the lyrics, he realized what he was doing and started to cry, his heart broken. It was a tearful goodbye.”

“Psychologists have long believed that humans are more likely to remember negative experiences over positive ones. This impulse, some argue, has evolutionary roots because it’s more important for our survival to notice the lion in the undergrowth than the beautiful birds chirping in the trees. The fact that our youngest years tend to focus more on fraught memories is also due to evolution. Younger people, because they have a long and vague future in front of them, need to collect a lot of information and so they remember ample details about negative experiences to help manage their unclear futures.”

“I have no doubt there were times when my mother and I wrapped ourselves in joy and love, that I giggled with Rick and delighted in some small pleasure he showed me, that there were times when my adoration of David filled me with security and peace. But like those missing puzzle pieces, I can’t fully see those moments. It’s just the red barn, again and again. That pond. Those same damn threatening clouds.”

“if anything happened and Mom couldn’t get it together to care for me, maybe then Claudia would take me in. In hindsight, I can see I hoped that word would endear me to her—David always loved it when I called him “Dad”—but Claudia looked as if I’d just slapped her. Her eyes filled as she crouched to my size. “Now, Mink, you know Mo’s your mother. I can be your auntie Claudia, but you need to use the word ‘Mommy’ only for your mom. A mother is something precious and special, and reserved for the one who brought you into this world. You understand?” I nodded, but I didn’t understand. Parents seemed interchangeable. Besides, Claudia did more of the mom things than my own mother did.”

“This was a time when other kids my age were playing sports, learning an instrument, picking up a new language, engaging their brain in the world around them in order to determine what moved or inspired them. Looking back, I wish she’d encouraged my education and growth as a human rather than use me to keep her company when she had nothing to do.”

“It had been a great day at school. I loved being there because there was always a routine and order and I knew what to expect. I had friends. I was good at sports and played handball and tetherball at recess, beating almost everyone who dared challenge me. My teacher, Mrs. Sheridan, said I was smart, too. Quizzes and assignments came back with 97 and 98 on them and happy faces drawn in the margins. I sat up front in class and devoured everything Mrs. Sheridan said. If my life had been nothing but school, I would have been the happiest kid alive.”

“Every afternoon, though, the school day came to a close and there was always some complication or mess like this to deal with. I’d visited the homes of friends and noticed their lives were different. Their parents picked them up on time. They lived in proper apartments or houses. Kids had their own bedrooms and their moms sometimes cooked meals on a stove or in an oven, not on a hot plate.”

“Little David was jealous of me because David showed me more attention than he did him. He wanted what I had: his father’s love. And I wanted what he had: a mother who’d broken free from this strange David-focused, messed-up life.”

“It’s going to be okay. Let’s not have any of those crocodile tears.” One of the officers dabbed at my face with a napkin. At the time, I thought his efforts to comfort me were sweet, until I learned later that “crocodile tears” referred to crying for attention. God, attention was the last thing I wanted! Shame covered me. I was humiliated to be a burden, unable to fully care for myself.”

“I was starting to see a pattern and I didn’t like it. Moving from this friend’s couch to this person’s apartment, to a garage, back to David’s—it was all taking a toll. Mom used to tell me it was just the two of us together against the world. We were the dynamic duo that could do anything. But Mom needed to be propped up by others, and I was starting to feel like an appendage that followed her wherever she went.”

“The kids at my new school took the playground rhyme to a different level, thinking it was funny. It wasn’t. The phrase “Minka Stinka” echoed after me wherever I went, the kids giggling with pleasure at how clever they were. I hated my name and wished I’d been named Lisa. I also wished Mom hadn’t changed my school. It was bad enough she was gone and I was living somewhere else. Now I didn’t have my friends, my favorite teacher, or my regular routine.”

“Linette had agreed to take me for the six weeks Mom would be out of the country and working with Claudia. Was Mom paying Linette to house me? Was Linette a friend or distant cousin? No one explained anything. I didn’t want to stay with Linette, didn’t want to change schools, didn’t want Mom to leave, but I knew better than to speak up. I couldn’t do anything that might sully Mom’s joy. Not now that she was getting herself out of bed in the mornings and dressing. She was finally brushing her teeth and combing her hair. She even sang along with Rickie Lee Jones’s “Chuck E’s in Love” on the radio in the car. If I followed the program, maybe she’d stay like this.”

“A package came for you today.” Linette handed me a small FedEx box, a bunch of candy inside and a card from Mom with her beautiful handwriting. “Hi my Boo. I’ll be home from work in just a couple more weeks. We’ll be together again so soon, I promise. I miss you and I love you with all my heart and soul. Love, Mommy.” I wanted to believe her, that she’d be back soon, that we’d move into a more normal life together, but she’d already been gone longer than she’d said. I wanted it to be me and her against the world again, to be a pair. The sting of betrayal blinded me. I couldn’t picture our reunion. Hoping and believing in that promised moment hurt more than being punched. I knew I’d be disappointed again. I put the card away and did my homework.”

“David was in and out of my life while I was staying with Linette. He’d pop up when he was making a lot of money and take me shopping. Once, he took me on a shopping spree at The Limited. The clothes seemed so fancy and nice; everything new! And then he was gone again. He was a larger-than-life, mystical creature, there one moment, gone the next. He could be charming and charismatic—that was the David I focused on. But more and more, I couldn’t help but see the other side, the aspect of him my mom fought all the time, the asshole side. The narcissistic side.”

“I believe David genuinely loved me, but that’s because I knew how to behave. I knew not to talk back, to do as I was told whether I liked it or not, to keep the house pristine, to have manners, and to not speak when the adults were speaking. I respected him out of fear. I’d learned these behaviors fast.”

“This was different. It was me. I wasn’t good enough or important enough or special enough for them to pay attention to. This was a whole new feeling. There was something wrong with me.”

“I was a castaway, about to be taken in by another unknown woman because no one else wanted me, not even Linette. As we stood under the mercury vapor streetlights, I realized for the first time how special it was that Linette and Amy had welcomed me and made me feel at home. Linette had seen me in a way most adults didn’t, knowing that a pair of Nikes would make my life easier. And Amy was so excited whenever I came home from school, genuinely glad to see me. Unlike with David and Mom, where I seldom felt like my presence mattered, I was visible to Linette and Amy. Saying goodbye, I kept my eyes dry, but my lower lip trembled. I wiped my nose with my forearm and looked at my feet so no one would notice.”

“After staying with Isabel for a few months, I was passed off to one unsuspecting woman after another, enrolled in different schools, always the new girl, always needing to prove myself. And Mom stayed away, day after day after day. Annette, a woman with no kids of her own who took me for a time, offered me chewing gum. “No, thank you. My mother says it looks cheap and rude.” Annette was impressed. Not only did I have manners, I was abjectly loyal to my mother, whom I hadn’t seen in more than a year.”

“They were asking, in their roundabout way, if she was still alive and were often surprised to hear that she was. My perplexed look, though, let them know I didn’t recognize them. “Don’t you remember me? Sarah. You stayed with me on Gardner near Hollywood when you were in fifth grade. We used to make lanyards together.” “I’m Bonnie. We lived off Sunset near Normandie. You loved eating blue Otter Pops until your tongue turned turquoise.” “Stacy. You were best friends with my daughter, Erica.” I had no idea who these people were, absolutely no memory of the scenes they described. My brain was doing what it needed to, erasing as much of the painful parts as possible, so I could keep moving forward.”

“I guess, by the time she finally returned, there’d simply been too many times I’d cried for my mommy, not knowing where she was or when I’d see her again. I’d forced myself to stop needing her, waiting for her, expecting her, because it was just too painful. Whenever we talked by phone, she lied about when she was coming back and was maddeningly vague about where she was and what she was doing. I deserved to know and yet she steadfastly refused to tell me. So, I blocked what I could. I later learned that during that time, she drove a car across the border for David, transporting drugs. She got caught and went to jail for a short period of time, but she never told me. Someone else, years later, filled me in. I learned more about my mother through strangers than I did from her.”

“I felt horrible in every cell of my being, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that I loved the feel of her attention focused on me. She noticed me and cared for me and was concerned; this was new and life changing.”

Part II The way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to life more than anything else. The way we protect ourselves from loss may be the way in which we distance ourselves from life. —RACHEL NAOMI REMEN

“My impression changed, though, in less than a heartbeat when David’s parents, my grandparents, came out to greet me. They bustled out of the house as if royalty had just arrived, squealing with joy, calling to me, hugging me, admiring me, loving on me like I was the long-lost loved one they’d been waiting years for, speaking in a mix of Spanish and English. Grandpa smelled like freshly cut grass, turned earth, and tobacco, while Grandma brought a whiff of roasted chiles and rosewater with her.”

“They were like characters from a book and seemed to know my entire backstory; they’d all been present at my birth, though I really didn’t know them. They petted me and wanted to touch my pale hair, exclaiming over my beauty and grown-up stature. They delighted in me—there’s no other word for it—and I was so taken aback by their affection and praise, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Are you sure it’s me you want to lavish all this love and attention on? I thought but didn’t ask. Maybe you have me confused with someone else?”

“Between cousins arguing about who stole whose clothes, a stepbrother to shoot hoops with, and loads of aunts and uncles, I had everything I needed: playmates, ample adult supervision, warm food at the ready, and a deep sense of belonging.”

“Because actions speak louder than words, I trusted Grandma’s actions and believed they spoke the real truth, despite her dogmatism. And just as the church was a place of hope for many in that working-class immigrant community, Grandma and Grandpa’s home was a place of hope for me.”

“Yasmín decided it was time to address not only my wardrobe faux pas—I needed to stop dressing like a weird skater girl from L.A. and more like a local—but that I also needed to learn to fight. I thought I’d left all the fighting behind in L.A. the day I saw Marina in the rearview mirror that final time. Fighting was the last thing I wanted to learn and I told Yaz as much. “You don’t have a choice.” My cousin was firm. “You can learn here with me, or out there with those pendejas. Either way, you’re gonna learn.” We were in the Pink Room I shared with Mom when she started pushing and shoving me around. I was triggered immediately by flashbacks of Marina. Not again. I don’t want to do this again.”

“When I tried to get away from her, Yaz pushed me harder until I slammed into the wall. Dammit. Why couldn’t people leave me the fuck alone? I was ready to scream. “Come on, little girl,” Yasmín taunted. “Fight back.” “I don’t want to.” “I don’t care what you want.” She elbowed me hard in the ribs. “Fight me!” I pushed her away. “That’s all you got?” She kept shoving me. “You gotta do better than that.” Yasmín slammed me into walls, shoved me into corners, taking a little too much joy from the encounter. I wanted to cry so badly but I’d given that up and held fast to my vow to never cry again. Still, all the rage and frustration of the past years bubbled up in me. I want this shit to stop now! I was so frustrated and angry. In a blind rage, I struck out at Yasmín, grasping her around the waist in a hold, then wrestling her to the ground. Fuck this! By the time I regained my senses, I was sitting on top of Yasmín, just as Marina had once perched on me. “A la verga!” Admiration tinged Yasmín’s words. “Now, that’s more like it.”

“I made up my mind that what went on in middle school wasn’t going to happen anymore. High school was a fresh new start and it was my mission to assert some confidence and make the right friends this time. I would never be bullied again.”

“Rachel and her group of girls became my sanctuary at Del Norte High School. They took me under their wing and called me “lil güera,” their term of endearment for me. I quickly learned what it took to survive. They thought the PE activities were stupid and a waste of our time, so I cut that class regularly to be with them. We’d sit behind the school and smoke weed. Soon, I was cutting other classes and getting into fights. I learned that it was uncool to be a good student, so I let go of my desire to learn. I needed to fit in. Besides, no one ever checked my grades. Get good grades or survive? I chose to survive.”

“She did as she was told. He closed the door behind her. He hit me with an open hand, then a fist, over and over. He found a piece of cable wire on the floor and started thrashing me with it as I curled into a ball to protect what parts of myself I could. “Answer me, little girl!” he growled. He yanked my hair, pulling me around the room by my ponytail. I grabbed my head to keep him from pulling out all my hair but he kept jerking me around. He wailed on me, that damn cable wire coming down on me again and again. How long the beating continued, I don’t know. Welts were rising all over my skin when he finally exhausted his fury. I didn’t cry. The promise I’d made to myself years ago to leave tears behind held fast. He sat on the couch, looking at the effects of his wrath. I finally chanced a glance at him, praying it was over. “Come here and give me a hug,” he said. “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” I couldn’t move, I was too confused. But he demanded again, “Come here.” I complied—I had no choice unless I wanted more pain—allowing him to wrap his arms around me even as I flinched at his touch. You asshole, I wanted to say. You fucking monster! I wanted to cry and scream and tell them both to go fuck themselves, but that would only make it worse. I held it all in.”

“Later, in therapy, I learned a phrase that helped me understand this dynamic: Hurt people hurt people. That’s exactly what was happening.”

“There was something intriguing about Angel, an autonomy about her, a sense of self-containment I envied. She kept to herself and was studious, someone so effortlessly tough she had nothing to prove. She moved through the hallways of Valley High without a care or a worry.”

“I approached Angel one day and she returned my smile. She was taken aback by how outgoing I was and we became easy, fast friends. This was junior year. Soon, we were eating lunch together and hanging out before and after school. Angel was an athlete and had come from a family of kickboxers. I joined her at the dojo and learned from her. We worked out and sweated until our hair dripped and our breath was ragged, laughing and challenging each other. It felt so good. My body became strong and powerful, and the transformation inside was even greater. I no longer felt like a victim of whatever happened to me. I took out my anger and frustration in the gym, exorcising all the mixed-up, crazy emotions that made life hard until they were out of my system. I realized that I’d never felt comfortable in my own skin because we’d moved around so much. But now, moving my body and being active and strong in this athletic way with Angel? For the first time ever, I felt like I was home.”

“In the new house, Mom and I each had a bedroom of our own, across the hall from each other. David’s room was on the other side of the house where he entertained a procession of girlfriends. By now, I’d gotten fed up with it. I’d fallen in love with some of his previous girlfriends, particularly Charmaine, Karlotta, and Wendy, and had my heart broken repeatedly. I’d become close to these women and their children. Karlotta’s daughter Alexandria and I call each other sisters; we’re still in touch to this day. And Wendy used to take me to her sign language night class; she was always kind to me. Her daughter Tess and I became the best playmates. These women provided me what little mothering attention I knew. And then they were gone when the inevitable breakup occurred, leaving me aching for the motherly love they’d offered.”

“Okay,” I answered. I wasn’t in love and there was no real romance, but we shared some good chemistry. Truth was, I’d created in my head a fantasy of who I wanted him to be and was so caught up with the idea that he’d chosen me from all the other girls available to him that I didn’t really see him as a person at all. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the start of my need to use the attention and affection of boys and men to confirm my worth. Miguel Quintana was my gateway drug. But this was how it worked, right? I didn’t really know. I’d spent a decade and a half seeing how Mom found men to protect and care for her. For years, I’d been trying to do the exact opposite of whatever she chose so I wouldn’t fall into the same traps. I knew I didn’t want a life like my mother’s, so I worked hard to graduate from high school to show I was not like her. In every choice I made, I selected the opposite option from what she would have done.”

“And that’s the weird thing about family patterns: Even though we want to follow a different path than our parents, and in real time we think we are doing just that, we see later that we were, in fact, following in their footsteps the whole time. As Carl Jung says, until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. Only, I didn’t know that then.”

“Theresa, the captain of the cheerleading squad and one of the most beautiful girls on campus, approached me and Angel during lunch one day. It was as if a halo lit her up from behind as she came near me, she was so gorgeous. She was the most popular girl in school and I was intimidated. As far as I was concerned, cheerleaders were a different class of animal from the people I hung with, rich bitches who could afford the uniforms and extras required. I had long told myself that Angel and I were cooler than that crowd because we were “real,” whatever that means. You tell yourself whatever story you need to in order to accept certain realities.”

“I realize now that my obsession with cleaning was my way of having control of some aspect in my life when I could control so little. My bedroom was always neat and tidy, and I pretty much never went over to David’s part of the house, but Mom’s room, I could see, was an absolute mess. Candy wrappers on the bedside table, dirty dishes, clothes on the floor, her bag of makeup and costumes left wherever she’d dropped it. I made a point of never going in there if I could help it.”

“Now, after the abortion and the troubles with Rudy, the separation and distance from my mom, I was more open to what he might have to say. I tore into the padded envelope. The package contained a lengthy letter in which he told me of his life, his marriage to Robin, a gorgeous redheaded British artist, and his music. He also wrote that his mother, my biological grandmother, had recently died. Before passing, she’d told him, “You need to get that little girl. Take care of her. She needs you.” She’d meant me. “I’d really like to make things better between us,” he wrote, “if you’ll let me.”

“I called Mom next and told her. She seemed pleased but later reported that David’s sister, my auntie Sofía, and the rest of David’s family were unhappy about the reunion. “That man’s nothing but a sperm donor. We’re the ones who raised Minka.” They weren’t wrong to feel that way. But I didn’t care.”

“We didn’t do a lot of talking, just flowed our energy back and forth with each other, surrounded in comfort and this mystical, magical music of which he seemed to have an unending supply: Al Green; Bill Withers; B.B. King; Earth, Wind & Fire—groups I’d never heard of. Being with him and the music blasting felt so fucking good. Everything about the visit was soulful and we connected in a deep way. I kept thinking, This music, it’s in my blood. I can feel it!”

“By then, Thomás had seen how things were unfolding between me and Rudy and had taken me aside. “You’re too good for my son, mija,” he said. “If you save up for first and last month’s rent, I’ll cosign an apartment for you.” Where was I supposed to get that kind of money? That’s when I got the job at the peep show and started saving in earnest. I hoarded cash in shoeboxes hidden under the bed. I’d make between one hundred and four hundred dollars a night and saved every last dime. I was determined to get away from Rudy.”

“Honestly, I don’t think he was bothered by the fact that I was leaving; he was more upset that I’d found a way to stand on my own. I didn’t need him anymore.”

“A complete transformation of acceptance and humility came over him in that moment. “Jesus. You got it, Mink. I’m sorry.” To this day, he loves to tell that story. I think it was the moment I earned his respect. Unfortunately, it was also a moment that reinforced a lesson I’d long known: To earn love, I needed to be a certain way. Who I was simply wasn’t enough. It was incumbent on me to make sure no man was ever ashamed of me; I had to be to his liking.”

“After that, he cut me slack and, to be fair, he tried to love me unconditionally.”

“Juvie was the only place she could count on eating a proper meal three times a day, a place where she felt safe from harm. I knew I’d had a rough upbringing, but I saw then that it could have been even worse. During the booking process, I’d remembered the phone number of the lawyer who’d been involved with the hairdresser case. When I used my one phone call to reach him, he’d taken pity on me and said he’d meet me in court on Monday. There was nothing to do now but wait.”

“Most of the girls I left behind were going to have the book thrown at them. What they really needed was help. They needed to be nurtured and taken care of. They needed new home lives. To be in school. And yet the cards were all stacked against them. Still, a tiny tendril of hope took root in me that day. Maybe now Mom was ready to be fully in my life. She’d been so animated in court, so convincing. We went to the movies that night and I thought it was the start of something new between us. It didn’t take long for that hope to wither.”

“Rick explained about this subset population that lived in the neighborhood. There was so much about Los Angeles, about the world, I still didn’t know.”

“Back in Albuquerque, in the area where I grew up, everyone I knew was either Latinx or Native American. But here, just about every ethnicity, color, creed, and nationality was represented. It excited me. I was hungry to experience new cultures, to learn all the different ways people lived and loved, made families and found home.”

“My living situation was peaceful in the house I shared with Rick and Robin, and she went through a lot of trouble to make me feel welcome. Robin and her British accent always delighted me when, in the afternoons, she’d ask, “Darling, have you put the kettle on?” I’ve carried that comfy little detail with me to this day. My kettle is the first and most important piece in any space I occupy. Robin prepared a bedroom for me, appointed with linens far nicer than any I’d ever touched before. I always bought the cheapest sheets and didn’t know that something as simple as good bedding could make a difference in my level of comfort. She added a delicate little lamp on my bedside table that she turned on whenever I was out late so that when I came home, a light was waiting for me. Little details like that meant so much. But that wasn’t the best part. Each night, Robin put a hot water bottle under the sheets at the foot of my bed so that when I climbed in, my feet would be snug and warm. You know those old-fashioned, flat red rubber hot water bottles? I’d never used one and had only seen them in the movies; I would have told you such a thing was silly before I’d tried it.”

“Marie hired me right then and there. That job soon became a highlight of my life, and my experiences with Marie shifted everything about living in L.A. In no time, she became my best friend, teaching me how to navigate life in Hollywood, correcting me when I did something stupid. To this day, I still hear her voice when I’m about to do something reckless: “Minka! You can’t do that! That’s not okay!” She would laugh at the absurdity of whatever I was saying or doing while yelling at me, so her corrections never felt aggressive or like a scolding parent.”

“I was still crying in the break room when Marie came in. “Come home with me tonight,” Marie said. “I live in this building that’s all studio apartments. You can stay overnight and then I’ll introduce you to the landlord. I think there’s one unit still available, and they’re all $475 a month.” I sniffled and nodded. “If you want, you can quit your other job, too, and I’ll hire you here full-time, okay?” she continued. “You’ll make enough. You’ll be okay.” Marie saved me, time and again. She was so good to me.”

“I’m sorry, Minka, but we’re downsizing and we just don’t have enough hours to keep you on staff. It’s been great working with you and I know you’ll find something else soon.” He stood, indicating that our chat was over. “Please use me as a reference. You’re free to take your things and go.” I was stunned. I looked up at Tina. Her straight face offered no condolences, making it clear this was her doing. I was sad to lose this job but I wasn’t about to be bullied into altering everything about my body. I didn’t know it yet, but once again, this moment that felt like a rejection was just another opportunity for growth in disguise.”

“Boundaries Are a Bitch The fact that I stood up to Tina was a remarkable step for me. Yes, I was punished pretty quickly, but I was also undaunted. There was something about taking that leap that meant I was coming into my own.”

“I spent so much of my life conforming to what others wanted me to be, ready to contort myself into whatever shape was requested. But now, that dynamic was starting to change. I began to have the first, earliest inklings of what kind of life I wanted to build for myself. I knew a few things for certain: I wanted to be self-supporting and not dependent on someone else. I wanted to create a calm and peaceful home and to do work that mattered. I wasn’t dreaming of becoming an actor or being famous—not in the slightest. My objectives were to create a simple yet deeply satisfying life, and I started moving toward that goal.”

“This was a whole new person, right here, about to make its entrance into the world, and I was privileged to be a witness. I became so overwhelmed, tears started to fall down my cheeks under my surgical mask. The scrub nurse I was shadowing elbowed me. “Not now,” he said under his breath, sharp. I snapped to. I had a job to do and I got busy doing it, handing the doctor instruments, returning to my professionalism. But the wonder at what I’d witnessed did not go away. I kept thinking, Whoa, what am I doing here? How did I get so lucky? This is a miracle! The scrub nurse had jolted me out of that moment of awe because there was no time for astonishment in this kind of operation. A C-section is a fast-moving, no-time-to-mess-around surgery. Once the amniotic sac was cut, the delivery moved into hyperspeed. At that point, the doctor wasn’t talking about dinner with a spouse or a golf game; we had to get the baby out as fast as possible. We removed this fully formed beautiful human with its flowy black hair and handed him off to a pediatric nurse so we could tend to the mother and close her up. The doctor removed her entire uterus and put it on her stomach and chest. We used gauze and wet sponges to clean out every inch of the uterus before the doctor replaced it back into the patient and then sewed up the layers after layers we’d cut to facilitate the birth. This was no minor surgery, and any time I hear anyone downplaying what a woman goes through with a C-section, I make sure to let them know every feature I remember. I spare no detail as to how we get past the abdominal muscles to get to the uterus. This lecture usually puts people (often men) back in their place.”

“A week earlier, Rick had taken me aside to tell me the full story. Robin had been having an affair, he said. I was so angry with her. How could she? Theirs had been the one healthy-looking relationship I’d ever witnessed, and here, she’d blown it all to smithereens. I was livid. “Don’t be mad at her,” Rick said. “Believe me, she’s already hating herself more than she can stand. And, honey, listen to me. It wasn’t all her fault.” “What do you mean? She cheated!” “Yes, she did. But it was my fault. This is how I see it,” Rick said. “A woman needs to feel sexy and wanted and desired. That was my job as her husband, to make sure she felt that way. And I stopped doing my job. Somewhere along the line, I let our relationship settle into a roommate-type situation. We became like brother and sister. And so she did what she needed to, to rediscover her worth. She found someone else who would desire her. There’s no getting away from the fact that I share a big piece of the blame.”

“It was an indelible moment for me. After hearing my mom fault everyone else for each shortcoming in her life, this was a whole new perspective. By taking responsibility for his part, my dad was refusing to be a victim. “If you know all that,” I said to him, “then maybe you two can work it out?” I still yearned for a happy ending. “No, we’re getting a divorce, but it’s okay. We’ll always be in each other’s lives and always remain friends.”

“I now understood how Rick had been able to say the same thing to me. There comes a time when we all need to stand on our own. He’d seen that I was ready, even though I didn’t yet know it.”

“And that was it. I was done. I drew my line in the sand and I was ready to stand by it. I had put up with so much from her just because she was my mother, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was now fully willing to take her anger and her abandonment in order to be true to myself. I was one hundred percent determined, and though I’d hardened my heart as much as I could toward her, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I cried myself to sleep that night.”

“The point of the exercise was to get each actor focused on the other rather than themselves, and to draw their attention away from the words they were speaking and toward the emotion underlying the exchange. It was fascinating to watch how the actors became less stilted as the exercise went on and how deep feelings began to emerge. All the actor had to work with was the vulnerability of the present moment, absorbing exactly what the scene partner provided, subtly and emotionally. Sometimes, the actors smiled or giggled; at other times, tensions rose. Though the exercise might sound straightforward, it can actually be kind of intense. Sometimes the actors got angry or cried, all due to the subtle changes in vocal inflection, meaning, and interpretation of the words spoken, coupled with mood and the energy shifts in the room. Sometimes just sustained eye contact and being seen by someone without being able to hide or deflect could bring a person to tears.”

“One of my favorite sayings of hers was that “sensitive people change the world, and the rest don’t give a damn.” And so, of course, I wanted her to like me. I learned that I’d developed a survival technique.”

“The movers were coming to get my things from Sean’s house and put them in the U-Haul I’d arranged and I needed to be there to direct them. I was hoping he’d be gone, but when I arrived, he sat in the living room, waiting for me. When he saw me, he reached out to hug me, then started crying in my arms. The movers lifted coffee tables and end tables around us as he sobbed. “Please don’t go. I’m so sorry. Please don’t go.” “It’s okay,” I said. “We’re going to be friends. Everything’s going to be okay. But I can’t stay.” I don’t know what changed, but I felt strong. I thought of all the times my mom had gone running back to David when she really needed to get out on her own, all the times I’d excused bad behavior in my own relationships and thought that’s just how it works. Women were supposed to put up with this shit. But no more. I was done. I was telling the universe I deserved better. And for once, I believed it.”

“I should have been more grateful for her compassion, but I felt like such a mess. How was I going to fix all of this? My heart hurt, like I could almost feel the organ behind my rib cage leaking its insides into my chest cavity. Every part of me felt raw. In her car on the way home, I was hiding from the beautiful day behind big sunglasses when my cell phone rang. I almost let the call go to voice mail but knew I needed to deal with life, so I wiped my face on my sleeve and answered. “Minka, this is Mark.” It was my manager. “I have news for you.”

“During this time, I hadn’t spoken with my mom since she’d stormed out of the house, saying I’d never been her daughter. She called and wrote to me, but I didn’t listen to her messages and tried to ignore her pleas for contact. I wanted to carve out space for myself, to get to know myself as a person not connected to her. Her letters all said that she missed me and she was sorry for the way she’d behaved and that she loved me. That may have all been true, but I was tired of going through the wringer with her. It was time to focus on me.”

“Something about her calm tone got my attention. She was never calm about things. I dialed the number. She made small talk and asked how I was doing. After months of no conversation, it felt weird. Something was up. I could feel the tension rising. And since there’s never a good time to say something like this to someone you love, the truth just fell out of her mouth. “I have cancer, baby,” she said. I can still hear her uttering those words to me. I have cancer, baby. When I heard that, everything happened at once in just a fraction of a second. My head spun around on its axis, possibly falling on the floor while I simultaneously left my body looking for another one that didn’t just hear this news. Every possible outcome and scenario flashed before me, and then in that split second, I returned to the present moment and all my body’s survival mechanisms came back into play. I needed to minimize this heart-shattering news. Deny. And get angry. And while I was at it, blame her for all of it. My first instinct was to think, Of course you do! Everything is about you. Maybe she had some minor form of the disease and now she was going to milk it for all it was worth, turn my life upside down again to help her, make herself a victim once again looking to me to be her savior. I wasn’t going to fall for it. I was mad at her. And clearly in shock.”

“His voice became somber. “There’s a ticking clock now for you to sort things out. There’s a lot you two went through together and you’re going to need to work out your resentment with her before she dies. Otherwise, you will regret it for the rest of your life.” My world began to spin. As mad as I was at my mother, I still needed her. I still wanted her in my life. I couldn’t allow what Rick and she were saying to be real. My mom wasn’t going to die. That wasn’t possible.”

“Taylor became my medicine to help ease the pain. I was living by the ol’ adage, “The fastest way to get over someone is underneath another.”

“In relationships, I’m usually the one to end things. My superpower is to run away at any sign of either stability or trouble, so hooking up with me at this time was a lose-lose. No matter the guy, it was only a matter of time before I found something to pick apart that would convince me I shouldn’t be with him. That is a me problem. Never theirs. Either I didn’t have the self-esteem to know I deserved the love in front of me, or I didn’t have the self-esteem to know I’d be okay if I walked away from an emotionally unavailable or toxic relationship. I repeatedly fell into that dynamic because it was familiar to me, so it’s where I felt safe, even though I was in constant pain and confusion. That’s a whole other chapter for therapy.”

“My tough-guy approach only left me alone. If you behave as if you need no one, if no one around you knows any better, most certainly no one, in fact, will be there.”

“We ended up getting back together and breaking up more times than I can count. There are only so many times you can refuse to look at or acknowledge someone’s presence until on set and the director yells, “Action.” At that time in our lives it was almost impossible for us not to be consumed by the chemistry we shared. In your twenties, sexual chemistry can be very confusing. You’re convinced that if you have this kind of chemistry, surely you’re meant to be together. When it was good, it was good. But we were very young and very sensitive people with our own personal unhealed traumas, so when it was bad, it was really bad. I have to admit I wasn’t very receptive to the times he’d tell me what he needed from me. From my hardscrabble past, I’m afraid I’d lost some of my sensitivity for men, particularly given the fact that I’d just come through the Sean betrayal.”

“Even though she was ill, the healing in our relationship during that time was deep. Still, though, I was very much in denial about how sick she actually was. I dragged her all over that city, refusing to see that she was unwell. We went shopping because I wanted to spoil her. When I was little, going to Payless for new shoes or Target for a new outfit was always our favorite thing. And now I had some money and I wanted to do something nice for her. She was so frail and I just could not accept the reality in front of me.”

“I’m coming, baby,” she said. She didn’t complain. She never talked about how tired she was or how much pain she felt. And I was too happy to be in harmony with her again to acknowledge what was really going on. She was sick and tired and breaking down, her life ebbing away, and I was blind to it all, determined to see her the way I needed her to be.”

“I know I wasn’t a good mom,” she said in a quiet voice from somewhere deep in her chest, as if her voice was a shelf of ice inside her rib cage that was cracking apart. “I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry for everything.” She didn’t defend herself or justify. She simply apologized and cried.”

“I can see the truth more clearly now, years later. Once she developed cancer, she stopped pretending that everything in her life was fine and started taking responsibility for her choices. And with that shift, together we found the space we’d needed for healing.”

“Still, for as awful as she felt, she didn’t complain, just mustered up all her energy to be excited to see me. “Look, honey,” she said when we were alone in her bedroom, lifting her shirt. “Look what my body is doing.” Her stomach was closing in on itself. But she wasn’t looking for sympathy; she was genuinely awed by what was happening. Like, Isn’t it wild? I was bewildered by what I saw. All her life, her body had been her greatest asset. She’d always had the most knockout figure around. Always slender, but with flesh on her bones. But now, I could see her rib cage; her stomach was completely concave. She was being eaten away by the cancer from the inside out.”

“Hi, Mo,” Rick said. “Rick?” she said. Whoa, I thought, she’s lucid again. She knows who he is. “Yeah, baby,” Rick said. And with that, she climbed onto the couch and curled up on his lap like a baby, at peace and fully content at last.By now, the Friday Night Lights cast had all met her and had seen her when she was doing well, though walking with a cane. They’d ask every so often how she was doing but I didn’t really open up to anyone about it. Because if you talk about it, you make it real.”

“He just looked at me. All this time, all this fighting, that’s all she’d needed. I’d been hiding Rick from her and she was just happy to be in his arms again. For all her anger and protestations that she hated him, the truth was clear. She loved him and always had.”

“He was so soft and tender, with the most compassionate bedside manner. Hospice nurses are a special breed of people. Angels, really. They and doulas, guiding people so tenderly in and out of this life.”

“In that moment, everything came pouring out of me. I just fucking wept twenty-eight years of tears. I’d never cried so hard in my life. I buried my face into her, not wiping the tears and snot, holding on for dear life. “I love you so much. I love you so much. And I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry life was so hard for you. But you’re free now, my mommy.” I soaked the sheets with my tears, grabbing her as if my love could call her back. But it didn’t. When I finally stopped crying and everyone came back in, I still wouldn’t let go of her.”

“I’d kept a voice mail of her that I listened to over and over again. What was extra heartbreaking was that that voice mail was from when she’d wanted me to come and visit her at Thanksgiving when I didn’t.”

“My aversion, combined with my many resentments, including her not having taken better care of herself, had kept me away. But now the truth crashed into me. I needed her. How was I going to journey through my life without her?”

“And to be frank, my mom’s death put all the on-set drama into perspective. I could no longer rally enthusiasm to worry about what others thought of me. I’d also learned to stop taking everything so personally. I realized that we all had a job to do and we were just here, doing those jobs.”

“I first glanced at her writing the day I found the socks, but after reading just a line or two at random, I had to stop. Not today! It’s just too much. Since then, I’d taken the journal back with me to Austin and had read an occasional entry. My Boo, where are you? I miss you. I felt so sad and sorry about how I handled her illness. We haven’t spoken in two weeks. I’m so mad at you. Don’t you understand what I’m going through? Every time, I’d have to put it down.”

“I’d wanted to tell my story since I was in high school, not yet aware it might hopefully mean something to someone somewhere, struggling to find her place in this world, struggling to understand the cards they’d been dealt and how best to play them. The way we make sense of life is through our stories so, to tell mine with depth and honesty, I came to see, I needed to know hers better. I was ready. When I first started writing, friends asked me, “Is it really cathartic?”

“Sometimes I think an abortion might have been best. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to be alive and for the opportunities I’ve had, but it still breaks my heart to recognize how unprepared my mother was, maybe even constitutionally ill-equipped to be a mother in any genuine way. If having me was the “best thing” she ever did, I wonder, for whose sake was it best? I have to conclude that it was for hers. She wanted me to love her. She wanted someone in her life who’d be hers exclusively, to fulfill her. And I became that person, with or without my consent. There have been times, I have to be honest, when I’ve been mad at her for having birthed me. I didn’t ask for all this. I didn’t ask for this trauma, and for the struggle to earn enough to pay for the tons of therapy I’ve needed to heal these wounds. I didn’t ask for these complicated relationships.”



books Gratitude Learning

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Purpose: I create an empowering context for curious and hungry people looking for fulfillment, experiences, and creativity. We do this by developing their growth mindset, introducing self-love, and powerful group experiences. It results in people with strong boundaries, resilient mental health, and practical life skills

People leave with the ability to land their dream job, have autonomy and flexibility with their lifestyle, travel the world, and create from their heart and soul.


Davidson was once broke, insecure, low-confidence, and frustrated by doing all the wrong activities. Addicted to drugs, validation, and wallowing in self-pity. No relationship to family, and at the mercy of other people’s suggestions and opinions.

It was hell.

After spending $100k hiring different coaches, traveling the world doing workshops around the world, reading>1000 books, and through curiosity, have created the most effective system to remove people from that situation. My life’s work is to bring joy and abundance to people who as on a similar path as I was and bring back the joy and abundance of their life.

Through shared experiences and storytelling, I inspire and model behaviors that lead to a richer, more fulfilled life full of joy, experiences, passion, and ecstasy from the richness of relationships and being able to experience the depths of the human experience.

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