Are You Anybody? – A first for me!

“I have a theory that we come into this world with a set of sealed orders. It’s not just our physical DNA, but a sort of spiritual DNA. You could call it your purpose or your groove or whatever word you like. Joseph Campbell called it bliss. George Saunders calls it “one’s primary reason.” Whatever you call it, it’s your obligation to yourself to find it. It’s not a whim, nor a wish, but a need. It wakes you up each morning with almost a sickness in your stomach to get on with it.” – Jeffrey Tambor

This is a “first” for me because I’ve never written about a book I haven’t yet finished – at least, I don’t think so. If you’re one of those people who feel a burning desire to fact-check, please be kind. My memory isn’t what it used to be… and besides, my intent is not to mislead. So, I guess what I really want to say it… just flow with me, here.

Are You Anybody? is an autobiography by the fabulous Jeffrey Tambor. I’ve loved him since… forever!

I’m listening to it in my car, to and from work. He’s reading it himself – always my favorite, if they’re good, and boy, is he! – and he’s also an excellent writer! I’ve laughed, I’ve cried. No, seriously, both!

The quote above is his… and I love it. There are many others so far… but here’s what I want to do today. I want to tell you, in my own words, about two stories he told. Of course, I want you to go get his book and read about his experiences yourself. Of course!

Because these are from my memory, I may get some details incorrect. That’s okay… because I got what I needed. That’s why it’s so important for you to read for yourself. Two of us can see (hear, read) the same thing and get something entirely different out of it. That is the foundation from which I share these stories.

Tambor and his wife are at the Holocaust museum… in Poland, I believe. He’s been filming a movie and has a break. There are exhibits and photos and even a snack bar, which, even as he says it, sounds out of place. He talks of people standing in front of things and putting their arms around each other, smiling for the camera. There is no commentary about how … once again, “out of place” this also seems. Just views from his own personal lens as it sweeps across the canvas. He is Jewish, we know this. He’s talked about it at length… and in an often-humorous way. Not here, not now, though. He mentions that he is oddly numb as he begins the tour. Not uncaring… no, not that. But he is surprised by his inability to feel.

Until the shoes.

He describes windows with untouchable scenes behind the glass. For example, there are suitcases from those who entered the camps and never left. The highest-end luggage … to sacks and satchels. There are photographs on the wall… adults only, no children. He wonders where the children are… and why there were no photos taken of them. And then, there is a window… and behind it is a giant pyramid of shoes… from the tiniest child to the largest adult, piled high to the ceiling.

What is it about shoes? When there is a car accident or flood, the news camera shows us a shoe, unclaimed along the highway. It’s as if it’s the most personal, universally-accepted symbol of what it means to be human is our footwear. It’s personal, I guess, without being too personal. It’s protection for our feet. And since I used the word protection, I suppose that factors in as well… because everything was taken away from the victims of the Holocaust… including the one small protection they still owned… their shoes.

It is a heart wrenching moment in the book… made even more so by the fact that Tambor told us about it, and then moved along in the same numb way he entered the museum. Days later, he broke down. I did, too.

The other memory that stood out is, I think, important as a learning tool for self-help and reflection.

Tambor is teaching an acting class and one of his students cannot tap into her sensual self for a role. After the scene, the class sits at the front of the stage, talking about the scene. The woman realizes she was unable to find that part of herself and they focus on this issue. As they talk, she mentions that she speaks to her father every night before she goes to bed, and he says, “Are you still my little girl?”… and she answers that yes, she is.

Every night? Yes, every single night.


Daddy’s Little Girl can’t be sensual. Right? Just typing it gives me the creeps. Isn’t that so true in many facets of life? You can’t be something because you believe you are something else? Can’t be slim because you are fat? Can’t be successful because you’re a loser? Can’t be Rich? How often to we sabotage ourselves? Lots, me thinks.

Anyway, it’s a great book so far and I’m gonna keep on reading (listening)… and if something else jumps out at me, you’ll be the first to know. 🙂


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