adulthood · family · love · service

Collecting Grown-ups.

Diane, Manny, Howard, Ralph, Max, Rhoda and Ruth
Diane, Manny, Howard, Ralph, Max, Rhoda and Ruth

There is a curious trend in my social life lately: the appearance of older men.

I don’t mean in a romantic sense, but supportive, creative, interesting, helpful people, who happen to be men, who happen to fall logically into a model of fatherly or grandfatherly figures.

As for my own father, we haven’t spoken in months.  But boundaries, parents, duty, love, and obligation can be another blog… or several.

Yet, in the absence (of my own making or not) of an actual non-judgmental shoulder-to-lean on with wise, bolstering words to live by with stories of travel and far-flung adventure from times of yore father, I find myself being buoyed by just the type of love and support I’ve been missing.

Recently, I helped my 90-year old friend clear out decades of junk from his house and put it up on a craigslist ad.  While I sorted his old china and hauled pieces of moldy ikea furniture to the curb, he stood in the near-autumn sun, white-haired and tanned from his daily sun lamp, and told me about the time he and his wife were picked up by the police in the Ukraine, behind the Iron Curtain, in the 70s.  How a gorgeous Russian woman waltzed into the scene and argued for their release, so that they were then driven, inexplicably, right to the airport they’d been seeking.

He told me how he met his wife over a piano playing Chopin in Berkeley, their subsequent whirlwind courtship leading to a honeymoon trip to a Warsaw house concert in Chopin’s own living room.

My grandparents all passed before I got the chance to learn their stories.  To learn and ask how they met, what it felt like to be a child then, how the world worked before me and this and us.  I feel I’ve collected a friend who can connect me to that wisdom and joy and near-forgotten universe a grandparent can give.

The neat thing to me about gathering these new friendships in adulthood is that they’re…unadulterated…by familial angst and don’t depend upon one person to give me all that I need.  I get to have the love without the drama, the support without the strings, and I feel like I get to give them something they might have been missing, too.

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adulthood · authenticity · inspiration · letting go · poetry · transformation · uncertainty · vision

Who’s Next?

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“Creativity requires the courage to let go of
certainties.” ― Erich Fromm
This is the quote of the day relating to the daily
meditation I’m doing through the Oprah/Deepak 21-day challenge.
Strangely or not, it’s what I was writing about in my
morning pages before I logged into the meditation. The idea of uncertainty, of
letting go of what’s known. And how very close to that I feel right now.
I found out yesterday I didn’t get the job I was in several
rounds of interviews and mock sessions for during the last two weeks. And all
for the better, I think. In fact, I’d reached out to an old schoolmate I’d seen
on LinkedIn had worked there to ask her thoughts. And when I wrote back that
they didn’t hire me, she wrote: You are better off. That place is a shit hole.
So there’s that!
But, this morning as I reflected on where I am, with the one
avenue I was pursuing more actively than others cut short, I find myself
without an exact destination. Which is where in fact I’ve been, but I’ve been
distracted with the possibility of this employment.
What brought me to considering the question of Who’s Next
was my bringing out an old reader packet of poems from an undergrad course I
took. I’d brought it down a few days ago; I was 22 when I took the class,
finishing up from the lost semester when I’d been otherwise engaged in a padded
room.
The day after I brought the packet down, a friend of mine
mentioned teaching again, putting together a C.V. (a teacher’s resume) and
syllabus. I went online to higheredjobs.com yesterday to poke around and see.
And again, I sort of went all blank about it. I see titles like Professor of
18th and 19th Century Romanticism or of Rhetoric, and I call myself
uninterested and unqualified.
And then after a while of poking around online anyway, my
computer overheated and shut down on me, which was probably for the best!
But, today I opened that packet labeled Twentieth Century
Poetry II, and I read the names and poems of Robert Bly, Gwendolyn Brooks, yes, even the
ubiquitous Plath. I read my margin notes, and was amused to see that my
handwriting looked as it does now.
I was interested in the poems, but I wasn’t sparked. These were the
dreams and longings of a different person. The person who ate these poems up,
who devoured and analyzed and waxed prosaic marginalia.
I remember the classroom I was in when we read Spenser’s
Faerie Queene. I remember being the one student who was really intrigued by his
epic traitorous, political poem hidden in monarch-approved meter. I remember the classroom where the professor
told us stories of the poets’ lives, who’d met who and exchanged letters, the
relationships behind their lyrics.
I remember the room for my make-up semester, on a different
campus, since my cohort had graduated. The computer lab where I wrote short
stories and saved them onto the new smaller, square floppy disks that were
actually hard.
This morning I reread the same works that meant so much to
me then, a woman who felt she had no voice, and poetry was a quiet art that
could conjure hurricanes, that could release those that were teeming in my
body.
But, I don’t feel it in the same way now. I of course want
new generations of students to hear tales of those smoky rooms where creativity
was incubated and smile in camaraderie at Spenser’s thinly veiled subversion.
But, I don’t know. Is it me? Is it me now?
There’s a quote from a Yogi tea bag I have taped over my
kitchen sink, along with all the others I felt necessary to collect. It reads:
Empty yourself and let the Universe fill you.
I haven’t ever really known what that meant, or how to do
it. I haven’t known how to let go of all I know, of all my plans, of labeling
what I know and feel and have done as relevant or useless. I haven’t been able
to answer the call of that tea quote until today.
I do feel emptied. I
feel emptied of direction, of specific ambition, of perspective on myself. But it’s not a negative
feeling.
I feel like a student in a new class, but one I don’t know
the course title to. I don’t know which of my skills will be useful in this new
class, what of my knowledge will be relevant.
I don’t know if I’ll need a paintbrush or a calculator, what I’ll grow to learn, or who will be my teachers. I don’t know who else I’ll meet in class, and who I’ll
never see again. I don’t know the iteration of myself who will be called upon to
show up here, or who will be created from being here.
I only know that this nameless class is the only one on my course schedule
for the foreseeable future, and that perhaps at the end of it, I may be able to
answer what iteration of Molly is next.

adulthood · adventure · direction · dreams · fear · responsibility · scarcity

Light in the Dark.

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According to my pock-marked memory, my dad held at least 5
jobs, sequentially, during the time I was growing up. Every few years, he
seemed to move on to a new job, eventually landing someplace he retired from.
My mom variously was engaged in the following classes or
hobbies:
bread-making
cake decorating
special effects make-up
Mary Kay-style beauty product sales
crocheting
knitting
part-time make-up artist
The closet became filled with half-finished projects and tools of a trade long abandoned. 
My dad also told me a few years ago that he rarely finished
projects he began around the house (the wallpaper all done, except for that
spot there; the fireplace paint stripped, but not re-stained) because of his
own childhood lesson that if you finished something it could be criticized.
And I wonder what of this I’ve “inherited” through observation.

I’ve realized the Fulcrum idea only works if I’m earning more per hour and
working fewer hours. It doesn’t, and won’t work, if I’m only working fewer
hours!
I feel a little afraid today. Afraid that the time I’m
intending to “buy” for myself will be eaten up by odd jobs in order to cull a
living.
I guess I mention my parents’ work habits because I’m afraid
that I’m like them. And can certainly see the seeds and small shoots of their
behavior in my own.
Molly doing theater. Molly doing all organic cooking. Molly
in a band. Molly wanting to take math classes, tutor kids, fly a plane. Molly
quitting another job. Again.
And.
I’m not sorry I’m doing this.
It’s funny. Last year, playing bass in a band, I said I was
finally living out a teenage dream I’d never let myself have. If I were more
honest with myself then, I would have studied theater in college or engaged in it
then. I would have tried the magpie
lifestyle then. I would have held odd jobs, instead of the immediate office jobs.
I would have been a mildly responsible but creatively
engaged young adult.
But, I wasn’t. That wasn’t my experience, and that wasn’t
allowed. Coloring outside the lines was not allowed in my house. Or so I
understood it.
I thought last night about this past year+ since returning to
work post-cancer. About how I’ve been doing the things that a teen and
20something would do. It logically does
follow that my professional work pattern would change, if I’m sort of going
back to live the kinds of experiences I’d aged myself out of then.
And perhaps I’ll do them differently than I would have at 20
or 25. Perhaps trying to live outside of the lines at 33 is easier, or more
grounded. I don’t know. But I do see that I seem to be veering toward a life
that a lot of young people live, as if I’m reclaiming a lost youth, a lost
innocence and curiosity and naïveté.
Is it “fun” to
about to launch into the unknown? Well, yes and no. It’s fun to feel engaged in
the creative world and think outside the box. It’s less fun to know the
realities of salary requirements and health coverage and car payments and also
try to think outside the box.
I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen. I know I have
more work to do, more actual sitting down and developing a plan to do. And I
think I’m going to have to reach out for help from folks to help me hold the
space to do that.
It’s funny. (I keep on saying that! But, this all amuses the
observer part of me, I’ll tell you!) Over a year ago, I sat with two women who
helped me form a game-plan for alternative classes I could facilitate.
About 6 months ago, I sat with a different pair of folks,
who helped me develop a different plan for an alternative after-school program.
I’ve been dipping my toe into these waters, and have subsequently thrown
my arms up into their faces and said, But I don’t know, I don’t know enough and
it’s too hard and I don’t have the tools.
I’ve abandoned this line of thinking as many times as I’ve
lit the fires in the eyes of my friends, who’ve said, Molly, this is totally
possible.
So, I guess it’s time for me to dig my notes out of the closet like my mom’s half-finished quilts. Time to breathe
deeply and let myself live the life I’ve consistently told others I want to
live.
It’s also time for me to call those friends back in and have
them hold my hand as I sort through those notes and make moves in this direction. Because, as I’ve said
before, Sometimes I need someone else to hold the lantern of hope. 

abundance · adulthood · community · joy · life · love

Having My Cake and Eating It Too.

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(Yes, I’m gonna go there. Bear with me!)
In 12-step recovery it is custom to acknowledge lengths of
sobriety or abstinence. Within the first year, we often acknowledge monthly
mile-markers, and after a year, we acknowledge annual “birthdays” or “anniversaries.”
Why do this? Why stand up in front of others and say that
you’ve accomplished something? Isn’t that selfish and self-seeking? Why does it matter?
Well, the conventional wisdom is that it shows others that
it’s possible. You’re not actually doing it for yourself, although that’s quite
nice; you’re helping others to see that “one day at a time” adds up to months,
and even years. You’re offering hope to others.
In our “belly-button birthday” world, why acknowledge our
birthdays either? I have friends who eschew celebrating their birthdays. Why
celebrate? It’s not like you *did* anything. You just lived another day.
And, just as with recovery, to me, that’s the point these
days.
It’s to celebrate and share the fact that you made it. That you are alive. You did do something: You lived.
A former mentor of mine used to call this our “precious
human life.” A Buddhist, her meaning is how rare it is to inhabit a human form this lifetime. We
could have been a tree or a toad or a fruit fly, alive for 24 hours, unconscious.
But we’re not.
We’re animated, active, Fate-affecting. And Fate-affected.
We’re constantly learning and changing and fighting and
hoping and loving and hating and struggling and triumphing. We’re constantly
forming ideas of who we are and who the world is; where we are and where we
want to be.
We’re creating our lives with every breath we have the
privilege to draw.
So when a co-worker the other day shushed everyone as we wished her a happy birthday, saying she doesn’t do birthdays, I did whisper to her, But imagine the
alternative.
We do fight to be here, conscious or not; every day, we are
making a decision to try. No matter what that looks like, even if it looks like
stagnation or the mundane. Even if we are
the tired, poor huddled masses. We
try.
The celebration of a birthday is an acknowledgement of a
year of living. A year of something precious and rare and teeming with
uncertainty and, hopefully, love.
Today, I turn 33 years old. I have survived alcoholism,
dysfunction, gang rape, and cancer.
I have formed and smashed relationships. I have melted and
embraced. I have survived my own machinations. And become a metallurgist.
I, my friends, am an alchemist. And I honor us all today by
showing you:
We live.

And how!

With love,m.

adulthood · change · dreams · fear · fun · growth · reality · stagnating · theater

Baking a Life Worth Living.

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“It was the fantasy made so real that I teared up a few
times, wanted to pinch myself, and thought over and over and over, how is it
that I am here?
How did this happen?
And I can trace the arc of it and still be amazed to be
this woman[…]”
This is a quote from my friend Carmen’s blog today, or last
night actually, the woman who began inspiring me to write a blog at all, and
then a blog-a-day (or, almost a day. Self-care [aka sleep!] comes first during this month, sorry
avid readers!).
Our paths have been divergent but so parallel over these few
years, I once proposed we co-share a book based on our blogs: Her adventures in
Paris, having moved there for her 40th birthday, and her triumphs and struggles
there; My adventures in Cancer-land happening at the same time, as I turned 31, and the
strangely similar triumphs and struggles.
Today, was no different: She was visiting New York City for
the first time. I am in a musical for the first time as an adult.
Her words make me reflect and become present once again with
the amaze-ball nature of where my life and energies currently are.
But, I also was very keen when I first found out I was cast
about the words I used. I made sure to not say, “I can’t believe it.”
Sure, I couldn’t believe it! But, I wasn’t going to say
that. I believe in the Law of Attraction-style woo-woo stuff, and in my
readings on it, when you say things like, “I can’t believe this is happening to
me” or “This is impossible!” or “This can’t be happening” – even though they’re
amazing things – it’s my belief that the “Universe” hears that, that you hear that, and if that’s really your belief, then
they can fade or change to support your belief that these amazing things aren’t
actually happening.
Who knows? I don’t. But I’d rather be on the safer side of
things!
So, when I told my mom, I said simply, “I’m so excited. I’m so grateful.”
I do have to stop saying, “I’m so nervous.” SURE, I am nervous. I
had another voice lesson yesterday, and it’s helping me feel more comfortable
in the lower register of my voice, but I won’t yet say I’m confident. It still
feels like straining and yelling. But I’m getting more used to that
discomfort…which I guess is another way of saying, “Getting comfortable”!
I am astonished by and pleased with the woman I am and have become. And I also know the places where I strive to grow
and build and commit, and lay foundations for an even more “me” life.
I know progress is slow. My voice teacher said that it’s
about first finding a place to build the house, before you even begin to think
about what it looks like or furnishing it. You have to find the firm ground to
stand on before you can build anything on it.
And, I’m doing that, slowly.
It’s strange sometimes to be the age I’m at. About to be 33
next month, and feeling so much older than some, and so much younger than
others. Explaining to the 11-year old Pugsley what a revelation the cordless
phone was when I was a teen. Even my new co-worker, age 22, fresh out of
college, and so bristling with energy.
And then, there’s most of my friends, who are older than me,
who hear me talk about the brevity of life and how there’s so much more I want
to do, and give me the “You’re so young, you have so much time” face.
I get the feeling that this is the center (or the beginning
of the center) of adulthood. When you know you’re not a child, really learning
the world and who/how you want to be in it; and neither are you a middle-aged
person, knowing that you are pretty well set in your personhood for the rest of
your days.
It’s a period of final gelling that I feel. (Though I know
learning and growing and changing is a lifelong process.)
But I sort of feel like all the ingredients have been
gathered, have been mixed, and we’re waiting to see if what I’ve assembled is a
sourdough or cupcake batter.
I do hope it’s cupcakes.
I am the woman who knows she eats 90 eggs a month (yes, really). Who knows she
buys only Ultra Soft toilet paper, but the super eco-friendly paper towels. Who
knows how to pay her bills on time, and knows she still won’t do her dishes
until pressed by her own revulsion!
The woman I am looks for the hope, even in the desperate
times. She relies on friendships built during the “ingredient assemblage” time,
and knows they are in fact ingredients of this current and future life.
The woman I am struggles with self-doubt, and celebrates her
moments of self-encouragement. Falls short of ideals, and laughs about it when
she can, and shares about it when she can’t.
“How did this happen? How am I here?”
I don’t have to pinch myself. I don’t think this is a dream.
I do have to remind myself it’s a nuanced, challenging, changing, and ultimately
precious reality. 
And the woman I am looks eagerly forward to licking the icing. 

abundance · adulthood · awareness · father · fear · scarcity · self-compassion · truth

Thou Shalt…

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I’m always hesitant to share my meditations. Like listening
to someone report their dream, which to the dreamer is a fascinating pursuit,
and to the listener is … not. But. This morning’s meditation was too
illustrative and too relevant to current musings not to report. So, bear with.
“What is blocking me from making this decision around the
play?” Around quitting or staying in it. I can’t even get to a firm decision either way, get a spiritual “hit”
either way – even after conversation, taking an inventory of my fears around it
both ways, and even after regular old “getting quiet” meditation.
So, this morning, I plugged the headphones into my iPod, scrolled to the drumming meant for this type of meditation and went in on a Shamanic Journey to find out what the
heck is going on since the “normal” pathways to clarity are so gummed up.
Standing, in my mind’s eye, at the edge of the cliff that
overlooks all the land that makes up my self (occasionally I’m reminded of Mufasa
showing Simba all the land in Africa that is his domain), I asked the above
question: What is blocking me from making my decision?
Without warning, the sky turned black, the light sucked out
of the land, and a voice stormed, “You have to do this play.” This was no gentle
cosmic answer. This was violent insistence. This was, I don’t care whether
you want to do it or not; you have to.
This, is not my voice. But, apparently, it’s there inside
me, blocking my decisions. I certainly can’t even know whether I want to do the play or not, if there’s a damning demand to do it regardless of my desire. This wasn’t a request, this was
an order. This wasn’t a suggestion, this was a decree.
And if you’ve read me for any period of time, you know that
voice is probably internalized from a parental source of the masculine
variety.
The fear, no, terror,
I felt when everything turned black was so evocative of how I felt as a child,
I’d forgotten what it feels like to feel so small, so unimportant.
On my couch, in my living room, in 2014, I pulled my blanket tight around me
and cowered into the cushions.
There are cases and circumstances when, certainly, we don’t want to do things. As you also know, I hate doing my
dishes. But, I do them. I know I “have to.” I know that as a child, we’re
required to do things that we don’t want to do, because it’s for the good of
the family, the good of your education, the good of your health (who
wants to get a teeth cleaning?). But, this isn’t that.
As I recorded in my journal what occurred during meditation, I wrote what came to mind after it – the counter, the compassionate
response to this demonic, demanding voice: “Molly, You don’t have to do the
play if you don’t want to. There is no wrong decision here: If you do it,
you’ll have more opportunities to do things you love; if you don’t do it,
you’ll have more opportunities to do things you love. This is an abundant
world. Just keep honing your vision and asking for help.”
Because there is no
right or wrong here. But I haven’t been able to get anywhere on this choice because there’s been this internal override preventing me from making it. I can’t know what I want if I don’t think I’m allowed to figure that
out.
This still doesn’t make my decision one way or the other … yet. But, I suspect that identifying, addressing, and removing the block to making
one will help. 

adulthood · aging · authenticity · confidence · femininity · joy · life · self-acceptance · self-love · vulnerability

"Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure!"

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I am likely not the only woman to tear up at the sighting of
a gray hair on her head. But I may be one of the few who wells up with tears of
gratitude.
Yesterday, during my morning primping, I noticed a gray
hair. I usually don’t pull them out; this isn’t the first I’ve noticed. But
this one, I decided to.
About 5 inches of silver, shiny, light-catching hair. 5 inches
that have grown back since it all fell out from chemo in late 2012.
Call me crazy, but I’ve never been scared of going gray. I
had none at all before cancer, and several now. But, even before then, I always
thought of it as a rite of passage. As a crowning achievement, really. You’ve
made it
. You are alive to go gray at all. You are passing into the stage of life that
is for richness, boldness, satisfaction, self-esteem and a greater degree of self-assurance.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading about aging
generations, it’s that so much of our self-questioning begins to fall away once
we reach “a certain age.” We begin to think less about how others see us, and
more to question what we want to leave as a legacy. And this brings with it so
much reflection and truth-finding.
Who wouldn’t want to
age into that category?
Surely, you don’t have to turn 50 to begin to assess your
values and your desires for the remainder of your years. Like me, and surely
others, you can do that at most any age. But it helps to have some experience
behind you to make those choices from a place of peace, not fear.
The first memoir I ever looked at, I didn’t read.
I saw it on a shelf in Borders (when it still existed) about
7 or 8 years ago. I noted the title, looked at the flap, and went on with my day.
But I never forgot about it, and last year finally picked it up to read.
The title? Going Gray:
What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and
Everything Else That Really Matters
. A
woman’s exploration of what that means to “go gray” in our culture and society.
A lifelong hair dyer, she made the decision to give up the illusion, and embrace
whatever lay under the chemicals, for better or worse.
Author Anne Kreamer looks at the history of dying our hair;
goes “undercover” as a woman trying to reinvent herself to re-enter the
workforce to see if image consultants will tell her to dye her now growing-out
grays (none do); and comes to discover that with her new look comes a new clothing
color scheme, and a new confidence.
She also doesn’t purport the superiority of letting her hair
grow out. She talks with successful women who do and don’t dye, and let’s them
have their experience. All she can speak to is her own.
Surely, it helps that she goes gray in a “nice” way, with
silvery and dark chrome strands. Which is much the way I anticipate I will.
With my dark coloring, I imagine that I will go silver,
instead of stale gray, or as my mom describes her (dyed) fading blond: dirty
dishwater.
So, that “beauty in the beast” helps my acceptance, I’m sure.
But what brought me to tears yesterday as I stood there,
admiring this newly-found strand, now plucked and held like a precious object
in my hand, was the reality and giddy reminder I feel every time I find one: I made it. I am alive to have gray hair.
I’m alive to see what will happen with it: if they’ll turn out
all spidery texture and I’ll lament I ever praised finding them. If I’ll
consider dying it after all. Or if I’ll love every single thread of life these gray hairs represent.
I tear up when thinking about this, because it’s true.
Because, like someone admiring a sunset, or their sleeping child, or the taste
of a food never eaten, it means I’m alive.
Which itself means I have a chance and a choice to make my life whatever I want
it to be.
My gray hair represents possibility, transformation, and
authenticity.
Who wouldn’t rejoice?