action · ambition · aspiration · band · commitment · despair · faith · fear · self-abandonment · self-worth · singing · spirituality · truth · uncertainty · vulnerability

Yeah, But…*

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Here’s something nobody knows about me: When I access
something very truth-y in my morning journaling, my handwriting becomes
miniscule.
Written like those boardwalk booths that used to write your
name on a grain of rice, I find myself getting really tiny with my words – and that’s when I know I’ve struck
something important. Shh, don’t say it too loud or it might whisk off the page.
Let’s back up a little though.
Yesterday, I got to see my therapist (the Rosen Method
therapist I’m still seeing. Despite my doubts before every time I go, I always
leave laughing that I doubted). We hadn’t seen one another for about a month
due to schedules, so I had a lot to catch her up on.
Last time we spoke, I told her I felt like I didn’t have any
options available to me in dating land. Like Goldilocks, I’d experienced the
too hot, the too cold, but have yet to find the “just right.” I mentioned this
yesterday because I was talking about my job search. I told her that as I was
driving over last night, I realized that it’s not that I don’t have any options
available to me in job land – it’s that I refuse to commit to one path.
She challenged me on this a little, and asked if it was
“refused” or something else. And, surely, it is fear and paralyzation.
Because here is the secret, sacred truth: I do know what I want to do.
I told her that I see my job options like a scene from Sliding
Doors
. If you haven’t seen the movie, the
premise is based on Gwenyth Paltrow in one version of her life catching a
subway train before the doors shut; in another version, she misses that train.
At that point in the movie, we follow both these lives and their divergent challenges and
successes (and haircuts). 
I told her I see three options of my job life for myself:
One: Be a Jewish professional, or a community professional,
a leader, an organizer, a bringer-together-er.
Two: Do something counsel-y and social work-y, working
directly one-on-one with the populations I want to serve, particularly youth.
And three.
And this is where I began to cry.
Be an artist.
I laughed through the tears, and said, “Well if tears are
any indication of truth, then the third one’s the charm.”
The third one is also the hardest. Requires the most work,
the most vulnerability, the most action, the most fortitude, and… the most uncertainty.
I told her I’m not willing to be a starving artist. But
perhaps there’s another way.
As a note, by “artist,” I mean in all disciplines, starting
with performance, starting with that Yoshi’s singer I mentioned yesterday.
Starting with that dream.
I think I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve been told I
don’t let myself dream. It came up a few times yesterday when I had to correct
my “Yeah, But”s to “Yes, AND”s.
Every time I even begin to think about following this path,
I get buried under a mountain of “Yeah, But”s. I don’t think I need to list
them for you, since I’m sure you have your own bevy that attack your own
dreams.
So, we/I were careful to reframe them. I told her at the end
of the session that I feel like my whole life has been an exercise in “Yeah,
But.” And she told me that that is changing; that I am changing it.
And it was in my morning pages today that I recorded
something I thought of after I came home yesterday that actually knocked the wind out of me. What I wrote
in the miniscule, micro-truth script:
When we are in alignment with our highest good, the Universe
will rearrange itself to help us.
I don’t have to know how to do this. Because I don’t. What struck me so suddenly and
viscerally were the words I’ve heard repeated for years: When we take one step
toward (G-d / Fate / the Universe / our Highest Good), it takes a thousand
toward us.
I will be carried. I
will be helped. I won’t have to do this alone, because, “When the student is
ready, the teacher appears.”
I was floored by this revelation. I was floored that I
actually heard and felt and believed it. It was a moment of belief.
I take care of the What and G-d takes care of the How. I’ve
heard this for years.
What I have needed to do is admit and commit to the What.
I have “Yeah, But”s coming up as I write this. About money,
and too late, and this is for other people and other lives, and what are you
thinking of me right now as you read this and are you doubting me and rolling
your eyes, and how, and how and how.
Yes, I have doubts and fears. AND. I only have to hold onto
the “What.” I only have to hold on to my dream. That’s my only job right now –
to not go back to sleep, to not abandon my dream, again. To not continue to break promises to myself. To not
drown myself in those fears and doubts. Because
I am trying to live
my truth
. And all this wisdom says that’s
all I need to do.
(You know, along with reaching out, asking for help, seeking
people in these professions, gathering intel, honing my vision, practicing and
learning the fuck out of it AND remembering that the pain of avoiding all this
is SO MUCH GREATER than the pain of trying to do it.)
Molly, you want to be a singer in a band? You want to
perform onstage in dive bars? And at Yoshi’s? And be a lounge singer? You want
to feel proud and full and felt and heard?
All you have to do is say, “Yes.”
*(Thanks, Joel Landmine, for the title grab. See: Yeah, Well…)

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ambition · band · commitment · decision · destiny · dreams · faith · hope · performance · perseverance · self-worth · singing · tenacity · work

Dream Girls

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If we can pass others on the street and think to ourselves,
“There, but for the grace of G-d, go I,” isn’t it possible that others can pass
us and say the same thing?
I spent last evening at a Queen concert. It was balls-out
amazing: the talent, the showmanship, the technique and the bravery to stand
out there, bounce around a stage and invigorate a crowd of thousands.
I had a moment while watching Adam Lambert, who was filling
Freddie Mercury’s shoes pretty darn well, when I realized that only the slightest
differences existed between the two of us.
Go with me here. A plane takes off for New York, but the
compass is one degree off. You end up at the Nyack mall instead of JFK. One
degree. Completely different destination.
If there is just the “grace of god” between me and the
person I see huddled under the freeway gathering up their belongings as the cop car pulls two
wheels up on the sidewalk to shuffle them along to another temporary spot, isn’t
there just the “grace of god” between me and Adam Lambert? Or that woman I saw
perform at Yoshi’s a few years ago: She wasn’t perfect. Her pitch wasn’t always
on, but she was a performer. She had the
crowd completely, she enjoyed herself, she was proud, vivacious, and seen. And
she wasn’t perfect.
I don’t even remember who she
was, except she was the singer of a bluesy/jazzy band, and she was fierce. She
was a large woman with a large smile. And as I watched her, I thought to myself
that I wanted to do what she did; get up there and perform, without needing to be perfect – because if that were the case, I
don’t think any of us would ever do anything, including Adam Lambert.
Over the last year, I have adjusted my compass to be bringing me closer to that
point on the map. I am not so far away in the Canada hinterland, but perhaps
flying somewhere over Buffalo by now. (Can you tell I grew up back east?)
Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way that it isn’t talent that creates success; it’s
tenacity. It’s being a dog’s fierce jaw chomped around a toy rope, refusing to
let go.
The guitar player, Brian May, dazzled the crowd with a
10-minute long epic, cacophonous solo. It was like a safari inside of music
itself: strange, elegant, mystic, and ancient. I said to my friend, That’s what
happens when you spend 40 years doing only one thing.
That’s what happens when you decide that you love one thing,
that you’re good (enough) at one thing, that you want others to know you do this thing: You become great.
Here’s to finding—or claiming, rather—my thing. 

awareness · band · creativity · fun · help · life · music · presence

10 minute blog:

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(I know they say, Only speak if you can improve on the silence, but I felt I wanted to give you something this morning. Time is short due to doing my due diligence. And making up tongue twisters, apparently.)
Yesterday evening, I went to pluck one of the remaining
lemons from the tree in the backyard of our building. In it, I found a robin’s
nest with three sightless, flat and feathered chicks in it. Maws up and open.
I’ve been watching robins on the roof next door to me with
worms in their mouths for a few days now, as I sit here at this kitchen table, writing, typing, breathing. But I never imagined there was life happening right there! The ingenuity of the nest-making was astounding, leaves harvested
long ago, now time-reduced to a lattice outline.
It’s the noticing. The small moments when the chocolate
vegan mousse cake you doubted, actually tastes like gilded decadence. When you decide to send a “hugs”
text to your immediate family, just because it felt like a good idea this
morning. When you go back through old pocket calendars, and read all the quotes
and notes you’ve collected, including this rancorous gem from a rancorous man:
“I’ve gotten to the point where patience is a waste of time.” – or this one, “I
have a hard time taking my sanity temperature.”
For reasons hilarious and unknown to me, I seem to find
myself in my second band with folks who are at least 10 years older than me. I
love this. There’s little of the peacock chest puffing, and more of the genuine
delight in participating in something fun, something that maybe we all wish we
did when we were in high school, but didn’t. At least, I feel that way. And
grateful that I get to do it now, when I’m less likely to vomit vodka tonics on
myself.
Instead, I get to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon holding a
bass in a basement with friends, and come home and feel inspired to take out my
own guitar, and find out what I have to say anyway. 

band · change · family · fear · hope · job · scarcity · self-care · theater

Stay to Play.

I’m at my new Monday morning desk-trade shift at my gym (unlimited classes in exchange for checking people in…. at 5:30am), so I don’t know how extemporaneous I feel while techno music blares in the background, and my pulse finds center again… so perhaps this’ll just be an “update-y” kinda blog:

The play I’ve been cast in (Queen of the Amazons…!) begins rehearsals at the end of July, to perform over weekends around Labor Day. I haven’t actually opened my script since our first table reading… but I continue to take it places with me, in a good intention to read it.

In the meantime, I went to play bass yesterday with a friend and his friend — it was super fun. My poor un-practiced fingertips are a little swollen, but … man, just to be back in the loud, the beat, the fun. It was so much fun. (Did I mention it was fun?!) We’re looking at playing a date in October, and are meeting up again next Sunday. I feel… like myself, having this in my life again; being a bassist again.

My dad didn’t actually receive the Father’s Day card I sent, since he’s moved back up to New Jersey from Florida for the summer. I still haven’t returned his return voicemail, but now that I got the card back in the mail, “unable to forward,” I suppose I should find out what their “Summer” address is. And also endeavor to keep my bile and perhaps envy to a minimum.

In an exasperated flurry, last week, I sent my photos to some modeling agencies in SF, and heard back from one they’d like to see me this week. … Then I looked them up on Yelp — and if there are worse reviews on that website, I haven’t seen them! So I’m going to gauge whether that’ll be worth my time to meet with them, just for the experience, if not for the professional service of them.

I’m also in conversation with two professional leads for actual work, one I’m meeting this week, another I hope to. Both are in the “helping/teaching” professions. And I haven’t quit my job yet — YAY!!

That’s honestly been the biggest success of this whole time, for me. I am unhappy, but I’m not cut-n-running. Which is my M.O.  — In jobs and in relationships.

Granted, in both, I tend to get into them without much thought as to whether I want to be in them, get through the “honeymoon phase,” look around and say, Uh… is this really where I want to be? And that is when the cutting and running happens.

It’s not that leaving is not the appropriate move, but in jobs at least, doing so without a safety net is a recipe for desperation, low-self esteem, and the tendency to get into the same situation.

So, this “sitting on my hands” that I’ve been able to do (with the *enormous* help of friends) has been a really new thing. And, like a cigarette craving, it seems to be waning.

The more I stay in this place of active looking and active staying, … I don’t feel my throat constricting every single minute as I have in these past few weeks. That feeling of crawling out of my skin, of needing to do SOMEthing ANYthing to make this feeling stop.

The “some”thing I’m doing right now is not running. That’s been my only move before. A one-trick pony: Uncomfortable? Run!

Instead, I’ve been asking for major help from friends in helping me not to do that. And during that time, I’ve discovered … been forced to discover … other modes of action. For example, actively seeking work, finally sending out my photos to agencies, and just showing up for the rest of my life anyway.

Even though I’m unhappy, I don’t have to be unhappy.

There’s this picture I drew once in response to an exercise in a self-help book last year. It’s called “Creating a Life Worth Living” (and now sits in my Kindle, unread past Chapter 2!). But it asked us to draw a picture of how we see our life being a year from then.

In it, I drew several things, including the back of a curly-haired head facing a computer, a phone looming large near it. The only thing you see is the computer. Me staring at it.

It’s the most depressing image!

So, what would I like to change about the image, the prompt asked me? Well, I’d like that experience to fade. To fade in importance. To not be so activated and aggrieved by it.

The longer that I “sit on my [active] hands,” the less running seems like the right option for me. I like having a job while I look for other work, while I “figure out” my life. I like not feeling panicked about how I’m going to pay my rent.

But mostly what happens when I quit a job is that I cut back all the things that are fun in my life.

I can’t be a volunteer usher, because I don’t have a job. I can’t come play bass with you, because I need to be sending out my resume. I can’t laugh, because I’m in scarcity.

Staying in a place that is not ideal is not ideal, of course, but I feel like I’m developing alternative ways of dealing with that, ways that include having fun, even as it’s hard.

ambition · band · choice · commitment · community · fulfillment · fun · gratitude · happiness · joy · music · opportunity · synchronicity · theater

Band Aid.

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You know, it was right around a year ago last June that I
stood up with a group of 4 other people and played bass with a band in front of
actual people in an actual venue. – I’d started playing in May.
This month, I’m being invited to do so again.
I’ve picked up my bass literally once in the last 6 months,
since our final show on New Year’s Eve, or the final show I played with them
before I left the band to pursue theater.
This switch, this focus of my energies in one creative
direction (one that I’ve always wanted to pursue, but never let myself try or
admit or commit to) has turned out pretty darn well in these last few months: I
got real headshots, auditioned about a dozen times, performed in one play, one
staged reading, and am preparing as the lead in a play at the end of the
summer.
These are all great things.
But I miss the band.
I miss the immediate gratification of playing with people. I
miss the noise, the movement, the sound, the collaboration. I miss the
laughter.
Theater is performance; being a musician is a performance;
but there’s a difference. The former is literally more staged. It’s not like I
have acres of experience in either, and maybe I simply fell in with a great
group of people for my first band – which I did. But whatever the formula is
for happiness, I felt that when I played.
A friend once asked me what it was like to play with the
band. What it felt like. And I took her question with me to band practice that
week, and noticed how I felt as we fiddled and fixed and went over and over and
moved into a rhythm, and went totally off the reservation with funny lyrics and
made-up progressions: I was smiling. I was bouncing on the balls of my bare
feet – the only way I could practice – and I noticed that I felt content, engaged,
in the moment, fun, funny, “on.” That’s what “happy” felt like.
Next Sunday, I’ll get to practice with a new group of folks,
a friend and his friend, to prepare for a potential show in July, before my
theater rehearsal gets going. I’m feeling nervous and jittery – wanting to get
the music charts NOW so I can practice, be perfect, be better – because if you haven’t followed along,
I’ve only been playing a year, and not that consistently at that!
I want to build my calluses back up. I want to remember
where C is on the fret board. I want to bounce on the carpet in my bare feet.
I love this theater stuff, … but I love the band better.
(P.S. I’m just reminded to reflect that it was only a little
while ago that I wrote here that I wanted to “band” again … and here it is. Word.)

acting · band · courage · fear · finances · progress · scarcity · trying

Progress is Boring.

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(in an effort to release perfectionism, I’m going to
admit this blog kinda bored me, but I’m putting it up anyway. achievement
unlocked!)
I’ve heard there’s a difference between planning and
projecting.
Do the first to create peace; do the second and create
angst.
As with most of my plans lately — job stuff, the Boston trip,
even the acting (I’ll be auditioning again on Saturday) — it’s been a lot
easier, though not easy, to take the action and let the results be what they
may.
What I’ve gotten to see out of this way of being around the
trip and the acting is that indeed, the action was worth it, regardless the
results. In fact, that the results are still positive: I get to feel the joy of trying, and the smile associated with
remembering. I get to feel proud for showing up, and a sense of peace around
having not “gotten my way” or gotten in my way – unlike the outcome of projecting.
It’s nice to be able to recognize that the effort was worth
the effort. It could be easy to dismiss, and say, That wasn’t worth my time
since I didn’t get what I want – but, we know, I did. I got to spend time with
someone I enjoy; I got to experience auditioning (and even acting). I got to
see who and how I am in relationship, in perseverance, in something new – and I like who I was,
and who I saw.
I’ve been hemming around signing up for my work’s retirement
plan. I’ve been eligible for almost half a year, and it’s been on my list of
“action items” to talk to the accountant at work, find out how much would be
taken out of my paycheck to hit the minimum, which would be matched by my
employer.
Some people dream of
this kind of benefit… and I’ve been scared to look. What if there isn’t enough
for me now? What if there won’t be enough for me later? What if it’s too late?
What if …
“Clarity leads to freedom,” is a phrase I hear around now.
And the truth, like my student loans, could be a lot more palatable than I
imagined/feared/projected.
So, this week I did ask for those numbers. I sat, listened,
saw the highlighted figures on the page, and then stuffed the paper into my purse! Carrying around this step toward clarity without actually looking is still being in vagueness.
I’m still scared. As if looking at a page will harm me!
Clarity leads to freedom. It’s better to know than not know.
It’s better to try than not try. It’s better to live in reality than in
fantasy, mostly because my fantasies are pretty nihilistic.
If I’ve gotten anything out of the last few months, or even
year, it’s that trying can actually be fun.
No matter the outcome.
I think about my band. I think about playing bass in that
band. And how freaking fun that was. It was some work, and not always serene,
but it was fun. It was enlivening.
And I quit.
It was time to move on, but that doesn’t discount the value
and the importance of that experience in my life.
From the vague listening to the accountant, I don’t think my salary
can support those retirement contributions, modest though they are. But, also,
I’ve learned that my estimation of things can skew toward scarcity and fear, so
I’ll be taking those numbers to friends who can help me get more perspective on
them, since there may be a truth that I can’t see through that fog.
The other thing that comes up lately, is that I think I
wanna band again. Active verb. To band. I want to band.
So, I’ll plan, not project. 

adulthood · authenticity · band · compassion · courage · dance · discovery · letting go · life · maturity · music · performance · persistence · poetry · receiving · responsibility · self-care · singing · surrender

Pulling a Carmen: 2

When I began this blog-a-day back in November of last year,
my first post was called “Pulling a Carmen,” as I’d been reading and was encouraged by her own blog-a-day postings. In the time since, sometimes I
just find it hugely funny how parallel my path is to my fellow blogger and
friend.
For recent example:
  • I also just starting going back on to the internet dating
    scene. In fact, I have a coffee date today with someone I met on JDate
  • I too have said fuck it, and asked out a dude yesterday.
    Unfortunately, turns out he’s married, but it felt really good to do so.
  • Several of the books that are lining my desk and bedside
    table are travel books about Europe, underlining my intention to take a real
    freaking vacation some time this century.
  • And, I also rented a camera and video camera from the
    school’s A/V department to begin taking pictures again. 

Sometimes I feel awkward about our exceedingly similar
trajectories, as if I’m copying her, but the reality is that independently, we
come to these things, and then come here to write about them. It’s really
funny, and also somewhat comforting to know that there is someone who is
traveling a similar path toward “To thine own self be true.”
On that note, I went to see my friend’s band play in the city
last night, and then headed with my girlfriends to go out dancing in Oakland.
Prior to both these… we went to the Dharma Punx meditation – nothing says
spiritually fit like meditating for 40 minutes before downing coffee with an
add-shot. 😉
But to relate it to the ‘self be true’ part – each of these
are places where I want to feel more connection. I hadn’t been to see live
music in MUCH too long. It’s on my current list of “Serenity Moths” on my
refrigerator (a list of things that aren’t cataclysmic, but slowly and
subterraneaously eat away at my serenity and foundation). Yes, “Absence of live
music” is on there, and so should be “dancing.” I’m a white girl. I have no
ambition or goal to be anything but a mildly flailing Elaine Benice, but … i
love it. The absence of self, the absence of self criticism or posturing or
need to be anywhere or anything else. Lost in the music.
The band brought something else up for me. Like the
“dropping” of the whole acting bent at the beginning of this year, what I’ve dropped
more often than anything is the “being in a band” idea.
As you may know, I have 2 guitars, a bass, and a small USB plug
in keyboard. Each as dust-covered as the next. The bass amp sits as a monument
to abandoned dreams in my apartment.
Last night, watching my friend’s band, I remembered that this is
something I want to do. In fact, I’d emailed one of the guitarist’s wife about
6 or more months ago to talk to her about her own process of getting toward
singing in a band – embracing her inner teenage rock chick. If I had my … well, if I had my own back, I guess, I’d play
bass, and I’d sing. Talk about vulnerability.
This week, I stood practically naked in front of an audience
and spoke my poem into a microphone in a moderately full theater. That isn’t nearly as frightening to me as
standing in front of an audience, singing, or playing.
The truth is that for several years, I’ve been gathering information
about the whole bass playing thing. But, no, I haven’t been playing. A few
years ago, I asked a guy I knew for bass advice, and he sent me a long list of
places to start (which I didn’t pursue). About a year later, I contacted this other guy about bass
lessons (which I didn’t pursue). … And the guy I asked out yesterday is also a bass player. Apparently,
I have a thing.
Every few years, I’ll troll craigslist, and I’ll answer a
few ads for singers. I even recorded myself a little on my computer’s
Garageband to send as a sample. I got a “not a good fit, but thanks anyway” from one,
and no reply from another. And, hey, I don’t blame em. When I’m terrified, it
comes through. I don’t know. I’ve written here about it kind of frequently –
and dismissed it and been “embarrassed” by it just as often.
However, once again, the thing that occurred to me last night as I
watched my friend’s band was another case of “I want to do that” … followed by
“I can do that.” There is no one stopping me, obviously except for myself and
my fears, and that critic that says “Not good enough” and chops me off at the
knees before I start.
One thing I’m working on releasing at the moment, a pattern
and belief and behavior that is just not fucking serving me anymore, is my need
or habit to stay small.
When I was living in South Korea, my friend nicknamed me
“Ballsy Mollsy.” I had the absolute chutzpah and hubris to ask anyone anything,
go anywhere, and do pretty much whatever I felt like doing in the hedonistic
way most drunks do.
However, there is a quality of that Ballsy woman who still I am,
somewhere, and who I want to resurrect or reveal or uncover or let loose – or
even just let into the light a little tiny bit.
I find it’s happening in some ways. And I know to have
compassion for myself as I try to aim in this direction which has been a Siren
song for me (uh, no pun intended) for … oh, 15 years.
But compassion for slow progress, and acceptance of
stagnation are two different things. And I’d really like to move forward from
here.
So, for your reading pleasure, here’s a poem composed about
a year ago. Reading aloud is encouraged.  As is recalling the line “So let it be written, so let it be done.” Cheers. m.
Band Practice
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