beauty · habits · maturity

The Usual.

8.11.18Anyone who witnessed my reading of Gretchen Rubin’s habit book, Better Than Before: What I Learned about Making and Breaking Habits, knows that I have some trouble making, and keeping, habits I’d like to reinforce.

But that’s not what today’s blog is about.  Instead, today is about relishing and delighting in some of my habits (which is precisely the point of that book, btw).

Yesterday, I went to the nail salon to get my toes did, as I do a few times a year.  As the woman was finishing up, she asked what I thought of the color.

“I’ve gotten this color almost every time for the last year—I love it,” I laughed.  “It’s just so nice to find something that works and stick with it.”

The 20something in the next chair side-eyed me with alarm and disgust.

I hear her.  I understand that one of the treats of getting your nails done is the thrill of trying something new: feeling into yourself what mood you’re in, what aura you want to project, what mood you’d like to be in.

But, lady, I’m about to be 37.  I’ve done my nails.  I’ve “felt into myself” (don’t be creepy) for years, and I’m kinda done.

When I was in college, I brought with me a giant Sketchers shoebox brimful of nail polish bottles.  Teal, Topaz, Magenta, Glitter.  Girl, I’ve tasted the rainbow.  Tried it on, taken it off, pasted it on again.

And now I’m old.  Now I have other brain cells I’d like to use.

We each get decision exhaustion by the end of a day.  A time when we’ve used up our store of “This or that?” and frankly, nail polish is not one of the things I’d like to use it up on anymore!

I want habit!  I want usual!  I want easy breezy beautiful, baby!

So, yes, I do love the sparkly, sexy red, like I dipped my toes in pulverized ruby slippers.  I love the peek of red out of my sandals, sophistication with a dash of coy playfulness.

I love that I drink 2 cups of coffee each morning.  That I eat 3 eggs, no matter what.  I love that I wash my hair on prescribed days of the week and make my bed without thinking about it.  My mornings are nearly perfect in their efficiency of decision-making, or absence of decision-making.

This frees up my brain to decide other things, to focus on the margins that aren’t habitual.  These are the places of excitement now:  Go to the theater.  Dress up.  Try a new book.  Read a new piece of research.

What will I do in the places I’ve opened up for myself by not constantly making choices?

Further, I love the habits I’ve formed—the healthy ones, at least!—as they give me their own kind of thrill.  You could say that it’s like a machine, how boring.  Or like a well-oiled machine, how sleek and confident.

Acting out these non-decisions make me feel like I have a center of person, places I know I want to reinforce over and again.  Places that form the ground of who I am.

“I am a person who X.”  And as Pamela Druckerman writes about in her newest book, There Are No Grown-Ups, confidence in our person is what our 40s are all about.

 

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abundance · beauty · fill the well

Cul’cha

culcha 2 2 18

It’s dark out.  My mom’s hand is tight in mine.  My patent (p)leather shoes tic-tack on the pavement of the New York City sidewalk.   At this time of night, all the streets look the same: wary, hiding, ominous.

Between two looming building, we turn.  Open before me is a plaza centered around a circular fountain blossoming with timed water displays, patrons in dark and clicking shoes, and columns regally flanking the Lincoln Center square.

From the time I was about 7-years old, my mom took me with her to the New York City Ballet.  She’d long since realized that my dad was only going to snore through the performance, so she needed a date for the other season-long ticket.  Though I quit ballet around that time (it was more fun to “cut” with the preacher’s daughter, leaving the basement class where my cohort was now on pointe–but I was too young for it–and go across the street to the candy store, or raid the church’s kitchen for snacks), the lusciousness of the art was not lost on me.

The Christmas tree rising majestically out of the stage of the Nutcracker, the stilted mechanics of movement of the marionette-like Coppelia, the tightening swarm of sound as the Swan plunged to her death.

For long, I’ve loved what is considered “high culture,” and in my cash-poor 20s, it was recommended that I volunteer usher at the San Francisco Ballet, which I promptly begun to do.  Ballet for the cost of greeting people in fine clothing and pointing toward marble-laced restrooms.  But I moved to Oakland a decade ago, and the commute to a free ballet became too costly.

Enter the present.  Wherein, over the last year, I’ve identified “The 4 Pillars of My Life Need” (yes, that high-fallutin):

Input:      (Spark) Intellect;  (Have) Adventure;

Output:   (Share) Self-Expression;  (Create) Beauty.

Attending the ballet, or symphony, or latest Marvel movie(!) is adventure for me.  It fires my intellect and imagination, and enables me to fill that well so often depleted by demands of quotidian life.

The delight experienced by that 7-year old in her black velvet dress and opaque white tights has never dimmed, only been shunned for aching periods of time.  So, tonight, across from the San Francisco Opera House, my bf and I will tic-tack into Davies Symphony Hall to be graced and inspired by the orchestra underscoring West Side Storyand Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno will dance my imagination into flight.

 

 

anxiety · beauty · faith · fear · healing · scarcity · self-esteem · self-love · tension · truth

Don’t Hold Your Breath.

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No, really, Moll. Relax.
A woman recently told me that the body is the last hold-out.
It’s the last place we carry anxiety, tension, fear, even as we’ve worked
through it on all other levels.
I hold my guts in tension 99% of the time, even when I’m by myself. I rarely breathe
to full capacity, unless I’m reminded to. There is always a slight constriction
of fight-or-flight going on in my body.
The few places I can recall this not to be the case are when
I’m hiking, walking in the woods. Hm, well that’s the only place I can recall
at the moment! Although, it also happened when I would go up to Sonoma to visit
friends, an old boyfriend. I would say I could “breathe bigger” there. There
was something about the openness, the closeness to nature, the un-cityness of
it all that allowed me to open, too.
I’ve done a lot of pondering on how to bring that feeling, that
sense of ease, of safety, home.
I realized something significant this week. My fear takes
two tacks that leave me hamstrung in a Catch-22: On the one hand, I’m atrociously scared
of being boring, being neglected, being overlooked. Yet, on the other, I’m
afraid that if I am seen, I will be
annihilated, attacked, shamed.
What’s a girl to do?
Well, I can’t control the first part – I cannot control how
I am seen or embraced by others.
But, what does the first part really mean, anyway? It means
that I’m scared my needs will not be met. Though what I can control is that I am
healing in a way that means I’m better able to take care of my own needs, and
to invite others into my life who are able to meet them too, without dumping my
own onto them.
So, if I can come to believe that my needs will be met,
because I and the world around me are
meeting them, then I don’t have to fear being overlooked and languishing in the abyss.
To address the other hand, the fear is that I am not
safe in the world. That if I peek my head out, if I take ownership of my needs,
become brave enough to step out of the shadows, I will be suffer.
How can I dismantle that part? How can I force myself to
believe I’m safe in the world, and not the object of opprobrium if I raise my
hand and say, Hey, this is who I am and how I want to express myself in the
world – isn’t it cool?
Well, I can’t force myself. I can convince myself, my jury, through
overwhelming evidence to the contrary that I am safe when I am myself.
I just have to be willing to look at the evidence. And
that’s hard. 
Who wants to look inside themselves and declare it good? Who wants
to walk with a spine of confidence in their music tastes, clothing choices,
reading material? Who wants to feel proud of their contributions in the world? Their aspirations and hobbies and dropped hobbies and efforts and set-backs
and dorkiness and naiveté and thirst and laughter?
Who wants to say, “Yes, this is me, and I am good. In fact, I
am great”?
Perhaps we all say we do, but the issue to me is that every
time I think a thought like that, I have a gremlin born of those ancient fears
that croaks, “You think so, do you? Well, here are all the ways you’re not.”
Every time you begin to catalogue your achievements, you are
slammed with doubt. And so, you stop cataloguing; the doubt wins, and the
evidence slackens and dulls.
There is so much effort
(it seems to me, right now, and may change) to loving ourselves.
There is so much effort in deciding to face that gremlin,
allow its ire, yet continue with our own mantras of belief.
Belief. It’s all we really have, especially when we’re not
willing to accept the evidence yet.
On both sides of my fear aisle, I am called to believe: a)
That my needs can be taken care of because I believe they’re important; and b)
That I am safe in expressing myself because I believe I am important.
That’s a lot of work for a given moment! And that’s why my
guts tangle nearly every waking moment.
I don’t think I have an anxiety disorder. I know moments of
peace and relaxation and ease. I know that it is possible for me to strive to
have them more frequently by doing this dismantling and believing and accepting
of facts.
But, until then, I will just have to remind myself to
breathe. 

acceptance · adulthood · beauty · faith · intimacy · letting go · loss · love · relationships · self-love

Because I’m your Mother, That’s Why.

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The last song on Anticipate Thisthe mix CD I’d made for him, is Dave Matthews’ Say
Goodbye. It includes the refrain, “For tonight let’s be lovers, and tomorrow go
back to being friends.”
The line from Alanis’ Thank You has been repeating in my head: “Thank you, Disillusionment.”
And, finally, if I was “craving cupcakes,” well, a cupcake
isn’t a sustainable meal, is it? It’s never actually intended to be, and so you’ve got to enjoy it while it is there, savor, relish, cherish it, and then you let it
go. Then you move on.
We had a “debrief” conversation last night, during which most of the
above sentiments where shared by us both. Acknowledging the loveliness, the heights, the
calm, the titillation. And yet, that it was what it was. That it was a moment
in time that we’d both signed up for, participated in, and get to let go, get
to allow its sanctity, without marring it with all those Whatifs that spun in (both) our heads.
To allow the sanctity of beauty, to allow it its singularity
is a challenge and a lesson of adulthood. To be disillusioned, to know that
moving isn’t right for either of us, that fantasy can overtake reality and
crumble it. To have had the hard-won experience of knowing that selfishness and
possessiveness can suffocate a beautiful thing, is perhaps not “romance” as we
think of it. But it is, in itself, a mercy.
Relinquishing the ties to future, to “meaning,” to purpose,
we can allow it the simplicity and integrity of its joy.
I wrote a poem once about trapping a moment away in a mason
jar, locking it deep inside for fear that the moment would get marred by time
and eventuality. But the problem was that I forgot what that moment smelled like anyway; in my possessiveness and fear of losing it, I forgot what
made that moment so precious to begin with.
The same is true here. And, smartly, maturely, rightly, and a little wistfully, we both, or at least I, have to allow the experience its
autonomy and “string”lessness.
I called my mom yesterday. I’d spoken to several friends
about my conflictedness, and my sadness in letting the moment go. In knowing,
surely and deeply, that I would have to. This knowledge all the more
painful since it was such a thing of beauty, since it was, for me, a lesson in
intimacy, vulnerability, and ease that I haven’t felt with anyone in my past.
As we spoke, I told my mom it was like tasting ice cream in a shop
for the first time, and having to realize that ice cream is available
elsewhere, all over the place, in fact. That I don’t have to go to this one
place to experience it. That I’d be missing out if I thought this was the only
wellspring of deliciousness.
Part of the beauty of it at all, is that I get to see that
ice cream is in fact available to me.
(Ice cream! Cupcakes! Sheesh, can you tell I don’t really eat this stuff
anymore!?)
But, I did. I got to experience, savor, relish, and cherish,
and I get to decide to believe—DECIDE TO BELIEVE—that I can have similar dishes elsewhere. Somewhere a little less
complicated.
My mom told me that of course it was available to me. That we all deserve to have the kind of love
we want in the world. That we all are worthy of finding it, searching for, letting
the non-fits go, and working toward creating in ourselves a person deserving of the highest order this life offers.
Why? I asked her.
Why? Why is that so? Where is the cosmic contract we’ve all
signed that says that we’ll get that kind of love? Where is the agreement that we
sign as humans that says, Work and open and heal and (for)give, and you shall receive?
Really, honestly, who the fuck says that any of us get any of that?
It was important for me to play my own Devil’s Advocate. I’m the one with all the woo-woo affirmations posted
around my apartment about abundance and light and love and serenity and
security and radiance. I’m the one who’d easily and believingly tell a friend that
things work out. I’m the asshole who believes all this muck.
And for once, I needed someone else to tell me it. I needed
to be the petulant asshole who says, “Yeah, Says You.” I needed to allow my
disillusionment of that kind, too. I needed to allow that it sucks and hurts,
and is disappointing, and hard fucking work, and that we (I) do this with
absolutely no promises whatsoever of any kind of “reward,” or change.
There is no rule that says, Thou Shalt Not Toil Until Death.
There isn’t.
So, I need, sometimes, someone else to tell me. Because,
truly, somewhere (a little out of reach at the moment), I believe that we all
do deserve the precious and gorgeous things in life. I believe that none of us are meant to toil and suffer and be beaten by
life. I truly, somewhere, have a faith that is unalterable. A
place inside me that has never known fear or scarcity or sorrow.
But, despite my friends’ ears and wisdom and empathy, I
simply needed my mom, former Miss Cynic of the Universe, to tell me, Molly, It’s
going to be alright. There is ice cream
elsewhere. There is love, abundant and resplendent. Not that it isn’t without
its own challenges and lessons and compromises, but there is love, and I am
worthy of it. That I “deserve” it.
Despite the “adultness” of letting go and loving detachment
and equanimity and allowing what is… in these moments, in this one, I simply needed
the maternal “all knowing” assurance of that which I actually believe.
Dear Egregiously Gorgeous Moment in Time: Thank you.  

adventure · beauty · courage · intimacy · romance · serenity · sexuality · vulnerability

I want to tell you everything.

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I want to tell you how gently he kissed my forehead, and how
warm his body felt as I shifted in the night. I want to tell you how natural and
serene it felt to twine my fingers into his and lean my body against him as we
waited for the stoplight to change. I want to tell you it was a good thing his
roommates weren’t home most of the time we were, and about quietly resting my
foot on top of his knee while he told me a story over the sunlit kitchen table.
I want to tell you everything. But, it’s not only my story.
And this one is still being written, still has a few more “Choose Your Own
Adventure” plot twists available, and the ending of it could be sooner or
farther than we know.
So, I’ll try my best not to tell you that it was only when I
was finally unpacking my suitcase in Oakland that the tears that had surged and
abated in airports across America finally fell. Or the relief I felt stepping
into the open air of the BART platform and looking around at the hodge-podge of
people I’ve grown so familiar with. I’ll try not to tell you about the dull and
persistent ache of withdrawal.
He’d said, “escaping the world” once when we were planning
this.
I’m sure all vacations have their hangovers. The return to
grim reality, and also to familiarity. The return to my own coffee pot and car
and a toothbrush that doesn’t fold in half. There’s a relief and a longing.
Like finishing a delicious meal and finally placing down your fork, overfull,
yet wishing you could savor it all again.
You remember the small moments. The ones where you took a deep, satiated breath. The angles of the New England homes you drove past on ancient winding
roads, and the spray of the Atlantic, blue today, over the rocks. You remember
playing with his pinkie finger while you waited for your pregnant waitress, looking, still self-consciously, out the window by your table, since it
was only day 2 and you felt new and strange and uncertain.
You try to remember everything. To etch it into
consciousness, since it will certainly fade, the exact tightness of
his arms around you while you lay naked against him; the exact way his chest hair curled while you fiddled with it musingly; the exact timbre of his echoing laughter under the short
kitchen ceiling.
I’d told you before I left that I imagined being held
delicately and protectively and surely by him, and that for once, I wasn’t
frightened of it. Well, friends, it was true. And though we’ve taken fantasy
and pulled it into the realm of reality, with all its attendant Yeses and Finallys
and Contentedness, … we also both took the courageous move to explore the exact
shape of reality’s rough edges and Almosts and Not Quites.
And should it be once again with the man this time was spent
with, and should it be another person completely: I am buoyed to know that I
can rest in the arms of a man, with no thought of escape.

balance · beauty · community · femininity · progress · truth

Hi. My name is Molly, and…

My thighs don’t touch.
(The following will be the notes and musings of a
hopefully complete article I’d like to submit to some magazine or website or
another.)
There was some article flying around social media recently
about “real women” and their thighs touching. Somewhere along the way, the idea
of women’s thighs not touching became the measuring stick for skinny, and has
since become a meme for ire, derision, and rejection.
I want to fully and emphatically state that I believe in the
“real women” movement that seeks to show all body types as valuable, beautiful, and audaciously sexy. I love that
there
is a movement whose purpose
is to extol the virtues of all people and to help dismantle the idea that there
is only one ideal for beauty, fitness, and femininity.
However, there is a seething undercurrent to some of this new
“inclusiveness” that feels like burning those of us whose thighs don’t touch at the stake. That somehow in simply being and
looking how we are, those of us with
this kind of body shape are pulling down the wave of feminism. That if your
thighs don’t touch, you are a tool for the patriarchy, and what’s wrong with this country.
Like many women, I poke at my body, prod the sagginess that
is and is below my tush. Lament the flatness of what god gave me to sit upon. I
pinch my belly flesh when sitting, and feel a little chagrined that my boobs
are small, but not pert, and like so many others’, simply collapse flatly
when I lie down.
But, I read a quote from a cancer survivor when I was
fighting Leukemia that helped put some of this in perspective, and I have it
taped to the full-length mirror in my closet:
When I wake up and my jeans don’t
fit right: There are times when I still have those annoying body-image moments
we all have. You can’t skip through a field of flowers every day. You just
can’t. But I’ve come to realize that if you can stop the spinning in your brain
of My jeans are tight, I can’t believe I ate that—if you can change your clothes, put some mascara on, get out of the
house, and move on, life will be much more fun.

The truth is we women are just way
too hard on ourselves. We need to remember there’s total beauty in who we are,
and it’s not about what we look like. Cancer made me realize: You can cut off
all your hair, and people will still think you’re great; you can look your
worst after chemo, and people will still love you. So what the f–k have I been
worrying about all my life? We spend all this time looking in on our lives from
the outside, but we gotta get in it, and live it. Because it’s a day-by-day
gig.
And if this is true, if what this “real women” movement is
supposed to be saying is that we are more than what we look like on the
outside, and that the outside no matter
what is beautiful, too… then why are we burning women whose thighs don’t touch at the
stake?
There is a contradiction and hypocrisy in some of what that
movement is purporting: All women are beautiful, except those whose thighs don’t touch. They are part of the problem, and
all must be dismissed and eliminated.
I get that there is a
pendulum swing that must happen in order for us to come to the center of this
issue, to the place where there is equality and equanimity, and I am still proud
that this trend toward inclusiveness is happening in my lifetime. But as a
member of the generation of women who are supposed to be supported and elevated
and freed by this wave of feminism, I would like to be able to feel like I can
march along as a “real woman” too, atop thighs that simply don’t touch, without being accused
of treason. 

abundance · beauty · fun · joy · life · self-care

Thirsty

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Home sick again today, I began to clean up my apartment
which has become a bit of a wreck lately. Weeknights spent in rehearsals,
weekends spent at auditions, mornings a cluster of Morning Pages, meditation
and blogging. I’m up at 6:15 every morning, and am still late to work.
So, I began with the bedsheets, the laundry that was washed
last week but still remained in the hamper, the clothes strewn on the closet
floor, the dross of everyday living.
Back and forth across my apartment, each time, I passed the
black silhouette case by the entry way. The case the singer of the band bought
for me so I wouldn’t have to carry my bass my its neck anymore.
My bass has sat in that visible corner, tucked in its sheath,
for nearly two months, since I quit the band to focus on acting. My acoustic
guitar collects dust. My keyboard, shoved in a closet to avoid visual clutter
when the 25 y.o. was over.
I went to a music show last Friday night. It’s this fun band
my friend introduced me to, and we bought tickets for their SF show nearly the
day after I heard them. I hadn’t been to a music show I wasn’t ushering….
well, since I was in the band, I guess. That was one of the fun things about being in the band, was that I got to hear a lot more
music. “Lack of music shows” is on my list of “Serenity Moths” I have tacked to
my fridge. The list was written at least 2 years ago, and though many are now
crossed off, some remain. (Serenity Moths, to me, being things that just eat
tiny holes in my well-being; e.g. lack of music shows, no light over my desk,
chipped nailpolish.)
It was REFUELING to go to a music show where I could enjoy and focus on the
music. I smiled and watched the bassist voraciously, was flattened by the vocalist and shimmied my little tush
in my little section. I admitted to my friends who were with me that I missed music. So much. I think I actually had a dream about
it last night, come to think of it. But
where do you find time for it?
I am still such a newbie at bass, I have so much to learn,
dexterity to gain, simple basslines to master. I just miss the endeavor, the
trying.
So, you can guess what happened this morning as I cleaned up
my apartment between sips of turmeric tea: I slowly unzipped the black case, and said
aloud, Hello again.
I tuned it, it was still pretty in tune, actually. And I
know how long it’s been since I’ve played, since my nails are all so long
again. I pulled out the keyboard from the closet, and laid it on my bed—where
Stella climbed up to watch as I tuned the acoustic too, the one that was my
high school graduation present that still has the strap from O. Dibella Music
in New Jersey.
My nails still so long the chords were hard to make, I
played. I played until the skin on my strumming finger got raw. I made up
some new words and played my old songs. And felt the vibration of the wood against
my coughing, constricted chest.
Sometimes I live without music so long, I forget its
blessing. Honestly, I horrifically have sometimes gone months without turning
on my iPod, and when I finally do, it’s like an oasis. Like lavishing in a
Caribbean waterfall. It opens something, releases something, allows something
to enter. I hate that I forget that it does this—and in some kind of
masochistic pattern, I deprive myself of its joy.
When will I play? I don’t know. What will come of it again?
I don’t know. But for a few minutes, I opened back up to the
aching light of it, and I’m sure something was healed.