calm · compassion · relationships

Learning to Love.

12.6.18.jpgSometimes dating feels a lot like teaching:

You have to remind yourself that the other person doesn’t know what they don’t know.

You have to remember that when people get frustrated or act out, there’s usually something else going on for them.

You have to accept that they’re truly doing the best they can with the tools they know.

And, you have to know a few things yourself:

You have to offer alternative tools if the ones they’re using are causing harm.

You have to bring a deep patience that can require you to close your eyes and take a breath before saying any next thing.

And sometimes you just take a day off.

What all this has in common to me is that I need to care for myself while also showing up (and yes, sometimes “showing up” means leaving the room!).

I need to remember that this person in front of me, partner or student, is a child of G-d.  I have to remember that I am a child of G-d.  And, most critically, that we’re both doing the very best we can with the tools we have.

My very own frustration in a moment is the best that I can do.  Another’s acting out in a moment is the best they can do.

I was at a workout class last night that ends in a “moment of stillness,” and the teacher asked us to close our eyes and send compassion to ourselves.  She said that self-compassion is often the hardest quality or emotion to have.  When I feel judgy of another person, when I want to change another person, when I want to run away from another person, I need to remember that this is just because I, too, need a little compassion for myself.

I’m feeling afraid, activated.  I’m feeling a fear that I won’t be okay because another person is “not okay” at the moment.  I’m feeling afraid that I can’t control a situation or a person, and that if I cannot do that — particularly if I cannot calm another person down — then none of us will be okay.

In this vein, I’ve been recalling a story my mom told me from about when I was seven or so.  She was driving with me in the car and something happened with another driver on the highway, and she got apoplectic.

As the lore has it, I cautioned her then: “Mom, you’re too angry.”

She tells me this story, because she heard it.  She heard that she was frightening her child.  She heard that her reaction was outsized to the cause.

And in many ways, I think I’ve grown up feeling like I have to calm other people’s emotions.  (As you can imagine, a middle-schooler has a lot of emotions!)

What strikes me this morning is to remember that what this person is seeking—student, parent, partner, other driver—is their own version of safety, by whatever means they know how.

Indeed, when I become frustrated or afraid, it’s only because I’m seeking safety by whatever means I know how — which has meant the belief that if others are not okay, then I’m not okay.

This … is not true.

There is a truth, and it is this: I am okay, despite what occurs around me.

I, of course, stand for no legitimately egregious guff, but I can allow what’s happening for someone else to soften around me instead of bowl me over.  When others’ emotions bowl me over, I feel that I must dig in, I must close off, and I must push back against them.

None of that is true.

In moments of distress, there’s only one thing I must do: Remember that I am a child of G-d, that I am safe, that I am lovable exactly as I am.   Just like everybody else.


calm · choice · death · fear · friendship · fun · laughter · life · living · recovery · self-care

"Push the Button, Max!"




In the 1965 hilarious film, The Great Race, Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) chases our hero, The
Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) around the globe. Whenever Professor Fate attempts
to unleash a hidden gem of an engine booster or booby trap, he yells to his
sidekick, PUSH THE BUTTON, MAX! – which Max does, to uproarious and hijinxed disastrous results.
It would have been a Leslie Nielsen film if it were done in
What sparked this memory this morning is how often there’s a
voice inside me egging me on to push the panic button. Come on, Max, this is a great idea! Let’s pull all ripcords, let the chips fall where they may! Damn the consequences, HOO-RAH!
Yesterday, I got an email from Kaiser to follow-up on some
routine bloodwork I get done every few months now, just to keep tabs on my
post-Leukemia cells. Apparently, my liver enzymes were elevated. Like,
Wonkavator-through-the-factory’s-glass-ceiling elevated.
My doctor wrote me that I had to come in for follow-up labs
right away, that if I drank alcohol I should stop immediately, and that she was informing my
oncologist, Dr. Li (which humorously autocorrected to “Dr. Lithium”).
Professor Fate wanted Max to push the button so bad. It’s bad news, it’s tragic, it’s cancer, it’s
death, it’s imminent! PUSH THE BUTTON!
But… here’s the thing I’ve learned about pushing that
button, from the movie, and from my own life experience: It rarely does
anything productive.
So, I texted my coworker and my boss that I would be in
late, that I was going to Kaiser, and then I called my
naturopath/chiropractor/nutritionist in SF and made an appointment with him for
that morning, too.
Because, this is how The Great Leslie would approach it:
Pause, Assess, Reframe, Choose Love.
Well, maybe he wouldn’t use those terms, but he would pause, at
least, and assess before leaping out of the hot air balloon.
I arrive at Kaiser, and walk down the hallway. I’m toodling
to myself, softly singing/humming tunelessly, just making notes up to distract
my thought-life. I realize I’m practicing something called self-soothing, a
practice I read about for babies learning to fall asleep on their own.
Instead of fully freaking out, I’m using a positive biofeedback technique to calm my pulse,
my panic. And, it works, a little.
After they take 7 vials of my blood, I drive into the city to see my chiro. The man I credit for saving my ovaries from nuclear annihilation
during chemo, with his supplements, nutritional advice, and amazingly accurate
diagnoses of what’s going on in my body.
I tell him that my Kaiser doctor said it had nothing to do with
having poured chemo into my body for 6 months, since that was finished last
March. It couldn’t possibly be related.
No: Idiots.
Of course my liver
and kidneys are still bouncing back, shmucks. I “love” the way Western medicine
brains work: There is no immediate cause of this that we can see, so it must be
something new and traumatic and deadly.
How about a patient history, assh— Sorry, Idiots.
It’s like telling someone who broke their ankle a year and a
half ago that that has no bearing on why they’re now experiencing pain in their
hips. … You guys did learn the whole,
“The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone” song in medical school, right?
Anyway, my annoyance with Western medicine aside, I went to
the doctor I trust, after having done what the Western folks wanted me to do.
We did some muscle testing, which is like the coolest thing
ever. He handed me a small vial filled with clear liquid marked GMO corn. Told
me to hold my other arm out and try to resist his pushing it down. My arm fell
like an anvil. It weakens my system.
He held out one labeled organic corn? My arm stayed straight
as a compass.
We did this several times: Pasteurized milk? Down. Raw milk?
Up. Non-organic eggs? Down. Organic eggs? Up.
What I should offer at this point is that I have been eating
a ton of crap these past few weeks. Whatever cookies, candy, cupcakes have been
lain out at work, I’ve eaten – because I’m stressed. And sooner or later, my
ban against refined sugar and dairy yields, and I go to town.
I’ve also been busy so I haven’t been cooking at home, and
have therefore been eating take-out foods, which, although aren’t the worst
foods I could choose, are surely not all made with my liver in mind.
So, I’ve been tired, stressed out (as you’ve read), and
eating crap to boost me back up.
Yeah, apparently my overworked and Hirojima’d organs need
some TenderLovingCare.
(Heh. … Organs… lovin’… heh…)
Pushing the panic button does nothing for me except
exacerbate an already very sensitive system. I don’t like hearing that I really have
to stop eating the cupcakes at work, and not use half&half at Peet’s. Or, since it’s not organic, I can’t drink Peet’s at all. I
don’t like knowing that because of something I didn’t ask for I now have to
work extra hard to fix its effects.
But, What I like less is driving to Kaiser on a Friday
morning, thinking about the children I won’t be able to have. The life I won’t
be able to “figure out.” The X-Men movie I won’t be able to see.
Look, Death and I have a pretty intimate relationship. We’ve
fought an epic battle, and He’s waiting and watching in the corner, seeing if
my hubris will bring me down. If, like in Million Dollar Baby, I will let my guard down and He’ll have the chance
to (spoiler alert).
What I got to see from yesterday’s panic/not panic “opportunity” was that I still am pretty keen on this Life thing. That I can’t quit my job
without health insurance. That I stress out about things I don’t need to. And that I’ve accomplished a whole lot in the year and a half since I was diagnosed, things
I want to continue to do: play music, make art, be with friends, travel.
I don’t need to push the panic button to “wake me up” – Life
has a way of pushing it for me. Of pushing the button on the side of my cosmic
cell phone to illuminate the time and remind me to stop freaking out in my head
and get into my life.
So, today, I’m going to hum tunelessly as I get dressed, cook organic eggs, do (some) dishes, and head to an 11-year old’s birthday party to
shoot mini-marshmallows at my friends. Because that’s the text Life is sending me today. 

But don’t worry, I won’t eat any. 😉

acting · adulthood · calm · connection · excitement · health · performance · theater

Wow. Wowie Wow Wow




(Christopher Walken on SNL; check it out if you don’t
know; too funny)

You know when they (I) say “Both/And”? That life is both
this, and that. It is inimitable and gripping, and sallow and challenging? That
life is “everything all at once”?
That you are both excited for your new callback and getting
dressed to get a possible melanoma removed?
Yeah. Both/And.
So, that’s happening right now. In a little while.
I went to the dermatologist about a month ago to get a
strange new mole checked out on my back. She told me that that one was nothing
to worry about; that, in fact, it’s the kind of mole you only see on fully adult
homosapiens. So, I asked, then basically, this new mole is a Rite of Passage
Mole? That I’m officially an adult human, now? Wow. Weird to have your skin
tell you it!
You, Molly Louise, you are now officially an
adult. Instead of a parade, statue, medal, or email from the Universe, you get
this nifty little mole on your back. Holler!!! Luckily, I think it’s kind of
awesome and funny, and I’m really not concerned about the aesthetics of it –
it’s not gross or repulsive or anything. It doesn’t have a satellite moon
orbiting it or have a hair growing from it. – although the Derm said that a
hair is usually a good sign that a mole is not malignant.
(It’s this an awesome
blog topic!)
“BUT,” she said. …
“This other one…” and took out the little 6-inch ruler she
kept in her white lab coat. “Well, this other one, …”
Yeah, that one’s kind of new too, in the last year for sure,
I told her.
So, today I have it taken out. Which means, they have to dig
all the way through ALL of the layers of skin into the fatty flesh below, and
take out, like a dowel in the earth, a cylinder of my skin. Yum.
It’s a small thing, it’ll only leave a centimeter of a scar,
but for a few days, until the stitched, sewn-together skin around it heals and
seals together (our bodies are amazing), no heavy lifting or working out the same way.
Meh. C’est la vie. Small price to pay for solace of mind.
Although, when I told someone when I found this out
those few weeks ago, that it was a possible skin cancer thing, they said, oh,
no big deal, that’s simple, they gauge it out. Done. … Well, I felt like that was a tad insensitive. I mean, this was coming from another young
cancer survivor!
I’m not “worrying twice,” and it is something you just take
out (I think – I don’t know – I’m not Googling anything until the doc indicates
I ought to). But, it’s still a (what’s “less than worrying”) – Ah, concerning, it’s still a concerning thing. So, I’m concerned.
So I get it checked out.
I think my Rite-of-Passage Mole might be on to something.
And, further in the Wow category, this acting
thing. Wowie wow wow, man.
It’s so fun. Sure, I talk about the isolation it offers when
you’re practicing lines alone, auditioning alone, but, the camaraderie that it
leads to, is the point. The opportunity to turn the light on in an audience, to
share something with someone else, is the point. And this is the path to that.
I’m stoked.
I have no clue if this is beginner’s luck, if anything more
will happen, if I’ll circle around the drain of “aspiring actor” for years.
When I think back to what it felt like on Saturday to join into the
lobby of a group of folks, stand around awkwardly in a room with
other aspirers, to have my name called, and to walk down the dark aisle of the
near-empty theater. To stand on a real stage under real lights, state my name and my piece, and
perform it. To have the director say, “Very nice. Thank you.” To then walk back
up that aisle less than two minutes later, and gather my purse and walk back
out into the amazing Berkeley Spring day?
Well, I’ll tell you:

calm · fear · healing · health · spirituality · the middle way · theater

Lumps & Bumps

Show of hands: Those eager to exchange brains with me.
Anyone? Bueler?
Yesterday afternoon, I called my cousin Leah. She’s a
doctor, an ally, and a friend. I gave her all the information I’d gathered at
Kaiser yesterday, and asked her if I should be concerned or if I should, as all
the doctors advised, not be concerned?
What they told me is that, no, it’s not adult acne
that a ProActiv commercial would fix; and, yes, this strange lump is indeed a
swollen lymph node, another part of our immune system. They told me this likely
has nothing to do with cancer, that it’s just something to note, and that it
would go away in a few weeks, tops. That swollen glands happen. They told me I likely accidentally
cut myself while shaving under my arm, and got a minor infection that’s causing
this swelling (“but I didn’t cut myself.” “it would be smaller than you could
see. this is normal.”).
They told me we could do imaging on it, and then biopsy it if I insisted.
And so that remains to be scheduled. But after all of yesterday being told it’s likely nothing, and my insisting that you prove to me
actually nothing… I called my cousin.
She said, “Normal life is full of lumps and bumps.” That “someone with your history” is bound to go to the far side of fear, but she was not
In fact, no one really seemed concerned except me. But then, I’m the one with the history.
If I could dampen or soften the reaches and depths of my
emotional swings…
Well, I don’t think I would. I’m not bipolar, I’m just me.
Fully feeling, fully emoting.
However, I think the Ship of Emotional Life fell off the
edge of the ocean yesterday, and I am tired from that.
I left the hospital, several hours later, parting with my
dear and kind friend who spoke of shoes and ships and sealing wax, not to
distract me, but just be normal with me. To listen to me say from my plastic
hospital waiting room chair, I hate this. I just want you to know I hate this.
And for her to say, Yep. That sounds about right.
I left, and I went to the hot tubs. I live near a place that
has saunas and hot tubs, and I soaked for a half hour. My head was with me, so
it wasn’t “relaxing” per se, but it was nice, sort of. The hospital called to
tell me the Radiology department would call to schedule a CT scan to see
what this is, if anything.
And on the way home, I called my cousin. Because my poor
exhausted brain, my hyperactive adrenals, and my weary fucking heart needed to
hear from a doctor who loved me.
She said, she’s not here, she can’t see what’s going on, but
if it were her—and she knows my reactions are different—she wouldn’t be
Life is full of lumps and bumps.
I came home, watched about 5 hours of Netflix, and finally
said aloud, Alright, that’s enough, got up, made tea, and read through the play
for the audition I have tonight. I’m not secure in this monologue, but I’m
doing it.
I had a moment of, Remember who you are. Remember what you
do. Remember what you can do, and I showed up for an hour for my dream and my
Then I went back to Netflix.
Because, that’s what this process is like for me right now.
It’s remembering who and what I am, what I’m capable of, and it’s numbing the
fuck out because who I am and what I can do can run me into the ground.
In meditation the other day, my advice to myself (or my
“intuitive thought” or “intuition”) reminded me to Rest: “As to your fatigue,
my only instruction is to rest,” it said. To rest and play with ease.
The taught high-wire act of my emotional life is not easeful.
So, I need to come back down, touch the ground again,
fill up with images of trees and covens and auras and love. And remember who I
am can be easeful, too
Ha. I, Molly Louise,
can be an easeful human being! Who can walk with equanimity in this world. I
can have highs and lows, and dash myself upon the craggy shores. And, I can bend
my head into the silken lap of Divine Calm, and let her stroke my hair for a while as I
take a long-forgotten full & present breath.
Life is full of lumps and bumps. Life can be normal. Not devastating. Not harrowing. Life can be okay.
Have both trip-lines and benches overlooking a sunset. Life, my life, is going to
be okay.