alcoholism · change · choice · community · despair · recovery

The Bomb Squad.

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Paying rent is a choice, she told me.
Um, What?
Sure. You can choose to pay your rent or not. If you choose
not to pay rent, you face those results. If you choose to pay, that has
different results. But it’s still a choice; you do have power here: where would you
rather spend your money?
I was about 2 years into actively looking at my numbers and
money, and back at the beginning of some work around my relationship to money,
being broke, struggling, restrict & binging (aka depriving & then overspending).
The pattern that I would fall into was like clock-work.
Every year and a half into a job that I didn’t enjoy, I would begin to feel
frantic. Trapped. Manic. Suicidal. How can I make it stop?, I’d
wail.
With no tools or guide, I
would do what I thought made sense: Quit the job.
With no tools or guide, that didn’t really accomplish
much. Except send me back into a different kind of mania and frenzy – now I
had nothing, no savings, no job, and no plan. Three times in the last 8 years,
I ended up with less than $5.00 in my bank account.
Each time, “miraculously,” I would land another job just in
the nick of time. But it would be one job same as the other job same as the
other job.
I had no idea how to break this cycle. I thought I was being
diligent. I would reach out to people before I would quit. I would do
informational interviews, and send out tentative resumes. I would look on
craigslist for “creative” jobs, but would somehow end up at an ad posted by a foot fetishist…
Anything. Anything to
not sit in front of a computer all day, I thought. – Well,
almost anything.
And so about 3 years ago, in despair, I went near bawling to a meeting of
folks who are trying to claw their way out of the pit of debt, financial worry,
self-abandonment. Because, in the end, I’ve learned, it’s a function of self-worth.
So, I began working with a new mentor about a year ago. She
had hopes for me I couldn’t imagine at all. Buying a car to get me to auditions
and band practice, being a big one. Not me. Not people like me. I’m a fuck-up.
I ruin things. I’m broke. Hello?!
But, she held out hope for an idea I could never have
conceived of. And 6 months later, I put a down payment on a car.
A car that takes me to auditions and band practice.
However, it’s not the
rosy scene it seems.
About two months ago or so, the itch arose again, the heat turned up. I
gotta get outta this job
. I’m dying here! GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!
And along with that struggle and pain and fury and anguish
again arose the suicidal ideation, because how else can I get out of this
pattern. I am doing all this work, I have a car now, I’m doing shit, but I HATE
MY JOB. I will never end this cycle, and I can’t quit again.
I can’t quit again.
I can’t quit again.
Quitting, for me, is equivalent to relapse. It’s insane to
think it would be different this time. It’s insane to throw myself back into
the cycle. IT’S NOT THE SAME. IT CAN’T BE THE SAME. I don’t have to be the same…
And that’s where the change happened.
I reached out every single fucking day during that period,
texting and calling friends in TEARS, unable to see out of this hole. Telling
them, please please PLEASE help me not to quit today. That I see the insanity of this. That I can’t go down that path
again. That I don’t want to detonate my life again.
I don’t want to detonate my life again.
I like stability. I like the freedom of knowing how I’m going to fill my
fridge and my gas tank. That
doesn’t
mean that I have to do the kind of work I’m doing for the rest of my life, but
for
right now! for this minute!,
it does.
And please dear god, help me not nuke my life again.
And, you know – I didn’t. 
Because I didn’t, because I sat through some of the most
uncomfortable feelings I’ve ever had, through that pain and frustration and ire
and hopelessness and despair, because others told me that it would pass, because they told me to read the chapter on Withdrawal, because they told me they believed that I could find another way if I just held
tight…. I got the chance to drive a car with a tank of gas and belly full of
food to an audition and land a role. I got to show up for the things that give me zest and zeal
and love and joy.
I get to do that today, because I sat through some of the
worst anguish I know. And I came to the other side of it.
This does not mean that I love my job. It doesn’t mean I
don’t want to do different work. It doesn’t mean I enjoy my job any more than I
did. But it means that it’s not my whole world. And by allowing myself to sit
still, I am available for the other things that feed me. Like groceries.
I have never come to this side of that struggle before, so I
don’t really know what will come on the other side. Except, today, play with my band, tomorrow theater rehearsal, and Monday, a photo shoot.
If I had quit, I couldn’t show up, because I’d be in despair
of not having any money and a frenzy of trying to find work. I don’t like that I have to show up and adjust margins for a
goddamn living.
But by not nuking my life, I get to have a life. 

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abundance · acting · authenticity · choice · community · fear · scarcity · self-worth · trying

Car Conversations

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Because the question isn’t: “Would you rather be in a play
or not be in a play?” anymore. Maybe that’s what it was a year ago. But my
vision has changed, as visions are allowed to do. And more, it’s
probably that I’ve allowed myself to see more of my vision, rather than it actually
“changing.”
Now, the question is: “Would I rather be in a play, or be in a
good play?”
It’s the same coin as the line of thinking that goes: Well,
at least you have a job.
That, at its core, is very true, but it seems to me that
when we’re living in integrity with our values in as many places in our lives
as possible, we’re doing more good – for ourselves and for the world.
When people
are living lives that are engaged, they inspire me. There are circumstances
that can keep us from this expression of our true selves and skills, surely.
There’s war famine racism classism sexism disease and all manner of ill
fortune. I recognize the privilege it is that I’ve been able to crawl out of (and partially
been born out of) the first tier of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” out of the
pure and simple satisfaction of the needs for food, shelter, clothing, and
income.
I am reminded of a phone conversation I had with my mom
several years ago. I was in the car with a friend when my cell rang. I
answered, we spoke a few minutes, and the call ended. What struck me later wasn’t the content of the call, but how I behaved during the call. My friend overheard every word and all the
manner and mannerisms that came out during my conversation – and those
behaviors would align perfectly with how I interact with my friend.
There was little to no difference between how I comported
myself in relation to my mom and how I was in relation to my friend. That
alignment of “personalities” was completely new to me. I was always someone different with friends, coworkers, family
members, lovers. Although there are necessary adjustments you need to make in
those various relationships, I was always way out of alignment – they
all were completely disparate personalities.
My car conversation allowed me to see that I was “aligning
the films of who I am,” as I later put it. It wasn’t about a shift from
wearing different masks to wearing the same mask; it was about relieving myself
of the masks at all – and being the same ol’ me no matter where, when, or who.
This feels completely parallel to my circumstances and
predicaments these days: How to bring the same person, with the same
boundaries, needs, and self-esteem, to work, to play, to relationship.
How to live in integrity, which, to me, means aligning the
films of ourselves. Not participating in self-abandonment, and bringing every
endeavor and relationship into the light, and questioning if it meets our
standards of what we want for ourselves, and if we’re meeting those standards through our own action.
It’s all well and good to report and purport that I want to
cease settling for less in many areas of my life; it’s another endeavor
entirely to take actions that support that desire. Again, that’s integrity – being who you say you want to be.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I am leaving this play.
When my friend last night told me that her “intuitive hit” was that I could
find work that I love, I began to well up. It’s not about permission to do the play or not do the play, even — it’s about giving myself permission to do that which I love. In every arena of my life right now, I’m
endeavoring to find that which I love – which starts from acknowledging
and listening to and giving enough credence to self-love to do that.
If I am purporting that I want to do what I love, but there
are still these fissures of contrary action, I’m offering a divided message to
“the Universe,” but mostly to myself. If I engage in that which doesn’t feed my
soul and my joy-meter, I’m giving the message that it’s (still) okay to abandon my
desires, and that my desires aren’t that important to me anyway.
It’s time for me to have a car conversation with the
Universe, one in which I am myself – self-confident with a hint of doubt, a vehement believer in the need for joy and
alignment, more than a tad bit wacky – no matter who’s on the other line. 

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

"Push the Button, Max!"

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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
80s.
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.
Assholes.
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. 😉

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.)

adulthood · authenticity · choice · courage · sex

The Wrestler

Do you ever notice how Jews tend to answer a question with a
question?
Why shouldn’t we answer with a question?
Call it the Jew in me, call it the Libra, call it the
overactive thinking machine tucked behind my eyeballs, but I question things a
lot. And repeatedly.
Little though I know about Judaism and even littler about
other religions, Jews are purported to “wrestle and grapple” with G-d. This is our purpose—not necessarily to obey a god, as perhaps some religions require,
but to wrestle, argue, question, mull, and ponder.
I have a date with the 25 y.o. on Saturday. We haven’t seen
one another since our “State of the Union” conversation last week when it was
decided that we don’t see a relationship happening, but we genuinely enjoy one
another’s company and also are very attracted to one another.
This led us to the conclusion that we won’t see one another
less, and be in the ambiguity of friends but not friends. Until one of us
doesn’t gel with the ambiguity anymore.
I think that one is me.
See, I sort of know this scenario: Now that we’ve agreed to
be more “casual,” that probably means sex, which we haven’t had yet. In my
experience, here’s how casual sex goes: You have good to great (and
occasionally lackluster and regretful) sex with someone a few times. Maybe
twice, maybe three times. And soon, since the investment isn’t really there,
the communication begins to wane, you text one another less and less, until
soon you don’t communicate at all, and sort of fall out of the orbit of one
another’s lives.
So, for me, in my own experience (and I know this isn’t
everyone’s), casual sex = the end of a potential friendship. It just does.
What I wrestle with right now, then, is how important is
that potential friendship to me? How important is this person in the mosaic of
my life? For now, not very, but as I said, we do have a lot to talk about and a
lot I’d like to continue to talk about – beyond all the theater intel I
want to glean.
So that’s not a very good measuring stick, then. Because
it’s ambiguous.
Let’s try another model I use to tease out information from
myself.
In meditation, I sometimes go to this long dining table in a
small house. It’s a large, wooden, old-time crafted, dark stained table with divets and
dents in it. A long-loved and -used table. Seated around this table are all the
disparate parts of myself I’ve been able to gather so far: the brain, the nymph, the baker, the child, the
sorrow, the jokester, the anger, love, vanity, warrior, healer, to name several.
So, I asked this gathered group: All in favor of sleeping
with the 25 y.o.?
Up go the hands of the nymph and the brain.
All in favor of not
sleeping with the 25 y.o.?
Up go the hands of every other entity at the table.
Hmmm. … Well, nymph, yes, of course, you lovely and talented
minx you. I expect as much, and that’s okay. You’re at the table because you’re
valued, and your vote has been heard.
Brain—I get it. He’s a wildly smart guy. The interest in
long and winding pillow talk; the desire to be in close contact and proximity
to someone who fires synapses you rarely use. I get it. I know you miss that
fuel.
But… everybody else
says we don’t want to do this.
So, still, this hasn’t been the clearest exercise in coming
to a conclusion.
Finally, I ask the big question: Which action supports my
highest good? 
And thus, it is clear to me, in this situation, to not sleep with
him. If we can forge a friendship, great, and if not, I tried.
Because as I reported, I had some pretty great casual sex
recently (well, a few months ago now)—with casual sex as my intention and feeling very good and happy with my
behavior and outcome. And, don’t get me wrong, when I can get it on the regular, please, I’m down. But otherwise, I’m okay without it. Sometimes I
miss it, the connection of two bodies. But I also had some disappointing casual
sex recently, and, well, not all sex is great.
I have previews that this sex could be great. I really think
it would be. And I know the vixen inside me is just mewling to get some
sexy-time on. To wield the tools and tricks we’ve learned, to sharpen them
against someone who is well-matched, to exude Level 10 sexuality that I keep to
a 4 (max) in regular life outside the bedroom.
I know it would be fun. But I know it doesn’t support my
highest good, and my highest goals for myself. It doesn’t undermine them, per
se, but it simply continues a pattern of behavior that isn’t the most
fulfilling—and I think what I’m saying is that I’d like to be fulfilled. And
therefore “filled” by someone where there is a mutual understanding of
continued partnership and exploration.
I also know that I have often and many times been involved
with folks and situations that my “dining table” wasn’t fully behind—and I’ve
felt that … loss? emptiness? disconnect. I know this road.
I am a wrestler. I grapple and wrestle and tease and shimmy
my way into and out of every eventuality. And though I have run the gamut of
“pros/cons,” my ultimate guide can only be my highest good. Even when it means
I miss a savory, delectable, oh-so-mouth-watering meal.