abundance · change · clarity · deprivation · despair · family · finances · hope · recovery

Cleaning House.

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There’s a phrase in Al-Anon: Let it begin with me.
I’m in the process (or supposed to be) of looking back
through my life and writing down where underearning/underbeing/debting has
affected my life, and eventually caused it to be unmanageable.
I’ve often and easily thought about my dad’s parents and his
half-brother when I think about the history of this “disease” in my family.
It’s easy to do. They are the ones who hoarded, let the dog go to
the bathroom in the house, and despite brains that cognitively thought at high
levels, lived like people who were under a crushing weight of despair, which
looked on the outside like the crushing weight of filth.
These folks, my kin, would have been the people who Hoarders would have descended upon, who would have reluctantly
and silently allowed their belongings to be sorted, sifted, and discarded. And
after the cameras left, would have as quickly as possible returned their home
to the state of dishevelment and insurmountable disarray. The familiar state of
it. The state in which they felt most comfortable, even if not comfortable at
all.
After my parents’ divorce when I was 20, my dad let our
childhood home fall into much the same state, with the dead bugs on the hood of
the oven, the flies belly-up on the window sill, and the tree that shaded our
home, that stood sentry in our front yard, so long-neglected it had to
come down. And though it’s easy to see these patterns of neglect, hopelessness,
resignation, and simple denial in that side of the family, through my inventory work, I’m also getting to see a different strain of ideas around money,
belongings, worthiness crops up from my mom, too.
I spent some time with my brother last year in his apartment
he rented alone. The same silt of neglect, of using half-broken items, of
allowing the home you live in to be in a state of disrepair lay over his home,
too. But, from the same familial miasma, his attitude toward money became very different than mine.
At some point, I brought up money and my not knowing how to manage it, to save it, to “make
it work for me” (whatever that means!), and he admitted, surprising me, that he
is a miser with it. He hoards and saves his money, and is virulently opposed to being indebted to anyone.
He hoards money. I hemorrhage it.
In the end, though, the result for us both is the same (and
I recognize that my assessment and diagnosis is unfair to him, simply in that I
am not him, so please forgive my
hubris). But the result is that neither of us have money to spend on fun
things, nice things, things that make our lives fun and easy and worth living.
If he’s loathe to spend anything, even if he has it, then life becomes smaller
than it needs to be. If I simply spend whatever I make without thought to
long-term or significant goals, my bank balance becomes zero, and my life shrinks
with it.
I may not do my dishes as regularly as I should (though I am better now!), and my
fridge may house food that is unidentifiable with mold, but my home is
neat, clean, organized. It feels light, despite its size, and I endeavor to make it so. But there’s an article I read recently on home
decoration that said, “Do it: Clean, organize, make pretty, and then GET OUT.” Get out and into and on with your life. There’s more to life than decoration.
So, as I tally my numbers each month, calculate my income & expenditures, as I put money into a savings account and a vacation account, I
have to remember it’s not just so that I can have a neat and orderly
spreadsheet. That, in fact, even if there were a million dollars in my account,
I’d have to remember, like my brother, that it’s there for me to enjoy thoughtfully. That
it’s there for me to live, to support a life worth living. I have to remember that I do all this work so that I
can go out in the world as my family was unable to do.
I let it begin with me. 

abundance · aspiration · change · clarity · community · debt · despair · finances · loneliness · love · recovery · stability

Risky Business

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There’s a funny little book I picked up a few years ago
entitled, Steal Like An Artist. One of
the tips in the book is, If you find yourself to be the smartest person in the
room, go to another room.
I’ve been considering this sentiment as applied to
satisfaction, success, self-love, financial security. At the risk of sounding
like a self-aggrandizing schmuck, I think I’ve been heading to another room for
a good little while.
But, I’m hesitant. I’m hesitant to leave those who I’ve met
in this room, and all the rooms before it. I’m hesitant to let those friendships go, when I notice that how I’ve been ordering and focusing my life is not
really aligned with how they are anymore. I don’t want to leave, but I kinda
already have, simply by the efforts I’ve been making in the past few years.
It sounds like an asshole thing to say. It “sounds” judgey
and materialistic and conceited. But, I don’t think it is. I think it’s one of the
most honest things I’ve said about where and who I am in my
life now.
To find a parallel that is perhaps less alienating, let’s
look at alcohol. In two weeks, it’ll be 8 years since my last drink. Since that
time, the folks who are in my life tend to also be people who don’t drink, or simply people who don’t drink alcoholically. I began to hang out with
people who behaved in ways I did or I wanted to, and in the process, those who I
used to spend time with began to fade. This wasn’t a judgment on them; it was
simply an acknowledgment of what we now had or didn’t have in common. I’d
simply moved to another room.
If you can hang with the non-judgment of that move, nearly 3
years ago, I began to spend time with people who didn’t accrue unsecured debt,
who tracked their income and expenses, who were attempting to live a full life
without bouncing along the disheartening bottom of “paycheck to paycheck,” “I can’t hang out
because I’m broke,” “I eat popcorn for dinner,” and “I have holes in my socks.” (Each something I’d said…repeatedly, for years.)
As with alcohol, I had simply come to the end
of my rope by how small and anxious and exhausting my life was. And, since
then, I’ve been endeavoring to live differently.
In that difference, I’ve begun to notice that many of the
folks whose room I’ve shared are still, in some manner, living a pinching,
struggling life. And I’ve begun to notice that we don’t talk as much, that I
have less to share about, that I don’t really relate or want to relate anymore.
Just like I don’t really have much to say if you share about your drunken
escapades, I don’t really have much to say about how you don’t know how you’ll
pay rent next month.
All I really do have to say about that is, I GET IT. I have completely been there. I have, many times in
my “adulthood,” had less than $3 in my bank account, and NO JOB. I KNOW what it
feels like to have a life so small because you can’t afford the bus to see friends, or the $8 for the movie they’re seeing, or just the $2 coffee chat. I
know what it’s like to despair that you’ll never get out of the hole. What
it’s like to assume that you’ll eek out a living … and then die. I know what
it’s like to think about killing yourself because you can’t see any other end
to the horrible cycle of constriction.
I know what it’s like to live small and afraid. And I know, now, what
it’s like to find a way out.
I can talk to you about that. I can tell you I’ve found a
way that works for me, and I can help or hope you find it, too. But,
ultimately, that’s all that I can do.
And in that knowledge and acceptance of where and who I’ve
become, a non-drinker who is attempting to live a larger life, it should only
make sense that I would want to be among others who are living the same. Simply
so I can learn. So I can hear, model, get hope, get help for myself. Because I am that person who was begging for help before, and now
I want to be around those who can help me. Who have moved into a different room
and found help themselves.
It feels so fucking lonely, right now. It feels judgmental
and abandoning and selfish and crass. It feels like I’m waving a hand over a
community that has loved me, and I’m declaring that world, “Not enough.”
But, in truth, it isn’t. For me.
I want to live larger, freer, more boldly. In the end, it’s not actually about money at all. I simply want financial stability because it allows me to dream bigger, or dream at all, since I’m not agonizing over how I’ll feed my cat this month. Stability leads me to ease, and ease leads me to dream.
Today’s sentiments may sour in the mouths of someone reading
this. I may have backs turned to me. There is a loneliness that happens when
you’re transitioning to a new phase of yourself. But, perhaps in my
acknowledgment that I want to be in that next room, I can help myself to get
there. Perhaps in simply stating I love you and I have to leave you, I am
offering more love than I had. I don’t want to be lonely; it’s part of why I do
all this work, man. I don’t want to leave you, but our conversation has flagged. And it is/I am worth the risk of saying, Thank you, and maybe I’ll see you over there.

action · addiction · clarity · commitment · community · fear · fortitude · procrastination · progress · recovery · self-esteem · self-love · self-pity · self-support

Forte. Più Forte. (Loud. More Loud.)

It’s come into my awareness again this week the fallacy of
perfection, and its venomous tendrils. The three “p”s: Perfection,
Procrastination, Paralyzation.
I’ve also read that procrastination is simply another way
for us to prolong feeling crappy about ourselves, and to delay feeing proud of
ourselves.
This week, after a conversation with some people of
authority at work last week about my position, my ambition, my vision of “Where
I’d like to be;” after I was given the feedback that, great, sure, put it in
writing and we can talk more… I stalled and dragged my feet.
It wasn’t acres of time, this time; it was only from Friday until
Tuesday evening, when I finally wrote what I needed to
write. But I could see those tendrils curling up around me, waiting to choke my
ambition and self-esteem from me. The tendrils of hopelessness (What the use
anyway), uncertainty (What about acting, my art, moving), and simple
perfectionism (If it’s not perfect, they’ll reject it, and then I’ll be stuck
answering phones the rest of my life, anyway, so f* it, I’ll just watch some
more Once Upon a Time).
It was so helpful to hear other people talk about how this
weed of perfectionism crops up in their lives, marring their attempts at a full
life—it reminds me that I’m not alone, and mostly, as I heard people talk about
their struggle with perfectionism, I sat
there in that chair and decided (for the hundredth time) to go home afterward
and do the write-up I needed to hand in to my superiors.
I heard them battling the beast, I heard them being flayed
by it, and I decided I wasn’t going to let that be me, if only for an evening.
I cannot tell you how many times I make this declaration to
myself. And then, simply do come home
and watch Netflix, or surf Facebook. I wonder if the advent of television and
internet has created in us a generation of procrastinators, but I certainly
know that I am none too helped by it! (in binges, especially)
But for whatever reason (and I won’t call it exasperation,
because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been exasperated, and still done
nothing), I came home on Tuesday night, wrote what I needed to write, emailed
it to a few friends for feedback, and handed it in yesterday.
And here’s the/a reward for overcoming perfectionism: It may not go the way you wanted anyway. I may hear, “Thanks, Molly, but we’re not
in a position to… We’ll think about it for some undetermined date… This just
isn’t in our vision or budget… We just need someone (you) to stay doing what
you are doing indefinitely, or at least through the next year or more.” I may
hear things I don’t want to hear in response to my action on behalf of myself
and my ambition, BUT, the reward is that I get to hear something at all,
instead of sitting, spinning, resenting, foaming, fuming, and … watching
Netflix.
The reward for overcoming perfectionism (and it’s
paralyzation) in just this one moment is that, no matter the results, no matter
the response, I am actually moving
forward, internally, for sure. What this does is tell me that, See Molly,
once you did something. One time you took action on your
own behalf, and instead of delaying your good, instead of languishing in a sea
of self-pity, you get to feel proud, pro-active, like a leader. You get to feel
like yourself, instead of like the skin of mutating fear that creeps up yours
and mimics you out in the world.
I don’t know the result of the action I took, externally, at
least. However, having put things in writing and gotten clarity around my
vision and desire, if I don’t get the result I “want” here, in this environs,
then I get to take that information and that knowledge and shop it around
elsewhere. Because I took the action that I did, suddenly, I have a beginning
instead of what my brain and that malevolent skin tells me is an end, a sorry, pathetic end.
Finally, I’ll repeat something I heard a long time ago,
which I’ve agreed with and disagreed with over the years: We ask “god” for what
we want; “he” gives us what we need; and in the end, it’s what we wanted
anyway.
I know that what I wanted anyway was clarity and
self-esteem, so, Team: Mission Accomplished. 

abundance · addiction · balance · clarity · commitment · community · debt · deprivation · spirituality

For you, not me.

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As is custom, yesterday I got the chance to sit with two
other folks who work on their relationship to money. We met in the monthly
group of three to hear and discuss and provide suggestions and feedback to one
of the group. It was this woman’s first group like this, she being new to
addressing her vagueness and impulsiveness around money.
And I got the melodious chance to see how far I’ve come
since I sat with a similar group of two strangers almost 3 years ago.
As I watched her discomfort, shame, panic, and hopelessness,
it reminded me of how I was when I sat in that first group. I hated that I had
to seek help around money; I already spent plenty of time in groups about
alcoholism, now I have to do it about debt, scarcity, and … (dread) abundance?
I came to that first small monthly group with my numbers
tallied from the month before, my income and expenses. I came with my mounting
student debt, my checking account bouncing along the bottom, my credit cards
bouncing along the top. I came with starvation in so many areas, and I was
so sure they were going to tell me to cut more, since my income was not meeting
my expenses.
Instead, what they told me was that I was living in
deprivation, and needed to increase the
amounts I was spending in certain categories of self-care (clothing,
entertainment, food). They told me that my needs weren’t too great to be met; that I needn’t be ashamed of actually needing more.
It was horrifying! It was so uncomfortable to be validated
that I wasn’t living too big for my britches, but have no idea how to change
the income side. At the time, I was barely making ends meet with temp jobs, and
felt I was doing all I could to get out of the hand-to-mouth hole. But I was
powerless, I was desperate, and I listened to these two who said, We believe it
will get better for you; it has for us.
Things didn’t really begin to change for me until last
Spring when I began working one-on-one with a new woman I’d admired from those
groups. For whatever reason, things didn’t really change when I’d worked
diligently with the first woman I’d worked with.
When I started again with J., at one point, she told me that
I needed a car, and I would get one. SCOFF!! What?? How? What money? Me? No….
I didn’t believe her in the slightest. At all. But, I did
believe that she believed, and that was
enough. She said, I needed a car to get to band practice, to get to auditions,
to get to work, and it would happen for me.
And, as you now know, last October, maybe 6 months after her proclamation, it did. It’s not a
beater car, an “underearner’s” car, it’s not a jalopy. In fact, it is the exact
make, model, color, mileage and price I’d hoped to get. Seriously!
I didn’t “come into money.” I didn’t stop buying clothing,
or going to the movies. I just kept showing up to groups and meetings and
writings like the folks I saw get better do. And things changed.
I know the woman yesterday thinks we’re full of shit, just
like I did. I know that she thinks to herself, “Yeah, maybe for you, but not for
me,” just like I did.
But, with my life as evidence, with one credit card paid
off, my $90,000 student loans in repayment
(slowly), with food I want to eat in my fridge, and most importantly, with the specter of “I’ll never get out of this; I’ll just kill myself” long faded – if it can happen for me, it
can happen for her.
And if the course of one year of real change can produce
what it has, maybe I no longer feel the same militant resistance to where else
abundance wants to enter my life. (Maybe.)

acting · clarity · commitment · consistency · dreams · growth · perseverance

Get Real.

Blogger lets you see what posts are being read, how many
times, and where in the world the reader is (HELLO! Those of you in Poland, Germany & Israel…whoever you are!). This morning, I saw that someone had read
Pulling a Carmen,” my first blog-a-day in November of 2011. I haven’t stuck
with it daily, but fairly enough.

Amazingly, a) it’s the same things I talk about now (wanting
to act and perform; letting myself be in a relationship; owning my dreams), but
b) it also shows me where things have
changed: I
have been a bass player in a
band – I certainly wasn’t in Winter of 2011 when I wrote that; I wasn’t until Spring of 2013.
In that blog, I write that my
relationship with others is reflected in my relationship with myself: how am I not committed to myself and my goals? And here I am present-day, whittling down my goals to only theater, finally. 
This week, I
wrote the lead singer in the band I play bass in that I can’t be in the band
anymore. It’s sad, but I know it’s ultimately for the best. It’s a pruning
game—like a bonsai. Or fichus. (cuz who doesn’t love the word fichus). And I
think it will ultimately help me in my attempts to focus on and even achieve
anything at theater.
I write about all the same things that I write about now,
but I do think I’m at a different place with them. I mean, I guess I write
about the same things all the time: relationships, healing, self-care,
self-derision, past experience, authenticity, perseverance.
Perseverance. I’ve written a bunch about that before, but
without one goal to head toward, the whole thing becomes dispersed, scattered,
and ineffectual.
Yesterday, I put down a deposit for real headshots.
The friends I’ve had who’ve helped me out over the years
produced incredible photos, artistic, fun, and fun to shoot—but they’re not
“acting headshots.” And there just is an industry standard. I’ve been trying to get the name of someone from an actor
friend of mine, but her voicemails are all garbled, and somehow it hasn’t been
working.
Enter Yelp. Yesterday after some searching and
clicking and emailing, I sent half of the $350 fee to this woman in Berkeley.
Later that day, I got emails back from my other inquiries,
friends, who would be willing to do a much reduced rate, or photos in exchange for
babysitting.
I cursed myself (mildly) for being so impetuous and
imprudent, for not being patient and thereby “wasting” money.
And then, I looked at these friends’ websites, and I said,
ya know, it’s worth it.
As Maybelline says, I’m worth it. (or is it clarol?)
Because, after hm, 3 years of headshots that I felt either
okay, or less than okay about (fine photos though they were), I’ve been being prudent and cutting corners and trying alternatives–It’s time to put
my money where my mouth is. And I mouth about being an actress.
Does this mean I’m suddenly an actress? No. Does it mean
that I’m taking myself seriously enough to invest in myself? Yes. Does it mean
that I can focus more on what I’m showing the auditors rather than what I’ve
handed them, or emailed them? YES.
Because it IS my calling card, my first impression. And if I
want to be a professional, I get professional help. If I want this to be real, then I get real.
I could look at that first blog and laugh/lament that I’m
talking and writing and working on the same damned things 3 years later. And a
little bit, I do. But I also recognize that big things have shifted since then,
too. I’m glad to have this kind of record to mark my progress. Even when
progress looks circuitous and labyrinthine.
The last line in that first blog is that maybe there’s a
tall attractive employed funny Jewboy who is looking for a
“writer/singer/actress…bass player.” At the time I wrote that, “bass player” was only a
vague hope and notion, a funny, last second, “doorknob comment” throw-away, because you shouldn’t really know that it’s important to me. Today, I get to own that mantle. I am a bass player. I
play bass, I’ve been in a band. And I am now hoping to own the mantle of
actress.
If you glue it, they will come. 

abundance · clarity · connection · pride · prosperity · self-esteem · vision

If you glue it, they will come.

At my meditation retreat in January, we made a collage of
our “intention” for ourselves for the year, as we do each year.
As I do each year, I tear out probably over 50 images and
phrases at the sewing-circle tables, and then walk over to a corner of
the floor, plop down, and, in solitude, spread out everything I’ve got for editing and
culling.
This year, a few specific messages came out of my collage, all of which are in process of fruition.
The first of the images to note is a pair of immense, daring eyes.
Just eyes, some mascara ad surely. But, the single-minded clarity and focus on
one thing, this is what I cut that image out for. Whatever this image was meant
to convey, to me it spelled, Clarity of Vision—Focus. Which, if you’ve been
reading, is something I’ve been aiming toward, especially with my whittling
down of my creative endeavors toward theater alone.
Next of note, is an image from an old 1964 Life magazine. It’s a large black-and-white photo of a woman in a tennis
outfit mid-air, jumping, with her fists curved tight, elbows up, her face
scrunched in emotion—she’d just won Wimbleton, after a
bout with a fatal illness. T
he caption quotes her: “I made it.”
This, for me, does not speak only to my own triumph over
cancer, but also the image of someone celebrating their victory. She is unabashedly celebrating herself, and her
accomplishment. She is
proud of
herself, and
acknowledging it.
How many of us do that, regularly? Not me. It is not an ingrained habit to feel
proud over things I’ve done.
And, again, if you’ve been reading, you know that each time
I’ve shown up to a theater audition recently, the emotion I feel most afterward is pride. Is a
clap-on-the-back feeling of, Damn straight, Molly, you did it. You showed up
for yourself. You made it.
Another strong image in the collage I created caused me the
most difficulty.
I’d cut out a photo of two people, who happened to be in ski
gear walking away from the camera into the snow town, holding hands. With this
couple, I’d placed the words, “Let’s Connect.”
I sat the longest with these images. Placing them on, taking
them off. Placing them on, Yes, Molly, Let’s Connect. Shit, no, I don’t know if
I want to commit to this idea. – Even on a stupid collage.
“Let’s Connect.” I don’t know about this. That sounds
hardest of them all. Do I really want this? Do I really want to connect with someone else? Well, yes… But I’m
scared.
In the end, I’m pleased (and proud) to say, I took my glue
stick and fixed the image of the couple and the intention to connect onto my
collage. … In the corner, tucked away. But still, There. And as you have seen, I have been attempting to connect, however inexpertly, with another human being.
Lastly, and this is what prompted me to write this today,
the last images I’ll describe to you are of a fancy dinner party. An event. At this event, a man and woman dressed to kill–a couple–are
looking at a case housing artful jewelry. The party has soft colored lights, fancy
centerpieces–whatever you think of when you think fancy, like Hollywood fancy,
dinner party.
I pasted this on, because I want to be a fancy person who does
fancy things. That’s how I described it to my peers on the retreat as we all
shared our collages and their meanings to us. I have been a little ashamed to
say I want fancy things, I want to be a fancy person, I want to wear fancy
clothes, because I’ve been afraid that makes me superficial. That others will think this “want fancy things” means I think money buys happiness, but that’s not what my meaning is.
Because, another thing you’ve seen me write about here is the
ownership of my true self, including the externals. That has meant upgrading my
wardrobe, buying gold shoes, having a cleaning company come to help upgrade the
aesthetics of my apartment.
I have always been a woman of externals, too. I have an
internal landscape that rivals Ansel Adams, and I have a desire to express on
the outside how I feel on the inside.
And I would like to feel fancy.
Sure, not all the time—I sit here in cotton pajamas, an
Oakland sweatshirt, fuzzy socks, with a well-worn (second hand) Vera Wang
knitted robe knotted tight around me.
But I want to not feel ashamed of wanting to be a fancy
person. Who does fancy things and goes fancy places. Who needs to have fancy things in my closet, because it is not
unheard of that I get invited to fancy events.
THUS. This evening, I am attending a fancy event. A gala.
And I will be wearing a fancy dress suitable for the evening.
However, I will be attending the gala for my job–our annual fundraiser–and thus I
am not a guest, as much as an employee, put to work, for sure.
So, this morning, I was more specific in my morning pages
about my intention to be a fancy person – I would like to be an invited
guest
to fancy things.
Because, apparently the Universe is listening: all the
things I’d pasted on my collage are happening. Therefore, I’d better be intentional with
my intentions.