community · empathy · humanity

Stronger Together.

11.2.18.jpegIn a somewhat delightful role-reversal, it was J who offered the optimistic viewpoint yesterday after my riled-up blog post.  Having shared that a neighboring school would be joining ours in a show of solidarity yesterday morning—and my feeling angered that these types of gatherings only occur in times of atrocity or within the boundaries of our personal identifications—J said that maybe one of those kids will one day be in a situation where others are speaking antisemitically and that kid will get to say,  “You know, the school across from mine growing up was Jewish, and they were pretty normal and fine to me.”

J pointed out that maybe one kid gets to not engage in hate-speech because they were exposed to a community different than their own when they were young.  And, of course, he’s right.

When we hear so much about speaking into echo-chambers, pandering to one’s own side, or read a sarcastic meme about, “I wrote a diatribe on Facebook and actually changed somebody’s opinion” or “I read someone’s diatribe and was convinced of my own inaccuracy”…

then I suppose any opportunity to walk out of one’s own comfort zone, out of one’s own community, to step a foot in a school that doesn’t belong to our own; or, as the recipient of the kindness, to see that others are willing to cross out of their circle of identification and hold hands with someone who by appearance or religion or socio-economics are different from us,

then I suppose it is not only worth the effort, it is worth my respect and appreciation.

I was genuinely moved by the show of…solidarity…yesterday as the mostly Hispanic students sat next to our mostly white/Jewish ones.  I was moved by the speeches of the principals of both our schools.  I saw that what was happening on the stage between the two of them, by appearances so different, was a potential manifestation of what could be happening between our own students in years to come.

(I also did say afterward to one of their teachers that it felt a bit hollow that we only do these things when there’s a tragedy, because I still vehemently feel we need to cross our respective streets in moments of normality and of joy in order to build real and regular relationships with those “different” from us.)

But.  I must admit: it was an experience that was more about unity than about division or ideology (even my own), and I am grateful that our students and teachers got to experience it, despite its precipitating event.

 

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community · news · politics

The Myopia of Tragedy

Today a nearby school will be joining us in solidarity in response to the shooting in Pennsylvania, and I find myself harboring the same opinion I held when the Twin Towers fell:  This kind of tragedy happens all the time in other communities and other countries.  Why is this different?  Why do we only post a profile overlay of solidarity when there’s tragedy within our micro-communities or when there’s enough media coverage of it to warrant a hashtag?  What makes this tragedy more worthy of your time and attention than the daily trauma and tragedy of people who suffer under dictatorship, extreme poverty, famine, drought, war, Ebola, slavery, trafficking, abuse, racism and discrimination right now?

It feels so myopic to me, the minute ocular circumference of Americans.

I teach the novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 about the bombing of a church in Alabama when four little black girls attending Sunday school in their finest dresses were murdered.  In Texas just last year, 26 black people were murdered in church.  In 2015, there was a shooting in another predominantly black church and 9 people were killed.  The list, literally, goes on.

WHERE WERE THE PROFILE FILTERS THEN???

I feel sickened and ashamed that we only seem to care or notice when it’s happening in our own backyard, to our “own” people.  Is there simply so much atrocity in the world that we can only monitor what is our “own”??

And, if that is the case—that there is simply so much horror that we can’t process, own, or attend to it all—then why do any “honoring” of the slain anyway?  It feels so hollow to me to “stand in solidarity” by picking and choosing who we feel worthy of our time and bowed heads.

Who is more worthy of our brief attention spans?

It is not my intention to express that my way of dealing with tragedy is better than another’s, nor it is my intention to minimize in any way the suffering that happened this week or diminish the genuine grief of those affected.

But I feel impelled, and blood-boiled, to point out that if we stand together, then we must mean everyone.  If we stand together, then our action must be for everyone.  Humanity isn’t a pick-and-choose experience.

So, please, if you are “standing together” today, spare a moment or a piece of change or a donation or an expose story about all the other goddamned things that are harming humans around the world right f*cking now.

NYTimes: Shootings at places of worship

BBCNews: Sexual Abuse of Women in North Korea

Al Jazeera: Teenage Suicide Bomber in Russia

 

commitment · community · self-support

Act our way into right thinking.

10.25.18.jpgBecause of the change in my commute status (insert gif of woman doing backflips), I no longer have to slog through an hour of bridge traffic anymore, but I also don’t get to participate in the morning phone call with like-minded folks I’d been calling in to for 2 months either.  So, I’ve had to make some adjustments.

On Monday, and once since then, I called in to a new phone line geared toward Artists.  It’s the same overarching community, but this daily call is intended to focus on the particular challenges artists and writers may face as they attempt to get out from under their own thumb.

I hadn’t intended to, but I piped up during the “3 minutes each” sharing time and at the end of the call, during the “phone number exchange,” a woman requested my number and reached out to me the next day.

We spoke by phone last night (she’s in Chicago) and just having the call helped me to see that maybe I’m not stalling out in my personal work and progression — and maybe (just maybe!!) I’m not going to.

I had my Goals Group call on Tuesday and admitted to them too that I was afraid of not “doing much” after the highlights of the article publication and two performances this month.  So, yesterday, I emailed my piano player friend to talk this weekend and brainstorm what was next.  After Tuesday’s goals call, I also spoke with one of the women on the line to ask how on earth to find an easy way to email out these blogs (just through WordPress without having to go through extra steps — if you know, please message me!!!).

With the addition of the woman who called yesterday (we set up an “action phone call” for Sunday to support each other in our personal progress writing), I realize that there are several barriers around my visions work that are now set in place.  Even if I want to flake off, hide, retreat, sloth away my time, I kind of can’t get far!

My hems and frames now include: action partner whom I text daily (sometimes it’s a list of things I don’t do! but sometimes I really do!) and speak with weekly; a weekly Goals Group call (that includes women who are “watching,” as one of them put it, to ensure I don’t dissolve into the relationship); a mentor with whom I’m completing personal progress work (but seeing as I haven’t been doing that writing, I now will have…); a weekly writing action partner to carve out and sanctify this writing time.

Many of these hems were not in place when last J and I were in relationship.  Nor did I then open the discussion with him, as I did last week, about ensuring that I have my morning practice held in trust (morning pages, meditation, blogging).

I can point to the places where “I’m not doing anything” or “not working hard enough” or “not fast enough” — I really, really can (and sometimes do!) — but I am so heartened to be able to point today to places where I’ve created and invited in structures that will not allow me to flake or stray too far.

For a person like me, these structures are vital—in the literal, life-sustaining meaning.  Without visions, goals, writing, meditating, speaking with fellow travelers, or taking mini-actions, I lose hope, momentum, self-esteem, and eventually I threaten my existence.  I know this about myself.

So, here I am today, 6:53am, 3rd cup of coffee on the table, telling you how much I want to live.

 

community · progress · receiving

Healthy Help.

6.29.18_2I had a strange occurrence this week: I received help.

Novel, I know.  But as you may have read here, I have a complicated (read: vitriolic) relationship with giving and receiving help, which is informed by my reticence to give and receive goodness to and from my own self.

Therefore, as I sat on two phone calls this week, shared my situation and my questions, was offered guidance, suggestions, encouragement, and a path forward, I felt different.  And that difference is a keystone toward my future.

Because I met with two friends/lay-people last week to discuss my financial situation, one of them offered me the name of a certified financial planner.  It is beginning to look like I truly need professional help when looking at my finances, instead of continuing to wing it or to attempt to wrest all the pennies out of my paycheck and into my savings—an express ticket to Deprivation Land.

Listening to Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins earlier this year, he too suggested that we talk with someone to get a more realistic and educated sense of how to proceed.  But it’s not like I had any clue who or how to find someone, therefore this “to do” item fell down the pages of my calendar for months.

And lo: here I was across a cafe table last week and the gentleman says, “You have to talk to this guy; he’s a success machine.”  Uhh, yes, please!

So I talk to said guy and his associate on Monday.  We have an hour-long free call where I describe my current situation and mushy outlines of my future goals.  Firstly, he is so kind!  They are generous with their questions, their listening, their suggestions.  They listen with a warmth that belies the fact that they would never take my business!

Because their fees are precipitous, they’re not the right group for me and they later suggest a woman who may be.  Nonetheless, despite knowing my financial situation within the first 5 minutes of our call, they talk to me anyway.  Even now, I feel a pressure ease in my chest when I recall it.  (I’d later describe them as “warm, juicy” feelings!)

There is something about help freely given that feels entirely new to me.

Surely, I’ve previously been offered what I’m presently calling “Healthy Help,” but perhaps I was not in a place to become aware of it, or in a place to receive it.

We had our lovely, gentle, informative, equanimous call and they invited me to check in down the line.  I followed their referral immediately, and the next afternoon spoke with a woman whose fees and experience seem just what I’m looking for.

Again, she listened.  She heard, she parsed, she reflected.  And it just felt SO DAMN CALM!  I don’t know what it is about the “calmness” of these phone calls that strikes me as so phenomenal, but it does.  (By contrast, I can point to two weeks earlier when I spoke with a real estate agent and a mortgage broker, and I can assure you that however kind in their being they may be, their help sure didn’t feel “calm.”  It felt pushy, greedy, and patronizing.)

Clearly, I am attracting a different manner of help — or I am finally in a place to receive Healthy Help.  It feels marvelous, expansive, laden with possibility and hope.  And it speaks to an opening in my realm for more.

 

 

commitment · community · growth

Bird by Bird

I’ve registered for a homeownership course given by the city, the one required for anyone applying to “below market rate” housing.  I also went to the open house for that 1-bedroom condo on Lake Street yesterday … and it needs a lot of work.  But!  Just one foot before the other.  “This or something better,” is how I’ve heard it put.

As my now-partner becomes my then-partner, my rent bill will increase to previously-held levels come April 1, but luckily I haven’t changed much in my expenses.  It was certainly nice to put more into retirement, savings, and self-care categories, but as I plot April’s budget, it’s only made me realize that said previously-held levels don’t have a lot of breathing room.  It continues to highlight that an increase in income will be necessary at some point soon.

Last Sunday, I finished the 6-month “Goals Group” I was participating in weekly with 2 ladies, and we’ll be restarting another round of it in a few weeks with slightly different faces (or voices, since it’s a phone call!).  One of the ladies in the last group began working on a book at the start of the call, and by April 1 will have her book completed, ready for Amazon!

As I begin to prep for the next Goals Group, what goal am I looking to accomplish?  Where do I need structure and support and accountability?  What does my life want of me next?  And how much more breathing room can I attract into it?

 

anger · community · isolation · recovery · trauma · truth · uncertainty

The Look-Good.

I was with a group of close friends on Friday night, celebrating one of their “not getting drunk and sleeping with strangers” anniversaries. These are women I’ve known for nearly my whole 8 years of not doing the same, and who know me and have seen me through my best and worst. 
And I couldn’t tell them the truth. 
It wasn’t until the assembled group was about to close that I got up, walked to the podium at the front of the room and said, “This is the place you’re supposed to tell the hard things. And, things are really bad.”
I began to sob. I eeked out that 5 months ago, I burned my life down, and I’m exhausted and isolated. I told the group that I realized I had to say something when, tonight, I couldn’t hold eye contact with my friends over our dinner. That the closest women I have in my life, I couldn’t look at for too long, because if I did… they would see… and I would break down crying. 
And I didn’t want to do that. 
Because it doesn’t feel like there’s anything to do. So, why talk about it?
I told them about being an expert at looking good on the outside, and feeling like dog shit on the inside. Now, the thing about the “look good” is that, sure, who doesn’t want to look good? Especially when you are feeling crappy, sometimes it’s nice to say, Well, at least I can still pull myself together. At least I can assemble an outfit, put on a little makeup, and … look good. 
However, the other thing about the “look good” is that generally, if you look good, people assume you feel good. And that’s part of the guise of it, of course; that’s part of its purpose… is to fool people. Because if no one asks, you don’t have to tell. 
It’s a pretty little prison we wrap ourselves up in, in an effort to try to do it alone. Because, again, what else is there to do?
In my case, I’m going on interviews, auditions, tours of school, taking tests, ordering physics books. I’m going about the wildest flurry of activity, the other day, I called it a blizzard. 
All this manic pushing to get out of my current situation that I feel ashamed I got into again. Molly, quitting another job without a plan. Molly, struggling to find work, again. Molly looking into a hundred different career paths, and feeling like a strung-out shell of a person through it all. 
Because, as I said earlier: Things are really bad. 
There’s a lot of crying, a lot of hopelessness, a lot of just trying to make it through these extended, exhausting retail days. 
A co-worker I’ve been sharing some of my, “Someone get me out of here” activities with said yesterday that shouldn’t this (the retail job) feel laughable in comparison to what I’ve been through? (She knows about the cancer.) And I said, No. 
Instead, it feels like, “Haven’t I been through enough that I shouldn’t have to deal with this fucking bullshit?” That’s how it feels. 
It feels like I push and try and explore and push and try and explore, and nothing moves. 
I feel like the hamster on the wheel, working so fucking hard, and getting no where. 
I will say that this new idea to pursue teaching feels like the first thing that makes real and doable sense in all my career lily-pad hopping. So, that feels like a win, and progress, and hope. 
And in the center of that remains the fact that my feet and legs ache, right now, I’m earning half what I did when I was at my office job, I have a dwindling savings account that was really fucking hard-earned, and I have no back-up.
So. What? Why do you talk to anyone about that anyway? No one really has anything to tell you of use, except, “We love you and you’ll get through this.” … And take that to the bank. 
But, no. It’s fabulous that I have people around me, and I know there’s something to telling the truth, and so I did. When I realized I couldn’t look my best friends in the eye for fear they might see the truth of what’s happening beyond the “look good,” it was time to say something. (Though, perhaps earlier could have been better, too.)
Did they particularly have anything that shorn through the bleakness in which I find myself, again? Not really. No magic bullets. No words of enlightenment. Just simple suggestions like, Go to a meeting everyday with people who actually know you, and share about this. 
And so, I am. 
I hate it. I feel vulnerable, and I want everybody to not talk to me about it afterward — but there’s no controlling people. 
Because here’s the undercurrent of all this surface nonsense, all this struggle to stay and get afloat and to try to believe that things will change and get better if I keep doing “the next right thing,” that life will even out, that I’ll be okay…: 


The undercurrent is: I. Don’t. Know. That. (None of us do, surely.)


But, specifically, I’m talking cancer. I have a lot of cancer grief to go through, and I don’t know how. 
Partly I don’t talk about it because I feel it’s so dramatic to talk about, because I’m scared people will roll their eyes, and think, “Sheesh, enough with the cancer already; you lived, didn’t you? Move on!” 
I don’t know how to share with people about how angry, betrayed, and every day still terrified — with every cough, or sleepless night, or strange headache — about a recurrence I feel. 
I don’t know how to begin to put faith back into a universe and a universal law that arbitrarily may decide to kill you “just cuz.” How to “come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to wholeness” when everything solid was ripped from under me in an instant. 
And that’s what I’m being asked to do. I’m at the point, again, where I’m supposed to contemplate my idea of a “higher power,” and I want everybody to take their, “It’s the cycle of life and death,” it’s love, it’s community, and shove it with red hot poker down their own throats. 
Because: Fuck. You. (non-cancer having people, she mumbles mentally.)
I am going at all this activity pretty much on my own, without the guidance and space of meditation, without a wisp of a belief in the goodness of the world, or in the belief that efforts bring results. 
And it’s really hurting me. 
There’s a lot of work I’m going to have to do on this, and I feel SO TIRED. I’m so tired. Have you fought cancer and then had to go about the daily business of living, getting parking tickets and paying bills you can’t afford? And are you now being asked to reconcile that traumatizing experience with a belief in goodness or constancy in the universe in order to stay sober and not kill yourself?
Few of us have. And I don’t know how to do it, because I don’t know who to turn to. 
And so, I’m doing this — or have been trying to do this — all alone, in many ways. Sure, I’m reaching out, and the shell of isolation is cracking, and I imagine “good” things will come of it. But for now, I’m just so tired. 
So that’s what’s beyond the “Look-Good,” friends. It’s not pretty, or happy, or palatable for many, including myself. It’s sad and raw and real and really fucking painful to be where I am right now. 
And… if one of you tells me “this too shall pass” or “everybody dies sometime,” i’ll shove an iron through your cranium.

(Because it is small comfort, even though it’s true.)
acting · community · connection · intimacy · love · theater

"It’s not about the applause."

I’m doing it again. This “auditioning” thing. 
It makes me nervous, giddy, excited, daunted, and happy, underneath all the neurosis. Seems I’m the perfect image of an actor, then, eh?!
But really. I was thinking about it when I was in To Kill A Mockingbird recently, about tweaking the title of Lance Armstrong’s memoir, “It’s not about the bike”: It’s not about the applause. 
At the end of the show, the performance, onstage, when I come out for my bow, I don’t really hear it. Adrenaline in my ears, it’s part of a wall of sound crossed with Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice: Wah Wah Wah. It’s the briefest moment. Shorter than an orgasm. It can’t be why you do it. 
It’s not about the applause. 
Because in the moment that the audience is able to reflect on what they’ve seen and pass judgement positive or negative, they’re already out of the moment — and that’s not what this acting thing is about for me. 
Not that I have much experience! But from that which I do, I realize that it’s more about what’s happening in the moment of performance with the audience, the experience created with them in real time. Whether that’s engagement, boredom, emotional stirring. 
For me, those moments of connection are what it’s about. To create a space and an environment for others to have an emotional experience they otherwise might not have had that evening. 
For me, it’s always been about that. From poems written years ago that highlight my desire to incite a revolution or evolution in people through performance. 
You can hear it from the stage. Whether the audience is holding their breath, gasping at a sudden revelation. Or crying, you can hear the sniffling. Or laughing, or that one person in the audience who laughs harder than others, or is trying not to laugh because no one else is. 
It’s this petrie dish of human experience. How will they respond, react, be moved, if at all?
I love it. I love being a part of it. I love having a small hand in moving people, of allowing them the moments of anonymity in the dark theater to be moved. That intimacy, even though I will never see their faces. That authenticity they get to experience, even though they paid for it. 
Isn’t that what Aristotle spoke of when he said theater was a catalyst of mass catharsis?
So in those few moments when I’m timing when to step out and down to the apron of the stage, and for a moment be Molly instead of character, it’s like stepping out as the man behind the curtain in Oz. Like seeing how a magic trick works. 
It’s lovely and I won’t fein that it isn’t bolstering to get applause, but I rush that part in my head, braced against it somehow, not really hearing it, just trying to bow and let the next person have theirs. 
Sure, it’s gratifying as we, the whole cast, stand there hands clasped over our heads, knowing that this sound is a show of appreciation and gratitude and approval. 
And I won’t say I don’t like it or hope for it. But. 

It’s not about the applause.