connection · courage · loneliness

Meeting Ewoks

10.15.18.jpgThere’s always that portion in the hero’s journey when they’re out in the wilderness — alone.  In these moments, we notice the fierce determination of our hero begins to wilt.  They become prey to creeping doubts: “Is this the right path? Should I turn back? Did I make the wrong choice?

“This is so lonely.”

It’s generally accepted plotting that at this moment a friend or guide, boon or spirit materializes to boost our hero’s flagging spirits and help her to double-down on her belief in her path toward fulfillment.

One of the fears I carry most closely is that by taking steps into the new unknown, I will be alone.  A strikingly converse idea I also hold as truth is that by not being alone (by attaching myself to other people), I will never be able to attain fulfillment.

What I give myself here is a classic Catch-22:  if I move into the wilderness of “actualization” — or whatever hippie term you want to call “growing up”! — I will be alone on the journey.  Conversely, if I align myself with a partner, I will be driven off my own course by their needs, and thereby never live the fulfillment I desire.

So now what, then??

Well: Ewoks, in a word.

What I’m looking for in this world is companions who are also dragon-riders (to mix  fictional worlds).  Judgment expert that I am, I’m desperately afraid that if I align myself with a person who I deem or fear is not a dragon rider, I can’t soar myself.  That I can only have one or the other, connection or attainment.  I cannot have both.

The great part about uncovering this is that I can see that it is just a THOUGHT.  My fears and judgments love to parade around as full-fledged reality, a grotesquerie of fright and illusion.

But what a silly thought to have, no?  That I cannot be fulfilled, for any reason whatever!, is total and utter bunk.  Conjuring up a reason that strikes at the heart of my most innate fear—being alone—I am and have been tricked into thinking that it is true, because the resonance and deep-seat of that fear is so primal.

But.  Just because I believe something does not mean it is true.

Further, just because I fear something doesn’t mean it has any substance at all.

There is such vile lusciousness in the voice of the demon that says I can have only one, love or power.  (“Choose wisely.”)  Born of my greatest fears, it knows where to strike, to needle, to whisper in the dark hours.

Luckily, I have come far enough on my hero’s journey to know that thoughts can be overcome and released.  I don’t yet know how to untangle this nest, but maybe soon, I’ll run into some Ewoks who’ll ease my troubled mind, offer comfort, and fortify my courage by their companionship.

They’ll remind me that my journey — of releasing that which does not serve me, embracing the love of those whom I do, and owning the power that I am developing — is wholly, critically, and delightfully worthy.

 

 

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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. 
change · connection · fear · growth · love · self-abandonment · self-support

Doctor of Philosophy

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If you have read my blog for any period of time, you may be
aware by now that I seem to have a knack for interpreting the human species and
their actions. I observe, report, make conclusions, and sometimes adjust my own
behavior to meet the findings of what “healthy” or “happy” people seem to be
doing.
Philosophically speaking, in all my deep-cover research on
human behavior, I may well have earned myself a doctorate in human behavior.
However for every inner tube of polymer, there is a flat of
pavement, and it is where the rubber meets the road that I become hesitant.
It is all well and good to observe, predict, and theorize,
to take note of actions of others and even of myself as a predictor and indicator
of action’s next steps. However, there is also the parable about the monk who
spent 20 years in a cave becoming enlightened, and upon emerging decked the
first guy he had a disagreement with.
It is only in practice that we actually learn. (Though, I do
submit that research and reflection help.)
When my mom came to visit a few weeks ago, we began to discuss my romantic life. (Unworried, as she said she was, that I would have any trouble when I was finally ready. She’s not the “where are my grandchildren” type, she said.) I told her a
little about my extra layer of protection around my castle wall metaphor. I
told her that my work currently is about coming to trust myself and my boundaries
enough to let people close enough to know me.
I told her my doubts about feeling capable of a) letting
those guards down, and b) evaluating approachers in a level-headed way. I told
her that I am scared to learn to trust myself, because I’m scared that I can’t.
She responded with a story of her own. She’d taken issue,
herself, with the word “trust.” The airy and elusive nature of that word. And
she’s replaced it with the word, “rely.”
Several years ago, she signed up to be a part of a tour
group that would travel to Scotland to see the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her
friend asked her if she was nervous to go by herself, with no-one she knew? My
mom replied, No. She knew that she could rely on her own effusive and collegial
personality, and that she’d make friends.
She didn’t say that she could trust herself to do this; she
said that she knew she could rely on
herself. That she had her own back, basically.
And she invited me to think about it this way instead: Can I
rely on myself? Do I have my own back?
… Well, judging by a very long history of self-abandoning
actions, it’s hard to answer that with a complete affirmative. But, when
pressed, I know that it is true—that it is true now: I am here for myself, even when things are hard…
and even when things are great.
My own pattern of looking the other way, of procrastinating,
of dismissing myself has begun to lessen. If I look at it honestly.
And so, can I rely on myself? Well, I think I can.
And, here’s the rubber/road test: If I do think I can rely on myself, support myself, be
compassionate and encouraging and honest with myself… Then… it means I’m going
to have to allow the sentries around my castle to stand down, and let
my natural boundaries do their job.
I’m going to have to trust myself (word disparity aside) and
take actions that are indicative of a woman who trusts herself, inviting in
those who are supportive but also challenge me to be my best self, and inviting to leave those who
are not.
I’m going to have to have my back.
And I’m going to have to let go of the reigns. My reigns
have become most like bonds, and not the fun kind.
I am scared to try this new way of being out “in the field.”
But I am also scared to continue limiting my connections with people. (And
again, if you’ve read me for any length of time, you know that, mostly, I’m
addressing the case of chronic single-hood I’ve managed to carry for as long as
I’ve been of dating age. Chronic single-hood is most like being Typhoid Mary.
You feel fine, but no one wants to be near you.)
I know that I can’t (and don’t want to) go on the way I have. I’m too young to
be a spinster, and too old to be a bachelorette.
In the observational reality of modern relationships, I may
be deft at cataloguing and quantifying. But my absence of field research also
means that all of my assumptions about my own viability, accessibility, and
health are purely theoretical. 

anxiety · connection · family · honesty · love · self-care

Incoming!

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Enjoying my last moments of solitude in my studio apartment
before I pick my mom up from the airport this afternoon. Delighted though I am
that she’s coming to visit, I look forward to someday having an apartment where we both
have bedroom doors!
Also, my voice is going, a combination of sickness, rehearsal + yesterday’s voice lesson, when it really began to go. My voice
teacher advised that I avoid talking as best as I could during the next few days…
I replied, (Fat chance!) You know my mom’s coming into town, right? 
That woman and I could talk until all the stars burned out
and still have things to talk about that were interesting. It’s who and how we
are. How we’ve been. But, I need to “rest my voice,” as the teacher put it, so either my mom
will do the majority of talking, or she’ll get really good at lip-reading!
I’m excited to see her, to have her here. But, I also know
that it means three and a half days of mostly “up” energy, or at least engaged
energy, which is hard for me. Because it’s a “visit,” it means that we have a
lot to talk about, and a lot to try to “fit in” to three days, since we see one
another maybe once or twice a year. Oakland may be the Brooklyn of the Bay, but
it doesn’t mean I can get to her home of Manhattan by
the Q train.
What I realize is that I’m going to have to police myself
these few days, getting over a bad week of being sick still, but also, just for
general self-care.
My mom, whether it’s the New Yorker or the mania in her,
runs on an elevated frequency. As her child and a game partner, I tend to rise to
her level. Some people call that level anxiety(!), but as someone once said to
me, The difference between nervous and excited is breathing.
So, I’m going to have to remind myself to breathe, to take
time to be a little more still and not quite as participatory as perhaps I might be, and to also let her know that’s my intention. Also, I’m going to have to inwardly remember to un-constrict, to let her
vibrate at whatever frequency she wants to without feeling I have to meet her there. That’s my
part in this: she’s not asking me to be all abuzz with her;
I’m doing that myself.
It’s hard, as I’ve said, when people change the rules to a
game you’ve played for a long time; but I also don’t like partially dreading
spending compacted time with her. It’s a litt– a lot exhausting to try to
match that level of up-ness and on-ness, and, well, it’s why she’s the one with bipolar disorder, and not me.
There’s also a crash when you’re up that high.
I’ve tried to learn to moderate my own extroverted and
introverted behavior, balancing a few hours of out-ness with a few of
aloneness. It doesn’t have to be inside my home, away from the world; just
alone-ness is enough, on a walk, at a museum alone, at a movie alone. As much
as I thrive on connection and conversation, and could indeed talk to the end of
time, I’d be working on fumes by then.
Self-care will be the name of the game. I know that’s
changing the rules a little from how we’ve always been and always communicated, but if I let her know that I’ve introduced a new
rule to our relationship, at least for now—for even one hour out of the 16 we’ll
be spending conscious with one another—I think it will be respected and
absorbed.
It might not be a smooth transition into a different way of
“being together,” but I think in the long run, it will help us both to be
present with the other in a way that feels nurturing.
Which, I think is what a mother-daughter relationship is
supposed to be anyway.

awareness · connection · fear · growth · love · parenting · risk · self-derision · self-love · vulnerability

parental advice

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Brene Brown talks a lot in her book Daring Greatly about parenting, about how to “dare greatly” in
parenting, which often means allowing yourself to feel, with all uncertainty and unpredictability, the full extent of your love. She talks about
the split-second after noticing her full love for her children the flood of constricting
and panicking thoughts about loss and impermanence and a terrible desire to control. To allow herself to
notice and accept her love so deeply, she’s also acutely aware of how tenuous
life is, and how she cannot protect her offspring from the world.
In the moment of greatest love is the moment of greatest
vulnerability.
She talks about trying to withstand and stand in that moment
of love as long as possible without giving in to the fear of the things we
cannot control.
The kinds of thoughts that enter immediately after hearing,
“You got the role.” God, I hope I don’t fuck it up. Or after “I love you.” Don’t betray me. Or “You’re a great friend.” Am
I doing enough?
Moments of connection are severed by fear when we insulate back inside ourselves around the thought: How can I control this?
We can’t.
In every effort we put forth to expand ourselves, we risk.
In every effort we make to control, we risk those
relationships that have brought us joy, including the one with ourselves. See:
I’ve gained some muscle working out, I better make sure I get to the gym even
more.
I hiked for an hour this week, I really should do that three times a
week.
I loved that novel I read, I should really be reading something
“worthwhile.”
Brown has written that we siphon off the top layer of risk and
innovation and spontaneity when we attach our interpretation of our efforts to
how they’ll be received – I believe this includes the efforts and risks we make
that are private, like those above: How are they received by ourselves?
Are the efforts we put toward joy, spontaneity, pushing our
own envelope supported internally, or hampered by voices of not good enough?
Sometimes both. Sometimes it depends on the minute of the
day.
I can experience the duplicity of knowing my acting is up to
par for this show, but my singing is not.
What I cannot hold is the self-derision that follows that
awareness.
As always, action is the antidote to anxiety and worry.
Voice lessons, music drills. Learning, learning learning.
This is a challenge. A challenge to show up authentically,
even if I don’t like or approve of what that sounds like at the moment. There is
vulnerability in showing up, but if, as happens frequently, I step on my own
efforts and try to hide the greatest risks, I won’t learn, I won’t grow, nor will I have any fun.
There’s a self-reparenting that is happening for me right now.
A re-training. In fact, several days this week, as I’ve sat up out of
bed, voices already chiding me for being sick and not being able to sing, for
not being as good as the others actors – I’ve literally had to stop myself and
insert a new voice, saying aloud – Yes, Moll, I know, and you’re working on it.
You’re doing the best you know how right now, and you are enough.
There is risk in allowing myself the “lenience” of
self-approval. There is the risk of abandoning control and constriction and self-flagellation. There is the risk that things won’t turn out “how I want,” how I want things to be, how
I want myself to be – Can’t you be better at something you’ve never done
before, the voice chides incessantly.
But I want a different reality. A different parenting. I
want to be able to look at myself and my efforts fully, with the full ache of
unknowing and the full pride of risk-taking.
I want to begin modeling this completely uncertain,
vulnerable, pulsating, spark-of-life parental love for myself, because I have
hope that one day I’ll need to employ it with children of my own.
And you can’t give to others what you can’t give yourself. 

anxiety · body · connection · dating · fear · isolation · love · relationships · vulnerability

Disarming.

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I am having a languid, delightful time getting to know someone.
A man.
The same someone who inspired me to look at how much I don’t want to let a romantic interest get to know me. And,
for whatever this is or will be, it’s really, really nice.
I described to a friend what it felt like to be held – not spooning, or even the enjoyable resting of your head on the guy’s
chest – but simply standing, holding one another, like the kind of extended hug that
someone forces around you until you relax. Until they can feel your shoulders drop,
and your lungs start to inhale again. Until you feel safe enough to breathe.
It’s like that, only without the imperative insistence of the
extended hug. This feels, to me, mutual, natural, like we both are relieved
just to stand there, heads tucked, arms wrapped, bodies together, and breathe
for a minute, guileless. It’s similar to the feeling I sometimes have when I realize that
I’ve been holding my breath or breathing shallowly for too long, and I finally
take a nice deep breath into my belly. Filling out my whole body with awareness, instead of constriction.
It’s a feeling that you didn’t know how stressed or armored
or anxious you were, until it falls away so fucking naturally and quickly,
that it almost makes you dizzy. And suddenly, you’re just two people, two
hearts, unaware you were looking for relief and comfort and ease, until now
you’re experiencing it.
It’s benevolent, and it’s grace.
For me, it’s also an awareness, I think, of how lonely and
body-starved I’ve been. Not for sex, though sure, but for that kind of holding.
To be held. It’s actually, now that I think of it, what I came to at the
conclusion of my meditation retreat in January. I concluded that this year, I
wanted to learn to let myself be held.
I almost always hold my breath, as I’ve written about before. Even in the safety and constance of my own home. I am always on guard,
protecting myself from something. And it’s just so tiring, but I don’t realize
it – didn’t realize it, until in this togetherness, I find it fall from around
me, and experience feeling unburdened and relieved of that something. 
I am not Fate’s author, I am only the scribe. So, I can only
report to you what I know, and share with you how I feel in the moment, today.
As everything changes so quickly.
But recognizing for myself that there’s another way of
being, that there’s an open way to be, that in fact that way of being feels
like its own ecstasy, I think I’m learning that my armor is not as useful as it
once was. And that being held, without that shield, is more healing, joyful,
and filling than I could have predicted. 

connection · family · joy · theater

Hum a few bars?

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There’s a famous story in our nuclear family history:
My brother was maybe five years old. He swaggered into the
room. Feet planted, arms wide, he opened his lips and belted, “GOTTA
DANCE!… Gotta Dance, Gotta Dance, Got ta Daaance.”
This, friends, is a move from a song in Singin’ in the
Rain
. My family trades in musicals.
Broadway and movie musicals. On frequent rotation in our VCR were
Singin’
in the Rain
, Meet me in St. Louis, Calamity Jane, On The Town. Eventually,
there’d be
Chorus Line and Cabaret with their more “adult” themes; even Flying Down to Rio and Top Hat, from in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers oeuvre. My mom, brother and I would trade lines like
currency, like code, and for us, they were.
All four of us together, with my dad, weren’t a family of
deep conversation. Instead, we’d throw these bones of reference to one another
as a note of connection and a wink. One commonly used phrase in our house was,
“What’s that from, again?” We were almost always speaking in movie lines, not just
musicals. Watching movies was what we were able to do together, to spend time
the 4 of us, without having to talk, but able to be in the same room at the
same task.
Unknown is what might have happened if we’d allowed my dad to
join in on the impromptu a cappela fun. We always cut him off, because he
couldn’t sing a bar; the trees weeped. But he could whistle, and play the harmonica,
and there’s even an old banjo lying around that apparently was his in his
younger days.
But, for the most part, it was me, mom and Ben. Trading
lines, lobbing tunes to one another, volleying them back, and joining in. So
much of my growing up, I see us, in and around the kitchen bursting into a
melody. Me, on the melody, actually, and Ben on the harmony. I never had quite
the ear for harmony, and he did; still does.
For my bat mitzvah party when I was 13, instead of the DJ
party most of my friends requested, I wanted to see a musical with my friends.
We lived a short drive from Manhattan, and many of my friends had never seen a
Broadway show.
We went to Phantom of the Opera. In a short party bus, about a dozen of us rode into
New York City
 with Nightmare Before Christmas playing on the thick, boxy t.v. screens, since it
was mid-October, right after my 13th birthday.
My mom and I’d created gift packages for my friends, little
heart shaped wicker boxes with a fake rose with a plastic water droplet on it;
a cassette tape of the soundtrack; and a mug with the Phantom mask on it that turned from black to white when you
filled the mug with something warm.
I was extraordinarily lucky to have been to some shows
already, my aunt, a stalwart New Yorker taking me to see Guys & Dolls and later, How to Succeed in Business
without Really Trying
starring the
inimitable Matthew Broderick (if you think him singing Twist & Shout in
Ferris Beuler was something… well, I assure you, this man has charisma. And talent.)
But the Phantom
theater was magnificent. There’s an enormous chandelier that crashes into the
stage during the middle of the play, and we were sitting right behind it, this
wide, gold, frail thing about to murder the ingénue. For a group of giddy,
hopped up tween girls, this was a pretty cool experience. Well, for me it was,
anyway 😉
Musicals are in my blood. I was raised on their fervor,
their simplicity, their saccharine lyrics. And I love them. I know they
can be cheesy and I know it “doesn’t make sense” that people bust into song all
the time. But, you see,
In my house, we did.