ambition · band · commitment · decision · destiny · dreams · faith · hope · performance · perseverance · self-worth · singing · tenacity · work

Dream Girls

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If we can pass others on the street and think to ourselves,
“There, but for the grace of G-d, go I,” isn’t it possible that others can pass
us and say the same thing?
I spent last evening at a Queen concert. It was balls-out
amazing: the talent, the showmanship, the technique and the bravery to stand
out there, bounce around a stage and invigorate a crowd of thousands.
I had a moment while watching Adam Lambert, who was filling
Freddie Mercury’s shoes pretty darn well, when I realized that only the slightest
differences existed between the two of us.
Go with me here. A plane takes off for New York, but the
compass is one degree off. You end up at the Nyack mall instead of JFK. One
degree. Completely different destination.
If there is just the “grace of god” between me and the
person I see huddled under the freeway gathering up their belongings as the cop car pulls two
wheels up on the sidewalk to shuffle them along to another temporary spot, isn’t
there just the “grace of god” between me and Adam Lambert? Or that woman I saw
perform at Yoshi’s a few years ago: She wasn’t perfect. Her pitch wasn’t always
on, but she was a performer. She had the
crowd completely, she enjoyed herself, she was proud, vivacious, and seen. And
she wasn’t perfect.
I don’t even remember who she
was, except she was the singer of a bluesy/jazzy band, and she was fierce. She
was a large woman with a large smile. And as I watched her, I thought to myself
that I wanted to do what she did; get up there and perform, without needing to be perfect – because if that were the case, I
don’t think any of us would ever do anything, including Adam Lambert.
Over the last year, I have adjusted my compass to be bringing me closer to that
point on the map. I am not so far away in the Canada hinterland, but perhaps
flying somewhere over Buffalo by now. (Can you tell I grew up back east?)
Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way that it isn’t talent that creates success; it’s
tenacity. It’s being a dog’s fierce jaw chomped around a toy rope, refusing to
let go.
The guitar player, Brian May, dazzled the crowd with a
10-minute long epic, cacophonous solo. It was like a safari inside of music
itself: strange, elegant, mystic, and ancient. I said to my friend, That’s what
happens when you spend 40 years doing only one thing.
That’s what happens when you decide that you love one thing,
that you’re good (enough) at one thing, that you want others to know you do this thing: You become great.
Here’s to finding—or claiming, rather—my thing. 

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adventure · decision · faith · family · finances · judaism · say yes · shabbat · work · writing

Go Toward the Open Door.

Wise women have told me this occasionally over the last few
years. And, this is just the opportunity I
got this weekend – to go toward the open door.
Originally planned for this weekend, was helping my
immensely talented and ambitious friend by volunteering at her art show
benefit for Japan. My volunteering for her had come as a status reduction from being in the art show, as during the time of my unemployment, I
realized I was not energetically inclined toward creative production, nor,
unfortunately, toward the donation of any art I currently own. So, I
downgraded myself to volunteer last month.
Then, I continued to be unemployed, and although now (halleLUjah) employed, I don’t get paid until the 15th
of this month. Her show was planned for last night, Saturday night, and I have
$40 to my name until Friday. I had to tell her I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t
afford the roundtrip to the city. It just wasn’t feasible.
Do I/did I feel like a flake? Yeah. Was there anything I
could do about it? No.
In the meantime, having unceremoniously bowed out of
volunteering, on Friday morning my office was in the midst of heading out for
the weekend to a “Shabbaton,” basically, a weekend at an overnight summer camp
in the Santa Rosa mountains, where 250 members of the congregation (did I
mention I work, now, at a synagogue?), kids, grandparenty-types, Board members,
staff members, would all gather and have a hella Jewish weekend (well, hella Reform Jewish weekend – which includes guitars, LOTS of
clapping on the up-beat, and the community-sanctioned use of a cappuccino machine on
Shabbat).
I, was not going to go. I told them over this week and a
half of my new employment that I wouldn’t be able to go, as I was volunteering
with my friend’s art show. And, part of me didn’t really want to see these
people, as I was still feeling rather resentful at being a freakin’ secretary,
answering phones and manipulating mail merges.
However, there was another part of me who is, about 7, I’d
say. And she, every time I heard someone
wish me a good weekend as they were departing on Friday afternoon,
would say to me,
I wanna go to
camp!.
I wanna go. I wanna go to camp. I wanna sleep in a bunk,
and clap during song session, and eat at long uncomfortable tables, and see the
mountains. I wanna go to camp!
She whispered this to me all day. Indeed, she’d been
whispering it with increasing intensity all week, but adult me was too pissed at
these people for having supporting roles in the drama of my life that was once
again entitled, “Molly: The Disgruntled Employee.”
Then, however, came the reality that I would not, in fact,
be joining my friend for her art show. And I’d been offered a ride by another
reluctant employee earlier in the week, that she was going up on Saturday
morning, coming back on Sunday, and I could ride with her.
She’s new to the office as well, and I could sense that
perhaps we could get along. So I told her I’d think about it. And, as she was
generously giving me a ride the the bus stop on Friday afternoon, long after almost
everyone else had defected for the mountains, my little girl was screaming to
be heard.
I was, in fact, on the bus home when I finally gave in to
her. I called the woman, and I told her that if she was still willing, I’d love
to ride with her to the Shabbaton.
Because, in reality, my alternative now, without the art
show, was to sit on Saturday in my apartment, continue to read my Zadie Smith
novel, see a few friends, and putz around, as per usual. I saw that very
clearly as I rode that bus through Berkeley. Everything as per boring usual.
I have been camping once
this summer. Several months ago now. I have kept my childlike spirit drowned
out with the adult business of interviewing, resumes, finance planning,
budgeting, cost efficiency, worry worry worry. There has been nearly NO play in
the last 3 months. At all. A few movies here and there for a break from the
awful soul-crushing of unemployment, but other than that, no glitter, sparse laughter, begrudging fun, and a riotous need to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
So, I said YES. I went toward the open door.
The adult in me was also very calculatingly clear, with its
Cheshire cat smile, that this weekend away would not cost me a penny. That I
would have good meals I didn’t have to cook, pay for, or clean up from. That I
would get the chance to go to the mountains, and hike there, as I did, without
paying for a rental car, gas money, a camp site, anything at all.
I would be able to get out of dodge simply by saying “yes.”
To think that I almost didn’t makes me laugh at myself.
The weekend itself was both satisfying, and exhausting.
Exhausting, as I was “on” the whole time, schmoozing with people, making my new
presence known. It was not an entirely selfless or avocational decision to go up, obviously –
it was/is also important to me that people got to know me as more than the
receptionist, should the ears of the executive director be listening to the
chatter in the water. Phrases like “raise” and “room for growth” come to mind
as I go forward with this job. It was a political decision. – Also, it
exposes/d me to people who might be good contacts later on.
Indeed, there was a published/working poet there with whom I
got to spend some good conversations. The last one included my bald question,
“Is it worth the fight?” [to be a writer, to pursue this {or indeed any} art, to continue to
put one word after another as a sign that we mean something to ourselves, others, this world we live in – that we are not floating mindlessly through it – that we value our experiences – that we mold and shape them and
ply them and tongue them and pinch them into these characters we imprint on paper
and screen …
Is it worth the fight to do this?]
His answer, after the knowing laugh, was yes, if you believe
it is.
I believe it is. I believe in marking my existence. I
believe in questioning it, turning it, shaping it, and being shaped by it.
I believe in inviting you to share it with me. To tell me how you see it, to let me have my own world shaped for a
moment or more by how it is you walk in the world.
By saying yes to this weekend, I allowed cherished and often
dismissed parts of me to sing in the sunshine. To look at the Milky Way, for
Christ’s sake. To dance in a circle of women, to talk blogging with a
stay-at-home dad. I got to see a fawn pounce through the brittle brush and pet
baby goats, and to sing at my most favorite service in
all of Judaism, Havdallah, the closing of Shabbat, where we say good-bye to the
week we’ve had, and we welcome the week to come. The service where we invite
the sweetness of Shabbat to come with us into and sustain us through the coming week.
It is a service that dances the edge of wistful, grateful
endings and limitless, renewed beginnings. And, simply, it has the best music.
Shavuah Tov, friends – May you have a happy week.  

abundance · balance · decision · healing · holidays · recovery · school · self-care · work

While the going’s good

Hey folks – how you been? I’m currently sitting at the desk shift at the dailey method – yes at 7:15am. I traded my shift from last Friday with this Saturday, as I knew I needed the morning free last week, as I was getting ready for my teaching demo etc.

What I did do this Friday, yesterday, was my classical song for voice class – in Italian. Surprisingly, that song went much better than “Have yourself a merry little christmas,” which was the holiday song I chose to sing. My teacher emailed me earlier this week to say another student was going to sing that for our “Holiday Performance” class, and I could do it, but I might want to choose a different song.

So, I paused, and thought about it. And the next morning, Wednesday, my mom texted me to say that Meet Me in St. Louis would be on TV that night. … For those of you who don’t know, Judy Garland sings the above song in that movie – and it’s really sad and beautiful. It’s at this moment after a little girl has just slain the snowmen she made of her family in the backyard because they’re moving from that house, and Judy come fetches her and comforts her (all while in this gorgeous fur coat and bright red dress), rocking her and singing that, “We’ll all be together, if the Fates allow, Until then, We’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

The song always gets me, I cry like a little girl.

So, when my mom texted me that the movie would be on, I decided to sing Have yourself a merry little christmas anyway. And when I sang it yesterday, all drama and all aside, I dedicated the song to my mom. And I totally teared up then too. Now, granted, it was not the performance of my life. I was really nervous, and all full of jiggling emotions, and I was all dressed up in heels and a really hot pencil skirt I’ve worn once because it was a class party, and we’re supposed to dress up for classes when we perform – which is all to say I was also a little …embarrassed? about looking so nice.

But, I sang it, and as is almost always the (genuine) feedback, the class and the instructor said that I have such emotion and presentation and stage-presence. So, maybe my voice is not Judy today, but I showed up with my whole heart & body anyway. And sometimes that’s enough. I’ve heard the “stage-presence” thing often enough to maybe stop dismissing it. My teacher actually said That’s something you cannot learn. So, that felt good. And next it’ll be time for me to leap again and show up for another audition, or rather, email back to some casting calls.

I had an interesting moment this week. I was offered a temp gig over my winter break from school at the awful, Office Space-esque company I worked for before. I’d hemmed and hawed on it, trying to see if I could stay with the interior design firm instead, but they couldn’t guarantee that they would need me in January, or for how long. So, I accepted the job.

Then, on Wednesday, I’m being driven home from class by a school-mate and she’s telling me how she’ll be using the break to really begin thinking about jobs after graduation (in MAY!), and I tell her, well, I’m going to be working full-time in the city, and I’m not going to have one day of holiday the entire break, and I’m actually looking forward to when classes will begin again (in over a month!), because then I can finally breathe again.

Anybody else sense a *warning* in the above? Any tinge of resentment against the job I haven’t even started yet? A large bout of self-pity for not having any time off at all? An intense feeling of overwhelm? Well, yeah, I finally got that too. And on Thursday, the next morning, I met with a girlfriend at lunch to talk about NOT working AT ALL over my winter break from school.

It hadn’t even occurred to me that I would be able to afford not working over winter break. But, it did in my morning pages on Thursday morning, What if I don’t work over break? Can I?

So, that morning, I crunch the numbers. If I don’t work over break (3 weeks – as I’m with the interior design firm til Christmas), I will be entirely covered – entirely covered – through the whole month of January. And what happens mid-January? My student loan replenishes, and I will have enough. I do have enough. I *don’t* have to work over break.

But… being the mind-f*king woman that I am to myself, I work the numbers as to how much I’d earn if I did work (despite ALL self-care information to the contrary). How much would I earn? Enough.for.a.car. A used car, but enough for a car.

What could I use that car for? AUDITIONS!!! Holla!! …. What else? The live modeling gig – they require you have your own transportation as many of the gigs are all over the Bay, at various schools, universities, studios. So… I need a car, right? I need a car to help follow my dreams right? I need a car to be more available for auditions & for gigs, right? … I need a car under these circumstances when I would be working myself so hard that I nearly cried talking about it with my girl friend at lunch on Thursday, right? …

Luckily, my friend is wise, compassionate, and has a mountain of faith in all of our dreams. She said that she doubts that the Universe would make it this hard – that she doesn’t believe in the kind of Higher Power, if you will, who would make us grind ourselves to the bone for our dreams. If it’s meant to be, it usually is simple. That does not mean easy – we have to do work on our end – but look at so many of the things that have just “fallen into place” in my life (See “Wordless but Effective Chant” blog). In each situation when I’ve given up forcing myself into a situation which did not fit, I was led to something which was immensely better.

That continues to happen. So, … my friend and I made an action plan for me. First was to call my temp agency and to decline the job in cubicle purgatory. Also along those lines was to affirm that I would be more conscious next time I was offered a job before I accepted it. I actually hadn’t really asked myself whether I wanted it (I knew/know I didn’t; I was just focusing on having continuous work, as I thought that’s what I needed). So, that’s my action of reparation for the future – to do things differently. Hopefully.

I did call the temp agency, and she said, So you can’t work even a little? And, I said, No. (with all the attendant thank yous and I apologize, etc). And she said, Okay, Thanks for letting me know. And that was that. Cuz, despite the fact that the woman at the new job asked for me specifically (I’d worked there last year and she and I got along really well), and that she rejected other applicants, and that “she only seems to want you,” … (some ego may be mixed in here too, huh). Despite all that – I AM NOT the only woman able to adjust the margins of a 300 page Word document. I am not the only woman able to recalibrate your Table of Contents. Yes, it’s hard, because the whole document is fucked and it’s mind numbing to highlight and tag and adjust and readjust – it’s time consuming and takes patience and diligence – but guess what, I’m NOT the only woman, or person, able to do this job. I appreciate your faith in me, and your appreciation of work I have done in the past but,

Anty needs a recharge. ;P

The other action items were to look into getting away over break. Getting somewhere out of the city, somewhere warm. So, I’m looking into that. Reaching out to my network of elves, I mean friends. If it doesn’t work out, my girl friend will be out of town between Xmas and New Year’s and offered me her place in the city. So, that would sort of be vacationy, and also would mean I wouldn’t have to commute in if I’m doing city related friend things. It’s just an offer, a generous and sweet one.

But, just to know that I will have OPEN TIME. FREE TIME. Time that isn’t filled with dubious stains on BART seats; institutional recycled air; or resentful exhaustion – that’s my Christmas gift (or Chanuka rather!) to myself.

My part of this whole bargain is also to *do* some of my thesis. To email the theater companies. To check out an open mic (that’s one of my self-assignments lately).

But, also, Super Molly, part of my assignment is to take a long walk in some semblance of outdoors, even a park in the midst of a city. To paint my toenails. To see friends. To see new friends. This is a vacation after all.

If the Universe wants me to have a car, it’ll be easier. If the Universe wants me to get an audition, I’ll go “buy a ticket” and apply. If the Universe wants me to feel calm, useful, and available, I’ll let it.

adventure · cosmo · decision · goblin · life

Choose Your Own Adventure

I awoke this morning with the words “Choose your own adventure” echoing in my head. You remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s? You would come to a point in the chapter when the character is presented with two or three options on how to proceed. To follow your choice you turn to either page 31 or page 36. And depending on which page you turn to, your destiny, or the character’s, will change. Perhaps page 31 was a positive destiny landing in fruit tree-lined palace entrance; perhaps it was “and then you tumble into a dungeon and are eaten by a hemoglobin-starved goblin

As a pre-teen, I was not prepared for an ending I didn’t “like,” and am here to admit — I cheated. I would turn to page 31, read the next few paragraphs, and if I didn’t like what it said, I would go back and choose the other adventure, creating the destiny for myself and my reading experience that I wanted, instead of accepting what was presented to me

My life emerged to much the same pattern. Whether it is the Libra in me, weighing the pros and cons, and sitting at the crossroad brow furrowed with pro and cons lists strewn around me, and thusly moving nowhere. Whether it is the result of the pattern my life and its series of disastrous choices, I hate making decisions without knowing how they will turn out. Give me the few pages of each choice, and I’ll make my decision then.

Unfortunately, life is not in the habit of handing me the answers.

Therefore, I have come to learn to rationally consider my choices, but, in the end, to simply take a leap. Whichever road. Any decision, any action, will give me a different result than sitting, chewing my nails, and wondering what’s past the bend.

Life does let me go back, in part. If the decision leads me to a result I don’t want, I can return to the intersection and sally forth to the other destiny with newly acquired clarity about my desires, needs, and values. Sometimes I don’t know it’s the road I don’t want to go down until I’ve actually gone down it.

As I’ve been making decisions around the course of my life lately, I’ve had to remember very clearly that each path has merit, but to choose one, ANY one is better than standing still. This is very hard for me. I want to know the outcome, I want the answers, and I will pout and stagnate if you don’t let me know that I will be okay if I take this road. What I’ve learned is that either way, I will be okay. That I must choose one adventure. Today, I choose things like, moving to the East Bay instead of back to New Jersey. I choose to attend grad school instead of plodding along in a safe, but uninspiring, job. Today, I choose things like finishing the five-foot flower painting, because no matter how it turns out, it will be done, and I get a sense of accomplishment.

I awoke this morning with those words, “Choose your own adventure,” in my head. I am the agent of my own change, and I can, today, trust that my decisions will lead me toward a positive ending, even if it’s simply learning that there’s a goblin down that way.