breakups · dreams · relationships

Broken Promises.

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Many moons ago, J and I broke up (for the first time).  It was Spring, and he’d purchased us each unrestricted season passes to a ski mountain up in Tahoe.  These are pricey commodities bought because of his love of skiing each Winter and the anticipated notion that the following Winter, we’d both ski the mountain together.

And then, we broke up.

So, what does a person do, I later asked a girlfriend, with the promises you made while you were together?

What do you do with the ski passes, the travel plans, the house you envisioned,… and the children you named?

This question has been resurrected this last week since J and I decided to break up again—though I am more the firm one on it, and our living together rubs daily salt in the wounds.

What do you do with the promises you made when you were together?

I ask this aloud as J and I sit opposite one another over the breakfast table last weekend, both a little soggy in our tears, warm mugs and handkerchiefs in hand.

I answer that maybe I consider each of the plans like small, child travelers — now, I wrap them back up in warm clothing, zip their puffy coats, straighten their mittens, and send them back out into the world.  Your place is not here, I’m afraid.  And walk them to the door, and watch each promise waddle back out into the snowy village to look for someone else to take them in.

Or, I suggest, perhaps each promise is simply like a thought gift I get to hug close and thank for visiting me—for offering me its joy or serenity or delight or warmth—and then I get to release it, like a caged bird into the sun.  Thank you for visiting me, for showing me more of the world.

J replies dryly, “That does not help.”

And that’s okay, I suppose.  It doesn’t have to help him, but it may help me.  It may help me to treat all of the plans and promises we made with love and gratitude, rather than with mourning and bereftness.

None of us know which bundled traveler will stay—and none of us know which traveler is cresting the ridge of our yard, just now waiting for us to open the door.

 

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action · art · community · dreams · help · inspiration

Re-Ignition.

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Unstructured time isn’t the best for me, and yet I am
feeling a bit panicky about my upcoming full-time employment in sales starting
on Tuesday. What has been lovely about
this time, besides the “brain space” I spoke of the other day is that I’ve
gotten to take my long walks again, meet up with my folks again, play with my cat again.
I’ve enjoyed being unemployed, though I know it’s not
sustainable.
On that note, though, I’ve been meeting up to “co-work” at cafes with a friend
also looking for work and get some applicationing done.
This has led to conversations, which have led to ideas, which are leading to
action. Particularly around things that “light me up.”
Such as the long-lost “LocalArtists Productions” I started
a few years ago, which hosted a successful group art show, but in which I
put too much of my own money and ended up in a pickle. Since then, I’ve
sort of let that idea drift. But talking to my new friend about what lights me,
I said, “My favorite thing I’ve ever done? This group art show I put on.”

Even as I sat listening to my friend at her CD release party
the other week, I looked around the space. I came home and looked up the rental
costs for that space: this could be a great place to host another one.
I love bringing people
together, people who “normally would not mix.” I’ve met so many types of
artists on my path – poets, writers, painters, photographers, musicians, actors – that
it only makes
sense that I bring
them together. “Oh, you make jewelry, my friend does still photography, maybe
you can work together.” “You’re a painter, my friend just participated in an
open studios, maybe you can talk to her about getting your work out there.”
There are too many opportunities to learn from and
collaborate with each other. I don’t want us to miss any!
So, I may be starting a Kickstarter campaign soon. To pay
off my back rent (accrued when I was in chemo) so that I can rent out the art
studio space on the 4th floor of my apartment building. I said to my friend
over our laptops, “Yeah, people would be willing to donate to a cancer survivor
who wants to produce art again, wouldn’t they?”
They’re slightly different avenues I’m beginning to chase
down again: One is the studio space I want to rent so that I can start working again. The other is the creation
of a space for artists to get together, these events and gatherings that I
love to host.
I feel putting grease behind one will help with the grease
behind the other. And so, before I start my full-time work on Tuesday, my
friend and I are going to brainstorm about the video, and maybe even get to
making it.
Because time is ticking away and we all have art to make and
people to meet. 

aspiration · dissatisfaction · dreams · mortality · spirituality

Near – Far. Near – Far.

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Anyone else remember those segments on Sesame Street?
Well, I recall it this morning around desire. Around the
idea that if we’re not happy with what we have right now, why would we expect
something more would make us happy later? If we’re not content in the “near,”
how can we expect to be happy in the “far””
That said, I don’t know that I completely agree with this concept. I do “get” that it is
important to recognize the gifts around us. Especially at this time of year,
it’s easier to get that reminder to “give thanks.” It’s what I’m teaching my
4th graders lately, about gratitude, being happy with what’s around us,
noticing what we have, and how lucky we are. By nature of our birth, we’ve
landed in a circumstance where we’re healthy, educated, and pretty well off. In
many ways, we’ve hit the lottery in comparison to the 8 million other souls on
this planet.
I can count my blessings, though they are innumerable.
And yet.
What about the phrase, “It helps to envision our spiritual
objective before we try to move toward it”? Isn’t that implicitly saying that
we can want more, and we have to clarify what that is so we can get there?
Isn’t there an inherent longing or dissatisfaction? A seeking?
So, today, I sit with the duality of … reality (sorry!): I
am content with my life, and I want more for it.
A friend once said to me when I was in a lot of pain around
a previous job, “Just stand at the copy machine and be grateful you are.”
Included in that idea is being grateful for: being alive, healthy, employed.
And yes, of fucking
course I am and was. But does that mean, Don’t dream beyond that?
Does that mean the longings of a soul are symptoms of being
ungrateful? Hmm….
Happiness breeds happiness. Contentment seems to attract more
of itself. I am a “law of attraction”
kind of believer. I comprehend that living in where I am with adulation and
appreciation and awe is crucial.
But. …
How do you truly sit with that frisson?
In the immediate present, in the “near,” I am going tonight
to perform in a community theater production. A good community theater, at that. For years, I’d been
dabbling at acting, and only at the start of the year did I make a conscious
commitment toward it.
I am adamantly grateful, and also, this was all borne of
restless desire and dissatisfaction.
I don’t know. I don’t think I can “figure it out,” and maybe
I don’t have to. But, I will always find it difficult to “sit” in gratitude for
things that make me feel I’m wasting my life. I have too much respect
for the time we’re given to simply “be” in where I’m at when that feels deadening.
And maybe that perspective is “wrong,” and it perpetuates my dissatisfaction. Maybe this longing and seeking
keep me from feeling fulfilled, but for today at least – however off-balance
it may make me – I do have one foot in
the near, and one firmly planted in the far.
Because, sorry Ekhart Tolle: I believe in the Power of Then. 

courage · dreams · fear · fulfillment · hope · scarcity · self-denial

Life: Whether you Like it or Not.

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For many years, I’ve considered my personal and professional
stagnation as though I were a traveler sitting at the base of a crossroad. The
sign pointing in many directions reads any manner of options, but I sit there,
gazing at the sign for eons, waiting for one of the arrows to light up, to
indicate, This, here, Molly, is the way to go. This is the path to your
destiny. This is the path to fulfillment, release, energy and passion. It may
be cloudy at parts, but we promise, this is the way toward your highest good.
Yet, signposts have an annoying way of being inanimate, and this revelation has never happened.
But as I sit today, I recognize something new. Beyond the
fork in the road, I’m beginning to see another path that I hadn’t identified
before. It’s the path of my true desires.
I have sat waiting for the gods to tell me a or b, but
secretly, I’ve always wanted c, and refused to see that as an option. “It’s
hard for your to let yourself dream,” a therapist opined recently.
And it is.
To speak aloud what you truly want is to invite criticism
and disappointment. Better to keep the dreams locked tight, even to the
detriment of myself, because it’s “easier” than going after what I really
want.
The problem with that pattern is that it means you don’t
develop a history and a catalogue of places where you have moved beyond those
doubts and spoken up, acted up, been seen. And so you continue to assume what
you really want is not something you can have.
The history of denying what I want is long. It is best to be
quiet, unheard, unseen, have few needs, because the lower you set the bar the
easier it is to meet the meagerness.
I reflected yesterday on the way to our preview night of the
play how you can always set yourself up to “succeed” when you place the bar
achingly low. When you paint over your dreams with “realistic expectations,” you’re never called to reach out of your comfort zone. You can sit on the couch
watching Netflix until the end of time, eating peanut butter out of a jar, and
quietly erode all sense of the divine spark within you.
Not that I’ve done that. (wink)
But the divine has a way of being omnipresent, no matter
what you do to ignore, dismiss, or erode its guidance and encouragement.
I haven’t a clue what experiences I’m opening up to as I watch this
third path unfurl before me. Recognizing foremost that I’ve denied myself the
ability to see what I’ve always wanted is a start. Recognizing that I’ve
refused to acknowledge that I can have what I want, that my needs don’t have to
be pauperistic, that it is safe in the reality of today to express myself is a
start.
I’ve written many times before about the emerging option of
being safe and seen. Safe doesn’t mean “not bold,” or setting the bar low,
here. It means that I am not going to be punished for wanting what I want this
lifetime.
This is a hard concept for me to integrate. But, more slowly
than I would really love, I’m accepting that the sanest, safest, and surest way toward
fulfillment is actually believing it’s available. Whenever I’m good and ready
to set down the peanut butter and walk toward it. 

action · dreams · finances · performance · self-abandonment · self-worth · work

The Truth Will Out.

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(A quick note before I run off to our full-day tech
rehearsal. To Kill a Mockingbird opens this Friday!)
On the heels of the “Don’t forget your North Star” blog
yesterday and contemplation this week, I went to have a voice lesson with a
former castmate. We spoke afterwards about my job transition and how he’d
realized what his North Star was years before, and sure, he had to jump through
hoops to get there, but it was and is worth it. 
He was telling me we have to listen most of all to
ourselves, not to others, and to not let their voices drown out our own. But I
replied, Their not giving me their ideas, they’re asking “What do you want to
do?” and I keep on answering, “I don’t know.”
But I sat with that for a moment, and I corrected myself: No, That’s not true. I do know: I want to perform; I just keep dismissing it.
That, performance, is
my North Star.
I went last night to see a friend of mine perform at her CD
release party. The talent was phenomenal, but beyond that was the
brilliance of her pieces. Honed, practiced, cultivated brilliance. That’s
beyond, “You’re talented.”
I sat in the audience, and during one of her songs, I was
brought to tears with its beauty. With the privilege of being alive and able to
listen and be moved by such art. She created an atmosphere and an experience
that wouldn’t have existed if she didn’t.
I want to do that
And I think it’s possible. I just have a few hoops to jump
through. And a lot of learning and honing to do.
It is very easy for me to dismiss what it is I want, because
it sounds frivolous or flighty in the light of day. It sounds vague and too
artsy and too uncertain. But I’ve fought with myself for years to cop to my
desires, and each time I dismiss it, I pull myself back into the dance of “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.”
I can dismiss performance for many reasons: believing I’m not
good enough; that it’s too late; for financial reasons; for I-want-to-be-approvable reasons. I want the easy check-box on the form of life: What do you
do for a living?
Or, more accurate, What does your soul want to do?
In talking with my voice teacher, he basically said it’s
possible, and it’s worth it. I drove back from there to meet with two women to
get some perspective on all this job transition stuff, and to firm up actions steps I can
take in the maelstrom of “What the F* are you doing?” that invades my brain.
They said, too, it’s possible, and it takes work. Don’t give
up. Do not go back to sleep.
Here are some steps to take, Yes you’ve taken some of them
before, but here they’re being suggested again. Try again. Talk to my friend,
my sister, this guy I know.
No, it won’t look like being a self-supporting performer,
but it will look like earning enough to support those endeavors.
The artists I’ve met and spoken to this week all have day
jobs. But they do it in service of their dream. It’s not an either/or
proposition: Art or Financial Stability. Dream or Devastation.
It’s hard for me to keep my eye on where I want to go, and
that’s why I have you guys to help me. When I finally ask. And when I finally
am open enough to listening. To you, and to myself. 

art · dreams · expansion · perfectionism · self-compassion

forget frida.

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When I was sick (that phrase again!), I wrote a blog
entitled Frida. I was questioning why I wasn’t putting into action all of the
passions I was saying I’d staved off for so long, asking why I wasn’t engaging
in music and art during those long swaths of empty time laying in bed. Why wasn’t I
being like Frida? Creating from my place of weakness and also of determination?
Of course, the feedback a cancer patient gets when they say
something like this is, Molly, be gentle with yourself. But, it’s hard to do
that when you feel riled up in the manic thrall of fear and impending death.
You want to do everything right now. You
feel you have to. And yet, of course you can’t. Because you’re sick.
It’s nearly two years since I wrote that blog, and the
patience I wasn’t able to give myself then, the compassion and forgiveness of
being in a situation that didn’t allow for movement like that is finally
arriving – because I am and have changed.
I, of course, couldn’t change so much then; it was a “hold
onto the ropes and try not to fall overboard” moment and series of moments.
But, the storm has passed, and I have,
despite any chiding I may have toward myself and judgment about where I am in
life, I
have moved to someplace
different – I
have implemented
the changes I begged myself to take.
Of course, too, it’s hard in its own way to show up for
yourself differently, to put yourself on the line – to put your dreams and
goals out there, in black and white and in the real world. It’s
nerve-inducing, it’s uncertain. As you’ve read recently, it means that I battle
self-questioning, and “compare despair,” and still a nagging sense of “You’ve
got to live your best life NOW!”
Well, in retrospect and with perspective, I get to see that
I am. I am on that path I longed for. It’s become a bit more clouded (for me) since
I’ve made the decision to leave my steady job at the end of the month. But, I
have to trust that these actions and decisions are the outcome of a woman who
started walking out of the dark when she wrote a critical, demanding blog about
needing to be like Frida Kahlo, and who has taken impetus from that by engaging in
those things she thought were too late.
To quote Galaxy Quest:
Never Give Up; Never Surrender.
If I can hold the compassion of acknowledging where I am in
comparison to where I was, I have to celebrate myself. Hard as that is for most
of us.
But how many times, too, have I written that we never give
ourselves the chance to acknowledge our successes? We climb and grapple and
trip up a mountain, and once finally to the top, we pause for maybe a
millisecond to look around and take in what we’ve just accomplished before we
charge up the next mountainhead.
So, I take this moment to look around from the top of this
place, at my bass I sort of know how to play now, at the script sitting on my
kitchen table, and I thank myself and the opportunities around me for allowing
me and helping me to get here.
The only person I can rightly compare myself to is myself.
And today I whisper through the veil of time to that woman in a hospital bed –
demanding she be something different – that she is. We are.

adulthood · adventure · direction · dreams · fear · responsibility · scarcity

Light in the Dark.

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According to my pock-marked memory, my dad held at least 5
jobs, sequentially, during the time I was growing up. Every few years, he
seemed to move on to a new job, eventually landing someplace he retired from.
My mom variously was engaged in the following classes or
hobbies:
bread-making
cake decorating
special effects make-up
Mary Kay-style beauty product sales
crocheting
knitting
part-time make-up artist
The closet became filled with half-finished projects and tools of a trade long abandoned. 
My dad also told me a few years ago that he rarely finished
projects he began around the house (the wallpaper all done, except for that
spot there; the fireplace paint stripped, but not re-stained) because of his
own childhood lesson that if you finished something it could be criticized.
And I wonder what of this I’ve “inherited” through observation.

I’ve realized the Fulcrum idea only works if I’m earning more per hour and
working fewer hours. It doesn’t, and won’t work, if I’m only working fewer
hours!
I feel a little afraid today. Afraid that the time I’m
intending to “buy” for myself will be eaten up by odd jobs in order to cull a
living.
I guess I mention my parents’ work habits because I’m afraid
that I’m like them. And can certainly see the seeds and small shoots of their
behavior in my own.
Molly doing theater. Molly doing all organic cooking. Molly
in a band. Molly wanting to take math classes, tutor kids, fly a plane. Molly
quitting another job. Again.
And.
I’m not sorry I’m doing this.
It’s funny. Last year, playing bass in a band, I said I was
finally living out a teenage dream I’d never let myself have. If I were more
honest with myself then, I would have studied theater in college or engaged in it
then. I would have tried the magpie
lifestyle then. I would have held odd jobs, instead of the immediate office jobs.
I would have been a mildly responsible but creatively
engaged young adult.
But, I wasn’t. That wasn’t my experience, and that wasn’t
allowed. Coloring outside the lines was not allowed in my house. Or so I
understood it.
I thought last night about this past year+ since returning to
work post-cancer. About how I’ve been doing the things that a teen and
20something would do. It logically does
follow that my professional work pattern would change, if I’m sort of going
back to live the kinds of experiences I’d aged myself out of then.
And perhaps I’ll do them differently than I would have at 20
or 25. Perhaps trying to live outside of the lines at 33 is easier, or more
grounded. I don’t know. But I do see that I seem to be veering toward a life
that a lot of young people live, as if I’m reclaiming a lost youth, a lost
innocence and curiosity and naïveté.
Is it “fun” to
about to launch into the unknown? Well, yes and no. It’s fun to feel engaged in
the creative world and think outside the box. It’s less fun to know the
realities of salary requirements and health coverage and car payments and also
try to think outside the box.
I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen. I know I have
more work to do, more actual sitting down and developing a plan to do. And I
think I’m going to have to reach out for help from folks to help me hold the
space to do that.
It’s funny. (I keep on saying that! But, this all amuses the
observer part of me, I’ll tell you!) Over a year ago, I sat with two women who
helped me form a game-plan for alternative classes I could facilitate.
About 6 months ago, I sat with a different pair of folks,
who helped me develop a different plan for an alternative after-school program.
I’ve been dipping my toe into these waters, and have subsequently thrown
my arms up into their faces and said, But I don’t know, I don’t know enough and
it’s too hard and I don’t have the tools.
I’ve abandoned this line of thinking as many times as I’ve
lit the fires in the eyes of my friends, who’ve said, Molly, this is totally
possible.
So, I guess it’s time for me to dig my notes out of the closet like my mom’s half-finished quilts. Time to breathe
deeply and let myself live the life I’ve consistently told others I want to
live.
It’s also time for me to call those friends back in and have
them hold my hand as I sort through those notes and make moves in this direction. Because, as I’ve said
before, Sometimes I need someone else to hold the lantern of hope.