ambition · community · courage · encouragement · fear · perfectionism · perseverance · self-love · stagnating · trying · vulnerability

Perfection is the enemy of the done.

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Well, if I haven’t told you yet, I’ll tell you now: I’m
reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.
She’s a researcher on the topics of shame and vulnerability, and how the first can
keep you from embracing the second, and thereby keep you from “daring
greatly.”
Particularly, I’m (*air quotes*) “enjoying” the part when she’s quoting
from some of her interviewees. This mantra, cribbed from Voltaire, is my favorite so far: “Perfectionism
is the enemy of the done.”
There is always one more thing to do. There is always one
more spot to scrub, one more hair to fix, one more jiggly arm skin to poke, one
more class to take, one more edit to make.
In the pursuit of perfection, nothing is ever finished, and
satisfaction and contentment are perpetually elusive.
My aunt sent me an email a few weeks ago in response to one
of my blogs. She reflected that she always admires my writing, but this one in
particular should be submitted. To the New York Times.
She’s a life-long professor of English, a stellar mind and
woman. And she would be someone to know what she’s talking about.
So, I’ve sat with this idea since she sent me the prod. I
looked up the submission guidelines, and promptly forgot them.
Until I read that quote about perfection and the done. So,
this morning, I printed out the blog, and edited it. Then went back online to
see the guidelines: 1500 words. Mine is currently 700. I need to double
my article!
BUT. It’s out. It’s printed on actual paper. I can carry it
around with me to read and make notes of what parts I’ll focus in on to expand
the essay.
When I decided to finally join a band last year, it was
precisely this perfection that cracked. I was no better or worse than I’d been
for years. I had no more or less experience than I’d had before. What cracked
was my commitment to perfection. “When I practice, then I can play. When I’m
better then I can reach out to them. When I get lessons. When I …”
A few years ago, I put together an art project whose purpose
was entirely to eschew perfection. I
used paint on paper…without sketching it out first. There were no “mistakes,”
even though the lines aren’t perfect. There was no starting over, even though I
wished I could. My entire purpose was to put something down on paper, and to be
done with it. I’d had the idea of this art piece for quite some time, and I was
finally willing to do it imperfectly. And it hangs up on my wall, with lines I still fantasize about perfecting, my idol to “done.”
The same will have to be true for my essay/article. It’s
taken these few weeks to look back at it, because I have those gremlin thoughts
that say, “The NEW YORK TIMES?! Are you out of your MIND?! Who do you think you
are??” That say, What’s the use, it’ll never be used. That say, If you don’t do
it perfectly, you’ll always be a secretary.
Yesterday morning, after my phone encounter with my dad the
day before, I reached for a coffee mug. I dug behind the enormous ones I
usually use, to find a modest sized one with something printed on it.
I HEART ME. (Could be “I heart Maine,” but that works, too!)
In the sprawl of brain chompings and perfectionism. In the
shadow of habits that draw me back into being small or angry or disconnected.
In the face of a choice to let myself be seen, as imperfect but good enough as I am, I reaffirm something preciously true: I
Heart Me. 

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community · connection · courage · encouragement · poetry · spirituality

Connect.

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I haven’t much to say today, so I’m going to pull a Melissa
and give you one of my favorite poems.
I first heard David Whyte on the carride home from my annual
women’s meditation retreat perhaps 5 years ago. My friend, in her new and
exciting Mini, maybe even with the top down, decided we were a little too
altered at the moment to listen to music on the drive down the mountains of
Napa, and so put in a CD of David Whyte. I’d never heard of him. Or his Irish accent. Or the way he repeats his own lines when he recites
them, the way he pauses to savor and emphasize words. But, I did that day.
The next time I heard the poem recited, it was in the
hospital, maybe a year and a half ago. The same friend brought a slightly battered, second-hand copy of the David Whyte book named for the poem. The nurse that
day, with her Hawaiian flowerprint scrubs and her own Aussie accent, saw the gift exchange and exclaimed her own
love of David Whyte. So I asked her to read this one aloud to us, and
reluctantly, shyly, she assented. It was so still and lovely in that room then.
When you get a chance to hear him, do it. Till then, reading
will suffice.
            Everything
Is Waiting For You
            Your
great mistake is to act the drama
            as
if you were alone. As if life
            were
a progressive and cunning crime
            with
no witness to the tiny hidden
            transgressions.  To feel abandoned is to deny
            the
intimacy of your surroundings. 
Surely,
            even
you, at times, have felt the grand array;
            the
swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
            out
your solo voice.  You must note
            the
way the soap dish enables you,
            or
the window latch grants you freedom.
            Alertness
is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
            The
stairs are your mentor of things
            to
come, the doors have always been there
            to
frighten you and invite you,
            and
the tiny speaker in the phone
            is
your dream-ladder to divinity.
            Put
down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
            the
conversation.  The kettle is
singing
            even
as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
            have
left their arrogant aloofness and
            seen
the good in you at last.  All the
birds
            and
creatures of the world are unutterably
            themselves.  Everything is waiting for you.
                    David Whyte. listen. (start at 1:19; so good!) read.

authenticity · community · confidence · courage · encouragement · intimacy · laughter · vulnerability · writing

But We’ve Got The Biggest Balls of Them All!

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When I was living and teaching ESL in South Korea, I earned
a nickname: Ballsy Mollsy.
It was not uncommon for me to approach a stranger in a bar
and ask inappropriate questions. Or, maybe I was with a group of friends, and
wanted to steer the conversation in a more exciting direction, and would pose a candid question to a group that would earn laughs, but few answers. Maybe I would just stumble out to the next bar in search of new conversation without
telling anyone, but that was more stupid than ballsy, fyi.
As chance would have it, one day last month, I attended a
play my friend was performing in, and I ended up sitting next to the 25 y.o.’s
mother. “How did it even come up?,” he answered via text. When I told him, he
replied, “That’s right, I forgot you talk to strangers.” (Indeed, how we met.)
I do. I talk to strangers. I mean, how are we ever to meet
anyone new if we don’t talk to them? Like the other day, waiting for my
burrito, I ended up waiting on the bench next to this guy I see
around my neighborhood a lot, who I’ve seen working at the café on the corner. We
struck up a conversation, turns out he’s a nice guy, we had a pleasant chat about movies,
and he went off with his burritos for himself and his girlfriend.
It’s not always about “meeting dudes;” in fact, it’s more
than often not about that. I just like to find out about people, not walk around like
the Ants that they talk about in A Waking Life who, unseeing, run into one another and then walk around and continue
on their way, antennae down. I mean, that’s what New York is for. 😉
I suppose I learned this from my mom. My mother is
notoriously gregarious. To the point, growing up where it was embarrassing, and
not a little evidence of her manic tendencies. But, still. We’d be in a store,
she’d exchange more than a cursory Thank You with the cashier or salesperson. We’d be on a
bus, and she’d ask the woman next to her about the museum she’d just
visited, based on that metal entry pin tacked to her lapel.
Sometimes, she’d flirt with the cashier or waiter or
whomever. There was a base note to her conversation that wasn’t just cordial or conversational. Pre-divorce, this was a little unnerving.
But. A few years ago, she recounted a story to me that she
held as an exemplar of growth and self-aware change.
She was in Zabar’s (Manhattanites will know), and was in an
aisle next to a couple. She could overhear them debating which of the cream
cheeses they should get. If the tofu spread really tasted like cream cheese, if
the chive was better than the dill?
My mom. Had an opinion. She always does.
The success came when she didn’t offer it. She reported to me that she realized they were not
asking for her help, they didn’t
need her help, and she picked up the chive tofu cream cheese she loves, and
went on her way.
Trust me. This is a big success. To “mind your own business,
and have business to mind” is a very important boundary to learn. I was amused
at how proud she was of herself, too, like she knew that she was learning
something, that she was changing something.
I mean, it’s part of the reason our relationship has been
able to grow where the one with my dad has faltered: she really is trying to
change. And it shows.
Like all of us, change and growth takes time, isn’t simple,
and sometimes means taking contrary actions.
But sometimes, how we behave in the world influences others,
too. How she interacted in the world helped to inform how I do. Now, sure, I’m
not Holly Go Lightly everywhere I go. Sometimes I wish I had a burka. But
sometimes, the purchase of a burrito is transformed by the simple act of
connecting with another human being.
I leave you with this: I received a card in the mail this
week from a friend. In it, she thanks me for what I write here and on my
Facebook; that reading “me” helps to buttress her flagging spirits.
I told her how much that meant to me. How much it means to
me that my interactions with the world are making a difference; that I’m not
telegraphing into deep space for purely selfish and masturbatory reasons. I
never really know if how I’m choosing to express myself here is “too much” or “too honest,” and
I have to trust that those of you who choose to click on the link to read me
do so because you find something here, even if it be self-congratulations for
not being as bipolar 😉
To hear that how I behave in the world influences and
affects people for the better is one of the greatest gifts of having big balls. 

encouragement · joy · life · theater

Reading Tea Leaves

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“If one advances confidently in the
direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he
will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things
behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws
will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be
expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will
live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he
simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and
solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.
If you have built castles in the
air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the
foundations under them.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
This passage is torn off the side of a Celestial Seasonings
box of tea. They used to have a ton of quotes and passages, but in the last 10
years or so, changed their packaging.
In fact, I wrote to them once, when I noticed that the once-inspirational packaging was gone, to state my preference for the old, and also
to make a case for the flavor Cranberry Cove, which had dropped out of
production. I even searched Amazon and eBay for boxes people might have hoarded.
Growing up, I only drank Cranberry Cove tea when I was home
sick. I would hold a mug bigger than my hands under my face, inhaling the steam
and scent. My mom would stir in some honey, and it was comfort incarnate. When
I went home to NJ to pack up my childhood home in 2011 when my dad was selling
the house, I scoured the tea cabinet for any straggling remains of the boxes that had likely been there since the 90s. I found a much-bedraggled box about a third full, and
brought it back to Oakland with me. I have 3 bags left now, and I only drink that
tea under special circumstances, when I need my version of ultimate comfort.
I have in my kitchen cabinet a collection of passages torn
off tea boxes, and a few fortune cookie messages. I found them again about a
month or more ago, and going through them, I found the Thoreau one.
This was about the time that I was making my decision to
focus entirely on acting and theater as my artistic and impassioned outlet (and
source). I pinned the cardboard quote to my fridge with the San Antonio magnet
I bought in 2010 when I attended a conference, and in fact, performed in a play
with my friends.
I have a very specific style of the magnets I buy from
airports. They’re these 3-dimensional, near-cartoonish representations of the
city where I am. I don’t know why, but I love these best. There’s Singapore
pinning up my “time plan” for the week. There’s New Orleans, pinning up a page
from a magazine, a photo of a home with the word “yes” dotted all around it,
on everything in sight. YES. There’s Sydney, holding up a small note to myself
about how I want to manifest my gifts in the world, probably as a result of
some “What Color is your Parachute” exercise: create, organize, implement, get
messy, entice/encourage/invite.
There’s Maui and New York, and a magnet made of petrified
wood that I bought at the Petrified Forest in Arizona while driving/moving
cross-country in 2006.
Finally, there’s a magnet of the Serenity Prayer, and one
with a Hebrew prayer that was a gift, and I don’t know what it means, but it’s
pretty, and “spiritual.”
Under that magnet are cut-out words from the back of an
Ashby Stage program: “Oh my dear; Who’s ever ready?”
Who is ever ready to endeavor in the direction of their
dreams? Who is ever sure and confident that now is the time to begin? There is
no starting pistol or cosmic alarm signal to tell me, Yes, Molly, Now is the time.
There are only these small messages, these scraps of
encouragement and camaraderie culled from the pages of life.