ambition · band · choice · commitment · community · fulfillment · fun · gratitude · happiness · joy · music · opportunity · synchronicity · theater

Band Aid.

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You know, it was right around a year ago last June that I
stood up with a group of 4 other people and played bass with a band in front of
actual people in an actual venue. – I’d started playing in May.
This month, I’m being invited to do so again.
I’ve picked up my bass literally once in the last 6 months,
since our final show on New Year’s Eve, or the final show I played with them
before I left the band to pursue theater.
This switch, this focus of my energies in one creative
direction (one that I’ve always wanted to pursue, but never let myself try or
admit or commit to) has turned out pretty darn well in these last few months: I
got real headshots, auditioned about a dozen times, performed in one play, one
staged reading, and am preparing as the lead in a play at the end of the
summer.
These are all great things.
But I miss the band.
I miss the immediate gratification of playing with people. I
miss the noise, the movement, the sound, the collaboration. I miss the
laughter.
Theater is performance; being a musician is a performance;
but there’s a difference. The former is literally more staged. It’s not like I
have acres of experience in either, and maybe I simply fell in with a great
group of people for my first band – which I did. But whatever the formula is
for happiness, I felt that when I played.
A friend once asked me what it was like to play with the
band. What it felt like. And I took her question with me to band practice that
week, and noticed how I felt as we fiddled and fixed and went over and over and
moved into a rhythm, and went totally off the reservation with funny lyrics and
made-up progressions: I was smiling. I was bouncing on the balls of my bare
feet – the only way I could practice – and I noticed that I felt content, engaged,
in the moment, fun, funny, “on.” That’s what “happy” felt like.
Next Sunday, I’ll get to practice with a new group of folks,
a friend and his friend, to prepare for a potential show in July, before my
theater rehearsal gets going. I’m feeling nervous and jittery – wanting to get
the music charts NOW so I can practice, be perfect, be better – because if you haven’t followed along,
I’ve only been playing a year, and not that consistently at that!
I want to build my calluses back up. I want to remember
where C is on the fret board. I want to bounce on the carpet in my bare feet.
I love this theater stuff, … but I love the band better.
(P.S. I’m just reminded to reflect that it was only a little
while ago that I wrote here that I wanted to “band” again … and here it is. Word.)

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balance · change · direction · happiness · life · love · purpose · success · vision

MyHead Revisited

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I can’t even remember who it was now, but recently a friend
told me that she is consistently revisiting and reevaluating her goals. What
seemed like the best and truest goal two years ago may no longer hold the sway,
and so, daily almost, but certainly every while or so, we must revisit what
we’d thought we were heading toward – like recalibrating our compass.
I’d come up with this vision a few years ago, maybe 2 or 3
now, of my ideal daily schedule. The early morning, of course, is inner work
like I already do (journaling, meditating, blogging); the rest of the
morning hours would be spent in working on my craft, in a detached studio in
the backyard that would be half an art studio and half a music studio.
Couches, light, friends to jam or visit.
In the afternoon, I would go out “into the world,” and do
*something* of which I’m still unsure having to do with the community — being
involved, helping others, maybe working after school with kids, or facilitating
my workshop, or some kind of public speaking. Unknown task, but known purpose:
to help, to connect, to be in community.
The evening would be play time. Either I’d be in theater
productions, performing with my band, out at art shows or readings. That would
be my friend, fun, out, “On” time.
And that’s my day. All seen from a white kitchen, where I
stand, maybe 50 years old, chopping something at the island block, the art studio visible from a
door to the backyard.
Not a bad vision, eh?!
But. It’s also time to revisit it. And my thoughts and goals
in general. Are these intentions still relevant, powered, intended? Are these
my values? Dunno. I’ll have to sit with them for a while.
What I surprised me this morning, however, is that several
of my intentions have become realized. Though I know I am unfulfilled in my
employment, as I remember where I was when I discovered the above vision a few
years ago (also unfulfilled in my employment), I recognize I am no longer looking at this vision from a place of Yeah Sure,
Right. As a completely foreign land.
I guess I’m being vague.
To drill down: This morning, I’m boarding a bus, to a train,
to a plane that will carry me across the land to visit a girl friend and her
new baby. Three years ago, this would be impossible.
And that’s what I’m trying to get at here: Something that
was impossible, is now utterly completely possible, and it’s happening. In 4 hours. It is. There is no waiting, no longing, no hemming, no
envy. I
am doing what I’ve wanted
to be able to do because I
am
able to do it.
Perhaps this all sounds quite bent this morning, perhaps
having not packed yet is making me anxious to put all this down and get onto
that plane.
But, I hope you get my meaning.
Because even as few as 2 weeks ago, I was as depressed and
lost-feeling as Tom Hanks without Wilson. Despite the mantra of my friend that,
This too shall pass, it didn’t feel that way, and I had no idea how that could
happen. Nothing can really change, can it? It’s all the same Groundhog Day,
isn’t it?
But, Bill Murray wakes up in the end to a new future,
doesn’t he?
What looks like the continuation of a road going nowhere,
long and desperate and desolate… well, this morning at least, I see that it’s
not.
It doesn’t solve my
life. It doesn’t offer clarity or freedom or a path lit up like the exit lines
in a plane. But, in some ways, my recognition of my being here
does fucking solve it.
The fact that this is
enough. That I am
happy – that I
allowed myself to take a vacation, to visit a friend, to take action toward
something that was valuable to me. … Actually, that
does solve my life.
To look up from my navel-gazing and my despair and my
coordinate-less destination, to remember (oh forgive me) that the journey is
happening right now, and that I am
(FINALLY) participating in it and NOTICE that I am participating in it:
Well, it feels like Alice in the ‘50s cartoon version of her
story, walking along a path through the woods when a dog with a push-broom nose
comes along behind her, and erases the path from which she came, cuts around in
front of her, and continues to sweep away the path toward which she’s going, so
that finally, all she’s left with is one illuminated square.
But for me, I’m seeing today (and this all may change tomorrow!) that this is pretty good
square. 

authenticity · balance · community · connection · family · happiness · joy · laughter · love

Yo’ Mama.

Apologies, reader, for the rain delay (lack of blog)
yesterday. It was this wonderful Spring rain in the morning, and instead of
sitting at my stoic kitchen table, and peering out the window while writing
morning pages, meditating, and composing a blog, I took my mug of
coffee into my studio’s bedroom/living room, tucked myself into the corner of my couch
against the window, and sat next to my cat on the arm of the couch watching the rain make everything greener.
It was warm and cozy, and I just couldn’t bring myself to
break the calm of the spell. The sound of the rain, the steam from the mug,
watching my cat’s chest expand and contract with each breath. Oh, calm! How I
miss you! Oh, rest, you ineffable minx!
I let my thoughts roam over the landscape, and thought how I
missed my mom, when she was here last, and sat on this very couch with this
very cat. And so, I called her. – Strange and funny thing to do, eh? Think of
someone, and actually call them? Not
text or poke or email – but make a phone call – God, it’s luxury and connection
incarnate.
I knew she’d just returned from her annual trip with her
beau to some Caribbean island (Back, Envy, BACK!), and even with only a half hour (barely enough
time for us to scratch the surface of a conversation), I called to find out how
it went.
I love talking to her. Sure, there are times when it’s
grating, and I have to remind myself she’s human with flaws and working on
them. But, on the whole, especially these past several years, talking with her
is more refueling than it is draining – which is a gift.
She’s just hilarious. Our conversations meander, and
side-track, and disambiguate, and non-sequiter, yet always find their way back,
like six degrees of separation. It’s these things that I know I’ll miss most
when she’s gone. And why I’m trying to get what I can now, to call, and make
plans to visit, and email when I can.
Call it morbid, call it realistic. I just want to store it
all. Engage in it all.
Coincidentally, one of the anecdotes from her trip was about
interacting with the armed guard at the airport, the process of going through
customs and homeland security, and the stark seriousness of it all. And, so, as
she is wont to do, she planted a funny sentence into the bleak and rote
exchange with the check-point guard.
He cracked a smile and then cracked wise. Suddenly, it was
an exchange between people instead of
objects.
I told her how synchronistic it was that just this very week
I wrote a blog about learning from her to talk with strangers, to make our interactions
with one another just that much more engaged and alive.
I shared with her my own story about being in Port Authority
around the Bush Iraq invasion, and bantering briefly with a guard walking
through the orange-tiled halls about exchanging his gun for some flowers.
I love that she does this, and that I do it, as I wrote the
other day. It’s part of what makes this life worth living and engaging in, part
of the surprise of being alive. When you engage, you don’t know what will
happen, you’re rolling the ball onto the Roulette wheel. Maybe the person won’t
want to play, maybe they’ll look at you with a “look, I just want to clock out,
please stop talking to me” impatience. But, perhaps, both of your days will be
lightened just that little bit. Maybe, in fact, it’s the only time you talk to
someone all day, as can happen in our disconnected world of modern
conveniences.
I asked my “intuitive” once what she thought about my moving
back to New York-ish to be closer to her, since sometimes it really is painful
to live so far away, to not get to pick up the phone and say, hey that movie’s
playing on 72nd tonight, wanna go? Or, I just saw this exhibit is opening at
the FIT Fashion Museum, meet up this week? Or, can you come with me to Sephora,
I need to find a new blush?
Honestly, it pains my heart to not get to do that with her.
But, my intuitive, whenever this was, a year or so ago, had
a pretty logical answer: If you go, you’ll be her caretaker, and that will not
be good for you.
It’s true. There’s a fine line from being involved to
being too involved, and there’s a
pattern of being her caretaker that I don’t want to repeat from my childhood.
And it’s a role I know I can easily fall into, without strong enough
boundaries: Love as Caretaking, instead of Love as Equanimity.
The jury has been out indefinitely on my move back to the
East coast. It doesn’t have to be New
York. It doesn’t
have to look
like moving into caretaking distance. It can look like, “I’m coming down or up
for the weekend, let’s do stuff,” which is easier than “I’m taking a
cross-country flight.”
Luckily, I am not in charge of my destination, I’m only in
charge of doing the work. Perhaps my boundaries become stronger, perhaps I am
better able to stay out of the grooved rut of caretaker. And perhaps they
don’t, and I allow myself to say, That’s okay, Mol.
But, on a rainy Saturday morning, I can still give her a
call, and we can laugh, meander, and enhance one of the cherished relationships I will ever have.

abundance · acting · authenticity · grace · gratitude · happiness · joy · life · performance · spirituality · theater

Being There

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See, there’s two things I’d forgotten in all the sturm&drang of rehearsals & work & sick & crossing bridges
& lack of down time: I’m actually good at this acting thing. And I enjoy it. 
In the maelstrom of preparation, I forgot why I was doing this.
As I sat in our reserved cast seats in the front row of the
audience, watching the other actors before my scene perform, I got a
few minutes to gather myself, and reflect. Something the director said during
the “let’s get PUMPED” speech before we got into costume helped to remind me:
She said, This is for you. This isn’t
for your friends, your parents, your partners: This is for you.
This is for me, I
repeated to myself. I remembered that this isn’t for a resume, for a good story
to tell when I’m older; this isn’t for accolades or for money. I am doing this
acting thing,
because I enjoy it.
Because it’s FUN. Because, once I do get through rush hour traffic from Berkeley, once I do find parking in the Mission behind some dude drinking Steel Reserve and
selling electronics out of his car, once I do get upstairs through the weird
haunted building, I come to a black box theater.
In that theater, I’m there to have fun, to enjoy myself, and
to share myself. I’m there to engage in something I thoroughly enjoy, just
for the sake of it
. How fucking novel.
It was and is nice to have been sought out during the
wine&cheese reception after the show by a cute little gay boy and his girl
friend, to have them sidle up during a conversation with a beamish grin, and
tell me how great my performance was. That they got chills. To ask if I did
that thing with my hands on purpose, and wow, you did? Wow. That was so great.
It’s gratifying to know that something that I actually enjoy
doing is enjoyed and appreciated by others—that’s true, too. (We are only so spiritual!)
But then, isn’t that the point of theater, too—to affect
another person. To affect an audience, to help them experience something? Sure, Mol, sure. Yes, you can enjoy the
accolades, too. As long as they’re not what’s driving you.
In the chaos of rushing to work, to rehearsal, to home, to do it all over the next day, I began to feel weary. I began to feel like
maybe I’m not cut out for this—that
maybe this hustle is a younger person’s game. Maybe it’s too late for me to be
high-tailing it all over creation in service of a pipe dream.
I really was beginning to wonder if I would audition again.
Part of my delay/hesitance recently, is that I knew I was in
a production that was taking all my time & memorization space. Part of it is that I
know I’m going out of town in April, and didn’t want to audition for anything
new when I’ll be gone. (Cuz, it seems to me that working actors can’t
really take vacation…)
And, part of it was/is just plain exhaustion and feeling
grueled instead of fueled.
But, I am getting to see that perhaps this is just part of the
process. Part of that “put in the hard work to enjoy the results” thing that I’m so
loathe to do most of the time. HARD
work? Meh.
But, perhaps that’s what’s required here, to get the feeling
I had last night. Sure, I fucked up some lines, but people didn’t seem to
notice. I still got to feel the sense of “right place.” In the chair, on
the stage, in front of lights so bright you can only make out shapes in the
audience; hearing the sound cues, the mounting tension of my scene, the
mounting tension I bring to my scene.
Getting to be there, getting to sit in that chair and show you what I’ve got –
It was… well, enlivening.
There’s a phrase I’ve heard to name those times when you
are so engaged that you feel out of time, out of the chaos of place, when you are so in something that
“time just flies,” – it’s called being “in the flow.” When you are so engaged
in what you are doing, when you are so enjoying what you are doing that you are somehow matching the heartpace of the Universe. When for moments or even hours, you just feel in it – your speed
aligns with the speed of life, and you flow, you coast, you glide.
In it. To be IN IT. In life.
There was a moment, too, as I sat in the dark audience
awaiting my scene that I remembered something I sometimes do: I survived cancer to be here, and I am HERE. Staking a claim. Making a name. Claiming my own.
The gratitude I felt to get to be in that PUMP YOU UP circle before the show: All chaos, time
pressure, toll bridges are lost – and I’m just there. 

courage · fear · happiness · healing · love · relationships

"Forget Your Troubles, Come On, Get Happy"

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So you’ll have to bear with me – I haven’t totally got this
one down.
I was on the phone with a trusted friend Sunday morning. I
was giving her the update about this potential Cupcake Situation, the pros and
cons, the merits and demerits. The gnawing maw of my brain.
I fully expected her to say something like, That sounds
reasonable. It makes sense to not do something that has potential negative
consequences. Yes, continuing on the path of solitude sounds like the right one
toward health.
Instead, she surprised me by saying, Life is meant to be
lived.
Instead, I surprised myself by beginning to cry.
Somehow, hearing her “permission” enabled me to feel what
was actually happening in my heart. The joy, the longing, the contentment, just
in the idea and fancy of anticipating being with this Cupcake.
And I said something to her, actually I sobbed something to
her, that I’m not sure I ever admitted or understood – “I don’t know how to be
happy.” And I cried some more.
I don’t know how to let myself be happy. To admit good
things. To trust that I’m able to face good things – that I even think I have
to “face” them is evidence that I still think happiness is something to be
battled.
In my early experience, happiness wasn’t reliable, and so
you mistrusted it. You forced away the “temptation” of happiness because if you
allowed it in, it would corrode. Better to be mildly miserable than submit to
betrayal.
It’s astonishing to me that I’m still facing this same
demon. This same old pattern of beliefs and behavior. But then, I must be at a
place where I’m ready and able to uproot it in a new way.
I read an email from the Cupcake (the person I’ll potentially spend a few days with next month) telling me that he welcomes the chance to
melt with me, open his heart, sit in lazy contentment. That the idea of doing
so stirs something in him, emotionally and physically.
When I read this (for like the 8th time), I was walking
outside my work, trying to get away from the gnawing Pro/Con-ing catalogue
inside me. I reread it on my phone on a side street in Berkeley. I had to stop walking. I crouched
down in the sunny afternoon, held the screen toward my face, and felt the same feeling I would have on Sunday when my friend said, Life was meant to be lived.
Something moved, something heard this. Something within me allowed the
possibility for even a moment to trust that someone was honestly saying, Let’s
be happy. I offered myself the possibility that I could be happy.
And on that sidewalk, my eyes filled with salt water, my brain
temporarily ceased arguing, and I felt in my heart.
I just felt in my heart, being in it. hearing it, feeling
it. I was moved.
I don’t know how to be happy. It’s not something I know how
to do. Like a learned skill, this will be something I will have to try my hand
at, and be inexperienced at, but try anyway.
I’ve been amazingly dexterous at learning all kinds of new
things–grad student, performance poet, bassist, actor, painter–physically at
least. Emotionally, I’ve learned how to be more honest, how to have more
feelings than anger, depression, and mania, how to be more visible and trust I
won’t be shot.
I don’t know how to be happy. But if my emotional responses
are any indication (whether this whole Cupcake thing comes to fruition or not),
I am apparently, on some level, ready to see if I can be. 
And I hereby give myself
permission to try.