acting · adulthood · crazy · family · forgiveness · humilty · love · money · persistence · receiving · self-support · the middle way · work

Day Jobs.

Yikes. Unintendedly, I apparently freaked my mom out. I
guess “What goes around comes around” is a less than spiritual comment here.
When I was camping this weekend, one of the women said she’d
used this 23andme site that did genetic mapping and testing. She said she found
it to accurately confirm things she knew she had and “labeled” her cousin as
her own on the site, so she felt it was reliable when it came to the things she wanted
clarity on or might not know. So, on a whim, I looked it up yesterday. Part of
it is my own rampant curiosity about my dad’s father’s side of the family, about whom
we know nothing (very hush hush, gramma got pregnant at 15 in an Irish Catholic
family under-the-rug), so I’d like to know about that fourth of who I am.
Secondly, and importantly for me, my mom’s mother died from
Alzheimer’s and I want to know if I have the gene or not. You can get it
without the gene, and you can not get it
with the gene. But, I’m curious. And a little excited. If I don’t have the
gene, I can (and would) worry less; and if I do have the gene, they’re coming
up with all kinds of new things people can do these days to stave it off or
minimize the effects – and I’d look for more information on stuff like that.
So, in an effort to “share the good news,” I emailed my mom
and brother yesterday to let them know about it (though women are more likely
than men to get Alz). I got an email back this morning from my mom saying that
no matter what to never [BOLD FACE] EVER tell her the results of it.
Yikes. Granted, my mom is a class-A worrier,
anxiety-disordered woman on medication, but… yeesh. That obviously wasn’t my
intention, to freak her out – I guess I imagined she’d react as I did – “Cool,
what can I learn, so that information can be useful in how I lead my life?” …
Best laid plans, I suppose.
It’s Friday, so it’s a little rough to go into what I
remember of my mom’s parents’ deaths, and what I consider to be and have been
“wrong” ways of grieving. And so I won’t do that today. It’s NOMB – None Of My
Business.
So, I’ll undeftly switch topics, as I’m uncomfortable. 😉
Yesterday, in reading Tina Fey’s book, I had a sort of
realization about “day jobs.” Fey worked at a YMCA for $5/hr in Chicago when
she left undergrad. She wanted to take improv classes, so she angled for a job
“upstairs” in the office of the YMCA. When she was asked on the interview why
she wanted the job, she replied unabashedly, So I can afford improv classes.
She got the job, took improv classes, and quit the job less than a year later
when she got work with the improv group.
I had my informational interview with my former acting
teacher last Friday, and she said nice things like I have “great instincts,”
and that “it’s obvious [I] really enjoy it.” She didn’t really give me the
“constructive criticism” I was looking to get – areas that I could improve in,
and as I was recounting this to my friend last weekend, she said it sounded
like I wanted to hear places I could just do X, Y, and Z, so that I could “fix”
it, and suddenly everything would fall into place. Yes, give me a set of
movable problems, let me fix them, and then let me be free of problems forever.
That sounds about right.
So, I didn’t get that. I got what felt like nearly reluctant
suggestions. Again, I guess I had expectations. But, I heard that acting
classes would be a good idea to continue with. So, yesterday, I looked up the
classes at A.C.T. Studio, and their summer program. It’s not very expensive,
but surely more than I have now.
And I remembered what Tina Fey had said: she took a job so
she could afford to do what she really wanted to do. For SO long I’ve been
agonizing over what is my “ideal” job, or what will feed me spiritually,
intellectually, and creatively – what one
thing would fit all my needs. I don’t feel this way about people, why would I
feel this way about work? I don’t expect one person to fulfill all my needs –
that’s ridiculous, unfair, and leads to disappointment. So, why should I feel that a job
would or ought to do the same.
There’s something in this. It takes a shit ton of the
pressure out of whatever job comes to me next. That it is a means to an end. And further, I’m honing in more
closely on what I’d want those “ends” to be – what I want my job to afford me
to be able to do. Lessons, classes, (acting & music, for now). I’m not sure what
this realization will bring me – except that I already feel less internal
pressure about “What I’m going to do next.” Chances are (G-d willing!!!!!!)
that the job that I get next
can
afford me the disposable income to take classes like that. Or, rather, the
chances don’t have to be there, I can just start angling the satellite dish of
my focus in a slightly different direction, picking up on things that I’d
dismissed, as they wouldn’t “fill me spiritually.”
Like a person, it’s not a job’s … job to fill me spiritually. That’s up to me. That’s up
to me to take the kinds of actions that will allow me the freedom from financial
worry to do things that
do feed
me spiritually and creatively. I have a phone call date with another acting
friend next week, having been inspired by the new angle of my satellite to be
able to continue having these conversations with people.
What comes of it? Who knows. But I feel more open to things,
and I’ve noticed that makes a world of difference.
(Sorry, Mom – didn’t mean to freak you out. LU, m.)

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community · faith · gratitude · humilty · love

6 x 6 and 5 x 5

Six years ago this very morning, the Monday after Easter of
2006, I packed everything I could carry – i.e. a few suitcases and a pillow –
into my car, and headed West.
I drove from New Jersey in the rising light of a near-Spring
morning, muddy headed, giddy, nervous, and a little puffy eyed. I got on the
highway, and drove.
This was a planned trip – albeit, not very well. Having
arrived home after my 2nd completed teaching contract in South
Korea, and a few pitstops along the archepelago, I found myself to be 24,
living at home, with no thought of what to really do next. It was March.
I thought, and had the idea, that I would “break onto
Broadway.” It hadn’t really occurred to me that people often spend years of
their lives in training and working their way through auditions and classes and
various local troupes, and still don’t make that leap. I simply thought I could “make it work.”
So, I envisioned that I would get a roommate or two in
Manhattan, get a job as a waitress (cuz that’s what actresses do, right?), and
start my way up.
I did get a job as a waitress. At a lower Manhattan Italian
restaurant, and was told that I needed to wear all black as the uniform, and
start the next week. Great – perfect – falling into place.
I’m in H&M clothing store. I’m in the stall changing
room, and trying on black clothing for my new job, and I have a sudden thought
New York will eat me alive.
I suddenly realized that I had no business being in
Manhattan the way that I was drinking and drugging. That I would die if I
stayed. I somehow knew it. I was setting myself up to fail, as I had no coping
mechanisms and almost no community or friends, having lost most of those prior to
leaving for Korea.
I walked out of H&M without buying anything. I left the
black clothing, the representation of this pipe dream, and walked outside. I
called the restaurant, and told them I wouldn’t be coming in to work … That I
was moving to California.
What made me think that? I don’t know. But I had a
friend/acquaintance who lived in San Francisco, who’d invited me to come visit.
And somehow, San Francisco – California Dreamin’ – was for me. How ’bout I come to stay?
I don’t know what sense of intuition it was that let me know
that NYC was too much for the addled and fragile sense of self I was, but I am
grateful for it. In Korea, there weren’t many drugs around – a few here and
there, spilling off the army base – but mainly, it was drinking. And for that,
I am grateful. But, in New York? It was a buffet of ways to murder myself
slowly. And I had zero capacity to turn anything down. I knew it was a ticket
to the bottom, and I really didn’t have that much further to go.
So, San Francisco. I coordinated with my friend out here.
Let the Cousin know I would come to visit him in Ohio before I hopped on to
Route 66 – the cool way to go – and got gone. I bought the Lonely Planet guide books for California, and Coastal California,
and Route 66, and simply followed that map the whole way down. I arrived in
Santa Monica on April 25th, 2006, stuck my feet in the Pacific Ocean
(on this side of it) for the first time, and headed up north to San Francisco.
I arrived that night in time to induct my friend into my
nighttime tornado as she showed me around via a few bars. Two weeks later, I
got sober.
I had no intention of this, mind you. It didn’t at all occur
to me that I was heading West to leave a life I’d known for many years in
exchange for one I knew nothing about. I didn’t know that I would eventually
fix my teeth, live alone, go to graduate school, actually audition and be in a
few plays.
I just knew that SF was better than NYC for me.
6 by 6. Six years ago. I don’t know why I chose “by 6,” not
sure what it’s “by,” – perhaps “2006” – but 5 x 5, I get.
Five by five is the catch phrase of TV’s Buffy the
Vampire Slayer
’s character, Faith. Which I
suppose is an apt name here at the moment. When things are good, in answer to
how are you, when life is not filled with monsters and demons and chaos, Faith
replies that she’s “Five by Five.”
My life is no longer filled with monsters and demons and
chaos. There are bumps in the night, and scary creatures that lurk still, but 6
years have taught me how to deal with, talk about, and work through those fears
and scary patches.
Over this past weekend, I have run into, at complete
coincidence, people from communities as variant as school, Jew, and recovery.
On the street, in a taxi, on the bus, on BART. I am “a part of.” I am a member
of. I am not a lost little pigeon anymore – I have community, and several at
that. I have been surprised and humbled as I’ve realized this weekend how many
friends I now have – people I now know. I arrived knowing one woman marginally.
And I’m learning how to “break on to Broadway,” or whatever
my current vision equivalent is, with the grace, fortitude, and support that I
never would have dreamed I’d have. For a dork, lost, wild, alone, sad, chaotic,
pipe-dreamy me, well, five by five doesn’t even feel adequate. 

growth · humilty · maturity

Judgy McJudgerson

or “Spiritual Arrogance”
Through some inventory work I’ve been doing lately, digging
out the past-prime labeled items in my psyche, and assessing what I’ve been
holding on to long past its due date, I’ve been getting to see that I am spiritually
arrogant.
Now, no one likes to admit this, certainly not me, but it’s
been coming up more lately, much more front and center, and I thought I’d try
to parse it out a little bit as I (hope to) come to a place of letting this
character defect go.
It takes one of two courses: I happen to know you’re not
doing the same arduous work that I’m doing, and therefore when you complain and
bemoan your troubles and your life, I get to sit in moral superiority, knowing
that if you were only doing what I was doing, you’d get better.
Yummy, isn’t it … More like sour, I tell you.
Or, it looks like well, no, basically, that’s it. It just
takes several more devious forms from that.
For example, you have success in your field, but I happen to
know that you’re not tending your spiritual garden with regularity. I feel
affronted. And self-pitying. Why do YOU get the goods without the work??
Or, Why
do YOU get to go on vacation to Barbados when you’re still so messed up in all
these other areas that you don’t even
see how messed up you are??
Basically, it’s another form of jealousy. And laziness. I
want what you’re getting without doing the work. But when I don’t do the work, I get all kinds of cuckoo from
it. When I rest on my laurels, or feel, hey, you know what, I’ll keep my
internal stockroom filled with rotting fruit, I’ve got a good job now – well,
it usually turns out badly. The fruit turns nuclear.
The other side of this spiritual arrogance toward others is
the idea that I have any idea what the
path is for other people. When I sit in my head and judge others by their
continuous and bile-vomiting cycle of pain, it’s not doing them, or me, any
good. It’s none of my business if someone is attached to their pain cycle.
It’s my business that I
am.
It’s been said that anything negative we think or say or act toward
others, we are 10 times as harsh to ourselves. What we
say or feel toward others is just a reflection of the internal dialogue we
have.
So, when I’m sitting in judgment of others, I do know that I
use the same sword to bludgeon myself. Why aren’t
you doing better in your field? Why
aren’t
you going to Barbados? What is so wrong with
you
that you have to do this continuous daily work?
Sounds pretty shitty, doesn’t it?
It’s not always that vocal. It rarely is. Moreso, it’s the
undercurrent – the underground stream that runs with poison, and I drink from
that well.
Spiritual arrogance – the belief that I’m somehow better
because I do the work, but at the same time, must be worse because I need to do the work.
Perhaps … as I read yesterday: Humility makes us whole.
Perhaps, I am no greater or less than anyone around me. Perhaps I don’t have to
mark my situation against someone else’s like the height marks on a doorframe.
Perhaps I can simply keep my eyes on my own road, and let other people’s paths
be their paths. If I’m jealous, go do something about attaining what they have.
If I’m judgy, remember the times when I’ve been a screaming sobbing pile of
self-pity. If I’m arrogant, remember that, truly, we are all fucking equal, and
the lessons that I would have someone learn in this lifetime are not necessarily the lessons they’re here to learn.
So, for today, instead of wielding this double-edged sword,
perhaps I can have compassion for others, and a bit of action toward my own
lessons and goals.  

generosity · growth · humilty · poetry · school

Back to Basics.

Sorry folks, for the interruption in my daily musings. I
have been under the weather, and yesterday morning slept in right until I had
to run out to do ‘first things first,’ and then over to school. This morning
was similar. So, thanks for your patience 😉 and for reading. 🙂
Yesterday, I had to run over to school in order to get my
painting professor to sign my “drop form.” Yes, I am dropping painting. A
number of things contributed to this decision. One of which was that I was
unable to do my morning practice on those Monday and Wednesday class mornings – the commute to class
was at an ungodly hour to me.
Another of which was that it wasn’t fun. It came as a
surprise to me to realize that I was feeling pinched by the instruction and
parameters that the class was offering. Surely, part of it was that my work wasn’t being “well received” and my ego was being hurt. But
part of it was that I wanted to do the work I wanted to do – to have fun – and I wasn’t. I was being told things like
“not formally correct” and at this stage of my painting game, I’m not concerned
with things like that. I’m concerned with expression, not correction. When she signed it though, my professor did tell me I have good instincts and to follow them, but that I need some development on my ideas (which I concur, and will do so with more “play”).
Lastly, for dropping painting – the class I was so looking
forward to taking – I have to focus on my “real” thesis. Despite my mental
flights of fancy into ideas for the thesis such as a visual and language art
project, or a 20 minute ballet, my flights have been grounded. For now.

The reality is… that I’m in an MFA program
and that
program has certain prescribed requirements. This is not a free-for-all, however much I’d been playing it as such. So, I have
to play within the rules for now.
As I mentioned in the Reluctant Poet blog, I’m going back to
my original school work and am going to flesh
that out. In truth, some of the poetry I’m producing for it now 
could not have been written any earlier. I wouldn’t have had
access to writing about this a month ago, and certainly not anytime before
that. I’m doing a lot to free my voice and self, and it’s showing up in the
writing… now that I’m being forced to go back to it.
So. It turns out maybe this isn’t such a bad thing after
all. This “having to write a formal poetry thesis” thing. Which is good,
since I’m having to do it anyway, I may not as well see it as torture.
With the graciousness and generosity of the Universe,
yesterday before I went to get my drop form signed by the painting instructor,
I went to see my academic advisor for her signature, and to check in. This woman, is NOT the same as my “thesis advisor,” and
has known me and things about me for almost 2 years. I have a wonderful rapport
with her, and I value her immensely. She’s like a guidance counselor for grad
students ;P
And, that was precisely what I needed yesterday. The first
question she asked was “how’s the thesis,” and although at first I was
reluctant or cagey about the state of distraught I’ve been in over it, it
eventually all came out, tears and all.
She smiled. Kindly. She said that if the work wasn’t pushing
me, if I wasn’t coming up against blocks against it, if I wasn’t kicking and
screaming and being activated by it – then I wouldn’t be doing good work. I wouldn’t be changing as a writer. She
said that this reaction is normal; she
said that she had an all out break-down during her own dissertation. (Which,
btw, she’d shared about briefly at our student orientation, which is why I
then asked her to be my advisor. Her own journey and humanity made her feel
like the right person for me.)
She said that I needed to tell my thesis advisor what was up
with me and the work – why it has been so
hard for me to reapproach it. What’s been going on. And I sort of freeze up,
and say, Yeaaahh….. I know…..
And she says, I’d be happy to write her an email note as to
what’s going on. A short note, just to inform her. The relief I felt was
palpable. I had an advocate. I didn’t even know I needed one, but I said yes.
That I feel tender around all this, and get defensive, and that yes, I’d really
appreciate that.
See, my last interaction with my thesis advisor was that I’d
bring her all my work on Tuesday and we’d see if we can cobble something
together. So, I show up on Tuesday, and spend the half hour before our meeting
on the floor of the hallway with all my poems spread out, and I shuffle them
into an order, and I realize, I really do have a “body of work” that makes
sense – that has a theme, is coherent, and has a message, or a story arc. A
theme that is in perfect alignment with the work I’m currently doing.
And then, at 2pm on Tuesday, I knock on her office door, and
she’s not there. I wait. I fume. I’m all defensive in advance. And she doesn’t
show. … Turns out, she meant next
Tuesday, and I thought this one.
But, it all works out. I get to work through my resentment
some more before I see her; I get to have my academic advisor as my advocate, helping to calm
the waters; and I get to see that I might actually have something to say. In
poetry. 
humilty · letting go · maturity · recovery

The Buddha says hello first.

It’s a good thing a friend of mine told me this yesterday in
regard to another situation, as I ran into a woman today who I have some discomfort with.
Earlier this year, I was attempting to make Oakland
friends and so was having lunch with this woman who I’d begun to pal around with a little. She was telling me about a person who’d offended her, and began to generalize about people who were “doing it wrong.” I got a little defensive at her blanket statement, and thought that her
thinking someone else was doing it wrong was wrong. Of course, I did not see
this irony at the moment.
Instead, at the moment, I pulled a Molly, and began to give her my own
bit of unsolicited advice. I am a Queen of unsolicited advice. It has so many
different disguises, it should own a costume shop. Sometimes, it looks like me
telling you what I’ve done, so as to
insinuate what you should do. “Well, I know when I was in a similar situation,
I did xyz,… [pregnant pause, where they’re supposed to get the hint of what I’m actually
telling them to do].”
Sometimes, my unsolicited advice looks like me telling you
what other people have done who I believe have done it the “right” way. “Well,
I know when my friend went through a similar situation, she did xyz,… [pregnant
pause, where they’re supposed to get the hint of what I’m actually telling them to do].”
“I’ve heard about this book/website/meditation/ointment that might be
helpful…”
“Have you considered…”
“I used to do that, but now I…” (ha! that’s
always a good one – people loooove that)
Cuz F U, Molly D. Who the hell am I. I don’t know what’s
“right”. What’s right for you – even what’s “right” for me. Places where I
get mired in the “right way” to do something are usually places where I’m
scared to let go of my perceived control. If I don’t tell you what to do, you
won’t survive. If I don’t figure out what the right way is to do this thing,
I’m not valuable.
All of these are crap.
I dated a guy once who had a gluten allergy, and when we’d
be out at restaurants, I found myself making sure he knew what had gluten and
what didn’t … as if he hadn’t lived for 30+ years without my help ordering from
a menu. I caught myself on it eventually, and laughed, but yeah, the idea that without
*me*
people are not going to “be okay.” I
know where this comes from – there were years when I did have to take on doing things “the right way” to ensure that things got done at all, that shades got drawn in the morning, that hair got combed. But,
I’m not 10 anymore, and the situations are entirely different. 

And most importantly
of every single thing, these people
are not asking me.
That’s something that’s pointed out to me regularly – “Are they
asking you?” Hey Friend, so you’re telling me about this situation in your life
(housing, job, money, love, family), and obviously I’m a guru about this shit,
so why don’t I tell you precisely what I think you should do.  …. No. 99.9% of the time that they’re
not specifically asking me my opinion or my advice, they’re not asking my
opinion or my advice.
Actually, it’s
probably more like 100%, but I still want to get my wedge in there somewhere! ;P
So, anyway, back to the woman I ran into today. We haven’t
really seen or spoken to each other since our mildly combative lunch date
several months ago, when I began telling her her perspective was (perhaps) skewed, and she told me very directly that she was not asking for feedback on
her perspective, period. So, I saw her today. And sure, I still have my
opinion, but she’s not asking me, and really, it’s none of my business. (Mind
my own business and have business to mind.) And I remembered that quote from
yesterday, that “The Buddha always says hello first.” And so, I said hello, she
said hello, we were cordial with superficial pleasantries, and said goodbye.
I don’t need to be “right” here. And I would really like to
stop telling people what I think about what they’re doing when they’re not
asking me. As, no matter what costume I dress it up in, I end up looking like a
witch.