acting · community · connection · intimacy · love · theater

"It’s not about the applause."

I’m doing it again. This “auditioning” thing. 
It makes me nervous, giddy, excited, daunted, and happy, underneath all the neurosis. Seems I’m the perfect image of an actor, then, eh?!
But really. I was thinking about it when I was in To Kill A Mockingbird recently, about tweaking the title of Lance Armstrong’s memoir, “It’s not about the bike”: It’s not about the applause. 
At the end of the show, the performance, onstage, when I come out for my bow, I don’t really hear it. Adrenaline in my ears, it’s part of a wall of sound crossed with Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice: Wah Wah Wah. It’s the briefest moment. Shorter than an orgasm. It can’t be why you do it. 
It’s not about the applause. 
Because in the moment that the audience is able to reflect on what they’ve seen and pass judgement positive or negative, they’re already out of the moment — and that’s not what this acting thing is about for me. 
Not that I have much experience! But from that which I do, I realize that it’s more about what’s happening in the moment of performance with the audience, the experience created with them in real time. Whether that’s engagement, boredom, emotional stirring. 
For me, those moments of connection are what it’s about. To create a space and an environment for others to have an emotional experience they otherwise might not have had that evening. 
For me, it’s always been about that. From poems written years ago that highlight my desire to incite a revolution or evolution in people through performance. 
You can hear it from the stage. Whether the audience is holding their breath, gasping at a sudden revelation. Or crying, you can hear the sniffling. Or laughing, or that one person in the audience who laughs harder than others, or is trying not to laugh because no one else is. 
It’s this petrie dish of human experience. How will they respond, react, be moved, if at all?
I love it. I love being a part of it. I love having a small hand in moving people, of allowing them the moments of anonymity in the dark theater to be moved. That intimacy, even though I will never see their faces. That authenticity they get to experience, even though they paid for it. 
Isn’t that what Aristotle spoke of when he said theater was a catalyst of mass catharsis?
So in those few moments when I’m timing when to step out and down to the apron of the stage, and for a moment be Molly instead of character, it’s like stepping out as the man behind the curtain in Oz. Like seeing how a magic trick works. 
It’s lovely and I won’t fein that it isn’t bolstering to get applause, but I rush that part in my head, braced against it somehow, not really hearing it, just trying to bow and let the next person have theirs. 
Sure, it’s gratifying as we, the whole cast, stand there hands clasped over our heads, knowing that this sound is a show of appreciation and gratitude and approval. 
And I won’t say I don’t like it or hope for it. But. 

It’s not about the applause. 
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authenticity · faith · fear · intimacy · letting go · recovery · sex

Icarus at the Bus Station

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There is an adage I’ve heard: A new bus can’t pull into the
station if there’s one already there.
The point being, unless you let something go, you can’t grab
hold of something new.
This often comes up when people are talking about relationships,
but it can be sagely advised around anything. Today, though, it does mean
relationships.
There’s a second category of folks that I need to amend my
relationships with, after those who I’ve fallen out of touch with for
self-preservation. This is a category entitled: Men I intrigue with but don’t
want a relationship with. (“with whom I
don’t want a relationship,” yeah, I know.)
But. This list, when written earlier this year comprised of
6 or 7 names. Now, there are only two left outstanding. The rest have fallen by
the wayside as I’ve changed the electrically charged way I interact with them or have
expressly stated I want to change the nature of our lovely, but ambiguous
flirtation.
It’s exciting to
flirt. It’s exciting to know that with a few taps on my phone, I can spark the
interest of someone. It’s a boost to the ego — and it’s totally unfair to us both. It’s a lie, really.
Sure, it’s fun, and I’m not saying that it’s wrong; it’s
just not truthful for me, when I know that these are men who I don’t want to
date or pursue a relationship with. For whatever reason.
Some, I just “don’t feel it.” We were never more than
friends, to either of us, but there’s something nice about that extra “like” on
your status update or the comment posted somewhere down your page, where you
know they’ve had to dig to find it. Yes, most of these “intrigue”
relationships (meaning, flirtatiously undertoned interactions) are acted out virtually,
and that enhances their ease, their prevalence and the reluctance to “break
them off,” since, who are we really hurting? Everyone “pokes” each other,
right?
But, for me, I know it’s not right anymore. It’s distracting
from what I really want, and using someone else as a tool to bolster my
self-esteem. Neither of which get me to the healthful relationship (with myself
or with someone else) that I’d like.
Some of the men on my list are simply fucked up and/or
unavailable, and strangely(?), the last two remaining are in this subset.
It’s not that they’re just my friends who I flirt with; it’s
not as innocent as a few extra “likes;” these two are possibilities in
relationship-land, except that they’re not. At all.
And these are so hard to let go of, because they’re the most ambiguous, the most possible, and the most delicious. Delicious Evil: the curl of the lip when you think about them,
your flirtation with them, what you’ve done with them,
because these are not Rated G acquaintanceships you have had.
You like the thrill, the quickening of the pulse, and the
slight tensing of your thighs.
Who.Wouldn’t?
But.
Here is where my current work comes in. I don’t want to stop
these flirtations/more than flirtations, but I know this bus is not going to
get me where I want to go. These are not available people. And despite the
purring coo my body radiates when I consider them, my brain and heart can’t
really take it.
I do want a relationship, with someone available to me. It’s
nice to get the milk for free, but I’m ready to invest in a cow.
I’ve spoken to a friend of mine who has similar patterns
with men and relationships, and I asked her honestly if there was the same kind
of Icarus-style pull in her marriage. If there was that same forbidden, lustful
quickening. If there was that, We’re going to blot out the sun with the heat of
our passion. 
And, she told me, Honestly, No. It’s different.
You’re not going to get a cocaine high when you’re sober.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth being sober; it just means, No, there are some
experiences that won’t be replicated in a healthy relationship.
Sure, it’s just one woman’s opinion, but I trust her, and I
understand her analogy.
No, you won’t blot out the sun, but you won’t go down in
flames either.
It’s up to me to decide which life I’d rather live, and
which course I’d rather take. I know where this current “intriguey” bus leads –
right back here, again.
So, I’m going to have to make a choice to be brave, and let
this bus drive on without me, and trust that if I do, there will be a different
one coming. (pun intended.)

intimacy · poetry · relationships · sex

pome.

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Tour de Coeur
Here.
  Place your
fingers — Here.
   Lower your
head, breathe and

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  press them in.

Do you feel it, soft and
  warm and — I’ll arch my back 
  pliable. How
the muscles shift around you,
learning you, too.
  Here,
Lay your head here, and I’ll
  breathe, not freeze
  as you
explore the hidden
edges and ridges.
I will try 
  to
keep my eyes open
while you read my collarbone like Braille.
8 6 14

abundance · adulthood · determination · fear · intimacy · perseverance · recovery · relationships · self-love · self-support

Manic Panic.

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It’s what the junior high and high school kids
were using to dye bright streaks of their hair in the 90s. There was one store in the
mall that sold it (Nature Works? – The Nature Company! that’s it.),
and if you said you were going there, you meant that you were going to dye your
hair a brilliant shade of rebellious.
I never bought Manic Panic. I was as straight an arrow as
they come until the end of high school. There was too much order to maintain,
and too many rules to follow, for me to diverge any bit off the path I was
expected to walk.
And so, as I am very apt to do, once I hit college, the
pendulum swung so desperately and frenetically in the direction of “off the path,” that it
swung right around and hit me in the now-pierced face, like a rogue tetherball.
Obviously, this wasn’t the “way” either. This wasn’t
my authentic way, at least.
I had a therapist tell me a long time ago that if my mother
had killed herself when I was young, as her behavior threatened she’d do, that
I would have probably gone down with that ship. I’d spent so much time and
energy attending to the needs and expectations of someone else, there wasn’t
room to explore or attend to my own.
Years later, I had another therapist tell me that this life
was my own, that I didn’t have to make
choices anymore based on whether I thought my dad would approve, or disapprove
and retaliate anymore. That this life was my own was such a novel concept, I’d
rejected it for years. That I could choose now to dye my hair, pierce my face,
be alone, reject the world, participate in it, smoke, not smoke, date, not date – is still a
concept I’m adjusting to, but the marination of this understanding and
awakening has been long underway.
The idea that I am a master of my own fate … well, it seems
just as rogue! That I can choose the kind of toilet paper I want; toothpaste I
like; friends I call. That I can choose how I want to dress in the world; what hobbies to pursue; … job to have … partner to love.
Fulfillment, is the end game, or the suspicion of the end
game. Am I happy in my path? Note, Molly: this is your path. There is no mother to care for, no father to
obey. What is it
you want in
life? And do you feel free and brave enough to pursue those desires?
Do you feel free and brave enough to apply for a new job? Do
you feel free and brave enough to wear clothing without stains? Do you feel
free and brave enough to accept that you want a partner whose clothes are also
without stains?
Do you feel free and brave enough to accept that you want a
good life? A job you respect? A partner
you admire?
Do I feel … stable enough, secure enough, self-supporting
and self-worthy enough to not only admit these “taboo” desires, but also to
express them to the world, through action?
Do I feel ready to tell you, world, that I want in? That I
want in on the goods, on the joy, on the self-respect, on the intellectual
stimulation, on the bed-rocking sex, on the critical, yet specious-seeming ease?
Well, I guess I’m telling you. I guess it’s been long enough
that the tetherball has hung limp and impotent, and it’s time to begin playing
again. I no longer am… tethered to ideas of being and living that aren’t my
own. The cord is cut, the apron strings untied. The life, really, is my own. 
And though today that may not mean dying my hair
green or copper, as I wish I’d been able to do a dozen years ago, it means I now know that I could. And that I would be awesome besides. 

acceptance · adulthood · beauty · faith · intimacy · letting go · loss · love · relationships · self-love

Because I’m your Mother, That’s Why.

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The last song on Anticipate Thisthe mix CD I’d made for him, is Dave Matthews’ Say
Goodbye. It includes the refrain, “For tonight let’s be lovers, and tomorrow go
back to being friends.”
The line from Alanis’ Thank You has been repeating in my head: “Thank you, Disillusionment.”
And, finally, if I was “craving cupcakes,” well, a cupcake
isn’t a sustainable meal, is it? It’s never actually intended to be, and so you’ve got to enjoy it while it is there, savor, relish, cherish it, and then you let it
go. Then you move on.
We had a “debrief” conversation last night, during which most of the
above sentiments where shared by us both. Acknowledging the loveliness, the heights, the
calm, the titillation. And yet, that it was what it was. That it was a moment
in time that we’d both signed up for, participated in, and get to let go, get
to allow its sanctity, without marring it with all those Whatifs that spun in (both) our heads.
To allow the sanctity of beauty, to allow it its singularity
is a challenge and a lesson of adulthood. To be disillusioned, to know that
moving isn’t right for either of us, that fantasy can overtake reality and
crumble it. To have had the hard-won experience of knowing that selfishness and
possessiveness can suffocate a beautiful thing, is perhaps not “romance” as we
think of it. But it is, in itself, a mercy.
Relinquishing the ties to future, to “meaning,” to purpose,
we can allow it the simplicity and integrity of its joy.
I wrote a poem once about trapping a moment away in a mason
jar, locking it deep inside for fear that the moment would get marred by time
and eventuality. But the problem was that I forgot what that moment smelled like anyway; in my possessiveness and fear of losing it, I forgot what
made that moment so precious to begin with.
The same is true here. And, smartly, maturely, rightly, and a little wistfully, we both, or at least I, have to allow the experience its
autonomy and “string”lessness.
I called my mom yesterday. I’d spoken to several friends
about my conflictedness, and my sadness in letting the moment go. In knowing,
surely and deeply, that I would have to. This knowledge all the more
painful since it was such a thing of beauty, since it was, for me, a lesson in
intimacy, vulnerability, and ease that I haven’t felt with anyone in my past.
As we spoke, I told my mom it was like tasting ice cream in a shop
for the first time, and having to realize that ice cream is available
elsewhere, all over the place, in fact. That I don’t have to go to this one
place to experience it. That I’d be missing out if I thought this was the only
wellspring of deliciousness.
Part of the beauty of it at all, is that I get to see that
ice cream is in fact available to me.
(Ice cream! Cupcakes! Sheesh, can you tell I don’t really eat this stuff
anymore!?)
But, I did. I got to experience, savor, relish, and cherish,
and I get to decide to believe—DECIDE TO BELIEVE—that I can have similar dishes elsewhere. Somewhere a little less
complicated.
My mom told me that of course it was available to me. That we all deserve to have the kind of love
we want in the world. That we all are worthy of finding it, searching for, letting
the non-fits go, and working toward creating in ourselves a person deserving of the highest order this life offers.
Why? I asked her.
Why? Why is that so? Where is the cosmic contract we’ve all
signed that says that we’ll get that kind of love? Where is the agreement that we
sign as humans that says, Work and open and heal and (for)give, and you shall receive?
Really, honestly, who the fuck says that any of us get any of that?
It was important for me to play my own Devil’s Advocate. I’m the one with all the woo-woo affirmations posted
around my apartment about abundance and light and love and serenity and
security and radiance. I’m the one who’d easily and believingly tell a friend that
things work out. I’m the asshole who believes all this muck.
And for once, I needed someone else to tell me it. I needed
to be the petulant asshole who says, “Yeah, Says You.” I needed to allow my
disillusionment of that kind, too. I needed to allow that it sucks and hurts,
and is disappointing, and hard fucking work, and that we (I) do this with
absolutely no promises whatsoever of any kind of “reward,” or change.
There is no rule that says, Thou Shalt Not Toil Until Death.
There isn’t.
So, I need, sometimes, someone else to tell me. Because,
truly, somewhere (a little out of reach at the moment), I believe that we all
do deserve the precious and gorgeous things in life. I believe that none of us are meant to toil and suffer and be beaten by
life. I truly, somewhere, have a faith that is unalterable. A
place inside me that has never known fear or scarcity or sorrow.
But, despite my friends’ ears and wisdom and empathy, I
simply needed my mom, former Miss Cynic of the Universe, to tell me, Molly, It’s
going to be alright. There is ice cream
elsewhere. There is love, abundant and resplendent. Not that it isn’t without
its own challenges and lessons and compromises, but there is love, and I am
worthy of it. That I “deserve” it.
Despite the “adultness” of letting go and loving detachment
and equanimity and allowing what is… in these moments, in this one, I simply needed
the maternal “all knowing” assurance of that which I actually believe.
Dear Egregiously Gorgeous Moment in Time: Thank you.  

adventure · beauty · courage · intimacy · romance · serenity · sexuality · vulnerability

I want to tell you everything.

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I want to tell you how gently he kissed my forehead, and how
warm his body felt as I shifted in the night. I want to tell you how natural and
serene it felt to twine my fingers into his and lean my body against him as we
waited for the stoplight to change. I want to tell you it was a good thing his
roommates weren’t home most of the time we were, and about quietly resting my
foot on top of his knee while he told me a story over the sunlit kitchen table.
I want to tell you everything. But, it’s not only my story.
And this one is still being written, still has a few more “Choose Your Own
Adventure” plot twists available, and the ending of it could be sooner or
farther than we know.
So, I’ll try my best not to tell you that it was only when I
was finally unpacking my suitcase in Oakland that the tears that had surged and
abated in airports across America finally fell. Or the relief I felt stepping
into the open air of the BART platform and looking around at the hodge-podge of
people I’ve grown so familiar with. I’ll try not to tell you about the dull and
persistent ache of withdrawal.
He’d said, “escaping the world” once when we were planning
this.
I’m sure all vacations have their hangovers. The return to
grim reality, and also to familiarity. The return to my own coffee pot and car
and a toothbrush that doesn’t fold in half. There’s a relief and a longing.
Like finishing a delicious meal and finally placing down your fork, overfull,
yet wishing you could savor it all again.
You remember the small moments. The ones where you took a deep, satiated breath. The angles of the New England homes you drove past on ancient winding
roads, and the spray of the Atlantic, blue today, over the rocks. You remember
playing with his pinkie finger while you waited for your pregnant waitress, looking, still self-consciously, out the window by your table, since it
was only day 2 and you felt new and strange and uncertain.
You try to remember everything. To etch it into
consciousness, since it will certainly fade, the exact tightness of
his arms around you while you lay naked against him; the exact way his chest hair curled while you fiddled with it musingly; the exact timbre of his echoing laughter under the short
kitchen ceiling.
I’d told you before I left that I imagined being held
delicately and protectively and surely by him, and that for once, I wasn’t
frightened of it. Well, friends, it was true. And though we’ve taken fantasy
and pulled it into the realm of reality, with all its attendant Yeses and Finallys
and Contentedness, … we also both took the courageous move to explore the exact
shape of reality’s rough edges and Almosts and Not Quites.
And should it be once again with the man this time was spent
with, and should it be another person completely: I am buoyed to know that I
can rest in the arms of a man, with no thought of escape.

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.