community · courage · fun · joy · theater

Are you coming?

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Yesterday was finally the day. I’ve been with this cast for
a month in performance now, and once, even twice, a weekend, they’ve shed their
wigs and sweat-soaked costumes and gone out to the bar.
I haven’t been. Partly because I don’t drink, partly
because it gets so late, and partly because I’ve just been kinda shy about
it. And last night, when the venue was gonna be a gay bar to dance, I decided
it was time.
Sure, it’s a Friday night, I’d worked all day, rehearsed and
performed all evening, and I had to be up this morning to sit for a portrait
artist at 10am. … but you know what? Yesterday was a good day, and I felt
invigorated.
I found out that I got cast in another production at the
theater where I’m currently running. I got the large important work project
done, with a few hiccups at the end of the day. And I finally felt like I beat
the solo song that’s been beating me all run.
It was a good day. And dancing sounded perfect. I dance like
a white girl, but I have fun doing it. Though, granted, there were other white
girls there who definitely don’t fit into that “white girls can’t dance” model!
But just the vitality and joy and jumping and ear-wide smile and circle
of friends who are together only for a brief period. It was awesome.
I used to go dancing once or twice a month. Then maybe every
other month. And now, I’m lucky to go once or twice a year. I would never
listen to the music in real life. I know maybe one of the dozen songs that gets played. But it doesn’t matter.
I toss my growing-in hair around, I bounce on the balls of
my feet, and I pump my fist in the air when it feels like time.
And it does. 

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abundance · adulthood · community · joy · life · love

Having My Cake and Eating It Too.

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(Yes, I’m gonna go there. Bear with me!)
In 12-step recovery it is custom to acknowledge lengths of
sobriety or abstinence. Within the first year, we often acknowledge monthly
mile-markers, and after a year, we acknowledge annual “birthdays” or “anniversaries.”
Why do this? Why stand up in front of others and say that
you’ve accomplished something? Isn’t that selfish and self-seeking? Why does it matter?
Well, the conventional wisdom is that it shows others that
it’s possible. You’re not actually doing it for yourself, although that’s quite
nice; you’re helping others to see that “one day at a time” adds up to months,
and even years. You’re offering hope to others.
In our “belly-button birthday” world, why acknowledge our
birthdays either? I have friends who eschew celebrating their birthdays. Why
celebrate? It’s not like you *did* anything. You just lived another day.
And, just as with recovery, to me, that’s the point these
days.
It’s to celebrate and share the fact that you made it. That you are alive. You did do something: You lived.
A former mentor of mine used to call this our “precious
human life.” A Buddhist, her meaning is how rare it is to inhabit a human form this lifetime. We
could have been a tree or a toad or a fruit fly, alive for 24 hours, unconscious.
But we’re not.
We’re animated, active, Fate-affecting. And Fate-affected.
We’re constantly learning and changing and fighting and
hoping and loving and hating and struggling and triumphing. We’re constantly
forming ideas of who we are and who the world is; where we are and where we
want to be.
We’re creating our lives with every breath we have the
privilege to draw.
So when a co-worker the other day shushed everyone as we wished her a happy birthday, saying she doesn’t do birthdays, I did whisper to her, But imagine the
alternative.
We do fight to be here, conscious or not; every day, we are
making a decision to try. No matter what that looks like, even if it looks like
stagnation or the mundane. Even if we are
the tired, poor huddled masses. We
try.
The celebration of a birthday is an acknowledgement of a
year of living. A year of something precious and rare and teeming with
uncertainty and, hopefully, love.
Today, I turn 33 years old. I have survived alcoholism,
dysfunction, gang rape, and cancer.
I have formed and smashed relationships. I have melted and
embraced. I have survived my own machinations. And become a metallurgist.
I, my friends, am an alchemist. And I honor us all today by
showing you:
We live.

And how!

With love,m.

community · fear · joy · love · performance · self-doubt · self-esteem · theater · trying

So, How’s the play?

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Oh, you mean that surprise piece of happenstance that’s underscored how unhappy I was at work by how happy I am in rehearsal and
performance?
That sudden flurry of activity that challenges me to quiet my inner
critic and do what I’ve written here I’ve always wanted to do: perform and
sing?
This universe of actor grumbling and sweaty mic packs and not
enough room at the backstage table and no air conditioning and that railing
that was never put in right and voice cracking and line flubbing and lighting failures?
Well, it’s fantastic!!
The buoyant aura of hard work and camaraderie, laughter and
support. Even when we’re elbowing for room at the table, or need to ask someone
for the hundredth time to hold your wig while you comb the bejeezus out of it –
you know you’re doing it in the service of something larger than you.
To be in performance
is so much more fueling than in rehearsal – like when they described
Sex
and the City
, they said “the City” was the 5th main
character. In a live performance, the audience is also a character, a member of
the staged community. “It’s a great audience tonight.” “They’re not really
laughing.” “They’re so into it.” You measure your performance not necessarily
by how much they laugh or applaud, but by what they give you and what you give
them back. And sometimes what you get is bolstering, and sometimes it’s not, but it’s always present. 
Creating something that never was and will never be again.
Flubbed it tonight? Live theater! Try it again tomorrow. Got your ridiculously long
wig stuck on a screw during an entrance? Have your co-actor unhook you and get
on with it. Didn’t get a laugh on that line tonight? Do it again tomorrow
anyway, because
you think it’s
funny. Try it differently. “Let’s get crazy,” to quote a line from the show.
In addition to all this, I’ve loved the backstage buzz.
People are talking about auditions and other musicals, and arguing about their
favorite. People are going over their next audition monologues and kibitzing
about where they’ll audition next and who the casting director is and if you
saw that one last play, and Boy Howdy what a success/disaster.
It’s thrilling to me!
Someone so new to this world, it’s like drinking from an oasis. People are
actually
talking about theater,
about acting, about what they’ll do next. And it’s inspiring me to continue
trying.
I know it would be very easy for me to not do anything for a
while, because of my upcoming job transition.
But, this play is part of the reason why
I’m changing career avenues. And much of the point of the changing avenue is to
change my schedule to accommodate
being in productions.
Hearing all the dressing room chatter about upcoming
auditions, I find I want to do more. And, like I wrote yesterday, it could be
easy for me to let this thread drop when it’s over – I know how to have a
flurry of activity followed by inaction. But being in the belly of the action,
hearing words fly back and forth and the encouragement and the excitement
shared by the other actors… I’m demanding from myself that I make these
outreach emails and audition calls now, before the play is through.
So, how’s the play? It’s changed and is changing my life.
It’s hard, and I feel inadequate, and I judge myself against
more experienced singers. I dread these two lyrics in the whole show and
challenge myself to not dread them, to be present and let it be what it’ll be
because it’s not the all of who I am or what I’m giving.
The show is fun and takes effort and requires me to be
present and accommodating and kind.
In short, the show requires me to live. And live bravely.
Amen. 

balance · fun · health · joy · love · responsibility · self-care · theater

In Training

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Dear Blogosphere,
Apologies for the sporadic posts these few weeks. First
there was sickness, then my mom in town, and then, of course, the Monday 5 a.m.
shift at my gym.
And in thinking about the structure of the next few weeks, I
don’t know that I can promise you anything more than a few pixels.
This Sunday began the first full week of rehearsals. 4 hours
Sunday, 3 each night this week. And assumedly, each weeknight until opening
night on September 19. It really is like a part-time job!
And so, I’ve come to think of my approach to this time as
though I’m training for a marathon. To the best of my ability, I am going to
aim to be completely conscious of the food I eat, the breaks I force myself to
take from my desk at work, the sleep I manage to slip in between rehearsals and a
day job.
I have this phrase I wrote down a hundred years ago that is
taped to my closet wall and has taken me as long to come to understand and
believe: Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.
And I believe this is the perfect time to begin to implement
“acting as if” that’s true (because, I somewhere believe it is). The body is a cautious and delicate scale. In these few weeks and months, I’ve gotten to see that my own scale is
particularly sensitive (liver trouble, K.O.’d by a virus, my acupuncturist saying my body was ripe with signs of stress).
So, balance, intentionality. Vigilance. Yes, it’s the
absolute busiest season of my work year – like a retailer between Black Friday
and Christmas. But, as we’ve seen, I can’t show up to work if I’m not healthy,
and I’m not healthy if I’m not intentional. So, I have to be my own trainer,
stopping the clock to take a walk outside. Deciding, No, I won’t have 4 cups of
coffee to power through my day. Yes, guy at the store who watched me put the apple
back and reach for the organic one that’s a dollar more expensive, yes, I do
need to eat this instead.
I’ve set up a “crash-pad” at my friend’s house who lives
between work and the rehearsal theater so that I can go and chill out a few
hours after work without having to either rush home and back or sit at a café
and spend money or be interactive with anyone.
I’m going to begin going back to my gym a few mornings a week,
instead of the once I’ve been doing. I’ve been meditating almost every morning
for 10 – 20 minutes. And, we’ll see where the blog falls on the self-care
scale, considering the few moments of sleep it ticks away.
Finally, I’d like to make sure that I get time in with my
“brain drain” crew, spending an hour with people who normalize my experience
and help my thinking to turn down in decibels.
“Meetings, Movement, and Meditation” has arisen as my
prescription for health, and I am hoping to treat myself as the worthy
patient and doctor of such self-care, which will enable me to show up fully,
mind, body, spirit.
Because… I gotta tell ya, This shit is So.Much.Fun. !

ambition · faith · fortitude · gratitude · joy · life · participation

Third Star to the Right…

Call me a navel-gazer, but as the Jewish High Holidays approach, I get reflective.

At work, I’m neck deep in preparation for them, and acutely aware of their significance on the calendar than I ever was: Two years ago, at the end of September, I was diagnosed with Leukemia on the evening of Yom Kippur, our “day of atonement,” the day on which we are either “sealed into the book of life” for another year … or not. It’s a pretty significant day on the Jewish calendar, and I have come to hate it.

I hate what it “means,” about being sealed or not into the book of life. I hate how much changed in an instant, with one sentence told to me by a doctor. I hate remembering the sore throat that began the whole prelude to my ER visit, which kept me working from home, and feeling so badly about it since it was a brand new job.

But, what remembering this day also does for me is cause me to reflect on what has changed, and what has happened in the two years hence. I have endeavored to create “a life worth living” for myself against all the internal railing and nay-saying, against all my own self-sabotage, against all the foot-dragging and self-immolation I had previously submitted to.

In the last two years, I have dragged myself kicking and screaming into a life I consider worth living.

This isn’t to say that I’d done nothing beforehand, but here’s a list of experiences I’ve had & actions I’ve taken in the last two years, post-cancer:

  • Hosted my Creativity and Spirituality Workshop
  • Began blogging daily again
  • Went to Hawaii for the first time
  • Got a bedframe for the first time since childhood
  • Sang at a café with friends
  • Joined their band on bass
  • Played shows out, nearly once a month
  • Started ushering at Music shows for free & have seen,
    among others:
     – Paul McCartney (about to see him again next week)

– Red Hot Chili Peppers

– Doors guitarist Robby Krieger play “People Are Strange” with Warren Haynes…!

– About to see Dave Matthews

  • Bought a car
  • Celebrated July 4th near my old hometown with my mom and
    brother
  • Busked on the streets of Oakland and SF singing Christmas
    caroles
  • Got real headshots
  • Auditioned for plays and musicals
  • Got cast in 4 shows
  • Modeled for friends
  • Submitted photos to modeling agencies
  • Visited Seattle for the first time
  • Visited Boston to try out a new relationship experience
  • Dated with craziness
  • Dated with less craziness
  • Got laid well
  • Got laid poorly
  • Visited a best friend and her newborn baby for a week
  • Hiked Tilden & Marin
  • Took accredited acting classes
  • Took voice lessons
  • Flew a plane(!) — and landed it 😉

Any of these things could have happened beforehand (and some were indeed happening, with less gusto, determination & regularity), but most of the activities on this list are new to me.

I was talking with a friend a few months ago, another cancer survivor, and she said that she feels complete with the world – that if she died today, she’d be okay with that. I noticed how not okay I’d have been with that; virulently not okay. Granted, she’s about 10 years older than me, has a daughter, teaches in a way she loves, is married.

And I think those are key differences. Having created your own family, having a career you feel impassioned about. Those are items that are not yet on my above list, and I want them to be before I expire, thank you.

I do however, write this list to reflect to myself that there are things that I’ve done that are miraculous, fun, and inspiring for anyone to have done, let alone l’il ole me. I forget this, frequently.

It’s hard to admit this here, and it’s not precisely the entire truth, but if I were to expire sooner than later… Well, I won’t say, “If I died today, I’d be okay with that,” but that I am exponentially grateful for this role I’ve recently landed. To play in a musical, comedic role at a community theater is the cat’s pajamas. (If I have to go soon, I hope it’s after we open!)

When I returned from teaching English in South Korea almost 10 years ago, I said I was coming home to “break onto Broadway.” Then instead, I got sober!

And now, 8 years since then, I’m taking steps that are developmentally appropriate to that dream. It’s in the right direction, even if I never get there. It’s my impassioned avocation, even if it’s not a vocation.

I do not wish to expire soon. I have more experiences I want to add to that list, and more sanity and evenness I wish to accrue. But I feel more comfortable now than I had been even a few months ago in noticing that I am accumulating the experiences that, to me, express a full and well-lived life.

I wouldn’t have as many regrets if it were to happen soon. I have a few regrets of things I’ve done & ways I’ve re/acted in the last two years, sure. It’s not as if I’m a saint, and sometimes I still choose experiences I know are more damaging than useful.

But instead of waiting to be “inscribed in the book of life” by some entity or religion or benchmarks of success otherwise prescribed to me by my childhood, my faith, my inner critic…

Instead I am coming to believe that I am following my own North Star: I may never get there, but I’m headed in the “right direction.”

And for the first time ever, I deeply feel that.

 

adversity · balance · joy · laughter

We Can Do This the Easy Way . . .

the easy way.jpg

Why does nobody ever put a period after that phrase?

We can do this the easy way. Period.

I heard it again on a radio interview the other day: Well, anything worth doing is hard. It’s the hard work that makes it worth while. Nothing good ever came from taking the easy road.

Really?

Here is a brief list of activities that I find most worthy and fueling in the world:

* Holding a baby
* Making conversation with a child
* Laughing with friends
* Singing showtunes with my mom and brother
* Singing camp songs while my brother plays guitar
* Dancing

Not one of these things is “hard.” Not one requires advanced degrees, mountains scaled, or scars incurred.

Each of these things are, for me, Easy. Joyful. Miraculous.

This value our culture has attached to struggle and adversity and toil is sickening and disheartening.

Now, I know what they’re getting at. I know that I wrote just yesterday that showing up is hard and scary, so I don’t know that I have a soap-box to stand on here. But, I am tired of being harangued by the idea that I have to struggle in this life to do anything worthwhile.

That anything that comes easily, naturally, feels good, joyful or pleasurable must have a toll paid in flesh.

Sure, caring for children all of the time is taxing; and I’m not a parent, just an eager attendant and friend to others’ kids, which demands its own responsibility. Making the time to show up with and for friends, and to maintain friendships does take effort. Dancing means making myself vulnerable to being seen, which requires taking a deep breath before diving in.

But it doesn’t follow that these things are struggles, adversities, or stories of redemption.

God, how we love a redemption story. We hate people who “have it easy.” We want to hear how muddy the water was you had to slog through toward your goal. We want you to express fear and isolation and doubt and a “dark night of the soul” before you are worthy of a story of triumph, joy and ease.

What kind of fucking schadenfreude society are we?

I “get” that we all want to feel a kind of connection with those who have struggled, because often we too find ourselves in struggle and we don’t want to feel alone. It feels disconnected to hear a story of ease, success, and Life’s mercy. Because we don’t have or believe we can have that ourselves. And so we want you in the mud with us.

Sometimes we do slog through mud. I get that, too. But not everything in life that’s worth doing requires that. Sometimes we cross the bridge, our toes are not calloused, there is no troll to pay off, and we simply arrive at our destination.

I know that doesn’t make great drama. But I’m not looking for drama. I’m looking for joy.

acting · clarity · community · dreams · friends · joy · life · theater · truth · trying

My Brain Reads Like a Cafe Gratitude Menu…

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I am pure, undiluted joy.
Honestly, you could culture my blood for Potions class.
There was an impromptu dance party.
I left an incoherent bubbling message on my mom’s voicemail,
and called my brother, too. Who told me I’m awesome. And who I told back that
he is, too.
For those who don’t follow my Facebook feed, I found out this morning that I got the
role
of Morticia in “Addams Family: The
Musical.”
The one I don’t even know how I found the audition call for.
The one I auditioned for this weekend to my own mediocre reviews. The one I was
called back for, to my own mediocre reviews.
I’m sensing a trend here: What I think, and what reality
tells me, may be two very different things.
And, here, for the better.
The astounding thing to me is this is the second lead role
I’ve been offered in as many months. From, “you know your height gets in your
way” to “please join us” … Wow.
There’s a quote that called me to sit for a moment in
silence on my bed, breathing heavy from the fist pumping, Elaine-thumbs-out
dance party:
Don’t forget to pause a minute and thank G-d for
everything
.
Thank you. Thank you, Universe, for conspiring for me. Thank
you, Molly, for showing up even though you’re scared and doubtful. Thank you,
FRIENDS, for receiving those phone calls and texts that ask you to send me love
and support. Thank you, friends, for sending love and “likes” and hope.
I need you way more than you know.
And you always show up, which is marvelous – like, something
to marvel at. Really.
The play will run mid-September to mid-October. This means
that I will spend my October 7th birthday in performance.
I spent my 30th birthday with fondue and friends. I spent my
31st in a hospital bed, saying, “Next year: Brunch, huh?”
I celebrated 32, indeed, at brunch with a dear friend and her two
kids whose laughter is part of my salvation.
And, god willing, I will spend 33 in pursuit of a dream I
have let languish in a faded costume closet. The clothing of another woman in
another life.
Life moves and shakes, it do.
And part of my work is to accept that these costumes, these roles, these friends, this love, this life … are for me, too.
Let’s throw open the doors, pull out these moth-eaten
dreams, and hold them up to reality. They may be more solid than I’ve wanted to
know.
Thank. You.