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. 

connection · family · joy · theater

Hum a few bars?

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There’s a famous story in our nuclear family history:
My brother was maybe five years old. He swaggered into the
room. Feet planted, arms wide, he opened his lips and belted, “GOTTA
DANCE!… Gotta Dance, Gotta Dance, Got ta Daaance.”
This, friends, is a move from a song in Singin’ in the
Rain
. My family trades in musicals.
Broadway and movie musicals. On frequent rotation in our VCR were
Singin’
in the Rain
, Meet me in St. Louis, Calamity Jane, On The Town. Eventually,
there’d be
Chorus Line and Cabaret with their more “adult” themes; even Flying Down to Rio and Top Hat, from in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers oeuvre. My mom, brother and I would trade lines like
currency, like code, and for us, they were.
All four of us together, with my dad, weren’t a family of
deep conversation. Instead, we’d throw these bones of reference to one another
as a note of connection and a wink. One commonly used phrase in our house was,
“What’s that from, again?” We were almost always speaking in movie lines, not just
musicals. Watching movies was what we were able to do together, to spend time
the 4 of us, without having to talk, but able to be in the same room at the
same task.
Unknown is what might have happened if we’d allowed my dad to
join in on the impromptu a cappela fun. We always cut him off, because he
couldn’t sing a bar; the trees weeped. But he could whistle, and play the harmonica,
and there’s even an old banjo lying around that apparently was his in his
younger days.
But, for the most part, it was me, mom and Ben. Trading
lines, lobbing tunes to one another, volleying them back, and joining in. So
much of my growing up, I see us, in and around the kitchen bursting into a
melody. Me, on the melody, actually, and Ben on the harmony. I never had quite
the ear for harmony, and he did; still does.
For my bat mitzvah party when I was 13, instead of the DJ
party most of my friends requested, I wanted to see a musical with my friends.
We lived a short drive from Manhattan, and many of my friends had never seen a
Broadway show.
We went to Phantom of the Opera. In a short party bus, about a dozen of us rode into
New York City
 with Nightmare Before Christmas playing on the thick, boxy t.v. screens, since it
was mid-October, right after my 13th birthday.
My mom and I’d created gift packages for my friends, little
heart shaped wicker boxes with a fake rose with a plastic water droplet on it;
a cassette tape of the soundtrack; and a mug with the Phantom mask on it that turned from black to white when you
filled the mug with something warm.
I was extraordinarily lucky to have been to some shows
already, my aunt, a stalwart New Yorker taking me to see Guys & Dolls and later, How to Succeed in Business
without Really Trying
starring the
inimitable Matthew Broderick (if you think him singing Twist & Shout in
Ferris Beuler was something… well, I assure you, this man has charisma. And talent.)
But the Phantom
theater was magnificent. There’s an enormous chandelier that crashes into the
stage during the middle of the play, and we were sitting right behind it, this
wide, gold, frail thing about to murder the ingénue. For a group of giddy,
hopped up tween girls, this was a pretty cool experience. Well, for me it was,
anyway 😉
Musicals are in my blood. I was raised on their fervor,
their simplicity, their saccharine lyrics. And I love them. I know they
can be cheesy and I know it “doesn’t make sense” that people bust into song all
the time. But, you see,
In my house, we did. 

abundance · community · faith · friends · friendship · gratitude · healing · joy · life · love · support

Card Reading

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I had very specific plans for when I came home last night:
watch Apollo 13, “take care” of myself,
and go to bed by 10.
Only one of these happened.
For most of the day, I was out & about in lots of conversation with
lots of people, expending lots of up, outgoing energy, and I wanted to counter it with
some quietude. Before coming home for the evening, I was in a coffee shop,
finishing up some extra work, and addressing cards for some friends.
I didn’t have the address for one, so I texted her for it,
and told her that I must have 10 of her envelopes at home with her address on
it; in fact, I had one of hers on my mantle.
She asked me which one, but I couldn’t recall exactly, and
told her I’d send her a photo of it when I got home.
This, was the first domino toward the hijacking of my
evening.
I did come home, take a photo and send it to her, a lovely
decorated envelope with stickers and curly-cues and kind words, like all of
hers. Next to it on my mantle (well, the top of a bookshelf, really) were a
card from the director and one from the assistant director of the play I was in
in April, with deliciously glowing, appreciative, complimentary, and supportive
words. Such kindness and such a reflection of my being “seen” by them, in one
of my aspiring avocations. The last one up there was a thank you card from my
best friend on Long Island’s wedding, thanking me for being there and what a
treat it was to have me there, literally in her bed, the night before the
wedding, and helping/watching her get ready the next day; that it wouldn’t have
been the same without me.
You can see why I keep these things.
But, it was also time to probably pack them away, do some
cleaning. And I wanted to send more photos of my friend’s envelopes to
her, since I knew she was in a space to need her own (literal) sparkle reflected back to her. 
And, down the rabbit hole we go, into the desk drawer where I keep
cards, envelopes so I can remember return addresses (yes, I know there’s a
better way), and art inspiration bits, like postcards from galleries or pages
torn from magazines.
I’ve known this drawer needs attending to. If, god forbid, I
were to croak, it would be hell for the person cleaning it out, and I know
they’d just trash the lot, since, who keeps someone else’s old greeting cards.
But, also, it’s unusably full at the moment. Because in it,
too, are all the cards I received when I was initially diagnosed with Leukemia
in late September 2012, and also a host of them came in around the
Hanukkah/Christmas season that year.
I’ve been avoiding having to carve through them. Because how
can you discard those messages?
When I was sick, I lined all the cards up on the walls of my
hospital room. I taped every single one up around me, to remind me of the
network of support and love that I had. Each card, a message of love, faith,
healing, fortitude, just for me. You couldn’t come into my hospital room
without immediately knowing that I was loved. And how f’ing important was that.
This was not the room of a dying woman. This was not the
room of a woman told she had a 40% chance of living through the next 5 years, even with treatment.
This was not the room, either, of a woman who looked like a patient, despite
the baldness, weightloss, and IV stuck into my arm and chest. I wore jeans and a
sweater, like everyone else. I was a human, not a patient. I was a woman loved,
not a pity case.
How rallyingly important was that to know, feel, and
remember every single day.
But, when the trips to the hospital were finally over, and
it was time to reacclimate to living in my apartment full-time, what to do with
those cards?
I’m a keeper of things. Sentiments, magazine pages,
interesting rocks I find on a mountain or beach. I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder,
but I do have a bag of gently used tissue paper in my closet … but it’s folded
neatly and in color blocks, so it’s okay, right?!
I also have a bag in my closet of the covers to theater
booklets of plays I’ve been to; movie stubs; plane tickets; the brochure for a
place I went camping or an attraction I toured.
The trouble is, I’m not a scrap-booker, so I just kinda
carry this bag of non-chronologically ordered “crap” with me from home to home.
But, that’s okay. One day, like the cards, I’ll go through them.
But, last night was for the card drawer.
It was slow-going. I had to take a deep breath before taking
the rubber band from around the batch of 2012 holiday cards. I knew this was
going to take a while and probably bring things up.
But I began. And with each card, I was reminded of why I’d
kept them until now.
Here’s the one from my college classmate, now in LA, saying she’d
enclosed a gift card to Trader Joes.
Here’s one from a former colleague saying she loves getting
the bloggish updates I was posting then to my lotsahelpinghands website.
Here’s one handwritten from an Etsy company saying “a friend”
was thinking of me and wanted me to stay warm. This, I remember, accompanied a
package of 6 “chemo caps” ranging from thin to thick, the one I wore most, a
fuzzy leopard print that kept me feeling fun and warm. I still don’t know who
sent those, as there was no name. Thank you, whoever you are.
Last night, with each, if I knew the sender and their cell number, I
took a photo of the card, and sent it as a text with a note of thanks to them.
Each text, a reminder to us both of what friendship means, even for people who
aren’t close.
It was nearly 11 when I finally decided to stop. I’ve
barely made a dent into the drawer. But was able to cull a few things out,
deciding that with some, having a photo of them now is enough.
At the closing of this activity, I found myself in soft tears of
gratitude. So many people surrounded me
with love. With funny cards and sentiments, with crazy wacked-out envelopes, with heartfelt messages of hope and healing. And only a handful of these folks
were people I keep in regular touch with. So many people came out of the
woodwork to support me.
I was told once during the time I was sick, that I had no
idea how many people were rooting for me. I agreed. I knew I had no idea, and I
knew that was astounding and one of the greatest showings of human generosity
that I’ve witnessed.
I had priests, rabbis, Muslims, and Buddhists praying for
me. My mom’s hairdresser and my Aunt’s student. I had a class of
kindergarteners praying for me.
I remember, too, when I was sick, trying to figure out how I
could send thank you cards to everyone who’d contacted me, but I could only
handle a few.
In this retread through the cards, in sending them back out
to their sender with my note of thanks, I hope I am closing that loop of love,
and letting you all know:

Your prayers worked, and I love you back.  

adulthood · aging · authenticity · confidence · femininity · joy · life · self-acceptance · self-love · vulnerability

"Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure!"

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I am likely not the only woman to tear up at the sighting of
a gray hair on her head. But I may be one of the few who wells up with tears of
gratitude.
Yesterday, during my morning primping, I noticed a gray
hair. I usually don’t pull them out; this isn’t the first I’ve noticed. But
this one, I decided to.
About 5 inches of silver, shiny, light-catching hair. 5 inches
that have grown back since it all fell out from chemo in late 2012.
Call me crazy, but I’ve never been scared of going gray. I
had none at all before cancer, and several now. But, even before then, I always
thought of it as a rite of passage. As a crowning achievement, really. You’ve
made it
. You are alive to go gray at all. You are passing into the stage of life that
is for richness, boldness, satisfaction, self-esteem and a greater degree of self-assurance.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading about aging
generations, it’s that so much of our self-questioning begins to fall away once
we reach “a certain age.” We begin to think less about how others see us, and
more to question what we want to leave as a legacy. And this brings with it so
much reflection and truth-finding.
Who wouldn’t want to
age into that category?
Surely, you don’t have to turn 50 to begin to assess your
values and your desires for the remainder of your years. Like me, and surely
others, you can do that at most any age. But it helps to have some experience
behind you to make those choices from a place of peace, not fear.
The first memoir I ever looked at, I didn’t read.
I saw it on a shelf in Borders (when it still existed) about
7 or 8 years ago. I noted the title, looked at the flap, and went on with my day.
But I never forgot about it, and last year finally picked it up to read.
The title? Going Gray:
What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and
Everything Else That Really Matters
. A
woman’s exploration of what that means to “go gray” in our culture and society.
A lifelong hair dyer, she made the decision to give up the illusion, and embrace
whatever lay under the chemicals, for better or worse.
Author Anne Kreamer looks at the history of dying our hair;
goes “undercover” as a woman trying to reinvent herself to re-enter the
workforce to see if image consultants will tell her to dye her now growing-out
grays (none do); and comes to discover that with her new look comes a new clothing
color scheme, and a new confidence.
She also doesn’t purport the superiority of letting her hair
grow out. She talks with successful women who do and don’t dye, and let’s them
have their experience. All she can speak to is her own.
Surely, it helps that she goes gray in a “nice” way, with
silvery and dark chrome strands. Which is much the way I anticipate I will.
With my dark coloring, I imagine that I will go silver,
instead of stale gray, or as my mom describes her (dyed) fading blond: dirty
dishwater.
So, that “beauty in the beast” helps my acceptance, I’m sure.
But what brought me to tears yesterday as I stood there,
admiring this newly-found strand, now plucked and held like a precious object
in my hand, was the reality and giddy reminder I feel every time I find one: I made it. I am alive to have gray hair.
I’m alive to see what will happen with it: if they’ll turn out
all spidery texture and I’ll lament I ever praised finding them. If I’ll
consider dying it after all. Or if I’ll love every single thread of life these gray hairs represent.
I tear up when thinking about this, because it’s true.
Because, like someone admiring a sunset, or their sleeping child, or the taste
of a food never eaten, it means I’m alive.
Which itself means I have a chance and a choice to make my life whatever I want
it to be.
My gray hair represents possibility, transformation, and
authenticity.
Who wouldn’t rejoice? 

change · childhood · compassion · growth · healing · health · joy · pain · past · recovery · truth

Not Knot.

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Last night, I listened to a woman share her intense pain and
entanglement with her past. In listening to her, I realized something crucial for myself: I don’t actually feel that way anymore.
Despite the trailing tendrils and my habitual gnawing back
at it, my past and I are actually not so enmeshed anymore – at least, as I
listened to her, not nearly as much as we were. No. That’s not accurate. We’re
just not. It’s there. I poke at it, like a plate of live octopus bits, still
wriggling on the plate, long after everyone’d finished jamming them into hot
sauce and tried to chew and swallow before they attached to the inside of your
gullet. (Uh… See: My years living in South Korea for reference!)
But, I poke at it, and if I do, it’ll squirm. But for the
most part, my past isn’t a thing crawling toward and suffocating me anymore.
Listening to this woman, hearing her say that she can’t seem
to get under her past, I realized very
clearly that I have. Again, it’s there, but it’s not a shackle around my ankle anymore; it’s
just some dust I can kick off my shoe.
(Apparently, this’ll be a metaphor-heavy blog!)
I have liked to think
that my past is something I’m still slogging through, carrying around behind me
like a behemoth, its hot putrid breath at my neck asking me how it feels,
whether I am able to ignore it now, How ‘bout now, Now?
I’ve liked to think that my past is still a quicksand pit
I’m wading through, slow as molasses, fetid and shoes lost.
But, something about having this woman’s story as comparison
(not better or worse, simply different), I got to see into a mirror that I haven’t been able to
hold up for myself.
I am not
there anymore
. I am under my past. I’ve excavated, charted, spelunked
and had more than one canary die down there with me.
But, in the end, in the now, we’re kind of done there.
There’s a cave we’ve dug down into, we’ve opened the land around it, we’ve
cared and cleansed and ameliorated the land. We’ve begun to forget that it was
a horrid, dark, and dismal place, now in the open space that we’ve created from
it, and we’ve used that dank soil to plant new things. Exposed to the sun, it’s
something new, now.
(I do like me my extended metaphors!)
(Though, actually, I’ve done this exact work in
visualization meditation over many years, opening the cave of my pain and my past, exploring, mourning, and later watching flowers begin to sprout where there was only hurt. I’ve done this work of opening my past and my pain up. It’s
finished, or as finished as it can be.)
So, I got to see something yesterday that I haven’t been
able to see yet: The truth.
As I listened with compassion to this woman tell us, tearful
and anguished, that she is so knotted with her past she can’t see her way out,
I wrote in my notebook:
           
My past is really not that knotted anymore.
                       
Actually.

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.)

abundance · change · community · joy · love · recovery · spirituality

Those Three Little Words.

I said them.
I can’t believe I said them.
It was my turn, my turn to say something, and I could feel
your eyes watching me, waiting, and I just blurted them out. It was just what came to mind as I
sat there in those few silent beats, my thoughts whipping from one thing to another, the split
second where a thousand things could have been said, but instead of anything else… I said those three
little words:
“God is Love.”
Oh, god! Did I really just say that?? Did I really just say
the words that for years, eons it seems,
I’ve gagged at, rolled my eyes at, laughed at, scoffed at?
Did those words really just pop into my head and out of my
mouth? Oh god, I’d take them back, but…
I have despised this phrase: “God is Love.” The first time I
heard it, I think I vomited in my mouth a little. It was so despicably
saccharine and hippie and idiotic. There have been few phrases in the whole
English language that have caused such antipathy and revulsion in me than this
one.
“God is Love,” ew. Really? Just, Ew.
But, the first time I heard it must have been nearly 8 years
ago now. I was 24 when I first heard it; I’m 32 now, and apparently, somewhere
in that time my rejection of that phrase,
that idea, that sticky ewwy gooey warmth, has softened.
This is as much news to you, as it is to me.
I sat with a group of folks yesterday morning, and at the
end of our time together, a piece of paper with affirmations printed on it is
passed around. You can choose to say one of these, or make up your own, or
simply pass. There are phrases like,
I am enough
I have enough
I do enough
There is enough time
There is enough love
There is enough money
I am right where I’m supposed to be
My life works
I am not my income
I am not my debts
I am lovable exactly as I am.
At various times since I’ve sat with this group, different
phrases have appealed to me. Some don’t, sometimes I make my own up. Lately, I really
like this line from another part of the literature which reads, We will come to recognize a power greater than ourselves as the source of our abundance.
I like this, because it means I’m not the source, I don’t
have to wrench or squeeze or wrest things out of life. I also like it because
abundance can mean so many things, and affect so many areas: The Source of
my abundance of: The physical, financial, emotional, locational, material, spiritual,
comedic, familial, romantic. Of my thought life, my priorities, my perseverance,
travel, prosperity, boundaries, action. Abundance of my vulnerability, intimacy, sexuality, authenticity. My focus. My laughter, my joy, my health, my vitality.
A power greater than myself is the source of all these and
more, because surely, I am not the one who makes my heart beat, the trees
flower, or puts those two new kitchen chairs out on the street just when I was
thinking of needing new ones. Something else, just the anima of life itself, or simply gravity that causes the moon to phase, is greater than me, doing things without my hand, and offering me more than I’ve begun to know. 
But. God as Love?????
Ick.
And yet, it happened. The sheet with the affirmations passed
around to me, it was my turn, and as I scanned the list, none of them spoke to
me, and I was in the act of passing the sheet to the next person when those
three little words escaped my lips.
I was taken aback. I was shocked at what had happened, what must have transpired in almost 8 years. I
said something I thought I would never, ever say. Didn’t ever want to be like
those saps who say things like God is Love.
And yet. M’ F’er. I did.