focus · perseverance · strength

Dig Deep

11.23.18.jpgIn one of her books, Brene Brown talks about having to “dig deep” in hard moments in order to persevere.  J likes to call it a “head down” time, but I have bristled intensely at this phrase as it seems to mean something soul crushing to me but close to encouraging to him.  (I’ve asked him not to tell me “head down”!)

As I work through this time right now when it feels like things are spread thin, like I’m spread thin, I remembered Brene Brown’s phrase, dig deep.  I relate it to what we taught the cross country students about saving just a little in the tank for that last push in order to sprint toward the finish line… though of course in this case (the “life” case) there really is no finish line.  But the sentiment remains: you have access to more power and energy than you think you do, and you can use it, you can dig deeply into the well of yourself to find the power that you need to get through the “right now” that may feel overwhelming.

What feels most challenging to me at the moment is, in this moment of upheaval (moving, relationship rebuilding), to come back to what is most important and critical to me.  This feels like what I need to dig deep in order to do.  To come back to center, as I wrote on Wednesday, and to reframe my whole days and hours and thoughts to arrange themselves around what is most important to me and the course of my life.

It is well and important to think about where to put the empty moving boxes and when I’m going to clear out the hardly-moved-in-to closet so that the carpenter can fix it, but these are also distractions.  I can spend as much time thinking about the minutiae of “home-keeping” as I can on Pinterest… which is to say A LOT!

But envisioning a life and taking actions toward it are two different things.  And I am a visioner.  It is much more difficult for me to meet the rubber at the road.  It is much more challenging to actually do what’s important for me.  And I’ll have to get to the bottom of that veering so that I can dismantle that skewed attachment.

But in the meantime, I would like to tell myself to call on the inner resources of strength and capability and self-esteem to write this blog, to go to the gym, and to find that book that I want to read as part of my path on my journey of writing.

My journey cannot be diffuse, and in order to focus, to truly stay homed (honed?) in on my development, I will have to remind myself regularly, often, and with so much love, to Dig Deep.

 

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career · clarity · courage · perseverance · self-abandonment · self-support · work

Ooh, Shiny!

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“Don’t forget your dreams, why you’re doing this,” she told
me on the phone.
Easy to say when you have income, I replied silently.
I’d told my friend I was on my way to an interview for a sales
position. And she reminded me where my North Star was.
But sometimes you have to steer out of the storm in order to
get back on course, right?
That said, this is the usual “Molly looking for work
pattern”: Spend a few weeks seeking the thing I actually want, see that it’s
harder than I thought, or notice that I don’t know how to go about it and give
up on it, and then go toward the easy but unfulfilling role.
This search result looks like a different sheep’s clothing, but it’s
still a wolf.
I’m trying to interrupt the usual flow of events at the point of acknowledging that “It’s too hard” really translates as “I don’t know how.”
Because from there, I can ask for more help.
That is hard, too. To ask for help when you’re not really sure
what you’re asking or who to turn to.
I feel like the simple son of the Passover Four Questions,
The one who doesn’t even know how to ask.
For the one who didn’t know how to ask, the questions and
answers were provided to him. He just had to show up, in his ignorance, and
learn.
I have been able to interrupt other patterns of behavior
mid-way, once I saw them. The flirting with the married men. Waiting until my
fridge was empty to buy groceries, and eating tuna from the can. Following
thoughts down a dark path toward isolation and despair.
This is no different. But changing, modifying all of the
above took (and takes) effort. Concerted
consciousness. Awareness of my feelings, of my triggers. All borne of scarcity
mind. There’s not enough. I can’t have any. I don’t know how to advocate
for myself.
And this — advocating for myself — was part of a very long conversation I got to have
with my mom yesterday (as I chopped and roasted vegetables, making that conscious move to feed myself well and stop eating out all the time or going slightly hungry).
The other day, after I’d boldly walked into Neiman Marcus
with no resume and no plan and ended up in an impromptu interview with the HR
director, I spent dinner with a friend. I was asking her about sales, since
that’s her vocation. I was talking about the statistic I’d heard that women
rarely negotiate their salary, and men nearly always do.
She handed me a book titled, Women Don’t Ask. And I’m devouring it. Studies that show men see
opportunities to ask where women assume circumstances are fixed. Indeed, the
cultural pressures and reinforced gendered stereotypes that keep women in
positions of not advocating for themselves are plenty virulent, too.
I said to my friend that if I got this position in sales
with Neiman Marcus, I’d hope that I don’t go all mousy-girl. That I don’t begin
to feel like an impostor, feeling I don’t belong helping women with gobs of
disposable income.
And she said something interesting: Since cancer, you haven’t been mousy-girl.
She said before then, it’s true, I can turn (in my own
interpretation) not mousy, but quiet observer. I will stand back, get the lay
of the land, and then maybe add some ideas. But for the most part, I’ll remain
fringe.
In fact, in high school, a boy once asked, “Do you ever
talk?”
You’d hardly know me by that attribute anymore! But that
part of myself exists.
Although, less so these days.
I recounted all this to my mom, my friend’s comment about my
new assertiveness, and how I’d lost that subdued, passive nature since
surviving Leukemia. I gave my mom a simple example:
That same afternoon, I’d gone to pick up some lunch at this
organic yummy place. There were two platters of smothered polenta: one had two
slices left, and looked like it had been on the warmer for a few hours. Next to
it was another that was obviously just pulled from the oven, piping hot and
bright colored.
The older woman ahead of me ordered polenta, and got a slice from that bedraggled lot. I ordered polenta after her, and I asked if I could
have a slice from the new batch.
“Sure, of course.”
The older woman waiting for her change looked at me, with a
look of, “That’s not quite fair.” But, it was. I’d asked. She hadn’t.
I am not the mousy girl I was. I am a self-advocate. Some of
it was borne of cancer and my time bargaining with nurses and doctors on what I needed (“I guess that’s okay –
no one’s ever asked before.”). I completely changed my experience to suit my desires in what one usually sees as an immovable situation.
In the present, not knowing how to proceed – how do I market myself as an
essay tutor, how can I market myself as a home organizer, all in service of the fulcrum, all to leave time available for creative and intellectual pursuits – doesn’t mean I can’t
proceed. It means I have to ask for help. I have to ask for help on how to even
form my questions.
And I have to remember that I’m no longer the woman who gets handed
old polenta. 

action · community · faith · perseverance · recovery · self-care · spirituality · writing

Don’t Freak Out: A How-To.

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When I was sick, I became extremely diligent about my
spiritual practice.
Despite, or perhaps including, the conversations I had with
a few select friends about the nature, existence, purpose, and questionable
benevolence of a Higher Power, I knew that my safest and surest course through
all that uncertainty, fear, and buzzing activity around me was to touch base
with my center.
It really was only after the first month, though, that I was
able to write. I found my first journal entry in a notebook friends had brought
me in the hospital just days after I was diagnosed. It begins Saturday, September 29, 2012.
There’s one on the 30th, and then it stops. Until after my month of chemo and
recovery in the hospital.
But, thereafter, I made it a huge part of my practice to
journal, meditate, and eventually write my near-daily blog. I even made the
nurse put a sign on my hospital room door that read, “Meditation in progress;
Come back in 20 minutes.” (I personally loved that this meant people would
continually be turned away without a firm time listed, and I could have some
solitude in that busy and anxious place!)
But, I think about this practice now (journal, meditate, blog), one that was common
for me before I was sick, one that was essential to me during my treatments, and one that still needs to be a part of my
daily life.
Meetings, Movement, and Meditation are my recipe for sanity.
And most recently, with all the hubbub, I’m lucky to get even one in there.
But I know very specifically and with assurance that it not
only works, it also helps to light my way through.
I am in another place of uncertainty, fear, and buzzing activity. And my only way through is to have the anchors of my
practice.
There’s a phrase I’ve heard, “Most days I meditate for
thirty minutes, but on really busy days, I meditate for an hour.” Not that I’m doing that! But the intention is there; the intention to give myself even more time and space to coalesce, to touch down, to get
grounded, and to listen.
I have less trouble listening as I do heeding. It’s all well
and good to listen, and I can do that, and sometimes get answers or guidance;
but if I’m not following through or up on the information I receive, what’s the
point? Then I simply know what I’m not
doing and get to beat myself up for it!
And, I guess that’s not the point either.
I get to remember this morning that I have been in more dire
straits than the one I’m currently in: Job ending Friday; uncertain income
sources; uncertain path toward fulfillment. I get to remember that I’ve been
here before with previous job changes, and I’ve emotionally been here before
because of cancer. Nothing puts things in perspective like cancer!
And if I could have gotten through what I did, using the
recipe I know works every single time, then I am bidden to use it again. Journal,
meditate, blog. Meetings, movement, meditation. Heed the information I’m given.
Rest.
This career shift is all about buying myself time to see myself more
clearly, to see my future more clearly, and to create the space and time in
which to build toward those goals. This isn’t about busy work, or a brain
fogged with anxiety. This isn’t about despair or hopelessness.
This isn’t even about simply “getting through” this time.
This time is important; being in this
transition space is
important.
It’s not simply, Batten down the hatches til the storm passes. This isn’t about
ostriching my head into the sand. It will be important for me to be aware
through all of this time, to listen through it, and to be aware.
To not hide from my own change, because then I won’t know
where I’m going or what I’m doing. I have to stay present with this change. I
have to acknowledge that I’m uncomfortable, and that I’m taking positive steps.
I have to acknowledge where I’m neglecting myself and acting out my anxiety in less than healthy ways. And in order to know any of
these things, I have to be present.
And that’s ultimately what each of these “recipes” does for
me – they help me get and stay present.
So, yesterday I did
cancel that modeling gig. I went to meet up with folks I hadn’t seen in a
while. I got my vacuum cleaner fixed, went to the farmer’s market, put that bookshelf into my closet. I
bought dish soap.
The more I engage in my recipes, the better I feel. The
better I feel, the more able I am to take care of myself and to take actions
that support me. The more I take action, the better I feel.
It’s a continuous positive feedback loop that has carried me
through the most atrocious and trying of circumstances. With grace.  


And if I can remember that — I am voraciously confident, it can carry me through this. 

acting · action · commitment · community · fear · help · isolation · perseverance · scarcity · self-doubt · self-support · singing · trying

Doing Sh*t

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On my way into my first audition last Saturday, a good
friend texted me support, saying:
“You’re DOING SHIT!”
This is in stark (pfft, get it?) contrast to one of my most
read blogs, Magical Accidental Orgasm (and I can tell from the stats list that
many people find it by searching “Accidental Orgasm” on Google!). The blog was
about my realization that I was waiting for someone to come along and prescribe for me my life, my bliss, my path without me doing much of anything. I was waiting for someone to (metaphorically!) “give me orgasms,” as I cribbed from The Vagina Monologues.
But today, two years later, I am no longer waiting. Today, I am doing shit.

This morning I woke up and practiced
the bass line for the set my band is playing on Saturday.
Tomorrow, I’m going to take my first voice lesson from someone who comes with
great recommendations. And Sunday, I will start rehearsal for Addam’s
Family: The Musical
(which still just gets
such the kick out of me!).

(Side-bar: Coincidentally, when I was in 4th or 5th grade, I dressed as
Wednesday Addams for Halloween. So I guess it’s appropriate that 20 years
later, I play her mother!)
Doing shit. Despite my thinking – always
despite my thinking – I continue to put good things in my path. I honestly don’t
remember how I found that audition call.
But, I do remember finally having coffee with a
friend/acting mentor last Sunday to help me in my newbie, greenness. She is the
one who suggested the song I sang for my auditions, and who recommended this voice
teacher. She invited me to come over last Wednesday and practice my monologue in front of her.
And last Friday, I invited a woman to coffee who is making a
go of the “life as singer” life to ask her how I could get out of my bubble
of not being seen. She had many great suggestions, just to get me out and
singing. Like choruses, and meet-ups, and this piano bar I didn’t know about
that’s here in the East Bay.
I don’t want to do
shit. Doing shit is
scary!! But I
also don’t want to wait for someone else to press play on my life, because that
person is not coming. I don’t want to wait for the trumpet blast or starting gun or treasure map or even Ed McMahon, because they’re not coming.
This doesn’t mean that I move any quicker, but despite my fears,
doubts, self-derision, scarcity mind, I continue to ask for help and put myself
in the path of … shit.
That’s how all these things have happened. I ran
into a friend and jokingly said if you need a second bassist, and in fact, he
was just trying to put back together this side project, but thought I wasn’t
doing music anymore. Well, now! Yes, please! And so, here we are, about to play
a show.
I like the responsibility and accountability it gives me to
myself and to my dreams, not to mention to others. Having to show up with other
people means that I can’t flake out. I have to wake up and practice, or I’ll be
disappointed and disappointing. I have to make audition dates, or I’ll languish
in “someday” and “wouldn’t it be nice.” I have to take voice lessons, show up
at piano bars, take suggestions, or I will continue to say, “Not good enough,
not really, not me.”
If wishes were horses… Apparently, I’d ride. 

acting · action · avoidance · community · fear · perseverance · self-compassion · self-derision · theater

How to Eat an Elephant.

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Thank you, to whoever read my blog Perseverance yesterday, which encouraged me to read it, which I’m
sure I haven’t done since I wrote it in November 2012. Particularly appropriate
today is the following:
With each creative endeavor, as you
know by now, I pull back at some point. Painting, acting, writing, singing. I
will spend a few months active in pursuance of these interests, and then wane.
I will talk myself back from it, in any number of ways, and move back into my
mediocrity.
Yesterday, I showed up for two theater auditions. At the
first, I sang a bit of a song (“Whatever Lola Wants,” from Damn Yankees) and a bit of a monologue (Sherry Johnson, from The
Laramie Project
).
It was the first time I’ve auditioned for a musical since
high school; I only just heard the whole song on Monday; and I’d never
practiced it with an accompanist before. Let’s just say, I could have done
better!
(However, I’m “lucky” enough to have already had several
auditions where I really bombed, where I
said, “I’m so sorry can I start again…” three times! So I know what
really bombing is! And I survived.)
At the second audition yesterday, for… The Addams Family,
A Musical
(HAHAH!!!), I was to prepare only
a song, and I sang the same one, this time a little better. But.
There’s a moment in the song, where it hits a high note.
It’s one that this whole week I’ve been nervous about hitting, not because I
can’t, but because I can’t when I’m holding back. It’s not an unattainable
note at all: it’s one I can’t reach when I’m nervous about it, scared I can’t hit it,
and am psyching myself out, even as I come to that line.
Then I can’t hit that
note. And that’s precisely what happened at yesterday’s audition.
And the paragraph from my blog Perseverance is achingly on point. “I talk myself back from it.”
That’s exactly what happened.
Now, granted, I’m pretty proud of how I handled everything
yesterday, too.
After my first audition, I immediately called a member of
Team Molly, and laughed really hard
about how I bombed it. The silence of the auditors, the awkwardness, the sad
case of the whole thing – I
laughed.
Because, really, what else can you do? It’s over, it’s done. I can get all
butthurt and self-flagellating, or I can ask myself what I learned from the
experience.
Which is what I did. I asked it aloud, so as not to give in to
the brain gremlins on my drive home: What did I learn?
Well, I learned that I need to practice my songs with accompaniment. I learned that I need to know my songs much better and stronger than one week. And I learned that I really do need to
take classes or lessons, if I’m serious about doing this. Which I am.
As with the “real” headshots I finally got done early this year, if
I’m really serious about making a go of this, then I have to literally put my
money (and energy) where my mouth is. I have to invest in myself.
It’s all well and good to show up partly prepared to these
things, and see what kind of results I get. Sure. That’s totally one way to do
this. But. That’s not at all what I want. I don’t want to feel I gave it a
mediocre chance.
No matter what the results, I really do want to try my best, and this is not at all my best.
This is lip service.
Nonetheless. As the first line of my morning pages said this
morning, “I did really well because I showed up anyway!!”
I also supported myself throughout the day, instead of falling into despair or
hopelessness, which would be really easy. And which would look like coming home
to a pint of ice cream and 8 hours of Netflix.
Instead, I drove back to the Bay, went grocery shopping, and went to meet
up with friends for an hour to hear their brain dump, and share a little of
mine.
And then I went to the second audition.
After which, I created plans for myself so that I didn’t
come home and isolate. I made plans with a friend to get out of both our comfort
zones and go to this poetry open mic thing that happens monthly nearby. Neither
of us were going to read, but just to go to check it out. Try something new.
And not be alone in our heads.
It totally worked. I set up for myself stop-gaps for my racing
thoughts, for my “not good enough” thoughts. I got into the day and out of
myself. And what all of this does is allows me to show up again next time.
Because who wants to show up again for something that you tell yourself you
sucked at?
Instead, I showed up again, and I will endeavor to support
myself with a steadfast vision by taking classes and making sure that I don’t
have to feel so psyched out and unprepared next time.
And, just so’s you know. I got called back to the Addam’s
Family audition, anyway. 😉 Wish me luck!… No, forget luck. Wish me love. 

adversity · anger · challenges · gratitude · growth · life · perseverance · perspective

Aesop was a Scientist.

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Chances are, like me, you’ve heard a hundred versions Aesop’s fable, “The Oak and the Reed,” wherein we’re taught to bend like a reed in a storm, instead of remaining stalwart
as an oak which will be blown over.
The moral is to remain flexible in the face of
challenge or adversity, instead of becoming rigid and unmoving. To move with
the times, to let things shift around you without trying to control them or how
they’re affecting you. To be at ease with how things are, because when the
storm does pass, if you’ve remained reed-like, you’ll stand up into the
sunlight again.
Yes, we’ve all heard this, and again if you’re like
me, you vacillate between these flora’s coping mechanisms, flexible to rigid and
back again. Sometimes within the same hour.
However, one story I didn’t know was one I heard on
the little audio book I’m listening to now: The
Biodome Moral.
(Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the Pauly Shore
movie, but it’s valuable nonetheless.)
Scientists in the 80s, the book reports, created a perfect
replica of Earth and Earth’s atmosphere within a dome. They then sent 8
scientists into the dome to live there for 2 years. Among their findings was
what happened to the trees.
Inside the dome, there was no wind and no storms. The
scientists assumed that without the challenges of storms to damage the trees,
they would grow taller and stronger and faster than those outside the dome.
Indeed, the trees grew faster and taller. But not stronger.
The trees were weak, and easily uprooted. The scientists
discovered that the trees needed the challenge of the storms, of withstanding the storms, in order to become strong and healthy.
By eliminating all adversity from their lives, they became big and tall, sure,
but they also became hollow and weak.
Remind us of any other species?
I am not an advocate for adversity. I bristle vehemently when told that adversity is “a blessing,” as I’m
occasionally told about my cancer.
Which, by the way – never tell someone that. If they want to say that to you, great; listen, nod, be compassionate.
But never be the one to tell them that it makes them stronger, never tell them
that there will be a gift from it, or that it is itself a gift. All these
things may be true, but fuck you, healthy person, for telling me to look
on
the bright side
of leaking out my ass for a
month. Even though you mean it authentically, lovingly, and truthfully.
I happen to know
these things are true. I write here that they are; that having had that
adversity has impelled and propelled me to engage in my life and in activities
that I’d procrastinated on; necessitated my creating new relationships and boundaries that
I’d been too scared to create before. Having had and survived cancer has
irrevocably changed the rest of my life and given miles of perspective to every
other storm I may encounter.
But if you haven’t noticed, sometimes we get tired of
encountering storms, and I’d really prefer for you to not steal my lemons to
make your own lemonade. — And I still wouldn’t call it a blessing. An opportunity, I’d concede. But I’m sure no one ever said: Bless me, father, with life-threatening illness. 
… I guess I still have some letters of complaint to write to the Universe’s customer service department.
So,
The absence of storms makes us weaker. But, the
preponderance of storms makes us exhausted.
To continue in fable-speak then, I suppose it’s appropriate
to quote Goldilocks on the merits of balance and the middle way. To endeavor to
create, withstand, be free from and grow from challenges that are not too big, not too small, but “Just
Right.”

ambition · community · courage · encouragement · fear · perfectionism · perseverance · self-love · stagnating · trying · vulnerability

Perfection is the enemy of the done.

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Well, if I haven’t told you yet, I’ll tell you now: I’m
reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.
She’s a researcher on the topics of shame and vulnerability, and how the first can
keep you from embracing the second, and thereby keep you from “daring
greatly.”
Particularly, I’m (*air quotes*) “enjoying” the part when she’s quoting
from some of her interviewees. This mantra, cribbed from Voltaire, is my favorite so far: “Perfectionism
is the enemy of the done.”
There is always one more thing to do. There is always one
more spot to scrub, one more hair to fix, one more jiggly arm skin to poke, one
more class to take, one more edit to make.
In the pursuit of perfection, nothing is ever finished, and
satisfaction and contentment are perpetually elusive.
My aunt sent me an email a few weeks ago in response to one
of my blogs. She reflected that she always admires my writing, but this one in
particular should be submitted. To the New York Times.
She’s a life-long professor of English, a stellar mind and
woman. And she would be someone to know what she’s talking about.
So, I’ve sat with this idea since she sent me the prod. I
looked up the submission guidelines, and promptly forgot them.
Until I read that quote about perfection and the done. So,
this morning, I printed out the blog, and edited it. Then went back online to
see the guidelines: 1500 words. Mine is currently 700. I need to double
my article!
BUT. It’s out. It’s printed on actual paper. I can carry it
around with me to read and make notes of what parts I’ll focus in on to expand
the essay.
When I decided to finally join a band last year, it was
precisely this perfection that cracked. I was no better or worse than I’d been
for years. I had no more or less experience than I’d had before. What cracked
was my commitment to perfection. “When I practice, then I can play. When I’m
better then I can reach out to them. When I get lessons. When I …”
A few years ago, I put together an art project whose purpose
was entirely to eschew perfection. I
used paint on paper…without sketching it out first. There were no “mistakes,”
even though the lines aren’t perfect. There was no starting over, even though I
wished I could. My entire purpose was to put something down on paper, and to be
done with it. I’d had the idea of this art piece for quite some time, and I was
finally willing to do it imperfectly. And it hangs up on my wall, with lines I still fantasize about perfecting, my idol to “done.”
The same will have to be true for my essay/article. It’s
taken these few weeks to look back at it, because I have those gremlin thoughts
that say, “The NEW YORK TIMES?! Are you out of your MIND?! Who do you think you
are??” That say, What’s the use, it’ll never be used. That say, If you don’t do
it perfectly, you’ll always be a secretary.
Yesterday morning, after my phone encounter with my dad the
day before, I reached for a coffee mug. I dug behind the enormous ones I
usually use, to find a modest sized one with something printed on it.
I HEART ME. (Could be “I heart Maine,” but that works, too!)
In the sprawl of brain chompings and perfectionism. In the
shadow of habits that draw me back into being small or angry or disconnected.
In the face of a choice to let myself be seen, as imperfect but good enough as I am, I reaffirm something preciously true: I
Heart Me.