progress · self-doubt · vision · work

Living Out Cliches

Last Friday morning, I received a phone call from the temp agency I’d been working with, telling me, in excited “what a great gig is this” tones, about a possible receptionist job.

On Saturday morning, as is not unusual for Bay Area Rapid Transit, I got onto a train car with a homeless man sprawled out in a blanket by the doorway, and turned right to walk through to the next car.  There, I was pleasantly surprised to see a former co-worker (the only one I really befriended) from my retail job this past winter and I sat down next to her.

I got to tell the temp agency and my former coworker the same thing: “I just accepted a teaching job for the upcoming school year.”

It felt as though The Spirit of Jobs Past had come to call on me, showing me how my life could have been.  I get a call for a crummy temp job–that only days before I would have actually had to consider–just 24 hours after accepting a position teaching 3rd grade at a local Jewish private school.  And only a day after that, I run into someone who holds up a vision into what my winter was and what my present still could be:  long, hard, meaningless, monetarily and spiritually rewardless hours.

This morning I pulled out my “morning pages” notebook thinking to write about what’s happening now, and I flipped it open.  It fell open to a page from February, when I was still at that retail job, and I had just decided I was going to be a school teacher.  I have all these “law of attraction”-style invocations written down over that month:

  • I’ve made a decision.  I am going to teach physics.  And math.  In high schools. & later college(?)
  • I’ve decided: I’ll get a private school job & they’ll sponsor my credential program.
  • The future. My legacy.  Middle schoolers, I love them! Real holidays.  Real breaks. Stable. Stability First.
  • I want a job like Jess’s or Chris’s – a cush public or a great private.
  • I need a regular job. I need a regular, benefitted, well-paying job.
  • I wanna fly a plane for tourists.
There were all the questions, too:

  • This will take a lot of work & more schooling.  How is this gonna work?
  • Will I be able to do a normal job AND the acting thing? Dreams change, right?
  • How the heck to I teach this stuff?
  • How is this gonna work at all??
  • Where do you (inner core) need me? What needs to happen to get there?

I also wrote about the other things that I was struggling with:

  • I broke down yesterday – I shared & cried & said how it really is for me right now. I feel ancient, I feel tired, and – not lost actually – just temporarily very, very stuck.
  • I am a mess, and I need help to clean and slow things down.  I can’t do it all at once and I’m trying to.
And finally:

  • 2015, the year I taught at a private school, was in a musical & play, learned calculus and physics.  Right? Oh, and got counseling for cancer. Oh right, that.  I need help on that.  This isn’t okay.  I wanna hear from cancer survivors.

It was the entry after the day I “broke down” to my friends and let them know how much that winter was weighing on me…  How broken and tired and hopeless and directionless I felt…  The day after I admitted that what it looks like on the outside can kill you if you don’t admit what it feels like on the inside…

It was after that entry, the very next one, that I received the call that I’d gotten the temp job as an executive assistant and would be leaving my retail floor behind me.

It was at that temp job that I made a friend who ended up gifting me funds so that I could afford to accept the part-time summer school job at the cushy private school (and take a physics class at night).

It was the experience and resume-fodder of that private school job that enabled me to speak with recent enthusiasm to the cushy private school interviewers where I got hired last week.

And, true to the last bullet point above, I have, in 2015, taught at a private school, been in a musical, learned physics, and gotten counseling for cancer & discovered a community of young adult cancer survivors whom I cherish.

Oh, and I flew in a plane with a friend and was able to take the wheel for a while.

So, what?  What is the take-away from all of this “what it was like & what’s it’s like now” reflection?

Firstly, and I believe most importantly, I admitted the truth to my friends about how broken I was feeling – and I will not be exaggerating here when I say things were as black as they can get for a person like me, a person who will actively hide behind her shiny exterior while gently suggesting suicide to myself like a lover whispering nothings in my ear.

This was not okay. And I didn’t know how to change or fix it.  I put on the armor of the Look-Good every day.  Until finally, one very lucky day for me indeed, I told the truth to people who could hear it, and, importantly, help me change it.

It was because of this admission of my truth that I got help: I began to work in earnest on my recovery.  I “happened to” read the back panel of the Cancer Support Community newsletter, where they offered free one-on-one counseling for cancer patients and survivors. I was accepted into a climbing trip with survivors like me where I was able to tell them the truth about how much I missed them in my life without knowing what it was that I’d been missing — like breathing fresh oxygen when you’ve lived in LA your whole life with a 100lb pack on your back.

So, I suppose the take away is mainly for me to say that.  To say that this was a hard fucking year.  It was a hard fucking winter and it nearly killed me “for realz.” And so, all these cash and prizes now, all the fulfillment of these “manifestations,” all the rewards that seem to be piling in on me now and making me spin with their accuracy of help… they have not been granted by a fairy godmother, magically and suddenly.  They have been fought for with the truth, with action, and yes, with the childish hope that what dreams I put out into the world might actually come true.

My coworker asked me on the train car last Saturday, “When did you quit?”  “February.”  She thought for a moment, and replied, “So six months.  You’ve done what you said you were going to do in six months.”

Indeed.

And wow.

And thanks.
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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. 

boundaries · confidence · letting go · relationships · self-doubt

Dic(k)tator

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I had a boss once who was the consummate micro-manager. I
would be asked to carry out a project, and as the week would go by, I would get
inquiries about the state of the project, if I’d done a, then b, then c. Did I
remember to? Did I contact? Where was I on it?
I spent nearly as much time on the project as I did answering my boss’s incessant questions.
At one point during my employment, I had come to the end of
my rope about this type of management style, and I let my boss know
that I was having a hard time with our communication – that I felt my boss did
not trust me to carry out a job that was assigned to me.
Although it was stated that of course I was trusted to do my
job appropriately, the actions that continued to take place showed that wasn’t
entirely true. And even though it wasn’t exactly personal, I felt
disenchanted with the duties I was performing, feeling my power of ownership, and therefore, my professional confidence, was being undermined.
In a total book-reader/movie-watcher’s understanding of such things, I would say that
it’s like defending a castle.
There is usually an external wall built around a castle and its grounds, in
place to prevent ingress and marauders. The citizens trust that the wall will
defend them.
However, what if there is a monarch who doesn’t trust those
walls to hold. Despite the greatest masonry, the height
of engineering and construction, the monarch still feels at risk.
And so, she sends out sentries to patrol the exterior of the
castle wall. There are boundaries, but these are not trusted, and so she
employs a defensive and offensive line.
The thinking goes: I do not trust that the boundaries I have
put up will hold, and so I will go beyond them, in front of them to fend off
any attacks. I don’t even know if there are any enemies out there, but there
could be
. And I don’t think the walls I’ve
built will hold.
I am not willing to have the boundaries tested. I must make
extra defense.
Let’s turn the analogy to personal boundaries. If we don’t
trust that our boundaries, our internal mechanisms, will be faithful, will
perform their job appropriately, or have been built to the utmost of our
knowledge, we will continue to send out sentries beyond those boundaries to
defend ourselves.
What this does in the end is show that we do not trust
ourselves and our boundaries. We never get to test those appropriate walls to
see if they can in fact do their job. By not allowing them to do what we’ve
built them to do, they will never get the chance to prove to us that they can,
and we will continue to send out a forward offense/defense.
At the risk of being obvious, I am that monarch.
I may have spent years building and refining a system of
appropriate boundaries, but I am loathe to test them. Instead, I employ an
extra electric fence to ensure that those boundaries are never even tested.
Because what if they fail.
I surround myself with an added, superfluous layer of
defense and offense, because I am scared that if you get too close, my appropriate resources won’t have the ability to measure and defend your threat.
But. If I don’t allow you to get to the wall of the castle, I
will never know if you are friend or foe. Instead, I will always interpret you
as foe, because I have paid my sentries to treat you as such.
I don’t trust you, I don’t trust my boundaries, and so I am
insulated and impervious. To all comers. Benevolent or not.
I hated feeling treated as though I were not capable of
doing my job appropriately. It felt diminishing and disrespectful and
disheartening. I hated having an extra layer of checks and balances around a
system that worked just fine.
The appropriate layer of boundaries I’ve built around
myself, that we all need (that is permeable, and fluid, and always learning and
gaining in refinement) has been long-sheltered and is tired of this
trigger-happy band of sentries, “protecting” my own system of protection.
If I don’t allow you to pass that ridiculous layer of
defense, I will never know you. You will never know me.
And I will miss the opportunity to learn to trust myself and
to create relationships that will enhance the whole kingdom. 

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. 

action · fear · self-doubt · self-worth · truth

The Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question

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During my current “job/purpose/life
direction/authenticity+security” search, a friend suggested a workbook to me.
Yesterday, I downloaded it on Audible (yay, free trial!) and began to listen to
it as I upkept my house, doing laundry from the camping trip, unpacking my bags
from it. And one of the questions it asks a few chapters in, is one I
paused the audio to write down and answer for myself:
“What is the one question I’m afraid to ask myself?”
I was both very quick and slow in my answer. Quick, in that
I knew immediately what the question was; slow, in how hesitantly I
wrote it on the page, one halting letter at a time:
“Do I think I’m good enough?”
Below this question, I wrote a second one: “What scares me
about being with people?”
I drew an arrow from my second answer to my first.
Do I think I’m good enough?
It’s easy to give a knee-jerk, Yes, of course I do. But this question is the quiet force of
erosion that hollows out all my actions, my self-esteem, and my ambition.
Interestingly, the question I’m most afraid to ask myself is
not: “Am I good enough?” That one is
much easier for me to answer affirmatively. It’s the part about “thinking” – do
I
think I’m good enough – that
hampers me.
And therefore, the thinking is the part that I must step
away from. That I must begin to give less credence to. Because what follows
from that question is, “If I don’t think I’m good enough, do you?” And from
here, I begin to place my self-worth in the hands of others who likely rub up
against their own self-imposed limitations, and can’t possibly answer that for
me in a way, like I said the other day, “that I can feel.”
My ex-boyfriend used to use a word that became an in-joke
with us, because it bothered me so much, and he loved to see me get rankled: Adequate.
He deemed things adequate, and this incensed me! Things are never adequate, I’d retort. They’re either good or not good. The
food wasn’t “adequate,” it was delicious or it was bland. My performance in bed
was never (ever!) “adequate:” it was stunning. (He loved to get me on this one – you
could see steam coming out my ears on this one.)
But, I hated that word beyond anything. I hated the idea of
adequate, of something being “good enough.” What does that even mean??
Very briefly, I watched a t.v. show based on a Stephen King
premise about wish-fulfillment. In it, one of the characters asks the
wish-fullfiller for “enough money.” You can only imagine, in this dark tale,
that “enough” was never enough. There is no exact value for “enough,” and the
woman was always going back for more.
I hated the word adequate, because I interpreted it as
NOT enough. If it were enough – you’d
say that. If it were “adequate,” you’re just giving a “nice” word to something
disappointing.
My ex’s game shows me, now, that my rancor against that word
was because I was living in a definition of “good enough” that meant NOT good
enough. I always hear the phrase with an inflection on the end that indicates
the shoulder-shrug: “Good enough.
(shrug.)”
What does good enough
mean to me? What does adequate mean to me? Can these be positively interpreted?
Because the massive secret is that if does mean good enough, then there’s nothing to stop me from
the pursuit of joy, fulfillment, and living a whole life. If I can change my
understanding of “good enough” to mean, in fact, good enough (without the
shoulder shrug), then the self-doubt falls away, or lessens greatly.
I am a good enough writer. I am a good enough woman. I am
emotionally healthy enough to be in partnership. I am perseverant enough to
continue producing art. I am good enough to submit work.
Some (all?) of these sound strange in my mouth, like it’s filled
with marbles, awkwardly forming words that I’ve never said before, or have been
too dubious to utter. Some of them I so desperately want to believe, I fear
saying them at all, for fear that I’ll fuck it up.
It will always be my brain that thinks – but it will always
be my soul that wants. It’s the vicious impasse that impedes both their efforts that causes me such anguish.
My brain is not strong … enough (ha!) anymore to override
the wantings of my soul. But my soul is not yet bold enough to override the
fearful thinkings of my brain.
The tie-breaker, as always, is the action of my body. I can
type this without my brain’s approval and put it online. I can send an email to
get an audition slot for a musical without my brain’s approval (and believe you, me, I have one chattery brain after sending that email). Action is always
the key to change. Whether it’s my soul in the driver’s seat or my head, they
can engage in the battle of the century behind my eyes, but meanwhile, my foot is pressing the gas, and I appear
to be showing up – adequately.