habits · self-care · self-esteem

Sabotage.

1.11.19.pngI can be a little schmutzedecke (the state of being schmutzy).  I used to notice it in a different way several years ago, when I’d knock into doorways as I’d pass through and ricochet off (No, I wasn’t drunk!).  Or I’d whack my hand on something as I went by.  Or notice a bruise I don’t remember getting.  None of these things were that painful–in fact, they mostly didn’t register to me.  It was just how I walked through the world, and I didn’t much notice it.  Until I did.

Having been dubbed “The Ice-Pack Queen” in 6th grade for the frequency of times I ended up in the nurse’s office for one, I’d long lived in a state of semi-unawareness of my physical body and state.  There was a physical feedback loop that could happen for my body as I bumped and bruised myself through life: I existed, I took up space, I bump therefore I am.  At the same time, there was an opposite expression: I don’t have physical boundaries in the world, it doesn’t matter what happens to my body, I don’t exist.

Over time, this habit of walking into walls (graceful, I know!) subsided, and I’m pleased to report that’s no longer a regular part of my experience—aside from a sporadic stubbed toe.

However, where this type of behavior shows up today seems to be in the schmutzy realm.  The yiddish/German term implies having a little grime on oneself.  Not splattered with mud or trailing a Pig-Pen-like cloud of filth, my schmutzedecke nature is not (only) the physical spot of dirt realm, but the how I put myself together realm.  Sure, I may have a stain of coffee here or a deodorant mark there, but moreso what I’m realizing is that I almost on purpose mess myself up.  Like “accidentally” walking into doorways.

There’s a laissez-faire aura about putting myself together that I don’t really enjoy.  A feeling of, “It doesn’t matter how I present,” when I know inside that it does matter to me.  It’s the small stain or rip, the dowdy sweatshirt when I get home, the splatter left on the stovetop.

I’ve allowed myself to be in a space that reflects that I don’t value how I’m put together, that I “can’t” put myself together, or that, somehow, this put-together thing “passed me by in life and it’s too late” despair whirlpool.

While there are, of course, times that I “pull it together” and look fierce, those are the exceptions.  More often, I’m walking out the door a product of (feigned) indifference about my presentation.  It’s not a “I want to be label conscious” thing; it’s a “I want to embody my self-esteem” thing.

At some point in my past, I began to notice that I didn’t like “beating” my body up as I slammed and banged through the world.  And that habit faded.  Today, I feel I’m beginning to notice I don’t like slapping on or mushing up my physical envelope.

Perhaps with this awareness will also come change.

 

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career · despair · perspective · recovery · self-destruction · self-esteem · self-worth

Vision Quest

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I was talking with an acquaintance the other day about what
I know to be true. I know that, up or down, since I left my home at the age of
23 I have always had a safe place to live. Everything else in my life — job,
money, friendships, romance — can be in upheaval, but no matter what continent,
coast or city I find myself in, I manage to find a safe and comfortable place to
live.
My acquaintance said, for him, he knows that all he
needs is a rucksack and he’s fine.
We’re at different places and have different needs for sure.
But it causes me to think about my assumptions about my
life. I have this assumption, this belief and history to back it up, that I
will always be taken care of on the home front.
I also have assumptions and belief and history to back
it up that even though I don’t know how, financially, I always do land of my
feet. But that usually it takes a long while, and the outcome of that is not
always what I want to be doing, but I am eventually safe there, too, even if a little battle-weary.
I also have other beliefs and history backing up my
assumptions: I don’t know how to live a balanced life. I don’t know how to
have a relationship. Or how to earn enough to support myself in a field I love.
I have beliefs about myself that keep me stuck. And what
I then have is entitlement.
Someone should tell me what I should do, because I don’t
know how.
I’ve been looking back at some of the writing work I’ve
been doing lately, finally moving on past the section on amending
relationships in my life, and in my prior writings and inventory work, I read that entitlement around jobs comes up virulently.
And only a few days ago was I able to see that for me,
entitlement is an outcome of hopelessness. I can’t, I don’t know how, I’ll fuck
it up – you do it for me. You make it work.
Another thing I noticed in my writing was how some of
my despairing fears have dissipated since I began that inventory work over 6
months ago. Some of the same haranguing thoughts about my own ability to speak
up for myself, to follow my dreams, to do things I don’t know how to do have
been challenged since the time I’ve written them.
Since the beginning of 2014, when I decided I was going to
make a go of this acting thing, I’ve been in 4 plays. That doubles the number
I’ve been in since 2006. I made a decision and followed it up with action. I
didn’t really know what I was doing. I took a few classes at Berkeley Rep that
I didn’t find altogether transforming; I found a proper headshot photographer;
I replied to audition calls.
I have been stalling on putting myself out there for my
essay tutoring work, because I don’t know how to do it.
And this leads to a feeling of, If it’s supposed to happen,
then it will. It’ll just happen.
A friend calls it “going rag-doll on G-d.” Okay, you want
“surrender,” you want me to let go of my plans because my ideas are limited by
my fears? Sure – here, you have it. You
drag me along into the life I want to have.
The point is, there’s a difference between surrendering and
giving up.
This blog is a little all over the place today, but so’s my
brain.
Basically, I have some beliefs about my life, like my home,
that make me feel secure. I have other beliefs about my life, like my earnings,
that make me feel uncertain and hopeless.
There’s really no reason for the difference, except I
continue to reinforce them both. I am blind to the changes that occur in and
around me when it comes to perpetuating my negative beliefs.
But looking back at my work from 6 months ago, acknowledging
the success of following a dream, I really have to acknowledge that I don’t have to do things the same way, right? I
really
do have to let myself see
that I’m not as helpless as some part of me wants to believe, right? I do have
to accept that I’m not as broken as I want to believe, right?
And, so this is the work, now. To pull back from the chatter
which causes me to stagnate and become paralyzed against action. The work is to
see that positive beliefs exist within me, and to let those fuel my action
toward my next place.
I am not stuck. I am not helpless. I am not depressed,
deficient, or despairing. I am only short-sighted. 
And for that, I can get better glasses.

art · fulfillment · money · self-esteem · trying

The Writing on the Walls.

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After yesterday’s heaviness, let’s talk about something
lighter: gratitude.
You know, there are a lot of things as I look around that I
have to be grateful for. It is always easiest for me to start with my
apartment, because, small though it is, and however much I’d love for my bed to
not be the main prominence of my studio apartment, I love it here. “Warm” is
consistently the response I get from friends and visitors who come in. It feels
warm here.
Someone just said it recently, and it’s precisely the phrase
I heard from a friend when he left one of my parties in my San Francisco
apartment: I felt warm when I left. How many parties does one leave feeling
that way? It was a thrill, and what I love to hear. Inviting, warm, cozy,
artful.
The art has been culled over a few years, and recently, in
the re-organization of my closet, I pulled out the enormous oil pastel lips
with flower, created for one of my Pre-Val Hearts & Stars parties in SF. I
think I’ll put it up again, but even if I don’t, it reminds me of what I can
accomplish when I set my mind to it.
I’d started with an idea. I made some sample studies, small
two-inch colored pencil drawings, and then I asked my artist friend if she had
any super large butcher-size paper. In fact, she did. And I stood with a pencil hovering over this
expanse of 5 foot wide and 4 feet tall paper laid on the floor of my apartment,
white, untouched, and daunting.

How do you start, where do you make a first mark? What if
it’s wrong, and you’ve ruined this enormous (and only) page you have?
I remember that moment, the taking of a deep
breath, and the creation of the first mark. And wherever it was on the page is now well-blended into the rest of the drawing, and you’d never know where
it began with a brave and tentative mark.
You drew that? Yep.
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I’ve stopped often. I thought I couldn’t
anymore, as a 40 oz went hand-in-hand with my art for a while. I
also tried again and so out of practice, was not so great, and put it away,
saying this wasn’t for me anymore.
Then, the parties began, and they were the impetus to draw
again, to paint, and make art again. With an aim and purpose, with people to
create an environment for, it was simple. It was enlivening, and it wasn’t
perfect. Yet it was fun.

I spoke the other week to my property manager about the
upstairs abandoned 4th floor room with the two work sinks, northern light, and
great ventilation. They’re happy to rent that space out to me for 25 bucks a
month. … Once I settle my account.
When I was sick, my landlord said about my rent, “Don’t
worry about it.” Which I thought meant, We’ll waive it. I found out later,
several months of not paying rent later, that in fact, what he meant was, “Pay
it when you can, and we’ll be counting every cent.”
So, I became over $4,000 in debt to my landlord, and even
though it was great that they held my rent for a while, it sucks that it wasn’t
clear that’s what was happening, as maybe I’d have begun paying sooner. But, it
wasn’t. I didn’t. And I’ve been paying $50 over my rent each month for over a
year now to help pay down the debt, because that’s truly what I can afford.
I have more than $3,000 left to pay back. Before I can
rent that art space. FOR TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS!! God, I want that space! But, first things first, I suppose.
In the meantime, maybe I do unroll those lips and put them
up, proof and inspiration once again that I can do what I fear, that I don’t
have to be perfect, that I love producing things, and that I have talent when I
focus.
Who doesn’t need a reminder like that?

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. 

authenticity · awareness · career · dating · deprivation · faith · fear · integrity · internet dating · jobs · perseverance · self-abandonment · self-esteem

Broken Algorithms

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Someone asks you out.
You’re pretty sure it’s not a match, but “you never know” and you have nothing better to do, so you
say sure. The date is uneventful, confirms that you’re not a match, and ends
with a nice awkward hug, and one of those vague promises to meet up again soon.
Perhaps there are follow-up texts, that you politely reply
to, but are vague and friendly. Perhaps there are then more follow-up texts
that you begin to ignore in an attempt to give a hint as to your lack of
interest and intention. And, finally, perhaps there’s the passive-aggressive
texts you begin to receive that a) reconfirm this wasn’t a match, and b) lead you
to hide them from your newsfeed!
What’s wrong with this picture? – as the back of the Highlights magazine asked you to spot.
Well, first and foremost is the fact that you abandoned your
own good judgment, values, and integrity by agreeing to go out in the first
place. “Pretty sure it’s not a match” is usually good enough. Enough of these
situations have proved that your gut is usually correct.
This self-abandonment is the seed of the whole problem.
It’s not the dude; it’s not his persistence; it’s not his disappointment masked
as passive-aggression. – It’s you.
I’ve finished reading the history of online dating/how-to
memoir entitled Data, A Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to
Meet My Match
. In it, the author describes
that the problem with online dating is not the sites; it’s
us. It’s us answering questions as our aspirational
self, instead of as we are. It’s us, chatting with people we only have vague
interest in. It’s us, abandoning our integrity in order to have crappy
connections with people.
I’ve been thinking about this process in relation to my job
search. I’ve realized that I do the same thing in dating that I do in job
searching: I lie. I let jobs that hold little to no interest for me get a bulk
of my attention, and then when I get the interview, I find that,
indeed, I’m not interested, but in order to be “nice” or liked or wanted or
hired, I will feign that interest. I will more often than not land that job,
and then I will become resentful that I have it. This suitor that I didn’t
want, I’m now trying to delete from my Facebook, or in this case, my LinkedIn.
Again, what’s broken here is not these jobs – it’s my
willingness to abandon my values. It’s my willingness to say to myself,
Something is better than nothing; what else have you got to do? It’s my
willingness to waste my time and theirs, so that I can put off and deny what it
is I really want.
My willingness to waste my own time … my threshold for the pain that causes is astronomically high.
But because I have a belief that this is easier than the
pain of making truer statements, of sticking close to my integrity, my
intentions, my values, and my wants, I choose the rockier path every time.
Because the alternative is to stick with myself. To be the
friend I want to be to myself. To be my
own cheerleader and ally, and to let myself know that I’m here to support
myself on the unknown path of self-esteem.
I said on the phone to a friend two weeks ago: “I’m having
trouble mustering the low self-esteem required to apply for jobs I don’t want.” Ha!
I think we call that progress; insight; growth. (Although, I am still finding myself browsing those job descriptions.)
I have to muster a whole silo filled with negative beliefs
in order to go toward jobs I don’t want. These include: I don’t know what I
want, so I don’t deserve anything better. I will only abandon myself
eventually, so I may as well do it now. There’re no happy endings in this world,
so what makes you think you deserve one.
To name a few.
And I have to bombard and drown myself in these beliefs
(false beliefs) in order to “muster the low self-esteem” necessary to undersell
myself.
The same, I’m sure, is true for me in the dating world.
So, again, what is the solution, here?
I know that it’s to not abandon myself, to continue working
on my self-esteem, to wipe away the corroded mirror I use to judge myself so
that I can get a clearer view, one that reflects esteem, joy, confidence, and
courage. One that reflects someone fun, engaged, lively, warm, and worthy. I
know that the work is to trust that if I walk away from that silo of low
self-esteem, I will be led toward a healthier source of sustenance.
And that trust… That is the hard part. That tiny sapling of
faith that I will have to hold onto as the storm of negativity swirls around
me, raging only harder the longer I resist. I will have to hold on to that sapling,
until it becomes a redwood, until the storm recedes into memory. I will have to
have faith that if I hold on long enough to my self-worth and my self-esteem,
the clouds will give way to the sun. 
Here’s hoping. 

anxiety · beauty · faith · fear · healing · scarcity · self-esteem · self-love · tension · truth

Don’t Hold Your Breath.

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No, really, Moll. Relax.
A woman recently told me that the body is the last hold-out.
It’s the last place we carry anxiety, tension, fear, even as we’ve worked
through it on all other levels.
I hold my guts in tension 99% of the time, even when I’m by myself. I rarely breathe
to full capacity, unless I’m reminded to. There is always a slight constriction
of fight-or-flight going on in my body.
The few places I can recall this not to be the case are when
I’m hiking, walking in the woods. Hm, well that’s the only place I can recall
at the moment! Although, it also happened when I would go up to Sonoma to visit
friends, an old boyfriend. I would say I could “breathe bigger” there. There
was something about the openness, the closeness to nature, the un-cityness of
it all that allowed me to open, too.
I’ve done a lot of pondering on how to bring that feeling, that
sense of ease, of safety, home.
I realized something significant this week. My fear takes
two tacks that leave me hamstrung in a Catch-22: On the one hand, I’m atrociously scared
of being boring, being neglected, being overlooked. Yet, on the other, I’m
afraid that if I am seen, I will be
annihilated, attacked, shamed.
What’s a girl to do?
Well, I can’t control the first part – I cannot control how
I am seen or embraced by others.
But, what does the first part really mean, anyway? It means
that I’m scared my needs will not be met. Though what I can control is that I am
healing in a way that means I’m better able to take care of my own needs, and
to invite others into my life who are able to meet them too, without dumping my
own onto them.
So, if I can come to believe that my needs will be met,
because I and the world around me are
meeting them, then I don’t have to fear being overlooked and languishing in the abyss.
To address the other hand, the fear is that I am not
safe in the world. That if I peek my head out, if I take ownership of my needs,
become brave enough to step out of the shadows, I will be suffer.
How can I dismantle that part? How can I force myself to
believe I’m safe in the world, and not the object of opprobrium if I raise my
hand and say, Hey, this is who I am and how I want to express myself in the
world – isn’t it cool?
Well, I can’t force myself. I can convince myself, my jury, through
overwhelming evidence to the contrary that I am safe when I am myself.
I just have to be willing to look at the evidence. And
that’s hard. 
Who wants to look inside themselves and declare it good? Who wants
to walk with a spine of confidence in their music tastes, clothing choices,
reading material? Who wants to feel proud of their contributions in the world? Their aspirations and hobbies and dropped hobbies and efforts and set-backs
and dorkiness and naiveté and thirst and laughter?
Who wants to say, “Yes, this is me, and I am good. In fact, I
am great”?
Perhaps we all say we do, but the issue to me is that every
time I think a thought like that, I have a gremlin born of those ancient fears
that croaks, “You think so, do you? Well, here are all the ways you’re not.”
Every time you begin to catalogue your achievements, you are
slammed with doubt. And so, you stop cataloguing; the doubt wins, and the
evidence slackens and dulls.
There is so much effort
(it seems to me, right now, and may change) to loving ourselves.
There is so much effort in deciding to face that gremlin,
allow its ire, yet continue with our own mantras of belief.
Belief. It’s all we really have, especially when we’re not
willing to accept the evidence yet.
On both sides of my fear aisle, I am called to believe: a)
That my needs can be taken care of because I believe they’re important; and b)
That I am safe in expressing myself because I believe I am important.
That’s a lot of work for a given moment! And that’s why my
guts tangle nearly every waking moment.
I don’t think I have an anxiety disorder. I know moments of
peace and relaxation and ease. I know that it is possible for me to strive to
have them more frequently by doing this dismantling and believing and accepting
of facts.
But, until then, I will just have to remind myself to
breathe. 

camping · community · confidence · courage · doubt · grace · insecurity · laughter · love · self-esteem · self-love · serenity

Confidence: How To.

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Think of something you know you know how to do. Something
you enjoy knowing how to do. Maybe it’s making the lightest quiche, or playing
the drums, or changing a bicycle inner tube. Maybe you know that you know how
to plant seeds that germinate, or fix this computer bug, or mix the perfect vermillion. Maybe it’s as simple
as knowing you know how to hug a child, or tell a good joke. Find something that makes
you feel competent and confident.
Experience that feeling. The surge of blood through you, a
sense of guidance, purpose, direction. A sense of being the right person for
the job, in the right place at the right time. A feeling of ease and tension
release, of certainty and even exuberance. I know how to do this – I love
doing this.
For me, about 2 years ago, I realized it was (car) camping.
I know how to do that. I knew when we
needed wood, when we should start the fire, how to put it out. I knew how to
set up my tent, how to walk in the woods, how to avoid poison oak. I knew how
to brush my teeth at the tap, and use my headlamp to find my missing sock. I
knew how to have fun, how to do what needed to be done, how to help others
because I knew how to do these things.
What if… we allowed for the possibility that we could have
that feeling in more places in our lives. If we could recognize the mastery we have in some areas, and allow that
sense of confidence and competence support our less certain attempts. Maybe, it’s just knowing that I know how to
put on liquid eyeliner with deft precision. Can I allow that to fill up my tank
a little? – Come to think of it, can I recognize that I know how to fill my gas
tank! (If you grew up in NJ, you might not!) 😉
But the point, today, is that although there are many areas
in which I am not an expert, and that will always be so, and there will always
be something to learn in the places I want to become more adept… there are also
a host of places that I haven’t recognized I’m doing pretty well.
I think this is what they call, “building self-esteem.” What
a concept.
But, it’s true. People in general, and people like me, tend
to dismiss what we think is easy for us. For me, I have tended to dismiss my
writing when its complimented, since it can be so easy for me. What’s the value
of something that is wickedly simple for me?
Somehow the idea that valuable things are hard things came
into our zeitgeist. This is not to say that you or I needn’t work for what we
want, but it’s about recognizing what we have, and sometimes what we’ve been
given, that we take for granted.
I take for granted that I know how to put on crisp eyeliner.
I learned it, I do it, it’s a part of me. So, I forget it’s not something everyone else knows. I take for
granted that I can write this every day, for better or worse! I take for
granted that I can talk to the children at work and make us both smile. – Well,
that one I don’t. I don’t take the smiling for granted, just the knowing that I
know how to do it.
If I were to go through a given day or week, and take note
of the things that I seem to “instinctively” and “intuitively” know how to do,
how many things would pile onto that list?
Sure, there are blank spots, there are gaps, there are wide
berths of where I want to know and learn and be more. But they’re gaps. They’re
not the whole.
If I tried to recognize that I could feel the same
self-esteem while cooking eggs in the morning as I do when making a teepee out
of wood in a fire-pit; if I could remember to feel adept and facile when I
parallel park my car; if I could allow a sense of ease and confidence for the
simple act of knowing to pause in today’s heavy sunshine,
I imagine that delightful, intrepid poise can offer a
foundation for my less assured endeavors.