commitment · community · self-support

Act our way into right thinking.

10.25.18.jpgBecause of the change in my commute status (insert gif of woman doing backflips), I no longer have to slog through an hour of bridge traffic anymore, but I also don’t get to participate in the morning phone call with like-minded folks I’d been calling in to for 2 months either.  So, I’ve had to make some adjustments.

On Monday, and once since then, I called in to a new phone line geared toward Artists.  It’s the same overarching community, but this daily call is intended to focus on the particular challenges artists and writers may face as they attempt to get out from under their own thumb.

I hadn’t intended to, but I piped up during the “3 minutes each” sharing time and at the end of the call, during the “phone number exchange,” a woman requested my number and reached out to me the next day.

We spoke by phone last night (she’s in Chicago) and just having the call helped me to see that maybe I’m not stalling out in my personal work and progression — and maybe (just maybe!!) I’m not going to.

I had my Goals Group call on Tuesday and admitted to them too that I was afraid of not “doing much” after the highlights of the article publication and two performances this month.  So, yesterday, I emailed my piano player friend to talk this weekend and brainstorm what was next.  After Tuesday’s goals call, I also spoke with one of the women on the line to ask how on earth to find an easy way to email out these blogs (just through WordPress without having to go through extra steps — if you know, please message me!!!).

With the addition of the woman who called yesterday (we set up an “action phone call” for Sunday to support each other in our personal progress writing), I realize that there are several barriers around my visions work that are now set in place.  Even if I want to flake off, hide, retreat, sloth away my time, I kind of can’t get far!

My hems and frames now include: action partner whom I text daily (sometimes it’s a list of things I don’t do! but sometimes I really do!) and speak with weekly; a weekly Goals Group call (that includes women who are “watching,” as one of them put it, to ensure I don’t dissolve into the relationship); a mentor with whom I’m completing personal progress work (but seeing as I haven’t been doing that writing, I now will have…); a weekly writing action partner to carve out and sanctify this writing time.

Many of these hems were not in place when last J and I were in relationship.  Nor did I then open the discussion with him, as I did last week, about ensuring that I have my morning practice held in trust (morning pages, meditation, blogging).

I can point to the places where “I’m not doing anything” or “not working hard enough” or “not fast enough” — I really, really can (and sometimes do!) — but I am so heartened to be able to point today to places where I’ve created and invited in structures that will not allow me to flake or stray too far.

For a person like me, these structures are vital—in the literal, life-sustaining meaning.  Without visions, goals, writing, meditating, speaking with fellow travelers, or taking mini-actions, I lose hope, momentum, self-esteem, and eventually I threaten my existence.  I know this about myself.

So, here I am today, 6:53am, 3rd cup of coffee on the table, telling you how much I want to live.

 

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healing · relationships · self-support

Stacking the Bench

3.29.18

Yesterday, I asked my 6th graders to complete this journal prompt:  Write a list of members of Team ____ (your name).

“Team Molly” is a concept I’ve held for a few years, as people rotate in and out of my life and, as I told my students, it’s particularly helpful to write (or think) this list during times of hardship or stress, change or loneliness.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of transition happening for me with the dissolution of my long-term relationship as I look toward what’s next, but also take stock of what came before.

To crib a Passover question: How is this relationship different from all other relationships?  And perhaps more importantly, how is it the same?

In a time like this, I need Team Molly.  I need to remember it, call upon it, and utilize its members.  Or, you know, I could just bump around the world doing the same things I’ve always done and getting the same results.  That’s an option, too.

Who’s on your bench?

 

fear · pride · self-support

Whose Idea was this Anyway?

3.2.18

Yesterday, we had our Purim carnival at school, each classroom decorated and hosting a games booth hand-made by students.  Children could wander from room to room, trying out the brainteasers, fortune tellers, and human whack-a-mole (super cute video of a kindergartner bopping 6th graders’ exposed noggins).  Music blared in the hallways, the chatter of kids egging each other on or roasting each others’ missed foozball shots.

And I sat in the center of it all with a large mug of tea, a gorgeous view out my classroom window, and the sounds of water-drippy spa meditation music.  Assorted pillows lined the back cabinets where students whispered gently or just reclined with eyes closed, others sat at desks coloring the mandalas I’d printed out, or softly played a game of cards.

I had called, “The Quiet Room.”

At my last school, I had learned the hard way that carnival days can be really frying for my nervous system.  I fall directly between intro- and extro-vert on most personality scales, and while I love a good carnival, amusement park, or festival, I learned that 2 hours of hyper-stimulation can wear me down to the bone — and I don’t bounce back quickly.

Therefore, last year, in my second year at that school, I volunteered to help out in The Quiet Room.  This room was an established zone staffed by a long-time teacher who’d earned, through her 30+year tenure, the right to staff The Quiet Room on chaos days.  Buuut, couldn’t she use a helper, in case she wanted to take a break, go to the bathroom…?

And thus, I inserted myself into the Quiet Room and my 2nd Purim carnival day was even as a still pond.

When it came time this year to volunteer to man different booths or rooms or stands… I knew it was my chance.  They didn’t have a Quiet Room at my new school!  The staff meeting was continuing on, I didn’t have a role yet, I raised my hand.

“What about having a quiet room for students who need a break?”

“Sure, that’s a great idea.”

And then, wouldn’t you know, all the other teachers began shouting, Ha! I’ll run the quiet room!  Yeah, sounds great — can I do it?

I pounced back.  Facetious or not, no one was taking this room from me!  “It was my idea!  I get to man it!” I shouted them down.  And so it was sealed.

When yesterday morning, during the melee, the big boss strode into my classroom to see what The Quiet Room was all about and sat nearby to make whispered conversation with me, she asked, “This was your idea?”

And for an instant, I froze inside.  I felt a little embarrassed, a little shy, to own my idea, especially knowing it was a good one.  My heartrate quickened as thoughts of hedging leapt forward to reply something like, “Well, the other teachers thought it was a good idea” or “Yeah, kinda.”

Yet, I didn’t respond that way.  I didn’t diminish my accomplishment; I didn’t allow myself to shy away from the spotlight of my boss’ opinion.

I rested calmly with my enormous mug warming my hands, took half a breath, and replied, “Yes.”

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 · courage · fear · life · relationships · self-support · self-worth

Oh My Dear, Who’s Ever Ready?

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I tore this quote from the back of a playbill a few years
ago, and taped it to my fridge.
The play I’m in, there’s a song about waiting: waiting
for marriage, for children, for your husband to come home, and eventually for death. The
character pleads with us, with her husband, with herself: How long do I have to
wait?
The ideas I have for my future are not unheard of or
unrealistic; I’ve just been telling them to wait for so long that they feel
out of reach. If you’re not moving toward them, your dreams will always feel
that way.
I’ve been thinking this morning about worthiness: Who would
want to hire me? What do I have to offer? Why would someone pay me instead of
someone with more experience?
And, as romance and finance are never far from one another,
I’ve been thinking about replacing some of those words with the same sentiment:
Who would want to date me? What do I have to offer? Why would someone date me
instead of someone who has their shit together?
The theme of worthiness is the undercurrent for both places
of lack in my life. Or, more accurately, both places of unrealized dreams.
I do know
intellectually, and often in my soul, that what I have to offer is not only
magnificent, but unique. It’s about showing that to the world (and myself) in a way that I
can support – in a way that I haven’t been ready to support or stand behind.
But, my dears, Who’s ever ready, indeed?
There has been a lot of waiting in my life, too. Waiting
for me to get better, to get healthy, to get stable, to get grounded, to get
organized, to get … “approvable.”
And mostly, that approval is internal. Waiting for my critic
to shut the hell up long enough to see the beauty and the awe (that we all
have, by the way).
Why haven’t I ever submitted an essay to a publication? I’m
scared I’m not good enough (aka unworthy). Why have I never applied for an
English professorship? I’m scared I don’t know enough (aka unworthy). Why do I
… well, why do I remain single despite my awesomeness? I’m scared: my “picker”
is broken, I can’t handle heartbreak again, I’m too gun-shy to really try. Aka,
unworthy of letting myself try.
These are not easy admissions, but they’re also not the all
of me, yet they’re part of the truth of me.
You can’t wait for someone else to knight you “worthy.” To
pour magic bravery potion on you that enables you to write something you feel
proud of and submit it. Or for someone else to see a potential in you that
you’re terrified yourself of seeing.
You have to see it for yourself, and you have to make
decisions from that place.
I’ve read enough Brene Brown over these few years to know,
a) we all go through this in one form or another, and b) that there is a way
out: It’s through.
It’s the small steps we (I) decide to take. Why didn’t I
ever apply to teach English? Doesn’t matter – can you do it now? Why haven’t I
ever coalesced my ideas for children’s workshops? Doesn’t matter – do you
believe in yourself enough now to try?
I will not wait until I’m ready, because that’s an illusion.
We (well, many of us?) are going to question our worth now and then, but it doesn’t
have to hold us back from taking action anyway. Readiness is an illusion, just
like perfection. Because, surely, that’s what I’m meaning, isn’t it? When I’m
finally good enough to try, to be original, to be seen, to be loved, then I can masterfully get on
with my business of being awesome?
That’s really not the way it works.
You take the steps, and hope the rest of you catches up. You
overreach yourself, and yes there’s a moment of will you make it or not, but if
you’re not reaching, you’re waiting. And the next step will never ever get closer, no matter how long you do. 

change · connection · fear · growth · love · self-abandonment · self-support

Doctor of Philosophy

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If you have read my blog for any period of time, you may be
aware by now that I seem to have a knack for interpreting the human species and
their actions. I observe, report, make conclusions, and sometimes adjust my own
behavior to meet the findings of what “healthy” or “happy” people seem to be
doing.
Philosophically speaking, in all my deep-cover research on
human behavior, I may well have earned myself a doctorate in human behavior.
However for every inner tube of polymer, there is a flat of
pavement, and it is where the rubber meets the road that I become hesitant.
It is all well and good to observe, predict, and theorize,
to take note of actions of others and even of myself as a predictor and indicator
of action’s next steps. However, there is also the parable about the monk who
spent 20 years in a cave becoming enlightened, and upon emerging decked the
first guy he had a disagreement with.
It is only in practice that we actually learn. (Though, I do
submit that research and reflection help.)
When my mom came to visit a few weeks ago, we began to discuss my romantic life. (Unworried, as she said she was, that I would have any trouble when I was finally ready. She’s not the “where are my grandchildren” type, she said.) I told her a
little about my extra layer of protection around my castle wall metaphor. I
told her that my work currently is about coming to trust myself and my boundaries
enough to let people close enough to know me.
I told her my doubts about feeling capable of a) letting
those guards down, and b) evaluating approachers in a level-headed way. I told
her that I am scared to learn to trust myself, because I’m scared that I can’t.
She responded with a story of her own. She’d taken issue,
herself, with the word “trust.” The airy and elusive nature of that word. And
she’s replaced it with the word, “rely.”
Several years ago, she signed up to be a part of a tour
group that would travel to Scotland to see the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her
friend asked her if she was nervous to go by herself, with no-one she knew? My
mom replied, No. She knew that she could rely on her own effusive and collegial
personality, and that she’d make friends.
She didn’t say that she could trust herself to do this; she
said that she knew she could rely on
herself. That she had her own back, basically.
And she invited me to think about it this way instead: Can I
rely on myself? Do I have my own back?
… Well, judging by a very long history of self-abandoning
actions, it’s hard to answer that with a complete affirmative. But, when
pressed, I know that it is true—that it is true now: I am here for myself, even when things are hard…
and even when things are great.
My own pattern of looking the other way, of procrastinating,
of dismissing myself has begun to lessen. If I look at it honestly.
And so, can I rely on myself? Well, I think I can.
And, here’s the rubber/road test: If I do think I can rely on myself, support myself, be
compassionate and encouraging and honest with myself… Then… it means I’m going
to have to allow the sentries around my castle to stand down, and let
my natural boundaries do their job.
I’m going to have to trust myself (word disparity aside) and
take actions that are indicative of a woman who trusts herself, inviting in
those who are supportive but also challenge me to be my best self, and inviting to leave those who
are not.
I’m going to have to have my back.
And I’m going to have to let go of the reigns. My reigns
have become most like bonds, and not the fun kind.
I am scared to try this new way of being out “in the field.”
But I am also scared to continue limiting my connections with people. (And
again, if you’ve read me for any length of time, you know that, mostly, I’m
addressing the case of chronic single-hood I’ve managed to carry for as long as
I’ve been of dating age. Chronic single-hood is most like being Typhoid Mary.
You feel fine, but no one wants to be near you.)
I know that I can’t (and don’t want to) go on the way I have. I’m too young to
be a spinster, and too old to be a bachelorette.
In the observational reality of modern relationships, I may
be deft at cataloguing and quantifying. But my absence of field research also
means that all of my assumptions about my own viability, accessibility, and
health are purely theoretical. 

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.