action · dreams · finances · performance · self-abandonment · self-worth · work

The Truth Will Out.

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(A quick note before I run off to our full-day tech
rehearsal. To Kill a Mockingbird opens this Friday!)
On the heels of the “Don’t forget your North Star” blog
yesterday and contemplation this week, I went to have a voice lesson with a
former castmate. We spoke afterwards about my job transition and how he’d
realized what his North Star was years before, and sure, he had to jump through
hoops to get there, but it was and is worth it. 
He was telling me we have to listen most of all to
ourselves, not to others, and to not let their voices drown out our own. But I
replied, Their not giving me their ideas, they’re asking “What do you want to
do?” and I keep on answering, “I don’t know.”
But I sat with that for a moment, and I corrected myself: No, That’s not true. I do know: I want to perform; I just keep dismissing it.
That, performance, is
my North Star.
I went last night to see a friend of mine perform at her CD
release party. The talent was phenomenal, but beyond that was the
brilliance of her pieces. Honed, practiced, cultivated brilliance. That’s
beyond, “You’re talented.”
I sat in the audience, and during one of her songs, I was
brought to tears with its beauty. With the privilege of being alive and able to
listen and be moved by such art. She created an atmosphere and an experience
that wouldn’t have existed if she didn’t.
I want to do that
And I think it’s possible. I just have a few hoops to jump
through. And a lot of learning and honing to do.
It is very easy for me to dismiss what it is I want, because
it sounds frivolous or flighty in the light of day. It sounds vague and too
artsy and too uncertain. But I’ve fought with myself for years to cop to my
desires, and each time I dismiss it, I pull myself back into the dance of “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.”
I can dismiss performance for many reasons: believing I’m not
good enough; that it’s too late; for financial reasons; for I-want-to-be-approvable reasons. I want the easy check-box on the form of life: What do you
do for a living?
Or, more accurate, What does your soul want to do?
In talking with my voice teacher, he basically said it’s
possible, and it’s worth it. I drove back from there to meet with two women to
get some perspective on all this job transition stuff, and to firm up actions steps I can
take in the maelstrom of “What the F* are you doing?” that invades my brain.
They said, too, it’s possible, and it takes work. Don’t give
up. Do not go back to sleep.
Here are some steps to take, Yes you’ve taken some of them
before, but here they’re being suggested again. Try again. Talk to my friend,
my sister, this guy I know.
No, it won’t look like being a self-supporting performer,
but it will look like earning enough to support those endeavors.
The artists I’ve met and spoken to this week all have day
jobs. But they do it in service of their dream. It’s not an either/or
proposition: Art or Financial Stability. Dream or Devastation.
It’s hard for me to keep my eye on where I want to go, and
that’s why I have you guys to help me. When I finally ask. And when I finally
am open enough to listening. To you, and to myself. 

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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.

change · confidence · despair · self-acceptance · self-worth · work

Answering the Caterpillar.

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Yesterday afternoon, I drove back from the dentist and
stopped to pick up lunch and a drink before I returned to my final afternoon at my job.
As I stood on line at Peet’s coffee, the tall cute guy
behind me rifled through his pocket, and out fell a green Crayola marker.
Without a cap.
This only happens to two types of people: wackos, and
teachers. I took the risk.
He replied he was a teacher. And then came the most dreaded
question on the face of my earth:
“What do you do?”
It’s one of the first questions people ask when they don’t
know one another. It’s a function of the desire to orient and locate you on the web of
society and potential commonality: What do you do for a living?
And, honestly, the idea of answering this question has kept
me from dating. Because what people are asking is not simply where are you
employed, (to me) it’s asking if you are
employed, what your social status might be, what your interests are, what your
value of your self is.
They are asking, Who are
you?


And I haven’t wanted to answer for as long as my response
has been, I’m a glorified secretary.
Sure, over the years when I’ve spoken to friends about this,
they’ve replied, you don’t have you put it like that. You are a marketing
specialist, you are in customer service, you are an executive assistant, an
education administrator. You support the people who make things happen, you run
offices, you hire and fire people, organize office events, facilitate publications. You reconcile expense reports.
AND ALL THIS READS TO ME LIKE GLORIFIED SECRETARY.
FUCK!
And, the point is that I
haven’t felt comfortable telling others that’s what I do for a living.
Because it makes me feel less-than. Because I interpret what
I do as not good enough for me. Because I feel that it doesn’t speak to all
that I am as a person, and surely, answering that one question for anyone is never an indication of who they are as a whole.
But, I have felt it a pretty good indicator.
I am small. I have zero power. I do boring repetitive tasks
while chained to a computer desk. I get condescended to and underestimated. I have the copy machine repair man on speed
dial.
BLECH!
Get out of here!
I don’t want to be that person. Because, I’m not that
person. It’s stuff I can do, but it’s not all of me.
Perhaps, though, it means that I need to hold others’ answer to
that question more lightly, because I’ve only had one answer to that question
for a very long time, and it’s never spoken to who I am as a person. So maybe I
can be more open-minded toward others whose answers don’t titillate me.
But, whatever comes of my relationship to others’ answers, I
know that I haven’t been able to budge my relationship to mine, no matter how
much work on “self-acceptance” and “perspective” and “gratitude” I’ve done. And so, the only thing to do is to
change my answer, not my relationship to it. Yet.
So, yesterday, when cute, marker-covered dude looked into
my eyes, and asked me what I did, I was able to answer easily, truthfully,
and proudly: I’m a teacher, too.
(you know, part-time, after school two days a week, but,
it’s a start!)

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. 

abundance · acting · authenticity · choice · community · fear · scarcity · self-worth · trying

Car Conversations

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Because the question isn’t: “Would you rather be in a play
or not be in a play?” anymore. Maybe that’s what it was a year ago. But my
vision has changed, as visions are allowed to do. And more, it’s
probably that I’ve allowed myself to see more of my vision, rather than it actually
“changing.”
Now, the question is: “Would I rather be in a play, or be in a
good play?”
It’s the same coin as the line of thinking that goes: Well,
at least you have a job.
That, at its core, is very true, but it seems to me that
when we’re living in integrity with our values in as many places in our lives
as possible, we’re doing more good – for ourselves and for the world.
When people
are living lives that are engaged, they inspire me. There are circumstances
that can keep us from this expression of our true selves and skills, surely.
There’s war famine racism classism sexism disease and all manner of ill
fortune. I recognize the privilege it is that I’ve been able to crawl out of (and partially
been born out of) the first tier of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” out of the
pure and simple satisfaction of the needs for food, shelter, clothing, and
income.
I am reminded of a phone conversation I had with my mom
several years ago. I was in the car with a friend when my cell rang. I
answered, we spoke a few minutes, and the call ended. What struck me later wasn’t the content of the call, but how I behaved during the call. My friend overheard every word and all the
manner and mannerisms that came out during my conversation – and those
behaviors would align perfectly with how I interact with my friend.
There was little to no difference between how I comported
myself in relation to my mom and how I was in relation to my friend. That
alignment of “personalities” was completely new to me. I was always someone different with friends, coworkers, family
members, lovers. Although there are necessary adjustments you need to make in
those various relationships, I was always way out of alignment – they
all were completely disparate personalities.
My car conversation allowed me to see that I was “aligning
the films of who I am,” as I later put it. It wasn’t about a shift from
wearing different masks to wearing the same mask; it was about relieving myself
of the masks at all – and being the same ol’ me no matter where, when, or who.
This feels completely parallel to my circumstances and
predicaments these days: How to bring the same person, with the same
boundaries, needs, and self-esteem, to work, to play, to relationship.
How to live in integrity, which, to me, means aligning the
films of ourselves. Not participating in self-abandonment, and bringing every
endeavor and relationship into the light, and questioning if it meets our
standards of what we want for ourselves, and if we’re meeting those standards through our own action.
It’s all well and good to report and purport that I want to
cease settling for less in many areas of my life; it’s another endeavor
entirely to take actions that support that desire. Again, that’s integrity – being who you say you want to be.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I am leaving this play.
When my friend last night told me that her “intuitive hit” was that I could
find work that I love, I began to well up. It’s not about permission to do the play or not do the play, even — it’s about giving myself permission to do that which I love. In every arena of my life right now, I’m
endeavoring to find that which I love – which starts from acknowledging
and listening to and giving enough credence to self-love to do that.
If I am purporting that I want to do what I love, but there
are still these fissures of contrary action, I’m offering a divided message to
“the Universe,” but mostly to myself. If I engage in that which doesn’t feed my
soul and my joy-meter, I’m giving the message that it’s (still) okay to abandon my
desires, and that my desires aren’t that important to me anyway.
It’s time for me to have a car conversation with the
Universe, one in which I am myself – self-confident with a hint of doubt, a vehement believer in the need for joy and
alignment, more than a tad bit wacky – no matter who’s on the other line. 

acting · authenticity · commitment · dating · falsehoods · fear · insecurity · pride · self-abandonment · self-worth · truth

Note: In this evening’s performance, the role of Pride will be replaced by Truth.

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She held up her fingers:
“One: Is it a theater company or director you really want to work with?” No, not really.
“Two: Are they paying you really well?” No, zilch.
“Three: Is it a play you are excited about and really want to do?” No,
not at all. It’s awful
.
“Then don’t do
it,” she concluded.
But I auditioned for him three times.
“So, what? Say that something else came up and you’re really
sorry. The thing is, that’s a huge commitment for somewhere you don’t want to
be. You’d be wasting time that you could use honing your craft, going on other
auditions, taking classes, and finding something you really
want to do.”
But it’d be my first lead
role.
“Yeah, in a play where the actors outnumber the audience for a play you don’t want to be in. That sucks; take it from me.”
* * *
This was the conversation I had last night with my friend
who’s a semi-professional actress when I told her I was having doubts about the play in which I’m cast. She said these were the 3 golden questions
her acting teacher said the actor had to answer for himself. The instructor,
being at a higher level, said that for him, he has to answer Yes to all three
of those questions. For my friend, mid-tier, she was told, No more crap jobs:
She has to answer Yes to at least two of those questions.
And for me, beginner, I have to answer Yes to at least one of those questions.
Otherwise, what the hell am I doing with my time? What am I
saying my time means to me?
I am very much associating all this with my job/career
search. If a guy continues to get promoted up through the ranks at a company he
doesn’t enjoy, doing work he hates, but is paid really well, is that enough? I can’t say.
If we’re not getting
paid well, doing work we love or working with people we enjoy… well, what are
we doing?
If we can’t answer Yes to any of these questions in regards
to career, why are we there? Why are we wasting any days of this short life?
I don’t yet know if I’m going to bow out of the play in
which I’ve been cast. When I told her again that I auditioned for him 3 times — meaning, I feel that he’s already put such time and effort into me and my performance I’d feel guilty dropping out  she
replied, “Take care of yourself, not them.” … Oh… right.
Because the reality is that I will be in rehearsals for 3
hours nearly every day of the week for two months… for a really awful play. It’s really awful, folks. Not like, passable,
manageable, I’m just being picky 
 It’s really awful. It’s terribly written. I’d walk out, if I were an audience member.
Because it wouldn’t have been worth my time.
No matter how great I am or am not in the play, my heart
wouldn’t be in it – and if it’s not, then that’ll show up, too. I roll my eyes
every time I read the script. I say aloud to my cat, “This is a really awful
play,” each time I start to rehearse it.
I don’t know yet. It’s a hard judgment call, you know? I
asked my friend, What about having to work your way up the ladder, and take
shitty jobs at first? She pointed me back to those three questions. Where are my values?
Is my hesitation to drop out about my having a lead role, so I can feel pride? Pride over a notation on my resume? Pride
over something that I’m not proud of? Is it about status? Is it about feeling this proves that I’m worthy; that I’m good?
How can you feel worthy about something you’re not proud of?
That doesn’t compute.
I’m meeting with another actor friend of mine tomorrow to
run lines for this play. I’m hoping to get insight in conversation with him –
if it’s really as awful as I think it is.
But, I already know it is.
What my friend told me was that I should audition for
everything, but don’t go to callbacks if it’s a terrible play!
I’m reminded, once again, of the dating/job interview
corollary: It’s great to say Yes to the first date or interview. But after
that, you’ve garnered enough information to know if you want to try it out again
or not. I don’t have to show up a second time, if I’m really sure this is not a fit.
So, yes, it would be really great to say that I’m the Queen
of the Amazons. It makes me feel worthy and proud and like I’m not making a huge mistake in going after this dream. But isn’t the mistake not respecting what really want, and settling for (way) less, just so I can say I have a lead? Isn’t the mistake I’ve been loathe to make in relationships settling for less than I want, just so I can say I have a partner? 
Wouldn’t I rather be somewhere where I’m excited and learning
something, instead of just clocking time? 

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.