creativity · singing · wholeness

Dominoes.

8.12.18.jpgMore moons ago than I can count, I wrote down this quote a friend had posted as her Facebook status update.  I wrote it down with the desperation of flailing for a life preserver, not believing it ever to be or come true for me, but with the understanding that someone, somewhere in the world found this preserver and found it to be stable and life-giving:

“That feeling when things fall perfectly into place, and any anxiety you had suddenly vanishes.”

What horseshit.  What hope.

So, I wrote it down on a post-it and affixed it to the inside of my medicine cabinet.  It’s been likely 8 years since it was written, and I read it still with that desperation and that hope that anything like that could ever feel true within me.

Spoiler:  It’s kind of how I’m feeling today.

Bananas as it may seem to me, I’m having a feeling of serendipitous coalescing.  Yesterday, I attended a school event that was entirely optional but I wanted to go.  I wanted to see my people, my friends, my coworkers.  I wanted to walk out onto the ballfield/gathering place and hug the tech director.  I wanted to sit with my boss/fellow English teacher and—even though I tried not to(!)—immediately fall into the loveliest, liveliest shop-talk, about a new book I’m excited teach, Sherman Alexie’s troublesome revelations, and executive functioning training!  I wanted to hug my head of school and admissions director and facilities manager.  I wanted to be there.  (“There’s no place like home.”)

And I wanted to leave.  To head into the city to meet up with likeminded folks for an evening of play and discovery and excitement.  And wouldn’t you know, today’s Oprah/Deepak meditation is about Divine Playfulness.

Yes.  Yes, and more yes.

I received an excited phone call yesterday morning from my girlfriend who came by on Friday to “look at” my art studio with me and consider the possibilities.  On the phone (just the next day) she breathes, “It’s set.  It’s done.”  The art show that had its conception seeds planted as we tacked up 12 years of my collages is now happening.

When?  “Sunday, October 7.”  Oh, you mean my 37th birthday?  Well, I’ll be damned.

We’re having a salon, all types of artists.  The space is set, would you believe, in the home of a friend whose birthday also happens to be October 7th.  What the hell?!  … or Heaven.

They’d constructed a theme—Birth—and I wasn’t feeling entirely stoked on the idea.  My visual work wasn’t really heading in that direction (unless you want a show the first, ahem, seeds of birth!), so I questioned perhaps some poetry, spoken word, or painted broadsides, but my oral/written work isn’t really doing that either right now.

And in meditation this morning it came:  I will sing.

(I’m embarrassed to write that here you know, staking my claim… owning my voice, as it were!)

But, one of my visions for quite some time has been to “be a lounge singer.”  To be that woman in a sleek, sequined dress behind a stand-microphone who allows her voice and words to float over others as they half-pay attention and half-not.  I don’t need or want a concert, I want to be a part of the ambiance.  I want to be the art.

A pianist friend/former band-mate and I had a brief-lived duet a bit ago.  So, today, I’ll reach out to him and see if it’s in for it.  And if he’s not, there are more options.

But the idea of being an artist, in a salon, doing something I’ve only dreamt of, with friends, on my birthday?

Well, I suppose that is the feeling of everything falling perfectly into place and any anxiety I had…suddenly vanishing.

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courage · fear · singing · trauma · trying

127 Hours

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From my blog on Friday, March 29, 2013:

These are the words that close Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. The last
“guidepost” to what she calls Wholehearted Living is “Laughter, Song, and
Dance.”
It’s funny; she spends a lot of time saying how most
people feel really vulnerable when dancing, concerned with what people think of
how they look, or scared they’ll be told to “dial it down.” That’s not my
experience of dancing; it’s my experience of singing.
Yesterday, I had another voice lesson, this time with
someone in the cast who’s also a professional voice teacher. We’re working on
my “belt” range, where I need to be to sing for this role, and also the range
that, when done correctly, feels to me like yelling.
Shouting.
Being Loud.
Being Heard.
And where I begin to pull back. Close my throat, muffle the
sound. Close off. Shut down. Shine down. Diminish. Dull. Deflate.
I am so achingly terrified of being loud. Because deep in my
history is the terror of being hit.
If you make noise, you are noticed. If you are noticed, you
are a target.
This terrible defense mechanism I’ve built that stifles me.
Stifles me from the thing I am most passionate about. I don’t think this is
coincidental.
(I believe) We are pushed into the places of most discomfort in order to
heal from and emerge from them.
The years spent avoiding singing. The years spent writing
quietly. The moments when I do try, the self-doubt that pounces on me, that
shushes me.
I am walking right into the center of one of my greatest
fears. And I am emotional. Scared. And also, trying.
I am trying so hard. I want to do this so badly because I love it. Because I feel it’s beautiful, and transporting,
and transforming. Because I believe that song is one channel my soul wants to
shine through. Because it makes me happy, gleeful, expansive, collaborative,
alive.
I have one foot in a bear-trap. Constructed practically
in utero. It is rusted, craggy, and defunct. What this feels like is chewing
off my own limb to free myself. Painful. Awful. And completely necessary.
I don’t know what the outcome will be by the time the show
opens in 3 weeks. I don’t know if I’ll power through the “shouting” that I
think I’m doing, but exactly what my teacher yesterday applauded. I don’t know if I’ll
pull back. I might. It might still be too frightening to be truly heard, and to
truly give what I know I can.
And no matter the outcome, or what I perceive as the outcome (since apparently, I can’t hear
myself very well through all my shushing and evaluating and mishegas), I must
also know and acknowledge, that whatever the result, I am indeed trying to
dismantle this old trap.
Which is something I wasn’t willing to do before. 

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 · ambition · aspiration · band · commitment · despair · faith · fear · self-abandonment · self-worth · singing · spirituality · truth · uncertainty · vulnerability

Yeah, But…*

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Here’s something nobody knows about me: When I access
something very truth-y in my morning journaling, my handwriting becomes
miniscule.
Written like those boardwalk booths that used to write your
name on a grain of rice, I find myself getting really tiny with my words – and that’s when I know I’ve struck
something important. Shh, don’t say it too loud or it might whisk off the page.
Let’s back up a little though.
Yesterday, I got to see my therapist (the Rosen Method
therapist I’m still seeing. Despite my doubts before every time I go, I always
leave laughing that I doubted). We hadn’t seen one another for about a month
due to schedules, so I had a lot to catch her up on.
Last time we spoke, I told her I felt like I didn’t have any
options available to me in dating land. Like Goldilocks, I’d experienced the
too hot, the too cold, but have yet to find the “just right.” I mentioned this
yesterday because I was talking about my job search. I told her that as I was
driving over last night, I realized that it’s not that I don’t have any options
available to me in job land – it’s that I refuse to commit to one path.
She challenged me on this a little, and asked if it was
“refused” or something else. And, surely, it is fear and paralyzation.
Because here is the secret, sacred truth: I do know what I want to do.
I told her that I see my job options like a scene from Sliding
Doors
. If you haven’t seen the movie, the
premise is based on Gwenyth Paltrow in one version of her life catching a
subway train before the doors shut; in another version, she misses that train.
At that point in the movie, we follow both these lives and their divergent challenges and
successes (and haircuts). 
I told her I see three options of my job life for myself:
One: Be a Jewish professional, or a community professional,
a leader, an organizer, a bringer-together-er.
Two: Do something counsel-y and social work-y, working
directly one-on-one with the populations I want to serve, particularly youth.
And three.
And this is where I began to cry.
Be an artist.
I laughed through the tears, and said, “Well if tears are
any indication of truth, then the third one’s the charm.”
The third one is also the hardest. Requires the most work,
the most vulnerability, the most action, the most fortitude, and… the most uncertainty.
I told her I’m not willing to be a starving artist. But
perhaps there’s another way.
As a note, by “artist,” I mean in all disciplines, starting
with performance, starting with that Yoshi’s singer I mentioned yesterday.
Starting with that dream.
I think I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve been told I
don’t let myself dream. It came up a few times yesterday when I had to correct
my “Yeah, But”s to “Yes, AND”s.
Every time I even begin to think about following this path,
I get buried under a mountain of “Yeah, But”s. I don’t think I need to list
them for you, since I’m sure you have your own bevy that attack your own
dreams.
So, we/I were careful to reframe them. I told her at the end
of the session that I feel like my whole life has been an exercise in “Yeah,
But.” And she told me that that is changing; that I am changing it.
And it was in my morning pages today that I recorded
something I thought of after I came home yesterday that actually knocked the wind out of me. What I wrote
in the miniscule, micro-truth script:
When we are in alignment with our highest good, the Universe
will rearrange itself to help us.
I don’t have to know how to do this. Because I don’t. What struck me so suddenly and
viscerally were the words I’ve heard repeated for years: When we take one step
toward (G-d / Fate / the Universe / our Highest Good), it takes a thousand
toward us.
I will be carried. I
will be helped. I won’t have to do this alone, because, “When the student is
ready, the teacher appears.”
I was floored by this revelation. I was floored that I
actually heard and felt and believed it. It was a moment of belief.
I take care of the What and G-d takes care of the How. I’ve
heard this for years.
What I have needed to do is admit and commit to the What.
I have “Yeah, But”s coming up as I write this. About money,
and too late, and this is for other people and other lives, and what are you
thinking of me right now as you read this and are you doubting me and rolling
your eyes, and how, and how and how.
Yes, I have doubts and fears. AND. I only have to hold onto
the “What.” I only have to hold on to my dream. That’s my only job right now –
to not go back to sleep, to not abandon my dream, again. To not continue to break promises to myself. To not
drown myself in those fears and doubts. Because
I am trying to live
my truth
. And all this wisdom says that’s
all I need to do.
(You know, along with reaching out, asking for help, seeking
people in these professions, gathering intel, honing my vision, practicing and
learning the fuck out of it AND remembering that the pain of avoiding all this
is SO MUCH GREATER than the pain of trying to do it.)
Molly, you want to be a singer in a band? You want to
perform onstage in dive bars? And at Yoshi’s? And be a lounge singer? You want
to feel proud and full and felt and heard?
All you have to do is say, “Yes.”
*(Thanks, Joel Landmine, for the title grab. See: Yeah, Well…)

ambition · band · commitment · decision · destiny · dreams · faith · hope · performance · perseverance · self-worth · singing · tenacity · work

Dream Girls

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If we can pass others on the street and think to ourselves,
“There, but for the grace of G-d, go I,” isn’t it possible that others can pass
us and say the same thing?
I spent last evening at a Queen concert. It was balls-out
amazing: the talent, the showmanship, the technique and the bravery to stand
out there, bounce around a stage and invigorate a crowd of thousands.
I had a moment while watching Adam Lambert, who was filling
Freddie Mercury’s shoes pretty darn well, when I realized that only the slightest
differences existed between the two of us.
Go with me here. A plane takes off for New York, but the
compass is one degree off. You end up at the Nyack mall instead of JFK. One
degree. Completely different destination.
If there is just the “grace of god” between me and the
person I see huddled under the freeway gathering up their belongings as the cop car pulls two
wheels up on the sidewalk to shuffle them along to another temporary spot, isn’t
there just the “grace of god” between me and Adam Lambert? Or that woman I saw
perform at Yoshi’s a few years ago: She wasn’t perfect. Her pitch wasn’t always
on, but she was a performer. She had the
crowd completely, she enjoyed herself, she was proud, vivacious, and seen. And
she wasn’t perfect.
I don’t even remember who she
was, except she was the singer of a bluesy/jazzy band, and she was fierce. She
was a large woman with a large smile. And as I watched her, I thought to myself
that I wanted to do what she did; get up there and perform, without needing to be perfect – because if that were the case, I
don’t think any of us would ever do anything, including Adam Lambert.
Over the last year, I have adjusted my compass to be bringing me closer to that
point on the map. I am not so far away in the Canada hinterland, but perhaps
flying somewhere over Buffalo by now. (Can you tell I grew up back east?)
Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way that it isn’t talent that creates success; it’s
tenacity. It’s being a dog’s fierce jaw chomped around a toy rope, refusing to
let go.
The guitar player, Brian May, dazzled the crowd with a
10-minute long epic, cacophonous solo. It was like a safari inside of music
itself: strange, elegant, mystic, and ancient. I said to my friend, That’s what
happens when you spend 40 years doing only one thing.
That’s what happens when you decide that you love one thing,
that you’re good (enough) at one thing, that you want others to know you do this thing: You become great.
Here’s to finding—or claiming, rather—my thing. 

authenticity · community · growth · hope · singing · theater · vulnerability

LiveStrong.

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Yesterday, I was given the cosmic and delightful (sarcasm)
opportunity to put that day’s blog message into action: I was asked if I was
coming out to spend time with folks. … But I really had to go home and watch Netflix, you know. Not that
I have anything I’m particularly watching at the moment, not that you can put
that on my tombstone (“Excellent t.v. watcher, Achiever of many
episodes”). But the alternative was to spend an hour with people.
Blech.
But, health won out. (Damned health.) I went, I smiled, I listened, I shared, I had conversations with people. Netflix won’t really converse with me. It’s selfish
that way.
I got the chance to hear what was going on with a
friend and offer some suggestions, and she got to hear me share what’s going
on with me and offered me some help, too.
Again, Netflix is really loathe to help me out. The bastard.
I also got to notice that I’ve gained a few readers in the
past week who’ve gotten to read things about me that some of my closest friends
don’t know about, and that … well, that’s okay. It’s what this, the blog, is
here for. Not to “connect” with people in a complete way, but to offer
something. To offer a catharsis, a container, a mirror into their own
experience. To hear someone say – or read someone write – about what have been issues
or concerns or triumphs in your own life is to get to feel you’re/we’re
not alone. Our experience as humans is not isolated; we’re not as different as
we think we are when trapped alone in our heads.
I’m grateful for that, for this opportunity. And I know it can be intense. For anyone who’s joined us
this week, it’s not always so dark. But, it is likely always as honest. Don’t
worry, I don’t tell you everything. You don’t in fact get the all of me by
reading me, and we both know that. But it’s a good thread between us. And I get
to feel cathartized, too. Not that this is therapy or anything, but that I’m
putting my voice out there in a way that feels relatively safe, but also authentic.
On voice, I emailed an old voice teacher yesterday to ask if
she still gives private lessons. I was in her voice class when I was at Mills, and
earlier in the week, I got the message from Theater Bay Area that applications
for the General Auditions for the South Bay are open. And, you have to note on the application if
you think you might sing. You don’t have
to sing if you check that box, but you have to indicate if you might so they can group you with the other
singers in that day.
I applied to the Generals last year, and didn’t get in. But
I have real headshots this time, and two more credits, and possibly a third
that I can add before I send off my resume. I certainly have enough gumption and
the substance to try this time, especially if I had even less to my name last
year!
I was talking yesterday with a friend about singing. About
how I know the voice is there, but I hide it all the time. Even when I was in the band, I hid it. I didn’t
sing to the best and fullest of my ability, and I also don’t even know what the
limits of my ability are. I want to sing. I’ve always said it. Or thought it,
so most of you didn’t know anyway.
It’s secret. Private. It’s tender, is what it is. It’s the
most tender dream I have, honestly. And I think that’s what makes it the most
protected and least acknowledged one. For me, singing has no place to hide, and
it’s an outpouring of your soul – or it can be. As I know well, it can not be that very easily, and no one would know the
difference but me. They’ll just think that’s what I’ve got.
It’s like when I work at 80% most of the time at my job. They don’t know. They just think that’s what I have to
offer, but the reality is that I hold back, in that case because I’m resentful,
entitled and begrudging. But I digress!
Or I don’t. It’s the same side of the coin of not participating
in life fully, of not offering myself fully. They’re different angles toward
that, but they’re both about self-protection and -preservation.
Tender shoots of hope always need a little more room and
space and care. For me, they’ve needed to be hidden so as not to be trampled by
the onslaught of life. But by keeping this thing small, myself small, by
harboring it and mentally reinforcing it as a tender and sensitive and fragile
thing, it will always remain that way.
A redwood starts out the same way, you know. As tender as a
sprig. But if you take the cage off of the plant, allow it air and sunshine and
nourishment. Soon it won’t be a small and tender, fragile thing anymore. Soon
it will be able to weather the strokes of life. By letting what I’ve carried as
a secret and a calling out of its confinement … I can allow it to become what
it’s always needed to be: Strong. 

auditioning · change · growth · singing · theater

Owning Voice

Last Thursday, I began a class at Berkeley Rep School of
Theater entitled, “Voice for Performance.” A short-term class of 5 sessions,
lasting three hours each, I am getting a taste of the Linklater method (which I
hadn’t heard of ’til recently, but apparently should know), vocal warm-up exercises, and where my
own challenges are.
At the first class, we all introduced ourselves while our
sprightly, mildly Cockney professor got up in our grill. She watched how our jaw
moved, how we held our body, listened if we grated words in our throat or
didn’t support our breath, and chided the modern world epidemic of ending
declarative sentences with a lilting question at the end. Last night, she
called me out again for it. It’s not, Hi, I’m Molly?, she laughed good-naturedly;
It’s, Hi, I’m Molly. Of course you are, she said.
At the first class, she spoke a little about the messages
some of us receive that cause blocks in how we speak. Were you told to keep it
down, that your voice was too loud? Did you sit at a dinner table with loud
people, and so learned to speak out the side of your mouth? 
There is a reason no one knows I sing. There is a reason
this whole blog is called Owning Voice.
There are messages I received, and internalized, whether
someone actually said something to me or not. I learned I had to be quiet to be
safe, that a loud voice was the tool of the abominable. I have clear memories
of “voice quelling.” When I was singing a poem at my Bat Mitzvah at age 13, there is this lovely harmony at the end that really makes the whole song, and
changes it to something powerful. I got to the end of that song, and I made the
choice, in my blue velour dress with puffy sleeves, to not go for it, to not try
for the notes that would make the song whole because I wasn’t sure I could reach them, and so I sang through it with the banal repetitive melody, sad for myself for not trying, and filing that experience away in,
“I’m not good enough.”
I remember auditioning for a high school musical, practicing
upstairs in my room, and coming down to ask my parents what they thought, if
that note was too high. They told me that I better not go for it. So I
didn’t.
I remember auditioning in college for the a cappella group
on campus, Orphan Sporks, and not making it; for the college plays, and not
making it.
And this is when I stopped. I believed that I learned that I
wasn’t good enough, and to stop trying.
But, part of the reason I haven’t made the progress I could,
is because I have those beliefs that I need to be quiet, that I need to not
make noise, that I need to be something better than I am to do it, and so, I don’t sing, I don’t share from the heart of who I am, and
therefore, I get to continue feeding the story that singing isn’t for me. And
when I do actually sing, because it’s such a rarely used instrument, it’s not
as well oiled as I know it could be, and again, I get to file this passion away in the “Not
for you” category, or dismiss my voice as Not Good Enough, or tell others, Oh,
it’s not really, I’m not really, …
I’ve taken singing lessons before, sporadically; I know I have a 4 octave range, I know the voice is in there. I know I’m not delusional & I feel like magic when I own it; I also know I hide it. Like a boy on a date once said to me about my eyes, that they are beautiful, but I am shy with them. Same same.

The class I’m taking right now isn’t about singing directly;
it’s about voice, about your whole body—your ribs, your toes, your earlobes—vibrating
to create sound. To drop the internal chatter and drop into your body,
zen-like, drop into your power which is there whether you obscure it with
rancid messages or not. The class is certain to help in the practicality of
singing, but for now, it’s just about owning breath, owning voice, and owning
truth.

Hi, I’m Molly.
Of course I am.