awareness · community · fatigue · fear · friendship · growth · hope · sharing · the middle way · trust · truth · vulnerability

On Leave.

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The thing about being a good little soldier is that
eventually you suffer battle fatigue.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve had doctors appointments up
the wazoo because of a liver enzyme test that came back extremely elevated.
Granted, it’s the first time they’d ever run this test since I finished chemo
last Spring, but don’t try and tell them that.
In the meantime, I’ve gotten panicky emails from my doctor
to stop drinking alcohol immediately (check), to get another test immediately (check), and
asking if I’ve had my hepatitis vaccines when I was a kid (check).
Being the good little soldier I am, and using the wisdom of
not pushing the panic button, I’ve done pretty well these past two weeks, doing
what I’m told, following up diligently, and trying to follow the new all-organic
diet suggested to me by my naturopath.
This is all well and good not to panic when panic isn’t
prudent. But yesterday I came to see, while reduced to a ball of tears in front
of a friend, that there is a third option between panicking and “soldiering
on.” There’s acknowledgment of my fear.
I told my coworker the other day that I just feel weary – that trying not to freak out is exhausting; that
trying to maintain an emotional equilibrium is hard work.
And underneath that even façade, which also has a thick vein
of veracity, is fear. They can co-exist, but I have to acknowledge that they
both do.
It is activating to have to go through all these tests. It
is not my favorite thing to google “autoimmune hepatitis” (which, we learned, I don’t have). It is even less my favorite thing to contemplate that the reason for
this trouble in the first place is a result of something doctors did to me – despite the rational
fact that they
had to. I had
Leukemia. The cure is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy causes havoc.
I am not freaking
out, but I am concerned. And I am “activated.” It’s hard not to be – I’ve had
legitimate reasons to freak out in the past – but even then, if you were a
reader when I was going through that, you saw that the times I freaked out were few and far between –
and then, they weren’t panics or freak outs, they were the falling-armor
acknowledgments of a real threat to my security and joy.
I was a good soldier then too, but it was also very important to break down sometimes with someone
trustworthy. To acknowledge both sides: Bravery and Vulnerability.
Which are coexistant. The first does not preclude the
second. And I’m pretty sure the second enhances the first.
It was not as if I had some grand easy epiphany about
allowing all of my emotions to be valid. I sat yesterday with a group of
folks, and by the end of our time together, I was leaking silent tears. I
didn’t anticipate to do that, but we create a sacred space together, a place
where it was safe to allow something I didn’t know was happening arise. And
because of that, a friend was able to see my pain, and sit with me while I let
the soldier take a rest, and let the scared and weary and angry woman take a
spin for a while.
I felt better after I acknowledged all that was going on.
And coming to realize in conversation with her that I’d been forcing my
experience into two categories: Panic and Perseverance. Acknowledging fear does
not equate panicking, is what I learned. And it was important, so important,
for me to let some of the rest of my emotions out, besides good humor,
diligence, and perseverance.
Because I believe that without letting some of that pressure
out, without allowing that vulnerability to arise, our capacity for soldiering
is greatly hindered.
What happens is burn-out, instead.
When I only allow validity to one side of my experience, I am
hampering my ability to move forward.
I don’t have to be a crying mess about having to seek out
only organic meat and my fear of the cost and the inconvenience,
and wondering if I’ll have to now be like those people in food addiction
programs who have to carry around heavy-ass glass containers of their own food
to restaurants because they can’t eat anything else and become a burden to
myself and my social life…
but sometimes, at least once(!), I do have to admit that
these are thoughts and emotions that are happening, too.
I’ve never really been a fan of the Buddhist term, “The
Middle Way,” but fan or not, I seem to be learning all about it.

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abundance · addiction · alcoholism · balance · community · compassion · deprivation · equanimity · finances · humility · recovery · scarcity · the middle way

The B Word.

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Balance. Without it, I tend to become the other B word.
Someone asked me how the whole, “I need friends who don’t live hand-to-mouth,” blog
went over, if there was any push-back from it. I said, not that I know of, but
that I’d spoken to some other folks over the weekend, and was reminded of
something very important in life: Things are not black and white.
When I stopped drinking, it was because I was an alcoholic.
I put the bottle down, looked around, and declared everyone close to me
alcoholic, too. Whether they were or not, I was on a crusade of reform, and
they all were alcoholics who needed to
stop as I did.
Well… two things: a) yes, most of the people I was
associated with “at the end” were in fact drinking alcoholically, but b) that
didn’t mean they or anyone who drank were alcoholics. In the beginning, I
needed that kind of black and white thinking, because being close-ish to people
who were drinking was too difficult a gray line when my line had to be
crystal clear.
But, just because that was the way for me, I came to realize
that wasn’t the way for everyone. And after some time passed, and indeed the
folks who were hopeless sops like me faded from the foreground of my life, I got to see that some people (god bless them) can drink normally.
There’s one friend who stuck through my own transition. She described this “normal” drinking to me: she
literally says to herself, “Hmm, I’m beginning to feel buzzed, I should switch
to water.” Uh… I didn’t get that memo. “I’m beginning to feel buzzed,” was always followed by, “A few more will get it done right,” or if I was feeling temperate, “I should switch to beer.”
So, my friend does not react to alcohol how I do. And I have to come to see that there is a world between sauced and tight-ass.
In the same way, I recognize that as I begin to assess my
behavior and extremism around money, scarcity, and deprivation, I am being
called to allow others their own experience, even as I diagnose and address my
own.
Just because a friend opened a new credit card, doesn’t mean I have
to stop hanging out with them. Just because a friend is earning less than I
think they deserve in the world, doesn’t mean they’re addicted to deprivation.
Just because other people behave differently than me, doesn’t mean my way is
the right way, and most importantly, doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to learn from them. 
As with getting sober, I do have to admit that some
of the folks around me may indeed have trouble in this area – water seeks its
own level, after all. But, that doesn’t mean I have to be an asshole about it.
And, that’s what I’ve gotten to see these past few days I’ve
been declaring myself needing to “move on” from friends and communities who have
what I’d declared a “faulty, diseased, and only rectifiable by a spiritual
solution” relationship to money, and thereby the world.
It’s a good thing people don’t take me that seriously!
And it’s a good thing I can remember to not take myself too
seriously, too. If I’d stuck to every declaration about myself… by this point I
would have been:
Vegetarian
Israeli
A prostitute
A suicide victim
A daily exerciser
T.V.-less
Caffeine-less
An organic farmer
and a truck driver.
The thing is, I can’t make blanket declarations for myself
or anyone else. I have no idea what my
path contains or eliminates, thereby
no idea what others’ do.
There is some truth to wanting to learn from and be around
people whose relationship to money can model my own. But that’s because I have
a problem with it. Not everyone does, and if they do, it’s really none of my
business.
It comes to equanimity, and allowing others and myself our
experience without judgment. It means having openness, compassion, and respect toward all people on all paths. It does certainly include me getting help for a
pattern of beliefs and behaviors that have led me to despair and insanity, but
it also includes me being more generous in my assessments of life. Allowing for
the gray, for the middle-ground, for difference, for balance.
Because, solvent or not, nobody likes
a bitch. 

anger · fear · growth · recovery · sex · sexuality · the middle way · vulnerability

Discovering The Third Thing

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A or B, Molly? Your life depends on it. Is it black or
white, Molly? Your life depends on it. Is Dad coming home right now, your life
depends on it. Is he in a temper-FIGURE IT OUT-your life depends on it. Is Mom
crying? Is she still alive-LISTEN HARD-your life
depends on it. Is it black or is it white, Molly, YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
A woman I met once and have never seen or sought out again asked me, What if there’s a “third thing?”
Much of what I hear is about how we break things into black
and white, but that life is not that way. There is an indoctrination, as above
italicized, that makes us learn and perceive that life is and must be black and
white as a way of survival. And in adulthood, that must be unlearned.
What folks have suggested as remedy to this, however, is
“life is gray,” shades of grey (no allusion intended). That it’s somewhere in
the middle.
Years ago, I decided that “grey” didn’t work for me in this
metaphor, too bland; that instead, “not black and white” could be interpreted as “in
color.” Life isn’t “black and white;” it’s in color.
But, this woman told me something else entirely. That it’s
something I haven’t even conceived of before.
We were not talking about life. We were talking about sex.
I was telling her how I’ve vacillated in my life between the
icons I have named Betty Crocker and The Vixen. How I swing the pendulum of
myself from one to the other; bored by the first, burned by the second.
I was emailing with a friend yesterday about how some of situations I find myself in at the moment are reminiscent of something that happened in my early twenties,
a situation I got myself in as a result of swinging from Betty Crocker to the
Vixen, to disastrous results. She pointed out a few places where things are different now, that I’m
sober, older, and it was just plain different.
But there is a rubber band that pulls this circumstance
back to then, a sense memory that lashes out, OH! UH-UH we’ve done this, lady!
Remember!! Remember the outcome, the consequences, the disaster! Warning,
warning!
She tells me it’s not the same. I remind myself of the year;
I look around myself at who and where I am. And it’s very freaking hard to
separate the past from the present.
Which brings us back to the trust I’ve been working on. To
trust that I am different, that I am safe, that I can allow myself to
experience life in a different way today. That I am able to be the third thing.
It only occurred to me today that perhaps the person I’m
becoming as I sort all this out is the
third thing, neither the puritanical Betty Crocker (who avoids all human
contact in search of the unicorn idea of a risk-less relationship), nor The
Vixen (who overrides all hesitance toward prurient wantonness).
I had my first initial phone call yesterday with a woman who
works somatically with trauma. We’re scheduled to meet next Wednesday, the one
day I have off rehearsal during “tech week.” As helpful and warm and not really “getting into anything” as our
conversation went, my body closed up tighter than an asshole over a flame. And, this is why I want to see her! (duh.)
I used the words “ingress” and “egress” a lot in my morning
pages today, the allowance of things to enter and to exit. Currently, I allow some of
myself out, but I refuse anything entry. Or, if I allow entry of someone or some
emotion, then I refuse them anything in return.
The two-way mirror of my skin. One side can look in, the
other cannot look out.
The third thing, here, would be a window, instead. (Don’t
even suggest something without a pane; I might deck you.)

calm · fear · healing · health · spirituality · the middle way · theater

Lumps & Bumps

Show of hands: Those eager to exchange brains with me.
Anyone? Bueler?
Yesterday afternoon, I called my cousin Leah. She’s a
doctor, an ally, and a friend. I gave her all the information I’d gathered at
Kaiser yesterday, and asked her if I should be concerned or if I should, as all
the doctors advised, not be concerned?
What they told me is that, no, it’s not adult acne
that a ProActiv commercial would fix; and, yes, this strange lump is indeed a
swollen lymph node, another part of our immune system. They told me this likely
has nothing to do with cancer, that it’s just something to note, and that it
would go away in a few weeks, tops. That swollen glands happen. They told me I likely accidentally
cut myself while shaving under my arm, and got a minor infection that’s causing
this swelling (“but I didn’t cut myself.” “it would be smaller than you could
see. this is normal.”).
They told me we could do imaging on it, and then biopsy it if I insisted.
And so that remains to be scheduled. But after all of yesterday being told it’s likely nothing, and my insisting that you prove to me
it’s
actually nothing… I called my cousin.
She said, “Normal life is full of lumps and bumps.” That “someone with your history” is bound to go to the far side of fear, but she was not
concerned.
In fact, no one really seemed concerned except me. But then, I’m the one with the history.
If I could dampen or soften the reaches and depths of my
emotional swings…
Well, I don’t think I would. I’m not bipolar, I’m just me.
Fully feeling, fully emoting.
However, I think the Ship of Emotional Life fell off the
edge of the ocean yesterday, and I am tired from that.
I left the hospital, several hours later, parting with my
dear and kind friend who spoke of shoes and ships and sealing wax, not to
distract me, but just be normal with me. To listen to me say from my plastic
hospital waiting room chair, I hate this. I just want you to know I hate this.
And for her to say, Yep. That sounds about right.
I left, and I went to the hot tubs. I live near a place that
has saunas and hot tubs, and I soaked for a half hour. My head was with me, so
it wasn’t “relaxing” per se, but it was nice, sort of. The hospital called to
tell me the Radiology department would call to schedule a CT scan to see
what this is, if anything.
And on the way home, I called my cousin. Because my poor
exhausted brain, my hyperactive adrenals, and my weary fucking heart needed to
hear from a doctor who loved me.
She said, she’s not here, she can’t see what’s going on, but
if it were her—and she knows my reactions are different—she wouldn’t be
worried.
Life is full of lumps and bumps.
I came home, watched about 5 hours of Netflix, and finally
said aloud, Alright, that’s enough, got up, made tea, and read through the play
for the audition I have tonight. I’m not secure in this monologue, but I’m
doing it.
I had a moment of, Remember who you are. Remember what you
do. Remember what you can do, and I showed up for an hour for my dream and my
vision.
Then I went back to Netflix.
Because, that’s what this process is like for me right now.
It’s remembering who and what I am, what I’m capable of, and it’s numbing the
fuck out because who I am and what I can do can run me into the ground.
In meditation the other day, my advice to myself (or my
“intuitive thought” or “intuition”) reminded me to Rest: “As to your fatigue,
my only instruction is to rest,” it said. To rest and play with ease.
The taught high-wire act of my emotional life is not easeful.
So, I need to come back down, touch the ground again,
fill up with images of trees and covens and auras and love. And remember who I
am can be easeful, too
.
Ha. I, Molly Louise,
can be an easeful human being! Who can walk with equanimity in this world. I
can have highs and lows, and dash myself upon the craggy shores. And, I can bend
my head into the silken lap of Divine Calm, and let her stroke my hair for a while as I
take a long-forgotten full & present breath.
Life is full of lumps and bumps. Life can be normal. Not devastating. Not harrowing. Life can be okay.
Have both trip-lines and benches overlooking a sunset. Life, my life, is going to
be okay. 

acceptance · adulthood · family · fear · generosity · recovery · relationships · the middle way · truth

People are Not Projects.

Damnit. There goes my favorite hobby. What will I do with my
afternoons, now?
I’ve heard the phrase before, and it recurred to me this
morning. My mom sent me an email back on Monday, qualifying why she’d replied
so “vehemently” on Friday that she wanted me under NO circumstances to tell her
whether I had the genome for Alzheimer’s, if I were to get the genetic mapping
thing I said I was maybe possibly going to do someday.
Even before she emailed me on Monday, I got the chance to
work through some of my anger at her refusal for clarity, her refusal to do things the
way I’d do them, or the way I’d want her to do them.
I even got to see that there is perhaps a part of me that is
in fear that she will have it. Watching what she went through with her mom, I can’t imagine it. Though I know I’d have the resources internal and external to do the best I could, if she does.
On Monday, she wrote me back and said, as I knew, that her mom was
around the same age my mom is now when she began to show signs of it, and that
she’s “very frightened.” I was amazed that my mother could let herself admit
that.
I wrote her back that, of course, I understand, and will respect
her feelings and wishes around this. Obviously.
And so, I’m reminded that people are not projects. She is
not on this earth, this lifetime, for me to fix her. As I’m also reminded
often, people are not broken, and I don’t need to fix them. She isn’t broken.
She is human, like me, like you. I have faults and assets, she has faults and
assets. Mainly, those faults are just calcified fears and defense mechanisms.
And it’s not up to me to fix them. They
are not “problems.” They just are. They are part of the map that is my mom.
They are part of the challenges and opportunities she has in this lifetime. And
it is part of my own challenge this lifetime to leave her be.
This is new behavior. Not alien, but new. We, I, grew up
enmeshed with her, her feelings were my own, and I tended to and acquiesced to
and modified myself in order to attend to her feelings. It was my own defense
mechanism. And, it was also in some ways what was needed. She was an
undiagnosed manic depressive, self-medicating with prescription and non-prescription tranquilizers
and uppers. Her feelings and mood swings were uncontainable, palpable, and able to wash a small
child overboard the ship of normalcy. So, I learned how to stand by the
rigging. I learned how to read the waves, to anticipate them, to ensure that
things were precisely as they needed to be. I learned to ensure life was easier
for her when she was in her clinical depression by not having or voicing or
owning my needs. I learned to ensure that she not retreat into that state by
allowing her manic times free reign, and stand tensely in the wings of her
life, egging her on – because mania meant some more of her, but not really. It
just meant she moved more quickly in her neuroses. And was hard to be around
then.
That was probably harder. It was like a live wire. Every
vibrantly theatrical gesture and every squeal of delight was like a hammer to my heart, knowing
that it was inauthentic, fleeting, and often, embarrassing. More than the
typical teen angsty, my parents are lame kind. More like, this person isn’t aware of herself and how big she can be, and I’m sorry she’s hijacked your conversation/this movie theather/…our vacation.
I went on a trip with her a few years ago to Sedona. I’d
begun to heal some of my own self-destructive patterns, and this was one of the
first times she and I were getting to spend any significant time together. It
didn’t go well.
Diagnosed, and newly (doctor prescribed) medicated as she
now was, she is/was still my mom. Even today, even though the swings have
lessened, the grooves in the thought patterns and behaviors are still there,
engrained over a lifetime, and I’ll suddenly find myself talking to a weepy child where a minute before stood a fierce New Yorker. But, in Sedona, we decided to do one of those Pink
Jeep tours, where they take you out in a jeep into the gorgeous red rock
landscape.
My mom had to be the entertainment. There were maybe 6 of us
in the back of the jeep, and as my mom continued to make herself more and more
“heard” and “seen” by this group of strangers, as she put on her mask of entertainer
– witty, loud, invasive – I began to feel myself shrinking in her wake. I began
to notice that I was doing what I’d always done, and detach from the dramatic
entrance of my mom’s persona. I didn’t like it.
I didn’t like that I was reacting that way, and so instead,
I began to get sullen and angry. She
picked up on the anger. And she couldn’t understand why – she’d been being who
she’d always been, acting (double meaning intended) as she always had, why was
I mad with her? I didn’t answer her. I didn’t know what was the “right” way to
answer that in my new recovery language – I simply said that it had more to do
with me than with her, and that was about it. She didn’t like this answer; I
knew it was true, but I didn’t like it either. We’re a “processy” – or we had
been – kind of pair. (She is a shrink, after all…) And I wasn’t going to or able to process this with her.
What is there to process? You’re not being the mom I want
you to be? You’re behaving so falsely, and invading these folks’ space? THIS
JEEP TOUR IS NOT ABOUT YOU?
No, I couldn’t say those things. There is and was the truth
that it does have more to do with me
than with her. How able I am to accept and love my mom as and who she is
without trying to change her. Without needing to be right. And without pitying her.
There is the truth that people are not projects, and that
she is not broken. There is also the magnanimous truth that my mother is also
brilliant, witty, stylish, and bold. Yes, she is also desperately scared of
everything, self-defeatest, and paralytically despairing. She is all of these
things. (She’s also a Gemini, if that helps.)
My mother is a human, with places she falls short of the
ideal, like me, like you; places where she excels, like me, like you. And, in
the end, just wants to feel loved, and at peace. Like me. And like you. 
acting · adulthood · crazy · family · forgiveness · humilty · love · money · persistence · receiving · self-support · the middle way · work

Day Jobs.

Yikes. Unintendedly, I apparently freaked my mom out. I
guess “What goes around comes around” is a less than spiritual comment here.
When I was camping this weekend, one of the women said she’d
used this 23andme site that did genetic mapping and testing. She said she found
it to accurately confirm things she knew she had and “labeled” her cousin as
her own on the site, so she felt it was reliable when it came to the things she wanted
clarity on or might not know. So, on a whim, I looked it up yesterday. Part of
it is my own rampant curiosity about my dad’s father’s side of the family, about whom
we know nothing (very hush hush, gramma got pregnant at 15 in an Irish Catholic
family under-the-rug), so I’d like to know about that fourth of who I am.
Secondly, and importantly for me, my mom’s mother died from
Alzheimer’s and I want to know if I have the gene or not. You can get it
without the gene, and you can not get it
with the gene. But, I’m curious. And a little excited. If I don’t have the
gene, I can (and would) worry less; and if I do have the gene, they’re coming
up with all kinds of new things people can do these days to stave it off or
minimize the effects – and I’d look for more information on stuff like that.
So, in an effort to “share the good news,” I emailed my mom
and brother yesterday to let them know about it (though women are more likely
than men to get Alz). I got an email back this morning from my mom saying that
no matter what to never [BOLD FACE] EVER tell her the results of it.
Yikes. Granted, my mom is a class-A worrier,
anxiety-disordered woman on medication, but… yeesh. That obviously wasn’t my
intention, to freak her out – I guess I imagined she’d react as I did – “Cool,
what can I learn, so that information can be useful in how I lead my life?” …
Best laid plans, I suppose.
It’s Friday, so it’s a little rough to go into what I
remember of my mom’s parents’ deaths, and what I consider to be and have been
“wrong” ways of grieving. And so I won’t do that today. It’s NOMB – None Of My
Business.
So, I’ll undeftly switch topics, as I’m uncomfortable. 😉
Yesterday, in reading Tina Fey’s book, I had a sort of
realization about “day jobs.” Fey worked at a YMCA for $5/hr in Chicago when
she left undergrad. She wanted to take improv classes, so she angled for a job
“upstairs” in the office of the YMCA. When she was asked on the interview why
she wanted the job, she replied unabashedly, So I can afford improv classes.
She got the job, took improv classes, and quit the job less than a year later
when she got work with the improv group.
I had my informational interview with my former acting
teacher last Friday, and she said nice things like I have “great instincts,”
and that “it’s obvious [I] really enjoy it.” She didn’t really give me the
“constructive criticism” I was looking to get – areas that I could improve in,
and as I was recounting this to my friend last weekend, she said it sounded
like I wanted to hear places I could just do X, Y, and Z, so that I could “fix”
it, and suddenly everything would fall into place. Yes, give me a set of
movable problems, let me fix them, and then let me be free of problems forever.
That sounds about right.
So, I didn’t get that. I got what felt like nearly reluctant
suggestions. Again, I guess I had expectations. But, I heard that acting
classes would be a good idea to continue with. So, yesterday, I looked up the
classes at A.C.T. Studio, and their summer program. It’s not very expensive,
but surely more than I have now.
And I remembered what Tina Fey had said: she took a job so
she could afford to do what she really wanted to do. For SO long I’ve been
agonizing over what is my “ideal” job, or what will feed me spiritually,
intellectually, and creatively – what one
thing would fit all my needs. I don’t feel this way about people, why would I
feel this way about work? I don’t expect one person to fulfill all my needs –
that’s ridiculous, unfair, and leads to disappointment. So, why should I feel that a job
would or ought to do the same.
There’s something in this. It takes a shit ton of the
pressure out of whatever job comes to me next. That it is a means to an end. And further, I’m honing in more
closely on what I’d want those “ends” to be – what I want my job to afford me
to be able to do. Lessons, classes, (acting & music, for now). I’m not sure what
this realization will bring me – except that I already feel less internal
pressure about “What I’m going to do next.” Chances are (G-d willing!!!!!!)
that the job that I get next
can
afford me the disposable income to take classes like that. Or, rather, the
chances don’t have to be there, I can just start angling the satellite dish of
my focus in a slightly different direction, picking up on things that I’d
dismissed, as they wouldn’t “fill me spiritually.”
Like a person, it’s not a job’s … job to fill me spiritually. That’s up to me. That’s up
to me to take the kinds of actions that will allow me the freedom from financial
worry to do things that
do feed
me spiritually and creatively. I have a phone call date with another acting
friend next week, having been inspired by the new angle of my satellite to be
able to continue having these conversations with people.
What comes of it? Who knows. But I feel more open to things,
and I’ve noticed that makes a world of difference.
(Sorry, Mom – didn’t mean to freak you out. LU, m.)