acceptance · adulthood · commitment · discovery · finances · growth · maturity · TEACHING · time · work

Sucker

Dear Folks,
My new “normal people” hours are conflicting with my ability
to write this with coherence, and eat, shower, become fully conscious. So,
forgive its in/coherency, if it is so.
I had two phone calls yesterday that sort of count as
informational interviews. One was with my darling Aunt Roberta (technically my
mom’s cousin, but all those cousins are sort of like aunts and uncles – that’s
how it was when you played stickball in the streets of Brooklyn in the ’50s).
She has been a professor of English since the sun was born,
and had some great information and tips for me. She sent me her teaching resume
to take a look at, as I’m beginning to apply for teaching jobs – something I’ve
viciously avoided for so long, I almost
forget why. … but I do remember.
For as long as I can
remember, what with my interest in literature, and writing, and reading,
well-meaning folks have said the following to me:
Well, you could always teach English.
Somehow this phrase has turned into an anathema for me. Is this the only
thing that I can do?? It begins to sound like a default, like welp, you could
always settle. It has calcified into a job title that brings to mind aging high
school professors, eking out their little lives in some underappreciated,
underpaid job. My vision of “teacher” has come to also mean “sedentary,” as
once you get a job teaching, all I hear is “tenure” and that’s all people are
working toward – all they want is to stay as absolutely still as possible. No
room for exploration, movement, change. You got it, you keep it, you pipe down,
and suck it up.
Obviously, many of these ideas are unrealistic and quite
ridiculous, but that hasn’t kept them from keeping me away from the whole idea
of teaching – teaching English, teaching high school, teaching college – as if
I’ve ever thought that I could.
But…
The reality.
Firstly, as Roberta was quick to assure me, teaching does not mean wasting away in some small town or inner city
for eternity – it doesn’t have to mean that, and particularly in the beginning,
it doesn’t mean that – as chances are, as a beginning teacher, you’ll have to
sort of go where the job is.
Secondly, … and here’s the hilarious irony … I like teaching.
Sure, it’s hard work – I’ve done it before, but never
considered what I’ve done as “real” teaching. I had a job at a Sunday School last year, once a
week (and had lots of lesson planning experience to really really learn that lesson planning.is.not.paid.). I also
taught ESL in South Korea for almost two years, but I don’t “count” that either,
as I was hung-over most of the time, and worked out my lesson about 10 minutes
before class, if that.
However, I do like being in a classroom. I also think I have
a lot to offer – I, if I may be so unhumble, think I’m pretty cool. I’m funny,
performative, creative, a good listener, and a very good judge of classroom
dynamics and social cues (i.e. they’re not listening – change it up, or so and so is
interested in so and so, so I better move them). I also have a lot of outside
interests, which makes for a well-rounded incorporation of things into the
lesson plan.
Thirdly, I’m technically qualified to do it now, with my degree and all. 
So, I could do it.
And as I’ve reminded myself a lot over the last year, “Can I
do it?” is a different than “Do I want to do it?”
But here’s the change occurring. My wonderful sunshine ball,
Maila, came over for tea last night. Here’s what she said:
“If it wasn’t hard, they wouldn’t have to pay us.”
BAH! Oh, right. It’s work. The ideal is that work include some play or interest, or a lack of
soul-crushing mindlessness that leaves
zero energy available for outside pursuits. And the thing
is, I want and would love to pursue a LOT of outside pursuits.
As she was leaving, I thought of something else which has
probably helped to keep me at arms-length from a “real” job. I’m reminded of my
life several years ago, which I know is similar to a lot of folks I hang out
with.
In the cheepy-birdie hours of the morning, in the hours when
the sky is beginning to lighten, and the new day is dawning, I and we, were
usually heading home. Weaving and wending our way to some pass-outable
location, or so red-eyed and clench-jawed that the chirping birds were a
mockery of all that is holy (Shut the fuck UP! Don’t remind me it’s a new day,
I’m still … still … STILL up!).
And as we were wending home, or at least one well-worn path
I remember particularly, as I was wending my way home in my second tour of
teacher duty in South Korea, I would pass by a church on Sunday morning. There,
people, humans, were walking to church. And I would sneer, Suckers.
These people, in their pressed, clean clothes, with a full
night’s sleep, and a full refrigerator. With brushed teeth, and combed hair,
and a place to get to at 8 or 9am. Who paid rent, and taxes, and didn’t have
their utilities turned off monthly. Whose teeth were not ground down with
clenching, or livers distended with liquor, or clothing bathed in a cheap bath
of smoke. These people, with real jobs, real lives, real responsibilities, were
Suckers. They knew nothing of the way things ought to be, the nocturnal,
hedonistic, nihilistic counter-culture. They were suckers.
And as I begin to accept that it’s time for me to take on
those same responsibilities, there’s a part of me that calls myself a Sucker.
But, I’m not a hedonist anymore. I don’t reek, or steal, or
slink anymore. If a balanced check-book, paid rent, cat and people food, and
some bass lessons are what I want, then I have to do what they do. I have to be
a Sucker,
which I guess is another word for Adult. 

adulthood · crazy · faith · love · recovery · responsibility · sex · sobriety · spirituality · time · vulnerability

How to Not Lose Your Car in Twelve Easy Steps:

Six years ago today, I woke up, or came to is more like, in
a room in my shared apartment in the Sunset District on San Francisco. In my
room was everything I’d brought with me to San Francisco, so, two suitcases,
and a pillow. When I’d moved into the room, I didn’t even have a bed.
In the other rooms in the house, lived the “angriest pot
head I’ve ever met” (though I concede, I could be more than a bit techy
myself), and another lanky UCSF student who liked to talk about LOST.
That morning, I got myself together, and went out to drive
downtown to a job interview I’d gotten through a temp agency. I’d been in San
Francisco two weeks to the very day.
Outside, I realized I had no idea where I’d parked my car.
The day before, my only SF friend’s boyfriend’s band was playing at the Park
Chalet out by Ocean Beach, and I’d gone, for the first time in my memory, with
the intention that I was not going to drink that day. But, we all know a Bloody
Mary is a breakfast drink… and so, several pitchers and hours later, I come to
in the middle of a conversation with a dude I don’t know.
The band was gone. The sun was setting. And my friend was no
where to be seen. I excused myself from this stranger, and called my friend to
ask where they were, and she told me I’d said to leave me there. I asked where
they were, she said the Marina. So, I stumble to my car, … and realize I have
no idea where “The Marina” is. So I ask a passing couple if they do. And the
first thing they ask is, Are you sure you’re okay to drive? Sure… No problem.
Once in my car, I realize I need gas, so I decide to do that
first, and then, by Divine intervention realize I’m too drunk to go out, and
drive back to my apartment and pass out.
Therefore, the next morning, as I stand squinting in the rising
light, I have zero recollection of where my car is, and I begin to walk in
increasingly large circles of blocks looking for it. I call the police – Have
you towed it? I call the tow lot – Is it there? No. After nearly a half-hour of
increasedly frantic walking, I turn the corner on my way back to my apartment,
and there it is. Parked nice and neat just around the corner from my house.
I apparently was not sure if I was parked “nice and neat,”
however, as scrawled across my dashboard is a note that reads, “PLEASE DON’T
TOW MY CAR. THANK YOU.” And my phone number.
That was the last morning I woke up hungover.
For six years, I have not washed beer grime out of my
clothing. I have not managed my drinking with a steady pace of water or advil
or corona to polka dot the vodka. I have not puked in six years. I haven’t peed
while leaning against the side of a building. I haven’t woken up next to a
stranger. I haven’t slept with taken men.
I don’t have “UDI”s – a college-invented term: Unidentified
Drunken Injuries. You know, those bruises you really don’t know how you got. I
don’t have names saved in my phone as “Pinky Guy,” “Bar Nana,” or “Scary
Scott.” For six years, I’ve known where I am when I wake up.
And here’s where I am when I wake up today. Strikingly
similarly, I am heading into downtown San Francisco today to apply for a job.
I’m following up in person on an application to a gallery job I applied for
last week. I’ll be going through the rest of that building with my resume as
well, and be leafleting for my workshop next Saturday.
This morning, I wake up in my own apartment. My very own
studio. With furniture. A cat – my monument to a crumbling resistance to
commitment and love. Car stolen, I have a bus pass and many logged BART hours.
I have a bicycle, and a coffee maker, and magnetic poetry on my refrigerator.
My life is imminently different than it was six years ago. Yet, there are some details that I want to label as “the same” – single, unemployed,
financially insecure. But these are just similarities, not clones. The
difference between how I will show up to the job search today is that it began
with Morning Pages, meditation, and a blog to you, friends who I’ve met over
these last six years – people who actually, sometimes, maybe, sorta, like me! From here, I’ll go hang out with some of you
folks for an hour, and remind myself of the miracle it is that I
get to walk through all this. All this human emotion and
life-strewn eventfulness.
My life is eventful – but not chaotic. My life path is vague
– but not hopeless. Most of all, my heart is warming – and my soul doesn’t house that painfully threadbare echo-chamber anymore.
I still get to practice. I’ve absolutely loved engaging in a thrilling, alluring, morally ambiguous “Drink with Two Legs” distraction this past few days – it’s been wonderful to feel
something other than uncomfortable. But in the end, my conscience (and my
exuberantly caring friend) reminded me yesterday that I’m living in a way so
that I don’t have to feel bad about myself or my behavior anymore. So that I
don’t have to clean anything up later, if I can help it (unless it’s dishes).
I’ve watched myself walk to the edge of decency, and reel myself absolutely
kicking and screaming back from the temptation to throw myself in.
See, my life is full of people who remind me that there is a better
way. That this is only a beginning, and that I can hang on to the love that
I’ve built within myself. That it’s safe to do so.
I thank you, Danger-Will-Robinson lure, for your welcome and
passionate resurrection of a part of me that has long been dormant. And I thank
YOU, reader, friend, lovers, G-d, for helping me to learn there’s
nothing wrong with my Vixen, as long as she doesn’t slice away at my self-esteem.
So, here’s to six years of learning the easy way, the hard way. To
six years of sitting in rooms with people who are learning the same. To six
years of showing up on every inch of the spectrum from megalithic tantrum to blissfully
serene. And to just one more day of this unusually verdant path. 
faith · honesty · integrity · surrender · time

The end is nigh

I just like that phrase. So gothic and epic … and Mayan.
Just kidding.
(p.s. Following yesterday’s blog and some other recent
ones, I start to wonder what is TMI or inappropriate for this forum. But,
although I may have walked up to the line, and even then, I may not have, I
don’t think I’ve crossed it. So – onward!)
My school inbox is being flooded with emails about
graduation regalia, thesis submission costs, thesis filing information,
invitations to the end of year event, etc. You’d think there were something a
brewin, eh?
May 12th I graduate. That’s about a month from
now, and I’m stoked and terrified. Not terrified, just unclear.
In an effort to get more clear, today I’m going to be taking up a
suggestion. A time map. You may call it a schedule. Part of my fear is based on
my inability to take action – or not an “inability” per se, but a fear, simply
of taking action. What if I try my best and fail? What if I turn down underpaying jobs and end up broke
anyway?
Shel Silverstein was a wise man
when he wrote the poem “Whatif.”
So, to combat vagueness, and the three P’s (Perfectionism
-> Procrastination -> Paralyzation), I’m going to work today to create a
schedule for myself to include things like revenue generating time (i.e.
looking for work); creative time; and grocery shopping(!).
Because without any structure of a 9-5, I’m not doing much
of anything with my days. Sort of floating along, with class punctuating the
vagueness (and homework not). I don’t like it. I feel then stressed in the 11th
hour, and I don’t have to. So, I’ll work with someone today to create a plan
that includes play and self-care and work and effort and the scary things that
elicit the above questions.
In a stroke of unexpectedness, I got an email from a gallery
owner I know. I’d emailed her nearly 6 months ago to ask if she had any
part-time work available and had never heard back. She emailed me yesterday
with apologies. This, is something of a surprise, and I’m coming to notice
“surprises” as little “G-d shots” as it were. She said she’d love to chat in
person. Not sure that she has any work, but that’s not the point.
I mentioned to some folks last month that I would sweep the
floor in an art gallery. I would adjust spreadsheets. I would do whatever job
would get me into a world of art, artists, creativity. And, suddenly, here
appears my acquaintance. I will follow up with her. Little actions produce big
results. Is it a coincidence that I’m finally taking some action around work
and this email comes in? Maybe.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to the interview at the job
I have no interest in today. Mainly, it’s just f’ing dishonest. I’d be lying my
ass off to get a job I don’t want. I had the recent experience with the modeling guild
of lying and having it coming around to bite me – I think I’ve learned.
Furthermore, despite other people’s vocal fears to me which run along the lines
of “Just take it,” that is not my value. Not my personal value system, or the
monetary and energetic value that I have to exchange.
This surely produces fear (TAKE THE CRUMBS!!!), but fuck the
crumbs. I’ve been like Hansel and Gretel in the forest leading myself to the
fiery pit of someone else’s oven by following crumbs. I don’t need the crumbs. I need
the wiser idea of the stones on the path – the firmer, more appropriate, more
honest way of being.
I have help to lay these stones if I avail myself of them,
and so, I’m asking for help on the baby steps today. Feels a little silly to
ask someone to sit with me while I make a map of my time, but I haven’t been
able to do it on my own, and I need help. So, I’ll ask, I’ll receive, and I’ll
change. G-d willing. 

gratitude · honesty · joy · love · poetry · school · time

Cacophonous Joy

Yesterday, I finished my draft of my poetry thesis. It is
dark, and humorous, and sad, and scared, and thoughtful, and loving, and aimed
toward health. It represents a period in my life, which I’m glad to recognize
as not current, even though the feelings may arise as current.
This is a memoir of sorts. It chronicles a period of time
which, I see now, I do have a degree of distance from, in order to be able to
write about it so fully. I know too it leaves gaps and holes, but I don’t mind
– it’s show, don’t tell, right?
Yesterday, I sort of fell apart around 3pm, as I knew I
needed more time to edit it, little visual changes and some word sorting here
and there. But, I was also supposed to be at class from 4-6:30, and be at a
poetry reading/open mic at 5:30 – 9. How was I to be in so many places at once?
Well, I couldn’t. And the reality of that fell on me at
about 3pm. I made some phone calls; I was told that my main job right then was
to finish my thesis – perhaps you remember some of the craziness when I hadn’t
turned one in, and may not have been graduating in May? Yes, the thesis was my
main job – all other things were secondary.
I spoke briefly to a few friends, wrote emails of apology to
my class teacher and to the organizer of the open mic, and got back to work. I
was not to use the club of
self-flaggellation on myself, I was told. I was not to think that I’d done it
again and over-booked, and I’m a bad person, and here was this opportunity to
put my work out, and I’ve missed it.
I had one job. Thesis.
So, I left those internal critic voices at the door.
Strangely enough, when I did, something miraculous happened.
I finished my thesis. I sent it in multiple document formats
for maximum readability; I cc’d and bcc’d to ensure maximum accountability of
the documents. I sent it off. It was now out of my hands.
I called two friends, let them know that I had sent it, as
I’d told them 3 hours before that I would. And I felt relief. I felt relief as
though it were that cartoon image of someone getting hot, and the thermometer
level inside them fills up with red from the bottom all the way to the top and
bursts out their head. I felt swallowed with relief.
I told my friend, Now, I’m going to drink some water, make a
nice healthy meal, and watch a Disney movie. – That was going to be my celebration. She found that
hilarious: “I’m going to drink … some water.” How times have changed.
So, I did, but as I was cooking my chicken and broccoli and
yummy organic pasta, I had my iPod on shuffle, playing my joy into the kitchen.
And Metallica came on. And for why, who cares, it was that moment. I began to bob and jam and jump around
as I stirred that chicken. Then I abandoned the chicken to just rock out in my
kitchen to the raging flare of electric guitar and passion.
The song finished. But I wasn’t done. I placed my delicate,
hearty, thoughtful meal on a plate, and went into the main room of my studio apartment. I
proceeded to happy dance. That thermometer level radiated out of me and I
DANCED – I shimmied and kicked and ska danced and booty danced and jumped as
very high as I could. I waved my arms like a lunatic and smiled till all of my
teeth shone bright.
This was more than relief at finishing a project for school.
This was pride and gratitude incarnate. This was my joy at having released a
clog in my emotional arteries. I’d moved something. Something big. And I danced
until I couldn’t dance no mo’.
I have released something big here – truth, despair, hurt,
trauma – I’ve let it go. And I’ve opened it to you. I’ve let it have its own purpose outside of my
experience. I’ve given it, and myself, life. It feels like I’ve surrendered
something I’d been holding on to. The clogged artery metaphor feels pretty apt.
But more, it was my throat, my voice, constricted by these stories – and now
that they’re out, birthed, something new can be said, or seen, or felt.
I am humbled by the process of putting this out into the
world. I do hope people enjoy it, or get
something out of it, or find their own voice through reading it. But the
personal gift I have gotten, I could not have predicted: the grin of sheer
bliss as I tucked into my bed last night. … and woke up with again this morning. 

acting · action · courage · faith · gratitude · joy · performance · persistence · poetry · recovery · school · spirituality · synchronicity · time

Alright Sports Fans

You know those montage-y frenetic moments in movies or,
well, Looney Tunes, where they play “Flight of the Bumble Bee” and everything
starts moving insanely quickly?
Well, it’s sorta like that. I feel like saying, Drivers!
Start Your Engines!
This morning, Monday of the beginning two weeks of
school/work insanity, I emailed my boss at my temp gig and asked her if I could
have Wednesday off. I also asked her to get a little more clear with me on when
this assignment ends, as it’s really vague, and I don’t like my income hanging
on “really vague.” So she said, Yes to Wednesday off, and that she’d love to
keep me into January, so let her get back to me on Thursday. So, Okay.
PHEW on Wednesday off – my crazy long day with evening
class, and now I can meet with my professor to talk about my final project –
due next Thursday. I emailed him this morning too and suggested what I think I
might do for my project – it might be a script involving the two heckler muppet
dudes. Yep. He wanted creative! I’m thinking of having them, as images of the
upper class, watch several scenes from the Shakespeare plays we’ve read this
semester – scenes where Shakespeare seems to be calling out the upper class.
He’s got a lot of commentary on
classism, and I found myself drawn to those pieces in all the works. So, we’ll
see. That does not seem like an “easy” thing to do. But, it could be fun – they
get all ruffled and heckle-y, and then maybe that bald eagle guy comes in at
the end (You can tell I’ve been influenced by the Muppet Movie advertisement at
bus stops…)
After I emailed him, I packed up my shit and went to school.
I knew that hanging out here would only mean distraction – facebook, cat, tea,
nibbling, general procrastinating. Luckily, both the girls I was supposed to
meet with this morning cancelled – which was totally HP doing for me what I
couldn’t do for myself, as I really didn’t have the time to meet with them, and
would likely have been distracted.
So, I went to school, and plunked down in the English
Department with my tea, my laptop, and my homework. I got pretty far. (Poem for
evening class, two singing critiques for Friday, printed thesis draft.) There’s
still a lot to do, but I am feeling better about it.
I have to do a teaching demo on Friday of the workshop I’m
piloting in the Spring – “Creativity and Spirituality”. I co-facilitated this
workshop last semester with the Director of Spiritual and Religious Life at
school, and it went pretty well. So on Friday, I have to demo a portion of the workshop
to my professor and my classmates. I’m not too worried about it – but I do need
to get my own script down a little more. Leading people through spiritual
processes – well, you have to have a degree of confidence in yourself and the
work, to come from a calm position, or else people who may already be nervous
about WTF is going to happen – am I going to speak in tongues? is there going
to be “G-d” stuff? – feel like they are being led by a knowledgeable guide.
Luckily for me, this is all work that I’ve done. Some of the
pieces for the full workshop next semester (3 times, 3 hours, for 3 different
groups of women) I haven’t done, I’ve created from my own imagination, but I
believe in them. The whole workshop is about helping the participants to see that
they can access creativity in a variety of modes, and to call that pathway by
which they access it “spirituality.” To begin (or continue) to understand that
we always have something to say, to give, to create, to invent, because we have
the un-tap-out-able well of creativity inside us already – we don’t have to
“hunt” for it, “work” for it, we just need to access it.
And sure, it sounds “woo woo” hippie shit, but, I believe
it. I don’t always remember it – and try to create from a place of desperation
or scarcity – but the real juice is always there.
So, that’s my workshop. I also have 4 reading responses and
a final paper to do for this class. … And a final paper and an end of semester
portfolio for my poetry workshop.
BUT, on top, next to, in spite of all this – the Universe
works without me – often.
I get an email this afternoon while writing with frenzied
fingers that a slot opened up in the auditions…and I can get in Sunday at
8:30pm, if I want it.
I want it.
Of course, this week of ALL weeks (cue “Bumble Bee”), I now
have to memorize 2 one minute monologues, get my headshots printed, and read up
on this Strindberg fellow. But … it’s general auditions for a bonafide theater
company in SF for their upcoming season in a bonafide theater – and *I’m*
auditioning. Holy Crow.
The very next email I get? From another theater company (no
lie) I emailed in my diligent action moment of a few weeks ago. They can’t fit
me in this time, but will keep my info on file. Fabulous.
Just when I was beginning to feel like I was watching myself
retract from the whole acting thing again, the Universe throws me a bone. I was
watching myself follow the pattern of “flurry of action, then nothing, flurry
of action, then nothing” – but, this time, with my small little actions, these
self care little moments of listening to myself, this comes along. It is just an audition, I have to keep reminding myself, because I get easily scared the f
out.
To counter the crazy “I have no idea what I’m doing,” I
called in help. I called Lorraine, my acting friend I called a few weeks ago.
We just spoke, and she gave me some good tips on the monologues I’m choosing, a
classic and a contemporary: Gertrude from Hamlet cuz I just read it– and The Flood from Vagina Monologues cuz I know it, as I’m cast in it at school in the
Spring! Plus she gave me head’s up on a place to get my headshots printed in
the city, precisely where I will be on Thursday at noon.
So, yeah, I’m alright. A little dazed. But, I did a lot of
work today (and some action a few weeks ago) and some unexpected bounty
happened. Fancy that.