aspiration · authenticity · consistency · courage · death · fear · life · procrastination · responsibility · self-abandonment · writing

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

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Why aren’t you writing for a living?
Because it’s just a hobby, an escape.
Why aren’t you writing for a living?
Because it’s too hard and I’m not good enough.
Why aren’t you writing for a living?
Because I don’t know how to show up consistently.
Any of these types of questions ever cross your mind? Any of these questions
and immediate quashings?
This morning, that question came to me. I always dismiss my writing becoming a means or an ends.
I don’t make the time; I haven’t touched the essay my aunt said I should submit to
the New York Times’ Modern Love section. I haven’t crafted anything for the The
Sun
, a magazine at least 3 people have
suggested I submit my work to.
It’s just me
being me. How is that worthy or interesting or enough?
Because I saw someone else had clicked on it, I just re-read a blog I wrote in January, Remember What the Redwoods Told You, about being “told”
by the trees that I was going to live through my cancer. And as I read through
the end of it, about being given the chance to
be in my life, to make this time worthy, I think about
all the procrastination and fear I still let grab hold of my ankles.
This is not a self-flagellation blog; as you can read in
italics above, I already have plenty of those thoughts. But, they are just
thoughts, not facts. And thoughts can be changed. Through action.
“Act your way into right thinking,” the phrase goes.
I’ve “thought” for a while about waking up earlier (yes,
even earlier) to do some “real” writing.
It hasn’t happened yet, and that’s okay, but I know that I work better in the
morning, when my brain cells still have some anima.
And as I was finding this question arise in my meditation
this morning, goading me to find a legitimate reason for postponing my good, I
thought of a perfect resource friend I can reach out to about this, and
actually get something into action. And maybe deadline.
Because, as my acting friend told me earlier this week when
I asked her how she “makes” herself learn monologues, she answered, Deadlines.
She sets up deadlines by signing up for auditions, and makes sure she has a
back pocket filled with current monologues.
To paraphrase, Our growth can come as much from our actively
seeking it, as it can from being forced.
But, it helps to be pushed a little.
That’s what registering for these auditions is for me, a
push to get back into it, to not let another month and another month slide off
the calendar. To make this year “worthwhile,” to me means to actually do those things that I think are for other people,
people with talent or time or resources. Bull.
The only difference between them and me is action. Nothing
more.
A rallying, warrior cry sounds every day for me. It is my
choice to heed its call or to roll over and hit Snooze.
And yet, it is also my choice to condemn myself or not on the days
I do hit Snooze. As I wrote yesterday, there’s no use in beating myself
up for not being where I want to be – that doesn’t actually get me there
quicker.
What helps with all of this is accountability, which a
deadline is, but also what friends can be. I’ve been toying with the idea
(thinking, again!) recently of getting an “Action Buddy,” or “Accountability
Partner” whatever you want to call it.
I know this is a system that works for many people, and I
believe it could work for me. So, with all irony, I’m going to add “Get an
Accountability Buddy” to my list of personal actions… and see if I can hold
myself accountable to that!
Because there is no reason I’m not writing that is valid. I
know there’s grist here; I know there’s “enough” talent. I would love to take
actions that reflect that knowledge. Because, if you haven’t noticed, I seem to
think that Time is our most precious natural resource of all.

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adulthood · compassion · connection · courage · friendship · healing · leadership · perseverance · recovery · self-love · trauma · writing

Seeing Someone

Yesterday, I saw my new somatic therapist for the 2nd time,
and we’ve decided to continue to work together, for the next little
while. I don’t know, exactly, what changes will be wrought from it, but it’s
nice to have someone to talk to again who’s third party and kind and uninvested
in propping me up or giving me advice.
Which isn’t to say she isn’t keen on helping me recover and
heal, but she doesn’t really have any agenda except that. Which is nice.
At the end of the session, I said how it galls me that I was supposed to, all these years, work on trauma recovery and grieving, and now I
have to go through recovery from the trauma and grieving of cancer to even
get to that layer of healing and muck.
She said something heartening, which I’m not sure I agree
with yet, but maybe will eventually: That it’s all connected. That if we work
on one part, it’s pulling on all the others. Like a spider web, if I work and
tug and pull and excise over here, it’ll ripple across and affect the other
parts.
We’ll see. As always, the act of showing up is one of hope
that things (that I, my life and how I engage in or hide from it) will
change. I have hope, every time I call a friend or reach out for help or write
this blog – this blog is an act of writing myself out of the darkness.
In my “stats,” I see someone read that first blog called
“Cancer,” so this morning I went back to read it too. So much of what I wrote
about the recovery process was true and so many of the questions are still the
same, if not a little more in focus. My cousin is a doctor in palliative care,
and reads my blog (Hi, L.!), and she emailed me the other day after she’d read
my blog to say she’d never thought of life-threatening illness as trauma
before, but of course it is. And to thank me for the bravery of putting my
process of coagulation up for the help of so many.
It’s interesting to read back to that first blog, and to
read the virulent ambivalence of being “an inspiration.” And it’s something
that came up yesterday in my session: the desire to be someone who holds the
torch, and the desire to stop being the
f’ing person who holds the torch all the time.
The duality of being a leader, if you can call this that
(which, frankly, I’m coming to see it is), is that sometimes you want to just
march along with everyone else. You get tired of standing at the top of the
mountain alone to look out and see where you should go next, what horizons need
staking. You get tired of being the one who charges into the fray – of being
the person, as I wrote in that blog, who just “goes with it,” faces it, accepts
it.
AND YET, of course, for me, I want to be that person, too – I want to be the person who is a light for others; I want to be a teacher and a leader and an inspiration. I
want to exact positive change in the world.
Yesterday, in session, we spoke about vascillating between
both these feelings, and allowing it to be. It’s part of owning the all of
myself: the fearless leader, and the exhausted soldier. The tireless explorer,
and the guy who just wants to carry the horse oats and play cards in the tent.
I think part of my ambivalence is a conscious understanding
of what leadership might mean, too. To recognize, without slipping into
workaholism or unseeing “progress,” that I am, and have always been Both/And.
At some point, I also told her that I’d been scrolling
through my profile photos on Facebook just the other day, since I’d put a new
one up. And I came, on Tuesday, sitting in my car waiting to meet up with some folks,
to the photo of myself at graduation from Mills College in May of 2012. That I
stand with a cap and gown, long hair, and a “radiant smile,” I told her.
I told her how I began to cry, looking at that photo, out of
grief that that girl had to go, and would go, through all this. That she had no idea what was about to happen. That the innocence of that
moment and that glee was … time-limited. To see that girl, to know what she was
about to go through, to feel so sorry that she does and will, and still is, is
grief. To know that my right eyelid will never look quite the same, an eye
infection during chemo causing it to droop slightly, so that I can see it now,
though others can’t. To know what that graduation day meant to me – to accomplish
something, to put my energies in and to excel, learn, progress, and shine.
I suppose, truthfully, I can say the same for my current
profile photo. Almost 2 years later, headshots for theater gigs. The result of
something I’ve also put my energies and monies and progress toward in order to
shine the way I know that photo does, too.
It’ll take some time, as I wrote in that first cancer blog,
to heal from all this. But I am a leader with a torch–though, please,
sometimes, can you be one too?

authenticity · community · confidence · courage · encouragement · intimacy · laughter · vulnerability · writing

But We’ve Got The Biggest Balls of Them All!

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When I was living and teaching ESL in South Korea, I earned
a nickname: Ballsy Mollsy.
It was not uncommon for me to approach a stranger in a bar
and ask inappropriate questions. Or, maybe I was with a group of friends, and
wanted to steer the conversation in a more exciting direction, and would pose a candid question to a group that would earn laughs, but few answers. Maybe I would just stumble out to the next bar in search of new conversation without
telling anyone, but that was more stupid than ballsy, fyi.
As chance would have it, one day last month, I attended a
play my friend was performing in, and I ended up sitting next to the 25 y.o.’s
mother. “How did it even come up?,” he answered via text. When I told him, he
replied, “That’s right, I forgot you talk to strangers.” (Indeed, how we met.)
I do. I talk to strangers. I mean, how are we ever to meet
anyone new if we don’t talk to them? Like the other day, waiting for my
burrito, I ended up waiting on the bench next to this guy I see
around my neighborhood a lot, who I’ve seen working at the café on the corner. We
struck up a conversation, turns out he’s a nice guy, we had a pleasant chat about movies,
and he went off with his burritos for himself and his girlfriend.
It’s not always about “meeting dudes;” in fact, it’s more
than often not about that. I just like to find out about people, not walk around like
the Ants that they talk about in A Waking Life who, unseeing, run into one another and then walk around and continue
on their way, antennae down. I mean, that’s what New York is for. 😉
I suppose I learned this from my mom. My mother is
notoriously gregarious. To the point, growing up where it was embarrassing, and
not a little evidence of her manic tendencies. But, still. We’d be in a store,
she’d exchange more than a cursory Thank You with the cashier or salesperson. We’d be on a
bus, and she’d ask the woman next to her about the museum she’d just
visited, based on that metal entry pin tacked to her lapel.
Sometimes, she’d flirt with the cashier or waiter or
whomever. There was a base note to her conversation that wasn’t just cordial or conversational. Pre-divorce, this was a little unnerving.
But. A few years ago, she recounted a story to me that she
held as an exemplar of growth and self-aware change.
She was in Zabar’s (Manhattanites will know), and was in an
aisle next to a couple. She could overhear them debating which of the cream
cheeses they should get. If the tofu spread really tasted like cream cheese, if
the chive was better than the dill?
My mom. Had an opinion. She always does.
The success came when she didn’t offer it. She reported to me that she realized they were not
asking for her help, they didn’t
need her help, and she picked up the chive tofu cream cheese she loves, and
went on her way.
Trust me. This is a big success. To “mind your own business,
and have business to mind” is a very important boundary to learn. I was amused
at how proud she was of herself, too, like she knew that she was learning
something, that she was changing something.
I mean, it’s part of the reason our relationship has been
able to grow where the one with my dad has faltered: she really is trying to
change. And it shows.
Like all of us, change and growth takes time, isn’t simple,
and sometimes means taking contrary actions.
But sometimes, how we behave in the world influences others,
too. How she interacted in the world helped to inform how I do. Now, sure, I’m
not Holly Go Lightly everywhere I go. Sometimes I wish I had a burka. But
sometimes, the purchase of a burrito is transformed by the simple act of
connecting with another human being.
I leave you with this: I received a card in the mail this
week from a friend. In it, she thanks me for what I write here and on my
Facebook; that reading “me” helps to buttress her flagging spirits.
I told her how much that meant to me. How much it means to
me that my interactions with the world are making a difference; that I’m not
telegraphing into deep space for purely selfish and masturbatory reasons. I
never really know if how I’m choosing to express myself here is “too much” or “too honest,” and
I have to trust that those of you who choose to click on the link to read me
do so because you find something here, even if it be self-congratulations for
not being as bipolar 😉
To hear that how I behave in the world influences and
affects people for the better is one of the greatest gifts of having big balls. 

community · inspiration · love · persistence · service · spirituality · willingness · writing

Did you live happy? Did you live well?

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I don’t really believe in heaven and hell. I suppose if I
believe in anything, I believe in some kind of version of reincarnation. Not
that my soul gets inserted into some new being on the planet, but that the
anima that makes my heart pump disseminates into other things – surely, the
worms, and dirt, and grass that’ll be fed by me, but also, I feel like there’s
some way our spirit gets to try again.
Maybe not. Maybe we’re all worm food. But I think about the
concept I’ve heard that we choose the life that we’re born into. That
we somehow float cosmically one step outside of this reality, and when it’s
time, we are born into the lock that our life provides the key for – and the
lessons and situations we walk into in life are what turns the key. Toward
what? Who knows. Enlightenment sounds like such a heavy word. I don’t know that
there’s ever any “fixed” or “done” for us. I think that’s part of what our
souls, for lack of a better word, enjoy about the whole thing.
It’s sort of like an infinite book of Choose Your Own
Adventure. We’ve all heard me talk about how the lessons we’re here to learn
aren’t always the ones we want; it’s not like I would have chosen some of the circumstances that have surrounded my life
or the situations that occurred in it. But, on some level, perhaps I have and
did. And perhaps for some benevolence greater than my own. – Or not.
Sometimes I ask my cat what she did in former lives to be a
cat this time. What she was before? And who she bribed to get to be as pretty as
she is?
Sometimes I think about the Indigo Girls’ song Galilleo, and how maybe the being we’re born into next time will
have so much baggage from our fucking things up, or not “evolving” enough, to be
the next great writer and artist, or inventor fixing the world.
Sometimes I sit home sick and watch Saving Grace on Netflix and write a blog about theology. Like
today.
I have heard about the whole Pearly Gates thing, and we (or
Christians, at least) get asked questions. And I wonder if I were asked the
questions in the title of this post, what my reply would be? And if it will
continue to change, as it’s surely changed before.
A friend of mine has a mission statement for herself and her
life, and squares the actions and activities she engages in against it. If it
doesn’t jive, then she finds a way to align her wants with its message: To be
of maximum service to myself and others, for the good of all involved.
The other day, as I was sitting in my car, waiting for
the call with my potential new somatic therapist, I was struck with a phrase for
me and for my life that feels pretty appropriate. It was less a mission
statement at the moment, and more a simple observation of the sum total of my actions & endeavors, at least in
adulthood: To voraciously expand my consciousness of love.
It’s sort of what I have been doing lately, I think. It’s
sort of what I think I want to continue to do. It’s a tall freaking order, for
sure. And it’s uncomfortable and vulnerable and occasionally plain biting, but
at its base, at my base, I think it’s a pretty good mission for my soul to have chosen.
Once, in meditation, I got this edict for my life: To love,
as much as you can. What comes to me from that is that it’s also really as much
as you can on any given day. Do your best on any given day, and that level will
change, and sometimes will be really freaking low. But if I believe, which I
do, that I am here for a purpose, and if I believe today that that purpose is
to voraciously expand my consciousness of love, then it’s sort of like when
they put those bumpers in the gutters of the bowling lane: I’ll never be too far off center. 

adulthood · authenticity · change · intimacy · sex · sexuality · writing

Eat, Pray, Sex

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“If I understand you correctly,
this whole year is about your search for balance between devotion and pleasure.
I can see where you’ve been doing a lot of devotional practices, but I’m not
sure where the pleasure has come in so far.”
“I ate a lot of pasta in Italy,
Felipe.”
“Pasta, Liz? Pasta?
“Good point.”
Eat
Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
Unless you choose to live a life of asceticism, you are
bound to come to a point when you have to attend to your body’s needs. There
are so many ways to go about this, and we all probably have our own patterns
for doing so.
There’s serial monogamy, adultery, the hands-on approach.
There’s serial hooking up, prostitution, polyamory, and even the somewhat “normal”
approach of having an intentional monogamous relationship.
In this age when sex outside of marriage is often par for
the course, we really do have a buffet of options. And chances are that we’ll eat
from one tray or another at various times and emotional states in our lives.
There is no handbook for this. There really are no rules. As
the saying goes, “You can do anything you want—as long as you’re willing to
accept the consequences.” Sometimes, consequences of actions are marvelous; not
all consequences are negative.
I remember the first time I had sex in adulthood sober. I
honestly hadn’t had sober sex since I was in my teens, if then. God, it was awkward. I
was so aware of everything: the way the
room looked, the sound of our breathing, the exact touches. And also, very
aware of the intimacy of the act.
That is something that drunken sex does not allow for. You
might get off, but you are so far from present; this is not an intimate act.
SURE, it can be and was fun; as Dr. Seuss puts it,
It is fun to have fun
But you have to know how.
And I’m not sure I ever really knew how. I mean, I lost my
virginity while I was drunk. Which isn’t uncommon in many of the women I
know.
So, to exist, sit, breathe, be in the intimacy of sex with
another person – well, it really is no wonder I was celibate for so long! Though,
I can admit, too, that distanced/detached sex is also very possible sober.
Which is usually how it’s been for me. Like I told you earlier this week about
the two-way mirror: I may offer you entrance, but I’m not giving you anything
in return. Here’s part of another poem I wrote during that celibacy time:
every inch closer you come toward
me is
every inch farther from myself
that I am.
so by the time your cock is pressing
against
the putty of my cervix,
i have found a home inside your
wall.
(And that was with a boyfriend!)

I suppose part of my reason for sharing these poems with you
recently is to normalize the experience for me, as I think I’m bringing these poems
to my Writer’s Group today – my all male
Writer’s Group. Though there’s absolutely a titillation factor to my work, the
reality is, this is my writing, this is what I’m working on, was working on
when I wrote them, and I guess, if there is feedback on how to improve my
craft, I want it. But, I also know it may be hard (forgive me) for people to look
past the word “cock” and get toward the structure and craft.

We’ll see. I haven’t decided yet if I’m bringing these poems
there. It feels exposing, but then again, sharing any of my writing feels exposing.
And I guess that’s what I’m getting at – showing up without
retreating. To know that I am safe and thereby be able to show up with vulnerable work, to show up physically and
emotionally during sex. To let myself be present with the cacophonous
heartbeat of it all.
I have little experience being present in flagrante delicto; but, by
escaping it, I do think I’m missing out on some of the fun.

beauty · love · poetry · writing

Grandfather/advised me:/Learn a trade/I learned/to sit at desk/and condense/No layoff/from this/condensery ~ Niedecker

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For reasons unknown, I reached for the book of “Modern
Poetry” that I bought for a class during my undergrad days. It lines my shelf with the
Norton Anthology of Poetry by Women, one by Langston Hughes, and even a book on
Greek Mythology that I haven’t wanted to part with in the 10 (jeez, can’t
believe it’s been such a short time!) years since undergrad.
Maybe part of this memory-lane path was struck by my friend’s
photo on Facebook of an abandoned shopping cart in New Brunswick, New Jersey,
where I spent my undergrad years. Maybe I just wanted to read some poetry this
morning.
It was interesting to me in grad school, one of the teachers
asked us, poets all, if we had any books of poetry at home. My shelves, besides
those few relic anthologies I rarely look at, pretty much housed some novels and a bunch
of “spiritual” books.
I kept a few of the mandatory books we were required to
purchase during those two years at Mills, and even found myself going to the
poetry section of the bookstore once, purchasing from titles alone, Mary Karr’s
Sinners Welcome and one with this lovely
title:
            If
there is something to desire,/
            There
will be something to regret./
            If
there is something to regret,/
            There
will be something to recall./
            If
there is something to recall,/
            There
was nothing to regret./
            If
there was nothing to regret,/
            There
was nothing to desire.
by Vera Pavlova.
Tell me that’s not a great title! And message.
Poetry is a strange thing to “read.” There are some books you want to read page after page, because it does read like a novel, and you
are impelled forward through the pages of the “story,” the landscape.
But, much of poetry insists that you sit with each piece,
each page for longer than 30 seconds.
Much of poetry, in my own limited estimation, calls you to
allow the words to melt like a fine piece of dark chocolate. You sense the
bitterness, the sweetness, the texture, the mouth-feel. You turn it over and
under your tongue, attempting to pry all the secrets out of this square bit of
matter before it is gone. And afterward, you notice around inside your mouth
where the taste remains, what it reminds you of. If you “liked” it.
Poetry is like that.
A marathon, not a sprint. An 8-course meal, not fast food.
Here is a piece from Pavlova’s book I shall choose at
random, because I actually haven’t read the book, though I bought it two years
ago – because poetry requires that time, and most times, us modern folk won’t
allow it. So, here’s to taking a moment to savor the delicacy of language:
Eternalize me just
a bit:
            take
some snow and sculpt me in it,
            with
your warm and bare palm
            polish
me until I shine…

aspiration · authenticity · theater · vulnerability · writing

"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." ~ Stan Lee or Voltaire?

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I recently had this text exchange with a friend of mine:
You know, whenever you in particular “like” something I’ve
written, it makes me think that I have something worthy to say and a good way
of saying it. – This scares the crap out of me. – Knock it off.
“Both those things are true! And isn’t that kind of fear
thrilling?”
*thrilling*
I hoped the sarcasm carried through text.
Last night, I spoke to a group of gathered women, sharing
with them my experience, strength, and hope for a little while.
Afterward, the feedback included sentiments like, “That was
beautiful, eloquent, articulate. It was like a short story. You speak like a
writer. That was like a TED Talk.”
Little do they, or you, know, that a tiny little shoot of a
dream tucked inside my ambitious heart is to be a TED talk person – on what, ver vaist, but I suppose that’s not my business yet.
This Sunday, I’m scheduled to attend a small writer’s group
that’s just beginning, friends and friends of friends. It’s supposed to be supportive,
just evoking some words onto a page, doesn’t have to be Faulkner. But one
suggestion is to bring some writing we’re working on.
And, my brain says, I don’t write.
Here’s what I say when people ask me if I’m writing: Well, I
do this blog, but other than that, I’m focusing on theater right now.
I don’t really write.
I know this blog is something. And I know that it’s worthy
of being written for me and for those of you that enjoy it. I (sometimes) know it’s not a
“brush-away” thing, but it’s private, still, sort of. It’s not a public venue,
really; it’s not something to read at a writer’s circle, or submit to a
magazine or journal. And I feel really unclear about what kind of venue this, my, kind of writing belongs in.
I do also know that I am focusing on theater right now. To
use the metaphor again of my internal round table (well, it’s rectangular, but
you catch my drift), all of them/us want to act right now, and only
half-heartedly do they/we want to write, in a professional capacity.
I know one of the detractors is fear. And that’s alright, I
don’t have to tackle all my demons or desires at once.
A friend once told me this: The only difference between fear
and excitement is breathing.
That kind of fear, the fear that I might have something
worthwhile to say and share and give. Something people want to read and be
touched and changed by. Something that gets underneath the armor of separation,
and helps us all to feel a little more vulnerable, aware, to smile & laugh & relate. Yeah, the
fear of that kind of power, and responsibility, is pretty big.
So, I guess I’ll just keep breathing.