For Laura

I know some incredible women.

It is one of those women’s birthday today.

Some people just blow you away. Laura inspires me daily. She is an artist, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. A leader. A teacher. An activist. A community contributor. An active citizen.

She lost her 20 year old brother to suicide in 2000. Rather than fall into despair, she has used her grief to create, educate, help and heal.

Read about one of her creations, Arts & Dreams, and the incredible work they do here.

Enjoy her art work here.

Laura reminds me to live creatively, lovingly, with ample doses of self-forgiveness.

I am so lucky she was born and that I know her.

She Is
Scarlet lips
Piercing chocolate eyes
Portals who see your soul
Lives in brush strokes
Of love and thoughtful heart
Colors rich with knowing
Midwife of self-love
Earth angel saving
wretched alone-hearts
One mantra at a time

Clown School Daze

Today marks the completion of my five week clown and commedia extravaganza.

I am not the same person that I was five weeks ago. I am different in ways I don’t even comprehend yet.

I am exhausted in the best of ways having truly spent myself each day.

In clown, if you let yourself, you open up like a little flower.

I fell in love over and over again with my fellow clowns. My heart broke open daily and then expanded several sizes and is bursting from my chest.

The world is shinier. I hear music everywhere. I make up little songs.

I carry the moments of courage, of tragedy, of brilliance, of mess, of genius, of laughter, of wonder, and of the amazing live theatre we made together these weeks with me forever.

I found out some very important things along the way.

I am too tired to try to articulate them today. I know they will be revealed in my future work.

I am sated, for the moment, and I celebrate these weeks.

My appetite will return.

But for today, I am sated.

And grateful.

How to Move a Mountain

Every time I start a new project, I am terrified I will not be able to do it.

Every. Single. Time.

This terror is not my initial response. My first response is elation. Excitement. Passion. Thrill.

This is a delightful and short-lived phase of my process. Much sooner than I would like, the excitement and celebration morphs into abject doubt and fear.

Suddenly, I am overwhelmed by the work ahead of me. My mind makes it all seem like an enormous mountain that I am at the base of, seemingly without any equipment or wherewithal of how to surmount it. It is like some weird fog of “forgetting” comes over me and seduces me into believing that:

  1. I do not have any business embarking on this endeavor, and
  2. I do not have a clue as to how to do anything.

I am grateful to have a partner in life, my husband, who very fortunately has borne witness to my process over and over again. (He was actually the first person to point it out to me.)

While his reminder to me that this is “just a part of my process” does not in any way change my process, it does allow me to find somewhere within the knowing that “this too shall pass.” The knowing that this is not the end of my process. That this is actually letting me know, in a way, that I am on my way. As in, the fear and doubt kick in because I am entering into my creative process. It is a sign I am doing what I love.

That knowing makes moving through that phase a bit easier. Then I can recall, if need be, that I have felt this doubt and fear every time in the past. I can reference back and remember that every time in the past, I not only survived, but that I even succeeded in accomplishing what I took on in the end.

Awareness is everything, they say. That I have found to be true. If only awareness erased the anxiety! But I have found that only action alleviates the anxiety (to some degree.) I am lucky to have learned that as well.

My antidote to the fear and doubt is this: when it sets in, as it always will, I make sure to start the work right away. I begin the work NO MATTER WHAT, and as soon as possible, and I continue to work at it daily. I do it in chunks, and in this way, I navigate the treacherous waters of the part of me that wants to interfere with my creative endeavors.

The part of me that Steven Pressfield writes about valiantly fighting. If you are not familiar with his work, do yourself a favor and check him out. His books have been invaluable to me in my learning how to work with myself and my resistance.

And so I prevail. Not in spite of the resistance, but alongside it, through it, with it.

I am writing this as a reminder to myself as I have just begun a new project and after being very excited about it for a day or two, just about an hour ago, I got really scared and filled with doubt.

What the hell was I thinking? I cannot do THAT! I am not equipped. I cannot handle it. Reasons flood my mind as to why it was a bad idea. Dread filled my gut.

So what did I do? I took two actions in support of the project before I could fall into paralysis or start dreaming up ways to get myself out of the commitment. And I am writing this. And I am feeling somewhat better.

The jitters and the fear are still there, just waiting to take over. But for today, I have held them at bay and given more attention to my work. And somewhere in the mix I feel inside, there is a knowing.

After all, this is all just a part of my process. I am right where I supposed be.

The man who moved a mountain was the one who began carrying away small stones.

Ancient Chinese Proverb

Inspired by The Daily Post Word Prompt June 10, 2016: mountain

Morning Glories

As I wrote the other day, I am currently in a five week-long physical theatre intensive, including clown and commedia.

One week in, and I am joyfully astonished (and exhausted.) My face and sides ache from laughing. My mind has been blown repeatedly by the beauty of the other souls that daily become more and more alive as the class progresses. My heart has expanded and feels raw and tender and open in new ways. Many tears have fallen, from joy and wonder, from deep wells of sadness that come as old rusty parts of my soul are freed from their societal binds.

You see, clown is about exploring the four year-old inside. The little one you were before socialization caused you to “grow up” and be serious.

Before the body forgets to play and becomes blocked by The Block of Cool (as in, gotta be cool, man — gotta suppress this or that to be one of the cool kids.) The Block of Nice (Gotta be a good girl/boy if you want anyone to like you.) The Block of Polite (Gotta be polite to fit in and be a part of society.) The Block of Being Appropriate (Gotta do what everyone else is doing no matter what or you’ll stand out and the bullies will see you or you will be humiliated.)

So as we’ve been playing this week, we’ve been getting up underneath our adult skin suits and back into the wonder, the joy, the big, messy fun of acting with enthusiasm, leading with our hope, and the desire to have fun and make others laugh with us, at us.

It is an honor – a gift – to see someone’s unadulterated humanness. To really see who each person is underneath all the tricks we’ve learned to protect ourselves.

I am blown away by the exquisite beauty and brilliance of each person in the class.

Down the street, one of the buildings has some flowers blooming on part of it’s front wall. There’s a beautiful cascade of what looks like lilac that I was drawn to the first day during lunch break. What I did not notice then is that alongside the lilac are morning glories. (They were not blooming that first day.)

But the second day of class, I walked by the storefront again, and there they were, in all their, well, glory!

I was floored and just stopped and stared in wonder.

Then the next day, they were gone! (Upon closer inspection, they were there, but had withdrawn back into their tightly wrapped buds.)

The next day, half were out again, the others were in different states of the bloom process.

The flowers’ journey seems to mirror our class. We are all at our own different states of “bloom” in our work of rediscovering our unsocialized selves. We all have started the class in different places, and we will end in different places. But along the way, we are all blooming at different times. And sometimes, we are each beginning to show ourselves out in full bloom. It is astonishing to witness.

I cannot wait to see what will bloom next week.

6F6WTxRBRmi9aEOdGcOOWg

Places!

she stands still

listening to the audience

beyond the curtain

seated out past the stage

there’s a drone, a buzz

there’s a fish swimming in her belly

heart pounding

blood feeling electric in her veins

the adrenaline rush of excitement

that familiar moment of panic

will the words be there

will her body remember the moves

then comes the moment of hush

as the lights dim to black

the exquisite agony of the few seconds before

the curtain rises

then she glides out

enters into the sacred

and the ride begins

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: swallow

Messy Is As Messy Does

Messiness has gotten a bad rap.

From childhood on, I was taught to value tidy and clean over cluttered and dirty.

Being seen as a “mess” is something to avoid at all costs today. There is shame in being seen as messy.

Look at any social media feed. Selfie taking has been developed into an art form. There’s been an increase in nose jobs, and the reason for them? It is people wanting to look better for their selfies! No one, for the most part, is proudly posting their mess. Unless it is an apartment reno in process or a confessional “staged mess” to make a humorous point of some kind.

With such socio-cultural pressure, it is no wonder that I learned to strive for perfection in all things, especially the presentation of my self.

I literally dreaded being seen without makeup or with a hair out of place.

And God forbid I was to have a negative emotion! Shove that way down, baby! Slap a grin on it and pose.

Trouble is, the very nature of life is change. And change, my friends, is messy.

Ergo, life is messy.

It has been quite an unraveling, this perfection mechanism. I’ve had to unpack a load to get to my mess.

And once I found my mess, I had to come to love it.

I will be honest. at first, all I wanted to do was get rid of it!

Thankfully, I have some teachers in my life who are artists. Artists know the value of mess. They helped me understand that it is in my mess that my talent lives.

And so began an embracing. Of my mess. Of change. Of life.

It has been challenging at tines, sure. This is not an overnight process.

But boy is it incredible.

My home is neat and tidy. I am an organized woman. I crave order.

But I relish getting messy and allowing myself to be seen in my mess too. And the most fulfilling parts of my creativity are gloriously messy!

Today, I am a love-able mess living a messy, wonderful, creatively fulfilling life. And I say that with pride, not apology.

Messy is as messy does is more than fine for me.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: messy

Risk Aversion*

I read my writing aloud in public for the first time two weeks ago.

I began this blog a year and a half ago as a way for me to begin to break the silence and shame I felt inside.

You see, I grew up in an environment that encouraged me to suppress my feelings and my true thoughts. In essence, I learned to hide my truth.

Because of things that had happened to me when I was young, I was afraid that to speak my truth would bring pain to others in my family. I needed their love, so I learned very early on to present a version of me that would be pleasing for them and others. It was literally a matter of survival, keeping my truth hidden.

Additionally, problems in our family were not acknowledged verbally for the most part. We pretended to each other they did not exist. If it was something that absolutely could not be hidden, there was a real strong pressure to keep the family problems secret, to keep them inside the home. I was not verbally warned not to seek help. But I knew it was considered dangerous.

So I learned to keep my true self buried deep inside, hidden far away from my family, and from the outside world.

I got so good at it, I lost touch with my own true self. I had hidden it so well, it became hidden from even myself.

I am a performer, so I need to be able to use my truth to reveal the truths of the characters I play. I learned to go deep within, but I found that as much as I loved bringing what I could to my work, there were internal tensions that made it very challenging. And so I began to embark on unraveling those tensions, to see what was underneath, to find more freedom and to expand my capacity to reveal through my work.

It has been an amazing process. I did not set out to, but I have ended up finding my self in the process. I’ve been making a deep excavation within, bringing out the remains into the light.

It has been excruciating at times, terrifying, wondrous, exquisite, mind-blowing, beautiful, sad beyond belief. But most of all, it has been a becoming whole.

In the process of finding me, I discovered that I wanted to be able to own and share my truth without fear or shame. So I started to practice doing so.

First in small, safe ways. To trusted people. Then, I began increasing the risk level, expanding my level of comfort by extending myself into the world in ever-widening circles.

This blog has been a hugely gratifying experience. It has been so important for me share my true internal experience, my real creativity, here. There have been times I have felt so fearful after hitting the publish button…it has felt so risky…what if someone in my family reads it? What will they think of me? If people know this or that, will they see me differently? Will they judge me, label me, only see me this way or that?

I realized that I was so afraid of only being seen for what has happened to me or what I have done, the mistakes I have made, or what I have NOT done or accomplished. I didn’t have a sense of being valuable just as I am, not what I do, did, will do, haven’t done.

The blog and posting has been stretching me in so many great ways. It has also helped me learn to let go of needing to be seen a certain way in order to feel valuable, safe or lovable.

What I did not expect was how amazing it would be to have people read and then reach out to share back. That has been and continues to be such a gift. (So thank you.)

And then, I had the opportunity to submit a piece I adapted from a blog post for an evening of work written by women on what it means to identify as a woman.

When I began writing this blog, I had never, ever intended to read my work anywhere, but there I was, sending it in, in hopes of being chosen, so I could share my work live, in person. (What?!)

When it was selected, I was ecstatic. And terrified.

Every childhood-conditioned muscle in my body was braced for trouble. Every old voice that wanted to keep me silent was working on my psyche: Who was I to think I had something of value to share? What if I upset people? What if someone was unhappy with what I had to say?

In the week before the event, I was questioning my sanity in having chosen to do it.(What was I thinking?! Why was I putting myself through this?!)

The fear and the voices continued right up until showtime and as the first readers read their work.

And then, my name was called. My turn. I gathered together my courage and began the long walk down the aisle, my heart pounding in my chest.

And then three steps from center stage, I suddenly felt something click inside. When I stepped into the light, I just knew in my bones that I was in the right place at the right time. I felt a sense of home inside. I felt warm. I felt safe.

What an amazing experience! It was an experiment, but it turns out I love sharing my words live, and also experiencing the words of the others involved. Who knew?

I am so grateful to whatever healing force inside me has been leading me on this journey to be free. It is a beautiful thing to break free of the shackles of one’s own past and to be able to freely express one’s own self.

*(Written 10/17/17, but I used a draft from Oct. 1 and didn’t realize I needed to change the date before publishing it! So here it remains, looking like I wrote it Oct. 1. But I promise I wrote it 10/17/17.)

Reposted in Response to The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: risky