You-Me

I feel you there

Just behind my eyes

Behind the long-since modified smile the world sees

I no longer wear a mask

Yet I know

I know

That the me I was before

The me that has yet to live

Still lives a ghostly life within

I get glimpses when I look

With the right sight

The way a child sees playmates

Where others do not

Other times you are gone

Do you leave me

Or do I leave you

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt 2016: ghost

Thanks to a new daily post community: https://guestdailyposts.wordpress.com/guest-pingbacks/

Culinary Delights

Your hands

I see them first

Long, tapered fingers

So sure, so sensuous

Your fingers holding the tuna

As you slice through it

My first thoughts

Make me blush

I want to be that food

I want to be touched

The way you touch it

I want you to slice me open

Arrange me

Take me into your mouth

Become one in your body

Inspired by The Daily Post: blush

The Dance*

When I was a little girl, I took dance lessons. From the age of 4 or so, I took, tap, jazz and ballet. I have vague memories of doing some kind of moving across the floor and the teacher saying “Jeté, jeté!” as we stepped from foot to foot.

I loved those lessons. There was a big dance recital, where my mom made costumes for me: I played a bumblebee and a munchkin.

When we moved to Dallas when I was 5, for some reason, the dance lessons stopped. It was a hectic year, and the business venture that my Dad had moved us there for failed, so after the year, we moved back to Houston, to a different part of town and a different set of circumstances. Finances were tight, so extras like lessons were put to the side.

But. I did not stop dancing. I would put my parents’ albums on the record player and dance my little heart out. This was way before MTV or dance videos. The only references I had were old Hollywood musicals, which I adored. So my dances were my own versions of what I had grown up watching: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn moving dramatically across streets and fields in passionate, emotive and song-filled scenes.

I had plenty to be working out. In my young life I had already suffered a great deal. But my trauma had been locked away tight in a safe room of my psyche, so I wasn’t consciously trying to tell any particular story through these dances. My body-mind just needed to move and my soul just needed to express through that movement.

Favorite songs were Wings’ “Live and Let Die” and most of the album “Whipped Cream” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Band. But I would dance to just about anything.

The dancing stopped somewhere around age 11. By that time, I had discovered food and TV and they became a kind of narcotic, a way to numb out the confusing feelings and thoughts that made life difficult. They became my number one coping mechanism, and saw me through until the teen years when other substances became available and appealing to me.

Did I dance again? Sure. At dance clubs in the 80’s and 90’s, where alcohol and often drugs were a part of the mix. At weddings, always somewhat self-consciously. There were a few attempts to go back to dance lessons so that as an actor I could be more marketable for musical theatre. I’ve danced in musicals and loved every moment. But the kind of dancing that I did in that living room back when? Nope.

Through my 20’s and 30’s, I had pics of me from that recital in my costumes, beaming. I think I even still have a bumblebee wing. Over the years, I have often used those pictures as self-reference, proof that there had been a time when I had been confident, happy in my body and free-feeling. I looked to those pictures to try to find hope that perhaps one day, I could find those ways of being again. Through much healing over the years, I have made a lot of progress. I go deep in my work as an actor and singer, and work from a place of a great deal of freedom often. But it has always still seemed to me that the girl I had been – with her total lack of self-consciousness, innocence and creative freedom – was to be forever out of my reach no matter how hard I worked for it.

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Then. Last week, a young director reached out to me and asked me to do his film. He’d had me in mind for the Woman in the script, he said, and he really, really wanted me to play her.

In the script, during the character’s most private inner moment, she transports herself through fantasy from her home bathroom to a gorgeous copper bathtub in a tiled tunnel in Central Park by the Bethesda Fountain. She is wearing a beautiful dress and a sax player is playing music in the background as she has this very free, very private, very joyful moment.

From the moment I read the scene, I imagined the woman dancing around the fountain.

I asked the director had he imagined the Woman staying in the tub in her private moment. He said yes, but that it was my private moment, and he wanted me to have complete freedom. (What a wonderful gift he gave me, that freedom. So grateful for his desire to collaborate.) So I had imagined my moments in the tub and was excited and curious for how the shoot would go.

I had not seen the location, so did not know that the tiled tunnel was a beautifully lit space that had arches in the background and copper hues, and that the tub would be placed in it, not near the fountain.

So that morning, as we arrived on location, when I saw the actual scene – the brick tunnel and the beautiful space that was surrounding the copper tub – and then heard the song the saxaphone player was to play, I knew that I had to dance out of the tub and around that beautiful tunnel.

And so on the first take, as the camera began to film, I began my private moment, made my way out of the tub, and I began to dance.

It was one of the most magical experiences I have ever lived. In the moments of my improvised dance, with the sax player playing for me and with me, the sun beginning to come up behind the fountain in the distance, hearing only the music and the echo of my own laughter, I felt myself dancing simultaneously as the woman I am right now and the little girl I was then. The tunnel and that living room became one across space and time. The joy that bubbled up through my body was total and whole, and it was such an honor to be in those moments bringing the Woman of the film and the director/writer’s vision to life.

Afterwards, we did more takes, and they were each wonderful but different in their own ways. There was no way to repeat that first take, and that was perfect too.

But I walked away from that shoot forever changed.

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There are moments in life where you feel that you are in the exact right place at the exact right time doing exactly what you were meant to do. In those moments, you can see that every other moment of your life has been a part of the making of this one magical moment. Every thing you’ve lived, every person you’ve met — the good, the bad, the ugly — it all makes total sense in those moments.

Those moments are astonishing. They are when I know I am a wondrous creation, a part of the whole that is this incredible Universe. I know in those moments that my life has been intricately designed, just as a rose has, or a peacock, or snowflakes. That nothing in my life – from the worst trauma to the most brutal pain – has been for naught. That it has all led to this moment in time, to this me that I have become.

That dance is forever in my heart now. It lives inside me, and it is the beginning of a whole new level of personal and creative freedom. I do not know what will grow from it, but I know that I have re-awakened something important inside, and I am so very grateful for that role finding its way to me, for giving me back the Dance.

#actorslife #danceforever #theheartremembers #itsnevertoolate #TheDanceoftheHeart

*Repost Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: dancing

This is a repost, but I really, really needed to re-read this today. I am feeling a bit lost, especially creatively. It feels like that connection with The Dance inside me is very faint if not non-existent – there’s been too much chatter going on inside lately that has nothing to do with joy, freedom and the sheer bliss of creation.

I needed to remember that in-between the astonishing moments of feeling like I am exactly where I am meant to be, there are moments of feeling totally lost. And each gives value and meaning to the other.

Sometimes I am dancing, sometimes I am stuck, or falling. Sometimes I am in the fetal position. Sometimes I am flat on my face.

I m reminded of a spiritual teacher who taught me to write a letter to myself during a time I am very, very happy and to save it for my unhappy self to read, to give me hope during the down times, to help me remember that there will be better times again. To remember the ebb and flow, the ups and downs. The times of movement and the times of apparent stasis. It has been a powerful exercise at times.

I will dance again, soon.

May we dance for each other when it is time to dance. May we dance for those who cannot hear their own music today.

 

 

Flight

I lay on my side

Face away from the door

Stay still, slow my breath

Pray he thinks I’m asleep

Then a breeze shocks my back

The sheet lifts, the bed shifts

Hot breath at my neck

No luck tonight, fear chokes my heart

I go into a trance, nothingness

The familiar comfort of the void

Leave my body, don’t need it

My soul and I, we float into the wallpaper

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: trance

That Man Behind the Curtain

So what? So what if I am not up to “par?” What if I am “substandard?”

What the hell does that even really mean?

When I dissect the judgements I have revolved my life around, it is as if I pulled the curtain back to reveal the sweaty, little man who is the voice of the Great Wizard of Oz.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

There is a Them I have made into a kind of God.

Others against whom I have constantly measured my worth, my performance, my right to be here.

Others who often know no better than what they’ve been taught to believe by the Them that they also believed was The Great Oz.

I’ve pulled the curtain back, and I see what I have been buying into.

It is time to ask different questions. Instead of “What’s wrong with me?” “What can’t I be more like that?” I now ask:

“Less than” …less than what?
“Unworthy of” …as decided by whom?
“Inferior” …to who’s idea of superior?

The standard. Who’s standard? Who sets the standard? The industry? Who is that exactly?

What if in trying too hard to live up to The Standard I overlook or even destroy something that could be truly extraordinary?

Pardon my French, but it has all been one big mind fuck if you ask me.

Well, the fuck stops here.

I belong where I say I belong.

I determine my own value.

I’ve been using the wrong gauge.

I’ve been using the wrong measuring stick, and I’ve been measuring myself against the wrong things. Random ideas I either imagine or have had impressed upon me by others.

No more.

I have another gauge within, one that runs truer than any other, and just like Dorothy’s power to go home again ended up being with her all along, it has been with me all along.

It is my own heart. It is my own unique blend of desire, creativity, will, love, joy, bliss, determination, work, craft and passion.

I belong because I am. And I am. Worthy.

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word prompt: substandard

Sexual Healing

Growing up in the 70’s, my sexuality was shaped by what are now considered to be pretty tame resources.

Remember that this was before the internet brought free porn into our homes, and nudity and sex acts were the norm in film and television.

It’s true: “free love,” second-wave feminism, women’s liberation, and the sexual revolution were making major strides in the 1960’s and 70’s. The 70’s saw many influential innovations. Edible underwear was invented. (Still being sold today.) Video Home Systems (or VHS) and Beta Systems were made available to buy in the mid-late-70’s, which the porn industry apparently mavericked for their retail use.

Like many middle class Americans, my parents didn’t have a VHS machine until the 80’s, so videos were not available to me. (We were also the last family I knew to get cable. My parents were against paying for TV for some reason. Maybe there were late night cable porn resources around in the later 1970’s, but not in our house.)

Despite there being many women who were battling for my future and the future of many young girls like me against the woman-as-sex-symbol stereotype, I remained steeped in the cultural and mass media imagery, messages and attitudes that kept that stereotype alive and well. And boy, did it all do a number on me.

I grew up in Houston, Texas, in a mostly white, middle class neighborhood.

Other than my brothers and the time this one guy was driving around the neighborhood without pants on, fondling himself, asking kids for directions, who I had the misfortune of being “exposed to,” I was not exposed to male nudity as a child.

But female nudity abounded, and shaped not only how I thought about myself and my body, but how I thought everyone else thought about me and my body.

So much so that the “me” in the sentence above and “my body” became synonymous in my mind. I WAS my body. My body was me. As in, I based my entire self worth on my appearance and whether or not I felt men were attracted to me.

(I still struggle with this encoding. But I digress. More to come on that later.)

Though I was born into the “Golden Age of Porn,” the “porno chic” years of 1969-84, I was not exposed to any of the films that were made famous during those years, notably Warhol’s Blue Movie, Mona, later The Devil in Miss Jones and Deep Throat. (They probably didn’t make it to mainstream theatres in Houston at the time, but even if they had, I’d never have gotten to see one.)

But we had magazines. Playboy and Hustler. Others. It was the photographic depictions of women in men’s magazines that primarily influenced how I saw myself as a woman.

My first memory of seeing and being influenced by a photo of a naked woman was actually a record cover, and this woman was not exactly naked. It was the cover of Herb Albert & The Tijuana Brass album “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” (1965.)


This was one of my parents’ favorite albums to play. I heard it often from an early age, and I loved dancing to the music, making up dances to the songs, which were saucy, sexy jazz concoctions.

But more than that, I was obsessed with the woman on the cover. I was attracted to her. (Maybe it was the appeal of the whipped cream. I was already way too into food: my eating disorder was gesticulating already.)

But it was more than that. On some level, I knew she was considered exciting, attractive and desirable, and I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

Also, TV shows such as “Love, American Style” Rowan & Martin’s “Laugh-In” were popular during my early years. Both had racy sexual references and innuendo and young women dressed in sexy outfits. From these shows, I learned that if you were sexy and young, you got positive attention from men. Think young Goldie Hawn dancing in those strobe lights in that green bikini with her painted body. The young women on the show actually wore babydoll dresses and Mary Janes because those were in fashion. Talk about confusing messages!

True story: If little me was asked at the time (when I was 4 or so) what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said “a go-go dancer.” I even had little patent white go go boots at 3!

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These were my role models. This was the kind of woman I wanted to be!

Later, I found my brother’s girlie mag stashes and would go in when they were out to pore over them. I was fascinated by the women’s bodies, so different than mine. I knew that I fell way short, but I remained hopeful that maybe someday, with enough hard work, I could create a body close enough to rate some man’s favor.

When I was old enough, I started to read the articles (yes, I really did) and the infamous “Letters to Playboy.” These were my education in what was interesting to men about women. Through them, I discovered what men really thought about women. What they really wanted of us. And it all had to do with our bodies.

I learned that I was here to be attractive to men. That what I looked like and how attractive men found me was my purpose on this earth. That there was little value to me other than my sex appeal, and that if I wanted any happiness on this planet, I better work hard to be and stay appealing to men.

And so I did. I became the perfect female consumer. I bought into it all hook, line and sinker. The beauty products, the clothes, the way of being in the world.

I transitioned from my brother’s hidden away men’s magazines to the magazines of my adolescence. Though they were women’s magazines – Teen, Cosmo, Glamour, to name a few – the messages of their content were actually perfectly aligned with the former’s messages about the female role in society. In these magazines I found my road map, the formulas for winning and keeping a man, 100 ways to keep him satisfied in bed, and how to stay looking young and sexy forever.

Every issue of these magazines had different versions of these same themes, over and over. (And if you buy these kinds of magazines today, they still do.) And I bought them and bought into them all, every time.

How I related to boys and then men was all shaped by that early imprinting. I look back and feel like I didn’t really get to have real relationships with men (and women — since they were always the competition for the men) until much later in life. Because through all my dating and early relationships, I was living from the outside in, trying to be the women I had seen in those magazines pages. Trying to find and live the life promised to me in the ads in the magazines and on TV if I succeeded in making myself into one of those women in the pictures.

It took several years after moving to NYC as a young woman for me to learn how to leave my apartment without make up on.

It has taken many more years for me to unravel all of that social and cultural conditioning to find within my own idea of being a woman, of my own sexuality, of what I feel is my intrinsic value and purpose on this planet. It turns out, none of it depends on what men or society think of how I look.

It has been a tough going, this “unlearning.” I was thoroughly brainwashed. I drank the Koolaid. Despite years of hard work to reprogram myself, I still find little pockets within me that harbor beliefs like that Victoria Secret models are better people and deserve more than women like me. Or that if only I looked like this model or that model, my life would be perfect. Little pockets of self-hate that dismiss my worthiness as a human because I do not have large boobs and perfect thighs.

There’s still a part of me that is scared writing this blog post. That I will be labelled as “ugly” just thinking these thoughts/going against the grain.

I take those parts by the hand when they reveal themselves to me and I whisper the truth in a loving tone and tell them I am so sorry they have ever felt anything less than beautiful just as they are, inside and out.

Today, I try my very best to love my real body. I pour my resources into that. (I no longer buy those magazines nor do I need they ideas they sell.)

I love being in my body, and I love my awakening true sexuality. I love feeling desirable. (Who doesn’t?) But I no longer seek to feel this feeling from outside of me.

Today, feeling attractive and desirable is on my terms, made from an internal collage made out of my true essence  – what I like and feels good to me. This inner imagery replaces the old template.

There is no longer a buxom babe at the centerfold of my spirit, beckoning to me with promises of happiness and fulfillment if I am able to become her.

There is me, and the unique beauty that I bring to the world this time I am here.

Like many women my now-age, I look back at the loss of all that time trying to be a sex symbol as a tragic loss of my life’s precious energy.

I waste no more such precious time today.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: edible