Maybe Someday, Button

Maybe someday I will…

Feel confident about my talents

Love my thighs

Forgive “God” for not giving me what I secretly demand of life

Appreciate my own heart

Speak up for myself in the moment instead of going blank until it is too late

Embrace my imperfections

Drink enough water

Go to sleep simply

Leave my phone out of the bedroom

Be able to do three pull ups

(Do one pull up)

Stop caring so much what I think others will think of me

Spend more time in a day talking positively to myself than I do negatively

Really start living

Inspired by The Daily Post Word Prompt: maybe

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.

 

 

Me Too

It is my intent to remain loyal to my purpose in writing this blog. My intent is to be living out on the skinny branches, which is not always comfortable, often downright scary. It means risking writing about what I care about, even if it may be controversial to others.

In support of my fellow humans today, I wish to share the words of my friend, Olivia Petzy. Olivia is an actress, a writer, host, an improvisor…and she’s one of the biggest-hearted, sharpest and funniest people I know. There are a zillion reasons why I would want to share her with you. But today, it is about something serious.

Olivia shared this on Facebook in response to all of the postings of the “Me Too” movement. The “Me Too” movement, in case you are not on Facebook, is a movement that was started by Alyssa Milano to give people a sense of how many people are affected and have been affected by sexual harassment and assault. It seems to have originally read like this:

“Suggested by a friend: ‘If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.'”

It caught on, and women began to copy and paste and post.

I wanted to share what Olivia wrote because it goes deeper and asks questions that we need to be asking. I wish to share it because I think that unless questions like these and others are asked and discussed, nothing will really ever change.

It is uncomfortable to ask these questions. But change is uncomfortable by its very nature.

Olivia wrote:

I stand in solidarity with every woman and person writing “me too.” I hear you and I believe you and it was not your fault and you did not deserve it. I have also failed you in many ways by not speaking up for you or reaching out to you. I am sorry, fellow suffering human beings. I am aware and I am doing the work.

I need to ask: Why must we out ourselves and relive trauma and pain to help you understand? Why must we cut small pieces of our hearts out and toss them to you as a sacrifice in the hopes that you’ll jump on it and tear into it and somehow taste our fear and our grief and our anger? Why must we come out in droves in the hopes of reaching some (apparently) impossibly high number that will spur you to believe us once and for all and take action? Why must we give of ourselves over and over and over?

Are you seriously saying you didn’t know? We’ve told you. We’ve told you with our words and our body language and our actions and our fading away into the background and our quietness and in a million other ways detectable to those giving a damn and paying attention.

Why aren’t YOU writing “Me, too”? As in “I, too, have been complicit in the pain, suffering and abuse of women and non-binary people through either my own despicable words/actions which I deeply regret, recognize and am actively working to change or through my cowardly inaction as I am a beneficiary of our patriarchal society and have not spoken up even when I knew something was wrong or through a combination of the two.”

Must we do EVERYTHING for you?

Oh, and of course, because you already knew it, because I’m a woman, because I live in the world, because I go out in public, because I’m a woman, because I exist: me fucking too.

I am grateful to Olivia for voicing these things, and grateful to you for reading them here.

My heart is hurting because it still seems such an epic task to bring real, lasting attention to this real problem in our society, and yet I know to anyone who is a “Me too,” this is a huge thing that alters one’s life forever in a myriad of ways.

That that disconnect still thrives in our society terrifies me. It seems insane to me that this has to be spelled out again and again.

Will this ever be understood on the scale in which it exists for the “victims?” What will it take?

#MeToo

P.S. On Facebook, some men also began to post their “Me too’s,” so some amended the language to include men.

Today, a dear friend (who is transitioning) altered it to read: “If all the HUMAN BEINGS OF ANY GENDER who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.”

I love that. I changed my copied/pasted post to read like his. Because of course, I posted “Me too” too.

Some women may feel that including other genders takes away something. I think it is both a male/female problem and also a person-to-person problem, so I say let’s get it all out there and see how prevalent both are.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: loyal

To the Core

I used to hate myself.

Seriously. I hated just about everything about me. I was fixated on the way I looked: I felt like a monster, something grotesque, misshapen, disgusting.

This was painful, and difficult. It is hard to relate and be in the world when you have that kind of hatred for your body.

But as I look back, the most painful kind of hatred I felt towards myself was the hatred I felt for the ways I felt and thought. I felt tormented by my own mind and feelings and sought escape in every way imaginable, including close contemplation many times and one failed attempt at ending my own life. I could not get away from this internal self I so hated. I felt like a freak trapped inside a monster’s body.

I wasn’t born with that kind of self-hatred. It developed slowly over time in my early years following trauma that created a kind of split from my own core. Losing connection to my core made me vulnerable to the outside world in a way that was devastating.

With a healthy core intact, dealing with bullies and the other social pressures at school is painful and impactful but does not warp one’s self-perception.

With a healthy core intact, a person can withstand the challenges that exist in most childhood homes where there are people with untreated mental issues, and where there are emotional, sexual and physical abuses or neglect as a result of parents who themselves were abused or neglected.

Without a healthy core intact, the affect of these kinds of external forces become stronger, louder than one’s own innate internal sense of self, sense of well-being, of any innate self-support. As a result, these events, people and experiences bend and shape one’s sense of inner and outer self and reality.

The best way I can describe living without that connection to my core sense self is to have been like a tissue blowing in the wind, this way and that, getting stuck wherever the wind took me.

I do not have multiple personality disorder, so I cannot speak to what that experience is like, and I do not mean to offend anyone who does. But I have sometimes imagined that what I experienced was somehow related. I could not hear my own internal voice most of the time. I was “hearing” the world, and it was loud and dangerous to me.

Living when you are disconnected from your core is terrifying. It is suffocating. It is lonely. It is deadly.

I am lucky, because even though that connection was severed, there was always somewhere deep within me some sense of something to keep fighting for. One tiny shred of connection to a core that I could imagine if not feel or often hear. I didn’t trust it or understand what it was. But it was there and I could sometimes hear it in the very darkest moments.

Like the moment some years ago now when I had the razor blade that I had bought and planned to use in my fingers and held to the skin of my left wrist, ready to end my suffering. That tiny shred began to whisper to me, “What if I am wrong? What if it could get better?”

That tiny shred, and the realization in the moment that followed that I was reneging on a promise I’d made to my two cats – whom I loved desperately – that I would always look after them, that they would never know fear or be homeless again after their difficult early lives feral on the streets of NYC, saved my life that day.

I have written about coming home to my own core within myself in previous posts Dormant Child and Cutting the Cord.

The work of healing my fractured soul has been profound, difficult and beautiful. It is on-going work, but I have come such a long way.

To re-connect with and then feel a permanent connection to my own core self – to know my own essence – has been at times a shockingly powerful and painful process. And at the same time, the most intricate, exquisite and intimate experience I have ever known.

One of the greatest gifts of this this connection to my core, this freeing of my inner selves (every age I have ever been) and this healing of the traumas of these selves into wholeness, has been a growing love and appreciation for my self.

I have learned to love my body for what is does, not how it looks. I have grown a gratitude for my physical abilities and strengths, and try to find joy in moving my own body, using my own voice. Today, I have reverence for all that my body contains. It contains multitudes and is wise beyond my mind’s own wisdom. It holds the Truth, and it never lies.

I look for the miracles within and without, and because I have cleared away what I can of the detriment that is not of my true essence, I find them. The detritus that remains from my past does not clog my joy as it once did. I love the detritus, too, for it holds important information. There is often even gold to be found in what remains.

I genuinely enjoy my own company today. I like the way I experience the world: my own peculiar sense of humor, the unique way I think and feel. I am no longer tortured by my own thinking. I am no longer tortured by being me.

This is huge. Not to say I do not experience anxiety, racing thoughts, negative or critical thinking (the Inner Critic, the Critical Mind, the Ego, whatever you want to call it.) I do experience all of those things and more (panic, depression, the pull towards self-destruction.)

But I am no longer a tissue blowing in the wind.

I am a mighty tree, strong and constantly expanding into the world around me. Yet I am flexible and can withstand whatever weather comes my way because I am rooted, and those roots go deep. I take nourishment from the elements that support my growth. I no longer look for sustenance from sources that can not provide what I truly need to thrive.

I live in light today. There is darkness, yes, but it is a different kind of darkness. I no longer fear the dark places, because I am always there. I trust myself to see myself through whatever comes my way.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: peculiar

With much love and thanks to the gifts and work of Suzanne Connolly.

Priceless

The smell of a baby’s head

A small young nephew or niece reaching for your hand on a walk or fighting to sit next to you at Thanksgiving dinner

Watching your lover sleep

The way taking a breath in connects us to everyone who has ever lived and letting a breath out connects us to anyone who will ever live

The genuine eye contact and smile exchanged with a total stranger

The satisfaction of taking something you have just baked from scratch out of the oven

The way cooking a family recipe can conjure up sense memories and connection to past generations

The moment of relief when you sense what could have become a conflict dispenses

The time spent with a loved one during their end of life processes, sitting and listening, sharing precious moments

What would you add?

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: priceless