Rebel Without a Cause

Confession: I often poo-poo fads or things that get really popular really fast without even trying them firsthand.

I won't go see a movie that everyone is talking about, for example. Like The Revenant. Wouldn't go see it in the theatre.

It is an annoying habit. A strange, stubborn character trait that I both wear like a badge and admit is pretty ridiculous at the same time.

It's like I just have to go the opposite way because everyone else is all-over a thing.

Like when electric toothbrushes came out.

I had so much judgement around them!

I prided myself on staying old school. I harshly judged those who bought them as "Suckers fallen prey to marketing schemes of money-hungry dentists!"

I mean, come on! Does anybody really need a frigging electric toothbrush? Jeez! Lazy much?

And then, one day, years after they'd been out, I tried one.

And I finally discovered what all the fuss is about.

And now, it is one of my must-have items.

I still haven't passed over into the truly high-end versions.

I love a particular brand, the Colgate Optic White Battery Powered toothbrush. (Full disclosure: a big plus is that it matches my bathroom wall color, a detail that greatly influenced my choice.)

And so just as was the case with jalapeños, Diet Sierra Mist, Tab and QuestBars, I became a convert once I actually tried it for myself.

Sometimes, a fad is just a fad. (I finally did see The Revenant and still think it was way overrated and was not happy when Leo Di Caprio won the Oscar that year for it.)

But sometimes, a fad is a fad for good reason.

And sometimes, I eventually "get it," despite myself.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: toothbrush

Lust Life

Much of my adult life has been about coming to terms with lust.

Having grown up in a fairly conservative family with mainly Protestant roots, I learned early on to deny and repress my lust: for life, for sex, for fame, for love, for food.

So much so that I lived a kind of double life from my teens into my twenties.

I hid many behaviors that all revolved around my various appetites. Somewhere in my somewhat stunted emotional development, I had learned that being seen as having a need (be it physical or otherwise) was weak, unattractive.

And so I learned to pretend I did not have them.

And yet, at the same time, I also had a very strong need to be seen as a sexual object. (See Sexual Healing, my previous post on this issue.) This presented quite a war within me. I desperately wanted to be seen and treated like a sexually desirable woman – that was sort of the ultimate need. At the same time, I had shame and embarrassment around this and had strong messaging that that was bad, and that I should be a good girl with no sexuality, appetites, strong opinions or feelings.

And so I pretended to be one one way while in secret I acted in other ways.

I invested a great deal of time into creating the illusion that I was chaste, a normal eater, and had  a very neutral opinion on just about everything. I monitored my emotions and watched myself around people, carefully choosing mannerisms and tones to project a good girl.

Meanwhile, I was living quite another kind of life, a life I hid from my family, my friends. A life of appetite and lust and danger.

There were certainly angels watching over me. I was often in the wrong places at the wrong time. Somehow, I survived.

At a certain point in my twenties, the jig was up, as they say.

My psyche demanded that I heal the split, and I began the process of recovering wholeness again.

Of uncovering my own genuine appetites from a place of love, curiosity and acceptance. Of letting go of the urge to keep my appetites hidden.

I began a process of embracing of my true nature and wants and needs as beautiful reflections of my own humanity. I began the shedding of the shaming nature that I inherited.

An unlearning of the social pressure that happens in middle school to put a damper on enthusiasm, to keep a lid on want to look cool.

I learned to let myself eat as I really wanted to in front of others.

I learned to let myself be seen trying, excited, wanting, sexy, hungry, angry, hopeful, happy, disappointed, frightened, messy, unhappy, empty, full, vulnerable, awkward, lonely, blissful.

I learned to let myself be seen. As I really am.

Today I value the self-honesty that I live from. Truth is of huge importance to me.

Though I am still in awe of the capacity I had within my own psyche to maintain such a dichotomy the way I did – that I could compartmentalize two such distinct worlds at once – I am so grateful that that is just a chapter in my story.

Today, I have one world with many parts: parts that co-mingle and bring me great joy in their diversity.

I celebrate my appetites, I revel in my enthusiasms and passions.

I love my lust. It is what lets me know I am human. And alive.

So today, I try to wear my lust like a smile.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: lust

 

No Place Like Home

Sometimes when I am out in the world, I feel a compulsion to go home immediately.

I literally feel drawn, as if by a magnet, back to the safety of home.

I have lived with this sensation for many years now, since 2001. I blogged about it last year when I wrote about depression.

I am still unraveling what is contained in this dynamic within.

On the one hand, I love life, being alive. I crave connection. I love people. I love humanity.

I am an actress. Human behavior endlessly fascinates me. What makes people take actions. What drives us all to stay alive on this spinning blue ball. That we choose every day to love and aspire to things.

And yet. There are times when I am filled with a mix of emotions and sensations that compel me to get home as soon as I can. Fear, anxiety, panic.

I never thought if it before, but is this a version of a panic attack? I have no idea, no way to guage that. I hear people talk about panic attacks. I know  people who suffer from them.

How do you label an internal experience like what I experience? I guess if there are enough people experiencing  similar symptoms, someone names it and it becomes a way to discuss, diagnose.

I have brought it to conventional therapy. Past life regression work. Rebirthing. Shamanic healing work.

I’ve learned cognitive behaviors to manage it. All have been helpful in one way or another.

But I still don’t have a concrete understanding of why it happens to me. Is it genetically encoded in my DNA? Did my people learn to survive by keeping close to home?

In a past life, was I some tribal member who died traumatically when being away from the others and my soul just cannot let it go?

I know for some years, I withdrew from being in the flow of life because I did not know how to cope. I had to learn how to be in the world again. I had to mature emotionally, with help. That has been an amazing process.

But that period of time is many years past. I have never felt more healed, more whole, more integrated than I do now. I am in awe of the healing I have done, of where I am today. I have a truly gifted life, filled with love, connection, abundance, and creativity.

And yet. The magnet pull comes upon me still.

I believe my body has more to show me. There are answers coming from within, but on my body’s own time. Not my ego’s.

And so I bear patient, loving witness as it happens, listening for clues even as I experience the pull when it hits me. I have finally stopped adding to the pain of it all by beating myself up for its mere existence. Or trying to bully myself into being able to “just bypass it already.”

When I have that pull to go home, I choose to see it with the eyes of a loving parent. I take my own hand and ask myself if it can wait until I finish my day. I promise to give that part of me full attention when safe at home, later.

And I follow thru on that promise. That is crucial. I need that part to begin to trust me, to trust that I can handle whatever may go down out in the world.

I feel that trust growing inside. It is a deeply important feeling.

And I welcome this.

I am building a new home within. And when completed, I will be there, wherever I go, wherever I am in the world.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: magnet

To Do’s Today

Here is what I can do today.

I can create:

Joy. By Taking time to find it in my body and then give it to the world in the form of smiles and kind interactions with others.

Peace. By listening and respecting others, staying unattached to needing them to agree with me or see things my way. By refusing to war with my self or anyone else.

Art. By choosing to use my body, voice, mind, emotions, instincts, words, will, expertise and talent to create in whatever ways I can. I can do this regardless of whether I get an audition or booking, or am in a show or film or not. Especially in today’s world, I can create art and share it daily, for my self and others.

Positivity. I can choose to meditate, practice gratitude, use mantras and affirmations and select an intention to guide my day. As many times a day as I need to, I can tap into the ever-abundant source of this that is within me. Every moment contains the choice of love or fear.

Justice. I can stay active politically for the causes I support. I can use my voice, body and energy as needed to take action. I can speak up when I see injustice.

Equality. See above. 

Beauty. I can allow my spirit to shine freely from within. I can reflect back to others the beauty I see within them, encouraging theirs to flow freely.

Comedy. I can listen for the clown (my unsocialized 4 year old) within, and work with her impulses instead of tamping them down. I can laugh at myself and at funny things and share that with the world. 

Music. I can hum and sing and make up silly songs in the grocery line. I can sing at the top of my lungs for the sheer joy of it. Or I can create art from the music in me.

Excitement. I can go against the grain of the social conditioning that started in junior high school and begin to allow my enthusiasm for life to thrive and be seen. I can choose excitement over “cool” and feel my own aliveness flow into the world. Maybe I will spark enthusiasm in others.

Intimacy. I can choose to be vulnerable with myself and with others, and perhaps help them to become vulnerable as well. Vulnerability may well be key to saving the world.

That’s what I can do today.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word: create

Apocalypse Wow

When I was around age 20, my life exploded. My entire world literally blew out from its center.

Looking back, I suppose it was destined to detonate at some point or another.

I oscillate between feeling sadness that it did not happen sooner and gratitude that it did not take longer to happen.

Spiritually-evolved and wise people would say that it happened “right on time. ”

I say “Bite me.”

(OK, I got that out of my system. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Maybe we all do. We all have our crosses to bear in this life, right?)

No, seriously, I guess it did have to happen sooner or later.

At that point, I had been away from home for several years…the deep truths that had been bubbling molten hot at my core had had time to gain strength unencumbered by parental presence.

I was also living a breakneck speed: I was a full-time acting student, working a part time job and stage managing productions for the acting company associated with my acting school. I was busy 24/7 and running on fumes.

And then, one day in a bookstore, I was drawn like a magnet to a particular book. (This is the book that was to teach me that I do not chose books but rather they choose me.) It was Alice Miller’The Drama of the Gifted Child.

I bought it and read it as quickly as I could, and shortly thereafter, the volcano of my psyche erupted.

This book seemed to be explaining things about my experience growing up that I had long since hid from myself. It was as if in reading each chapter, carefully placed barriers were loosed around the nucleus of my being.

In the days following reading it, I felt like the ground I was walking on was constantly shifting and moving underneath my feet. It was unsettling.

Pressure within me began to build, until one day, one Sunday shift in the restaurant where I worked, my internal world just exploded.

Shards of self flew from my core, and in an instant, a horrific revelation from within flew up through my body from my gut into my consciousness in a searing flash and the fairy tale fantasy that I had been living inside my own mind of a perfect family and a perfect childhood turned to ashes.

And, just like that, I was forever changed.

From that day to this one, it has been a whirlwind, rollercoaster ride filled with astonishing kindness, loss, addiction, danger, self-abuse, despair, hope, comedy, tragedy, loneliness, desperation, shock, torment, friendship, mentorship, recovery, love, joy, bliss, confusion, celebration, emptiness, wholeness, perversion, goodness, synchronicity, luck, terror, horror, wonder, adventure, growth, overwhelming gratitude and grace, forgiveness, miraculousness, passion, sexuality, understanding, caring, shifting, healing, working, giving, taking, receiving, being lost and being found, again and again and again.

(I suppose that is simply a life being lived.)

I would not change one moment because if I did I would not be right where I am today.

Don’t get me wrong. Right where I am today is not puppy dogs and moonbeams.

In some ways, I feel like I am only now rising, like a phoenix, out of the ashes of that apocalyptic day.

And as uncomfortable, often terrifying and unsettling as that feels, to be in totally unfamiliar territory in my own surroundings once again, I know that I am indeed in the process of rising, like a phoenix, out of those ashes, and that knowing, in and of itself, is pretty amazing.

I don’t know where I will land, or even if I will. But I know that this is my journey, meant just for me, and I am rising to the occasion.

 

Prompted by The Daily Post Word Prompt: detonate

 

Spike

One of the more interesting “day jobs” I have had as an actress was selling products on one of the major home shopping channels.

Or should I use the official term “guest product specialist?” Sounds more important, right? “I was a Guest Product Specialist.”

At the time, green and eager, I was thrilled when my agent told me I had booked the gig. It would be a challenge! It would be live television! I glossed over the fact that I was essentially a sales person. I was going to be live on television and that was exciting. (And scary.)

The studios were located outside of a small town in the Tri-state area. I lived in Manhattan, so that meant a 2- 3 hour drive there and back for each airing depending on traffic, but I didn’t mind that. I loved traveling for acting work. It made me feel sophisticated, like a true “working actor.”

So what if some of those airings would be at ungodly hours like 4:25 AM? I was a professional! This was exciting!

I went through the training that the home shopping channel requires of all its potential “guest product specialists.” Some of it was on-line, essentially to introduce us to their approach to sales. The final part was a trial on-camera segment with one of the real hosts. When the trial came, I was so nervous, but the host I was paired with was just exactly how they seem on the channel: she was great at her job and charismatic enough to make me feel like I was her very best friend in those minutes together on-camera.

Described as a kind of dance, the synergy between the host and the guest specialist is very important to a successful home shopping channel sell. As the guest specialist, you are coming into the hosts’s “home,” so they are given the lead, but as the specialist, you are the one with the details and the passion. I felt like I was in a spell under the capable host’s lead. What was an 8 minute segment flew by in a blur that felt like 2 minutes.

After reviewing my taped segment with a producer, I was told that I passed. I was ready to start going on the channel to sell my product live.

And so my home shopping channel career began.

One of the products I sold was used in hot weather months. It was a personal comfort item that was used to help cool the body in the heat. So my sales pitch included a large table, several mannequin heads and some lucite display trees. I brought the heads in a rolling suitcase, as well as samples of the product, but the table and the lucite trees I had to hunt down and borrow from production for my segment. I’d find what I needed and set myself up in the assigned studio, then go to hair and makeup, and then sit in the green room to await my pre-sell 1- 2 minute meeting with the host to go over the features of my product.

Hair and makeup was a hoot. Sometimes I would be in there at the same time as one of the celebrity guest product specialists (think Joan Rivers or someone like that) or one of the top-selling guest specialists who had become the stars of the home shopping network because they’d sold millions of dollars’ worth of their product on the channel. A part of me could not help but be in a bit of awe of these people. Everyone else certainly acted as if they were awe-worthy. These were the homecoming kings and queens of this microcosm, and they knew it, too.

Many of the other quest specialists had worked hard to get their product on the show. I was in awe of them as well. Some had invented their product and this was their shot to “make it.” I could sense that in some cases, everything was on the line for them: all of their hopes and dreams of making a good living at this, and who knows what else?

There was always a mix of us waiting to do our thing. Everyone was jacked up no matter the hour.

I especially loved doing sells in the middle of the night because the studio was being run on a skeleton crew and it felt like I had the run of the place. It was a super high to sell when it was in the selling shank of the day and things were buzzing, but the quiet of the darker studio suited my pre-sell jitters. I could get very grounded and prepared essentially on my own. Sometimes it seemed hard to believe that a sell was actually going to happen, it was that quiet and dark. But just when I’d begun to panic that maybe I was in the wrong location, a camera person would show up, the lights would flood on and at the very last moment, a golf cart would zip the host over from some other part of the studio and we’d start the dance.

I had a demonstration, or “demo” in my sell: a bowl containing one of the ingredients of the item I was selling. I would plunge a thermometer into the bowl to show to the television audience that this item would cause the temperature to plummet, a definite plus in product promising relief in hot weather.

I would come to learn that these demos where key to a successful sell.

I would also learn that the hosts were juggling many different things as they danced with the guests specialist. They were in constant communication (as was I) via an earpiece in one ear with the producer who was running the show. But they also had an earpiece in their other ear and were also hearing simultaneous real time feedback from the line producer.  So the host was having a live on tv conversation with me, while also taking information from the producer and the line producer. If there was a caller on the line, that added a fourth dimension to their roster. These people had to be able to be incredibly focused: their ability to keep so many balls in the air in their minds and seem totally present and charming at the same time was quite amazing.

The line producer would be keeping an eye on sales as the sell progressed, and if there was a spike in sales, they would tell the host, so that the host would know what out of what we’d just done or had been talking about had moved people to pick up their phone or get on their computer and buy. The host would then go back to whatever it was in an effort to spike the sales again and again.

Maybe it was the mention of a particular specific use for that product, or perhaps I had painted a picture with a particular word that had ben particularly affecting. Maybe it was the plunge of the thermometer into the bowl – the visual of the digital temperature going down. Maybe it was the host putting the product on and responding with an “Oooohhhh, that feels so cool.”

You wanted those “spikes.” You knew if you were getting spikes you were getting sales, and sales, after all, were the name of the game.

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You’d finesse repeating whatever it was that had created the spike, whilst trying to appear in the moment of whatever conversation point you were in. It was a delicate part of the dance, and it was exciting, because you knew those spikes were making or breaking the success of the sell.

When it was over, I’d pack up my product and my mannequin heads and then go back to change back into my street clothes, eager to see how successful the sell had been. The people who hired me would have watched, and they’d have feedback and criticisms for me. What had I not gotten in? Where could I have taken more charge and gotten more of my points in over the host’s lead? That part was a bit nerve-wracking, as I had to abide by the shopping channel’s philosophies and yet serve my boss’ needs as well. Sometimes the two philosophies were at odds and I was in the middle, so I had to finesse the gap.

I was always grateful when it was all over and I was heading back home. It took a lot of energy and preparation for such a short “performance.” But I did love doing it all the same. It was a challenge, and I learned a lot during the year and a half I did it. It definitely helped me learn how to stay in the moment under high pressure. I developed terrific focus and concentration that has served me well for all my other acting work, particularly on-camera.

I look back now sort of in awe of myself. I jumped headfirst into that world, and I was pretty good at it. I was jumping off the skinny branches each time I went out for the dance to sell that product, and even though it was nerve-wracking every time, I have to say I loved the sensation. It was a rush.

But eventually, I got a tour of a musical that would have me away for the selling season. And thus, my career as a guest product specialist ended.

I sent back the mannequin heads and the samples, ready to embark on the next thing. But I carry with me that love of the spike, that desire to feel that jumping-off sensation. Not a bad thing to seek out, that feeling of being totally alive and in free-fall through the air, only to find that you can, indeed, rely on your own wings to get you to the next landing place.

#actorslife #dayjobs #salesjobs #takingflight #spike

On Being “Childless”

via Daily Prompt: Ruminate

There are things that I ruminate on, like the way my tongue cannot keep itself off of the sharp, spiky tip of my left incisor.

One of those things that I touch on again and again despite its spiky sharpness is the subject of being childless. It is uncomfortable terrain, but I go there again and again anyway.

I hate that term, “childless.” As if by not having a child, you are less somehow, than those who have had them.

Some people prefer “childfree.” That doesn’t quite feel right to me, as if children are something that I wanted to avoid for health reasons, like gluten, or sugar.

I love children. I think they are the greatest people on the planet. I have many children in my life.

But no, I am not a mother.

And boy, is that complicated. For me, and for most people in the world, it seems. So I must, in sensitivity to other people who do not have children and have their own personal relationship to this issue, offer a disclaimer.

I, in no way, speak for other people who do not have children. There are many reasons why people do not have children, are not parents, do not give birth. I cannot speak for anyone but myself. And I cannot know what anyone else’s feelings and experiences around this issue are, and would never attempt to represent them.

I am also not writing here about all the experiences I have had over the years around this issue and my decisions. I am not trying to explain or defend in any way my choices. (I actually am not even going into the reasons for my choices.)

I am writing about what still can get to me around the whole “childless” thing.

It is a continually odd experience to be in the world as a person over a certain age, married, and not to have had a child or children.

I have come to terms with my choices to the best of my ability. I stand by them. They are mine, and they make absolute perfect logic for my unique-to-me life.

Usually, I do not feel less than around this given, this fact that I have not had/do not have children. I do not feel odd. Being the one living my life, my choices are perfectly normal to me.

Yet. There are those moments, when people ask me, “Do you have children?” when I admit that sometimes I doubt myself. That self-doubt can be devastating, for it is as if I turn on my self without meaning to because of my own social conditioning. Let me explain.

Someone I am just meeting or have been getting to know asks me if I have any children. I calmly say “No.”

Well, today I calmly say “No.” There was a time when I would be so uncomfortable leaving it there out of such fear of what they might say, that I’d make an attempt to avoid it by sort of explaining without explaining (as if I owed anyone an explanation!)

“No, no kids. Just didn’t…um…nope.”

(I learned in time that that seemingly small abandonment of my self to avoid the discomfort of answering the question carried way too high a price. That it actually chipped away at my soul. I learned that tolerating the discomfort that followed my simple “No” was a far better choice.)

Back to the story. To recap: they ask “Do you have children?” I say, simply, “No.”

Then it happens.

You see, there is always a small pause before they say something polite, like “Oh.”

In that pause, I can hear the wheels of their mind turning. I know that they are quickly scanning for possible reasons for my lack of children and that they then jump to conclusions and judgements about this fact, this given.

In that pause, a part of me suffers a little as I sense one of three experiences they are having around this information they’ve just been given.

In scenario one, it is as if they are considering I may be/have been barren (what a horrific word) as in there may be a biologic reason for not having had children. I can often detect a hint of pity and sometimes even shame on my behalf. If there was a thought bubble above their head it might read, “Oh, poor thing. She was defective in some way and could not conceive.” “Oh,” they say, in a somewhat reverent tone.

Ahhhh. Message received. So I am less than a woman – a normal woman, a woman who’s able to bear a child – a mother. I am not that. I am somehow not able to be THAT, to be a whole woman. I am lacking. I am deficient. I am tragic.

Scenario two. I sense in that pause that they jump to the conclusion that I chose my career first, because why else would a perfectly healthy, “normal” woman not have had a child? The bubble might read, “Oh. You were too busy putting yourself first to have a child. Hmmph. Yep. Selfish.”

Ahhhh. So they think I am self-absorbed because I did not procreate as expected. I did not do my part in populating the world, in completing God’s will for me as a woman. I am hard, selfish, self-absorbed, self-involved. Perhaps it is better than I did not procreate since clearly I am missing the mother gene. Tragedy averted – perhaps I am not fit to have been a mother, since I clearly lack the generosity and the ability to put someone else first ahead of my ambitions.

In that glance after the voiced “Oh,” I sense a subtle aggressive relief. They are glad that they have put this together and can “place” me in their minds. Now I make sense. I am one of those career women. Hmmph. They can relax again, calmly feeling their own subtle superiority over me. Again, I am somehow deficient. Some genetic aberration made me not want kids enough or at all. Again, I am not a real woman. I am someone to perhaps forgive for her unwomanly ambitions, like a quirky aunt or an eccentric character.

Scenario three is the worst of them.

In those instances, they say, “Oh,” with a quiet tenseness, a slight narrowing of the eyes as they size me up. In their “Oh” is the sneaking suspicion that there is just something wrong with me, not biologically, but morally, ethically, mentally. That I am some sort of deviant.

The bubble reads simply in those times “Oh.” And I literally feel them slightly withdraw physically from me, as if what I have may be catching. I am categorized as a kind of leper, a social misfit. I am not to be fully trusted as I must be off in some way that is perhaps even dangerous because these people cannot fathom my “otherness” without finding it wrong on some level.

I have experienced all of the above multiple times on my own, and as part of a couple, in the world. Nothing is ever spoken aloud. But the messages are there, nonetheless. And they are affecting.

I find it interesting that it is rare that anyone goes beyond the initial question – pause  and “Oh” response to actually ask me or me and my husband “Why not?”

To me, that is proof of the social stigma placed on people who choose, for whatever reason, not have children.

In that lack of further questioning – that invisible social moat that is suddenly drawn separating them and me/us – there seems to be an unspoken agreement that this subject is something to be skirted. Further questions are to be avoided. Suddenly, my/our privacy is to be respected, as if I/we have a chronic condition.

It’s as if it’s just been discovered that I/we had recently lost a loved one and it would not be polite to ask how. It is something for people in my/our lives to query behind closed doors but never directly to me/us.

Worse than my own self-betrayal that can happen in the moments of these interactions, is the fact that I am guilty of this stigmatization against myself and others, sometimes even simultaneously as I am a victim of that same stigmatization.

In my own mind when I meet people who have not had children, I find myself making the same search for reasons to explain their status, the same judgements and conclusions to be able to categorize them in my mind.

I am guilty of judging my own relatives who fall into this category in the same ways that I have felt judged. How disturbing is that?! I find myself thinking of them what I hate feeling others think of me.

I hate this most of all.

But I know that this is a result of deep, almost cellular, societal encoding that I, like all of us, have been surrounded by and immersed in since birth. These aren’t conclusions that I have come to, they have been absorbed by me from others and nurtured via cultural messaging on every level. So through no fault of my own, I am pre-disposed to a bias, even against my own self.

And I have come to understand that those who respond to me the way they do have also been born into those same pre-dispositions.

When I wanted to select a graphic to include in this blog, I could not find one. All that I could find were either pictures of couples or singular women looking down as if sad and shamed being without children. Or oddly aggressive attempts at someone’s idea of humorous art: an image of a child in a red circle with a line drawn through it. Or that yellow yield sign for car windows that says “Baby on Board” re-drawn to read “Baby Not on Board (so you can destroy my car!)” A very sad-looking empty nest. “Child-free by choice!”

None of these images reflect my truth. I cannot find popular culture that reflects my story. I don’t fit any stereotype. There is no club to join.

And so I ruminate. I soul search. I practice forgiveness of my self and of others for our lack of expansive vision.

And often I am able to see the Truth that is beyond the narrow expectations of the social norms that so shape the world. I can see who I am and know that I make sense and that there is nothing lacking in me, no aberrant gene or deviant peculiar twist in my making.

The truth is that I love my life and have no regrets. I mother other peoples’ children as an aunt and as a friend. And I mother the world as best I can.

The question, the “Oh,” and its aftermath gets easier and easier as I get clearer and clearer.

I am whole and healthy and as normal as anyone, but I am not the norm. That is all.

#onnotbeingamother #wholeandhealthy

In response to Daily Prompt: Ruminate

 

 

 

 

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

 

Triggers and Pink Pussycats

I have been hard-pressed to write a blog since before Inauguration Day.

Like many, I am still processing significant losses that were, for many, contained in the recent election: the loss of President Obama, the loss of the America I thought I knew: the loss of the America of my own personal dis-illusion.

It took until two days after the Women’s March for me to realize how triggering the Inauguration and ensuing Presidency have been and are for me. I think I was operating in a kind of denial until then. While at the march, after first feeling incredibly hopeful, I began to feel uneasy. And after seeing that the march seemed to have had such little effect on the administration, it hit me.

I was triggered. Feelings of powerlessness were flooding my system. I was feeling overwhelmed with the sense that my truth, my voice was falling on deaf ears and was of totally no consequence. That things happening were not of my choice, and I had seemingly no recourse to stop them. Reality mirroring crucial traumatic events from my past blasted open the floodgates of remembered trauma.

I know I am not alone. Anyone who has been violated at some point in their life may be triggered again and again in the next four years.

So what can we do about it? How do we survive the daily onslaught of confirmations and executive orders and hard-won laws being threatened from powers-that-be?

Thankfully, I have found some very helpful posts that address this very issue. And if I cannot bring myself to write about usual things right now, I can write about why and I can share what I am doing to address the problem.

One of the best I have read is “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind
Self-Care Lessons for the Resistance” by Mirah Curzer. Some great things to consider as we move forward, together.

Another article has been very helpful to me. N Ziehl’s “Coping with Chaos in the White House”. The author shares their experience of living with a person having narcissistic personality disorder (NPD.) I am not diagnosing anyone here. But this article spoke to me. It made a great deal of sense and gave me some helpful insights.

What I have been feeling are awful feelings to re-experience. But it was a relief to recognize that they are happening: to know that though there is a present reality that is indeed traumatic to me, there are many other layers happening that are from wounds from the past. Knowing this, I can let the current situation be “right-sized,” and then process the past triggered pain so that I can take good care of myself today. From this place of awareness, I can then take actions to do what I can in order to stay empowered and able to persevere the next four years.

I am finding for me, in addition to practicing the best self-care I can, taking actions each day that help me stay informed and connected to the lawmakers that I voted for, as well as those I did not, is crucial. These actions – calls, emails, letters, non-violent protests and marches, donating to re-election campaigns and organizations that I believe in – they keep me sane.

I am careful as I digest the information that pours forth on social media. I check in with my body, a lot, especially after getting shockingly bad news, such as the “alternative facts,” the travel ban, the recent confirmations, the silencing of Elizabeth Warren. I never know when something new will spark a trigger. I take deep breaths and ask my body what is going on, and I listen closely.

And I lean on my communities. I stay connected to like-minded people who are also active, because it is too easy to begin to feel hopeless as all of this unfolds. We can remind each other that there is power in love and that our actions and our voices do matter. They can remind me of the headway that is being made in our causes when I am feeling low. Together we can persist.

My artist friend Laura Baran created the “We are One” illustration at the heading of this post the weekend of the Women’s March. I keep her beautiful image near to remind me to keep love at the center of all I do.

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I also reach for my “Don’t Sass the Cat” tee created by another friend, a clothing designer named Jacquie of jqlovesu. It reminds me to keep a sense of humor and to remember the power of love and of people who love people. I run and I sweat and I cry and I sleep and I work to stay hopeful no matter what by taking action.

I am a Lover of Humanity. I am an American. And I want to be a part of the solution. It will be work. But I have never been one to shy away from a challenge.

#neverthelessshepersisted #pussyhat #dontsassthecat #weareone #beapartofthesolution #loveaboveallelse

New World Order

It’s happening. Slowly but surely, people are being phased out of more and more jobs, replaced by tablets or machines.

I don’t like it. When I was traveling this past summer, I saw it everywhere. The latest? The airport tablet trend. It’s the brainchild of OTG Management, and it is the bane of travel as far as I am concerned.

Airports have always held the promise of connections. Plane connections, yes, but connections of other kinds as well. Conversations at the airport bar or while waiting for your flight and grabbing a coffee, or at the gate, have sparked romances, dalliances, business opportunities. People-watching at airports has inspired films, writers and artists of all kinds because airports hold so many real-life stories unfolding before our eyes. Stories of reunited loved ones, people traveling for funerals, weddings, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.  Airports have been the way station between adventures. A part of the experience of travel. They’ve held the potential for adventure, the unknown, new experiences.

Now, airports are looking more and more like, well, a sea of i-Pad stations. Every restaurant has them in front of every chair on every table. If you are with someone, there are two i-Pads standing upright between you, separating you like the plexiglass at the bank teller. There are still some employees, but your contact with them is minimal. (Yet you still are expected to tip them.)

It is supposed to be more efficient and reduce the travelers’ stress at airports. Every time my husband and I ordered through them, there were errors and it ended up taking twice as long as it should have. Our meals were comp’d twice due to error. I had to take rebel action and un-dock our i-Pads so we could actually be together while we ate. I found it all incredibly annoying. And disturbing, in a Hal-creepy kind of way (the software for the OTG system is named Flo.)

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We’ve had self-service convenience lanes for years now at stores where you can ring yourself up. (I have to admit I do like those when I am in a hurry.) But at least they have installed them in addition to still having people to ring you up.

Even the people who hawk the free daily papers are being replaced by metal iron bins. Somebody figured out you can just leave the stacked papers in the metal bins for people to grab and forego paying whatever small amount they must have paid those people who would try to get you to take one on your morning commute. I am going to miss those people. Some of them were quite inventive. Like the way some of the subway announcers add a personal touch in the way they give out the usual informational announcements. Some of those people create a moment of connection in the subway with their wit or their exceptional voice — fellow commuters look around and catch eyes and smile in a moment of shared appreciation. More and more, those announcements are becoming automated as well. I will miss that, too.

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The opportunities we have to connect with people on a daily basis are becoming less and less as a result of all of this technological advancement and replacement. Interactions between strangers, once commonplace, is lessoning. Sometimes I look around on the streets, and in the buses and subways, and we all look like strange robot-people, plugged into “the source”…our various electronic devices…all looking down into our palms.

Even if you wanted to make a passing remark to someone, they wouldn’t hear you. (Ever try to get off the train, saying “Excuse me!” over and over only to realize that the person you were trying to pass was plugged in and couldn’t hear you?)

I really worry about how this will affect us over time. We’ve begun to notice that young children no longer know how to interact socially. Can it really be that big of a surprise?

It’s as if we all bring the comfort of our living rooms and our offices with us now everywhere we go. We can create our own soundtrack to play as we move through our lives. Sounds cool, right? But when we do that, we miss the actual live music of the actual world around us. Yes, there is a kind of music to the world of daily life around us. We don’t even recognize it anymore.

We now can watch our favorite shows as we move from one place to another. Those in-between times of transition between Point A and Point B used to be opportunities to process what has just occurred, to daydream, or to connect randomly with the world around us. Now it is a way to plug back into what we already know, what we will find at home when we get there. It’s as if we are constantly trying to get back to the state we know best…the state we recognize most. To spend as little time as possible being affected by and living in the actual world as we live in the actual world.

I have a 1.15 hour commute both ways to and from work each day. I often use it as a time to get certain things done. So I get it. I utilize that time, too, using the train as my temporary office. I type, I learn lines, I listen to workshop lessons, audiobooks, read on my Kindle, too.

But I do make a conscious effort to not be plugged in all of the time. I don’t run around the city with my music playing in my ears anymore. I purposefully start up conversations when at a checkout register with the person ringing me up, or the person selling me tea, or the person in line with me at the store. It is amazing how surprised some people are at it. It is not the norm anymore, it is the exception. Before I began to make this effort, I, too, would feel sort of jarred if a stranger tried to have a moment of connection with me out in the world. Sort of annoyed. Like, why are you interrupting my connection with my music or my show or my whatever-I-am-connected-to-at-the-time? Can’t you just leave me alone?

What? Wow. That floored me, when I caught myself feeling that way out in the world. That is when I had to take a hard look at what was happening in the world around me. And at my behavior in it. I had to ask myself what I was doing in the world in the first place.

Are we all here to remain the same as much as possible? To only connect with the known and to stay safely in control of what we are exposed to as we move through the world? Do I really want to try to maintain the world of my home and take it with me as I go out into the world?

Or do I want to go out into the world and be affected by it? Interact with it and communicate with people and allow myself to move through the world and connect to it? Be moved and changed by the interactions I have with real people?

So I started weening myself off of my smartphone. It was tough at first…to go back to just walking down a street without looking down and doing something on my phone felt, well, anxiety-provoking at first. My system was no longer used to the simple, naked action of moving through space with just me and my thoughts and the world around me. But in time, I learned again how to just enjoy the sunlight on my face, or to take in the street scene, to exchange a smile with a passer-by. Have a short exchange with someone on an elevator. Spark up a conversation in a line. There ARE still others out there happy to connect like that. You just won’t even see them unless you are available to it.

Just as I set office hours for myself as a self-employed person, I also now set boundaries for my time on my phone when out in the world. It makes a huge difference in the quality of my day.

I love my smartphone, I really do. But I love people too. I don’t want to forget how to have an exchange with a stranger. Some of the most memorable conversations I have had were in airports with strangers. I wouldn’t be the same without having had them.

#reallife #intheworldandoftheworld