Nesting

With a blog named “Life on the Skinny Branches,” you might surmise that I have a thing about birds. And you’d be right.

I have always felt drawn to birds of all kinds. I think the connection began when I was young when I was first introduced to the great poem by Maya Angelou, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

Maya was speaking of many things, experiences that I do not pretend to know about. But also, for me, she spoke about something that I knew firsthand: feeling locked in a cage, grounded, longing for freedom. You see, I, too, know why the caged bird sings. (Maybe in some ways we all do.)

Perhaps that set up my lifelong affinity for and sense of connection to birds, and flying.

In 2016, my words for the year – for what I was calling in for myself – were: Emerge/Celebrate/Express/Reveal. It was a year all about self-expression, growing confidence in myself. And it definitely was that kind of year. I started this blog last year — it was a big deal for me to begin to share my words in a public way. I began intentionally living on the skinny branches, and it has been thrilling.

This year, when I soul-searched for the words to guide my year, they were: Daring Greatly/Stretch/Curious/Creative/Depth/Credibility/Courage. So I expected to be soaring, having jumped off those skinny branches. I expected to be flying high.

And the year started off strong. I was in a play. Then a play reading. I did a short film. Took an incredible trip to Spain.

And then, in March, I was suddenly grounded.

Literally. My whole system shut down.

It was if my body went on strike on behalf of my spirit and said “No more, sister. You are gonna stop and sit for awhile.”

I was forced to stay home. A lot. This was not easy for me. I have always been driven. Have always sort of hurled myself through life, a bit desperate to make up for lost time.

It was humbling to have been so completely drained of vitality that walking down the street was a challenge. But that was my reality.

So I had to stop many beloved activities. And somewhere along the way, I began to listen to whatever it was that my body and soul needed me to hear.

(I also sought professional medical help, and received it. I made many changes in what I was putting into my body and began to look at how to approach my life better, aka how to lesson the internal stress I create for myself as I interact with the external world.)

I am realizing now that it was in this being stopped, it has been in this time of recovery and healing, that I have learned to appreciate the nest.

When I got stopped, I got quiet. I had a great deal of solitude. I have been depressed before. This was not that. It was…me with me. (It was awful at first because a part of me feared I was “losing” more time. That part of me fears it is already too late. That part wants me to run around like a chicken with my head cut off. That part is misguided. I help it along today with a firm but loving hand. No more shoving myself through the world.)

In time, I began to see that this being stopped was helping me to ask new questions and to also really listen to the current answers of old questions. The answers have changed since the days I first asked them. Who knew my body was so very wise? She made me listen. She made me pay attention. She had lots for me to re-cover.

And slowly, I began to heal, and my vitality began to come back. I can say with joy today that I am almost 100% back. But I am not the same.

I cannot run around like I did before. I could, but I do not want to. I am finding new ways to do the things I want and need to do. I am giving myself more time to do these things, to process, to absorb. I am nipping stress in the bud — I simply do not want to waste my precious life energy on certain things any more.

It is a new day. It is a new me. I am finding out all sorts of things. I have much to do, but it will be on new terms. I think they are much better, frankly, than the old ones.

I appreciate the life force that calls me to soar, to live life on the skinny branches and beyond. It is a huge part of who I am.

But every bird also needs some sort of place to call home. A place to hatch their young. A place to refuel.

And so, it is so very clear to me now, do I.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: nest

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

Roots for a Generation

Inspired by The Daily Prompt: Roots

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, television was a profound presence in our home.

My earliest memories are of hearing the word “Watergate” being discussed on nightly news. I don’t recall images or specifics, but I do remember wandering through the room and the adults being very interested in the TV screen.

I remember loving Romper Room with every fiber of my being, awaiting the day when the hostess would say my name as she held her magic TV mirror up in front of her face at the end of the show, calling out to little viewers in their living rooms as if she could rally see us there. (If you are too young to have any idea of what I am referring to, this is what I am talking about.)

But the biggest television event from my youth (pre-MTV that is) was, hands-down, Roots.

Roots was a 1977 miniseries based on a book written by Alex Haley. It was the story of African teen Kunta Kinte, brought to America to be enslaved, and the generations of his family and eventual emancipation.
A remake was made in 2016, and it once again became a television event. But the impact it had in 1977 can never be repeated. It was a different time.
In 1977, it was pretty huge that network TV was devoting so much time to an African American story. And we didn’t have the internet. Our cultural exposure was limited to television, films, art and books. As a young person, television was pretty much all.
And to my middle class, fairly all-white community, Roots brought to full technicolor glory some of the stories that had only been read about (barely and I am sure very biased-ly) in our history books.
I remember clutching pillows and crying, feeling outrage and shock at the outrageousness of the treatment of Kunta Kinte and his family. My friends and I talked about what we saw on-screen at school the day after the episodes. It opened our little minds up to whole other realities of our history.
According to Wikipedia: Roots received 37 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It also won a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen ratings for the finale, which still holds a record as the third highest rated episode for any type of television series, and the second most watched overall series finale in U.S. television history.
Apparently, the making of the miniseries was quite controversial in that the executives are afraid it would bomb. The Museum of Broadcast Communications recounts the apprehensions that Roots would flop, and how this made ABC prepare the format:

Familiar television actors like American [sic] actor Lorne Greene were chosen for the white, secondary roles, to reassure audiences. The white actors were featured disproportionately in network previews. For the first episode, the writers created a conscience-stricken slave captain (Edward Asner), a figure who did not appear in Haley’s novel but was intended to make white audiences feel better about their historical role in the slave trade. Even the show’s consecutive-night format allegedly resulted from network apprehensions. ABC programming chief Fred Silverman hoped that the unusual schedule would cut his network’s imminent losses—and get Roots off the air before sweeps week.

— Encyclopedia of Television, Museum of Broadcast Communications
 All important to examine today, and I am sure there are wonderful articles that analyze and explore such things much better than I can, but I didn’t know any of that then.
Then it was just a really riveting and important piece of television, one that told the stories of people and of a time in American history about whom I knew very little about up until that point.
I am so grateful for that. Historically accurate or not, it brought into our living room and into our classrooms another way of understanding who we were, where we had come from. It was a powerful use of the medium of television, and it opened up more than a few minds, I hope, to considering more than just what we had been told about America up until that point.
May there be many more “Roots”-inspired works to come. Maybe now more than ever we need such powerful television to be created.
#Roots #television #powerfulstories

Home

Growing up, I always felt like a fish out of water.

I couldn’t wait to flee the country of my birth…Texas.

Yes, I know Texas isn’t a country.

But in feels like its own country. Maybe because of its size. Or its history. (It was its own country for awhile: the Republic of Texas, from 1836–1845. That independent spirit remains, albeit subtle, after all these years.)

But feeling like it was its own country wasn’t the real reason I wanted to get out.

I just always felt like I was not in my natural habitat. Nothing against it, but Houston, the city of my birth, is very large and flat. Everyone drives everywhere. When I was growing up there, there was no real center to the city, no downtown destination (then) that you could drive to and feel the life of the city the way you can in many major cities.

I felt so…alone. Millions of people lived in the city, but I could never get a sense of where they all were. I’d only see some of them passing by in their cars. Everyone seemed to be going off to places, but where were all the places? There were tons of restaurants and stores and cars and buildings and neighborhoods, but I couldn’t feel where all those people were. I can recall that feeling in my body to this day. It’s an empty-dread-panic that rises from my belly and settles into my chest, squeezing my heart. It makes me want to cry, and my breathing starts to feel pinched off. It literally made me want to run screaming into the streets, looking for, I don’t know what. Some kind of connection. Some kind of belonging?

Yes, I could go to a mall and find a lot of those people. Maybe that is part of the reason that as a child I loved to go to the Galleria, which was a big deal when I was growing up. It had a huge skating rink in it’s center (It was just the Galleria then — has since expanded.) There I could feel some of the people. Unfortunately, being a mall, it was a rather empty-feeling kind of community. I mean, the whole premise revolves around commerce. But it was something.

Sure, I had family and friends. I had some communities. I went to my best friend’s church youth group for awhile. Throughout school, I was in choir and that was a major source of connection. I participated in clubs and such. I eventually was part of a wonderful group of friends in high school and we made our own community, our own clique.

But even with those connections and communities, I still always  just did not feel at home. I literally felt anxious and uncomfortable. Now, there are many reasons for that having to do with other givens of my life. But I am talking at a pure animal level.

Whatever animal I am, my natural habitat is not Texas.

When I was 16, I accompanied my parents to NYC for a big business trip. It was December, and we stayed in a swanky hotel right on Central Park South. And it snowed while we were there. My room overlooked the snow-laden beauty of Central Park, and I will never forget looking out of my window and seeing that winter wonderland. We rode the elevator down one morning with Dudley Moore! I saw five Broadway shows, which forever changed my life.

I was smitten and giddy with the flush of first love. NYC stole my heart the way it does for so many of us. I could feel the people. There was life everywhere. I could stand in the center of the life and know I was there.

Its glittery grime, its sights and sounds, the faces — the diversity! — and the raw urban-ness of it just got under my skin. I just could not stare enough at all the people, their varying energies and manners and expressions. You could argue that because I am an actor, an artist, I was destined to love a place like NYC. But it was more than that.

I was home. I could breathe easy for the first time in my life. I felt like a fish put back into its tank. I was with my people. I was where I was supposed to be. And as quickly as I could manage to, I moved to NYC. And NYC is where I have since stayed.

Today, I enjoy Texas. I appreciate Texas. I like to visit there. Many people I love are there. I see its beauty and its gifts.

But I always come home to NYC.

#NewYorkCityisMyHome

A response to the Daily Prompt: Flee