Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ready Steady Go

About 3 years ago, when I was living in Cole Valley in San Francisco, I went for a walk. I was packing to go home for a visit, I remember, and was feeling overwhelmed, and decided to take a walk through my new-ish neighborhood. I took a left instead of a right, and walked past a sign, The Sword and The Rose. Maybe you know it. Maybe you’ve walked right by it. As unless you notice the faded paint on the cracked wooden sign, you wouldn’t know to walk into the alley between two buildings. You wouldn’t know that beyond the trash bins was a gate, through which is a sitting garden, overgrown with vined plants and a running water fountain with a stone bench. Beyond this is a small one room shop, that looks like a hobbit’s house, and you have to, well, I have to, duck slightly through the Dutch door.

Inside is one of those curio shops. There’s a small wood burning stove that always seems lit, around which are two high backed cushioned chairs with ancient knitted throws. In the cases are crystals of every color and intention, ones to wear, ones to put on an altar, ones smoothed or raw in form. The shelves are stacked high with different types of sage to burn, candles created on different days of the week, jars of loose incense with yellowing labels of handwritten ingredients seen only in spell books.

And in the corner is a small circular table set with a stained glass lamp, a shawl, and two small straw woven chairs. It is here that you can have your cards read.

And once, I did. Not that day, having walked breathlessly out of my manic and nervous packing session into this stalled garden out of time. That day when I was able to collect myself in the mystery and magic of the darkened, perfumed room. But I knew I would be back.

The man read from Native American animal cards, which I’d never seen or heard of before. I was not very “into” Tarot before, but I have learned enough to know there are many paths to the mountaintop, so to speak.

It is my belief that under the right circumstances, and with the proper intention, we are told, not “the future” or the unknown, but rather, truths about ourselves. It is my experience that what is revealed to me, through cards, or meditation, or other spiritual practices, are knowledges which I already hold, which are simply being drawn out from the shadows, or crystallized in more accessible terms.

So, when the man drew a card he called Grandmother Spider in my reading, and told me that this card was the most creative and powerful card in the deck, I was not surprised, but rather challenged. Challenged to live up to this truth which I had known about myself, and which continues to be mirrored back to me and bubbled up within me.

You can go Google the card if you like; it says that the Spider wove the Universe. Is, in essence, the Great Creator. I don’t deign to think that I am unique in having this spark (truly, I believe we all have it), but I am beginning to honor its presence in my life.

Performance. People have asked me what I mean when I say I want to perform. They ask, Act? … And that’s not the entirety of it at all. I wrote a poem in August of last year, which I’ve pasted below, called Pyrotechnic Performance. In my first blog-a-day posting on this website in November, I wrote about it. (Pulling a Carmen.) And, this morning, I wrote about it, in my Morning Pages. What do I mean by performance? And why am I called to do it?

I’ll quote here from those pages, because this is the change of course of the Ocean Liner, this is the portend and promise of the New Year, and most critically of all, because this is still is my challenge. I have a financial mess, which means I cannot afford an acting coach. I am willing to pay $50 for a zipcar tonight to get to New Year’s Eve parties, which I have rented and am psyched about, but I am still on the sideline of my own commitment to this truth. I know this is eroding, this stagnation, this hesitation, this fear. To loosely quote Nelson Mandela, it is not our darkness of which we are most afraid, but our light. Hiding in financial crises, dead-end (and deadening) jobs, being late, being “shy,” these are the snakeskins which I am shedding.

Because I want to be available, I am coaxed by this light, this promise, and as you’ll read, I have a commitment not only to myself to fulfill, but one to you as well. So, to a new year, to a challenge I am becoming brave enough to face, and to the undocumented bounty of facing a truth I’ve known all along.

A Safe and Happy New Year, Friends. And as Bill Murray says in Ghostbusters, See you on the other side, Ray.

Performance, A Challenge (12 31 11)

I want to perform. I want to ignite, excite, catalyze, engender, enmorphize. I want you to witness me. I want you to be changed in the witnessing. I want the love in you to awaken and stir as I open myself to you. I want to be there for it. Present. My best, most available self. I want you to fall in love with yourself in the process. Discover the ancient and cavernous depth of your heart. I want to be your tour guide. To lead you where you are ready to be led. I want to change the world, for good. One heart at a time, beginning with my own. And I am becoming Ready. I am ready to transform.

Pyrotechnic Performance: What I want to do when I grow up. (8 5 10)

I want to startle your emotions and steamroll you with feeling. I want to seize and agitate the flames of my inner fuel and fury and ignite and catch you on fire too. I want to blast you out of your seat aghast at the wonder that is G-d bellowing through me. I want to own this. I want to master play and expand this. I want to hone sharpen and broaden the depth of what I have to offer you. I want to journey with you through the lands of the psyche and crash you upon the shores of revelation. I want to allow you to lick and contemplate these wounds as you stagger toward the exit when I'm done. 

I want to heave you into oblivion and gently reel you back in.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ocean Liner

I retract my endorsement of Airborne.

Just kidding. I just am not feeling as better as I’d like, especially as it comes up to New Year's Eve tomorrow.

Although I remember the last several New Year's, which was a new development, none of them have been particularly outstanding. Last year, I was on the roof of a friend’s condo in SF, watching the fireworks over the Bay – which was wonderful – with my soon to be ex – which was less wonderful, but a great attempt at shoe-horning romance into a moment.

This year’s remains to be seen, with a party with some local friends’ bands, and some dances out in SF that could be a raucous good time. But I’m not feeling particularly raucous at the moment. But things change. And this is the season for it.

I was reminded this morning as I was writing my Morning Pages about a conversation I’d had with my friend Luke on our Misfit Christmas. We were talking about the economy, and he was saying that people’s expectations are that things can change on a dime, in an instant, immediately show results. Whereas the more accurate truth is that change is like the course of an ocean liner. It.does.not.stop. when you want it to. (See: Titanic) ;P

He drew his finger in a long, wide arc along the coffee shop table and said that as an ocean liner begins to change course, it continues to look like it’s still going along its original path, it continues out into the treacherous water, slowly evening a turn-about. It is not instantaneous, and it is not immediately obvious or apparent.

Which means, that for anything that does change in this manner, like most things in this world, it requires patience.

This morning, I was reflecting that the change of the year, a sudden WHAM BANG HELLO NEW YEAR!, might not equate with the reality of the subtlety of change. But, personally, I feel it. The planet changing its course in the cosmos, slowly slingshotting back around. The impending change of the year has begun – it’s not one moment at midnight when Dick Clark leads us all in some bedazzled primal chant. It’s more covert, and ultimately more kind than that.

Changes that happen all at once are called emergencies. Lucky for us, life is not always in the habit of confronting us with change in these violent manners.

I’m not sure of my entire point here, but I suppose I’m attempting to provide a bit of cosmic comfort, reinforcement of the positive course I am on and perhaps you are on, and g-d willing the economy is on! Or maybe I’m just being wistful at the close of a year, which, of course, it also is.

I was 14 and at a new year’s dance and a girl friend of mine was in near hysterics. She said that the change of new year’s always gave her anxiety. I got a text just now in which a friend asked me if I didn’t also have the new year’s depression.

Lucky for me, no. I’ve bought my ticket on this ocean liner. Cast in my lot. Threw down the gauntlet. Thrown in my hat. I am down with you, Ocean Liner. I am concerned that I don’t know where you’re going once you make your change in course, but I'm also mildly thrilled to see where you will go. To call on the spirit of “Must be present to Win” and “Just Row,” I will make my best attempt to stand like Rose at the bow of the ship and throw my arms open unto the unknown. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holding the High Watch

The best laid plans, right? I had grand ones for this week, then I got sick. I am on the mend, past the worst I think (insert ad for Airborne here [despite others’ nay-saying about its efficacy, I swear by it, and finally stocked up yesterday]).

It has given me the opportunity to nest a little bit; I haven’t cleared my NJ boxes, but I have put up the revised “vision of love” collage. It’s so much better than the last – I wish I’d taken a before photo of the beige yawn it had been! And I have another decorating project I might get to.

I think I know why I got sick – what tipped the scales from ‘minor winter ill-health’ to full-blown ‘duuuude, I don’t feel so good.’ I made out with someone. -- Not that this is karmic retribution or anything, but that he must have been sick too. 

A few days ago, I was in the car with a guy friend of mine. We have a teeny bit of history having been involved for a full 4 hours ;) a few years ago but have remained pretty good friends, sort of sweeping it under the rug. We often talk about our dating lives and such, and as he’s giving me a ride home, we begin to talk about it again, what’s going on, etc, lighthearted, etc.


I begin to say that I am of two minds lately. The one mind that knows I’m “holding the high watch” as it were for something real, potentially lasting, and ultimately revolutionizing. (Realistic… right? [I do think so actually!]) I tell him about the work I’d been doing via Calling in The One, and about how I am attempting to create my best life, so when I meet someone, I’m fully present and accountable for myself, I’m engaged in a life that makes me happy, and I’m not seeking for someone else to make me happy or to take care of the needs within myself that are actually my responsibility.

This is basically the aim of the book, and of a lot of the spiritual work I do. To become my authentic and most available and active self.

That said,

I am also of another mind. Which says, I’m 30 years old, my bones and ligaments only getting older and less nimble, and these are prime sex years that I feel I’m wasting! It feels like a tragedy to let each day go by without engaging in one of life’s greatest pleasures.

My guy friend says that it sounds like my body is saying one thing and my head is saying another – but I really think it’s everything all at once, to use that phrase again. My heart & head know what I’m doing, holding the high watch, creating space, making room, expanding my life in positive ways. They/I know that this “lull” is temporary, and perhaps in fact necessary to sort of flush the system, or simply not clog it with anything less than awesome.

In his car out front of my apartment, I ask, Has this whole conversation been your way of saying you want to make out? and he laughs, I'm not that transparent, am I?

But, being a hot-blooded human and woman, and knowing the course of the conversation had been headed here, and having actively participated in it, we make out.

And it’s fun and hot for a full ten minutes or so, and then I know I have to leave. I don’t want to sleep with him, though, surely it would be fun, but I am very familiar with fun of this sort, this particular sort, which looks like neither of us actually being romantically attracted to each other whatsoever, and I am also very familiar with the … blasé sort of let-down feeling as you each pick up your discarded socks and clunk through some small talk and try to figure out how quickly you can get out of there.

Sex is temporary. Love is not.

So, despite the “tragedy” of “wasted sex years,” I am clear on what I am heading toward. I am clear on the woman and partner I want to be. Clear-ish. I know it’s fluid. But I also know I am very much done (she says, knowing things may always change) with vapid sex.

Besides, Good Vibrations appreciates my business. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Forbidden", Make that "Attainable" Joys

I have a piece of paper dated in October of 2008 from an Artist’s Way exercise. It’s entitled “Forbidden Joys,” and is a list of ten things that we would love to do, but feel we can’t or are not allowed for whatever reason. It could also be called a Bucket List, I suppose.

Dated about 6 months later is a strike through of the word “Forbidden” and above which is now written “Attainable.”

I’ve added three more things to the list, but the last thing added was dated in 2009. I’ve carried this list through my move, and found it maybe two months ago when I took The Artist’s Way book down again while looking for quotes for my workshop on Creativity and Spirituality in the Spring.

The list is only about a third accomplished. And I’ve decided not to “update” it from what I’d written, as I know there are now more and different things I’d add. But, I want to honor this list, because there are still things on it that I would really love to do, if I let myself.

The things that are now crossed off are: Go blonde; Audition for a play; Get furniture and paint my place (prior to that, I’d been using Office Depot boxes as night&coffee tables); Ice skate; and Paint a canvas.

I still want to continue to audition for plays, and I still want to Ice skate, and I want to paint more canvases, but “breaking the seal” as it were, or going on an inaugural run through each of these is a great beginning.

Those that still remain are: Bass lessons; Camp in the wilderness; See the southwest again; Go on a real vacation; Sing in a band; Have a dog (not sure if now having a cat counts, but I’m leaving it!); Build a (non-Ikea) bookcase; and Take flying lessons.

This last one, I am most poised to do at present, as I got one of those LivingSocial, Groupon-y type emails last week…For a two-hour introductory flying lesson.

Typically, these are really expensive. I’ve actually looked up this company before, during this past summer, when I was trying to find work, and thought that maybe volunteering somewhere I was interested to learn would be good experience, so I emailed a whole bunch of flight schools in the area, as well as a whole bunch of sailing schools. But none had any openings. But, I did get to see what was available out there. … And to see how insanely expensive it is to get licensed to fly a small plane, which is ultimately what I’d like to do.

I love flying. I have found over the past few years that I write pretty well and pretty prolifically at 30,000 feet. There is a level of suspension of reality, of detachment from every and anything that may be going on – I feel freer and more unfettered than I almost ever feel. The only thing comparable to me is really hiking out somewhere, or being up in Sonoma, for whatever reason. I once about Sonoma that “my guts release the strictness I didn’t know they were in.” And it’s true. I feel open, unclenched, serene.

So, in an effort to follow my nudges and listen to myself and take responsibility for my dreams, I bought the intro flying lesson. It’s a step. And I’ll get to cross it off my “Attainable Joy” list. And “Sing in a band,” I know you’re there, and I’m listening. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vitamin D

I sit here in the long, angled slants of winter sun, bundled in my pjs, robe, and two blankets, with a bowl of cinnamon apple I just made. I was told recently that Vitamin D is a really great healer, and as I’m sick and had to cancel my plans for today, I’m sopping up this natural resource as much as I can.

As I’m sick, this blog may not make much sense :) and may have contributed to the ‘downer’ mood of yesterday’s, but, c’est la vie.

I said a few months ago, around the time that I was preparing to go home to pack up my house that I felt like my life was “Everything all at once.” The money stuff was hitting a wall again, family was a beast, and I generally felt overwhelmed.

A turn came when I also realized that “Everything all at once” must include the good things too. Right? If it’s everything, everything, all this drama and hardship and challenge and chaos, what must also be happening and available is calm, serenity, growth, and gifts.

Perspective is everything.

So, if at the same time that I’m experiencing a profound bolstering in my sense of inner strength, this doesn’t preclude that there is also … life, with all its attendant twists.

To take a narrative turn, my only tattoo is on my left wrist, and it is of the sun. In my senior year of college, the wall opposite my bed had a filled-in doorway to the next room, but the molding for the door was still there. When I’d painted the room, I’d left the molding white, so it was like a frame. Knowing I was inching toward a tattoo of the sun, I decided it would be a good idea to live with one for a while, to see if I got sick of it.

So, I began to draw on my wall in that frame, an enormous sun, with each flame around it different and specific, and within the circle of the sun was the infinity symbol drawn sort of like a ribbon or mobius strip, so it was three-dimensional, folding in on itself, traveling infinitely.

These two images to me, infinity and the sun, were images of “constants.” Things that would always be (though yes, the argument can be made about the sun, but in my lifetime at least, it is a constant!). An anchor amidst whatever else was going on, these things would always be.

When I brought my design to the artist, my wrist was too small to take the detail of the drawing, and so we simplified it majorly. Sometimes people assume that the lines within the circle on my wrist are of a yin-yang, which sort of bothers me ;) as I want to say, ew, no, I’m not that hippie, lol. But, I know what it represents.

Along those lines of constancy, for the last … maybe 4 years, I’ve been playing with another tattoo design, but have hesitated because it would cover the entire right side of my body from top of my ribs to my hipbone, and part of me feels “bad” or guilty rather to cover the work that is already there – me ;) The art G-d already made. It’s like graffiti – you never tag over someone else’s work. Never.

So, twice, I’ve brought my design in to two different artists. One was not quite my style, but still has my deposit, I believe! The other, I found about a year ago, when searching online for someone who would be good with the design I had in mind – and lo and behold, this guy had just opened up a shop above Union Square, and I met with him, and we emailed photos and sketches ad nauseum, and finally, we got it right.

Then, I got into grad school, and was soon to be unemployed, and let him know, and he said cool, and to get in touch when I wanted to do it.

The design combines the images of the “hand of G-d” and the “tree of life.” The trunk of the tree would be the wrist of a hand, with the main branches as the outward curving of fingers. But it would look like a tree, of course, and that’s what drew me to this guy. I’d seen some work he did where the trees looked so intricate and phenomenal – it’s hard to do a tree! So, you wouldn’t be entirely sure, or it wouldn’t be obvious, that it was a hand, but it is.

The branches would be covered in each of the seasons, moving from one to the next, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring (so that the sparse branches of winter weren’t on an end, and also, to indicate that after the death of winter, there is always spring).

The root system would travel down over my hipbones, equally as massive and firm as the branches, because the degree to which we flower is equal to the degree to which we are rooted, I believe.

I still think about this design, and it fits in well with my first one with regard to constancy – the constancy of a Higher Power in my life and the constancy of the potential to grow and flower continuously, infinitely.

We’ll see what happens, he still has my deposit too, and I still have his final design. But I love the ideas I’ve chosen to live with, and I don’t for a second regret the one on my wrist. And as the sun, here, now, today, makes it’s slow way from behind another building onto me tucked into my cozy couch, I am again grateful. For the reminder that it’s okay to be still and mend today as tomorrow will come too; the reminder that growth is infinite and continuous; and that there is always, always something to count on. 

Monday, December 26, 2011


My Christmas was as it’s been the past four years now – In San Francisco, with my great friend Luke, at the posh Kabuki movie theater, and thai food on Fillmore, followed by meeting up with some of our fellows. We saw the new Sherlock Holmes and it was just as fun and satisfying as the first – as my mom once put it around movies of this caliber, they’re the kind of movies that just make your popcorn taste better :) They’re not going to change your life, but they are fun – just what one wants on a Jewish Christmas day.

Before converting to Judaism to marry his first wife, my dad grew up in an Irish Catholic family in the Bronx & Queens, and so I also have a “real” Christmas tradition and memory of all of that. We used to drive to Queens each year on Christmas eve and decorate the tree, and my dad’s mom, step-dad, and half-brother would always have this elaborate and wonderful Christmas village set up. All the little stores and shoppes ;) We’d put on tinsel, and the clothes-pin reindeer every kid made in school. It was always a wonderful tradition.

Over the years, though, as things have gotten worse with them, the tree and the village stay out all year round, and are now covered in many years of dust and filth. And although I have a great deal of love and compassion for them and their increasing mental illness, shut-in ways, I can’t help but feel a little cheated at the loss of my connection to a family history.

My grandmother is in the hospital, her leg recently amputated, and finally her other son and husband have agreed that their house isn’t safe for her (the only bathroom is on the 2nd floor). So, to me, it’s a blessing – she’ll be in a nursing home till she passes, and it’s a little bit of dignity she’ll get back as she’s cared for in this way.

However, with the loss of her, …

My last name is not really my last name. I mean it is. It’s on my birth certificate, and it’s on my father’s. But before that, it didn’t exist.

My grandmother got pregnant at 15 by a “Spanish electrician named Joe.” This was all I’ve known, all my dad’s known until very recently about his father. Irish Catholic family? 1950s? Unwed teenage pregnancy? This was not okay, and my dad’s first few years of life were actually spent on a farm in upstate New York. The last name was “borrowed” from a family friend from whom my grandmother’s family asked if they could use his last name on the birth certificate. And so, our new lineage was born. With a big fat question mark on my dad’s dad’s side of the family tree.

More than a question mark, however, were cloaks of secrecy and shame, and a large edict to never mention this. I can’t imagine how it must have been for my grandmother.

A few years ago, while in her kitchen, helping to prepare the Yorkshire pudding for Christmas dinner, I asked her more questions about my unknown grandfather. Besides saying what she would come to only say about it, “It was a long time ago,” (end of conversation), she also said that years after my dad was born, my grandmother’s mother showed her letters Joe had sent her during the pregnancy which her mom had intercepted and kept hidden – letters which said that he wanted to help and be involved.

Crushing. I imagine. I told this to my dad, and he was stunned – he never asks, or talks about it.

I’ve done a little research, and in the Bronx in the 1950s, the “Spanish” population, not knowing if that meant Spain Spanish or Latino Spanish, it is likely that he, my dad’s father, was either Puerto Rican or Dominican.

The last information I’ve gotten from my grandmother was when I sent her a letter about 2 years ago, asking politely and nicely and just … a little desperately, for more information. And she wrote back, It was a long time ago, times change, we move on.

And now, she lays in a hospital bed, losing her memory, and dying with the last of any secrets or clues to my lineage, my brother’s lineage, and that of my father. Her husband married her when my dad was 6, and they had another son. And that’s that.

It was years before I knew any of this about my dad’s dad. I knew that the man I knew as my grandfather was my dad’s step father, but I was always told that there was a real Daniels, with a backstory - a descendant of a Scottish clan - and everything.

So, Christmas. There’s a bit of acceptance I’ll just have to work on around this. Some people really don’t know their heritage at all. Some are adopted, or were taken from their homeland generations ago, entirely divorced from their origins.

I don’t really know what else to say about it. It feels like a loss, like a sadness. And I’ll always be curious, and I wish I knew more, and I often assume that my nearly black hair and dark eyes like my father are from this Latin lineage, and I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever find those letters from Joe in the packing up of boxes once they’re all gone. 

But I do know that over the last few years, when I’ve been in spiritual circles during which we’re asked to name our ancestors, I name him, Grampa Joe, and call him into my circle. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Moi, Toi, Nous.

Me, You, Us.

As I was ogling through Cartier on Thursday's lunch break, I picked up a copy of their magazine on my way out assuming it was simply advertisements, but I am heading into collage-making land, personally and for the workshop I’m running in the Spring and need magazine fodder. Turns out that aside from being a long advertisement, there were also several almost academic articles on marriage customs, the heart, as organ, as art, as personified valve, capable of being heavy, light, hard, open.

One of the pieces of ‘heart art’ had the scribbles of “Moi, Toi, Nous” painted on a large heart, with a caption saying this is one of the old ways of inscribing love. Me. You. Us.

In Calling in The One, we are challenged to begin to walk in our lives as part of a “we.” Not just romantically, but as a member of the world. Not “me first”, but us first. How to engage with the world with mutual interest – to perhaps begin to model what it might or could look like in a romantic partnership that could last a lifetime. It’s likely impossible to maintain a “me first” attitude and a successful relationship. Of course there’s a balance with maintaining personal integrity as well, but I feel like I’ve tended to the opposite extremes of self-preservation or people-pleasing, so walking in the world in an “us” manner is different and good practice for me.

Another exercise, which then feeds into yesterday, was to begin to acquire collage pictures that speak to our vision of love in our lives. So, about a month or more ago, I began with a photo of a man and a woman from a Tiffany’s ad, holding hands in marriage garb, walking away from the camera down what looks to me like a Central Park footpath. Calm, beautiful, mutual. But, I also began peppering my collage with photos that I thought I “should” put on. Ones that weren’t as feminine, ones that were more gender-neutral or masculine in nature or in mood. Because isn’t that part of this, to open space for “masculine” energy? So, I put on some stripes of more masculine neutral colors, and … What I’ve come to realize are more drab, dull, and boring.

I wear glasses, and so when I wake up in the morning and look at the wall opposite me, I really only see colors, not images. Over the time that I’ve lived in this apartment and put various collages on that wall, I’ve been able to wake up to vibrant, moving color. But, over the last month or so that I’ve had this collage in progress, it’s been like looking at a bowl of oatmeal! I’ve realized this only recently, how unmotivated I was to finish the collage, and how little I’d been looking at it.

Usually, my collages continue to capture my attention. The phrases I cut out, the images that still move me with their beauty or humor or joy. Every collage I’ve made over the last few years has had teal in it. I didn’t notice this until earlier this year, when I’d made a new one, and waking up, TEAL, there it is. The color of Mediterranean oceans, and somehow, to me, joy. A beauty, an inspiration. I followed this nudge finally, and bought a perfect teal scarf. I’d apparently wanted this incorporated into my waking life as well as my art life. And I love the scarf. It still brings me joy.

So, knowing the power that my collages have to inspire me, and to continue to nudge me, yesterday during my day of cleaning, I began taking down the CITO oatmeal collage. This is not the collage of love, inspiration, joy, fulfillment, creation, happiness. There are a few images I’ll keep, like the Tiffany ad, and a crayon-colored drawing I did earlier this year that sort of envisions … my vision! But, I sat down yesterday and began to cut out new images. Images that made me smile, who cares about masculine or feminine. What I recognize is that if I am happy, I attract happiness. I don’t need to try to manipulate what I think I should be looking for or how I think it "should" look - even on something as "inconsequential" as a collage.

And so, there is now a ton of red – the color of love, passion, emotion – and, of course, there’s now teal. I look forward to putting it all together, and waking up to what feels like a shift in my approach.

Finally, about “Moi, Toi, Nous.”, it reminds me: In Hebrew “Mah Tovu” is a common and gorgeous song and prayer recited upon entering a place of worship. It means “How Good” – How good it is, here, this place, now.

Coincidence? I think not. :) 

Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy Chanukah. Love, M.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hearth and Home

Winter cleaning has begun. The clean laundry that was occupying the “other person’s” part of the bed is now put away. And the cleaning will continue. I’ve decided and recognized that this “free” time off work will be an excellent time to dig out those boxes from NJ and begin to empty them.

First, sure, there’s all the surface cleaning I need to do, and I have a girl coming over at 1 for coffee and chat, so the surface will need to look decent before then. But after that? Today feels like a good day to begin, gently, with the NJ boxes.

When I began CITO, it asked us to make space, literally, for a partner to come into our lives, and so I emptied a drawer in my closet and a shelf in my bathroom, and I bought silvery grey sheets, which felt gender neutral, but also pretty sexy.

My place began to feel lighter, like I was creating space, and allowing for “Nature abhors a vacuum” to occur. Then, I sent back 6 or so boxes from NJ. They have pictures, and old school notebooks, and old poetry, and old journals. A girl friend of mine called me up earlier this month to say that she was taking a page from my book when she goes home for Christmas and wanted to know what I did with my old journals.

I said, nothing. That’s not entirely accurate. I packed them up in NJ and shipped them here to SF, uh, Oakland, I mean. I knew that there was enough emotional upheaval to not want to or be able to process what to do with them when I was in NJ, and so I just packed them up and shipped them here, and they’ve been in my closet since October.

Which is fine. And I don’t yet know what I’ll do with them. There’s the part that wants to honor what they hold, there’s the part that knows that the childish records of who was in a fight with who and who was wearing what in 9th grade are not things I feel tempted to keep, but they are funny too, now, and so, what to do with them?

There is a lot of sadness in them too. When I was home, I was doing some sifting and sorting and discarding, and there’s poetry from grade 2 and 3 that is already about loneliness and isolation. So, I think there’ll be some spiritual work or process or ritual I want to do around them. Maybe my friend and I can do something around them together.

When I got into grad school last year, another friend of mine encouraged me to do a ritual of thanks for the gift of this opportunity. We wrote down old ideas that no longer served us, and burned them. Then we wrote down one idea that would carry us forward. I still have it, in my closet. It says, “We can.” Sure, a little reminiscent of the whole Obama campaign, but it still speaks to the same sentiment I’m continuing to address: I don’t have to do things on my own. I don’t have to deplete my own limited resources; there is a world of abundance around me of people, resources, help, and love, if I avail myself of them.

So, I’m not sure what I’ll yet do with the old journals. I know there’s a reading series in Oakland where people submit from their jr high era journals, and then if chosen, get to read them – pretty hilarious stuff, I hear. One that comes to mind reported to me – I haven’t been yet – is a girl who wrote, “Maybe if I got a pig they’d like me.” ;) She apparently grew up in an agricultural setting...!

It also feels like an appropriate “end of year” activity, to clean the closets, to put my apartment back into “other person” readiness. Nature isn’t the only thing that fills in a vacuum, and I’ve begun to encroach on the newly emptied space I cleared, filling it back up with my crap.

There’s plenty of other stuff in the boxes to go through and set aside, organize, or discard, and it takes me a long time to decide whether some things are worth keeping, as you sift through old high school photos, which do you need? What is “for posterity” in my drawings, poems, items? What is now simply junk?

But, I will recall the belief I want to carry with me - I don’t have to do this alone - and I can call on some guidance, clarity, and a heavy dose of lightness(!) while I sift through the remnants of my childhood.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wet Concrete.

Today is the last day of work before the winter break. And although mine is polka-dotted with gorgeous adventures with wonderful women, what i’m really looking forward to is sleep! And cleaning my apartment.

There’s some kind of shift happening, or a solidification rather. I feel the cement getting stronger beneath my feet. As though I have poured the foundation, and it’s looked messy and strange – like getting a degree in poetry, putting together an art show, cleaning out my childhood home for sale, getting out of a relationship, beginning to audition for theater. I haven’t known what any of these pieces have meant as they’ve come up and I examine them and lay them down, like Indy choosing the right chalice at the end of Last Crusade, hmm, consider, lay aside. I’ve just been picking up these pieces with curiosity.

And now they’re all poured into the mold of my life’s foundation, and I can’t explain to you why, but there is a joy that is arising that feels so uniquely new and pervasive, that I know these are associated. With a stronger foundation to stand on, I’m freer to explore, create, test theories, fail, try. I’m no longer standing on quick-sand, undermining myself as soon as a notion crosses my mind or path.

I also know that there are likely a thousand more things that will go in this foundation, that it won’t ever be “complete,” but isn’t that the point of life? (She says with any idea like she knows what “the point” of life is!!)

But, I tell you, something is happening. Which is a good thing, because I can spin out into “I have no idea what’s happening/going to happen”-land really quickly.

For now, today is my last day of 2011 working at a job I enjoy. I’ve been asked to come back on January 3rd when the office reopens, and it has been suggested to pay off my credit cards with this money I’ll earn, instead of ear-mark it for a car, … but we’ll see ;) My credit cards don’t have high balances (no one ever trusted me enough to give me too much credit! – including myself), but the interest rates are exorbitant, and one of my tasks is to call to ask for a lower rate. I’ve done this before, and they’ve said no. I’ve done this recently, and they’ve said no.

But the woman who suggested it said that this is one of those holes that needs to be closed up. Why pour water into a sieve? In order for me to hold abundance in my life, there are places where I need to be ready to receive it. So, this is one of those action places, a place where the foundation can become firmer. The woman also suggested a script for calling them, some key phrases and an attitude, that scare the crap out of me. Because they mean taking true accountability and responsibility for myself and my finances by letting someone else know that this is not okay. Paying almost 20% on a credit card, and not touching the principal is (apparently!) not okay. And I need to close these holes. I also will let go of the results, because they may still say no, but the action of taking action to care for myself and respect my own boundaries is the lesson, and the trial.

I get reflective around the turn of the year, and around my birthday. For all the floundering I sometimes believe I’m doing in my life, the truth is that progress is being made. It has not been the easiest year, and the hardships have variously set me to a variety of tasks and new things:
  • the breakup caused me to lean on my girlfriends, and have the experience of getting through that “slammed by a mack truck”ness of early breakup;
  • the breakup led to rebounding, which produced my best painting yet (in my opinion) – lol;
  • the japan disaster prompted my friend to host an art show with donation to japan at which she asked me to read my poetry, for my first time in public outside of the school community;
  • my bitterly harrowing lack of income over the summer caused me to get in with a community of people who work on financial security and abundance issues;
  • later, working too much caused me to come up against boundaries of self-care and are helping me to say yes and no with integrity;
  • packing up my childhood home for sale caused me to root out the sadness and grief that lived there, and here in my heart, and to begin to perspectivize ;) it with more serenity;
  • having that wonky conversation with my mom over the summer caused me to take space to reassess how I am able to engage with her in ways that feel mutual, responsible, respectful, and loving to us both;
  • being single caused me to pick up Calling in the One to help foster love and care within myself and help to radiate outward;
  • my grandmother, my dad’s mom, is dying, and this is causing me to see my dad with more compassion than I have, perhaps, ever, and to listen to him as a person, not as “Dad” with all its attendant baggage and expectations.

So, there’s just some reflections which come immediately to mind. There are more. But as the saying goes something like, "out of every season of grief, when life seemed heavy or unjust, new lessons for life are learned and new resources of growth and courage are discovered." And for me, these seasons of grief were simply filtering out the junk in the pouring concrete. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011


So, are you also feeling a bout of “senioritis” at work lately? Like, duuuude, it’s almost the winter break, I’m here in body only, my mind is with egg nog and ice skates and Jewish Christmas (movie & Asian food) land?

Where my body did get to go yesterday was some pretty wonderful and fanciful places. My temp job is downtown SF off of Union Square – this is, to use a terribly evocative phrase, Ground Zero for SF shopping. The (fake) enormous Christmas tree, every department store you can imagine, and jewelry stores that make me stop and ogle just the mastery and beauty of what the earth produces.

Yesterday, we needed some fancy ribbon to wrap the fancy presents for the fancy clients of the fancy place where I’m working. So, I was asked to go down to Britex fabric store. I’d been there once last week, and felt like a kid walking into FAO Schwartz. Colors and patterns and buttons, oh my! And yesterday was no different. I felt like saying “Thank you, Mood!” on my way out. I found a gorgeous double sided satin crimson ribbon and walked slowly out of the store, stopping by the display of beaded and lace appliqués for wedding dresses, and some that would make any drag queen’s costume sparkle with glamour ;)

After returning the ribbon to my boss, she applied it to a wreath and asked me to take it across the street to the hair salon that the “big” boss goes to. I’d looked up this salon last week, just out of curiosity as I was logging in contacts into Outlook, and the website says they do free haircuts for volunteer models. So, I put my name in. But yesterday, when I was there, I mentioned that I’d seen the invitation on the website, and the woman asked me to write my name and contact info down – so, looks like I may get a fancy haircut sometime soon too!

Now, lest you think that I’m in the lap of luxury, the times when I was at work, I’m in their library cataloguing all of their books… They have one that looks like it’s out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! So, it wasn’t all joy, and in the skirt I was wearing, I wasn’t really feeling getting down on the floor to the bottom shelves.

Now, lest you think I’m ungrateful, I really hope I’m not. I gave my boss a bottle of wine (which was given to me by the people I babysit for) as a thank you for throwing this work my way. And as I’ve said before, I know that not all temp jobs are like this one – and I’m truly grateful for it, and for the people who work there.

So, that interruption aside, will you let me gush a little more? Indulge me, the poor student who got thrown a bone by the Universe? :)

In the afternoon, I was asked to go pick up the gifts from Neiman Marcus and Macy’s. These are fancy presents for the big boss to give out. And while I’m waiting for the makeup counter lady to get all the things on my list, I get (easily) coerced into letting a makeup person slather me with foundation and some blush.

Sure, my skin looked flawless, but it also looked so fake. I’m a makeup wearer. Dyed in the wool MAC fan (my mom took me to the original MAC store on Christopher Street in NYC for my 14th birthday for a makeover – I was later told at school that I’d be remembered as the girl who wore too much purple eyeshadow) ;P But, needless to say, I’ve worn a lot of makeup of different kinds, and though I looked like a china doll, it covers up all that is there. The freckles that appeared on the top inch of my forehead after I got badly sunburned while snorkeling the coral reef in Cairns, Australia in 2006. It blistered and was all bad – when one half of your face is in the water, there’s still one half exposed to sun – be warned. They’re age-spots, or sun spots, and they sometimes make me worry what they’ll look like when I’m older – how much “worse” they’ll get. There is the increasing crepe-yness of my eye lids, and she doused on a ton of concealer under my eyes.

And, I felt fake. It was fine – it wasn’t a day ruiner by any means(!), but it helped me to reflect that I don’t want to be like this 60 year old woman with caked on foundation to look like she’s 20. Because even me, 30, I don’t look like I’m 20 – and really, I’m cool with it. My eyes are crepe because I’m alive and healthy and going through the world, not sequestered from it behind a masque of anti aging. My forehead is dotted with freckles (that no one else can see by the way!) because I was on an adventure in f’ing Australia.

I’m all for makeup, enhancing my looks, playing around – my face was my first canvas in many ways. But, I still want to be Molly, with my entire history.

I walked out of Macy’s with a few free gifts they threw in for me too, and back at work, wiped off some of the foundation, and saw again my face, not “what I want you to see.” What I actually want you to see is that I am many things – young, yes; lived-in, yes; happy – well, how about that? – yes.

I got to be surrounded by beauty on my errands yesterday, fabric and fashion galore – but the very best moment all day, was when, in Macy’s, a gay manboy at the Benefit counter said to me, “This (insert hand gesture up and down) is really working for you. You look great.” As I warm up to myself, it shows, in how I hold myself, present myself, and choose to acoutrement myself. This really is working for me. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Weird Science.

Winter solstice approaches. So despite the dwindling hours of sunlight and what feel like dwindling hours of productivity, change is on the move. I love thinking about stuff like that – my brother is an “earth scientist” – basically, he’d steeped in physics, chemistry, and biology, and at the moment is working as a cleaner upper of this here our earth.

He once sent me a text photo, when he began his job last year in environmental remediation, of a teeny tiny little frog balancing on my brother’s blue hazmat gloves, with the note saying, "I’m cleaning his home." :) It was the very sweetest thing.

Once, Ben and I heard the rumor that on the equinoxes in spring and fall, you could balance an egg on its end in a window of like 3 minutes, and it wouldn’t fall over because the earth was positioned in such a way that the gravitational pull was completely equal. – It worked! It totally balanced on it’s little fat bottom end for about a minute or two before it lopped over onto its side like all other days of the year.

We used to sit at home on the couch, and he’d basically translate what he’d just read from Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell, and we’d talk about the expanding and contracting of the universe, and about black holes, and just science-y stuff in general. It was great. I rarely, if ever, get to talk to people about stuff like that, mainly because I’m so novice, and also, it just doesn’t come up – so, did you hear about Pluto doesn’t really count! (And p.s. I feel bad for Pluto’s demotion!)

When I was in college, heading toward, well, I wasn’t always in my right mind, I was taking a physics course, and one of the classes was on relativity. And in the “Whoa, man” state of mind I was in, after class, we’re all outside waiting for the bus, and I don’t really know anyone in the class, being an English major, and I say to one dude as the bus approaches, isn’t it crazy, the bus is moving relative to us, but we’re moving on the spinning earth, and the earth is moving in orbit… You can see why lots of stoners get blown away by such concepts ;P

But, it – science, math – comes up for me. Strange as it may seem. My brother was a double major in geo-physics and music theory. Art and science aren’t as far apart as they may seem. All my painting is is increasing the viscosity of a pigment to deposit it on another surface ;) One thing that came up repeatedly for me over the number of times that I did the Artist’s Way was to take a math class. Weird, I know. But we’re asked several times throughout the course to list – without overthinking it – 5 classes we’d want to take if money and time and fear weren’t an issue. And each time, math would be on that list.

I was proctoring an SAT exam about 2 years ago for some extra cash, and I was looking at the test in the aching silence of the room as these poor students are having meltdowns and panic attacks about their future, and sine and cosines swim in their graphing calculators. It was actually fun. To feel these very old creaky wheels in the back of my brain trying to remember the formula for triangles and circles. I didn’t remember the harder stuff, but there was an inner perking up of, hey, I know this stuff, and hey, do we get to do this. (I actually did better on my SATs in math, twice, than I did in english, so…)

I don’t know what it means, but in keeping with listening to my inner nudges, and knowing that this math/science thing has come up several times over the last 4 or 5 years, maybe it’s time to listen. I actually looked to see if I could do one at my school, but they are waaaay advanced, and I need like algebra 1 again! Not lecture and lab. Math can be fun. Science was way fun the way my brother and I used to talk about it. The way that he would explain these concepts to me, and we could converse about them.

Keep ‘em coming, little nudges. I don’t know what yet to do with you – but I have utter faith that I will. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today's Lesson: Love. (Don't Vomit.)

Today is affirmation day.

Per the last exercise of Calling in The One workbook/coursebook/spiritual revolution catalyst, today, I’m supposed to affirm my availability and openness to Love and to meet love, not just in a romantic partner, though that is an aspect, but to meet love within myself, my life, and in all other people.

When I got sober, I used to hear people say “We’ll love you until you can love yourself.” At the time, that sentence felt like I just got slimed on Double Dare. No way, dude. Get it off me. Keep that gross thing, “Love” you’re calling it?, to your own damned self.

At the time, “love” to me was a series of fabulously tragic relationships and an invitation to be hood-winked. I imagined love was like The Simpsons’ Nelson, asking me to sit in this lavish chair, and just as I was bending into it, he’d pull it out from under me with his catch-phrase “HA HA!” I can hear it. Love was not to be trusted; love was a lie; love was an invitation to be hurt.

So you can imagine, that when people also said that “G-d is love”, I threw up in my mouth a little bit, every single time. I still think it’s an extremely gooey phrase, but I don’t get (as much) acid reflux from it anymore.

For quite some time, I used to say that I received compliments like one of those lamp-light bug zappers. Compliments, and we can extrapolate “love,” would only get so far toward me before ZAP! Dead. You ain’t getting in here, no way no how.

One of the meditations in the workshop I went to this weekend asked us to envision the light from various teachers and positive sources coming into us, and to then to allow that light to pour out into others. I did this meditation a few years ago, about 3 or 4 I suppose. At the time, I vividly remember that I wasn’t going to let these people’s “light” come anywhere near me. I’ll send light out to those behind me, sure, but keep your light to yourself. I would send from my own bucket, tap from the (limited) source within myself. I didn’t need your light – I can do it on my own.

This past weekend, however, sure, I recognized I still was very uncomfortable accepting the light from these loving sources, but I let it in. It was like slipping into a fur coat that’s been in mothballs for years – comforting but icky. ;) That said, to know that I was a) willing to accept light, and we can substitute the word “love” here, from others was a huge shift, however uncomfortable I am to receive it, I was willing to do so; and b) I didn’t have to send my love/light to others by depleting my own reserves. Instead, I could be a funnel, a filter, a channel, as is often said.

So, here I am. 30, single, hesitant to believe in a thing called love (to quote the song with a cringe) ;P but opening more to it. There’s been a level of conceit which says I’m able to give love and you’re not allowed to give it to me; a level of conceit which says I know the right way to love and you’re giving it to me wrong. These have kept me quite alone over the years.

The reality is that I haven’t fallen in love with an addict, alcoholic, unavailable, or taken man in a long long time. Doing these things helped to cause my belief that love was a cruel trick. I haven’t had proof of this for a long time. Instead, what I’ve been given evidence of as “love” has been self-less, light, thoughtful, and consistent, and this love has come from many people, not only lovers or boyfriends. I’ve begun to give myself the same respect and consistency, and finishing this course (and because I mainly just read through it with lots of underlining(!), and didn’t complete all the exercises, I will now go back through – there are a bunch which I know want my attention to help sever these old ties of beliefs) – finishing the course, going on my date with myself, not dating jerks, all of these are helping to firm up the new system of belief which is that your love (and my own) is not going to injure me, but rather it is going to bolster me in my climb out into the sunlight.

For all that, I thank you, friends, readers, little secret gnomes, who are sliming me with the support and generosity of love. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Best Date Ever.

So, if, as has been said to me, a first date is simply an interview for a second one, then I totally nailed this interview.

The date began with ice skating. Now, I almost talked myself out of it, seeing that there were mainly families on the Union Square Ice Rink, but after checking in with my date, I knew this is what we were there to do.

And I had a blast!!! It was so much freaking fun. I didn’t fall, but I certainly flailed. I laughed and grinned and was a terrible skater having a wonderful time. It was incredible. The Christmas music on the speakers, I barely heard over my squeals of delight and intense concentration to not knock into anyone. People standing outside the rink watching laughed and smiled at me as I laughed and smiled. They were as delighted to see I was having such a good time at being awful as I was. :)

After making it for only about 40minutes though, having worked up a bit of heat, and my ankles not nearly as strong as they needed to be, we called it quits, but we were both cool with it.

I’d promised my date that we’d go see Hugo in 3D, that Martin Scorcese kids’ film that was supposed to actually be pretty good. But what we needed first was … hot chocolate.

After trying to corral my date into being okay with stopping in Ross (the discount clothing store) for a minute for some socks, I agreed this was not what I wanted to be doing either, and we left, to get hot chocolate with whipped cream. Now, I would never normally do this, the sugar factor for one, and the cool factor for the other. I was in line very tempted to get a chai latte with an add shot – seasonal and fun, but adult, you know? But, when I went up to order, hot chocolate it was. It was delicious. I really felt like the old days.

My “crazy cat lady aunt” as I’ve been fond to call her, but realize perhaps it’s time to stop calling her that. It’s pretty mean. But, you get immediately the type of person I’m talking about. Well, she lives in Manhattan, as she has all of my life, and each year growing up would take me to Rockefeller Center. There, was Teuscher’s Chocolates. And in Teuscher’s chocolates were something called Champagne Truffles. Now, I haven’t had them in a few years, I had one about 4 years ago, but wasn’t sure if that was “okay” on the whole sobriety front, so I don’t have them anymore, but that one was as divine as I remembered them to be.

My aunt, for all of her foibles and human fallibilities, really loved/loves me and my brother. She took us to see the famous tree, to see the Radio City Rockettes, to stand on the lines to go see the holiday windows at Sak’s Fifth Avenue – which were monumental in our day – themed and mechanized and just opulent. 

She, in fact, wrote me an email about 2 weeks ago entitled “The Return of Kevin,” and said she was flipping through the channels and came across Home Alone, and remembered vividly, though I don’t, when she had taken me for tea at the Plaza hotel (she loved to do these totally chi-chi things, like we went to the symphony, and she took me on my first airplane ride). Apparently, standing out front, I said “I’m standing where Kevin stood”, with such a look on my face of joy and radiance that she remembers it to this day. Now, sadly, I know this must mean that I was referencing Home Alone Two, because that one takes place in NY, and loathe though I may be to admit it, I’m sure this story is completely accurate.

So, I love all the shlock of Christmas, holidays, even the pushy crowds. When I left the ice rink yesterday, the smile and sheen of joy coming off me was palpable. I was so happy I went.

My date ended after Hugo in 3D with buying a package of sugar-free hot chocolate on my way home (the invasion of sugar from earlier was not kind to me), rented a comedy and came home to curl up with some tea, and, hey, here’s honesty, to "spend a little time with myself," to quote Tom Waits.

You may have guessed much earlier than this, that my date was with myself. And it was awesome. Part of the whole Calling in the One thing and my path in general is to become a woman I’d want to date. And, judging from the careening, fanciful, contented joy of yesterday, another date is sure to follow. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Power of Love (yes, I mean the song)

Yesterday, I went to the 3rd of a series of 4 workshops my friend has been facilitating over the last few months. Yesterday was Relationship with the Divine. I imagined I sorta had this one “down,” that I could relatively expect what would come up – places where I trust, don’t trust, know I’ll be taken care of, am scared I’ll be taken care of(!). But, a bunch of things happened that I did not expect.

The first of which was in response to the question, What would happen if we shift our current (and assumedly not completely accurate) belief system? What would happen if I really allowed myself to step into full faith in my path, my internal nudges toward art, into the fullest idea that this is a world of abundance? What would happen then?

What occurred to me was that I would need to begin to take responsibility for my dreams, for these nudges and instincts toward joy. And that’s when it happened.

I’ve known that I have shirked responsibility for my needs and my dreams for years, hiding them under “just stay within the lines.” I know that it has become so painful to stay in the lines that I’ve quit jobs with no safety net, moved across continents and countries, and previously fallen into addiction and self-defeating behavior to cover up the distance between what I was doing in my life and what I wanted to be doing. So, I’ve known that I’ve not been responsible to myself.

What I didn’t know was that in sitting with what would it truly look like to step into that responsibility would bring up the fiery reaction of an inner child saying F.U., I’m exhausted from responsibility, responsibility sucks.

Now, sure, many people feel this way, but many don’t. To me what this question tapped into was that my previously held beliefs of responsibility were of ones that were beyond my resources. Like I’ve said, responsibilities that I had to take on when I was younger, like a lot of people I know, were beyond what a child normally ought to take on. Responsibility came with resentment and a feeling of exhaustion.

So, to sit now with the possibility of stepping in and taking full reign of my dreams, nudges, creativity, “power” even, I come up against this out-dated idea of what responsibility means, and of course I’ve run away from stepping into ownership of them. If, to me, responsibility for myself has equaled a burden, something beyond what I’m able to give, a frightening amount of giving, then it is no f’ing wonder that I’ve avoided it.

The bright spot on all of this, is that now I see it, and can dismantle these false ideas. It would be nice to assume responsibility for myself in a way that felt nurturing, caring, and perhaps even refueling. My needs are not exorbitant, they are doable, if I also am willing to tap into the HP (sorry to get G-dy for a minute) and the abundant source of energy that is there.

I’m not a religious person, but I believe there are things beyond me which are much more powerful than I am, and if I can tap into that resource, I don’t get  depleted. If I act as a channel, instead of charging off my own battery, then I don’t get depleted.

So, I’ve known that it’s been hard for me to color outside the lines, to stick to the course that is within me. But i haven’t really known why I’ve continued to avoid the path, besides the normal fears(!). We’ll see how I am able to incorporate this new idea, how I’ll be able to shift the belief system, but awareness is the first action.

Secondly in this workshop, lol, if you’re still reading!, there was a meditation on impermanence. This was So crazy intense, I’ve never had a meditation be so evocative – and I’ve had some whacked out powerful ones that I still remember. The meditation was to ourselves as a very old person, on the doorstep of death. We were to enter the space of this person, and make ourselves known to her (in my case), and to ask what she had to tell us. The whole time, nearly from the beginning of the meditation, I’m streaming tears. Not from grief or sadness, sadness was there, but it was just more this overwhelming sense of emotion.

The woman, me, all frail and skeletal nearly, had my eyes, and they were still bright and kind and alive. There was the smell of cinnamon, something baking elsewhere in the house. And as I held her hand, she told me to “Love, as much as you can.” And to be with my family (which I am not entirely sure what she meant, my current one, the one I’ll have, my family of my friends, or all of these). She was content with her life, ready to go.

Then we were to imagine her passing away, and not to get gross, but imagining her decomposing, to bone, to dust, and perhaps blowing away, and then to sit and “sense or feel or imagine” (as my teacher likes to say) what remains. What remained for me, as I continue to drip saltwater all down my neck, was both the Love this woman had, had around her, in her, in her life, and gave to me, and the edict to Love. Which I interpret as two different things. The sense of love, and the command to love.

What also remained was the sound of children’s laughter somewhere else in the house, downstairs or down the hall. In my meditation of impermanence, laughter and love remained. In my meditation where I literally (sort of) watched myself die, what was left in the world wasn’t diminished.

You can imagine this was pretty intense ;)

But how encouraging. And I’ve been given something to do. To love, as much as I can, and to hold my responsibilities for myself with love, not rejection.

Big tasks, but apparently, I have a very long time in which to accomplish them. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The language of letting go.

Two things occur to me about this at the moment, situations that have come up. The first is that I’m creating holiday cards to send out to friends and family. The second is that my best friend from the east coast texted me last night to say that her childhood home had been bulldozed.

To the first, I’ve stalled a little on the cards, partly because of the insanity of my self-imposed schedule (even with the simplified design of the card I’ve chosen to do for everyone, it’ll take 30 minutes, times like 20 cards… = ten hours; and my list has more like 40 people on it!). And partly stalled out because of the process around sending them, these handmade items, out into the world. Some people may have no problem with this, and consider it all a labor of love, but it’s nudged into a larger thing for me.

The cards will be okay, mainly because they’re all the same, because they’re being made with the intention of being sent out. But earlier this year, I hosted an art show with a group of my friends, and I sold a painting. I didn’t actually think anything would sell and was delighted when someone inquired, but also felt a sharp pang of “oh fuck”. The painting that sold was sort of a companion piece, one was called “The Rebound”, the other, created months later, was called “Safety or Before the Fall”. The first showed an empty mussed up bed by candlelight, with a naked girl tucked into a corner on a chair facing the bed, all you see are her legs wrapped up around her.

The second painting was of a woman’s hand resting on a man’s bare chest in sort of sepia-like colors, intended to connote a memory. The view most women will know instantly, it’s the view of cuddling, the view of sleeping next to someone, to me, it was the view of safety. That time in your day, whatever time of day it is you are horizontal with your lover, and for those moments, nothing is wrong. You watch your hand rise and fall with his breathing, you play with whatever strands of chest hair, or trace lightly on the skin. It’s a moment of zen for me. Of “all is right with the world.”

Now, of course, the second part of the title “Before the Fall” speaks to the impermanence of that moment. Which led to “The Rebound.” Obviously, these paintings are intensely personal and moments of my own life which I created with my greatest ability to offer the honesty and vulnerability of each of these moments. They were a part of me; a part of my past; and a part of what will always hold a place in my memory and my heart.

So a woman wanted to buy “Safety.” And because it was my first art show, and I was so excited to have an offer at all, and I didn’t know what an appropriate amount was for it, I sold it. (The Rebound I marked as “not for sale,” as that one, at least I knew was much too close a moment to let go of.)

Months later, I’m at an art show of a friend of mine who makes very spiritual paintings, each radiating a kind of passion, divinity, and connection. They are little portraits of love, and sometimes pain. And perhaps, often both. I asked her how she feels able to let go of her paintings when they’re obviously crafted with so much love and care. She said, firstly she prices them in a way in which she doesn’t feel “sold short”, in a way which she feels she wouldn’t “miss” them. (Not greedy, but not lamenting, like I am/was.) Secondly, she said with a specific set of her work, she did a process around letting go of each of them, in order to send them out into the Universe.

I didn’t do either of these with “Safety,” and I regret it. Were it a higher price, I still don’t know if I would have liked to have sold it yet. As such a fledgling artist, there’s still also a place in me in which every piece I make is SO precious because I don’t know if I’ll have it in me to do it again, and also, I am still sometimes astounded and proud of the work and don’t want to let it go.

Earlier this year, I made a portrait of a friend of mine that was very specifically for him, of him, of a San Francisco moment, and I had no trouble giving that away to him. It was a gift for a major milestone for him, and I wanted to honor that. And again, with the cards, knowing their intention is to go out into the Universe to people whom I love, that is easier. It’s these more amorphous recipients who I have trouble with.

Granted, I’m not in any art shows right now, “The Rebound” sits in my closet, but I’ll be taking an advanced oil painting class in the spring and imagine some more work will come out of that/be inspired by that class.

I don’t know what all of this means in my scheme of things, the ability to let go of my creations, but paintings have been different than poems, or even performances. A poem, I own, I wrote, I know that moment, and I have a document. Go ahead, read it, hear it, buy my chapbook ;) Performances? They only work because of you. A performance, to me, is absolutely the love child of performer and audience, be that performing theater or music. That’s part of the thrill of it to me, that each night, each performance is different. It’s a thrilling moment of co-creation.

I would like to learn how to set my paintings in a way where they can go off to others with a sense of completion and satisfaction, even joy, not with a sense of loss.

Lastly, I think having better documentation of my work than my cell phone photos could help me as well ;)

To the second item of letting go, my friend’s house – I’m out of time and room in this blog, but for now, a moment of honoring for that house, the haven it was for me, the home it was for her, and the memories we still get to share, 30 years later. Amen. 

 Safety or Before the Fall (June 2011)

The Rebound (March 2011)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Joy of Flailing.

So, here I sit at my last desk shift at the gym for a while. I gave my "two week's notice" to them last week, when I realized that a) I wasn't taking advantage of my free classes, and b) ... I want my Friday mornings back. I am on deck as a "sub" person, and I also said that once school starts again and I have a more regular schedule that I'll be back fora regular shift. 

The instructor I've been working in tandem with for the last 6 months or so just brought me a pastry and a sad face :) she's so sweet. As we have an early morning shift, no one is usually here too soon before class, so she and I get to talk dating, men, life, etc. She said she just ordered the Calling In the One book. Ha! You never know what happens with these ripples. 

But, I am looking forward to not having to scramble to cover my shift, trade my shift, cover other peoples - cuz obviously I'm feeling a little "put upon" by this - which again tells me that I've spread myself too thin - because actually this thing is pretty rad - the classes are great and I've realized I like the community aspect of working out. It helps that almost all of the women are older than me, some over 60, and are holding these poses and positions better than I am! It helps to keep me motivated. 

So, I'll come back as soon as I can, but I need the time off. 

After my shift here, I'm getting picked up to babysit for a family up in the Oakland Hills. Although I'm a little nervous to have the two girls for the entire day (I've only sat for them at night - which looks like play, dinner, play, bedtime - so there's not too much need to be entertaining) - but I'm sure it'll be fine. i'm actually looking forward to it a little bit. I love the energy of kids. I'm such a kid myself - I love to be silly and nonsensical. Kids love that stuff - morelike,when you say something like, "You guys are monkeys,"  they love to be like "Noooooo, We're not monkeys!!!" Seems like a silly thing to get indignant about, but when I was teaching a class of kindergartners in South Korea, the thing they most loved to respond with was, "Teacher, we not monkeys!!! You a monkey!!" ~ Their English was a little better at the end of the year ;) But I love that. I love that kids play along, are silly, and when you make up Surrealist shit, they're totally on board. 

I'll babysit for them also next Monday, then the rest of the week with the interior design firm ... and then, release. The week between Christmas and New Year's is entirely mine. 

On Sunday, I'm intending to go ice skating in Union Square. Strange though it may seem "ice skating" is one of the items of my list of "Forbidden Joys" that I wrote 3 years ago through the Artist's Way. Not that *that* should be such a big deal! But it is. It's not like I'm good by any stretch - and I'm not being modest. I'm one of those arm-waving flailing people you don't want to skate anywhere near, because there is a strong likelihood that I will accidentally careen into you and grab onto your scarf for balance and take you down with me .... This actually did happen last time I went skating about 3 or 4 years ago - IT WAS GREAT!!! hahaha!!! I loved it. I didn't actually take the guy down - but it was close. And we all laughed, and by the end of an hour or so, I wasn't flailing as much. 

I ski much the same way, and I love that too. The joy of being a beginner, of not caring that I'm not graceful or skilled. Of just the joy of moving continuously around in a circle to the mash up beats of Katy Perry songs. ;) I love touching base with that kid. So, as part of my "restorative rest" goal of this break, I will be going ice skating. There's a party at the same time on Sunday that I just found out about, so I'm weighing my options, but I really want to skate. By myself, if other people want to show up, great, I'll put it out to some friends, but it really doesn't matter. I end up on my own with my novice-ness anyway. 

I also want to go see some live music. I'll look up what's happening at Yoshi's - the jazz & blues club in the city - there's one in Oakland, and find out from my musician friends what sort of shows our friends may be playing. I might take my friend up on the "stay-cation" and stay at her apartment in SF during that week off. I might choose to stay in Oakland and follow-up on my intention of hanging out with people more here. 

Those are the two things I know I will do. Music and ice-skating. Ways that get me in my body, out of my head, and into the joy of life. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Just Row, Darling, Just Row.

So, I’m feeling both immensely relieved, and a bit of an emotional hangover from all of the worry and intense “gotta get it done”ness of the school semester. I finally finished my paper for my Shakespeare class, and emailed it to the teacher last night at 9pm. Granted, it was only six pages, but this whole working plus school thing really walloped what I was able to give to school, and squished everything else into weekends that wasn’t school and school sort of got shunted along every day, moving down my calendar like a shuffle board disc – I can do it tomorrow, I can do it tomorrow. Like Scarlet O’Hara – After all tomorrow is another day.

Which may be true, but tomorrow has been another day of intense activity, and not in any way better than the day before it.

So, the paper is done. My third out of 4 semesters of my MFA degree is done. And again, relief but… a big dose of “uhhhhhh….???” aka now what. I’m familiar enough with situations like these to not have to worry too much about the “now what”, but rather to just show up for what’s next, even if that’s do the dishes (which, duh, I do have to do), and also, as I’ve been doing more of lately, follow my little internal nudges, cuz they seem to have a better idea than I do about wtf is going to happen or is meant to happen, or which way I should row.

It’s funny. I had mini-epiphany a while back which went something like the following: I only need to row. I don’t need to know which way the boat is headed, I’m not steering, I’m not making the waves do their thing – I only need to row, and I’ll get there.

But that didn’t quite sit right with me. Sure, I agree, do the next indicated action – which for me at the moment is to wash up and get ready for work (I’ve decided – for now – to do my blogs in the morning – I procrastinate them at night, and then end up past my bedtime – plus one thing I really did learn from all this paper-writing pushing was that I really do write better in the morning. I’m a morning person – sort of. I’ve already had one cup of coffee! – I’m more of a “mid-morning” person – catch me at 10:30 or 11, and I’ll be ON IT… perhaps that’s also cuz the other two cups of coffee will finally have kicked in…).

In any case, rowing is great – I can row, and sit backwards and still question where the hell are we going. But I also do believe that it is sort of my responsibility to have some vague idea of which ocean we’re in – to extend the metaphor beyond its bounds! Maybe that’s still just me wanting to have some control, some idea of control if I know where I am, where I’m heading, and more about what I need to do to get there. Maybe that it doesn’t sit comfortably is just all part of the action and practice of this thing – to sit in the discomfort of not knowing, but to do the work anyway.

I don’t know what will happen at auditions. What will happen after school. What will happen tonight, even! I want to know – especially the “after school” part. Somehow I’m way more willing to let the audition stuff be how it will be – I’m way more que cera cera about it. Because I really know that I can’t control the outcome, I can only control how I show up and prepare for it – how I do or do not do research, take action, practice, and look for an acting coach, like my acting friend suggested to me. Somehow, letting go of the results of this is easy. Partly because, to me, it also feels fun. It feels like an adventure. Like trying a new ice cream every time. Like, I wonder what this flavor tastes like. So, of course it’s easy to show up more lightly to those. (But I will say, I’m sure I wouldn’t have always felt that way – which is why it’s taken me so long to even get here to stage zeropointone or wherever I am.)

But, “after school,” the looming deadline of “you ought to know.” More lies. I don’t know. I know that school has been the best thing I’ve done for myself in a while. Not cuz I get to study and write poetry – that’s cool, but it’s not where my passion is – but cuz I get to have this time to discover all this new stuff about myself. I said when I arrived that I wanted the two years of school to offer me time to “solidify my foundation within myself.” And I think I’ve been doing that. Concretizing who I am, how I want to be in this world – to have the time to become someone who can show up to auditions with a sense of fun.

I am uncomfortable not knowing. I am uncomfortable feeling like I’m not taking the “right” actions (not writing a sample syllabus, not looking at teaching jobs, not knowing where I will live or want to live). But, I also don’t want to teach. … So, that’s leaves me with a WIDE field, and too many options feels a little like none at all in my fear-brain.

So, before I talk myself out of the awesomeness that is my ability to show up and let go of the results, out of the awesomeness that is I FINISHED my semester, I’ll go get my second cup of coffee from my microwave and pray that all this rowing is better for me than I can possibly see.