Sunday, August 31, 2014

127 Hours

From my blog on Friday, March 29, 2013:

These are the words that close Brene Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection. The last “guidepost” to what she calls Wholehearted Living is “Laughter, Song, and Dance.”

It's funny; she spends a lot of time saying how most people feel really vulnerable when dancing, concerned with what people think of how they look, or scared they'll be told to “dial it down.” That's not my experience of dancing; it's my experience of singing.

Yesterday, I had another voice lesson, this time with someone in the cast who’s also a professional voice teacher. We’re working on my “belt” range, where I need to be to sing for this role, and also the range that, when done correctly, feels to me like yelling.


Being Loud.

Being Heard.

And where I begin to pull back. Close my throat, muffle the sound. Close off. Shut down. Shine down. Diminish. Dull. Deflate.

I am so achingly terrified of being loud. Because deep in my history is the terror of being hit.

If you make noise, you are noticed. If you are noticed, you are a target.

This terrible defense mechanism I’ve built that stifles me. Stifles me from the thing I am most passionate about. I don’t think this is coincidental.

(I believe) We are pushed into the places of most discomfort in order to heal from and emerge from them.

The years spent avoiding singing. The years spent writing quietly. The moments when I do try, the self-doubt that pounces on me, that shushes me.

I am walking right into the center of one of my greatest fears. And I am emotional. Scared. And also, trying.

I am trying so hard. I want to do this so badly because I love it. Because I feel it’s beautiful, and transporting, and transforming. Because I believe that song is one channel my soul wants to shine through. Because it makes me happy, gleeful, expansive, collaborative, alive.

I have one foot in a bear-trap. Constructed practically in utero. It is rusted, craggy, and defunct. What this feels like is chewing off my own limb to free myself. Painful. Awful. And completely necessary.

I don’t know what the outcome will be by the time the show opens in 3 weeks. I don’t know if I’ll power through the “shouting” that I think I’m doing, but exactly what my teacher yesterday applauded. I don’t know if I’ll pull back. I might. It might still be too frightening to be truly heard, and to truly give what I know I can.

And no matter the outcome, or what I perceive as the outcome (since apparently, I can’t hear myself very well through all my shushing and evaluating and mishegas), I must also know and acknowledge, that whatever the result, I am indeed trying to dismantle this old trap.

Which is something I wasn’t willing to do before. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In Training

Dear Blogosphere,

Apologies for the sporadic posts these few weeks. First there was sickness, then my mom in town, and then, of course, the Monday 5 a.m. shift at my gym.

And in thinking about the structure of the next few weeks, I don’t know that I can promise you anything more than a few pixels.

This Sunday began the first full week of rehearsals. 4 hours Sunday, 3 each night this week. And assumedly, each weeknight until opening night on September 19. It really is like a part-time job!

And so, I’ve come to think of my approach to this time as though I’m training for a marathon. To the best of my ability, I am going to aim to be completely conscious of the food I eat, the breaks I force myself to take from my desk at work, the sleep I manage to slip in between rehearsals and a day job.

I have this phrase I wrote down a hundred years ago that is taped to my closet wall and has taken me as long to come to understand and believe: Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.

And I believe this is the perfect time to begin to implement “acting as if” that’s true (because, I somewhere believe it is). The body is a cautious and delicate scale. In these few weeks and months, I’ve gotten to see that my own scale is particularly sensitive (liver trouble, K.O.’d by a virus, my acupuncturist saying my body was ripe with signs of stress).

So, balance, intentionality. Vigilance. Yes, it’s the absolute busiest season of my work year – like a retailer between Black Friday and Christmas. But, as we’ve seen, I can’t show up to work if I’m not healthy, and I’m not healthy if I’m not intentional. So, I have to be my own trainer, stopping the clock to take a walk outside. Deciding, No, I won’t have 4 cups of coffee to power through my day. Yes, guy at the store who watched me put the apple back and reach for the organic one that’s a dollar more expensive, yes, I do need to eat this instead.

I’ve set up a “crash-pad” at my friend’s house who lives between work and the rehearsal theater so that I can go and chill out a few hours after work without having to either rush home and back or sit at a café and spend money or be interactive with anyone.

I’m going to begin going back to my gym a few mornings a week, instead of the once I’ve been doing. I’ve been meditating almost every morning for 10 – 20 minutes. And, we’ll see where the blog falls on the self-care scale, considering the few moments of sleep it ticks away.

Finally, I’d like to make sure that I get time in with my “brain drain” crew, spending an hour with people who normalize my experience and help my thinking to turn down in decibels.

"Meetings, Movement, and Meditation" has arisen as my prescription for health, and I am hoping to treat myself as the worthy patient and doctor of such self-care, which will enable me to show up fully, mind, body, spirit.

Because… I gotta tell ya, This shit is So.Much.Fun. !

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why Nice Guys Finish Last.

(Note: The following is one human’s opinion and not intended for relationship diagnostic purposes. See a doctor if symptoms worsen.)

You can add your variation of this sentiment to a long list of complaints we’ve heard over the years:

“I don’t get it; I’m a nice guy. Why do women only go for assholes?”

In my meditation on kindness today, I was brought to thinking about “nice-ness.”

In dating, what does “being nice” look like? Most times, we translate "being nice" as allowing the other person to make the decision:

“Wherever you want to go.” “Whatever food you want to eat.” “Whichever movie looks good to you.”

In the beginning, this seems like a great tack. Allowing the other person to choose, we figure, means that we’re being “nice” by saying that we respect and trust their opinion. We’re also saying (perhaps) that we don’t want to impose our will or assert our own interests or preferences, because we’re afraid that if we do, we’re going to proffer the “wrong” choice. 

I’ve had Mexican all week, and want to have Thai, but what if she hates Thai? I have absolutely no interest in seeing a chick flick, but if it means I get to spend time with her, then fine, I’ll sit through it.

We believe that we’re letting the other person make the choice in this situation, but actually, we’ve already made one: I am choosing not to disclose my desires for fear that my idea -- and therefore I -- will be rejected. Period. So, by contrast, if I let you choose, then I know whatever it is is something you'll like, and therefore you'll have a good time and you'll like me.

So, the "nice" guy says, "Whatever you want." Look how nice I am. 

This is a choice. But it's also a manipulation of the truth. And, in my experience, if you add enough of those up, what you wind up with is not knowing at all what the other person likes, what their preferences are -- who they are.

We wind up dating someone who is just trying to stay in our good graces, and in doing so, the "nice guy" begins to lose us, because there isn’t enough of “them” to keep us engaged.

I want to date you. Or at least, I want to find out if I want to date you.

I will add here, that of course, in the start of any dating situation, we’re all angling somehow – of course we want this to work! Who doesn’t want to find someone they enjoy and can be themselves with?

But there’s the rub. If we begin to date on a basis of people-pleasing, we’re not being ourselves at all. We’re being who you want us to be – Or more accurately, who we think you want us to be.

There is always room for negotiation, for compromise, obviously. (And sometimes, yes, you really don't care.)

But I think the (mis)understanding of “nice guys vs assholes” is that we set up a dichotomy that states: "Being nice" doesn't work, therefore women want an asshole. And, asshole becomes defined by the opposite: Someone who asserts themselves regardless of the other person's needs or wants. Someone who treats the other like crap.

And that is NOT what I’m saying is the successful tactic.

Certainly, someone who takes only their interest and desire into account is an asshole. And is not someone who I (or most people I know) want to date.

But there is a middle-ground for each of us between being a doormat, and being the one who makes the other a doormat.

Equality, self-esteem, honesty, fluidity. Uncertainty.

Yes, perhaps you see the chick flick on your second date. But maybe you have Thai beforehand.

Because, I want to get to know you, whoever that is, and whatever the outcome.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Enjoying my last moments of solitude in my studio apartment before I pick my mom up from the airport this afternoon. Delighted though I am that she’s coming to visit, I look forward to someday having an apartment where we both have bedroom doors!

Also, my voice is going, a combination of sickness, rehearsal + yesterday’s voice lesson, when it really began to go. My voice teacher advised that I avoid talking as best as I could during the next few days… I replied, (Fat chance!) You know my mom’s coming into town, right? 

That woman and I could talk until all the stars burned out and still have things to talk about that were interesting. It’s who and how we are. How we've been. But, I need to “rest my voice,” as the teacher put it, so either my mom will do the majority of talking, or she’ll get really good at lip-reading!

I’m excited to see her, to have her here. But, I also know that it means three and a half days of mostly “up” energy, or at least engaged energy, which is hard for me. Because it’s a “visit,” it means that we have a lot to talk about, and a lot to try to “fit in" to three days, since we see one another maybe once or twice a year. Oakland may be the Brooklyn of the Bay, but it doesn't mean I can get to her home of Manhattan by the Q train.

What I realize is that I’m going to have to police myself these few days, getting over a bad week of being sick still, but also, just for general self-care.

My mom, whether it’s the New Yorker or the mania in her, runs on an elevated frequency. As her child and a game partner, I tend to rise to her level. Some people call that level anxiety(!), but as someone once said to me, The difference between nervous and excited is breathing.

So, I’m going to have to remind myself to breathe, to take time to be a little more still and not quite as participatory as perhaps I might be, and to also let her know that's my intention. Also, I’m going to have to inwardly remember to un-constrict, to let her vibrate at whatever frequency she wants to without feeling I have to meet her there. That’s my part in this: she’s not asking me to be all abuzz with her; I’m doing that myself.

It’s hard, as I’ve said, when people change the rules to a game you’ve played for a long time; but I also don’t like partially dreading spending compacted time with her. It’s a litt-- a lot exhausting to try to match that level of up-ness and on-ness, and, well, it’s why she’s the one with bipolar disorder, and not me.

There’s also a crash when you’re up that high.

I’ve tried to learn to moderate my own extroverted and introverted behavior, balancing a few hours of out-ness with a few of aloneness. It doesn’t have to be inside my home, away from the world; just alone-ness is enough, on a walk, at a museum alone, at a movie alone. As much as I thrive on connection and conversation, and could indeed talk to the end of time, I’d be working on fumes by then.

Self-care will be the name of the game. I know that’s changing the rules a little from how we've always been and always communicated, but if I let her know that I’ve introduced a new rule to our relationship, at least for now—for even one hour out of the 16 we’ll be spending conscious with one another—I think it will be respected and absorbed.

It might not be a smooth transition into a different way of “being together,” but I think in the long run, it will help us both to be present with the other in a way that feels nurturing.

Which, I think is what a mother-daughter relationship is supposed to be anyway.

Monday, August 18, 2014

master of none.

There is enough time, he said.

B- B- But, my mind sputtered. What about ...


what about math

you know my father is an engineer, my brother a physicist, that i scored higher on all standardized math tests, despite an advanced degree in english

what about the books on einstein, by feynman, hawking that line my shelf, half read, each, without someone to guide me through. 

what about advanced placement calculus?

what about the people who question where quarks go and think the slingshot of apollo 13 was beatific.

i can and could and might toil in the exile and ecstasy of "art,"

b- but,

what about...

everything else?

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I had a boss once who was the consummate micro-manager. I would be asked to carry out a project, and as the week would go by, I would get inquiries about the state of the project, if I’d done a, then b, then c. Did I remember to? Did I contact? Where was I on it?

I spent nearly as much time on the project as I did answering my boss’s incessant questions.

At one point during my employment, I had come to the end of my rope about this type of management style, and I let my boss know that I was having a hard time with our communication – that I felt my boss did not trust me to carry out a job that was assigned to me.

Although it was stated that of course I was trusted to do my job appropriately, the actions that continued to take place showed that wasn’t entirely true. And even though it wasn’t exactly personal, I felt disenchanted with the duties I was performing, feeling my power of ownership, and therefore, my professional confidence, was being undermined.

In a total book-reader/movie-watcher's understanding of such things, I would say that it's like defending a castle.

There is usually an external wall built around a castle and its grounds, in place to prevent ingress and marauders. The citizens trust that the wall will defend them.

However, what if there is a monarch who doesn’t trust those walls to hold. Despite the greatest masonry, the height of engineering and construction, the monarch still feels at risk.

And so, she sends out sentries to patrol the exterior of the castle wall. There are boundaries, but these are not trusted, and so she employs a defensive and offensive line.

The thinking goes: I do not trust that the boundaries I have put up will hold, and so I will go beyond them, in front of them to fend off any attacks. I don’t even know if there are any enemies out there, but there could be. And I don’t think the walls I’ve built will hold.

I am not willing to have the boundaries tested. I must make extra defense.

Let’s turn the analogy to personal boundaries. If we don’t trust that our boundaries, our internal mechanisms, will be faithful, will perform their job appropriately, or have been built to the utmost of our knowledge, we will continue to send out sentries beyond those boundaries to defend ourselves.

What this does in the end is show that we do not trust ourselves and our boundaries. We never get to test those appropriate walls to see if they can in fact do their job. By not allowing them to do what we’ve built them to do, they will never get the chance to prove to us that they can, and we will continue to send out a forward offense/defense.

At the risk of being obvious, I am that monarch.

I may have spent years building and refining a system of appropriate boundaries, but I am loathe to test them. Instead, I employ an extra electric fence to ensure that those boundaries are never even tested. Because what if they fail.

I surround myself with an added, superfluous layer of defense and offense, because I am scared that if you get too close, my appropriate resources won't have the ability to measure and defend your threat.

But. If I don’t allow you to get to the wall of the castle, I will never know if you are friend or foe. Instead, I will always interpret you as foe, because I have paid my sentries to treat you as such.

I don’t trust you, I don’t trust my boundaries, and so I am insulated and impervious. To all comers. Benevolent or not.

I hated feeling treated as though I were not capable of doing my job appropriately. It felt diminishing and disrespectful and disheartening. I hated having an extra layer of checks and balances around a system that worked just fine.

The appropriate layer of boundaries I’ve built around myself, that we all need (that is permeable, and fluid, and always learning and gaining in refinement) has been long-sheltered and is tired of this trigger-happy band of sentries, “protecting” my own system of protection.

If I don’t allow you to pass that ridiculous layer of defense, I will never know you. You will never know me.

And I will miss the opportunity to learn to trust myself and to create relationships that will enhance the whole kingdom. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

parental advice

Brene Brown talks a lot in her book Daring Greatly about parenting, about how to “dare greatly” in parenting, which often means allowing yourself to feel, with all uncertainty and unpredictability, the full extent of your love. She talks about the split-second after noticing her full love for her children the flood of constricting and panicking thoughts about loss and impermanence and a terrible desire to control. To allow herself to notice and accept her love so deeply, she’s also acutely aware of how tenuous life is, and how she cannot protect her offspring from the world.

In the moment of greatest love is the moment of greatest vulnerability.

She talks about trying to withstand and stand in that moment of love as long as possible without giving in to the fear of the things we cannot control.

The kinds of thoughts that enter immediately after hearing, “You got the role.” God, I hope I don’t fuck it up. Or after “I love you.” Don't betray me. Or “You’re a great friend.” Am I doing enough?

Moments of connection are severed by fear when we insulate back inside ourselves around the thought: How can I control this?

We can’t.

In every effort we put forth to expand ourselves, we risk.

In every effort we make to control, we risk those relationships that have brought us joy, including the one with ourselves. See: I’ve gained some muscle working out, I better make sure I get to the gym even more. I hiked for an hour this week, I really should do that three times a week. I loved that novel I read, I should really be reading something “worthwhile.”

Brown has written that we siphon off the top layer of risk and innovation and spontaneity when we attach our interpretation of our efforts to how they’ll be received – I believe this includes the efforts and risks we make that are private, like those above: How are they received by ourselves?

Are the efforts we put toward joy, spontaneity, pushing our own envelope supported internally, or hampered by voices of not good enough?

Sometimes both. Sometimes it depends on the minute of the day.

I can experience the duplicity of knowing my acting is up to par for this show, but my singing is not.

What I cannot hold is the self-derision that follows that awareness.

As always, action is the antidote to anxiety and worry. Voice lessons, music drills. Learning, learning learning.

This is a challenge. A challenge to show up authentically, even if I don’t like or approve of what that sounds like at the moment. There is vulnerability in showing up, but if, as happens frequently, I step on my own efforts and try to hide the greatest risks, I won’t learn, I won’t grow, nor will I have any fun.

There’s a self-reparenting that is happening for me right now. A re-training. In fact, several days this week, as I’ve sat up out of bed, voices already chiding me for being sick and not being able to sing, for not being as good as the others actors – I’ve literally had to stop myself and insert a new voice, saying aloud – Yes, Moll, I know, and you’re working on it. You’re doing the best you know how right now, and you are enough.

There is risk in allowing myself the "lenience" of self-approval. There is the risk of abandoning control and constriction and self-flagellation. There is the risk that things won’t turn out “how I want,” how I want things to be, how I want myself to be – Can’t you be better at something you’ve never done before, the voice chides incessantly.

But I want a different reality. A different parenting. I want to be able to look at myself and my efforts fully, with the full ache of unknowing and the full pride of risk-taking.

I want to begin modeling this completely uncertain, vulnerable, pulsating, spark-of-life parental love for myself, because I have hope that one day I'll need to employ it with children of my own.

And you can’t give to others what you can’t give yourself. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


He cannot picture life without alcohol. Some day he will be unable to imagine life either with alcohol or without it. Then he will know loneliness such as few do. He will be at the jumping-off place. He will wish for the end.
- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 152

If your newsfeed is anything like mine, over the last two days it has been flush with messages of condolence, sorrow, bafflement, gratitude and even ire.

In response to the suicide of Robin Williams, I have seen an interesting splice of my “friends” wrestle with his end.

One friend wrote that he, too, suffered from depression and loneliness, but he “pulled himself out of it,” without the “resources” available to someone like a celebrity. This friend was angry that someone could be so selfish and blind to the opportunities present to him.

But as we can read in the above quoted paragraph, there are times when we ourselves are blind, and nothing can make us see. Or we believe that nothing can. Or we believe that whatever "is" is not fast enough or strong enough or consistent enough. We believe only in our aloneness and our constriction. And from that place, there is no perspective, hope, or option. From that place, there is only annihilation to end the suffering.

Money, fame, or accolades do nothing to quiet the internal storm. In fact, they can often keep us farther from our truth because we now believe that people are counting on us, maybe in this case, to be funny and on and up and impervious. Don’t show weakness because that’s not what they want to see. And the further we drift from our truth, the larger the distance between how we feel and what we show to the world, the more gaping the hole and gnawing the desire for relief from that fissure.

I cannot claim to be inside the head of anyone other than myself. And from that vantage point, I can admit that I hear that voice at times which tells me there is no solution except for annihilation. I am not alone in hearing it, but I am lucky enough to know to reach out when it whispers. Although that doesn’t necessarily quell that voice. I can’t really know what it is that shifts when that desperation is upon me, but my experience has told me that something does.

In those bleak moments however, that is impossible to remember. Impossible.

I rely on the faith and fortitude of others in those moments, but I have also built a conversation and culture among my friends that allows for that vulnerability. I have built conversations that can include language that is desolate, dark, and hopeless, and I have faith that these friends can hear that and hold it for me.

Because I have come before to that place where what you saw and what I felt were so antithetical, it landed me in lock-down psychiatric treatment.

I have come to that place where I screamed for someone to see beyond my mask to what was really going on and to who I really was.

When they say, “It was a cry for help,” that’s what is meant: Please see beyond the smoke and mirrors that have kept you from me, that I thought were protecting me, and see through to the hemorrhaging, terrified, devastated human heart.

We can only be reached, and potentially helped, in the sharing and access of that heart.

But that is the most vulnerable, humbling, and painful admission I know.

It’s been written that it seems everyone loved Robin Williams except himself. Some argue there is more to it, to depression, to addiction.

But it seems to me that the chasm between internal and external became so great, that the only solution he saw was to fall in.

And that decision (although decision implies choice) -- selfish as some may call it, unseeing as some may believe it to be -- is one of the loudest calls to compassion that I know. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Third Star to the Right...

Call me a navel-gazer, but as the Jewish High Holidays approach, I get reflective.

At work, I'm neck deep in preparation for them, and acutely aware of their significance on the calendar than I ever was: Two years ago, at the end of September, I was diagnosed with Leukemia on the evening of Yom Kippur, our "day of atonement," the day on which we are either "sealed into the book of life" for another year ... or not. It's a pretty significant day on the Jewish calendar, and I have come to hate it.

I hate what it "means," about being sealed or not into the book of life. I hate how much changed in an instant, with one sentence told to me by a doctor. I hate remembering the sore throat that began the whole prelude to my ER visit, which kept me working from home, and feeling so badly about it since it was a brand new job.

But, what remembering this day also does for me is cause me to reflect on what has changed, and what has happened in the two years hence. I have endeavored to create "a life worth living" for myself against all the internal railing and nay-saying, against all my own self-sabotage, against all the foot-dragging and self-immolation I had previously submitted to.

In the last two years, I have dragged myself kicking and screaming into a life I consider worth living.

This isn’t to say that I’d done nothing beforehand, but here’s a list of experiences I've had & actions I've taken in the last two years, post-cancer:

Hosted my Creativity and Spirituality Workshop
Began blogging daily again
Went to Hawaii for the first time
Got a bedframe for the first time since childhood
Sang at a café with friends
Joined their band on bass
Played shows out, nearly once a month
Started ushering at Music shows for free & have seen, among others:
     - Paul McCartney (about to see him again next week)
     - Red Hot Chili Peppers
     - Doors guitarist Robby Krieger play "People Are Strange" with Warren Haynes...!
     - About to see Dave Matthews
Bought a car
Celebrated July 4th near my old hometown with my mom and brother
Busked on the streets of Oakland and SF singing Christmas caroles
Got real headshots
Auditioned for plays and musicals
Got cast in 4 shows
Modeled for friends
Submitted photos to modeling agencies
Visited Seattle for the first time
Visited Boston to try out a new relationship experience
Dated with craziness
Dated with less craziness
Got laid well
Got laid poorly
Visited a best friend and her newborn baby for a week
Hiked Tilden & Marin
Took accredited acting classes
Took voice lessons
Flew a plane(!) -- and landed it ;)

Any of these things could have happened beforehand (and some were indeed happening, with less gusto, determination & regularity), but most of the activities on this list are new to me.

I was talking with a friend a few months ago, another cancer survivor, and she said that she feels complete with the world – that if she died today, she’d be okay with that. I noticed how not okay I'd have been with that; virulently not okay.

Granted, she’s about 10 years older than me, has a daughter, teaches in a way she loves, is married.

And I think those are key differences. Having created your own family, having a career you feel impassioned about. Those are items that are not yet on my above list, and I want them to be before I expire, thank you.

I do however, write this list to reflect to myself that there are things that I’ve done that are miraculous, fun, and inspiring for anyone to have done, let alone l'il ole me. I forget this, frequently.

It’s hard to admit this here, and it’s not precisely the entire truth, but if I were to expire sooner than later... Well, I won't say, "If I died today, I'd be okay with that," but that I am exponentially grateful for this role I’ve recently landed. To play in a musical, comedic role at a community theater is the cat’s pajamas. (If I have to go soon, I hope it's after we open!) 

When I returned from teaching English in South Korea almost 10 years ago, I said I was coming home to “break onto Broadway.” Then instead, I got sober!

And now, 8 years since then, I’m taking steps that are developmentally appropriate to that dream. It’s in the right direction, even if I never get there. It's my impassioned avocation, even if it’s not a vocation.

I do not wish to expire soon. I have more experiences I want to add to that list, and more sanity and evenness I wish to accrue. But I feel more comfortable now than I had been even a few months ago in noticing that I am accumulating the experiences that, to me, express a full and well-lived life.

I wouldn’t have as many regrets if it were to happen soon. I have a few regrets of things I’ve done & ways I've re/acted in the last two years, sure. It’s not as if I’m a saint, and sometimes I still choose experiences I know are more damaging than useful.

But instead of waiting to be "inscribed in the book of life" by some entity or religion or benchmarks of success otherwise prescribed to me by my childhood, my faith, my inner critic...

Instead I am coming to believe that I am following my own North Star: I may never get there, but I'm headed in the "right direction."

And for the first time ever, I deeply feel that. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Slings and Arrows

Hamlet questions whether it is better to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” or to “take arms against a sea of troubles” and end them (with suicide).

Outrageous fortune. Could be good, could be "bad," but we have to show up to find out.

In Louise Hay’s book on the relationship between emotions and body symptoms, the throat is listed as the “avenue of expression.” Troubles with the throat are interpreted as a fear of expressing oneself and stifled creativity.

I’ve felt it coming on this week, and today, my throat is officially red and sore. Color me not surprised.

As I’ve been mentioning this week, the idea of being loud, louder, more full, more powerful has been a hard one for me to grapple with. And so, this morning, tender in my throat, I went into meditation to “ask” what’s going on here, and how I can help.

Forgive me if this gets too “woo-woo” for you, but…

It was like Fantastic Voyage – I “went” inside my throat, to my tonsils, to my vocal cords, and inside there on both sides, at each tonsil, someone, a girl, a child choking them, shushing them. Telling them to Be Quiet!

I went and asked her what she was really trying to accomplish here, what is the objective, why be quiet?

Because then you’ll be safe, she railed. I’m trying to keep you safe.

I told her that I already am, that I am safe without this strangling. I put my arms around her, and told her she was safe, and in real life I began to tear up a little. With relief, with grief, with acknowledgment of pain long suffered and finally being addressed and hopefully cleared – in time.

With a mother with chronic migraines and a father apt to turn rageful, I learned very early that to be quiet, unseen, simple, need-less, and self-sufficient was to be safe. I aroused negative emotions in others when I expressed the needs a child might have, and so I learned to deny them.

This hasn’t worked out too well as I’ve grown up, and at another deeper level, I’m again being called to address the fallacy of these childhood interpretations. Someone not able to care for my needs is not the same as “my needs are too much.”

The important change here is to allow myself to understand, feel, acknowledge, and melt into the present, into the changes that I have made around and within myself to establish a life that is safe, loving, encouraging and open.

It is hard to remember these things in my throat.

I remember them in my head, but it is going to take time for the little girl who strangles and shushes me to understand, like most children, that something has changed.

It is safe to be heard. It is safe to speak up for myself. It is safe to be creative.

I have a host of supporters, internal and external, who tell me that indeed, Yes, it is better to suffer the slings and arrows than to shut down. That it is better to show up and be seen and find out what outrageous fortune has to offer than to escape.

I am safe, I am heard.

These are not mutually exclusive. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014


In my race toward the middle, I have forgotten something: To Have Fun.

I was at my first vocal rehearsal on Sunday, and I did what I had done at my audition: When I got scared of a note (even one I can sing), I pulled back.

I’m reminded of Brene Brown saying that, If we base our performance, our work, our art, our selves, on the reception of others, we will invariably slice off and withhold the most potent layer of our performance, work, art, self. We cannot give our full selves, our full gift, if we are concerned with how we look about it.

To quote another source: You can’t save your face and your ass at the same time.

Did you run out of breath, the music director asked me? No, I just got embarrassed and dropped the note. 

My new voice teacher has told me that she thinks Morticia is from the Bronx – not for the accent, mind you, but for the attitude. Imagine a large Bronxian woman yelling down the street at some paisan – Morticia is like that. The vocal coach told me to speak like I think everyone else is deaf.

Despite dropping out of the “Queen of the Amazons” play, where I was being called to “Be a Royal,” to act how a queen might act, and I was curious and a little scared to see what that would be like, I am again being asked to do the same.

To own my voice.

Be loud. Be big. Be powerful.

The music director said, There is nothing sweet about Morticia.

This isn’t about sounding sweet or beautiful; it’s about sounding powerful.

Honestly, two plays in a row where I’m cast as a powerful woman? I think the Universe is giving me a huge opportunity and challenge here. And as I said to a friend yesterday, I’m going to have to rise to it.

In the middle of all this, however, in the middle of trying to stay on note and memorize the phrasing and the breathing and the rests – I can begin to forget why I came here in the first place.

This is not about perfection; it’s about fun. This is supposed to be FUN! Come on, man? "Addams Family The Musical"? If that’s not supposed to be fun, I don’t know what is.

Now, I get that I have a responsibility to myself, to the cast, to the audience to rehearse, to get as proficient as I can. But I also have a responsibility to be light and fun about it – it will come through if I’m terrified, or scared to belt a note, or worried what you’re thinking of me. Worried that I’m being too much, too big, too loud.

Fears I have shackled around myself for a lifetime, I’m being specifically ordered to discard. Now.

Be more, Molly. Be bigger, be louder.

And, too, within that challenge and order, I am being called to remember to hold this lightly. That this is meant to be so the most fun that I’ve ever had.

The bigger I get, the more fun I should remember to have. It’s the antidote to self-sabotage. And a supporter of humility.

This isn’t really about me. Sure, it’s about me and my challenge to grow and let go, but it’s also about what can come through me. And when I close my voice, drop the note, don’t support myself by not breathing, there is no chance for me to be a channel of joy and fun.

I said it only two days ago: I need to root my safety within myself, and stop worrying about what others might think – especially that they’ll tell me to turn it down. They are literally, actually, verbally telling me to turn it up!

Rise, Miss Molly, to the challenge. This is one of those moments when you have a choice, when you can see the options clearly marked and have the chance to change: Small or Big, Mol? – You wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think you could do it. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Tour de Coeur

  Place your fingers — Here.
   Lower your head, breathe and

  press them in.
Do you feel it, soft and
  warm and — I'll arch my back 
  pliable. How the muscles shift around you,
learning you, too.

Lay your head here, and I'll
  breathe, not freeze
  as you explore the hidden
edges and ridges.

I will try 
  to keep my eyes open
while you read my collarbone like Braille.

8 6 14

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

“I Hate to See You Go, But I…”

I will never stick around long enough to watch you leave. Like a forest animal who senses the seismic shift before an earthquake, I will run to high ground before you even know there’s trouble a’comin. Where’d she go?

I heard that a lot in my drinking days: Where did you go last night anyway?

I was always leaving. I left because I was antsy or bored or horny or wasted. I left because I could sense the swell of the evening had reached its peak, and I don’t stick around for the lull. I left because I knew you couldn’t give me anything more, and so I went elsewhere to seek it.

It was a different kind of dragon I chased, but one nonetheless: The perpetually up moment. The height of hilarity and connection.

In relationship, I am becoming aware, I do the same thing. Because relationships are never “Safety Guaranteed,” I try to figure it out: Will this “work” / will this not “work?” I will look at the barometer and try to figure out if we’ve reached our peak, and if it’s time for me to bail.

Before I do, however, I will engage in a lovely sequence of emotional aerobics: If I am standoffish, will you chase me and thereby prove you like me, and I’m safe? If I am more attached, will you reciprocate and, here, prove that you like me, and therefore I am safe?

Somewhere in the distance between initial connection and “the end,” I have attached my personal safety to this “working” or to my assurance that it won’t. Either way, certainty, I have believed, will keep me safe.

And if, through all my calculations, I still cannot devise whether this will work or not, or if I begin to spidey-sense that your interest in me has reached its apex, I will high-tail it so fast, you won’t remember the color of my eyes.

What a lonely way of being.

Particularly, because I won’t just leave: in order to ensure that I am doing the “right” thing, that I am following our projected course, simply in a truncated fashion, I will likely nuke the relationship first. This way, I know there will be no questions, and no “What ifs?” because it’s dead. I killed it. Hard.

And therefore, I am safe. Because I have certainty about things. About everything.

The horrible variable in this equation is humanity. The uncertainty principle.

Human relationships are not quantifiable by my fear-brain.

The flaw in it, too, is that I have attached, long ago, my feeling of safety to assurance in relationships.

I know where this cycle comes from. I know that having a formative environment that was unstable is not the foundation on which to build ideas of safety and trust. I know what it feels like to love, and have that love turn, viciously and swiftly.

And so, I have learned to turn first.

If I can only figure out the exact moment when we’ve reached our groundswell, I can outrun your abandoning me.

But sometimes, dear self, rain is just rain, and it doesn’t mean anything more. Sometimes you stay in the shallows while it storms, because after it passes, you’re witness to god’s great rainbow. Sometimes when you stay put, you learn how to sway in the storm instead of to rail against it or crumble beneath it.

I don’t learn these things if I leave first.

I want to. Believe me. In the simplest of encounters, like a phone call even, I want to be the one gone first. Because then I’m safe.

But, as I posited in “Safety Guanteed(?),” perhaps I can begin (again) to test the theory that “I am not in control, and I am safe.”

Perhaps I can begin to root my personal sense of safety somewhere within, instead of without, and then I never have to try to figure others out, manipulate my behavior, or believe I’ve predicted an end. If I can seat my personal safety in trust of myself, maybe I’ll become willing to see what happens when I stick around.

Because maybe the party isn’t over after all. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Round and Round She Goes!

Waking at 5 am to do work-trade at my workout studio doesn't make for a lyrical blog, so I figure I'll just give you a "state of the union" update on a few things I've been writing about here recently.

Yesterday, I had my first vocal rehearsal for The Addams Family. It's sooo low, this range, so I'll do the best I can! Which, I think will be alright! I also took my first voice lesson last week in over a year, and I really like the woman I met with. She's in SF, but I think, for now, at least through the play (Opening Sept 19), I'm not in a position to shop around at the moment.

I also wonder if I should begin auditioning again, too. As I once heard, "You're only as good as your next play"! Which is a great discouraging mantra!! But, perhaps instead, I'll look at audition lessons or acting lessons, too. It's not that I have the finances for that at the moment, since

I've begun acupuncture again, following all the medical upswing of the last few months with my liver, et al. But things have calmed down. Medically and emotionally. I had an ultrasound of my liver about a week or more ago. They found that, indeed, there were fatty or scarred areas on my liver which were likely causing the elevated liver enzymes that incited the doctors to panic in the first place. They can't tell from the ultrasound if it's fat or scarring, but in either case, the dr. said that we don't have to do anything except watch it. That there were just small spots on the image. Nothing seriously damaged at all. Or even moderately damaged. Thank god. The irony of a sober person developing cirrhosis was just too galling.

In the meantime, I've begun again with the acupuncturist I used to see (who's also in SF, so I try to stack my time there), and I think she's been influential in helping my system calm down and regulate. Granted, I see and have been seeing my chiropractor/naturopath, (who, using muscle testing, was able to diagnose liver scarring!) but I wanted some additional support, since things were "showing up" in my ovaries, and I know that the chemo may have knocked those ladies out of alignment. The acupuncturist, I began seeing for fertility/womanly issues about 7 or 8 years ago. She's known me for a good long while, though I haven't seen her in a few years. It's nice to have that long-term relationship, and she remembers things about my life and my progression that I'm surprised she does!

Next in Team Molly accrual, I met with a woman yesterday about a "fulcrum"related topic. I want to find a way to work less and earn more, so that I can actually not live paycheck-to-paycheck and dawn-to-dusk for the rest of my life. I believe it's possible, and have been reaching out to people to ask for their suggestions on this.

She, this friend of a friend, suggested something that I've had suggested twice before: Teach writing to kids.


Bu- But, B, B.... but I don't know how. But it'll be hard.

Mainly, I don't know how, and that means that I throw up all kinds of barriers to mask that vulnerability, like "it's hard," it's competitive, I don't have experience, etc etc etc.

These are not very true. That I don't know how to go about it is. But that's why I reach out for HELP! The same woman I met with yesterday said that she just paid... wait for it... $200 for a 4-hour class for her child.

I'm sorry, what?

In a class of 6.

She said that, in this area, you can charge at least $30 per kid per hour, and have a small class. She said that the teachers also offered help with personal organization for the kids, helping them clean out their backpack, organize their homework schedule, organize their life, because, if you haven't figured this out -- not all parents know how to model this for their kids.

Point is. This is the 3rd time in as many years that the suggestion has been made to me about doing supplemental education for kids. And I would love to do that. I have the passion, and the good intention (despite my practicality about the numbers), and the acumen with kids. I just do. And I don't want to be a "classroom teacher;" I just have watched and am continuing to watch too many of my friends work really hard for a diminished ROI.

Fulcrum, man.

Good for me for reaching out and being open to ideas. Now, the work will be to create a curriculum, a program. Eek.

And that's where the help will need to come in. But I know plenty of people who can, and the things that I don't know, I have the wherewithal to find help for that. She sent me the links to several programs in this area that offer similar services/classes that I could model my work after. It's exciting, nerve-inducing... and I hope I do it!!

Lastly, for fun, I'll tell you that my "Great Caffeine Reduction Experiment" is going well! I've moved from 4-5 cups of coffee a day to 1-2! Granted, I went to bed at 8, then 9 pm for about 2 weeks, and am still tired by 10pm! But I think a) that's more normal, and b) might pass. In any case, I think it also helps my body, and my energy, which I'll need. Not to mention my voice, since coffee is dehydrating.

So, things continue to move. ... And the Tarot card I pulled recently is the one about intense rest and reserving of energies. So, I cancelled one of my coffee dates this weekend (with a girlfriend, don't get excited!) to fulfill that need. But I think there's more rest to come.

As someone once said, "On most days, I meditate 30 minutes. On days that I'm very busy, I meditate an hour." (and I say this soooo metaphorically at the moment!!)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Open Sesame!

I’m still a little giddy from last night’s show with my band. Our debut and farewell show! (Though, there are rumors we may have a “reunion show” on Halloween.)

But a friend said something to me after the show that’s been sticking with me. She said that I am so much more open and confident now, that I’ve changed so much in the last year.

This same friend sat with me in ERs, cared for my cat while I was in chemo, and allowed me to bawl on her couch when things seemed so hard.

We’ve known each other only for maybe 4 years, but a lot has certainly happened since then, and she said she feels like she’s seen me blossom. And that, especially with everything that I’ve been through, how heartening it is to see that I’ve become and am becoming more open, and more engaged.

She referenced a quote she’d read in a book about women’s aging, that women come to a crossroads in their lives where they choose: become more open, or become more rigid, and therefore bitter. I told her, I don’t think that’s just women!!

But, what struck me about her initial comment was that it echoed something I’d thought to myself only a few days earlier.

I was in my car, and made some kind of comment aloud to myself, and laughed about it. And I had a flashback to when I was in junior or senior year of high school, and this one frenemy commented that I’d become much more relaxed and funny in the last little while.

Which may have had something to do with the fact that I started drinking and smoking pot… but… She was right. I wasn’t as exacting or perfectionist as I had been.

I sort of took that “easy-going” train off the rails a few years later... But I remember feeling then that she was right, that I felt less … not “square,” but serious, I suppose. (I was a very serious teen!, like most emo children.)

And as I sat in my car laughing to and at myself the other day, I had a similar self-awareness: I’ve become and am becoming more easy-going. (In some ways! In others, you have to untangle my brain with a tweezer and a magnifying glass!)

To have that same sentiment reflected back to me only days later by my friend was heartening, affirming, and... sentimental.

She said that as she watched me play, she found herself getting teary, thinking about everything I've gone through, and what I’ve made of it. And then she had to check herself, because you don’t cry at a rock show! 

The same understanding about rigidity or openness I heard on an audio CD about “Exceptional Patients” from Dr. Bernie Siegel. He said that after cancer, people tend to go one of two ways: become scared of everything, because death is just around the corner, or (finally) throw caution to the wind, because you’ve literally faced one of the worst things that can ever happen to you. You’ve stared death in the face: Will you now shrink at all risks, or will you say, Tah, this is cake?

Well, we all know, I don’t think it’s “cake” to say “Tah” to fear, but we all know that I’ve been doing it anyway. Because, really, there isn’t anything greater to lose. There isn’t any harder challenge. (Now, yes, there are other challenges that people face that I cannot imagine, child loss being one that’s top of mind lately.)

I find no glory in shutting down. I’ve lived most of my life in a state of “flight” and paralysis. I will never call it a gift, but I do recognize with appreciation and awe that, following visceral horror, I have become a woman more willing to be open, free, funny, and present than I’ve ever been. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Bomb Squad.

Paying rent is a choice, she told me.

Um, What?

Sure. You can choose to pay your rent or not. If you choose not to pay rent, you face those results. If you choose to pay, that has different results. But it’s still a choice; you do have power here: where would you rather spend your money?

I was about 2 years into actively looking at my numbers and money, and back at the beginning of some work around my relationship to money, being broke, struggling, restrict & binging (aka depriving & then overspending).

The pattern that I would fall into was like clock-work. Every year and a half into a job that I didn’t enjoy, I would begin to feel frantic. Trapped. Manic. Suicidal. How can I make it stop?, I’d wail.

With no tools or guide, I would do what I thought made sense: Quit the job.

With no tools or guide, that didn’t really accomplish much. Except send me back into a different kind of mania and frenzy – now I had nothing, no savings, no job, and no plan. Three times in the last 8 years, I ended up with less than $5.00 in my bank account.

Each time, “miraculously,” I would land another job just in the nick of time. But it would be one job same as the other job same as the other job.

I had no idea how to break this cycle. I thought I was being diligent. I would reach out to people before I would quit. I would do informational interviews, and send out tentative resumes. I would look on craigslist for “creative” jobs, but would somehow end up at an ad posted by a foot fetishist…

Anything. Anything to not sit in front of a computer all day, I thought. – Well, almost anything.

And so about 3 years ago, in despair, I went near bawling to a meeting of folks who are trying to claw their way out of the pit of debt, financial worry, self-abandonment. Because, in the end, I've learned, it’s a function of self-worth.

So, I began working with a new mentor about a year ago. She had hopes for me I couldn’t imagine at all. Buying a car to get me to auditions and band practice, being a big one. Not me. Not people like me. I’m a fuck-up. I ruin things. I’m broke. Hello?!

But, she held out hope for an idea I could never have conceived of. And 6 months later, I put a down payment on a car.

A car that takes me to auditions and band practice.

However, it’s not the rosy scene it seems.

About two months ago or so, the itch arose again, the heat turned up. I gotta get outta this job. I’m dying here! GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!

And along with that struggle and pain and fury and anguish again arose the suicidal ideation, because how else can I get out of this pattern. I am doing all this work, I have a car now, I’m doing shit, but I HATE MY JOB. I will never end this cycle, and I can’t quit again.

I can’t quit again.

I can’t quit again.

Quitting, for me, is equivalent to relapse. It’s insane to think it would be different this time. It’s insane to throw myself back into the cycle. IT’S NOT THE SAME. IT CAN’T BE THE SAME. I don’t have to be the same…

And that’s where the change happened.

I reached out every single fucking day during that period, texting and calling friends in TEARS, unable to see out of this hole. Telling them, please please PLEASE help me not to quit today. That I see the insanity of this. That I can’t go down that path again. That I don’t want to detonate my life again.

I don’t want to detonate my life again.

I like stability. I like the freedom of knowing how I’m going to fill my fridge and my gas tank. That doesn’t mean that I have to do the kind of work I’m doing for the rest of my life, but for right now! for this minute!, it does.

And please dear god, help me not nuke my life again.

And, you know – I didn’t. 

Because I didn’t, because I sat through some of the most uncomfortable feelings I’ve ever had, through that pain and frustration and ire and hopelessness and despair, because others told me that it would pass, because they told me to read the chapter on Withdrawal, because they told me they believed that I could find another way if I just held tight…. I got the chance to drive a car with a tank of gas and belly full of food to an audition and land a role. I got to show up for the things that give me zest and zeal and love and joy.

I get to do that today, because I sat through some of the worst anguish I know. And I came to the other side of it.

This does not mean that I love my job. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to do different work. It doesn’t mean I enjoy my job any more than I did. But it means that it’s not my whole world. And by allowing myself to sit still, I am available for the other things that feed me. Like groceries.

I have never come to this side of that struggle before, so I don’t really know what will come on the other side. Except, today, play with my band, tomorrow theater rehearsal, and Monday, a photo shoot.

If I had quit, I couldn’t show up, because I’d be in despair of not having any money and a frenzy of trying to find work. I don’t like that I have to show up and adjust margins for a goddamn living.

But by not nuking my life, I get to have a life. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

We Can Do This the Easy Way . . .

Why does nobody ever put a period after that phrase?: 

We can do this the easy way. Period.

I heard it again on a radio interview the other day: Well, anything worth doing is hard. It’s the hard work that makes it worth while. Nothing good ever came from taking the easy road.


Here is a brief list of activities that I find most worthy and fueling in the world:

Holding a baby
Making conversation with a child
Laughing with friends
Singing showtunes with my mom and brother
Singing camp songs while my brother plays guitar

Not one of these things is “hard.” Not one requires advanced degrees, mountains scaled, or scars incurred.

Each of these things are, for me, Easy. Joyful. Miraculous.

This value our culture has attached to struggle and adversity and toil is sickening and disheartening.

Why would we try to do anything if we know we’re gonna get our butts kicked in the process?

Now, I know what they’re getting at. I know that I wrote just yesterday that showing up is hard and scary, so I don’t know that I have a soap-box to stand on here. But, I am tired of being harangued by the idea that I have to struggle in this life to do anything worthwhile.

That anything that comes easily, naturally, feels good, joyful or pleasurable must have a toll paid in flesh.

Sure, caring for children all of the time is taxing; and I’m not a parent, just an eager attendant and friend to others' kids, which demands its own responsibility. Making the time to show up with and for friends, and to maintain friendships does take effort. Dancing means making myself vulnerable to being seen, which requires taking a deep breath before diving in.

But it doesn’t follow that these things are struggles, adversities, or stories of redemption.

God, how we love a redemption story. We hate people who “have it easy.” We want to hear how muddy the water was you had to slog through toward your goal. We want you to express fear and isolation and doubt and a “dark night of the soul” before you are worthy of a story of triumph, joy and ease.

What kind of fucking schadenfreude society are we?

I “get” that we all want to feel a kind of connection with those who have struggled, because often we too find ourselves in struggle and we don’t want to feel alone. It feels disconnected to hear a story of ease, success, and Life’s mercy. Because we don’t have or believe we can have that ourselves. And so we want you in the mud with us.

Sometimes we do slog through mud. I get that, too. But not everything in life that’s worth doing requires that. Sometimes we cross the bridge, our toes are not calloused, there is no troll to pay off, and we simply arrive at our destination.

I know that doesn’t make great drama. But I’m not looking for drama. I’m looking for joy.