Saturday, November 29, 2014

Spurious Etymology: The Racial Edition

I was in my graduate education class on racial inequality when a fellow student, a well-careered, educated, respected black man told us, “The term picnic is derived from ‘pick-a-nigger,’ when white people would choose a black man to lynch during their outdoor meals.”

Yesterday, I came across a thread shared on Facebook by someone I also respect and whose views I take seriously: “Boycott Black Friday: The term ’Black Friday’ comes from the practice of slave owners selling their human property for cheap so they can help prepare the landowners for winter.”

At the risk of opening a dialogue, which is my intention, it is my opinion that forwarding and repeating these false and fake etymologies pour gasoline on what is already a virulent flame.

It is my opinion that inaccurate messages like these water down what are factual and horrifying truths about race relations in this country (and around the world). By fomenting these untruths, we are diluting and falsifying a message that is already true enough and already has more than enough evidence: Taken as a whole, Whites continue to be opportunist against, ignorant toward, and oppressive of Blacks. 

That’s the message we do see rightly repeated through Cory Booker's article being passed around asking people to substitute the name “Rodney King” with “Michael Brown.” It’s the message we need to see when the yearbook-looking page of young brown faces scrolls through our thread, a litany of the most “popular” crimes, an egregiously low accounting of the true number of racial homicides, abuses, and discriminations.

There is a message here that is already true enough, one that is, unfortunately, infinitely repeated, and that is the injustice, the malevolence, and the strict adherence to a status quo of hatred.

I cannot say I “stand with” Ferguson. To say that is to assume that I have any idea whatever what it is to live in a skin that is not my own. I can’t rightly say that I can sympathize with a race of friends that have been abused, ignored, or turned against singly for their color.

I don’t know what that is like, and I won’t presume that I do. I know that I find it a vicious and terrifying symptom of a culture of fear and insistence on the labeling of “other.” I know that I can feel pain for the families, for the friends, for the history of violence. But, I will never be able to truly know what it is like to be discriminated against or singled out as a bad influence, a person of interest, a danger.

And because of this, because of my own inability to truly "get it," the existence of truth seems all the more crucial. I, we, all need to know what is happening, to sit with the discomfort and the horror of truth, if there will ever ever be a possibility for change. And I am ignorant enough to hope it is possible, and bitter enough to assume that it isn’t.

But I ask that the message that is already so potent, powerful, and real not be diluted with fake etymologies, like ‘picnic’ or ‘Black Friday.’

What we are seeing, experiencing, and shutting down malls over doesn’t need the support of those falsehoods. Unfortunately, we have plenty of evidence of a war against blacks without them. 

Friday, November 28, 2014


Unstructured time isn’t the best for me, and yet I am feeling a bit panicky about my upcoming full-time employment in sales starting on Tuesday. What has been lovely about this time, besides the “brain space” I spoke of the other day is that I’ve gotten to take my long walks again, meet up with my folks again, play with my cat again.

I’ve enjoyed being unemployed, though I know it’s not sustainable.

On that note, though, I’ve been meeting up to "co-work" at cafes with a friend also looking for work and get some applicationing done. This has led to conversations, which have led to ideas, which are leading to action. Particularly around things that “light me up.”

Such as the long-lost “LocalArtists Productions” I started a few years ago, which hosted a successful group art show, but in which I put too much of my own money and ended up in a pickle. Since then, I’ve sort of let that idea drift. But talking to my new friend about what lights me, I said, “My favorite thing I’ve ever done? This group art show I put on.”

Even as I sat listening to my friend at her CD release party the other week, I looked around the space. I came home and looked up the rental costs for that space: this could be a great place to host another one.

I love bringing people together, people who “normally would not mix.” I’ve met so many types of artists on my path – poets, writers, painters, photographers, musicians, actors – that it only makes sense that I bring them together. “Oh, you make jewelry, my friend does still photography, maybe you can work together.” “You’re a painter, my friend just participated in an open studios, maybe you can talk to her about getting your work out there.”

There are too many opportunities to learn from and collaborate with each other. I don’t want us to miss any!

So, I may be starting a Kickstarter campaign soon. To pay off my back rent (accrued when I was in chemo) so that I can rent out the art studio space on the 4th floor of my apartment building. I said to my friend over our laptops, “Yeah, people would be willing to donate to a cancer survivor who wants to produce art again, wouldn’t they?”

They’re slightly different avenues I’m beginning to chase down again: One is the studio space I want to rent so that I can start working again. The other is the creation of a space for artists to get together, these events and gatherings that I love to host.

I feel putting grease behind one will help with the grease behind the other. And so, before I start my full-time work on Tuesday, my friend and I are going to brainstorm about the video, and maybe even get to making it.

Because time is ticking away and we all have art to make and people to meet. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I’ve started hearing voices again.

I’ve started hearing voices again.

Now, before you call the padded-room brigade, this is a good thing.

In the time and space I’ve had since quitting my full-time job at the end of October (despite the roar of negative thoughts and virulent self-questioning), I have begun to find space behind the thinking. And it is within this space that I’ve always germinated the seeds of my writing.

When I explain it in person, I raise my arm behind my head, and wave my hand in the general direction of “back here.” I tell them that it’s like there’s a room back behind my head, where the ideas start to percolate. They marinate, germinate, ruminate, and when they’re ready -- the indicator popping up like the thermometer in a slab of roasting turkey -- I open the door and chase them onto a page.

By the time the door opens, they’re pretty fully-formed. But they need the time and space and freedom to sit back there, talking amongst themselves, these ideas. I can hear them back there, murmuring. I begin to hear bits of phrases. The sense of a topic, a genre.

My waking thoughts start to curve in that direction; they start to gather information that all funnels to the same place. I collect these bits and feed them like coal into a furnace.

It’s partly, I know, the time and space that I have to think, not crowded with the demands of a 40-hour job. But it’s also working on “To Kill a Mockingbird,” reading the book at night, becoming immersed the language. (I used the word “rightly” twice in a recent blog; I become a sponge and a regurgitant of what I feed my brain.) It’s also watching Netflix's “Peaky Blinders,” and being stunned by the cinematography, the bold and sweeping camera work inspiring me, reminding me of the nuance and exaltation of art.

It’s listening to NPR, and a man's purple report of bison grazing in Canada, when the song of birds “split the silence like a candle,” and it became “the end of a day that started as a morning.”

I begin to collect these images, words, sensations like a magpie, not knowing what will be useful, but shoveling it all in anyway, trusting my process of alchemy.

I’ve begun hearing voices again. And this brings me hope.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Spiritual Echolocation

I am not the best judge of my progress or my abilities. But, even though I can’t rightly see myself, I’m beginning to notice that I am hearing it from others.

And this in itself feels like progress: At least I’m hearing it.

There was a time when I described compliments as one of those bug zapper lamps people hang on their porch. The bugs merely get within range of the lamp and they get zapped dead. Same with compliments for me: Anything positive that was said would get deflected before it even got close to touching me. None of that here, pew! pew!

I'd said that you can’t receive a compliment if there’s no complementary place within you to receive it. If there’s nowhere it fits within your own understanding of yourself, then there’s no way that it can be accepted. There’s no ring of truth, because you don’t believe it yourself.

Time passed, and I’ve become more able to receive positive feedback about certain things, because I have begun to hone and cultivate the place within me that is receptive, the place within me that believes you because I believe it myself.

That said, there’s room for growth.

This week, I’ve had several experiences where I’ve been told about my progress and abilities, and even though I can’t quite feel this, I’m beginning to recognize that I believe them, I believe others are seeing this, even if I'm not myself.

Hence, spiritual echolocation. I can’t see it myself, but I believe in the feedback I’m receiving – so there must be something to it.

I know that feeding off external validation is not the way to walk about the world, but what it’s doing for me is giving me hope that one day I can see it. There is an existence of a cave wall. Others are telling me so. If that is truth, there is hope that I will see it, too.

On Friday night, after the first act of our opening night of To Kill a Mockingbird, the director came backstage. He was beaming. He was so glad and proud of the work I was doing on-stage.

I was dubious. But I thought Wednesday’s preview night went much better; it felt better.

He told me he was the only rightly judge of my performance, and Friday night, I was better.

Whether I felt it or not.

On Saturday morning, I went for my semi-regular voice lesson. And at the end of a phrase I’d sung, my teacher applauded and cheered – he even gave me a high five.

“Did you hear that?” he asked, delighted.

No, I didn’t. I can’t hear myself.

The noise and buffer between what is and what I perceive is loud and thick.

“We’re going to have to record you more then,” he said. “You have to get used to hearing yourself.”

This morning, I was on the phone with my mentor, and I reported these incidents to her, as I begin to parse out these places where I’m being told one thing, but I’m hearing and sensing another.

She, too, had told me that I’m farther along than I can feel. And she gave me a metaphor (because we all know I love those!):

She told me I am a tree creating deep, deep roots. A solid foundation. And you can’t always see that growth above ground, but it’s happening.

We were talking (again) about my questioning of where and who I am this lifetime and where I’m going. And she said, some people have really gorgeous foliage, and weak roots.

We’re doing the work now -- early, some might say -- that others come to in mid and later life. Creating a root system, carving out the rot, cleaning the wounds.

Like a field of asparagus, you don’t see its heroic work until one morning you turn, and the whole field has sprouted green, fully formed, like Athena.

I am not used to hearing or seeing myself clearly. I’m not adequately armed with the ability to track my own progress. And thank god for other people, then!

But I do feel the promise and the hope of their reflection. I am beginning to hear what they’re saying instead of zapping it, because I'm beginning to uncover the place within me that believes it myself.

I’m starting to open to a truth that’s been, and is, hard for me to swallow:

I am worthy. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014


In soft, rainy weather like this, you warm up a mug of cider, coffee, cocoa, cradling your palms around it for heat. You sink into the couch and watch vaguely out the window as everything gets welcomely drenched.

Your mind begins to drift, out of plan-making, errand-plotting, and back into the story that’s always being told.

It’s the one you were told before you were born. About wood nymphs, and magic, and the luminescence of play. It tells of quests and triumphs, failures and wounds burdened. It reminds you of the goat you rescue and the crow you chase out of the darkness. The lovers you are meant to kiss and those who trick you into it.

In the story that is always behind thought, you meld with ancient heroes, you are the foes they vanquish, and the cities they lay waste to. You are the sword of justice and of vengeance. Both the hag and lady of the lake. You are the unquantified stem cell of protagonist.

In grey weather like this, you aren’t yourself any longer, because you’ve gone back to what you've always been: everything. nothing. and teeming with every ending ever conceived. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Near – Far. Near – Far.

Anyone else remember those segments on Sesame Street?

Well, I recall it this morning around desire. Around the idea that if we’re not happy with what we have right now, why would we expect something more would make us happy later? If we’re not content in the “near,” how can we expect to be happy in the “far””

That said, I don’t know that I completely agree with this concept. I do “get” that it is important to recognize the gifts around us. Especially at this time of year, it’s easier to get that reminder to “give thanks.” It’s what I’m teaching my 4th graders lately, about gratitude, being happy with what’s around us, noticing what we have, and how lucky we are. By nature of our birth, we’ve landed in a circumstance where we’re healthy, educated, and pretty well off. In many ways, we’ve hit the lottery in comparison to the 8 million other souls on this planet.

I can count my blessings, though they are innumerable.

And yet.

What about the phrase, “It helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to move toward it”? Isn’t that implicitly saying that we can want more, and we have to clarify what that is so we can get there? Isn’t there an inherent longing or dissatisfaction? A seeking?

So, today, I sit with the duality of … reality (sorry!): I am content with my life, and I want more for it.

A friend once said to me when I was in a lot of pain around a previous job, “Just stand at the copy machine and be grateful you are.” Included in that idea is being grateful for: being alive, healthy, employed.

And yes, of fucking course I am and was. But does that mean, Don’t dream beyond that?

Does that mean the longings of a soul are symptoms of being ungrateful? Hmm….

Happiness breeds happiness. Contentment seems to attract more of itself. I am a “law of attraction” kind of believer. I comprehend that living in where I am with adulation and appreciation and awe is crucial.

But. …

How do you truly sit with that frisson?

In the immediate present, in the “near,” I am going tonight to perform in a community theater production. A good community theater, at that. For years, I’d been dabbling at acting, and only at the start of the year did I make a conscious commitment toward it.

I am adamantly grateful, and also, this was all borne of restless desire and dissatisfaction.

I don’t know. I don’t think I can “figure it out,” and maybe I don’t have to. But, I will always find it difficult to “sit” in gratitude for things that make me feel I’m wasting my life. I have too much respect for the time we’re given to simply “be” in where I’m at when that feels deadening.

And maybe that perspective is “wrong,” and it perpetuates my dissatisfaction. Maybe this longing and seeking keep me from feeling fulfilled, but for today at least – however off-balance it may make me – I do have one foot in the near, and one firmly planted in the far.

Because, sorry Ekhart Tolle: I believe in the Power of Then. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Life: Whether you Like it or Not.

For many years, I’ve considered my personal and professional stagnation as though I were a traveler sitting at the base of a crossroad. The sign pointing in many directions reads any manner of options, but I sit there, gazing at the sign for eons, waiting for one of the arrows to light up, to indicate, This, here, Molly, is the way to go. This is the path to your destiny. This is the path to fulfillment, release, energy and passion. It may be cloudy at parts, but we promise, this is the way toward your highest good.

Yet, signposts have an annoying way of being inanimate, and this revelation has never happened.

But as I sit today, I recognize something new. Beyond the fork in the road, I’m beginning to see another path that I hadn’t identified before. It’s the path of my true desires.

I have sat waiting for the gods to tell me a or b, but secretly, I’ve always wanted c, and refused to see that as an option. “It’s hard for your to let yourself dream,” a therapist opined recently.

And it is.

To speak aloud what you truly want is to invite criticism and disappointment. Better to keep the dreams locked tight, even to the detriment of myself, because it’s “easier” than going after what I really want.

The problem with that pattern is that it means you don’t develop a history and a catalogue of places where you have moved beyond those doubts and spoken up, acted up, been seen. And so you continue to assume what you really want is not something you can have.

The history of denying what I want is long. It is best to be quiet, unheard, unseen, have few needs, because the lower you set the bar the easier it is to meet the meagerness.

I reflected yesterday on the way to our preview night of the play how you can always set yourself up to “succeed” when you place the bar achingly low. When you paint over your dreams with “realistic expectations,” you’re never called to reach out of your comfort zone. You can sit on the couch watching Netflix until the end of time, eating peanut butter out of a jar, and quietly erode all sense of the divine spark within you.

Not that I’ve done that. (wink)

But the divine has a way of being omnipresent, no matter what you do to ignore, dismiss, or erode its guidance and encouragement.

I haven’t a clue what experiences I’m opening up to as I watch this third path unfurl before me. Recognizing foremost that I’ve denied myself the ability to see what I’ve always wanted is a start. Recognizing that I’ve refused to acknowledge that I can have what I want, that my needs don’t have to be pauperistic, that it is safe in the reality of today to express myself is a start.

I’ve written many times before about the emerging option of being safe and seen. Safe doesn’t mean “not bold,” or setting the bar low, here. It means that I am not going to be punished for wanting what I want this lifetime.

This is a hard concept for me to integrate. But, more slowly than I would really love, I’m accepting that the sanest, safest, and surest way toward fulfillment is actually believing it’s available. Whenever I’m good and ready to set down the peanut butter and walk toward it. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Truth Will Out.

(A quick note before I run off to our full-day tech rehearsal. To Kill a Mockingbird opens this Friday!)

On the heels of the “Don’t forget your North Star” blog yesterday and contemplation this week, I went to have a voice lesson with a former castmate. We spoke afterwards about my job transition and how he’d realized what his North Star was years before, and sure, he had to jump through hoops to get there, but it was and is worth it. 

He was telling me we have to listen most of all to ourselves, not to others, and to not let their voices drown out our own. But I replied, Their not giving me their ideas, they’re asking “What do you want to do?” and I keep on answering, “I don’t know.”

But I sat with that for a moment, and I corrected myself: No, That’s not true. I do know: I want to perform; I just keep dismissing it.

That, performance, is my North Star.

I went last night to see a friend of mine perform at her CD release party. The talent was phenomenal, but beyond that was the brilliance of her pieces. Honed, practiced, cultivated brilliance. That’s beyond, “You’re talented.”

I sat in the audience, and during one of her songs, I was brought to tears with its beauty. With the privilege of being alive and able to listen and be moved by such art. She created an atmosphere and an experience that wouldn’t have existed if she didn’t.

I want to do that

And I think it’s possible. I just have a few hoops to jump through. And a lot of learning and honing to do.

It is very easy for me to dismiss what it is I want, because it sounds frivolous or flighty in the light of day. It sounds vague and too artsy and too uncertain. But I’ve fought with myself for years to cop to my desires, and each time I dismiss it, I pull myself back into the dance of "I don't know what I'm doing with my life."

I can dismiss performance for many reasons: believing I’m not good enough; that it’s too late; for financial reasons; for I-want-to-be-approvable reasons. I want the easy check-box on the form of life: What do you do for a living?

Or, more accurate, What does your soul want to do?

In talking with my voice teacher, he basically said it’s possible, and it’s worth it. I drove back from there to meet with two women to get some perspective on all this job transition stuff, and to firm up actions steps I can take in the maelstrom of “What the F* are you doing?” that invades my brain.

They said, too, it’s possible, and it takes work. Don’t give up. Do not go back to sleep.

Here are some steps to take, Yes you’ve taken some of them before, but here they’re being suggested again. Try again. Talk to my friend, my sister, this guy I know.

No, it won't look like being a self-supporting performer, but it will look like earning enough to support those endeavors.

The artists I’ve met and spoken to this week all have day jobs. But they do it in service of their dream. It’s not an either/or proposition: Art or Financial Stability. Dream or Devastation.

It’s hard for me to keep my eye on where I want to go, and that’s why I have you guys to help me. When I finally ask. And when I finally am open enough to listening. To you, and to myself. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ooh, Shiny!

“Don’t forget your dreams, why you’re doing this,” she told me on the phone.

Easy to say when you have income, I replied silently.

I’d told my friend I was on my way to an interview for a sales position. And she reminded me where my North Star was.

But sometimes you have to steer out of the storm in order to get back on course, right?

That said, this is the usual “Molly looking for work pattern”: Spend a few weeks seeking the thing I actually want, see that it’s harder than I thought, or notice that I don’t know how to go about it and give up on it, and then go toward the easy but unfulfilling role.

This search result looks like a different sheep’s clothing, but it’s still a wolf.

I’m trying to interrupt the usual flow of events at the point of acknowledging that “It’s too hard” really translates as “I don’t know how.” Because from there, I can ask for more help.

That is hard, too. To ask for help when you’re not really sure what you’re asking or who to turn to.

I feel like the simple son of the Passover Four Questions, The one who doesn’t even know how to ask.

For the one who didn’t know how to ask, the questions and answers were provided to him. He just had to show up, in his ignorance, and learn.

I have been able to interrupt other patterns of behavior mid-way, once I saw them. The flirting with the married men. Waiting until my fridge was empty to buy groceries, and eating tuna from the can. Following thoughts down a dark path toward isolation and despair.

This is no different. But changing, modifying all of the above took (and takes) effort. Concerted consciousness. Awareness of my feelings, of my triggers. All borne of scarcity mind. There’s not enough. I can’t have any. I don’t know how to advocate for myself.

And this -- advocating for myself -- was part of a very long conversation I got to have with my mom yesterday (as I chopped and roasted vegetables, making that conscious move to feed myself well and stop eating out all the time or going slightly hungry).

The other day, after I’d boldly walked into Neiman Marcus with no resume and no plan and ended up in an impromptu interview with the HR director, I spent dinner with a friend. I was asking her about sales, since that’s her vocation. I was talking about the statistic I’d heard that women rarely negotiate their salary, and men nearly always do.

She handed me a book titled, Women Don’t Ask. And I’m devouring it. Studies that show men see opportunities to ask where women assume circumstances are fixed. Indeed, the cultural pressures and reinforced gendered stereotypes that keep women in positions of not advocating for themselves are plenty virulent, too.

I said to my friend that if I got this position in sales with Neiman Marcus, I’d hope that I don’t go all mousy-girl. That I don’t begin to feel like an impostor, feeling I don’t belong helping women with gobs of disposable income.

And she said something interesting: Since cancer, you haven't been mousy-girl.

She said before then, it’s true, I can turn (in my own interpretation) not mousy, but quiet observer. I will stand back, get the lay of the land, and then maybe add some ideas. But for the most part, I’ll remain fringe.

In fact, in high school, a boy once asked, “Do you ever talk?”

You’d hardly know me by that attribute anymore! But that part of myself exists.

Although, less so these days.

I recounted all this to my mom, my friend’s comment about my new assertiveness, and how I’d lost that subdued, passive nature since surviving Leukemia. I gave my mom a simple example:

That same afternoon, I’d gone to pick up some lunch at this organic yummy place. There were two platters of smothered polenta: one had two slices left, and looked like it had been on the warmer for a few hours. Next to it was another that was obviously just pulled from the oven, piping hot and bright colored.

The older woman ahead of me ordered polenta, and got a slice from that bedraggled lot. I ordered polenta after her, and I asked if I could have a slice from the new batch.

"Sure, of course."

The older woman waiting for her change looked at me, with a look of, “That’s not quite fair.” But, it was. I’d asked. She hadn’t.

I am not the mousy girl I was. I am a self-advocate. Some of it was borne of cancer and my time bargaining with nurses and doctors on what I needed ("I guess that’s okay – no one’s ever asked before."). I completely changed my experience to suit my desires in what one usually sees as an immovable situation.

In the present, not knowing how to proceed – how do I market myself as an essay tutor, how can I market myself as a home organizer, all in service of the fulcrum, all to leave time available for creative and intellectual pursuits – doesn’t mean I can’t proceed. It means I have to ask for help. I have to ask for help on how to even form my questions.

And I have to remember that I’m no longer the woman who gets handed old polenta. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Vision Quest

I was talking with an acquaintance the other day about what I know to be true. I know that, up or down, since I left my home at the age of 23 I have always had a safe place to live. Everything else in my life -- job, money, friendships, romance -- can be in upheaval, but no matter what continent, coast or city I find myself in, I manage to find a safe and comfortable place to live.

My acquaintance said, for him, he knows that all he needs is a rucksack and he’s fine.

We’re at different places and have different needs for sure.

But it causes me to think about my assumptions about my life. I have this assumption, this belief and history to back it up, that I will always be taken care of on the home front.

I also have assumptions and belief and history to back it up that even though I don’t know how, financially, I always do land of my feet. But that usually it takes a long while, and the outcome of that is not always what I want to be doing, but I am eventually safe there, too, even if a little battle-weary.

I also have other beliefs and history backing up my assumptions: I don’t know how to live a balanced life. I don’t know how to have a relationship. Or how to earn enough to support myself in a field I love.

I have beliefs about myself that keep me stuck. And what I then have is entitlement.

Someone should tell me what I should do, because I don’t know how.

I've been looking back at some of the writing work I’ve been doing lately, finally moving on past the section on amending relationships in my life, and in my prior writings and inventory work, I read that entitlement around jobs comes up virulently.

And only a few days ago was I able to see that for me, entitlement is an outcome of hopelessness. I can’t, I don’t know how, I’ll fuck it up – you do it for me. You make it work.

Another thing I noticed in my writing was how some of my despairing fears have dissipated since I began that inventory work over 6 months ago. Some of the same haranguing thoughts about my own ability to speak up for myself, to follow my dreams, to do things I don’t know how to do have been challenged since the time I’ve written them.

Since the beginning of 2014, when I decided I was going to make a go of this acting thing, I’ve been in 4 plays. That doubles the number I’ve been in since 2006. I made a decision and followed it up with action. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I took a few classes at Berkeley Rep that I didn’t find altogether transforming; I found a proper headshot photographer; I replied to audition calls.

I have been stalling on putting myself out there for my essay tutoring work, because I don’t know how to do it.

And this leads to a feeling of, If it’s supposed to happen, then it will. It’ll just happen.

A friend calls it “going rag-doll on G-d.” Okay, you want “surrender,” you want me to let go of my plans because my ideas are limited by my fears? Sure – here, you have it. You drag me along into the life I want to have.

The point is, there’s a difference between surrendering and giving up.

This blog is a little all over the place today, but so’s my brain.

Basically, I have some beliefs about my life, like my home, that make me feel secure. I have other beliefs about my life, like my earnings, that make me feel uncertain and hopeless.

There’s really no reason for the difference, except I continue to reinforce them both. I am blind to the changes that occur in and around me when it comes to perpetuating my negative beliefs.

But looking back at my work from 6 months ago, acknowledging the success of following a dream, I really have to acknowledge that I don’t have to do things the same way, right? I really do have to let myself see that I’m not as helpless as some part of me wants to believe, right? I do have to accept that I’m not as broken as I want to believe, right?

And, so this is the work, now. To pull back from the chatter which causes me to stagnate and become paralyzed against action. The work is to see that positive beliefs exist within me, and to let those fuel my action toward my next place.

I am not stuck. I am not helpless. I am not depressed, deficient, or despairing. I am only short-sighted. 

And for that, I can get better glasses.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


While waiting backstage last night for a long scene I’m not in to finish, I leafed through an old book of opera history, the only book in the room.

In it, are pages and pages of photos, and I was struck by how similar everyone looked to today. Yep, there’re the same cheeckbones, facial structure, haughty gaze we still see in others and starlets today. Some of the photos were dated 1898.

Over a hundred years ago, people looked relatively the same. They portrayed the same stories of love, hatred, betrayal, and sacrifice. And I commented to the other actor who was also waiting backstage on how shockingly similar we looked, and how our stories, our desires haven’t changed for tens of thousands of years. Mythology and the Bible tell the same stories, and people probably looked relatively similar too.

Sure, we might be a little more refined about it, not sacrificing goats or children as often. Not slaying enemies in the street. But for the most part, looking back through time, we’re the same people we were thousands of years ago.

And my co-actor said something that struck me: Well, yeah, because we have the same brains we’ve had for thousands of years.

For some reason, this made me pause, and things clicked into place in my head. We’ve been retelling these stories through pictoral, oral, and written history for eons. Homer wrote about the same passions and impulses as Shakespeare as Langston Hughes as Brene Brown.

We’ve all been processing the same emotions for millennia. There’s something kind of humbling and shocking about that realization. Perhaps even a little bit disheartening! But mostly, I think, connecting.

It makes all humanity more relatable.

I remember reading a story of a therapist who was going to be working with a group of Rwandan refugees. She was worried that she wouldn’t know how to relate to them, how she would be able to talk to them about what they’d been through because it was so alien to her experience.

What she found was charming: Her first client wanted to talk about how the guy she had her eye on was hot for her cousin.

We all have the same impulses. We all have the same chemistry and wiring, inhibitions and ambitions. Beyond the length of recorded time, we’ve all been trying to make a go at this thing called life.

And I find that oddly comforting. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Who’s Next?

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” ― Erich Fromm

This is the quote of the day relating to the daily meditation I’m doing through the Oprah/Deepak 21-day challenge.

Strangely or not, it’s what I was writing about in my morning pages before I logged into the meditation. The idea of uncertainty, of letting go of what’s known. And how very close to that I feel right now.

I found out yesterday I didn’t get the job I was in several rounds of interviews and mock sessions for during the last two weeks. And all for the better, I think. In fact, I’d reached out to an old schoolmate I’d seen on LinkedIn had worked there to ask her thoughts. And when I wrote back that they didn’t hire me, she wrote: You are better off. That place is a shit hole.

So there’s that!

But, this morning as I reflected on where I am, with the one avenue I was pursuing more actively than others cut short, I find myself without an exact destination. Which is where in fact I’ve been, but I've been distracted with the possibility of this employment.

What brought me to considering the question of Who’s Next was my bringing out an old reader packet of poems from an undergrad course I took. I’d brought it down a few days ago; I was 22 when I took the class, finishing up from the lost semester when I’d been otherwise engaged in a padded room.

The day after I brought the packet down, a friend of mine mentioned teaching again, putting together a C.V. (a teacher’s resume) and syllabus. I went online to yesterday to poke around and see. And again, I sort of went all blank about it. I see titles like Professor of 18th and 19th Century Romanticism or of Rhetoric, and I call myself uninterested and unqualified.

And then after a while of poking around online anyway, my computer overheated and shut down on me, which was probably for the best!

But, today I opened that packet labeled Twentieth Century Poetry II, and I read the names and poems of Robert Bly, Gwendolyn Brooks, yes, even the ubiquitous Plath. I read my margin notes, and was amused to see that my handwriting looked as it does now.

I was interested in the poems, but I wasn’t sparked. These were the dreams and longings of a different person. The person who ate these poems up, who devoured and analyzed and waxed prosaic marginalia.

I remember the classroom I was in when we read Spenser’s Faerie Queene. I remember being the one student who was really intrigued by his epic traitorous, political poem hidden in monarch-approved meter. I remember the classroom where the professor told us stories of the poets’ lives, who’d met who and exchanged letters, the relationships behind their lyrics.

I remember the room for my make-up semester, on a different campus, since my cohort had graduated. The computer lab where I wrote short stories and saved them onto the new smaller, square floppy disks that were actually hard.

This morning I reread the same works that meant so much to me then, a woman who felt she had no voice, and poetry was a quiet art that could conjure hurricanes, that could release those that were teeming in my body.

But, I don’t feel it in the same way now. I of course want new generations of students to hear tales of those smoky rooms where creativity was incubated and smile in camaraderie at Spenser’s thinly veiled subversion. But, I don’t know. Is it me? Is it me now?

There’s a quote from a Yogi tea bag I have taped over my kitchen sink, along with all the others I felt necessary to collect. It reads: Empty yourself and let the Universe fill you.

I haven’t ever really known what that meant, or how to do it. I haven’t known how to let go of all I know, of all my plans, of labeling what I know and feel and have done as relevant or useless. I haven’t been able to answer the call of that tea quote until today.

I do feel emptied. I feel emptied of direction, of specific ambition, of perspective on myself. But it’s not a negative feeling.

I feel like a student in a new class, but one I don’t know the course title to. I don’t know which of my skills will be useful in this new class, what of my knowledge will be relevant.

I don’t know if I'll need a paintbrush or a calculator, what I'll grow to learn, or who will be my teachers. I don’t know who else I’ll meet in class, and who I’ll never see again. I don’t know the iteration of myself who will be called upon to show up here, or who will be created from being here.

I only know that this nameless class is the only one on my course schedule for the foreseeable future, and that perhaps at the end of it, I may be able to answer what iteration of Molly is next.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Moving the water-cooler.

I was at dinner with a friend on Tuesday night, election night. And she was dispirited by how little she’d gotten to talk with anyone about the election, the issues, what’s going on in our area. That it’s just not the water-cooler chatter that's around her. That there’s a part of her intelligence that doesn’t feel fueled and fed in the current iteration of her life.

I replied that I knew precisely how she felt. That there are conversations I don’t have any more on an intellectual level, not just by being out of school, but by being out of the groups who talk about topics that make me think (beyond the emotionally intelligent conversations I can have until the sun burns out).

I told her there was an informal dinner a friend from grad school hosts every Wednesday, and how for 2 years now, I continue to get his weekly invitations. I haven’t gone once.

Well, that’s not true. I went once, with an ex, and he felt awkward, so it was awkward, and we left. But I have a feeling that dinner’s one source of the higher conversations I want to have.

Meanwhile, this morning I get a text from a friend saying it’s her annual birthday party this Saturday. She’s the founder of a non-profit that provides medical birthing supplies to women in Africa, and has visited more times than I can count. I can see from my text history that she invited me last year, and the year before, and I still haven’t gone.

My friend at dinner on Tuesday night challenged me to accept an invitation to events like these. To go, to meet, to talk, to learn, to be sparked. To see if there’s a level of conversation I can have beyond my normal scope.

I haven’t wanted to go alone. But that’s usually the best way to meet people. And so, today, this morning, I replied that I would be at my friend's birthday party this weekend.

I can’t attend the Wednesday dinners at the moment because of rehearsal, but I promised my Tuesday friend I would go after they finish.

It’s not that these opportunities aren’t available. It’s that I’m scared to go. Scared I can't keep up. That I don't know enough. My Tuesday friend told me we both know enough to have *some* kind of a conversation about anything, and she's right. 

There are science lectures I want to attend at Cal. I have wanted to sit in on classes there for a long time. Maybe it’s different from a party that’s social, and I’ll want to bring a wingman, someone to discuss it with afterward or -- and here's my real desire -- I'll meet people there who will want to grab tea afterward and discuss it, our own little study group of lecture-junkies.

I’ve written before about wanting to seek out conversations and friends and classes that will again spark the kind of thinking I miss so terribly; that in the absence of such conversation, I begin to feel stagnant and short of my potential. I know I’ve hemmed and lamented about it before, but maybe, with this one Yes for this weekend, I’m changing the direction of my action. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"Waiting" to "Pausing"

I’m waiting to hear the outcome of my third, two-hour long interview from Monday. I was put in a mock session of what the job would entail, and though not mind-blowing, it would be a nice stop-gap for the time being, I think.

But, there’s the trouble. I’m thinking about it a lot. Trying to angle whether this is a good fit for me, if it’s better than the unknowable, and … I’m tired.

I’m tired of the questioning, I’m physically exhausted, emotionally, mentally. When I was on the phone with my mentor on Sunday, after unloading and processing through a lot of muck, she began to respond, and I stopped her by saying, hang on, I just want to finish:

then I told her all the plans I had for the week. Everything I was going to do to support my job search, cleaning up my home, other housekeeping style work like going down to the parking ticket office.

And when I was done with my litany, she said, Wow, it’s really hard for you to let yourself rest, isn’t it?

And here I was thinking that my “positive action” sequence was … positive. That it was showing I’m not slipping into despair, that I’m keeping the jackals at bay with all my activity. Isn’t that what an unemployed person is supposed to do? Keep busy? Do the footwork?

Even if they’re so tired they are on the verge of tears?

And so, this morning, already two cups of coffee into my day, with plans to get out of the house and meet up with people, I went back to bed for an hour. The caffeine kept me from sleep, but the resting was good. I am exhausted. It’s been mentally and spiritually challenging to show up as I have these past few months. It’s been hard, and I feel at the end of a grin-and-bear-it period, without the relief that comes when you stop grinning.

So, … not today, but perhaps tomorrow, I’ll commit to letting myself actually sleep in, to restore what’s been missing, and to gather energy for what’s next.

There’s already a lot to do today, tomorrow, Friday. You’d think being unemployed would mean a break, but I’ve got shit to do I can’t excuse myself from. However, I can sleep in, and let myself have that relief. I can allow it not to mean I’m lazy or going to fail or am being irresponsible.

Turns out, the most responsible thing I can do for myself at the moment is to take extra special care of myself, even if it makes me squirm. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

a short note, just to let you know I’m not dead.

the end.

just kidding.
I have to leave to go meet up with some folks at 9am I haven’t seen in a very long time. I had my dailey method shift yesterday at 530am, so I didn’t write, and sunday mornings are my check-in with my mentor, and usually lead to more emotion than can settle enough to show up here – which is good. so, tuesday, it is!

i just wanted to reflect on something that occurred to me as I sat in meditation this morning, back into another one of those deepak/oprah 21-day meditation challenges: I am living the schedule I wanted.

sure, it’s not perfect! but I’d wanted my days divided into thirds: mornings in private work, working on art, or music, or writing; afternoons working in the community somehow – how I didn’t know; and the evenings spent in performance.

and here I sit today, my morning spent in meditation, a little writing. this afternoon, I’ll head over to the synagogue to teach 4th grade. and this evening, I’ll have rehearsal (well, we’re off tonight, but you get the point!).

without intending to, I’ve come to the structure of the day I’ve always wanted or thought i wanted. the one I didn’t think I could achieve until I was 50, and had more going for me.

but, today, even though it doesn’t look perfect, even though I am only earning about a third of my needed income through teaching two days a week… this is what it will feel like. this is what it does feel like:

awesome. fulfilling. purposeful. open. creative. engaged. important. 

thanks, universe, for this taste of what it will and what it is like. i was right when i discovered that’s the day i want for myself. now, help me achieve it sustainably. thanks. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Answering the Caterpillar.

Yesterday afternoon, I drove back from the dentist and stopped to pick up lunch and a drink before I returned to my final afternoon at my job.

As I stood on line at Peet’s coffee, the tall cute guy behind me rifled through his pocket, and out fell a green Crayola marker. Without a cap.

This only happens to two types of people: wackos, and teachers. I took the risk.

He replied he was a teacher. And then came the most dreaded question on the face of my earth:

“What do you do?”

It’s one of the first questions people ask when they don’t know one another. It’s a function of the desire to orient and locate you on the web of society and potential commonality: What do you do for a living?

And, honestly, the idea of answering this question has kept me from dating. Because what people are asking is not simply where are you employed, (to me) it’s asking if you are employed, what your social status might be, what your interests are, what your value of your self is.

They are asking, Who are you?

And I haven’t wanted to answer for as long as my response has been, I’m a glorified secretary.

Sure, over the years when I’ve spoken to friends about this, they’ve replied, you don’t have you put it like that. You are a marketing specialist, you are in customer service, you are an executive assistant, an education administrator. You support the people who make things happen, you run offices, you hire and fire people, organize office events, facilitate publications. You reconcile expense reports.



And, the point is that I haven’t felt comfortable telling others that’s what I do for a living.

Because it makes me feel less-than. Because I interpret what I do as not good enough for me. Because I feel that it doesn’t speak to all that I am as a person, and surely, answering that one question for anyone is never an indication of who they are as a whole.

But, I have felt it a pretty good indicator.

I am small. I have zero power. I do boring repetitive tasks while chained to a computer desk. I get condescended to and underestimated. I have the copy machine repair man on speed dial.


Get out of here!

I don’t want to be that person. Because, I’m not that person. It’s stuff I can do, but it’s not all of me.

Perhaps, though, it means that I need to hold others' answer to that question more lightly, because I’ve only had one answer to that question for a very long time, and it’s never spoken to who I am as a person. So maybe I can be more open-minded toward others whose answers don’t titillate me.

But, whatever comes of my relationship to others’ answers, I know that I haven’t been able to budge my relationship to mine, no matter how much work on “self-acceptance” and "perspective" and "gratitude" I’ve done. And so, the only thing to do is to change my answer, not my relationship to it. Yet.

So, yesterday, when cute, marker-covered dude looked into my eyes, and asked me what I did, I was able to answer easily, truthfully, and proudly: I’m a teacher, too.

(you know, part-time, after school two days a week, but, it's a start!)