Monthly Archives: May 2015

Week 41 – Little Bits of Sunshine

Happy Memorial Day, Celebrationists! Hope you’re having a great one.

  1. I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend this past weekend back in Florida – seeing opening weekend of The Tempest: Esta isla es mia, at freefall Theatre Company.  I had my batteries recharged, was moved by the exceptional performance, heart, and vulnerability of a very dear person, and had the chance to see lots of people who I miss very much
  2. I am grateful to be part of two readings this week in New York, sponsored by a theater that means a lot to me. Having something creative to do during my last week before I head to the Ozarks for the summer is really a blessing
  3. I am grateful for having a free day to memorize, plan out my week, do research, and stay where it is quiet, for most of the day

Today I am writing about a GBD (Good-Bit-Do-er, for any who may just be joining us) who just passed from this life to the next.  She was a very special woman, and though most of you reading this will have never met her, perhaps you’ve known your own Sunny Fader, and will glean something personal from this story.  I write today in her memory, and in honor of her incredible life – and the short part of it I was lucky enough to share.

I lived with Sunny for about two and a half months in 2013. I was in Florida doing A Christmas Carol, and was housed with her during the contract, instead of at the actor condo/cast-housing that I’d stayed at several times before.

The things that struck me most about Sunny – in a first-impression kind of way: she was beautiful.  She was generous. She was very funny. And she loved to talk.

11010584_10152789121726767_5160219369437442405_n

My first weeks at Sunny’s took some negotiation on my part – I’m definitely an independent introvert, and Sunny struck me as a classic extrovert.  I would later find out that she didn’t identify this way necessarily, but that she felt really comfortable talking with me.  I would get home from rehearsal and we would stay up talking for four and five hours at a time. She would tell me stories about her life and experiences as a screenwriter, producer, writer, artist, mother, and sister, and we would wax poetic about the deep thoughts that seemed to run through both our brains on a frequent basis – trading ideas from the many spiritual and self-help type books that we enjoyed.

She gave me copies of two of the books that she wrote and self published, “Land Here? You Bet”, and ”The Cat that Loved Dogs.” Reading these stories was like cracking open an even more intimate part of who Sunny was.   She was an incredible story teller.

We also discussed nutrition a lot, because Sunny was experimenting with different ways to help herself feel great.  She had this incredible blender that I loved, and I often woke up to post-it notes like this one. This is the kind of thoughtful she was, and the kind of thing she would do:

photo-4

Sunny also had two small dogs. I’m a huge dog fan, and “the girls” were affectionate little protectors.  They worshipped Sunny. Anytime a car, person, or other animal got anywhere NEAR the house, they would yap their little hearts out in an effort to make sure Sunny knew that someone was approaching…or passing by.  Always at her side (but willing to accept rubs, love, and walks from me) they were a constant source of amusement, one I got past the early morning wake-up barks : )

166504_3771743105610_1069813395_n

Sunny and Tinker, as a puppy

Living in Sunny’s house was a lesson for me in a lot of ways.

Generosity – apart from making smoothies, sharing meals, books, YouTube videos, wisdom, and transportation, Sunny was generous in other ways. Most of her later work as a writer was dedicated to telling other people’s stories.  She had a dream of creating workshops that would help people write their own memoirs, developing their life stories into written legacies that they could leave behind.  She also had several books that she was writing for other people, too – turning the documentation of their own lives into beautiful and seamless chapters of text. She had a great deal of empathy and could capture their voices, dreams, and hearts as if by magic.  She was always interested in other people’s stories. She was endlessly generous to her neighbors, family, and everyone I experienced her crossing paths with.

Laughter – I laughed a lot with Sunny. She was someone who had been through a lot in her life and understood that to get through it, a great deal of humor and grace contributed to her resilience.

Being Open-minded – During the time I lived with Sunny, I sometimes struggled with what happened when my “plan” was disrupted.  If I came home from rehearsal and spent four hours talking with Sunny instead of working on a particular project I had planned for the evening, I would get really frustrated with myself.  Almost panicked by my lack of self-control or ability to “get things done.” Sometimes I missed out on how much better it was that I sit with this woman and really learn something about the world.  So much of the beauty and magic of who Sunny was embedded itself even more deeply in me after I lived with her.

A steady commitment to work – Every day Sunny woke up early, walked the dogs, made a good breakfast, and sat down at her computer and settled in for many hours of writing.  She would sit there hard at work for long stretches, speaking softly aloud, reading and re-reading passages of text while the dogs listened with such love that you almost believed they could understand every word.

Self Improvement – From her writing, to her life as a parent (and dog parent!), future goals…there was something about Sunny that was always striving.  Always interested in knowing more, doing more, creating more – and she managed to exist this way with great humility and compassion. I was always inspired by her example that at ANY age, growth is possible – and important.

And then that thing happened – which happens, I imagine to probably more people than just myself – My contract in Florida ended and I went back to New York.  Sunny and I would speak a few times on the phone, and then eventually not very often.  I visited her once or twice after that, during subsequent contracts in Florida – bringing my parents over, and introducing them to her…and then less and less, as time went on.

Have you ever had a friend who…a certain amount of time passes, you haven’t been in touch for one reason or another, and then you feel guilty or ashamed, so you can’t bring yourself to pick up the phone at all? It’s completely counter-intuitive, because you want to reach out, but in your own human embarrassment, pride, whatever….you don’t do it.

This last time I was in Florida from late March through early May – just weeks ago, really.  I became engaged with other relationships, the time flew by, and I didn’t reach out to Sunny at all.  Yesterday I found out that she passed on, on May 21st.  I didn’t even know about the health issues she was struggling with in April – when I was there. I had no idea at all.

I don’t tell you this last part to shame myself, or to pack any kind of manipulative emotional punch.  I tell you this because it happened, and because I really wish that I would have put my own nonsense aside, and reached out to Sunny.

If there’s a person you’re scared to reach out to in your life, maybe consider why you haven’t.  A 10 minute phone call is such a small act, but can mean the world. We are constantly reminded how short life is.  It’s so easy to look at these reminders and put them in the “I’ll deal with it later” pile.

She really lived up to her name, and was pure sunshine to so many.  She was a teacher, mentor, mother-figure, Tai-Chi buddy, breakfast companion, writer, nurturer, story-teller, and so much more. To read a lovely little tribute to Sunny, check out this blog post by Jackie Minniti, and also consider browsing through the many beautiful thoughts on Sunny’s Website.

I recently found out that a story Sunny was working on, and had graciously shared with me, was published in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul Anthology: Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Hope and Miracles.  Her story is called The Spoon.  I promise you it’s more than worth the read : )

I wanted to leave you with one of the last things Sunny posted on her Facebook wall.  It’s the kind of wisdom she was committed to sharing, and speaks so much about who she was.

10463016_10152240188588951_6670397701857590798_n

Week 40 – Little Bits of Armor

Welcome to week 40, Celebrationists! And happy Monday, of course.

  1. I am grateful for this past week, and all of its many surprises. Sometimes New York can leave a person feeling a little bit of hopeless, and sometimes it’s exactly the opposite – and that was this week : )
  2. I am grateful for the many new and delicious hot sauces in my possession, thanks to a certain wonderful gentleman
photo-3

A particular favorite…

3. I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with so many friends this week. Folks I’ve really missed dearly during my time out of town. It can be easy to lose track of people in this city if there isn’t a whole lot of effort being made on all sides!

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea(s) of: asking for what we need and asserting ourselves. 

These two little phrases are sucker punches to the gut of my people-pleasing, as-insecure-as-any-human-on-the-planet, Libra self.

These words make me feel pretty uncomfortable most of the time.  Also they frequently make my insides feel like a sizzling stew of uncertainty.

I think about some of the different life-areas where asking for what we need and asserting ourselves might come into play:

  • In our romantic relationships
  • At our place of work
  • In our familial relationships
  • In our friendships
  • As related to time management and how we choose to spend our days

I’ve got to believe that these two related concepts are a challenge for all of us in some area of our lives.  Maybe you feel super spiffy about asking your partner for what you need in your romantic relationship but feel like you could never dream of asking for a raise at work.  Maybe you are a pro at setting boundaries in your friendships, but feel consumed by guilt and general ick when it comes to your kids.  What is it about clarifying our needs and boundaries that can feel so terrifying? Are we afraid of:

  • Being rejected?

I tried creating a list here, but it all came back to rejection. Don’t you think that could be the case?

That maybe if we stand up and make our needs known, some part of us will be seen in a more vulnerable, naked, cracked-open way – and be dismissed. That’s some super terrifying stuff. We’d like to say we don’t care, but we totally care. And it makes me think of all the kinds of armor we create to protect ourselves from the possibility of rejection.

  • The Armor of Cool: This armor, closely related to The Armor of Ambivalence gives the outer appearance of being “fine with anything.” Being “go with the flow.” This armor ensures that an illusion of adaptability is always available, no matter what the circumstance. A popular armor to wear in the friend-dynamic
  • The Armor of Toughness: This armor creates the appearance of indestructibility – that “needs” are almost non-existent. This armor creates a thick wall built with layers of pride, that would never dream of asking for something from another human being
  • The Armor of Ambivalence: This armor says to the world “Oh I don’t need much!” “I don’t really care” and has many coatings of indecision, with true desire being buried beneath a sleek finish of “Whatever you want”
  • The Armor of Self Deprecation: Sometimes a deceptively humorous looking armor, this one projects a sheen of excessive modesty, with disparaging undertones
  • The Armor of Self Deception: This armor is thrilled with anything.  Content with the smallest possible bone thrown, this armor denies the possibility of greatest self-hood, settling for “whatever is available.” Not wanting to make waves, create tension, or be seen as brassy, this armor is rusty-looking, and cracked in more places than it wants to reveal
  • The Armor of the Toe-Dipper: This armor is hot and cold, and can often appear wishy-washy, despite the blazing desire beneath.  This armor actually protects a person from very little, as it doesn’t commit hard enough one way or the other to get anywhere
  • The Armor of Entitlement: This armor is aggressive and gold in color, but doesn’t actually allow access to the real issues beneath. By demanding and assuming, the possibility of vulnerability is eliminated, ensuring that needs will never be met in a satisfying way

These are just a few of the armors I can think of.  And it may seem like I’m judging these armors, based on the way I’ve described them – I promise you I’m not, because I’ve worn nearly all of them. And probably more that aren’t even on this list.

I just wonder what would happen if we challenge ourselves (a little at a time) to peel the armor off, however it tends to manifest for each of us. To find small ways of making our needs known.  To be kind enough to ourselves to say, for instance

  • “Hey self! You have 24 hours today.  You get to spend them in whatever way feels best to YOU.  You don’t owe them to anybody, or need to waste them in places that don’t align with your mission and purpose.  Throw that crazy-maker guilt outta there, and set a boundary! You’ll be glad you did.”
  • “Hey self! You are one half of this relationship/friendship/human equation. That means that you get a say in stuff! You don’t need to give in, bend over, and relinquish your desires all of the times.  Throw that crazy-maker worry out the window, and dare to be seen! You’ll be glad you did. And if you aren’t – maybe that person doesn’t need to be in your most intimate tribe!”
  • “Hey self!  You are a contributing member of this team/in this workplace. You are allowed to set boundaries – for the sake of your performance, but also for your sanity. Throw that crazy-maker perfectionism out the window, and teach people how to treat you.  You’ll be glad you did.”
11235326_10153875978730760_3163325851181877471_n

Kris Carr always knows where it’s at. And I think that part of being able to assert ourselves is remembering that we are WORTH it. Just like every other human on the planet!

When we manage to get out of the way and make our needs known/assert ourselves in a compassionate but direct way, I’ve noticed a few cool things:

– Most of the time people respect us more

– Most of the time we respect ourselves more

– We set a baseline for how we want to be treated, in general

– We may end up receiving more than we ever bargained for

– We open ourselves up to the possibility of growth, discovery, and tapping into a higher frequency of operation

– When our own needs are met, we’re able to be more aware of the needs of others

– We are able to be a more fully functioning contributing member of the world when we don’t feel deprived

So this week, Celebrationists – let’s plunge into battle as armor-free as we can be!

We may even find that we were never part of a battle at all – and that when we just ask/make our voices heard – we might be surprised with the outcome.

Onward!

photo 1

Week 39 – Little Bits of Puzzlework

Hi There, Celebrationists. Happy Monday.

1.) I am grateful for Eric Davis.  He may never even read this, but today is his birthday. He has had a greater positive impact on my life, and the lives of many, than he will ever know.  His generosity, kindness, and passion deserve celebration every day.

2.) I am grateful for my room mate, Craig Sculli, and our hours spent “unpacking.” Literally and metaphorically.

3.) I am grateful for Sweet Jane’s. The most delightful vegan treats I’ve found in New York yet, especially ice creams!  And grateful to Chad Jennings for finding it first, and for being just as sweet as Jane is.

1430598883771-1

 

As much as I try to approach life with a positive and open attitude, I have to tell you that this week I’ve been thinking a lot about problems.

My own. Other people’s. The world’s. Somehow, whenever I come back to New York after a period of time away, I seem to become more conscious of all kinds of problems. And it’s probably no coincidence that by giving them a prominent place in my awareness, I manage to find/stumble upon/create more of them.  I sit here typing this one-eyed, for instance (so kindly excuse anything strange you might see in this post) – it’s a long story, but let’s just leave it at “I can’t really see out of one eye, for the moment.”

I have a great friend who (and I honestly don’t know how conscious she is about this part of herself) doesn’t really acknowledge, or believe in the convention of “problems”.  I should clarify. She lives her life in a way that makes the following non-verbal, completely humble statement: I am in control of my ability to make choices.

Nothing is a problem because she can simply adjust her perspective/reaction to a given situation and thereby control her contribution to the outcome, making any circumstance fairly awesome (or really awesome, usually). She does this consistently, and it leaves me in total awe. I read about this line of thinking in all sorts of self-help books (the idea that most of our perceived problems are self-created) and understand on an intellectual level the power we have to pause before we react and label a situation as “a problem,” but I still mess up sometimes. Ok, a lot of the times.

I also have a friend who explained that she likes to look at problems (this was in the context of math problems, and you know how I feel about those) as puzzles. “It’s fun to figure out the solution!” I admire this about her. I am not hard-wired this way. But I’m hungry to work my tail off to cultivate my own version of that.  I think it’s a healthy and admirable way to move through the world, and I want a piece of that feeling, and ability.

I know there are plenty of times when I don’t do myself any favors.

Do you ever get in your head and take a circumstance, convince yourself about a particular outcome or reaction before it’s even happened, and…in essence you create an obstacle to deal with before one even exists?  I find this to be especially true in dealing with people.  We anticipate a particular response or reaction based on previous experiences and patterns (most of the time which have nothing to do with the person in front of us) and then we create this thing to worry about, and call it a problem. Are we unconsciously trying to protect ourselves from feeling pain? That feels like a dramatic sentence to type, but are we? Is that part of it? In other words, do we maybe feel like if we are the ones who create the problem first, it will sting less than if we encounter it by surprise? Than if the problem “happens to us“?

photo-2

How often to we brace ourselves for a battle that hasn’t even been called for? …I will always brace myself for a good arm-wrestle, however…

I’ve been thinking about this friend who handles “problems” so successfully, and have been trying to brainstorm some tools for how we can negotiate moments that strike us in triggering ways, inspiring us to create problems and conflict. These are a few general thoughts that are bopping around in my brain…

  1. Taking things personally seems to me a recipe for unpleasantry, and an excellent breeding ground for the creation of problems. We’ve all heard some form of this. We “know” this. And still, I think this can be really difficult. We all have insecurities, and sometimes it feels easier to jump to a place of defensiveness than a place of openness. But maybe the more we can try to form a new habit of not letting ourselves “go there,” the more clearly we can see what is in front of us, and respond accordingly. And by “go there,” I mean relax into that easy, gooey place of victim-swamp. Or shame-swamp. We’ve probably all occupied both places at some point
  2. Just because a person reacted a certain way to a situation one time, doesn’t mean that’s how they will “always” do it. Reinvesting in a person’s capacity for growth and change is a beautiful gift to give..I know I love when that gift is given to me, no matter how many times I’ve messed up
  3. Just because a core figure in our life (a parent, sibling, spouse, etc) seems to us to have a  patterned way of reacting to a certain kind of stimulus, this doesn’t mean that our friend, lover, etc is certain to behave this way, too. We can’t judge everyone’s actions by one person’s actions
  4. Just because we don’t like the way something is going, that doesn’t make it “wrong,” or a problem – it maybe just means we don’t like it
  5. What makes us think that we know what is best, all the time?  Maybe certain things that feel unpleasant in the short term will feel really great in the long term
  6. When we allow ourselves to eliminate an “us vs. them mentality”, we are opening ourselves up to a wealth of empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. I love this quote. You’ve probably heard it:                                                                                                                                                  UnknownI think this quote deserves its own parade. When we create barriers based on sex, race, class, experience level, etc by adopting an attitude that separates ourselves from any one group or person, we are setting the stage for inner (and outer) conflict, and losing site of the beautiful interconnectedness that we innately share
  7. When we speak our truth and make choices that align with our personal mission, we can’t get too far off track

Whether the problem is:

Feeling like you never having enough money

Feeling misunderstood

Being certain that your boss, lover, parent or friend is ____(insert negative thought)

Missing our bus, train, deadline, or sleeping through our alarm

Or even not being able to see out of one eye, for awhile. Who knows what we might see, when we adjust our perspective? Join me this week?

Love to you, Celebrationists.  Here’s to a week of looking our problems in the face – maybe they are something else in disguise : )

Week 38 – Little Bits of Seed-Planting

Hi There, Celebrationists.  Writing you today (or, starting to at least) from Tampa International Airport.  It’s really just now occurring to me now that we’re in the month of May.  Can you believe that? Craziness.

  1. I am grateful for the past several months in St. Petersburg. As was true the last time, some of my happiest months in memory.
  2. I am grateful for the fact that I get to spend a few days with my sister and family before diving into the “next thing.”
  3. I am grateful for the fact that my layover is an hour and forty minutes because I hate being rushed.  Flying is also one of the two times in life I ever feel thankful for my short legs (the other being in back seats of cars).

Today’s musings are inspired by this beautiful card, given to me by a fantastic new friend.  I love this image so much:

photo 1

It makes me reflect on what I am planting. The woman is perched in this sea of gray, offering up a tiny piece of beautiful new life into the expanse. The little plant could turn into anything. It’s small, but it has so much promise…and is shaped like a heart! If I could title this piece, my caption for it would be Plant Love.

The image makes me think about the opportunity we have at our fingertips, all the time. It’s so easy to feel like we’re too small to make any kind of impact on anything. That our Little Bits of Good are a waste of time because they are tiny and maybe nobody even notices them.

But think about all the places you might go in a day. Let’s say…

  • The grocery store
  • Your local coffee shop
  • Your place of work
  • Your version of a Target, Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, Duane Rede, etc.
  • A gas station, daycare, restaurant, friend’s house, nursing home, church, theater, class, customize your own location…

How many people do you come in contact with at each of those places? See if you can estimate a number.  If you want to. If that’s annoying, just skip it and keep reading.

That’s (insert theoretical number) opportunities a day that you are offering your own little pink pot of something. And probably it’s an even higher number than that.  What I mean is, I think that in every moment we have a choice about what we are planting. Our choice to add aggression or peace to a moment. It might manifest as a smile or frown, our decision to leave a tip, cause a ruckus, create something new, thank someone or scold them, etc. – but we leave the seed behind, after we’ve gone. That seed is planted in the person’s day, and may grow or wither accordingly depending on how they water it. But we plant the seed, first.  It’s kind of a neat image, I think.  That we leave this trail behind us, everywhere we go.

There’s that saying about how people rarely remember what a person says to them, but they do remember how a person makes them feel. Probably some people remember both, but I know that the latter part is certainly true.

Can you remember a day where you weren’t in great headspace? (Obviously Kelly, we all can) Maybe just in a funk for no one reason that you’re able to articulate? And then some small interaction with a family member, employer, coworker, or even a stranger perked you up just a little? And that “just a little” compounded into something larger and re-routed your day?

Have you also experienced the opposite of that? A small act of rudeness, disrespect, or antagonism was enough to poison, even for just a little while, a perfectly good day? If you allowed yourself to water it, maybe it was the beginning of ruining a whole day.

What if we could cultivate the habit of planting good seeds? If we could train ourselves to take a moment of pause before allowing our egos to take center stage and plant a bad seed in somebody else’s little pink pot? If we all tried to plant a few more good seeds…I wonder what might happen.

Join me this week Celebrationists as I evaluate my own seed planting. As I encourage myself to be a little more conscious of what I’m leaving behind, wherever I go.  Maybe we make more of a difference than we like to think about.

photo 2

Let’s plant something beautiful : )

Have a spectacular week, and join me next week as I introduce a fantastic new GBD!