Monthly Archives: November 2015

Week 67 – Little Bits of Adventure

Happy Monday!

Hope you had a great weekend, and that this upcoming Thanksgiving is a restful, memorable, and delicious one!

  1. I am grateful for a week of wonderful and joy-filled rehearsals, delightful coffee dates, beautiful long walks, and today’s exceptional weather
  2. I am grateful to be working with a group of people who are SO very kind, generous, creative, supportive of each other, and show up every day ready to play and make magic!
  3. I am grateful for the sweet card I received from one of the elementary school classes I had the honor of speaking with at The Great American Teach-In. So very kind, and since hand-written things always make my day, their sweet words definitely did:

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Today I want to talk about accepting the invitation to the adventure that is our LIFE – so buckle up! (Though I’m going to be using a lot of ship imagery, so maybe just hang on tight : )

If I had to pick a favorite living poet and could choose only one, I would pick Mary Oliver. If you aren’t familiar with her work, I suggest starting with Wild Geese, which I find to be so powerful. I was introduced to her back in college by a teacher I really admired, and whose approach to life was very aspirational to me.  I would describe Mary’s writing as both delicate and ferocious, which is a dichotomy I tend to enjoy in most things, where art is concerned.

As I’ve been in rehearsal for Peter and The Starcatcher (a sort of prequel to Peter Pan) – a tale of pirates,  mermaids, wild adventures, and what it means to be a hero, I find myself thinking about Mary’s poem, Magellan:

Like Magellan, let us find our islands
To die in, far from home, from anywhere
Familiar. Let us risk the wildest places,
Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.

For years we have labored over common roads,
Dreaming of ships that sail into the night.
Let us be heroes, or, if that’s not in us,
Let us find men to follow, honor-bright.

For what is life but reaching for an answer?
And what is death but a refusal to grow?
Magellan had a dream he had to follow.
The sea was big, his ships were awkward, slow.

And when the fever would not set him free,
To his thin crew, “Sail on, sail on!” he cried.
And so they did, carried the frail dream homeward.
And thus Magellan lives, although he died.

Isn’t that just wonderful?

In Peter and the Starcatcher, I play Molly Aster (the Starcatcher!) – a young girl with an insatiable appetite for adventure, and a firm commitment to doing what is right. I have to say that this has been my favorite role I’ve had the joy of working on in a very long time.

Photo credit: Allison Davis

One of the qualities I admire most in Molly is her devotion to her mission.  In the play, she has a very particular task to complete – a sacred duty that requires a great deal of risk, heart, and bravery. Even when she can’t see very far ahead of her, she remains true to her quest, even at the expense of her more immediate wishes and desires.  She says YES over and over again to her adventure. I think that by nature I’m a bit more hesitant than Molly. I don’t always willingly accept the invitation to dare greatly. But I sure aspire to.

Both working on this role and recently rereading this poem have inspired the following thoughts in me. I feel compelled to share them, for what they might be worth to you:

  • It seems to me that to risk failure, to LEAP, to explore the unfamiliar in any area of our life is a victory, all on its own
  • The comfortable choice may not always be the most fulfilling
  • So many people spend their lives feeling stuck. In a job they hate, a relationship that isn’t healthy, in a pattern of being alone, of existing in a town they long to leave. I think that maybe stuck-ness comes (in part) from a fear of making the wrong choice – of boarding the ship in the first place. The terror of letting go of the familiar and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to be open to change.  To being changed.  But I’m beginning to think that what we choose matters far less than choosing something, and sailing towards it with all our might
  • None of us feels properly equipped for the journey. We all have a trunk full of excuses as to why we aren’t “ready” for something or other. We feel we’re not smart enough, attractive enough, interesting enough, educated enough, funny enough, powerful enough, substantial enough, etc. But we have to work with and celebrate what we do bring to the table, and in time we might realize that we’ve been enough all along
  • When we say “yes” to our adventure, we open ourselves up to possibilities that we can’t even begin to imagine yet. When we say “no,” we sit at home and nothing ever changes
  • In valuing, honoring, and taking care of our “crew,” we may just discover the very greatest treasure of all
  • We become the hero of our journey when we decide we are ready to be

So many people I know and love seem to be in places of serious flux right now. Are you? In between jobs, dealing with a relationship that recently ended, trying to decide where to move/build a life, debating a career change, deciding whether or not to put themselves out there in a particular way…so much uncertainty (which I’m beginning to realize is the only thing in this life we have to be certain of, right? – uncertainty, I mean). I’ve also frequently found myself floating in that kind of place, of “what happens next??” – as I’m sure you have.

But perhaps the answers are much simpler than we think. Perhaps we just need to get quiet with ourselves and ask “What is my mission?” It could be something as simple as “To heal others through art,” or “To empower …..” or “To affect change in the area of…” or anything under the sun. I think that maybe if we keep this mission thumping clearly in our chests, it doesn’t matter so much where we go, only that we do. Only that we hop onto the ship.  It doesn’t matter if we blow “off course”. It doesn’t matter if we feel groundless – we were always groundless. But none of the exploring, growing, learning, creating, falling in love, or saving the world can happen if we don’t say yes to the adventure.

So sail on bravely this week, dear friends! May you move forward with courage, fortitude, and the knowledge that you are already, and always were completely ready for the journey : )

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Week 66 – Little Bits of Hope

Sending you love and peace today, Celebrationistis.

1.) I am grateful for an energizing first week of rehearsal for Peter and the Starcatcher 

2.) I am grateful for this lovely day off – filled with FaceTime dates, happy hours of creativity, chiropractic wonders, delicious curry, and delightful company

3.) I am grateful that healing is finding its way to a very close family member and friend who have had medical emergencies in the past few weeks

Today, for obvious reasons, I feel compelled to talk about violence and non-aggression. Sometimes we come together as a community during challenging and tragic times, creating powerful bonds of love and support – and sometimes we are overcome with a desire to shame, blame, and projectile-vomit our anger. Both of these impulses make sense, certainly. What breaks my heart though is when we project that shame and blame onto each other, when really, what we all want is the same, isn’t it?

If you’ve read this blog before, you may remember that I’m a huge fan of Pema Chodron. If you aren’t familiar with her work, I can’t recommend “When Things Fall Apart,” enough – it’s perfect for…well, you can tell from the title. But it is my humble opinion that everything she writes is pure gold, and you can find her many precious jewels of wisdom, here.

In response to recent horrific world events, Pema says the following:

“When I think about the tragedies in Paris and in Lebanon and in fact in many places in the world, It seems to me that’s it’s very clear that the cause is hatred. Therefore I feel for people that are committed to waking up and being of benefit to others, the key is for us is to not nurture hatred in our hearts. It may seem beyond many of us to feel compassion for the perpetrators, but probably the most important thing is for us to not add any more aggression to the planet, but to add as much open kindness and open heartedness as we can.”

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(Pema, in all her glory : )

If it’s true (and I believe it is) that the common root of all acts of violence is hatred (and fear), then I think it’s worth examining how hatred starts. When it’s just a tiny seed of a thing. Pre-hatred, practically. Like:

  • A shame-filled facebook status
  • An unkind or slanderous word about another, that makes us feel better about ourselves
  • A harsh judgement about someone we don’t understand or who we’re a little afraid of
  • An unwillingness to forgive
  • Pitting people against one another for our personal advantage
  • Shaming another person’s best efforts, in any area
  • Condemning anyone who disagrees with our way of thinking because it makes us feel vulnerable

How often do we stop to consider how these tiny acts of day to day violence might have a larger impact beyond the present moment? It’s just so easy to break another person’s spirit. And what can a broken spirit lead to?

I have to say that one of the most disheartening Facebook statuses I came across in response to the recent attacks had to do with there being “no hope for humanity”. It made me deeply sad. If we have the power to cause each other to lose faith in humanity, don’t we also have the power to restore it? We can’t control other people. We can’t undo global damage. We can’t reach everyone. But we can start with our own day to day contribution, and the ripple effect it has. How are we ever to know how far that ripple goes – in either direction?

If you could inspire one person through your actions – give one little bit of hope that goodness in humanity does exist, what might they be inspired to do? And on the other end, how do our little acts of unkindness eventually turn into not-so-little seeds (and then big honking plants) of hatred? And once that hatred has formed and hardened, what happens then?

And look. When such GIANT things are happening in the world, I think it’s also easy to feel some of the following:

  • I can’t even begin to be able to make an impact
  • The things I love/bring me joy (the sports I play, the art I make, etc) don’t matter and seem a little silly in all of this
  • The world is a terrible place
  • People are awful. I wish I were a Corgi.

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But to that I say:

  • We can make an impact. People do, every day
  • The things that bring us joy can also bring joy to others – and our experiencing happiness and light does not dishonor the tragedies of the world. By sharing our gifts and our passions, we inspire others to do the same. By creating in the face of hardship and sadness, we provide the opportunity for others to experience beauty, escape, empathy, and connectedness
  • The world is what we make it, and we can make it something different and new in our own small corner, every day
  • Corgis are awesome, but humans have language and we can use that power for SO much good

Here’s what I think. Through the many complexities in these times, there’s a small kernel that I believe to be true, and it is that Peace being with ourselves, and change begins with me.

If you feel like spreading a little bit of hope this week – here are some acts of non-aggression, just a few ideas that might be worth trying (I’ll be trying!) They may not seem like much in the face of such enormity, but how do we really know what our impact is? And how small is too small to start?

  1. Reach out to someone who is having a hard time, and surprise them with something personal and meaningful
  2. Remind someone what they mean to you. Pick someone you haven’t told in awhile, or maybe ever
  3. The next time someone shares a view you don’t agree with, see what happens if you just listen and ask questions, instead of immediately jumping to a place of aggression and judgement
  4. Really consider the content you put out into the universe in the form of social media.  Are you contributing to violent or peaceful thinking?
  5. Exercise patience with a person who drives you insane, and try to put yourself in their shoes
  6. Practice forgiveness – and that includes yourself
  7. When we feel the most vulnerable, explore what happens if we lean into that vulnerability and open-ness, raw as it is. What happens if we don’t engage in our usual habit of closing off, shutting down, and putting up our walls?
  8. When we feel the impulse to take something personally, what if we choose to explore the idea that nothing others do is because of us? That other people’s responses to us are almost always a projection of their own reality? This is a dual kindness to the person we are encountering, and also ourselves
  9. When the impulse to complain arises, practice gratitude, instead. Write things down. Tell people. Verbalize and write your thanks. The more you do it, the more sincere it will become, until it’s habit/part of the fabric of your being
  10. When we feel compelled to make disparaging remarks about the world or other people, consider the power our words have on others. People who respect us, look up to us, or just regard us as peers – our own negativity might awaken some of their own doubts. If we’re going to be spreading something…why not spread hope, instead?

And let me be clear, none of this is meant to exclude everything we can do to make a difference on a larger scale. The ways we can reach out to victims of violence and raise awareness. But I also think there’s value in starting small – right where we are. Right here.

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All my love to you this week, Celebrationists.

Week 65 – Little Bits of Faking It

Dear Celebrationists, I hope you’ve had a lovely Monday!

  1. I am grateful for the arrival of a dear friend and room mate – we are together again, and it couldn’t feel more right : )
  2. I am grateful that tomorrow is the “first day of school” for Peter and the Starcatcher – can’t WAIT to get started
  3. I am grateful for my trusty umbrella and rain boots

A common theme that seems to have crept up on me several times this week is the idea of faking it.

Yuck, faking it – just the association of that phrase brings up negative connotations for me, as I’m sure it does for many people. When I see “fake it,” some immediate, unconscious first-words that pop into my mind, are:

  • Inauthentic
  • Lying
  • Untruthful
  • Dishonest
  • Pretend
  • Tricking someone
  • False
  • Sneaky
  • Disingenuous
  • Etc

However, I’m talking about something else. I mean, do you have those moments where you think something like:

I wish I was…

  • Braver
  • A better leader
  • More assertive
  • Someone who arrives places on time
  • More patient
  • A better listener
  • More confident in my ability to __________
  • Less quick-tempered
  • More nurturing
  • A person who doesn’t take things so personally
  • Better at being thoughtful
  • Better at losing
  • Better at accepting a compliment
  • etc etc etc – whatever it is

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(Singing in cabarets is a very small example I’ll choose to share. I wish I were better at it. I wish I had more fun doing it. There’s something about performing in this kind of setting that makes me incredibly nervous. I think I look fairly relaxed in this photo, but my insides were dying. Note: I’ve sung in many cabarets at this point. I force myself to do it when the opportunity arises. But I rarely, if ever enjoy it. So far. )

We’ve probably all read in some book (or article) or other, about “faking it till you make it.” It’s an awful nice idea, we think. But kind of unrealistic. By playing at the idea of already being something we feel like we’re not…we’re supposed to just become that thing, or attain that quality?  I’m beginning to think that the answer is actually… well yes, sort of.

I think key is equal parts that delicious and committed “pretending as-if”, and equal parts something else. I’ll share an example.

Let’s say that our good friend Emily (or insert your name of choice) is wishing she were better at public speaking. Emily has had a couple of less-than-ideal experiences (code: abysmal) speaking in front of groups, and feels burned by them. Her hands get clammy, her body temperature feels like it drops 50 degrees, she gets cotton-y dry mouth, and she suddenly feels unworthy of sharing her impeccably prepared thoughts. Emily doesn’t feel educated or interesting enough to be up at that podium, and she convinces herself that she should probably quit, and take a job that doesn’t require her to open her mouth, ever. She has also attached the grimy label of “Bad at Public Speaking” to herself.

I used to think that the best course of action for dear Emily would simply be to tell herself “I’m really skilled at connecting with groups of people! I care about these topics, and am eager to share them. This is about more than just me, it’s about educating and possibly helping others. I’m a great public speaker, and it’s time to share this gift!” – That Emily should affirm herself relentlessly, and eventually conquer her fear and practically be good enough to run for public office – TA DA, the magic of positive thinking!

But here’s what. I don’t think affirmations, and “acting as if we already are” are quite enough, by themselves.  I think we can privately feed ourselves anything we want, but if the message we are speaking aloud to the world is the opposite, we will never make progress. For instance. Let’s say that Emily is waking up every morning and writing herself positive affirmations. She’s copying them on post-it notes, reading inspiring books, and watching public speaking videos on the YouTubes, while imagining herself as the powerful and articulate women she is observing. But then when Emily leaves the comfort of her home and goes out into the world, she tells her mother how she is dreading her upcoming speech. She “jokes” to her boyfriend about her abilities, in the hopes that he won’t come hear her. She voices her terror of speaking, with her closest circle of girlfriends. She engages with that lovely frenemy, self-deprecation when speaking to her mentor. You and I can both probably imagine how things turned out for Emily’s public speaking career.

How often do we undo our best efforts? How often, despite our genuine desire to be…let’s say more patient, do we continually label ourselves OUT LOUD, saying “Oh, I’m the least patient person I know.” Sometimes even backing it up with “That’s just the way I am”, for effect. The way we speak about ourselves to others is powerful, isn’t it?

I say this as one who has been an Emily. Not about public speaking necessarily, but about plenty of other things. We’ve all been an Emily, haven’t we? Wanting to change, but speaking and behaving as if it isn’t actually possible? I think that with certain character traits, habits, ways of moving through the world – whatever it is, it’s going to take the combined effort of generating positive self talk, and letting go of our need to talk badly about ourselves, and speak our fears on a constant stream. I think some of us can be hard-wired to want to share our self-doubts with others. For one thing, it gives us an out, if we do, in fact fall into our old patterns and “fail”. If Emily has told everyone important to her the above feelings about her ability to speak in public, and then she tanks – well, she told them she would. It won’t be a surprise. She’s let herself off the hook from judgment. Gosh, have you done this? I have.

And then the other piece of course, is that we just do things. We make ourselves engage in public speaking whenever possible. The universe provides MANY opportunities to practice patience, but we show up – we are aware of the opportunity to practice, and thank the universe for it. We may not always feel so eager for this practice, but we owe it to ourselves to show up anyway, and try.

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Mindy always knows… : )

It’s amazing to me how what we speak aloud and share with others about ourselves can manifest into our reality. I’m not suggesting that we hide our true selves or parade around as these inauthentic people trying to be perfect. But what I am saying is that if we are truly committed making a change for the long term, whatever it is, maybe part of our ability to make progress involves the letting go of the old as much as it does making room for the new. What would happen if we REFUSED to speak badly about ourselves? Absolutely refused to go there? Want to join me, and see?

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Let it GO, Let it GO….

For some inspiration about transformation, and the fact that it is possible, that people DO change, check out this latest episode of This American Life. It’s really great.

Love to you, Celebrationists! See you next week *HUG*

 

Week 64 – Little Bits of Illness

Happy November, Celebrationists!

  1. I am grateful for a wonderful closing weekend, and for all the sweet friends who were kind enough to come out and support us during the run
  2. I am grateful for a whole week off to do some work on the next projectIMG_3280
  3. I am grateful for the discovery of Karma, in Downtown St. Pete, introduced to me by two lovely friends. The Brainiac acai bowl is beyond out of this world…IMG_3263

It seems like everywhere we look these days there is illness and disease. I’m talking about sickness that is closely connected to our every day lives. When I was little, I used to associate the phrase “illness and disease” with either:

A.)  Something like a common cold that I could get, or could pretend to have, so I could go to the nurse’s office and (hopefully) leave school early for the day, or

B.) Serious things that old people have to deal with

And now that I’m an adult, I continue to be amazed by how illness of all kinds affects the most unlikely people. Without even thinking hard about it:

  • Two girl friends my exact act who have/have had breast cancer
  • A dear friend, also my age, who had a stroke this week
  • A little boy I babysat for who passed away from brain cancer
  • My parents, who are relatively young and ordinarily healthy people, both having dealt with, or are dealing with their respective cancers
  • Two friends from the theatre community who passed away this last year, with almost no warning at all

That’s just naming a few. As you well know, my situation is not unique. I bet anyone reading this has their own list of people whose experiences they’ve been affected, dismayed, and touched by. Who knows why it happens. But there’s a lot of it.

The thing that I find for myself, is that when confronted with these moments, I’ve basically got some version of the following inner monologue rolling around in my brain:

Oh gosh, Pekar. This is so terrible, and sad, and weird, and unfair. And a reminder that life is so short. And it can change, be dramatically altered, or taken at any given second. You need to live life to the fullest! Create things, do things, make a difference, help people, heal people – GET MOVING!  

And then it goes… (in acting, we would call this a beat change)

Am I taking the best care of myself?? Does it matter? THOSE people took care of themselves! Oh, just stop thinking about it so much! Just get out there and live, and have fun! …Am I having fun? Do I know how to have fun? Am I a fun person? Maybe there’s a self help book for that…

Needless to say, sometimes I don’t find myself becoming especially empowered by my own inner voice. I frequently experience some of the following, and am willing to bet that you might, too:

  • I wonder when I will know that I’m doing enough
  • I stress out about anything that feels to me like I’m wasting time
  • I find myself obsessed with lists, because they prove that things are happening. Even when the list holds an activity like “buy bananas,” or “read this play” – I’ll feel somewhat unnerved until things are checked off. But then of course, I replace them with new things, pretty much immediately
  • What does “making a difference” even mean? How will I know when I’ve done it? Does that knowledge even matter?
  • Maybe if I avoid doctors entirely, for the rest of my life, I’ll never have to deal with any of this

Don’t lecture me about that last one. I know. I’m aware.

I haven’t figured out a remedy for how to grapple with illness that touches our lives.

And certainly there’s no sure-fire way to prevent illness. For every article you read about how a certain lifestyle will prevent this or that, you’ll read another one to the contrary. Which doesn’t stop me from trying things. I’m an absolute cheerleader for people trying whatever makes them feel best, and brings them the greatest peace of mind. I think this will look totally different for every person. And you know…sometimes people get on their soapbox about a particular lifestyle choice, diet, or exercise program. They get fired up, and angry when people don’t listen. They condemn people who eat this, or drink that, or don’t adhere to *fill in the blank*. And people on the outside of that experience often find such behavior annoying, threatening, offensive, or pushy. I understand that totally. But also…probably some part of them is just a little scared, don’t you think? Aren’t we all? I say we support each other in doing what feels best for our own bodies, and health. But that’s really a whole different blog post.

With all of the uncertainty, here are some things that I like to try – whether you’re dealing with illness yourself, are being affected by the illness of someone close to you, or are living in fear about the idea of illness affecting you or your family:

  • Focusing on gratitude whenever possible. We won’t remember to do it all the time. We’ll still complain and be dissatisfied, and be totally, cloyingly human – and we just need to forgive ourselves for those moments where we forget to be grateful, and then hop back on the wagon. There is SO much to notice, if we allow ourselves. So much to appreciate. And making a habit of active appreciation can be healing in many ways, no matter what our current circumstance looks like
  • Let go of our human desire to find fault or blame. This can be harrrrrd
  • Recognize that there’s no way to get through this world doing everything “right.” Doing “enough” doesn’t exist. I don’t know anyone who ever feels like they are doing enough. If you feel this way, come find me and I will buy you dinner, and maybe even a puppy. Or at least a chia pet
  • Accept the support you need. There are so many wonderful, kind, compassionate people in this world. No need to be a hero and muddle through alone. Accept the love you deserve. You DO deserve it. Take it. Then share your own with someone else
  • Just do something. It doesn’t matter what, though I recommend doing things that make you happy. What fires you up? What excites you? What brings you peace? Do those things. And let go of your guilt. No. Actually, let it go. : ) We don’t know how long any of us has here. But I say that we do our best to enjoy it as much as possible, on our own terms. And be gentle with ourselves, and each other.

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Sending you love this week, Celebrationists – and wishing health, happiness, and vitality to all.