Monthly Archives: May 2016

Week 94 – Little Bits of Vigilance

Happy Monday (and Memorial Day), Celebrationists!

  1. I am grateful for this relaxing and productive day off
  2. I am grateful for the chance to work with/coach some talented and passionate kiddos, today
  3. I am grateful for the opportunity to delve into one of my dream roles – Clara in The Light in the Piazza : )

So I’ve been growing this basil plant on my windowsill.

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Sometimes I forget about poor Basil (pronounced like the “aaa” sound in “cat”) – sul, and he goes through various stages of almost-death. Then I remember his quiet presence, water him again, and he (mercifully) perks back up after a not-so-sensible bout of dehydration.  My tending to basil (or not, as it may be) has had me thinking some, about growth and vigilance. Especially the vigilance part.

As a person committed to (or, who tries to be committed to) growth, one of the things I do on most days is draw a card from this nifty deck of affirmations. I try to do this especially when I don’t feel like it. This is the one I drew today:

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I know that “positive thinking” is sort of a hackneyed topic in a lot of ways. I get tired of it, and I’m into it. But. What I love about this card is so specific. To me, the operative phrase on this card  is: “if I want”.

It’s useful to remind ourselves from time to time that we don’t have to be victims to the thoughts we’ve created in the garden of our minds.  That we can choose or change what we water and give life to, at any time.  Lately, I’m learning that I need to be hyper aware of what ideas make their way into the garden in the first place. And to keep a close eye on them, because if I don’t, weeds have a sneaky way of creeping in when we aren’t paying attention. We can find ourselves nurturing seeds of resentment or ugliness and not even realize that those things are part of the landscape of our experience until we are practically overrun by thorns. But the GREAT thing is that if we are hardcore gardeners, and pay attention to what is blooming, we have the ability to grow the most exquisite garden of badassery. We get to choose how the whole thing  looks – if we stay on our toes.

I’ve broken down the garden of my mind into a few areas:

  • The thoughts I think about myself
  • The thoughts I think about others
  • The thoughts I think about the world

Feel like joining me in taking a personal and really honest self-inventory?

  • What have I been planting/nurturing, in terms of the way I think/talk about myself? Which thoughts are total thorns and need removing? Which are weeds that need tending to? And once I clear all of that away, what is left? If there isn’t much, maybe I have some serious planting to do. What do I want to plant?
  • What have I been growing, in terms of the way I think/talk about/relate to other people? What do I want to prune, and what needs some excavation? In my life, I’ve found that people often live up to exactly whatever expectation I’ve set for them. When I’m expecting a person to be compassionate and awesome, and treat them as though they already are…that’s usually what I discover about them. Conversely, if I make a quick judgement, or decide in my mind that “this person is always __________” it seems like I help create this reality, too. If we expect and believe in the best in everyone and plant those kinds of seeds…while it might not blossom every time, I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised with the kinds of beauty to be found there
  • Am I satisfied with the beliefs I’ve established about the world? I want this area to have a constant supply of fresh soil. Leave the most open space, so that regardless of what I plant in here, there is always always room for new seeds to be sprinkled.  I never want it to get too crowded with what I think I know

Once we take stock of what we already have going on and decide what we want to plant, the thing I’m trying to remind myself of is that a beautiful garden (…or basil plant) needs maintenance. Requires vigilance and attention. We can’t let it go too long, or things will run wild. So join me this week, in paying attention? In choosing our thoughts with care? In remembering that cultivating a positive mindset is possible with vigilance, open-mindedness, discernment, and a whole lotta patience? : )

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Have a great week, Celebrationists! Happy gardening!

Week 93 – Little Bits of Puppy Love

Happy Monday, Celebrationists!

  1. I am grateful for a beautiful closing to Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play. What a fantastic time it was, in every way.
  2. I am grateful for The Dog Bar, which is a magical place where one can get a beverage and pet pups. Pure. Joy.
  3. I am grateful that we start rehearsal tomorrow for The Light in the Piazza. This has been a huge dream for so long, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Like many, I’ve been an avid dog-lover since I was a very little girl, begging for a puppy. My parents started me off with a hamster.

She wasn’t a puppy, but I was so excited to choose the perfect name for this little critter that I changed her identity every couple of days…she was Tiffany, Misty, Crystal, Gretl…and by the time I finally landed on the name Molly, my rodent-resistant mother decided I’d “learned enough responsibility,” we gave Molly away, and got our first dog, Max. Max and I had a good run together – competing in dog shows at the local fair (yes, think Best in Show, but not with purebreds, and slightly saner people), and cuddling after school. After Max came Teddy, and even though I wasn’t living at home for most of Teddy’s life, he was still a great pal every time I came back for a visit. After moving to New York, dogs were still a consistent part of my life, as I always manage to find several who need walking.

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Lately, the universe has mercifully conspired to bring a multitude of four-legged creatures into my life again, which is definitely a cause for celebration.  It makes me think about the many ways in which these little (or not so little, as they may be) guys are totally a Little Bit of Good, all on their own.

Here are some things I’ve learned from these furry, affectionate sages, that you might also identify with:

1. You’ll feel better if you take a walk – Most dogs jump at the mention of a w-a-l-k, and I think this is wisdom. Even when I don’t feel like it, I always feel better after a good walk. Clearer mind, slightly new perspective, and a whole lot more awake.

2. Living in the present – Who gets this better than a dog?  They seem to have a single-minded focus on whatever captures their interest, and when that moment is gone, they move on to the next. And when they are with you, they are with you.

3.  Make time to rest – A dog doesn’t work himself into a guilt-ridden frenzy for taking a nap. He sleeps when he needs it. And he enjoys it.

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4.  Make time to play  – Play is important, and not just for children. Dogs get this, instinctively.

5.  So much can be said through silence – Talk about listening twice as much as you talk. And I think that dogs do listen. That they intuit, and communicate in their way. So many times, they feel what the room needs and provide it without hesitation.

6.  Sometimes you get want you want – if you ask for it – Treats? Dinner? To be let outside? A back scratch? Sometimes it’s useful to remind ourselves that it never hurts to ask – we might just end up pleasantly surprised : ) 

7.  How to make friends – Dogs aren’t racked with the same self-conscious sensibilities as we are. Where fear of looking stupid or boring or uninteresting might creep into our nervous brains, these critters bring their whole selves to the table, and zero judgement. Not to mention the fact that a wagging tail is worth a thousand words.

8.  The game of fetch is a neat metaphor  – The more we’re willing to work, the more we’ll be able to receive.

9.  Trust – What is more beautiful than the trust of a dog?

10. How to be a loyal friend – A dog has your BACK. I want to emulate that kind of unconditional, valiant, and complete loyalty in all my relationships. Sign me up, French Bulldog!

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Even if you aren’t a dog person, join me this week in seeking out the innate wisdom that exists in places we don’t always expect? And if you are a dog person, find one to give an extra snuggle to, this week : )

Have a great one, Celebrationists!

Week 92 – Little Bits of “How?”

Happy Tuesday, friends!

  1. I am grateful for a truly marvelous Monday, filled with all things productive and restful
  2. I am grateful for Trader Joe’s Bok Choy
  3. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with some incredible kiddos this past week, creating fantastic original short plays and monologues!

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Lately I’ve been considering my use of the word “how,” and that I want to be more conscientious about the role it plays (or doesn’t), in my life.

I’m referring to “how” in the following context:

Person A: “I really want to….(fill in the blank with cool thing that Person A dreams of doing)”

Person B: How are you going to do that?”

Person A *disappears into a hole in the floor because he/she doesn’t know yet, and suddenly feels stupid for bringing it up*

What is the thing that you’d most like to do, or create, or have – if you could do, or create, or have anything? Maybe you’re dying to:

  • Write a novel
  • Quit your job and pursue a new line of work
  • Travel
  • Own a pet
  • Cultivate a relationship
  • Start a new club, company, or other organization
  • Build something
  • End something
  • Create a piece of art

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Let’s say that two people want to start their own business, have engaging ideas and a unique perspective, but have no clue where to begin.

Do either of these sound familiar to you?

Person 1: Debilitated by doubt, person A has big dreams, but because he/she can’t see a clear path ahead, releases the idea, or alters it enough to be “realistic.”

Person 2: Also has no idea but fakes it until he/she makes it. Regardless of the end outcome, person 2 tends to learn a lot, and at least moves closer to said goal.

I’ve been both of these people. As I’m sure you have. And I’ve watched many inspiring folks “fake it until they make it,” to fabulous and sometimes even miraculous results. Ultimately, I  think the magic happens when we just decide that we’re going to do something, and figure out the “how” as we go. We create the path. When “the plan” doesn’t already exist, we make one. So what makes this so challenging for some of us? Why do we bother to entertain the voice inside that becomes frozen with fear and inadequacy when we can’t see a clear road ahead?

Do you ever have thoughts like…

  • “Well I’ve never done this, I don’t even know where to start…”
  • “I don’t have the money, time, energy, etc. to really invest in this dream…”
  • “I should wait until I (lists off things that are “more important”) before I even think about tackling this…”
  • “No one is going to buy me/believe in me/support me, a total amateur attempting this…”
  • “There are already people who DO what I want to do, so why am I bothering?”
  • “This goal isn’t practical or realistic.”
  • “I’m too old.”
  • “I’m too ___________(insert your own).”

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Right? I’ve done it. Probably you’ve done it.

But. Things I try to remind myself of:

  • Anyone who ever did ANYTHING great, at one point had no idea what they were doing – everyone is a novice/beginner at some moment in time
  • Someone has to pave the way, why not you?
  • Most of the time, people have no idea that you’re “faking it until you make it,” if you approach the work with enthusiasm, humility, and passion
  • Stop being afraid to ask questions, self – you’ve got to learn sometime. It’s ok.
  • Breathe
  • If you fail at whatever you’re attempting to achieve, you’re in good company. Look at all of these famous failures – http://www.bradaronson.com/famous-failures/
  • Every time we “figure it out” and do something we never thought we could do, we are increasing our capacity for all kinds of possibility and growth
  • Risk is everything

So what do you say, Celebrationists? Join me this week in dreaming big, daring boldly, and sinking our teeth into desire without worrying too much about “how?” Care to join me in figuring it out as we go?

Have a great week, Celebrationists!

 

Week 91 – Little Bits of Not-Knowing

Hi there, Celebrationists. Happy Monday.

1. I am grateful for good, kind, supportive, inspiring friends – both old and new

2. I am grateful for another upcoming week of writing plays with incredible kiddos

3. I am grateful for appliances that work. I can certainly think of many a New York apartment where that wasn’t the case…

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about belief, as it relates to identity.

When I was in high school we had to complete a writing assignment called “I Believe,” in which we were tasked with creating a piece of writing that detailed the particulars of what we, as ninth graders stood for. I’m pretty certain that I turned my statement of belief into a poem, and incorporated the loopiest and most classically feminine font that was still legible. It had to feel like me, after all. I also remember that we were required to begin each new phrase with “I believe…”.

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Pretty sure it was this guy, here…Amazone BT. Ah, the good old days…

I recall working on this paper obsessively – not just because I wanted a good grade, but because I was convinced that “knowing” these things about myself…where I stood on all matters religious, political, ethical, and on every subject in between, would bring me a sense of peace, more (or any) self-confidence, and unconsciously, something that resembled control. That being super self-actualized would bring me one step closer to being an adult – which I thought I was ready for by the time I was seven. The need to know myself felt so crushingly important, and when I didn’t have an answer for a belief-based question, I felt somehow deficient, or even worse – stupid, my most thundering fear.

I don’t have that paper in front of me now, but I’m quite certain that a lot of what I wrote has changed substantially. And thank goodness, right? Up until that point, all of the information that went into my system of belief was essentially from one perspective. And that’s not the way I like to make my decisions now.

What I know for sure is that at this particular moment in my life (and who knows, it will probably change again in a couple of years), what I’m finding the greatest peace and contentment in, is the not knowing of things. Or rather, I’m just starting to find greater enjoyment in everything I don’t fully understand. And the older I get the more I realize that there’s a lot of it.

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To be clear, I’m a big fan of getting to know ourselves. I love self-help books with a fiery passion, believe in being thoughtfully researched, well read, and intelligently informed on a topic. I find reflection an important and natural part of my day. I also do think there’s merit in asking high school students to look inward and put their current opinions down on paper, as we did in that ninth grade religion class.  But I think there’s a fine line between knowing ourselves, and having a death grip on a particular way of thinking to the point  that we shut out all other possibilities and miss out, big time. Or worse, that we create aggression and division without meaning to, because we become more obsessed with the idea of “being right” than we do with the actual belief at hand. History offers us many examples of what that kind of close-mindedness and lack of empathy can lead to.

Things I wish I’d been thinking about, back in high school:

  • Humans are not fixed beings. I am not the same person today that I was yesterday, and it’s only natural that my thoughts and beliefs will change as I gather more information about the world
  • That sometimes clinging hard to a fixed idea gets in the way of my ability to take in new information
  • Growing up, my fear was bigger than my curiosity. I work really hard now to make sure that curiosity wins the day
  • That questioning our beliefs from time to time is important – it’s so easy to “decide” how we feel, and then get complacent and lacking in compassion
  • It’s always easier to just accept and own a belief that is popular in our particular circles, but it’s infinitely more satisfying to interrogate the idea for myself before claiming it as my own
  • That having an opinion about something, no matter how strong, does not a reality make
  • That there is beauty, joy, and real learning to be found in the nonjudgmental regarding of a person whose beliefs are nothing like mine. I used to view this as threatening or “putting myself in a bad situation,” and now I regard it as essential
  • A great deal of peace can be found when we release our need to act like we know everything. Mostly because we don’t know everything, and we never will. And being a curious collector of all sorts of information is actually really enjoyable
  • That open-mindedness, and a willingness to listen and receive new ideas with an open heart is a strength, not a weakness

Pema Chodron, who I adore, (and quote constantly) says something I just love, on this topic. This quote makes me think of my child-self, and the identity I wanted so badly to cement. She says, “We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.” 

I think many of us spend so much of our lives wanting to be “on the right side of things.” But the truth is, we don’t know what that really means, do we?  And while the unnerving sensation of not-knowing might make us seize up in an icy grip of terror at first… if we allow ourselves to relax into that fluid, groundless space, we might be amazed by what we find there. We might discover that a little bit of not-knowing is quite all right. That perhaps some measure of wisdom and happiness lies in the willingness to learn, to seek, and to be in the process of constantly discovering.

“All the wars, all the hatred, all the ignorance in the world come out of being so invested in our opinions. And at bottom, those opinions are merely our efforts to escape the underlying uneasiness of being human, the uneasiness of feeling like we can’t get ground under our feet. So we hold on to our fixed ideas of this is how it is and disparage any opposing views. But imagine what the world would be like if we could come to see our likes and dislikes as merely likes and dislikes, and what we take to be intrinsically true as just our personal viewpoint.”  ~Pema Chodron

790724-2Have a great week, Celebrationists!

Week 90 – Little Bits of Storytelling

Hi there, friends.

  1. I am grateful for a gorgeous day yesterday, kayaking with beautiful friends – and thankful that we saw two MANATEES
  2. I am grateful for for the cast of Mr. Burns, a Post Electric Play, and for the opportunity to work on a project that continues to challenge me in wonderful ways, at every step
  3. I am grateful for two dear friends who are now ENGAGED! I have learned so much from them about what it is to love. They are a shining example of how to work every day at creating a rich relationship built on trust, accountability, and compassion. I’m so inspired, so grateful to know them, and so excited for the beautiful life they are already creating together

As mentioned, I’m currently working on Mr. Burns, a Post Electric Play, and am having the time of my life. Burns is a dark comedy with music, that (among other things), explores how we use storytelling to cope with chaos, and how oral tradition is an essential part of our personhood. It also takes a look at how stories evolve as we re-tell them, and the power that narrative has to help us carry on in the darkest of times.The play takes place in three acts, and uses The Simpsons as a means to tease out these ideas in a specific and relatable way. While a base knowledge of The Simpsons is helpful, I don’t believe it is totally necessary to enjoy or find meaning in this piece of theatre – if you show up excited to listen actively, and are ready to exercise compassion and open-mindedness.

Photo Credit: Ryan Finzelber

As an actor, one of the things I love about working on this play is that it pushes me (and I think most of my fellow actors would agree) to the outskirts of my comfort zone in thrilling ways. Playing instruments, working with masks, exploring huge stylistic shifts, dialogue that can be uniquely difficult to remember accurately, musical mash-ups to master…it’s fabulously challenging, and requires a willingness to be vulnerable in a way that I can only describe as being shot out of a cannon while holding onto six other brave people who are just as exposed as I am.

Photo Credit: Ryan Finzelber

I also just love the play, because it explores the evolution of storytelling, and in many ways gives me hope for the longevity of theatre in our culture. In all my ninety weeks of writing, though I do usually dedicate one post to the themes of whatever show I happen to be in, and how those themes seem to relate to my life/might relate to all of our lives at the moment… it hadn’t occurred to me to share a bit about why I think theatre itself is a Little Bit of Good.

I believe that actively engaging in theatre/storytelling – either as an actor or audience member, makes us richer and more complete human beings, and better able to serve and improve the world around us.  I’m certain that these reasons/musings/experiences only scratch the surface, but..

  • I think we are naturally inclined to project ourselves into the stories we hear – maybe it helps us understand/wrap our minds around them.  I feel like this projection can deepen our capacity for empathy, in a huge way
  • Storytelling engages our imagination, which allows us to develop a wider sense of perspective
  • Storytelling connects us with our past and helps us create our future
  • Storytelling helps us find solidarity, kinship, and general feelings of not being so alone in this world
  • Storytelling encourages learning and growth
  • Storytelling can educate, provoke, stimulate, challenge, soothe, affect change, inspire, and so many other wonderful, active things : )
  • I think most of us have a great memory for stories – maybe not the particulars, which will inevitably change as we tell, re-tell, and pass them on. But the stories that stick with me – I will remember/have remembered those themes, ideas, and they way they make me feel…for years
  • What are the stories that you like to tell? What are the stories you love listening to, again and again? Is there a reason that you’re able to put your finger on?

I’m also a believer that every story – even those I may not fully be able to grasp, or have life experience that would connect me to the circumstances of the story directly…that there is still meaning to be gleaned somewhere, if we are eager to be open, brave, and compassionate. If we are willing to swallow our discomfort and open our minds, and listen. It might come in the form of one moment, one character, or one image – but I always think there’s meaning to be found in everything if we look for it.  I believe that stories have the power to change and shape us, and our surroundings.

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And on that note, I’d like to leave you with a story! This is A Temporary Matter, by Jhumpa Lahiri. It was featured in The New Yorker in April of 1998, and gives us a glimpse into the hearts of a husband and wife who share secrets they’ve never told each other before, when the electricity is cut off.

Have a great week, friends. And if you’re in Florida and have an interest in seeing Mr. Burns, a Post Electric Playconsider checking it out!