Monthly Archives: June 2016

Week 97 – Little Bits of Desire

Hello Celebrationists, hope your Monday was pretty fantastic.

  1. I am grateful for a surprise visit with a wonderful friend
  2. I am grateful for air conditioning
  3. I am grateful for clean laundry

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that desire plays in our ability to be kind, compassionate, empathetic members of the world. I don’t mean desire in the romantic sense (though, it could be) – but I’m referring to wanting. Wanting to understand, accept, and find genuine beauty in people, lifestyles, and situations that are nothing like our own set of experiences.

I’m currently working on a piece of theatre that, among other things, shines a light on the wonders that can occur when communication, hope, and a willingness to understand what lies deep within a soul, are present. The story shows two cultures that are vastly different – they barely have language in common. And yet, when there is desire for understanding, a passion for remaining open-minded, and a commitment to learning something new (instead of holding fast to what we think we know best) the most powerful and poignant beauty can be found.

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As these themes dovetail from the stage and into my life, I find myself being hyper-aware of the way I respond to situations and people I don’t understand. What are my natural gut-reactions? What are some of yours? When you encounter a person who moves through the world in a way you don’t have common ground with, do you find yourself…

  • Feeling threatened?
  • Feeling curious?
  • Feeling dismissive?
  • Feeling angry?
  • Feeling self-righteous?
  • Feeling the need to educate or correct?
  • Feeling intimidated?
  • Feeling shut-down or less-than?
  • Something else entirely?

Probably you don’t feel any one of these things on a consistent basis, I’m sure it varies greatly, depending on the circumstance. But I have noticed, for myself, that if I’m not careful to make a conscious choice in the matter, it can be so easy to fall into some shade of negative feeling, before I take a moment to pause and give the person or situation a real chance.  And we’ve seen all too well what can happen in the world when people make hard and fast judgements about people they don’t understand. So how do we promote understanding? How do we promote listening? How do we promote the sometimes hard work involved in looking at another life and connecting with the unfamiliar?

I keep finding myself back at this word, desire. When desire is present, it is astounding – the lengths a human being will go to, to discover, uncover, and accept a particular person or idea into their life. When we want to accomplish something, or arrive at a certain feeling, we are so much more likely to make the time, create the headspace, and do the necessary emotional work to achieve our objective.

So if arriving at acceptance, love, and celebration is rooted in desire…how to we cultivate it? How do we encourage ourselves to want to understand, to want to stay open, to long for the reminder that we all have so much more in common than we could ever imagine?

I think a potential answer might be found in exploring the opposite. What shuts down the desire for connection? I feel like this is a much simpler question to answer: fear.

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If fear is at the root of our quick judgements, our feeling threatened, our dismissiveness, how do we move past it, and arrive at a place of open curiosity? This is a question for the books, and I don’t have the answer. But here are some thoughts that I do have…

  • Getting outside of our “bubble” – whether this means literally hopping on a plane, or just exposing ourselves to the unfamiliar through podcasts, books, and putting ourselves in the position of meeting all kinds of new people – the more we expose ourselves to, the more we will learn. And potentially, the more we learn, the less fearful we will be. I find that most of my fears come from what I don’t know, or don’t understand
  • Connect with your inner child – yes, this phrase may be the “hippy-dippiest” thing I’ve written in this blog thus far, but seriously. When we were children, we weren’t bogged down by biases yet. We didn’t know to hate, judge, or fear. Though we’ve all changed and developed considerably, that sweet little person is still a part of us. Try making a practice of looking through that set of eyes
  • Know the risk, but do it anyway – Of course, when we open ourselves up to anything unfamiliar, we run the risk of being burned. Of being rejected, misunderstood, or hurt. But it is possible to know this, and then choose to look anyway. Choose to see and ask questions, and get our hands dirty. Choose to let our curiosity take the driver’s seat, and relegate fear to the trunk
  • Action – I feel like the answer to dealing with most types of fear, is action. Sitting back in silence gives fear the opportunity to brew and fester and rage. Reaching out, speaking up, and moving forward will always make us feel most at peace, even though it can be hard to take that first step

It’s easy to recognize the toll that fear has taken on us, on a global level. But what isn’t always easy to see is that it starts out small. It starts with the person you casually make fun of, when you think no one else is listening. It starts with the person you won’t look in the eye because their way of life makes you uncomfortable. It starts with silence. It starts with gossip. It starts out so. small. But what if we could cut it off? What if we could do the work necessary to cultivate desire? To cultivate a passion for understanding? A passion for curiosity?

Want to join me in the pursuit?

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Have a great week Celebrationists. Let’s be good to each other.

Week 96 – Little Bits of Orlando

  1. I am grateful that my parents have been in town for the opening of The Light in the Piazza, and that I have a few extra days to spend with them
  2. I am grateful for the amazing young students in my Musical Theatre Scenes class, this week
  3. I am grateful for the generous artists and story-tellers in my life

It’s taken me a bit to be able to write about Orlando.

In times of unthinkable tragedy, how can it seem like there is so much to say, and yet nothing remotely adequate to say? Have you had moments of feeling totally speechless, but equally flooded with thought? Hungry to speak out, but also worrying that your meager voice can barely reach above a whisper?  That the bile in your belly wants to burst through your throat, but it’s also so deep down there that it numbs you a little? A lot? Like a needle that is lodged into the most tender and vulnerable parts of yourself, and if you breathe too much, it just keeps on stabbing? But then at the same time, experiencing guilt about your own emotions, maybe worrying that somehow these feelings are not even yours to have? As an ally, I want to be able to say to all my dear friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ community: I know that these attacks are reaching/affecting you in a way that I cannot fully know, in the way that you do, however hard I try. But please know that I love you, and stand with you. Know that you are never alone. That you are powerful beyond measure. That together, we can be powerful agents of change, and radical creators of love.

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The horrors of the Orlando attacks are a product of intense fear. Intense silence. It’s mind-bending, ugly, and devastating as we try to wrap our hearts around how a thing like this could happen. As much as we may understand that that leaping into action is key, I also feel like we have to examine our emotional response to such events and take care of ourselves properly, so that we can be of the best service to those who need it. It seems to me that a possible first step in beginning to cope with all of this, is recognizing that during times like these,  grieving is going to look radically different for everyone. Some people will:

  • Get angry
  • Get sad
  • Get vengeful
  • Get quiet
  • Get loud
  • Get distracted
  • Maybe something else entirely

(I think) it’s important to allow ourselves this grieving, in whatever form it takes. Allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that we feel inclined to experience, without judgement. And do our best to allow others their own process, even if it is different from ours, and possibly frustrating to our sensibilities. And then once we’ve allowed ourselves the full expression of emotion, we act. And we act together.

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This is the part that can feel absolutely paralyzing. How? What do we do? The enormity of it all can feel crushing. But we’ve got to have hope. And when we forget what hope looks like, we extend our hand and hope someone will grab it. And when no one does, we go out searching for a hand to grab, and keep moving forward until we’ve got a long string of hands, and realize that we’ve created the hope we’ve been searching for.

I think that we help each other figure out what we can do. We ask. We research. We open our ears, and listen. We open our mouths, and share. If you haven’t already checked these out, this is what I’ve collected/found/have to offer.  Please feel free to comment with your own ideas and discoveries.

  • The Huffington Post is always on it – look here
  • Come see this cabaret at freeFall Theatre if you are in the Tampa Bay area, or organize a fundraiser of your own
  • Consider this. This, this, this!
  • Check out these two sites here, and here
  • Share art, work, and stories that promote understanding, love, acceptance. When you can’t find enough of it, create it
  • Engage in a dialogue, and be a listening ear for those who need it
  • Spread love aggressively. Persistently. Fearlessly.
  • Consider this:

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Keep loving, Celebrationists. Hang tight to each other, and remind someone that they are not alone.

Week 95 – Little Bits of Junkyard

  1. I am grateful for my rain boots
  2. I am grateful for fantastic friendships
  3. I am grateful for Trader Joe’s flowers:

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People love to use the image of a garden, when talking about growth. I enjoy the image of a garden when talking about growth – last week’s post is evidence of this.

But what about the inevitable periods of our lives when growth isn’t all delicate seedlings and whimsical watering cans? Growth can be ugly. Painful. And can leave you feeling like a discarded mess before it leaves you feeling like a rose. I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes growth feels more like a junkyard, than a garden. But not to worry, I’m not about to write a post about trash. At least not totally.

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Here are some things that have been on my mind lately, regarding deep, messy, junkyard growth:

  1. In order to do it, we need to be willing to fail miserably/be bad at something
  2. We can’t be lazy, or get complacent. We have to stay present and do the work
  3. When we seek out a particular kind of growth or experience, life may very well hand us something that we need to learn more, and we might not like it. But we don’t really get to choose. We can choose to shut down, hole up, and ignore the lesson, but it will only circle back around until we face it
  4. Our ego/pride is going to want to take charge, because we feel violated. We feel vulnerable. It’s up to us to decide whether or not we let pride take the wheel
  5. The best kinds of growth are rarely comfortable. Sometimes they are excruciating. And we are faced with the choice – would I rather be comfortable, or would I rather be a student of the world?

That’s a lot, right? It feels like a lot to write, and I’m sure you’d agree that it feels like even more to experience. What do we do when growth hurts? How do we deal with the discomfort of life’s difficult lessons? How do we remain compassionate, empathetic, and open-hearted when growing pains have us feeling down in the dumps? There’s no one answer. But here’s what I’m playing with:

  1. Reminding ourselves that we are whole people. Whatever it is in your life that you are struggling with – a relationship, your work, your creative life – reminding ourselves that that one thing is not the sum total of who we are. Taking a moment to cultivate, celebrate, and appreciate the other parts of ourselves can be, I think, very healing and offer us a more complete perspective
  2. Speaking of perspective, another thing that I’ve found helpful is reminding ourselves that…the man we cross paths with in the coffee shop, the woman who helps us at Walgreens, the kids we see coming home from school…they don’t know about our struggles/junkyard feelings – they have plenty of their own. And in the big scope of the whole world…what we are experiencing is like one bazooka bubble gum wrapper in the bottom of the entire junkyard. You know? Not to diminish our growing pains – but to say we are not alone is a gargantuan and perhaps comforting understatement
  3. I can’t take a bit of credit for this one, but I’m excited to share it. Yesterday a friend and I were talking about how sometimes growth brings up emotions in us that we hate, or even resent experiencing. This friend made the excellent point that… in the course of our lives, how wonderful it is that we should get to experience all of the emotions/feelings/sensations possible. I don’t want to get to the end of my life having never experienced something so rich as pure joy, deep sadness, even hatred. I want to know all of the colors, intimately. Not only will they make me a richer person, but knowing them gives me the ability to empathize more completely. Even things we’ve labeled as “less desirable” emotions. I want to experience them in all their nuance and complexity. And even if it doesn’t feel like “good timing” for a particular sensation to come up…probably it’s actually the best possible timing
  4. We can choose to look at the growing pains as evidence that we are engaging in an act of bravery. We are fighting stagnation. We are risking something. We are being given the great opportunity to engage with discomfort and come out better for it
  5. I can’t take credit for this one either, but I can agree with it wholeheartedly, and share it with enthusiasm: at the end of the day, we are only as good as the way we treat others. That’s what counts. As we bump up time and again against our own growth, egos, struggle, and are faced with making decisions about how we want to move through the world – how do we treat the people around us as we figure it out? Are we giving as much as we take? Are we supporting the growth of others, or leaving carnage in our wake because we are dealing with our own stuff? If we’re going to find ourselves in the junkyard of life from time to time, do we want to stink up the place, or do what we can to make it a little fresher?

So whether you find yourself in the garden or the junkyard, be gentle with yourselves this week, Celebrationists, and always. Know that you’re going to mess up, too! But there’s no living backwards in this life.  Let us move forward embracing the great teacher of life, like the constant-students we are.

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