Author Archives: Little Bits of Good

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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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! 

Week 89 – Little Bits of Apology

Happy Wednesday Celebrationists!

Yup – I missed my first Monday in 89 weeks of writing, but I’m just gonna let that go and write to you on Wednesday. So here we are.

  1. I am grateful for a particularly brave, kind, deeply empathetic friend who continues to amaze and inspire me
  2. I am grateful for the opportunities life gives us to try things again
  3. I am grateful for the chance I had to hold this chicken. All. of. the. joy.

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Today I’d love to talk about apologies. I think many of us find ourselves getting tripped up by them because we fall into one of two camps:

– We find apologies so difficult that we just don’t make them. It’s always someone else’ fault

– We are racked with guilt and shame about our own “stuff” and over-apologize/say “sorry” for everything

I’m sure there are also many humans on the planet who do not have a complicated relationship with the idea of apology, but I’m writing today for those of us who do.

I fall into the latter camp of being an apologization station. A few days ago I said “sorry” when I bumped into the refrigerator. I wish that was a joke. This has been my natural way of moving through the world since I was a little kid – maybe not the inanimate objects part of it, but certainly the gut-response to apologize for anyone else’s discomfort, anger, or dissatisfaction. In the past several years I’ve become fully conscious of it, and have been chipping away at this habit with varying degrees of enthusiasm and commitment. But the older I get, the more aware I become of why this pattern is as harmful as it is, and why forming a new habit in this area deserves my time and attention.

  • Excessive apology might actually take away from the impact of a needed/deserved apology, when such a circumstance arises
  • The habit of over-apologizing, over time can lead to things like: being afraid to share ideas/opinions, being afraid to take risks, or putting ourselves out there in a variety of areas
  • After a certain length of time, we start reading a room totally inaccurately and assume that almost any person’s anger or discomfort must be our fault. This is also really self-important, unintentional as it may be. And half the time it isn’t linked to a thought, so much as a literal physical/full body sensation
  • Even though our desire in those moments of apology is to be thoughtful, we actually become the opposite, because we are putting other people in a position to want to take care of us, feel the need to comfort us, or tell us that it isn’t actually our fault…when it was never about us to begin with

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And these are just a few nasty side effects. So what to do? Clearly, after twenty-something years of the planet I haven’t figured it out – but here’s what I’ve gleaned from my own reading and experimenting, and am constantly trying on for size:

  • In many circumstances, saying “thank you” is a more appropriate option than “sorry.” When a friend gives you their time, and listens to you vent, for instance – instead of saying “I’m so sorry to dump all that on you,” forming a habit of “Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to me,” is just better for everyone involved
  • This is tricky and takes persistent practice, but cultivating a moment of pause seems so important in dealing with any habit we are trying to break. In the space of time where we might usually just jump to the apology, building in a tiny moment to check in with ourselves and ask “Does this really deserve an apology” is essential in being able to make a new choice
  • When we feel compelled to take unwarranted responsibility for another person’s feelings, instead of jumping to the apology/taking on their baggage in that moment, it might be more interesting and helpful to engage in a real dialogue about their experience. Ask questions. Listen. Express your understanding and appreciation for their feelings. Feelings which probably have nothing to do with you

I rarely experience the other side of this coin, struggling to make an apology. But I can say, from the receiving end of that kind of experience, that few things are as meaningful as a good, thoughtful apology when it is warranted. And that most people are more forgiving than we imagine they will be. They just want to hear the words. They want to know that the person apologizing cares. Isn’t that what most of us want, in so many circumstances – for someone to care? When we fail to make a needed apology, whether we mean this or not, we are essentially sending the message that the wronged person’s feelings are of no import to us.

Whichever side of the apologizing coin you fall on, I really believe that the following are helpful to remember:

  • Few things in this world make a greater impact than a real, deep apology when we have actually wronged someone
  • There is literally nothing positive about over/excessive/unwarranted apologizing
  • I very much believe in that old adage that people will rarely remember what we say, but will absolutely remember how we make them feel
  • Just because we struggle in some way with apologizing does not mean that we are totally broken disasters. We can work on all of this. We can heal. And we aren’t alone.

Be good to yourselves this week, Celebrationists!

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Week 88 – Little Bits of Transience

  1. I am grateful to be working on the outrageous and incredible piece that is Mr. Burns, a Post Electric Play
  2. I am grateful for my basil plant
  3. I am grateful for days off

I think perhaps there are moments in all of our lives where we become even more conscious than usual of how rapidly time is passing. How quickly we are moving through our time on this planet. This is something we all know about, but I’m talking about those moments when your breath gets knocked out of you for a second, and you feel it in your eyelashes. Where you have no idea where the last ten years went, and know it’s only going to go faster.

Tonight I watched Before Midnight, which is the most recent of the three Richard Linklater films starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  If you haven’t seen these films, I cannot recommend them with more enthusiasm. Each of them (Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, and After Midnight), follow these two richly drawn characters as they strive to find meaning, connection, and purpose in a world that is constantly reminding us how ephemeral each minute is.

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I think I used to be pretty judgmental of people who couldn’t commit to a clear picture of what they want out of life. Because I always did, or I thought I did. I’m pretty sure that I regarded “people without a plan” with moderate levels of sadness and definite confusion, and couldn’t wrap my mind around how any risk could feel anything less than completely worth it, as long as it had the potential to move you closer to your “dreams.”

But the older I get, the only thing I’m very certain of, is that I’m constantly learning how little I know. This continues to be humbling and terrifying. Grounding, and crazy-making. Joy-filled and thoroughly melancholic.

No matter what people tell me or what books I read, I feel like it’s impossible to adequately prepare ourselves for the reality that as we get older, and perhaps expect to find more answers, we only seem to find ourselves unearthing more questions, at least, if we’re hungry enough. For something.

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As my late twenties are coming nearer and nearer to a close, I find myself thinking a lot about the following. And while this is all deeply personal, I share it because maybe you’ll identify with at least one of these, and feel a little less alone. Though I suspect that it isn’t as purely altruistic as that. Maybe I’m looking to feel a little less alone, myself.

  • The choices I make in the next 5-10 years are very likely to set up the rest of my life. Not that we can’t make a change at any time, but in terms of decisions that potentially affect more people than just ourselves, the stakes are much higher
  • The above makes me hyper-conscious of how I do spend my time, and the guilt I experience when I feel like I don’t spend it “well,” doing something like “wasting” an hour feels like a much greater blow
  • I’m fascinated by/maybe a little obsessed with negotiating the balance between living with intention/having a plan, and taking my foot off the gas and just listening to what the universe has to say. And then I get anxious about just “waiting for something to happen,” and feel like I should “do more,” but then I’m not always sure what to do
  • I have bouts of sincerest angst that I’m not contributing enough in the world, but don’t know how to change this feeling through action, yet
  • I wonder if I really can have it all – a career, a family, a home, a dog. And if I can’t, what am I willing to give up?

I’m sure if I return to this post in ten, twenty years, there will be parts of it that I find very sweet and endearingly young, and also parts that may not feel much different. Intellectually, I know there are very few right answers, there are only the choices we make. But I have a greater sense of empathy lately for the people who feel stuck because they are afraid to choose. Afraid of loss, of heartache, of getting what they say they want and having it not be what they dreamed. The lower the risk, the lower the possibility of pain. There are areas of my life in which I’ve done this. Or do this.

I’m very much in the thick of it. But one thing I’m learning more and more richly by the day is that nothing is ever perfect. No person, situation, house, car, anything.  I think we often fantasize that perhaps when X, Y, or Z happens, then we’ll be happy. And I just don’t think life works that way. I also am want to believe that whatever choices we do make in life, the following things are pretty much always a guarantee:

  • We can always find a way to work with or against the choices we’ve made
  • We can endow anything with meaning, if we decide to
  • Nothing is permanent, even when it feels like it is
  • The world is a challenging place, and when in doubt, following what sparks joy inside us always seems worth it, to me
  • The answer to most challenging situations (and I’ve said this in other blog posts, in more specific ways) is to reach out. When we draw inward and focus harder and harder on ourselves, our world becomes so small
  • We can look at our transience here and let it depress us, or we can operate from a place of understanding that each interaction is a little bit of precious magic
  • If we lead with curiosity and compassion, even when we are at our most confused or groundless, we’ll always learn something – and isn’t that worth something, already?

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Have a great week, Celebrationists. One moment at a time.