I have missed everyone! I took some time out to rethink my blog and its direction. I’ve completely redesigned the site for more pop, better readability and better imagery. As always, I’m looking to grow my audience and more photos will make it easier to promote on social media. Definitely check out the new layout as there are some new pages displayed from which I draw inspiration. I am thankful for the blog’s base supporters who have been asking where I’ve been. I’m back in the game and ready for a new season of blogging.
If you recall from last year, one of my posts talked about Dia De Los Muertos. Here is the link:
I was so enthralled with the idea of this holiday, I vowed I would celebrate it the next year. I made good on that promise and here are the highlights!
The main reason I wanted to celebrate this holiday is because it is a way to celebrate the lives of the departed. I also wanted to tell stories to my children about the ancestors they never knew. Here are the photos of my dad and my maternal grandparents:
It was such a wonderful experience bringing these people back to life. I remembered stories I had long forgotten. As these people became more real to my children, I asked them to write notes to them to tell them how they felt. Here is Ava’s note to my dad:
Here is Ryan’s:
There really is no greater joy than to connect your children to those that have come before us. I was also inspired to join Ancestry.com and finally reconnect to those ancestors I knew and even those I did not. Of course I am most fascinated by the Aunt Charlotte I never heard of, because no one discussed her, as she was so different from everyone else. She must have been extraordinary…
I am excited to be back in action and look forward to reconnecting with the blog’s audience and developing relationships with new readers. I hope to do as my tag line states…Provoke thought, inspire growth and pursue peace. Happy reading!
This week I posted a New York Times article to my facebook page which celebrated the fact that Manafort and Cohen were being held accountable for their actions and that we were getting closer to proving that Trump is no different from them. Subsequently, 46 comments showed up to either support or disagree with the presented opinions. I was happy that the post stirred so much conversation, because without conversation we go nowhere. Comments signal engagement. Controversy ignites debate.
What’s interesting to me is that when I express disapproval of Trump, I am automatically held accountable for every decision of every democrat in the past twenty years. I am also automatically placed in a finite and certain camp of media outlets. It’s quite an eye opening experiment in bias.
Let me be crystal clear about my point of view. I am 100% against aggression, arrogance and comments/decisions that are not completely thought through. These characteristics all put together someone who is seeking power over others at all costs. They describe someone who cares nothing of other people’s feelings and spends no time thinking about how the words that come out of their mouth affect those that hear them. They have no concept of the common good. They are out for #1. To me, Trump is the epitome of all those attributes and why I believe he represents the most threatening of human kind.
To be isolationist is extremely dangerous in our global world. Human rights atrocities happen incessantly all over this planet every single day. They are a direct result of aggression and desire for power. We must start to dismantle the primitive desire to rank in the human world. It plays a critical role in all race and gender bias. It plays a significant role in bullying. Ego destroys everything and everyone it it’s path and Mr Trump has his ego on a pedestal for all to admire. This job is about building his resume, nothing more. It’s about running the country like he ran his companies. He’ll fire you if you get in his way which he has proven time and time again during his administration. To him, it’s just business and it’s destroying countless lives in its path.
Before I write and before I speak, I think about my words and their impact. I try not to say alienate those around me and I try to listen to their point of view without dismissing them as human beings. Trump has never done any of those things and for some reason is lauded for “saying it like it is”. If “it” is exactly how he says it is, we have far bigger problems to worry about.
I sat down to write a piece about how I have spent a lifetime feeling unsafe. It’s taken two years to strip away all the layers of the anxiety I have felt my entire existence. I am doing the work it takes to dig into my psyche and my soul, challenge thought patterns of the past and complete my journey of finding peace. But I can not help but incorporate the Pennsylvania Catholic sex abuse scandal as part of this post. It’s current, relevant and unfortunately reveals a greater truth.
I was brought up strictly Catholic, complete with a healthy dose of paranoia, anxiety and guilt. It is very important to note here that I understand some of my readers had a very healthy Catholic upbringing complete with a faith they cherish today. I do not wish to disrespect that and I am happy for you that you had that experience. But not everyone did. I am not condemning an entire religion based upon my personal experience. But I ask those of you who did have a positive base for faith to consider the abuse of power that was perpetrated and the blind eye that was turned.
I was taught to put all my problems with God. I was told if you do the right thing, God will protect you. I was taught that if you follow Jesus, he will never lead you astray. I believed if you paid your dues in suffering, there would be a Heaven on the other side. I believed all of it and I felt safe when I thought of that. But along with those words, I experienced the actions of complete emotional neglect and an environment filled with constant and disproportionate anxiety based upon nonsense. I was taught to fear and against my will, I was directed to hate. I woke up one day to a monumental crash that the illusions I had built an entire life upon were false. My safety net collapsed and I became crippled with anxiety.
I can not fathom on top of all that, being raped at the age of 7 and then have it covered up. What those children, and the children of all the sex abuse scandals within the Catholic church endured, not only collapsed their view of an institution, but solidified that they would never feel safe again.The church’s power was used to destroy the lives of countless. It enrages me how many people were taken advantage of; good people, who wanted nothing more than to do the right thing in their lives. And the imbalance and abuse of power demolished them.
This knowledge, my experience and my efforts to climb out of the dark fuel me everyday to question power and to question privileage and the abuses that grow out of them. Silence around abuse has destroyed so many people across this entire planet. And many do not have the courage to seek help because they are so crushed by guilt, imposed by the very powers that were supposed to protect them. Religion can be a crutch for people to look the other way and still think they are going to heaven. Prayers will not fix this. We must question and we must listen and we must do. We are all we have and we need to start looking to each other, not up in the sky, for a resolution.
‘Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” -Brene Brown
Something on which I am spending a lot of time in therapy discussing is my expectation hangover from my childhood. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it refers to the disappointment one experiences when your reality does not match your fantasy. I grew up watching a good deal of TV. Personally, I am not against children watching TV, I am actually in favor of it. I think it has a significant impact on children learning the language more quickly. But of course, as with anything, too much can become severely detrimental, but not in the way for which it is famous.
I won’t go on about the sheltered life I led, with which most of you are already very familiar if you’ve been reading the blog. Couple that sheltering with a large amount of TV and you have a recipe for creating a very distorted reality. Join that with being raised with a very “If, then” mentality and you have a recipe for disaster. “If you do X, they Y will happen”. Guess what, in real life, that is just not the case. The paths of human existence are far more puzzling and not at all linear.
I’ve spent a lifetime chasing after a fantasy that does not exist, while missing out on all of the wondrous and challenging reality around me. I’ve been an escape artist, adept at traveling far away in my own head and at most, every now and then, reentering my body to be in the moment. Buddhism teaches, be here now. I admit I have been absent for so much of my life, mostly because the dreams in my head feature no pain. In my imagination, there is always singing, dancing and pure happiness; an endless party. But real life is joyous and real life is agonizing. And while I haven’t yet convinced myself that I am always capable, I have survived everything thrown my way thus far and will survive whatever is to come.
I’ve mentioned before that it is truly amazing when you take a step back and listen to your own self-talk. Mine is filled constantly by “shoulds”; I should, he should, they should, the world should, etc. That kind of self-talk is rooted in perfectionism and that perfectionism bears horrific daily anxiety. In my quest for peace, I am attempting to find acceptance; they say it is the road to enlightenment. While I will never give up my desire to change the world and make it as I think it “should” be, I first must accept the reality that is by simply returning to my body for good, actually doing more and contemplating perfection less in my own head. That is how true progress is made.
Returning from vacation is always bittersweet. You have the amazing memories you’ve created while away, but you also face harsh reality when you get back to your normal life as you know it. The pressures of work, family and duty can drain you quickly of all that relaxation you are trying so desperately to keep alive in your psyche.
Here are six strategies to keep your vacation spirit alive as you return to real life.
Environment Matters. Did you ever notice one of the elements that is so hard to replicate from when you are away is the environment? The sound of the waves or the scent of the salty air just to name a few? If you really think about it, the space around you creates a definite mood; happy, chaotic, depressing… Stay aware of the backdrop you create for yourself and make it as peaceful and reminiscent as possible of a positive experience.
Know your Threshold for Overload. Overwhelm is a constant in most of our daily lives. Of course it is unavoidable, but it is more manageable than we let it be most of the time. Setting limits of how much of yourself you give away at one time is crucial. Not everyone needs what they want at the exact moment they demand it. Keep your boundaries so that you can be the most you can be for others in the end.
Chaos Begets Chaos. While organization takes work, it actually ensures there is less stress in your day to day life. Thoughtful planning for each week ahead ensures that the days themselves are less chaotic and far more enjoyable. While you can’t plan for everything, you can see most of what’s coming ahead of time. Getting in front of it actually makes life far more manageable.
Put Limits on When Work Ends. Often times, we carry our work day with us into our evening. We replay conversations and situations that happened that day, playing out alternative and possibly more effective endings to those events. These actions cause us to relive our day over and over. Once was enough! Give yourself some well deserved time to recharge.
Carve Out Time to Reflect. Another key piece of vacation is having so much time that isn’t designated for work activities. With that extra time afforded to you, you often rediscover who you are at your core. That core is so easy to lose in the day to day maelstrom. Taking ten minutes at the end of everyday to remind yourself what is truly important to you keeps the grand scheme in focus, no matter how exhausted you are at the end of the day.
Do Something Fun for YOU Everyday. Vacation is about having fun. While we can’t recreate the excesses of those getaways daily simply due to funding constraints, we can do small things that make us happy each and every day on a lesser scale. The power of laughter erases many a cloudy day. Keep nuggets of happiness going with mini sessions of cheer.
The week’s news was filled with the loss of two greats to suicide, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. In reading the coverage, the most informed sources reference the reality of depression. It is misunderstood by many, except by those who live with it. Jenny Lawson in her blog and in her books, speaks often about what it’s truly like to live with this disease:
She openly and honestly describes how difficult it is to simply get up everyday and fight through it. She is a magnificent author who is brilliant and funny. I strongly suggest you check her out.
What I love about this particular blog post is how she describes her great-grandmother’s death in a mental institution. She describes her mental illness as a secret. I too am part of a family which was constantly shrouded in secrets. I only learned the stories as I grew older. While I am still reticent to share those tales to protect those that still walk this planet, I also know that memoir is only most powerful when the truth is told. Suicide, violence and substance abuse were alive and well in some of the tragedies of my ancestors. Genes don’t lie; and their most basic job is to replicate.
Our human condition can be a dark one. And there are those suffering constantly all around us, no matter how adept they have become in hiding it. Ours is a culture of posting only the highlights to Facebook, while the darkest of moments are consistently endured alone. Depression typically leads to isolation because most do not understand what to do with those around them who experience it. There are those trained to help in today’s society, where as in decades past people were placed in horrific conditions to waste away.
I applaud those who have the courage these days to post not only the good, but the bad. Those who speak the truth to me are the most heroic and should be the most lauded. Hemingway said it best when he said,
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
To me, this honesty is particularly crucial in today’s time and place, more than ever. About 45,000 people die each year by suicide according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This life is not an easy one and some have it easier than others. But most importantly, some appear to have it easier than others. You never know someone’s story until you ask.
On Friday night, my 11 year old son was in a panic. “Mom, I need your help.” he said with urgency. He proceeded to show me his phone and about 14 missed calls IN A ROW from the same 11 year old girl. Then he showed me a series of no less than 30 texts from this girl’s 3 “representatives”, all asking the same question, “Who do you like, this one or that one? Tell me, tell me, tell me” And then they ended with “Fuck me, you aren’t going to tell me are you…” Reminder, she’s 11.
My son is adorable and has a wonderful heart. I am not surprised that there are girls with crushes and I focus on making sure that he treats all of them with respect. I tell him to not become arrogant and to never become “that guy.” But after I saw this episode on Friday, my thoughts opened to the entirety of the situation. Because he was simply trying to play a video game on his phone and was constantly interrupted by the texts pouring in,I began to feel the harassment aspect of this. I realized that this was one of the many future episodes that will mark the end of the innocence.
But my thoughts quickly went beyond this “nuisance” for my son; they quickly went to “what are these girls doing to themselves” and soon after that, how many times when I was young did I do this to myself. Do not get me wrong, I adore my son. But no boy should be the object of any girl’s desperation. I remembered all the boys I chased after and how those boys must of thought, “just leave me alone.” I remember all the time I lost to dreaming about whatever boy of the hour, when I could have been focusing on building my own dreams. The worst part was, I incessantly was wracking my brain trying to understand what was wrong with me and tearing down my own self-esteem, crush by unattainable crush.
Raising both a son and a daughter, I will see both of these sides over the next ten years and will handle them as best as I can. But I will be the most sensitive to ensuring that my daughter’s self-esteem remains built upon things that matter to her and not by the boys’ affections for which she pines. I understand puppy love, but we all need to realize that these experiences build the people that our children become. They are all tests for us to respond to as parents. We can not catch everything but we need to be there during these seemingly innocent situations, reminding them that while they seem catastrophic in nature within the pre-teen social order, being true to themselves is paramount.
I was driving home tonight and I saw the most magnificent sunset. The sun was a ball of fire in the sky and I needed to get the perfect picture of it to share with all of you. The trick was that the sun was setting fast and I found that I couldn’t quite capture what I thought was the best angle. I thought, I will chase it and I will get to the highest hill I can find. Once I am there, I will snap the most perfect image possible.
I sped through the neighborhood at speeds I probably shouldn’t have touched. I honked the horn at the deer that tried to get in my path so that I did not hurt them. But I could feel the brilliant orange sinking down in the sky and fading into a distant memory in my mind. It reminded me of my age-old struggle. I was trying to capture perfection; I was chasing it down because I thought if I tried hard enough, I’d of course get it. I would set my mind to it and that would be that.
My heart began to plummet as I realized that the blaze in the sky had already disappeared. I chased the highest points I could find; ascended the steepest hills. But sadly, I could never reclaim my original view of only a mere five minutes earlier. My opportunity was gone and I would never be able to show the audience the molten apricot fire I had witnessed; it would only be my word against the sky’s.
But that’s the thing about perfection; it is elusive and it is fleeting. You seize it in due time but it’s never quite as succulent as you had imagined. The reality of the moment is never quite how you fancied it might be. You are chasing a dragon whose magic you will never truly know. Your expectations are far grander than reality can ever deliver.
This weekend I will be missing the Bay View Player’s 35th Anniversary. I have been scrolling through all the updates and celebratory photos on Facebook and can’t help but feel so incredibly moved with each new post. I have been even more reconnected to the Bay View Community this year through Janet Tanury’s posts, sharing often the sisterhood’s role in her own journey. She has inspired me countless times with the courage to open herself up and write about her joys and sorrows. It’s made me reflect upon my own journey, of which The Bay View Players were such a huge part.
As I presented my own career path this past week to a group of 6th graders at a local all girl Catholic school, I told them that the friends I had made at Bay View were such a crucial part of my life over the last 25 years. But my very close friends that I see often are not the only women with whom I have a bond. When I go home to Rhode Island from New York, sometimes I am blessed to see girls that I haven’t seen since high school. But I can still talk to them as if they were my own sisters and rely upon them for hope and support.
But the years I spent on the tech crew of the Bay View Players opened up a world to me that I carry in my heart each and every day. After high school I went on to both act and direct in college and bring musical theatre back to a campus that had not seen the likes of which in 20 years. We brought voices back to life that otherwise would have been silent. We brought the incredible lyrics and lessons of Into the Woods (Sondheim, Lapine)back onto a stage which would have otherwise been dark. Music has saved me countless times when I could get no one else to understand; a myriad listing of lyrics has taught me how to live. Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns”, which I first heard sung from the Bay View stage, is a song that forever reminds me of the complexities of timing in human relationships and to always pay attention to the most important things in life.
I can still see the tube lights around that famous Bay View stage and hear the drums that matched their beat. I can see the sequins from the costumes reflecting exploding energy back to their audience. I can hear the tap shoes in the hallways click-clacking “Audition”from 42nd Street. I remember extra large iced coffees, “extra-light/extra-sugar” to get us through Tech Week. I remember sitting under the blue lights with the crew when all the cast was gone listening to “Load Out/Stay” by Jackson Browne, thanks to Susan Tanury. I remember the evenings after the performances when the doors opened and the spring air would hit you and you knew you had found where you belonged.
I wouldn’t be half of who I am today without my Bay View’s Cabaret experiences. I will not be there in person this weekend, but I will be there in spirit. My love to all… …break a leg.
I often talk about my experience in therapy over the last year and a half because I still believe that there is a huge social stigma associated with it. I believe that many of society’s current issues come from our culture of burying everything that is “real” and creating an elaborate front that everything is fine. Studies have been done that show Facebook actually causes depression because so many people are only posting the good and ignoring the bad. I’d argue that the more we post reality, the better off we’d be as a society. One of the things I’ve learned about real writing is that it has to be raw and open. The posts that have resonated the most with everyone are those where I have opened myself completely without reserve. From the feedback I’ve received, it’s making a difference. That’s all I ever wanted to do in the first place and I have already been rewarded a hundred times over.
Some of the most challenging work of my therapy process has been excavating all of the events/thoughts/actions that I had buried for so long beneath a happy face and a chipper personality. From a young age, when I opened my mouth to talk about what mattered most to me, I was often shut down. I was forever being corrected that my thought process was off and that there was a very specific way to think and behave. I was to adhere to those standards no matter what. After enough years of that, I just kept my mouth shut. I hardly ever participated in class discussions because I was too afraid to share something and have it be dismissed. I didn’t share my true feelings with friends or lovers because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. I kept everything on the inside because no one would want to hear it anyway.
After a while, hiding in shadows, restricting my own ideas and crafting the perfect sentences became my way of life. It was a form of pleasing all those around me and building the most pristine reputation possible. My resume looked outstanding and all would be well in the future to come. But the monsters and demons can only stay repressed for so long without oozing out of cracking sides. I became more and more interested in those around me who had no fear. I became quite bored with those who never let their guards down. I only wanted to surround myself with those who had darkness in them, who had secrets and long sordid stories, because those were the most real people I could find and by far the most interesting.
The process of becoming true to myself, has been an amazing and most frightening journey. I am no where near the end yet and I know I still have a ways to go in showing the world who I truly am. A lifetime of learned shame is not something one can shake easily. The purpose of this blog is to open the forum for people to feel comfortable to share their stories, the ones that they had been most ashamed of. It is here that people know they will be supported and not judged. The human condition is full of grime and filth and crazy; you can’t be true to yourself without it. Let’s stop hiding and celebrate all the best and worst parts of ourselves…together.