Thursday, February 20, 2014
Since it's my birthday, I want to focus on celebrating and remembering that joy is not a limited resource. I offer my birthday and this space for celebrations big and small. I'll start:
I Celebrate thirty awesome years on this planet and in this life.
I Celebrate Beyonce as she's filled a void in my heart since Janet married that billionaire.
I Celebrate that the internet has allowed me to maintain so many relationships with people near and far.
I Celebrate every one of you doing something you like at this moment.
I Celebrate every one of you doing something you hate at this moment because it just needs to get done.
I Celebrate oysters and expensive cheese. Not together.
I Celebrate gainful employment, though I'm not going to work tomorrow.
I Celebrate a body that works for me in the ways I need it to.
I Celebrate both the homes we come from and the homes we build for ourselves.
I Celebrate hugs. I really love hugs.
I Celebrate love in every form possible.
Comment with what you are celebrating today.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
This blog was a challenge to myself to see how I could reconcile my experiences thus far and approach thirty with clarity. I needed to understand the goals I wanted for this new phase in my life. Thirty is a milestone because I am no where near where I thought I was going to be. And that's not a bad thing:
If I was limited in my current success by the things I thought I wanted in the past, I would be miserable.
I have found so many new opportunities that I didn't even know were possible. I have met my heroes, fallen in and of love, started my own business, and forged connections and developed communities that have nurtured and supported me in ways I couldn't have imagined.
By enjoying the journey, I have found lessons in every moment.
Each passing minute is a new chance to learn something. It's an opportunity to take a risk, make a friend, try something different, ask a question. Our lives are collections of these minutes and they tell a story. They are our journey and I thank you for taking my journey with me.
Your support of this blog has been amazing. I appreciate every kind word or thought you've shared as I've worked my way through these past 30 days. I am grateful for your time and energy. Thank you.
Tomorrow is my 30th birthday. Bring it on.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
For the last few months, I've been in a hibernation of sorts. I have let my own personal work fall to the wayside and indulged myself in frivolous pastimes as a means to avoid it. I needed the break but eventually I had to keep my promises. I'd made promises to my board, to my friends, to my partners. And I will admit, I just didn't want to keep them. I was at a point where I wanted to relinquish my responsibilities and just disappear into banality.
Then someone reminded me to just do it.
Sometimes there is no motivation. Sometimes there is no inspiration. Sometimes you just don't want to. It's so tempting to surrender to nothingness. And we all know the difference between "I'm burned out and need rest" and "I just don't want to." It's easy to create excuses to conflate the two, but ultimately we cannot give in to apathy. We cannot always wait to be ready.
More often than we admit, we must act before we are ready. Though we are a day late and a dollar short, we must deliver anyway.
I was imperfect. I was unprepared. I fell short. I delivered anyway. And I'm not here to tell you that in the end my motivation showed up. I'm here to tell you that it doesn't matter whether my inspiration shows up or not, I'm going to do the work anyway. Because I have a job to do. I have goals to meet. I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep...
Monday, February 17, 2014
That's how I feel after the verdict for the killer of Jordan Davis.
I'm out of words. I'm glad it's not my job to write, because I would fail. I want to scream and cry and just fall asleep. Luckily, there are people who are better at this than me. Who can take that rage and communicate it effectively. Ta-Nehisi Coates is one such person. He has written amazing things on a variety of topics, but I want to share highlights.
From Black Boy Interrupted
And this will happen again, must happen again, because our policy is color-blind, but our heritage isn't. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind denies its rightful inheritance. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind is a drug addict claiming he can walk away after just one more hit.
From On the Killing of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn
I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall not be extricated through the latest innovations in Negro Finishing School. I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson's genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings, that George Washington's abdication is no more significant than his wild pursuit of Oney Judge.
From Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice
I have seen nothing within the actual case presented by the prosecution that would allow for a stable and unvacillating belief that George Zimmerman was guilty.
That conclusion should not offer you security or comfort. It should not leave you secure in the wisdom of our laws. On the contrary, it should greatly trouble you. But if you are simply focusing on what happened in the court-room, then you have been head-faked by history and bought into a idea of fairness which can not possibly exist.
My words have failed me. I am glad his did not.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
The world is hard. It is also beautiful and fulfilling, but there's no shortage of hard. And I've mentioned before the importance of rest and recharging, and I want to take it one step further.
You have to create a safe space. A place that gives you peace and perspective.
Most of my safe spaces are edible. My favorite safe space is oysters, preferable $1, and a beer.
I love seafood, and I didn't have an oyster until I was 24. Where I grew up, fresh seafood was hard to find. Fresh oysters don't travel well, and frankly I didn't trust the places who offered them where I was. From afar, oysters seemed like the ultimate in East Coast indulgence - a signifier of an urban, sophisticated life I didn't have access to. Oysters were a metaphoric brass ring that I couldn't reach; one of those symbols we all create to represent a goal in our lives. Then I ate one and discovered a new safe space.
This city is hard and without a space of your own, metaphoric or not, it just gets harder.
When I ate that first oyster (and the many, many, many, since), I was able to put my choices into perspective. It was a marker of sorts: I was holding in my hand something that previously felt unattainable. When I am overwhelmed, having oysters and a beer reminds me of the work it took to get here. It reminds of the choices I made. It allows me to indulge. And, frankly, it's just delicious. It is something that makes me feel good whether I'm alone or with all of my friends. It's a place I feel safe.
Create a space that is just yours, even if it's a short activity. It's worth its weight in gold.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
This might seem contradictory to yesterday's post, but I promise it is not. You should, by all means, fight for the love you deserve. Definitely don't settle. However, when someone is offering you the love you want, let them.
The world doesn't tell you how scary it is to be given real love.
When someone loves you fully, it can be terrifying. It's actually why the hardest question in the world for me to answer is my mother asking me "How are you?" There's so much love in that question it's scary, and it forces me to assess how I'm actually feeling every time. More than once, I've been surprised at my own answer.
Real love forces you to see yourself honestly - and sometimes shows you how you're not measuring up.
As I said yesterday, love is both feeling and action. It is fairly common to be experiencing one or the other at any given moment. It is when both are present that you can fully understand the power of it all. Real love is as terrifying to give as it is to receive. It makes you vulnerable. It leaves you open. But it also lets you create a truly genuine connection. It is worth fighting for and worth keeping.
Let people love you. Work to be worthy of it. And love genuinely in return.
When you have fought for the love you deserve, surrender to its power.
Friday, February 14, 2014
I love hard, always have. I make very serious and deep connections with people. I love actively and wholly and passionately. I say "I love you" several times a day to several people and I mean it every time. For me, an abundance of love does not diminish its value: the more love I give, the more I see love in the world. That is sometimes difficult for the people I love to get - I don't just feel love, I try to enact love at every opportunity.
I have been in a romantic relationship for 11 of the last 14 years. It's a number I keep repeating because it gets no less staggering to me whenever I say it. Over a third of my entire life has been spent committed to someone else. That's time I can't get back, and it's, frankly, time I don't want back. It taught me how I love and what I need to feel love. That time helped me learn to love myself, and is driving me to stay focused on love's role in my life outside of a romantic relationship. Love is limitless, and there are many ways to cultivate it in life.
People who say they love you but can't show they love you, aren't for you.
I won't presume to tell others what they feel, because I know feelings aren't actions. People are imperfect, so we can't always show what we are feeling effectively. However, anyone who constantly says they love you but doesn't show you that love in their actions isn't for you. Real love is both action and feeling: you deserve that. We all deserve that.
Love hard in both action and feeling; fight for the same in return.
I will leave you with two of my favorite love songs. Take today and celebrate the multitude of ways love is present in your life.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Words are amazing. I love them. You can use them to communicate so much. They can hurt, uplift, soothe, instruct, transform. The words that are chosen in any given medium confer more than just meaning, they confer tone, location, history. Each word carries with it connotation, denotation, and context. What a word means is what we all understand it to mean based on the information we have at any given moment. The more information we have, the deeper the meaning.
By reading everything, you understand how malleable words are and, therefore, how malleable concepts are.
As I've stated before, systems are everywhere. Those systems are largely communicated through what is written down. The more one reads, the more one understands the various systems at play. I use that in my work as a theater artist and as a person: when we choose to tell one story, what are the stories we aren't telling? By devouring multiple perspectives from various sources, it's possible to obtain clarity about how all of our various identities intersect.
Reading is practical.
I am someone who reads instruction manuals and fine print. I will admit that there are several EULA's that I've never glanced at, but I, more often than not, read anything put in front of me. I read contracts, and cereal boxes, and old magazines at the doctor's,and anything that has words on it and is still in front of my eyeballs. And I am amazed at the number of times it's given me an edge to read information hidden in plain sight.
Reading is also just plain fun.
A good book is worth its weight in gold. It transports us to a far off place while simultaneously revealing our inner most thoughts. Good books reveal something about our lives, fictional or not. They allow us to compound our collective experience. They stretch the bounds of what is possible. Books are powerful and we become even more powerful with the knowledge.
Read often, read everything.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
When you let other people tell their stories, you are apt to learn a bit about your own.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
I have considered myself an artist for as long as I can remember. I have danced, sung (badly), acted, and directed with some regularity since I was 3-years-old. I have always appreciated the role of art in my life and I am grateful to have had a support system that made those experiences possible.
I say, without hesitation, that art changed my life.
This is not a story about how I was on a wayward path and art redeemed me. I am very much a product of a middle-class, stable, two-parent home with access to some of the best resources one could find. No, this is a story about how art (specifically theater) gave me purpose. At twelve years old, I read For Colored Girls... and experienced a defining moment. I read these words
i found god in myself
& i loved her/ i loved her fiercely
and my life was different. Middle-school me fully understood the type of woman I wanted to be, even if I couldn't articulate it. Wanting to be in an environment where those words could be written became my goal. Seventeen years later, I still repeat those words to myself to remind myself of why I do any of the various things I do. And while Ms. Shange did not write those words for me, her writing them at all is a testament to the potential power of art. Those words traveled ten years and a thousand miles to change my life. I believe I would have built an ok life had I not read those words, but I know it would have been a lot harder and much less fulfilling.
The impact of the arts is both tangible and immeasurable.
It's easy to feel the need to quantify the arts: dollars raised, dollars spent, dollars generated, jobs given, tourists attracted, etc. And to the people who can make that argument, keep at it. That, however, is not the only value needed. Art is like water - it is difficult to contain and devastating in its absence. Art nourishes us even when we think we don't need it. All art reminds us that the line between possible and impossible isn't fixed - art showed us that today's communicator is tomorrow's cell phone.
Respect the power of art to transform people, places, concepts, and limitations.
Art changes lives. I know it changed mine.
Monday, February 10, 2014
Recently, a very good friend reminded me very poignantly that I was driving myself insane. I was creating impossible standards, feeling pressure to meet said standards, resenting the standards, and then beating myself up for not meeting them. It was decidedly not awesome.
Doing your best and striving for perfection is great; beating yourself up when you fall short is not.
I am a very driven person. I always have been. I also have difficulty finishing the things I start - if it falters in some way, I am likely to believe it is (or I am) somehow unworthy. They say close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but that's just not true. We all fall short. We all fail. But that doesn't mean what we've done is invalid. It simply means it was not perfect, and that's fine.
If you can forgive another's failures, you can forgive your own.
This same friend pointed out that I was giving leeway to others that I wasn't allowing for myself. I was trying to adhere to a standard that I wouldn't even enforce. She said "give yourself the minimum consideration you'd give someone you care about." Because I am someone I care about. We should always treat ourselves as we'd treat someone else we love.
Strive often, take care of yourself always.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Last night, I got to attend a farewell-for-now party for one of my newest friends in NYC. It was the third such farewell in four days; the sixth farewell in the last month. The goodbye party is a NYC staple - this city is a beautiful revolving door.
Goodbyes are hard but necessary.
Getting to see so many people prepare for and make graceful exits, I can't help but contemplate the nature of goodbyes. Why does it take a promise of prolonged absence for some folks to get their stuff together? At each goodbye, there is a reconciling of sorts, both within the person leaving and those surrounding him/her. There's a conscious decision to create a marker, of sorts, and assess where we all are at that particular moment.
If you can say goodbye, you should. It's the ones you couldn't say that you'll regret the most.
Each goodbye party I've gone to recently has been just that, a party. It's been people leaving to make bold, new choices in their lives and venture off into bigger and better things. Each event has been filled with love and laughter. They've been good and I am thankful. I recognize that there are times when goodbyes aren't so easy, or clean-cut, joyful, or planned. Some goodbyes are permanent. Some are sudden. All are hard.
In the next few weeks two of my closest friends will be leaving the city and I will miss them terribly. They join the ranks of many more who are off to new adventures. To all of you, near and far, I'm happy to know you and to have shared space with you, no matter how briefly. Travel safe now and always. Drop me a line when you can.
ETA: I wrote this and then read my amazing friend Eleanor's blog about a similar subject. Read it too.
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Every so often, I think of this story:
On the day a new elephant is born, the training method of East Asian “mahouts” has been to tie one end of a thick rope to the elephant’s neck or leg, and the other to a stake planted deeply in the ground.
From birth the young elephant struggles and fights to free itself, day after day, month after month, and year after year. But the overwhelming rope eventually conquers the young elephant, as at some point in it’s life, it gives up, stops resisting, and stops fighting. From that day forth, the trainer replaces the thick rope with a thin string, and the elephant continues living under the belief that it cannot defeat the rope.
Whenever the elephant feels the familiar tightening of the string (albeit much softer), it is reminded of the rope, and gently moves back to the center of it’s radius.
It makes question: what are the behaviors we repeat just because they are familiar? How are we limiting ourselves based on out-of-date "lessons" and experiences? What are the "rules" we follow just because they are the rules we've always followed?
Often our strongest chains are self-constructed.
There are real limitations in the world. It is impossible to do or be everything. Few us ever even test those limits. We let past experiences color our present reality and don't take enough time to reconsider whether that coloring is valid. We don't consider whether the thick rope has been replaced with a thin string while we weren't paying attention. We become our own zookeepers and forget to check if the gate is locked.
Understanding your limits is one thing: being ruled by them is entirely different.
Every once in a while pull at the strings that hold you. Tap at that glass ceiling. Make sure the closed door in front of you is actually locked. As Marianne Williamson put it,
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Friday, February 7, 2014
Sometimes we get so comfortable in who we are, where we work, who we love, that we hit a rut. We keep doing the same things and keep getting the same results. We start to think that just because this is what we've been doing, this is all we can do.
Surprise yourself every once in a while.
I am not particularly competitive, but I HATE to be underestimated. HATE IT. I will lose with the best of them, but the second someone takes my loss as a foregone conclusion, I effectively lose my cool. And I make it a personal challenge to not underestimate myself - there is not a finite amount of awesome in the universe, so we can all be great. There is no way for you to know all of the things you're great at until you try all of the things.
Everyone has to do everything for the first time.
Everybody was a three-year-old. There was a moment when the entire world was big and scary. For some reason, as we learn more we start to think that the world gets less big and less scary. We start to think we know all we need to know or that we can do everything we would ever need to do.
We stop surprising ourselves.
We stop expecting more from ourselves.
We stop asking others to expect more from us.
We stop expecting more from others.
We get stuck. We get complacent.
Surprise someone today with an honest admission out of the blue; surprise yourself by trying something new; listen to music you've never heard before; watch something you've never seen; do a task at your job differently; ask the person furthest away from you something about their day.
Expand your idea of who you think you are so that you can become who you're meant to be.
Remember that you are capable of doing anything at least as well as a three-year-old and they do more new things than you everyday.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
There have been plenty of days recently where I've looked at my life and just thought "I am a mess."
And I am.
But I am also happy, and lonely, and excited about the future, and terrified about the future, and worried I will fail at something, and amazed that I've gotten this far, and in love with my job, and tired of my job, and grateful that I made it out of Saginaw while wishing I could crawl into my mother's bed at this very moment.
People are complicated and messy and that's just fine.
This is not an excuse for me to wallow in whatever space I choose to be in at the moment. Nor is it a call to excuse people who are unreliable or mistreat you. It is a call to recognize that everyone has mess, and one day that mess will show. Someone will miss a deadline, someone will forget to call you back, someone won't be there when you need them. And most of the time they won't be able to tell you why.
People are equally capable of greatness and awfulness. They are also frequently executing some degree of both at the same time.
As I touched on in Day 8, the things that make us great can also make us awful. That's why I love complicated hero stories - most of us are complicated heroes in our own lives. I know great members of their communities who are awful spouses; I know brilliant thinkers with no communication skills; I know talented artists who refuse to read anything longer than paragraph; and I am a truly awesome person who will be 15 minutes late to almost anything you invite me to.
When we accept the imperfections in ourselves and others, it's easier to improve them because you're no longer fighting them.
People are messy. They will disappoint you. You will disappoint yourself. Forgive them. Forgive you. Do better next time.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Nuance is a wondrous thing. It is actually one of my favorite things. Nuance is the difference between loving and being in love; between hate and anger; between better and best. For me, nuance is the space where the truth lives - the details tell the story.
Details matter. Full stop.
Each of the multiple stories attached to those links is screaming for nuance. Addiction, incest/sexual assault, and gender-identity are issues that can't be discussed without the details. Yet we all try. We all make judgements based on the information we think we have. So many of the posts on any platform I've seen about the above topics begin "Well, that's not what I would have done..." "If I was there, I would have seen..." "The facts clearly show..." The truth is the "facts" rarely show everything. And "facts" don't always lead to the correct conclusion. For example:
It is a fact that the sun is hot. It is also a fact that were I to touch the sun*, I would disintegrate based on the previous fact. Therefore, based on those facts, the sun could be considered a threat worth destroying. Facts aren't conclusions and shouldn't be confused as such.
When you remove details, you change the narrative. One person's "detail" is another person's crux.
This becomes particularly important when dealing with marginalized communities. It is the repeated dismissal of the details of our existence that marginalizes us. The details of a marginalized group's struggle are always inconvenient to the dominant group. And if you are talking to someone about their story, don't police their narrative based on your experience.
When it is not your story, you don't get to decide which details are important.
Listen more. The details matter.
*I realize this would happen before I got anywhere near touching it, but c'est la vie.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
I am having lots of feelings recently - an action-packed six months of change will do that to a person. However, I constantly struggle with what to do with those feelings. As an ENFP*, my
primary mode of living is focused externally, where I take things in primarily via intuition. My secondary mode is internal, where I deal with things according to how I feel about them, or how they fit in with my personal value system." -
In other words, I act because I feel. Sometimes, I don't know how I'm feeling until I look at what I'm doing. If I'm avoiding something, I probably feel ambivalent, scared, or unprepared. If I'm reaching out to someone, I'm feeling lonely or in need of connection. If I'm not motivated to do much of anything, I'm exhausted or burned out. As a result, it is difficult for me to separate my feelings from my actions and that can lead to trouble.
Recognizing that feelings aren't actions empowers me to understand them separately.
Not every feeling deserves an action. Louis CK touches on this in the below video, but we as humans tend to do things to avoid sitting in our feelings. And sometimes feeling the feeling is all the action we need.
Asking "Am I doing this thing because I want to do it or because I'm having a feeling?" allows us all to minimize our negative actions and get in touch with what we're feeling. The answers aren't easy or instant, but taking the moment to reflect and ask the question creates an opportunity to ensure the consequences of your actions are the consequences you want.
Feelings don't have consequences, the actions we take as a result of those feelings do.
You can be angry at someone without yelling; you can be attracted to someone without acting on it; you can be sad without hurting yourself. When we turn those feelings into actions that we can't take back, trouble happens. And that's not always a negative: break up with someone who makes you feel terrible; tell someone whom you can't stop thinking about how you feel; indulge in a guilty pleasure that makes you happy. This is not a call for inaction - it is a request to recognize that your feelings are not your actions. Each should be acknowledged and considered as separate parts of the whole. As a particular friend is tired of hearing me say,
Feel your feelings. Act in your best interest.
*P.S. This is a really accurate description of me (or how I see myself, at least), in case you were wondering.
Monday, February 3, 2014
I promised you thirty lessons in thirty days, and that's what I'm giving. I missed this weekend, but instead of skipping them, had to catch up because it is important to me to keep my promises. Simply:
Keep the promises you make, and only make promises you can keep.
It is surprisingly hard to not over promise. I know I do it all of the time, and it is a struggle I consistently fight. It becomes easier to just tell someone you'll give them what they want, even if you can't. We all do it because it's simpler than saying "I am not able to give that to you."
It is an act of bravery to admit what you can't do.
Managing expectations is a job in itself. And we all want to be the hero - the person who saves the day and over-delivers. However, we as human beings are fallible and have limited capacity. Only we know our limits, and we have to be able to communicate them to maintain trust. In short:
Make fewer promises. Make truer promises.
Seventeen more days.
Everyone has their version of the Super Bowl: that one challenge you'll have to face if everything goes the way you want it to. Success is increasing challenges and responsibilities - there will eventually (and repeatedly) be the Big Challenge that changes the game. And the first and hardest thing you have to do at that challenge is show up.
Showing up is hard. Period.
It is easier than one thinks to not show up, ask Peyton Manning. Whatever the reason, and I'm not going to attempt to guess, something didn't show up for Manning and the Broncos last night. "Showing up" isn't just physically being somewhere, going through the motions, hoping that what has worked before will continue to work. "Showing up" is when preparation and planning meet execution; it's being both in the moment and three steps ahead.
In order to show up to your Big Challenge, you have to know it's the Big Challenge.
That's where planning and preparation comes in. Not every challenge is the Big Challenge. You have to be able to differentiate between today's challenge and the Big Challenge. It's why the playoffs in any sport are special - the stakes are different. You don't take playoff risks in regular season play. You don't deplete the resources you need for the Big Challenge for today's challenge.
Even then, sometimes it just won't be there. Show up anyway.
There is no real doubt that Peyton Manning is good at his job - the debates around him center on just exactly how great he's supposed to be. But something did not happen for him and the rest of the team. Fatigue, lack of clarity, overthinking, or any number of thigns could have contributed. The dangerous part is when we let that be the norm and stop showing up. Defeats are inevitable, but so are more Big Challenges.
Show up, show out, and prepare for the next one.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
I touched on this on Day 1 (Speak Up) but it bears reiterating - you never know who will be important to you. One of my favorite lines in August: Osage County is "Thank God we can't tell the future, we would never get out of bed." And I'm not entirely sure that's true. I think if we could know the future, we wouldn't believe it anyway.
The tragedy is not the number of people who betray you, it's the number of people you didn't give the chance to support you.
We often assume we know who our friends will be. We dismiss people who don't fit a particular idea of what we want. We don't ask for help because we assume people can't help. We don't confide in people because we assume they don't understand.
If we knew what everyone else knew, all of our problems would be solved already.
Opening up makes you vulnerable, true, but more often than not it allows you to get your needs met. I currently live with (and love) people whom I wasn't even aware of four months ago. One of my best friends is my former intern; another I met on my very first day of college. I have people helping me run my business who I've never met in person. I couldn't predict what they would do for me, and I've stopped trying. It has also encouraged me to be more generous, even when someone doesnt' expect it.
People's capacity for generosity exceeds our expectations. We can't predict who will help us, or how, so be open to all of the possibilities.