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Behind Paper Trees

Every once in a while someone says something that makes me re-ask a question I was assigned to answer several times during my time in acting school.

Who Am I?

During school we were required to play a piece of music that described where we were.  It didn’t have to be lyrically where we were, but part of where we were in our lives at that moment.  Sometimes people would pick songs from the seventies, sometimes it was on the current top ten of the billboard charts.  Something that spoke to the kind of person we currently were.  Like if you listen to a certain song on repeat, why? what about it is speaking to you RIGHT NOW? I do not remember every song I chose for these assignments.  I remember two of them, though.  “That I would Be Good,” by Alanis.  The other “Tracing,” by John Mayer.  During these exercises we played the song for everyone in class to hear, then read what we wrote in answering the question “Who am I?” then we played the song again.  Tonight, I was speaking to my mother.  Catching her up on the little pieces of my life, the day in and day out.  Then I told her a specific story and she said something so simple, and important I just kept repeating it over and over “You aren’t needy…be who you actually are.” And I sat back and just, repeated that a few times then glanced at my computer and said “who am i?”  Tonights answer shall be presented no different than the exercise that brought me to the question.

First, we listen
Due North, by Face The King

Then we read:

I’m able to rest more, lately.  I do not remember a time in my life…ever… that I didn’t have some kind of fear hovering over me.  They were only ever first-world-problems, for sure and I don’t want to get caught up in any religious dogma or political back-and-forth about my fears or issues, I only want to say that I have them.  Had them.  Have them.  But lately, I’m able to rest, more.

I was always on the go.  Always packing my schedule full of things that had to get done, and living in NY–I live in New York…–makes that schedule even longer because of travel time.  It’s something I have become accustomed to, and even appreciate at times, but it does in fact make my days longer.  I was always on the go.  Work.  School.  The first year I was out here I was in school to complete my degree in acting (which I did not end up completing, and that’s ok).  I also was lucky enough to live with my best friends so I had a support network here, that was helpful.  I quit school for a few reasons.  Some are my health became a problem.  My physical health, my emotional health, and my mental health.  And I struggled with a job I hated and days when I was scared to leave my apartment.  Literally, scared.

But lately, I’m able to rest more.  When I got my esthetician license (finally) in NY I immediately found a position working as one so I could leave the job I hated.  And for a while I worked two jobs.  The one I liked, and the one I hated.  Then it was just the one I liked, but if I didn’t have clients–I didn’t get paid and that raises a different kind of fear.  Eventually I found a good place to work, I made decent money and was content.  Then, I added school back on to my schedule.  I didn’t just enjoy having the one job that I liked, I had to add something on to my schedule to raise the stakes.  I don’t know why, but it felt like if i wasn’t always doing something, then I was wasting time.  And two more years of my life have gone by.  I had class, clinic, homework, and work, and rarely had days off.  I lived on coffee and 4-6 hours of sleep.  Some may say that’s plenty, this post is not about them though, it’s about me and who I am now, and where I am now.  So lets get to that.

Now.

I’m able to rest more.  I am able to be social.  I can go to concerts, and parties, and out with friends.  I can have friends over and just watch TV.  I can sit at home all day if I want on my day off, and do nothing but eat, watch TV, read a book and take naps.  It’s…unfamiliar territory.  And I again, and often, feel as though I’m wasting time.  But you know what? The other day I realized last year I had all these great realizations and this year was/is going to be the year I made certain things a reality and even though I’m not scratching things off that list–I’m able to rest more.  I’m unsure why it is so important that I use this time of rest wisely, but I believe I am.

Oddly, though, it’s almost like I’m hiding. Like I’m sitting still and watching.  I’m sitting still and listening.  I’m sitting still and feeling the breath come in and go out.  Maybe that’s not hiding from someone or something, but hiding in stillness.  Stillness I do not know if I have actually earned.

I am currently without major fear or anxiety.  I go to work when i should.  I take food with me so I’m not spending money on breakfast and lunch and sometimes dinner, every day out.  I get home at a decent time, because I’m done with work at a decent time, and then I go to bed at a decent time.

I’m decent, that’s important.

I am still a daughter, sister, cousin, auntie, and friend.  I am still single, and this year I hit that last year that states I’m in my “mid-thirties” next year I will have to admit to being in my “late thirties” or straight up start lying (or you know, continue to lie…hey as long as I can get away with people thinking I’m younger, I don’t see why not). I have my name on a lease in an apartment in Manhattan, NY.  That seems pretty important to be able to say.

I have not been exercising.  Kickboxing was my thing for a while, and I miss it–I do, but something about finally being able to rest for a while is what won and I won’t apologize for that.  And I believe when i am ready, I won’t make an excuse to not go, I won’t talk myself out of it, I believe when I’m ready I’ll just…go.

Thing is, without any high stakes, or any kind of fear hovering over me I’m almost at a loss.  Do I just become one of those people that gets up and goes to work, and comes home and hangs out with people she likes–is THAT the life? Is THAT living the dream? Is THAT…enough?

This year I unblocked people from my social media and allowed more people in, or back in, to my life.  (Granted, that block list is still long, there’s bad people out there with ugly hearts and I won’t stand for it. Ever again) But in opening up, and becoming a bit vulnerable I allow myself to be seen.  I allowed classmates to become “friends” with me on fb.  Some people may find it odd that I would keep people separate, but it just worked better for me.  My social pages were for family and people I was social with, not co-workers or classmates.  And this year, I changed that…just to see.  Made me nervous, but it seems to still be working out okay.  And someone I had blocked is gently moving back into my line of sight.

Fear can be a dreadful, horrid thing.  It was out of fear, originally, that I separated people anyway.  It’s out of fear that I block them.  Not just fear of what they will find of me, but of what I will find of them and I sometimes like the idea of ignorance.  If I don’t know, then I won’t have to deal with it.  Whatever “it” was.  If I put up that shield, I’m not only protecting me, I’m protecting them–mostly me, though.  And in lowering the shield, and being vulnerable I do set myself up to become afraid again.  So as I do that, I try to remind myself to breathe, stay present–and rest.  I remind myself, I give myself permission, to rest.

Soon I’m going to up the ante on my vulnerability shake-down and do something I find outlandish: I’m going to go to an open mic night, and sing & play a song that *I* wrote.  I may go in to cardiac arrest shortly there after, so I may invite some local EMT’s.

But ultimately, right now, I think I’m somebody who is taking her time to see what happens next.  I stopped planning super far ahead.  Part of that is because I no longer need to plan that far ahead, another part is I don’t want to.  Because i don’t want to create expectations and then be let down, that’s never fun–and I’ve already done that.

So, somehow I find that right now I am…preparing.  Preparing to turn all those realizations n 2014  into realities.  Quietly, while at rest it’s like I’m creating the space and time and energy desired to climb up that wall.  I’m drawing it in to me.

I do not yet wonder what I will see once I get up there, but what’s different here is I do not feel as though I am simply moving forward.  But that I’m heading forward, like that’s the direction I’m pointing towards I’m just taking a break.  I’m standing there looking.  I’m observing.

Then, i realize that I’m actually already on the wall.  I’m watching.  I’m noticing who is on the wall with me, who is at the ground watching to make sure I get there; to root me on or catch me if I fall and have to start again, and I’m noticing who is at the top reaching down and intentionally holding their hand out to me to help me, only if I need it.

I’m feeling it out.  I’m getting grounded, I’m taking the time to feel it from within, before continuing up.  I’m testing the energy and preparing for any bad juju.  I’m observing.  I’m learning.  I’m hoping.  I’m accepting.  I’m wondering. My senses are awake though I am at rest, and  am preparing.  I’m climbing.  My eyes are open, my ears are listening, my mouth is slightly parted, and my palms are opened.  I am present and I am still. I’m focusing.

I am not sitting, stagnant.   I’m getting ready to launch

It will happen soon.  Be careful.  Don’t be afraid.

Now, we listen again: Due North

If you want to change the relationship, change the space

I’m coming up on my four year anniversary of living in New York City.  It is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere, other than my parents house growing up.  My anniversary approaches just days after I celebrate a birthday.  The kind of birthday where you sit back and think about where you are, how you got here, how you are, and even Who you are.

The kind of responsibility that comes with age and experience, when you are not responsible for someone else (like children) nor  do you share any responsibility (like a spouse, or partner), seems to be the same kind of responsibility when you first move out of your parents house.  I think I’m trying to say “I don’t feel old.” But then in a statement like that it could come across as having a spouse and/or children would indicate one IS old.  And that’s not what I mean.  I mean the responsibility part.  I am selfish, I can tell you that.  I don’t want to share responsibility or have responsibility for anyone else, right now.  I may not ever, but that is something I can’t say with absolution.  I don’t like to share my food, I don’t want to share my room with anyone.  I don’t want someone else’s things in my space.   I don’t want to come home and cook for someone or change diapers. I like being alone.  I am okay with being alone.  This, is new.  Fairly new, that is:

I think I suffered from some kind of co-dependancy for a while.  Seeking validation from people.  More specifically, from the man in my life at any given time.  It was more like I wanted to be wanted.  I allowed myself to think worth was something I had that had to be weighed, or measured by him–whoever I was dating at the time.  That’s something else that’s different.  The word “dating.”  That definition is different at my now-age, than when I was in my early and mid twenties.  In the event I bother with such an outing I take it very lightly, or very seriously.  Nothing in between.  I have either made a decision prior to the outing that nothing will come of it, or I approach it with an intention to really see if we can become something more.  The problem with the latter, is it’s a rarity.  Because I have also learned what I will accept and not accept.  I’m very picky, which doesn’t leave much room for discovery, or compromise.  I have a certain kind of image that comes to mind when I picture a partner-in-crime, if you will.  Because of that image, I am rarely open to an outing with intent for something more.

I still like dark chocolate better than milk chocolate.  I doubt this will ever change.

I work, hard.  The difference is I enjoy my work, and I enjoy where I work.  That kind of stress-less atmosphere and peace has been a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  So much so, that I no longer take antidepressants.  I no longer ponder, with great depth, any available reason or resource to get me out of work.  The anxiety and stress work used to cause me had a physical harshness that would actually make me sick sometimes.  Sick to my stomach.  Sweaty, sleepless nights.  Terrible headaches.  Combined, they became forces that hurt me mentally, physically, and emotionally.  It is a freeing feeling to take joy in my schedule at work, the people with whom I work, the clients I work on and with.  It is hard work.  It is work I enjoy.  It is work I am good at.  I am appreciated, and acknowledged.  I am requested.  People call, and choose me to be their technician for their needs.  It is humbling, even.  And every night, after I am finished with my final client, I walk out to the lobby and set my eyes angled above the manager at the desk and I take a bow.  She plays along, every night, and cheers and claps. Each bow feels different, each night is different.  Each time, she plays along, and I smile and am reminded again and again, I love my work, and I love where I work.

But…I take a bow?  Yes, really.  As if there was an audience out there.  Or even all of my clients out there.  I often refer to my interviewing at my boutique spa as my audition for the role of esthetician.  With every role, there are performances, after performances we take our bows.  Thanking those who came to see us, so that we can be paid, feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, pay our bills.  I bow.  I thank them.

I am still learning.  I’m currently enrolled in Massage Therapy Education classes so that I can further my career in the spa industry.   Still in a helpful manner, hopefully.  A knowledgeable field.  An important field, in my opinion.  Massage is no longer just a luxury.  It is a kind of therapy that has helped all kinds of people with all kinds of issues with their body.  It is fascinating to learn about the body and how it moves, and how the pieces connect,  and and and and and…There will always be more to learn in this field, and I like that.  I don’t think I’d be able to do something that was finite.  Something that stopped evolving.  Something that had an end.  I am someone who needs to constantly be learning, something.  

I gave up on pieces of me a few years ago.  I tend to use words like “put that part of me away” or “I lost the drive and motivation, so I let it go” but I think the true statement is “I gave up on pieces of me.”  And that is very hard to realize.  It is, I think, even more difficult to say.  I didn’t think that’s what I had done.  I thought I had made a choice.  I thought my chance or time in the world of performing arts had finally come to an end.  It was not long-lived compared to some, but long-enough to many.  I had made a decision that I wasn’t good enough, or fit enough.  I was too tall, to0 curvy or muscular, too loud…I made the decision that I was not what anyone was looking for, and I didn’t have what it took to change someones mind.  I gave up because I was too afraid to take risks.  Failure no longer motivated me to change, it became a luxury I couldn’t afford.  It is so much easier to not follow your heart.  It hurts like hell though.  Like a really hard breakup, the kind where a piece of you dies with the relationship.  It is so much easier…to not follow…your heart.  And so I stopped.  And I allowed the other passions to grow and form.  And I got good at things I was passionate about, like work.

Back to work, huh?  Aren’t you passionate about something else?

No, school and work is my life now.  Or maybe I could say they are my life “right now.”   not forever, but for-now.  And part of the responsibility that comes with accepting this kind of decision is not allowing yourself to get carried away if it starts to hurt again.  It takes discipline.

Which I have none of, I think.  I used to have discipline.  As if it could be something you owned or borrowed.  Rather, I used to be disciplined.  Or is that even correct? In order to be disciplined, or act accordingly…I need something to be important.  I guess, importance is subjective as discipline is relative.  And that just makes me think I must not have anything in my life I find all that important.  (sits back and ponders).

There is a song called “Wondering” from the new broadway musical Bridges of Madison County and it makes my heart pump with joy and ache with pain at the same time.  Anybody want to try to explain that one?  I think it’s a combination of the music and lyrics and the guy singing and the story being told that wraps me up so fast its more like spinning into a web and I am…lost. Or perhaps, rather, I have escaped.  It simultaneously makes me:: want to be in love in a movie, and be in rehearsals, and be dancing and singing, and sleeping cozied up next to someone, and laughing, and crying.  It takes my breath away and reminds me to breathe at the same time.  It lights me up from the inside out, and it starts in my gut and extends sometimes slowly like a creeping fog, or it explodes like lightning and it goes out and out towards the end of my fingertips and toes and I feel it force itself up through my lungs even though I try to suppress it, and it bursts through my lungs breaking my ribs and finds my heart and grabs ahold and squeezes.  And at the same time as soon as it squeezes from the outside in, I can feel it pushing it’s way out of the middle of my heart as well as though it had been living there as small as the head of a pin.  It is painful, and joyful at the same time.

And then the song is over and I am myself again, on my couch, or on the train or anywhere other than–there. And it’s like losing something you didn’t even have.  And it’s confusing, and hard, and beautiful, and it echoes.  It radiates and then I remind myself of where I am, how I got here, the choices I made and that that piece of me isn’t allowed out and then I say WHY??? I infuriate myself.  I struggle, just like everyone else does with decisions–don’t I?  Don’t you?  I want to be relatable, normal–whatever that means.  I want to be someone people look to for truth, for stories, for escape, for reality, for hope, for inspiration…  I want to make people FEEL.  And by putting the actor/performer in me “away” for X amount of time I have done a disservice to who I used to be, and really who I am.  I am doing a disservice to the people that believe in me and encourage me.  I have dismissed their urges and nudges so that I can have my hourly plus tips and commission job that I love and am committed to. So that I can have the roof over my head, the food, the clothes, the electronics, the trips, the new leather jacket.  The things…the things that cost money.  I have done a disservice to my heart and soul, for the security of a paycheck.  Damn that sounds bad–but it shouldn’t be, because I do enjoy my job, it’s just…my  third or fourth passion, not my first or second.

I want to make the right decisions.

Don’t we all?

I miss who I was, now that I am who I am.  I don’t want that to be a poor pitiful me thing.  I don’t want it to be a fishing for a compliment thing.  I just want…it all.  I want it all.  And that places me in a lot of statistics.  That statement makes me a percentage, so I guess regardless of any of what I want or don’t want, what I have or don’t have, I still have to just…make a decision.

And then I think, I’m too old.  I can’t move like that anymore.  I can’t sing like that anymore.  But I also think, the experiences I’ve had in my life make me a better actor. And …I think I need to let that part of me out again.  It’s been hovering.  I get flecks and flashes and moments of pursuing here and there, but as recently as today while writing this I have realized I’m not as happy as I thought I was.  

I’m not unhappy, though.

I just…miss…it.

Missing something isn’t enough anymore.  I am unclear on my intentions, I am unable to specify what I want but I can tell you this.  For the first time in years, as I keep saying to myself, “Put it away, you’re done.  It’s done.  You’re not good enough.  you’re not thin enough or fit enough.  you’re not talented enough.  You’re too old, you’re too fat, to bulky, to this…to that…”    ::something else is responding…

what if the opposite were true?

It would now appear, I am someone who asks questions instead of assuming answers.

And that is not what I expected to come out tonight.

 

 

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