Views From A High Place

Changing the script while allowing the emotional hurricanes to happen. That’s were I’m at. I live every day with depression and anxiety, but work hard to change the internal dialogue. Often it feels like that’s all I do — figure out how to reframe my point of view, so that I can see that silver-lining. The last few months have been excruciating in this vain. In mid-may I started to freak out about my upcoming birthday. I was getting yet another year older and, seemingly still, not wiser or more accomplished. So, the self-help/self-care mindset kicked in, and how! It kicked into full throttle but, what I didn’t see then was why or how, and that I didn’t do it on my own.

As my birthday approached, I planned to dedicate my 32nd year to myself and my art — no longer chasing the love or approval of others. To solidify this commitment, I had planned to hike Cat’s Rock. I was to sit alone on a high mountain and listen for whatever the Great Unknown had to tell for me. I figured it would come bashing me over the head with some grand vision of what I’m supposed to be doing and where I’m at. Because that’s what happens when you meditate on a mountain, right?

In earnestness, I prepped, cleansed, planned, then the weekend came and my day was wet and soggy. Camping alone upstate without proper gear suddenly seemed less inviting. So, I found myself in the city stumbling across another type of high mountain: a man. A man, whose name quite literally translates to “steep hill” or “high place.” This was the exact opposite of what I’d spent weeks hoping for. I was to get away from everything, but instead locked myself in a hotel room with a stranger. High Place had walked into my life changing it drastically. At this point, I’d love to write a sappy, Notebook-style love story, but everything about this torrent of a love affair was wrong. To start, he was married with a child and lived on the opposite end of the country. So, to make a long story short, the magical moments and love found in the two weeks he rushed in and out of my life was doomed to fail.

But that’s ok–it’s not the point. High Place taught me more than I could have ever asked for. His bougie life, met goals, and constant striving pointed to the fact that someone like him could love me and that made me want to be better. But not just better on the surface, but really better, perhaps, even whole. So, I chose to step into myself and think critically about what I wanted, spending time on questions I hadn’t asked since my early twenties. Questions like: What is my life’s purpose? Do I want a partner? What does my life look like with another person? Am I in a place where I can invite another person into my life? Where do I want to plant my roots? Wait, do I want roots? How do I make myself whole to support others with ease and satisfaction?

So in essence, the de rigueur questions revolving around money, job, children, the home, etc. lead me to dig deeper into myself.

I sit here today, one day after High Place’s birthday, which he had said he’d spend with me, alone and assessing my abandonment issues. Woah!! How did we get here? Yup. Meeting High Place showed me that yes, I do want a family. And yes, I do want everything about it to be non-traditional. And yes, I am worthy of having a successful, driven, creative person love me. And yes, I want all of this to come from a place of truth and wholeness. But most of all, if none of this ever shows up I’ll be ok.

High Place is a teacher. People walk in and out of our lives and it’s typical for us to wonder why they came and why they left. In my case, the internal dialogue has always been: What did I do wrong? What did I do to make them not love me? Why am I not good enough? High Place has given me the ultimate gift: I now know and trust that it’s not me.

After meeting High Place, I ran as fast as I could toward what I saw as making myself partner-ready. Convinced if I did enough, well enough, this knight in shining armor would come back and save me, marry me, and we’d live happily ever after. So, I started looking at my habits, making lists, getting my fiances in order. For years, I’ve understood that my physical patterning follows a linear process: if I keep a cleaner diet, I will practice yoga, and if I practice yoga, I will exercise, and if I exercise, I will be creative, and if I’m creative, I will feel fulfilled.

Man, did I run toward fixing myself, literally. I started running in the mornings, stopped drinking alcohol, cut out gluten and dairy, finally quit smoking for good, started flossing, began meditating regularly, built morning practices, got health insurance, started building a new company, organized my finances, redecorated my apartment, started taking voice lessons again, invested in my physical health via The Class, completed the requirements for my 200 hour yoga teacher training (which had been hanging in the air for a year), and the list goes on.

This summer I caught fire. I created vast amounts of change around my life with the hopes of a particular fantastical outcome. What I got was another unexpected gift. I’ve discovered that my emotional patterning of shame, guilt, and never being good enough was created long ago by repeated thoughtless neglect from the male figures in my life. And now I can recognize that this emotional patterning is changeable — and changing it is.

The by-product of working toward shaping myself into someone this knight in shining armor would want to save, is that I no longer need or want to be saved. I can look back on the past few months and reflect on all that has shifted saying, “I’ve done that.” I repeat, “I’ve done that.” Surely a community of loving friends has helped. And I won’t say I’m not without my seriously blue days. But at my core, I’ve found contentment. Contentment with the swings of depression and anxiety. Contentment with my social/financial status and where I am on this journey. Contentment with the practice of living and learning.

I guess that’s the silver-lining of this affair. So, from a room in Brooklyn, I write freely, with deep gratitude and no expectation of outcome. I could not have asked for a greater view.

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Why?

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” ~Anaïs Nin.¹

I put that quote first to justify what I’m doing — convincing myself that I have stories, thoughts, and feelings that others may want to hear. But mostly that quote is there to remind myself that sharing the thoughts that make me uncomfortable is probably making everyone else uncomfortable and all of this discomfort is okay.

Not even a full 24-hours after I posted what I venture to be the first of a very personal group of writings, I find myself manically redoing fonts and customizing themes. It’s my way of soothing the uneasy, raw feelings that accompany the action of putting my insides outside. Giving the visuals a face-lift convinces me that I have some control over what I’ve just published without softening/changing language or just deleting the whole thing.

Why the panic over a deliberate action I chose? I woke up to a text saying, “I just read your blog – I love you and know you better than I ever even thought…because you are me.” This message is kind and sweet, but anxiety inducing because it means that people I know are actually paying attention.

Last night after posting, I saw that a few people had read my words and, of course, immediately went to the stats and saw they were in Alaska. “Great I thought. I know no one in Alaska.” But having a colleague/friend read it?! AND have her text me about it at?!? My fear drove my mouse-brain to Facebook. A sad-face emoticon from my child-hood best-friend. “NO!!” my brain shouted, “This is not the point!”

But is it? I don’t know what I expect(ed) from posting my journal in this face-forward kind of way. Catharsis? Healing? Sharing?  Whatever it supposed to be, gathering sympathy for my state was not on the agenda. The last thing I ever want(ed) is for people to go around feeling sad or sorry for me. The voices inside are already guilting, “No one wants to hear about your feelings.”

“Yeah, but this this is an exercise!” I retort.

Yup. That’s what this is — an exercise in vulnerability. That’s the story I’m choosing to believe today and everyday moving forward. I’ve chosen to walk down this road of unabashed truth. Sharing the painful realities to shake around what’s inside of me and maybe shake it off. This open sharing is something I’ve been working on in someway or another for the last five years. Hell, I’ve even named it: “Confrontational Vulnerability.” But repeatedly, I find myself eating my words or circling back to spaces I’ve already been.

So, at the advice of my gurus Oprah and Brené Brown  (not personal advice because neither of them have any idea who I am) I’m choosing to post what I’ve been scrawling incessantly in books since the age of 7 or 8 on the internet. I’m choosing to do something I do regularly in private, in public.

Who knows. Perhaps, all this is just some more psychological trickery so that I can garner the approval I desperately crave. I hope not. The object of this is not to shove myself deeper into my armor, but to find sense of relief and accountability.

¹The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 5, as quoted in Moving to Antarctica : An Anthology of Women’s Writing, by Margaret Kaminski, (1975).

Midnight Cries

Here I am again. Sleepless. Depressed. Wishing it would all just end.

Looking at the span of nearly five years of work, I’m left disappointed and sad. Yet another failure to be splashed upon the pages of my journal. Worse yet I scroll through Instagram and see everyone’s perfectly edited and stylized lives–I sink further. I’m an obsessive, an addict, and a glutton for punishment– I continue to look.

Perfectionism paralyzes me. I’ve stopped creating, but dream non-stop. It’s crazy-making.

I know I’m deluded. Who wins a grammy having not sung in front of or with anyone in over a year? Who pays their rent as an actor when they audition less than twice a year?Award-wining albums don’t just pop out of nowhere. Filmmakers don’t just hand out roles to people they’ve never seen before. Sure, the internet always makes it appear that way, but I acknowledge and remind myself that these individuals put forth hours, weeks, years of painstaking work. Work that often gets credited to luck.

At least that’s what I was brought up to believe. If I got lucky, I’d be discovered. If I got lucky, I’d get rich. Luck. Not to say hard work wasn’t a firm tenant of my up-bringing– quite the opposite actually–but the hard work was never coupled with a striving toward anything aside the next best minivan. It was toiling to make ends meet. Dreams were merely a fantasy. A fantasy that became reality for a lucky few and may god bless me to get lucky.

This is why I cry at night. I’m locked in a fortress of my own creation. I dream endlessly, but do nothing for myself. My days are filled with toiling for others: administrative details, appointment making, the answering of someone else’s phone. Just recently, I received a back-handed compliment from someone, who said to me (while I was at work, of course), “Wow. Imagine where you’d be if you worked this hard for yourself?” I wanted to reach across the counter and throttle him, but I couldn’t because 1) I work at a yoga studio and 2) I know he’s right. What if I just stepped out and took an action? What IF?!!!????!?!

Knowledge is power they say, but this knowledge still leads me to paralysis.

It’s like I’ve been given the most cancerous cocktail of metal crutches/crucifixes and I can’t die fast enough. I just have to sit here and watch it all slowly drive me insane. Why can’t I just be obliviously entertained by the Kardashians while playing make-up? Or perhaps, actually let go of my fear of imperfection to make some sort of step forward?

Depending on how you look at it, fortunately/unfortunately, I have a cat that relies on me and a yoga practice to keep me from going off the rails. But it doesn’t curb the midnight cries. So here I lie with a fur-ball by my side and a hope that I’ll fall asleep soon.

Explosions – Pt. 1

There’s no curtain to go up–just a mix of wide-eyed art lovers, bitter contrarians, bar-flies, and burlesque fans gathered in a seedy Bushwick venue. The thoughts silence as I step up the make-shift stairs. Two lazy yellow beams of light capture the dusty surroundings, the ramshackle stage. I hear the licks of an electric guitar, the cymbals hiss, and with the wail of a saxophone it begins.

I–am–giving it! Bump’n grinding, slipping off my glitzy ultramarine dress, swirling my inky-feathered boa, peeling off my rhinestoned gloves–all with a wink’n a smile–in full showgirl fashion. My body so electric the air buzzes. My brain pitch black–all I can hear are weeping gasps for breath.

I can hear myself sniveling through “Harlem Nocturne.” These increasingly loud sobs blare not just in my mind, but meld with the music. Elton John’s “I Need You To Turn To” creeps in, tangling tones, creating a morass of music and conflicting sound. Through this chaos, my golden tassels twirl and I’m all smiles. The act is over. I take a bow.

The vaseline-like haze of the plastic tarp filtering my performance drops. I confront the gazes. A new strip begins. Removing the glitter of burlesque accouterments, I stand wig-less and naked leaving my personage in only heels and a bandage to cover my vagina. With the strike of a match, a candle is lit. I am present with the room. I am in love with every face I behold–my misery begins to melt.

In the glow of a single white candle, I peel away the gauze and pull a double-edged razor from my slit.

Satie’s Troisième Gymnopédie glides through the ether. I crouch to meet my audience, my lovers. In ode to the moment, I cut a lock of hair tossing it into the flame. Nothing left to give, I trace the Wilkinson Sword over my heart. Wet, hot, crimson life releases from my skin. The room still, the air heavy, every breath is held.

Traveling this new terrain together, we look down seeing how deep I went. To my surprise, my torso glistens with rivers of blood. My heart emptying, my soul sits quiet, I am stripped bare.

Rising above the room’s silent stares, I stride to my right collecting a dish of water and splash it on the audience. With the essence of life in my right hand, I gather its antithesis set to my left. Centered, grounded, I baptize my newly opened heart. With equal gravitas, I sprinkle salt onto the flesh wound. Blood trickling down my stomach, grazing my labia, I step off of the stage up onto a pillar. I remain statuesque for the duration of twenty minutes.

Without words, my lovers worship me taking water from my bowl washing me clean. Simultaneously, other lovers prod at me, salting my gash in disbelief–one so cruel as to lick her finger and grind the salt into each bleeding section. I stood still gazing out serenely smiling. My lovers quarreled over my care–one unknown man standing vigil until it was all over.

The night closed, leaving me with nothing but a fleeting experiment and a piece of card stock on which someone wrote, “This is not Art.”  You are right dear friend, this is not art–this is an act of Confrontational Vulnerability.