I Grew Up in Church

I grew up in Church

With a God who loved me conditionally

 

For God so loved the word that

If you think or say or do or are the wrong thing

You must suffer eternal damnation

 

I grew up in Church

With a mom who loved me conditionally

 

For mom so loved her daughter she told her to

Sing in the choir and be there for Sunday School, Advent, Easter, and Lent

Or you’re not a good girl

 

I grew up in Church

With a dad who loved me unconditionally

 

For Dad so loved his daughter that

If she behaved incorrectly

He was ashamed and walked away

 

I grew up in Church

Where I loved me conditionally

 

For I couldn’t love what I learned in that Church

So I couldn’t be loved

Not even by me

 

Release

When I died, I flew away

Away from want and frustration

I flew away from confusion and obfuscation

I flew away… just away

 

I traveled over lust and curiosity

I saw anticipation and tingly feelings of joy

I watched longing and ache, melancholy and shock

I flew above them all and didn’t react

 

I saw myself cry

I saw myself leap for joy

I saw myself laugh so hard I held myself with my arms

I saw myself hiding in pillows and blankets

Waiting for the awful to subside

 

When I died, I felt and didn’t feel everything

It all traveled within me while I named none of it

Everything washed over me like an impossibly warm waterfall

The exact same temperature as my body

 

When I died, I left all of this

I left unrequited love and jealousy

I left I can’t remember and I don’t want to

I left you should have known better

 

From not too high above

I watched myself not have

I also watched myself hold and treasure

For a moment I worried that I might fall back into it all

 

I was heartbroken

I was ecstatic with life

I wept in spasms that I thought would rupture me

I remembered that I lept into anything, with people I loved

And I felt happiness too powerful to name

Without knowing I should label it for safekeeping

 

When I died, I felt everything

It all traveled within me while I held none of it

Everything washed over me like an impossibly warm waterfall

The exact same temperature as my body

Perfekshunism

I bought an ukulele and have begun teaching myself a few cords. I’m also taking a script writing class and continue experimentation with watercolors (as opposed to the acrylic paints, with which I’m much more comfortable). I’m really making a lot of effort to continue learning wherever and whenever possible.

All this on an island where I am constantly surrounded by and do not speak the native language and am trying to absorb and understand a culture that is seemingly entirely separate from my own.

… and it’s working. I’m not putting pressure on myself to learn any of these now. In fact, I’m giving myself permission to be awful at everything I’m attempting to learn. THAT permission to fail is much more foreign to me than the language here and I secretly love it. I love my immature paintings, fumbled strummed cords and garbled language and misunderstandings. Because that permission to fail is so foreign and thrilling… it’s exciting to finish something and say “wow, I really fucked that up – and it’s okay!”

Weeee!

What will I fuck up next? surfing? Well, maybe I won’t go quite that far… but I could try making nice with someone I really don’t like… or perhaps shutting the hell up when every fiber of my being wants to shout about something.

I’ll tell you what – something that’s been really pretty cool is giving myself permission to fail while meditating. Actually, that may just be the key to meditating for me… FAILURE to keep my mind in one place for more than a millisecond!

Okay, so to wrap this up… I’m discovering that my success in any one attempt/field/project does not define me. My ATTEMPT and the honest outcome of it – now that’s the sweet stuff.

Define me? Oh, who the hell cares. I don’t think I really need to do that anymore. Do you?

I know full well that most of these will get better with time. I also know full well that my [perfectionist] nature is also getting better with time. Who knows, a few more awful renditions of Under the Boardwalk on my ukulele, another awful scene written by Donna and another mispronunciation of a really common name here in Hawaii and I just may learn to never again beat myself up for anything less than perfection!

VISION QUEST 2011, Part I

Yes, I have been on a vision quest.  In fact, I’ve been on two, 2010 and 2011.  What exactly constitutes a “vision quest,” you may ask?  For me, it’s a nice, neat package of openness, opportunity and contemplation, all concentrated into a small lump of time and travel.

  • Be open to big changes in your life
  • Have a week to travel and no need to plan most of that time
  • Have enough money and/or creativity to take care of basic needs (eating,  sleeping and getting from A to B to C)
  • Bring at least one big question
  • Bring an open mind and willingness to let answers unfold over the next year or so
  • Bring a journal and write in it every day
  • Bring curiosity and high, but loosely defined expectations
  • Seek adventure and newness every day of the quest – pick up brochures, ask for recommendations and be willing to drive down the road just because it seems like the right thing to do at the moment
  • Talk to strangers with no expectations, but don’t be surprised if they reveal the secrets you’ve been looking for
  • Spend a lot of time alone – in nature if possible – appreciating your surroundings
  • If possible, begin the quest with loved ones who will cheer you on and ask questions about your upcoming days
  • If possible, end the quest with friends who will ask questions and listen – people who help you define the experience
  • Breathe – notice smells, sights, sounds and above all else, feelings

I began both of my vision quests with my darling nephew, Jason.  I ended each with my dear friends, Heather and Michael.  There are hundreds of miles and  a plethora of experiences between said nephew and friends.  This is the meat of the quest.  (but don’t get me wrong, the meat would be little without the dear, cheering and the defining bookends.)

Both of my quests initially centered on visits to a woman named Jo Carson and an art project she inspired.  I read a book of Jo’s and we eventually became acquaintances, and  later friends.   Both times I traveled at Jo’s request, but knew I would not travel that 1000 miles to spend a lot of time with her as she has been very ill and easily exhausted .  I basically traveled both times to spend a total of 8 hours with Jo (that’s another blog).  I appreciated the time I had with her, but also appreciated the time I spent with a waiter in a restaurant one night, a woman who sat next to me at the dining room table in a bed and breakfast one morning, a timber wolf who lazily stared at me through a chain link fence and a ghost named Lydia, with whom I spent two nights… just the two of us in a secluded bed and breakfast that was once her childhood home.

And here’s another piece of the quest: I have felt driven to take each trip, despite bad timing and the necessity for frugality.  I was  certain of the need to travel and circumstances unfolded to allow me to do so.

The first trip was initially invited in October of 2009, but circumstances in my life didn’t open up for that… it was delayed until May of 2010.  At that time, I KNEW the time was right and I went.

In August of 2011, similar circumstances drove me to begin readying for another quest.  Along the way, I had doubts.  While doubting, I stopped at a rest area to get something to eat (or perhaps more appropriately, I wanted to assuage my doubting heart with some Oreos).  I stood at a vending machine and reached into my purse for a bill.  My heart nearly stopped when I pulled out a bill that had my name very clearly written on it.  You see, when I began the trip, I had an empty wallet – I stopped for cash in my home town, then got change at a gas station somewhere in Indiana.  That is the origin of the bill.  The poignant moment in front of the vending machine is such a landmark because of the question in my mind as well as the answer… had I not gone on the trip, someone whose name probably wasn’t Donna would have gotten the $5 as change in the gas station somewhere in Indiana.  They probably wouldn’t have had a question of “am I where I should be” on their hearts and they most assuredly wouldn’t have been impressed by seeing my name of a $5 bill.

I suppose that $5 is a good thought to continue on at this point because it sums up all that anyone has to give to receive gain on a vision quest.  Be willing to see visions and ready to allow your heart AND your mind to interpret them.  Bring the journal so you can remember all that you’ve experienced.  Talk to strangers – even let them in on the story – but do not allow their opinions to define your experience.  Frankly,, they may be there specifically to teach you not to allow anyone else to define your world for you.

I don’t want to put to much definition on the rules of this experience.  After all, not having rules is what makes it so special.  On these quests, I have never planned more than thirty-six hours ahead.  Because of this, I’ve received lovely discounts on 4-star available rooms exactly when and where I needed them.  I have also used Priceline to find a good deal on your basic chain hotel.  I’ve written in my journal beside pools, in animal sanctuaries, at highway rest areas, in my nephew’s and friends’ homes, in several restaurants and coffee shops, mountain tops, along rivers and on park benches.  I’ve met people who had recovered from tragic loss, accomplished amazing 18-year journeys, were living their dreams and reaching almost as much as I was.  They all helped me.

That brings me to another type of person – and they helped me too – the people who are not searching, are not happy and don’t believe in hope.  They appear like neon lights above your bed during a lovely dream.  You notice them and they jar you from your peace.  Frankly, you probably jar them as well.  Let them affirm your quest and do not allow them to bring you down.

I once talked with a waiter who first  befriended me, then became cold and literally backed away from me – all while I didn’t say much.  I think the problem was that I was just so frickin’ happy.  I gave him a nice tip.  I remember that because my bill was $41 and I happily rounded it up to $50 to allow for a generous tip (I figured anyone who could turn so chilly and mistrustful to a happy stranger who asked for nothing other than items on the menu, needed a good tip).  When I returned home and sorted through my bank statement, I noted that said waiter refused the tip – I was only charged $41 that night.   I was in the business long enough to know something like that does not happen by accident.  I believe he recognized something only in retrospect.  He recognized something he couldn’t deal with at the time, but in retrospect, he couldn’t accept that gift from someone so foreign.

Okay, I’m wrapping this up now – too much definition of a vision quest is not a good thing.  As I work through my findings from VQ 2011, I’ll post them here.  I will benefit from the thought process behind writing more about it.  Perhaps someone will read and feel inspired to take a VQ of their own.

If you go in the right spirit of open expectation of vision, the time you spend on the quest will reward you hundreds of times over!

The First Rule of Art Club…

Private Art is my new obsession. Remember, I’m an actress… the opportunity to create something strictly for myself, is tantalizing and fulfilling, and damn near naughty. I love it. Whatever I do within this realm, is for me – for my growth as a person – and nothing else. Ahhhh.

As a director and acting teacher, I have always preached to my actors that the “end” result of their performance is not apparent when the curtain falls; it is what you, the actors, the designers, technicians and audience members take with you when you leave the theatre. It is REALLY difficult to convince a theatre artist that performance alone isn’t the most important thing in the world. The best I believe I have managed to do, is convince an actor or two that this performance will probably make the next better. Harumph…

As a theatre Managing Director, I preached to our audiences, Board and committee Members (and anyone else who would listen) that we were supporting our own growth through the act of enabling the creation art. Frankly, I don’t think very many people took that idea seriously. Some nodded their heads, more rolled their eyes or simply voiced their tacit disagreement/disapproval/ennui. I obviously have not yet found a way to express this idea clearly and in a compelling fashion. Well, I’m not giving up, dammit!

When I research a character, hone my performance skills, craft a song, paint, sculpt, take a photograph or write a poem or story, I choose to grow as a person from the experience of the process of artistic creation. I learn about myself; I teach myself; I develop skills that you cannot see or hear or experience in that construct itself… only in me. I grow as an individual.

Now, you may grow as an individual as a result of experiencing my artistic product – my performance or piece – and that’s lovely. I really appreciate that idea, but that is not what this is about. I’ve spent most of my life trying to create something that will move you. I don’t mean to sound harsh here, but that’s enough for you – I want this for me. I’m putting the oxygen mask over my face first, as it were.

Okay, now imagine a room or a town or a Town Hall or a company or congregation, filled with individuals who purposefully grow and develop themselves through the act of artistic creation. Do you see it? I honestly believe we are all doing our best at any given time, most of the time. I don’t mean to belittle your best or that of the person next to you. What I’m suggesting is that our best can improve if we find a vehicle to facilitate activation of some different brain cells and a fresh point of view.

And now we’re back to my painting again. And please, insert your form of art in the place of “painting.” If you don’t have a form of art, decide on one, it won’t matter if you feel you can do it well or not, you don’t have to ever show it to anyone or even talk about it. In fact…

The first rule of our new art club: Do not talk about art club.

That’s the second rule too.

The third rule: Do not show, exhibit, print, frame, re-enact, record or otherwise raise up on a flagpole whatever artistic expression it is that you choose to bring to Art Club. Don’t talk about it, show it, share it or think for one moment that anyone but you will experience whatever you choose “it” to be. The thing itself is absolutely relevant, but only to you in this moment.

Back to my Private Art [painting] again. I’m not going to talk about it, but I will talk about the growth, pleasure and stimulation I receive as a result of it. I am learning patience and acceptance of my expression of process. I am learning to see the world around me without judgment or editing. I am learning that what I thought was true – that which I would have sworn was true… have committed hours and years to… have dressed and worked and said and done for the sake of… have begun and ended relationships because of… have hated and loved in the name of – has not been true and in fact, was only real, substantial and relevant to me, in my mind, in that moment.

That is what I’ve learned thus far from my “it.” Jeez, I can hardly wait for the next visit to Art Club!

I’m still a conventional artist. Hell, I’m posting this blog, right? This is not exactly the front page of the New York Times, but then again, it’s out there to be seen. My Private Art is separate from any piece or story I choose to share with the rest of the world – My Private art is what I bring to Art Club. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.