Zero Sum, blah blah

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zero-sum, noun

: of, relating to, or being a situation (such as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side.

win-win, adjective

: advantageous or satisfactory to all parties involved.

Wowza!!! September.

I arrived back in New Mexico on Friday night, amid a fantastic electric thunder storm that lit up the night sky as we drove west on I-40. The smell of desert rain came through the vent as NPR played in the background. After not having slept well for about a month, and almost not at all for a week, I was on autopilot, willing myself to drive and arrive safely and to think about what comes next, later.

Everything felt completely familiar and totally different.

Listening to our President speak on NPR, I was almost jealous of his ignorant black and white view of the world. Jealous is the wrong word, but how nice it must be to live in a fabricated world of certainty where there is right and wrong and winners and losers, good/bad and never any grey or complication.

Moving back to New Mexico didn’t make LA any less cool in my mind. It didn’t make the things that worked for me there any less great, nor did it mean I’d never return.  Coming back to the beauty, familiarity, and ease of my home state, didn’t mean that the things that had previously annoyed me or felt small here would suddenly cease to do so. My love and annoyance with each could and would exist simultaneously.

paradox, noun

: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded and true.

In her book “You are a Badass. How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life,” author Jen Sincero writes about the idea of just seeing what you can get away with. Because that book, which I love (and which you will too), is still packed away with all of my other books, I’ll paraphrase; we are our own worst enemies in that we limit ourselves before giving ourselves a chance to even begin, by thinking of the ways in which something probably won’t work, so therefor why bother?

You want to work as little as possible and live as well as possible and travel and create things and do all of the stuff you want to do, when you want to do it? You basically want it all? Good luck!

Why thank you, yes. I do want it all. I want to be healthy and alive and vibrant and in so doing, inspire others to do/be the same, the way others have inspired me. I want to live where I want to live, work where/when I want to work, and stop believing that somehow this is asking too much.

My hairstylist in LA just moved to Oakland to become a baker. Several friends are going back to school. My neighbor in Albuquerque refuses debt of any sort and pays cash for everything; it’s taken him 15 years to fix up his 150 year old adobe home, but now it’s beautiful and he did it on his terms.

Who says that to have this, you can’t have that? Or to do this, you can’t do that? Bosses, teachers, advertisers, parents, banks, co-workers, and so many other voices that are not actually ours, or true, weasel their way into our brains and come out sounding like practical logic. Based on what? Other people’s fears or a company’s desire to sell you something?

I am going back to looking at the adventure of it all and asking Why Not when an idea pops into my mind. I refuse to believe that for this to work, that can’t work, or that win-win situations, in which we all come out ahead, are too idealistic. Let’s just see what we can get away with!

Photo taken on I-40 West, near Holbrook, AZ.

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Chaos

 

IMG_7396My life is currently in boxes, covered in bubble wrap, and running on caffeine and meditation. The show I’ve been working on since March is coming to a close and, along with my apartment, is being packed, boxed, and moved. Though I don’t have to actually move until the end of the month, I find it easier to just do it now, little by little on my weekends, so that my brain has one less reason to wake at 3 a.m.

I am not a good procrastinator. Once I make a decision, I just want to get on with it already.

I recently read a great book entitled “first, we make the beast beautiful” by Sarah Wilson. IMG_7606

In it, she takes us through her struggles with anxiety and, though mine differ from hers in several ways, I found myself having “aha moments” throughout and passing the book along to several friends. Though there were too many such moments to mention here, and you really should just read the book if any of this sounds familiar, the ones that  stood out were about the need for a non negotiable morning routine, how not making decisions can increase our anxiety rather than the other way around, and the idea that anxiety can not survive in the present moment; thus when people find themselves in real legit crises, when one might think their anxiety would spike, instead it ceases completely.

Having a morning routine is a certainty anchor with really sturdy stakes….once the certainty anchors are in place, the day starts and all kinds of chaotic decision-making can then ensue. (p 217-218)

I know my morning routine has not only gotten me through the past few months, but has helped me to be kinder and more patient, with myself and others, as well. I wake 1.5-2 hours before I need to leave (that can be really early when working on a film set) which  this gives me enough time to stretch for 10 minutes, meditate for 20, make my lunch, and get ready. I use the ‘Insight Timer’ app on my phone for guided meditations or as a meditation timer and, as of this morning, it told me that I have meditated for 96 consecutive days. I remember the day I began meditating after a long break; it was right after I returned from a month of working in Monterey County, in May.  I woke one morning, looked around my apartment, panicked and knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Meditation helped me to get clear about the direction I wanted to go.

The funny thing is that behavior studies show that we think making a decision is more anxiety-riddled than not making a decision. But, in fact, the opposite is true…when we decide to do something and it turns out badly, it mostly doesn’t haunt us down the track…failing to act on a decision, however, will haunt us. The infinite possibilities of what might have been get us into all kinds of anxious messes. (p 223)

Once I made the decision to move back to NM, even though it temporarily threw my life into chaos, I felt an overwhelming calm. In the past, I have been known to passively make decisions by not making decisions (fyi, it’s still a decision and the consequences I was hoping to avoid by not making a decision in the first place were still mine to deal with in the end). And, I have also been known to make decisions and then feel trapped by that decision, forgetting momentarily that I am always free to simply make another decision, to choose differently, and to change my mind.

Los Angeles was a choice I made that I knew would haunt me on some level if I didn’t give it another try. I am glad I did. Moving back to NM is a choice that feels good right now, but who knows? Will it in a year? We will never know the answer to these questions so, just take the next right step and see where it leads. Trying to figure it out ahead of time is a guaranteed anxiety producer!

You can’t be anxious and be in the present. And you can’t be anxious and attend to genuine fear or catastrophes. And you can’t be anxious and walk mindfully or breathe deeply. (p 230)

I should be anxious right now, but I’m not. Anytime I wake up in the middle of the night, wondering what I am doing, I just breathe and remind myself that it is all an adventure.  People move, change careers, get dogs, and come up with the plan as they go, all of the time. But, “first, we make the beast beautiful,” and therefor less scary.

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RIP AB

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But, that’s ok. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.

-Anthony Bourdain

Thank you for packing us in your suitcase, including us in your travels, for your humanity, stories, humor, words, for urging us to choose the adventure, eat the unfamiliar, explore, and for leaving so much good behind. You were my role model, inspiration, and my always crush.

Rest In Peace.

Who Am I?


I’m standing on the side of a rural highway in Georgia. And it is hot. Sticky. The humid air is visible,  something I’m not used to coming from the desert. A small breeze tries to blow periodically, but then gets tired and gives up, not that I would be able to feel it anyway. I (the girl who grew up running around on the prairie, playing in arroyos, camping) am covered head to toe in every bug deterrent clothing item made and sold by REI, to the point that only my face is visible.  Stories of ticks and chiggers run through my head. I stand on the paved shoulder, afraid of the grass and what might lurk below. Who am I and when did I turn into the type of urban princess I used to scoff at?

Early in my costuming career, in New Mexico, I would smile quietly when the LA part of the department arrived on location wearing cute, clean, impractical shoes, complained about the local restaurants, or were scared of the bugs.  Buck up, I’d think. 

Standing on the side of the highway, I look across and see a young girl playing on a slip and slide in her front yard. She runs back and forth with her brother as their mom sits on the porch, watching, drinking a coke and smoking a cigarette. Every once in a while they turn to watch us; dozens of people who just appeared on the side of their road, filming a car driving back and forth, all covered head to toe. Periodically the girl or her brother slide too far and end up in the long grass at the edge of the yard, the same grass I’m scared of. I watch them scream and slide and, very slowly, I lean over, untuck my pants from my socks, and unzip the legs. 

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What if…?

IMG_8709What if we never figure it out? What if we never figure out whether a conversation we had with our dad at age twelve inadvertently influenced our future relationships with men or which grain is causing our skin to break out periodically? I was having a similar conversation recently with one of my dear friends, a fellow searcher and investigator of life, while sitting on bar stools at a Cajun restaurant in DTLA. What if we just have to be ok with never actually figuring any of it out?

I have a stack of self help, health, and relationship books that moves around my apartment. At times next to my bed, or on the couch, or periodically back on the bookshelf and, while the books themselves change, the stack somehow remains a fairly constant four books high.  Combine this stack with the journal that is always near, various classes, workshops, and self help groups, and much of my life has been dedicated to figuring it/me/us out. So, what if that is impossible?

I’m starting to realize that may be entirely beside the point of why we are here.  Thinking along those lines has repeatedly led me towards the idea that one day, down the road, I will get it, playing on the idea of destination as goal, rather than  journey.  It also begs the question, “So, you finally figure it all out, now what? Are you just a satisfied lump, content to sit on your couch ‘all figured out’ or a constantly evolving being that will simply move onto new and different questions once some are answered?”  If life has taught me anything, it’s that that destination centric thinking will lead to both suffering and missing out, whereas when we view “it” and ourselves as a constantly evolving adventure/creation/cosmic joke, one in which the journey is the point, then joy, creativity, and fun have room to flourish.

Fun! That word was nowhere to found on my to do/have lists until recently. And, though I do have to be healthy enough spiritually, emotionally, and physically to have it, it is just as important in keeping me healthy on those same levels as any of my diets, workshops or books. When I find myself taking “it” and myself too seriously, all I have to do is remember that we are literally spinning on a big round planet, through space. Why? Who knows?! So, take the day off, eat the cake, write the song, take the class, say yes, quit the job, buy the shoes, go on the trip, and let go of the lists, the rules, and the need to know. Because we may never figure it out. And that will just have to be ok.

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Adventure

Happy 2017, smagik readers! 

On NYE morning, I woke up in a motel in Kingman, Arizona, half way between NM and LA. New Years Eve. 2016 for another few hours. And, as I sat eating my complimentary breakfast, all I could think was “I didn’t realize leaving my comfort zone would be so uncomfortable.” Ha! That possibility had honestly never crossed my mind. Not until I was home for Christmas, loading up my car with things to take to LA, saying goodbye to family, and driving across the desert, again. 

When I arrived in LA, it was drizzling and chilly as I made the fifteen or so trips up and down 48 stairs to unload art, dishes, shoes, files, Christmas presents, one Buddha statue, and a shelf from my car. Once unloaded, I stared at piles of things deemed worthy of bringing west. Wow, now what? “Just keep going,” whispered a voice. 

While home for Christmas, I became aware of two distinct voices raging a sort of battle in my head. One was loud, screaming, scared, gripping, wanting only to stay safe, secure, and to know how everything was going to turn out. The other was a faint whisper that told me to keep going and to trust that I was being guided. And for much of the trip, the screams were winning. It was only after my first panic attack in ten years, late at night on Christmas night, that I realized how quickly and urgently I had been operating for the past few months and that it was time to get quiet, slow down, and come back to the whispers.  

When I slow down, tune in, and keep myself very, very present, it is easy to trust in the adventure and timing of my life. When I move too fast and try to manhandle the universe into doing things exactly how I want them done, WHEN I want them done, panic ensues. 

So, here I am in my fairly empty but cute apartment, sharing walls with strangers for the first time since college, exploring a new neighborhood, and trying to just make one decision at a time. All I know is that this feels right for the time being. I needed to mix things up and I succeeded and I have to trust that I will continue to succeed. 

Because I find there to be the finest of lines between fear and excitement, I choose Adventure as my word for 2017. When handed choices, obstacles, and situations, I plan to make my decisions from a place of “what is the adventurous, and therefor trusting, way to do this?” It builds upon my 2016 word of Faith, around which I know I still have more than a few lessons to learn. I trust that by bringing Adventure into the mix, I will choose fun and joy more frequently, keep myself present, and practice having Faith that I am being guided through the fog. Onward! 


I wish all of you a joyous, happy, present, fun, healthy, prosperous, and adventurous year!! Make it great! 

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