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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LA

Ten years ago I packed my car and made the first of what would be dozens of drives from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, and back.

The 4th of July, 2008, and 119 degrees in the Mojave desert. I stopped outside of Needles, California, to get gas and a chocolate dipped cone at Dairy Queen and had to eat it in one bite to prevent vanilla from melting down my arm. That night I made it to my then boyfriend’s apartment, overlooking the lake in Echo Park, in time to watch East LA explode in an illegal frenzy of fireworks. Though I’d visited periodically in the year we’d been dating, I remember feeling like a country mouse in the city. That night I lay in bed as police helicopters circled the park outside the window, shining their searchlight inside, looking for someone. It was hot out. I didn’t sleep.

In the years that followed, I became comfortable in LA, joined their costumer’s union, and created a routine between the two cities, mixing slow and fast paced, laid back with competitive.

And then, two years ago, I became tired of that routine and wanted to shake it up, develop a new one, have an adventure, try something new. LA seemed the safest way to do that. The truth is that even in my need to break free I was practical and conservative.

Recently a friend asked me if I thought of myself as a romantic. Yes, I replied. Though a practical one. She laughed. I’m the same, she said.

I make lists but they go something like this-

Watch sunsets.

Learn to make bread and yogurt.

Get a dog. Name her Pearl. If a girl.

Dig in the dirt.

Open a little shop.

Etc.

You get the idea.

And then one day, a few months ago, one of my many lists became one of pros and cons. LA/NM. Uh oh. As soon as I started writing, I knew another move was in my future.

LA Pros-

Fun, exciting, interesting, creative, accessible, museums, concerts, stores, classes, friends, The Moth, live theater, earn more money, inspiring…

NM Pros-

My cute/inexpensive house, family, friends, quality of life, low overhead, dog yard is ready, garden, air quality, commute times, mountains, spend less money…

LA Cons-

Expensive, hate paying rent, need a roommate or boyfriend just to afford renting a house with a yard, much less ever buying one, traffic, air, have to work too much…

NM Cons…

Slow paced.

I groaned. Do I really have to move my stuff down 60 stairs again, less than two years after my dad helped me move it up in a blinding rainstorm with no electricity?

Yup.

A friend asked me today if I will miss LA? I love LA! I will miss it. But, the truth is that my ego will miss it more than my soul.

I also know that it is here, hopefully not falling into the ocean anytime soon, and I will return to work and play, just not to live.

And so the adventure continues. And, yet again, the only constant is change.

Stay tuned…

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Living the Dream

I’m sitting in Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove, California, because it’s as close as I can get to my kitchen at the moment. Three weeks into my four week stay and all I want is tea, toast, to write, and listen to music on Saturday mornings and, though some of that is possible from my room at the Hyatt, I prefer the long wooden tables decorated with mason jars of peonies, along with a dirty chai, at Happy Girl.

The boats, whales, and otters of Monterey Bay are just a few blocks away, visible past rows of pristine Craftsman and Victorian houses and a fresh, fishy smell of ocean permeates.

I am up early after dropping an actress’s dry cleaning, needed for Monday, at the cleaners.

The espresso mixed in my chai has yet to kick in and I’m groggy after a long week.

Later today I will go to the grocery store and stock up on my last week’s supply of daily salad ingredients and morning yogurt accessories, berries and such, to stuff in my mini fridge. There is a method to fitting one week’s food into such a small space and it has taken me fifteen years to figure it out. I also remembered the knife, fork, spoon, and sponge this time around.

“You bring your lunch every day?” co- workers ask. “You wash your dishes in the bathroom? I’d be too grossed out,” one replied. “How do you find the time?” others wonder.

“I have to,” I reply. It connects me.

For the first week of my current month on location, the anxiety that somehow the life I love had been erased, yet again, and replaced with nothing but work and a hotel room consumed me.

How to integrate the lives we live, to always feel connected, no matter the circumstances?

I wake early to chop veggies and make hot water with lemon. It is my meditation. Along with my other meditation, preparing food, writing, taking walks, pulling my daily tarot cards, and documenting it all with a camera are the ways I connect back with myself when it seems that my periodically all consuming costuming career will suck me in and forget to spit me back out.

When I remember to connect to myself in these small ways, the anxiety subsides and I am present, able to enjoy whatever may be around me, wherever I may be. And lately I just happen to be in some of the most beautiful places on earth.

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Integration

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Two weeks into my first full time job since August and the black hole that is a film set has yet to totally suck me in and, if I have my way, this one never will.

I went to the dentist recently and she asked how I was sleeping. Well, I replied, I’ve been sleeping well. I can tell, she said. You haven’t been gritting your teeth.

Am I finally learning to balance it all?

Two days until my 39th birthday; well timed to fall on Good Friday, a union holiday.

The lessons keep coming- Let it be. Be present. Communicate. Create daily, even when I don’t have time or energy to “be creative”. Cook on Sundays so I have healthy, home cooked food to eat throughout the week. Write even when I don’t know what to say, like today. Have gratitude for this amazing little life I’ve been given. Take it day by day. Enjoy. Lighten up.

And don’t forget the CBD! Ha, I am not kidding. I began trying different kinds of CBD products in October and have felt a profound shift in my body and mind over the past six months (google it, I am not expert, but it works!!!!!!) Because it helped lower my overall anxiety, my sleep, and therefor my health, has dramatically improved, giving me more energy for all of those previously mentioned lessons.

And, as I look towards 39, I choose Integration as my new word. For 2018 I chose Love and now I will combine the two… Creativity/Love/Work/Friends/Food/Exercise/Travel/Fun/Service/Action/Relaxation…

These are the days and I want it all mushed together into one big, awesome life package.

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One year later.

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It’s been just over a year since I signed the lease on my apartment in LA and just under one since I first saw it empty, before it had been painted or cleaned, on December 1st. I started to cry when I entered the sad looking kitchen to pick up the keys and wondered “what on earth have I done?” One week earlier I had seen potential; good windows with a lot of light, dark wood floors, high ceilings, and a killer location. My gut told me it was a good landing pad and had enough of what I was looking for to jump in and commit. Now, holding the keys, I wasn’t so sure.

My gut was right.

And it’s already been a year. Wow!

The parrot who whistles in an oddly human way and lives downstairs is now part of my soundtrack. The neighbors next door let me pick pomegranates from their tree. I walk in the Silver Lake hills for cardio. I made new friends, as an adult, living in LA!

Over the past year I have kept the “what on earth are you doing?” voices at bay by answering with a simple “it’s all an adventure.” There is no big plan, no grand vision that I will check off a list and be done with. But, rather, there are many small visions that continuously guide me in one direction, periodically overlapping and mingling. If there is a grand plan it is happiness and presence and authenticity, to feel that I am actively participating in and creating my life with each of my decisions and no longer passively coasting.

While talking to a friend about my interests in tarot and improv and writing, I said “I’m just getting weirder and weirder,” to which she replied, “no, you’re just getting you-er and you-er.”

I was so afraid to let go of my comfortable life in New Mexico but knew on a gut level that comfort was not my friend, at least not now, maybe not ever. I needed to know what I was capable of and to push myself. The ironic and unforeseen part was that when I chose to uproot and take myself away from that external comfort, a new internal one took its place. I have confidence in myself, my gut, my voice, and in my ability to make a home wherever I am, that I didn’t have before.

What I could never have predicted was that, at the same time I chose adventure over fear, the world was asked to choose as well. It is fascinating to watch how that choice, the way in which we all view change, has split our country and our world over the past year.  Will it be expansion, love, trust, and progress, as we move forward into an unknown? Or fear and constriction as we futilely cling to what once was?

May you live in interesting times.  – Chinese curse.

It has been interesting! Exhausting. Fascinating.

And, the truth is that, for all of us, there is no going back. There is no “oh I’ll just go have a little revolution, personal or otherwise, and then fit nicely back into this hole I have been in!” Nope. We are in it now and all we can do is continue to move in the direction of love and faith, always choosing to see the adventure side of the coin.

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Present Tense.

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October 2017 is almost over. Wow.  With two months left in which, as the previous ten have demonstrated, anything can happen, give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far, for taking a minute to sit and read a blog post, and for continuously doing the best you can.

I recently spoke with a few friends and loved ones who each seem to be asking the same questions, their own versions of the ones I’ve spent the past two months pondering at 2:14 in the morning, instead of sleeping.  What am I doing? Does there need to be an end goal or is this enough? Will the dots ever connect?

Because of my nervous system and brain’s penchant for insomnia and pondering instead of REMs, I have been writing and blogging less than I’d like.  As anyone who doesn’t sleep well knows, the dull, dream like state left behind after a night of tossing about, does not lend itself to creativity. I have had no choice but to turn it into another lesson in acceptance. Acceptance of what is. I can do what I can to try to sleep, but in the end it is out of my control and no matter that I-  1.turn lights off at dusk,  2. take melatonin, 3. meditate, 4. exercise, 5. don’t look at any blue lights (phone, computer, TV) before bed- sometimes I sleep like a baby and other nights I literally never fall asleep. It is what it is. But, letting go of the idea that there is more I can do or that I am doing something wrong, that somehow I can control it, is not easy.

But, as with all lessons we don’t choose but which choose us, they come bearing hidden blessings. My life has become shockingly present. I can almost not see past the end of the month, which is only next week! I am planning a trip to India for this January and you would think it was for the year 2090 by the way I have been unable to wrap my head around the idea of just three months from now. My work schedule changes week by week, I have an improv class starting on Saturdays and a writing class on Wednesdays. And that is it. As scheduled and planned as I can be right now. I’ve tried buying concert tickets or plane tickets to visit friends, only to give them away or end up with a credit for future travel, because in the course of two weeks everything changes.

At least for now, I’ve given up on planning more than a week in advance and concentrate on steering my thoughts and actions in small, beneficial directions. What should I cook today? Today I will call my friends and check in, go for a walk,  write something or finish reading that book, be kind to my grumpy and tired coworkers who are just as sleep deprived as I am,  let that person merge into my lane, try that recipe, do my morning stretches, meditate, turn off the news and turn on music, and do what I can to keep my side of the street clean,  thereby being of service to the world and to myself.  Even as I write this, I laugh at how unambitious and yet totally ambitious that list is. What a paradox that the most basic things we do for ourselves can also be the most difficult to do regularly, for simple does not mean easy.  If anything, it’s often easier to make elaborate, future based plans in an effort to avoid the present, with it’s frequent discomfort.

In a recent email from a friend, she mentioned that amidst huge upheaval in her life and lots of unanswered questions, she is happy that she lives near an open air market with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale. Another friend told me that her afternoon plans involved going home to lie in the grass in an effort to calm down and enjoy the fall afternoon. Yet another was excited because she had absolutely no plans for the weekend.   It seems that if 2017 has been good for something, it has helped us get back to the basics. What do we value? What kind of lives do we want to live? What makes us laugh or what calms us down in the midst of chaos? How can we benefit our communities on a small, human scale? What would we take if a wildfire or flood gave us less than one minute to grab our most important item and run? How do we listen to news of possible nuclear war, global warming, sexual predators, and political ineptitude and keep on smiling? How do we stay present?

These are the questions that run through my head when it is dark and the palm frond shadows dance against the window and I can hear my downstairs neighbor’s snores through the floorboards. It is only by becoming totally present, listening to those snores and to my own breath, that life seems manageable once again. What CAN I control tomorrow? Eating toast and drinking tea in the morning, while listening to my favorite radio show, and then taking a walk? Ok, cool, I’ll do that.

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