Sunrise from Jersey City

March 14, 2021By Focal NomadBLOG, SUNRISE SERIES

Photos taken and words written in January 2019. Jersey City, NJ.

I didn’t think very much. I just reviewed my list from a year and 8 months ago and figured it was valid. I got to this park that is supposedly great for sunrise… except when the PATH got me to Newport, I looked on the map, and saw that the route was taking me through a mall and over light rail tracks. It felt like I was going to grandmother’s house.

I arrived to this “recommended sunrise spot,” and it was just a small city park surrounded by brick buildings. I then noticed one street that opened up to the east and tried to imagine the light coming in through this NE roadway and hitting the surrounding buildings with a golden hue. The problem was that there was a building directly where we might see the sunrise and full cloud coverage. 

I had two choices: either stay here and find the beauty in this small park mostly covered in shadow, and have to wait 45 minutes at-minimum to notice the light changing, or, I knew the river faces east, and I’m a mile and a half away from it. But the sun rises in six minutes. I’d miss its initial ascent even with a Lyft. So stay, make the most of it, or go to a place that is closer to what I want, and potentially not get what I want anyways.

To stay or to go. This has been a ponderance for the last few months.

Sometimes the answer is obvious, like, when I was given the opportunity to stay in NYC for an extra six days. But with this, and with other things, it’s often not a matter of do I want what’s better, but can I actually have  it?

I’ve been saying no a lot lately. And it’s strange that every time I say it, I turn myself on a little bit more. It’s also made it easier to hear that word. There’s something in my body that wants to stay untouched. It wants time to rid itself of the past. I tend to merge with others so easily that they never forget what it was like: me touching them.

I realize that my touch is a gift. My passion is astral. It is felt and experienced beyond the body. Giving this gift binds me to another – I can feel the other persons’ intentions, desires, thoughts… the hard part is, they don’t always want me when they have me, and I can feel that, too. They can’t always experience what I’m giving in the moment, because they don’t always know what they want. This confusion feeds into me: when I wasn’t doubting before, I have now taken on theirs. So “no,” and “go” are the answers for now!

I’m being highly selective; so far no one has made it through my filters. I’d rather be a few minutes late on the sun rising than stay some place I don’t want to be, that keeps me in the dark. I was rewarded for this, this morning. As the space in the clouds that let the rays in was about 20 minutes above the horizon. 

I know what I want. I want to smell the ocean, I want to be staying still with my tripod, as the morning commuters race past me. I hope I’m reminding them to look over the water every now and then. To not take for granted the view that people like myself would make a special trip for. When I find my person who I feel safe letting in, I won’t forget how rare it is. I will look at them every day with the same sense of awe that a tourist views the Manhattan skyline. I will remember that healthy love hasn’t ever been a normal occurrence for me. I will remember how hard I’ve worked to get to a place where I love myself enough to say “no” this much. Where I appreciate my vulnerability enough to be more selective. Where I honor the power of my touch enough that it is treated as the gift that it is.

I will not give this precious energy to just anyone. This energy has shit to accomplish. This energy will stay focused and stay on task. I’m feeling myself right now and it feels sensitive.

I’m allowing life to happen as I experience the flow of it. I let the river pull me downstream and I stop fighting the current. I’m ready and tapped in. I go where the Hudson River wants to take me. I follow my bliss, even if it’s a little late, because never really is.

Sunrise from Marina and Craig’s

March 10, 2021By Focal NomadBLOG, SUNRISE SERIES

Photos taken and words written in January 2019. Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York.

Put the phone down. Put your computer away. Focusing on him won’t change the fact that he’s gone. Thinking so hard about whether or not he’s thinking of you won’t suddenly make him think of you again. How many weeks of  processing, spontaneously crying on the sidewalk and playing detective is it going to take to understand that he’s just not coming back? Will knowing anything more actually help? Should I reach for that phone and search for the answers some more?

The answers are in the silence. The darkness you’re sifting through tells you everything you needed to know. Look at reality. He hasn’t called He hasn’t text. He hasn’t made any efforts to help you understand; because even he doesn’t understand. And you’ve seen this before. He will sit on his hands and say there’s nothing he can do. He will fill his cup with Monster Zero calorie so he can plow through projects and work but stay dehydrated – never getting the nutrition his body needs – depleting himself and then telling the world around him that he can’t do what needs to be done. He can’t take on a new form and purge his past because he’s “just” too busy. He doesn’t see that if he just stepped aside and dropped the baggage, mailed some of it back and burned the rest, that he could move forward faster without all that extra sugar.

And universe – haven’t I done enough suffering already? Hasn’t it been hard enough, long enough – can’t I just enjoy love already?

The sunrise says back to me,

“This suffering is of your own making. Am I responsible for you checking your phone, looking for answers that you know will never satisfy you and dwelling on a person that through action has shown you that they don’t want you in their lives? You are not in the dark about anything. I’ve shined light on it all. I’ve shined light on his absence, his silence and his not being there when you needed him most. Isn’t that enough for you? Don’t you know that you know that you deserve better? Don’t you know how strong you are?

You have woken up every day for nearly two years and asked yourself how you can do better. How you can strengthen your body, your mind and your spirit. I have watched you run miles under my direct light, through tears, heartache and headaches. I have seen you watch me and appreciate me by getting up to watch me rise, to allow us to have conversations about life.

I have seen you on a hilltop watching me go away and you never cling to me. You never mourn, you appreciate the goodnight and the remnants of blue I leave after. Because you know I will always return to you. Whether or not you’ve made mistakes, whether or not you meditated that day. Whether or not you’re on your mountain. I will keep coming back because that is what is in my nature. I see you. I see all of you – and I can tell you – you deserve someone who sees you like I do and who will keep coming back. You deserve someone who will love you like I do. Like the sun does.”

Sunrise Through the Rochester Trees

March 5, 2021By Focal NomadBLOG, SUNRISE SERIES

Photos taken and words written in January 2019; Rochester, NY.

There was neon orange. I could tell what the sunrise would look like from another vantage, from some rich person’s home, probably. Why build on this hill and then surround the hill with trees, blocking the view? How much of a terrible human am I to be asking that? These trees are massive. They’ve been around and came about before a selfish decision to cut them down for the sake of a view could be considered. And a view of what, exactly? Buildings protecting humans from weather that would otherwise kill them. There are people out there now that are dying on the sidewalks. Someone told me that they actually count the homeless up here. Is it even possible to do so in LA? When I was working for a homeless youth care shelter, I learned that a third of the homeless in LA are underage: mostly runaways. I think that’s the difference between up here and down there.

In SoCal, people are running away from the bad weather, their broken homes, their dangerous country, harsh criticism, illegal weed and anyone telling them they have to be something or a certain way. Up here, in the northeast, people stick it out, almost stubbornly so. It’s cold? Put on another layer. Had a fight with your family or spouse? Go to the pub. Don’t like what someone said to you? Ask yourself why you don’t like it, try to apply that lesson. Or just tell them why they’re wrong and move on with your day. Someone suggests maybe you’re going down the wrong path? Find new friends, or hey, maybe they’re right. Deal with it by smoking illegal pot and just pick out the seeds.
So where’s the balance? 

I get it. I get asking yourself, “Does it actually have to be this hard? Couldn’t we just go somewhere where these conditions aren’t so prevalent? Where the culture accepts fluidity and Peter Pan syndrome and acts as a beacon for lost boys who want to stay young forever?” But do you actually want to die young? Years on you but, never having grown up? Never having evolved? Never having faced the things the people in our path reflect back at us, and coming to grit decisions about who we are and why we chose to come to that conclusion? Every time I come back here, I always hope the spirit of the northeast rubs off on me in this way; so that I can enact this in a place that doesn’t cause my fingers and toes to lose their mobility. If your appendages don’t work, you lose your balance. I need them to work. I need the bite of the cold to wake me up sometimes and show me my strength. But I need for blood to still circulate to my hands and my feet, so I can stand in tree pose and not fall over. So I can grind up against a potential new lover in a goth club. So I can walk around my neighborhood as the sun sets, staring at the pink in gratitude of the bookends we receive every day. So I can improve my chaturanga. So I can run my hands through someone else’s hair. So I can take these photos. So I can write these words. 

A Meditation on Gratitude

November 26, 2020By Focal NomadBLOG

Thoughts while meditating on the subjects of gratitude and abundance, on Thanksgiving in 2020.

Me resonating with the energy of “The Lovers” card from the Spiral Tarot deck.

Before I get into anything about today’s meditation, I feel it is important to update you all on what I’ve been going through emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, over the last two years. My blog’s description states that I “will not hold back from rawness,” and it’s about time I lived up to that expectation.

As you might have noticed, it’s been over a year since my last post. Being that my last posts were eulogies I wrote for my father’s funeral, I really didn’t know how to follow it up; anything I thought to write felt unimportant by comparison, or just, inappropriate. On Instagram I was able to move forward by focusing on what I still have with me, but I think the idea of a more concentrated blog post on the subject just was hard for me to wrap my head around, because my heart has been closed off for so long now.

My dad showing off the woods right after he purchased it in 2013.

There were events in 2019 before my father’s stroke, that just had me in survival mode all year. Abuse from a narcissist who nearly got me fired from my job because of lies he spread about me. A bad acid trip while contemplating my potential demise as I waited to hear back results of a biopsy of a lump that had grown in my right breast. Social defamation from a somewhat-famous Uber passenger who refused to exit my vehicle after I asked him to leave because of incessant verbal abuse; and it taking nearly a year to get Twitter to take the posts down. Then my without warning, my dad had the stroke.

It was feeling like 2019 was one curveball after another, and the only way to survive was to consciously shut off my emotions. While he was in the ICU, my family and I got into a couple of excruciating arguments; the worst were with my sister. These triggered every baseline fear that has been the main cause of my clinical depression and anxiety since I was a kid: abandonment, not feeling wanted or desired (as a lot of adopted kids tend to feel), not being appreciated, feeling left out in the cold…

My family and I keeping the apple picking tradition alive in 2010.

These feelings have been reflected in my adult relationships, too. So when the person who had been pursuing me and flirting with me right after I had raced home to be with my dad in the last few weeks before his death, who then established a sexual relationship with me when I came back to LA and then Burning Man briefly, pulled a 180 on me and left me to pursue feelings he had for his coworker right before my father’s funeral, I completely broke down. This one relief from the mountains of trauma that I had been experiencing, this one space where I felt safe to let down my guard because it was a source of good feelings, had abandoned me right when I needed his support the most.

Looking back, I see now that I was operating from a place of scarcity. I wasn’t seeing how much emotional support I really had around me. I didn’t trust it. I would start to open up about all that I had been through to a friend and then would realize that they had no clue how to respond. When you haven’t experienced loss like that, it’s just difficult to know what to say or what the “right way” is to support someone going through something like that. So, from fear of losing the friends that I had left, it just felt safer to close up, and put my energy into helping others. My dad was always there for his friends and neighbors; and if you read the second eulogy I wrote, you would remember that I felt the transference of his more gracious traits onto me when he passed.

Decorating the tree at my church in 2019.

With everyone moving inside, and being released from the pressure to constantly be job hunting, because my industries were shut down and I was earning unemployment, I felt a sense of relief. I didn’t have to so actively wall up anymore when I was safe being alone most of the time, anyways. I gained more energy, and with more energy, an opening started to happen; and with that, my rage started to surface. At first I was angry about societal conditions: mask deniers, the arts not being appreciated nor funded enough, police shootings, racial injustice, and the Senate totally failing us. Then the deeper roots of my anger came out: being mansplained to, the producers and gate keepers of the industry I’m still breaking into being condescending, sexist assholes; fair-weather friends, and people who weren’t showing up for my successes; dishonest love interests, people who have hurt me deeply continuing to deny what they have done; my work and efforts going unappreciated; not feeling seen, and not being heard.

A photo I shot from the aftermath of the initial BLM protests that broke out after George Floyd’s murder.

It sounds like torture, but it was part of opening back up again, and all the anger in it’s own way motivated the hell out of me. I put all my anger from mask deniers into creating a PSA on COVID-19 Etiquette. I put all my anger from the person I co-wrote the script with, continuously talking down to me and mansplaining to me, into making the PSA better than it would have been had he stayed on the project. I took the anger I had from the composer dropping out of the project at the last-minute, after refusing to take any of my notes on the music, into getting it into as many drive-in theaters as possible; yes so it would get seen and have an impact, but also, if I’m being totally honest with myself, so he would feel like an idiot screwing me and the project over so much. Revenge success I’m learning is a real thing, and it is quite the motivator. My anger and disappointment in myself for not believing in myself enough to push The Family Tree, the feature documentary about my dad, forward, I channeled into applying for a post-production documentary course put on by none other than Sundance Collab. And I got in! With The Family Tree, and the PSA, I kept exceeding the expectations that I originally had set out for myself; I started to trust myself more and more.

The PSA playing on two screens at once, at the Mission Tiki Drive-In.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to feel myself break open. The walls crumbling down, feeling vulnerable again for the first time in over two years. I’ve been feeling scared, excited, hopeful, worried, aroused, and even… giddy! Opening my heart in the dating space again, has been the most intimidating. What if they pulled a 180 on me? What if my judgement is missing red flags? What if I can’t keep my balance with my many, many projects and goals, and developing a new relationship at the same time?

Today, it being Thanksgiving and all, gratitude had been at the forefront of my mind. I was reminded that gratitude overwrites fear, worry, and scarcity; and I had been disconnected from that feeling. But if I was open enough to feel all of these negative emotions, I was open enough to feel the positive ones, too, right? And I think that’s what scared me most about the positive; what if they were going to just, go away? And it hit me; there are fundamental things in my life, and with my own human self, that aren’t going to just disappear. So I went into a deep meditation to focus on the abundance in my life to remind myself how held I really am.

At first, my gratitude went to more immediate things: my friend who invited me to her place for Thanksgiving with her and one other friend, my church community whom I volunteered with today, my mom and neighbors who I Facetimed with. Then, it went to my physical things: my brand new bike and the freedom it gives, my Canon 5D miii and not only the pleasure shooting with it gives me but also the money it’s brought in over the years; and of course my computers that allow me to connect and create on a daily basis.

Then, I reflected on the relationships I have in my life, and how life would be like if I didn’t have them. It hit me then, too: if I didn’t have two particular friends in my life – Robert and Camilla – I might not be here typing this right now. A year ago, the impetus to my going back on antidepressants, was an intense breakdown that I had, that lead to my being suicidal. My father’s death, the fears deep inside of me that came to the surface from the fights with my family, and the abandonment and betrayal I experienced from someone I was romantically involved with… it all just came to a head, and overloaded me with fear, grief, pain, and anxiety. One thing they don’t tell you about breakdowns leading to suicidal episodes, is how it’s not just the events that lead to the breakdowns, but the breakdowns themselves, that can cause trauma. With the events that lead up to it, you lose faith in other people. With the breakdown itself, you lose faith in yourself. And I can tell you right now, I’m 95% sure that if Rob and Camilla hadn’t been there for me when I needed them the most, I probably would have killed myself. I was that much on the edge. In the moment of this really landing on me today, I felt the most profound gratitude for these people in my life, and everyone else who has supported me along the way.

Camilla and I in front of the Magic Castle, when she took me there as a belated Birthday present.

The last time I was suicidal, I was in college, reeling from a horrible breakup from a toxic, abusive relationship, and no one seemed to believe me when I was expressing how much pain I was in. So I swallowed a bottle of Motrin to make it clear, and I was kicked out of school for a semester, because afterward I had regretted my actions and called the ambulance to the dormitory. I’ve never talked about it publicly before because the way the school treated me after that, was as if I was a liability. I was rarely trusted after that, and entering back in with a new class of freshmen, I was quickly the outcast. While I have no shame in what I’ve battled personally, the stark reality of how other people will shame you, and rip you of opportunity because of how afraid they now are of you, has been a harsh reality that I’ve lived with most of my life. In confidence with close friends, it’s always been something I’ve expressed from a place of gratitude. That I experienced that much darkness at such a young age, I have been more prepared than most for what has since transpired in the world. I’ve had a deepening of empathy, and non-judgement for others’ struggles. I’ve discovered that I am strong, and can survive anything. I’ve seen that if you hang on long enough, you will experience joy again. So going through that just over a year ago, with everything I learned from that, and being fourteen years older and wiser, I reached out to these friends telling them how I felt, wanting to be saved. And I was. I then found a new therapist, a psychiatrist, and requested to go back on antidepressants, for the first time in over ten years.

I tried numerous medications and all of them just made me feel incredibly numb, with bad side effects. The numbness was safe, but it wasn’t living at all. I had been processing all my pain with my therapists, and a tea ceremony group that my friend Brett leads. I had projects and opportunities I created for myself that gave me a sense of divine purpose. I was in tune with my intuition, and teaching tarot, and coaching people; and feeling value in myself and what I was doing with my life. It was time to feel again! So finally last summer, I was ready to go off of antidepressants again, and try a new therapy called TMS (trans-magnetic stimulation). For six weeks straight, five days a week, I would have a magnet pointed to the part in my brain that controls mood, that would send magnetic pulses to that area. For 40% of patients it’s proven to reduce Depression symptoms, with zero side effects. I’m very grateful today to say that I am part of that 40%.

Me, being really into this King of Wands energy.

I can feel again. I have a range of emotions that I’m experiencing for the first time in years, all over again. It’s amazing how in one hour I can go from worry, to gratitude, to competence, to peace, and back to worry all over again. It’s reminding me how important my mindfulness practices are. It’s reminding me how important non-attachment is. And today, it especially reminded me of how, with my current healthy mental state, my brain largely controls how I feel.

So if I think about all the things that could potentially go wrong with a love interest, I start to feel worried, and desperate. But if I switch that focus to, the friends I have in my life, who are part of the reason I am still here today, I feel profound gratitude for what I already have – and in that way, losing something feels less scary because of all of the abundance in my life.

Me totally feeling myself in Dancer Pose at my campsite in the Sierra National Park, camping with my friend Suzie.

There was then a shift in the meditation, where I found myself feeling gratitude for myself. I hugged myself so tightly, and I let the tears burst out like a geyser. It had really landed on me how much I really can trust myself. Because in the end, I still had the strength to reach out to my friends, before taking any irreversible actions. I had the humility to find a psychiatrist to relieve myself of my most destructive feelings, so I could recover and heal. I had the self-awareness to know when I was ready to have emotions again, and was brave enough to try new methods. I’ve left behind friends who have drained me of my energy, and left me feeling unappreciated. I’ve drawn healthy boundaries with a family member who mistreated me and wouldn’t take actions to work things out. I had the intuition to know when prospective romantic connections weren’t right for me. I had the gumption to not give up on my dreams, and instead, created new opportunities for myself.

In the end, this whole year has really been about proving myself, to myself. Knowing that I deserve success. That I am good enough, smart enough, talented enough, loving enough, and above all, reliable enough. That I don’t have to lean on or rely on anybody else, when I have myself. But that choosing to open my heart again, is a choice I can make in order to enrich my life with softer emotions. Emotions that make me cry from laughing too much. Emotions that get me excited about sharing my future. Emotions that expose me to all that I am capable of. Emotions that have me staring at my phone like a goof. Emotions that make me feel safe enough within myself, to be sharing all of these things with you, whoever you are.

Thank you for being in my life by reading about my life. More important, thank yourself, for being present for your own life. Happy Thanksgiving.

A Second Eulogy for my Father, Happy Birthday Dad

October 29, 2019By Focal NomadBLOG

As usual, my father did it again. Today I had been debating whether to go to an EFT Tapping workshop (“Tapping into Financial Flow”), a Halloween party at Cloak & Dagger (this goth-like members-only dance club I am apart of), or just stay home and try to catch up on some coursework. My impulse had been to go to this party, even though I knew I was way behind in my coursework. …this will make more sense in a bit.

I’ve been feeling very emotional lately, which in my book is a good thing, at least right now. Ever since my father’s death, I’ve been having a difficult time letting my emotions out; yet for the past week the tears have been coming. Maybe it was that I finally started to get some closure on a recent heartache I had, maybe it’s that my apartment is back together and I’m feeling the physical space to be safe enough to cry, or maybe, it’s my father speaking to me again.

Last night, I did a New Moon in Scorpio ritual, and to prepare for that ritual I did a guided meditation where I imagined an angel cutting the chords to all of my attachments that no longer served me. Sitting right behind this angel, I saw my father. Last winter we had had a fight where he told me “you’ve gotta stop doing that video stuff!” It was the first time in my life I ever felt my father not supporting my passions, and the first time I ever felt like he was scared for my future and didn’t understand what I was doing. Yet for the past week I’ve been highly motivated to apply for all media-oriented jobs. As archangel Michael severed the chords of the negative attachments to unhealthy attractions, friendships, behaviors and habits, I saw my father smiling at me. He then said to me “I was wrong. I’m so grateful I get to watch you do this. I’m so happy that I’m not in charge of your fate.” My dad had always talked about how he talked to my grandmother after she was gone, and I felt like I was starting to understand now what that was. The tears started pouring out. It was the first time I had felt this connected to my dad since Burning Man.

Me filming “The Family Tree” documentary; the film about my father’s pursuit of his dream.

I had to numb myself to my grief in order to get through everything that went along with the funeral: creating and executing (and fixing) the tech of the slideshow, learning and singing Danny Boy, writing and reading my eulogy, and mostly, talking to roughly 150 people during calling hours (not to mention the 24/7 influx of neighbors and family friends coming in and out of the house), most of whom were strangers to me; but all who had emotions and memories about losing my father. As someone who is highly sensitive, this was a lot to take. I was not only having to grapple with my own grief, but was feeling everyone else’s grief around me, pretty much non-stop. It was either stay open, and not be able to perform my duties as a daughter for the funeral, or close up, and hold it all in so I could do what I needed to do, until it felt safe enough to let it all out.

Me practicing “Danny Boy,” which I sang at my father’s funeral.

It was for these reasons, that I chose to read the eulogy that I had read, which is in the previous post. What most people don’t know, is that one was actually the second version I wrote, and that this first version felt much more personal to me. When I got to the church on the day of my dad’s funeral, I was still undecided on which to read, and even undecided after it took me an hour to fix the screens showing the slideshow. After another hour of calling hours, I retreated to the pastor’s office, to get his opinion. He said, “Now, they’re both very good; but I would ask yourself, with the first one, with everything going on, do you want to show this much of yourself?” I had realized that the answer was no. This funeral wasn’t about me, it was about my father’s community and everyone else who shared a part of his life, and it was my job as his daughter to help facilitate an experience where we could all share memories together. I knew that this first eulogy would be for the blog. And so, here it is:

A headshot I took of my father last January, for his LinkedIn profile, because he never wanted to stop working.

“Hi everyone. As many of you know I’m Amanda, Terry’s daughter. Or as he might have called me, “Cakes,” or “his favorite youngest daughter.” While I have been living in California for most of the last decade, I did take three years to come home to shoot a documentary about my father and his pursuit of his dream of having a barn and Christmas tree farm. So I wasn’t just his daughter, I was also his film’s director. What no one will tell you when filming a documentary about your dad is how close it will bring you two as you start to see the version of your father that is the man inside his own story, and not just in relation to who he is as the man who raised you to become a strong, independent woman .

A photo of my dad talking about the changes he’s made to the woods, which first inspired “The Family Tree” documentary.

Within being taught that independence and strength, I was also taught authenticity, so I’m going to get a little weird on you. For most of you here today, you don’t know me, or you still think of me as the little girl who was pursuing Broadway dreams. Well hi, I’m 32 years-old, and have become a bona fide working photographer and hippie. Therefore this next bit I’m sorry but I need to talk about my recent experience of going to Burning Man, which is the reason we’re here on this date and not two weeks ago closer to when he passed.

A photo of me at Burning Man in 2016, shooting a wedding documentary.

See when my father was in hospice, I was trying to figure out whether I would be attending this massive, like 75,000 people massive, social experiment; building a temporary city in the middle of nowhere in Nevada, where I was instrumental in building what we “burners” call a theme camp. This is a group of people that put together an experience that is a gift to everyone who attends and participates in the event. Our camp was called Resolution, and our gift was to host New Years’ parties where we would help people come up with their New Year’s resolutions through counseling with helpful wheels they could spin, an open mimosa bar, a ceremonial ball drop complete with a massive mechanical ball and custom-made cups we were gifting with a decoration station. I had been planning this thing since April and was a lead of the camp and felt conflicted about leaving – but knew my father would want me to go.

At Burning Man they have a Temple where you can leave something behind in or write on its walls to memorialize a loved one. The city is as much about celebrating life as it is about understanding the impermanence of it all. The wooden man structure at the center, the Temple, and much of the art, are all burned down at the end of the week. So I took a wooden flying pig with me to be burned at the Temple in remembrance of my father. As you know my father loved flying pigs, and would keep them around the house to remind us that anything is possible, because pigs really do fly.

When I got to the Temple, I thought I would start writing this, the eulogy, what I’m reading now standing in front of you today. What I got instead while writing, was a lot of rambling, and a thought that maybe he would come back as a flying pig. I tried to talk to my dad; I tried to get some of his wisdom passing through me, but I got nothing. Just a conversation with myself – trying to understand the meaning in all of this. So instead, I felt the best way I could honor him would be to ask myself in every moment “what would my dad do?”

The wooden bench in the Temple I wrote to my father on.

Maybe it doesn’t surprise you that that resulted in a lot of champagne and whiskey, dancing, supporting someone I had feelings for, and making every moment about giving back to those around me. I found myself keeping some folks on track for our build when they just didn’t want to finish the work. I found myself saying yes to every shot of whiskey offered to me. I found myself expressing most passionately, and even telling stories spontaneously during my timeslot on the city’s center camp stage, as opposed to sticking with my plan of just reading my poetry. I found myself staying up through an event I didn’t even have a volunteer shift for, to support the person I stayed up all night dancing with. I found myself caring so much about fostering that community and giving people insight as to the life changes they could be making through my resolution counseling and tarot readings. I even found myself making a confidant, boisterous remark to someone who hurt me several years ago who didn’t recognize me at all when we ran into each other.

I was celebrating! I wasn’t sad, but I also was sad, and a bit numb. At the end of the week I went to go see my friend Daniel, who refers to himself as my “spiritual big brother.” He asked if I had any quartz on me, which I did have on a necklace. He then waved his hand and said “there, I put your father in your necklace.” I was perplexed; he saw the confused look on my face and said that my father was there with us, and had been with me all week. His wife got a shiver up her spine and said the same thing; they could feel his presence with us right as we were standing there. I told them I couldn’t feel much of anything at all. Daniel simply said, “just wait, you will.” Reflecting later that day, tossing my necklace over in my hands, I looked at my actions and my behavior within this years’ burn; and then I realized I had become my father in so many ways. Dad and his love of community, clinking glasses, making sure everyone is taken care of, and holding others to a certain level of accountability. I mean for goodness sake; I was throwing epic New Years’ parties all week just as he did every single year ever since I was a kid! How did I not see this before?

It made me realize, that we can either keep being upset at who we lost, and keep wondering why now, how did this happen, who am I without my father, husband or best friend? Or we can remember that my dad touched us all so deeply, and lived so fully, that if we allow ourselves, we can all be a little bit more like my dad, and in that way, he’s never really gone. Now, I know we’ll all miss his gregarious laughs, Santa-like twinkle in his eyes, and the way he would get super excited about his next project and just have to show it to you. We will never be able to replace him, and I sure do miss him more than I’ll ever really feel comfortable showing. But my father always said, “life is for the living” and that’s what we have to keep on doing. Thank you.”

My father at my cousin’s wedding, ever the life of the party.

Since then, my quartz necklace has gone “missing.” I put that in quotation marks because there’s a spiritual belief that crystals don’t ever get lost, they simply have given you all that you needed and find new homes to those that need them more. After the funeral, I felt the weight of that crystal lighten. It was at the NYC Burning Man Decompression, that the crystal found a new home. It was here that I was gifting tarot readings again, telling stories on stage again, and focusing deeply on my community. If what they say about crystals is true, then maybe it’s because I had come to a place where I didn’t need my father’s spirit to be with me, for me to live in celebration of him. I had grown up, and he had moved on. So with all this being said, I’ve chosen tonight to go clink some glasses in celebration of my father’s life. As much as my father loved to work, he loved most when he got to work with his friends, and celebrate with them after. In this spirit, cheers to you, dad! I miss you, and always will. Happy Birthday.

A Eulogy for my Father

October 23, 2019By Focal NomadBLOG

Hi everyone. As many of you know I’m Amanda, Terry’s daughter. Or as he might have called me, “Cakes,” or “his favorite youngest daughter.” While I have been living in California for most of the last decade, I did take three years to come home to shoot a documentary about my father and his pursuit of his dream of having a barn and Christmas tree farm. So I wasn’t just his daughter, I was also his film’s director. What no one will tell you, when filming a documentary about your dad, is how close it will bring you two as you start to see the version of your father that is the man inside his own story, and not just in relation to who he is as the man who raised you to become a strong, independent woman.

As many of you know this event was not at all expected. My father had so much more he wanted to do, and had so many gifts left to give. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? We could all be really angry right now – but I just miss him. It’s clear we all have as the house hasn’t been silent since we came home from hospice; and as much as I’ve been admittedly frustrated that you’ve all been taking my mother away from me with all that ruckus – that is the life my father created, one of friendship and community. And if I were in Los Angeles that is the kind of support I would be getting too, because I was raised to believe that family has hardly anything to do with blood. It is all of us, sitting here right now, in common ground that we all have this man that we lost, and how he’s affected our lives, and in many cases truly profound ways. 

I remember when I was probably seven or eight years old, my father had this pink neon sign in the basement that read “Passion” on it. I asked him what it had meant, and to be honest, I don’t remember much about what he said, it was more how he emoted it. I remember him waving his arms, and expressing with reverence about its meaning. Since, that word has driven me to pursue the things in my life that light me up just the way that word did for him. You saw it in everything that he did! When I was about 12 I remember a crane coming down into our backyard to move a giant boulder to build the first iteration of our pond. That first round was gorgeous, right? We were all so proud of how the water moved gracefully down that long stream. But for my dad? Nope, had to be bigger. In fact, every year, it seemed as though the pond was never big enough. And having named the rock sitting on the pond after my mother, well of course it had to be grandiose. Adding larger koi fish, putting in two water falls, and little fountains in the middle. When that was finished, he had to build a greenhouse, out of wine bottles, against the shed; for my mother of course, for her! After that? Well, we all know what came next; the barn. The barn was to service my father’s dream of having his own Christmas tree farm, yes, but it was about more than that – as everything my father did was. Nothing was ever just about the pond, or the shed, or the barn, or the farm. It was about creating an opportunity to connect over projects, to show my mother his love for her, to be outside and get your hands dirty, to stay active and to build friendships. The barn, was to foster MORE of that – and have a roof over his head while doing all those things. Why do you think he kept a fridge stocked with various kinds of beer in it anyways if it was just about the equipment?

It’s just like that saying he always tried to instill upon me: “If it is to be, it is up to me. If it is up to me, it WILL be.”

And yet, one part I can’t seem to get out of my head while filming The Family Tree, is when he’s talking about convergence, and how the barn represented convergence to him. He soon after says “I just want, at 218 days away from my 65th birthday to figure out what it all means after all these years.” Although I think that’s a pretty normal question to ask yourself, it shows us that my dad was always in pursuit of something, even if he didn’t fully understand why. It’s something I saw drive my father to grow emotionally and spiritually even long after most people settle on who they decide they are. Perhaps my fathers dissatisfaction with the current status quo is what kept that growth going. And, you know my dad wasn’t perfect. Sometimes his drive to have what he wanted manifested as stubbornness. He would get so set in his beliefs about things that there sometimes would be no convincing him otherwise – and would sometimes say he would do things just to spite people who tried to stand in his way.

He also never wanted to stop working. Growing up, on a near-daily basis, he’d walk in with blood on his hand, or leg or face… and we’d ask horrified if he was okay and he would just casually “oh this? Yeah I cut myself while working” and leave it at that. In the hospital, he would be moving his arms as if he was organizing his shelves when he was asleep, and was constantly trying to get out of bed, and sometimes he did manage to turn over just enough to have to be lifted back onto his bed. You know at first I was optimistic, I was thinking, finally! He might get comfortable with sitting down! He’ll be forced to use his right brain and he’s left-handed so you know, maybe he’ll take up creative writing! Because you know my father always had a way with writing words, and telling stories. 

Now I think he was still contemplating that “meaning of life” question following his heart surgery, as he was still making changes in his life. He had new ideas with what he wanted to do with the Christmas trees. He originally wanted to sell them to whole-salers, but after the heart surgery, he wanted to donate the trees to veterens and those who couldn’t afford to have their own. He was going to come out and see what my life is like in California, and see his granddaughter more in Sydney… Yet it seems to me that the meaning he was seeking was all around him. The meaning of life perhaps is just the word itself. To live.

Now, I know we’ll all miss his gregarious laughs, Santa-like twinkle in his eyes, and the way he would get super excited about his next project and just have to show it to you. We will never be able to replace him, and I sure do miss him more than I’ll ever really feel comfortable showing. But my father always said “life is for the living” and that’s what we have to keep on doing. I want to thank you all for coming, and just close with we can either keep being upset at who we lost, and keep wondering why now, how did this happen, who am I without my father, husband or best friend? Or we can remember that my dad touched us all so deeply, and lived so fully, that if we allow ourselves, we can all be a little bit more like my dad, and in that way, he’s never really gone. Thank you.

The Story of my Cat Gwen

April 23, 2019By Focal NomadBLOG

When I was 20 I was entering into a major transition in my life: I was moving into my first apartment and going to be living alone. This also coincided with me deciding to go against my doctor’s orders and stop taking Zoloft. He told me that because I had recurrent depression it would come back; and I said that I knew this but I trusted in myself enough to know how to handle it. I hated how I felt bipolar if I missed one day of meds, hated the numbness I felt from it when it was “working” and hated the stigma I felt because I was on it.

Still… this was not a small deal. On top of this I was about to enter into my sophomore year of college where we would be studying Meisner. Which, for anyone who knows anything about acting training, you cannot be numb and be taking Meisner. It’s a technique that requires you to be vulnerable; where you are discovering more about yourself than you ever will in your entire life. After experiencing what it was like to live alone with depression while subletting for a summer and with Meisner about to start, I didn’t know how I was going to do it.

I then heard about the Dollar Adoption Days held by PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society). For one dollar you could adopt a cat, have them fixed and get their shots, plus if you got one cat, you could get a second for free. I always knew I wanted two cats so they could keep each other company while I was in class. So in August of 2007 I headed to the west side of Philly to find my new cats. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, except I knew I wanted a cat who was cuddly. When I saw Gwen it was love at first sight. Gwen immediately rubbed his nose against my fingers as they poked through the cage and rubbed his body against the door to satisfy his need for affection. Then I found a 6-month old tuxedo cat who seemed to be the yang to Gwen’s Yin as he couldn’t care less whether you pet him or not but was still very friendly. So by the end of that day and a long bus ride home with my new kitties in a crate, I had now adopted my cats for $1.

The name “Gwen” came with the cat as given to him by his previous owners. Being that he was all ready three years old I didn’t want to change it at this point and confuse him. I assumed Gwen was a girl because of the name. Six months later, I took him to the vet for a follow-up to find that she was in fact a he. After a bit of name research I found that Gwen is a somewhat common guys name in Ireland, and with my last name being McHugh, I decided to give him the very Irish middle name of Gavin – making his full name Gwen Gavin McHugh.

Over the first year of having Gwen and Midnight as my cats I witnessed America’s Funniest Home Video level events lead by these cats. Gwen was a polydactyl cat, aka, a “Hemingway” cat. This means that he had more than the normal amount of toes: six toes on each front foot and seven toes on each back foot. They believed that all cats who had this many toes were descendants of Ernest Hemingway because he had so many cats that this was a mutation as a result of inbreeding. I was delighted by this because I got really into the Les Amis de Paris and thought Hemingway was a sassy, sassy man. The toes also lead to some Gwen shenanigans.

Gwen was a fat kitty and loved to eat. So I had to keep his food away from where he could get to it. If it was on top of the cupboards he would climb up there just to knock the bag over and get to it. So I put a plastic crate over the bag, and placed this crate underneath a shelving unit. Gwen used his mighty paws to reach through a hole in the crate, poke a hole in the bag, scoop up the food, pull the food out HOLDING IT IN HIS PAW, and eat it out of his paw, like a damn human being.

He could also see dead people, I kid you not. It was no secret that the Adelphia House, which used to be the Adelphia Hotel in the 20s, was (and I’m sure still is) straight-up haunted as fuck. Strange things were constantly happening in my apartment – and Gwen’s eyes would dart to random spots on the wall, were he would stare intently; and when I took a shower, he’d stand guard outside of it, even though water wasn’t exactly his thing. Both Midnight and Gwen protected me at night. Midnight would sleep at my head, and Gwen at my feet.

My cats followed me to my next two apartments in Philadelphia for the next two years, until they couldn’t follow me anymore. I had been accepted into the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center where there was a strict no pets policy. I was grateful that my parents were able to take them in, and the plan was always to take them back when I had settled into a pet-friendly apartment again. Afterwards, I moved to a sublet while I was doing a directing internship at an experimental theater company in Philly at another sublet and couldn’t take them with me again. Soon after that I moved to NYC where I was living a month or two at a time bouncing around place-to-place.

After five months of doing this, and a year and a half away from my cats, I was moving to Los Angeles. I wanted to take my cats with me but I learned something about Gwen that made it impossible. The vet told us that Gwen gets anxiety from change, and when that would happen his intestines would flare up. Even moving the furniture around could cause this. I learned this while he was still living with me and was recommended to rub fish oil on his food for a few months to help with the swelling. As a then-strict vegan, I did this, because I loved him.

I loved him so much that when the harsh reality of how me moving across the country could potentially have adverse affects on his health, I asked my parents if they would take him and Midnight in for me permanently, since I didn’t want to separate them. Gwen had more space to wander and play and would have stability. Every time I came home to visit it was like he remembered me. He would come into my room and cuddle with me, he’d want attention while I was doing yoga, and he was just always there – and there for my parents, and for Midnight, too. He just loved everyone.

When I found out Gwen died the night I was driving back from Palm Springs, I immediately started crying. The last time I was home I realized Gwen was getting older and it was possible it could be the last time I ever saw him, and I hate that I was right. I’ve always missed out on my chance to say goodbye to the ones I’ve loved who have passed on. Gwen loved people, and I hate that he was alone when he died. I hate that I couldn’t have been there to bury him myself. Gwen was more than just a pet to me, he was a friend who loved me and comforted me and helped get me through one of the toughest transitions of my life. He helped me grow up.

New York Diaries: Christmas at Home

December 30, 2018By Focal NomadBLOG

Christmas Eve. This was an intense day to travel. I got stopped 4 times between checking my bag and the gate because of my hard drives and camera equipment and every time had to pack and repack to that sections’ supervisors liking.

I got to my connecting flight in Charlotte, wondering if I would see someone there. He was supposed to be on this trip with me, but things had changed since those flights were booked. Despite all logic telling me that he hadn’t shown up before, why would he suddenly show up now, I was hoping he would surprise me. I was hoping for some kind of Christmas miracle. But my expectations were accurate to be low, because I got on that plane alone.

My mother greeted me in Buffalo at the bag check with a blinking lights necklace she put around my neck, as if I was in the Hawaii of the northeast. After my bags were loaded they surprised me with a gathering at my aunts house not too far from the airport.

My cousin Rachel was there with her son whom I hadn’t met yet. She was 5 days older than me. We grew up together making sea shell pacts and chasing trains on the tracks saying we would always be connected. I remembered this as my uncle dressed as Santa came out to surprise the kids. As the only first cousin left unmarried and without kids, I asked her what it was like to be a mother, and she said sometimes it’s hard, but she couldn’t imagine him not being in her life.

Shortly after getting home to Syracuse, and after church, I got a text I wasn’t sure I would ever receive. I set it aside, and asked my father to continue our tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas. I thought about my sister and the bun in her oven, and thought about how my dad is going to make such an epic grandfather. I imagined a child resting in the nest of my knees as they listened attentively to his story-telling. I imagined that the person who was missing might think this was weird. Maybe he wouldn’t get it.

The next morning we toasted to my first Christmas at home in years. It was good to be home for the holidays. I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t get Dan Duggan to play on the stereo. Maybe I just missed my sister in that moment. Maybe it was part of me. I don’t know that he was the part that was missing, but I was missing him.

My parents’ dog Dundee and my cats must have sensed this, because for most of the rest of my time in Syracuse they were snuggling me on the couch as I wrote, as I fixed my computer, as I organized my thoughts and plans; and as I cried. I was embarrassed to tell my mother as she tried to console me that I missed someone I knew I shouldn’t be missing. That I was sad over something ending I should be grateful to be free from. That against all my knowing better, my heart just couldn’t compute.

Sunrise at Woodlawn Cemetery

October 9, 2018By Focal NomadBLOG, SUNRISE SERIES

Photos taken and words written in October 2017. Syracuse, NY.

I chickened out two mornings ago making the excuse about cloud coverage. I was really afraid of the legends that this place was haunted. Would my camera be blown away? Would I see a dark shadow that I could not erase from memory?

My grandmother always used to say “don’t be afraid of the dead, be afraid of the living.” So I pushed forward through the dark and deserted roads, that, I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to be driving on. The office light was on but it was closed. I parked, and took my bridesmaid’s bouquet with me in case I stumbled upon her.

“Lucile?” I called out.

I walked up the east side, grateful that the nimbus had lifted just enough to see some orange. The wind blew me towards her; I knew I was close. My memory of what it was, was that it was flat, barren. I felt like she might like to be buried next to where the sun would rise. I thought about how maybe we were both looking at it together.

I moved on. I found Batman on top of one, “Live a little” on another: both too young to wonder whether it was worth it. I thought I heard bells ringing. I wondered who was buried that was waking from their slumber. Wind chimes. “Isn’t that a bit misleading?” I thought. I always believed that I wanted to be buried, not embalmed, with a bell – because I’m stubborn as hell and will always try to get the last word in.

The leaves lost their crunch in last nights rain. One was floating and I only assumed by an invisible web. I took in the autumn serenity as my toes began to freeze. The office would be open soon – and I could find her. Distracted in my thoughts I wandered in zigzags. With every hundred persons deceased I passed I learned something: everyone here was a hero to someone. Their tombstone gifts said it all. A firefighter, a coach, a mother, a solder. Some marked many generations after their existence. I could live with that reputation.

Two visitors, separate of each other, told me to go back to the east side because there was a whole family of foxes. I didn’t see a one. I saw some squirrels, and then I remembered that face that called me one, and that he was a fox, my fox. I then remembered my grandmother’s words again and realized I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was afraid of dying with out ever knowing true, lasting love.

Inside the office, I learned where she was buried – it was right where the wind was taking me, yet when I saw it, was completely different from last time. Bushes were planted, a mausoleum nearby, and a tall marker for her and now her husband, Edward. Once I saw her name I collapsed. “I love you.” I said. Memories of my mentor flooding through but mostly just her voice saying sweetly “Amanda, my Amanda.” I was angry with myself for not calling sooner, for not keeping up, for having the intention to organize her files as a gift to her but not having actually done so.

Six months before she passed she said she’d like me to call her anytime. She’d like to be a mentor to me. I was heartbroken then, too. “Find someone who loves you just a little more than you love him or her,” she would tell me. I have yet to find that. Lucille was my coach, she taught me how to feel fully. She made me realize how special I was when all the kids would just call me weird. I wanted for some words of wisdom to pass through the wind – in lieu of words I got heartache. Heartache at the loss, the loneliness and wishing someone could just tell me what to do.

Through the characters she helped me portray, advice, words I wrote, the bullies she helped me have compassion for, a word came to mind: resiliency. Do it. Don’t over think it. Love fully, love until your heart bursts. Follow-through. Life is too short to not try, to not feel, to not give, to not love. As I was pulling away I heard it. “I’ll always be here for you.” So maybe with that, I have found true love.

Heartbreak, Bullies and Kundalini Yoga

February 2, 2018By Focal NomadBLOG

My mat after my Kundalini practice this morning.

Last April I was going through one of the most challenging times of my life. I had been dating this guy for a few months and it started out great: him bringing me coffee in the middle of the day just to say hi, Facetiming when we weren’t in the same city, romantic dinners and watching him play jazz… he even started bringing me to look at houses with him, because you know, like most great love stories that end in excruciating pain, we thought we had found our forever. Little did I know that all the while, lurking under the surface, he was wrestling with his past and I quickly became a projection screen for it.

I started catching him in lies, small ones then worse ones, the phone calls started to become less frequent, we stopped going on dates, stopped sleeping together – all the while every single promise he made to me he broke. What’s worse, he never had a good reason for it either. It was as though my time and my love had suddenly become a weed in his garden that he wanted to get rid of, but couldn’t sort out how. To be frank, it made me feel worthless. He made me feel worthless.

After it ended, I resolved to not let my learning slip away from me this time. Following breakups I had always been really good about getting myself back on my feet by taking great care of myself. Then a few months in I’d be tied up with some other shitty dude, or fling, or heartache, or so immersed in my work that the self-care would fall away. I would only stay in self-care long enough to feel normal again and last spring, I realized that what I had become accustomed to being normal, was less than I deserved. I promised myself I wouldn’t stop making myself a priority, and if others couldn’t make time for me, I couldn’t make time for them.

It’s now been ten months and the work continues as I’ve found my routine. For endorphins I run a 5k three times per week, for my nervous system and to help with my back pain I do at least 30 minutes of Kundalini yoga alternating my run days, and every single day, I meditate for at least 15 minutes. I try to set aside time once a month to do a new moon or full moon ceremony, I drink less and very rarely smoke, I take vitamins, have a handle on my digestion problems and migraines that I never had before and my voice is finally back after having lost it for over a year. The sunrise series (that started in the wake of this breakup) continues and I’m committed to my goals and dreams and don’t let anyone else dictate what they can be and mean. For as long as I could afford it I was in therapy working on attachment issues and was even going to support group meetings; and the work there still continues just on my own now.

Bit by bit I can feel the pain liberated out of my body; the pain that lead me to be with someone who couldn’t appreciate me for who I am and what I have to give. All year I have been asking myself, if we attract what we are, what have I not let go of that attracted him into my life? What do I continue to hold onto that has opened the door to a textbook narcissist, and generally emotionally unavailable men? I’ve been better about my boundaries, projecting exactly what I am looking for, focusing on and loving myself and letting go of those people and things that no longer serve me. As I shed all of this to rise to the fourth level of ascension, I couldn’t help but wonder why do I still feel the same? I’m taking the actions and doing the work but where are the revelations? Where are the breakthroughs? Am I numb? Did I do something wrong? Am I just going through the motions and faking it?

When you suffer from PTSD, your trauma lives in your body, and things that remind you of those moments or times are like pressing the down button on an elevator where try as hard as you might to press the “door open” button or the “up” button, it’s too late. You’re going down the elevator shaft to your past whether you like it or not. Though I don’t know anyone who likes it. So how does one navigate that fight-or-flight response once it’s activated? I’ve gotten to the point where I know it’s happening when it’s happening and I try to calm my body down with breathing exercises, meditation, holding myself and when all else fails, I smoke CBD or go to bed counting on impermanence that my heart will stop racing.

Kundalini works to regulate the nervous system and does so not just by working with the physical body but the metaphysical body as well. There are thousands of kriyas, which are Kundalini yoga sets, to target individual problems that relate to the rest of the body. I’ve seen it take down swelling from my lymph nodes when I was sick, I’ve seen it help my digestion regulate, I’ve seen it strengthen my back to balance out my sidewalk running, so why couldn’t it help with this down button? Turns out it can in a very effective way. A few months ago I tried a Kundalini kriya that is intended to take away anger and sadness. Growing up as an actor, one of the fundamental things I learned about human emotions and our ability to express them was that when confronting our vulnerability, first we release anger, then sadness. This is exactly how the kriya was constructed.

Guru Jagat encouraged us to let it out because “better out than in” – that it was our chance to let go of all of the resentment, the anger, the disappointment that would otherwise turn on us if we didn’t. At the time I was recovering from a brief relationship with a narcissist where I learned I had been gas lighted and cheated on with not one, but two women. I had a lot to get out. Then we moved into child’s pose and sang a chant that out of nowhere, with out warning, had me releasing buckets of tears. “Sing to the parts of you that needs liberating” Guru Jagat said, and here, in crying over the pain I endured from this terrible guy, I started to come to terms with the fact that I had weak boundaries with the men I was allowing in, and that my guilt was attracting those who were unfaithful and untrustworthy. I had been carrying around years of guilt as though it were a 50-pound weight for the few times in my twenties that I had knowingly become the other woman. I was punishing myself for hurting my sisters, for not honoring the pain I was a part of, for not living up to my integrity. I was giving myself what I felt I deserved for transgressions I halted and got myself out of, and later even attempted to reveal the truth to their partners. I made mistakes and had learned from them, but I never forgave myself. Suddenly through this kriya snot was pouring out of my nose and I realized, that I was trying to take control of Karma. I was trying to do it’s job by punishing myself and trying to get back at the narcissist by revealing who he was to those who weren’t ready to listen. Revenge was on my mind but all I was doing was perpetuating Karma against me. It wasn’t my responsibility; it was never my responsibility. All that was, was to learn, and forgive myself for making mistakes while learning.

Soon after that revelation and Kundalini practice I got very sick, for the first time in over a year. The practice is best done when you can do it every day for a week. Guru Jagat said, “You will not be the same person. You will live with out fear.” So I resolved to do it again after my health had recovered, but I kept making excuses. I think because I was afraid of what else I would uncover should I follow-through. After a month of traveling through Syracuse, NYC, LA, all over the Yucatan peninsula, on to Park City, Utah – following festivals and photo shoots, and everything that could go wrong going wrong, I was looking forward to coming home for a change. Home to LA, that is. I knew I needed to get back to meditating, not using swimming in the ocean or going on a bike ride as my exercise but just going on an old-fashioned run and processing everything I had been through on that spontaneous, unplanned, but somehow out of sheer will, still successful journey. So in the light of the blue blood moon, I decided it was time to try again, for the full week this time.

Yesterday was very simple: towards the end of the kriya I realized that I had become used to mediocre results. I was becoming okay with just getting by, and getting underpaid so long as I was paid and not living up to my full potential. I was comfortable with that, and that scared the crap out of me. Today, when I had to chant into those unliberated places I was chanting to the places that were content with mediocrity. What was I so afraid of if I let my light shine? What was the worst that could happen? “Imposter syndrome” is a common sickness in Hollywood: most of us, even those of us who have all ready found a stride of success, are scared shitless that we’ll be “found out” that we’re really just a fraud making this up as we go and that we actually have no clue what we are doing. I am no different than most Angelenos in this way. But where did it truly stem from for me? Why was I really so afraid of success?

Critics. The answer was critics. If I had finished my feature-documentary and it had gotten the festival exposure I always believed it had the potential to reach, what if it sucked? What if the people I want to like it, people who could define my career’s fate, people who’s taste I admire in the industry, people back home, people I grew up with… what if they hated it? Something hit me to my core there. I was afraid that my intelligence would be brought into question. I was afraid of being called crazy. I was afraid of being made fun of. I was afraid of being a little girl again and having kids make fun of me all over again.

Growing up, I never felt accepted. Comments I would get on a daily basis would be “you know your voice is really annoying, right?” and “God your hair is so obnoxious” and “what are you stupid or something?” I got the wind knocked out of me on the bus, a whole group of boys chased after me on the playground to take me down and kick me, my guinea pig died and this girl told me my mom probably sat on it, spit balls were thrown at my pencil when I would be the last one trying to finish a test because of what I later found out to be ADD. Throughout middle school I lead all of the neighborhood kids to play capture the flag and it was the only time in my life I felt accepted because I was always first pick because I always managed to find and bring back the flag. But during the school year, they pretended we were never friends those three months per year. Being friends with me was typically a bad look if you had any kind of status in my high school. I had long, thick, butt-length hair, I carried around all of my textbooks and never used my locker to save time, I used my lunch hours to work on my essays so I could go to a professional ballet school after we got out at 3pm. I was different. I had dreams, and those dreams were big, so I did things that didn’t line up with what the other kids had ever seen at Marcellus.

Even to the weirdo’s in high school, I was still an outsider; a group of upperclassmen in my chorus gave me the nickname “Moonbeam Starchild” to the point where I would walk into class and the whole room would chant “awe moonbeam!” At first I thought it was good attention, because it was attention at all. Until they started writing anonymous messages on my blog telling me that I would never be successful on Broadway because I didn’t have a great singing voice and my hair made me look crazy when I danced. I was told constantly to give up, that I wouldn’t make it and that I couldn’t do it. I sparked a fire when I spoke out against an upperclassman who was mean to my friend Megan backstage at the all school show, which that kind of ego, I claimed, is one of the reasons I didn’t get involved in the school shows. I knew I had been bullied my whole life, and I never really responded to my own. When kids would call my voice annoying I would say “oh, ha-ha yeah, I know” and I learned to have crushes on the boys who would beat me up. I never stood up to them and instead misdirected my anger at home, directed it into my dancing, and inverted the rest of it in my self-destructive behavior, as I became an adult.

I never stopped wanting to fit in. I went to art school thinking if I were around other dedicated weirdo’s, I would have to fit in. Even then, taking a semester off to recover from the effects of an abusive relationship made me an outsider. I looked to those who seemed to understand in bands and started booking concerts. I continued to make myself different from my peers while simultaneously looking for acceptance. Activism became just as important as art. I became sexually liberated meanwhile rumors being spread about me because apparently someone’s boyfriend found me attractive. I hated this. I hated that even where I should have been accepted, I still wasn’t. Things started to grow and shift for me and I never really found what I was looking for. So I moved to Los Angeles to find it and soon after fell into a group of hipsters who loved their businesses, their music, their parties and their gossip. Everyone looked like they belonged in a Killers music video and had “ins” on the hottest rooftop and Hollywood hills parties around. I had one serious boyfriend most of the time I was in that group, and when going through that breakup, a rumor was of course spread about me in relation to someone else from that group who was also going through a breakup.

Why was this continuing to happen? I hadn’t done anything. I was more than disappointed, I was pissed the fuck off. Why was I continuing to try to sit at the cool kids table when the cool kids always seemed threatened by me that they had to take me down one rumor at a time? So I threw it all away and started taking sideways glances at the really strange: Burning Man. I had read about it when I was 16 in a book called “The Lost Soul Companion” and knew some day I’d end up there. The burners I met in LA I never fell into but I identified with the weirdness. At the same time, I was giving up on acting and transitioning into documentary filmmaking and photography. I was moving away from things that didn’t make me feel good and lining myself up with my integrity and my long-term purpose, which was to make change. I knew I was put on this earth for a great purpose, something that could enact lasting change, else why would I have been in the gym of facing adversity just for being different since I was in elementary school?

Soon after moving to NYC, I found my family, my fellow weirdo’s who I would run into over and over again all over the world. I found the people who had the same outlook – to stay sensitive, to stay alive, to stay present and true to your own work. I could finally be myself and be accepted and in these pursuits and doing this kriya I realized that is all I have ever wanted, and was the number one thing that was holding me back. If I revealed who I truly am, to myself and to the world, all that I am capable of by finishing something and putting it out there, I would have to own up to that work as mine and put myself in a position of being criticized, of being made fun of, of being told that I can’t and that I shouldn’t. Fact of the matter is, everyone has been telling me “you have to,” “you can do this,” and faith that what I do is going to be great and I’m capable of everything.

I realized as the snot was pouring down onto my yoga mat, and I was letting out deep moans like an elephant giving birth, that I had allowed those kids to control my life. I had taken what they had said to me personally because somehow, in some ways, I still believed them. They planted a seed that I watered for years and years to come. The seed grew into patterns of self-destruction from the fear of being found out, of being invalidated, of being told no, of being told I can’t. I became my own worst bully and the person I realized I was disappointed in the most, was myself, for listening to and believing a bunch of kids who didn’t know anything.

Today is only day two of this seven-day process. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.