Photos taken and words written in May 2017. Lightning in a Bottle, CA.
Maybe it’s not
So responsible to
Write right now.
I guess this is what
Happens when you
Stay up and you don’t
Photos taken and words written in April 2017. Los Angeles, CA.
Is this really where it starts? Readiness is a choice. If we are our actions, I have to surrender to having lost control. If I am my actions, I am scared and looking for reasons not to recover. I am looking for every reason not to write, right now. We all want to believe that there is nothing wrong with us, and on a base, conceptual level that’s true. When faced with the things in our lives we wish were different, there’s really nowhere else to look but at ourselves. This morning, this is what I am faced with – standing on the edge of my roof looking for the sun that’s hiding behind the LA smog. I can be eco-conscious but I can’t single-handedly make the entire city’s smog go away. So I surrender. It’s amazing what will reveal itself, what will become clear, when you simply slow down, stop running, and let your eyes adjust.
In doing so, I have found the first half of my life to be covered with haze. I was made to believe that my childhood was fine. My brain only remembers the big gifts, my father and I making silly faces and my mother driving me everywhere. I had to stay busy. I had to stay on stage. I had to be going from dance classes, to singing classes to rehearsal and I remember, when a show would end I would feel this incredible ache. I would feel what I now realize to be grief. There I would be, a kid or a teenager, having to look at myself during the in-betweenness as I auditioned furiously to get myself back outside of myself. There was comfort in hopping out of my body and into anothers’. There was what felt like love when I would get on stage and I would hear that applause – and with that, they noticed me. I was accepted and special.
It’s amazing how a pattern started in childhood can continue and be transferred into our relationships in adulthood. Eyes focused, I now see how relationship after relationship has bonded around this pattern of seeking dramatic distractions outside myself to escape the question of myself. A lot has changed in the less-hazy last half of my life and at the same time, not much has. I left acting all together; I discovered myself to be a leader in booking punk shows, I co-founded a non-profit and moved behind the camera pursuing my passions of photography, writing and documentary filmmaking more aggressively. My needs now involved having friends, love, a successful career and to give meaning to my life. Leaving acting was a conscious decision to leave a behind a legacy and take control of my life and not allow my fate to be sealed by directors who were constantly thrusting me into victim roles.
Although the form of my relationships have morphed and changed, the patterns remained the same. Love became my stage – the theatrics of unhealthy attachments became my new distraction that prevented me from ever really attaining the needs in my life that had finally crystallized. An endless slew of unhealthy partners were planted on my path and I ran away from feeling emotions for anyone that was actually available to me. Who was I? I gave more of myself than I was ready to my first love who set the precedent of betrayal and abuse that after I became accustomed to in varying forms. The people changed, even the types of relationships changed. The pain inside vicious cycles of avoidance persisted. I was getting attention masked as love. I was getting false promises masked as truth. I was getting a lesson masked as what I thought could be forever. I got smarter seeing the red flags yelling at me to STOP but I kept running. I violated myself. I broke my own heart.
Sometimes it takes learning the same lesson over and over again before the sound of its teachings can’t be unheard no matter how far we run. Today I get my stuff back from the last lesson I’ll ever have to deal with, because readiness is a choice. It starts by saying goodbye, it starts by ending one thing to realize a new beginning. It starts by stopping. All I can do is surrender. All I can do is admit that I am powerless and remember that I am not alone.
Shot for No Fear of Missing Out at Desert Hearts Three Year Anniversary
On the full moon
I lit your face on fire
And it is so
I let you go
And it is so
I let you go
But now I’m
right back where
I think I would have
to burn the whole house down
to erase these tears
From the confusion of the hope
I thought I had for you
I should be doing other things than
typing this out
I have so many other things
I could be focusing on
So many other ways
I could be spending my time
I need to cut you out
But right now
I’m just cutting you into a snowflake
Never to be created again
Now, I’m waiting for spring to arrive
So you can melt away and
Be erased from this wonderland
and I know it’s not good to hold on
and I know it’s not good to wish
for winter to last
I caught you on my tongue and
98.6 degrees was too hot for you
Heat can’t feel right to snow
But snow feels hotter than fire
when mixed together
and while I enjoyed creating
steam with you – we both know
this wouldn’t sustain itself
so now I’m accepting that
the seasons will change
Forest fire will happen again
I will once again be
in my element – and people
will use me on their toys
I will whip around carved bodies
like a thing that wants to be tamed
Because right now it’s dry ice
it hurts to burn and yet it’s a way
I feel alive.
People are always trying to tame me
Or reign me in. But all I wanted was
to feel appreciated by a thing that
can’t appreciate the thing that makes it
melt in my presence and can’t hold their
shape. Where I’m just flickering here
Hoping you can enjoy my warmth, my
glow, my illuminating strength.
I don’t want to be put out – but I
can see that I put you out – and for
that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that what
I am doesn’t work for what you are.
All I wanted was to make you happy
But I’m learning now that you can
Only enjoy what I am from a distance
Maybe then, maybe if I move back
What I am can make you happy.
And while I’m whipping away on others
hips and waists, I hope you’re impressed
with the magic I can create. I hope you
feel inspired to evaporate and come
back to me as more unique snowflakes
Because I don’t want to loose this
I know it’s scary, to become something
new. But I also understand that,
that may be asking too much of you.
So I’ll continue to ignite and dance,
I’ll continue to glow and burn bright
so you can see in the dark, even from
how far away I am, how amazing you are.
So that you can enjoy what I have to offer,
with out being consumed by it.
If you need some time, I’ll wait till next season.
I think that’s what I need maybe more than you.
We’re in winter now, and it’s your time
to dance, your time to light up the day with
a blanket of white – your time to fall
through the sky with other snowflakes
who are just like you – and it’s my time
to step aside, and learn how I fit in here.
I’ll keep contained and on fire balls
and in rusted barrels to help those who
need me. When summer arrives, you’ll be
in the sky – you’ll see me at my most
powerful. Then you’ll understand who I
I can’t shake this in me – nor should
I want to. I can’t burn as bright as I need
to if I choose to visit you in a freezer
so stay in the sky – and watch. I am only
destructive when used carelessly. Know
what I can offer though – in domes I’m warming
ravers, at homes I’m cooking your food, I am
the charge the gives life to electricity –
I can warm you, dazzle you – I can and I have
saved your life. But for you in particular –
from a safe distance.
Today class got a little creative
I was expecting 90 minutes of holding
Poses working against my ego to force
Me into focus of the moment
Next thing I know I’m back at a
12-step meeting, but only allowed to
talk about my top lines. I don’t really
talk about myself in a positive light
all that much. I’ve been too focused
on others’ darkness. Turns out I
still think I’m good in bed, whether or
not its with him. Turns out my salvation
is doing what I’m doing right now
Free-form, whatever it turns into
Winging gracefully. Top-line discussion
Becomes a mudra, a mudra becomes
Dance, a dance becomes tai-Bo.
From running away to running to
Punching in tandem.
“Who are you punching in the face right now?”
The answer was easy.
I wanted to hit him. I wanted to smack his
Smile to be crooked, so when he smiled
He could never fool another girl again
That he was a straight-chaser. I wanted
To punch his lips swollen shut, so
I could never kiss them again, even
If I wanted to. Which I haven’t wanted to
Not all that much, at least. I wanted to punch
His throat, so violatently that he could never
Speak lies to me or about me or about any
Girl he ever fooled anyone to think he
Was simply a victim to. I wanted to
Break his hands, so he could stop
Hypnotizing us with his talents that
We were misdirected and lost the
Attention to his broken promises.
The only promises I’ve ever seen him
Keep, were to those who could boost
His image higher – because he needed
It to be bigger than others. He needed
It to be bigger than mine. I remember
Whenever I started to get my life together
He looked a bit scared. Shocked, Surprised,
Even. It’s clear he wanted to ruin my
Life. Something about his prancing and
Pawing around his obligations to suit
So perfectly to conflict with mine,
I saw it in the way he always shifted his
Eyes. I saw it in the ways that he would get
Upset and angry when I looked at him
And saw him. No one had seen his tricks
For what they were. But I did. So yeah.
I wasn’t very mindful, or in a love state,
Exactly. My practice became my revenge.
DANCE! FEEL your body in these movements.
I felt it. It felt good. The punching started again.
This time, I was like Rocky Balboa. I was
Punching into my healing. I was a champion
In getting better. I didn’t need for him to
Be destroyed for me to be healthy and in
Doing the WORK. Yes, it is WORK,
I am becoming reborn.
I looked towards hope. Towards what I wanted
Peace. Peace in the not giving a fuck
What someone who can’t be honest with him-
Self even, says to me, thinks about me.
Consciousness so far from his reality
That my reality has elevated to a point
Where the past becomes this distant
Dream, a means to the growth, the growth
That took off like a rocket when I realized
That he was wrong in every way. I deserved
Better. Because I was better. Because
Despite what he would have me think
And feel to make himself feel taller
Than me, I am worthy. I amworthy of
This hyper new-agey love. And FUCK
Anyone who tries to judge the steps,
The mudra, the tapping, the dance.
This is where I grow, this is where I
Choose to love, anyways. This is where
I release the pain that wasn’t ever mine
To begin with. The pain I took on at
Birth from my birth mother, the pain I
took on in my youth from my father
The pain I took on from during my
adolescence from bullies
The pain I took on in my twenties from
My lovers, now finally, at 30, the pain
I took on from the one. Yes, he was the one.
The love of my life. My old life.
The love that killed me, and showed me
That that life is now done. It has been lived
Hard, lived hard and fast and as best as it
Could have been. Now is when recognize
That it’s all burned down. Now is when I
Am truly born – from the ashes.
Photos taken and words written April 2017. Desert Hearts, CA.
I’ve been standing on the outside
Every twisting arm structure
Even the cuddle piles,
I chose the couches
Underneath the stars
Away from the warmth
Of other humans
I mask my contempt
being my tent.
Frozen to my sleeping bag
Because freedom is not mine.
I withdraw from the
group because I’m scared
I came here with an
Open heart and
in just a couple of
looped myself into
proving just how
delicate I really am
Blasted open I
felt gratitude for
but even there, a
Why wasn’t this easier
I’ve got my systems
down – I
know how I react, how
to act, where to
get what I need
I want something done,
I take the lead.
So shouldn’t this be
Or do I just have
Therefore the magic
becomes a lesson and
now is something I
try to create and is
no longer something that
That’s what this is.
Any magic I thought
just happened is
actually the cause of
a lot of hard work
from other people.
It’s not luck – it’s
work – and the
willingness to see
the resources available
to be gifts to us.
Some gifts are only
leased – makes us
feel ripped or teased.
But nothing is ever really
ours to begin with.
It just is.
Last night, around 9pm I told someone I was leaving my devices at home and going out for a few hours. I liked the way it sounded. I wanted to do that. But the truth is, I was so emotionally drained that all I could do was text a few people, wait for them to text me back, force myself to not log on to Facebook, and when it became clear that my friend wasn’t going to come over for tea after all, fall quickly asleep in my clothes and on top of a mattress pad.
Truth is I haven’t put sheets on my bed in the near-week since I’ve been back. Nothing is unpacked. I forced myself to edit a set of photos and I forced myself to get to some gatherings of people who seemed like they could relate.
This morning I did the same. It was easy to get up on time because I fell asleep so early. Getting myself there was harder. If I go to this thing, it means I admit to defeat. I admit that I have been defeated by myself. I go and I sheepishly raise my hand to share last nights failures, but I am never called on. Well – actually I was called on, but someone else hijacked my turn because they didn’t know the process yet. But I was there at 8:30am in a meditation center surrounded by other Angelenos choosing to not sleep off booze from the night before and instead choosing to get honest with themselves and how they’ve been living their realities.
This space is heavy. It’s uncomfortable and maddening. But is it more maddening than what brought me there? Maybe it’s just the withdrawal. It’s hard to identify with other people when I hate labels, and I’m always on the lookout for others projecting their issues onto mine. So how do I discern the difference between empathy and projecting? The only way to know is dive deeper to gain clarity of who I am myself. To ask questions I’m afraid of answering because I can’t help but think, for fuck’s sake haven’t I done enough? When do I get to just be happy? I’m happy when I’m alone – but there’s no risk involved there. I’m happy when I’m reassured and loved and have consistency. I haven’t had that in a while and the result is this post. So who’s the culprit anyways? The fault lies in both parties and all I can do is my part to heal from it and heal myself to not make the same unhealthy choices.
Part of me wonders if maybe I’m just searching for ANY answer and ANY concrete path because I’m sick of living in the unknown in a place in the country where I never really felt like I fit in, around people who I’ve constantly had to adjust my communication styles for. With friends who seem to be more absent lately… Maybe this post is me reaching out. It is. It is.
After the meeting I went to church. I never have Sunday mornings off anymore and there was a time when going to the Hollywood United Methodist Church (HUMC) was a place for deep reflection and healing for me. Even though I don’t really believe in God or Jesus in the way that most Christians do. What I do believe that this church preaches, is that God is love, and that that love is given to everyone on earth. Their commitment is shown in the marriage equality banner that was flagged on their exterior walls for years and how in every sermon, radical involvement in making our world a better place through action and not just talking about it, is encouraged.
I completely forgot that today was Palm Sunday. I used to love singing “Hosanna” waving palms around in church and in the two productions of Jesus Christ Superstar that I did growing up. This was not that kind of service. Reverend Cathy reminded us that while it’s natural to just want to skip to the Easter part of the story, there can’t be rebirth, with out death first. This seemed oddly fitting for today, and the Tower tarot card which has been looming in my readings for weeks now came to mind. The image of the Tower is typically lightning striking down a tall structure. The foundations are falling apart and change is coming whether or not you want it to. The card tends to look pretty scary – always at night – and no one likes getting it in a reading. The tower for me has almost always coincided with a breakup.
What I hate about this is, when will I ever get to just find peace? It’s gotten to the point that whenever I feel love, I’m waiting for the moment when it’s going to fall apart. I’ve done Vipassana, sound healing, reiki, therapy, I’ve read countless self-help books and I’ve gotten to know myself quite well and am aware of my patterns even when they’re happening now. So I wonder, when is all the work I’ve done going to be enough where things can be stable to the point that no one can knock me off of my mountain? How is it that even with everything that I’ve done, I am still so affected by this kind of loss?
After the lesson, there was a live performance of the story of how Jesus was crucified. I wasn’t expecting this. The lights were dim, the music was morbid, and every second I wanted to run out of the church. I had memories of performing in that musical at the age of 12 and 14 of being backstage while our actor playing Jesus was being crucified on the cross and dissonant tones were being sung by the adult ensemble spectators. The younger ensemble were watching the crew literally holding up the platform that was the roof above our heads that was also the ground upon which the cross was on top of. Literally, the stage was collapsing above our heads and since “the show must go on” we all stayed there, risking our young lives, as the backstage crew used all of their force to hold up the ceiling.
We ended up fine and at that age I held that mantra that the show must go on, on a pedestal. To the point where I continued in performances with sprained ankles, bronchitis, skipping school to perform daytime school performances and even once, got hit in the head with a magic lamp and to this day, I still have the scar just above my right eye lid to prove the tale. It’s interesting to me now how this mirrors my personal life. I was a slow test taker and even as bullies were throwing wads of paper and spit balls at my head and pencil, I continued to take the test. Even when things were rough at home and I tried to run away, I came back anyways and told my parents I loved them. Even when a girl at school told me she didn’t see me as a friend, I told her that I would consider her one anyways. I became a master at charging through pain, not ignoring it, but accepting it and moving ahead anyways. Part of me wonders if because of this, pain has become normalized in my every day life. I’ve been complimented on how strong I am, the playa name that was given to me was “Charge,” which I fully identify with, and that I’m a warrior. Have I rested too much on this? Truthfully I’m tired of having to charge through anything and can’t help but wonder, why do things always have to be so hard?
After the performance I felt extremely heavy and was looking forward to seeing who had text me during the service, even though I all ready knew it wasn’t who I was hoping it would be. We all left in silence, and went out to the brand new backyard that was installed. HUMC is a gorgeous church with a lot of Hollywood history. You’ve seen its gym in Back to the Future, its exterior and interior in Sister Act, and there are frequent tours of the space. The new yard in the back was possible because an old building behind it had been torn down. It was fitting for this Palm Sunday’s lesson. The yard had a small path, there were kid-sized picnic tables surrounding the grassy area, there were flower gardens lining the picnic area and everything was set up for an unexpected Easter egg hunt.
From a dimly-lit, moody sermon, suddenly we were met with eggs and East bunny footprints scattered about, over-the-top cheerful Chipmunks Easter music and kids running around with their Easter gift baskets blowing bubbles and eating muffins. I felt whip-lashed. I had just experienced an entire morning of intense self-reflection and had gone straight into a child’s play-time where seemingly happy adults watched after them and joined each other in fellowship. Even though I had been coming to this church on and off for six years, I felt like a fish out of water. I knew I should stay and attempt to talk to someone, to not give into my melancholy completely but had no idea where to start. The cheerfulness caused me to feel nauseated and I looked at these happy parents and families and a rare feeling of jadedness came over me. Why couldn’t I just be “normal” like these people? Then I remembered what a girl said at my meeting that morning about how comparing herself to others caused her a lot of pain and I stopped myself in those thoughts.
I then realized how much I missed the innocence of my childhood. As adults, we are in a room having a serious experience witnessing Christ’s death, and as children, they are sheltered away from this realness, and instead given candy, and crayons and coloring books.
“Lighten up, Amanda. Have a goddamn off-brand Oreo and get yourself some coffee. You’re safe here. Everything is fine.”
So I did just that and looked around the yard for women my age, maybe a little alternative looking, and awkwardly made eye contact with a woman a few times before finally introducing myself.
We talked for a bit, and I took her photo with the Easter bunny and volunteered to take others’ photos. She plays the harp and that to me was very cool. It was nice to talk to someone and have her introduce me to a few other church members and I was invited to a Taco Tuesday talk on spirituality and I felt grateful to be included. At the same time, I felt completely disconnected. I knew I was just looking for community and friendship from wherever I could find it. At the same time, I’ve been disappointed that the burner community I’ve been so proud to be apart of, has been completely MIA in my outreach to them. I decided to take a selfie with the Easter bunny, and sent it to my ex as a joke against my better judgement to reach out at all and went home knowing I was going to write about this without being 100% sure as to where it would go.
So this is where I’m at. It appears that there is a lot more work to be done. Frankly, I’m scared shitless and exhausted. There is also a lot of work to be done in my career. I’m production coordinating a pilot in less than a week and the to-do list is mounting taller and taller by the hour. I’m catching up on photo editing and documentary obligations. And yet… I still haven’t even unpacked or made my bed. I accomplish tasks like a robot and as soon as they’re done, wrestle with my self-doubt and confusion about my life’s current life path. Maybe I need another summer in NYC. Maybe that won’t make a difference and I need to just stay and face my fears. Maybe I just need new friends who can be present and I need to fall for partners who’s issues don’t exacerbate my issues.
I don’t have any concrete answers right now. And since I hate the unknown, maybe that’s the first lesson. Being okay with not having any answers, to anything.