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.
Photos taken and words written in October 2017. One Love Fest, CA.
I wish I was a bird Their mating rituals are so simple And with my love song I’d know damn well when He was calling on another.
Love the people in these photos But everyone wants a perfect time Let’s stop teaching the myth of “ready” And instead replace it, With the reality of choice.
My necklace that contains Sodalite for self-love Rose quartz for unconditional love And amethyst for healing Went missing last night. But my bet is my stones’ called on another Cause for me they’d done all they could do.
I listened to myself. My body, my need For boundaries. I’m not ready for a good time. I’m ready for a real time, or a nap Whichever comes first. It’s been one real of a week. I put sparkles on my cheeks and Cat ears on my head. To feel like my life Was some time else.
Either in the past where My trust was still As low pressure As my playa tires Or the future where I love myself so Much, that I Listen to myself And give me what I need against peace.
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.
Photos taken and words written in October 2017. New York, NY.
I didn’t get picked again. He didn’t even touch my hair. Doesn’t he know that it’s virgin hair?? Not picked, rejected, the idiots. Idiots! Sounds familiar.
If he had only touched it he would have known. I look at their choices and feel pity for their stupidity that who they are looking for is me. I am that girl. I have that thick, luscious hair, with High cheek bones, eyes that will kill you with their stare; I am Medusa Look at me and risk your life. You don’t know what you want You don’t know what you want You don’t know what you want Look at me: I will hold you with my hair, I will encapsulate Everything that thrills you and terrifies you with one stare.
I’m every girl you ever wanted in one. Why is it taking so long for someone to figure this out? I can chill with you on your couch, then fuck you in your car. I look good on your arm and get your weird humor. You can say weird shit like “I want to chew up your eyeballs and spit them out” and I will get it and love you for it. Your desire for me scares you because it has taken you over. You don’t know if there’s room for anything else. You know I’m the end. You know this is a mudslide. You don’t want me to hold you because you know once you succomb to me your will is useless. It’s over. The rest of your life is in my hands. Idiot!
I never gave myself that power only you. You will hunt for the forbidden fruit only to look back years from now, see that I’ve hardly aged, I’m exceeding you in our Careers and that I’m ridiculously happy without you. You will feel sorry; you will realize how stupid you were. You were realize you were such a goddamn idiot for not even trying, not even touching my… hair. Not even seeing what could be possible with this beauty, this body, this mind, these eyes, these arms, these hands, this heart, this smile. Coward. Step out of your own way and stop looking. I’m right here. Focus now, readjust that focal length. You need a more shallow depth of field because I’m RIGHT HERE. Stop looking. You’ve found it. Don’t be an idiot.
Bathing myself in this heat
I let the air pressure renew me
Off of Spring Street
Those ICEE’s look delicious
Been craving a frappucino
Both make me feel old and gross
I refrain from the sugar
Trying to find something sustainable
I chug water and cocao
I stare at an empty stage
My to-do list is long but all
I want to do is sit and sulk and drink
Too hot to get high, and the polarity
Might kill me. I’m so mixed up I’m
Broken. All pieces of myself scattered
Across the dead lawn of a place I once
Wrote many poems on.
I want to run away from typing
I sit with the discomfort of this heat
Hoping someone will text me back
Rescue me from having to sit with this
Tapping on dating apps, hoping to loose
Myself in another so I can offer a big
Middle finger to those who tell me I’m
Not for them. Not now, unavailable.
Perhaps they think I’ll always be around,
Waiting for that day when circumstance will
Align with desire. Life doesn’t give us perfect
Timing. All it gives us is choices and feelings
We don’t always have a say in.
If I had a say in my emotions, I would be
Robotic with steel walls as boundaries.
But I’m not, I’m as penetrable as the wind
But my gusts come with force, a fierce funnel
Of dust and my particles are fine, they get
Inside of people without them even realizing
That weeks after I’m gone they’re coughing
Me up. Choking on me, because I’m hard to
Get rid of. Pretty and powerful
Powerful wind, I’m an intense experience
That I’m always trying to transcend.
Imagine existing as the cyclone, where
Everything that you love gets blown
Away when near you. In awe of your
Force, but can’t stand strong with you
So maybe humans weren’t meant for me
Maybe humans are too weak
Maybe what I need is steel that I can’t
Damage, skin that won’t chap even on
A good day. Robots do their best to feel
But it takes a lot to get through to them
So maybe I’m what they need. Something
Strong to move them, even if it’s subtle –
Two opposing forces, not right on paper.
Two opposing forces, that need each other
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.
Don’t make decisions from your pain, love.
It may feel like you want to take the scissors
and cut up all the shapes to shreds.
It may feel like none of your circles were perfect,
like your hearts were all lopsided,
that your squares were only trapezoids
and your trapezoids were more like stars;
but don’t cut them into confetti.
The world needs the imperfect shapes that only
you can create. So take that glue stick and create
a mosaic because when you put it all together
what comes out of you will only fit together
if you cut it asymmetrical.
Confetti may be great for a party;
scattering your pain across a room in celebration
of our flaws. Flaunting our need to forget with
every blunt that we smoke and drink that we sip.
You can dance and sweat it out as much as you
feel it in the techno but the beat won’t make
your heart more even. It won’t make your
nose less deviated. It won’t take the air out
of your stomach and sharpen your hearing.
When the party ends, your need to destroy
what you are just becomes trash; moop
that gets in the way of everyone when
the high wears off. So cut it as perfectly
imperfect as you can. Your shapes can
create art that others can appreciate.
Some will approach from a distance to
understand it in totality from afar. Some
get in close to understand what materials
you used, the method upon which it was cut,
the binding material and the foundation it lays
on. Some will want to understand the whole
journey of how you created it. Some will
want to take it home. Understanding it’s worth of
having as someone’s own. Also understand that
Mosaics aren’t everyone’s thing. But just wait…
The right buyer will come along.
They will have a place for you that’s been
needing to be filled. They will be ready for
a large and heavy, colorful piece of art.
It will fit in with their colorful and large home.
They will see your art on the wall and know
that it belongs on their wall, right above the
couch, where everyone can see. Proud and happy
that they found the piece they’ve always been
looking for. Something they see everyday that
Makes them smile, that makes them think,
that challenges them on their own journey.
Someday this buyer will come, and they will
know it’s worth. They won’t hesitate, they won’t
Question the imperfect shapes. They will understand.
So don’t cut yourself into confetti. There is nothing
wrong with you.
Spring is coming
I see it on the horizon
As the sun goes down as late
As 7 o’clock
I embrace the later darkness
The illumination of the sun
Of giving into more daylight
They say the full moon
Illuminates that which we had
Been pushing beneath the surface
But the moons light is only a
reflection of the sun
So it’s time to cut out the middle man
It’s time to say yes to the sun
Say yes to the dawn
Say yes to things bright and shiny and
New. I realize that I am not
The same person I was a year ago
I realize that although I went my
Own path, and even from that
I sometimes strayed, it was still
My way – and that’s okay – that’s
Grand that’s just divine because
My journey can’t be like his, or his
Or yours or hers. I can expand and
Become more clear at the same time
Tunnel vision never got me anywhere
I really wanted to be. It’s fine to take
Sideways glances. It’s grand it’s
Divine to experience all things.
Mixing the old with the new. I keep
The things I love like this sunset
View and try it on with a cheese borek
An Armenian bakery that’s been
Around the corner from me that
I never stepped inside of until today.
Maybe it’ll be my favorite new pastry,
Maybe I’ll get indigestion. But how
Will I know my favorite foods until
I’ve tried them all? How will I keep
Growing outward if I limit myself
With assumptions? How will I learn
From advice if I don’t first listen,
And try it on for size?
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.