Happy 2020!

Gotta be quick here, gotta make with words then make my way out the door. There’s dancing and champagne and I’m entering the new year – heck, the new decade – wearing a mu-mu and llama socks, like no fucks given. I went back through my journal, through my Google calendar, through my Instagram, trying to find evidence of my last fuck given. 404, fucks not found. 2019 rocked.

I wrote out the notable and amazing things in 2019 and it took two pages in my journal. Tomorrow I start three new journals – one for object writing, one for planning and scheming even more wickedly awesome moments and achievements, and one for “Dear diary, wow, I can’t even, like wow” type stuff that no one will ever read.
2019 I went to many workshops each of songwriting, singing, improv, and psychotherapy. I took in more live music than some people do in a lifetime. I went to theatre more than once every month.

I applied for, was accepted to, and started grad school. I took massively bold steps forward into the future I want for myself. I started a job that makes me think and grow and that I believe in. I earned money acting.

I loved friends and lovers, and I swam around in the pleasant greys of no fucks given and love being love.

I did say good bye to a dog. We did have a formal goodbye for my mother. I was really stressed out at times. I was confused and sometimes my heart hurt a lot – that seems to happen when we love, doesn’t it? I failed at quitting drinking three times. I came to terms with my relationship with alcohol.

I danced so much. I joined crazy arts and culture events. I attended three conferences, all without a career to advance. I enjoyed untold pleasant conversations.

I loved 2019. I’ve been wanting a year like 2019 for a long, long time. I dropped all my fucks in January and was in the moment as much as I possibly could. So maybe this is why I’m trying to manufacture giddiness for the New Year. I have no need to escape the dying year. I’m confident the new one holds delight and living and crying and laughing and thinking and novelty enough to satisfy even me.

Happy New Year my friends. Happy New Decade. Happy New Day. Happy Right Now, and most likely Happy Tomorrow.

Nesting Dolls

Tonight I got to make art with my daughter. I did spoken word and she did a juggling routine, the two interwoven and set to music. Only I was too moved by the experience and by watching her juggle and I forgot my last lines. Luckily we were performing for our beautiful theatre community in a room of support and love. And now she has a new routine and I have a new poem

Once upon a time as a young aspiring poet learning to rhyme I’d hold my pen so serious hitting the flow young and making myself delirious writing poems about snowdrops in the spring or the voices of the dead joining to sing to the living – I wrote everything I felt in haiku and rhyming couplets – dropping everything to snatch poems from the air – catch them and pen them to the page to keep them there.

Irving Layton once told me not to BE a poet but to leave poetry to fun and make some more sensible plan. Long after his death my banker-self cursed that man – but the poet child lives inside me still and always will see poems dancing in sunlight on autumn leaves and swipe their stories off a passing breeze.

One summer in my childhood when we were out all day and home by the time the street lights came on I tossed around the idea of playing the bully – just to feel how that felt in my bones and my body.

 One day, I threw a boy – not pushed or shoved – but threw him into a bush. And I knew it was wrong but I loved the rush of power and control – of course it was just a role and I quickly dropped the act. It’s good to know though that if I ask, that alpha kid will step out from inside me and stand beside me to assert boundaries and make me free to stand tall and strong when that’s the only way I see to get along. 

And maybe I wanted to play bully a while because like most other childhoods mine was manipulated by the false promises and uneasy patterns of adults and the best way to survive was to smile and be quiet and pleasantly small – because a kid doesn’t understand alcoholism or mental illness at all.

You only know that to stay safe when they’re looking for someone to blame, you stay small and smile – and as a grown up it’s often the same. So I thank that young freckled self for learning how to smile just sweetly enough because my friends, sometimes when the going gets tough, the tough are just the ones still smiling in the end. 

These past versions of me live still right inside of me – holding their lessons and skills for me to use and I can willfully pick and choose who best to augment my current self with.

I call on each for different reasons but on occasion and in some seasons they call on me knock knocking at my door asking – can I come out and play? Like now it’s spring and the bird are singing mating songs as dawn is breaking and bulbs are thrusting stalks through damp earth making all the natural world ache to give birth.

And inside my middle-aged reasonable self, a much younger self stirs, sniffs the air and laughs. Flirting with flowers and sighing with sunbeams, she stretches her youthful limbs and – thinking thoughts of love – takes centre stage.

(this is when my daughter enters and starts her juggling routine. Part way through I finish the poem)

Poet child, erstwhile bully, sweet survivor, would be lover – everything and everyone you’ve ever been – you still are. Each inside you and inside each other like nesting dolls of former selves, standing ready to give you help. Inside this beautiful mess of your complicated parts is you, capitol Y O U, your truest you, your “to thine own self be true” you.

With all embellishments swept away, the unbedazzled and honest face behind every social mask. Every gut reaction, every “I feel it in my bones” is your truest self whispering stories of your soul and we best hone our listening skills because your innermost self speaks truth, and always will. 

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

At a music conference last September, I got lost in some conflicted feelings when someone asked about my music and I said, “Oh, I’m not an artist, I’m a volunteer.” The dissonance arose because if life had gone differently, I might well have been a singer songwriter. Or maybe a lounge singer. Or an actor. Or a writer. As it was I have been a single mom and a banker. I mean, it’s not over yet and right now in the realm of “what do you do”, I’m nothing. I’m between jobs. Between incarnations. I’m awaiting news on an application to study psychotherapy.

My roomie at the conference said I sure seemed like an artist to her – and really, it seemed, to the majority of people I spoke with – and I needed to take some time to explore that. As I was holding a one way ticket to London with zero plans, time to explore my artistic side seemed in the cards. She made me promise to get the book The Artist’s Way , and to really DO the program. I bought the book in an Art Gallery Gift Shop in London and I began the weekly exercises in Alicante.

The concept of this book is that you tackle a chapter each week and you transform yourself from a snivelling, terrified person who hasn’t done anything artistic in years because of having been victimised by external forces, into a confident person who believes in their art, engages in it daily and has rediscovered their playful inner artist-child. This is NOT how the author would describe it. My very first journal entry regarding the process (and you write every day for 12 weeks and then on until you die) uses the words “sappy, basic, and judgy”. And really, this impression held for the whole twelve weeks. Probably this book just wasn’t meant for a person like me where I am in life. I’ve always written and acted. I had just quit a career in personal finance in part because success in career sales in the personal finance industry just did not play well with an artistically rich life. I already write most days so the “Morning Pages” wasn’t of any new use to me, and is not in the slightest a unique idea. The concept of taking your Inner Artist on Artist’s Dates once a week is unnecessarily artificial to me. I am well in touch with my inner child. I am generally joyful, in the moment and playful. I indulge this side of myself too much, if that’s possible. Too much for a banker, that’s for certain.

I was frequently offended by the theme of victimhood and recovery; although, at some places the theme of being in recovery was useful for me. For instance, I had been affected by my parents cancelling my music lessons and selling the organ when I was young. I can see how they felt it was taking up space as I didn’t practice it properly – all I did was play on it. Given that I wore headphones, they might not even really have known how often I played on it. But I played around with music and wrote songs and enjoyed creating music. That’s a memory I’d forgotten and I’ve since bought a keyboard – I have the Artist’s Way to thank for that.

I benefited from the chapters on seeing myself as an artist and practised telling strangers in Europe that I was a writer, or that I was an actor. Both of which are true – though not in the professional sense. It felt good though and brought me in touch with how much I value these aspects of myself.

My biggest problem with this book was how Christian it was, without overtly disclosing anywhere on the covers that this was the case. In the Introduction, she says “When the word God is used in these pages, you may substitute the thought good orderly direction or flow. What we are talking about here is a creative energy. God is useful shorthand for many of us…” (xii) but then sprinkles biblical quotes throughout the remainder of the book. If “God” is just shorthand, why not use “flow” instead? It’s so much less laden with concepts external to the apparently intended meaning of “creative energy”. Why not go with a simpler term? In the same vein, the author refers fairly often to science and then displays a complete lack of understanding of science. All told, it’s intellectually lazy.

I did finish all twelve weeks. I completed the exercises and several of them were  interesting and helpful. The “Reading List”, or references, contains a number of resources from which she borrowed all or most of the exercises that I think would be of greater use to me than this book. But that isn’t to say this book wasn’t helpful. I bought a keyboard. I gained confidence in thinking of myself as an artist. I grew in clarity regarding what roles I want writing, acting, and music to play in my life. Psychotherapy is at least as much a passion as the artistic pursuits and one can’t go full tilt in all directions at once. And dabbling in psychotherapy is a lot more dangerous than dabbling in the arts!

I think The Artist’s Way would be useful for someone who truly does need to recover their inner child-artist. Someone who used to enjoy their artistic gifts and then because of Life, turned their back on them. If that person is an atheist, they will have to deal with the feeling that the author is trying to subtly convert heathens to the true path.

Tristao do Lemos

Short one act play written in Portugal as part of the “Write or Flight” 22 hours writing challenge in the “Unhinged Festival of Disturbed Theatre” 
Cast of Characters

Gloria, in her 30s or 40s – bank employee who wants to be a writer

Kathy, age approximate to Gloria – her friend and co-worker

Tristao, man in his mid 40s

The play takes place in one afternoon in a room in an old European castle. There is one entrance to the room off-stage where Kathy and Gloria enter. When the door to the room is opened, this is indicated by light flooding into the room from the direction of the off stage door. Likewise it is indicated to be closing by similar lighting effect. Tristao enters through a hidden opening in the back wall. There is a table, a chair, and a bench.

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