Moving Insanity


We’re having one of those times. You know, when we look at 20+ places to find a temporary living situation, and the paperwork to Canada keeps getting lost in the mail, and our jobs are the most stressful they’ve been, well, ever, and the people that say they want our furniture continually renege, and we’re throwing away so much stuff it’s like having our life histories stripped away.

Until there we are, looking at each other.

Each morning, we get up, she takes a shower while I either groan, sleep or play with social media. And then we meet in the living room, where we do 10 minutes of yoga stretching, followed by 10 minutes of meditation, followed by a brief share on where we are, and then we just stare into each other’s eyes for 3 solid minutes. I’m not kidding. We call it present time. We make each other the object of our waking meditation. If we zone out, we close our eyes until we can zone back in.

I am hanging onto these times in the morning, when I see my partner, when I feel her beside me, moving her body, groaning about the strains from shoveling, when I listen to her, when I focus only on me. when I say metta.

We keep catching our own insanity. This is what meditation does. And every time one of us catches ourselves taking shit out on the other person, or leaving the sense of teamwork, and comes back in, trust builds back from all the terrible moves culminating in this, the worst move of all, except for the us of us.

I told my partner the other day that I married her so I could watch that bowlegged walk she does for the rest of my life.

We are dropping out of the known into some other thing. We know not what.

I have thrown away so much stuff! So that I feel unburdened and untethered. I have thrown away copies of manuscripts, I have donated books I love, I have given away clothes…sometimes it physically hurt.

Then I look at this person. See her. 30 years, we’ll have on June 8. We watched our wedding video yesterday. We are truly not those people any more. She has a different gender identity. I have a different name. Those 30 year olds were gorgeous. And we are wise, and love with a knowledge of everything it take to love and break, and rebuild, over and over.

I am beginning to admit that I might not change anything, even though I’ve screwed up so badly at times that I myself find it hard to believe.

I let go. Of everything else. But me. And her.

With no idea what’s coming.

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I wrote a short novel about love and grace in our times. You can read it for free on Amazon until March 11.


Saint John the Divine in Iowa, my screenplay that won the Meryl Streep-funded Writers Lab, told the story of an Episcopal Priest fighting to balance the needs of her congregation and her gay daughter. Priest Kid tells the daughter’s story…of having a mother who’s a saint, but who loves humanity as much as she loves her. It’s about good people, about hope and politics in families, about redemption. If you want a break from hate, as I do, this is the story.

Priest Kid

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The Gender Thing


As I watched the Oscars…and how could I not watch, wondering how many people would include the new administration in their speeches?…and as I listened to the creators of Moonlight talk about representation, about the need for queer youth of color to see themselves, to know they have a place, I started thinking about straight women, and this gathering in which straight women, all white, all at least middle class, spoke to their common pool of understanding about Hillary Clinton.

Of course, it’s not my common pool, even though I understand the basic liberal thinking.

And I thought, watching the Oscars, as I thought at that gathering, that the truth is that gender non-conforming is at the heart of being queer. That’s why trans people are so radical to the binary straight. That’s what a gathering of straight people often won’t get…I’m standing here, not just different in who I love, but different, essentially, in my stance in the world and my experience of my own gender.

And think, what the straight world needs most to learn IS this non-conformity. The binary leaves men stranded on the island of “I-can-never-be-weak.” It leaves women focused on the male gaze…in ways so deep we can’t even see it ourselves.

I love being queer so much. I love how it saved me, how it set me free, in my very young loneliness, to think my own different thoughts, to struggle through to my own identity, even though it was hard, and troubled….and, of course, hurtful to face prejudice time and again. I have three sisters, and I cannot explain how much deeper the track of our mother’s and father’s lives burrowed into them.

And maybe someone would say that’s not because they’re straight. But that someone would not be me.

To be in this world unencumbered by our own conditioning…or, as the Buddhists say, to witness it, and therefore to release ourselves from its power…

Queer is a way to get there. Gratefully. We don’t just need to represent. We need to teach.

 

 

The No Language Vlog


This vlog could be a response to so many things:

1. The election.
2. The election.
3. My determination to move to Canada because of the election.
4. Realtors coming through our home yesterday and today.
5. Looking at an apartment that is more expensive and half the size of our condo.
6. My stupid coach making me do at least one vlog every week.
7. Me being a type A who has to meet every friggin deadline.
8. The hormones that finally arrived in the mail haven’t kicked in yet.

Common Humanity


This has been the year of common humanity.

Not for our country, here in the USA. Not for the UK. Not for Syria. Not for politics in general.

But for me, personally, it’s been my growing edge.

Given that I’m a hot-headed lesbian  high maintenance actor with a strong activist bent.

In January, my partner and I did an on-line course with Brene Brown on courage. Part of the curriculum was a touch down on self-compassion. We took a test (http://self-compassion.org/test-how-self-compassionate-you-are/), and learned that self compassion is made up of 3 parts: self-kindness, mindfulness and common humanity.

I scored fairly high on self-kindness and mindfulness, and abysmally low on common humanity.

Balls to the wall honest: I’ve always felt I could come to your suffering with love and understanding. But I have had ABSOLUTELY NO FAITH in your ability to come to mine.

My poor sense of common humanity comes from a deep belief in the inability of other people to witness for me and empathize with me. It comes from a bone-deep sense of isolation, and a fear of being judged. And maybe disbelieved.

And, more honest yet–we know that it is trauma that severs the interpersonal bridge. We get hurt enough, we don’t feel connected to anyone.

My interpersonal bridge was nuked, baby. Gay bashing, sexual harassment, being a witness to violence, standing up, speaking, watching offenders go free to offend again, witnessing the moral numbness and denial of communities of the suffering of me and mine over and over again–I have, as so many of us have, plenty of reason for my lack of trust in other humans.

We can only heal in connection. We can only heal by rebuilding the bridge. There is nothing, NOTHING, more important than being able to connect with other humans.

In this year of common humanity, when my suffering was pinged in a way that made me feel so different, I tried to tell someone. I even posted my pain all over FB after Pulse–and I ended up so glad I had, because of the love and humility of straight people in my life who came to me where I hurt.

When I couldn’t post, or speak, or explain, I tried to mentally and spiritually connect with other people wherever–in the Sudan, in Syria–and to know that unrelenting violence has been a part of so many lives, not just mine.

I’m a work in process. But here’s the thing–the feeling of isolation, of having known extreme violence and extreme prejudice, the loneliness, the distrust, the rage, the feeling of being trapped…at its worst, leads to sense of victim entitlement. I’ve had this entitlement, because it’s friggin’ normal to have it. It’s how our brains work. It sounds like this, “You have no idea how I feel or what it’s like to have lived through what I’ve lived through, so you fucking owe me. And seriously, you expect me to care about your garden variety entitled American dysfunctional whatever…workplace, family, etc.?”

Ask my partner how completely SEEN she feels when I go into that space.

Look around and see people competing for who has had it worst.

Common humanity. Some of us have suffered way more than others. It is a fact. Some of us are way more at risk than others. We have incredibly complicated feelings about our level of risk–for example, terrified and angry at people more privileged…or grateful not to be at risk, guilty, and terrified. Pick your poison.

This may sound like a tangent, but for me it isn’t: privilege is about survival. The more you have, the more likely you will be one of the ones who make it. Everyone wants privilege. Everyone who has it wants to keep it. At least a little bit.

So…

Yesterday, I read on Facebook 3 posts by people of color expressing outrage and judgment about the white people who were expressing shock and fear in response to Trump being elected. And I thought, “Enough!”

Yesterday, I read FB posts by white straight men saying that we were only allowed to feel for one day before getting back to work, that feelings were ridiculous, that we should accept Trump and make the best of it. And I thought, “Enough!”

I wrote a post. For common humanity, I said that all responses that do not hurt or judge others are welcome. Judging people for being shocked? For having emotions at all? There’s no common humanity in judging people for their emotions (which are involuntary, we need to remember…we don’t pick what we feel…and trying not to feel what we feel…welcome to the land of addictions).

I’ll say this again–there’s no common humanity in judging people for what they feel.

Feeling exhausted? Like Trump is just one more in a long series of betrayals you’ve had to fight your whole life to overcome?

Welcome.

Shock? Being caught off guard? Believing the polls? Trusting the neoliberals? Believing we could do better?

Welcome.

Wanting to shut down? Or jump to action?

Welcome.

I happen to share every single one of these feelings.

Just don’t tell anyone to be like you, and we’re good.

Common humanity, for me, means setting aside my victim entitlement, setting aside my better-than, my one-up, my one-down, my I-hurt-more…setting aside my compulsive isolation, and trying out trust. It means sharing how hard it’s been, sharing how hurt I’ve felt, sharing my terror, and risking that you might come to me.

Of course, maybe you won’t.

Here’s the thing. For the better part of a decade I ran a multicultural theatre company founded on an event called SLAMBoston, Diverse Voices in Theatre. On the nights of the slams, there was often a coming together, a raucous and sacred space of all voices being heard equally. People left high on belonging.

But behind the scenes, there were always people hating. African-American men hating gay men, white straight people proud of their disengagement with causes, or, alternately, embarrassed and nervous and awkward, queer people ignorant about the struggles of people of color and revealing this without knowing it, people eager to tell members of another group how well they understood by “mansplaining” (women can and do mansplain). There were professional rip offs, complaints about too many AIDS plays, criticism of the model, ageism galore, especially in casting by young directors.

We could come together into the warmth of tolerance, but before and after we often didn’t trust. We didn’t know how to hear and keep hearing each other.

I rode those swings for ten years. The hope and the ugliness, the beauty and the ignorance, back and forth, over and over again.

I am writing this blog in the hope of more common humanity. Not to let go the politics and the intellectual understanding of minority politics, but to bring more heart to the mix for everyone. More willingness to take the risk of the “I-Thou,” rather than the demand that you pay for my suffering and listen to me first. Rather than demanding you follow the lines of privilege and make me feel better about always coming first.

No one is first. We can’t keep competing and come together.

“I-Thou” in all personal encounters is the way of happiness. Of peace.

I trusted a woman to grow in the last 6 months, and she did.

So did I, by giving her the benefit of the doubt.

The benefit of the doubt. The risk. The opening of the broken heart.

Oprah says, “We are more alike than we are different.” She is a woman of great common humanity, and she fights for her own as well as for everyone.

It’s not a popular thing to say. “We are more alike than we are different.” I fear being attacked for saying it, because, well, I’m not Oprah. I am, among many other things, white.

I’m going to say it anyhow.

Multiculturalism asks that we listen to each others’ different experiences, different cultures, with the utmost respect. We need to do this.

But common humanity builds the foundation of compassion, of witnessing, that makes this sharing meaningful and healing. A bridge must go both ways, no matter how hard this is.

I believe you are not unknowable to me.

And though I am a woman and double minority, though I have experienced more than my share of violence and prejudice, I believe I am not unknowable to you.

But we attack. We suffer, and this makes us angry. We are at risk. We feel powerless, and we flail around, trying to get safe.

You are not unknowable to me. I have the bandwidth to hear you with the best of my compassion, with the depth of my own suffering, with my highest intelligence.

I can know you, and I want to.

Common humanity.

I am not unknowable to you. I have the courage to tell you my story. I have the hope that you will listen, and you will help me rebuild my bridge.

I will help you build yours.

We are more alike than we are different, and we can ALL experience this, if we listen, if we make room.

Common humanity trumps politics. If we have courage, faith, the willingness to listen. One to one. Communication instead of rhetoric.

Mind you, I say all this while continuing to research jobs in Canada, New Zealand and Europe.

I say this while donating to my most passionate causes.

I say this while struggling to make room for everyone I truly love, many of whom have had it easier than I have.

I’m jealous of them.

But I love.

This is my common humanity.

 

 

I Want to Be Peace…or Politics on a Daily Basis


For me, politics in this election started with Bernie Sanders. I was so excited by him! But as I argued with people on Facebook, I started to realize that some people knew a great deal more than I did about the political system and our governing history. I started to realize that I had very strong opinions that were based on only partial knowledge. I was convinced I was right, and I didn’t have all the facts.

This embarrassed me.

Plus, I hate to lose arguments.

More education seemed like a good idea.

But as I read about Hillary Clinton’s voting record, her work internationally with women and children, as I read the horse race who-is-more-likely-to-win stats, as I read, for the first time (I’m embarrassed to say), Noam Chomsky, I started to notice that I was far from the only person who had strong opinions based on far too few facts.

Most people seemed to fall in the camp of I-am-right-though-I-do-not-really-know-my-facts-and-don’t-want-to-learn-them-from-you-unless-you-agree-with-me-about-everything. (Me on a very bad day, I have to admit.)

The rhetoric heated up. Name calling, explicit or implicit. Blogs that told only a small piece of any story. Misinformation. Quotes from the Huffington Post that contradicted other quotes from the Huffington Post. Siting of political web sites. Accusations of voting tampering. Accusations that anyone who believed there had ever been voting tampering was a conspiracy theorist.

It seemed that the hotter the temperature, the less facts mattered. It seemed it was all about who could be more insulting. Courtesy and basic respect fell by the wayside. Swearing and name-calling became a way of winning. Tone! Sometimes, it was humor. Sometimes, just attacks.

My own pseudo Buddhism started ringing in my head, so I tried to understand, to find compassion for all these shouting people. The common denominator was clearly emotion. Rational discourse was rare, and especially rare if people disagreed.

We are all so scared right now. The world seems unsafe. Survival. Opportunity. Care. Safety. How can I protect me and mine?

On my best days, I want to speak to this. I’m not a political theorist. I’m an artist who seeks the center of the human experience, who writes about being an outsider, who writes about loneliness, absurdity and redemption. I believe in social justice, but mostly I believe in the power of kindness. I believe in welcome. I believe in truth and witnessing. I believe there is nothing stronger than love.

I occasionally find these things in FB political discussions if you can believe it…but rarely. I love it when it happens, when I am humble, when I learn, but much more often I’m doing my own version of heating up the fire by posting as many different points of view as possible just to freak people out. Or make them think. (It’s unclear.) This entertains the imp in me, but doesn’t necessarily help anyone. Because people are so scared they can’t listen to anything but that one answer that the emotional voice in their heads says is going to fix this dangerous world.

An answer they’ve found based on…well…emotion. More than anything else, that’s what we do. We call ourselves thinking beings, but we are emotion first. We really are.

This morning my partner showed me a clip of Trump demanding a baby be removed from an auditorium. She crowed with delight at what a jerk he was. I’m looking up at her and I’m like, “Um, I think this is funny.”

I thought it was funny that he talked about loving babies then did this reversal about of course he doesn’t love a baby crying when he’s trying to speak. His communication wasn’t at all skillful, but I understood exactly how he felt (having had my own crying baby experience while performing), and his bluntness made me like him. Of course I don’t want him to be president, but I totally got and get his appeal. His supporters say, “He tells it like it is.” And he does. No filter, no finesse, but there’s an honesty in that. There’s a relief. If you’re pissed off and scared and not thinking.

Here’s my heresy for the day: people here in the liberal Northeast are just as scared and filled with emotion as people in the Heartland. People in the Heartland see themselves in Donald Trump–in his take-no-shit-tell-it-like-it-is attitudes. In his paternalistic promises. I understand his appeal. Of course I don’t want him to be president. That doesn’t mean I can’t see, with compassion, that to which he speaks. I don’t need to look down. I get it right from where I’m sitting.

I watched the DNC because my partner was so into it, and I was genuinely moved by the video about Hillary Clinton. In it, she reminded me of women I’ve met in the last year, all of whom are white, straight and privileged. I understood how they saw themselves in her. She represents them, she is them, and they look at her and see all the sexism they have ever faced. And, let’s get real…Hillary has battled vicious misogyny her entire public life.

I don’t know if I want her to be president. But that’s not the point, is it? I get how women see themselves in her, and since I have lived with misogyny, since I have been a victim of violence against women, since I have been sexually harassed in the workplace when I was very young, I understand the emotion, too. I cried when they did the shattering of the glass ceiling. I cried when Chelsey talked about her pride in her mother.

I have these emotions. But I don’t see myself in Hillary. I’m white and female and a feminist, but I am also strongly queer-identified, have been poor and on food stamps, among other differences. I don’t see myself in white, straight women in general. I feel like an other when I’m around them. Pulse made this incredibly clear. Right or wrong, I don’t think white, upper middle and upper class women have it so bad. Most of them have never worked for my rights as a queer person, and they don’t ask about my life either, so I have a ton of emotion about the barriers between us, barriers I don’t think they see. Hillary flip-flopped on gay marriage like a crazy person. I have EMOTION about this.

I can’t escape my own emotion. I’m human.

We feel way before we think. We feel…and then we think to justify how we feel. I can’t help this more than anyone else can.

But I want to be peace. I’m terrified about the world. If I run, can I run far enough? These are my old questions. But with the shootings, terrorism, economic fears, bigotry, police persecution of African-Americans, laws targeting LGBTQ in the South…somehow we’ve passed business as usual and with climate change there may be nowhere to run to at all.

I want to be peace.

And, old strategy of mine, welcome any time…I want to know. I want to understand. I want to learn everything I can. I believe in education as an answer.

I wish we would stop, consider other points-of-view, before we post, before we speak.

I want to be peace.

I don’t always know how to find peace, though I have studied, though I have, as the Indigo Girls have sung, gone to the temple, the mountain, the ashram, the ocean, the doctor, the poetry, the bodies of women, men and trans people, though I have loved, though I have raged, though I have gone quiet, though I have sung my one and only song, with no idea if anyone would want to listen.

I want to be peace.

Feel and do nothing about feeling.

Think and do nothing about thinking.

Until I am moved by something wiser than passion, fear or anger.

Until I can simply love, listen, hear.

Until my song is compassion, and nothing else.

Priest Kid, a queer mother/daughter novella about Episcopals…early pages


PRIEST KID

By Lyralen Kaye

 Prologue

My mother’s sermons smelled like oranges. Lying in my single bed on Sunday mornings, I woke to the smell that seemed to waft up from the clean white pages in the manila folder she used to carry them to church. A folder she never changed, even then interested in recycling.

I’d go downstairs to where my father leaned his weight onto an actual orange, squeezing juice for me into a glass measuring cup, but it seemed as if the smell lifted us all —my mother in her car, driving alone to the church, my father and I following in his, a half hour later.

The smell placed me next to my father in the second row pew where we always sat, my fingers sliding over the shining wood as I tucked my skirt around my bare legs. Each week I refused the joke books and tic-tac-toe my father offered and instead watched my mother on the raised platform of the chancel, her dark curly hair falling over the Episcopal vestments patterned in gold.

And when she ascended to the pulpit, and began to speak, her words opened around me like tiny packages filled with that bright, sweet scent. Standing in the light of the stained glass, my mother explained the world. She lit up with grace—because she possessed it, the real thing, that dignity, that power—and she’d look down once in a while and meet my eyes, letting me know the biblical quotes and poetry, the small jokes and lessons, were just for me.

And then it was over. A quick hug from her before she went to the line of waiting parishioners if I was lucky. If not, I watched them gather around her. The Sermon on the Mount all over again.

I went back home with my father where he’d watch football or grade papers and I’d go up to my room to read and wait, curled on my single bed, hoping there were no baptisms, no deaths, no marriages, no Bible study classes to keep her from me.

My mother, the love of my life, who I waited for, and received like a blessing, late at night after her visits to prisons, to the dying, to the homeless, and then early in the morning before I left for school and she went to her office at the church.

Not like other mothers.

So determined to do right by everyone.

And I can’t even say she forgot me, ever. She squeezed me in after school and before Eucharist, on evenings when she could leave her responsibilities alone. I don’t think she ever forgot to try.

But still, I waited, hours and hours, maybe that whole first part of my life.

Not for my father, who made me dinners, who tucked me in. But for the parent who always had a list of people for whom she needed to be that shining figure of grace.


Chapter One

 When I head home from Stanford to visit my mother, the vibration in my body turns up, until my cells sing like notes from a 12 string guitar. Too many notes, really. Longing, hope, the prayer that peace will come, that I will be like her, that I won’t, that she’ll tell me what to do, that she’ll listen, for once, without comments or questions.

I could be the subject of my own psych dissertation. Really. Mommy issues. Give me a break.

But I can’t help tracking the way she looks, from that first moment in the airport terminal. Tonight will be no different: I’ll search for her face, try to catch her before she sees me. Will her bones hold the suffering she sees every day, will the skin and muscles pull her face into heaviness? Or will she have been able to set it aside? It’s not whether she’ll light up—she always does—it’s the effort it will cost her. It’s the dimming of her on holidays, or any time the people she serves falter, need, cry. Where do I go, wanting home, if she hasn’t found a way to arrive?

I thought about skipping Easter. I’d already skipped Christmas—not a popular decision—and it seemed easier to miss again. The wish and the hope—I wanted to skip them. Because no one with compassion could bring her one more problem to solve, right? And I had nothing to bring her but the mess I was making of my life.

I bought the plane ticket the week before, my finger hovering over the mouse for a long moment before I clicked. My father demanded to pay and I let him. As I always did. Because then he could do his Dad thing, puffing up a little, getting protective, getting into the my little girl, I’ll do anything for you.

Annoying and sweet.

I twist my too thick hair into a braid before I walk off the plane, down the long tunnel of hallway, over the thin carpet and linoleum, under the fluorescent lights, down to baggage claim, where he waits, hands in his pockets, the familiar blue-button down.

He’s alone. She didn’t even come.