What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

I thought this question got answered once and then that was it.


And it’s not like I’m one of those people who didn’t know.  I mean, every once in a while, when I’m fantasizing about this easier life that fits more of the status quo expectations, I remember that it was never like I had much of a choice.  Until I started teaching, I stayed at jobs for an average of 1.25 years if that.  I got bored.  I moved on.  I shed office jobs, 9-5 work weeks and other things that didn’t fit fairly quickly.  I know that parents–particularly those of my own parents’ generation–have this idea that you can force yourself to work at jobs you hate.


And it wasn’t like I was ever not creating.  I mean, outside of my run-ins with writer’s block in my twenties, but really, even then, I was always making something.  I kind of couldn’t, and can’t, stop.

What I didn’t know is that it was possible to run out of road even with things you love.  For example, I found I LOVED teaching.  I mean, lie on the bed wondering how I could even deserve to do something that made me that happy kind of love.  Especially in the arts.  After not sticking with any job for more than 2 years, tops, in my life, at 30 I started teaching Creative Writing in all its forms and that lasted for about 11 years.  But when I stopped learning new things to teach in poetry and fiction–meaning that when my artistic life started to turn to theatre–I started to be bored.  I know it’s all so mature to say that I have a choice, but even if that’s true, teaching something that’s already past for me isn’t a choice I like to make.  I like to teach on my own growing edge, because I truly love teaching and the best teaching happens exactly at that place, where I am teaching what I need to learn, or what I am learning, or what I have just learned, or what I’m incorporating, synthesizing, into my artistic aesthetic or world view.  Teaching is so alive and creative, then.

So what do I want to be when I grow up?

First, let’s debunk the growing up part.  I have already reached my full height–I’d gained most of it by age 13 (I was taller than the boys in 7th grade)–so literally, it’s just not happening any more.  And I agree with Shonda Rimes–there are no real adults, just children with larger bodies.

But what do I want to be?  Well, present, alive, kind, moral, loving, joyful, peaceful, creative, spiritual…I could start with that.  And end with it.

The only reason the question is reappearing is because I have sworn, once again, to give up producing theatre.  Honestly, if there was a 12 step program for theatre producers, I’d do daily attendance.  One day at a time, I will not produce theatre.

Did I mention how much I dislike producing theatre?  Of course there are rewards–getting to pick the projects, getting to create the organizational structure, setting the standards, establishing a mission.  But the drawbacks–you know, I have never truly enjoyed producing theatre.  I enjoy directing, acting, writing, teaching, creating, collaborating with colleagues (especially people like my friend Jeannie Marie, who is brilliant), but I do not enjoy producing.

The fact that producing paved the way for some of the best teaching I’ve done in my life is not lost on me, but.  But.

And now, the Meisner technique, which I love, love, love, isn’t enough.  My growing edge is now movement theatre, collaborative work, bringing the connection of Meisner to the body.  Opening actors to levels of creativity beyond the script, which is the Meisner technique in some ways, but addressing it directly so actors become true artists–that’s the work that’s calling, rather loudly.

So, I’ll be a certified yoga instructor by the end of the summer.  I may travel to New York to train with Faye Simpson some more.

And, I applied for a teaching job.  In a school community.  Which would keep me doing all of the above with no producing.

There’s never any guarantees–that they’ll call for an interview, that it will be a match, that I won’t be applying elsewhere.

But change is in the wind.  It’s been blowing through my life for the last three years.  Loss, illness, training at Celebration Barn in 2010, listening to these weird intuitions.  The weirdest:  I have had a feeling that when I quit dyeing my hair, I’d be my true actress self.

I DO know what I want to be when I grow up:  present, kind, moral, honest, loving….

I DO know that I can’t not be an artist and teacher.  It doesn’t seem to be in me.

I DO know that I don’t want to produce and I do want to study yoga and I don’t know what I’ll make next, but it won’t be something I’ve done before or in the last ten years.

And I know that when change is in the wind, it’s best to be curious, it’s best to have a sense of adventure.  Surrender, accept, let the wind take you, because fighting is misery and there’s enough of that around without creating more for yourself.

I am here to see what happens.

The Reviews

I am a person who is extraordinarily sensitive to criticism.

Obviously, therefore, it was a great idea to become an artist, so I could be reviewed, so I would have to audition and listen to people say, “Next.”

Seriously, what I’m really extraordinarily sensitive to is interpersonal ugliness.  And reviews often don’t have that.  (I mean, okay, outside of when your play pushes someone’s personal buttons and they go a little apeshit, but most reviewers really love art, so….)

I find myself, this time, reading the reviews while the performance is still going on, even though I’ve sworn I wouldn’t, even though I’ve been told it’s not a good idea.  But I’m not reading as actress.  I’m reading as a writer who wants to see if people understand what the hell I’m talking about.  And I find I’m able to see past my sensitivity to criticism and really hear the reviewer’s experience.

I’m really liking reading the reviews.  I wish there were many more of them!

I suppose this is partly because I assume no one understands what I’m talking about most of the time.  I trace this back to my discovery of the nature of the universe.

It happened like this:  I’d lost a tooth.  My father came into my room to claim the tooth and replace it with a quarter, and I woke up while he was doing so.  The next day I went out to the field behind our house and lay on the limb of a tree, contemplating.  I was six.  A contemplative six, but, nevertheless, six.

I reached an epiphany.  I climbed out of the tree, marched back to the house, slammed open the screen door to the kitchen and looked at my mother and father.  I walked up to them.  (Not only contemplative, but dramatic.)

“There’s no tooth fairy,” I said.  “And there’s no Easter Bunny.  And there’s no Santa Clause and you’ve been lying to me and I want to know why.”

They turned to each other in slow motion, meeting each other’s eyes in dumbfounded shock.  They glanced at me, back at each other, and then back at me again. Clearly, they were wondering where the hell I had come from.  As in, which planet.

“Don’t tell your brothers and sisters,” my mother finally said.

I thought, “They have no idea what they’re doing.”

This turned out to be true, as it does with most parents, only more so.

And I was left with the conclusion that I came from a different planet and no one had any idea how to talk to me.  That has remained my view of the universe, confirmed by much if not all of my experience during my stay here.

So, YAY for reviewers, who seem to be visiting my planet with some idea of the language spoken here.  With the exception of social issues.  I’m not really writing about social issues –I’m using them to write about the nature of love.  I find social issues boring except in how we experience them in the most personal of relationships.  I don’t mean that human rights are boring.  I just find it self-evident that everyone is equal.  And why isn’t it self-evident to everyone?  Because human beings have brains that create hierarchy so they’re always trying to one up each other to get more power.  That’s sad more than boring, but also seems, very unfortunately, to be self-evident.

I hope on my home planet, wherever that is, the species is innately non-hierarchical and takes better care of things.

In the meantime, I’m appreciating reviewers for coming to my planet.  And if they don’t like everything here…well, that’s their prerogative.  I’m just glad to read about the visits.


If you want to find out how powerless you are over the winds and storms of your emotional life, try to avoid the feelings after you lose someone.

I know about grief.  I have these profound statements I say, like, “Learning to grieve is the great task of adulthood.”  Or, “We lose everything, and then we lose our own life.”  (People love how upbeat I am with that one.)  Or, “You can feel your grief, and open to more life, or you can avoid it and become bitter.”

Which is to say, that I am familiar with loss.  As I’ve mentioned, I think, my grandfather had a heart attack and died when I was four; I was sitting next to him on the couch when it happened.  And loss continues–in the early and mid 1990’s, most of the gay men I knew died of AIDS.  I still have trouble, sometimes, talking about my friend Rick without crying.  And, my partner tells me to say, that’s the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Loss isn’t just death…there’s the friends that have relapsed and disappeared, the people I’ve lost touch with because of moves, family fractures….

So.  If you wonder why I haven’t written on this blog, it’s because I miss my friend Don, and this grief is a storm, and I haven’t wanted to talk about something so private and so very, very hard.

But here’s the general–it’s hard to feel connected to anyone when you’re grieving.  It’s kind of like you’re on this planet–the planet of grief, of whatever grief is doing to you–and everyone else is on some other planet, where daily life is just daily life.  Sometimes–yesterday was a day like this–everyone is on the other side of this plexiglass screen.  And of course, I’m not saying anything about it–I’m trying to do my job, get through the day, crying a lot, as if I’ve just realized I’m never going to see him again…which might be true.  I might finally know that, in my heart.  Not just a Don-shaped hole in the world, but the never of it.

Then my partner holds my hand on the way to the theatre and breaks through the isolation of knowing that.

The touch of the long married.  The wonder of this one person, who drives me crazy, who I have lived with, known, for over half my life, who knows the story of all the griefs… and the screen evaporates.  Not for long.  But enough to remember the world.  Which grief can make me forget.  Has made me forget.  These last months…sometimes I forget I don’t usually feel this way.  I forget I don’t always have these questions, that I don’t always wonder if life has meaning.

When you really grieve, every loss gets rediscovered.  It’s unpredictable–I’m laughing, hard, and suddenly it hits.  I’m looking at someone, and suddenly whoever it is just isn’t Don.  I’m wishing for kindness, and remembering how I trusted him for that.

I’m thinking of the other time grief was like this–the darkness of it, the not being able to see anything but loss, knowing that being with it is carving out something in me I don’t even understand. That I have to make the time to let it do its carving, that busyness is bullshit.

Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey…entering the darkness, the unknown, being in it, absolute surrender, and then when you come out, you’re new.

But when you’re in it, that’s what there is.  The nothing, nowhere, unable to speak, the shadow, the engulfing, knowing, I am alone and there is no remedy for that now…

Yesterday was a hard day.

And as everything comes up for review–because Don was younger than I am, because I, too, will enter that dark, no avoiding it–I look and wonder what I do, what I choose, that has meaning, and what must be let go of in order to live better, now, while I can, in this one moment, which is what we all have.

I don’t know what I’ll choose when this current project is over.  Time off.  Yoga teacher training.  That’s all I know.  And I know that while I thought the current play was a remedy and a remembrance, it has been more of a test, and the remembering has been unexpected and not always welcome.  My character says, “Thy will not mine be done,” and every time I say the words, I know what they mean for me…what I did not will or want, which is loss.

I don’t know what I’ll change, now.  Everything?  Nothing?  But I know  to say thank you to my partner.  With whom I’ve struggled.  Who I have not lost.  Who looks at me with 25 years of knowing in her eyes, letting me know I am not alone.

I am so grateful for those five minutes in the car.  I know she’ll read this, so here it is…thank you.  May you be the one I see, when you need someone to see you.

May I help you to remember the world, when the storms come in, and storms are all you know.

Maybe that’s what love is.  Not the helping…but the seeing, the wanting to reach out and remind.  My open heart, grieving though it may be, but open, at least to someone.  Because there she is.