Change, Change and then More Change

You know, if you start a blog that is supposed to be about making a movie, and 98% of your posts are about meditation, yoga and couples therapy, you have to wonder what you’re thinking.  I mean, really.  What am I thinking?

I learned a long time ago that we write to discover the truths we can’t see yet.  Writing isn’t really reporting or expressing.  It’s an adventure into the unknown self.

Apparently, I must be thinking that meditation, yoga and being homicidal about couples therapy have a high degree of importance in my life.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d kill to see Saint John the Divine in Iowa, the film, get made.  But as the days roll out, one after another, I have to admit that the draw to Buddhism, meditation and yoga grows ever more powerful.  I begin to wonder if I will be teaching theatre/acting next year, or the year after that.  Certainly I will not be producing theatre or film…though I may be directing/creating devised theatre (as I will be tonight, at Endicott College).

In yoga teacher training, when I stood up to practice teach asanas, peace flowed out of me into the room.  Shocking, in a way, that I had so much peace in me.  Or that I could channel it.  Or whatever.  But I find myself longing for that peace, for the feeling of it moving through me like water, touching everyone around.  I don’t know yet how I’ll get to teach that, but it seems I will, somehow.

Once upon a time, at twenty years of age, I had a 5 year plan.  Now, I only know what’s happening for the next 5 weeks.

The Hero’s Journey asks us to step blindly into the darkness of what is not known, willing to surrender control and be changed utterly by what the winds of fate have swept into our lives.

Let me have the courage to do it again.

The Imaginary Scenario (or 3)

This morning my partner came to my bed (I’d moved into my room from our room because of the guys working on our house), kissed me very sweetly on the forehead, and then said good-bye for the day.

I proceeded to throw an eye pillow over my eyes and pass out, because 8:30am just isn’t my time.  Next thing I know, I’m startled awake by the sound of the screen door to the porch opening.  I jump out of bed and go to the hallway, starting to creep down it and see who has entered our house.

It’s my partner.

Imaginary scenario #1:

“Oh my God!” I scream.  Then I fall down with a heart attack and die.

Imaginary scenario #2:

(She let me buy that stun gun I was looking at 6 months ago when our house got broken into.)  I’ve grabbed the stun gun on my way out of the bedroom and I’m so groggy I shoot her with it.  She screams, “Oh my God!”  Then she falls down with a heart attack and dies.

Imaginary scenario #3:  She turns into a dog and bites my leg.  (This may seem kind of random, but, hell, she always says she was a dog in a past life.)

What actually happened:  I stood there (having forgotten to get the baseball bat from under my bed), half asleep.  “Are you trying to fucking kill me?” I said.  Then I started shaking.

She led me back to the bed, apologizing all over the place.  She sat on the bed with a hand on my arm while I shook it all out like an animal in Peter Levine’s book on PTSD.  She then tells me she felt bad for waking me up to kiss me the 2 other times, so she decided to say good-bye and be really quiet so I could sleep while she meditated and wrote in her journal.

Okay, let’s get real about this.  She didn’t wake me up by kissing me the other two times.  The workmen and the negotiation about the check she was writing for them woke me up, and then our next door neighbor revving his car (which he often does, keeping the engine from dying, but always before 8am), woke me up.  The kisses were just nice.  I can understand that when I’m sprawled over the entire bed with an eye pillow on it might be hard to tell, but still.  She didn’t wake me up.

As for the being really quiet, she’s about as quiet as an elephant.  It might have something to do with the smoothie grinding or the pans being slammed into the cabinets (this is probably because I complained I always put them away), or the blow dryer or the neti pot and nose blowing.

In other words, meditating or no meditating, you just can’t win around here.

BUT, and this is a big but, had I been even slightly awake or sane I would have known that my partner would NEVER have left the regular door to the porch open while I was asleep.  She gets scared I’m dead if I’m 10 minutes late.  She dreams of protecting me from all evil.  She drives super slow when I’m the in car, muttering, “Precious cargo.”

So, in the final imaginary scenario, when she turns into a dog and bites my leg, she then turns back into a human and says, “I will love you into eternity because like those guys in Twilight, I know what eternity is all about.”

I like this scenario best because then she’s immortal.

You can imagine who else around here gets nervous if people are ten minutes late or riding in an airplane or just walking to work like normal.

25 years and 28 days.

It looks like this.


Knocking at the Door of the Yoga Sutras Afterthought OR Why I love Desmond Tutu

You really have to read the last blog to get this one, but here goes.

At the end of apartheid in South Africa, the new government decided that amnesty would be granted to anyone who’d perpetrated race crimes as long as they publicly confessed their crimes.

And so there were trials, attended by the families of victims (among others), whose loved ones had been tortured and murdered during apartheid.  They listened to the confessions.

Desmond Tutu presided.  When the stories became too much to bear, he stopped the trials, and he had everyone sing.  One of the songs they sang is loosely translated as:  Whatever God has created, no one can destroy.

Spiritual fortitude.

Episcopalian style.

A Good a Reason as Any OR Almost 25 Years and Counting

My partner and I have been really getting along.

I am going to say the word now.


Excuse me while I go writhe on the floor and then puke.  I’m sure I’ll be fine.  Afterward.  In a minute.  Or an hour.  Or something.

This closeness, this utter tenderness, this fierce desire to make sure she’s okay, this affectionate, wry amusement, this moment of knowing, this listening, this seeing.  Her beautiful skin.  Her utter boyness in boy clothes.  The way she wants to be touching me all the time.  This history, these twenty-five years, the way we’ve hurt each other and then mended, or not.  This person who is my family, who holds the knowing of me, who is trying to let me hold the knowing of her.  The way she is so afraid I’ll leave her, stop seeing her, or just disappear.  The way I’m so afraid she’d take advantage if she knew how utterly, utterly I love her.

What I call the above paragraph is as good a reason as any to have a big blowout fight.  Because you can only stand the intimacy word for so long before you want to run away screaming.  (Sometimes I run around the house screaming preemptively, which my partner either tolerates or finds amusing, because she hopes it will prevent the blowout fight.)

By the way, though I’m using the word “you,” meaning, “me,” I would like to state for the record that my partner is every bit as likely to blowout as I am.  Although publishing this blog may tip the scales slightly in favor of me being the exploding firecracker.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Perhaps we can take bets on whether we can make it the next 7 days until the 25 year mark without having the blowout-I’m-more-afraid-of-intimacy-than-you-are fight.

Of course, here’s the thing: if we do have the fight, we’ll have to forgive each other.

And another thing:  we’ve gotten relatively skilled in saying, “Bet we’re fighting because we just can’t handle the closeness.  Let’s  pretend we’re on different planets.  You go in your room and I’ll go in mine and then I’ll call you from my cell and make space sounds in the background to make the other planet thing realistic.”  (That’s not what we actually say, but I may call on it in a pinch.)

I love my partner so much because our relationship is one in which being f-ed up and afraid of intimacy is liveable.  I mean, she sometimes asks me to be more emotionally available, but the fact that I sometimes have to throw in an insult when I’m being all romantic is as much a cause for humor and rolling around laughing as it is for conflict.

When we got married the first time, 15 years ago, before it was legal, I said to her, “You’re a controlling, kvetching, passive-aggressive jerk and I’m going to marry you anyhow.”  This made her very happy.  It took away all the pressure of pretending to be perfect, or my knight in shining armor, or any of that absolute bullshit.

In this reality of neuroses and craziness, of grief and hilarity, that is our life, I am truly happy that we are returning again to the acceptance of all things.  I still believe, as my character Reverend Alex says, that love is a practice.  I think it is a practice of accepting my partner for who she is, of sitting with my own discomfort instead of trying to control her (or making jokes until she makes me stop) when she’s irritating me, of letting her be herself as much as I possibly can.

I think this is love–this fear of intimacy, this need for too much, this knowing the fight may come in the next seven days, this forgiving, over and over again–and the refusal to take shit, when that is, in fact, appropriate, as it has been on both sides at different times…the complete and utter imperfection we bring to each other…this is the real thing.  My partner has always wanted to be the one who saved me, who healed me, who helped me…but the truth is she’s the one who’s driven me crazy, who’s forced me to become better, to look at myself in my deepest darkness, who’s held me when I felt weakest so I could stand up and go save myself again.

I celebrate love as completely imperfect.  I celebrate love as freedom from trying to be good enough.  I celebrate the laughing at neurosis and knowing absolutely it’s never completely going away.  I have learned this with one person above all others.  In and out of couples therapy with Oingo-Boingo, Niminy-Piminy, the Sheepdog, the Poodle, and the Stork-Man (among others), cartooning our way through the careening diagnoses and the how do you feel about that questions.

I celebrate that the fight may come though I don’t want it to, because I am not in control.

I celebrate that I will try not to fight, and I may anyhow.

I celebrate.  This madness.  This daily life.  This one person, who gives me back to myself, sometimes roughly, sometimes with the utmost tenderness.  As I give her to herself.

Metta for us, in our almost 25-year insanity.

I honor the light in her, and in myself.

And I still wish she would let me give her a wedgie every other day or so.  What’s with that boundary?

PS–Don’t forget to bet on whether or not we’ll have the fight.  And who will start it.

PPS-I’m betting we’ll have it, that it won’t really be a blowout, and that she’ll start it.

PPPS-Or maybe I will start it.  If I plan on starting it, does that count?  Or is it throwing the game?

Ahimsa, Everywhere You Go

Sometimes, my faith in human nature, which, admittedly, is often non-existent, gets (if it’s non-existent it can’t exactly get restored, can it?), well…existent.

First, I did start writing the comedy Me and My Parts VS. You and Your Parts.  I sat at the computer laughing at myself, which is a fairly frequent event since I find myself not only endlessly fascinating, but also endlessly entertaining.

BUT, then I talked my partner into reading the first 16 pages with me a couple times, until we started to get the timing, and even she had to admit that the part about us being slackers in heaven complaining of boredom and pissing off some offstage guy with a voice like James Earl Jones was a little funny.  I can see I have my work cut out for me in getting her to actually perform it, so if anyone out there actually knows my partner, I recommend emailing her and putting a plug in for the show. (The kindness here was in her reading it with me twice.  She was done after the 1st time.)

Then, we went to San Francisco for our 25th anniversary.  We’re about a month early–as of today we have been together 24 years, 11 months and five days.  It’s tempting fate, I know, to take it for granted that we’ll complete the next 26 days, but hell, San Francisco is worth it whether we cross the line or not.  Even if I had to listen to my partner say, ad infinitum, in Boston it’s 3am now.  In Boston it’s 4am now.  You know what time it is in Boston?  No wonder I’m tired.

We stayed at the Hotel Kabuki, and they were painting the exterior of the hotel, so the Japanese garden was closed.  I was disappointed because I used to live in Japan and I had anticipated sitting in the garden and doing nothing, which is my favorite pastime except for my other favorite pastimes.  Anyhow, on the 3rd morning we woke up to paint fumes and men outside our window, on our balcony, painting.  So we went to the front desk to ask to transfer to a different Joie de Vivre hotel, and he lowered the price of our stay, gave us a free night at some future point, and then sent us on to the Waterfront Hotel where they upgraded us to a suite for free and then surprised us with champagne, fruit and cheese as an anniversary present.  We don’t drink, but still.  It’s nice when someone is just kind, with so little reason.  Besides, I’m a sucker for luxury, since I’m a little bit of a princess (get this, I’m a pseudo Buddhist- eclectically spiritual-yoga teacher-artist-princess who likes luxury hotels).

I know it’s all good business for the hotel people, but, well, we are queer, and to have strangers honor our commitment to each other, and then to wake up to our poet president announcing his change of stance on gay marriage…it’s enough to make a skeptic hope.

The world is like this.  The Berlin Wall comes down the same year as the massacre at Tiananmen Square.  We step forward and back, all the time.

The real hope, of course, is in the Me and My Parts VS. You and Your Parts.  It’s waking up, after 24 years, 11 months and 2 days to the same body breathing beside me, and I stir, and she touches me in her sleep.  The way it moves me, that simple shift, the way she is attuned to me.  And so I hold her, and the light pours in from the windows around the bed, and we can hear gulls, and the people learning to do stand up paddling on boards or kayaks or whatever.

Ahimsa–I ask whether she’d like to shower first.  I make her a smoothie.  I start to cry, because mornings are still hard, and I tell her why, so she won’t think it’s her fault.

She packs the car, and since we did Go-Cars in the city, which was her thing, she offers me power-of-choice for the day, and I pick something we both like.

I don’t yet know the name of the yama for kindness, but I know there is such a thing.  And it doesn’t matter what name you call it, or whether it’s good business, or a good political move, or just a way of practicing love in a marriage that sometimes struggles.

It is.  Enough.  Always.

To Use Your Darkness Well AND Reporting In.

Reporting in:  I was not able to keep my mouth shut in yoga teacher training.  I did not intellectually attack, rebel, protest or argue.  I shared.  Shoot me for even writing that sentence.  Shared.  Urgh.  And not only did I share, I practiced what the Unitarians call step up, step back.  Meaning, I stepped up to share, but stepped back to make sure there was room for everyone.  So fing generous of me.

You might call this enlightenment except for my attitude about it.  Frankly, I feel like Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live.  (I accuse my partner of being like this character all the time.)  And I would rather be a motorcycle toughie.  Because being cool is very important to me. Plus, I have a German mother.  Expressions of emotion and softness, showing your corny emotional underbelly (like my Irish father) are just not good ideas, I learned from growing up around her.  She was wrong, of course, about pretty much everything, but I still learned all her lessons.

Anyhow, that’s how I did at yoga teacher training yesterday.  Today is 6 hours, but thankfully at least two of them are doing asanas and hopefully I’ll be so exhausted by all the physical work I won’t be tempted to speak.  We didn’t go around and say why we were there, and I’m hoping we won’t be asked to today either.

Which brings me to topic #2:  Using your darkness.  I mean, what would I say if they asked why we were there?  If I told the exact truth?  “I’m here because my friend died and every morning I get up wondering what the hell I’m doing on this planet.  When I do yoga, I stop asking that question because I’m in too much physical strain to remember what it is.”

I’m sure that answer would increase my popularity dramatically.

Obviously, I am not currently the queen of sweetness and light.  There’s darkness here, in me, when I wake up, when I walk through the day.  There’s grief.  It’s hard.  I mean, I’m at the place where I can see it won’t always be this way, but that also means feeling it more deeply, which kind of sucks.

Without theatre and all its drama behind the drama, there is time to be with the truth.

The truth:  grief is dark.  It’s hard.  You forget everything but what’s right in front of you.  You have to do something with it so you don’t drown.

I usually use my darkness to jet propel me into the hero’s journey.  Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer were on PBS last weekend doing the Power of Myth series from 20 years ago or so, and I took it as a sign that it was time.  Again.

The Hero’s Journey:  to enter the darkness, the unknown, and to be in it, to be seared by it, changed by it, and then to return to the world with a gift to offer–of wisdom, of healing, of light.  Something you could not have found without the journey into the darkness.

I think the Hero’s Journey is cool and very unlike Saturday Night Live or sharing or anything.  Mostly because it is entirely brutal, kind of like a spiritual gladiator sport.  I suppose I secretly think I’m spiritually evolved because of my ability to withstand and face the most brutal of darknesses–unbearable loss, witnessing of violence and oppression, intimate knowledge of what can only be called evil.  Of course, I’d prefer to be someone who didn’t know about these things–who wouldn’t?–but if I have to know about it I at least ought to enjoy some superiority feelings as part of the deal, don’t you agree?

Anyhow, here I am, trying to figure out what to do with this darkness, this grief.  It’s so strange–when my friend Rick died of AIDS along with most of the gay men I knew, there was grief, self-blame, rage against the US government, bad attitude, a need to get politically active.  But this time is different, and, for some reason, worse.

How can I use my darkness well?

What Don’s death seems to have yanked up–grief always yanks up past losses–is this tendency of mine to keep my heart closed.  When I sat with Don in my condo, or in Chipotle, or the Thai restaurant, or 50 Vassar Street, and it was just the two of us, there was this almost unbearable tenderness that grew up around us.  I credit him–his open-heartedness, his faith in my goodness, his ability to tell the truth about himself, to talk about what he doubted or feared or was ashamed of…or even what he felt or thought about me and what I said to him.  I mean, that’s kind of intimate.  I find these things challenging, so I’m not close to a ton of people.  I cherish it when I find someone like Don.  Who I can actually trust.

I want to use my darkness to heal what is unhealed, to open what is closed, to build a different kind of community than I find in theatre, or to change theatre itself, so that story–Joseph Campbell talks about story as the only meaning we have, the only way to explain why we suffer and where relief might be found–is more important than ego.  I want to live in the I/thou relationship.  I have that with my partner sometimes–there you are, and I see you, and you, and the seeing itself, are sacred to me.  I don’t ask you to change, because I don’t have that right.  Because the you-ness of you is what is sacred.

Of course, then I tell her she’s like Stuart Smalley, usually within hours or minutes.  I mean, I’m not a saint.  And, see above, not without intimacy issues.

I used to try to pour my darkness out in writing–I have very dark poems, plays, stories to show for it.  They are often beautiful and full of longing.  It’s the paradox of our lives, of the world, that the darkness defines beauty, that truth can never be found in a Hallmark card, but only in a poem in which mortality defines the love for a child you know you will someday leave behind.

And the real adventure is this–whatever I know about the Hero’s Journey, having taken it before, may be completely irrelevant to this moment.  All I have is the being here, right now, in this darkness, and the willingness to learn what it is, the curiosity to stay until I learn it.

So, today, I go to the mat.  I hope for the stilling of what is chasing me, and then I hope to open to it.

I hope that my bad attitudes will lead to the writing of dark comedies about human absurdity, mostly my own.  And that I will keep my mouth shut and keep practicing that damn step up, step back, at least for this weekend, which is Passover, which is Easter, which is, therefore, difficult.

I am, to quote Reverend Alex McCartney, practicing love.

But I love my bad attitude, too.  I mean, can’t I say the f word at least once?  I’m not really an Episcopal priest.  I’m an acting teacher-rebel-writer-activist in temporary (or not temporary) retirement.

Is that what I am?

The f word, at least once.  Fuck being mature.  It’s overrated and no fun whatsoever.

Even though I still intend to practice it.  At least outside the doors of my own home.