Thursday, February 28, 2013

Don't listen to your jerk brain. You are smart and pretty.

As I was leaving Purim, someone dressed as a manatee came up to me and let me choose a card from a little velveteen pouch. The card had a hand-drawn picture of a manatee, and the message:

Don't listen to your jerk brain. You are smart and pretty. 

I didn't know what was going on, but I knew I loved it. So they told me about Calming Manatee, a Tumblr based on the statement that "everyone knows that manatees are the most calming creatures in the animal kingdom." You'll look at it right now, I know, but in case you don't, this is a Tumblr with photos of manatees, floating in the water (looking calm) and saying things like, "I'll get the wine." "Oh, sweetie." and "Hey, you got this."

I didn't look them up right away, but when I did, I spent a pretty long time summoning another calming manatee, and summoning another calming manatee, and summoning another calming manatee. It's very sweet to look at these and think not just about the manatees (who it feels are really talking to you) but also the people who put the words into the manatees' minds, and to marvel at such quirky and benevolent creativity.

Try it. You will probably feel better. Also, "You'll feel better if you eat something."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Couch, Snacks, Girls

I thought I knew exactly what joy seeking I was going to do, and write about, after work. I was going to go to Yoga for Abundant Bodies, which the wonderful teacher of Gentle Yoga invited me to last week. She invited me when I told her after class what a perfect teacher she was for me, and when else does she teach? She told me her regular classes, and invited me to both. Her invitation was so warm that I actually teared up; it was perfect for me that day, as had been her class. So I planned my week around going, and then when the day came I was even MORE tired than I had been lately (yes I'm a little concerned about it, but I'm trying to get enough rest and otherwise generally take care of myself.) Josh and I made his and hers dinners (his: crunchy raw vegetables, mine: comforting cooked vegetables) and as we ate, my head got closer and closer to the table. Was I really going to make it to yoga? And then it happened. The thing I wanted even more than yoga. Abigail texted; her plans had changed for the evening and she wondered if I wanted to get together?  Yes,  I did want that. I wanted that very much. I hadn't seen her much since she (was part of a big crew of people who) created a giant, glorious Purim shpil/party/community event. I offered to go to her house, but she opted to come to mine, and I had the night I hadn't known I'd wanted, sitting on the couch, talking, giggling, crying, eating almond butter directly from the jar, and eventually and successfully inviting Kyle over to watch an episode of Girls we hadn't all seen. It sort of felt like we were 15 and should be getting stoned. But instead we were 30 and 50 and tired, which it turns out might amount to the same thing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Literally seeking Joy

I did nothing—not one thing—in the seeking Joy department, as we've all come to understand it from this blog. Long, long work day. Left the house at 8 AM and got home at 11 PM. However, and I understand this is sometimes the way prayer and practice works, the executive director of the JCC is named Joy, and she came to my desk and asked me if I would set up time to meet with her. So I called her assistant and asked to be put on her schedule. Literally seeking Joy. Now let's see what this manifests.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Birds and Oscars

It was a gorgeous day, and I hadn't gotten outside at all the previous day, so I invited Josh out for a walk/run in the park first thing. We ended up in my favorite spot to see birds, and got to hang out with lots of red winged blackbirds, a pair of hooded mergansers, a kingfisher up close, and a downy woodpecker—among many other less flashy common birds. Later, when we were on the way to C-Town to buy ingredients for our Oscars food sculptures, we saw this cardinal on the sidewalk. I was surprised I'd never seen it before. Maybe it was just passing through.

There's something about this sighting that brought me as much joy, if not more, than the mergansers. Maybe it's because it required me to see it? I mean, I needed to be able to see the ducks as well—as evidenced by the woman blasting past them, with her dog on a leash while she talked on her cell, and never once looked at the water. So maybe it's more that it required me to invent it, not just see it.

We left it there on the sidewalk and went in to get ingredients I'd never otherwise buy if I wasn't working on a project: marshmallows and confectioners sugar and food coloring and a slab of turkey ham, and we came home to sculpt. Josh was hot this year. We had both had great ideas for sculptures, but his execution was just beyond the pale, especially with this Life of Pi tiger made from farmers cheese, orange peels (some died black), olives (eyes) and daikon (whiskers.)

When we had seen Flight, I knew right away that the central image was Denzel's hand on a little bottle of vodka, and we started talking back then how to execute it. We knew that sausages were key for fingers, but had a hard time figuring out what the the hand should be made of. Josh convinced me it should be another meat product, and this was the result:

I made fondant for the first time in my life, and with the help of some Little Debbie's Swiss Rolls, made a bunch of moderately successful Lincoln's hats.

I also made a batch of Hush Puppies for consumption (photographed here after many had already been consumed) in honor of my favorite film of the year: Beasts of the Southern Wild.

And then it was time to get dressed in costume for the evening, as it turned out, in sharp contrast to my costume of the night before. Did you see The Sessions? Another gem this year? I dressed as Helen Hunt's character Cheryl, a sex surrogate who spent half the time in a mom sweater and half the time naked, and spoke the whole time in a horrible Boston accent.

 And then the guests started to arrive. Five Broken Cameras:

Hushpuppy, Pat from Silver Linings Playbook, and Whip Whitaker from Flight:

And they brought sculptures too! Emily made this Lincoln Log cabin.

And Nina made this Life of Pi pie, with Life cereal crust, Indian spices in the banana cream, and the blue water on top. (Sorry I didn't get a photo before it was cut!)

I'm running late to work, so I can't take the time to draw out reflections about joy and the day, but let's just say that community and creativity trump racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, ageist, trite, un-funny Oscars hosting, every time.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mamesh tsnies

I wasn't going to dress up for Purim. I was just gonna wear a sweat shirt and dance a lot. But I was on the phone with Mich asking her to remind me the name of the Orthodox video comedienne we like (Chaya Suri) and she asked me if I was going to be Chaya Suri for Purim. Brilliant. Yes. In fact I realized in that moment, I WAS going to be Chaya Suri for Purim.  I went up to my closet to see what I had to wear, and realized right away that I was foiled—especially when it came to the head covering. So I modified a little bit, and decided to be a Crown Heights Orthodox woman, with a long black skirt, black tights, and a long-sleeved black shirt with a tight white t-shirt over it. I got as far as all the black, but found that my only white T-shirt is flouncy, and just didn't look right. But I had a green t-shirt, and that looked pretty good if once again I was OK heading in a different cultural direction: I was thinking hipster orthodox, and went down to find a knit cap. But my knit cap didn't look very good, so I tried on a striped scarf, to see how that looked, and all of a sudden I realized I was a settler. Scarily, freakily a settler.

And so off I went to the best Purim party ever, to work the door and welcome people to the party, as a settler. Except that people didn't exactly know what I was, other than I was clearly Orthodox, so Sarah Gordon and Avi Fox Rosen helped me come up with what I should write on a sign.

My face was completely unobscured, and yet people I have known for years walked right past me, or looked me over as if I was somehow not connected to them. It was fascinating to be hiding so visibly, and to actually get to discover what it means to embody the opposite of my own beliefs on a holiday that encourages that. 

Eventually I settled in with my friends and danced, and it turned out that Orthodox women are on to something, because my outfit was extremely comfortable—down to the practical shoes.

Aside from my own costume, I was just filled with gratitude and appreciation for everyone who worked so hard to create the party this year. I did very little this year—pretty much just a financial donation and a 2-hour volunteer slot. And as I danced to Yiddish Princess and DJA-Rara, hung out with costumed friends, and watched the stunning horse puppets dance through the space, I smiled to be part of such a rich community.  And from my place as a deep member of this community, joy comes from within.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Astrologis Interruptis

When I turned 50, I decided it was finally time to get my astrological chart read. I've never done this, and I've long been interested in a deeper look at the ancient art that I know so little about. I asked friends if they knew of anyone they recommended, and they did know someone—and she lives just about 10 blocks from me.

What with my topsy turvy January and February, it took a while to schedule, but my time was set for Friday after work. I went in, she had put out a lovely snack tray of an orange, a banana, some tomatoes, some pistachios. She had my charts on her desk, and they were pink and orange and green and yellow and confusing and beautiful. She started talking about the positions the planets (including the sun and the moon, which are considered planets in astrological lingo) were in at the time and place I was born (my natal chart) and what that means about my nature.

And it was just incredibly accurate. I mean, ACCURATE. She started out and described the deepest pulls and conflicts and indecisions in my nature, and my strengths and my tendencies and my volatilities and, well, it was just all there.  Then she went on to talk about my transits (the ongoing movement of the planets as they transit the horoscope) and some of what she said was super accurate as well, and some was odd. Odd in that it felt unnecessary to say, and was super easily Googlable about me (what year I completed my MFA) and seemed like maybe she was saying it as a way to impress me that she could tell this from my chart, but OK, it's also possible that it was completely in my chart that that period of my life would have been ripe for change and that kind of achievement.

She went on to show me some fundamental patterns in my chart, and then to talk about my Chiron return. Most of you have probably heard of the Saturn return, because you've been through it many times by now. Chiron comes around once every 49-51 years, so most of us only get a Chiron return once, or maybe twice.  She started to describe the position of Jupiter and Chiron in my natal chart, and how very important ................. and just then she stood up and said, "I think the laundromat next door is on fire."

She was right; it was. I took my chart, and she took her girlfriend's laptop, and we went outside. The fire people were already breaking through the windows of the building next door, and putting ladders through. We stayed outside for quite a while, while they worked. It's incredibly impressive to watch them work, by the way. I think if we in the non-profit world want to study cooperation, we should study fire people. Please note the motto on the truck: It Ain't Easy, in this photo below. (Please also note the fireman climbing down the ladder, and the perfect framing of the word LAUNDROMAT in between the ladder and the truck. I think the execution of this photo is actually the part of the day that brought me most joy.)

I met a family who lived in the building that was on fire. They left without their phone, so I lent them mine to call family. I also gave them my address in case they needed a place to stay that night. They didn't come over, so I am guessing they were able to stay with people they are already close to. In the end, nobody was hurt, and we were able to go back into the house where the astrologer lives. It was too late to continue my session however, since I had dinner plans with my cousins in Manhattan, so we rescheduled for next Friday, when the planets will have advanced a teeny bit on their transits and I will have advanced a teeny bit on my own journey as well. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

The scared is scared of the things you like

Things have been making me sad lately, and by the end of today I felt like I was floating along in a life that is parallel to mine, but I know it's really mine, but it doesn't really feel like mine, but it is.  A good friend suggested I go get a drink, but I took myself to yoga instead. It has been years since I've been to what is a good yoga class for me. And still, I keep trying because when it's good, it's really really good (but when it is bad it is horrid.) I Googled the yoga classes at Third Root Community Health Center, and saw that if I would leave my office right away, I would make it to Gentle Yoga, which is usually the best yoga for me. So I left my office right away, and I did make it to Gentle Yoga, and the teacher was the best teacher I've met in NYC, and I just kept saying (silently to myself) thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you for this class. Also: wow, my muscles are tight.

When I got home, I found this video I've been meaning to look at for some time because I heard it was really creative and sweet, only to discover that it is perfect for me right now. A young filmmaker interviewed a 6-year-old about what a movie should be about, and then animated and directed actors to do what the boy said. The most amazing thing he says in this movie is, and I am transcribing now: 

If some thing feels like they're closing, you should just say, OK, I'm fine. I usually say let it go. Think of something I really like to do. Think of something else until the nervous has gone out of you. That thing disappeared out of my head. Out of my ears. Out of my mouth. When the scared feeling comes into you, the scared is scared of things you like. So, I was scared of a monster, and I thought of pizza. And juice. And some meringues. And a cookie. Chocolate chip cookie. I mean, oatmeal cookie. An then I ate it all up. And some milk. And the cookie was shaped like a piano. A keyboard, I mean.

This is one smart kid. I mean, the scared is scared of the things you like? This just happens to be the central metaphor for my entire year's practice. From the mouth of a 6-year-old. It's good to listen. It's good to listen.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Giving (pie) = joy

Sometimes giving something to someone is actually as much for oneself as it is for the other person.

I am so tempted to just leave it there.

But here I go, a little further.

My friend Rupert had a bit of a car accident. A truck accident. A truck hit him and knocked him over in his wheelchair and broke his femur. He's in the hospital, awaiting some surgery to fix his leg.  For those of you who know him, and those of you who don't but still care, he's OK. Not hurt worse than a broken leg, but it sucks to have a broken leg when all you were doing was coming home from Safeway with some groceries.  I was feeling far away from him, and also really sad about the passing of another friend, and just needed to feel better about the world. So I thought hard for a minute, and then decided what I needed to do to surprise and delight Rupert. I needed to get someone to bring him some sweet potato pie. How was I going to do that from across the country? I thought hard for a minute, and then I realized that's what Task Rabbit is for. I'd never used it before, so I went online and signed up, and within five minutes I was posting this: Small delivery for today: Pick up a sweet potato pie and deliver it to my friend who is in Emmanuel hospital with a broken leg.

A couple hours later, a Task Rabbit named Autumn walked into Rupert's room with the pie, and left it for him while he was on the phone. She then texted me and told me that she had completed the task, and that he was on the phone, but seemed in good spirits.


(A lot.)

There is great joy in executing delightful surprises. And some of that joy is actually selfish.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Caddis flies make gold jewelry!

Every now and then an artist comes along who just blows my mind with their creative thinking and execution

I mean, theoretically I understand how people come up with stuff like this, but .... do I?

For those of you who did not open the link, but you should because there's a video in there, these are caddis fly larvae, and they make little tunnely shelters for themselves out of whatever materials are around. Usually it's mud and rocks and sticks, but the artist Hubert Duprat, took them out of their natural environment and gave them gold and gems to build with, because he's an artist and that's what artists do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gimme The Loot

I was positively peaked after work. I felt nauseous yet hungry, and could barely hold my head up. I know I've been overtired, but really? One day back to work? On a hunch, I went for that burger I've been craving for .... I think I've been craving it for months now. I got it from my favorite place—Flatbush Farm—and I felt better after eating. Better enough that when I got home, I had it in me to watch another of my Independent Spirit Awards screeners, on the last night before voting.  I got mine wicked late this year, so I didn't get to watch them all before voting, which feels unfair to those I didn't see, but of the ones I did see, there were some clear favorites. I loved How to Survive a Plague. I loved Beasts of the Southern Wild. I loved Moonrise Kingdom. I really liked John Hawkes's performance in The Sessions. I voted for each of these in one category of another. But the film that slipped in under my skin on the last night before voting? A small film about a pair of shy teenagers who want to tag the Mets apple at Shea Stadium: Gimme The Loot. It's gonna hit the theaters on March 22, and I recommend you go see it. I voted for it for best first feature.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cold run on the beach

Nobody can remember it being this cold in Sarasota. 42. With a brisk wind coming in off the water. But I bundled up and went for a run on the beach anyway. I wore all the shirts I had brought with me, plus the silly oversized Siesta Key sweatshirt I had to buy to stay warm. And you know what? A cold run on a beach that you had hoped would be warm is WAY better than no run on a beach at all. In fact, once you get the idea of warm out of your head, and you just appreciate what you have instead, it's fantastic. It's like the best possible day on a wintry Oregon beach, or a perfect Fall day on a Maine beach. It's all about letting go of what could have been and taking a hard (or in this case, not so hard) look at what is, with a heart open to appreciation.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Siesta Key, day 2

Actually, it was day 1, since we arrived at sunset on Friday, our first day. Saturday morning I woke up after 10 hours of sleep, and went out for a 2-hour barefoot walk on the beach.

 I met this egret at Point of Rocks.

After about an hour, Josh joined me, and we walked back to Point of Rocks, where the egret was joined by this friend.

On our way back to the condo for brunch, we met some royal terns.

After we ate, we went back out for another beach walk, this time the other direction. We ran into a storm.

It got even more beautiful.

So we went into town to take shelter in Heaven.

They sell a lot of Paranormal Romance there.

We got a ride back to where we are staying, and read, napped, and watched a movie for the rest of the afternoon. We went out to see sunset, but it was 1) very cold and I didn't have enough clothes with me, and 2) very cloudy and not very sunsetty. So we ran back inside and popped in another movie and watched until we went to dinner at a place called Eat Here, where I had this Gulf Coast Seafood Stew, which was delicious even though the mussels were from PEI.

vos nokh darf a yid? (what else does a person need?)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Siesta Key

So you all know that I had to cancel my Big Vacation, right? I was going to go to Hawaii, and then when that got messed up I was going to go to Portland, OR. But then Niel died, and I got psychically exhausted and was not up for a trip, and also it made no sense to me to leave Josh alone, just then, just a week after his brother's funeral.  I went to work the first two days of the week I was going to be away, and the other days I stayed home but worked from about 7-2 every day, clearing out old emails that needed clearing out—responding, deleting, filing—until it all came under control. Meanwhile, I kept looking to see if there was something that Josh and I could do together on the weekend. Some getaway somewhere that made sense. A wonderful generous friend offered her place on the Jersey shore, and we were about to take her up on that when Josh mentioned that what he most wanted was weather where it was easy to be outside. Nothing extreme. My other wonderful generous friends (actually, I have more than two, but this story is about two) Karen and Andy recently bought a condo on Siesta Key near Sarasota, Florida. I called Karen up. Actually, I texted her. I asked her if it would be possible to borrow it for the weekend. Within literally minutes, she had texted back that it was rented this weekend, but that her inlaws had a place too, and that was available, if we would pay to get it cleaned when we are done, we could borrow it. Within literally a few more minutes, I had booked the flights.

Remember how I have discovered that the key to joy is gratitude? I wasn't even at Siesta Key yet, and I felt insanely grateful to Karen who (while packing her house for movers to arrive the next morning) did all it was she needed to do to make all this happen. And the minute I knew we were going away, I felt joy. Joy in knowing that Josh and I were going to get a bit of downtime together. Joy in anticipating white sand and warm sun. (The weather report predicted a "cold spell"—only in the 60s—but that actually sounded perfect to me.) Joy in packing shorts. Joy in anticipating eating fresh fish and oranges. Joy in friendship, trust, and generosity.

What I didn't know to anticipate? The moment we walked out onto the beach for the first time, just as the sun was setting

with a cold beer and some kale chips (see previous post.) I left the snacks with Josh for a few minutes and just ran down the beach into the sunset. This is how I looked when I got back.

The wind picked up and blew a few of our kale chips away. Kale chip down!

So we packed up our snacks and walked the beach until it got dark, and then went out to a fish joint that got great reviews on Chowhound. Plus, it was named after my dad. I had a special Bloody Mary with a shrimp on the rim.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. To the sun. To the sky. To the eras of geological evolution that created fine white sand. To Karen's inlaws. To Karen.

Who clearly was not on Siesta Key when she had that cutest ever photo taken. (My guess is Canada, where she grew up before she moved to Harvard in 9th grade.) (Also, if you agree that she should get these glasses again, I urge you to post comments on this blog.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

I made veggie chips in my new food dehydrator

Oh, this is going to be VERY ADDICTIVE!!!!  Kale chips. Zucchini chips. Onion chips. Can't wait to try sweet potato chips..............

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sumo and Cara Cara

If you know them, you probably love them. If you don't, you might want to. 

Weird, I can't get the photo to orient the way I took it. Turn your head to the right, and the Sumos are to the left, and the Cara Caras, including the open one, are to the right. Or, leave your head where it is, and the Sumos are on top, and the Cara Caras are on the bottom.

Joyful bursts of tang!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I broke up with my therapist

It was a banner day for joy seeking. The more traditional thing for me to write about would be the stellar production of Good Person of Szechwan at the Foundry Theater, starring one of my closest people, Taylor Mac along with a bunch of other phenomenal performers, including Lisa Kron. And not just seeing it, but running into a whole coterie of theater friends there, reminding me that 1) I have lived in NYC for a while, and 2) some very very very Good People (as in Good People of Szechwan) work in NYC theater. (If I could tag people in a blog post, I would tag David Herskovitz, Lynn Nottage, Sturgis Warner, and Alicia Svigals under Good People.)

But before all that I did something that I want to write about. This blog hasn't been very personal this year, like it was 2 years ago, but every now and then I like to dip into that territory. I have been seeing a therapist for 2 years. She's very good, but it hasn't been right. I went to her to achieve two specific things, and two years in, we have not. We did not. We achieved other things, and they were probably quite useful and significant (although I think she thinks they are more useful and significant than I do.) As time went on, I would refocus us. I'd remind her what my goals were. She'd say that what we were doing was actually the path to those goals. Even though we weren't coming close to them. She'd say that the work is slow and subtle. That there were things I needed to get to and through before we'd be able to get to the things I wanted to get to. That it was like we were working at a DNA level, and that the other things would come along.

I am very very susceptible to this kind of talk. Just wait, it will get better. Just wait, I am trying very hard. Just wait, you'll see. I tend to be far too good at waiting for things that aren't what I actually want. Sometime in December I started to think it was time to make a clean break. I wasn't 100% sure; it seemed like waiting for a sort of bad romantic relationship to get better. What if I leave right now, just as she's about to CHANGE? And then all the work I've put into it will be for naught. And what if I leave just before it's actually finally going to happen? blah blah blah. (And by blah blah blah, I don't mean to disrespect people who are in this cycle, including myself, who very easily gets into this cycle. I just mean to say, we know the cycle, and I don't need to go into it any further.)

Then things came up. I went to New England for Christmas. I had a program at work on a Tuesday night. I had my MLK program to run. Josh's brother died. I was in rehearsal. And before I knew it, 6 weeks had passed without a session. And I was feeling great. I loved having the space away from therapy. I loved having a free Tuesday evening. I started to notice that the most transformative decisions I made this year (seek selfish joy every day, and develop and stick to some bottom lines) have not, in fact, grown out of therapy, but out of my Mussar practice and also from reading a self-help book. And that's when I knew it was time to break up. (I also now understand why people have trial separations, which is something I have never done.)

And so I went in and I told her, with great clarity, that I made my decision. Over the next hour she was extremely caring and supportive, but there wasn't much there there beyond that. I asked for her big picture wrap up, what had been most significant over our years together, but she threw it back to me. I bit. I talked. I summated.  Then I asked her again, but she pretty much just echoed what I had said. To fill the space I told her about some significant things that had happened over the course of the six weeks. She was incredibly warm and caring and kept saying she was so glad. But no big framework. And maybe she was actually doing this on purpose, so that we wouldn't be opening doors in this hour, but only closing them. And maybe she was focusing on warmth and caring because it was genuine and probably the most important thing I could take away from a relationship with her. Whatever it was, I left after an hour (and she very graciously did not charge me for this last session) and felt great. I had set a bottom line and stuck to it. I wanted one thing, and I wasn't getting it. I could appreciate the stuff I was getting, but also knew it was not what I actually wanted or needed. I left. On good terms. With warmth and caring.

So that's what that feels like.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I want to do things like this with my life

Like this. Don't you? Don't you just want to make quirky beautiful things like this that allow people to be their most awkward and genuine selves? And if you do, do you want to make one up with me?

Monday, February 11, 2013

My own JOY photo series

I went sledding. It was truly fun. I went down a few times on my own, and I also stood at the top of the hill and gave pushes to various and sundry children, including the two I knew and went with. Then I noticed that there was a metal pole at the bottom of the hill and that some children were nearly missing braining themselves on it. After a while, an adult went and stood next to the pole so he could deflect children. Then after a while I went down the hill to take my turn. It was actually incredibly fun down there too—children come speeding at you (and the pole) and you have to somehow not get beaned by them and not let the get beaned by the pole. I did save two children's heads, which meant essentially grabbing them (the heads) with my hand as they came close and pushing them away from the pole. They both fell of their sleds and looked a little dazed, but then laughed and thanked me. Then their parents came up and thanked me. In between rescues, I snapped some iPhone photos. Of course there was no time for framing—just point and shoot (and then save a child) so they aren't terrific, but they were fun to take and I think they capture the gliding movement of the afternoon pretty well. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Brooklyn Banya

Big snow fall. Seems pretty normal for a winter storm. No apologist for global warming, but it's normal to have a winter storm, right? Shovel long driveway. Arms get tired. In a good way. Clear blue sky. Cook nice food. Cruise through my To Do list. Visit with neighbors. Get invitation to Brooklyn Banya, where I was planning to invite people the following day. Take a walk. Come home. Cut oranges and pack up refreshing drinks. Walk to Banya with friends. Enter the other world. Steam room. Dry sauna. Wet sauna. Hot tub (not so hot actually) and cool pool. Soak soak, sit sit, sweat sweat, drink drink. Rub salt and honey all over skin (in the steam room.) Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Drink more. Get dressed up warm. Walk home. Go to sleep early. Sleep 10 hours.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


My birthday triplet (same day same year) Jodi sent me this link of a photo essay about JOY. So interesting to see how many are of children. As we get older, do we allow ourselves such delight? When's the last time that I smiled like that? This makes me think I should find a trampoline and a hose, which seems like the purest recipe for joy I can think of.

However, looking at these as photos, I wonder what happened next. Let's say one of the kids fell of the trampoline and started crying five seconds later and everyone's joy turned to concern. Is joy something that "counts" if it's fleeting? Or must the feeling be sustained for it to be real joy?

Oops, was that a downer?  OK, bringing it back. Bringing it back. One of the many things I love about this essay is that the cumulative effect of these captured moments is to remind us what it feels like, and to remind us how deeply human it is to feel this happy. 

(Also, and I write this on the morning of the blizzard, with winds howling and snow piling up in the Brooklyn streets, judging from this photo series, people are most joyful in warm weather.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Basking in kindness

I used to get incredibly nervous when my work went up in front of the public. I don't anymore. I used to worry about what everyone would think of me. Of my work. I don't anymore. Instead, I find myself hoping the audience is having a satisfying experience.

Again, another long day. We were in tech from 10-6, then a reception from 6-8, and then a performance from 8- ...well, we didn't know how long it would run. The creative team actually took a betting pool, guessing the running time. (Ned who played the main character won $9 with his guess of 74 minutes. Actually it ran 67.)

When I hire people now, I make sure that they are mentshes. Because you know what? You can have all the talent in the world, but if you treat other people like crap, what good is the talent, really? Because none of us do this kind of work for the money, and so we need to be good to each other. All this is to say that we had a gorgeous team of people working together. I mean, GORGEOUS. Everyone was kind. Everyone was talented. Everyone was patient. Everyone was flexible. Everyone was on time. Everyone was professional. Everyone was supportive of the others. And you know, when you are working for way too little money (I am not talking about myself -- I am talking about what freelance theater artists get paid) this work and social ethic is just essential.

And I think it contributed to my having moments of joy throughout a day when I was wearing many hats, and had many stresses, and was taking care of many people. It was, by definition, not a day for selfish joy. It was a day to make sure that every other person was cared for. The director. The projection designer. The audience. The box office staff. The press. The play itself. And yet, there were moments when I sat on the stairs with the director, and leaned my head on his shoulder and laughed in a way you do when you are close in a heightened and compressed amount of time. And yet, there were moments when I sat in the auditorium and wept at the art itself. And moments when the audience started filling the hall (and filled it completely to capacity—including 6 obstructed view seats) and some were friends, and some were Important People, and some of the Important People were also very kind people, and that filled my heart with joy as well.

So, gratitude is the precursor to joy, right? So, thank you. Thank you to everyone I got to work with these past weeks. Thank you to everyone who attended. Thank you to everyone who said a kind word. I hope you had a satisfying experience.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Rehearsal Room

Oh, right. THIS is what I said I wanted to do with my life!

Day two in rehearsal. I love being in the rehearsal room. Actors try something. Someone -- often the director -- stops and asks a question. Everyone talks about it. Actors try something else. And when good actors (and we have a room full of VERY good actors) try something else, it's transcendent. We also have a 9-year-old actor in the room who has never acted before, and he takes direction like nobody's business. (His dad is a famous actor, but I get the sense that he's just a very well-loved and well-supported kid who is confident to try things.)

Anyhow, I am remembering that in order to get into the rehearsal room, I need to find time to write things that are good enough to produce. And since writing and rehearsing and production give me joy, and since being too busy to do the things I love does not bring me joy, well I think the path ahead is clear. Or as one of my favorite cartoons says, the road ahead is hard and clear.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Work was joy

It was a rare day in which my work 1) afforded me no time to think just about myself, and 2) my work brought me pure joy.

First day of rehearsals for Ezekiel's World AND the first performance in a new series of musical theater—Jesse Green in conversation with Jason Robert Brown, and they both did JUST what I hoped, and knew, they could do so well.

Apologies that I don't have time to write more before dashing back to work this morning for second day of rehearsals plus all the work I have to catch up on from missing last week. But how sweet that just when I'm very sad and tired, I find such joy in programs I've been creating for the past year.

Monday, February 4, 2013


That scene where Rebel Wilson's character gets a bootleg tattoo and it gets infected and Kristin Wiig's character tells her to put some ice on it, or some frozen peas, and so she pours frozen peas all over her back while she just squirms with delight, and Annie (Kristin Wiig) whose life is just falling apart can't believe how stupid this is, and just mutters under her breath that you have to leave the peas in the bag? God, it feels good to laugh like that.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Glamorous Life

How can this song not bring joy? How can it not? Something weird happened with the music on my mobile listening device, and all I had on there when I went to the gym was A Little Night Music and South Pacific. (You could do worse.)  Hey, I did what I had to do. I listened to this while I ran on the treadmill.

The Glamorous Life, from A Little Night Music. 

Ordinary mothers lead ordinary lives,
Keep the house and sweep the parlor,
Cook the meals and look exhausted.
Ordinary mothers, like ordinary wives,
Fry the eggs and dry the sheets
And try to deal with facts--
Mine acts!

Darling, I miss you a lot,
But, darling, this has to be short,
As mother is getting a plaque
From the Halsingborg Arts Council Amateur Theatre Group.
Whether it's funny or not,
I'll give you a fuller report
The minute they carry me back
From the Halsingborg Arts Council Amateur Theatre Group.
Love you.

Unpack the luggage, la la la,
Pack up the luggage, la la la,
Unpack the luggage, la la la,
Hi-ho, the glamorous life!

Ice in the basin, la la la,

Cracks in the plaster, la la la,

Mice in the hallway, la la la,

Hi-ho, the glamorous life!
Run for the carriage, la la la,
Wolf down the sandwich, la la la,
Which town is this one, la la la,
Hi-ho, the glamorous life!

Ordinary daughters ameliorate their lot,
Use their charms and choose their futures,
Breed their children, heed their mothers.
Ordinary daughters, which mine, I fear, is not,
Tend each asset, spend it wisely
While it still endures--
Mine tours!

Mother, forgive the delay.
My schedule is driving me wild.
But, mother, I really must run--
I'm performing in Rottwig, and don't ask "where is it,"
How are you feeling today?
And are you corrupting the child?
Mother, the minute I'm done
With performing in Rottwig, I'll come for a visit
And argue.

Mayors with speeches, la la la,
Children with posies, la la la,
Half-empty houses, la la la,
Hi-ho, the glamorous life!

Cultural lunches,

La la la,

Dead floral tributes,

La la la,

Ancient admirers,

La la la,
Hi-ho, the glamorous life.

Pack up the luggage, la la la,
Unpack the luggage, la la la,
Mother's surviving, la la la,
Leading the glamorous life.
Cracks in the plaster, la la la,
Youngish admirers, la la la,
Which one was that one, la la la,
Hi-ho, the glamorous life.

Bring up the curtain, la la la,
Bring down the curtain, la la la,
Bring up the curtain, la la la,
Hi-ho, the glamorous...


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ching Pong Boink Clang

Remember how I learned quickly during my Never Done year that it was really more of an awareness practice than a go out and do Big Things practice? That I found that as I went through my every day, it was most meaningful when I noticed that I was on the brink of doing something I'd never done, and that I could choose it, or choose the old familiar path? Well I just realized it's the same with joy. Josh and I were walking though the Cleveland airport, a little stunned, exhausted, but also just being in an airport, which we both have a lot of practice at so we were sort of on autopilot (pun intended, and Niel would have loved that pun.) Josh saw it first. He stopped and said, "Oh I love these." I looked and saw what he was talking about and realized, oh I love these too. There's a big one in Logan, and there's one in Boston Children's Hospital I think. So we stopped and we watched the gears turn and the levers push and the pulleys pull and the balls bounce. We chose one ball to follow from top to bottom, and it took a path that required four more to follow it onto that green balance thing on the left -- that has three balls on it in this photo. Many balls went past before any followed the path that led them to our ball. We weren't exactly late for our flight, but we definitely weren't early. But both of us just stood there and waited for that thing to fill up, and then for it to dump all five balls into that green corkscrew, and then whoosh, in a flash, the game was over. So sometimes joy is right there in front of us, and all we have to do is stop and notice.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Requited Love

I don't know. Maybe this?

Still in Cleveland. Niel's funeral. Very cold. Close family. Lots of delayed flights. Everyone made it except Niel's closest friend from college, who got snowed out in the Pennsylvania mountains. Mostly aware of good people. Also incredible sadness. People collectively piecing together a person's life. I started the day, before even leaving the house where we are staying, by watching this animation. What I like about it is the supernatural force, which helps me overlook the Disnification (body sizes, passive female, etc.) Also, from a story-telling perspective, I love how clear his objective is, and how clear his obstacle is. Not that it's terribly original, but it's clear. And then there's that supernatural force that I'm feeling a heightened awareness of today. That thing we can't quite explain that goes beyond what we can understand in our daily lives. That thing that gives mystery to our time here on Earth.