Sunday, March 6, 2016

We can make a different choice

For a very long time, I felt as if I had been programmed to react a certain way, especially when something out of the blue or unexpected happened. And when it "appeared" to be awful or horrible or negative or annoying my reactions were swift and dramatic and I would always feel destroyed emotionally afterward. And more often than not, in retrospect, it wasn't that important - it either had nothing to do with me, or, if it did, it was not that big a deal. I chose, in the moment after the boulder dropped, to react disproportionately to what was happening. Yes! If someone ran over your friend with a car or robbed you or poisoned you or got you fired or kidnapped your child then a dramatic and emotional response might be appropriate. But when someone is late to meet you or you don't get the seat you wanted or you aren't invited to a party or you find out someone is talking about you behind your back, reacting as if someone has punched you in the face or robbed your bank account is not only disproportionate it is detrimental to our mental, physical and spiritual health. 

So going back to the boulder image... instead of freaking out when it drops in our path, what if we choose to breath and wait a moment? What if we breath and CHOOSE not to react as if we've been shot in the head? What if we realize it's just a moment in life and we have choices in how we respond. And here's the really amazing thing - when we don't freak out and expend all that energy over something that probably isn't that big a deal, the boulder may just roll out of our way. Or we may see that we can walk around it and the detour brings us something amazing. Or maybe we do have to climb over it and it's work and a struggle, but we come out on the other side stronger. And if we haven't let the boulder exhaust precious energy by ranting or trying to push it out of the way, then we are more apt to face whatever the boulder brings. And often it has nothing to do with us and isn't anything we even need to engage in. Maybe we can even turn around and go back from where we came because there is still more to do there.

But as I've mentioned in previous posts our ego and fear can play a huge role in how we react and respond.

I'm now trying...and I emphasize make different choices. A recent example: I went to a meeting in New York City this week and left my computer bag which had my music binder in it filled with all of my audition music. I was distracted at the end of the meeting and left it behind and when I realized that I'd left it, I called immediately and then went back to retrieve it. No one had turned it in and it was gone. I was told by the desk that "someone probably took it because they thought a computer was in it." The security desk on the first floor was uncaring and lackadaisical. Ultimately the "why" someone took it doesn't matter, nor does the reaction of staff at the building. It's HOW I reacted and how I felt. Several months ago I would have raged, blamed security (maybe even threatening their jobs) felt devastated and probably lost sleep and replayed it over and over in my head. Moreover, and worst of all, I would have acted out. 

Today, because of the work I've been doing, I made different choices...I called my husband, said it was discouraging, but then noticed a homeless person on the street sleeping in a cardboard box and put it into perspective. I still had my health, my wallet, my husband, my job, my life and computer, because I hadn't brought it with me. It cost some money to replace the bag and it will take some time to replace the music but my reaction and even my "feelings" were much more proportionate than they have often been. And the feelings are the real challenge. Sometimes we can choose to react in a more civilized manor but inside we are still raging or hurting or both. When we can move to a place where even the feelings are not attached; when we recognize that some things are just not in our control and let go, life is so much more pleasant and we save our units of energy and our sanity for things that are more important.

The boulders will drop...but we have a choice as to how we react when they fall.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Crossing the Finish Line!

Sometimes it's hard to think that a dream or a project or a goal will ever find its way to the result we hope for. Sometimes, even small accomplishments can seem out of reach and when we fail to finish an assignment or follow through on a task it can be a blow to our self worth. But...when we have the opportunity to cross the finish line and complete something we've worked hard on: a Thanksgiving meal, an art project, a challenge we've set for ourselves...whatever it is, the results can make us feel proud and accomplished. The challenge is to hold on to those positive feelings and keep that energy of our success moving forward. What often happens, is that we minimize the importance of our accomplishments and within a day or so can fall into feeling even worse than we did prior to completing our task. What do we do now? What did that really do for us? 

I just completed the 12 week program: The Artist's Way. It was a rigorous three months and not the first attempt at completing this artistic and spiritual journey. Several years ago I attempted to get through the book and only made it to week 5. This time, with the support of my husband, I followed-through on my goal and crossed the finish line. I was immediately proud of myself and felt like I had honored myself and my artistic recovery. Of course within two days of completing the final check-in, I wondered...What's next? Wasn't that supposed to bring about some tangible results? What are they? Are they measurable? 

For me, and others I've talked to, we want an immediate major fulfillment - like hearing from a Casting Director that a producer wants us to play the lead in a new Broadway show or having a gallery contact us to give us a major show, or a theater we sent a script to ten years ago calling out of the blue to say they now want to produce our script. But when that doesn't happen, have we failed? Have we come up short of finishing our task? Usually, the answer is no.

In relating all of this to my finishing the Artist's Way there are plenty of changes and positive things that have come out of these three months. For starters, working the tasks each week has brought me to a place of calm...maybe the calmest I've been in my life. People, places and things that used to baffle and enrage me aren't registering on my emotional scale anymore and I find I'm able to just accept circumstances as they are as long as they are not threatening me. I've found a way to proportionally respond to situations which used to cause me to go ballistic or live in the drama of absolutely nothing for days. I'm writing my morning pages each morning, and while it's not the writing I want to be doing, it is in fact...writing. I'm taking small actions each day, some bigger than others, and trying to let go of the results. I'm not giving up but I'm also not banging my head against the same wall and expecting a different result. Now ultimately, I hope that my artistic slump will suddenly turn into an artistic plethora of work and production. But I must remind myself that what I just accomplished, in and of itself, is something to be proud of...something to hold on to even when the cash and prizes weren't what I was dreaming of. That's my ego and inferiority complex trying to sabotage the accomplishment and lesson it. The truth is, I just crossed the finish line of an amazing 12-week project and I made it through with flying colors and am better for it. It was a great effort and I shall in the great accomplishment!

Don't forget...when you've worked hard to achieve a goal, congratulate yourself...celebrate and give yourself the credit you deserve! Light and love my friends! 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Turn the fear around...

I have to admit that fear is one of my biggest...well...fears! I've lived a great deal of my life in it...surrounded by it...immobilized by it (and maybe worst of all) broken by it. However, each day I'm fortunate enough to wake up is another chance to face my fears head on, to walk through them, to minimize them and "Face Everything And Rise!"

I do like the acronyms: False Evidence Appearing Real or Forget Everything and Run to describe my fears. I perceive something to be afraid of, because of course I know what's going to happen; I know how someone is going to respond or behave; I know I'm not going to get that role or win that festival. I know because I'm smart and I'm experienced and I've "been there, done that!" I know to be afraid of failure because I've failed and it doesn't feel good. But of course I've also learned so much from my failures and I'm hard pressed to find one that has destroyed my life or even kept me from achieving my ultimate goals. I forget all the amazing things I already have. I forget that my husband is here for me as are some amazing friends. I forget that I have enough, right now, just with me, myself and I and that I don't need to impress anyone. I forget my good health and where I live and the security I have built over the years. Instead, my ego often rises up with the false evidence, followed by anger and then depression and the cycle can just repeat over and over.

The truth is, I often have no control over most situations - especially the big ones. Sure I can glean an idea from past experience in certain situations but even then, results may turn out differently than I had presupposed. Basically, my fear plays into the core of how I was raised: "Prepare for the worst and hope and pray for the best!" But if we're always preparing for the worst then we'll always be afraid. We'll live in a constant state of worry and anxiety.

As I already alluded to, one of my recurring fears is: fear of failure. That's a big one to get wrapped around especially when you begin to analyze success...I mean, how does one define success or being successful? Do you have to be rich and famous to be successful or is each person defining success for themselves based on their own goals and plans for their lives? If I am honest, what I am actually afraid of is not getting the attention or respect of people. Often these are people who frankly, aren't my friends or colleagues or anyone I should be concerned about. And yet, there I am, afraid I won't get that part in a film or my play won't be recognized by somebody famous and therefore Joe Somebody (that I'm an acquaintance with on Facebook) won't realize how amazing I am. And BINGO...that's all on my ego, but it's also directly linked to my inferiority complex. I'm not good enough...I'm not worthy...I'll never be successful - those whiny mantras that are so self-destructive and keep us from walking through open doors or pushing through the ones that just need a little nudge!

Some fear is actually good for us: fear of the rattlesnake at our feet; fear of the car coming at us on a one way street; fear of a really strong undercurrent on a beach with red flags flying, fear of freezing to death when our electric goes out and the temps outside are subzero, fear when a drunk gang is coming up behind us, etc. Those fears are about self preservation and usually "intuition fear" when the hairs stand up on the back of our neck, are good ones. They keep us alert and safe. But most fear is rooted in our own self worth or the lack of it. And those fears are definitely based on false evidence, at least in my own life, because the facts show a very different existence and one that I can be both proud of and grateful for.

I've been thinking about fear more this week for a variety of reasons, one being that I have something coming up that I'm giving a lot of weight to...but I've decided to take a deep breath and not worry about it. I'm ready for this moment in terms of "doing my homework," and being prepared. I'll attempt to do my best in the moment and then let go of the result. And since this moment won't happen for another week, until then, I'm going to try and stay in today. Fear has no place here because no matter what the result I'm not losing anything; nothing is hurting me. My life, with or without this thing happening, is great! That's what I have to stay focused on. 

I heard an amazing line in the movie Just Before I Go and I am carrying it with me each day now. "The trick to beating fear is to live a life so full there's no room for it...fear thrives in just fill her up!" I'm going to try and keep my life "filled up" with amazing people, places and things and then there won't be much room for fear!"

Carpe Diem my friends! Seize the day...seize the day!

Sunday, January 31, 2016


The Artist's Way is often reminding me to be on the lookout for "synchronicity." I must admit that within the past several weeks things have been happening which seem to fall into that category...

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
1). the quality or fact of being synchronous - happening, moving, existing at the same time.
2). the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image on an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality - used especially in the psychology of C. J. Jung.

James Redfield says of synchronicity in The Celestine Prophecy that "all coincidences are significant because they point the way to an unfolding of our personal destiny."

For me, it is often similarities in people, places and things that align with exactly what I am thinking, experiencing or feeling on my own...quite separate from those people, places and things and yet, it would seem, connected.

I've been saying things to my husband and then suddenly someone will say the same thing in a TV show or we will see it in a book we are reading. I've been noticing the oddest similarities between Perry Como and myself as I work on my new cabaret show called Mama, Me and Mr. C, using Como's songs. Shane has been insisting that redundant number sequences are following us and we were assigned room 333 on our vacation and each time I look at the clock it seems to be 2:22 or 11:11.

Whether coincidence, kismet, happenstance or irony, I choose to take these little moments as signs or gifts, if you will. I find that the more I am living in gratitude, serenity, contentment and joy, the more these moments happen. When I am taking the next right action and letting go of the results, synchronicity seems to find me. As I let go of my need to control everything and realize that I am enough and that I have all that I need, I am able to receive these little gifts more often. And when I open myself to the creative energy within, I feel as if I am right where I am supposed to be.

I'm finishing the only biography ever written on Perry Como and it is both inspiring and enlightening. I feel as if Perry and I have a great deal in common and that my passion for creating this show (which I have wanted to do for almost a decade now) is finally finding some synchronicity.

Here's to that next moment in time...may it be, as Mr. C sang, a "magic...moment...filled with love."

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rest and recharge to renew your desire to create

The older I get the more important having time for myself, away from the daily grind and usual responsibilities becomes. I've learned that driving at a break neck speed all the time, even when I feel I'm "finding success" will eventually lead to burn out and often long periods where I am inspired to do nothing. And that would be fine if those respits were planned and therapeutic in some way. But often they are born of necessity and then the feelings of guilt and "missed opportunities" if I'm not in the game lead to anxiety and depression and self pity.  You know...those feelings of what's the use? And that's always because I've lost my true reasons for wanting to be an artist and create which should be - just to create!

So I'm learning to purposefully plan downtime for myself. This year my husband and I had been working full time at our respective B&Bs and it was suddenly the end of June. A friend of ours asked, "How many times have you been to the beach?" Our reply, was sadly...none. He was having none of that and reminded us that working so hard in PTown during the summer came with only a few noticeable perks but one of them was definitely the beautiful beaches! So he took us. And then my niece Melissa came for a visit and we took her a couple times. Just those few hours of rest and tranquility made a difference in my energy, attitude and esteem. And then we decided to go once a week into the fall just to decompress. And it made a difference.

Some will balk that it's impossible to find down time or that it costs too much to relax. To them I say, "You don't love yourself enough then." I used to do the same thing. Stingy with my time and always so afraid to spend what little money I had. But I know plenty of folks who won't cut back on their favorite money exhausters like booze, cigarettes, junk food...whatever. We can justify spending money on things that aren't good for us but can't justify it for things that would refresh our mind, body and spirit. And I know...I've blown money in some pretty unhealthy ways. But when I love myself enough to give myself tranquil time, the results are more precious than money and many times I don't have to spend much or any at all to get it. And when I do splurge (as I did this week to give us a belated honeymoon to Cancun) the rewards are too many to mention.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I've come to a point in my life where I am worth some self care and self love. For me personally that means a therapist, some 12-step meetings, a sponsor, a creative calendar with down time and beach time built into my schedule and a healthy and loving relationship with my husband. Those things inevitably open up my creative energy and spirit.

Does it help that I just finished week 8 of The Artists Way here in Cancun? Well it doesn't hurt. But I don't have to be in Cancun or even on the beach in PTown to find some serenity. I can find a quiet spot at home or in the yard. I can light a candle or listen to some music. I've even meditated and done affirmations in the car...parked with my pan flute melodies on Pandora.

Know this! You are worth it. Give yourself some you time every week and see the results. You don't have to miss work or social engagements or making dinner or playing with the kids. And you don't have to give up your sleep. Just work in an hour for you! You deserve it!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Dancing in the Dark and Reminiscing...

Looking back on the good ole days can be a soothing balm or a painful paper cut that refuses to stop bleeding depending on what chapter we wish to explore and what our recollections or perceptions of those days were. I am grateful that most of my "looks back" are the joyous and bolstering ones - even the High School flashbacks. I find solace in memories of my dear Mamma Gen and Auntie Carm; or of my brother Jackie; even my father. I transport to cookouts at the cottage on the lake or marching band victories, eleven o'clock numbers in My Fair Lady or Side By Side, trips to DC, steak dinners at Ponderosa and Styrofoam wars with Melissa. And there is always the music. Music was something that was such a part of my identity growing up. It was important to my family as my father had a country western trio that he toured locally with before I was born and my mother loved music and had a beautiful voice. I was singing in the over-sized windowsills of our house before I'd learned to write in cursive (which I now understand isn't even being taught in schools).

(The Albion High School cast of MY FAIR LADY circa 1981 - I was Alfred P Doolittle)

Whenever I want to find motivation or need a spark of inspiration I turn to music. Right now I am working on the tasks for WEEK 7 in The Artist's Way and one of them is to listen to a side of an album (another thing that is obsolete) and maybe doodle as you listen. Instead of doodling I decided to write here and express my gratitude to my family and teachers and friends for allowing me to experience High School fully and be present and understand in the moment how great it was. The road to High School wasn't always easy as I was bullied and threatened for being a "Mama's Boy" and a faggot (even before I had any inclinations about sexuality or who I was). High School was a world of wonder for me as I was in several bands and choruses, played tennis, starred in musicals and was involved with Student Government. Summers were often spent going "somewhere" away from home even when we didn't have much money, which was often. And thankfully, even the general schoolwork was fun for me (for the most part) as I loved math and science and reading. History wasn't a favorite, which seems ironic as now I can't get enough!

In any case, this week I decided to listen to Little River Band Greatest Hits from 1982! And as soon as the first song began I was transported back to Albion High School and a wonderful and vibrant time for me. My brother died in 1979 but I was beginning to learn how to live with his loss and hold him close in my living, knowing he was my guardian angel. I was involved in all the activities listed above...I was dating my darling friend Elinor Sartwell, beginning to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life and learning from amazing teachers and mentors like Kate Konigisor, Susan Burdett, J. Michael Snyder, Laurie Taillie and so many others.

One of the songs on the album is Reminiscing...and that is just what I've been doing today. Thinking about the old days with fondness and gratitude. There are no regrets for me as I look back, no pangs of loss or resentments over failures or injustices.

I believe that is the balance we all must strive for - looking back once in awhile to remind ourselves where we've been and where we are headed but not to get stuck  or mired down in what the past can represent if we find discomfort or misery there...letting it go and realizing we now live in the present and we still have life ahead of us. We have goals and dreams and accomplishments still inside of us.

Let's all go dancing in the dark, walking through the park and reminiscing...let's just not stay too long as we all have so much left to do! Here's a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped us get here and's to the rest of the journey!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Half a century...

I've spent a good part of the last several years waiting for... something. That was never more true than most of 2015...

Of course I already possess a great deal and much has actually happened: I moved from the Tri-State (where I'd lived most of my life) to California for a soul searching and sobering year and a half; I moved back East to marry and share life with "the one" on Cape Cod and I took a great job at a B&B where I only work four hours a day for six months out of the year. Granted I flip beds and clean toilets, but I can see the accomplishment of my work in real time and by 2:00pm most days I have the afternoon and evening to do as I please. My husband and I are year-rounders in a creative and eclectic town and are stable in most ways that one wishes to be. "What a life!" most would exclaim. And they would be accurate. And yet...I'm waiting...

My play, The House of Nunzio, was read by Judd Hirsch, Hal Linden, Frank Langella, Joseph Bologna and Danny Aiello in the past two years. While the first three wonderful actors passed on the script, Joe liked it enough to mentor me through a rewrite. Those calls with him were some of the most surreal moments of my long and storied career as an actor and playwright. Danny Aiello loved the script and met me for lunch to discuss the play and talk about his career. We ate in an empty Pietrasanta on 9th avenue in New York City and I barely spoke a word. He spoke of Lauren Bacall and Spike Lee and all the while he kept bringing it back to my play and talked about it in surprisingly vivid detail. He kept saying, "Did I read your play or what? I read your play!" He told me he loved the script and that it would most likely win four Tony Awards. Considering I had only ever envisioned this play Off-Broadway, I told him I'd be content with it winning one - for him in the role of Nunzio! I had to catch a bus to Boston and he insisted on driving me downtown in his Jaguar and he played me tracks from his new CD. Singing has become a focused passion for Danny and he's also shepherding a new show he's been attached to for years to the finish line. We text now on occasion.

The gratitude I have for all of this is hard to even describe and yet even with all these blessings... I'm waiting for something.

My husband had an amazing year with his photography and especially his "drag fusion" walking art installations which garnered a great deal of accolades and press including two magazine being the International Magazine et alors?

I am now officially "managing" his career as an artist and we have an exciting 2016 in the making with dates for #ARTONSHANIA 2016 already confirmed, a solo pop-up show at 8 Dyer Hotel for one night only and a solo show for a week at Frederick Studio Provincetown to feature work from his My Weekend In Provincetown series. Five different fine artists in Provincetown have selected Shane (as Shania) as their muse for paintings. The most recent is Jo Hay who painted this remarkable 8 feet by 6 feet painting titled, of course, "Shania!" 

Artist becomes Art Painting titled "Shania" by Jo Hay

And yet...with all of this amazing news and exciting possibilities, I am waiting...

For what? I know you are asking. I'm not quite sure I know. I think I'm waiting for someone to tell me that I've "made it," or that I'm a "success." I think I'm waiting for the plays I have already written to be produced to lauded acclaim or for a casting director I once knew to call me up and cast me in something that finds its way to Broadway. And so I wait. And all this waiting ends up incapacitating me - it keeps me from writing more plays or going out on an audition or contacting friends in the business or living my creative life to the fullest.

The truth is (as I alluded to above) I've gotten the dream I always wanted. I'm living at the edge of the world in a beautiful artistic and vibrant town, in a glorious cottage with the man of my dreams. But somehow I thought the road to get here would be longer and strewn with noticeable and consistent artistic treasure. I thought I'd have to tour the country in a multitude of Broadway Tours; make a few stops on Broadway; maybe have all of my plays turned into successful know...I'd have "earned" the dream life. I mean else do you get to have it?? And somehow... without those successes... I feel cheated. It sounds absolutely ludicrous, maybe even egotistical or audacious to some. And yet, that is where I've found myself. Some might say I'm already at that "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" but for my part, I'm having a hard time feeling I deserve it or that it's real. 

But a few weeks before the New Year, I decided to begin working The Artist's Way. I had started to work the program years ago but never got past week 5. My husband and I are now beginning week 7. I'm beginning to find the means to open up a creative door for myself again, or maybe more accurately, I am able to see that the doors have just been waiting for me to walk through. I'm working on several writing projects, looking forward to auditioning as an actor and singer again and I'm enjoying helping my husband be the best artist he can be.

Ultimately what I was waiting for was for my own true self to wake up and get going! To take the next steps on my journey and hopefully do it with some grace and humility and lots of joy! I was waiting for the "ok" (if you will) to move forward regardless of the fear and anxiety with understanding that nothing may come of any of it. That "ok" has to come from me and I have to be "ok" with just creating the work to create! I'm calling the pessimistic, angry and fearful voice in my head, Trixie...and I'm working hard to keep Trixie in check. I don't want to eliminate that voice altogether, but for too long that has been the predominate voice in my head...keeping me from taking risks; from following my creative dreams; from being a serene, content and joyful man. 

This year I will turn fifty...the big 50! Half a century will be at my back. I choose to embrace this year with all the wonderful possibilities and with all the gifts and blessings I already have. I will look back with gratitude and pride knowing that I have already experienced such a wealth of successes and accomplishments. I have worked with some of the most gifted folks on the planet and have stories to tell...boy do I have stories to tell! And I'll tell some of them here, but mostly, I want to begin new stories here. To describe this amazing awakening that begins when we say YES to the possibility that our dreams can come true...that we are worth it...that it is our true nature to live in creativity and joy. Half a century may be at my back but I want to be focused on this moment and look ahead to the remaining part of this journey.

And that is what I wish for each of you reading this: that you each find the path of your truest self and that it brings you the most joy and contentment that you have ever known. 

Light and love from Cape Cod and our Creative Cottage! Remember..."You win some, you LEARN some!"