Friday, December 28, 2012

Beyond War Revisited

In the 80's, I was involved in a peace movement called Beyond War.
I was a new mother in my mid-twenties.  The arms race was on high speed
and the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over humanity.
Idealistic and passionate, we sat in the living rooms of friends and families
preaching the gospel of unilateral disarmament.

So influenced was I by the principles of Beyond War,
 that I forbade my children to play with guns of any kind.
 We were a weapon-free house.
No Atari video games in our den either.

So committed was I to the cause that when my son went to
Knott's Berry Farm for a birthday outing, he ended up with a
fringed suede purse which I dubbed a "saddle bag" instead of
the holster and silver toy pistols he longingly gazed at in the souvenir shop.
I have a photo of him staring into the camera looking very tough with his
saddle bag strapped across his little 5 year-old torso.

This was perhaps, the only radical step I have ever taken in my life.

I believed that violence begets violence;
that words can be weapons too;
that how we think about others and the language we use to describe our differences matters;
 that our individual choices do in fact impact the world.

My choice as a young mother to withhold
 toys that fueled the imagination of warfare and violence
was an earnest effort to make a difference.

My critics  said it wouldn't matter.
Withholding weapons would only make my children
want them more.

Not true.  Both my children are well adjusted adults who have no deep- seated longing to wield a gun or to blow up the world.

And today, twenty-eight years later, I still believe I was right.
Perhaps it is time to return to the principles of Beyond War -

We are one.
I will resolve conflict.
I will not use violence
I will maintain a spirit of good will.
I will not pre-occupy myself with an enemy.
I will work with others to build  a world
beyond war.

We face new perils today.  As I languish at times, overwhelmed by technological advances, the de-sensitization brought on by school shootings and gun control debates, and the endless cycle of war and violence, the simple choices of our every day lives seem to make more sense to me.

The cause of peace can be global or it can be carried out on an individual basis - one to one.
Modeling conflict resolution and standing up against bullying and hatred are all things we can do on a daily basis.

As a Pastoral Counselor, I must re-commit to strongly advocating for the necessary support services for those among us who suffer with mental health issues and illnesses.
If the counselors could rise up with a voice as strong as the gun lobbyists perhaps we could make an impact.

As 2013 looms, the massacre of innocents is fresh in our memory and the grief is raw in our hearts - let each of us ask ourselves how we can make a difference in our day to day lives with the people in our immediate communities, workplaces, schools, churches and neighborhoods.

The just cause of peace may be a global one
but it begins at home.
It begins with each of us.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Home is Where the Pumpkin Is

  I bought a miniature pumpkin the other day at Trader Joe's. Nesting urges. It is fall and normally I would be decorating my house with various Halloween themed stuff.  My impulse to buy the mini pumpkin and to pick out a bouquet of sunflowers for my dining room table felt like home.
I have been splitting myself between two residences. Not living in either.  Staying in both.

Temporary though it may be, time is after all, all we have.  Why can't I settle in?  The question has been plaguing me.  As if settling in might mean it's not so temporary.

I haven't really cooked in a long time.  I've defrosted meat and put it on the grill to barbecue.  I've tossed salads and packed my lunch. I've opened containers of yogurt and poured granola into a bowl. I've brewed coffee and boiled eggs.

There's virtually nothing on the walls.  I have no place to set a glass when I sit on the couch.  I watch DVD's on a 12 inch TV we bought years ago for our boat.

Mostly I manage the liter boxes - one on the balcony and one in the laundry room.  I've gone through three versions and considered for about ten minutes buying an automatic one. I settled on a covered style with a filter but I'm spending more money on liter than anything else these days - I've tried pine bark and walnut shells, clumping and non-clumping. I obsess on sweeping up and spraying fabreeze.  The cats have definitely settled in even if I haven't.

Friday, I got a call from my bank telling me someone had hacked my account and was on a spending spree in Brooklyn. This, on the same day that the garbage disposal went out and the garage door wouldn't open.  Home repairs never seem to go away no matter where you live. And money seems to escape the bank account one way or the other.

As one of my favorite songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter says, "Sometimes your the windshield. Sometimes your the bug." Guess which one I've been feeling like lately.

The good news is, I am very adaptable.
 Down right unflappable.
I'm asking myself different questions.
Having a  completely new conversation.
Although, my story does seems to have a thematic thread that continues to run through every chapter.
 Letting go.
 I'm quite practiced at it and getting more skilled at it  with each passing day.
I'm just not sure what to hold on to anymore.  What is worth holding onto?

When we were young and starting out, building our home for our family was the driving force.  Putting down roots was never a question I had to ask. It was a natural outgrowth of our lives.  We lived close to my mother in the neighborhood I grew up in. I knew where home was. I'd lived there all my life.

Right now, I think I'm a little lost.
I think, I'm a little homesick.

 I think I'm going to go into the kitchen and cook some soup.
 Not out of the can.

Time to settle in.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mother's Birthday

Mother would have been ninety-five yesterday. The last rose of summer,  she died on the first day of spring. The memory of  her tiny, frail, withered end looms large.  She wore out at ninety.  All that fire doused by age, pills, and dementia, Mother's passing came in time.  A full life - her story is one of survival and fierceness in the face of some of life's greatest tragedies. Her last chapter was difficult for both of us but looking back five years, I now see that it was full of grace.  Her death was relatively peaceful - a liberation for both mother and daughter.
I was lucky to have such a mother.  It is her strength that I look to now. Her ability to fight. Her optimism. Her practical nature formed out of necessity.  Mother was ready for anything and could handle everything.

My father showed up in a dream I had the other night.  He seemed so distant. A long-ago memory of a figure from my childhood, he seemed for the first time in my life, insignificant. I've lived more than thirty  years of my life without him.  Life's real challenges started after his death so it is Mother whom I look to now as the model for living.  Self reliance is something I am only now learning.

Work has always been at the center of my life.  As a child, it was my parent's work in their business that was the dinner table talk. Work and home were intertwined.  My father sitting up late at night hunched over papers, writing furiously in his large scrawl, taught me sales.  My mother, up every morning to go into the office, taught me a work ethic and never to leave my desk messy at the end of the day.

Perspective is everything.

Thank God for my work.

Right now, my work is home.  It is my salvation.  It gives me purpose and meaning.  It gives me security.

And if work is home then I know I will always have a place to live.

Mother worked all her life.  Even after there was no office to go to,  she worked at being Ga Ga.  She was in the parking lot of my children's school waiting to drive them home every single day.

To the day she died, she worked at being my Mother.  "Do  you need anything?" she would ask from her wheel chair clutching an empty purse stuffed with Kleenex. "Do you need money?" she would ask.  "There's nothing we can't handle," she would say while pointing her arthritic finger at me.

Right. That's right.

Her fierce, fighting spirit burns within me.  Yes.  There's nothing we can't handle.

Thanks, Mom.  Happy Birthday.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pink Flamingo Summer

My lack of roots this summer has had me less balanced than the one legged stance of the pink flamingos in my flower bed. I did not put them there. Someone else did. Their presence in my yard makes me feel like a stranger in my own home.
 I left them there to help me detach.

 I am as out of control as  the croquet balls batted around by the wacky Queen in Alice in Wonderland.  She used  pink flamingo mallets as I recall.
 Everything is topsy turvy.
 We are playing by someone else's rules.
There is  no point in trying to figure it out.  

I look down the street like I've done every day for five years
but Savona Walk doesn't look the same to me.
 Maybe it's because I'm preparing to have to let it go.
Maybe it's because there is such sadness at the other end of it.

Our time on Savona has been bookended by grief.
In between there was  laughter and fun.
       in paradise.


When it slips from your grasp -
your home
          your dream
                         your friend

you realize (again)
            nothing lasts.

And so what does it matter?
Strangers stay in your home.
You move to a one bedroom apartment and pretend it's a boat.

And  Pink Flamingos appear in your yard.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I feel like I am a character in an absurdist drama.  Most pursuits seem meaninglessness. Futile.

The juxtaposition and convergence of recent events have left me to  re-examine the narrative of my life.
We are all protagonists in our own dramas fighting against the forces that shape us. Our motivations come from different places, deeply rooted in childhood mythology, lies couched in promises, and expectations reared within the context of an American dream now defunct.

As a theatre director, the most interesting of all character conflicts to me is the inner-conflict.
Self vs. Self
 We are all struggling with our own inner selves and that struggle propels us to do the most remarkable things - both positive and negative.
The important thing is to recognize the conflict and to wrestle with it consciously.

When we refuse to look at the truth about ourselves at every level, we make choices that are not rooted in honesty but rather in denial. From benign and insignificant to profound and deadly, our denial blinds us in a way that affects not only ourselves, but our loved ones, community, and the world.

 I have come to believe that the most important thing we can do in our lives is to (as some philosopher or theologian said)  take a long, hard, look at the real and tell ourselves the truth. The ramifications may on the surface seem unthinkable and shattering.  But in the end, the emergence of the truth has the potential to  makes us whole.

In my own case, it seems as if I have been in pursuit of something unattainable since the day my father died in 1981.
The illusive, child-like notion - that someone will come to the rescue.

Someone out there surely is going to

Joanne won't be locked in

we won't lose our home

Steve's business will take off

Norma won't die

the gods of the universe wouldn't be so cruel as to steal Ken away from Sophia and their ten- month old baby on a beautiful Saturday afternoon bike ride on PCH

the coroner  wouldn't be so heartless as to leave her card on Sophia's door saying "Call ASAP"

I will get to go home and live in my house in Naples and sleep in my own bed

There will be a happy ending

This denial has rendered me dependent and has kept me in a perpetual state of anxiety about the future.

I know there are those who would point the way to faith in God as the solution.  Life is transitory. Death is certain. Carpe Diem.

But sometimes, it feels like Beckett got it right.

I understand how drama reflects circumstance and how context forges style.
I understand that on the continuum faith is at one end and absurdism at the other.

Delusion and Denial cloud the truth and today I believe that stripping away false belief and looking at the harsh realities of it all is the only way to rescue yourself.
Whatever that means.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Director Anne Bogart says that "disorientation is good for art."
 Her directorial technique, called Viewpoints has become for me this summer both a metaphor and a guide.

Recently I've been a tad disoriented.  Like a gypsy, my personal belongings scattered in satchels, suitcases, and moveable crates, I wander from place to place seeking equilibrium, grounding, home. Uprooted and mobile, my adventure has spurred moments of surprise, insight, and the occasional sore back. Emotions ebb and flow by the hour sometimes. Frequently frustrated by not being able to find something, I realize that habit and comfort are twins.  When forced to change our habits, we are uncomfortable. But it is in that very discomfort that discoveries are made. The looming question about whether the risk outweighs the gain takes on greater significance with each passing day. Patience and trust still tipping the scale while fear and uncertainty hang in the balance. Risk is a choice, sacrifice a by-product, and freedom a result if one can hold on long enough to see it through.  This is the inner dialogue that runs through my head. What life and loss have taught me is that there is no one to rescue you.  You must rescue yourself.  Resilience is everything.

I spent nearly a week cast a drift in New York,  walking the neighborhoods in the East Village, SoHo, and Chelsea. I elbowed my way through Times Square a midst hundreds of sticky, hot tourists, and found relief under an umbrella in Rockefeller Center as I massaged my aching feet and nibbled on overpriced hummus, while gulping an Arnold Palmer. Alone in the world, anonymously, I sat in on a talk by a casting director at the Atlantic Theatre Company in a studio full of young, aspiring actors hoping to become directors themselves.  With no skin in the game, no delusions of discovery, I observed the speaker, wearing shorts and the casual confidence that accompanies one whose stories are laced with the names Bob De Niro and Sharon Stone.  I left the room after the 75 minute talk, feeling better about myself as a director and teacher - a quiet, personal moment of acknowledgment that my life and experience in the theatre have added up to something.  I may not be able to drop the names of famous stars, but I know I could have taught those kids a heck of a lot more about directing than what they got as they  hung  on to every word, digesting the "wisdom" of a guy who had little to give.

I crossed the street to the Chelsea Market and took in the sights of the beautifully designed space. My walk led me out the other end and up a flight of stairs to the High Line.  At 7:30 at night, the air had cooled enough to make it a perfect summer evening.  Romance was palpable. Lovers nestled and kissed against the panorama of a dramatically textured sky at sunset while jazz floated along the walkway scoring the scene like a Woody Allen movie.  I don't think I've felt as much joy in discovering a place in my life. My heart soared, my spirit lightened, and I thought that without a doubt, I had found the happiest place in New York City.

The discomfort of a life in New York sans doorman, air conditioning, and lots of money is pretty tough to handle. Blocks to walk to the subway. The blast of hot air as you move below ground, the blast of cold air as the doors of the train open, the hassle of carrying everything from groceries to laundry up five flights of stairs to a hot apartment on the fifth floor, make daily life challenging.  Not for the faint of heart to be sure.

But discomfort is good for art.

 I took myself to A Streetcar Named Desire with Blair Underwood. An all African American cast was just too enticing for me to ignore even though my money might have been better spent on a Tony- winning production. My curiosity was too great for me not to go see how this classic Williams play that I teach every year was reinterpreted with a black sensibility.  I was struck by the very startling discovery of humor found in lines that I had always read as pathetically tragic. Subtext obliterated, the text came through with astonishing clarity. Somehow, it worked.  Not in every moment - but for the most part, I was able to accept what I was seeing.  Interpretation, risk, and boldness of choice - daring to take on a play with the ghosts of giants hovering over the boards - Tennessee Williams' words came to life for a whole new audience. I got what I came for.

Flying home to not going home, I continued my journey of detachment.  Tethered only to friends and family and a belief in the potential for small business and entrepreneurship, my adventure simmers deep within me.  Punctuated by A Conversation with Stephen Sondheim at the Segerstrom Hall, my theatrical muse continued to be inspired as I listened to his sage words and basked in his quick and clever mind.  Again, the take away for me was the willingness to risk.

Sondheim, on stage,  quoted the late Oscar Hammerstein, "You must be willing to fall off the top rung of the ladder, not the bottom."

I'm not sure where we are on that ladder - so often a metaphor for "success". When the top of that ladder is still out of reach, there is no choice but to keep climbing rung by rung on the way to somewhere. One step at a time. Holding on. Risking the fall.

It's good for art.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Memories

Fifty-two summers have come and gone since my birth and I have, for the most part, loved them all.  From the time I was barely able to walk, the sand between my toes felt more natural than shoes. Those early summers were full of stories, sand castles, and swimming off of San Clemente.  My father, tanned and shirtless,  in his white denim levis rolled above the ankle, content on the edge of the shore with a giant fishing pole in hand, was my companion.  My long, golden hair blowing in the wind, my hands bloodied by the worms I proudly threaded onto my hook, Daddy taught me to cast my line into the surf and to watch the tip of the pole bend with that first nibble.  The waves washed over my feet as they sank deeper into the wet sand until they eventually disappeared. Each wave retreated with a whoosh across glistening flat rocks at the water's edge, reclaimed by the ocean, leaving only a trace of itself etched in a thin,  sea foam pattern along the shore. The topography of my childhood - a map of my life.

As I grew, the seaweed flags atop  sand castle towers protected by deep motes built with my father's hands as he wove yarns about my imaginary adventures with sand crabs named Sandy, Amos,  and one named Johnny who was in love with me, washed away with my childhood.

Growing up as a teenager in Southern California brought with it bonfires in Doheny, the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach with a twenty-five cent admission fee, and body surfing in bikinis.  With white zinc oxide spread across our noses, puka shell necklaces around our necks, and Hawaiian halter cover ups, we were the surfer girls the Beach Boys sang about.

It is different now.  My skin, always quick to tan in summer, is blotched with sun spots that darken faster than my tan, an inevitable consequence of a life along the coast of California.  Tanned skin may be out of fashion but my yearning to worship the sun is as strong as when I was sixteen.  Only now, instead of baby oil, I lather expensive sun screen with SPF 30.  Gidget, it seems, grew up.

But the inner Gidget still thrills when the sun breaks through an overcast morning promising the spirit of a summer day.

And I remember my father's hands, powerful in the ocean as he swam through the waves and his toes,  sifting sand and hidden thoughts. Of my fifty-two years at the beach, my last memory of my father is from my twenty-second summer, staring into the fire, his thoughts unknown to me. Perhaps he knew it would be his last full day by the water's edge.

The sun never broke through that overcast August.
The waves crashed over the castle and my youth vanished into the sea.

But the ocean remains as constant as memory and tide.  As my fifty-third summer begins - I am still happiest at the beach.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thoughts after seeing The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel

Strange not being able to see into the future.  Not that one ever really can.  We merely imagine a future.  Even tomorrow is mere fiction. Yet it is the future we propel ourselves toward. A vision. An idea. A hope. A dream.  There are those who say that the energy of  creative visualization moves us toward that which we dwell upon.  When dreams come true, life seems to have a perfect plan.  In hindsight we see how everything in our lives aligned perfectly to bring us to that moment. But when they don't - we are thrust into the abyss of uncertainty as if we have been robbed of something we deserved.  The notion that we "deserve" anything is problematic in itself.  Did any of  those poor souls from Syria who now sit in a tent in a refugee camp in Turkey have dreams? I'm sure they did. Have things turned out differently than they'd planned? I would guess so.  

I just saw the movie The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel.  The fact that I chose to see it on Mother's Day says something about the demographic I now find myself in.  While there were many wonderfully delightful and touching moments in the movie - I think what hit me the most was that we must choose how we go on in life. Certainly there are some things we can't choose - things happen to us that we wouldn't have chosen - but having an attitude of adventure and an outlook that embraces uncertainty and insecurity certainly makes for a spirit of openness and a strength that I admire.

In the movie, many of the characters had lost something - their position, their savings, their spouse, their health, their sense of purpose.  What struck me was how we spend most of our lives dreaming of a future of security and comfort. This expectation is bred and programmed into us. When our imagined future is dashed or taken from us we often feel cheated.   What, after all have we worked so hard for? What do we have to show for all those years of work?  

 As if the privilege of working in and of itself was not enough.

Yes, the privilege of working. The privilege of earning. The privilege of innovating and creating.  The privilege of opportunity.

We have come to rely so heavily on the dream of a secure retirement that we miss the point.

I don't know what the future holds.  I only have imagined one.  There is no certainty. There is no security. These are ideas.  My expectation of the future is but a dream which may become reality or may not. It is in the making peace with that - that I think ....we are able to go on.... no matter what.
So much of our expectation for the future  is tied to the desire for material possessions.
Yet once we get the thing - there is satisfaction for a while - and then the desire for something else comes in. This pattern plays out over and over again in our lives.

 One of the characters in the movie says, "I don't even buy green bananas."   She has come to that place of understanding that every moment - every day is a gift and so why not just enjoy it? Each of the characters in The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel is forced to face their imagined future and to own the truth of what it actually ended up being. And what it ended up being, was the present.

I'm going to take this to heart as we begin our grand adventure.  Be here now. Wherever that is.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lessons From the Barricade

I have always believed in the importance of working with  "good material." My philosophy is that getting to opening night is hard no matter what show you are doing - so why not be working with masterful writing, well developed characters, and interesting subtext? As a director you live with this project sometimes for months on end - it becomes your job, your obsession, your daily companion - in short - your life - for the duration of the process.  Why waist your energy, breath, and the audience's money on a show that isn't worthy of your effort?  I always have said, "Good material will never betray you." In fact, good material can save even the weakest of actors simply with a great line even poorly delivered. Good material is good for everyone. 

At this stage of my directorial career, I want to stand at the feet of giants. I want to wrestle with complexity.  I want to tackle the tough ones.  I want to strive to tell the story on stage in as clear a way as possible using all of the theatrical elements available to me - in all of their limitation.  Limitation, I have discovered, is perhaps the greatest source of creativity there is.  How to make it work given the limitations imposed forces collaboration, inventiveness, revision, looking again, problem-solving,  seeing possibility where there appears to be none. 

Before taking on Les Miserables in a modified circus tent, I looked at artistic compromise with some disdain - boldly and stubbornly demanding that my vision be made a reality - but this was when I had everything available to me.  A stage. A fly system. A curtain.  Space for an orchestra. Seating for an audience. Wings for scenery.  A backstage. 
Not having any of these essential elements for my recent production of Les Mis forced me to compromise at every turn. No there is no way to install a turntable.  No there is no way to rig a fly system for Javert's suicide.  No there is no way to rig a scrim for the ghosts in "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." No there is no way to rotate the barricade for the Enjolras reveal.  No. No. No.  And so with my collaborators, we had to find ways to create dramatically compelling moments within the limitation of our space.  Nothing so impacted the show as the limitation of space for an orchestra.

My musical director told me we needed a minimum of thirty pieces to play the score.  I almost choked.  Now there are ways around this.  Tracks. Synthesizers. Re-orchestrating for fewer players. But just as I resisted compromise, so did he.  And he was right.  So, at the recommendation of one of my other colleagues,  we put the orchestra in a different building entirely from our performers - a first for me.  And we were forced into  an elaborate sound design and mix that required dozens of microphones, extensive cabling, multiple audio and video monitors, and a digital mixer.  Adding to the complication was the fact that my Valjean was legally blind and so in order to see the conductor, we had to install a TV monitor at the base of the stage.  At the curtain call, I was struggling with how we could acknowledge the orchestra and had the brainstorm to have two actors hold up the monitor proving to the audience that there really was an orchestra in the next building. 

The rehearsal process goes through various stages - the first of which is to understand the text.  In the case of Les Mis, the text is adapted from Victor Hugo's novel and is through-sung.  It is essentially, an opera. This was the first time I ever attempted to direct a through-sung musical.  What I learned was that the text needs to be treated as if it were a straight play.  The recitative needs to be treated as if it were being spoken.  Everything is essentially the same, except the singer/actor must be able to deliver the emotion and objectives not only through his actions, but through his voice.  

The staging of Les Mis came down to pictures for me.  Moments captured with composition, levels, and form like in a photograph.  As hard as one tries to create these pictures in the early stages of the rehearsal process, crammed into rehearsal spaces without the actual set - the final touches cannot be made until all of the elements are in place - set, lights, costumes, and props.  In this regard, theatre is more akin to painting than to photography - the photograph captures the moment - but the creation of the moment is like the brush on canvas. And it happens very late in the process.

I learned that scale is important.  Too big is too big - even if by inches.  Shaving off corners, trimming a baseboard, installing smart casters or fixed casters, shortening a staircase can mean the difference in both look and function.  Design and function - communication between the design team and director can avoid costly mishaps and re-builds.  I learned this the hard way.

I spend a lot of time staring at the stage.  Hard, steady stares - waiting for the picture to emerge.  How to create clarity where there is nothing but mush? This is where blocking is only the beginning.  Directors have lots of different methods for getting their shows "on their feet." I have come to believe that the initial blocking is simply a way to get actors moving.  There are directors with the luxury of time - who espouse weeks of table work so that the movement for characters organically emerges from their objective or action - a technique I believe in (in theory) but have never had the time nor courage to fully embrace.  I am absolutely a believer in analysis - ask any actor who has ever worked with me - barraged by questions of motivation - there are no shortcuts as far as I am concerned in this.  Thus, movement is inherently connected to objective as far as I am concerned. However, what I learned through Les Mis is that the orchestration of movement - and the carving out of the picture are sometimes more important -especially in a through-sung show where story points can be missed in the blink of an eye and entire character choices happen almost simultaneously. Case in point:  Jean Valjean's entrance into the "Beggar" scene with Cosette, his recognition by Thenardier, Cosette and Marius' bump and love at first sight moment, Javert's entrance and Valjean's fleeing from Javert so not to be discovered by him - all happen within a few short minutes and each moment is critical to the understanding of the story. Messy blocking can result in utter confusion.  I re-blocked that scene almost up to opening. This in some ways because everything changes once the cast is placed on the actual set. You cannot see the play fully until that happens - forcing re-staging.

This show, more than any other, reminded me that lighting design is possibly the most important scenic element after costuming. I have always known that costumes are what transforms the actor into the character with one look in the mirror  - but this show was a lighting epiphany for me.

Sitting next to my lighting designer, staring at the stage and painting the canvas before us with color, texture, pattern, intensity, beam angle of  moving lights, focus, and count was quite possibly the most satisfying aspect of the production for me.  Again, limitation forced inventiveness - but lighting finished the picture. Lighting punctuated the moment. Lighting gave us goosebumps. Lighting made up for all of the other deficits.  I remembered as I sat asking for this or that - "What about those instruments - can we point those at the barricade?"  "Can we flash or do some effect for each of the slow motion deaths?" "The last moments of the finale needs something - can we add a cue?" "Can that cue come later?"
 " Can it be more amber?" "Can it fade on the last note?"  "When are you calling that cue?" 
Timing is everything - even in lighting.  Faster fades. Quicker blackouts. Up with the music.  Out on the last note. Orchestration - even in lighting.

I remembered how, when I was eleven years old, I walked into the high school gym where I was performing in my first musical, The Sound of Music and I saw the Von Trapp veranda bathed in blue light - it took my breath away.  I have identified that moment as the moment I was bitten by the theatre bug.  I had the same feeling as my lighting designer and I sat at the table staring at the barricade sequence trying to get it just right.  Here, I was unwilling to compromise and I believe it paid off. I'd let go of so many of my original ideas out due to the limitations of the space - taking the time to painstakingly light the show was a treat - a luxury afforded me by a collaborator willing to put up with my perfectionism and equipment that surpassed the facility we were in. 

Sometimes you just miss it.  Sometimes it isn't until the bitter end that you realize you've made a mistake and you need to fix it.  Sometimes that isn't until after you have an audience.  Case in point:
Eponine's death.  I staged it on the floor - but it was too far downstage to be seen by 3/4 of the audience due to the makeshift seating and rake of the choir platforms on which the chairs were placed.  So after our first performance in front of an audience, my choreographer and I toiled to find a way to drape her across Marius on top of a box.  Both of us, stumbling our way across the stage, laying this way and that - until we found just the right picture.  The domino was that somebody had to move the ammo crate off the top of the box to create the room for Eponine to collapse into Marius' arms.  It never happened and Marius had to think on his feet and move it in a split second to catch Eponine as she fell into his arms.  It was a "happy accident" making the moment seem utterly realistic. 

I realized my ultimate blunder in my sleep - which is often the case for me. In an effort to simplify a set change at the end of the show for the Epilogue when Valjean is sitting in a chair, writing his last confession and preparing to die, I'd eliminated the desk. In eliminating that second piece of furniture, I'd inadvertently eliminated the most important symbol in the whole story - the two silver candlesticks that were given to him by the Bishop transforming his life. So just before opening, we added a small table, the candlesticks, two new spike marks and an additional actor to set the table in place and I re-staged the last picture - Cosette on the floor next to Valjean, the candlesticks, and Marius looking over as Fantine enters to take Valjean to the other side.  Timing.  Lighting.  Fantine was coming in from the up left portal and the side light was in the down left portal.  I changed her entrance.  Timing. The moment Valjean stands and moves to Fantine symbolizing his death - the moment Cosette sees the "empty chair" and knows he is gone - Timing. Timing and Picture - Valjean, Eponine, and Fantine encircling Cosette and Marius - Focus - where to look on the famous line "To love another person is to see the face of God?"Look at them on "And remember the truth that once was spoken...." Look out at the audience on "To love...."
  Timing. When should the chorus enter on the reprise of "Do you Hear the People Sing?" They're stepping on the moment.  Delay their entrance. 
All of this changed in the final rehearsals.  
Attention to detail makes all the difference. Push it over the finish line.  Never, ever give up.  

  I would have to say, directing  Les Miserables is to date, the pinnacle of my directorial experience.  All I ever set out to do was to produce the best Les Mis we could do within the limitations of our situation.  Sometimes all of the elements from casting to curtain call come together and transcend. It is a humbling and awesome experience.  It is ephemeral. The product lasts but for the run of the show.  It all comes down in a few short hours of strike.  Photos last. And these days, a few youtube clips capture pieces of the show. But ultimately, it is in the process - detail by painstaking detail - transition by transition - chair by chair - table by table - bottle by bottle - rifle by rifle - crate by crate - moment by moment - that art is created.  That is the artistic chore of the theatre. That is the wonder of collaboration. That is the gift in limitation. That is why I stick to good material.
And no, I don't know what I'm going to do next year....
Quickly, as if she were recalled by something over there, she turned to her canvas. There it was-her picture. Yes, with all its greens and blues, its lines running up and across, its attempt at something....With a sudden intensity, as if she was clear for a second, she drew a line there, in the centre. It was done; it was finished. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.                                                                                 From To The Lighthouse Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stone Age

It is raining.
The cat is curled up on the corner of the bed.  Asleep.
 I am not.
I have a few things on my mind.
I should not have eaten teriyaki last night.
I am trying not to think about being thirsty.
No water after midnight.
It's only one.
Long way to go till I can drink water again.
Pretend I am lost in the desert.
The rain teases me.
Water. Water. Water.

The Titanic sailed one hundred years ago. 
On April 13th, the people aboard had no idea that on April 14th 
they would hit an iceberg.
Life is like that. Lots of icebergs.
One hundred years ago, yesterday, tomorrow-
we just never know what lurks beneath the surface.

One doesn't always know a kidney stone is there lurking in the body
until one feels the unmistakeable pain of that tiny rock moving down the ureter.
That something so small could cause so much pain is amazing to me.

Louise L. Hay, the holistic health guru, says in her book,  Heal Your Body,
 that kidney stones are "balls of unexpressed anger."
Gee. I didn't know I was so angry.
I've lost count of how many kidney stones I've had in my life time.
My first was thirty-five years ago when I was eighteen.
I'm having lithotripsy at eleven in the morning to dissolve all that "unexpressed anger. "
To pulverize it with up to 300 electrical shocks to my kidney.
I think therapy is less painful
but I guess calcium is harder to crack than the psyche.

An iceberg sank the Titanic.
A tiny stone can bring you to your knees. Ask Goliath.
Or me.
None of us is unsinkable.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Lot to Think About

I'm thinking about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
I'm thinking about the sinking of our family business.
I'm thinking about the sinking of the housing market.
I'm thinking about the sinking of my heart.
I'm thinking about the sinking of a hole in one.
I'm thinking about the sinking of nations.
I'm thinking about the sinking of fortunes.
I'm thinking about the sinking of hopes.
I'm thinking about the sinking of dreams.

I'm thinking about how taken by surprise we are by the sinking of anything.

I'm thinking about those people in steerage holding their children's hands.
I'm thinking about my mother holding on to my father's legacy.
I'm thinking about all the people trying to hold on to their homes.
I'm thinking about how much I've held on to the past.
I'm thinking about chance.
I'm thinking about our country.
I'm thinking about how much I don't believe in the stock market.
I'm thinking about Molly Brown.
I'm thinking about how how quickly the time goes.

I'm thinking about hard it is to let go.

I'm thinking about lifeboats.
I'm thinking about being rescued.
I'm thinking about bale outs.
I'm thinking about memory.
I'm thinking about victory.
I'm thinking about idealism.
I'm thinking about luck.
I'm thinking about courage.
I'm thinking about the present.

I'm thinking about grace.

I'm thinking about sacrifice.
I'm thinking about loyalty.
I'm thinking about families.
I'm thinking about gratitude.
I'm thinking about optimism.
I'm thinking about nobility.
I'm thinking about blessing.
I'm thinking about choice.
I'm thinking about breath.

I'm thinking about friendship.

I'm thinking about myth.
I'm thinking about story.
I'm thinking about lies.
I'm thinking about secrets.
I'm thinking about heroes.
I'm thinking about war.
I'm thinking about generosity.
I'm thinking about willpower.
I'm thinking about love.

I'm thinking about death
and how it comes
and how surprised we are
when it does.

I'm thinking about saying what needs to be said.
I'm thinking about doing what I've put off.
I'm thinking about taking risks.
I'm thinking about destiny.
I'm thinking about strength.
I'm thinking about hitting a home run.
I'm thinking about standing up.
I'm thinking about doing the right thing.
I'm thinking about passion.

I'm thinking about my life.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Missed Deadline

I missed it.  The deadline.
As hard as I tried to meet it, my body simply would not cooperate. 
Why I thought I could rush my recovery is something I now am pondering. 
 It has only been one week since my surgery.  Monday a week ago. 
 Last Tuesday was one of the most physically painful days of my life - next to labor. 
But with labor, there was a prize at the end.  
This pain birthed little jagged stone fragments from a 9 mm kidney stone that my urologist broke up with a laser on Monday. I spent Wednesday pounding water, and languishing in bed on Vicodin which did little to relieve the pain.  
And still that deadline loomed. I had to make it back to school by Friday.
 I called the doctor and begged him to remove the stent from my right ureter so that I could return to school.  
"You see," I explained,  "I have this deadline to meet."
 Reluctantly, he agreed. However it was a lot sooner than he would prefer.  By about two weeks. He cautioned me that I would likely experience some pain.  I doubted the pain could be any worse than it was with the stent. 
So Thursday, I pulled myself up and dressed. Even slapped on some makeup with the intent of going directly from the doctor's office to school.  Wrong. 
 The pain I experienced after the stent removal was excruciating. My husband drove me back home and I popped 2 Vicodins and writhed in pain.  Friday was almost here and I was still in pain. 
 Everyone told me to let it go.  To stay home and recover.  That is what extensions are for.
But how could I? 
 I don't miss deadlines.  
And I don't let my students miss deadlines.  
I still thought I'd make it Friday. Until Friday morning. Then I thought that maybe I could make it by Friday afternoon. 
 Letting that deadline go was almost as painful as passing the kidney stones.
So I missed the deadline. 
A deadline I set. Months ago. I pounded that deadline into the heads my students.  
I posted it on my bulletin board and wrote it on my white board. 
And I missed it. Not them.  Me.
Schedules are very important to me.  I rule my life by them.  Rehearsal schedules. Syllabi. Calendars. 
I pride myself in their accuracy. I feel immense satisfaction when I can put a little check mark next to a date and task that was scheduled - done. 
Schedules  provide a road map that when followed ensure that the destination will be met.  
Schedules carve out time to accomplish tasks.  
In my world, I am lost without a schedule. 
A missed deadline wreaks havoc on a schedule.
Now, I have to alter my schedule and make up for the missed deadline.
 I have to find time to do what should have happened on Friday.

There is much for me to learn from this experience.  
Lesson Learned.  You cannot rush your recovery from surgery. 
Lesson Learned. You should not rush your recovery from surgery.
Lesson Learned. Listen to your doctor. 
Lesson Learned. Listen to your body. 
Lesson Learned.  Sometimes, we get thrown off our schedule.  That's when we need to be flexible.
Lesson Learned.  Missing a deadline is not the worst thing in the world.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

February's Lessons

I've been away from this for a while.  February has been one of those months.  A strange convergence of various medical issues left me, for the most part,  in bed.  Pretty sick.  Felt lousy. No, I felt like I was going to die. That is not an exaggeration.

 A sinus infection kicked off the month just before my birthday. Plans canceled, I took my antibiotic and  pushed on with what could only be described as sinuses that felt like they were on fire. Refusing to give in to my burning sinuses,  I drug myself to rehearsal and class ignoring the deep, rumbling cough  and fatigue that o'erwhelmed me.  Chest Xray. Diagnosis - Pneumonia.  Further tests - Dehydration. Fever. Aches. Chills.  Kidney infection. CT Scan.  A 9 mm kidney stone obstructing my right ureter. And, by the way, both kidneys look like a kidney stone quarry.  Multiple stones of varying sizes just waiting their turn to make my life miserable.
I've had a long history of kidney stones.  This may be my twentieth or so.  I've lost count. They started when I was eighteen. I gave birth to both of my children and both times ended up back in the hospital the next week giving birth again - to stones.

Suffice it to say, I do not take calcium supplements.

So there I was, back in my old urologist's office - feeling strangely at home.  A little emotional even.  I'd arrived there after a slight detour to another doctor whose bedside manner was too gruff for my liking and whose schedule could not fit me in for lithotripsy for a month.  I've had lithotripsy before - twice to be exact.  The idea that I would have to walk around with pain in my right flank and a whopping 9 mm stone stuck in my ureter for a month did not sit well with me.
So I returned to the familiar world of my former urologist - who, upon looking at my Xray on Friday, scheduled me for surgery on Monday.  Boom. Done. Handled. I wanted to hug him.

Sitting in the examining room, I thought about the rocky road that had led me to his office.  And I thought about how important it is to be your own health advocate.

 Lesson learned.  All doctors are not equal.  You need to be assertive. Question.  Push.  Don't be brushed aside. Don't be passive.
And if your gut tells you that this isn't the doctor for you - find a different doctor.

I have been blessed with mostly good health.  This is, after all, not cancer. They're kidney stones.  But they can lead to complications - including the infection I had that was, apparently, the cause of my fever, chills, and aches.

Lesson learned.  Pay attention to your body. I thought maybe I had the flu. So did the nurse practitioner I saw first.  I thought the chills and body aches were being caused by the pneumonia.

Lesson learned.  Pay attention to fevers and body ache.  The nurse practitioner would not have given me a urine test had I not asked if I was dehydrated.  This led to the discovery of my infection which led to me wondering what could be causing the infection - which led me to insist that they check for a kidney stone. Why? Because of my health history.

Lesson learned.  Pay attention to your health history.

I battled my own denial.  Am I being overly cautious? Am I being a hypochondriac? Am I imagining that I feel this pain in my right kidney?  I must have taken fifteen hot baths to relieve my body ache and to stop me from shivering uncontrollably with the chills - but was I really that sick?

Lesson learned.  When in doubt - check it out. The urologist told me I had dodged a bullet. Could have been septic which is life threatening.  This was no joke.

It would be cavalier of me not to reflect on the lessons of this past month.  I am, honestly, a bit mad at myself for not checking for the kidney stone sooner.  The nurse practitioner said that they match the tests to the symptoms.

Lesson learned.  Tell your doctor all of your symptoms.

I have been forced to face my own limitations.  I have a demanding job and I work long hours.  I need to face the facts that my own driving desire for perfection is hazardous to my health.   And I am responsible for taking care of myself.

Lesson learned. Do not ignore your own health.

I have written about denial before.  In fact I have written an entire memoir about the disastrous consequences of denial.   I believe that a human being's capacity for denial is possibly as strong as the capacity for love.  In fact the two are often confused. The Greeks knew this - hence the corner stone of all tragedy, Oedipus.

 As a wise counselor once told me,  "You say, I'm not drowning. I'm swimming."

Lesson learned.  Face the truth of your life. Own it.
Denial can be deadly.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Moving Day

Wow. Been here before.  Phew. Yikes.  I wish somebody had a "how to manual" for this.  Hmm...there's an idea. Maybe I will write it.
How to get through the day your kids move across the country.
The thing is, I've been doing this since 2003 when my daughter left for college in Washington State. You'd think I'd be used to it by now!  I know the drill.  The duffel filled with clothes.  The boxes stacked in the hallway waiting to be shipped.  The bedroom looking ....  All the stuff of their childhood staring back at me - as if to say, "Yes, it went fast. They told you it would. And it did."
This time is easier by a degree.  The difference is, my son is not going off to school - he's moving to Chicago
for a job.
That sounds so.... so grown up!
He is.
So I must behave myself.  No big emotional scenes.
Be helpful but not overbearing.
Walk that line.
Not too much mothering.
I mean he is going to Chicago not Afghanistan.  Keep this in perspective.
And I love Chicago.
I mean, hey, one kid in New York. One in Chicago.
Just keep those frequent flyer points coming.
I've spent a lot of time booking flights over the years for my kids.
For her
Four years back and forth
Off to college at UW
Long Beach to Seattle
Seattle to Long Beach
Study Abroad
LAX to Prague
Prague to LAX
LAX to Paris
Paris to LAX
Back to UW
LAX to Seattle
Seattle to Long Beach.
Home for two years
Off to NYU
Back and forth
Long Beach to JFK
JFK to Long Beach.
Long Beach to JFK

For him
Off to college at Villanova
OC to Philly
Philly to OC
OC to Philly
Philly to USC - I mean OC
Today, a new route.
LAX to Chicago.

So the nest will officially be empty as of today.
Their rooms are here for when they come "back to California" for a visit.
Thanks, Steve Jobs, for face time.
Right now at this juncture, I realize how important it is to marry the right person and have a life of your own!

When the child-rearing, college -commuting, twenty-something -gypsy-parent-stage is over -
it's back to where you started - only a little older, grayer, rounder, and wiser.

So tonight, we head off to a party with some friends from college.
Misery loves company.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Theatre Education Up to the Minute

Today I am bi-locating. As luck would have it, I am on semester break.  As luck would have it, it is a rainy day.  So here I sit at my desk - my laptop computer and my ipad opened to twitter, TEDxBroadway, and Howard Sherman's live blog from the one day conference being held  at New World Stages in New York. To say I wish I were there is an understatement. But thanks to technology and the world of social media, I'm as close to it as I could possibly be.  This year, TEDxBroadway's theme is WHAT'S THE BEST BROADWAY COULD BE IN 2032.
As a theatre educator this topic grabbed me and peeked my interest and curiosity.
In his blog, Howard Sherman quotes Patricia Martin:
Patricia Martin begins her talk titled, “Will the future ‘like’ you?” She talks about lying on the floor of the Vatican and wondering how that level of creativity happens. Her book prompted by that experience has thesis that we are poised on the edge of another Renaissance, despite difficult economic times. Cites mentor’s research: the same thing that creates a renaissance can also send us into the dark ages. As a result of hyper-progress, as what’s irrelevant is shed, making space for the new. Indicators of of a renaissance: 1) death comes first, 2 ) facilitating medium (in Rome, road; today, the internet), and 3) age of enlightenment (messy concept she often avoids; has everything to do with future of creative work and how we appeal to young audience). Talks about the dwindling of subscriber base at Steppenwolf Theater and charge to find global brands that were doing best work reaching young audiences; they all did one thing well, knowingly or not – they could speak at a higher frequency. Recipe to higher frequency: in young audiences’ upbringing, they experience truth by believing what they can feel, being heard above the din. Young audiences yearn for higher purpose through human connection; we are more and more becoming wired to be social and feel human connection. She studied science of consciousness: witness, empathize, imagine and then act; but there’s a caveat – it’s most powerful when it happens live. Speaks of difficulty in changing culture because you must walk against the tide of prevailing culture.So when do we get to renaissance? Currently deep in winter of discontent and have facilitating medium of Internet – so why are we still stuck? Because we don’t have a compelling story of the future. We’re waiting – what’s next? Martin cites Jung: “The creation of something truly new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct, acting out of necessity.” So will to future like us? A conditional yes. “We need stories about the human condition that are told with love, because that is what helps people feel compassion towards each other and through compassion comes enlightenment.”
I couldn't agree more! The notion that we are in a Renaissance is a positive spin on the discomfort we feel with the revolutionary changes taking place in communication and technology.  But what role does live theatre have in today's world? There is one thing that cannot and will not change - human beings are human beings and they need to tell their story. Theatre is live and will always have the power to move an audience simply because it is a human experience.  This gives me faith as a theatre educator to encourage young artists. The theatre is not dead.  The theatre lives because it breathes - just like we all do.  Arthur Miller said, "The theatre makes us more human." Do not despair, fellow theatre educators.  The work we are doing continues to transform the world.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Being Useful

Mother took a nap almost every afternoon on the couch in our living room.  Wearing a snap-front, cotton, permanent press house coat, her twisted, arthritic feet crossed at the ankle, she lay, her hand at her neck, her toes wiggling slowly in rhythm to the tugging of the  loose skin under her chin.  Toes so crippled looking and skin so dry it was hard to imagine how once they danced in heels, her little foot, kicking up, proudly showing off the "Reid legs" - catching my father's eye.

 Peering through the screen door, into the living room, I would see her there, a certainty of my life.   The backyard pool, where we all learned to swim, glimmering in the background through sliding glass doors.   It was a neighborhood where people  grew up and didn't move far. At least I didn't. For long.
I stayed close to Mother.  Two blocks to be exact. Home was a blend of  the street of my childhood - Resh and the street of my children's childhood -  Pine.

Whenever I approached the house, I was sure to find Mother  - reclining on the couch, on a lounge chair, on her bed, a paperback in her hands. The TV Guide and her Beagle by her side. Sometimes the TV blared. Especially as she got older and her hearing began to go. The radio in the kitchen blasted news of traffic jams and pileups on freeways nowhere near us  - but she never failed to report them.  Ever vigilant. Ever watchful of potential threats - invasions - the weather-  a full tank of gas and a full pantry her defense against impending doom.

She kept herself useful to the end even when, truth be known, her usefulness had run its course.  In her mind, even after dementia set in, four words never escaped her vocabulary - "do you need anything?"

A mother's usefulness is on my mind right now.

My mother remained useful because I allowed her to be.  I allowed her to continue mothering me even when I felt like I was being suffocated by her. Yet, Mother also had a way of keeping her distance.  She was not an interfering mother.  She was helpful.  Sometimes too helpful - evidenced by a few shrunken sweaters. But there was overall a bond so intense and so practical that for the most part, it worked. For both of us.

 Even at the bitter end, after four painfully difficult years of caregiving, it worked.  I was able to be there in the end. No guilt. No regrets.
Just a chapter I'd prefer not to have lived. Cutting pills, brushing dentures, trips to ER, radiation for a skin cancer overtaking her upper lip, battles over the caregivers - it was a nasty time. My lower back perpetually out from hoisting the wheel chair in and out of the trunk and jutting my hip a certain way to lift her into the car. I have seen old age up close. I know what it looks like. What it smells like.  What if feels like.  I have walked the halls of an Alzheimer's facility, shoveled food into my mother's mouth, and held her hand, silently looking into her eyes for hours on end. There were days I was at the breaking point. A crazy woman. Me.  Not her.  But her too. A crazy combination. She didn't like it any more than I did.

And when it was over - it was over.  We were both released from the bondage of those terrible days.

My father always said one of his greatest fears was that he would be a burden for his children.  He dropped dead long before he needed to worry about that.  Was Mother a burden? I would be less than honest if I said no.  Mother was a heavy load during those years. Ninety is a long life. But to the end, she thought herself useful.  And indeed she was.  Her old age taught me an important lesson.

 The lesson I learned is that usefulness, real or imagined,  is the key to combatting the inevitable decline.

Mother needed me to need her.
I believe all mothers need to be needed to one degree or another.

A mother's usefulness does not necessarily translate into washing dishes and doing laundry as it did for my mother.

Sometimes, the most useful thing a mother can do - is let go.
Circumstances dictate choices.
They certainly did in my case.
 I chose to stay close to my mother because our lives and losses made it nearly impossible not to.

But the lesson I learned is that a mother must be willing to release her children to their own destiny.
And her children must be willing to go.

Perhaps this lesson is one I was compelled to pass on to my children so not to perpetuate the legacy of a suffocating mother.  I have been forced to practice what I preach. Both of my children have chosen to venture across the country in search of their destinies.

And as I remain behind it is up to me to find new ways of being useful. That is my job. Not theirs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Browning Revisited

When last we were young
 the world lay before us
the future everything
and nothing
unrealized dreams
propelling us into the unknown
when last we were young.

Once more
Once more
Once more
to be young
once more

before we are past
the possibility of our dreams -

Grow young along with me
the best is yet to be,
the last for which the first was made.
Our dreams are in our hands.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 2012

The Christmas decorations are boxed and put away. The comfort of home and family fully realized over the holiday in front of the fireplace and around the dinner table.

Now, the bright January sun announces the new year and with it comes yearning, curiosity, trepidation and an itch for adventure. With rapid fire successive thoughts I long to be on a boat, on the beach, in Tuscany, in Provence, in Hawaii, in New York, at the theatre, in a flat, seeing something, anything I haven't seen before - from Yosemite to Tibet, aboard a clipper ship or a train - wandering and letting the world seep into my being. I am a writer holed up in a loft, a cabaret singer at the Algonquin, a twenty-year-old actress schlepping off to an audition. I am a poet, a director off off Broadway, a memoirist on the New York Times Best Seller list. January stirs up a concoction of fantasy, regret, and possibility.

What dreams might still have a chance? What doubts, fears, and useless notions still stand in their way?
January is packed with questions and demands - hope and possibility. Contentment gives way to the restlessness. Restlessness to change.
January provides the opportunity for a new self image and the belief that identity is not fixed in cement. Change begins with thought.

Unlike summertime when laziness and sloth or'whelm my spirit, January's sunshine and brisk air ignite the spark of action. Creative energy surges through my veins and springtime looms prompting new life.
I'm not one to sit still, it's clear.
I need variety and challenge - new projects and endeavors.

January 2012 startled me awake.
In a month's time, I will turn the age my brother was when he died.
At fifty-three, I'm nowhere near ready to be done. And neither, I'm sure, was he.

What's left to do? What risks have I not yet taken? What lies have I believed that have prevented me from taking them?
What self-imposed rules do I need to break?
What new rules do I need to follow?

Rule #1: Try something different.

As the poet, David Whyte says:

Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step you don't want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people's questions,
don't let them
smother something

To find
another's voice
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don't follow
someone else's
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don't mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step you don't want to take.

~ David Whyte ~
(River Flow)