Yesterday I was startled by a seismic shift. In my conscious soul.
Hindsight reveals it had been in the making for some time.
I need to write about it.
Saturday, January 7 2017
Every Saturday morning at 9am in Castro Valley, CA, I sit in a room full of peers that I consider extended family. We gather to study spiritual principles and we hold space for each other to grow. Our courageous souls are starving and we have lost the choice to chase insatiable hunger away with booze. Many of us don't know what we seek or how to ask for it, but we stay because there is something in the room that heals what is broken one hour at a time. We are accountable and witness each others greatest joys and deepest sorrows. We are cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, and audience to appreciate. Our very lives depend on our commitment to each other. We are a community of varied mentor-ships growing away from old solutions of isolation and numbing. We work together to accept life on its own terms, and use spiritual principles to climb toward the light of freedom. I love these people so much, but today I don't want to be here. I have a temperature of the spirit, a surface irritability that I want to ignore. I am here because I said I would meet a newcomer. Sometimes it happens this way. She didn't show but I did, and it's right where I needed to be to grow today. The meeting begins. First we read, and then we check in one by one.
As we went around the room I listened to others and planned to say simply, "I'm Jen and I'm glad to be here with you all this morning. I am going to just listen today."
That was the plan.
My wife's share was born of courage to reach deeper than her own resistance and share her difficult situation with the group. She is sad and wants to isolate which is why she showed up and is speaking instead. We learn here that we often have to counter our desire with opposite action to stay well and free from old behaviors.
When she spoke it touched something inside of me I hadn't been conscious of. I hadn't realized I was so far away until her vulnerability called me back to the room. She is a bit of a hero in my life that way. I often wander in my heart and mind and soul but she stays present. Always. An angel and an anchor.
Our collision that morning made more sense. We had done our best, but the metal of our pain's trailer dragging behind as we rushed through the morning, well it shot sparks into the air. Tension. Argument, difficult apology.
Suddenly it was my turn to speak. I learned what I was upset about as the words left my mouth. It went something like this:
"I may cry and I don't know what that's about. But I guess I should talk. So, here's what I'll say. I am at the safest and most wonderful place I've ever been in my life and I want so badly to wrap a blanket of it's comfort around me and sit in front of the fire with my wife and enjoy it. That's what I want to do.
And I am getting some big nudges.
I want to ignore them.
It's time for me to do some work I've not been ready to do until now. And that's really inconvenient.
And I don't want to do it. And I do.
I am a performer.
I have a ministry in me.
I believe it's time and all I want to do is wrap a blanket around me and enjoy what I've finally got. And I'm scared and excited and grateful and a little mad about it too."
Through quiet tears I didn't hear much else. I was processing what just came out of me. I've been through MANY seasons of ambivalence and depression over the years since I left Los Angeles and the dream of comedy behind. My ex of 7 years endured the worst of it, God Bless her, as we raised our son, who has been one of the greatest gifts in my life.
I was so afraid of what I'd learned in Hollywood. I learned that at that point in my life I was not spiritually strong enough to be who I wanted to be in that environment. I was bound and determined to build a simple, stable, structured life to be safe in. I bounced around jobs, satisfactions and desires. My depression would set in when I'd see an old friends face in a film or on TV. We endured many seasons of grief around the loss of that part of me. Occasionally I'd perform again and it awakened the fear in me. I believed that to perform would be to make it and that would lead to drinking and drugs and I would die. I believed that for me, to be who I was supposed to be would mean the end of me.
The world at large can use TV to escape from reality. I was often brought back to the very reality I wished to forget. I needed to be a performer. I am an artist. I have something to say. I was neck in neck with these folks I see making it, and I've fallen mercilessly far behind.
I spent years working a spiritual program to accept that I needed to stay small and safe. The longer I'm sober I realize what a familiar theme that has been in my life. I stepped out of progress and growth to survive the death sentence I'd come to believe Fame represented for me. I grieved, isolated, maintained a manic schedule, and little did I know - grew. I was a handful and a gift to others. I spent all of my energy diverting the dream and behaving well in the meantime.
I have spent 13 years since I left performance learning about myself in spasms. The same amount of time I spent drinking. Interesting. Am I all caught up now? It's been difficult and necessary. The performance hound has never left me. I pushed it down. She'd plead for the stage, and we'd go and do amazing and awaken the fear. I pushed it down.
Safe and simple for survival.
So I'm accustomed to this attack of "it's time". However.
This feels different.
I am different today.
I left the meeting to attend a screening of a local woman's documentary. I was in my head and heart and didn't want to go but I'd promised a friend I would meet her there so I went. I figured I could process all of this later in the day when I saw my sponsor and had time for self. So I went.
Let me back up for a second.
I'd been running into Stacy Poulos repeatedly during the Christmas break at myriad coffee shops as I began the journey to write my first novel, finally. The novel initiated this seismic shift. I'd been re-introduced to a man I'd met years earlier at work. He and I both teach inside the jail system. Tyson Amir is also a musician and he'd written a book. We spoke. He inspired me and guided me to his writing coach. I hired her and the character work I'd begun was the most tangible progress I'd ever made on creating a story for print. I was sure I'd do it this time. A current gently changing my direction.
I'd be at coffee shops writing and I'd run into Stacy. One day I noticed she was editing video and we began to talk. That's when she invited me to the screening she had set up for yesterday. I politely received the invitation and doubted I would go.
She reminded me of a combination of 3 women I'd loved before. Missy, Tarrie and Liz. I suspected that Stacy was a washed up dyke who rode motorcycles and probably hung out at the local straight bars, friends with everyone. I imagined her little 'coffee shop business' was enough to pay rent at her moms house where she still lived in the basement at 45. I imagined layers of failure that led her here, yet she spoke of big things like film screenings and handed out her business card to feel important. I was happy for her that she still had her looks. I had decided that was who she was and I'd never spoken to her more than 10 minutes. I constructed a big story about her immediately. Wow.
Closer to the event, a friend reached out and said she was going to the screening and asked if I would join her.
The hallways leading into the theater were covered with photography from around the world. Images that she has caught with her camera, her eye, her soul and developed into high contrast, single frame stories. I was impressed and envious. That damn green monster, envy. We've met before. When Green shows up it means I need to move. That I am coveting something I should have but someone else has worked for. I need to move and get my version of it. Sometimes it causes depression, other times it causes movement.
I wonder who she really is and how she made this life for herself. I like wonder. It's been a while, I realized running through a parking lot to get some coffee, since I've wondered. I have forbidden myself to wonder if creativity could ever be a part of my life in a real way. I wonder if I could LIVE IN creativity, rather than seeking to inject it occasionally into my busy schedule. I'd declared her an old, washed up dyke playing 'self-employed' in her life. How bitter have I become about life's possibilities? She seemed joyful.
I returned to the local Chabot Cinema feeling hopeful that I may have been completely wrong. I nested in a balcony seat set away and solo from all others. I chuckled at how God works in my life. God wanted me here, I decided.
An energetic female played her guitar and sang about Oakland City Jail and the police that monitored her mail. She had far more passion than voice control, in my opinion. I felt embarrassed as a white woman to be represented so publicly by this 'artist'. Immediately I challenged that thought with an inquiry: why do I feel that she represents me? Why am I being such an asshole? Why am I isolating, judging and not connecting?
My depression spoke. I want to have the courage to share my experiences through my art. My biggest fear has always been what people would think of me if I spoke my truth. Then it occurred to me that I'd become the judge I feared, and she'd become the artist.
I said a quick prayer of forgiveness and decided to be present for the experience. I chose to listen to her and honor her. Suddenly her performance was beautiful.
Her song ended and Stacy spoke humbly of her gratitude for our attendance in the theater. She used words like 'blessed'. She said, "This is a dream come true".
She introduced her family, friends, mentors and teachers. I recall how she made time to take a photo with every single person who arrived - the gratitude and humility that spoke to. She found a seat several rows above me next to a butch woman and I made assumptions again. Judgements. I cleared them.
As the lights began to fade, I realized I was open. I have no idea who she is, what this screening is about. I know that the attitude I brought with me today sucked. Somehow, God put my ass in this seat. Be open.
I adjusted my attitude just as the film began.
Enter the music of Sarah Smith:
"So I packed a bag and left, And followed the sun
And finally faced my demons head on
And when I got to where I thought I belonged
A voice in the back of my head said, It’s your time for
Moving On, Moving On
It gets further away
I can finally say
I’m out of your shadow
The thing about time
It'll change your mind
I'm looking to find
A way back into the La-la-la-la light,
Into the light
Into the light
Into the light
Into the light"
She said so much more poetically what had tumbled from my lips earlier.
The whole documentary moved me. Stacy was courageous and doing what she loves. Sarah too. Two women I've come across who are creating in their lives. Which is what I want to do. I have been inspired. I left full of hope and appreciation. I said goodbye and thank you to Stacy and she smiled, thanking me for coming. I got into the car and searched Sarah Smith music. I decided whatever came up I would listen to it to see if I liked any of her other stuff. This is what I found:
It's called Angels and Anchors. Boy, God. You are something. I can't deny it anymore. It's time.
I have contacted Stacy to see if she will work with me on a documentary project I've dreamed of creating. I look forward to seeing if that can be the beginning of my new journey.
I am in school getting a Masters Degree in Life Coaching and Mentorship. I'm writing a book. I'm married to an incredibly talented and beautiful woman who provides love an support. She also inspires me. I love to love her. I will begin doing comedy occasionally to just get back on stage preparing for a show I'll do in March for YPAA. Maybe I'll perform once a week? Also I have a job that I love. I believe it's all what I'm supposed to be doing.
Marilyn has helped me see some things clearly. The compartments I've built in my life. The Constructs of this world that hold me back. I've grown so much since I left Los Angeles in 2003. More will be revealed.