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03

Sep

From Joel Schwartz, re: Special

For me, there is a pleasure, a ritual in the mundane. The mundane allows room for the extraordinary. It is a dialectic - in the boring, ordinary, and mundane, there exists a deep meaning in knowing you are making room to “eat the Earth.” Just as the capacity to feel deep sadness allows for the capacity to feel true joy. 

For if you are always full, how can “Eating the Earth” bring any nourishment, let alone joy? It is like eating a too rich piece of cake after a large meal. The sugar tastes good, but all you are doing is eating empty calories without the relishing, without the reverie. And so it ultimately is an unpleasurable experience despite the sugar high.

When work was scarce, days off were anxiety provoking, and vacations felt undeserved. Now even a relaxing evening is nourishing, and I no longer need the extraordinary to fill me up. I think boredom comes with the mundane if you cannot fill the mundane with meaning.

02

Sep

Special

As a kid, I knew that I was special. And I was going to live a special life. 

As an adult, I have weekends like this one, and I start to get really scared.

Nothing really happened to me this weekend. Which doesn’t mean that I sat at home alone, it just means that I had four whole days off work to mobilize, to have an adventure, to do something out of the ordinary, and the things I did were really ordinary instead. I went to some bbqs. I woke up in my own bed every morning. I went to the gym. I did some work. It was fine. It was… fine. But I’m not sure if it was special. In fact, I’m a little terrified that it wasn’t. 

I’ve always had huge expectations of life. I want to be transported by it - by my meals, my vacations, sex, men. By a hike, by a night out. By my morning cup of coffee. I remember this as a child, this rush of presence everywhere I went. Wonder at everything. Easy joy. No judgments. Huge expectations, that always felt met. That feels like what life should be to me. But I’m noticing this nagging horrible trend, that when I get used to things, they stop transporting me. So my life has this way of becoming less special. What the fuck. 

I’m an O.G optimist. I wear feather earrings. I bought a kimono this weekend. I am genuinely moved by my morning gratitude lists. I think we can have it all. But there is a deep part of me that is dissatisfied with my life when it fails to deliver highs, and I’m scared shitless about it, because my life is only going one direction. And I don’t want to miss it. 

But am I crazy, or is life sometimes smaller than I thought it was? Isn’t there gray? And mundanity? And stale-ness here sometimes? Isn’t there?

I’m terrified that my future spouse and I will one day get tired of each other. This is so scary to me, actually, that I’m sort of willfully ignoring it. Like, I’m sort of just assuming, against all odds, that I will be the one person in history who will not grow sexually bored in their marriage. No, no. I’ll have pissed-off biting kisses, and pressing tender shoulders, and hands the back of my neck forever. I don’t think I can live my life without it. It sounds like a tragedy. So I won’t. I’ll figure it out. I have to right? I mean. I knew I’d live a special life. So I’ll have that. I must. It’s life. Its huge. I won’t be broken like that. I won’t stop noticing. 

But then I have a weekend where nothing happens. When I notice that so much of adulthood is necessarily mundane. Or just okay. And I don’t know yet how to sidle up to that; to the very adult fact that sometimes life doesn’t live up to my expectations. 

What do I do with that feeling? Where do I put it? Next to the Sailing Around the World cabinet? On the bottom shelf behind that box of Charities in Need of Volunteers Worldwide? Or upstairs in the Dance All Night On Drugs attic? Jesus! All the fucking options, all the places that need attention, and all the parks to visit and stars to look at. All the hugs to give. And I went to some bbqs. And I did a little bit of work. It makes me want to explode. 

And Facebook. 35 different places that I could be that second. 10,000 people to connect with and know. Life is so big shouldn’t we feel it, all the time? Shouldn’t we be awake and alive and doing new things all the time? 

I don’t know. Except that we don’t. I don’t know anyone who does. We all seem to do pretty much the same things, even if those things are partying our faces off all the time. I bet that gets boring too. At a certain point I think we all probably just have to show up, and be with what’s here. Our jobs and our friends. Our routines. So maybe I’m not the only one who feels chronically hungry, and a little scared. I bet you all feel bored sometimes too, and afraid. I hope you do. To be honest. 

And at least there’s SFactor; grimy and intimate and weird. At least there’s sirens and gears, and straps across my stomach, and fabric to rip myself out of. At least I have a place to help me hold all of it, is what I mean, because I’m learning that I can’t be everywhere I want to be every second I want to be there (FUCK) and who knows if happiness would be out there anyway, instead of here in my dance class that feels like fighting and kissing and screaming at the same time. Or even better, here waking up in my own bed. And my own routine. Here in my life. Where nothing really happened this weekend. 

Sometimes I feel like a caged animal inside my own life. And then sometimes it’s nourishing and wild, and so so exciting. Sometimes it’s photoshoots, and vacations, and weddings, and getting hit on. Sometimes it’s not. It’s pretty normal. Then it’s not. Then it’s pretty normal again.

I don’t know how to do this right. How to… live. Maybe it is supposed to be huge like I thought growing up, and this is a phase I’ll move out of. Maybe it’s huge already without me doing a single thing. I don’t know what “it” is, but this urge I put so much stock in, to avoid the mundane, to have love that is bigger, experience that is louder, a summer where I experience a ton of new things, seems to be quietly killing the joy in what is here in front of me, and that doesn’t feel like “it” either, although I have a lot of compassion for those big dreams and the big things they sometimes drive me to do.

I think there must be a way to want to eat the entire earth AND be satisfied with whatever portion of it happens to be on your plate that day. 

And look at that. 30 minutes left in Labor Day. I guess it wasn’t so bad. Tomorrow I’ll wake up in my own bed again and start over. And I won’t know what’s coming.

…Which is pretty special, actually.

The heart, maybe of what makes it special. That something else always will unfold.

As my friend Wendy is always telling me, the gray space is part of the painting, in the end. A part that perhaps I don’t need to judge. 

Sure. I can crack my heart open to that, I think. 

I just hope I’m turning into a masterpiece. Because this weekend really did feel kind of boring. 

And I understand. I understand why people hold hands: I’d always thought it was about possessiveness, saying ‘This is mine’. But it’s about maintaining contact. It is about speaking without words. It is about I want you with me and don’t go.

10

Aug

Perfect

So I’ve been told recently that I can’t make everyone happy all the time. Seriously? But…I so want to.

I want everyone to like me. Is that so weird? I want to offend no one. I want to be universally accepted, to never have to wonder if I’m a bad girl or a good one. I feel like I should get to have that! I should move slowly over the passing of years towards elegance, eloquence, perfection, worldliness - until I become impeccable, fashionable, uncritiqueable - a pro. Then everyone will hug me. Then I’ll only get thumbs up on youtube. Then people will just give me jobs. This sounds legit to me. This sounds like the way to go.  

But the more honest of an adult I become, the more unable I am to do this. And that really sucks, because I was really good at it for a really long time. 

If my authentic feelings didn’t feel safe in the days of yore, I used to just kind of…do without them, and lemme tell you something - that was fucking effective. Fuck yeah, I’ll laugh at your joke! Sure thing, I’ll stay out later than I wanted cause you want to! Pssh yeah, I’ll make fun of myself so that I don’t shine too brightly for you! Totally! Let’s do this! 

I had tons of friends.

But I’ve been encouraged to stop doing that, from a self-esteem perspective. So I’m trying! Which looks a lot like, one step forwards, three million steps backwards, throw up hide in a corner and die. 

If only growth only felt good. So often it feels like wanting to throw up and poop your pants and pass out.Then, the other side of the growth feels better, after you make it through the wanting to die part. But that part is like, so real. That shit really feels like dying! Which reminds me of another thing the death of my people-pleasing really feels like, which is having all my skin ripped off, and all my bloody, weird organs exposed and not knowing how okay that is. Or, more often, not knowing how NOT okay it might be - because I OFTEN suspect my authentic self isn’t okay.

Today, I hurt my foot, (one of those mysterious foot cramp injuries that seems to have no real source) and rather than laying off it for the day, I limped way to dance class, pretending like I was cool and not hurting, because I didn’t want people on the street - strangers - to judge me for being injured. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to stop and help me, I didn’t want them to tell me to go home and be authentic and relax. 

So, I get that true freedom is an end to trying to control and manipulate other people’s opinions and just being my true self. But… if I stop trying to control and manipulate you all.. then I can’t control and manipulate you all! I just have to hold space for my real thoughts and opinions and deal with your feelings about it. Ahhhhhhh my skin!

But DO I have to deal with your feelings about it? Judgment is literally something we made up. It isn’t gravity or raindrops or pain. It’s just humans trying to categorize and measure and calm ourselves down by telling a story about one of us being right and one of us being wrong. Gross. Judgment you are the worst. So unhelpful, and so profoundly never the truth. So can I just say FUCK. OFF. JUDGMENT. Can I? 

I think I’m allowed to, actually. But also I don’t feel totally ready. Because those judgments are here, in me. See, because if I’m judging my own authenticity, my own gimp-footed, stare at my own facebook pictures for two hours while getting up the courage to go to the gym, leave the party at midnight, slather peanut butter on dried figs because I’m trying to stop eating chocolate authenticity, then I’m judging yours too. I know it. And if I look back through my life, I can see it. 

In January my sister told me how much it hurt to be frozen out by me. That I freeze people out when I disapprove of them. That it hurts to receive that, that I had hurt her, on accident. And I listened, and I tried to ignore the suspicion that the pit of my stomach was dissolving into the porch beneath me, and I scoured my brain for motivation for something so mean, and all I could find was, that I was just trying to move towards perfection! For both of us! Just trying to move towards that eloquence and elegance and all those youtube thumbs ups… by freezing her out when I thought she was too human and real and didn’t perform to my standards. How sad. How cold. How unsafe. 

I want to experience myself as safe in the world. Doesn’t that sound like a dream? Like a big, airy pumpkin-pie-flavored, leap out over a cliff? I think I have to start by making the world safe for others to be themselves.

I think humans hate to be in question of our goodness and badness. We hate to not know. So we set standards - ideas of behavior that will make us approvable, even if those standards aren’t achievable. Even if it hurts us to have them. 

I have set so many standards, in my life, in order to approve of myself, or to give myself permission to approve of others. I’ve assigned meaning to widely held beliefs about good and appropriate behavior, and meaning to my own personal ones, then I’ve subjected myself and my community to them without asking anyone’s permission. I signed up for all these beliefs so that I could get an A+ at life, because what is scarier than going one direction in your one and only life, marching towards your own mortality and not knowing along the way, how you’re doing, if you should be doing it better, if this plus this plus this will equal respect, or companionship, wholeness, or shouting-from-the-treetops joy at the end of it all, if you can’t at least look at your neighbor and say “well I”m doing better than THAT guy…sooo…” what is scarier than that? What? 

But it’s all backfiring now, my standards and measures, my scales, my status, my I-did-this-better-than-you-so-now-I-get-to-give-you-advice-about-it, because from a deep place, I want hold myself more softly. And none of my judgment and ranking has ever saved me from rejection or loneliness, or getting fired, or disappointing someone. It hasn’t. It really hasn’t.

I want to be in it - my life - not just be pressing my face against the glass and trying to scale that slippery wall, clamber up a pecking order to the top before I have permission to finally leap into the middle of it, and wrap my arms around myself, finally. No.   

It’s so appealing to live our lives inoffensively. To keep running around pleasing everyone we can. To manipulate, and bargain, and apologize. But that also means stifling the raw parts - which are so often the deepest and the most fruitful and tender parts of us. It’s exhausting, and so sad when the world is so perfect. 

The belief that people need to be protected from me, from the real me, who wants to go home at midnight, and doesn’t think your joke is funny, and doesn’t want to apologize for shining brightly, who doesn’t always want to have sex with you, is incredibly painful. 

I want surgery. Slice me open. cut it out. Snip-snip. 

Make me unable to know if I’m a good girl or a bad girl. Make me know that my life is perfect and I don’t need to understand why. 

My life coach tells me that underneath anger is hurt and underneath hurt is love, and when you’re in that place, that judgment-less love place, no one is wrong, nothing is broken, and nothing has the power to diminish your joy in the world. In other words, I’m allowed to hobble down the street and poop my pants, and still be approvable. Because everyone else will have days when they do that too. And if I can celebrate them, those everyone elses, then I can maybe find the compassion to celebrate myself, too. Then, those tender parts that feel ugly or confusing, will become places I can party. Stake a tent. Build a house. Eat dried figs and peanut butter. And sing. 

23

Mar

I think I want comfort, too, though….

I think I want comfort, too, though….

11

Mar

Alone with Everyone Else.

I’ve spent five years of my 20’s living alone. Me. An extrovert. A tumbling, over-communicative, hungry mess who yearns almost constantly for connection, who compulsively reaches out to people, who wants to draw everyone closer all the time. I’ve spent half of the most formative decade of my life alone. 

It’s something that’s still hard for me to believe, because there have been so many moments when I’ve hated it. Nights I was so lonely that I just sat in the middle my floor and stared at my phone, not even knowing who to call or what I would say to them. (“Will you call me back? I’m desperate for your humanity.”) Days when I wanted more than anything to have someone to watch TV with. Or someone to avoid in the kitchen.

But for all five years, something has kept me from calling it quits. Because there is something fierce and alive about being alone, isn’t there? There is something sort of… sexy. 

I felt it this January when I was traveling with my sister and her girlfriend in Thailand. Though I feel it often in my 20s, I felt it more accutely than usual that night, because they were together, and I was on my own… and I was angry about that. As we are. I was sitting there on the beach, struggling with feeling invisible and un-needed, and then there was this incredible gust of hot wind, that shook the trees around, and stirred some wind chimes and lanterns that hung from the palms in our resort, and it blew through me in this quiet, spectacular way, and the stars looked so stupidly close it was almost annoying, and suddenly, I felt unwatched and alive, in that way that we only feel in those moments when we’re really alone. 

It’s that moment when we board an airplane by ourselves. Or stay up late when our roommates are out of town. It’s sexy. It’s ours. 

I remember seeking it out as a child, on twisty mountain roads in the back of my Dad’s Suburban while we listened to Annie Lennox and I painted condensation pictures on the windows. Evergreens whooshed by us and silence filled the car and I imagined my grown-up self and got really excited about it. I’m here, on my own, turning into this special person, that I’ll someday release upon the world! How exciting and perfect! Get ready! Here it comes!!

I think I still imagine my grown-up self when I’m alone. And it’s still yummy and private. And I do feel like it’s accruing into some kind of understanding of myself, I mean, isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? We learn how to ”love ourselves so that we can love someone else” or something? 

So from the second I could afford it, I’ve been on my own, even though being alone is not what I want, ultimately. In fact, I think it’s seldom ever what I want even for a couple hours, though I do it, obsessively. How weird. It’s a journey that I feel a bit obligated to to be honest, and a bit resentful of. And it’s beautiful, but also sort of self-obsessed, and definitely not desirable as a final destination, which may explain this constant wrestle. I love living alone, but it also makes me miserable. Which may be why both my little apartments have felt so transient. Precious and secret and important, but also not quite right. They long for company. They want to be filled. 

A year ago my boyfriend, the boyfriend, broke up with me, and I had to make peace with the independent, quiet fierceness being the norm again. And I was so… so angry about that. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want it back. The wondering, quiet independent thing. I had wanted to be done. I wanted to have my company in the mornings, and at night. I thought I’d earned it, like the important person said I would. Since then I’ve been quieter, and more thoughtful. More serious, I worry. I  feel weathered. I wonder obsessively if I should just get a fucking roommate and get over myself, because I’m tired of my own head.

But I still haven’t. I’m still here, in this little life-raft of a one-bedroom, trying not to complain to my friends too much, buying really cute stuff at Cost Plus World Market, and loving and hating my solitude here.  

Sometimes I want to shake myself. Give your 30 days and move in with someone, Sascha!! Give yourself that gift and shut the hell up about your yearning! Be happy! Be young! Have company! 

But I think I can’t. There’s just something fundamental about being on our own that I can’t let go of, even though I can’t always explain that. There is a flex of our muscles. A confrontation. Miles and miles of free time that we have to fill with only ourselves so we have no choice but to examine the outcome. And maybe I’m addicted to that. To that forced introspection, and the quiet, and the wondering. Maybe I’m just incredibly stubborn, or love having all the closet space, or love an excuse to be self-absorbed. Maybe it’s just part of my DNA now, and there’s no going back.

But I also think there’s something more universal here. Because that night on the beach, when I was so very angry to be alone, I wrote something that in retrospect, was actually pretty amazing. I wrote about how that moment on the beach reminded me of another windy moment alone, the week that my ex and I met. 

Three days after our first date, I was on a hike alone. I crested a hill at the top of Runyon, and suddenly, the wind started blowing. Like, blowing. And I found myself there at the top on my own, running between two rows of scratchy, ugly, Hollywood shrubs, struggling to stay upright and it was so unexpected and thrilling and powerful that I started laughing out loud about my feet on the ground, and the wind in my face, and about what I was about to embark upon with this man I barely knew. And I thought about all the years behind me, and the ones ahead of me with the same wonder and excitement that I knew on the beach - the absolute knowledge that no one would ever know me quite the way that I know myself. And in this one moment everything here was only mine, alone, and it was perfect.

Alone is uplifting and fire-y and thrilling. And small and scary and sad. It has been that way forever. I think it’s part of the deal. And I’m not willing to give up the uplifting and fire-y and thrilling. So here I am. Taking the medicine because I subconsciously believe it’s worth it. 

And maybe I take too much responsibility for my loneliness. Maybe my choice to live alone is not masochistic, or self-involved, maybe it’s just a surrendering into something that is true for all of us, that no one will ever quite care about us the way we can care about ourselves, and that that is a truth that is both wonderful, and difficult.

I think I’m just ready to stop believing that maybe I did it all wrong. Or that I am so very responsible for my own happiness. So I’m choosing alone. Again. Still. 

I think there’s a reason New Year’s Eve always rocks me. It’s a night when an entire strip of the world celebrates being alive at the exact same moment. Millions of separate lives, running in this perfect parallel for one second. 

This year, Rachel and Jess and I ran it. We ran through the streets in those last fifteen minutes, trying to meet our friends on the hotel rooftop in Bangkok. There wasn’t enough time. We knew we’d never make it, but we ran anyway because we wanted to try.

We passed lots of people on the way. Lines of people. Crowds of people. People praying and burning flowers, families lighting lanterns, or dancing, children buying coconut cakes, tourists, and street vendors, and couples, and babies. We ran past monasteries where monks were chanting, and into hushed backstreets. And there in this city halfway around the world from my home, I felt it again. The years of life behind me and the years of life in front of me. And the muscles in my legs and the air in my lungs.

With two minutes to go I realized we might actually make it. I pulled ahead of my friends and started running alone. The glass door of the hotel gleamed ahead of me and I thought about my year, a year in which I felt so lonely, and so sad, and how it didn’t kill me, actually, and about how there were still things that I loved about my independence, even when I’m was in so much pain. Thirty seconds, and I’m thinking about how quiet my little home is, and about my cat that’s waiting for me back there in LA, and my clothes, and my bedspread, all my special private stuff. And I’m thinking about the people that we ran past, all of them celebrating, and praying and hoping for their future. 

I ran up the spiral staircase and heard people start to count. 10-9-8, Rachel’s footsteps somewhere behind me, 7-6-5, one more flight and am I in a fucking movie right now?, 4-3-2, my foot hits the top stair. 1. You’re kidding. You’ve got to be fucking kidding. 

BOOM. Fireworks. 

Every New Years, I get that exciting, thrilling twist in my stomach like I’m standing on a precipice, stealing time for one more day and one more year, and so is everyone else. 

Someone whose face I never saw handed me a glass of champagne, and I started laughing into the warm breeze. 

I made it.

I made it.

I’m here for the celebration.

I’m here with everyone else. 

image

10

Feb

Outrage

I love women. And as I get older, my life is becoming increasingly about them. I dance with women, I speak with women, I am coached, sponsored by, and counseled by women. I meet them for coffee. I talk to them about sex. I ask them for advice. I hold them while they cry. I love the deep feelings. And the competition. The struggle to be seen and held. The intimacy. The complication. The ability to heal.

My experience at S-Factor has deepened this for me, surely, but on some level, it’s always been this way for me. I remember reading Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” in middle school and being just obsessed with the vivacious, earthy, female community of the novel. It was this raucous irreverent crew separated from everyone else just because they were female. They were special, ancient, and secret. Aunts, cousins, daughters, grandmas, sitting on moss and bleeding in a tent in the desert, while rubbing each other’s feet with oil and cackling about their husbands. Oh my god. I wanted to eat it. I wanted to be there.

It echoed for me. Because even as a middle-schooler, I knew that being a woman does feel like that. Quarantined and venerated. Ever since I went through puberty, I’ve felt like I was a part of a club that everyone was obsessed with and also couldn’t wait to abuse. On the public bus, in a piazza in Italy, I remember those first pre-teen moments, when people started watching me. The power you’re gifted just by being a woman. It comes without your permission, and it’s heady, potent.  

But the lack of control over that power; it comes too. The first time you feel it, it’s both. It’s neither. You don’t have tools to deal with it yet. You didn’t ask for it. It just arrived. On that same trip to Europe, just as I started to glow under male attention, someone in Turkey tried to buy me from my family. My parents joked. The man was serious. I was 12. 

It’s a complication that I’ve spent years trying to unravel, and one of the main reasons I went to S-Factor in the first place. Before I learned to dance, my sexuality felt like something that was always a reflection of someone else. Desire was put upon me, but I could only mirror it back, enjoy it sometimes, but know that it wasn’t mine. So as a woman, when you start hearing stories of rape, on TV, from your friends. It isn’t a surprise. At least, it wasn’t for me. Because on some level, I’ve always known that I was prey. You feel it. You do. 

But as an adult, my outrage at these stories is becoming difficult to carry. Suddenly, despite knowing about this quiet threat for years, sensing it in corners and alleys and at clubs, and in class, I can’t handle it anymore. The more empowered I become personally and the more obsessed I become with women and what they hold inside of them, the more I’m starting to feel like I can’t live in a world where sexual assault continues to happen. Globally. Epidemically.

And I do mean “feel.” I actually feel it. The nausea, watching the gang-rape scene in “Top of the Lake,” the helplessness, watching the news coverage of the Ariel Castro case, the absolute horror, the outrage, the disgust, rising up in the back of my throat as I hear about the rampant rape of women officers in the army, or in prisons, or the insane spinning blathering about the Woody Allen case. This happens over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, to my friends, to my teachers, to my role models, to my sisters. It happens so much that it’s on TV. It’s a part of our entertainment. Of course, “Top of the Lake”, or “The Killing”, didn’t spare me from the gory details of their fictional gang-rapes. Why would they? We’re used to this. We aren’t horrified anymore because it happens so fucking often. Women are victimized, women are victimized, women are victimized. Bodies chopped up. Invaded. Buried. The end. Tune in next week.

There is an entire “Law and Order” series dedicated to sexual crimes. We tune in to watch it with a tacit acceptance. A sigh. Yes, this happens. What a shame. We shrug and watch and feel better that fictional justice is meted out, but don’t worry about the fact that no one helped her in the moment. No one stopped it - not the abuser, not the people who may have heard her screaming. No one decided that this woman, that all women, are too beautiful and complex and real to dehumanize and violate, and just stopped it. These fictional abusers took what was there, because they’ve learned that we allow that. And we do allow it, don’t we? Doesn’t it continue to happen? Everywhere?

In order to function as a woman in the world, you have to walk around pretending you’re not that vulnerable. As individuals we believe that we’re stronger. I remember, at 24-years-old, play-fighting with my boyfriend in his bed. “Bet you can’t pin me” I teased. I did spin-class. I did yoga. I believed it. So we tussled. We rolled around, and pushed and hit. And he pinned me. Easily. So we tussled harder. Then we tussled again. And again and again. Because he could always pin me. All skinny, pale, 6 feet of him could pin me. Every time. Even when I fought past the point of flirtation. Even when I started to get pissed. To really try. He could pin me. He could always fucking pin me. And it all came home to me, right then, that I couldn’t get away. If anyone wanted to do anything to me. I couldn’t claw, fight, scratch my way out of it. Not even me, who felt so strong. Who did so much research. It doesn’t matter how capable you are if someone decides to take something from you. And we’re living in a world where that happens all the time. Where subconsciously, we must be validating this behavior, or it wouldn’t continue on such a profound level. 

Should I be surprised that I asked, in bed, to be dominated by my boyfriend? In the safety of a man I trusted, that I should seek to explore what is such a fundamental part of the female experience? Being held down? Being forced?

Watching TV today, I felt that it was a fucking miracle that I made it through high school and college without being raped. And how deeply fucked up is that? We’re steeped in it. A fellow actress in my acting class had to pretend to be fucked backwards over a table while reading off a list of missed calls to her fictional boss, once. She had to walk into an audition room, and let people see her that way to try to get a job. How deeply dehumanizing. How disgusting that someone even felt entitled to write that role. And don’t even get me started on Khaleesi, everyone’s favorite princess on “Games of Thrones” who, just an episode or two after we meet her, is raped on her marital bed by an enormous Dothraki man who has recently purchased her, and proceeds to then fall in love with her (apparently gentle-hearted) rapist? Please. This is so widespread and so sick. And yet is it better to acknowledge these things by writing stories about them, than to keep them secret? Is it better to tell these stories so that we feel this outrage?  

I don’t know. I don’t know if it is. At least, I don’t know if it’s better to tell them in this way. In this, throw up your hands, clean up the mess sort of way. The cops come afterwards. Couldn’t save her. Couldn’t stop it, but at least someone will be punished. Sort of. Unless they’re famous. Or rich, then it’s pretty much whatever. Right?

What I’d rather see, than sad stories of abuse that someone swoops in to try to half-assedly address, is an absolute refusal to tolerate these crimes in the first place. Rather than TV shows trying to mete out justice in one-hour segments, I’d rather see men on TV becoming empowered to stop each other in the moment. High school boys resisting peer pressure, not succumbing to it. Father figures who even though they’re in a half-hour comedy, defend their women, rather than being cowed by them. 

I’d also rather see law enforcement becoming accountable for stopping these crimes before they happen, not just cleaning up the mess. Part of the horror I feel watching these crime dramas is that by the time they start investigating it’s already too fucking late. It’s over. She’s dead. Or raped. Or brutalized.

And this passivity is not just on TV. At 25, a drug-addict neighbor started leaving notes in my mailbox and waiting for me on my porch when I came home at night. He would bang on the door when I wouldn’t answer. He would yell at me through the windows. I went to the cops. ”Has he hurt you?” They said. When I told them “not yet,” they said “You live in Hollywood. What do you want me to do?” And in response to my shocked silence? “Don’t be that woman.” ”What woman?” I asked. “The woman who whines that we won’t help her until something bad happens.” 

Yes. God forbid we act BEFORE something bad happens. God forbid we fight systematic oppression with a little proactivity. If we want these crimes to end, then it’s clearly not enough to just document these stories and sigh and look away or to tell your daughters not to walk down alleys alone at night like it’s her responsibility to keep herself from being raped by someone. We have to try to right this terrible wrong that keeps being perpetrated again and again, not just mop it up afterwards. What the fuck are we doing? Why is this still happening? And why are we watching it happen while we eat popcorn on our couches? Would we all tune it to see a series about lynching? Torture? Racial profiling? Then why we do tune in to see women being cut into pieces? Publicly humiliated? Raped? It is not entertaining. It is horrifying. And it’s closer to home than anyone would care to admit. 

I’ve always known that being a woman was complicated. That it comes with a price. That the joy I find in being desirable, is also a liability - I’ve been taught that. My life has taught me that. But even I was shocked, as I sat in a group therapy session just a few months ago, to hear a friend, an incredibly beautiful 23-year-old girl, a girl I was jealous of, to be totally transparent, tell us, with horrifying casualness about a recent sexual assault and wrap up by saying “I know this isn’t my fault. I know that when I look this way, these things will happen to me. It’s just the way it is.” She understood the price of her body. She understood that over and over again, no one fucking helped her. Not even her mother believed her when she came clean, because it’s too painful to open your eyes to a world in which this happens, epidemically.  

You guys. It just doesn’t have to be this way. 

Talk to your sons. Talk to your friends. Write about your experiences. Defend your daughters. Stop laughing at misogyny. Go pick something you can do and go to work. It’s not just women who have to fix this. It’s all of us. So get outraged. Start with your own community, and do something. I know I fucking have. And make better TV, people. Give us men who give a shit, and cops who get there in time. I am done feeling this helpless. 

15

Jan

Nothing.

In pole class right now I’m trying to learn how to slow down.

That’s not entirely true, more like, I’m trying to learn how to do nothing. And not just for a brief, sexy pause or something, like, a moment of sensual lingering just for a beat, no, like… nothing. Then more nothing. Then more nothing…In front of people. 

Apparently, my body wants it. 

Uch! How uncomfortable. Am I even allowed to do that? To just gorge on laziness? Waiting, waiting, holding while everyone watches me? Isn’t that like, selfish? Or boring? Or selfish and boring? Doing nothing when I know how good I am at doing a lot?

That sounds annoying. 

I mean, S-Factor, is this perfect place. Where my body is supposedly allowed to do absolutely anything for absolutely any amount of time, and everyone has a responsibility to lose their minds over it. Joining the studio was effortless. Most of my three years there have been effortless. But there is this one color that emerges out of me like, 15% of the time, that I flat-out cannot make room for. It’s the, “I’m tired.” The “come to ME. I’m not going to you.” 

Which is different than the “come to me because I demand it!!” or the “come to me because you know you’re dying to!!” Those are fun.

This is: ”Come to me, because I feel so fucking good exactly where I fucking am and I will not allow myself to move just because you’re watching me.”

Yeah, it’s terrifying.

I am TERRIBLE at saying yes to it. 

And I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse. I mean, if I can’t demand space for nothing now, how will I ever do it later when I have a socially-mandated responsibility to never chose nothing again? Like… when my someday maybe hypothetical child wants for anything!? I mean, Motherhood is out there! Somewhere! Just waiting, for me to be ready to never have “nothing” again!

After class, I went on a walk to Trader Joe’s to mull this all over/pick up some food for lunch/linger a little longer in the drunken, nothing-buzz I always leave class with, and I noticed, as I tripped along rather quicker than I wanted to, that the world was just so quiet. So quiet on a Wednesday afternoon. Just so unbelievably quiet and full. Like, this insane, buzzing, immoveable force. You know those moments when you swear you can actually hear the Earth moving? Like that. It was screaming.

It’s like I forget to remember that all my crazy doesn’t extend past my skin most of the time. I’m so in it, that I forget the world just continues. Slow. …Lingering. Waiting, waiting, holding. Grinding forward, waiting for me to notice that it’s always been this slow, and I’m the one whose been running so quickly. On the sidewalk I slowed down to try to join it, but felt that same quiet panic. Is it allowed? Is it okay? Am I going to die here if I stop and just listen?

I wonder if we always feel thrust into action when attention is turned to us, like I do in class that 15% of the time. My sister tells me she is so exhausted sometimes by human interaction that she only really feels herself when she is absolutely alone. She needs it every couple days, or she’ll be crazy. She needs to be alone just so that she can do nothing. 

The hardest part of any acting job is when the camera is pointed to you and you’re only supposed to listen. It feels like there’s no possible way you’re interesting enough, staring at someone and not moving your face. It’s just like crouching on the ground in front of a class and not moving your body while a song plays in the background. I don’t want to be caught dead doing either. 

But when I remember about the Earth turning and everything, then I realize that I probably have to be caught dead, since I’m willing to bet that there is no way to make myself want to go faster when deep down I want to go slower. Those feeings tend to stick around until we finally listen to them, right?

So now I get to say:

"Welcome. I have room for you here, boring, tired, Sascha. There is space for you to claim a spot on the floor and sit in it until you are ready. We will watch you sit in it. We will not complain. We will watch you do nothing, until you are ready to do something else, and we will cheer."

Yeah, that sounds pretty terrible. But gloriously, this decision isn’t mine to make, only mine to accept. Oh, life. But at least it’s simple, even if it’s icky. There’s only one thing to do. Get out of the goddamn way and go be boring. 

I wish I understood why this part of me is in here. Maybe to connect me to the Earth that just keeps grinding forward in suspension, when I want to trip around 10 feet above it. Maybe to show me that there’s a rebel underneath there, who wants to bring this all to a screeching halt just because she can. The point is, I don’t know, but at least I’m learning now (28 years old!!) that discomfort is usually a huge signifier for work to be done. And as we’ve discussed, I love work.  

But even with perspective, It’s hard to leave the studio after a “so-so” dance like that. It feels icky, and un-solveable, and I start doing that projection thing where all the “beautiful!”s and “yummy!”s i heard from my classmates sorta fade into a blur I thrust aside out of stubbornness and all the “helpful” (“constructive” most call it) criticism (ughhhhhh) I hear is what I wear close to me like a big… heinous… criticism… sweater. I hear it, repeat it, agree, feel helpless, then after rolling around in the sweater for a while to somehow cathartically whip myself up into a frenzy about my own inadequacy, I become impotent to return to the good things they all said first. (Betrayed by the sweater. It happens every time). But my teacher did squeeze me at the end of today and say “I love you,” and even though the stupid part of me want to grumble that she’s obligated, I’m going to choose to believe that she really did mean it. I’m willing to bet she gives me feedback not because I’m disappointing and need fixing, but because I’m trying, and that makes people want to get in there and try with me. 

Yesterday, on set for a movie, and I met a priest named Father Mike. As we waited for “Action!” in the foyer of his church, we spoke about his parish. And during the two hours I spent chatting with him, the thing that struck me the most, was the massive, still, terrifying quality of his attention. He just watched me, and listened. Each time I spoke he waited, very still, for me to finish. He didn’t look away, or fidget, or think about himself, then when I was done, he considered, took a moment, and spoke when he was ready. And he when was suspicious that there was more for me to say, he waited for it. Left some air, and invited me to fill it. It’s what Marie Forleo calls the Intentional Awkward Pause. Making room for someone to continue, to answer their own questions, to fill in the blanks. Is there more? Are you sure? Are you not sure? I’ll watch that, too.  

I don’t know if I’m ready yet to do that for my body. I’m clearly afraid of what is inside all that nothing. (What does it mean, that heavy yearning to wait? Why do I so desperately want a captive audience to kneel on all fours in front of, and receive patience from?) Or maybe I’m not afraid of what it means, I’m just afraid of being seen in such an obvious state of question mark about the whole goddamn thing.

The real leap of faith is probably believing that my classmates have it in them to wait it out with me. Like Father Mike. Because if that’s true then maybe I can find that patience, too, to keep showing up and turning my attention to the nothing.

Leaving some air…and waiting for my body to fill it.

19

Nov

12

Nov

Free-Spirit

I squint in the Sunday morning sun, as I shuffle home from Robek’s in last night’s clothes. “Costume!!” a little girl yells at me from Starbucks, as I clomp by in heels and leather. Her Mom quickly averts her eyes, but far from being shamed, I’m proud. That’s right! Avert your eyes, child!! It’s me, walking home in the morning… in obvious club attire! 

I smell like Old Spice, in that weird way that men leave themselves all over you in the morning - on my skin, or maybe in my bedraggled, beer-smelling scarf. No matter. Look at how free-spirited I am! This is awesome!

I mean… I do feel a little weird? Which I think is probably typical when you’re a deeply heartfelt and historically prudish individual ejected early from a legit one-night stand (he told me half an hour earlier that he a) had a headache and b) had to “tweet for his boss” (?)), but I don’t know. Let’s be honest, I’m not super experienced with this.

Which is, ironically, how this dude got me into bed in the first place. 

Ready for a play-by-play?

————————————————————————————

Club! EDM! American Apparel bodysuits! Dance, dance, dance! Grind up on each other! Make ironic joke about our douchey surroundings! Dance! Dance! Steal mouthfuls of guy’s drink! (Straight vodka on the rocks, who drinks this?)! Dance, dance! Surreptitious conversation with my friend who wants to leave, while still dancing with guy! Dance, dance, dance! Notice that guy works out! Notice that I’m kind of into guy! Notice that Friend is heading to the door to wait for me! Dance! Dance! Lean to to guy’s ear because music is too loud!

Me: “I’m gonna go soon…but we should hang!”

Dance, dance, dance!

Him: “I leave in ten days.”

Me: “Oh.”

Dance, dance, dance!

Me: “Like….forever?”

Him: “But what are you doing right now?”

Dance, dance, dance!

Me: “Haha! Wow. Bold!” 

Him: “Is it?”

Me: (confident) “Sorry, that’s not something I should do.” 

Him: “Really?”

Me: “Yeah, remember all those things you said an hour ago about me being emotionally intuitive and empathic?”

Him: “Yeah.”

Me: “That stuff has a price.” 

Him: “Huh.”

Dance dance dance!

Him: “I think you’re afraid of having a good time.” 

Dance, dance, dance!

Me (less confident): “What?”

Guy grabs my hand sensually!

Him: “I think you’re afraid of letting yourself have too good a time.” 

——————————————————————————————

Seriously, guy? Ughhhhh Now I have to sleep with you!

Because yes, okay? Yeah! I am afraid of having too good a time, weirdly astute Canadian named Dave. And okay no, maybe I’m not the free-spirited, down-with-it cool-girl babe that I maybe seemed like when you saw me dancing and yes, it IS my most deeply held insecurity you little asshole, and yes, now I AM gonna go home with you to prove to you that I’m not afraid of fun. JESUS. 

But I’m sorry. Just a second, Dave. Having too good a time can be really scary. Or at least… People who have too good a time all the time, completely scare me!

It’s true. People who cut loose, adventure, go fuck people whenever they want to, leave at a moment’s notice? Those people are fucking terrifying.

Let’s talk about it. 

I mean, right? Who are they? And how are they not worried, these cut-loose have a good time people? About everything? What they’re leaving behind? What they’re going to contract, or forget about, or encounter? Who they might disappoint or betray? What might happen to their bodies or their self-respect or their fucking schedule? And more importantly, how are we all supposed to live our relatively stable (happily-so!) lives with them flouncing about being so goddamn attractive and starry-eyed and free and fabulous all the time? 

I’ve encountered many of these people in my life. These restless, beautiful, dreamy, different people that Dave is hoping I am,. They are like gorgeous, exciting, little aliens… who make me feel extremely bad about myself. This is a rough one. It’s deep. Hard to explain and also tangentially very tied up with recreational drug use, another thing that I am deeply judgmental of/simultaneously attracted to/terrified by. Go figure. 

Perhaps the fear is that somehow I’m doing it all wrong; that I missed the boat and we all should be long-boarding through Europe on Molly wearing feathers if we want to be truly happy. I resent the aliens because they make me afraid that being connected to the world can’t happen in a Honda Civic listening to KISS FM - that it HAS to happen in Joshua Tree, or at a rave, or in bed with three other women and your boyfriend. They’re so gorgeous, and starry-eyed, and different that I’m terrified that maybe their happiness is just a little brighter than mine. Maybe it’s wilder, deeper, crazier, bigger, and I’ve been wrong all the along. This makes me want to touch them and reject them at the same time. Tell them they’re crazy, but also beg them to take me with them. Suddenly they’re right, I’m wrong. They’re exciting, I’m plain. OMG WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO MY SELF ESTEEM, I HATE THEM I HATE THEM I HATE THEM!

But I get it. You know? Joshua tree IS pretty great. And I’ve heard that acid can change your life, or what the fuck ever. And feeling sexy and untouchable and free is really really spectacular when you do it right. Like, when all the elements come together and you’re a little drunk and in an amazing outfit and you’re just dancing for hours and hours and hours. Those nights are incredible. We’ve all had them.  

But that sort of relentless drive to push outwards, that these unafraid people have? The desire to be rootless, connected to everyone, free from a life and a schedule and responsibilities? That thing that every club hit wails about, and every Coachella-going 20-something packs up their stuff hoping to find? To be brutally, horribly honest…I just don’t yearn for that. 

I love my responsibilities, Dave. They ground me. They remind me that I’m needed here, that I have work here to be done. That I have a life for myself. That I’m in a rhythm, and a community, and that I have a place. 

I love having a place. I love feeling like it’s enough. 

I completely feel the benefits of expansion. When I go on a trip and don’t know what I’m going to do when I get there, when I say yes to plans I would normally reject, when I try something that scares me a little because I want to wonder about it, I usually come away feeling a little brighter, a little fresher to the world. 

But I also hate it. I kick and I scream, I’m anxious and self-aware. The whole time I’m gratingly conscious of the fact that I’m pretending to be something that I’m not… I’m putting on a costume, to prove to myself and to these gorgeous, different, starry-eyed people that I can hang, and the truth is? Over the course of my life the outcome has sometimes been thrilling, but sometimes it’s been truly damaging. I’ve done things I’ve deeply regretted because I thought I had to push myself, because I was afraid that the alien people were right, and I was wrong. 

So yes, I am afraid of having too good a time, Dave! I have reason to be. 

Because it’s not in me, that thing. I so want it to be. I want to touch it, be close to it, have it rub off on me a little. But really? Terribly? Most of the time I need to play it safe simply because I like to. Because that’s authentic and beautiful to me. Because I like to know that I’ll be here in the morning, in my bed where I belong, safe, and ready to engage with another day of my beautiful, tender, simple life. 

So I usually play it safe. The other night I didn’t, because some guy with a mustache called me on being afraid. I guess I wanted to prove to both of us that I wasn’t. And this time it worked out, and was actually pretty fun and great. I mean, he was Canadian, so. At least I have a story. But I’m happy to be home. And I wish I’d woken up in my bed, instead of his. And I can’t wait to go shower so that I smell like me again.

It’s a hard one to breathe with. I’m definitely going to read this tomorrow morning and worry that everyone, including myself, thinks I’m boring. But the truth is, I feel deeply alive in my life all the time, even without all that glamorous, rootless, scary shit. Even without Dave.

But Dave was fun. I’m so happy I get to play in that world sometimes. I’m not gonna be a citizen, but I’m grateful that Dave encouraged me to be a tourist.

At the end of the day we all have to be what we are, not what we’re afraid might be better than what we are. As my friend Megsie put it, “I think of myself as a free spirit….in the sense that I am finally [mostly] ‘free’ of feeling bad that I’m not free spirited enough… free from the constraints of what exactly it is that can free you.”

Hallelujah.

Sounds free to me.