the tin atop my desk

there is a tine atop my desk filled with coffee-stained scraps, unfinished lists, scribbles of things i felt the call to remember.

this tin--well, the contents of this tin, might be my most prized possession.

it is random and chaotic and has absolutely no rhyme or reason, but it is important. to me, it is important.

it is a memory box.

i pulled it out the other day, took to leafing through the bits and pieces, scratched out lines that i felt i had properly tended to, circled words and phrases i wanted expand upn.

and i came across a list from november.

november was hard. the fall was absolutely hard this past year.

it was a list of the things i did one day when the going was particularly rough:

i slept with the humidifier on. ordered the books from amazon i'd been wanting. ordered some skirts from asos. woke early. i showered with my new body scrub. took the time to use lotion after getting out. i made sure my phone was fully charged. i ate a nourishing breakfast of oatmeal and flax seeds and slivered almonds. i scrubbed the mold from the shower curtain.

an innocuous list. not terribly exciting. someone else might come upon and wonder why i had thought to save it.

well, because on that day, when i was feeling so blue, each of those things was prefaced with i love myself enough that...

even at the lowest, even feeling blue and unworthy, and terribly sad, there came the thought:

i love myself enough to wash the shower curtain because i deserve to live in a clean home. 

i love myself enough to eat a hearty breakfast because my body deserves that much. 

i did the things i didn't feel like doing, because the larger, better part of me knew i deserved them.

it was a list of my successes that day. short and simple and not terribly interesting. but hugely triumphant, for me a triumph of the little odds and ends that keep one afloat and lead to that delicious territory in which happiness sings.


when first asked to write this piece i was…hesitant. of the little i remember of my time at school, i regret much. my story is is certainly not one of juilliard's great successes. and yet. it is mine. for all its faults and flaws and that's worth sharing, no?

the white blank page before me disagrees. i've been unable to piece together...anything--about any of it. how does one sum up school or the subsequent three years in a nice and tidy pile of words? if the story is fragmented and messy how does one do it justice on the page? 

i lost myself at school. that's the long and the short of it. i came to new york at the tender age of eighteen and while others marveled at skyscrapers and central park i acquainted myself with an unnamable sadness. in fact, sadness became my sole companion. perhaps i was too young. perhaps i should have attended a basic liberal arts college. perhaps, perhaps....truth be told it's remarkable i survived at all. but when graduation day finally came it was not a marker of success but a desperate gasp for air. i had failed. deeply, i had failed. and i had lost that little kernel of faith in my ability to act, and as it turns out, myself. 

so i stopped. acting, that is. four years studying the thing and i couldn't stomach it. i know, i know, just what anyone wants to hear as they prepare to leave school or continue on in their education.

but here's the thing failure, as it turns out, proves fertile ground. and in the absence of acting i began to write.  i simply meant to document. to put pen to paper to help me remember or preserve a period of my life for the future. but those words became a solace that slowly unfurled me--revealed me to myself. the great roadmap of the journey inward. and i found that all that i had learned at school in terms of sounds and shapes of vowels and the discrepancy between what is thought and what is known leant itself beautifully towards writing. 

and writing, as it turns out, gave me back my life. does that sound terribly dramatic? well, it is. and it was.  
there are moments i wish i could go back and do school all over again. as the person i am now. perhaps this time i'd be ready. perhaps this time i'd get it right. perhaps, perhaps. but i have to remind myself that few stories are truly linear. we twist around, circle back on ourselves, and when we're lucky, move forward. and that's okay. my story is not done. i left acting but whether or not i will return  is a part of the story i've yet to write. 

what i mean to say is this. if things don't go as planned, that's okay. (i know, i know, everyone says that.) how to tell you--to make you understand.

how about this: failure is essential. fail as much and as gloriously as you can. fail in little, seemingly inconsequential ways when no one is looking. or fail on a stage under the lights. the thing is, others might not see it as such. and given enough time, it might actually reveal itself as something else. because when the failure fades or passes or wears another mask it gives way to a joy so profound, it lies beyond imagination--even that special brand of imagination that juilliard encourages.

and joy, more than anything else i've ever known,  is essential to art. (yes, joy).

sometimes i wonder how i'll look back on this period in my life--as a pause in the story? as a precursor to the next great plot twist? a time when i was tied to nothing, living anonymously in a small, sunlit apartment, way high north on the island of manhattan next to the train tracks and nestled against the river--and i think i'll be a better actor because of these days, a better person, if nothing else. 

on beauty

when Reachel first emailed me about this lovely series she posed a question that i loosely translated to what makes you feel beautiful? and then quickly mis-remembered as what make you feel sexiest?

(there's some kind of insight into my core right there).

the question could not have come at a better time. (precisely because i was feeling anything but).

beauty is a funny thing, isn't it? a fickle mistress. what i've come to understand is that feeling you're beautiful and knowing you're beautiful are entirely different things. and i'd take the feeling any day of the week, because the feeling--that inner spark--well, that informs everything.

so i took Reachel's question and i went for a jog (literally). and as my feet pounded away at the pavement, and the hudson river rolled past on my left, i made a list. and that list made one thing very clear: i feel most beautiful when i am most myself (which as it turns out is also when i feel sexiest--for me there is no difference between the two), when i am fully engaged in this chaotic and turbulent and wholly exciting world we live in.

what does that mean?

feeling pretty

well, it means i feel most beautiful when i'm laughing really hard. out loud. and even more so when i'm telling a good joke or a good story--watching the eyes of the people i love crinkle in response to something i've said? heaven. few things trump that.

i feel most beautiful while eating a green apple, after an impossible exercise class, with my hair pulled into a high, messy bun, as i traipse about lower manhattan giving thanks for a body that moves and runs and spins--holy heck is the body a miraculous thing!

or when listening to good music. or waiting for the subway with a good book in hand. reading and understanding and reveling in a poem that three years ago made no sense to me (walt whitman's "song of the open road"). watching the rain move in over chicago as portugal. the man plays "so american". standing arms and mouth open to welcome said rain. imbibing a hot drink on a cold day. a walk through central park on a cool morning. furtively glancing at the guy at the end of the bar and then catching him mid-stare. or a nod from the bass player from that one alaskan band i so love.

doing something, anything, that a year ago i couldn't (or rather, was too afraid) to do. heading into the belly of the beast of fear and coming out the other end makes me feel beautiful in a way that nothing (and i do mean nothing) can touch.

what i look like will change with time. my weight will fluctuate. the lines on my forehead will crease. the gray hairs will take hold and multiply. but my mind, my intelligence, the light behind my eyes--that (God willing) will remain. more than that (again, God willing) it will grow and burgeon. it is my belief that my intelligence and my desire to live life fully--to live imperfectly but honestly, makes me wholly myself.  and the more i can align myself with my value system, the more i balance on the axis of who i am--the more i know what i want and what i believe in, the more beautiful i feel.

and there, on that axis, perched atop it all--balancing on the bounties of this life (both good and bad) well, then, from there, the opinions of others regarding what i look like will matter only with my consent. it will be how i feel from within my body--inside the sweet-spot of life that will dictate my response. i won't need a mirror or a scale or any of the trappings to provide me with what i've somehow always known but often doubted: that i am, in fact, yes, beautiful.

thanks-giving, indeed. for this, i give thanks.

it happened two days ago. the day before thanksgiving. a preparatory miracle, for the holiday.

i awoke and i knew. immediately, i knew. before my swollen feet had even hit the cool, creaking floor, i knew. it had passed, lifted, moved on.

or perhaps it had simply moved through.

this bout of blue was done.

it sounds so naive, doesn't it? so simple? you wake one day and it's no more. but that's how it was. that's how it is.

an energetic shift, a tilt. like moving your weight from your heels to the balls of your feet.

what struck me this go round--in the immediacy of the lifting fog--was the absence of fear that colored the last three months. that was the difference.

i awoke without fear. the kind that presses in on your chest, makes breathing difficult--a low grade panic you learn to deal with, resign yourself to.

but upon waking two mornings ago, i felt fearless, unafraid, filled by such faith. faith that all will work itself out. that i will find meaning, find purpose, fulfill a calling, be filled with such love as is written and talked about and dreamt of.

and in the presence of such faith, the other things fade. it's not that they disappear or have no place, but the focus shifts and they recede, find their proper place. it is the turn of the lens and the subsequent clarity.

order restored.

and the return of words. suddenly the delicious, glorious onslaught of words! welcome back, old friends. welcome home. 

i can't tell you for sure what caused the shift. whether it was the fresh flowers i bought this week, or the new haircut. i don't know if it was the popcorn and small glass of white wine i had the night before last at one in the morning after returning home from work.

maybe it was the moment a month ago when i literally felt God unfurl himself within my chest. great flaps of wings spanning the width of my shoulders.

the week in texas helped, i'm sure. walks on the bayou. walking, moving, energizing the body.

maybe it was the necklace that's meant to symbolize open-heartedness that sits flush against my chest. or the men's gingham shirt that i got from the gap and makes me feel sexy in a way few dresses ever have.

maybe it was the consistent and constant love of those who so kindly support me.

i don't know which of the small things did it, which of any of the things i've done day after day over the last three months caused the shift. perhaps it was the accumulation of all of them.

it's alchemy. magic. or just a moving through.

the trick is not forcing the shift. it's preparing for it. being ready so that you can catch it as it rushes past you. and then holding on as it takes off. a willingness to go along for the ride.

does any of this make sense?

hmm. maybe it doesn't need to. maybe some things are best left in that realm of half-sense, half-absolute-miracle.


i cried in whole foods this week. there was a woman who made me cry. she was unkind and i lost my voice. so i cried.

but it wasn't really about her.

and then again on the subway platform the next day, at one in the morning, waiting for the train. i turned into one of the green pillars, with no one around, and quietly sobbed.

few things have felt better.

last night as i climbed out of a cab at an unreasonable hour after an unreasonably long day i handed the driver the cab fare in all singles. many, many singles. and i apologized for all the ones. but he smiled, said in his culture, such a thing was good luck. i laughed, good luck for both of us then, i replied. good luck for me having unwittingly, unknowingly passed good luck onto you.

i sat down this morning to write about these last two months. about the sadness that pressed in and what i know now. and i got some stuff out about it, but not enough and there's not enough time today. never enough time anymore, it seems. though, maybe there never was?

all i can say is that today, end of this week, i'm okay.

i don't like uncertainty. and much as i attempt to explore the virtue of the unknown and life's multitudinous shades of gray, i'm mostly at a loss. i am mostly undone by the gray.

my mother asked me this go round what the catalyst was for this bout of blue (or whatever you want to call it because surely no name really ever does it justice) and i told her some things are sacred. and secret. and must remain as such. that this time, the answer to that question, was yes, in fact, known, but mine. and mine alone.

sacred. and mine.

tom granted me a gift yesterday. sitting in his office, talking about it all, he looked right at me and said, you know, i think it had to happen. just as it did. it was absolutely vital and necessary. and it couldn't have unfolded any other way. 

and there was breath in that moment. life. as i come back to myself now, that moment resonates.

today thinking on it, tom's language strikes my ear as unusual. i think mostly because, being the good therapist he is, he never really speaks in absolutes. most usually refrains from confirming or denying much of what i spout.

but he offered that up yesterday. without prompting. he handed me that absolute.

it had to happen that way.

all of life, all of my life (and i venture all of anyone's really) has to go just as it does. has to. there's comfort in that. a real comfort and release in that.

had to happen. that way.

(don't think this song in this week's parks and rec episode didn't make me cry. and lord help me, aren't april and andy just the best?).