Wednesday, July 16, 2008

when there is that blank space now, I don't write "actor"

Something is happening that I feared would happen, but it isn’t scary at all now that it’s here. I think I’m finally making the mental transition away from being an actor. It’s really just a thinking thing, since I have done the bare minimum, acting-wise, these past few years. A little play here and there, a rare voiceover. One industrial. So, no shock, nothing sudden, but I’ve kept a tenacious little psychic finger on acting even when I wasn’t doing it for long spurts of time. You used to be able to see it in my profile description. It came after writer, but there it was. Actor. I like that writer ended up first and I think I’m okay if it’s there alone now. I think I am. Yes. I think so. Think. Maybe so.

I’ll tell you some of what I have loved about acting. This Tina persona I’ve developed over my lifetime can be confining, and when you make one of these personas, you get locked into patterns that you haven’t entirely chosen. You reinforce the patterns that other people early on helped you to reinforce. I can’t say that – my character would never do that! My persona has always been cheerful and gentle and kind. I loved knocking down the everyday Tina walls, and wandering around in aspects of my being that didn’t get air on a daily basis. I loved the angry characters, the rebellious ones, the wistful ones, the grieving ones, the loose cannons. They were all me, but the unlicensed me. Being on stage felt like finally getting hot air into the giant droopy balloon of potential I’d been dragging around, and rising up in the sky in my character’s basket. Exhilaration and relief, and a brand-new view.

I love the immediacy and adrenaline of being on stage. Acting has been my sport, my rush. I love feeling the audience’s presence, like heat from the sun. Acting with a partner is also…you know what it is? It’s sexy! I mean it, it’s thrilling. You have an unspoken pact that you are going to be wide open and brutally truthful, that you are going to allow yourself to be affected by your partner, and that you will not hold back in giving them what they need. However your character carries herself, behind your eyes you will be entirely present, and you won’t hide anything. Even if your character is hiding something, you cannot be. Inside you must be revealing yourself, and letting an avenue in through your eyes for the other person to discover the truth. The truth has to be available. And you have to be alert with all of your hairs on end to pick up the truth from your partner, find what they’re hiding.

The truth! The truth. That’s what I have loved most about acting. Acting isn’t lying. Someone somewhere might have that idea, and I don’t know, maybe it’s true for someone or some form of acting, but I don’t think so. I don’t think you can act well and lie. Inside you have to be all truth. You can get an experience of truthfulness on stage, within yourself and with your partner, that comes only rarely off stage. Off stage you can lie all day long and you probably do. You can get away with it like gangbusters elsewhere. Not so on stage. I love the captivity of being on stage – you can’t run away and you must tell the truth. So troubling and vulnerable and exciting. Again, sexy.

Gosh, I’m speaking about it so lovingly. Why am I letting it go? Well, I’m not banning it from my life forever. What I’m doing is letting go of defining myself as an actor. For so long, when people have asked me what I do, I’ve replied automatically, “I’m an actor.” And for a good healthy decade, I was a busy acting bee. But if I have to hoist a flag, I’m going to hoist a writing flag. I’m not paid for that either, yet, but the label feels most current and accurate. With acting, I’m a person who happens to have skill in that area, and if there’s a good time to use it again, I’ll use it. But I don’t have any ambition for it any more. When I was younger, I wanted success; I wanted people to know who I am and admire me and respect me and be impressed by me. I wanted word to travel far and wide of my great skill! And now I don’t care. I can’t imagine going through the necessary contortions. And there are some necessary contortions if you want success as an actor, and you can be a wonderful actor and make all of the necessary contortions and still not achieve success. So much is beyond your control, and hinges on things which in a perfect world would be at least a little beside the point. This is seventy –four times truer for women than it is for men. I’m talking about looks, and I’m also talking about this in the context of having a professional career, which isn’t something I’m so qualified to talk about, since I haven’t seriously had a professional acting career. I have been paid for my work ranging from not at all to minimally to fairly well. The fairly wells I can count on one hand and still hold a pencil. An actress needs to be either very beautiful or have very definite “character actress” looks. If you’re ten pounds overweight, you either need to lose fifteen or gain fifty. If you’re a woman and your looks are unprepossessing, it’ll take a miracle of ferocious talent and bizarrely fortunate circumstance to set your career on fire. Many examples do not leap to mind, although you might be able to call up a few.

All of that is true, and maddening, and then you add a sort of institutional disrespect for actors from those in positions of power over them and voila: a recipe for something that does not sound delicious to me. I’ve felt it in the air during certain auditions, that essential disrespect. There’s a sense that you don’t matter, you’re this groveling thing asking for scraps, you’re so lucky just to be in the room with these Mighty Deciders, and you have to be willing to toss your life on the scrap heap to jump when they say jump. (What is that on my shoulder…is that a chip? Crunch. Now that's delicious.) Of course, there are exceptions – wonderful, kind directors and producers who love and respect actors. I’m not talking about you guys. I’m talking about everybody else. People can get a little power-happy. I just have to face the fact that I’m not a temperamental match for the auditioning process. I’m increasingly not good at putting on a deferential face when real deference isn’t blooming in me for someone.

You know what it is? What acting gave me I think I might not need so much any more. As I get older, I find I don’t so much need an outlet for the parts of myself I repress in my daily life, because I think…I THINK…that I’m not repressing myself so much. I don’t sacrifice truthfulness on the altar of my persona in the way I may have done back in the day. It’s really truth that I enjoy the most, and freedom of expression, and those are things I can provide for myself. I can give them to myself when I write. And when I give them to you here, they make the trip all the way from my consciousness to yours, so I have that lovely click of completion. Communication has occurred, and an exchange of energy has taken place, if less overt than with a physical audience in the same room. (That, I grant, is a precious thing, being in the same room. Theater is so good like that.) I can get a little burst of adrenaline when I hit “publish” if I know I’ve revealed something precious, but it’s not the automatic rush that a stage gives. To achieve sport feelings, I have to be triply revealing and dangerous in the writing, which I’m only just learning how to do. Sport feelings? No. Wrong phrase. Life feelings. Vivid risky life participation.

Hmm. I’m forgetting something. I’m forgetting something about the theater that I love. It’s participating in the creation of an imaginary world. You can do that with writing, I know, but it’s not the same thing if you’re not standing in it with your actual body. Childlike playtime feelings. Playing pretend with your whole body. Feeling of wonder, particular to that. All right. I give up. There is no substitute for that. Well, sometimes you can let things go for which there is no substitute. I release this metaphorical Porsche from my grip. If it comes flying back into my hand, then it’s mine. And maybe then only still for a minute.

For a long time, I had – and I’ve written about this here, and elsewhere – a strong pull to make my own solo show. I started writing it, and the theater company I was a part of for a very long time had signed on to produce it. The essential kernel of the show exists for me still, I can feel it, like a real thing I can feel in my pocket. Like a rock or a gemstone. I’d like to make this story, still. I’m not exactly sure, though, if I need to make it on a stage. I might just be able to make it on a page. Maybe I can stand in front of you while you read it, so I can get your immediate reaction. That won’t be annoying, right? It’ll just be a nice, normal exchange of energy. “What do you think? What are you reading now? Which part are you at? I wrote that.”

A psychic told me once that I would only achieve my life purpose when I embraced being a nobody. When she told me that, I was just at the height of my ambition as an actor so I thought, Stuff it, lady. I’m not a little reclusive saint person with no ego. Now I can see what she means. Success is a word that has sort of lost its meaning for me. I still have ambition, but it’s not so much for success as it is for new discovery and making meaningful connection. (That sounds like a brochure, dang it. What else will I call it?! Damn it, discovery and connection are the words. Meaningful is the word. I mean it. We’ll lose “new”. That’s redundant.) I need to communicate with you all, however I can.

So. If a sweet little opportunity to take my hot acting balloon flying comes around, I will climb in. I just don’t need the balloon to take me anywhere in particular. I don’t need the balloon for my sense of identity or self respect. Those I can make on my own.

Acting, you are a beautiful pursuit.

I’m taking my hand and I’m opening it and I’m letting whatever is in it fall out.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

my moonwalking bear

Watch the clip first, quickly. Go right in, don't think, just do it.

All right.

Today - after a goodly break - I was smacked in the gut with the understanding that I had a miscarriage, and what that means. A baby, a baby, our baby, the baby that we so wanted - it came and went. It, I guess, died. I guess it died. It had begun living. That's pregnancy, right? Living thing, right? Died, then. Stopped living.

I ran into a dear friend today who is teaching Pilates out of her home, and I told her that I'd love to take classes with her. Later I was telling Dave about it and I began to say casually, "I think Pilates would be great as a healing thing, with the miscarriage, to strengthen that-" and I was going to say "area" but that's when the gut punch came in and I began sobbing. I was talking so casually about healing, forgetting that it's actually really true that I need some.

Where has it been? Where has the grief been? That's what the clip up there is alluding to. The baby we lost is the moonwalking bear of my life. I can't see it every day. I see Finn and his needs, and I see our new house, and I see everything we need to do to settle in properly, and I see writing, and I see the present moment because I'm trying to see it - the present moment is like the team in white, passing the ball. It's my self-imposed assignment. It's a good assignment, seeing the present moment.

But where does the grief go? Where does it hide? Where was I stashing it? I honestly thought it had left. No. I still have some.

Maybe it reared up because we had been planning to try for another baby again in about a month, and I decided a couple of days ago - on my birthday, actually, which was a strange birthday* - good, ultimately - I decided that I am not ready to try again for another baby. I'm not feeling it. I'm just feeling the idea as pressure. The idea of letting go of another baby for the time being was so freeing, so appealing. What if we only ever had Finn? What would that be like? Oh, the places I'd go! As Finn gets more self-sufficient, I can go here and do that and take this class, and oh! The relative freedom! Sounds like riding in a convertible with the top down on a sunny day on a tv show in the 1970's, with my big shiny Breck hair flying behind me and a silk scarf fluttering around my neck and a handsome man in a white suit driving us to a cocktail party at a penthouse apartment with thick white carpeting and a view of Los Angeles.

I met a baby, today, too. A baby girl. Miss Nora Somerville Jorgenson. Approximately six months old. Soft and silky and smiley. Milky silky translucent skin. Little dimpled chin. It's not nothing to meet a baby girl, after all my Oona business, after all my imaginings. I met her at a reunion brunch for my old sketch comedy group, and I borrow and transpose a line from an old local news parody sketch of ours here for you, entertainment/human interest division:

Thanks, Ian! Ian, I am over here by this BABY and I have to tell you, this baby is shooting up FROM the floor, all the WAY up TO the ceiling, and it really is an amazing sight, just really something, and I think I can speak for everybody here near this THING, this BABY when I say that nobody here thinks that this is not nothing. Ian?

In the actual sketch, the baby was a wall.

But yes. To meet a beautiful little baby girl had to go shoveling into some of my deeply packed emotional soil and loosen it up a bit. That's a good thing. It's good. And it's nice - Finn and his rockin' wee friend Miles were digging in the garden with little shovels today at the brunch. Thanks, buddies. You were doing a little ritual for me just at the right moment, concretizing it all. It's good to get access to the grief. The not feeling of the grief felt eerie and also weirdly irresponsible. Like it's irresponsible not to be aware of and feeling the sorrow of your lost child, however briefly they were yours.

And I was really getting comfortable with the idea that maybe I didn't want another child. I thought maybe the miscarriage killed not only the little life form but also the wanting, like the wanting was an innocent bystander in a fatal drive-by shooting who was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead along with the intended victim. But maybe the machines are starting to beep and boop a little for the wanting.

We're in intensive care. We'll see what can be done. I don't know about heroic measures, but if there's life in the wanting, there might be other life that wants to follow it.

*I was going to have a small birthday party, and I invited people, but then I called everybody a couple of hours before it began and called it off. I'd been weeping all day with no rhyme or reason. And...thinking here...I post about being on edge and snapping and crying. Just how subterranean did I think this grief was? Just because it doesn't come ringing a bell that that has an "I WAS YOUR BABY" flag on it?! Moonwalking bear, all right. Now it's hard to miss. But you really can miss a lot if you set your mind to it.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

a slow, sure trip up the metaphorical himalayas

I'd like to think that's what I'm taking. What in actuality I'm taking is a slow trip partway up the Himalayas, and then getting a craving for M & M's and running back down to Katmandu, and then remembering that I like watching Gossip Girl and going back to my living room, and then thinking about how cool it would be to go up the Himalayas, and then packing a bag, and then looking at the bag a few minutes later and thinking, "What's this bag for?", and then unpacking it, and then remembering, and then swearing and repacking it, and putting some M & M's and a People magazine in the backback, and then pulling the People out and sitting on the floor and reading it, and then throwing it away, and then zipping the backpack and going out the door, and getting on the plane, and heading up the Himalayas, and stopping to take a lot of photographs of myself at base camp, and looking at them and wondering if I could just tell people I went to the top, and also deciding I need a bang trim, and running back down and getting one, ET. CETERA. AD. INFINITUM.

Friday, July 04, 2008

about that thing i'm shy to talk about

I haven't really talked about spirituality on this blog, but I think I want that to change. I've talked about it a little bit on my other blog, Bloomerang, the blog that lives and dies and lives again and is in a dead period. Is between worlds. Is hopefully enjoying its little afterlife.

I rarely talk about spirituality here because I'm shy about it, my dears. But it's important to me, and I think I would like it to be even more important than it currently is. Yes, yes. I don't talk about it here, though, because I'm afraid of alienating people. I've given myself permission with Bloomerang because it's tucked away where nobody knows of its existence, whereas The Gallivanting Monkey hosts literally dozens of visitors a week! (I know, it's crowded here. Feels crowded. This place needs a door guy. So busy.)

I don't know who I think I'm going to alienate that I won't already have alienated, though. I have this cynical, skeptical reader in mind who thinks that spirituality is the lamest word alive and that anyone who uses it in earnest is a sappy featherhead. Something tells me that reader has other places to go on the web than this cheery little enclave. So I don't know exactly what I'm worried about.

It's residual, I think. I grew up in a sort of offbeat, spiritually inclined family, but none of my peers had the same kind of background. All of the kids I knew came from more traditional religious backgrounds. (Everyone in New York was either Jewish or Catholic, and in Seattle it branched out onto the Protestant scene.) My parents were Theosophists...which...I will either explain later or you can go ahead and google it because I ain't got the strength to lay it out for you now. I will say this - it's Eastern religion-friendly. My grandmother was clairvoyant, and wrote a few books stemming from her abilities: The Real World of Fairies, The Personal Aura, The Chakras and the Human Energy Fields. I grew up hearing a lot about Buddhism and Hinduism and different Eastern-flavored theories about the soul and its evolution, about karma and reincarnation and all of that stuff. I don't know. It's such a big question, what we're all doing here, and how you grow up with that question is so formative. I felt embarrassed that my backdrop looked so different from other people's backdrops. It lingers a little. There's my shyness.

But what a question, no? What the hell are we doing here? What is going on? What is the point of all this? I just don't think this is a skippable question, even if it seems farfetched that we're going to find the answer. I don't think that's a good enough reason to skip it. I want to try anyway. I think even just thinking about it, staring at the question with curiosity, is worth something.

I was walking through the parking lot of QFC today, and it struck me: where am I? Where am I, other than in the parking lot of this Quality Food Center in North Seattle? I don't quite know how to put the question that emerged. It was something like, where is this parking lot in relation to Reality? Oh, man. OH MY GOD SHY ATTACK. Shy attack.

But I go on.

Then, yesterday, I was outside a Barnes and Noble with a very fakey fake stone exterior, and I had a funny epiphany: I like places that are obvious in their fakeness. I really like, you know, faux-Roman this and fakey French that. I like it on a large scale. It makes me feel like the world is this big stage set, and makes me remember that this Tina is just a character, and that the actor deeper in me is very real. Something about the contrast of a sense of realness inside with the fauxness outside is satisfying. Feels like a wink. I like it.

And what's this God business? Who is that? Is there one? Divinity - I love that word. What is inside there? Something draws me on to look into this. I don't have devotion to some kind of singular, figureheady God. But the word divine...that pulls me along somewhere, hints at something gorgeous that I would like to know about.

So I would like to get a little serious about this, and since this is the place where I come to talk to the people, I will maybe be talking about this some more.

P.S. I want you to talk to me, too. I would love it extremely. What do you think we're doing here? What is your relationship to these things? Are you curious? Uninterested? Satisfied? Repulsed? Bored? Attracted? My ears, they are so open.

P.P.S. This is a post I wrote a long time ago at Bloomerang about meditation.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

i am in my thirties still now but only just

It be my birthday.

And look, look, LISTEN. The last post was true. But also a limited snapshot of things. I also feel quite blessed at the moment. Great marriage, beautiful child, excellent friends, notable lack of serious problems. I am stressed out but also blessed! I am everything that ends with "essed". It's tricky because I want to write truthfully for you, but then you always run the risk of regretting the airing of some of these truths. So I'm here to just say, true, true-ISH, but there's so much more. True but maybe overly categorical. I just didn't want yesterday's post to be the last word on anything for very long.

I turn 39 today. Since last night here in Seattle, it's been raining and thundering extremely dramatically. Is this an omen? Do I need to mind my p's and q's this year? Is that what? Or should the rest of you all be worried? "She's thirty-niiiiiiiine.....the aaaage we waaaaarned you about. OoooooOOOOOoooooo.....BANG!"

Next post will be about something other than myself, and also hopefully not ultra boring like today's. That's the plan. I hope you had a good little nap. You're welcome!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

let the frog sing it

It's Dave's and my third anniversary tonight. Second third anniversary. (The first one was on January 21st - the official courthouse one. July 2nd is when the real wedding for the friends and loved ones was.) Dave's working tonight, and also even if he weren't, it's not like we've gotten off our asses to locate a babysitter to let us go out and be romantic daters.

We took Finn to the Pike Place Market this morning for our family anniversary outing. We got Dave several jars of Vegemite, some perfume oil for me and a bag of fresh hot tiny doughnuts for Finn. It was delightful. The best quote of the outing belongs to Finn. We were in The Souk, which is a little Indian/Pakistani spice shop. It smells pungent in there, and sort of nice, if you ask me. I pointed out the sort-of-nice smell to Finn and explained what it was, and he said, "Get me out of these spices!"

And that, friends, is how I'm feeling about parenting these days a good bulk of the time. I'm not supposed to admit it, but it's true. Get me out of these spices! It's not that I don't love Finn. Au contraire, mon frere. My heart squeezes and pretzels and expands and flip-flops with love for him all the time. The love gets fuckin' positively pyrotechnic.

It's my patience level that is poor. Pooooooooor. Looooooooow. The rope is short. The thread is thin. Finn is two years old and workin' it fairly often in classic Terrible Twos style these days. But also, stupid tiny things make my blood boil irrationally. I was in the kitchen doing something yesterday, and Finn was tooling around nearby messing with things - things I shouldn't have left around, like big tall full glasses of water - and he tipped the glass of water over on to the couch in a two-pronged special maneuver wherein the water spilled at first but was not entirely released from the glass, as the glass was entirely upside-down flat on the couch, making it so that when I moved the glass, the rest of the water rushed on to my feet. I yelled out "DAMN IT!" in what must have been a very scary voice, and Finn began to cry, "Want to see Mommy!"

This is what he cries when something goes wrong. "Want to see Mommy!" He'll even cry it out if I'm right there with him, but doing something he doesn't like. It's like, I don't want to see YOU. Get me the OTHER mommy. Get me the good one. So he was crying and saying it over and over, and he was clearly very freaked out. I felt horrible, and I started crying, too. I hugged him to me and we both wept awhile. Want to see Mommy, yes. The good one. Let's get her. I have no idea who I am exactly but I'm not her. Want to be. But cannot always be her. Sometimes I'm her, naturally. Otherwise, "Want to see Mommy" wouldn't make much sense as a catch-all. I'm a fairly sweet ol' Mommy much of the time. I'm just prone to snap more at the moment. My wood is dry and sparky and catches fire easily.

I know, I know it. You don't have to say it. Parenting is hard, take it easy on yourself. Although that might not be what you were going to say. You might have been about to say, Stop being an asshole. Hire a babysitter already and take a mental health day before you scare that poor bunny any more. That, in fact, is what you should say. And that's what I need to do and that is what I am going to do.

Also, I'm going to start meditating again. I think this is going to have to be a vital part of my parenting toolbox. It's the patience extender. I'm going to have to do it every day, even if I have to get up at 4 in the morning, meditate and then go back to bed. I meditated today and I was glad I did, even if all it did for me was highlight how on edge I am. I can see my on-edgeness a skosh more clearly. Thanks, meditation!

I hope meditating with real regularity makes a nice, solid difference. I hope that I can react to the jolts and bumps from the deep calm place, instead of from the karate-chop waters up at the surface. I hope this because otherwise I don't feel like I would be able to handle another baby. At the moment, I don't even want to try again because it seems like that way lies madness. But I want to want to try again. I'm gonna take care of myself here, I'm going to get some self-care action going, and see what I can do with this brittle old psyche. Maybe the miscarriage - which has gone subterranean, grief-wise - is finding ways to linger and mess with me. C'est possible.

The title of this post doesn't make any sense because I haven't told the story yet, so I better do that. It's not a story. It's just a little - it's another "Get me out of these spices" thing. We watch this little video on YouTube frequently, an excerpt of a cartoon movie called Rupert, with a bunch of frogs singing. Finn gets annoyed when I sing along with things. He used to dig it, but not of late. So I was singing along with this frog song yesterday and Finn glared at me and barked, "LET THE FROG SING IT." This same kind of thing happened in the car today. I was singing along with Billie Holiday - and look, I'm a pretty good singer if I do say so myself. It's not like I'm murdering the damn thing - and Finn was like, LET THE LADY SING IT. Actually, he said, let the man sing it, but then we set him straight that Billie Holiday was a lady and then he kept saying LET THE LADY SING IT. But I stood my ground because I am not going to let a tiny cranky man rob me of the joy of singing along with the car stereo. I said, No! I'M a lady! I'm going to sing, too!

Next time we listen to that frog song, I'm going to tell him, "I AM THE FROG."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

the new foods

I was cooking dinner for Finn the other night while he was across the room playing with his toys. I pulled some asparagus out of a bag and started ripping off the tough ends, when Finn looked over in my direction. He had never seen asparagus before. He was thunderstruck. "WHAT IS THAT GREEN THING?!" he yelled, running to the kitchen. "It's asparagus." "I WILL HOLD IT!" he informed me. I handed him a stalk. He gazed at it with extreme reverence. "This is yummy," he declared in advance, never taking his eyes off of the asparagus.

Earlier in the week, I had introduced him to apricots. I cut some up in a bowl for him with some cherries. He sat with the bowl quietly for a minute, eating. Then he called out, "What is this yellow thing?" "It's an apricot, honey." There was a pause, and then, "It's yummy." A couple of minutes later he called out again, "What is these yellow things?" "They're apricots, sweetheart." Pause again. "Yummy." This repeated a couple of times, and then after a little bout of silence the report came, "I like apricots."

Also new this week:

grapes (What is these red things? They would be so yummy!)
popsicles (It is yummy, funny and delicious.)
polenta (I don't like it.)
nectarines (Let me hold it.)
plumcots (Bumcops. Pumcops. Pumcots.)

It isn't just foods that are yummy and funny for Finn these days. Events make the cut, too. I told him we were going to take Dave to work, and he said, "That might be so yummy." And then he thought about it and amended it to, "It would be so funny."