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I got a new tattoo a couple of days ago, an early birthday present to myself. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have been adding to my collection over the last five years.

I’m up to 6 now, including the one I had covered up two years ago, and I love, love, love, my body art; it’s an expression of me and who I am. I went back to a shop where I went two years ago that had been recommended by friends. The artist who did my cover-up then was super awesome and I wanted to have him do this new one. Unfortunately, what I wanted wasn’t his style so he referred to another artist in the shop. After viewing the new guy’s work on Instagram, I felt comfortable that he would get it right and set up an appointment.

The tattoo turned out fabulous, just what I wanted, but it was the conversation we had that has been sitting on my brain for the past two days. I won’t tell you all of it, but the gist was that his family had not been supportive of his art when he was growing up. As with a lot of families, though, his family didn’t consider anything having to do with art as a “real” job. Now, this guy is talented. I wouldn’t have let him put his art on my body if he wasn’t. He loves what he’s doing, but I wonder what would have happened if his family had supported his dream, if they had encouraged him to follow his passion rather than quash it. He’s making his own art now, not in the way he originally wanted to, but it fits him at the moment. Still, he has “what-if” moments.

I immediately identified with what he went through. In my first year of college, it was made very clear to me that my aspirations of going into theatre would not be supported and financial assistance was withdrawn. I eventually took the safe route, managed college myself, and got a “real” job, but I often think about how my life would be different if I had been allowed to pursue my dream. Now, I think that Marty and I would still have met and we would have had the same kids because we were meant to, but I might have been happier, less prone to the bouts of depression due to work frustration. I might not have been wishing my life away every year, counting the days until my next break. Is this a grass-is-greener situation? Maybe. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I had majored in theatre and gone to New York like I had planned. I might not have made it very far in that world, but I would have at least tried. I wasn’t confident enough to really strike out on my own so I put my energy into getting a safe job. Plainly put, I was too afraid to try it by myself. I wish I had been braver.

Now, Youngest Child wants to be a jazz musician. He’s excellent, really, a very good musician, and that’s not just mom-bias talking. I see me-as-the-artist in him, except he’s more confident in his abilities, more proactive in following his path. We are supporting his decision. He’s making contacts that will help him in the future, taking as many private lessons as we can comfortably provide for, and I’m driving him all over the metro area. Is it a lot? Sometimes, but you know what? When I pick him up from a performance or a lesson, he’s happy. He’s doing what he loves to do, he’s challenged, and he’s driven. As a mom, that’s the best outcome I can hope for. Will he make it professionally? I hope so, but if not, at least he will have had the chances and opportunities. (I have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll do well, though.) We made it clear that he will have to support himself as an adult, but he’ll figure it out. We’ll be here for advice if he needs it.

Society tends to look down on kids who want to go into the arts, but, ironically, we pay billions of dollars into the entertainment industry every year. The arts are so important: music, theatre, painting, sculpting, these things all take an enormous amount of talent, yet parents discourage their kids from going into them full-time. I get it, it’s hard to get insurance or job security in the early days, not to mention a retirement plan, when one is paying their dues, but is that more important than being happy with life? Some people are willing to work a job that isn’t their passion and deal with it fine and then there are the rest of us who find it difficult to fit into that mold.

What is the point of all of this? If you have a kid who is interested in going into the arts, let them try. If they’re terrible at it, that will be evident soon enough and they’ll try something else. Relax and be supportive of their dreams even if you don’t think they have a snowball’s chance in hell of making a living at it. Don’t make them wonder, “what if?” later on because you squelched their ambition. They may not get there, but they will have the memory that you supported them and believed in what they wanted to do and that, my friends, is worth a whole lot more. You might be surprised at what happens next.

 

 

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So, I wrote this article and it got published!!!

Here it is: https://introvertdear.com/news/yes-introverts-can-be-actors/

For those who don’t know, Introvert Dear is a site geared toward introverts. They publish articles on a variety of related topics. Mine just happens to be about being an introverted actor.

I hope you enjoy it and the other wonderful articles on the site. Spend some time there; I do.

 

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I’ll be completely honest: I hate the idea of getting older. I am not at all comfortable with my number as it continues to go up..

Before this goes any further, I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be able to get older. I know that people have terminal and debilitating conditions and I count myself as fortunate to not have gone through that as of now. I understand that there are people who are sensitive to this topic, but this blog is about dealing with the feelings and emotions that come with transitioning into this new territory because they exist and are valid, so no comments on how I should feel lucky to be getting older, please. I’m not whining, just processing. (But I will be wine-ing, later, at an acceptable hour. See what I did there?)

At 44 (yeep!) I feel better than I ever have; I’m healthier, mentally and physically, than I’ve ever been in my life. I (mostly) eat healthy and exercise almost every day. I’ve been seeing my therapist for around eight years now, which has done wonders for helping me with depression, anxiety, and my past. I’m deliriously happy in my marriage. While I’m not even close to knowing it all, I’m much more comfortable in understanding that that’s okay. But for the first time, I’m worried about this getting older thing. It isn’t so much about how I will look, although I admit that does bother me. I do my best to stay in shape, to eat right, drink a lot of water, and I use my moisturizer every morning and night, the way my grandma taught me, but I know that physical changes are inevitable. I do intend on fighting that particular aspect every step of the way.

What I will eventually look like isn’t what bothers me the most, though. What gets my stomach churning is the thought of being seen as less of a person because I will be old. I fear the perception that I will be feeble, the loss of control in my life, the lack of respect from younger people who won’t think I’m “with it”, the impatience of those around me. I’m afraid I won’t recognize that I’m not capable of doing things anymore, like driving. (Although, if my evil plan works and we move to London, I won’t need to drive anywhere, eliminating that painful milestone.)

For the record, I fully intend on being an independent, bad-ass, older person complete with tattoos, but I also know that an accident or disease could take that choice away from me in an instant. I’m also downright terrified of having dementia or Alzheimer’s. It was painful to watch both of my grandmothers decline mentally and physically. I’m sure it was loads more painful for them to go through: the confusion of the disease and the understanding in their lucid moments must have been terrifying. I’m hoping to escape their fate and doing everything I can to ward off those demons: puzzles of all sorts, reading, exercising, and drinking my red wine faithfully. (Don’t laugh, there are tons of articles on red wine preventing dementia. Who am I to discount research?)

I know that this is a long way off yet, but I see signs. There are fine lines forming when I look in the mirror. I have two adult children, one who is living completely on his own, with a teenager close behind. I remember things that happened twenty years ago like they happened yesterday. I actually need reading glasses now, which really sucks. I had been prescribed glasses for years, but I’ve only recently noticed a big difference. Marty thinks this is funny. Me, not so much. Certain theatre roles would be a bit ridiculous for me now, which makes me sad.

BUT… I saw a post today from a friend who’s only a bit older than I am and she was absolutely embracing the idea of getting older. It was about the freedom to be yourself, having less of a filter, and being comfortable in one’s body. I want to feel that way, I want to get there mentally. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. My therapist says to not dwell on things that haven’t happened yet and might not ever happen. The key is thinking positively and planning for what you want to happen. There is a 103-year-old woman who still runs competitively and was on the news a couple of weeks ago. I’m aiming for that.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to do all of things that I’ve been doing not only because it will combat the bad aging stuff, but also because it’s fun.

That includes the red wine. Obviously.

Salute!

Red Wine

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I haven’t written in a while, I’ve had a lot going on. It’s been all I could do to post a meme. May is always crazy busy, especially if I’m in a show. Any parent with school-age children can tell you that there is at least one activity per week in May and having a high-schooler is no exception. Concerts, advanced-placement testing, driver’s training… oy. Add to that my own end of the year teaching craziness (data, testing, data, testing, data…why???), a college graduation, and that leaves little time to write.

But now I see a light at the end of the tunnel (20 teaching days left) and I’m making myself sit down to write. It’s important, like exercise.The more you do it, the better you get.

Here are some of the random things that have either happened or that I have thought about during the past couple of weeks.

  • Anyone who is wondering what to name a baby (or a pet) should go sit in on a college graduation. Seriously. We listened to 1,200 name combinations read in about an hour and a half. The odds are that you’ll find something you like.
  • One of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans, tragically died at the young age of 37. She is responsible for shaking up the Christian world in amazing, progressive ways and was a voice of reason in these crazy times. I feel she was a true modern-day prophet.
  • I believe now, more than ever, in supernatural things.
  • There is a new royal baby. I make no apologies for being happy for them because new babies are wonderful and I like them. Fight me.
  • You meet some incredible people in theatre. No joke. The level of bonding can be intense.
  • If you really love someone and they really love you back, you feel safe and valued. I feel safe and valued.
  • One way or another, I need to stop wishing my life away. Changes must be made. Do something that you love, or at least find fulfilling.
  • My faith has taken a beating lately.
  • Having adult children can be wonderful.
  • Eating the first asparagus of the season right from the garden is fabulous.
  • I feel much younger than I am. I’m not comfortable with my number and I don’t know that I ever will be.
  • Do you have a pen-pal who lives in a different country? You should. Mine started out as a pen-pal, but is now a dear friend.
  • I’ve never been more disillusioned about the state of our country than I am right now. O. M. G. It feels like we’re living in a dystopian novel.
  • It’s spring, time to get my hands dirty, literally.
  • Teachers compiling data is a stupid thing. Really, really stupid. Hire someone to do that; there’s more than enough on my plate.
  • I am still planning on moving to London.

And lastly:

  • It’s been a bad year for suicides. Suicidal people are not weak or looking for attention, they’re desperate and genuinely feel that ending their lives is the only way to end their pain. Don’t judge them, listen and love. Get them help. You could save a life.

I promise I’ll be more organized next time.

The End

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Well, it’s happened again. In case you’re living under a rock, there’s been another mass shooting, this time in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Forty-nine people. Muslims. Immigrants. Men, women, and children, were massacred at their place of worship, the place where you should feel the safest and most at peace. Another mass shooting, sure to be followed by more, if the past twenty years are any indication. It’s almost commonplace now.

If you think this is going to be a blog on gun laws, at least directly, you’re wrong. It’s about hate.

You see, I’m a teacher. More than ninety-nine percent of my students are Muslim, true story. They range in age from 11-14, old enough to be aware and somewhat interested about what is going on in the world. I encourage them to discuss world issues that are important to them (this leads to good research and writing) and, especially in my first hour, we’ve had some really good talks this year.

When I saw the news last night, and then again this morning, I knew that there would be questions in first hour. Real, honest, questions that I didn’t have any good answers for, especially as someone not from their background, someone who can represent ugliness to them because of the actions of others who look like me.

I fought back tears watching the footage this morning, the disbelief and horror still fresh on the faces of the survivors, standing in their blood-spattered clothing and speaking to reporters. I shut the TV off and left for work, dreading what I knew was coming.

First hour came in, got settled quickly, as they always do, and began their morning work, journaling and reading. When we came together after their reading time, we started the day by sharing out answers, and then, as I always do, I asked if anyone had something else they wanted to share before started the day’s assignment. A hand went up, I called on him, and the question came.

“Miss, did you hear what happened in New Zealand?”

Twenty-nine other faces stared at me, some nodding a bit because they had already heard, some questioning what had happened. I wondered how I was going to tell them, what I was going to tell them. This is the internet generation, I’d rather that they heard it from me first. But that’s not what bothered me the most. The worst thing was that I had to tell them this at all.

How do you look at a roomful of adolescents and tell them that there are people in this world who hate them just for being who they are? How do you look these kids in the eye and tell them that there are people who would rather see them dead than get to know them because they’re Muslim? It’s not that they haven’t already experienced racism, they hear it all the time. They’ve been called terrorists, among other horrible things. They and their parents have been discriminated against before and it hurts them, but they are, sadly, used to that and a lot of them have great parents who tell them to not pay any attention to that, to be proud of who they are. But this is different. This was massive bloodshed, people like them who do what they do every week were shot dead for the simple fact that they were Muslim. They don’t cover how to do this in college.

I took a deep breath and explained it the best I could, as honestly as I could. My voice broke a couple of times and I had to take some deep breaths to stop more tears from coming and upsetting them, but they knew. They know I love them. This is a pretty awesome group of kids, my first hour, and I didn’t want to upset them more than necessary, but I was upset, too. I still am. I’m upset that someone with such public, racist, views, who spews vitriol all over social media, is cleared for a gun license. I’m upset that such hate festers and warps, whether it’s due to mental illness, drugs, or a dysfunctional upbringing, enough to carry out an act as brutal and as senseless as this. I’m upset that parents lost children, wives lost husbands, children lost parents. I’m mad as hell that there are people like that in this world. He grinned while being arraigned. Did you know that? I just read that on Al-Jazeera tonight.

As expected, they were horrified. You could have heard a pin drop as I briefly spoke about it. I talked, again, about our lockdown drills, that they needed to take them seriously because there were sick people like that out in the world. We talked, again, about what we would do if it were ever a real situation. The same hand went up again when I was done.

“Miss, why do they call us terrorists, but when a white person does something like this they’re called a mass shooter?” I sighed. This was definitely not going to be an easy morning. I told him that the Prime Minister of New Zealand had, in fact, called this man a terrorist and that’s who he was. I also said that he was right, that many times that is the case, but that things were starting to change. More people are standing up and speaking out, demanding fairness. I told my class that we had a long way to go when it came to race, that their generation had a really good chance of making their voices heard, of changing perceptions of Muslims to ignorant people. I hope I’m right.

They probably could have gone on all day, but I didn’t want them to dwell on it, so I brought our discussion to a gentle end and got them started on researching the Greek gods and goddesses, a project that they are excited about. It morphed into a more normal class time. I got a lot more hugs on the way out today, though.

I can’t let it go, though. Do you know what haunts me right now? Their eyes, their eyes that ask me, “Why?”

I don’t know. I don’t know how to solve the problem. I couldn’t give them a good answer. This is what I do know: There is evil in this world and it kills. It spreads through social media, through fear, through ignorance. We have to stand up to it, whether it has to do with race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, sexual preference, or disability. We have to make it uncomfortable to spout that crap, even when we’re scared. I’m guilty of staying quiet, I know I need to step it up, especially around people I know. If enough people speak up, maybe minds will open, hearts will change. Maybe love will win.

I don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll let Lin Manuel Miranda.

“Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” ~Lin Manuel Miranda

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“Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in.
Sometimes I feel like giving up,
No medicine is strong enough.
Someone help me.
I’m crawling in my skin.
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t.
It isn’t in my blood.”

~Sean Mendes

I really listened to these lyrics for the first time a few weeks ago and they hit me. Hard. This is a description of an anxiety and/or a depression hole, folks, pure and simple. I’ve, of course, heard of Sean Mendes, but I didn’t know that he sang this song until yesterday. It’s clear, though, that he knows a more than a bit about anxiety and depression. Here’s a bit more from the same song:

“Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing.
I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something
I could take to ease my mind slowly.
Just have a drink and you’ll feel better.
Just take her home and you’ll feel better.
Keep telling me that it gets better.
Does it ever?”

Sounds completely hopeless, yes? That’s because it is, at the time. He’s absolutely hit the nail on the head. When you “fall” into one of these holes, this is the feeling. And it’s scary. And it sucks. And, for a while, it feels like you’ll never be right again. In my case, eventually I do feel right again, quicker these days than before I started talk therapy a few years ago, but for some, it lasts for days, weeks, and months. Through therapy, I’ve learned strategies to cope, but while that helps to quiet the demons, it doesn’t keep them away entirely. The combination of extended childhood trauma plus my genetic disposition toward depression make it clear that I will probably always need some sort of therapeutic outlet. I know that and I’ve made peace with that. I’m strong, but not strong enough to carry this thing by myself.

And I’m not by myself. Besides my therapist, Marty is a huge support and I have no doubt that my “holes” frustrate him at times, but he’s done his best to understand and he has learned about depression in order to help me with what I need at the time, which is usually for him to keep a watchful distance and let me ride it out in silence. He never complains.

I wish I could control it.

Twice, I’ve seen posts on Facebook this week about choosing to be happy, that you only have to make the choice to be happy and it will be all better. How easy that sounds! Unfortunately, I can’t choose or pray my way out of this disease any more than I can choose or pray my way out of any other disease. Just because it has to do with my brain doesn’t make it easier to get rid of than bronchitis or a broken arm. It amazes me that people still think that way.

What has brought all of this depression talk on, you ask? These past two weeks have been a struggle for me; it’s been rough. Triggering, in popular talk. Writing helps me deal with it. I’m not okay with mocking sexual assault victims, in public or otherwise, but right now, the administration of our country seems fine with that. I’m hurting, not just for me, but for all victims, especially for those have kept it to themselves, who were not believed or helped. My heart aches for them.

The worst thing was the laughter at the Trump rally as he mocked Dr. Ford, especially after he had called her testimony credible. My god, that was hard to stomach. Vile, really. Inhuman. Who thinks that this is okay? How much of a scum do you have to be to laugh at someone who has clearly been victimized, whether or not you believe it was the named perpetrator? I felt sick when heard it. A lot of bad words were flung at the TV screen.

I’ve been there, been through it. Years of it. I didn’t make a noise about it until it was too late, legally, to make a noise. I didn’t report at the time, I was terrified. I was a child, and then a teenager. But it happened. I know that. The step-monster knows that. That is enough for me. I understand why things don’t come out until later. You have to be strong enough, first. That takes time for some of us.

Depression sucks, and I have to be stronger than it is, but I’m tired this week. Exhausted, really, but I’m okay. When triggers like this happen, you have to work through it, you have to process what’s going on and choose how you will respond, but it has felt like a continual battle lately. I need a break. I know it will pass, and there will be good days, really good days. But I know that it’s waiting in the wings, just waiting for that next rape “joke”, that next unexpected scene in a television show, that next disturbing section in a book. Then, the cycle begins again but by then, there’s a reserve of strength to deal with it.

“Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t.
It isn’t in my blood.”

I’m not giving up; not even close. There’s too much to fight for and after a short bit, I’ll be back to fight again.

You are not alone.

 

 

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I attended a funeral this past week. A friend of my mother’s from her childhood had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind two not-quite-grown children and a devastated husband.

Dee Dee was a quiet force of nature. I remember her from the very beginning of my memories, from those fuzzy edges when I was very small up until the more clear thoughts of today. I loved her. She had a pet skunk for a time, I remember, named Mandy. I wanted a skunk for the longest time after that and didn’t understand why my mother didn’t think that was a good idea. She always had animals, which made me an instant fan.

Her mother was my godmother, my Nina. I still have the cross necklace with a diamond chip in the middle that she gave me on my baptism day when I was just a few weeks old. They lived just down the street from us and it was there where I got to know Dee Dee’s three sisters, who fussed over me, and where I got my first delicious taste of lobster dipped in melted butter. (There is dispute over that. I remember them saying it was lobster, my mother said it was crab. Either way, the experience is etched in my memory.) Her family had been a refuge for my mother when she was pregnant with me as a teenager, loving her as their own, and they have always been in contact.

As I mentioned, she died rather suddenly, without warning, at only sixty years old. Sixty is young these days and although she did have some health issues, no one expected her to be gone so soon.

I met my mother at the service, held at a local funeral home. It was already quite full of people when I arrived, about an hour before the service began, but as the time drew nearer, more and more people poured in, leaving the staff to hurry and add many more rows of chairs. If I had to estimate, I would say that there were around 150 people crammed into that small room.

The priest began the service by welcoming everyone and asking Dee Dee’s son, and then her husband to speak. My heart broke for this strapping young man, set to graduate from college soon, as he choked back tears and referred to his mother as his best friend. Her husband, the shock still evident in his voice, told the room how there was not one single bad thing about her in the many years that they had been together.

The floor was opened to other people who wanted to share their memories of Dee Dee. It was touching and beautiful to hear from so many people, at least twenty, who got up and had a story to tell. Some were poignant, some were funny (the Sam’s Club Cheetos story had everyone laughing), and some were sad. For most of her adult life, Dee Dee had worked for a company that helps people who have disabilities and many of her current and former coworkers filled the room. I was moved by the stories of her selflessness, her patience, and her apparent love for her vocation, a calling she had always had. It didn’t surprise me at all. I remember when she had adopted a young boy with severe disabilities back when she was in her twenties, before she was married or had her biological children. Meeting him was my first experience with someone disabled to that degree and I remembered how patient she was with him. She taught me through her actions to not be afraid of people with disabilities, that they want to be loved and accepted like everyone does. I’ll always be grateful to her for that lesson.

The service lasted for more that an hour and a half as people shared their love for Dee Dee. In her short sixty years, she had touched so many lives, probably more than she ever thought. I’m sure she would have been embarrassed by all of the outpouring of emotion, she wasn’t one to toot her own horn, always working quietly in the background for the good of others. After the priest made sure that everyone was finished sharing, her daughter read from Ecclesiastes and her husband thanked everyone for coming. In closing, we all held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer together, then listened to one of her favorite songs.

When the service was over, my heart was full. The world is a scary place and these days, watching the news often makes me feel as if nothing will ever be right again, that hate, discrimination, and willful ignorance have taken over the world. Just read the comment section of any article to see some scary people. (Or don’t. Really, it’s horrifying to see what some people post online.) It’s hard for me to understand how people can be so awful to each other, or how terrible things are condoned or ignored because of money, religion, or politics. It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes. Hearing all of the wonderful things said about Dee Dee. though, reminded me that there are good people in this world, that things like love, patience, and understanding still do exist, even if they are hard to see through the haze right now.

Yes, I’m sure that Dee Dee would have been embarrassed about all of the fuss made over her, but what a legacy she has left behind! Think about it. We’re all going to die someday, whether our lives are short or long, whether we know it’s coming or, like Dee Dee, it takes us by surprise. There’s nothing we can do to prevent it, though we try to put it off as long as possible. What we can do, though, is choose to live so that we leave some good in the world when we’re gone and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same. We can stand up for what is right, we can help in a million ways, we can love. Yes, indeed, we can love.

We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to mess up sometimes. It’s human nature that prevents us from being perfect, that lets our masks slip now and again. But I firmly believe that the more we do the right thing, especially when it’s difficult, the easier it becomes. I also believe that when we own up to our mistakes and admit that we made a bad choice rather then blaming it on someone else or circumstances, we earn the respect of others and we grow as people. It’s not the easy way of doing things and it’s hard to bite that bullet sometimes, but it’s so necessary.

We need more Dee Dees in the world. We need more of that patience and understanding that she lived every single day. We need to accept people as they are, the way she did, and to protect those who don’t have a voice. We need to be good people.

So, I challenge you. I challenge you to open your mind, to open your heart, and to deliberately do something different today that will benefit those around you. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be as simple as opening the door for someone when you normally wouldn’t. It can be letting someone go ahead of you in line. Instead of getting angry at another driver, take a deep breath and let it go. (I especially need to practice this one. I say a lot of bad words in my car.) The point is, the world isn’t going to get better if we sit back and wait for other people to do it. It begins with us. It begins with you.

I’m closing with part of Lin Manuel Miranda’s speech from the 2016 Tony Awards. I feel that it is appropriate here.

“We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

Dee Dee loved, with her whole heart. It’s a goal to work toward.

 

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