Monkey at the Keyboard

Put a monkey at the keyboard,
some people say
and with infinite random actions
she’ll write a Shakespearian play.

The monkey at my keyboard
is in control today
pulling arbitrary words
out of a virtual buffet.

Words float around in a lively dance
swirling in her head
keeping her up at night
when she lies in bed.

But when she tries to capture them
and lay them on the page
they skip and jump with mocking laughs
putting poor monkey in a rage.

Her fingers fly upon the keys
because she has to try
while flitting through linguistic gems
falling from the sky.

English: colored monkey

Image via Wikipedia

Will she find the brilliance?
Will she write her best?
Or would it better
to let her mind and fingers  rest?

Poor monkey at the keyboard
cannot find her way
perhaps a swing among the trees
will give her a better day.

Walking at My Own Pace

I breathe heavily, straining a little as I contemplate the next step. Where should I put my foot so that I safely ascend and don’t twist or break anything? Where is the best place for my makeshift moss-covered walking stick, to help guide me up the difficult spots or support my weight as I climb a challenging point?

Up ahead, the dogs pull Nathan forward with joyous canine energy. Plenty of new things to smell, and an adventure they haven’t had for a while. Sarah leaps from rock to rock, a graceful mountain goat-child. Occasionally she wanders back down toward me when they lose sight, just to make sure I am following the trail.

Sometimes they stop for a view, or to explore a mysterious crack in the earth. This allows me to catch up. Sarah waits long enough for me to snap a photo of her, but then the dogs and she pull ahead, barely giving me time to catch my breath.

But I still moved forward at my own slow and steady pace.

And that’s when it hit me . . .

I am NEVER going to be the world’s best hiker or a super fast walker.  But that’s okay, as long as I continue to move forward at my own slow and steady pace.

I have been reading Be Your Own Best Life Coach by Jackee Holder, and she writes:

“Accept what existential psychologist James Bugental calls ‘the nevers.’ Make a list of all the things you will never be [. . .] Far from being pessimistic there’s something comforting and disarming about embracing acceptance that leaves you free to embrace more of what you can achieve. What we may never be leaves more space and energy to concentrate our effort towards the very things we can be.”

I am NEVER going to be . . .

  • the world’s best hiker or a super fast walker
  • thin
  • a millionaire
  • a tenured faculty member
  • a famous director
  • a famous actor
  • a leading woman in the business community
  • the next JK Rowling

I’m not going to be those things, but there are plenty of things that I can and will be, even if I only move at my slow and steady pace. This doesn’t mean I won’t push myself, or pick up the pace at appropriate moments, because I can do that. But, I find, when I try too hard to keep up with others, or feel like I am holding other’s back, then I start to hate myself. I feel bad about what I perceive as my frailties or flaws.

In Slovakia I found my own pace. “Keep walking at your pace,” I said. “As long as I can see you in the distance, I’m fine. I’ll tell you if I need you to slow down.”

I never needed them to slow down. I always got where I was going in the end.

I will always get where I am going, and I will do it in a way where I can feel pride as well as enjoy the journey, seeing the sights along the way and  always moving at my own pace.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday, as I typed my post, I literally yelled at the computer screen. I vented. I ranted. I emphasized my thoughts with words and hand gestures. I nearly cried. I played a dramatic scene worthy of an Oscar nomination . . . well at least in my own mind.

I expressed myself in words and actions, and then I felt better.

I had trouble going to sleep last night, and when I did I had bizarre dreams, including one where I had the magic of Santa Claus and decided everyone needed a little Christmas in their life. I went from room to room in a hotel (?) decorating with the snap of a finger and the flick of a wrist.

Somehow the magic made me feel right. Perhaps because magic and creativity intertwine, at least in my world. My dream reached inside to find my crative source.

This morning, I did not have time to listen to the silence. This morning I did not have time to question, doubt, to stress, or even to write.

This morning, I got up and checked my e-mail. Then I drove myself to the University and taught my class for 2 hours and 40 minutes. From there I headed to Sarah’s school to help her class as they explored the people from the American Revolution through drama, aided and abetted by me. They researched the people and wrote monologues which they shared.

Not brilliant performances, but they learned and enjoyed. Many of them even thanked me.

I came home, to deal with more e-mails, including an announcement for a mini-conference on Theater and Education. I did not think, I signed up. There was also a message from one of the good friends I made on the Slovakia trip, who has asked me to come speak to her Art and Culture in Public Service Class at Rutgers. I said yes.

It looks like I will be heading to NYC three times in the next three months. Once to share at a Travelogue about my trip to Slovakia. Once to meet with Christen’s class. And finally, in May, to hopefully meet up with some blogging friends.

That’s kind of exciting.

Nothing has changed and yet everything seems different.

Yesterday I was 100% honest with myself and with you. Today I know that everything is going to work out and I will find my way. I’m no closer to clarity. I’m no closer to a plan. I’m no closer to setting goals or understanding where I am headed.

But it simply doesn’t matter. By writing my post yesterday I moved forward with a new sense that I can and will find my way and have fabulous journey.

I guess today I have a sense of hope.

"Hope" by Steve Kramer (aka Taochild aka my brother)

Words heal, time heals, and days pass.

The Many Passions (and Confusions) of Lisa

I sat in the bookstore coffee shop, green tea latte at my side, and prepped for the course I am teaching at a nearby university in Theatre for Young Audiences.

A course in my actual field, what a luxury.

Suddenly, as I read the chapters from the book selected for this course (which I went along with as I wasn’t sure what text to use) I found my chest constricting, and a tense feeling in my shoulders. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and wanted to scream or cry despite being in a very public place.

A panic attack settling into my system. A moment for me step back and reflect on what I was feeling and why.

Deep breaths and listen to the silence.

I am a really good teacher. I challenge my students, I make learning fun, I set high expectations, and at the same time I work very hard to help all my students find a way to succeed.

But I’ve lost the joy of teaching. It was sucked out of me because of too much bureaucratic bull#$%* and because of a system that lets the priorities of a powerful few become more important than the needs of the students. I lost the desire from having too many students who plagiarized, or too many who expected–no demanded–to be handed grades rather than to earn grades. I lost the passion by having to fight too hard to even teach what I teach best, or create what I create best, against people who were so caught up in protecting their territory that they didn’t want new ideas, new talent, or anyone who might challenge the status quo.

Yet, I still love teaching when I have a classroom full of students who are open to exploring and seeing the power of learning, no matter what the subject. And I still love directing theatre when it is about a process of creation and exploration rather than trying to become a star and make lots of money. And I still love writing, even if I don’t know where it is heading.

This class (in the one meeting we had so far) seems to be full of students who really want to be there. Well, except for the one student who has already texted me with questions like “where do I find . . .?” “Do I type it into Google?” “How do I look it up?”  “Can I find it at Barnes & Noble?” Questions that I expect people of this generation, raised on technology, to know how to answer. They have more computer skills than I do, or at least they should.

So why did my throat constrict? Why did the panic set in?

I was reading about things I feel passionately about: like the importance of including arts education into the system; or the excellent tool that theatre  is to teach all kinds of skills and educational lessons and reach different types of people; or the need in any culture for theatre and performance and arts programming that reach all levels of society. I didn’t agree with every statement in the book, but still it is a book about my passions.

So why do I feel like crying?

The answer lies in my experience in Slovakia, particularly the time with the Roma. The answer lies in my current struggle with words and search for focus and simplicity. The answer lies in the multiple incarnations of Lisa, and in my inability to figure out how to market myself so that I am DOING rather than only teaching others how to do.

Not that teaching is a bad thing, but if I am not practicing what I preach I feel like an imposter. The answer lies in my imposter syndrome.

The answer lies in the fact that I have lots and lots of passions and projects, but without a deadline, without a “boss”, without a guarantee of a paycheck or some kind of acknowledgment from an outside source I can’t seem to accomplish them. The answer lies in the fact that I don’t have enough self-esteem to do things because I want to, I simply look too much for validation from outside when I know that I should be able to find satisfaction in myself and my projects, and in the joy of sharing what I love.

I am constantly saying that the process is as important (if not more important) than the product, that the journey is the reward. But when it comes to my own life, I can’t get past the block of feeling like I failed somewhere along the way.

This has got to stop!

I look in the mirror and I do not see what other people see.

I look at my list of accomplishments and I do not see what other people see!

I thought that I had finally gotten over this in Slovakia. As a matter of fact, I even wrote this:

 

Am I only able to find peace and purpose when I am away from my normal environment? Am I only able to see myself when someone else leads the way?

Somehow I must find a way to merge my passions with my abilities, and to become my own support “boss”–the person who gives herself deadlines and achieves every dream with or without validation from others.

My journey began in Slovakia, but now I have to face the painful stuff and move through it. The answers do not lie in an outside source.

The answers lie inside of me.

Keep it Simple

Words heard in a complicated dream:

“Keep it simple.”

I understand the words, but I don’t know what they mean.

My ideas are too complicated. My thoughts are too muddled. My hopes are too intricate.

I must learn simplicity.

I have started many stories, but get lost in their complexity.

I have started many projects, only to lose my way.

In the past I accomplished all my goals, even if they were complex. But now I struggle even though I have fewer immediate expectations.

I function better in chaos, but not the chaos that is my mind. So now it is time to simplify.

But what exactly does that mean?

Simple perfection.

Only time will tell as I sit and listen to the silence.

Thinking About Silence


Silent sunrise in the back woods.

I have been thinking a lot about silence lately.

The silence that comes when my own screaming voice seems to run out of words.

The silence of women who watch as the government tries to strip us of our voices, our control of our own bodies, our rights to live as equals in a world where men wish to control the power.

The silence of people who watch and support hatred, racism, bullying, inequality rather than speak out in a world where the loudest, squeakiest wheel holds the power.

The silence of my blog, where I write and write, and pour my soul out to reach only the few who choose to listen, who choose to hear.

The silence of my house, where I struggle to find purpose after an adventure full of purpose.

I have been thinking about choosing silence. Choosing not to speak, because it is too hard. Choosing not to defend your beliefs, your dreams, your hopes. Choosing to stand by and let the world continue without you, since your loudest screams and calls do not seem loud enough.

But choosing silence does not work.

I cannot teach my daughter silence.

I have been thinking about the times I have spoken and the times I have not. About the words I have written and the words I can not write.

I have been thinking about what kind of voice I want mine to be.

I have no answers.

But I believe that, if I listen to my own silence, eventually I will find a way to be heard.

Sitting in silence, hoping for some answers.

The Best Gift (100 Word Challenge)

I have been away from Julia’s 100 Word Challenge for Grownups for a while, and feel a little rusty. But, it always helps me get my writer juices flowing, so here is my contribution to this weeks challenge, which is:

Anyway, I thought I’d put reaching this milestone to good use. your prompt for this week is

…you bought her what…

I haven’t put in any punctuation because I don’t want to influence any of you. Normal rules apply – only 100 words, suitable for PG certificate and in by Monday 30th January.

The Best Gift

You bought her whatever she asked for, within the limits of your budget. If she wished it, she had it, in an attempt to give her all her dreams. Little did you know that her most treasured keepsakes lived in a box: mementos of the beginnings of love, faded letters and postcards that cost little but spoke more. Little did you know that what she really needed was not in your power to give, but was something she had to live. Slowly, you recognized that the gifts were not helping, so you gave her one last present—the gift of time.

And now . . . A Message for Julia

I hope that when I reach that ___0 age (or the one that approaches) I am as inspirational and busy as you are. Thank you for everything you do. I wish for you a year full of blessings, joy, adventures, and challenges (the good kind) that you meet with the grace and beauty you have shown us this year.

Now What?

After the adventure is over,
and the dream list has been made.
Reality begins to set in.
The house still needs cleaning
bills need to be paid
a daughter needs attention
dogs beg for food and love.
The dream list hovers on its page
calling out my name
but the question remains
how do I begin?
How do I take what I have learned
the memories of who I am
and merge them with the life I live
to make a stronger, happier reality?

After the adventure is over
and the dream list has been made
the journey has just begun again
and now I am afraid.

Slovakia in Pictures

So as my final (for now) post about Slovakia I played with kizoa.com to create a slide show. I can’t seem to embed it, so here is the link:

http://pf.kizoa.com/sflite.swf?did=2219335&k=5360392
Lisa’s Slovakian Adventure in Picturesflash slideshow maker

 

Finding My Voice Through Travel

Descent into Vienna

Questions and Answers

“How was your trip?”

“Was it everything you hope for?”

“Did you achieve what you were looking for?”

These questions, in infinite variety, have come to me since I returned. Of course, they are difficult to answer.

Did I connect with a company I admire and establish the possibility of working with them again in the future? I think so, but only time will tell.

Did I suddenly discover the plot of a novel or the specific book that I will write and publish in a brilliant path to success? I had some ideas, but . . .

Did I rediscover something that has been missing in my life, my career, my dreams? Hell, ya!

Did I reconnect with myself? I think I did.

Did I rediscover my voice? You tell me.

Little Creative Moments

During the trip we participated in several workshops meant to inspire and help us all on our personal creative journeys. We also had plenty of time to pursue our own interests; to write, to sleep, to explore, to dream, or simply just to think.

Isn't drinking a part of the creative process? Especially on a train. 😉

Dramatic Adventure Theatre’s Resident Playwright, Jason Williamson, led two writing workshops: “Facing the Blank Page” and  “Writing Stories.” He is an incredible workshop leader.

In the first he took us through exercises exploring character, place and then character and place together. Here  is my final exercise from that day:

Just nesting, each room holds shiny new gifts barely broken in. The bedroom, full of large bed and luxurious pillows with crisp new sheets and romantic flowers on the bedside table. A little clash of belongings throughout the apartment; his old ratty chair confronting her frilly floral fabrics. Slow indications of changes yet to come, as the floral fabrics get exchanged for a cozy couch.

Not the most brilliant piece of writing, I admit, but it helped me start writing again, and that’s what counts. Also, considering the chair that was finally delivered to our house the other day, I now see the wry humor in what I wrote.

Our New Chair

The second workshop expanded on the first, to try to bring story to character. Jason asked us to write (in timed writing) a description of someone we had met on the trip, and then to write a monologue where the person was speaking to someone specific and wanting something.   Here is what I wrote for both:

1) The little girl with dark hair was around 7 or 8 years old, I think. She had a wide smile that reached her eyes and ears. She had a red mark by her nose which marred the beauty of her face. She smiled and waved, looking like she wanted to approach, but backed away when I beckoned to her. This game continued, one step forward, smile, two steps back.

2) Papa, please. I am sorry that I did not please you. Marco pushed me and I fell down. I was angry. I was hurt. I did not mean to shame you in front of the white woman. She looked kind. She smiled. But I could not approach. Then Marco pushed me, and I fell. She got up and scolded him. I did not understand her words. She smiled at me. Papa, please forgive me if I did wrong. I wanted to smile with her. I wanted to play with her. Why did Marco have to push me? I was doing nothing. Why are you not angry with him? Papa, please.  Later the white woman did not seem mad. She held my hand. We walked through the settlement together.

Finding My Own Power

The third workshop, called “Archetype Journeys”  was led by Dramatic Adventure Theatre’s Artistic Director, Jesse Baxter out of a book called Acting and Singing  with Archetypes by Janet Rodgers & Frankie Armstrong.

Jesse observing the world in his usual thoughtful pose.

This was a powerful and challenging “acting” or “movement” based workshop where we explored three archetypes at once, The Wise Woman, The Honest Traveler, and The Dishonest Traveler.

I cannot put into words how this workshop impacted me, except to say that I found my center and I felt grounded afterwords.  The final part of the workshop was, of course, to write something, and this is what I wrote:

When you listen you hear
When you connect you share
but hearing only comes to those who listen
and sharing only comes to those who connect

I have the wisdom
I have the song
but I can only share with those who are true travelers,
who leave their egos behind and listen to the song behind the song.

When we connect,
power builds
When we share, love grows.
But power only comes with true connections
And love only comes with honest sharing.

I have the wisdom
I have the song
but somewhere I began to lose my voice
only to rediscover it with those who truly wish to hear.

When you listen you hear
When you connect you share
When you  give you get
When you love you live.

I am the wise-woman
and I have a song to share.

 Answers and Questions

So the only way to answer the questions is to say, “Yes and No”. The only way to understand where this journey has led is to wait and see where it leads me now.

The journey to Slovakia was the beginning, all I can do now is continue moving and see where it takes me.

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