Changing Life’s Metaphors

“Back to the salt mines,” Nathan said as he prepared to take Sarah to her before school math prep and then head off to work.

“What does that mean?” Sarah asked.

“I’ll explain in the car,” Nathan said.

Off they went.

Later, Nathan posted this article on Facebook. “The Salt Mines. Really??” In this article, Natalie Houston discusses the possible origins of the phrase, which includes the fact that convicted prisoners were often forced to labor in salt mines, with the commensurate risks to life and limb. She writes:

“Through metaphor, the language we use both reflects our perceptions and shapes them in a continual feedback loop. Each time you say something like “back to the salt mines” (which is usually accompanied by a shrug, or slumped shoulders) you reinforce your own attitudes about your workplace as being somehow like a dangerous mine where prisoners labor. “

This made me think about the metaphors that guide and/or  influence my own life. Over the past few days I’ve recognized that it is time to change my metaphors, or at least re-envision them. First, however, I must be able  to identify them.

Life as Journey

Walking a path.

Walking a path.

This is by far my favorite metaphor, as anyone who has been reading my blog for a long time might realize. I often talk about life as a journey. If you search for the term journey within my blog, you will find 143 entries that  somehow refer to journeys and the journey of life. Maybe I need to get some new material.

Anyway, this is a metaphor that I do try to live by, however it has its dangers. It all depends on how one perceives the journey. When I think of this journey as having a specific destination–as one with  a path that I’m meant  to follow that gets me to some mysterious endpoint–then I take less pleasure in the journey itself because I’m too worried about not getting to that point. When I can think about the journey as the destination–a meandering path that takes me to the next part of the journey–then I usually can just let my feet lead me wherever I am going.

I want to focus on the second type of journey.

Life as Speeding Train 

This is perhaps one of my least favorite metaphors for life. Do you ever feel like you somehow got trapped on a train that is heading toward an unknown destination without any stops? It keeps going faster and faster, and someone else is driving it. You have no control. No matter how many times you pull the emergency cord, the train will not stop.

Sometimes, for me, the train is a roller coaster car, speeding up and down at speeds that defy thought.

Have  I mentioned that I hate roller coasters? The last time I was on one with my sister, long ago at Knots Berry Farm I felt too short to be held in safely and was convinced I would fly out on one of the crazy loops. I haven’t been on one since, except for  the roller coaster of life.

When I lived in Japan, I loved the idea of riding the Shinkansen, because it allowed me to visit more places in less time. However, the difference between riding a bullet train and being trapped on a speeding life train is crucial to recognize. It’s possible to get off the Shinkansen once in a while, to enjoy the journey.

English: A Shinkansen awaiting passengers in T...

English: A Shinkansen awaiting passengers in Tokyo. Français : Un Shinkansen attendant ses passagers à Tōkyō. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“Another Day, Another Dollar”

Or in my case a few more pennies.

I thought  of this metaphor this morning after reading Houston’s article.  Too often lately, I’ve focused on the fact that I seem to work hard for very little  financial reward.

I don’t  like thinking like that. If my focus on life is on the journey, and the journey  is the destination, then I want to be working  on projects that fill my life with joy and purpose. I suppose the purpose could be to make money, but I don’t want  the metaphor for my life to be “Life as means to financial gain.”

Of course, I recognize that money does play a role in life, but it doesn’t have to be the focus of life.

It’s time to drop this metaphor from my life.

 

What are  some of the metaphors guiding your life? What are some of the metaphors you want to change? What are some  of the metaphors you would like to embrace?

 

The Search

“Live today fully and you create a lifetime of meaningful memories.” (Sophia Bedford-Pierce THE KEY TO LIFE)

The quote floats at the top of my morning page journal–a message from the universe to combat the sadness which wells inside of me the moment I drag myself out of sleep.

It’s a message I yearn to understand and to fully embrace, but something deep inside myself  questions whether or not I’m even capable of truly enjoying life. What is a full life? This inner voice asks. What is a meaningful life? This inner voice demands.

I have no answers.

I yearn to lose myself into the oblivion of writing about someone else’s life, but the characters are silent. I yearn to find my connection to that creative energy where the characters live . . . where inspiration lives . . . but it seems out of reach.

I yearn to lose myself into the oblivion of exercise without thought, where the mind can then open to other possibilities. For me that place has always been a swimming pool, but I don’t know where to go. So I try to tap dance,  but my feet don’t move correctly and I am reminded that I’m clumsy and awkward.

I take myself to my place of retreat. The botanical gardens that appear here so often. My intent is to walk and walk and walk until I’ve reached that rhythm of not thought where possibility has room to grow. Not possible today, as everywhere there are people cutting branches and trimming trees. A walk through the  gardens becomes an adventure in an obstacle course, with the danger of falling  limbs and the sound of saws disturbing the silence.

I did, however, finally figure out one thing that was wrong with my camera, and managed to get some beautiful shots. Flowers and beauty, but no answers, no peace.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I treat myself to  lunch there, and try to find my way through words. I end up grading papers and that is all.  I head back out and notice all of the older men wandering through the gardens, taking pictures, enjoying the beauty. They remind me of all the things my Dad didn’t get to do in retirement, before  Alzheimer’s overtook him. They remind me that he is no longer here with me, and can’t walk through the gardens with me. He never did.

Hiking the Robert Frost years ago (when Sarah was around 2)

Hiking the Robert Frost years ago (when Sarah was around 2)

I cry.

I return home. The radio filled with stories that I no longer want to listen to, about the bombers and wars and death and hatred and congress and I can’t take anymore. Just yesterday I learned that the boy who died in the bombing was closely connected to a high school friend. It’s all too close, too much.

I find no peace.

I return to find messages of kindness from friends. One tells me  to “Go out in the sun, and force yourself to write two pages about happiness.” The clouds have rolled in. The sun is gone.  I search for the words about happiness . . .

but all I find are these.

What do you do when you can’t find peace, or words, or that magic place of calm? What do you do when sadness rules?

 

 

 

 

Deep Thoughts by Lisa Kramer

No, my deep thoughts will be nothing like Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy. There’s an entire website dedicated to his deep (dark, disturbing, and sometimes downright hilarious) thoughts which originated on Saturday Night Live.

Do you remember those?

No, my deep thoughts are the thoughts of a brain that has been working overtime during the past week, but can’t seem to work its way out of the mire of thinking.

To put it simply, I think too much. I cannot move forward into some other kinds of writing or into planning if I can’t empty my brain off all the thoughts competing for attention. If I had a pensieve like Dumbledore in Harry Potter I would be pulling strand out of strand of thoughts out of my head just to give my mind a rest. But I don’t have one, so I must resort to a more mundane way of doing things (or is that a more muggley way of doing things?). I don’t have a magic wand . . . I just have the magic of words.

I want to use that magic except that I’m afraid, because the truth is that some of my thoughts could piss people off. Does that mean I shouldn’t write them? Or is it finally time to get all of this off my chest?

What exactly am I afraid of?

I guess my fear is not being liked. I still struggle with  wanting to belong somewhere, and here on the blog I’ve found a group of friends even if they are only virtual ones. I’m also aware that anyone who has dreams of writing and selling a book, needs to build a fan base. But what if my deep thoughts are too radical? Too opinionated? Or simply too difficult  to follow?

Yup, my thoughts are that deep.

Then I look at one of my writing idols, Andra Watkins aka The Accidental Cootchie Mama, who does not run away from the dark words and thoughts that sometimes haunt her. She lets her characters have a voice through her words, even when those characters and thoughts come from a scary place. Her fiction never fails to chill, thrill, and make you think a little about the meaning of  life. Perhaps I need to allow my deep thoughts to come  out  in the form of fiction, or at least I need to give voice to them somehow.

Even if they make me afraid.

Does anyone want to hear the deep thoughts of Lisa Kramer or should my voice remain silent?

Sometimes deep thoughts come while sitting on a swing and staring at the sky.

Sometimes deep thoughts come while sitting on a swing and staring at the sky.

 

The Buck Does Not Stop Here!

During my first year in my doctoral program, I was given a graduate assistantship (along with an MFA student)  that involved helping to plan a multicultural youth arts festival on the campus of the university. The assistantship was split between the theatre department and the presenting organization that booked events for the performing arts center on campus.

This Multi-cultural Youth Arts Festival brought 10 different performers/groups–ranging from traditional dance troupes to a professional theatre company–to perform simultaneously at different venues on the campus to elementary school students from all over the county that were bussed in for the event. The festival lasted 3 days, and most of the performances were done to full houses.

That’s a lot of children.

My job included: reaching out to the schools; writing and editing an educational packet that included all of the artists; scheduling which schools would see which performances on which days (each school saw two shows in one  day); and coordinating the student volunteers who would help run the event, among other things.  I was working under the supervision of a young arts administrator named April, who decided that she would give me any of the tasks that she wasn’t interested in doing. That meant I did a lot of tasks.

The weeks  leading up to the festival found me running around to deal with all of the last-minute details an event like this requires. Because there was so much to be done, I went way beyond the hours I was  supposed to work to fulfill this graduate assistantship (and I was scheduled for more hours than the MFA student), while simultaneously juggling my own course work.

Andrea, another one of the administrator’s who worked there noticed how much time I was putting in and asked what April was doing while I did all this extra work.

“Supervising . . . I guess,” would have been my response, although perhaps not those exact words.

During this time April also came to me in a panic about needing finish the layout/editing for another program that went on a few weeks before the festival. I agreed to help, but I asked for extra pay. I got it.

On the day before the festival began, when I was pulling the second or third 10 hour day, running around in the Arizona heat and sunshine to hang signs all around campus to guide people to the different venues . . . April disappeared. She went home. Her work was done as far as she was concerned. I broke down and cried, and went to Andrea (who had stayed to help) and asked for help.

Andrea called her up and made her come back.

In the end the event was a wonderful success. However, that was the final year of the festival, as the presenting organization pulled out for financial reasons or something like that.

The school’s loss.

I was proud of what I accomplished, and very exhausted. I thought I had learned through that experience that sometimes you have to say no, sometimes you can’t please everyone, and sometimes you just have to ask for help and say this is too much.

I thought I’d learned the lesson, but perhaps I was wrong.

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about that situation in recent days, as I face another work challenge brought on my an administrator who wants the world but doesn’t seem to understand the details of what it takes to achieve her goals. It’s not the same, in that I am supposedly the Creative Director of this program that I’m working on, and I’m not a graduate student. However, the administrator who  hired me and I have vastly different communication styles and visions for what this program should look like.

I  have tried and am trying to make the program fit her vision without completely compromising what I believe is right.  For her the product is the most important, for me it’s the process. I believe that a good process will create a good product. However, nothing will get me to the product she seems to be envisioning, with full lights, sounds, set, costumes, etc.

It’s impossible.

Now, I find, that whenever something goes astray in the program, the administrator puts it all on my shoulders. Even the things that I’ve done to try to accommodate HER vision, despite my own concerns that they weren’t the best solution.

Perhaps my title to this post is incorrect. Perhaps the buck does stop here, because I have tried to be accommodating when I knew it was wrong. Perhaps I need to learn to say NO! with more confidence, and to believe that my assessment is just as valuable as hers.

But she’s the one who gave birth to the idea and wrote the grant. I’m the one whose supposed to make it happen.

I don’t know if I can do that.

I don’t want to let the kids down, but I feel like I’m on a sinking ship . . . and I’m the captain.

 

Wishing for a Dip in the Creative Pool

“If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are  formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more  fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem.

[. . .]

The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity.” (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way)

Today my wish may seem personal, because of my own dreams of becoming  a published author along with other creative aspirations. However, this wish goes beyond the personal because of some things I believe. I believe that there is energy that joins all life. I believe in a common pool of thoughts, experiences, and ideas–creative sparks–that some are able to access better than others. That pool contains the essence of creation. I believe that everyone has access to that creative pool, but some have cut themselves off and denied their own creative souls. I believe everyone is creative, although creativity takes different forms and is expressed in different ways.

I believe that living a creative life makes life worth living.

This doesn’t mean  that every person needs to be an artist or a writer in a traditional sense. It means that I wish for everyone to be able to access the power from that creative pool in order to enrich their lives. I wish  for everyone to be able to touch their inner child–for children are much closer to this creative energy–or dip into their hidden dreams to embrace their bliss beyond the day-to-day exercise of living.

I wish that everyone had the opportunity to swim in that creative pool, because I also believe that if we can recognize the things that connect us, we can find new answers to the problems that plague us. We will be less afraid of things that are different from us, because we will see  difference is another form of creativity, another expression of meaning drawn from this pool of energy that joins us.

“Why should we all use our creative power . . . ? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.” (Brenda Ueland)

Sometimes I ask myself why I keep writing everyday. Why, when it seems like I will never break through to sell an actual book or to have my words read by more than a handful of people, do I keep trying? Why do I have pages and pages of creative writing, of short stories, of novel starts, of poetry, of journal entries, of essays that will never see the light of day?

The answer is  simple, writing is my way of accessing the energy within the pool, energy that connects me with all life.

There have been rare occasions when I so completely lose myself into the pool that I hardly know  the words that come out. Someone, something, some form of energy pours through me to write something that is beyond me,  even though it contains my words and my style. I love when that happens. I love when I lose myself to the flow of energy, of creativity and of words, and never notice the passage of time.

Some of my best work comes out of those moments. Some of my best blog posts have come out of those moments. For example, this piece of fiction entitled The Moon Calls.

Sometimes my dip into the creative pool leads me away from words and into directions I never expect.

The Storyteller

Today I wish that everyone would be able to experience the power of this creative pool and recognize what it really means . . . simply that we are all connected by the power of creation.

Who is ready to jump into the pool and go for a swim?

 

Wishing for Internal Harmony

I bet you thought my next wish would be for world peace.

I don’t want to waste birthday wish  magic on something that, at our present stage, is impossible. It’s not that I don’t want some kind of peaceful resolution to the conflicts that plague us, but that I simply don’t believe that humankind has developed enough to be able  to overcome our innate greed, protectiveness, war-like sensibilities, or our desire to define ourselves by an “us and them” mentality.

On an individual basis, however, I believe we can work toward peace and harmony. I believe that peace begins within. If individuals have confidence in who they are, what they believe, and where they fit in this world without trying to force those same thoughts and beliefs onto others, then they have taken a step toward creating a more peaceful world.

Today another good friend is celebrating her birthday. Tanya is an amazing woman who impresses me with her own inner confidence and  faith in herself. I wouldn’t describe her as peaceful (she’s more like lightning contained in a bottle), but her inner peace always gives me hope. So today I borrow from her birthday wish magic to wish for internal harmony for all.

Tanya and her son Eli two years ago, finding peace in the pool.

Tanya and her son Eli two years ago, finding peace in the pool.

This wish actually comes from reading a comment on my post yesterday, a comment that made me ask some serious questions about myself. Am I too close minded when it comes to religious extremists? Do I practice what I preach when it comes to not trying to force my opinion onto others?

The comment refers to a post I wrote a long time ago called “Hell is Living in the Bible Belt” where I express my disdain for the religious road signs that dot  the highways throughout Kansas and Indiana. I re-read my own post to ask myself these difficult questions. In the post I say that I believe in freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion. I also say that I envy people who have true faith because I’m not sure what I believe. In reality, I have no problem with the signs that say things like “Trust Jesus” or “Jesus is  love” or contain actual quotes from his words.

I have more of a problem with signs that say “If you don’t find Jesus you will burn in the  boiling fire pits of hell for all eternity!!!!!!” (Okay, I never saw a sign with those exact words, but you know what I mean).

I find those signs especially unappealing when hurtling  down  the highway in a machine. (Did I mention that Nathan, Sarah and I had a very near miss the other day, when an  accident  happened right next to us?)

I have the same problem when a fellow Jew tells me that I am not Jewish enough if I don’t ___________. In other words, I have no problem with people believing what they believe and talking about what they believe, but I do have a problem with being cursed or told I’m going to hell or told I am inferior because I do not believe the same thing.

I try not to do that with my own words.

Today a friend posted this on Facebook.

The message against bullying is one that I believe. I don’t think its right to make fun of others. I don’t think its right to make jokes about others. I don’t think its right to judge others based off of one aspect of their personality or appearance. However, I wouldn’t share this post on Facebook because of the last line. Telling someone they will be heartless if they don’t share the post is bullying.

Telling someone they are going to hell if they have doubts or don’t believe the same thing as you do, is bullying and threatening.

Telling someone that their love is going to damn everyone simply because you believe it is sinful, is bullying, and threatening, and unfair.

What does all of this have to do with inner harmony or peace? I think that believing in something is important. Having a moral compass and following  it with confidence is priceless. Having faith  in yourself and your thoughts and dreams is invaluable. However, if you feel the need to push those beliefs on someone else in order to validate them, then you have not achieved inner peace or harmony.

I suppose that simply writing about these things could be seen as an act of trying to push my beliefs onto someone else. Or teaching about arts and  theatre and their value to society could be seen as trying to validate my own belief system.

The difference lies in expectations. I don’t expect my words to change people’s minds or thoughts. I don’t expect everyone to leave my classroom passionate advocates for the arts. I do hope that my words or my lessons encourage people to think, or question, or wonder.

I don’t ask people  to think the way I think in order to be my friend or to achieve some specific goal in the after life. I don’t say “If you think differently than I,  then I will not talk to you, tolerate you, or have anything to do with you.”

Inner peace comes from the  ability to say, “I believe this, they believe something different. Their belief doesn’t hurt me, my belief doesn’t hurt them. That is all.”

Now, I’m not saying I’ve achieved this inner peace. If I had, I wouldn’t have worried about the comment on my post, or worry at all about what other people think of me. I would just be who I am.

That is why I make this wish today. I wish for all of us to achieve inner harmony. To find that place inside ourselves where we can be content with who we are without trying to change anyone else or justify our beliefs on the backs of someone else. Only through that could we ever hope for world peace.

 

 

Celebrating the Craziness

I have been unable to continue the celebration for the past few days (week) due to the unexpected demise of my computer which lead to the unintentional (but necessary) purchase of a new one and the wait for it to get loaded and things like that.

All of this happened, of course, just two weeks after  the unexpected demise of a car and the  unintentional (but necessary) purchase of a new one.

In other words, just when I thought we were back on track financially, craziness ensued. So today, as the final entries in my list of 45 things to celebrate about my life, I have decided to celebrate some of the craziness.

36. The crazy day my Mom sprinted across the airport to get my wallet/purse to me on a plane, back in the  days when an O.J. Simpson-like sprint through the airport was allowed, and Simpson himself wasn’t a criminal. For the long version of this story read, Telling My Own Story . . . it Begins.

37. The crazy day in Japan which started with  me in a kimono learning tea ceremony, and ended with me dancing in the arms of a man dressed as a woman under the watchful eye of the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). For the long version of  this story read A Strange Day in Japan.

38. The crazy 10-day canoe trip during the time I was getting my MFA at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. I mentioned that I had taken some courses in puppetry, which inspired the leader of the trip  to challenge the group to create sock puppets and perform in the middle of nowhere. Each person had to create a sock puppet of another member of the group. Truly bizarre.

Photo by Steve Kramer

Photo by Steve Kramer

39. The crazy fact that in the first seven years of our relationship (5 dating, 2 married) Nathan and I never spent a full year together, as one  or the other of us traveled or lived in other places. Even now, we spend about a month apart or more each year.

40. The crazy fact that, despite multiple moves and yard sales related to those moves, I cannot let go of boxes of books that I’ve gathered over the years,  some of which I’ve never read. I really need to let them go.

41.The crazy fact that, other than Canada, Nathan and I have never gone to another country together despite all of our separate travels, multiple journeys to Hawaii, and dreams of travel.

42. Related to number 41, the reality that every time we (or I) had an interesting opportunity to travel internationally, life would come crashing down on us making it impossible for me to go. Goodbye trip to Russia. Goodbye trip to Ecuador. One of these days.

43. I sleep with stuffed animals. Enough said.

44.My hair has a crazy mind of its own, curling one day, straight the next, and taking over the world another time.

45. Last, but not least. Me, Myself and I!

picture003

Celebrating Words

I believe that I am now on #35 of my Celebrating 45 list. Peppered throughout the list you will see my love of reading/writing/and language of all sorts.

Today, I want to celebrate the importance of words in my life. It has taken me a long time to admit this. I still blush or stumble when I try to claim it in person, but here goes . . .

I am a writer!!!

My love of words goes beyond written language. I love hearing and seeing language used with power and flexibility. I am addicted to Podcasts and TED talks, where master’s of the arts of writing and speaking fascinate their audiences with perfect phrasing, eloquent language, and an ability to manipulate language for sound and meaning A memorable phrase that lives beyond the moment of reading or hearing it, gives me chills. I thrill in those rare and wonderful moments when my own words–through some source outside myself–come together to create that indescribable perfection of consonants, vowels, and phrasing.

I just finished reading Don’t Let Me Go  by Catherine Ryan Hyde (excellent book with wonderful characters and plot that makes you want to know more).  Two sentences of hers made me yell (in my mind) “That’s it!!!”:

“Hard work can sometimes substitute for natural ability, but natural ability almost never makes up for not being willing to do the work.” (pg. 149)

“Sorry doesn’t mean shit. Not if you don’t plan to stop doing the thing you’re so sorry about. There has to be more to amends than just a word.” (pg. 406)

However, this post isn’t about celebrating other people’s words, as fabulous as they may be.

This is about celebrating words in my own life.

In 1978, when I was 10 years old,  I sat mesmerized and terrified by the television mini-series The Holocaust. 

This was in the midst of my own Hebrew School years, and the crucial years leading up to my Bat Mitzvah. Although I have since lost some of the religious beliefs, being a Jew was (and to some extent still is) an important aspect of my life at that time.

At a Hebrew School meeting after the series aired, the Rabbi met with all the classes to discuss what we had seen. I raised my hand and said, “It made me scared to be a Jew, but prouder than ever to be a Jew.”

On Saturday morning (I’m told–I would have been at the children’s service if I was there) the Rabbi used my words as part of his reflection during the service. This was the moment that I became aware that the right choice of words–even when you don’t know that they are the right words–can be magical, powerful and reach beyond the pages or the circumstances where they’ve been created.

My journey through writing started in school, with my first poems written in 1st grade along with a puppet play. My first book was a collection of poems and short stories that I hand-lettered and illustrated as a project in sixth grade, for another fabulous teacher who influenced my life named Mrs. Jorgensen. My first published work was a poem written bout a piece of art in a museum, that then got placed into some kind of literary magazine someone put out.

I have numerous starts and starts of stories, novels, poems etc. scattered throughout journals and gathered in three-ring binders. Throughout my life I’ve found solace and friendship in words, probably more than anyone even knew. Because of this it makes sense to me that when life began to fall apart around me (for reasons I won’t go into here) I turned to words–writing my first real book, joining a book club, and creating  a small writing group. The two women from that writing group convinced me to take the step into a then unknown world, the one of blogging. Over 756 posts (spread across several blogs) and thousands if not millions of words later, my life is filled with words. Some of them sing with the beauty I yearn for, but most of them are mundane and some are even cliché. However, words fill my life and sustain me, so a celebration of my life would not be complete without celebrating the words that fill it.

What are some of your favorite words? What quotes live on in your memory?

 

Celebrating Fears Faced

When I was in high school, I was accepted as a Rotary exchange student and was invited to go to Belgium for the year. I let the fears of others rule my decision and I stayed home.

That is one of my biggest regrets in life.

As I matured, I began to realize that letting fear stop you from taking chances means giving up on a lot of dreams and on living. I tried, when faced with fear, to push through it and face the fears. I wasn’t always successful, but I grew stronger and more courageous with each attempt, or so I thought.

Yet, something shifted again after I became a mother. Suddenly fear has control over me again, and more often than not I give into those fears. Fear of trying to publish. Fear of making friends. Fear of taking chances. I think this new hold FEAR has on me has something to do with the fact that my life is not my own–my decisions affect Nathan and Sarah. I can’t just pick up, take off, and take chances.

Yet, as I approach this birthday (Eek! The actual day is tomorrow) I find myself yearning to become the person who does not let fear stop her anymore. After I graduated from college and was on the job hung (following a one year internship at a theatre) I had two interesting options on the table:

  1. The more practical option of working for a Canada based Arts Administration Organization that sent people throughout North America to help arts organizations with reorganization and planning. This would have probably led to a solid career in Arts Administration and or Arts Advocacy (one thing I would still love to do ) and–more often than not in recent years ;)–I’ve thought being Canadian wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
  2. A job teaching at an English conversation school in Okayama, Japan.

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time (or even just the first of the celebratory posts), you know where I ended up.

In Japan in my early 20s.

Yet, the decision to go to Japan was not an easy one. It was a fear-filled one. It took some words of wisdom from one of the actors at the theatre company I was working out to help me make a choice. He said,

“There are no wrong decisions. There are choices that can go badly, but they always lead to the next decision.”

I tried to make those the guiding words of my life. This doesn’t mean we never make mistakes, but if we face those mistakes head on–despite our fears–we will make it through to new opportunities, new decisions, and new moments to face our fears.

So today I celebrate the moments in my life when I faced my fears and moved through them. Among those moments, I celebrate the day I got on a plane, headed for a country I’d never been to a job I never thought of, and cried my way from Boston to California before sitting in sleepless fear from California to Japan.

I hope someday to be that courageous again.

Celebrating Projects

This (long-ish) list of mine is making me take trips into memory and thing pop into my head. I find myself remembering with a smile or a groan some of the interesting and obscure creative projects I’ve participated in, with people of all ages. So today, for #32, I celebrate some of those moments.

History Comes to Life

The first one that popped into my head has led me on a futile search for some record of another amazing person in my life. When I was a Sophomore in high school, I had a wonderful teacher named Rita Smith (who would a few years later be named the Time Magazine teacher of the year). She taught social studies, and as a class project we created a living chess tournament using characters from history (The War of the Roses) as our chess pieces. I, along with a fellow student, wrote the script for the tournament, which we then submitted for the state history competition, and made it to the semi-finals I believe. We all performed the living chess play/tournament in Boston, dressed in costume and enjoying every moment. This was one of the moment I saw the power of theatre as a teaching tool, but also the influence of an incredible and creative teacher on making learning an enjoyable and memorable experience. To this day, I strive to create opportunities like that in everything I do. I spent the day trying to find out where Rita Smith is now, but haven’t found any information. I’d like to say thank you, if I could. (Any Brockton High School alums who may read this . . . do you know where she is?)

Mystery on a Train

When I lived in Vermont, one summer I taught a summer camp at the Burlington Center of the Arts that was called “Mystery on the Flyer.” The kids who participated created a murder mystery that we performed on a moving train in Burlington. It was fun. It was fabulous. It was an adventure.

We met all the characters in the train station first, then we got on the train and the mystery began.

We met all the characters in the train station first, then we got on the train and the mystery began.

G.O.A.L Reached

While living in Durango, I worked on several projects geared toward grades 5-8 that I found rewarding. One was the Girl’s Opportunities in Arts and Leadership, where I helped some middle school girls find their voices through writing and onstage. I love mentoring girls. I also worked with a group f 5th graders as an Improvisation coach for a Destination ImagiNation competition which combines science, theatre and social studies. They placed fourth in the state and were a wonderful group of kids.

Creativity is for Everyone

In Kansas I worked on a program that I’ve written about elsewhere in this blog, providing an arts/drama workshop for a group of adults with developmental disabilities. That will always remain one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

Combating Hatred

If you read any of my posts about Slovakia, and working with the Roma you know how special and influential that experience was, and how much I hope to find a way to continue with projects like that.

Students Who Think

Over the years, I’ve managed to inspire or challenge some of my students to take their learning beyond the classroom. There was the one who decided to create a piece of invisible theatre in the campus center protesting the abuse of women around the world; there was the class (last semester) who decided to do a flash mob of sorts exploring the issue of sleep deprivation and stress around exam time.

There were Honors students who became inspired by something I taught  and pursued that as their project.  There was the Japanese student in my conversation class who took my discussion of poetry back to his college classroom to share. There was the student who took a chance and applied for a transfer at her dream school, partially because of a discussion with me (she’ll be graduating from Emerson in May). The list of students who have inspired me because of their passion, and of whom I feel like I’ve helped inspire as well, is ever-changing and growing. I’m honored to have been even a small part of their journey.

While I still sometimes look at my career and say, what have I done? I don’t have a big name in my field. I’m not famous. I never became the well-known director I had dreamed of becoming, it’s these smaller moments and short-term projects (a list which could contain many other examples) that I cherish.

What are some of the work/project experiences in your life that you hold dear?

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: