A Week of Lessons Learned (and it’s Only Wednesday)

I called my daughter last night to say goodnight. She’s on spring break, and we aren’t, so she’s spending a few days at Grandma’s house.

This morning at Grandma's.

This morning at Grandma’s.

Me: “I know it’s early, but I’m really tired so I’m going to bed and wanted to say goodnight.” [Note that this was 8:30 and I had already fallen asleep reading. The only reason I was awake to make the phone call was the dogs woke me to go outside.]

Sarah: Oh . . . I’m . . . um . . . I’m scared.

Me: What? Why are you scared?

Sarah: Never mind, good night.

Me: No, Sarah. Tell me why you’re scared.

Sarah: Because of the bombs.

I wish I could say that I stepped up and had a brilliant moment of parenting at that time, but that would be a lie. As my heart broke and my arms yearned to take her in a never-ending hug, I tried my best to say the right things; to tell her I understood her fear, but that she was safe and that they would catch whoever had done this.

I tried to say the right things, but the words tasted like dust in my mouth, because in some ways they are lies. I cannot promise to protect her from every evil out there, just as mothers all over the world cannot protect their children from the bombs and bullets that plague them. I cannot protect her from every individual who somehow values his/her personal beliefs over the lives of others.

I cannot protect her from it all, unless I lock her in a cave and never let her out.

Last week I wrote a post called “‘Crood’ Lessons” , where I discuss some of the positives and negatives of the movie. Who would have thought that the lessons from that movie would carry over into this week?

You see, the father, Grug, tries to keep his family safe by keeping them in a cave. He only lets them leave for food. Yet, even the safety of that cave isn’t perfect. When he and his family have to move on in search of something else (in his mind another cave) he learns that its more important to live life than to hide in safety and never do anything.

“Never be afraid . . . follow the light.”

I called Sarah this morning just after I discovered this connection by writing in my Morning Pages. I finally had a metaphor to use to help her. I told her fear was okay, as long as we didn’t let it stop us from living. We talked about the movie. I think she understood.

“What are you all doing today,” I asked.

“Making fairy houses,” Sarah said.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

One of the fairy houses Sarah built for our back hill last fall.

Life moves on.

As it should.

This week is full of the lessons that we must learn; about resilience and life, about caring for each other, about never giving up, about kindness and strength. This morning I saw this  post on my Facebook feed, posted by a girl named Laura Wellington who was 1/2 mile from the finish when the bombs exploded. The words underneath are hers:

Please help me by sharing this! As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears. Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.

This post–along with  so many others that tell of kindness in the face of cruelty–reinforces the idea that we cannot hide in a cave and hope the bad things don’t touch us. No . . . we must face the sun, move bravely through life, and battle the evil with our hearts open.

Even if that battle simply comes in the form of building fairy houses.

Today I have this message and wish for you, my readers, my friends, my loved ones. I hope that you live each and  every day with love and joy. I hope that you raise your voices in kindness and together we can combat any darkness that comes our way.

Let’s all stay out of the caves and follow the light.

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.

At 4am

At 4 am
Darkness is
inevitable.

Not the literal darkness
of a world at rest–
for that is hard to find
as the lights of technology
bleed through
a constant reminder
of human vs. world.

This is the darkness
that leaks out of nightmare
where painful reality
joins forces
with the creatures who hide inside
gnawing at sensitive spots
until your mind screams wake up
or stay in a land filled with
creeping mists
oozing their chill
across the floor
while doomed faces
threaten you
with the failures
of your own mind
and the reality of a world
which prides greed and cruelty
over community
We all pay the price
When we wake into
the inevitable darkness of doubt.

True Confessions of a Fearful Artist

Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum.

I sit in a coffee shop feeling my heart beat as I try to find a sense of calm. In a little over an hour I will be at an interview for a directing job. Just a small college show, but my fears overwhelm me and I feel panic building.

What am I afraid of?

Once upon a time I believed I would be a famous director.  I thought I had the talent and vision to create powerful and meaningful theatrical experiences for even novice theatre-goers. Or, at least that’s what I tricked myself into thinking.

The truth is that my doubts ate away at me. That little inner critic took control and won. I didn’t have the courage to pursue my dream fully and I let the nay-sayers and the cruel manipulators who wanted to keep themselves on top push me down. I lost faith in my ability. I lost faith in my talent and knowledge. I lost faith in myself.

I still got directing jobs, though.  Usually through somebody else’s recommendation. Actually, that’s how I get most of my jobs of any type, through a connection or a recommendation–rarely through an actual interview?

What does that say about me?

Since moving back to Massachusetts, I’ve seen plenty of directing jobs, although most of them were near Boston. I used the hour drive (without traffic) as an excuse not to apply. You know . . . rehearsals would start around 6 or so which means I would have to leave by 4:30 at the latest to be sure I’d get there and wouldn’t have any time to see Sarah, etc. etc. etc.

But really what held me back from applying was fear.

Then this job came up, and the excuse didn’t stand. This University is 15 minutes from my house, without traffic. The play is quirky and interesting, written by a woman and with strong female characters. It relies heavily on movement, music, and, I believe light. In other words, all the things I love.

No excuses. I had to apply. I didn’t even let myself stop and think. I sent in my resume as soon as I saw the ad, even before I’d read the play. If I had procrastinated, the inner critic would have found another excuse for me to run away and hide in fear.

Which brings me to this moment of nervous tension building.

But here’s the interesting thing, since I started writing this post, suddenly my fears are beginning to calm. It’s as if words are my meditation. By allowing myself to blog, to share my words in a public sphere, I have slowly learned to be brave about all my artistic endeavors. The inner critic doesn’t have as much control anymore.

I can, and will, go into this interview knowing that they want me to succeed. They want to find the director who will be the best match for this project.  I believe that could be me, but if for some reason they disagree that isn’t a reflection of myself or my talent.

Sometimes what it really comes down to is personalities.

I no longer have the dream of becoming a famous director. I have other dreams trying to make themselves knows–writing and publishing novels; developing theatre for social change projects; becoming a successful arts advocate in some way; and other dreams that I have yet to put into words. Directing is a part of my life that I’m not willing to give up completely, but it is not the guiding light to my creative soul. Still, I think I need to confront this fear in order to continue to grow into the person I want to be.

Wish me luck.

What are you afraid of as an artist? What do you do to confront those fears?

 

 

 

 

Freaking Myself Out

NASA Sees Hurricane Sandy as the "Bride o...

NASA Sees Hurricane Sandy as the “Bride of Frankenstorm” Threaten U.S. East Coast (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

 

That’s it. I think I might have to take a break from all forms of social media for a while.

 

Why?

 

Because I can’t handle the stress or the terror that it creates in me.  Here are a few things that are frankly freaking me out:

 

  • First we have the daily inundation of political e-mails and Facebook posts that indicate the possible destruction of everything that I believe in. I am truly terrified of what will happen if Romney is elected. I know, I know, I said I wouldn’t get political anymore on the blog, but its the reality. I’m SCARED.

 

Please people, get out and vote.

 

  • Next we have the news about the Frankenstorm heading my way. Trust me, I believe in being prepared and we are doing our best to prepare. However, everyone else’s panic about every possible result is making me want to hide under the covers and cry. I am too terrified to follow the path of the storm. Add to that Mark’s brilliant, hilarious,  yet terrifying, post about the implications of the storm with election over at The Idiot Speaketh and I don’t  think I can read blog posts anymore. Is there anyplace I can hide?
  • Of course, then there are the fun forms of fear that I can’t help but watch at this time of year. I love reading stories with a creepy twist, like this one by Andra Watkins or She’s a Maineiac’s reflection on psychic experiences. Now, normally I love the chills and thrills and ghostly imaginings, but things that go bump in the night are too close to our current reality. I feel like we are living in a horror story of epic proportions, so perhaps this year I have to forgo the spooky moments and stay away from them all together.
  • Finally, I just can’t take the inordinate amount of stupid things being posted lately. I’m not talking stupid silly. Those make me smile, but the evidence about the pure stupidity of human beings. Hatred, prejudice, denying global warming, greed, stupidity about education, a girl shot for speaking for the rights of girls to be educated etc. etc. etc. I cringe whenever I look at a social media site. It makes my heart hurt for the world and makes me want to lock myself away in a fallout shelter somewhere only to re-emerge in a world that has come to its senses.

 

So what do I do? Do I continue to face the freakiness or do I hide away, sucking my thumb, hugging my teddy bear and writing about a world where things work out for the best?

 

 

 

 

Don’t Wait . . . Create

I had an epiphany in the middle of the night last week.

It was not a religious epiphany or something that can save the world. I awoke from a dream with a feeling of peace and a moment of clarity.

A clear view of the bend in the river from a bridge in Vermont.

I finally understood what has been holding me down from truly pursuing my dream to reinvent myself and create my ideal career. After several days of deepening depression and frustration, I broke through to an understanding of what is wrong and how to begin fixing it.

It shouldn’t surprise anybody when I say that the thing holding me back the most is

I am not talking about fear of the unknown, because my life has really been a series of unknowns. What I seem to fear is following a non-traditional path.

To put it more simply, while I keep saying I want to create my own career that doesn’t fit the mold, I still am using traditional methods to find work, praying each day that I will discover a job description that matches my dream job. I am still looking for a position that someone else creates and I fill.

But, in my moment of epiphany, a phrase sang out loudly in my head:

Don’t Wait . . . Create! I think this will be my motto for my new company, a company of one that I am giving birth to as I type each word.  I know what I have to do now, and I am beginning to plan. I am still scared, because I am wandering into a completely unknown world, where I have a lot to learn. I don’t really know how to start my own business. But, if there is one thing I do know, I always learn what I need to know to achieve what needs to be done. So I cannot let my fear stop me.

What are the next steps? I’m slowly trying to figure that out, and I even wrote a Hub about it (not a brilliant Hub, but at least I wrote something).

I know that one of the first steps I need to take is to really clarify what services I want to offer. I plan to market myself as a Teaching Artist, Theater Artist, Creative Thinker and Writing Consultant who offers individualized programming to meet the needs of my clients. I’m going to provide examples of things that I can do, such as:

  • Work with students of all ages to create a performance on specific themes
  • Use drama techniques in non-theater classrooms to enhance learning of specific subjects.
  • Work with adults with special needs to encourage creativity and enhance interpersonal relations, as well as build confidence.
  • Work with individual groups to find new ways of approaching problems such as bullying or effective ways of communicating.
  • Use creative techniques to enhance writing and encourage students of different skill levels to find their individual voices.

Whew! Those are off the top of my head. Do they work? Do they sound good? Would you hire me?

Here’s where you, my blogging friends come in. I need help! In so many different ways. I think I’m losing my mind. 😉

Don’t worry, I’m not asking for money, I just want advice and input. So, if you have any suggestions about how to achieve this momentous goal, please speak up, or even e-mail me.

I also have a fun challenge. I want to make myself an LLC but I don’t want it to be Lisa Kramer, LLC. I want a name for this company, and a logo. Right now the name I am playing with is “Eclectic Approaches” but I am open to any suggestions from this fabulous blogging community that has such a way with words.

Epiphanies come when you least expect them. Last week I was struggling through the dark wood, unable to see past my depression and my fears.That evening, I had hit rock bottom, hiding from my family in my bedroom and curling up in a defeated ball of emotions, followed later by a complete outburst of tears, anger, frustration, loneliness and fear. But the explosion opened the way for messages I needed to hear. I cannot describe the dream or the image that spoke with such clarity. I couldn’t even remember it when it happened. All I now is that right now I feel like I am on a good path.

I wonder where the path leads?

Photo by Sarah KramerLee

Highs and Lows

Yesterday I was on a high, single-handedly conquering the world and changing my life one word and blog post at a time.

Today I feel like crawling into my bed and hiding under the covers in a fetal position.

What happened between yesterday and today? I simply don’t know. I got so much positive feedback for my hub post yesterday, that I felt encouraged. But today I doubt my words and don’t know what to write about.

I know what’s happening. It is the entrance of the demon depression, or the ugly critic of my life. The creature that dwells inside of me cutting down my efforts by telling me I can’t do anything.

But this time I refuse to let the Inner Critic win. I am going to keep working toward the highs, while gracefully moving through the lows. But, I could use your help.

I picture a group of wonderful blogging buddies leaping to their feet saying,”I’ll help you Lisa! What can I do?” Perhaps that is just a figment of my imagination, but it sure gives a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

So what can you do? Well, you can help me come up with Hub post topics. What questions do you have about “Reinventing Self”? What would you like me to explore to help you on your own journeys? Or should I pursue a completely different topic?

You can also help me by following my Hub as well, and perhaps clicking on some of the ads.

Or maybe I am asking too much. I guess the thing that you can do to help the most is keep reading and keep writing and keep being the wonderful community that you are.

Now I have to try to get back on track, and get this roller coaster back in the right direction.

 

 

Here’s the link to my next attempt at a Hub post.

What Happens Next?

My most recent unknown started here. (Photo by Steve Kramer http://taochild.wordpress.com/)

 

I’ve noticed that many people lately live fearful lives.

There seem to be many causes for this:

  • The economy: which leaves financial security and career opportunities unknown
  • Nature: which leaves the question of the entire earth surviving into the future unknown
  • An aging society: which leaves us open to more unknown diseases and health issues
  • Overwhelming possibilities: which makes more people feel like something is wrong when their path to “success” is unknown
  • Loss of community: which makes people feel alone in the unknown.

Does anyone see the common word here? It is the unknown.

Many of my friends have been feeling this fear lately. Either in person or on Facebook, or even in the blogosphere, people are becoming overwhelmed by the unknown, as I was reminded reading A. Hab’s post yesterday.

I am no exception, but I don’t want to live in fear anymore.

I have been living with the unknown for several years now. Actually, I think it has been longer than that. I entered the unknown when I graduated with a Ph.D and then had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life. I’d achieved many dreams, but didn’t have any new clear dreams or goals. I moved further into the unknown when my husband, through the politics of academia, was not given tenure in his position–just as the economy crashed. So we moved blindly forward hoping to find a place to land safely and call home.

We landed on our feet, but we still live in the unknown because this does not feel like home. I am beginning to discover new dreams, but that becomes harder because I am now fully ensconced in early Middle Age. For some reason it feels harder to dream big when you have to support a family and compete against people half your age. But shouldn’t experience be more valuable than youth? You would think so.

Everyday I wake up into the unknown.

Today I woke up without a clue what to write about, and almost a fear of facing this blog.  Today I woke up without a plan, without a goal, without a known.

But, as I write this, I know that’s okay. I have survived the unknown, and I will continue to survive the unknown.

That’s the only thing I really know. And I think that has to be enough.

Would anyone care to join me on an exciting adventure into the unknown? I promise you, it will be exciting and take us to places we could never imagine.

And, to reveal my inner Gleek–Rachel’s song from yesterdays show really goes along with how I’m feeling today:

A SCARED CHILD

 

Wasn't I cute?

A tree beckoned outside the window of the pink bedroom, enticing me with the possibility of climbing out. I never did.

 

I’d like to say that I never did because I had no reason to escape, but that would be a lie. Every young person wants to run away at some point in her life, and I was no exception. I remember once running to the woods at the end of my dead-end street and sitting there for hours—or at least what felt like hours—hoping that someone would kidnap me so that I could simply disappear. Or at least hoping that someone would even notice I was gone. But that is the extent of my ability to run away, to escape. I was too afraid of life to ever really break the rules.

I’d like to stay that I never climbed out that window because I was “the good kid,” but that would be a lie. I was the “good kid” or the “goody-goody” but not because of any innate goodness or even fear of repercussions. My parents never beat us or anything, except for the occasional spanking (which was acceptable for the time period). The truth of my childhood, the truth that kept me from climbing on that tantalizing limb and going on unknown adventures, was that I was scared.

What exactly scared me? I think I absorbed the fears of my mother, who had somehow made the world “out there” be the enemy. Home was safe. Home was where others could not bother you or hurt you. I don’t know why my mother was like that, as she has never really shared her story with me, but I am sure that her attitude influenced my own. When I was learning to drive, she had me terrified about the first time I would take the car out on the highway. I avoided that task for as long as I could, because I was afraid of the fast-moving cars and losing control of my own vehicle. Even today, when I am on long trips and the traffic picks up, I feel those moments of terror that came from my mother telling me “It’s really scary, and very fast. I don’t think you should do it today. You won’t like it.”

I don’t know if those were her actual words, but they were her sentiments. I absorbed all the cautions that my mother instilled in me. Don’t get me wrong, she was not a horrible Mom. Instead, I believe, she was a woman who had incorporated her own fears in life, for whatever reasons, and passed those fears onto me. I was a child who wanted so much to be loved, admired, or accepted that I went along with the expectations of the people around me, and if that meant becoming fearful than that is what I would become. This desire worked in positive ways as well, in that I tried to do whatever my big brother did. If he read, I read. If he did art, I did art. My mother says that this put pressure on him, because he never was allowed to succeed on his own. Perhaps that’s true, but this is my story, as I perceive it. I am sure I have influenced people in my life in both positive and negative ways, and if my hero-worship had a negative effect on my brother than I apologize for that. My relationships with people, and my desire to please and be accepted by people has been the greatest influence on my own path in life, and so I must explore it.

I’m sure I tried to follow and duplicate my older sister, but the five year age difference meant that I was simply left behind, with no hope of catching up. When I think back on my childhood, I don’t have that many memories of spending time with my sister, despite the fact that we shared that pink bedroom until she left for college. The fact that the bedroom was pink was a minor victory for me, as she wanted it to be yellow. I think the only reason I won is that, by the time our parents let us decorate our own room she was getting ready to leave for college. The room would be mine for longer. I have a vague memory of my sister studying for a French test in her bed and telling me to leave the room so she could study, but that is my only recollection of being locked out of my own place of safety.

My relationship with my sister allowed my fear to grow; the fear of never being good enough. She was the popular one, the talented one, the athletic one, the one who boys liked. I was the little sister. I know, from surprising interactions with her as an adult, that she was jealous of me for other reasons.  But, I remember lying in bed on a warm summer night as she and her friends gathered on the front stoop, laughing and playing with joy and abandon. I wanted so much to be a part of that, and when I was older tried to recreate that. I never quite had the same relationship with the kids in my neighborhood however, because by the time I was old enough to have those evening adventures I was being sent to the “Gifted Program” across town. I didn’t go to school with anyone from my neighborhood. My sister, in what I perceived as her brave individualism, chose not to go to the gifted program when it was offered.

Looking back on it now, though, I wonder who was being more individual and brave. As I child I felt scared, but as an adult I see that many of my choices throughout life took me on a path undefined by others, so maybe I was truly brave.

 

My Blogging Education

Recently I’ve posted or commented a lot about the blog Free Range Kids, which questions the fears that we, as a society, have gathered around ourselves to create a solid cocoon of protection around our children. Reading her posts has made me think about my own parenting and the messages my daughter gets from society. Today, she added another one that has turned my world upside down Men as Babysitters: What’s So Scary?. Now, I’ve had no problems having the occasional male babysit my daughter. Her first babysitter, as a matter of fact, was male. She had one day care worker who was male, and we were sad when he ended up leaving the job.

The reason this post has affected me so much was because of my own post from a few weeks ago The Line Between Safety and Fear where I reacted to an unknown girl from my neighborhood asking my husband for a ride to school. My husband! I reacted in fear of a strange girl asking a man for help, even though I know that man is one of the most caring, innocent human beings on this earth. I gave in to this sick fear that has been created in society that every human being has innate perversion and darkness that is just waiting for the opportunity to leap out in the most repulsive way.

I know better than this!

But, our culture is perverted because we have let the lowest common denominator infiltrate our thinking in such a crude way. I don’t want my daughter to live like that. I want her safe and smart, but I do not want her to succumb to the fear that society instills in us.

So I would like  to thank Lenore Skenazy for opening my eyes again. I am going to work towards parenting without fear and raising a child who lives well but fearlessly.

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