Good fit bad fit

I’ve been wearing bras in the wrong size for over 20 years! Gasp! So, there’s that.

This shocking discovery occurred last Saturday, when I spontaneously decided to shop for better, nicer, less hateful bras than the ones I owned which were always annoying me with their back straps riding up or their shoulder straps falling down. My bras were distracting (and not in the good way). I wanted less ‘white noise’ from my undergarments and more time to think about loftier things than the wires poking into my sides. I decided to seek professional help.

[For those of you who are concerned that this is a post only about bras, please hang in there. In a few paragraphs, I really hope to make it about more than that.]

Jacqueline, my Certified Fit Specialist in Lingerie, set me straight in about two seconds. “Oh, tsk,” she said, “You are definitely wearing the wrong size.” Armed with nothing but a tape measure, her discerning eye, and extensive knowledge of all-things-brassiere, she set me on the path to comfort and freedom from bra-distraction. “This is a whole new world!” I said to her. And lest you think I am overstating this, think about wearing the wrong size shoes for 20 years and then finally slipping on a sweet expensive pair that fit. Ahhhhhhh.

[So, women, if you’ve got some spare time, get measured. Also, the Wikipedia article on the brassiere is really interesting. Thus ends the Public Service Announcement for bra fitting.]

Without Jacqueline’s good help, I could have worn the wrong size bra for the rest of my life.  I would never have known that I could be friends with my bra or at least not actively despise it. It seems trivial until you project out to all the other stuff that we shoulder on a daily basis that simply does not fit us…and that we could change to more comfortable, better-fitting stuff without too much hassle. Then we could feel Ahhhhhh so much more…

What really got me thinking was the fact that I’d worn something for so long that didn’t fit…every day for years! And on some level, I knew it. I knew I was uncomfortable, and I knew the fit wasn’t quite right, but I ignored it. I thought the discomfort was just part of the gig. I mean, aren’t bras cousins to the corset and control-top pantyhose and those evil-squeezing-smoothing shapewear Spanx-things?* When you put that stuff on, you assume you are signing up for discomfort and suffering for ‘beauty’ because that’s part of the deal. Oh, assumptions. There I was for so many years, stupidly taking on extra and unnecessary suffering because I didn’t think to question something that clearly didn’t fit me. Yes, suffering is a part of life, but geez, what a silly waste of time and energy to suffer the unnecessary mosquito-buzzing-torment of an ill-fitting bra.

So, questions come up. What else in life doesn’t fit me? What else do I do because I think I should do it or ‘that’s just the way it is’ when in fact, there’s another way? Why have I delayed addressing those things?

What small distractions have you been ignoring that could be fixed quickly with some attention or professional assistance?  What other ill-fitting ‘foundational garments’ do we wear for years and years?

I think of our daily routines and all of the small choices we make throughout the day from the clothes we wear to the food we eat to the rote phrases we deploy – “How are you? Fine. What’s up? Nothing.” I think about the way we approach people and interpret situations, and the rules that we assume are in place. I think about the way we care for ourselves and the way we present ourselves to others. I think about the assumptions we make concerning the past, present and future. Do those things feel good to you? Do they fit who you are and how you are built?

I consider what really fits and what I have simply accepted as good-enough fitting or as appropriately-uncomfortably fitting. And I consider whether I really know what fits me and what does not.

Are these questions that you can answer? Do you know what fits you and what does not? How? What are some examples of a poor fit that you’ve traded out for a good fit?

*There was a time in my life when I wore all of those shaping, constricting, smoothing garments, but I rarely do now. If you do, then I’m totally cool with that because you can do what you want with your body. I just don’t like feeling squeezed, frankly. Or maybe I’m lazy. Or maybe I’m more comfortable with looking whatever way I look these days. Or maybe I can’t figure out a way to explain to my daughter why I need to have a sucked in stomach all the time. I don’t know and I haven’t really thought about it until now — I feel proud just having figured this bra-stuff out. I suppose I could devote another blog post to exploring my disinclination for cramming myself into shapewear on a regular basis…but I don’t think I will. If you don’t wear a bra, then that’s cool too. I don’t care. Despite what certain politicians are implying these days, it’s your body, friend. Go for what fits you.

I want pizza: Losing ourselves in the Atlanta airport

The mother of all tantrums. You know, the one when you and your kid totally lose it? The one that you fear as a parent?

THE GIANT LENGTHY EXTENDED RE-MIX OF ALL THE PREVIOUS TANTRUMS TURNED UP TO ELEVEN ON THE VOLUME KNOB — THE MOST PUBLICLY HUMILIATING SCREAMFEST COMPLETE WITH VIOLENT FLAILING TO HIGHLIGHT AND UNDERLINE YOUR INEPT PARENTING – IN THE AIRPORT AND THEN ON THE AIRPLANE WHERE YOU CANNOT ESCAPE – DURING WHICH YOUR USUALLY LOVELY CHILD GIVES HER BEST IMPRESSION OF THAT KID FROM THE EXORCIST WHILE SCREAMING “GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME. DON’T TOUCH ME. I WANT TO GET AWAY FROM YOU. I DON’T WANT AIRPLANE. NO NO NOOOOOO AIRPLANE” – AND YOU TRY ALL SORTS OF CALM AND LOVING SOOTHING MOM-TRICKS BUT NOTHING THAT YOU TRY WORKS TO CALM YOUR CHILD AND STOP HER SCREAMING —  PEOPLE STOP AND STARE AND WONDER IF YOU ARE KIDNAPPING OR HURTING THE KID AND THEN THEY WONDER WHY YOUR FOUR-YEAR OLD CHILD WHO IS NOT A BABY ANYMORE IS COMPLETELY LOSING IT AND THEN PEOPLE GET OUT OF YOUR WAY AND LET YOU CUT IN LINE SO YOU CAN HAUL YOUR CHILD (WHO IS KICKING AND HITTING YOU) INTO HER SEAT AND YOU HOLD HER DOWN AND BUCKLE HER IN. AND SHE KEEPS KICKING YOU AND SCREAMING UNTIL YOU GRAB HER LEGS AND ARMS AND SAY IN YOUR SCARIEST MEANEST TEETH-BARED SQUINTY-EYED MOM WHISPER, “STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. STOP IT.” And then your kid stops screaming because you scared her speechless with your violent-sounding whisper. Then she starts quietly crying with very sad eyes. She says, “Mom, you scared me. I didn’t like it when you said bad words to me. You hurt my feelings, Mom. You broke my heart, Mom.” You unbuckle her seatbelt and she climbs into your lap for a hug. And everyone feels like crap.

You know that tantrum? Yeah, that was last Saturday. Apologies to the people in Terminal A of the Atlanta airport and to my fellow passengers on the flight from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham. I would have beamed us the hell out of there if I could have. And I tried everything I could think of to stem, re-direct, or wrap up our mutual misery, but this tantrum was a boulder rolling down hill — it kept picking up speed until it hit the bottom.

Upon reflection, on the scale of No-Big-Deal to Completely-Awful, I’d say that experience was 100% Completely Awful. Yes, she’s had tantrums before. God knows, ‘the year of living with a two-year old’ was full of fits, but this was definitely the biggest. And it was the second part of a horrible tantrum double-feature because the night before she had a massive meltdown during bath time. So, on airport-day we were starting with a rather depleted emotional reserve.

Next time we are in the airport, I will miss our connecting flight so that we can buy pizza for lunch instead of opting for the snacks in my back-pack. The decision to get out of the Pizza Hut line (which wasn’t moving at all and they didn’t even have the pizza that we wanted in the express area so they were going to have to cook a fresh pizza just for us and our flight was boarding!)…um, the decision to leave the Pizza Hut line was the precipitating and unacceptable incident that set us on the wild ride to Crazy Tantrum Town. Thanks for nothing and screw you, Pizza Hut.

Right, it wasn’t Pizza Hut’s fault. We’d just had a wonderful and exciting trip out West to see cousins with lots of fun activities and little sleep. We were both off our routine, tired and sad to leave family. We’re both introverts who’d engaged in a lot of extroverted behavior, and we both have some challenges transitioning from one thing to the next. Can you see what this adds up to in the Atlanta airport when we were starving for pizza but we didn’t have time for pizza because our flight was boarding and one of us is a four-year old who doesn’t understand the concept of time but does understand the concept of not having food? Yeah. I totally botched the transition from pizza line to airplane and then botched trying to explain it in a way she could understand and then it was too late so I had to drag her onto the airplane and scare her into silence. Bad bad Mommy.

My experience of parenting = one humbling experience after another.

On the airplane, in a calmer state of mind and firmly buckled in once more, my daughter began to repeat, “But if I got lost, then I’d miss my mommy,” and she’d cry a little. I couldn’t figure out what getting lost in the airport had to do with the hell we’d just gone through, so I asked her about it, and she’d cry and repeat again, “But if I got lost, then I’d miss my mommy.” [One handy thing about my kid is that she just keeps repeating herself until I figure out what’s going on. She gives me lots of chances.] Finally, I got it. “Oh, you were so mad at me in the airport that you wanted to run away, but you didn’t because you were afraid that you’d get lost.” She nodded.

Oh wow, even four-year olds want to run away and get lost…and are afraid that getting lost means they will not be found.

“Honey,” I said, “if you get lost, I will miss you right away and then I will find you. Don’t worry about that. It’s ok to be angry at me sometimes. And if you get mad or if you get lost, I will find you.” The the airplane took off, and we were on our way home.

Sigh. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

I get lost a lot and it’s scary. I don’t know if I find myself or she finds me or if I just wander around until things start looking familiar again.

My experience of parenting = losing and finding myself, my kid, my mind….over and over and over again.

How I want to be as an actor

This week we begin rehearsals in earnest for Richie, Little Green Pig’s all-female version of Shakespeare’s Richard II. I want to get everything I can out of this experience, and I want the people involved to get the most out of me, so I thought it might be helpful to set down some intentions for the rehearsal and performance process. Partly, this is an experiment to see what will happen if I start with an intentional list of ‘how I want to be as an actor in this show,’ and partly it’s an ongoing effort to clarify how I want to be in the world and how I want to spend the art-making time that I have.

You’ll see the list below. [It’s at the bottom in case you’d like to think for a minute about your own intentions before seeing mine.]

As I sat down to write, I discovered that most of these intentions have been floating around in my mind as a ‘personal code of acting’ for many years, and this list has been very heavily influenced by my time spent on the directing/production/writing side* as well as acting teachers, cast-mates, etc.. Since I’ve never written this stuff down before a show, I’ve been lazy and hit-and-miss about following the ‘code’ from project to project. As we all know, committing words to paper is helpful for accountability, intentionality, and mindfulness, so I’m hopeful this list will keep me on track. Writing it down also helps me sort out what I really mean and what’s important to me. I’m thinking of it as a work in progress…

I also wonder if most of the bullet points below are plain ol’ obvious and duh! — is this stuff everybody knows and everyone is trying to do? I’m really curious to know what other theatre-folk would include on their intention list going into rehearsal.  Do your intentions change every time or pretty much stay the same? Like mine, is your list really a combination of intentions and a code of honor/philosophy of acting? How has your list changed over time? Would you be willing to share?

And what do you think, people-who-don’t-consider-themselves-theatre-folk? Do you make a list of intentions before beginning a specific project or process? What might you include on that list?

As an actor and member of the ensemble, I will:

  • Arrive on time to rehearsals (Note: On time = 10-15 minutes early).
  • Get it done and move with a purpose – after all, we are on a short time-table. Learn my lines as quickly as possible so I can be off book. Learn my basic blocking as quickly as possible, so I can dive into more nuanced work.
  • Take care of myself and my health as best I can (eat well, sleep, exercise, etc.).
  • Have fun and laugh lots. This is a play, after all. It’s important work, but it’s just a play.
  • Take responsibility for developing a multidimensional character with a back story and relationships, and commit to clarity of intention and meaning.
  • Inhabit my character in the most truthful and believable way I can. Also, endeavor to be a bad-ass. [I don’t know exactly what I mean by that, but I think there’s a certain amount of bad-assery that needs to be present for actors. It’s certainly not arrogance or even confidence — maybe it’s about striving to be really solid and specific and fiercely focused. Or maybe it’s just a mind-trick to make me feel brave enough to get on-stage. I don’t know. It feels silly to write ‘be a bad-ass’, but it’s on the list.]
  • Use my body as an acting tool rather than as a source for actor-inhibiting-physical-hang-ups.
  • Stick to the words the playwright chose.
  • Be mindful of vocal variety in pitch, tempo, volume, emphasis and rhythm, as well as diction, diction, diction. And more diction. And communicate.
  • Be brave and honest. Stretch beyond what I think I’m capable of as an actor. Be open to direction, new ideas and improvisation.
  • Be generous with my scene partners and seek out opportunities to connect as characters.
  • Have meaningful conversations off-stage with everyone related to this production. We are a team, on-stage and off.  Strive to maintain and cultivate relationships with everyone who has a heart for this work.
  • Do my best to solve problems that are mine to solve. Try not to create problems for other people. Ask questions and ask for help from the appropriate folks at the appropriate time.
  • Remind myself that I am one piece of a complex and complicated work of art. Given my part in this process, lots of stuff will go on that I won’t be able to see. I will trust, be patient and manage my confusion if it arises.
  • Be thoughtful and aware of the message this play is sending to the audience; be mindful of how my values square with that.
  • Maintain a positive attitude throughout the entire process, even when I am tired, even when I am worried that it won’t ‘come together in time’.  Manage the anxiety that accompanies being vulnerable, being uncertain and being on-stage.
  • Always remember that I also have an identity and an important life outside of the rehearsal room with people who love me and need my attention. Be present, available, attentive, and loving to family, co-workers, and friends. Make this process manageable for those around me.
  • Say thank you out loud to everyone at every opportunity. Thank the actors, designers, director, production team, audience, my husband and daughter. Appreciate the gift this is, appreciate the gifts.
  • Aim to do my best, strive to learn and become better. At the end of the performance run: I will feel proud of my contribution, people will want to work with me again, and I will want to do this work again.

Whew! As I re-read the list above, it feels daunting to even partially realize every bullet point. Yikes, can I do all that? Well, we’ll see. I’m game to try this experiment and see if having a pre-rehearsal list of intentions will make an impact on my experience. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks in advance for your support.

*Cheryl and I do give our acting ensemble a document that outlines our hopes and expectations during our working-time together. (That document also includes a list of what the ensemble should expect from us as directors/producers/playwrights.) However, it occurred to me that I’ve never created a personal list of intentions for myself as an actor…until now.

31 questions and then some…

I love questions. In particular, I love making lists of questions. Perhaps that’s because life seems like a series of questions strung together over time [What are we doing? Where are my keys? What’s next? Why did I say that? Who cares? etc.] Making lists of questions feels really empowering to me. I guess that’s a positive way to re-frame my general confusion about the world. What do you think?

When I’m all muddled up and frustrated, I start pushing really hard for the solution to my problem. Thinking and churning and turning those wheels in my brain. However, almost without exception, I’ve found that find the ‘right’ solution is really about finding the ‘right’ question first. Easing up and focusing on the questions has been so helpful — not easy, never easy — but helpful.

Questions are my all-purpose tool to help expand my imagination, sharpen my focus, sort my thoughts and priorities, stimulate creativity, delve deeper into an issue, and occasionally arrive at an answer. Of course, questions are excellent for generating art too. For me, questions are the first step in getting things done. A better question = a better solution (or a better result or a deeper conversation or a more specific plan or more focused art or etc.) Has that been your experience?

What’s your relationship to questions? Do they help you?

To celebrate the month of August — or rather, to celebrate questions during the month of August —  I offer you a list of 31 random (hopefully, thought-provoking) questions, one for each day of this month. [I realize we are a little behind since August started last week, but you can double up for a few days. Hee.] The questions below are in no particular order and have no particular focus. Just good ol’ jumping-off-point questions for self-discovery and conversation. If you want to, use them as writing prompts, conversation starters, or opportunities for getting to know yourself during a meditative walk. Let me know how you do with them. I’m so curious! If there’s a question that you find particularly intriguing, then let me know that too. Perhaps that could be the focus for a future blog post.

For more content-specific questions, check out Story Corps’ Great Questions List.

Questions:

  1. Where are you going?
  2. What is the next book you would like to read? Why?
  3. How do you feel about your name? Would you like to change it?
  4. When people see you walking down the street, what do they think?
  5. What is your favorite place? Why?
  6. What makes you feel invigorated?
  7. What was your last nightmare?
  8. What do you forbid yourself to do or to feel?
  9. What can you let go of?
  10. How do you greet people?
  11. How do you spend your evenings?
  12. Why did you make that choice?
  13. Who do you wish to be?
  14. Where do you want to live?
  15. How do you feel about food?
  16. How did you learn to think?
  17. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  18. Who makes you feel important?
  19. How would you spend a day by yourself?
  20. What is the elephant in the room?
  21. How are you different now than 5, 10, 15 years ago?
  22. What is the first thing you disclose to a stranger?
  23. Have you ever been in danger? How so?
  24. What is your fondest memory?
  25. How do you feel about wildlife?
  26. Who makes you smile?
  27. What makes you laugh?
  28. What situations make your stomach churn?
  29. When do you feel authentically yourself? What does that feel like?
  30. What are you planning to do 5 minutes from now?
  31. What is the best gift you’ll give this year?

Bonus Question #32: What will you do now that you know something you didn’t know before?

Bonus Reference to 32: If you were an undergraduate female in the 1990s obsessed with the song 32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco (um, me), then this list might have triggered a yearning for that song. If so, for sentimental purposes take a look at the YouTube video of Ani singing that song, And Lyrics to 32 Flavors by Ani DiFranco.