Baby Sarah

My daughter is telling everyone that I am pregnant with a baby girl named Sarah. (I’m not.) After the third person at her school congratulated me on this fictitious pregnancy, I asked her why she was telling people this. She replied, “Because it makes people happy when I say that.” Yeah.

My daughter loves babies. She draws pictures of them all the time. Her second word, after ‘hi’, was ‘baby.’ When I told her I wasn’t having anymore babies, she cried big fat tears and asked angrily, “How would you feel if you wanted a baby sister and someone said you couldn’t have one?”

I told her I would feel sad.

So. There won’t be anymore babies in my belly. The how and why of that is long, complicated, and personal, but unless a baby arrives Moses-style on our doorstep (speaking metaphorically), my child won’t have any siblings who share her last name. I feel grief about this. I feel relief at finally being able to let go of the two tons of baby-parphenalia in my house. I feel down-on-my-knees-heart-swelling grateful for my daughter and the life we have together.

So, I’m working on trust right now. I’m casting out trust into the universe, into the cosmic web of connection. At this juncture, I’m trusting that if our family grows (if we even have the time and space to grow!), then it will grow in another, surprising way — perhaps even in a way that doesn’t include babies. Perhaps our family will expand to include animals (rescue pets? chickens?! goats!!), or neighborhood kids, or my daughter’s friends, or adult friends, or people united by a cause, or wise elderly folks, or amazing teams of people working on creative projects. My sweet friend told me, “you will be surprised at the ways souls come into your life to fill up the spaces in your heart.”

The spaces in my heart are waiting to be surprised.

I’m going to trust that my daughter will find her ‘soul sisters’ and ‘soul brothers’ in her lifetime. I’m going to trust that she will find and choose a ‘sister’ like my sister and a ‘brother’ like my husband’s brother. She will find and choose a sibling-like relationship if she needs one, and people will find and choose her. Already, she is lucky to have some wonderful (though faraway) cousins.

We’ll just have to wait and see how she creates and lives into her extended family TBD.

These days, as I’m trusting-trusting-trusting,  I’m also working with the notion that we create our families. I’m considering the idea that the families we are born into, the families we chose, and the families who chose us, are a construction built by the people involved.

And I am comforted by the thought that there is some latitude in thinking about how this will work for us — for the current three-people-in-a-household-family that I have.

(Yes, I know I’m really late to the party on this.) These days I’m percolating on the idea that my-little-three-person-household might loosen up our narrow thinking around what a family can be. We can make the rules; we can tell the story. We can identify the players and the relationships and the boundaries. We can choose the words we’ll use to describe each other. We can make a compact (explicitly or implicitly) to love and care for those souls in our extended family of choice, as well as in our ’traditional’ family. We can locate our village (“it takes a village”) and choose to participate in that village-life too.

We might still have a ‘baby Sarah’ in our lives — she just might be someone else’s baby we love or she might not be a baby at all (see above). We can fill those spaces in our hearts in surprising ways. This is possible. There are possibilities I’ve never considered before.

And I love possibilities.

What possibilities do you see? What is the composition of your family? What kind of a life have you created together?

One more thing:
This post is a meditation for me and a challenge to confront my blind spots. It’s an effort to dive deeper in my Year of Clarity and dig into the life I want to actively create for myself and for those connected to me.
Currently, there are legal and cultural definitions of ‘family’ that constrict and impinge on people’s freedom to fully, legally realize the families they have created. This post isn’t meant to compare my family’s situation to families who are facing shameful laws such as  NC’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. My family and I are privileged in many ways — in this case, my husband and I are legally recognized as a married couple and we receive those associated rights and benefits (including parental ones). It is wrong and deeply disturbing that these rights/benefits/legal recognition are not extended to all consenting and committed adults. Hopefully, 2014 will see that change.

Taking off the shirt

I’ve been thinking about an audition I had a few weeks ago — a fun group-audition focused on building ensemble, listening, playing, and following impulses (Yippee, my favorites!). It felt more like a workshop than an audition which left me feeling grateful, inspired, and relieved. The people in the room were super. It was fun. I’d like to say that I was great/totally nailed it/surprised myself/did my best/really went for it, but the truth is I was ok. I was fine.

So, in an effort to move myself closer to great/totally nailed it/surprised myself/did my best/really went for it,  I’ve been mulling over the audition and considering whether I fully engaged in those so-called favorites — building ensemble, listening, playing, and following impulses.

The short answer is: I didn’t. I didn’t fully engage.

I almost did. I often did. I wanted to. I tried, but I didn’t quite get there 100% all the time.

Yes, it’s hard to do those things. Especially in an audition setting. It’s hard to just be — authentic, in the moment — rather than perform what I think is desirable, cool, clever, funny, interesting, easy, whatever. But I want to ‘be in the moment’ more. I want to be more consistently authentic. I don’t want to perform myself, I want to be myself.

(Here’s the part where my internal child falls in a heap on the ground and rolls around dejectedly until she gets distracted by something shiny.)

I’m been thinking about a particular moment during the audition when I tripped over my ego instead of following my impulses as I was invited to do (Ok, there were lots of moments, but I only have time to describe one today).

It was the moment when I wanted to take off my shirt, but I didn’t.

(If this sounds titilating, then you can go ahead and un-titilate yourself, cuz this ain’t a sexy thing.)

During the audition, our group performed several rounds of a sound and movement exercise. We sat in a circle and individuals took turns moving into the center. The task of the group was to support the individual in the center by making sounds. The task of the individual in the center was to move in a way that authentically embodied whatever particular concept we were working on during that round — without premeditation or pre-choreographing the movement.

During one of my turns in the circle, I stood up quickly and took off my fleece jacket. My next impulse was to take off the shirt underneath as well (leaving me in my bra) and strike some grimacing, muscle-y poses like the Incredible Hulk.

But my shirt stayed on and my pseudo-Hulk never appeared. Instead I performed goofy fleece-tricks like swinging the fleece over my head and passing it between my legs and pretending to throw it at people and stuffing it up my shirt. It was fine. Whatever.

During that microsecond between taking off my fleece and deciding not to follow my first impulse, a zillion thoughts zipped thru my head (One of the problems = too much thinking! Right? If you are thinking, then you are doing it wrong.)

In that microsecond between trusting/not trusting my intuition, I questioned whether my impulse was weird and off-base and nonsensical  and whether it would seem gratuitous or show-offy (Look at me! Whee, I take off my clothes!).

In that microsecond between does-shirt-come-off-no-shirt-stays-on, I tried to remember what bra I was wearing, if my underwear were peeking up over the top of my yoga pants, and if I was looking bloated. (Would everyone notice that I haven’t gone to the gym in a looooong time? In this situation, would taking off my shirt make me a bad ass or a fool?) 

Never mind that I was wearing a bra on the poster for a previous show. In the moment, I freaked out.

In one tiny microsecond, my concern over what people would think of my creative contribution + my body anxiety knocked me off-kilter. I fretted about how I yearned to appear rather than just stepping into who I was in that moment. I was Incredible Hulk in that moment! Then I killed my Incredible Hulk. (Sad face) I didn’t trust that my 15 second contribution to the circle would be accepted and appreciated no matter what it was. I knew we were all just playing, just trying stuff, just being ourselves, just trying to have fun — I knew I was in a safe space with a group of warm and welcoming artists, and that this was no big deal — but I still couldn’t shake off THE JUDGE. I missed that luscious and rare opportunity to be in the zone, ride the wave, surprise myself, drop into lizard brain and just be. Bummer.

Also, those people in that audition really missed out because I can rock a bra. (JOKING! Seriously, joking.)

So that was 15 seconds of an audition, right? That was one kinda silly-hopefully funny-a little embarrassing moment in my life. Really small beans in the scheme of things. But it did make me think about regular ol’ daily life and the number of times I stop myself, squelch my impulses and pull myself back from being fully present. Do you extinguish your creative sparks? How often? What is the result?

Look, I know we can’t walk around all the time without our filters, just like we can’t walk around shirtless all the time. That would be inefficient and impractical and inappropriate. But maybe we have more leeway than we think?

I’m trying to do the calculation here….I’m trying to determine when the small beans become big beans. Because I suspect we all do this, right? If so, then what’s the effect of our widespread short-circuiting of creativity? What is the effect of so much not-being-present? What is the long term effect of discarding our impulses and intuition? What do you think?

I wonder how much we lose while straining to be too-cool-for-school rather than acknowledging our shared awkwardness and vulnerability. We’re all just working to make art and make life, right? Forget being cool, let’s just be real.

I wonder what is lost…. when I stop myself from reaching out, when I stop myself from taking risks, when I see others second guess their honest reactions, when I see adults reject the invitation to play even though their hearts yearn to be childlike.

I wonder what would happen if we all took a chance and whipped off our shirts once in awhile (I’m speaking metaphorically, but whatever floats your boat). I wonder what would happen if we were brave and creative and vulnerable and intuitive more often. Perhaps it’s worth some practice? Certainly, I need some more practice. And practice and practice and practice.

So, the audition….

In the end, it was all fine. It was fun. It was clearly thought provoking. I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I hope to have more. I’ll learn and grow and do better next time. If I keep practicing, then I will.


Beauteous silliness: 10 moments of fun and liberation

This is my tenth blog post! Hurrah! To celebrate TEN (and then the next ten and next ten, etc.), I thought I’d do a list of ten with a twist. The twist is that I start the list, and you finish it. In this case, I provide items 1-8, and you make suggestions for the remaining two. That’s fair, right?

My list this week consists of TEN things to do when you need an infusion of silliness, light-heartedness and laughter.

My husband’s face-paint artistry.
Silly fun for the whole family on a Saturday afternoon.

I have play-tested all of the items on the list below (and I do them often). I guarantee that they will crack you up if you embrace them and engage fully. I’m curious to hear what you experience, but for me, stepping into fun, ridiculous behaviors makes me feel free and light and open. This shakes me out of navel-gazing, pessimism, tunnel-vision, and faux high-stakes thinking. When I open to the silly, I feel more creative, and I’m a nicer person to be around. Taking a silly break is like putting credits in the sanity bank for me. Even better, all of the items below are most fabulous when you do them with another person. Being silly with others is a wonderful way to connect and to grow the love. Be free! Be silly! Be together! Laugh! (And make suggestions so I can complete the list!) Happy 10th blogiversary!


1. Draw faces on your body. Using a pen or washable maker, create a little character-face on your body. Give your character a name and a voice; then have a conversation.  It’s most fun to draw the face on a body part that you can open and close (for the ‘mouth’) like your hand, belly button, chin, the crook of your elbow, etc. Or just draw smiley faces on the pads of your toes or fingers and wiggle them as they ‘talk’.  Who needs a sock puppet when you can draw a puppet on your hand? Side note: In addition to making me laugh, this is also a useful strategy when faced with a stubborn child. My daughter is much more likely comply with the wishes of my hand puppet, Matilda.

2. Create ridiculous endearments or curses. Using your most syrupy sweet voice, say “I love you my [insert endearment].” So, “I luuuhhhve you, my little pumpkin nugget.” “I love you, my baby squid bottom.” “I love you, my darling fried worm.” Or, using your most melodramatic cursing voice, say “When the [insert something happening], your [insert something bad]” Examples: “When the geese return to roost, your cider will turn sour.” “When the baby crawls, your toes will fall off.” “When the sea turns black, your eight sons will ask for money.”

3. Dance like a robot, Irish clogger or ballerina. (This is assuming you are not a robot, Irish clogger or ballerina. If you are, then dance like someone else.) I highly recommend Herbie Hancock’s Rockit for the robot dance. Take a fun, over-the-top, performative approach to it. So instead of thinking, “Oh, I’m a crappy ballerina,” you could think “This is hilarious. I’ve never moved like this before.”

4. Have a silly face making contest. If you don’t have a person to join you, then make faces at yourself in the mirror. Very helpful when you are taking yourself too seriously. Count 1, 2, 3 — then make a face. Push yourself beyond the three faces you usually make, and try to use all of the 43 muscles in your face. Tip: The ugliest silly faces are usually the best and funniest, so don’t be afraid to go for the gargolye-look. Perhaps it’s best not to do this on a first date.

5. Change the words to a song or make up a song. Occasionally, to jolly myself out of a grumpy mood, I’ll sing a made-up song about whatever is making me grumpy; the tune is usually meandering and tone-deaf-sounding, but it makes me laugh. “I hate doing dishes. I sure doooooo hate themmmm, ohhh yeah, etc.” Or you can insert new lyrics — “Old MacDonald had a junky car. EE-I, EE-I, O. And on that junky car, he had a flat tire. EE-I, EE-I, O. With a psst, psst, here and a psst, psst, there, etc.” I know a couple who re-routes arguments by singing to each other opera-style. Singing “You are driving me craaaazzzy!” as Pavarotti can lighten the mood and still get the message across.

6. Do something wrong. For this one, you really need another person to witness (and inadvertently play along). Make sure it’s someone who’ll appreciate the humor afterwards. The idea is to do something embarrassing and pretend not to notice. Your face is a good place to start. Get some food or a pen mark on your face; smear your makeup; have your hair stick up oddly; cover your front tooth with a spinach leaf. And then talk with someone as though you have no awareness of your ‘look.’ The fun is seeing the other person’s reaction and (in)ability to deal with the situation. Other ideas: leave your zipper undone, wear two different shoes, mis-button your shirt, fall down and then hop back up like nothing happened, call the person the wrong name, refer to an object with the wrong word or a made-up word.  My husband recently tricked me this way by substituting William Shakeman for William Shakespeare; I got totally flustered as I tried to determine whether I should correct him. He has a Masters degree in Literature so I should have known he was pulling my leg, but his straight-faced delivery totally fooled me.

7. Talk like Yoda. Use Yoda voice and sentence structure to share your wisdom. Beautiful, life is, hmmmm?

8. Play the Up My Bum game. (You can substitute other words for bum, like butt or nose, depending on your audience and comfort level with crassness.) It’s a rhythmic rhyming game. I wish I could voice it for you instead of trying to type it, but it goes like this…”I’ve got a [insert something] up my bum, I’ve got a [insert something else] up my bum.” It doesn’t need to make sense, it just needs to rhyme. If you are playing with someone else, then you say the first sentence and the other person completes your rhyme. Examples: “I’ve got a picture FRAME up my bum. I’ve got a typhoon RAIN up my bum.” “I’ve got a green baNANa up my bum. I’ve got a Hawaiian caBANa up my bum.” “I’ve got a foot PRINT up my bum. I’ve got a 5K SPRINT up my bum.” You get the idea.

9. How about you? What do you suggest as a moment of silly fun and liberation?

10. And what else?

Did you try any of the items on the list? Did they make you feel silly and free?