- Made banana bread
- Made stock from food scraps
- Participated in a Zoom happy hour
- Attended a live-streamed event
- Added another video streaming service
- Worn a mask
- Cat interrupted a work meeting
- Cancelled a vacation
- Lost income
- Ordered take out/delivery
- Donated to a relief fund
- Donated to a food bank
- Signed up for CSA
- Cried for no apparent reason
- Online stress shopping
- Solo dance party/loud singing
- Bought stamps
- Tried and abandoned a new hobby
- Worked out a home using cans of tomatoes as weights
- Made homemade crackers
Let's check in on our coronavirus isolation cliches, shall we? In six weeks of isolation, I have unlocked the following achievements:
A Whole New World
Since I last updated this site, my life has changed quite a bit...and then the world changed. I'd rather focus on the latter right now. But I'll get the basics out: I have a regular day job now, as an editorial manager for the consulting division of an accounting firm. They allow me to work part time so I can still write and make art. It's like things have come full circle from the job I quit back in 2012, but really it's more full spiral. I've come round to a parallel point of a different, better loop--I'm happier, healthier, more confident, more secure.
The same can not be said of the world. There's a lot I could say here and probably will at some point, but right now I'm in week 4 of working from home and self-isolating as part of the coronavirus pandemic. I have it better than most. My job is secure. I'm financially ok if things go south. I'm in walking distance of things I need and am able to help others. Which means I'm going to talk about privilege.
It wasn't that long ago that I wasn't in a good place. I had years of living paycheck to paycheck and sometimes less. I went grocery shopping with a mental calculator in my head. I ate beans and rice or noodles with parmesan until payday. I felt rich when I could buy a mocha instead of drip coffee.
How I live now has a passing resemblance to how I lived then. I've inventoried everything with a long shelf life in my kitchen so I know exactly how long I can go until I have nothing. I couldn't get tortillas a few weeks back and felt like a princess when I ate two of my last four for lunch. I only have enough quarters left for two loads of laundry, so the sheets are going to have to wait for a couple more weeks. I'm having to get real creative about keeping myself entertained.
But there are two huge differences. First, I appreciate everything I have so fucking much. This is a partly a survival tactic. I definitely have bad days and dark moments, but overall, I have it good and am remaining positive. Second, this is a choice. Both how I am consuming and moving in the world and how I am able to appreciate it. This is where my privilege comes in. For me, now, at this point in my life, this is temporary and little bit fun. Tortillas were on the shelves in abundance last week and I could go back to making tacos when I want tacos. My rent for the month is paid and I didn't have to endanger myself to pay it. This is a crisis for the world, but I'm reasonably certain that unless I get sick I'll survive it. This is not true for many.
I want to use my privilege wisely. I'm not shopping for a few more days until people with monthly benefits can get what they need first. I'm making donations, mostly to relief funds and food banks. I'm ordering takeout from local restaurants once a week or so and I'm tipping big. I'm sending treats from local business that are running mail order to loved ones to let them know I'm thinking about them. I'm trying to extro- my introvert. I'm checking in with my people and trying to think about who might not have people. I'm listening harder. And I'm sure it will never be enough.
For the past year, I've been working with a collective of writers called The Metronome Society. Every month we pulled the name of a record album out of a hat or hat-like container and each of us wrote a short play inspired by that album. It was an exciting way to meet some new music and play with some new ways to find stories to tell. I wrote plays inspired by albums by the Dresden Dolls, Fiona Apple, Heart, Aretha Franklin, and Jimi Hendrix.
Now the Metronome Society is producing an evening of some of our work. Not only is my Jimi play Introduction to Experiences being produced, but I'm also directing the show, which will feature live music from the albums the plays were based on.
This project is just so much FUN! And it supports local, female, independent artists which makes it doubly fun for me.
Self-Titled: a live (theatrical) mixtape is running July 16, 17 & 18 at the Jewelbox Theater at the Rendezvous in Belltown.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of working with the smart and talented women of Mythodical Ensemble on their first ever MythFest, which had a short bare-bones run at the Pocket Theater in March.
Three local playwrights (Machelle Allman, Persephone Vandergrift, and Carolynne Wilcox) wrote three short plays inspired by Greek myth and I was asked to direct the shows. Unlike other "festival" productions of short plays, we created a framing story that linked all three stories and used an ensemble cast where each actor had a backstory that was resolved (for better or for worse) through one of the plays.
One of the most fabulous parts of this experience was how deeply audiences responded to the story that we created, even with almost none of the bells and whistles that tend to go into creating theatrical magic. No lights and limited sound. Just actors and stories.
So the great news is that MythFest is coming back! We'll be at the Seattle Fringe Festival on September 18, 19, 20, and 21st and we're returning to the Pocket's amazing new space on September 28th.
And fabulous is getting fabulous-er. It's been an absolute joy to see the actors (Carolynne, Machelle, and Jen Smith Anderson) dive even more deeply and fearlessly into their roles, plus we've added folksinger Abi Grace to the mix, who is contributing live, original music to the show. Plus we'll actually be able to turn the lights on and off during the show!
The show in March was amazing, but this is headed to a whole new level and I can't wait to see what happens!
You can learn more about the show here.
On Setting Goals and Failure
Confession: I hate setting goals.
I know that all the smart people say that you need them and it's not like I don't have things that I want to do with my life or the next year of my life or even today. But when you follow the SMART rules for good goal-settting (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely), you end up with something that feels to me rigid and stark. Either I succeeded or failed. There's no room for "failed but gained something even better" or "attempted but realized I didn't actually care about that goal at all" or "got off to a good start but then something surprising and fabulous happened that changed everything" or "went off on a fun tangent" or even "succeeded but left with very little feeling of accomplishment."
The goal assumes that I know the end result. It leaves little room for experimentation and discovery and surprise, things that are essential to me in my creative process, but I realize now were equally important when I had a corporate day job and had to do this for myself and staff I managed. Failure to attain a goal can often be more valuable than its success, not just in a "lessons learned" kind of way, but also in keeping ourselves flexible and growing. It's good to have a destination, but the best journeys have delays and side trips and sometimes end up in unexpected places.
Yet I wrote on Facebook this morning about feeling easily derailed lately and I realize that some of this has to do with a confusion of purpose. The things I have to do to stay afloat and happy at the same time are becoming confused and so it's easy to get off-track and stuck in the mud. So maybe some articulated goals are in order. Maybe one of my goals should be to fail at least one of my goals, just to keep things interesting.
Finishing a big project (as much as one can call anything finished) brings a rush of emotions: the exhiliaration, the sense of accomplishment, the relief that no one figured out that I'm a fraud who doesn't know what she's doing, the slow leaching of adrenaline from my body, the exhaustion, the joy of finally seeing friends and catching up on tv, the vague guilt that I should be doing something productive, the simple pleasures of having time for clean laundry and healthy meals, and then the boredom, and then the restlessness. What's next? Why haven't I started something new? What am I waiting for?
And depression has been messing with my head, pointing out how I've failed and who hates me and why this is the last cool thing that I'll ever do and it probably wasn't all that cool anyway.
We live in such a results-focused world and I'm impressionable enough that it's stlll hard for me to take time to fill the well (as they say in The Artists Way). Apparently, just living life, celebrating my accomplishments, and enjoying some peace isn't enough. And the silly thing is that I know that I will, in fact, work in this town again. Two awesome gigs are sitting right on the horizon. The fields are not barren. The time to recharge is now and I'm going to make every effort to make no effort at all, just for a week or two, so when the next thing happens, it happens from a place of joy and ease.
When I decided to quit my day job, more than a year and a half ago, most people reacted in one of two ways:
And although one of these responses was more supportive, they were equally unhelpful.
I was thinking about this recently after having coffee with a friend who is considering a similar move. I told her my story and I offered some perspective about what has and has not worked for me. One thing that I've realized is that the net does not just appear.
You make your own net. You are making your net day after day. It's made of your people (whether or not they can give you work or money), your skills (whether or not they seem relevant to the dream that you are pursuing), your experiences, your resiliance in the face of setbacks or outright failure, everything. Your life up until now is your net.
When I leapt, my net included a healthy saving account, some marketable skills to bolster up my less marketable skills, a whole of lot supportive friends, and my certainty that if this was a mistake it was at least the right mistake at the right time in my life. And guess what? My net has holes in it! I'm still uncomfortable with selling myself. I still cringe when I think about reaching out to people as "networking." And so I'm still knitting it together, tying knots, and testing fibers.
I live in my net and always will. In fact, I think I'm going start thinking of it as a trampoline instead--a place where I can jump and keep jumping no matter how hard I fall.
How to publish a website
A satirical guide to managing your time when publishing a website, assuming that you aren't someone who does this for a living:
I'm trying to redefine my relationship with the idea of networking. It's so easy for me to jump into thinking of it as something kind of icky and (as an introvert) completely exhausting.
Also, I'm kind of terrible at it. At one point, I would have considered this a point of pride, part of my romanticized self-image as a cowgirl who doesn't need no help from nobody, an authentic independent spirit who doesn't play by the rules, etc., etc., add your own image here. Trying to make a life as an artist and freelancing as an editor to pay the rent has turned that attitude around right away. But I'm starting to realize that networking is not only necessary, it's also really very satisfying, even for an introvert like me. Here's why:
Listen, I'm still not great at this networking thing. I'm awkward and kind of shy in most social situations. For me, talking to strangers, and thinking of myself as someone who has something of value to offer them, will probably never come naturally to me. But I'm working on it because I'm learning to see it as more than a necessary evil.
A Tale of Two Auditions
When I was a 16-year-old actor wannabe, I tried out for a community theater production of Brighton Beach Memoirs. It was probably my first not-for-school audition and to say it didn't go well is an understatement. It barely went at all.
There was one role in my age range: Nora, the beautiful dancer/cousin/lust object of the main character. I have never been the ingenue type and even if genius acting had spewed from my soul, I probably still would not have been seriously considered for the role. I was a rather intense, overweight teenager and I was, quite simply, not the Nora type. But I wasn't even given the chance. They asked me to read for the 20-years-older-than-me part of Blanche--while my prettier, thinner peers all read for Nora--and dismissed as quickly as possible.
Obviously, I was never going to be cast as Blanche either. The role was out of my age range and way out of my emotional range. But for some reason, the auditors decided it was more plausible to see me fail as a middle-aged widow with two teenaged daughters rather than as a pretty young woman. And this is one of those moments, had I been less in love with the whole ideal of THE THEATRE (and at this point, I really had no idea what I was getting into), that I might have given up. I might have decided that I just wasn't pretty enough and stopped there or channeled my bossy older sister energy into becoming a kick-ass stage manager.
But I kept going. I got training. I got experience. It took many years before I was even comfortable at auditions and even now they are an elusive beast: sometimes horrible and demeaning, sometimes fun and free, oftentimes just "ok."
Flash forward more than 20 years to about a month ago, when I had the best audition of my life. It was a standard "two contrasting monologues" for the season of a company I've never worked for. My first piece (contemporary, serious) was something I'd done before, but something kicked in while I was performing: a new unexpected and genuine moment of emotion. And then I launched into my second (classical, comic) piece, one that I was using for the first time. I'd been nervous and excited about this one. I'm still an overweight actor and physical courage and abandon came late to me: but the role demanded it. I threw my body around. I rolled on the floor. I used my embarrassing center of gravity to my advantage and it was fun!
The auditors were super nice and encouraging, but that can happen even when you suck. Still, I left feeling like I'd done everything that I could do. A week later, I got a call offering me a job. The role: Blanche in Brighton Beach Memoirs.*
There are so many lessons that I take away from this, and this post is already getting too long, so I'll sum up. For myself and other dreamers: be fearless. I mean, yes, have fear if you must. But please don't let fear--of not being right, of not being cute, of not being enough--stop you. Fail. Fail big. And stumble into your successes with grace and good humor. For the gatekeepers of others' dreams: give the weird kids a chance. They might surprise you. And even if they don't, do you really want to be the reason that someone gave up?
*See my Actor page for more details.
Talking about the life of a multidisciplinary "slash" artist.