The Fast and the Focuséd

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Captain’s Blog - Stardate 92018.4

Yesterday was my third full day in LA and was also Yom Kippur. I decided to fast this year, which sounds less dramatic than it was. Though I did joke with my roommate that if he didn’t agree to get dinner with me, I might eat his dog before he got home. With proper pressure applied, we broke the fast over some amazing street tacos at Merced’s in Long Beach. 

Instead of going to schul during the day, I went back to the SAG-AFTRA office. This was my second day there. Day one I attended an introduction to the new Short Project Agreement (SPA), which is replacing the low-budget short film agreement and is the perfect contract for one of the top projects on my list of things to do.

However, on Yom Kippur, I attended the SAG-AFTRA member orientation. Granted, I’ve been a member since 2014, but it’s nice to check in and review all the reasons why I am a proud union member, and also ways I can be a better, more involved union member in the coming year. 

There was also some great opportunities, programs, seminars and resources I learned about in the LA local that we don’t have access to, or as much access to, in Chicago. 

It was a three hour seminar, as well as about two and-a-half hours in the car round trip (there was an overturned semi truck that lost it’s cargo container on the 405).

(I’m one of these people now.)

So, with all that time to sit and contemplate, it was kind of like I was in temple for the Yom Kippur service. It was long, I couldn’t go anywhere, and I had a lot of time to think. And I did a little thinking about this time of year.

“To those I may have wronged, I ask forgiveness.

To those I may have helped, I wish I had done more.

To those I neglected to help, I ask for understanding.

To those who helped me, I sincerely thank you.”

We are supposed to say, "Gmar Chasima Tova” during this time, which essentially wishing that the fate that is written on Rosh Hashanah for the coming year is a good one. The period between Rosh Hashanah and the end of Yom Kippur is one’s opportunity to change what’s written for the better. 

I don’t know if I atoned “enough” to change “what’s written,” if such a thing exists. I know I made mistakes in 5778. I also know I made a lot of changes this first week of 5779. I came here with a lot of good wishes and a lot of support. I feel very blessed and very loved.

I’ve also been listening to Legally Blonde: The Musical on repeat and the song that resonates with me the most right now is “Chip on Your Shoulder.” In particular…

“There's a chip on my shoulder
And it's big as a boulder
With the chance I've been given
I'm gonna be driven as hell
I'm so close I can taste it
So I'm not gonna waste it
Yeah, there's a chip on my shoulder
You might wanna get one as well.”

So, with that thought and intention I reinvest and recommit to 5779. This blog may be a little all over the map, but my focus is not. With this chance I’ve been given, I’m gonna be driven as hell.

Just you wait.

On the Road Again

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate 91818.2

I had forgotten how much I love driving. Commuting via bus, train, and shoe leather these past ten years, I still have not found a way to stay as present as I am while driving. My mind tends to wander when I was on the Brown Line for an hour and, as much as I’d like to say I am a master of mindfulness, these thoughts had a habit of compounding each other.

Something happens when I’m driving, though. Especially when the traffic is moving well. When I did have a car in Chicago, there was something magical about driving just a bit over the speed limit, windows down, music going, wind making it’s way through my hair.

Yesterday, I assumed a lease for my first car in at least five years. Even when I had a car in my household, my ex-husband used it primarily to get to the suburbs for work. So, it had been the CTA for me for nearly ten years, with rare exception.

Enter Fair

Fair is a new app that provides the user with the option to lease a car, at a great price, on an “as needed” basis. The payments are monthly, but with five days notice, the car can be returned at any time. Any days paid for will be prorated back to the user

Once your information is approved, you can search in your desired area by type, price, and a few other filters. Select, check boxes for certain “upgrades,” and follow the remaining prompts. There’s even an option for insurance provided by Fair. Some leases start before tax at under $200.

So, I am now the proud leaser of a 2017 Hyundai Accent that is one of my favorite shades of blue. In my family, the naming of cars is is pretty standard. My mother’s car is named Finn. The car I got my senior year of college I names Weyoun 9. (Please comment and let me know if you get the numerical reference). 

This metallic, sparkling blue had already triggered me to recall the 80s cartoon “SilverHawks.”

Unfortunately, most of them are grey, and one is copper. But ONE is blue, and he’s this handsome, hyper-masculine cowboy with a red ‘kerchief and cowboy hat. He plays a mean riff on the guitar. So, “Bluegrass” it is. He moves well, doesn’t get great gas mileage, but he’s mine.

And especially since I was so eager to get to a SAG-AFTRA workshop on New Media Contracts SO early that I arrived 25 hours before it started, we got to know each other quite well yesterday. He’s got a USB interface for my iPhone to keep it both charged and play my music directly. I bought a dashboard stand to hold my phone for navigation.

LA Traffic? I’m coming for you

Move In and Get Moving

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate 91718.4

As the clock ticked down toward my departure to O’Hare, I realized there were still a few pairs of shorts, socks, and charger cords I needed and I was out of suitcase/backpack space. So, this [redacted] year old adult grabbed a Trader Joe’s grocery bag, tossed the last few items in, waved goodbye for now to my home of almost ten years, and dashed out the door to meet the Uber. Little did I know how necessary this bag would be.

I checked in for my United flight and, upon checking my bag, realized that the result of spring-loading one’s socks and underwear is a suitcase that was ten pounds overweight. I wasn’t too worried. One checked bag is $25, so of course an overweight bag would be $50, right?

Wrong. Grand total: $125.

In lieu of that, the woman behind the counter encouraged me to see if I could lose some weight…from my suitcase. So, with a line behind me, she watched as I dropped pairs of jeans on their scale to reach the desired 10 pound loss. We made it, and the crowd continued to watch as I forced these “extra” clothes into that same grocery bag. #adulting

The rest of the travel process went without incident. I landed at LAX, found my bag, and met my friends easily. Then the day began.

It started with lunch ant Cantor’s Deli. Those of you who know my relationship with The Bagel know I love a Jewish deli. Their menu was quite extensive, and I landed on a smoked salmon benedict over potato pancakes. The meal was marvelous, if a bit rich.

We checked out the “Kill Dolls” funky clothing store and then were off to the most magical place in LA…Target. Toiletries and such were purchased and then we explored the nearby outdoor mall, The Americana in Glendale. Opulent, beautiful, and packed. For Chicagoans…think Oak Brook Mall designed by the Disney Corp. 

A few more errands and we were off to dinner with an old friend from high school. “Manti” in Studio City is a lovely Armenian restaurant which serves, among other delectables, the dumpling dish it’s named for. The food was exquisite and the company equally fulfilling.

After dinner, we got back to my friends’ place. We unloaded the car and I unpacked in my new room. A fun surprise? A plush stuffed Lt. Commander Data was waiting on my bed when I arrived. 

Once I was settled in, I went to lie down on my bed and to take stock of the day. Their dog, a medium-small, two year old pup with a bow tie, popped in and cuddled up next to me. I laid there, taking in my new room, as my friend of twenty-five years strummed lightly on his guitar. It was the perfect closing scene of the first episode of this new season.

Can You Hear the Whisper?

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Captain's Blog: Stardate 072618.6

Everybody wonders what creativity feels like. “How do you know when it’s right? What is the physical sensation of inspiration?” I’ll give a different answer every time.

“It tickles. Like when your new boyfriend sneaks up on you and dances his fingers along your sides.”

“It burns like you fell asleep on the beach and no one came by to roll you over.”

“It’s chills. Your hairs stand on end like the AC just kicked on or someone walked across your grave.”

But to be perfectly honest it is simply none of those things. At least for me.

No, my creative experience feels very different. Mine starts as a whisper. Someone is speaking with my voice just off and behind my right ear. I hear myself articulating an idea that I’ve never thought about before. Fashioning words into sentences, paragraphs into pages, and suddenly I have given birth to a new life.

Whispers.

But there are times that I cannot hear this voice. The din of the necessities of everyday life simply overpowers the whisper.

And I have a choice to make. Will I listen harder, or must my muses roar?

Whichever choice I make, there are very few moments where honoring the whisper means I am a successful, functional adult. Often, to hear my creative voice I have to put other things on hold. I’ll sit at a work desk with project after project wasting away unfinished in my inbox. That’s assuming I’ve chosen to go in at all.

The whispers love to come when I’m naked. With waters dribbling down my flesh, I’ll hear the voice telling me the perfect obstacle for my newfound life to overcome. Sometimes, even as I frantically loofah my suds away, repeating the idea over and over in my mind and mouth, it will still spin down the drain with the body wash, lost forever in the sewers of undiscovered thoughts.

There have been times I was unwilling to listen. I once had this boyfriend who, despite his fascination with my work as an artist, was also doubly convinced that without me finding a “real job” I would be nothing to him in the long run but a drain on his finances. He further drilled this point home when he decided he would rather find a roommate on Craigslist than let me move in when my lease was up. When he finally dumped me, I decided he must be right. I must not be worth much without a “real job.”

So, I took my skills, of which I have many, and found one. It was a job in marketing and, to be honest, there was a lot about it I loved. I represented several different departments and had a lot of great stories to tell, within the confines of the brand and the business. Much of my work was lauded. I even got a communications award that I continue to forget to put on my resume.

And somewhere down that road the whisper went away. I didn’t even realize it was missing until an audition for a show I loved came and went and I chose to stay at this job and miss the opportunity. I was twenty-nine. My life was settling into a predictable, safe, and perfectly valid routine. And then the cast list came out. And my whisper roared louder than I had ever heard before.

For my birthday that year I took a solo trip to New York City. On my first day there, I won the lottery to see “Wicked” from the second row. Before the show, I could see Gelinda hover into the air in her bubble, and heard her vocalizing, like so many singers will do, in anticipation of the curtain. From start to finish, Kendra Kassebaum and Julia Murney delivered a heart-stirring performance and, just like that, my whisper was back with a vengeance.

Since then, I’ve had more moments of success and failure honoring my whisper. Sometimes I mistrust it. Sometimes I beg it to speak up. Often there are elements of both.

What does creativity feel like?

It feels like an old friend, with their hands on my shoulders, giving voice to my dreams. Giving permission to my whims. Creativity feels like love. It’s scary, and important, and lifts me to a place above this earth where there is clarity and peace.

Can you hear the whisper?

QESB - Unpacking My Closet: Letting Things Go

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Captain's Blog - Stardate 422518.0

Thirty years and one week ago, I saw the following trailer:

The following week, exactly thirty years ago today, I refused to sit with my family at the dinner table. Star Trek: The Next Generation would be on at 6:00 pm on WPWR Channel 50 and I was going to watch it. I needed to know who would be leaving the show.

See kids...back then...the internet wasn't around. We didn't know who had left their contracts weeks before airing. "Spoilers" weren't really a thing yet. Oh, and if you haven't seen this episode now would be a good time to stop reading. I mean, it's only been out for 30 years, so...

But I digress. I sat with baited breath on our enclosed back porch. it was April, 1987, so it was probably spring like weather. Unlike today. My mother had made me Chef Boyardee Spaghetti-O's and I stabbed at them anxiously with my Mickey Mouse fork, harpooning O after O and pulling them off the red, plastic "safe" ware as the minutes ticked by.

Who would it be? Three were hinted at in the teaser. Would it be the dashing Riker? Or the telepathic (and let's be honest, kinda whiny) Troi? Or would it be the bad-ass security officer who had become my favorite character, Lt. Natasha "Tasha" Yar? 

The episode starts, the groundwork is laid, and the away team beams down to the planet. We meet the creature of the week. You might know him from that annoying puddle under your car or the tar pit exhibit at the Field Museum. Looking back, he was not the most creative alien they'd developed. Maybe developed is too strong a word. Came up with that morning? Yeah...we'll go with that. But to my ten-year-old self, the dark nebulous form and rattly voice was a terror.

Because I knew, like it or not, one of the characters on my favorite show was about to die.

They sure didn't waste their time. Within minutes of the show's second act, Exxon Mobile hurls Tasha through the air with an energy burst. 

 And then the most devastating part of all...the entire crew basically sits around and lets her die.. Here's just a few of the gaping ways they blew it:

  1. After Year is thrown to the ground, Dr. Crusher runs over to her and starts tending to her while Data and Riker shoot at Armus. Okay, fine. But once he sinks into his pit and leaves the away team alone. THEY. JUST. STAND. THERE. Now, maybe she wasn't stable enough for transport, but Crusher never says that. They just all stand around listening to her tricorder beep-beep-beeeeeeeeeeep. WTF?
  2. So, Picard orders the transporter room to "get them up, now." So, they beam the team up. To the transporter room. "I need her in Sickbay, now," says Crusher. So she and Data grab Yar and CARRY HER. Probably down the hall, to the turbo lift, which then took however long to get her to the deck with sickbay on it.  WTFF?
  3. In literally the next episode, another person is in distress is beamed directly to Sickbay. You mean they could do that all the time?!?!?!?!
  4. So, after 5-7 minutes of NOT treating Tasha, we finally get her onto a bio-bed and of course nothing works. Not Nurip. Not the neural stimulator. Nothing.

I was stunned. Not by all these lousy details. i didn't figure out how badly they botched her resuscitation until i watched/listened to the episode about fifty-million more times. Back then, I was just stunned to learn that someone I cared about so much could all of a sudden, and for no good reason, all of a sudden be gone. The rest of the episode played out with lower stakes for me. They weren't gonna kill off anyone else.

But, what I wasn't expecting was the last ten minutes of the episode. Tasha's beautiful, farewell speech. In it, given her risky job, she took the time to leave a message for all her closest friends on the crew. We learn more about her character in that amazing speech than we did for the whole series thus far. As she closed, she taught me my first real lesson about death. "Death is that state in which one exists only in the memory of others. Which is why it is not an end. No goodbyes. Just good memories." The service ended and the crew departed.

Then, alone with Picard, Data taught me my second real lesson about death. "My thoughts are not for Tasha, but for myself. I keep thinking how empty it will be without her presence." 

Thirty years later and I still miss Lt. Tasha Yar. Oh sure, she got to come back and die in a much more meaningful way. Only to have it botched by getting raped and kept by a Romulan in the past and giving birth to her daughter, Sela, and then get executed four years later. And yeah, the daughter is ALSO played by actress Denise Crosby...but then just fizzles out into nothing. 

But the potential of what Tasha Yar could have brought to TNG if the actress had stayed will always be a loss for me. Losing her was my first brush with the one fact that is true for all of us. 

As I unpack my mental closet, I am grateful for the devastation and inspiration of the character of Tasha Yar. May I learn to live my life with as much commitment, passion, and courage as she did. And may I book as much work as Denise Crosby, including one role that serves to inspire someone as much as Tasha inspires me.

QESB - Unpacking My Closet: It Figures

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Captain’s Bog: Stardate 42218.8

For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid collector of action figures. From He-Man, ThunderCats and Star Wars in the 80s, to the prolific Star Trek action figure line of the 90s (with well over 200 characters…most or all of which I have), to my current collection of figures on display. Suffice it to say…I have a LOT of action figures.

There’s a great series on Netflix called “The Toys That Made Us” that talk us through the phenomenons of Star Wars toys, He-Man and She-Ra, Barbi, and G.I. Joe. I highly recommend it. Anyone in and around my generation will definitely recognize some fo their childhood in this unexpectedly interesting docu-series.

One point they make that I completely identify with is one reason for the popularity of these toys. To paraphrase: These characters and universes are completely fictional, so when you can give a child (grown-ass man) a physical, tangible way to interact with this imaginary world, it can give them a great deal of joy.

This has never been so true for me as it has been with almost any iteration of a Star Trek toy, ever since I was introduced to Star Trek: The Next Generation when it debuted in 1987. Back then, a company named “Galoob” made ten action figures; six crew and four aliens. We found all six crew members easily at Kay Bee Toys, and collected a second set when they went on clearance. The aliens I never got until I was older and the internet was invented.

The line failed, but by 1991, TNG had grown considerably in popularity and Playmates Toys rocked it out! Multiple versions of each crew member, tons of aliens, plus the crews of the original series, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. I had them all proudly displayed in my room in high school. I would even bring a few with me to class from time to time. It was kind of a social experiment. I would watch how different people would interact with them. A few boys made them fight each other. One girl actually played out her teenage relationship drama. Good times.

My most recent collections on display included some very beautifully sculpted, carefully detailed, more collector-base figures. They are beautiful and I love them all. But I realized something yesterday that gave me pause. With a handful of exceptions, many of these collections celebrated films or series that were 20-30 years old. Aliens. Ghostbusters. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even the excellent DST line of Star Trek figures, the characters themselves are not new. 

As I unpack my mental closet, I have decided that those figures, however cool, are looking in the wrong direction. With one shelf of limited characters from Star Trek as my exception, who will soon be replaced (I hope) with characters from the current Star Trek: DIscovery, I will be aiming to display only characters from current series. They will remain displayed as an inspiration of the work I hope to be doing. The figures that represent the past will be carefully put away. The past was great inspiration, but it is time to be present so I can focus on the future.

And hopefully someday make enough money to have a home with an office where all my toys can live.

QESB - Unpacking My Closet: Turning a Corner

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate 42118.7

It’s been over two years since I had to say goodbye to my dear, beautiful B’Elanna “Lana” Baer. One of the biggest challenges for me has been learning about and processing through the grief. People’s responses to my sorrow have ranged from heartfelt understanding to slightly awkward side-eye of people who think of pets as possessions rather than family members. 

To be clear, I am aware that Lana was not birthed from my loins. And while she was not my child, she was and will always be a life I nurtured, raised, and protected for fifteen years. I was with her through growth, heat, old age, and illness. She supported me through break-ups, depression, loneliness and pain, not to mention several cross-country moves. Her life enriched mine in countless ways.

I recently read (and cannot find to link to, I apologize) something about grief that I think was the most apt translation of how I’ve continued to feel since I had to let Lana go. I will paraphrase here: Grief is love. An excess of love. Grief is immense and strong love that has no where to go.

This has meaning to me because I can feel myself getting frustrated and angry at times when I have tried to place this love in other places and directions to compensate for her loss. I’ve also kept her cat tree in the bedroom since we said goodbye. 

She used the tree sparingly, and I often considered disposing of it while she was still here. Somehow, even if I didn’t say it out loud, whenever I was getting close to tossing it, she would suddenly appear at the top of the six-foot tree and look down at me like, “What? I’m always up here?”

Many people say that the best way to get over the loss of a pet is to rush out and get a new one. I made it very clear to everyone that I was not going to do that. It felt and feels disrespectful to her memory and, until I can shake that, I cannot adopt another cat. On top of that, my schedule has gotten increasingly complex, so I wouldn’t have the time to give a new cat the play and interaction they would need. 

So, I know that this cat tree will not have a practical use in the near future. 

Today I have move the tree out of the bedroom. My heart rate is up. I’ve shed some tears. And I’m not quite ready to take it out of the condo, but it is my intention to move it out by next Friday. I’m hoping to repurpose that corner of the bedroom which will then lead to a few additional changes on the other side of the room. 

I have asked Lana for permission to let this go. The next step will be to finally put a picture of Lana in our space. Her ashes are displayed but there are no images of her. It’s time for me to see her again, so I can feel that love and send it straight into her picture, into her memory, and into the love and light and joy she brought me for so long.

As I unpack my mental closet, I am letting go of the pain of this loss. This ties into my QESB because I have been inspired by the work these men have done with those who have lost a father, or a grandmother, or both, and how they free the space for the future while honoring and embracing the love from the past. Focusing on the pain denies me the joy of her memory and does her a disservice. Finding the right way to incorporate her love in this home will propel me to the future.

QESB - Unpacking My Closet: My Fanbase

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Captain’s Blog: Stardate 41918.2

Bonnie Gillespie is a name you should know if you’re pursuing a career in film. Or in the arts. Or maybe even just trying to be a good human. Her book and related online course work called Self Management For Actors (SMFA) has a number of mindset and practical tools for running a successful business.

Currently I am progressing through her “SMFA – Get in Gear For the Next Tier (GIG) 100 Day Program.” It’s genius, for what’s included it is VERY reasonably priced, and I am finding it enriching in all kinds of incredible ways. I cannot say enough about what this person and her work has to offer.

The day I just opened talks about our fan base. She breaks it into three categories, and each one is a third of the population. The people who get us, the people who are “meh” about us, and the people who do not get us. Her advice? Without spilling all her secrets (you gotta pay for that just like the rest of us…it’s worth it) she suggests that we spend all of our focus on finding, developing, and encouraging engagement with the third of the population who do, or will, get us. The other 2/3 will never come around, so it’s not worth the aggravation. And, by trying to appeal to people who are “meh” or not into us, we might end up changing ourselves enough that those people that DO get us no longer recognize us.

A perfect example is a comparison between two albums of two incredibly talented pop artists. Christina Aguilera and P!nk. In the same year, P!nk released “The Truth About Love,” and Christina released “Lotus.” One did well (Love) and one did not (Lotus). I will confess…I never listened to “Lotus,” but “Love” was the soundtrack for a huge turning point in my life for about a year.

Here are two women who got in the game around the same time, are both insanely talented, and are both sexy, (sometimes) blonde women. So what happened? Here’s why I think people love P!nk. As she’s matured, her music has grown with her. Her fan base, who totally get her, have also matured. So, they recognize themselves in her changing attitudes and can continue to connect to her story.

From what everyone told be about “Lotus,” Christina went in a different direction. Reviewers and friends of mine felt like she was trying to reach a “new, younger audience.” They said the sound was inauthentic. The kids wondered who this old person was trying to sell them music, and her original fans didn’t recognize her sound. In trying to reach fans who didn't "get" her, she ended up alienating many of the fans that did. 

Yesterday, I wrote about not fitting into the “cool” crowd in seventh-grade and a painful attempt to make that work. In this context, I was trying to convince people in the other 2/3’s of fans to “get me.” That was never going to happen. Looking back, there’s a part of the story I don’t often think about. I did have some friends. Not many. Only one that fit into the “cool” group, and he was someone special to everyone. But there were a few people that year who “got me.” But I actively chose not to engage with them. It’s seventh-grade, so navigating the social field is always tumultuous. Nevertheless, I added insult to injury by not accepting the friendship of my “fans” in the attempt to woo those who would never be.

There’s a bright side. That summer, I engaged with a summer theatre program that, no exaggeration, changed my life. This program operated out of the other junior high, Percy Julian. This was the CAST (Communication, Arts, Speech and Theatre) Program. There I found like-minded people with the same interests, the same drives, and the same “outsider” mentality that I’d been wading through. My amazing parents pulled some strings and by the fall of eighth-grade, I was enrolled at Julian, an active member of the CAST program, and had found my path.

As I unpack my mental closet, I am tossing out any of the baggage that may still carry over from those seventh-grade choices. I will no longer be seeking approval from people who are not my “fans.” This goes for friends as well as professional relationships. There are people out there who will and do, totally and completely, “get me” and my work. It’s time to give them more of what they love.

QESB - Unpacking My Closet: When I Look Into Your Eyes

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Captain's Blog: Stardate 41818.1

I can't stop this feeling
There's nothing I can do
'Cause I see everything when I look at you.
- FireHouse

Taking a seat in the lunchroom my seventh-grade year was always a challenge, which is why I eventually finagled the illustrious private dining room known as the nurse’s office. But before I discovered this in-no-way-unfortunate accommodation, I would try to find a place to sit with the people I knew best: the kids from my grammar school.

What no one had told me, though it didn’t take long to figure out, was that someone had given most of these kids tickets to the cool side of the food chain, and mine must have gotten lost in the mail. One day, to try and short circuit the system, I sat down at “the” table before everyone else had arrived, poised and ready to take my rightful place among my peers. They couldn’t keep me from sitting there if I got there first.

Two girls stopped at the bench across from me at the lunchroom table. Hesitating, they both sat down slowly. If synchronized sitting was a sport, they would have medaled. What happened next was fascinating. The two of them both started staring at me. Right in the eyes. Not saying a word, mind you, just…staring. Then one of them, without breaking eye contact, leaned towards the other, slowly raised her hand to hide her lips, and whispered. All the while never breaking eye contact with me.

Smiles followed the whispers, and then they both stood back up, together, and selected a new table for the cool crowd. My master plan had failed, though I had succeeded in changing the map of the lunchroom biodome.

*  *  *  *  *

Ralph Waldo Emerson Junior High School at the start of the 1990s might as well have been a coming-of-age situation comedy on one of the major networks. The teachers’ names alone are better than any I could ever come up with: Monton, Pingle, Schick, Skowron, and the Southern Belle who gave us hell, Ms. Glada Vaughn (please reread the name with your best Blanche Devereaux) was our school principal. I have stories about each of them, though chances are I would have to change the names. And I can never find pseudonyms that would do the real names justice.

As I unpack the clutter from my “mind palace” (thank you Steven Moffat), I have figured out that my instinctual response to someone throwing me a lingering glance has been wired wrong since then. I almost always perceive eye contact as threatening, especially when evaluating a new situation.

For example, a friend once flattered me with the notion that finding dates at the bar must have been easy for me. It was never the case. Frankly, I told him, rarely did anyone express such an interest when I’d be out. But looking back, I do recall making extended eye contact with men from time to time. Which I reasonably understood as their way of asking me to leave. No doubt this eye contact issue has been present in other situations as well.

Psychology Today confirms that eye contact can have a powerful impact on the psyche: “…that feeling looked at inclines people to become more attuned to their own body's physiological responses (heart rate, sweating, and breathing) as well as how they might be perceived by others.” While in many cases this can be a good thing, as it can help with memory retention and recall of verbal material, it can also have it’s downsides. “The gaze of others can trigger intense feelings of shame and other negative self-evaluations in socially anxious individuals, for instance.” (Katherine Schreiber, Psychology Today)

As I gave this interesting revelation some thought, I began wondering what my eye contact could suggest to other people. Wanda Thibodeaux of Inc. suggests that lack of eye contact can suggest one is “unprepared,” anxious, or that “think you're better or have a higher social standing than the person you're listening to.” Interpreted another way, lack of eye contact could be construed as an acknowledgement or admission that one does not deserve to be here.

Bringing it back to Queer Eye, one of the men on the show was a struggling comedian. When they asked him to do a set (in an American Legion, no less) and Jonathan’s one critique was that Joe wasn’t making eye contact with his audience. This meant, even though his timing was pretty solid, his jokes were funny(ish) and his overall act well-rehearsed, it wasn’t landing. Perhaps, if he wasn’t feeling confident that he should be there, he may have been communicating to his audience that they shouldn’t be either.

Which brings up another memory for me. Six years ago I took an amazing workshop with (humble brag) Betty Buckley. It was a weekend intensive and it was definitely a life changing experience. As we each worked on our songs, one of the final exercises was to select specific individuals to look at, directly, as we sang. The result, I still remember, was body shattering. It was amazing. As I think about that this minute, for the first time in a while, I’m not certain whether or not this lesson found itself manifest in my work. It’s an awareness I will definitely be checking in my practice.

As I unpack my mental closet, I am tossing out any of the baggage that may still carry over from that seventh-grade lunch room. I deserve to be here. We all do. And the next time I see you, I will look you in the eyes and tell you so.

Queer Eye for This Guy

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Captain's Blog: Stardate 41718.6

My boyfriend and I binged the new “Queer Eye” pretty hard over the course of a weekend. This was during the height of Mercury in retrograde, so we had to stop several times due to unscheduled power outages. What I thought we’d see was a slightly charming makeover show. What we got was something so much more.

Not knowing what to expect, other than loving Jonathan from his web series “Gay of Thrones,” I was truly surprised to be so inspired. These men were doing some amazing work, in a short time, with some people who’s lack of self-confidence had manifested itself physically in their home, their appearance, and their success (or lack of same).

During one of the power outages, I retired to our bedroom and took a quick glance at my side of the closet. While not as bad as some on the show, it was clear that I was holding onto a lot of old junk that didn’t need to be there and was cluttering my way to the clothes that make me feel like my best me. The closet and dresser became phase one of this process.

Three bags of donations later, I can look at my side of the closet and drawers and I know where everything is and where everything goes. My remaining wardrobe feels intentional, attractive, and manageable.

As I worked, I remembered an article I read that said that “how you do anything is how you do everything.” I started examining other areas of my life that may be cluttered. Some places have obvious clutter: my desk at my day jobs, our kitchen counter, our hall closet, our cabinets. I will be finding time over the next days to address these areas.

But I have discovered I have a similar problem in my mind. There are issues and items cluttering up my thought processes that are slowing down my momentum in areas I would like to be moving forward. Much of the work I’ll be doing will involve channeling some of the overriding messages of the Fab Five. Here are the top ideas I will be working with. I am paraphrasing or reinterpreting, so don’t throw down if I misquote your favorite QE guy.

  1.  You are worth taking the time you need to feel good about yourself. Self-care is essential for success and you deserve to take that time.
  2.  A cluttered home can cause stress and anxiety where you need to feel calm. With so much happening in our day-to-day, it is important to manifest serenity in your safe space.
  3. Elevating your look can elevate your sense of self-worth.
  4. Making sure you always make an effort in your appearance sends a message to those around you (both personally and professionally) about how you feel about them.
  5. There is no need to apologize for being who you are or where you are. Sometimes, we do this subconsciously and it presents itself through our dress, our body language, and how we put ourselves out in the world.

One constant theme I realized is that our mind is like our closet. Who we are, or who we picture as our best self, is absolutely in there. For all of us. The question becomes: how deep do we have to dig to find it and what must be cleared out to make it easy for us to put on our best self?

Time to clean out the closet.