Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Unearned blessings

There are many blessings in my life for which I can take no credit.  To have been born at all, for example, is downright miraculous, given the odds.  To have been born with a healthy body and good mind, into a family where I was loved and educated, in a country which offers so many possible paths, in a time of modern medicine, dentistry, and indoor plumbing is good fortune not shared by everybody, in fact not shared by many.  I did nothing to deserve such luck, any more than a Saudi or Iranian woman deserves the restrictions and oppression she is born into.

A friend was recently talking to me about the unearned blessings which fill his life, especially the good friends he has gathered around him.  "But you know, " I said, "an awful lot of how good your life is is a result of who you are, how you've lived, the choices you've made."  That got me thinking about my own life, and that maybe I actually can take credit for some of what seems simply like astounding and random good fortune.

I, too, have so many, many good friends, people I cherish.  They bless me by choosing to be my friends.  But I work at friendships.  I send birthday greetings every year - yes, actual cards in the actual mail with actual stamps.  I get together regularly with local friends for walking, movies, meals, conversation, games.  I stay in contact with more distant friends and visit them when I'm able.

I have two callings which thrill me: acting and writing.  And I've had enough successes in both to call myself a professional (although never enough to support me).  The paths to those successes have been incredibly bumpy and long.  Certainly there is an element of luck in having any success at all as any kind of artist. Not every actor with talent, skill, and passion gets to see her face onscreen.  Not every playwright with talent, skill, and passion gets to see her plays performed and published.  But I've worked at these, too, living on almost nothing for decades in order to stay true to what I wanted to do with my life, defying my parents' advice to get a full time job.

Meeting Sweet Hubby, the perfect man for me, is probably the biggest miracle in my life, especially coming as it did so late (I was 54).  Only magic, only angels could have brought us together.  But it is all the work I did on myself - years of transformational seminars and therapy, plus a lifelong habit of reading voraciously - that made me someone who could catch SH's eye, made me interesting and desirable to him.  I can also take credit for the fact that no matter how many romantic relationships didn't work out for me (A LOT), and no matter how many heartaches I had to recover from (ditto), and how much self-doubt I had (ditto x5), I never gave up on wanting to be happily coupled, never closed my heart or became cynical and bitter.

I guess it is so in all our lives, that a lot happens to us, both good and bad, which we can't possibly have earned and don't deserve per se.  And there is also a lot that happens, good and bad, because of how we live our lives, how we treat others, what choices we make.  It does seem to me that good fortune and bad aren't really evenly distributed.  I have no way of understanding how that works.  I'm just as grateful as heck for how much good has come my way.  Whether I deserve it or not.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Mad at Joe and Ruth

Watching the Presidential debate on Thursday was absolutely excruciating.  It's always hard to listen to Trump's bloviating hyperbole, but when Biden had a brain freeze in the first few minutes, I just couldn't watch any longer.

I admire and respect President Biden.  I think he's done a good job against staggering odds, and I will vote for him again this year.  Even at his worst he's better than Trump, and I know he'll surround himself with smart, skilled, experienced people.  But right now I am really mad at him that he didn't step down and allow a rising Democratic star come forward.  I'm thinking Hakeem Jeffries, Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, Pete  Buttigieg, and there are probably others I don't know about.  After all, I'd never heard of Barak Obama before he came forward in 2008.

Can't Joe recognize that he is failing both physically and mentally?  Weren't there people advising him to step down?  I don't know, maybe he plans to step down during his tenure (oh please let him have a tenure) so that his VP can take the reins.  Maybe there aren't any Democrats who want to be President during this time of upheaval, division, discord, and rancor.  I have no idea what goes on behind political doors.  I just know that I wish, fiercely, that Biden had stepped aside.  He just doesn't seem up to the job.

I'm mad at RBG, too, despite being a huge fan of hers.  Why oh why oh why didn't she step down during Obama's term so that he could appoint someone to the Supreme Court?  She knew she was sick and old.  What was she hanging on for?  I understand that even with another liberal on the bench, the Court would still have a conservative majority, but it would be a heck of a lot more balanced that it is right now.

The two big issues I'd like to see addressed are term limits for the Supreme Court and the end of the Electoral College.  I guess if I'm going to complain, I should take action, huh?

Saturday, June 8, 2024


This morning I woke up thinking about my paternal grandmother, PapaWeese. I don't know why she would be on my mind.  I haven't thought about her in a long time.  She died when I was 15, almost 60 years ago.  I hadn't matured enough by then to be able to see her as anything but my old-fashioned granny PapaWeese.

 (How that name came about, by the way: We called my grandfather PapaFrank, but my sister, the first grandchild, fumbled MamaLouise, which turned into PapaWeese, and it stuck.)  

I can still call to mind the smell of their apartment on Sawtelle Blvd., a fragrant combination of mothballs, face powder, PapaFrank's cigarettes, and whatever PapaWeese was cooking.  I remember her playing the piano while we sang.  She was a professional piano player, used to play at the USO and for silent films.  She was so skilled, she could change keys without blinking in the middle of a song.  She wrote poems, some of which were published in the local newspaper.  She always pretended to take an interest in whatever my siblings and I prattled about.  I know she belonged to a lively bridge club.  This morning, though, I found myself wondering about her as a person.  She was certainly always cheerful when my family came visiting, but was she happy?  Did she enjoy her life?  Did she have dreams she wasn't able to fulfill?

PapaFrank was nice to us kids, but had a stern visage, and was very private behind his eyes.  I believe he was not successful in any kind of business.  In fact, my dad didn't seem to know what his father did for a living.  I remember him saying something about PapaFrank selling gloves door to door at one point.  They lived through the Depression, with creditors banging on the door.  They were probably poor even into their old age.  

I really don't know why I'm thinking about this now, but for some reason, I am wishing I could talk to PapaWeese woman to woman and ask her how she felt about her life and her marriage and how her children turned out.

And I realize that I'm part of the last generation that will remember her and PapaFrank.  My nieces and nephews didn't know them, and have probably only heard of them as distant figures who used to be part of the family.  And so it goes, and so it must go.  I know that.  I just wish I had known her better.  I hope she was happy. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

How would I defend my life?

This morning I woke up thinking about the movie Defending Your Life.  The premise of this movie is that when a person dies, she goes to Judgment City where scenes from her life are played before a panel of judges.  If the judges determine that she (or he) has evolved beyond a fear-based life, she is allowed to move on to the next level (whatever that is).  If she is still driven by fear, she must return to Earth for another opportunity to evolve. 

This got me wondering what scenes from my own life might reveal.  Outwardly I'm committed to being fearless (although I realize that's not really possible; it's not about living without fear so much as not letting fear make the decisions about how one acts).  I even have a sticker on my bedroom dresser that says "Not Afraid".  But is that how I actually live my life?  Am I courageous?  How much do I allow fear to limit me?

I have occasionally made daring leaps in my life where I may have looked fearless but really wasn't.  For example, dropping out of college and moving to Los Angeles when I was 22 seemed bold, but I have always known that my family is there to catch me if I start to fall, so I wasn't taking much of a chance.  A lot of people said I was brave to leave Los Angeles after 26 years and move to Seattle without knowing anyone, or knowing the city, or having much idea of what I would find here.  But that move took no bravery because I was moving toward an exciting new possibility, an opportunity to make new choices, to reinvent or rediscover myself.  Sweet Hubby and I got married after a long-distance courtship and didn't really know one another much at all.  But that also took no courage because somehow I knew that this was going to be a long and happy partnership.  I don't know how I knew, but I did, with a certainty that precluded doubt and fear.

And then there are those moments that have fully demonstrated my cowardice.  When I was flown to Incheon, South Korea several years ago to see a festival of performances of my short plays, friends suggested that I use the opportunity to rent a car and explore the country, which I was most likely never going to visit again.  I absolutely didn't want to do that.  The idea of driving alone through a country where I can't speak the language or read the road signs and don't know the rules and laws quite intimidated me.  I have girlfriends who have gone camping alone in the wild.  That doesn't sound at all enjoyable nor safe to me.  I have said 'yes' to a whole lot of stuff I wanted to say 'no' to because I was afraid someone would think less of me.  Looking at these scenes, I see myself as terribly fearful.

So when have I ever been truly brave enough not to let fear stop me?  In this moment, the only time I can think of was shortly after I moved to Seattle, which was just before the war in Iraq was declared.  I went to a resistance training to prepare for a protest event at city hall, and volunteered to be one of the people to take a position that could possibly lead to arrest.  I wasn't arrested, but I didn't know I wouldn't be when I volunteered.  So that's one time, one moment when I can claim fear didn't stop me.

I suppose, like most people, I'm a mix of courage and cowardice.  But thinking about all this has got me thinking that I need to be more aware of those times when I have a chance to choose between the safe action and the bold action, even in those small moments that don't seem to matter much, such as saying 'no' when 'no' is my answer.  I'm going to have to think about this some more.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

In which I have a glimpse of myself

 I was dancing my ass off recently, as I love to do in the evenings, having a grand time, rockin' out to Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love".  And I suddenly got a glimpse of the possibility that all I have to do in order to give the world whatever gift I have to give is simply to be fully and fiercely myself.  I think maybe that's all any of us needs to do and be.  

Beethoven and Shakespeare, of course, had other gifts to offer, but for most of us humans, who we are, how we treat other people, what we say, whether we smile or growl, laugh or holler, give or withhold, reach out or clam up, all of that is our legacy.  All of that informs the kind of mark we make, and what we leave behind.

So in that moment I saw that my gift is just my very me-ness.  And it occurred to me to wonder why I struggle so much with lack of self-confidence.  Because in that moment, I also saw that I am fucking amazing.

As are we all.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

A weekend in Bend

Last week I drove to Bend, OR to see my newest short play in a festival.  A friend surprised me by offering to join me.  It's about a 6+ hour drive, so it was lovely to have the company, as well as someone to share driving and meals.  Also, she had lived in Bend for a few months years ago, so she was able to show me around the town.

The first night there we went to the theater where the festival was playing.  This is the second time a play of mine has been accepted by this theater, but my first time to see the performances for myself.  Well...

The acting in the plays I saw was community theater level at its worst.  Both the acting and direction were awkward and amateur.  And the actors in my play dropped literally half the text, so a 12 minute play was 5 minutes long and didn't make sense.  I did not stay to see the second half of the festival.

I learned later that the director of my play had had to step into that role at the very last minute, so she was not solid with the lines.  She sent me a video of the second night's performance, in which all the lines were spoken, but the acting was still pretty bad.

It was also weird that there were no printed program for the show.  All in all, this was a pretty poor evening of theater.  And what makes me really angry is that this theater asks that only unproduced plays be submitted.  This is becoming a common practice among theaters, and one I fight back against with letters and emails when I come across it.  These theaters don't seem to recognize that a play can only be unproduced once, and after that become ineligible for any other theater which accepts only unproduced plays.  So the first-production rights are incredibly precious to a playwright.

Too often, absolutely nothing is offered in return for those rights: no honorarium, no reviews, not much audience, no development opportunity, nothing.  The theater in Bend didn't even mention in its press materials that the plays were world premieres, so why the heck do they have the gall to ask for only world premieres?  Grrrrrrrrr.

Still, I'm really glad I went.  I got some nice time with a friend, which took our friendship to a deeper level, got to explore a darling town, and have several really terrific meals.  I did come down with either an annoying sinus infection or a bad allergy attack, because my nose ran the whole time I was in Bend.  (3  COVID tests reassured me that at least I didn't have the dreaded C.)  That bothered me almost more than the awful performance of my play, which I had been so eager to see fully performed for the first time.  But one of my latest mottos is "What doesn't kill you makes for a good story afterward."  So there you have it, the story of my adventures in Bend, OR.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

A women's world

Last night I saw a photo of a cityscape at night, full of tall, tall buildings with spires reaching into the sky.  It reminded me of a story I'd read about someone, either the architect or the owner, adding an antenna to the top of a new building so that this would be the tallest in the world by a couple of inches.  And I thought "I don't think female architects would be so bent on a building having to be the tallest" - for the obvious reason.

That got me thinking about what else would be different if women were in charge of the world.  I don't think there would be wars, for one thing.  Women are the mothers of the sons (and now daughters) who fight the battles in a war, and I just don't think women would be so cavalier about sending their children out to face tanks and bazookas and bombs and such.  I know all of this is a generalization, but it's founded in experience and science.  Women simply aren't as aggressive as men because we're not run by testosterone.  Women are more cooperative.

Sure we have our murderers and bitches.  But so often the women who can be pointed to as making it in a man's world are women who act more like men, have adopted men's language, posture, and shows of strength.   So it's still male energy running everything.

All of this is moot, of course, because women will never be running everything for the very reason I'm talking about; we just aren't subject to that kind of aggression.  Maybe don't even want to run the world.  Long ago when my grandfather asked me what I would do first if I were made Queen of the Universe, I replied immediately "Abdicate".

When I look at a war scene, at the tanks and cannons and drones and uniforms and rifles and dead bodies, I get terribly sad.  It all seems so unnecessary.  We all know already that we share this fragile, magnificent, miraculous planet and that we are made of exactly the same organs and blood and brains, despite the differences in language, history, skin color, customs. Why on this good green Earth can't we get along?  But I guess if one country acts like a bully, other countries have to act like bigger bullies in order to win, which makes the bully act like a bigger bully which makes......

I once saw Jordan Klepper interview a MAGA follower at a Trump rally.  When he asked if she would vote for a woman for President, she was quite firm that No no no, a woman might be emotional, might be on her period and start a war.  So he asked "Haven't all wars so far been started by men?"  It actually gave her pause, but of course I have no idea if that moment actually got her to think a little more deeply about the rhetoric she parrots.

I could be way off base in my assumptions about how much more peaceful the world will be if it were run by women, but since it will never happen, I guess I'll never know.