26 January 2012

How's Your Soul?

I wanted to know how she was doing. So I looked her in the eye, leaned forward a little bit and asked "Is it well with your soul today?" I wanted her to know it was okay to take her time and be candid.

Possibly because the syntax was unfamiliar and strange to her, she said "I'm not sure what you mean..."

The next thing I know, I had burst into song:

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot
Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

One of my favorites from my church-centered childhood.

The wellness of my own soul was affirmed in the singing.  Also, she came to understand what I was asking and we had an uncommonly heartfelt conversation. 

If my mother hadn't urged me to become a teacher, I would have been a great one.

    18 January 2012


    "Well, yeah.... It's tricky," he said.  "We all want people to like us."

    Scott Bergey
    Please Love Me
    mixed media on paper

    Do we?

    There's a general desire to NOT be disliked.  That's a familiar feeling....second grade...the look I used to see in the eyes of other kids from my privileged perch as Teacher's Pet. They didn't like me. And I was outnumbered.

    But, a general desire for "people" to like me -- is more elusive. I soften my gaze and whisper into my ear "Sure, sure. Like thirst.  Or getting sleepy.  Everybody has that desire...me, too" and there it is!  Just for a second I'm convinced.

    And then I take off the wig and step out of Mommy's high heels. 

    It's not like that for me.  When it arises, the desire is specific.  I want "him" to like me. I want "her" attention. And I want it so bad, the taste of my saliva changes in my mouth
    and something like adrenaline floods my system and a suppressed scream or growl crawls around under my skin.

    Our topic tonight was "why we don't tell the truth" and, actually, I was talking about truths we don't tell/face ourselves.

    We want to enter some work in the upcoming Santa Cruz Fringe Festival and he asked if I had any emerging ideas for a solo piece. I answered that lately I have a nagging feeling I'm about to call my bluff. Like there's something I've known for a long time about myself....but kept it a secret. I said my next piece will probably be about that.

    But we don't know each other very well and he's mentioned a number of times that he's nervous around me, feels inadequate because of what he calls my "brilliance." I suspect his listening skills suffer as a result. 

    I offered a few more words to help clear up his confusion.  

    "Oh," he said.  "That's scary."

    I think I know what he means but I don't feel scared at all. It's a secret I'm curious about.

    12 January 2012


    I can do a lot of things:

    type with my eyes closed
    make cornbread from scratch
    dance in high heels
    sing a baby to sleep
    drive drunk

    If I want to, I can learn to

    fly a plane
    speak Portuguese
    create award-winning floral arrangements

    Here's where we abandon hope.  I cannot

    take back what I said to Marianne, Summer of '76
    grow an inch taller
    live my life over
    make you love me
    have another baby
    predict the future

    Truth is:  I am okay with the whole thing.  Purring....

    02 January 2012

    Tidy Front Porch Notions

    Tomorrow concludes an 8-day house-sitting assignment in Santa Cruz.

    Half-way through the gig, a very old acquaintance of the woman who owns this house (let's call her Paula) arrived with his wife. He's a retired college professor Paula hasn't seen since she studied under him in the early 80s.  She invited them to hang out here while she's on island holiday and have a happy reunion when she returns. 

    Somethings I Notice (acronym SIN):  Based almost entirely on my esteemed interpretation of "retired college professor," I put in some time making things extra nice in the house the day of their arrival.  I thought it would reflect badly on Paula if the house was messy when they arrived.  In my head, it was 1972 again and I was a 17-year-old small town colored girl entering a private all-white university on scholarship, trying to make a good impression. I won't go into all the fantasies I had about how the three of us would pass the time until Paula returned.

    As I buzzed and hummed around the house that afternoon, I flashed on the vexation I felt several months ago when someone described me as "tidy."  Well, look at me now, doing a very good imitation of "tidy."

    Santa Cruz is a town where I perform on stage and both teach and study improvisational theater.  It's a place where I drink Cosmopolitans and skinny dip.  My kinkiest-ever former lover lives here and unexpected sparkly, juicy things happen regularly when I hit the street. In a sense, "tidy" is not what I embody generally in Santa Cruz.  But, there I was. Just goes to show you....

    After three days together, I can say The Professor and His Wife are nothing at all like what I expected or feared or hoped they would be.  He pontificates and she waits on him hand and foot. They consume energy ravenously - most notably, turning on lots of lights in the house and leaving them on and cranking the thermostat to 70 degrees while leaving patio door and windows open. The toilet was flushed more often in their first 24 hours here than I've flushed anywhere on the planet in the last month!

    I find myself turning into Sally Sanctimonious.  I realize "tidy" is probably a very apt description for me.

    Goody Two Shoes
    I've shared living space in a variety of settings over the last 10 years. My internal rule of thumb -- especially when it comes to bathrooms and kitchens -- has been to clean up after myself such that the next person in doesn't have to deal with my stuff at all.  No stepping over my laundry on the floor or working around my dirty dishes on the counter. I leave bathroom floors and sink counter tops dry, bed linens laundered and beds made. I wipe up spills in the refrigerator and replace anything I use up....

    Anyway, this is NOT the universal rule of thumb. I know that now. And what I've observed in these small settings suggests an explanation for the ecological crises and sociopolitical frictions that exist globally.

    I think people, all of us, do the best we can based on our world view. If cleaning up after yourself is not a part of your world view, it's unlikely the idea will figure in your contribution to discussions when attending a world summit on climate change. If having more stuff is a measure of success for you, then you'll likely vote "no" on suggestions involving a reduction of consumption or acquisition. If you're tidy and sanctimonious about it, compromise will be a challenge.

    If people live in the world the way they live in their closer-in relationships, it's no wonder some of the Earth Village's problems are so hard to solve.

    I have decied that today I will NOT pick up after The Professor and His Wife because its just been my passive way of chastising them.  I will not turn off lights behind them or turn down the thermostat when they're not looking. That's been my way of saying "Bad professor!  Bad wife!"

    What I'm thinking about now is that this isn't a good solution for the world -- if corporations aren't taken to task when they dump toxic sludge into the water supply it's more than an annoyance to the larger community. It won't work for the world if guilty parties don't wipe up their spills. So how to make cleaning up after yourself and sharing and compromise a part of everybody's world view.

    That, apparently, is still the question.

    Happy 2012.