24 March, 2022

Endurance is Universal

Have you been to rock bottom? No shame, fellow rock-bottom-visitors; I’ve been there! But I want to put forth a not-always-meme-able idea: that the un-nuanced glorification of an individual’s capacity to endure isn’t always productive. 

1. It doesn’t allow for the truth, ugliness and raw humanity of intense frustration, sorrow, frustration, grief, despair. We must feel free to experience all the states life has to offer.
2. We all have this capacity-not JUST a “special few.” Stories that glorify a singular protagonist (Hulu’s version of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,” for instance) often subliminally express that our protagonist is NOT an Everyman—but rather that THIS protagonist is special— they and they ALONE possess and extraordinary capacity to be tested and prevail. It sells us a false narrative that THAT special human being is so unique; that THEY ALONE can face extraordinary hardship, but not EVERYONE. “You want to thrive? No. You have to be special. You have to be chosen,” this Narrative dictates. But how do we know that? Short answer: we do not.

There is a Yiddish saying: “When we must, we can.” Ostensibly, does this saying mean that we never know what we are capable of until we are asked to face The Unknown? Should we be generous and expansive in our understanding of ALL that could mean? I welcome us to be.

Human beings have great capacity. All of them. Not just a “special few.” Yet not every human being will make the same gigantic leaps as another, because they won’t have the same adversities thrust upon them, or identical stakes, circumstances, supporters, and wherewithal to make those leaps in those moments. 

As the war in Ukraine approaches it's second month, we are reminded of humanity at its lowest and at its very finest. The images are shattering, but also gobsmacking in the shimmering humanity.
All evidence that our human capacity to endure is universal. The level to which we ride and fall? That is unique to us. And thus, we are not to judge.

So whether you are hanging out at rock bottom, soaring to new heights, languishing in purgatory or somewhere in between— take heart. I see you. I believe in you. Triumph looks different on everyone. You’ve got this.

Greetings from The Bottom


09 March, 2022

Knowing when to leave...

For the last 18 months I have been taking an online poetry class over Zoom. Oh, how I loved it! It was a place of extraordinary artistic respite for me, a place where I did not have to be a professional artist, where I was unknown to my fellow classmates, and could safely learn and grow in the company of strangers. It was an appointment I treasured keeping week after week. I kept it when I traveled, and even when I was working in London (tuning in from 10pm- 1am!). Class is taught by a celebrated poet and teacher who I have become friends with online and off. 

It was a truly joyous space for a long time. 

The Class is filled with a grab bag of individuals who all came together for the shared joy of creating, loving words, and discussion of the human experience as analyzed through text. It was the part of being an actor I missed the most -- the "table work;" the part where the company sits around the table and discusses in rigorous detail the depths of the human experience, as crystalized through language, relationship and sociology. I think this need to discuss our humanity is what sends millions of people who are not "formal artists" in any way to spiritual texts-- for all branches of spirituality and theistic text is merely another lens through which we can know ourselves. Does it matter if the story is about Isaac, Shiva, the Knight of Swords, Mohammad or Othello?  

I've made some wonderful connections in class too-- some individuals I may never meet in real life, and some I have already met. People that have really beautifully challenged me to grow, have been critical of my points of view, and of my work in tremendously productive ways. People that have affirmed my humanity, have empathized, and held me in tough moments as I shared slivers of my life through the poems I brought in, in the feedback I offered, and the private messages exchanged through the Zoom chat (the 21st century version of passing notes in class). Some of these classmates have become very real friends-- of all shapes, colors, sizes, geographic locations and walks of life. I am so grateful to have crossed paths with these people, and I hope they know who they are. 

But my time in poetry class has come to an end. 

And... I am devastated. The intensity of the emotions I am experiencing at the loss of this once safe space stuns me. I cannot even conceive of why it aches as much as it does. But it does. I have shed tears, and exhausted the pages of my journal, and finally come to the decision to step away from the beautiful space that was, acknowledging that the space has changed, the world around us has changed, and the digital portal to an oasis of language and humanity is longer what I remember, recognize, or require.

There is no need to discuss what happened in detail, because it doesn't really matter. I wanted to share this experience though because I often think we confuse "giving up" with "surrender." For many weeks I wondered if leaving the increasingly toxic environment would make me a "quitter," would insinuate that I wasn't "tough enough" or "emotionally strong" or that I was "too sensitive" or "couldn't take critique."

I rumbled with the decision to moonwalk out of class-- was I being a "weenie?" But logic tells me that to suggest these is preposterous. 1. Who could possibly suggest that having too much sensitivity for a poetry class is a bad thing? 2. To have the audacity to suggest I cannot accept critical commentary on my artistic work (a piece of advice no one could even possibly contemplate offering to a professional actor of 16 years, and a twice-published author with any degree of seriousness! Please: I am alllllmost immune to artistic criticism at this point!) But artistic criticism is not what this exit is about...

Week by week, this particular group of individuals came to critique my humanity more and more acutely, with ever-increasing personal remarks that were simply inappropriate.  No boundaries. No consequences.

I came to class to have my artwork assessed.  Not my humanity judged

So. Farewell, poetry class. And from the bottom of my heart: thank you so much for all you gave me. But a lady always knows when to leave the party... and it is time to gather my things and exit with grace.


Dear readers, in my time here on earth I have come to learn that there is GIVING UP and there is SURRENDER. I have written about this before, but in brief:

- Giving up is a collapsed posture; I picture the human form in the fetal position, inward, downward and in a self-protective stance. 

- Surrender is its opposite; I picture a human form wide open-- palms up and out, eye closed but trusting, chest, heart, legs wide and available to possibility.

I write this simply to share and to connect: if you have ever felt the loss of a community, however small, however seemingly insignificant, you are not alone. 

Surrender, dear readers. And onward: with courage and integrity. 


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