Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Setting the Stage

I really like to set the stage. The lighting, the costumes, the makeup, the music, the props. These things really kick it up a notch for me, both in real life and in my work as an actress.

Today, for example, after reading part of a memoir that I'm editing for a client, I was feeling really inspired around the creativity and divinity of being alive, particularly being alive as a woman. (This doesn't mean it's not creative or divine to be alive as a man, but I happen to be living this particular lifetime in a female body.) And it's fall and that always feels like a fertile time for me, and as I wrote in my morning pages this morning I was having some great ideas coming through.

So, as I folded up the pull-out couch that serves as my bed here at my dad and stepmom's house in London, and put the cushions back on and washed my face and got dressed, I put on Loreena McKennitt because her music, for me, embodies the essence of wild, magical, divine, creative, sacred feminine, particularly in the autumn. I actually find that her music feels a little heavy for me in the summertime. But in the fall it sings to my soul. It's all in the timing.

And I put on my goddess dress - a long black, full-skirted dress with bronze trim and a crossover, Grecian or Roman-style empire waist bodice.

Do you like to set the stage, as well? It is amazing what a difference it can make.

Some days I require props, like a lit candle on my desk or bedside table. Or makeup, like red lipstick, which many of my friends know is my signature and I find it particularly helpful when facing a daunting task. For today I'm all set with my goddess dress and my music. Now I am ready to take the stage of my life, as I step into the wilds of the day before me.

ASK and You Shall Receive

This morning I woke up remembering a dream I had last night in which my mom and sister had discovered an amazing new workout. They were telling me all about it and I wanted to try it but in the midst of asking my questions about it, my mother started her own workout with the video and my sister was in the midst of hers. My mother had said that doing the workout with just the video and not the book could cause you to be misaligned and possibly hurt yourself, so even though I had one of the videos right in front of me, I was looking for the book so I could do it properly. And in the dream I was so frustrated because both of them were doing their workouts and nobody seemed willing to help me and I felt a familiar feeling of exclusion and rejection. When I woke up, I felt that this dream represented an old paradigm that I have been healing and moving out of, and I rejoiced. And then as I wrote about the actual details of the dream in my journal, I also realized that there had been no point at which I had actually asked either my mother or sister for help. Because they had both begun their workouts in the midst of my asking questions about the workout system, I had assumed that they were too busy to help me and that if I asked I would be rejected. So then I felt angry and frustrated and hurt and excluded - in the dream.

In a few weeks' time I will be returning to NYC after living in London for 6 months, and it occurred to me that I would love to be welcomed home at the airport by my sister. But I hadn't asked, for a variety of reasons that I won't go into here. And now I see that I have been doing the same thing I was doing in the dream - not asking for help or for what I need for fear of getting hurt or rejected.

And the truth is that these are coping and self-protective patterns that I have developed over the course of my life for a reason. I have a wonderful family and many of my friends envy my relationships with them, but of course we are not perfect and I have had some painful, hurtful experiences with them, and one of the ways I came to protect myself was to analyze the behavior of the people around me to try to guess their mood and not communicate my needs directly, thereby isolating myself. And then I get to resent them for not fulfilling my needs!

This is an awareness that I can apply to so many areas of my life - my work, my friendships, my love life, and even my spiritual life. The saying is: Ask and you shall receive. It's not just "you shall receive." You have to ask. And I think that's part of why prayer is so powerful and important. GodGoddess is right there for us. And the divinity and love in other people is right there for us.

But we have to ASK.

So now I'm off to email my sister the details of my return flight to New York.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tribal Living

This morning on my way to the tube station I was thinking about something highly profound: hair - specifically, my stepmom's hair, my mom's hair, and my dad's hair, and what my hair might look like when I'm older, in relation to theirs. Then I laughed out loud because I realized my stepmom's hair has no bearing whatsoever on mine, given the fact that we have no genetic relationship whatsoever. However, it seemed quite a positive sign to me that I had momentarily forgotten this or, more accurately, that I had come to a place where somehow, on some level of my subconscious, she is family. And even as I write this I feel a little twinge of guilt, like I'm betraying my mother. Which I realize is probably unfounded since she has never once expressed any discontent or trepidation around my developing a good relationship with my stepmother.

Anyhoo, back to me and my own life. Having spent the last 5 months living with my dad, stepmother, and little sister, I suppose it's only natural that I would feel a closer connection to my stepmom than I previously had. She and I have become movie buddies, and occasional at-home Sex and the City episode-viewing buddies. She shares all her issues of the New Yorker with me, and we like some of the same books. And even though her habits of self-care and wellness are generally much more conventional than mine and she is probably quite skeptical of many of the kooky things that I do or say (many of which, incidentally, are partially due to the influence of my mother AND ran quite counter to my dad's beliefs in many cases, hence, divorce), she is more open-minded than I might have first thought. For example, I have continually shared my essential oils with her and my little sister when they have gotten sick over the months I've been here (which, I might add, is rather often and I do have my opinions as to why that might be and what might be done to decrease the frequency of illness, most of which I do my best to keep to myself) and, lo and behold, she found them to be helpful and last time she got sick she requested one of them before I could even offer. For a girl like me who comes from a long line of physicians, healers, and, well, people who can't help but stick our noses into other people's business and try to help, save, rescue, or heal them, that is very gratifying. In fact, for Christmas, I plan to gift my stepmom with some of those oils so she can have ready access to them after I leave.

A month or so back, I was babysitting at a house down the street and just as I was leaving an absolutely torrential downpour began. The broken umbrella that my client loaned me for the walk home did very little for me and I was completely drenched by the time I arrived home. The sky was very dark and gray. It was a highly dramatic storm. And when I came up to the path that leads up to the house from the sidewalk, there was my stepmom standing on the stoop waiting for me, with the golden light from the house behind her in the open doorway. And I was so touched that she was standing there outside waiting for me. It was quite comforting.

These are just a few examples. It's pretty near impossible to do justice to an entire relationship with a handful of examples, regardless of what kind of relationship it is. The point is that I do feel closer to her than I did when I got here in March. And deeply appreciative and touched by her generosity in opening up her home to me, and enjoying my presence here.

A few days ago I was feeling a lot of grief about leaving London, now that I feel so much more connected to my family here, and have made some really precious new friends in this city. Then yesterday I found out that one of my new friends here is moving to NYC within a week of my return. He happens to be part of a spiritual community that's very important to me both here and in New York. And on Facebook, when one of our mutual friends lamented my impending departure, this friend told him not to worry because he had volunteered to head to Manhattan and make sure I am okay, because now I belong to Britannia. It reminded me of when I was in college and had a pretty ethnically diverse group of friends and, for a period of time, there was an ongoing joke about my black friends claiming me as theirs and my Asian friends claiming me as theirs. Side note: For those of you who don't know me in person, to appreciate the irony of this joke it might be helpful to know that I am, coloring-wise, about as white as they come, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and very pale skin. So I am used to being claimed by "opposing" tribes - my parents, my groups of friends in college, and now my British vs. my American friends.

Obviously it's all in fun (well, during my parents' divorce it wasn't, but in the other instances it was and is), but it strikes a chord. When I feel displaced, as I have many times in my recent years of moving here and there, geographically, job-wise, and otherwise, it is comforting for me to know that I am claimed by multiple tribes. Or perhaps more accurately, I am claimed by one tribe - one complex, intricately layered, tribe. And my stepmother is now part of that tribe - integral enough to factor into a rumination on the ever-crucial topic of hair. In fact, she even gifted me with a haircut at her lovely high-end salon here in London last month. It was a rite of passage, you might say.