Hello 2016

Dear 2016:

You have a lot to live up to.

2015 was ushered in with a heart full of hope, but very much still on the mend after the roughest year I hope to ever experience. What I had no way of knowing was that my heart needed to be so deeply torn in 2014 in order to build up the smooth, strong, new strands of muscle capable of withstanding the amount of overwhelming love 2015 would bring. Without that tear down and build up, it may have burst or collapsed when flooded with so much good or repelled the notion that such grand, luminous, REAL love was possible.

I will forever be grateful to 2015; it was a year of boldness and it was the year that I came home to my own bones. I said “yes” often – and often to things that scared me or that seemed impossible; and in return, 2015 taught me that everything is possible.

In 2015, I found myself traveling confidently alone in daily adventures and across the country.

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Hello, Pacific Ocean!

For the first time, I performed a piece of my own writing and did so for a sold out crowd.

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A Brief Dating History

I also “bust the bust out of boob jail” and twirled tassels for 900+ people over the run of The Last Burlesque in a triumph over my history with body battles.

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The Last Burlesque: Ryan Maxwell Photography

I saw many dear friends marry and was honored to stand up with not just one, but two couples of my favorite humans as they vowed to journey this life together.

I sent homeless animals to forever homes and helped care for them while they waited to find their families.

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I put myself back into the dating pool and created community around the horrors and atrocities that accompany that dive. I became fully transparent publicly and personally regarding my sexuality and interest in both men and women. I performed one show under the most difficult of circumstances and came through it not unscathed, but knowing that I can handle myself on stage while under personal emotional pressure.

I made good art with really good people.

And in 2015, I fell in love.

I fell deeper in love with my brilliant, beautiful friends for their huge hearts, kind souls, and open minds.  I fell more in love with theatre – with the art of storytelling; with the community in DC; with my artistic teams and casts; and with incredible characters that I so luckily was entrusted to portray. I fell back in love with *my* life – not the thought of what my life could be some day, but with the life I am leading.

And – as if 2015 wanted to solidify its rank as a landmark year – this fall I fell madly in love with the most phenomenal woman who makes my every cell dance. My world is brighter and more joyful than it has ever been in large part due to her presence. And I could not be happier.

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So, 2016, I am entering your year feeling incredibly whole-hearted and excited for all you may have in store.

Welcome. Let’s be friends.

New Year’s Magic

I am not typically big on New Year’s Eve. While it’s a perfect excuse for a party and some champagne, it is just a measure of time. Nothing *actually* happens overnight. No extraordinary thing occurs as the clock changes over from 11:59pm on December 31st to 12 midnight on January 1st that doesn’t occur on any other day. Except maybe more people are more drunk than usual. It is mundane, daily magic that one day passes as another begins.

However, this New Year’s I’m banking on big magic. The kind of magic that shifts universes and starts the world anew.

Through all of December 31st, 2014, I will believe that with each tick closer to midnight, the roughness of this past year is being sloughed away. And when it chimes midnight in the District, I am going to believe with all my soul that the world is fresh. Clean. Smooth. Full of wonder and possibility in a different way than it has been before. Because 2015 is going to be a year of great things and grand adventures. It will be a year of change by choice, not by circumstance.  It will be a year of celebrations and creativity and self-discovery. It will be a year of love and laughter and full presence of being. It will be the start of a chapter that has yet to be fully imagined.  And while some ghosts may linger occasionally whispering 2014 in my ear, the bellows of a joyous 2015 will be louder.

Due to the immeasurable nature of what I want to do with the gift of this fresh year, I will make no resolutions.  Instead, I will say goodbye to the mantras I’ve been using as 2014 has slowly, drunkenly made its way to the door: “Get your house in order.” and “I am letting go.”

And I will say hello to a new one: “I will boldly go.”

So, friends, here’s to a magical New Year and all the good that 2015 will hold! Celebrate beautifully.

Inked

For years I’ve wanted a tattoo.

In high school, I wanted a Chinese character for something or other.  I can’t remember what specifically. Which is why it’s a good thing I didn’t get a tattoo then.

In college I thought about a phoenix or a phoenix feather on fire.  I still like that imagery and idea, but it never excited me enough to actually do it.

I’ve always known that I would *know* when I stumbled upon the perfect idea to start me down the slippery slope of inking myself up.  And I finally did.

Over the last two months, I kept coming back to the poem INSTRUCTIONS by Neil Gaiman:

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never

saw before.

Say “please” before you open the latch,

go through,

walk down the path.

A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted

front door,

as a knocker,

do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.

Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat

nothing.

However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,

feed it.

If it tells you that it is dirty,

clean it.

If it cries to you that it hurts,

if you can,

ease its pain.

From the back garden you will be able to see the

wild wood.

The deep well you walk past leads to Winter’s

realm;

there is another land at the bottom of it.

If you turn around here,

you can walk back, safely;

you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.

Once through the garden you will be in the

wood.

The trees are old. Eyes peer from the under-

growth.

Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She

may ask for something;

give it to her. She

will point the way to the castle.

Inside it are three princesses.

Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.

In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve

months sit about a fire,

warming their feet, exchanging tales.

They may do favors for you, if you are polite.

You may pick strawberries in December’s frost.

Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where

you are going.

The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-

man will take you.

(The answer to his question is this:

If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to

leave the boat.

Only tell him this from a safe distance.)

If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.

Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that

witches are often betrayed by their appetites;

dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;

hearts can be well-hidden,

and you betray them with your tongue.

Do not be jealous of your sister.

Know that diamonds and roses

are as uncomfortable when they tumble from

one’s lips as toads and frogs:

colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.

Remember your name.

Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.

Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped

to help you in their turn.

Trust dreams.

Trust your heart, and trust your story.

When you come back, return the way you came.

Favors will be returned, debts will be repaid.

Do not forget your manners.

Do not look back.

Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).

Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).

Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).

There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is

why it will not stand.

When you reach the little house, the place your

journey started,

you will recognize it, although it will seem

much smaller than you remember.

Walk up the path, and through the garden gate

you never saw before but once.

And then go home. Or make a home.

And rest.

The poem was introduced to me by one of my best friends and favorite people and it has been a touchstone in recent times with chunks of it becoming mantras. It’s technically the breakdown of a fairy tale; it’s also about being on a new path and trusting/learning from others but remembering to be a good human and to trust who you are at your core to get you through. And I love it. So much. I relate strongly to many parts of the piece and if I had the cojones, I would probably get the whole poem on my person.

But I don’t have the cojones.

So about a month ago I had narrowed down ideas and I knew I wanted “Trust your heart, and trust your story.”  I have always had a strong intuition and a gut/heart I can rely on – sometimes it’s a freakish sixth sense and there are jokes about the women on my Mom’s side of the family being witches; it runs in the blood. And while everyone has their own stories because we are all our own unique universes of thoughts, feelings, and histories, I am typically able to work to a clear, balanced, able-to-be-trusted story – partially because I over-think, over-analyze, and try to put myself in others’ shoes. I try to approach my reactions to difficult situations from a collection of information and that has always helped lend clarity and understanding in tougher moments. Not to say that I am always correct or that I don’t have moments of dramatic weakness. But on the whole, I can trust my story. And sometimes I forget this.  Or – more likely – I let others give me a different story or sway me from my gut. And that has never turned out OK for me. So having this reminder and mantra carved into my skin seemed natural. And I knew I wanted it in my own handwriting.

I also played with the idea of shape and had settled on the idea of a heart with the bottom slightly open, the words creating the shape (still in my own handwriting), as a reminder that no matter what is going on, you have to approach life ready to let love out of your heart and into the world and let love from the world into your heart, too. Because at the end of the day, I want to live my life steeped in love. And I  mean that in a much greater way than the day to day – though that is important, too.  I want to live with an open, flowing heart because you only get one crack at this life – so why not live in whole-hearted love?

It’s cheesey. But it’s true.

So I had my consultation at Cirque Du Rouge with their fabulous apprentice, Cas Loll, and came armed with a slew of handwriting samples as instructed.

Before meeting up, I had read Cas’ bio:

Like a magical woodland creature, passionate curiosity about the fiddly bits of everyday life and an endless hunger for knowledge fuels me.

I’m obsessed with all things whimsical, mystical, eerie, ancient, good-hearted, and seemingly inconsequential.

Cas also mentions on her website that she’s available for “Petting your cat or other cute small mammal.”  Needless to say, I felt good about her.  And then during the consult, when I started talking about the poem, she shared that she recently bought the INSTRUCTIONS book for her nephew.

Done.

We set October 14th at 6:00pm as the date/time and until then, she would workshop the heart (with a back-up of just the text) in as close to my handwriting as she could get while still having the text tattoo-friendly (size/spacing).

The 14th rolled around and here is what I typed out on my work computer as the hour neared:

5:22pm – I have eaten 2 extra strength tylenol; a thing of mac and cheese; my stomach is queasy and churning and I am sweating like a monster.  I am wondering if I should have gotten a second thing of mac and cheese. I have been so distracted all day at work. Nervous and excited to see the final stencil of the tattoo ideas.  Am giving myself full permission to walk away if I don’t love the design. Am also downing diet green tea with ginseng and honey.  Will leave at 5:30pm. Have done very little focused work today. This is not a personal challenge. This is to prove nothing to anyone. There is no pride in this. “If you turn around here, you can walk back, safely; you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.”

Unrelated – my purse is full of cat food and both my bunny slippers and rainbow eyelashes have arrived today.

I am not afraid of pain. I am not afraid of pain. I am not afraid of pain. I am not afraid of pain.

I was *very* afraid of pain.

I got to Cirque and saw the designs and knew I would need to see the artwork on my body before deciding anything.  The heart looked great but was easily distorted with movement and that bugged me. I wanted to love it. And I really liked it. But if I wanted the placement I wanted (left ribs), it was not going to work the way I had envisioned.  We tried the shoulder, but still, I wasn’t in love with it.  And Cas was LOVELY about letting me take my time and had a zero-pressure approach. She was friendly and welcoming but very clear about this being my decision – and a bigger decision – so she would be happy to re-design or scrap the idea altogether. We were on the same page.

After deciding the heart wasn’t for me, I asked to stencil just the words on my ribs …and I looked in the mirror … and I gasped.

I loved it.

I imagined this must be what some of the brides on Say Yes To The Dress feel when they find their gown. Except I was standing in the front of a tattoo shop in my held-up, unhooked bra and jeans looking in the mirror at a tattoo stencil on my ribs.

Side-note: my comfort with this situation was joked about by the ladies in the shop – they said they could tell I was a theatre person. Hilarious.

Anyway – I got chills and was ready to forge ahead but because I’m a little a-type sometimes, I needed to compare the stencils to my handwriting samples a few more times to be sure it was just right. And after being completely satisfied – I said “Let’s do it!”

I was still *very* afraid of pain.

But I should not have been.

Honestly, it was not bad at all. It was not comfy and at times it “zinged” a bit much, but I used the 30/40 minutes as time to breathe and meditate. And as I was laying there, I started contemplating what my next tattoo will be…because that is how willing I’d be to do it again when I find the next perfect thing.  And I think the heart idea is still lingering, taking a slightly different form…

But for now – I’m good. And am instituting a “no new tattoos for at least 6 months” rule. Maybe I should make it a year. Because a little over 6 months and I hit my 30th. Which could be grounds for some new decoration…

Seriously, I’m so thrilled with this tattoo and could not have imagined going to a different artist or shop.  So thanks to Cirque Du Rouge and Cas Loll and all those who gave me tips on going in for the first time or helped me workshop my ideas.

And I’m glad that I waited 29 years to come to something that feels just right. It is perfect. And perfectly me.

Trust you heart, and trust your story

Trust you heart, and trust your story

A Fauxdult Girl’s Favorite Things: Break-up Edition

Here is my Oprah-style favorites list for what you need in the wake of a break as you try to adjust to a new approach of living your life.

A FAUXDULT GIRL’S FAVORITE THINGS: BREAK-UP EDITION

Flowers – Buy flowers of a non-romantic variety – like gerbera daisies in bright orange – and put them somewhere you will see them as soon as you enter your home. They brighten the mood and are a subtle reminder that many good things that bring happiness are not designed to last forever –  and that is a-OK; in part, that is what makes them beautiful.

Furballs – There is nothing better than curling up with your highly sensitive, typically grumpy but now oddly affectionate cat, playing with your fosters, or working with some shelter adoptables to help ease your soul. Feeling sad? Hold something furry! Tears coming? Let a pup lick them away – they like the salt!

Mambo is the best therapy dog and she gives amazing kisses.

And you thought you wouldn’t be kissed again for a long time… look at that!

 

Elastic waistbands – Ladyboo – you are going to want to be comfortable. Loose fitting clothing and loungewear are your friends. Don’t judge – wear anything that makes you feel comfy. Bust out those faux business pants and skirts that look like they have real-people fasteners like zippers and buttons but secretly have elastic and wear the hell out of them. But make sure you feel GOOD about what you are wearing. Don’t wear sweatpants too much. That will make you feel worse. Yoga pants are your buddy at home.

Deep Steep sugar scrub in passionfruit-guava – This stuff is luxurious –  it makes your body feel amazing and your skin super-smooth while smelling absolutely delicious. It provides a nice escape for a few minutes in the shower and is a great way to Treat. Yo. Self. Because you certainly deserve to Treat. Yo. Self.

Delicious

Delicious and cruelty-free

 

Bourbon – Bulleit or a bottle of Four Roses (better when brought by one of your Meg(h)ans). Mix with bitters (better when brought by a friend). Pop some star-shaped ice cubes in there and a glitter swizzle stick and breathe. Enjoy in moderation and best when shared with a buddy. Bourbon is God’s way of letting you know that He/She exists and that humans are deserving of love. Relax.

Waterproof mascara – Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Splashes! waterproof mascara – cruelty free and phenomenal.

Cry-proofing perfection

Cry-proofing perfection.

 

Privacy settings on social media – Use them. Privatize albums and photos. Deactivate accounts for stretches of time. Limit your own access to people’s feeds and streams and change alert settings. Technology is pretty intense and there are ways to make sure you don’t see things you don’t think you can handle yet. Do not be ashamed to use all the bells and whistles to your advantage.

Smudge/Sage – All aboard the Ritual Train to Hippy Dippy Break-up Town, USA!  Doing something to clear the space and create a blank slate is useful if not for any other reason than to clear your own brain. After the Ritual Boxing of Items and Ritual Exchanging of Things, when your physical space is clear of tangible items reminding you of what is now past, burn this shizz around your apartment and make intentions for now and the future. Breathe.

To new beginnings, a clean space, a clear mind, an open heart, a strong spine, and remembering to be kind to and respectful of the obstacles this year has brought.

To new beginnings, a clean space, a clear mind, an open heart, a strong spine, and remembering to be kind to and respectful of the obstacles this year has brought.

 

Family and Friends – I have touched on this before, but let people know about the break-up and be honest with them about what you need. Message it out to your nearest and dearest and others who will be affected by your lack of full presence in the immediate. It is OK.  Most everyone has been there and will understand.  There will also be lots of hugs. “And YOU get a hug! And YOU get a hug!  AND YOU GET A HUG! EVERYBODY GETS HUGS!!”

INSTRUCTIONS by Neil Gaiman – Read this poem. Read it and take heart.

"Trust your heart, and trust your story."

“Trust your heart, and trust your story.”

 

Respect – Respect what is past. Respect the relationship you had. Treat it with care because it is broken and fragile. When you get sad or mad or frustrated about losing someone you love, check yourself and temper your response. Be human.  Be honest. But be kind and loving. To yourself and to the person and relationship you lost. Never stop giving respect. Ever. And respect yourself and the wishes of others enough to have a clean break and start moving on.