Sunday, May 19, 2013

Asking Without Shame

If you spend any time anywhere on the internet you’ve probably heard Amanda Palmer’s TED talk by now. If by chance you have a life away from your desk and do things in the sunshine and haven’t seen the video, you’ll find it below.

This video appeared in my twitter feed like manna from internet heaven, like little glittering fairies surrounded Amanda while she was writing so that her words would reach out and touch my very soul. Or, you know, maybe it was just a fortuitous coincidence and she explored issues that a lot of us struggle with. 

It might be that last one but I’m not quite ready to give up on fairies just yet.

As brevity is the soul of wit and no one wants to hear me whine, my story boils down to this: I got a promotion. I was not given enough training. I knew that I was not given enough training. I did not ask for the help I needed. I was unsuccessful and demoted. As tales of woe go it’s not the most tragic; I still have a job, I still have my health, my family. Nothing was hurt, as they say, but my pride.

And my pride, really, is the core of the problem. I knew I needed help but I was too embarrassed to ask for it. There’s a stigma about asking, about needing. For so long I’ve lived by the philosophy that if I can’t do it on my own that means I’m just not good enough, smart enough and no one will like me.

Asking is scary. You’re telling someone that you’re less than perfect, that there is something that you lack; you’re being voluntarily vulnerable. You’re asking for something and they may so no. And not getting what you need sometimes seems safer than asking for it. Which is all so preposterous when written out in front of me, but then, fear is often ridiculous. I mean, I’m still terrified of clowns.

The heartbreaking part of my little professional melo-drama, the part that makes me want to smack myself upside the head, is that I was working my ass off and worrying myself sick trying not to fail at a job that I didn’t care about because I never stopped to ask myself what I want.  I was so concerned with what other people would think of me and what other people thought I should be doing, who they thought I should be, that I didn’t ask myself for what I needed.

The most important thing I gleaned from Amanda’s TED talk was that she is able to ask for the help she needs from others because she has allowed herself to ask. She started with herself and gave herself permission to be human and vulnerable and trusting, to “ask without shame”. 

I can spend my life crying in the handicapped stall of the women’s bathroom  OR  I can ask myself what it is that I truly want and I can ask for help from the people who can help me get there. 

Amanda helped me to realize that asking usually isn’t just asking, it’s sharing. Sharing is what connects us, whether we're sharing personal stories on sad little blogs or sharing 20 bucks to help an indie author self publish, or sharing what we need -allowing someone to help us, to feel a part of someone else's life if only for a moment.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Is there a world you long to see?

The first time I saw Les Mis I was 15. Orchestra Right. Row H. First seat in from the middle aisle. By this time I had the entire libretto memorized and as the overture began I gripped both armrests tightly because, sitting there, I knew that I could run and jump on stage before anyone would be able to stop me. They would pull me away and put me in handcuffs immediately and, since this was a school trip, I’m pretty sure I would have been suspended. 

There’s still part of me that thinks it would have been worth it.

Almost exactly a year before this I was in the hospital. I was afraid and alone and surrounded by strange and sometimes scary people. I had a walkman and a cassette of the original Broadway recording of Les Miserables and I put on my headphones every night and sung silently to myself, trying to sleep.

Les Mis means something to me. Not just because I’ve spent countless unrequited nights singing “On My Own” in my bedroom and empathizing with Eponine. But because songs and stories have the power to carry us through our darkest times if we can let go enough to dissolve into them.

Disappearing into the French Revolution can have strangely healing affects.

Almost exactly 16 years after that night at the Imperial Theatre I was sitting in a movie theatre watching the revolving stage of my childhood turning into a whole wide world.  And I felt like I was 14 again in more ways than I care to admit.

I could nit pick.  I could question casting choices or random and bizarre lyric changes, or the inclusion of new songs in an already overflowing libretto. But really, when it comes down to it, none of that shit matters.

The only thing that matters when you’re talking about a movie, or any piece of art, is: how did it make you feel? Or, rather, did it make you feel?

Les Mis makes me feel. It makes me ache and hope and doubt and aspire for something more than the petty little dramas playing out in my head. Les Mis makes me want to fight and love and struggle and find someone worth standing in front of a bayonet for, to be someone worth standing in front of a bayonet for. It makes me want to write something that makes someone else feel something, anything. And it makes me want to sing out at the top of my lungs and not give a damn what anyone else thinks..

Broadway play or Hollywood musical, it’s all still there.

And I felt every minute of it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day: Post-mortem

Before I went to bed on February 13th I picked out an outfit. When I woke up in the morning it would be Valentine’s Day and I wanted to feel pretty- instead of the unlovable can of slop I had been feeling like for the past few weeks. I knew that I would be walking into an office full of “Surprise” flower deliveries and chocolate explosions and overly perky women in snuggly red sweaters. I needed armor.

Cute sweater, little black skirt, black stockings, sexy purple boots. I made up my face and headed out the door ready to stick my single, sexy booted foot up Valentine’s Day’s ass.

By 9am I had the first run in my pantyhose and by 1030 I had managed to completely mutilate them with the zipper from my left boot. It was very punk rock but not quite business casual. Bye-bye “I feel pretty” skirt, hello jeans that probably should have been washed yesterday. Great, there goes my self-empowerment Valentine’s Day.

But, as I was sitting on the toilet MacGyvering my stockings into socks, I remembered something; I don’t care about Valentine’s Day.

I’ve been reeling from the death knell of the most important relationship of my adult life (so far, fingers crossed) and everything got twisted in my head. The thought of my ex with his new girl on this oh so hallowed of Hallmark holidays so soon after learning that we were never, ever, ever getting back together made me feel like I was going to fall apart because I was alone and unloved.  (Cue any song Morrissey has ever written but Unlovable would be most appropriate) But that’s not who I am, or, more importantly, not who I want to be.

Valentine’s Day serves 1 of 2 purposes it’s either an excuse for you to make someone feel special or an excuse to feel bad about yourself. Neither one is necessary.

If you’re in a relationship with an other, significant or otherwise, who makes you feel special every Thursday and not just those Thursdays that fall in the middle of February then you know that you are loved and cherished and supported and wanted and appreciated and although “make your co-workers jealous” bouquets and fancy dinners are nice, you don’t need them.

If you’re not in a relationship and there isn’t someone who wants to make you feel special in the ooey-gooey romantic ways then beating yourself over the head with self loathing and romantic comedies and boxes of chocolate large enough to give yourself diabetes in one sitting isn’t going to do you, or anyone else in your life, any good.

This is something I used to know. Something I used to laugh about.  But here I was, caring about something that I don’t care about, fretting about something that wasn’t important to me, being someone that I’m not. I think I’ve had enough of that.

Today is just another Thursday and next year it will be just another Friday.  Maybe next year I’ll have a Valentine, maybe I won’t. Either way I am just as lovable on February 14th as I am on the 15th.  And Hallmark can just go to hell.  

Also, this makes me smile so big: 

Happy Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The snow falls sharp in the city walking from the theatre to the train that will take her home to an empty bed but a head full of regret and remorse and a belly full of fear and questions that stab at her even in her sleep. Still, she thinks, it's beautiful even though it hurts.