accidental

Today I spoke with a friend of mine who I literally hadn’t spoken to in almost two years. But like with any good friend, solid friend, or as my friend Liz and I say, “Life Friends,” time is of no consequence. We talked about many things, but one thing we did talk about was accidents.

Accidents are usually defined as something that happens that wasn’t expected, that didn’t turn out so great. Other times it is used in place of a coincidence. In my personal experience with accidents, they usually happen at a time when so much is going on, it sort of acts of a punctuation or bridge to clarity. Not always fun, but almost always a wake up call.

My friend and I had both been involved in accidents this winter that could have turned out deadly, to be blunt. Both of our cars were totaled. The situations were very different, but what stuck out to me in both cases was that we were both extremely present, reacted with grace, and somehow managed to end up safe and unharmed.

For me, the accident made me think a lot about taking care of myself. I was very lucky to have been in a safe car and even though it was  snowing and so cold I couldn’t feel my toes and the cop was a jerk and it was the icing on my already stressful, dealing-with-a-big-life-change kind of day, I felt a sense of “Okay. Got it. Time to let go of worrying, appreciate what I have, and look out for myself first.”

I met up with a friend for lunch who told me that any time she has ever experienced a motor vehicle accident, she was going through some major work emotionally and psychologically. When big life events happen, I can’t help but look at the big picture of my life and sort of find a thread of how it all ties together.

Most of the time, it’s hard to see it when you’re in it. Other times, a piece of clarity comes out right away. Usually when your life is on the line, you drop a lot of BS.

That’s been something I have had to remind myself a lot in the last month. So much worry and agonizing and pain is only JUST that. It only serves as a distraction from the fact of your beautiful life.

One could say that the people I have been reconnecting with, the people who have left my life, these are all coincidences or accidents. But they aren’t. The fact that I spoke to my friend who is on the other side of the country, living his dream, happy with his career and girlfriend, is not an accident. For me, over on the east coast on this sunny, wintry day, which happens to be a new moon, it underlines a lot of what has been going in in my life.

I had put some dreams on ice for awhile, and now, I’m coming out of a deep hibernation and surrounding myself with people who are pure and full of love and who believe in me and what I do. I feel things thawing out and I feel like myself again.

Also not an accident is the fact that his past week, I have had someone every day tell me I look great and I seem well and that I am even happier than normal. That is a result of events, reflection, and action. No holding back. Just being in the moment. Just waking up to each day and realizing how special it is.

I stopped by the grocery store and was having a really hard time getting a bunch of cilantro in a bag. I looked up and saw a man doing the same thing with one arm, but he did it quickly and easily. The irony of my frustration was not lost on me and I took a moment to take a deep breath and be grateful. Not an accident.

At the store I saw a military acquaintance. He was in line and  I thought about how hard it would have been to see him even a month ago. But instead, I walked on by, grateful that I am in a new place and soon will have a completely different environment and way of life.

Each moment of our day is not an accident. Oftentimes, the pieces that are unplanned are the opportunities to be reminded of what we have and who we are becoming. Today reminded me that I am stronger and bigger than anything I have been through. I had my moments of stress like everyone else, but all I had to do was take a step away, breathe, and be grateful. Now is all we really have.

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Leaving, Going, Starting Somewhere New

Have you noticed that change in the air?

in rehearsal for my show that closed this weekend
in rehearsal for my show that closed this weekend

I don’t mean the end of the summer, though the coinciding seasonal change does emphasize it all the more.

The director of my show that just closed this weekend is moving to New Hampshire for a few big directing projects. Another one of my friends is starting a new job this week. Yet another is moving to Florida next month. Several more of my friends are moving cross country. I find it interesting that changes seem to happen in patterns and cycles with friends. Not only that, but this year in general I have noted more changes than usual from large numbers of people.

And me? I am starting a new job tomorrow at After School Arts Program, a non-profit in CT that provides arts education for all levels and ages. My skills as an actor, producer, production assistant, producer’s assistant, and leader, will all come in to play for this Program Manager position. I have been wanting for awhile to experience something new, learn something different, and meet new people who are passionate about the same things as I am.

It also means prioritizing my independent efforts with my consulting and producing businesses, and of course, acting. It means trusting myself enough to know that I know what is best for me at this time, despite what the outside world may think, say, or do.

photo by Michael C Daly
photo by Michael C Daly

This year has been the first time in my life that I have made decisions based on exactly where I want to be five years from today. There are plans, projects, and changes already in the works that are not ready to manifest yet, but I am pre-paving the way with my attention to where I am presently. I used to believe that thinking this way would feel limiting or keep me from experiencing opportunities as they arose, but that is simply not the case. I feel freer and more creative than I ever have and I am grateful for the chance to further develop my craft as I start on a new journey.

Endings are scary and fun and exciting and hard. Whether you are moving, starting a new job, breaking up with someone, or buying a new car…remember to take a look at the long view and pat yourself on the back for making it this far. Cause we don’t know what’s next and we don’t know who we’ll meet, but all we can do is know where we are today and keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open for the next adventure.

Have a thoughtful and fantastic fun-filled week!

What’s in a label?

Definition of label: a word or phrase indicating that what follows belongs in a particular category or classification: The following definition has the label“Archit.”.

Okay, so there are a few definitions of the word label. I find the definition above to be one of the more dangerous.

Usually, when we are at parties or networking events or meeting someone for the first time, we get the question, “What do you do?” The funny thing is, more often than not we answer with a title, rather than what we actually do. I’m a lawyer. I’m an actor. I’m a construction worker. I’m a librarian. I’m an artist.

Titles, labels, and status have become so important in our society that we rarely open with what we do. “I work in law. I perform. I build houses. I run a library. I create.” How much more interesting do you think conversation would be if we answered in verbs? I myself have run into this dilemma multiple times. If i answer that I’m an actor, I know I will get a, “Whoa, cool” or a “Oh…isn’t that cute.” or “How do you do that?”

I went to a #RespectHERHustle conference last year and Lynn Bardowski encouraged the entrepreneurs to begin answering the question, “What do you do?” or “What does your company do?” with a vision and mission statement instead. This immediately takes the pressure and worry of you and instead focuses on what you accomplish. And shouldn’t that be what this is all about anyway?

Do we all only do one thing? Not really. Some of us are daughters, mothers, fathers, teachers, bankers, accountants, soldiers, leaders…The world isn’t as black and white as attempt to make it out to be. And why is that? Why do we feel the need to constantly seek validation from OTHERS by picking one thing and being defined by it?

I know I am asking a lot of actual questions here. But I think it’s important for us to remember that we are never one thing. And that’s okay.

Some people stick to one discipline because it makes them happy. Others want to stretch in other ways because one discipline doesn’t make them happy enough. When I allowed myself to write, produce, direct, along with being an actor, I felt even more fulfilled. But it wasn’t that easy. Especially when I first realized I wanted to run my own company too, the thought terrified me. Not so much the thought of starting something new, but the idea that I could be leaving something behind. It took me some time to realize that I wasn’t leaving anything behind at all. I was using what I had learned up until that point to expand into something new.

Acting is one of my many passions. To me, it just feels right. But I have always been the type of person that enjoys having a few fires burning so I can jump back and forth between things and be stimulated in new ways. My mom reminded me to think about when I was a teenager. I was interested in so many things. I loved learning. I didn’t rush myself to decide what I wanted to do with my life, but when I knew it was the performing arts, I latched on and didn’t let go. It’s important to have that kind of focus to grow. But it’s also important to know when it’s time to transform and learn something new on top of it.

My unsolicited advice is this: Don’t hang onto a label because you are scared of what you will lose if you no longer choose to be defined by it. Think about what you will gain.

Labels take up a lot of time. We label monetary gain and loss, weight, time, family, professions, cars, places we live, statistics…it doesn’t end. So why don’t we all just give ourselves a break and instead of judging what we do, go out there and keep chasing what makes us happy?

I wish you a label-free day! (Seriously..the next time someone asks you what you do, tell them what you do. See how it goes!)

10 things I learned about myself in the Mid-West.

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1.  I’m extremely practical when I want to be.

As we step up to the Rental Car counter at the airport in Minneapolis, the husband says, “So, what are we getting?  A sports car?”

I smirk.  there’s almost an edge to his voice, as though he believes this could actually be a possibility.

“Nope. Something economical,” I say.

the kindly gentleman at the desk asks us, “Would you like a GP-”

“No, thanks. We have one.”

“Would you like insurance on the-”

“No, we are covered.”

“For just a small amount you can be covered,”

“No, thanks, we are covered.  Already.”

“So you don’t want the insurance?”

“We’re all set.”

“If you pay for your gas now -”

“Nah, that’s okay.”

“OK. Step right this  way. Follow me.”

Hubby scowls.  “We’re not gonna have ANY thing in the car.”

“Nope,” I say.

As we walk out to the myriad selection of cards, a silver mustang speeds by. Hubby glares at me.

“SO, will a Ford Focus work for you?”

Unintelligible mumbles come from the direction of my dear husband.

“Sure!” I say.

Kindly gentleman hands us the keys and I sign on the dotted..well…the ipad.  (Weird, right? technology!)

As we drive away, I am vaguely, aware that for the next 4-8 hours, all I will hear about is my terrible, no fair, no fun, selection of vehicle.

See Mom and Dad?

Practical.

2.  I am obsessed with NPR.

OK, so I sort of knew this one already.  But I can’t tell you how excited I would be throughout our drive from Minneapolis to Fargo, when I found the NPR station.  It was also the first time hubby listened to “Wait, Wait, Don’t tell me!”

3. I hate. Fast Food.

Poor husband.  He tried so hard.  You see, we found ourselves in a big box town, after driving for God knows how long.  We were in need of something to hold us over before dinner.  there were many meat-centric fast food places.  We did manage to find a health food store, but there was nothing ready-to-eat available.

We saw something called taco john’s.  I figured, because a) I was desperate, and b) I had never heard of it before, it would be “ok.”

We walked inside and I immediately saw the one vegetarian item on the menu.  they were called mini oles or something..but in reality they were tater tots.  So I ordered those. with a side of guac.  Next I ordered a “salad,” with no meat, cheese or sour cream.  I should have taken a picture of it.

Out came a large taco shell with shredded, brownish-maybe-green iceburg lettuce, some black olives, and salsa.  that was it.  While the husband began the attack on the three for one taco special, I scowled.  I made snobby, Downton Abbey inspired gestures, rolled my eyes and raved on and on about how I would never eat “fast food” again. And what was I thinking?  And what’s wrong with America?  Why are we killing ourselves with pickled products and fake vegetables and meat byproduct?  Hubby just continued eating quietly as I bitched about the salt lick tasting tater hockey puck things.  I dumped the salad.  We drove away, never to speak of john, nor his sad excuse for tacos for the remainder of the trip.

4.  I love my college friends.

time goes on, we all lose touch, but man, when we get back together…we know how to party!  In a we’ve-already-done-the-college-thing type of way, but it’s still a lot of fun.  Seeing old friends is like finding that designer dress that somehow got stuck in the back of your closet.  You dust it off, try it on, and you can’t believe how good you look in it.  And you’re like Ohhh yeah. that’s why I bought it!  Except with friends I mean it in a more non-material, less superficial kind of way.  And hubby loved my friends too, which made it even better.

5.  I don’t like mid-western hipsters that much….

that is all.

6.  I rock at Karaoke.

I may not be Mary Poppins on broadway, but I know how to work a crowd with my keen sense of actor…ability.  As Ms. Jean used to say in college, “Just act your way through it!”

7.  I enjoy “Friends” 100x more now that I am older.

When we crashed in Minneapolis, we just sat on the hotel bed and watched “Friends.” And I laughed. A lot.  Not many sitcoms make me laugh anymore. Oh, the 90s.

8.  I really like the whole, “Ladies first.”

OK on the East Coast, I NEVER EVER heard, “Ladies first.”  And I probably liked it that way, and I probably still like it that way.  Perhaps something about the short “o” and the slight lilt in the voice..but every time someone out there took my order, it was ALWAYS, “ladies first!” with a smile.  Damn straight!

9.  I like oxygen bars.

Yeah, I tried one for the first time.  Out there.  Randomly.  And it was super relaxing. Now, it could have just been the full body massage chair I was sitting on for twenty minutes, but I would tell you..Yeah, give it a shot.

10.  I like road trips with my hubby best.

He drives the entire time.  He puts up with my complaints of fast food dining.  He lets me go to every Starbucks I encounter.  He lets me stop at strange pawn shops and consignment stores (I scored a pair of overalls. Who even sells those anymore?!)   I get to pick where we eat.  He makes me laugh. He’s calm.

And yeah, I guess he’s just pretty good company overall.

10 is a good number.  We’ll leave it at that.

Oh and there’s this:

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