The Upside of Being Excluded

Over the summer I saw a large group of my theatre friends’ kids all attending a night out together- dinner and a show, all to support another theatre kid who was in that particular production. When I asked two friends, “Your daughter wasn’t there…was she doing something else fun?” I was shocked to learn that two of the prominent members of the theatre kid clique were not invited. This wasn’t just oversight on the part of tweens and teens, a mom had organized the outing. Recently, another mom in this group started organizing all sorts of “fun” for these kids, still excluding others. The snub is so deliberate and so huge, that I can’t help but agonize for the victims.  

We talk so frequently about kids bullying one another, about adults bullying one another. When we discuss adults bullying kids, it’s framed by abuse. In these social settings, though, as these moms deliberately disregarded one child while cultivating relationships with others, doesn’t it feel like bullying? It’s classic mean girl lunch-room kind of exclusion. As I continue to wrap my head around how grown women are acting this way in a zip code the size of a walnut, all I can do is care for the young beings who are enduring this behavior. I offered to them a letter:

 

Dear Teenager,

When I saw the photos of your friends all going to dinner and a play together, I couldn’t help but notice you weren’t there.   I thought maybe you had other plans, but I later learned at least two of my favorites (you and another) weren’t asked.  That is lousy.

One of the greatest hidden gifts of my life has been exclusion.   Since I was a child I have been excluded by my peers, especially the “cool kids”.   It used to upset me.  I’d cry.   I would hide in my room and teeter on depression, taking solace in music and books.  As I navigated my high school years without a clique of giggling teens at my side, I didn’t realize that I was the strongest among my classmates.  I had no fear in standing up to make a speech or toast.  I didn’t worry about what others thought when I stood up for what’s right or stuck to my convictions. I didn’t miss out on eating at a great restaurant or seeing a fab film because I was solo- I just went. I didn’t have an inner circle of besties to “help” me make decisions, so fashion, school, hobby, and decisions the like were all mine- no committee rule.  (And to be clear: they were all awesome decisions. 🙂 )  Adults welcomed me into their social circles early in my life, allowing me to cultivate job, communication,  and social skills that many of my peers STILL haven’t mastered. As a theatre person, this repeated exclusion has fostered the skills needed to excel at direction, stage management, and performing alike.  I don’t seek validation from a huge group of “friends” or need to be loyal to whomever the nicest mean girl is that moment.  I am loyal to the script, the process, the art.

Socially, some of the best friends of my life came to me in college.  I still connect and communicate with some high school classmates, but only because of social media. By standing alone and strong, I am better equipped to present my truest self to people I meet. And that’s where REAL relationships come from.   The exclusion I experience – to this very minute – by alleged friends and best friends allows me to see their true colors. And know that they aren’t really my friends. Their behavior reflects on THEM, not YOU.

Finally, as I look back as a technical adult, I am cognizant of the adults who did or facilitated the excluding.   Why wasn’t there one mom who spoke up and said, “What about Juliet?” Why were there moms who planned outings with my entire cast or team and didn’t think to call me- or worse, deliberately didn’t call me? Those moms raised kids who do the same.  My mom raised a grownup who will never let a kid sit alone at lunch, never let a cast gang up on the outsider, never ostracize a weak softball player.

Being a teenager is one of the very hardest things I’ve ever done.  It sucks.  I think you’re talented and smart and kind.  I also know you would never let one of your friends be left out of a group event and you would worry endlessly if someone was feeling bad.  Keep being you.  There’s no one better.

 

Maybe we all need a reminder once in awhile about how kindness is truly the only path in life.

Advertisements

TimeHop: 2016

Facebook strikes again, always punching me in the gut with their “On This Day” app. All of my memories that are currently popping up from 2016 are theatre related. Every day from May 13, 2016 until July 3, 2016 I was at the theatre. After July 3rd, I was five and six days a week on, one or two off until mid-September. I was bouncing between four different shows in varying capacities. I was leaving the house at 8am and not returning until midnight, hoping for a few furtive hours sleep before starting again, desperate to fit in line and music memorization. For an actor, a dream come true, right?

Wrong.

Last summer destroyed relationships. I’m not exaggerating.  DESTROYED.  There are people who no longer speak because of the nonsense that was our shared theatrical experiences. I’ve lost a best friend, a long-time partner in the arts, and all sense that the more casual friendships and acquaintanceships will ever again result in creative collaboration. I’m not claiming to be a  victim here, either. My mouth and my personality get in my way sometimes. I can’t let things go. I can’t just let someone off the hook when I perceive their behavior to be bad or lacking. I demand an often-times ridiculously high level of quality, particularly given my geography. I get insanely frustrated when every member of a cast or crew isn’t pulling their weight.  That’s not exactly a recipe for interpersonal success.  

I am also much harder on myself than anyone else can be. I beat myself up for my perceived wrong-doings. I don’t forgive myself. I retreat to a place inside myself, sometimes as a sort of “time out”, sometimes as self-preservation, oftentimes to evaluate the scenario from other perspectives. I always try to make things right. I’ve tried with these broken relationships, too.  I’ve not been successful, rather, ignored.

I really miss doing theatre this summer. I feel a profound void to have been away from the stage this long. As with anything,however, there are plenty of upsides. I adore having so much time to enjoy my life. Joe and I are better than ever, spending tons of really good time together. I’m enjoying the amenities in my community for the first time in maybe forever. I’ve had summer experiences that I haven’t had since I was a teenager- pool visits, lake time, tennis, golf, all of it. It’s remarkable how rested and happy I am.  People constantly comment on how good I look, on how nice it is to see me out and about.  It’s the “Summer of George.”

But Facebook continues to rub my face in my relationship failures, I’m actually fairly upset. I can’t let go of some of the loss, and- it bears mentioning AGAIN- I’m sad to not be doing theatre work this summer. When I sat down to write this, always writing as therapy, I intended to introduce you to the characters, summarize the rise and fall within the confines of last summer, and leave the story for you to interpret. Then I started to get way too detailed, way too bogged down in minutiae that means nothing to anyone who wasn’t part of the day-to-day of Summer 2016. Suddenly it popped in my head:

 

They don’t care.

 

I can’t get past these splintered relationships because I care so intensely. They don’t.  I’m making myself crazy, indulging in painful musings that revisit five months of me putting every bit of myself into a job that resulted in…..nothing.  Absolutely nothing. Well, I guess according to TimeHop it’s something.  My answer arrived over the holiday weekend:  less Facebook. 

Summer Stock: A Fictitious Journey

Summer Stock: Drama in Drama

Working through an idea….part one

 

There’s always more drama off-stage than on, when working in theatre.  Why not have a little fun with it…..  I’m building a smarmy, perhaps snarky little script….maybe you’d like to join me on the journey?  I know that many of you recognize the characters….I can’t wait to see how they evolve into Murder! Mystery! Mahem! Or just another blog post.

 

Cast of Characters:

Katie: A potentially lovely person who wants attention, love, and acceptance. Her mean-girl moments are largely secret: not inviting certain members of the “crew” to an all-nighter at her house, cuddling up to the “hot at the moment” newbie for love and adoration, then forgetting they exist when they’ve served their purpose to her ego. She’s talented, but one-note. She’s not overly ambitious, posing no threat to most of the theatre world in which she dwells.  She can be seen literally walking from group to group gossiping. She will harvest information from group”A”, then saunter to group “B” and dish it all.  By the time she arrives at group “C”, she’s chock-full of tidbits to use as power and gain acceptance.  

Regina: The self-appointed queen bee of the Summer of 2017, she dazzles with bullshit. She’s not particularly talented, but she keeps showing up, so many are legitimately convinced.  I mean, you can’t get a job if you don’t have the chops, right?  Wrong. Telling outright lies for personal gain is her MO, and when backed into a corner about said falsehoods, she places the blame elsewhere. There’s always someone to blame so she always comes up smelling like a rose. She’s cognizant of the fact that people talk about her, but it fuels her in a near Shakespearean way. She may actually view herself as Coriolanus.  

Taylor: Legitimately talented and seemingly nice, this young girl takes zero responsibility for the chaos around her. She’s always the victim, she’s always put-upon. She views herself as hardworking, but those around her feel as though they need the proverbial kid gloves. Her product is lovely; her process is tiresome. Perhaps she’s capable of greatness, but we’ll never know: her ego is in her way at every turn.  

Justin: A young man with infectious enthusiasm, he also believes that he is more talented than he actually is. His base-knowledge of theatre is sophomoric, but he’s male. He continues to get gigs for that fact alone. Desperately lacking in self-esteem, this player needs to be loved. He needs to have a large group around him. Even if this group doesn’t know his name, they are THERE.  They are HIS.  Proximity is everything. The superficial nature of his relationships makes him utterly average.   

Paul: A two-faced hack: hugs and kisses you, compliments your dress, then turns to the next person and makes fun of your fashion, rolling his eyes. Claims to love theatre, but never goes to see anything. Has great ideas, but does not execute them. He relies on others to do hard, good work so he can reap glory and credit. His working knowledge of theatre and resume are both strong, particularly given his age. Stunting his growth and success, however, is profound laziness. He will actually start a sentence with the most endearing, intelligent quip and lose it halfway through, ending the sentiment with, “Or something like that. Fuck it.” He relies on charm and after-party schmoozing to pad his circle of friends. He commands attention and generally speaking gets people to respond. “Phoning it in” is his default mode. His tunnel vision is dangerous, and once you’ve been sworn as his enemy, you’re marked for life.   

Kim: The most pathetic, and probably most poisonous person during summer of 2017. Kim is emotionally needy, untrustworthy, and a complete opportunist. She complains, she manipulates, she cheats. A compulsive liar, most of the time she’s convinced of her own fabrications. The greatest lie she tells is that of her moral fiber. [Spoiler alert: she doesn’t have one.] Watch carefully when you’re around her: she will coerce you into offering sympathy, use your moment of weakness to get what she wants, and then accuse you of murder. That’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. She’s trash.

Gary: Also a liar, but not as superficially as Kim. Gary is sociopathic. Gary often boasts about being a “chameleon” or having a “heightened ability to empathize” when in fact Gary does not possess a personality of his own. Gary is usually morphing into whatever an opportunity calls for:  doting boyfriend, concerned friend, talented actor, zealous set-mover, novice mediator. Gary longs for respect, talks about all the reasons folks should respect him, but never actually does anything to earn respect. Gary is a master of disguises, usually donning a mask of concern and care when he’s trying to figure out if your pockets can be picked.   

Flying Monkeys: These ten or so folks are the backup singers of Summer 2017. They are, on the surface, doing their jobs happily. They like the shows, the space, the casts, the crew. They march along chanting their pleasure but then, one-on-one, confide a desperate need to be rescued. They, with tears in their eyes, beg, “Is this really what it’s like?” The Monkeys don’t want to make waves, but they don’t like the ocean either. They hope for a change and are the undercurrent to others’ wave-making. They never go as far as standing up for themselves or others, but they also don’t buy the nonsense of the crazy-makers.

 

This might be fun……

Recipe Card Collection:  Egg Cupcakes, A Juliet and Joe Original

Back in February I got tricked into buying an “As Seen on TV” item called “Flippin’ Fantastic.”  Yes, I’m a sucker for infomercials, but I was super psyched at the notion of making 12 sandwich sized omelets to have in the freezer for busy mornings.  (And to be clear, all mornings are busy because I steal every second of extra sleep that I possibly can.)  Future blog post spoiler alert:  the device was awful. I mean TERRIBLE.  But I really wanted these magical egg dreams to come true.

I looked at seven or eight muffin-tin egg recipes before coming up with this.  Joe loves them. I have adored them, too. I eat them plain or on a toasted whole grain English muffin.  Since Joe is so excited for them, I’ll let his name “stick.”  For an easy, on-the-go breakfast, here’s what we’re up to this week:

collage egg cupcake

Juliet and Joe’s Egg “Cupcakes”

Base:

12 eggs

½ cup 2% milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

Non-stick cooking spray

 

Fillings: (makes 12 each, so plan accordingly!)

Juliet’s:

12 turkey breakfast sausage links, cut up

6 oz. steamed spinach, drained

½ an onion, diced or sliced, browned in 1 tsp. of olive oil

 

Joe’s:

8 oz. diced ham (If you’re using pre-diced, packaged ham, be sure it is drained!)

4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

(Combine these two ingredients in a bowl and mix together.)

Everyone Loves Bacon:

12 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled

4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

 

*Preheat the oven to 350° F.  

*Spray a standard cupcake pan with the cooking spray. (You might say muffin pan, but I’m talking standard 12-portion pans, NOT the jumbo muffin pans.)

IMG_0988

*Beat eggs, add milk, mix well.

IMG_0987

*Layer your chosen ingredients in each well, filling ½ – ¾ full.  (Filling yields:  as I slice the sausage, I count the number of pieces per link, so each cupcake will have the equivalent of one link. Usually it is 8 slices. Ham and cheese mixture is approximately ¼ cup for each well.  Crumbled bacon:  1 slice of bacon is approximately 1 tbs. crumbled.)

 

*Pour ¼ cup of the egg mixture into each well.  These work best when filled almost to the top.  Too full and the outside will scorch while the inside remains too loose.

IMG_1027

 

*Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until just set.

*Remove from oven and let stand for 3-5 minutes.  Remove with rubber spatula while still warm. NOTE: If you sprayed the pan and let it sit for a while, the top edges of your muffins may stick.  Loosen edges with a thin knife. Also, non-cheese versions will stick more than cheese versions.

*Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*Eat warm or store in the fridge for up to three days. They freeze and reheat well, too!

 

Now for the more verbose information, opinions, and experiences:

You don’t need 12 eggs.  You can stretch your eggs with milk. BUT…if you want a full portion of egg protein, it’s easier this way. They also firm up nicely with this 12 eggs : ½ cup milk ratio.

I didn’t include salt in my recipe.  Three reasons:

  1. My palate fluctuates so much lately, adding salt in advance isn’t always working out. I have to add it when I’m eating.
  2. Salt is way too personal for me to dictate.
  3. Ham and bacon are both salty, so the base recipe needs to be neutral. When I first made these, I salted the egg mixture and poured it over ham and cheese.  It was CRAZY salty.

I am NOT a measurer. I eyeball everything when I cook from scratch. Measuring is for baking and other people’s recipes. We (Joe and I) aren’t dieters, so measuring and erring on the side of conservative meat and dairy was slightly painful for me. It’s working out, but cooking is creative!  Load up those wells!  Bear in mind, ¼ cup of the egg mixture is the ideal liquid. One beaten egg- no water or milk- is just under ¼ cup by itself.  

Wrap each muffin in wax paper, place them in a Ziploc gallon freezer bag, and stick them in the fridge. If you’re not going to eat them in three days’ time, put the whole bag in the freezer.  

img_1030.jpg

 

Reheat times, keeping the cupcake wrapped in wax paper, per my microwave (please don’t hate on me if your appliance has different cook times):

From fridge:  30 seconds on HIGH

From frozen: 30 seconds on 30% power, then flip and

         30 seconds more on 30% power, then

         40 seconds on HIGH

 

Have fun with these.  A dash of cayenne pepper in the egg mixture is divine!  Use mushrooms and onions and peppers and salsa….this is a fantastic way to use up anything leftover in the fridge. Some people prefer butter to grease the pan or saute the onion. Sprinkle cheese on top during the final four minutes of baking.

 

My best guess at calories and fat- and these are approximations per cupcake:

Turkey Sausage with Spinach and Onion: 126 calories, 6.65 grams of fat

Ham and Cheese: 125 calories, 7.88 grams of fat

Bacon and Cheese: 151 calories, 11 grams of fat

Ideas to save the calories:

*Reduce or replace the olive oil for the onion. That’s what hiked up the calorie and fat content in the “healthier” ones I made.

*Reduced fat cheese.  I just don’t do that.

*More veggies, less meat. That’s great for me but impossible for Joe.

Let me know what worked for you, or what didn’t!  Enjoy…and hit the snooze button. Breakfast is already done!

 

The Case for Theatre Majors: Rejection, Part 1

The women at my gym are fascinated with the idea that rejection isn’t a reason to take to my bed. They are devastated that I never heard back from an audition I submitted for a local community theatre musical production. In trying to explain to them my feelings about it (in between TRX and yoga classes, of course), I was essentially making a case for why theatre folks are extremely well equipped to “deal” in life, across the board. When I sat down to formulate my thoughts into a journal entry or blog post, I kept returning to one of my soapbox topics that I touted regularly to “my” kids during their educational theatre experiences. Theatre prepares us for success in life. Theatre majors should not be discounted in the workplace. Theatre kids get it all, and can give this knowledge easily. This is a huge topic to write about. As I hash out each element of my list (TBR….to be released), I hope you’ll join me in an episodic presentation.  First up:  Rejection.  Rejection is a multi-faceted part of this theory. Part one, comin’ at ya.

In the last six months I’ve auditioned for theatre projects only twice. I didn’t get either part. Both times I submitted my interest, I expressed the desire to be cast in ANY role, not just the lead or featured role (respectively) for which I was reading. I can regale you with the first audition later this month, today I’m telling you about the audition that my fitness center pals are so invested in.

I submitted a video audition for a community theatre musical production, citing my interest in a specific featured role, but stating that I was interested in ANY role. I received the polite, “we got everyone’s auditions stay tuned as we begin assembling the cast” email and then….nothing. Not one word. Not a text, not an email, not a call, not a carrier pigeon. This next part is lengthy without any fun graphics or memes to keep you entertained. It is the personal backstory of my rejection, my theory of my rejection, my bad or questionable decisions, and concludes with my lessons learned.

Step One: Prepare for the Audition

I downloaded two different cast albums. I researched the desired role. I bought [overpriced] sheet music for the character’s bigger song. I downloaded the karaoke track for said song. I sang for a trusted friend who encouraged me while keeping my hopes and ego in check. I scripted and memorized a brief monologue to introduce the song. I memorized the song. I hired my nephew to film the audition.

Step Two: Accidentally Learn Background Information and Question the Validity of the Audition

Three different “friends” told me that several roles were pre-cast. One of the friends was the recipient of said pre-casting. Upon consulting the audition notice and seeing “all roles open,” I questioned one of the proverbial “powers that be” as to the truth in this. I had been told very reliably that several roles, including the one I wanted, had already been offered to other performers. This is confirmed and I decide to not audition. Why waste my time and embarrass myself?

Step Three: Make Other Plans and Then Have Chaos Erupt

I decide against auditioning and make other plans. I let my nephew off the hook to film. Then I get another message from the aforementioned representative of “powers that be” saying s/he was mistaken: that nothing is pre-cast and please audition. Please be involved. I’m welcome. Now I’m torn: I’ve literally named names and will likely be auditioning to be cast in the ensemble. I can do it; I love theatre, I value arts in the community, and I have quite a bit to bring to many aspects of the production.

Step Four: Re-hire Nephew and Submit Video Audition

I sent it. I swallowed my pride, pushed the rumors out of my head, and did what I could. I was confident that at very least I’d be cast in the ensemble. It kind of sucked to have invested that much time, energy, and money in an audition for an unpaid gig as an ensemble member, but that’s what loving art is. I needed to check myself. I also constantly remind myself that if I want to be the person who “calls out” others, I have to put action where my mouth is.  

Step Five: Re-hear the Pre-cast Names/Roles

Literally twelve hours after the nice email that nothing’s been offered or cast yet and to hang tight, one of the pre-cast rumor actors tells me TO MY FACE she was offered the role before auditions. I ignore it. I smile, I think, “It will be super nice to be in the ensemble and support a friend in a nice role. This is a test of humility and enthusiasm.” I go home and am sad, but I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed that I keep getting lied to.

Step Six: Hear Absolutely Nothing

I never got any communication. No formal rejection, no offer to be in the ensemble or backstage. The actress who was alleged to be pre-cast in the role I desired confirmed it a second time by offhandedly mentioning the part while talking about something else.

Step Seven: Evaluate the Rejection

I have thirty-five years of theatre experience. I have fifteen years of community theatre credits in this area. I have eight years of professional theatre credits. I have a freaking degree in theatre. I can’t get cast in ensemble of a community theatre show.

Step Eight:  Evaluate My Errors- Past and Present

I am currently beating myself up for every single thing I’ve ever done in theatre, or at least how each of those things could be interpreted. I’m raking myself over the coals remembering moments in which I was difficult to work with. Moments in which I chose candor over ass-kissing. Moments in which I was guided by the work, not the feelings of others. I am frequently asked to watch rehearsals to help the director give notes or troubleshoot problems in a show. I am often the audience member that the cast fears seeing after a show, worried about my opinion of the production. I am the person who spots the weakest link or moment and wants it repaired. I am always the person who works really hard to bring the best show possible to its feet- whether as an actor, director, stage manager, choreographer, or audience member.  I tell you, reader, honestly:

*I never criticize that which I can’t fix. If I don’t know a way to rectify a problem with a show, I don’t articulate my dislike. I strive to be constructive, not destructive.

*I am infinitely harder on myself that I ever will be on others or complete productions.

*I hold everyone to a high standard.

*I don’t subscribe to cliques. I don’t like when a cast member is excluded or “Mean Girl’d.” I don’t like when outsiders don’t get equal treatment. We all started as outsiders.

*I don’t sign on for disrespect. Don’t disrespect the art. Don’t disrespect the script. Don’t disrespect the cast. Don’t disrespect the creative team. Theatre is a machine in which each cog has a function. When one cog is out of whack, the whole mechanism malfunctions.

*I don’t like fake relationships. It makes my blood boil when a friend will talk smack about a director or performer at length, and next be seen buddying up to them for a role. Integrity trumps popularity in my book.      

 

Step Nine:  Resignation and Acceptance

I didn’t get a part.  There is always another part. There is always another show. Onward. But I also have to check myself- again. My mouth gets me in trouble.  Sometimes it’s calculated, sometimes it is not. Usually, I feel justified.  You know that meme that’s based on George Carlin’s comedy?  “Everyone loves honesty until you’re honest with them. Then you’re an asshole.”  DING DING DING.  BUT………………… and it’s a big BUT…………

I will hold my tongue more. Not be deceptive, just be quiet. I don’t have to sacrifice my personal integrity by letting someone else exercise the lack of theirs. I don’t have to hold a mirror to every person in every situation. I can learn and practice more subtlety. I can embrace this reality and adjust my behavior accordingly.

Step Ten: Rejection Lessons

For my ladies at the gym, theatre rejection teaches you to keep going.  Not getting the part doesn’t mean I’m giving up on theatre. Theatre rejection teaches you that there are always factors out of your control. You can’t control the whims of casting agents or directors. You have to do your best and present your best. Theatre Rejection teaches you that every action has an equal reaction. Called a director lazy? You won’t be in any of his shows any time soon. Said you “loathe” a particular leading man? You’ll never be cast opposite him, no matter how much you want the part. You have to be accountable for everything you do in your life, knowing that a bad experience someone had with you a year ago may influence decisions in the present. Diplomacy is important in most of our lives. To hone this skill in creative environments is to perfect it. Most importantly, theatre rejection teaches us to evaluate how we can improve. Sometimes it’s as simple as investing in dance classes, a vocal coach, or better headshots. Other times it is learning how to audition better. There are even times it makes us dig deeper and learn to get along with each other better.
And so…we theatre people go on. We embrace the next opportunity for rejection, knowing that eventually there is acceptance.

Lent 2017

I am Catholic. I was raised Catholic, I’ve been a fallen Catholic, I’m selectively Catholic, I’m a practicing Catholic. As Lent approached this year, the obligation of giving something up or doing something extra for forty days felt particularly necessary. I don’t know why. As a child, I gave up soda, candy, chocolate, pizza.  Some years this was easy (we really didn’t eat pizza that much), some years it was plain old not fair (my birthday falls during Lent and what’s a kids’ birthday party without soda?  PUHleeeeeze!). In adulthood, when I was in practice, I would always find truly difficult, usually food, items to forgo for the season. The “you’re going to hell” French fry event of 2007 was tough. This year that didn’t seem enough.

I needed to sacrifice something that would spur betterness in my existence. 2017 has brought everyone I know to some sort of negative state:  Angst. Terror. Fear. Judgement. Depression. On a daily basis even the most positive among my comrades is struck by overwhelming negativity from outside sources.  We can blame politics, we can blame technology.  Ultimately, we can only blame ourselves.  So…..

Two weeks ago I gave up my emotional hoarding of baggage from broken relationships. (Succinct sacrifice, huh?) I have committed to releasing ALL of those broken relationships: romantic partners, friends, former employers- all of them. You know I love to hoard. You know part of me loves my ghosts. You know I love dissecting and dwelling. I hope that the concerted effort to relinquish this baggage releases moments of envy. I admit it- ENVY. I hope it makes me focus on more gratitude and appreciation for my life and the current, wonderful relationships I have and are mutually cultivated. I hope it brings me to practice greater gratitude on a daily basis and release relationships that have run their course more easily. Joe is really good at this and I know I can be better. When I do it, I feel peaceful. THAT’S a positive goal.

In two weeks, I have failed twice.  Last night, most notably. Being regularly indulgent in meanders down romantic relationship Memory Lane, it isn’t surprising that my first failure was Christopher related. I was travelling through the town where we met and- boom. There he was.  I had just filled my Jeep with gas and was heading back home, he pulled out right in front of me. It happened super fast and for the next seven and a half miles, I found myself wishing we’d end up in the same place at the same time, sharing a laugh about coincidences. I willed him to call me, sharing a “blast from the past” Dan Fogelberg style. I hoped for a text if he got to his destination before I did mine, a friendly, “Was that you behind me?” inquiry. Lenten observance? EPIC FAIL. The rebound wasn’t terrible, though. I called Joe. We laughed at the small-townie-ness of it all, even several counties away. I sought solace and comfort in my spousal equivalent. The Christopher part of my life is encapsulated and done. This failure was a blip on that proverbial radar. I can repent and refocus.  

Last night, however,  it wasn’t an ex-boyfriend that plagued me; it was a series of lost friendships, all sparked by the memory of one great friend that I really miss. The gal-pal I started to mourn and try to release was a best-friend seven years ago. We started hanging out when her two kids were close in age to two of my three nibblings and we’d get together in child-friendly scenarios. When my nibblings got older and were with me less, we still got together. Seven years ago, we became a type of “mommy friend”, laughing, gossiping, and trading stories while digging for Goldfish crackers, juice cups, and baby-wipes. [Although she has recently pointed out to several mutual friends on several occasions that I am not a mommy and never was.  Thanks for that, friend.] Our friendship seemed deeper than just “moms” on play-dates. [It seemed deeper than to offer such a snarky comment.] She used “BEST FRIEND” first. She talked smack about her other friends to me. She called me in the middle of the night when her husband didn’t come home after work, another time when her son spiked a fever and she needed someone to sit with her daughter. I called her to bring ice when I’d run out for girls’ night, when my nibblings’ mom died, needed chips for a play-date. Then she disappeared. She stopped calling, stopped texting, stopped interacting with me on social media. She’s still out there, in the universe. I see her interacting with others. I see her out places- both in-person and as she checks-in via Facebook. I see her fostering new relationships. I’m just not her friend.  And it hurts. It feels like betrayal.  I’m confident that now, I am the friend she’s talking smack about in another woman’s kitchen.   

Last night I let the loss of her friendship consume me.  By the time I got home from a meeting, I was flushed, angry, and on the verge of tears. (Note to self: don’t go to lengthy, boring township meetings where electronics are frowned-upon and you’re left to stew in your own pensiveness.) As I regaled Joe with my day, it became a steady stream of laments about other relationships that wore out. They had run their course, as nearly all do. Joe kept trying to get me to see the silver-lining. The first five attempts were not received well on my part, I admit. I couldn’t keep squelching his unsinkable hope, though, and relented. He’s right. Who needs them (her)? I have other people and places that require and appreciate my energy far more than a shattered faux-friendship of nearly-a-decade ago.  To be fair to the “bestie” of days gone by, maybe we were actually best friends. For that moment in time. Maybe we served a specific purpose and quickly moved on, like a mushroom that pops out of a block in Mario Bros.

My self-check was the point of ENVY.  Was there anything I envied? Do I envy her? Do I envy her new “friends?” Surprisingly, NO and NO. I’m sad, I’m hurt, but I don’t envy anyone because of this abandonment or betrayal or loss.  I’m grateful for the time we had together, grateful for the experiences “our” kids shared, and hopeful that there wasn’t anything larger at play on her end of the feelings. I hope she’s not harboring some hurt, some injustice she’s endured at my hands, or anything like that.  Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

I also slept really well last night, thanks to the emotional fatigue that settled in around 11pm.

Fingers-crossed I don’t continue to fail in my Lenten observance an average of once a week. Who knew this would be more difficult that passing on the soda at my own 10th birthday party?

2016 Out, 2017 In!

Yes, I’m aware that the new year is already 36 days old.  Cut me some slack. I just unearthed a box of unopened mail from December 2014. My “to do” list isn’t exactly up to date.

Last year I wrote about New Year’s resolutions and detailed what I hoped to accomplish in 2016. That post is here. In the interest of accountability, I give you my results:

1- Exercise 3 times a week.

VICTORY!  There were months where I took an average. Forgive me.

2- Read 2 books a month:

FAIL. To be clear, I won’t let myself “count” any audio books I listen to, which would push me well into the VICTORY category. I only “count” books I read with my own two eyes. I only accomplished ½ my goal.

3- Write 1 new blog post a month:

FAIL.  Dismal, pathetic failure. 2016 was tough. I didn’t write here because…well…I didn’t feel there was worth in the practice. I didn’t feel valued. I didn’t feel that anyone read or cared. I didn’t think writing for mental clarity or the actual writing exercise had merit. 2016 did a number on me.

4- Save some money.

FAIL. No discussion.

5- Send 1 handwritten note- unsolicited- to a real person every month.

VICTORY! This was the best practice I implemented in my life in 2016. It was fantastic. I sent all 12 notes, excluding “Thank You” notes and notes to cast members or interns during the summer theatre season. Some notes included a small gift, all notes were sincere and had a specific point. Fully half of the notes were acknowledged by the recipient.

6- Meal plan for our house every week. EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

VICTORY!  This was the second best practice I implemented in my life in 2016. In the past I have been a fan of spontaneity and “What do you feel like?” dinner plans. My meal planning in 2016 left room for that flexibility, but significantly reduced my grocery spending and overall food waste.

7- Keep up those other successful bits of awesome I attempt.

VICTORY!  I concede, however, that this is subjective.  Some days just showering and leaving the house fulfilled my “bits of awesome.”

I have plans for 2017.  

1- Exercise 3 times a week.

I thought about eliminating this from “resolutions” because I enjoy a generally fit lifestyle. Seeing the workouts logged, knowing I made a promise, and keeping the promise motivates me.

2- Read 2 books a month.

This should be easy for me. I used to read three books a week. I can easily read a 300 page novel in a sitting. I must do this.

3- Write 1 new blog post a month.

I cannot doubt what I know works for me. Even my shallow, emotional rants serve a purpose in my consciousness. I also have been listening to a storytelling podcast (The Moth- go listen!) that reminds me:  I have stories to tell.  2017 is the year I tell my stories.

4- Focus on financial health.

A slight modification from past years’ “Save some money” resolutions, financial health is different. I’m returning to a period in my life where I sat every Monday morning and balanced checkbooks, transferred money to savings, evaluated money in/out, and saved for vacations and extravagances- all without relying on lines of credit. 2017 and 2018 bring some milestones to my and Joe’s life and I’d much rather enjoy them than not.

5- Send 1 handwritten note- unsolicited- to a real person every month.

I’m telling you: try this. Real mail, real letters, real appreciation for a human in your life. This not only brightens someone else’s day, you will marvel at how many people you have to choose from. Sitting and thinking of who is (or was) a light in your life keeps marvelous perspective.

6- Date Joe more- 2 times a month, I hope.

Like any couple, we used to have a set “Date Night.” During hectic weeks or months (and honestly, the years 2010-2013), we’d laugh and vow to make it up. We spend lots of quality time together, but we’re going to try to spend concerted “Dates” together. We even made lists of places to check out for a few hours, restaurants to visit. We’ve been RedBox – ing movies together. It’s really, REALLY nice. #year13

7- Organize these digital photos.

UGH. My goal is 50 per day, all year long. If I get 1,000 per month I’ll be happy, though. That *might* get my iPhone cleared up.

8- An overall de-cluttering initiative.

To be fair, this started in Fall 2016. I spent several hundred dollars and about nine days working my costume collection. I’ve attacked my personal wardrobe and started utilizing ThredUp and Poshmark to thin out my collections. I’ve dropped three full Jeep loads at Salvation Army. I’ve even been throwing out “souvenirs.” 2017 will bring success with this resolution, I know it.

9- Decrease digital messes.

7, 8, and 9 could probably be combined.  Each day I have nine email addresses I check. That’s nine inboxes of subscriptions, spam, and news. I’m hoping to streamline this to three, each serving a purpose. I strive to unsubscribe from unwanted shopping sites and merge duplicate accounts.

10- Random acts of connection.

If you’ve read anything at all here, you realize that I not only hoard STUFF, I hoard relationships. Or their baggage. Or their remnants. So instead of dwelling on these past connections, I’m trying something fun and fleeting.  I bought Sneaky Cards. Check ‘em out. Random, fun, bold connections with strangers who get to pay it forward into the world is my goal.

SO…..I took most of my 2016 list and put it on the docket for 2017.  I eliminated the meal planning from my list. It is completely ingrained in our household. We waste less, we spend less, we eat better, and our pantry is never harboring random canned goods from early 2006. Keeping the “bits of awesome” should go without saying at this point in my life. If it’s good, keep it. If it’s bad, toss it.

Ten is a lot- a WHOLE lot. One month in, nothing’s been abandoned yet. One month in, all ten feel pretty good.  

Dear Theatre Interns

The Summer Season at the theatre has ended, taking our interns back to their respective colleges.  I shared with them some thoughts…and a week after writing to them, I realized that maybe more than just these five could benefit from some of my thoughts.

 

Dear Abby, Brandon, Casey, Jacob, and Megan,

Alphabetical order, ya like that?  🙂

What a summer!  Here’s where we insert all the cliches like, “It feels like yesterday…,” “It was gone in the blink of an eye…,” blah blah blah.  

But they ring true.  We were just stumbling into rehearsals and finding our groove as casts, and now it’s time to say goodbye.  Think of what you encountered this summer:

*Unexpected Stage Management duties     *Prolific careers as understudies     *Gender studies *Lice     *Pink petals     *Mareya leaving you too early     *1,267 cabarets   *Spiders     *Bees     *Vomit     *Kids passing out     *Momentary mini-strokes during the curtain speech     *The scrim     *Pink feathers     *”[insert awkward quote here]”      *Scabbers’ antics     *The rooftop     *Lots of sandwiches from The General Store     *Warnings     *Fines     *Tech glitches     *Farts & Fog     *Invading- in strange scenarios- Juliet’s dreams (nightmares?!?!)   *The same musical performed 21 different ways over 21 performances     *Countless iced coffees from Dunkin’     *Missing family events     *Sleep deprivation   *Canoeing down the Delaware River     *Yellow teeth     *Power Ranger gloves     *A musical with at least four cast/crew casualties     *Dante     *Hunger Games SPH Summer 2016

I hope that personally you’ve each built new friendships and remembered the value in existing ones. I hope you found strength in your character and uncovered tactics to improve yourself. I hope you connected with people who bring out the very best in you. I hope you’ve discovered characteristics you admire in others and strive to cultivate them in yourself. I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer.  This, I hope, was the first of many times you’ll “live the dream,” getting paid to be in theatre.  

Professionally, I hope you found ways to be challenged, even when you felt you weren’t. I hope you tapped into new facets of yourselves as performers. I hope you never settled, that you pushed to achieve a better character and performance with each take. I hope you learned more about the vastness of the proverbial “village” that affords us performers the luxury of “just” showing up to perform. I hope your flexibility and adaptability increased. We endured more changes and modifications and upheaval than many seasons you’ve been part of so far. Your ability to adapt will take you far and earn you opportunities. And seriously: there was a slew of college students slinging hash for minimum wage this summer.  That’s honest work for honest pay, and it’s work everyone should do. We all got to do what we love, chasing a dream, bringing joy to audiences for dozens of performances, building personal and professional relationships….all while getting paid.  This is the stuff entire songs are written about….living the dream.

As you close this chapter and begin the next, I hope you can find the positivity in every lesson this summer brought. It’s easy to dwell on negative incidents. It’s even easier to find the bitter, jaded, glib comment.  Don’t take the cheap joke or sarcasm:  rewards are plentiful for those who can turn every interaction and experience into a lesson, into growth, into a smile.  

My short list of advice: never forget the importance of backstage decorum. Always leave the space better than you found it. Never abandon Theatre 101 notions like: don’t touch other people’s props, never give another actor notes, always return to the script, find your beats, get off book, wear your shoes.  Learn every aspect and be willing to help. If you’re called in for extra time on a show, you might just be the person who steps in for a life-changing role. Never let yesterday define your tomorrow. Don’t diminish one person along your path- we’re all here for a reason. No kissing until Tech Week. Learn to take a note (say “thank you”). Hydrate.  

John Steinbeck wrote in Once There Was  a War, “The theatre is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.” Theatre requires more than talent. To succeed, theatre people must possess qualities that often act in opposition:  confidence with humility, natural talent with honed talent, drive with free-spiritedness, and most of all self-preservation and thick skin with a desire to build and respect relationships. Everything we did this summer had a purpose. From cleaning toilets to turn the space over to the audience (the last element to join any production) to strike and set up of all five shows in rep: what we do as theatre people has purpose. The greater our spectrum of experiences within the theatre, the greater our purpose within the craft.  Theatre people are the best people around because of and for this.  Thank you for what you brought to our “village” this summer.  

Before I leave you, a notion that is NOT meant to be a religious statement.  Despite the recent canonization of Mother Teresa by the Catholic church, this is only offered for its poignancy:

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?'” ~~St. Teresa of Calcutta, MC

If you don’t love what you do, don’t do it. If it is worth your effort, it is worth everything.  

Wishing you the best,

Juliet

Five Years

That lovely application known as “On This Day” on Facebook really shook me yesterday. It reminded me that five years ago I hit my head with a car door and ended up in the ER for seven hours, garnering five stitches above my left eyebrow.  Although the injury healed nicely- I have wrinkles that are more prominent than that scar, remembering what was going on in my life five years ago took my breath away. Realizing how much changes in five years felt like a punch in the gut.

Five years ago….

I was closer to 30 than 40. (Obvs.) The kids were little…James was 8, Mychi 6, Jack 5, David 1, and the rest not even thought of yet. Joey hadn’t yet been in a horrific accident. Our best friends were still our best friends. I worked full time at school.

Normal life stuff. Until I kept recalling the details surrounding the rainy afternoon in May when I opened the driver’s door to the Escape and the corner clipped my forehead/eyebrow.

Kate was still alive. Kate was still awake. Kate was still able to sit up and hear about the kids’ day.

That’s when five years felt like an eternity.

 

Disappointment

It’s inevitable: people will disappoint you.

Your spouse will forget an anniversary. Your child will choose a bad friend. Your parent will ignore you. You will get cut off in the church parking lot. Your college roommate will ignore you at your class reunion. You will catch your best friend gossiping about you in your own kitchen. The grocery store cashier will forget to scan your coupons.

Don’t forget: you will disappoint others.

You will blow off a birthday brunch. You will make a snarky comment about your best friend to a mutual acquaintance. You will “grr” at an employee in a department store for no good reason. You will fail to apologize for showing up to a meeting ten minutes late. You will inadvertently compare your spouse to a former flame. You will reject your child’s attempt at helping with a chore because you can do it better. You will lose your patience with your kids and yell louder than you intended.

A constant challenge for me is to channel disappointment into positivity. The Pollyanna “GLAD” game gets old. How can I really say, “I’m GLAD my friends came to my home, ate my food, drank my wine, and made me cry with their cruel jabs about my personality”? Is it even sane to consider morphing being excluded from a family gathering into, “I’m GLAD that my brother and his wife are confident in their choices and excluded me so hurtfully from the baby’s birthday party”? No, Pollyanna, I’m not GLAD these things happen. In fact, I struggle with disappointment constantly.

I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve tried talking- LAWD have I tried talking. I’ve tried subtweets and vague-booking. No thanks. What’s been most effective for me, but might not gain accolades far and wide, is taking disappointment and making a very selfish, concerted effort at change. Consider:

*I walked in on one friend whispering about me to another friend when I had confided in them an emotional crisis. I felt betrayed that these two pals were now rolling their eyes about a situation they’d been validating for several weeks. I was embarrassed. I was frustrated. I was still in crisis. I wanted to drink too much Merlot and call them out. I took to my journal instead. When I felt the urge to “talk about it,” I put my thoughts on paper and closed the book- literally. I get to spend time with my biggest fan (me), I get to work on my writing, and I can choose to ignore the sentiments jotted down or relive them over and over again.

*Our house is the go-to for our circle of friends in terms of hanging out. I happily and willingly create a giant spread of food, make sure the fridge is stocked with everyone’s favorite potables, and never lament the work/cost/time/mess. At our last “happy hour” a snarky, “You don’t have kids, you don’t get it,” reminded me of the great divide- those with children versus the childless. It also illuminated that this woman genuinely has zero respect for the role I play in many children’s lives nor does she have respect for what my life is overall. Last week when discussion of a “happy hour” gathering came up, I declined the conversation. I may have said that I’m too busy, but instead I curled up with a novel I’d been aching to read. I don’t have to spend my most precious commodity preparing to entertain someone who diminishes me so easily. I’m spending that time reading instead.

*I didn’t smile at a little girl in CVS. I was walking in to buy allergy medicine and was annoyed to be doing so. I entered the automatic doors, staying to the right, while an obnoxious creature on a cellphone was barreling towards me, oblivious to my presence or basic rules of civility. Trailing behind the offending party was a little girl, probably three years old. She had a new toy in her hand, still in the package. She looked right at me and smiled, so excited to share the acquisition with someone. My annoyance with the little girl’s mother consumed me. I looked at the child and kept walking. When my own decorum returned, I felt so guilty to have denied this child a smile, the most basic convention of friendliness. I’ve been sure to smile at each person I pass when I’m out in the world, regardless of age. It’s amazing how much a smile can do for someone, particularly when coming from a stranger.

*My boss made a bad decision. He made a call in the heat of the moment that the team didn’t believe in, that had a negative impact on the project, and ultimately fractured morale. I was disappointed in his weakness, in his lack of dialogue. Instead of harping on this incident, I’ve spent more time praising my colleagues for their strengths. I’ve spent more time connecting team members’ strengths to tasks. While it’s still a new scenario, we all seem to be happy to seemingly ignore the snafu of last month and focus on the future when in fact we’re channeling a disappointment into creating positive growth.

Maybe this seems dumb to you. For me, finding a way out of disappointment is essential. In the past I allowed an isolated disappointment to consume me- to become a negative outlook or complete bitterness. Too often I pull up Facebook and see someone going on a non-specific rant about an injustice they’ve suffered. They garner “likes” and “HUGS” and “Feel better, sweetie, you’re better than them” types of comments. But they are perennially unhappy. They seem to thrive on negative interactions and expect disappointment. The longer I employ the technique of negative energy conversion, the less disappointed I am. Truly. It has become automatic to experience joy by choosing positivity. And maybe that Pollyanna outlook isn’t so “old” after all:

I’m GLAD to endure a disappointment so I can find a different path later. I’m GLAD that I’m able to work through disappointments. I’m GLAD that I will not allow disappointments to define me or even the moment.