I'm Back & I've Changed
I needed a few slow exhales to start this writing process. It's amazing how much resistance can linger in the air when I take a break from writing. Even when the act of writing feels like breathing: necessary, live-giving. All the pressures of 'needing it to be good' and 'already knowing it won't be' pile on top of each other like discarded bricks. And the longer I go without writing, the bigger the pile.
It's OK, though.
I've made a different kind of pile, in defense of this thing I love so much.
Behind this blog are over 200 others--glimpses of real vulnerability, hard and easy truths, bits of self-realization, fragments of genuine spirit, and lots of clever poetic tricks.
(Another decisive exhale). I. Am. A. Writer.
No matter how much I officially publish or what my paychecks and contracts look like over the years to come; no matter what smarter people than me have to say about my work down the line, it's going to be worth it, because I love the act of writing, on its own. That ever-evolving journey through language for new truth is worth every minute, however resisted at first.
I have you to thank for this realization. You, my friends and family from so many phases of my life and corners of the world... sorry to be corny, but you are my first fans, my first readership community. You are the base on which I will prop every published essay, memoir, TV series, and public speech. We all now get to watch the unfolding of my writing career, knowing the role you played in its beginnings. So, thank you. :)
Where Did I Go?
I have taken a lot of time--for relaxation, adventure, and deeper contemplation. Reflecting on my purpose in the world, my gifts and challenges and recurring lessons, I've been digging around for what I need, not just to continue working but to elevate and expand the work itself.
I always spout on and on about how my best relationship with self paves a smoother path for all relationships, but I, personally, needed to work on that. I needed to actually understand what 'best relationship with self' feels like. I needed to do the work to practice what I've been preaching.
So, I went on vacation in the Palomar mountains, by myself (Shane came for a single night at the end). I wrote about those 4 days in a separate blog which I will publish tomorrow, but to summarize: I hiked. I sat overlooking the California desert-scape and a sky full of stars. I breathed. I cooked simple meals for one. I talked/sang to myself and the creatures of the wild. I plucked my ukulele. I read memoirs by interesting women and a Tom Robbins novel. I created little chores for myself: sweeping, tidying the communal kitchen, dusting the caked leaves of a giant hanging house plant. I stretched and fingered my hip joints and glutes. I labored and lunched with zen buddhists who had been ceremonial stewards of the land for 25 years. I drank clean, delicious well water and ate gently spiced veggies and grains.
I listened quietly to my vast inner world. I felt my own powerful, infinite light, and all the exhausting ways I deny or block that light from its fullest glow. I laughed and cried over the traumatic and triumphant moments of my life thus far. I set my emotions as free as the wind. I got to know my own fears and wild intuitions, and I gave every part of me a little reverence. I nurtured and accepted. Forgave and celebrated. I loved and understood all the past versions of me with my current one.
It was unspeakably powerful and, it changed me. Illuminated me to my vast capacity for love: creative, rhythmic, heroic, knee-slapping, mind-quieting love...
...and that was before Shane arrived. :)
In the days after the trip, while reintegrating my better self back into city & roommate & self tape & Zoom meeting life, I gathered some tools for smoother daily operations in these perplexing times: I changed my email and cleared my inbox. I caught up with the people I love. I made more time to read. And I deleted most of my social media: Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Marco Polo... and (deep breath) Facebook is next.
It's not that I don't enjoy the content or the people I primarily engage with on IG and the other apps. I have just grown weary of having my day peeled away by notifications and interfaces designed to hack my attention. I no longer have rehearsals, show times, long days on set, or bar shifts in which to definitively set down my very addictive phone and be present with the people in front of me. So, every day I hop from app to app, from real life to digital life at a dizzying pace, and every week my screen time stats seem unfathomable to me, while my more lasting accomplishments seem rushed, crammed into a few spare hours at the end of a single day. How? There are a minimum of 84 waking hours in a week. Just imagine what might be accomplished in half of them. But it seems I only get a few hours of real artistic craft done on average per week, and things like reading, exercising, and leisure are sporadic at best, even though these things energize and fulfill me with very little effort.
It's not that I'm taking too long to cook, clean, and eat, though for a while there I was sure these were the culprits. And it's not, much to my surprise, a lack of ability or will to make the most of my time. In Palomar, I never once misplaced my next task, ran out of time for what I truly wanted to do, or felt the hours slip away from me. The days and nights stretched further than I expected them to, leaving me extra time for meandering walks and finished books. Perhaps my habit of self sabotage is partially to blame--that frustrating need to put everyone else's desires and expectations ahead of my own--but a few days alone in the quiet wilderness reminded me that my friends, family, and artistic cohorts are nothing but supportive when I communicate my needs. My ever-adaptive inner creator does always manage to get to work (Exhibit 200+ Blogs in 200+ Days), however late in the day. No, there is something else in the picture. Something intentionally clawing at the hours of my day with a clever, unseen persistence.
The Social Dilemma explained it artfully: apps and advertisers capitalize on our attention spans for trillions of dollars in profit. It's our soft monkey brains against the greatest technical engineers, psychological data, and artificial intelligence in human history. Our time is intentionally stolen from us because our attention and our daily choices drive the biggest market to date. Two of the most damaging consequences of this are the theft of our personal time from under our noses, and the creation of individual bubbles of 'personal truth' that now seem impenetrable by basic science and alternate reasoning. Digital algorithms have divided us into extremes of belief and made it so much harder to get on the same page and work together. Are A.I.- fed conspiracy theories the reason we've been too distracted to solve global hunger and climate change by 2020? I don't know, but it doesn't seem to be helping.
A massive population of the world, with their beliefs set in stone, having been fed only what they wanted to see and hear for years, is distorting facts, inciting violence, profiting from hate, swaying elections, and churning ripples of public anxiety into tidal waves of psychological havoc (as if actual disease, famine, explosions, fires, and floods weren't enough to navigate). In this year of fear and isolation, the source of our connectivity is farming our attention for cheap gain, and stunting the growth of humanity.
The sky above my bedroom window is clear blue today, but the wildfire smoke has affected our daily lives for weeks now. At best we are a little more tired and sore. Muscles a little less oxygenated. Throats dry and chalky. Chests tight. At worst we experience headaches and heart palpitations. Shane has an appointment with a holistic heart doctor on Thursday, and we're looking into getting an air purifier. I finally bought a mask with a nanofilter that fits snugly over my little nose. I was rocking the same soft lavender tie-dyed cotton one sewn by our NoHo neighbor back in March, the top of which spouted open like a beaker. No more succumbing to creepy ads for mediocre products. We research everything. We shop local and we purchase through experience and referrals on a nice, slow timeline.
Just as I'll always take better and better care of my physical wellness, I will diligently protect my attention and my intellectual growth. I can't definitively say what the purpose of my life is, but I'm guessing I came here to learn much more than the wet blanket algorithms Instagram and Facebook provide me. I think I came here to connect on so much deeper than the obligatory surface level, to expand and improve over many decades, and not cave in on myself in my early 30's, addicted to the cycle of my own brain chemicals. Just as we pivoted to our best physical and mental health under threat of lung damage (by virus or diminished air quality), we will pivot to our most efficient and healthy digital routines. For me, that means a shiny new email inbox with correspondences from people only (No ads. No bots). It means no more Instagram and no more Facebook (I haven't decided yet if I will keep the Messenger function). It means you can subscribe to my blog or actually send me a message when you think of me. We'll be connecting more deeply, on the outskirts of psychological convenience, and I am 100% fine with that. You deserve more than a stupid, obligated 'like' anyway.
What To Expect From Me
The blogs will be churned out weekly from now on. I'll still be writing every day--I'll just be focused on bigger, juicier projects and all the things they require: research, longer trains of thought, long term dedication and focus. But I don't plan on holing up. I want to connect with you, and write with you in mind. If you feel called, talk to me. Give me any burning feedback and help my writing spark a conversation that grows us both. Leave comments or messages through my website, or just send a text. I WILL respond in kind. Feel free to scroll through other blogs and find new messages in older posts. I do it all the time. And check the website for new content--I have 'vlog' plans in the works and will be posting more songs, dances, and scenes on Youtube for your viewing pleasure.
Thank you, as always, for being here.