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I Feel So Much Better

March 10, 2013 By: admin Category: Happiness, Health, Living, Love, Meditation

tasting cake and coffee better

Recently, I was talking to a new friend, a colleague who I’ve only known for a few months, about my goals in life. I was shocked to hear myself say that all I wanted from life was to be a good sister and a good friend. A good person. I reasoned that I had lived so well and so much already that I didn’t look to the future or a dream and say “I’m going for THAT.” The odd thing was that it was all true.

A few weeks ago, at this new job, I was working on a very difficult video. The subject was psychology, specifically, the construct known as “stereotype threat.” This is when a person’s performance on tests or in life is negatively affected if they fear they are being seen and judged as a stereotype. Black, gay, female = stupid, strange, bad at math. In order to understand how to deliver the message in a video I had to go deeper into the complexities of identity. Being the kind of filmmaker I am, I always put myself in the shoes of the viewer and track backward, asking “What do they NEED to know? What would make someone empathetic to what I’m saying?” The key was to communicate that we all have identities that are sometimes attacked and judged, and to use that as a universal. Easy, right? Not-so-much…

In order to help people feel vulnerable about their own identities, I had to feel vulnerable about my own. So I did a searching inventory of how I saw myself, how I “identified.” This phrase was something I was familiar with from the lesbian/queer community, but never gave much thought to. While in company I would tell people that I identified as a lesbian, it always felt false coming out of my mouth. Something in my gut would constrict, as if my body was catching my mouth in a lie. I’d always wondered about that feeling, but had chaulked it up to some unknowable fear and pushed it aside. After all, I WAS a lesbian, so the feeling couldn’t have anything to do with that.

Well…

As I delved deeper and deeper into my own identities, I kept coming up against walls. When I really got honest about How I Identified–which to me meant how do you introduce yourself at parties–I came up with only two things: human and female. After that there were what I called the “2nd Tier Identities:” daughter, sister, friend. But it felt fake and forced and false to go even there, to say nothing of “lesbian, filmmaker, TV producer.” I realized that the feeling at the center of my gut that had always clenched was there not because I might have been secretly ashamed of being a lesbian, but because I actually didn’t have any identities beyond human and female. On the one hand this was liberating–less pressure to “be” anything more specific–but on the other hand it left me cold and alone in a terrifying confusion.

I went to my therapist and told her the whole story. She helped me track back to the core of my being, journey back as far as I could remember and work forward, slowly, identifying along the way. Where I ended up was staring at a bias against gay women that I’ve held since I came out. I told my therapist that I was terrified that when I told people I was a lesbian they would immediately see me as a “fat-assed, cropped hair, mannish, softball-dyke.” Ugly. I told her that I couldn’t stand to be associated with such women, women who seemed to take no care at all in looking pretty.

[Now, I know I just walked into a feminist hornets nest with that one. “Why do we need to be pretty? Men don’t put on makeup (some do), and spend hours primping (some do). Why do WE need to put on a fake face in order to be loved? In fact, it’s a good question. For myself, I like to put on makeup and wear flattering clothes because I LOVE looking beautiful. I LOVE being one of the beautiful, attractive women in the room. And there’s noting wrong with that. Okay, moving on…]

My therapist said: “You have internalized homophobia.” All the blood rushed out of my body. I’d been caught, but I didn’t even know what internalized homophobia was. When my therapist explained it, a series of gears in my body suddenly clicked into place. In that very second, I became a different person. It was horrifying and marvelous. All of a sudden, I was no longer biased, ashamed, or afraid of being a lesbian or of being seen as anyone in the dyke community. A wash of clarity fell over me and I was reborn, lighter.  It was an incredible moment.

A couple of weeks after that session with my therapist I chatted with my dear friend Robin: lesbian, playwright, liver-of-life, partner, philosopher. She’s known me since before I came out and has watched me evolve as a sexual person. She very matter-of-factly noted that, actually, I wasn’t all the way to one side on the sexuality spectrum. She said: “Lex, you can be with guys. You love guys sometimes.” Again, the wash of clarity came over me, but with this one the final gears effortlessly fell in line and I almost toppled over. I’d been so emotionally bent for so long that finally being righted felt wobbly at first. Robin was right. I’m in a grey zone on the sexuality spectrum, and knowing that makes things so much easier.

The difficulties and insecurities I’ve felt my whole adult life stemmed from not knowing this and not giving myself permission to be as I truly was. Finding out how I truly am and then being given permission to be it has been amazing, unforgettable, and freeing beyond belief. I now know who I am and am thoroughly content with being it.

So, I have a third identity: bisexual. I feel so much better.

Complete Well-Being: A Guide to Symptoms & Cures

March 03, 2013 By: admin Category: Faith, Happiness, Health, Meditation, Molly

Halong_bay2_500

I haven’t read as many self-help books as most women my age and in my circumstances, but I’ve been aware of them and aware of how drawn I can become to them when the chips are down. Today, though, after a few days of various revelations, I see the books for what they are: gentle nudges. Sometimes not so gentle. Depends on you and your situation, level of danger of that situation, etc.

This morning I looked up at my bookshelf. This is The Magic Bookshelf. It holds books I’ve been collecting since college, over 20 years. Whenever my life is a confusion, I turn to that bookshelf because I know something will jump out at me that has answers, or that will nudge me closer to that what I need. Today, the thing that jumps out is a 3.5 x 5.5-inch, square mini-book about healthy/healthful eating. “A Guide to Symptoms & Cures.” It reminds me that everything I’m seeing and reading and working on today is somehow–in that same “Magic Bookshelf” kind of way–having direct meaning to what I’m going through at this very moment.

Wouldn’t it be great if “complete well-being” and a discovery of symptoms and cures were this easy to find?

Of course they’re not, and it’s not really the book that gets my attention. It’s the title.

In my situation, I saw and felt the symptoms, but didn’t have the resources to fully understand them or to act to heal myself. I was also totally alone at the time the worst of it was happening. To be honest, though, I can count on one hand the times when I haven’t been totally alone through the most important moments of my life. This is just part of who I am. Sometimes spending so much time alone wears on me, but other times I crave it in order to calm my mind down so I can work, be at peace, and enjoy the world. People, sometimes, can drown out all the life in a place even if they’re not talking. They just suck all the air out of a room.

This month marks 9 years since I fell down the rabbit-hole. It wasn’t a losing of myself as much as it was a sort of inevitable journey of teaching. I needed this to happen so I could understand things better once I came out of it. Today might be the first day of me finally climbing out of it. I can’t tell yet. I’m still in the phase where I’m seeing signs everywhere. Everything has meaning. And my emotional intuition is buzzing and howling like an electrical storm. If someone around me who I care deeply about is in crisis I feel it like their pain is plugged into my vascular system. This is good in that I feel thoroughly less blind, but it can be bad as these signs show me, more and more, what really happened in my past, what I really suffered.

Yesterday, driving home from work in a daze, I started crying uncontrollably. I was terrified that my instincts have been all wrong. All wrong. Since I was a kid. Thankfully, that’s turned out to not be the case. I suffered, I was blind and powerfully naive, but I’m not crazy or unintuitive. Even given the price, knowing that is a HUGE relief.

One of the hardest things to do in life is to actively, consciously let go of something you love. It’s a leap of faith. While your heart is breaking you have to trust your mind when it says “shut the door.” Today, I’m roughly the same person I was when I met Molly, but nine years wiser.

Still Life With

July 21, 2012 By: admin Category: Love

Still Life With Tray, Lyubov Popova

Author and naturalist, Terry Tempest Williams has a way with translations. She sees the natural world and writes about it in a way that’s universal. She has been through a lot and sees the benefit of translation. “Sometimes,” she seems to say in her writings, “you don’t have to say the thing directly.

My brother, Michael, was the first person I heard say that humans could change. From year to year, he suggested, you could decide your own life, become whatever you wanted to become. At the time, at the tender, glorious age of 20, he also said that humans weren’t meant to be with only one person for their entire lives, that that was unhealthy. This, from a man who recently celebrated his ten-year wedding anniversary. 😉

From a long, old example, I know that when you get a clear message, ignoring it can destroy your life. It can end the youth you had so been looking forward to. When Mom died the door of a chapter was closing and, out of instinct, I ran and stuck my foot in it. Years later, my foot was forcibly removed and the door slammed shut.

If I choose to listen, I can walk into the next chapter with grace.

I’m Looking At You

April 07, 2012 By: admin Category: Family, Filmmaking, Happiness, Health, House, Living, Love

I finally understand what the Buddhists mean when they say “learning to stay.” In my case it does seem as if I’m translating it literally, but that’s only because not everyone can see beyond the surface.

I’ve been studying and studying and studying for YEARS. Odd, I know, for a woman who almost flunked out of both high school and college. True story. To say that I was never close to those things is to deny the truth in order to feel less bad that I was passed on and helped enormously because I’m pretty, privileged, and White, but that’s not what this post is about…

Mom used to get so pissed about me being “a late bloomer.” I would “simmer” on life decisions and it drove her crazy. I tried and tried and tried to get her to see into me, see how I saw things–we were so kindred I thought it was a given–but she couldn’t. One of the greatest realizations I ever came to as an adult was finally admitting she didn’t see the world the way I did, that she never could, and that that was okay. BUT!, while she was alive, I never stopped trying…

My simmering has finally come into it’s own. I can call it up at will now, and it’s never wrong. I simmer on something until the only answer possible–the RIGHT answer–comes through, allowing me to move forward and act with confidence. I’m speaking, of course, of filmmaking. The technique sometimes works in social life, but as there’s a lot more at stake in those situations, it can also become MUCH more difficult to grasp and sway… :)

Lately, I’ve been simmering on my next films. There are three, in particular: “Viriditas,” “Coal 2,” (admittedly, a shitty working title), and “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried.” The last one is a short fiction film, my first foray into non-documentary, and is based on a short story I do not yet have the rights to. I keep promising myself that once I shoot some scenes I’ll edit them, craft them into perfection, and then contact the author to see about finishing it. I have high hopes. The writer is an incredible artist, and also a bit of a loner so I think she’ll vibe with my lonerness and get what I’m going for. And, anyway, it would be a good vehicle for her–I’ll argue–to tour with to teach, give lectures, etc. “Contrast the written with the film,” something like that…

In the last few days I made a decision so many of us never have the luxury to make: I’m going to stay right where I am. Literally. I’m going to do everything I can to not move to San Francisco for a wonderful job with wonderful people that would pay me a shitload of money. Why, you ask, am I being such a dumbass? Cuz it’s the right decision, and not a dumbass one at all. I have deep family and friend ties here, opportunities to make beautiful films, a house I can’t stop adoring, a chance to fall in love…

My whole career I’ve made choices based on money, ignoring quality of life. Quality of life eventually always showed up because I was young, energetic, and still striving for something to call “an achievement.” But that struggle is thankfully over. When SOMA GIRLS aired on PBS nationwide a few weeks ago, including the venerated WGBH, I was done with struggling. “The achievement” had been attained. For most American documentary filmmakers, having your film on PBS is the great goal. Having your film on one of the big PBS stations like WGBH, is summiting Everest. And so as a result of this milestone I have decided to stop worrying about my career. Completely. I have a career, and one that’s been legitimized by the mainstream. Any artist telling you that that’s not a little important is either Jean Michel Basquiat or lying.

So, then, it occurred to me that if I don’t have anything to strive for, I can do anything I want. No more looking over my shoulder, second-guessing, blah, blah, blah. It’s time to stop working only 50% for others and start working 100% for others. I want to take responsibility for being a resident of this time, and choose to use my filmmaking skills exclusively for good. And to me, “for good” means moving viewers emotionally. There’s no feeling like changing someone’s mind about themselves for the better. I seem to have a gift for that and I wanna take it out for a spin…

 

No More Haze

February 04, 2012 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Family, Happiness, Health, House, Living, Love, Molly, Mom

For such a long, long time, I’ve been unable to see the way others see. There’s been a haze, born in my heart, that affected my vision. I literally saw things and felt them as if at a distance. A friend recently told me “You dissociated,” but that word has a lot of power for someone else in my life, and anyway, I have no idea what it could mean for me. All I know is that on Thanksgiving I could suddenly see and feel again.

Something happened on that day that doesn’t need to be detailed for the result to be conveyed here. I was hurt in a small, really, insignificant way, but that very moment somehow broke through years of piled-up hurt that were causing the dissociation and haze-vision. I went home that night and cried the way I cried in Molly’s arms months after Mom died. I fell through my front door and collapsed on the stairs in convulsing sobs. It was painful, but also so so FREEING. I could feel all this weight and negativity and guilt and pressure, etc, etc, etc, leave my body and mind and when the sobbing was done, I could see again. I looked around the house and I could finally FEEL myself in it. It was incredible.

In the weeks since then I’ve been on a high of living in the present moment. It really is as exhilarating as all the yoga and meditation books say. :)

So, a breakthrough, indeed. Today I can read painful things from the past and not fall down. I’m looking toward the future, MY future. I have no plans, and it’s just fine. Kind of a funny, unexpected, but none-the-less joyful phase I’m in.

Al Jolson (recurring post theme)

November 03, 2011 By: admin Category: Jolson

I’m embarking on a new journey: fiction film. I’m about to make my first. It’s a short based on a short story by one of my favorite authors. I’ve known of this piece since I was 18, when I first heard someone speak one of the stories in the author’s book of short stories as a monologue. Rachel, the young actress, lived two doors down from me in the dorm at NYU and was putting herself through school. She was one of the most impressive people I have ever met…

Anyway, a little over a years ago I started storyboarding the piece. I needed something to do that would totally take over my concentration. I was still so sore about breaking with Molly, and had been unemployed for a long time. I needed a project that would consume me. Storyboarding is tough in any case, but it’s even harder when you can’t draw. :)

I sat on the piece, only half-storyboarded, because I ran out of gas and started working a bit. Then I took more time because I couldn’t find the right people to work on it. Now I have the two key people, the lead actress and the camera operator, and am ready to start again in earnest.

Karin, the actress, is mesmerizing. She’s a stage actress, but has a presence that SCREAMS on film. I’ve filmed her a bunch at local friend’s shows and finally had that “ah-ha!” about casting her. She loves the piece too, and we’ve started the long to brainstorming and workshopping. This film will only work as a collaboration. It’s about an emotional agreement, and so the working team has to be in the same headspace.

The camera op is a still photographer and a friend. He has a wonderful eye, loves beautiful women–which Karin is–and has a deep, passionate soul. What I needed was for the core team, the three of us, to all be nice people in addition to having the necessary talents. Gonzalo brings an eagerness, a calm strength, and the kind of passionate curiosity you’d only find in a Latin… 😉

So, we’re off! Karin is working on another show for the next couple of weeks, which gives me time to go over storyboards with Gonzalo and try to select a short “scene” we can shoot as a test. he and I, also being camera-obesessed-will also test a few different cameras to see what we like for a look.

It’s very exciting. A perfect challenge for my artistry and meditation. I’ll have to listen more than anything else. Can’t wait. :)

This Was Always Coming

September 26, 2011 By: admin Category: Happiness, Health, Living, Love, Meditation, Molly, Mom

1.

I won’t ever know what you meant. You have to say it like “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh…..” Type out the rhythm on the side of an upright bass. Make the dude who usually plays it hold the thing up for you. I could be moving. I could be moving. I could be moving.

Everything is possible when you realize no one is waiting for you.

2.

“the meat is you who stand aside, and do not bite. the meat within is what’s to take at end of Spring. meat’s all that we have, isn’t that sad–make it raw, rare, or now/later–i’ll eat it either way. keep it here, though. i want to touch it when it’s ready.”

3.

when it comes it’ll be a gleaming surprise. i’ll look up and go: “oh. fuck.” smiling, breathless, in the most excited way.

Yeah, Of Course I’ll Do That

September 06, 2011 By: admin Category: Living

I’m so very very tired of being taken advantage of. Its really gotten to be so much, enough, that I just don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I think the struggle for equality–as a woman and as a kind person–is just too much and I think to myself that I want to give up and just do some simple day job close to home, make my mortgage every month, watch TV, and wait to grow old and die.

I am so, so, so sick of making less money, everywhere I go, than my male counterparts. It’s so goddamned exhausting to remind one more boss that, yes, what I do is just as valuable and yes, I should get paid the same.

It’s also so so so exhausting treating someone soooooo well day in and day out while they treat me like shit. I’ve made my peace with their behavior, but it’s really wearing on me. I wish I could just be a distant benefactor: put a bunch of money in an account every month and have that be that. Honestly, how selfish can someone really be? How long can a selfish person maintain their selfishness before it comes to bite them in the ass?

And how long can I continue to support that which doesn’t support me?

The question is: what else can I do? In terms of the job, I have a great one in a terrible economic crisis after having been out of work for over one year. Do I have a choice there? There aren’t any jobs better than this one for me. This one is amazing, but how amazing is it really if they discriminate against me?

As for the kindness thing, there is just some care-taking of others that I can’t not do. I can’t walk away from the wounded and helpless. Some people have had it so much harder than me… but to that my friend Alison would say: “And you’ve done enough for a while. Take a break and give to yourself a bit. No more strays.”

I am so tired of being reliable.

The Calm During The Storm

August 29, 2011 By: admin Category: Happiness, Health, Living, Love, Meditation, New Orleans, Randomosity, sustainability, The Search

I’d like to start a new PAC: Americans for the Preservation of Leisure.

Hurricane Irene has been inching it’s way toward me since early this morning and while, officially, I’m keeping my eye on the weather reports and listening for sounds in my house that I don’t readily understand, unofficially, I’m watching movies and eating popcorn. In other words, the storm has given me license to do nothing but relax. And I kinda like it. But wouldn’t it be better if it didn’t take a storm of hurricane strength for me to “go offgrid” for a day here and there to catch up on sleep and let my mind be at ease? Who gets helped by me being exhausted and stressed all the time? And therefore, I advocate a new standard: the return of Sunday.

I don’t mean to make light of hurricanes. Not at all. I was in New Orleans right after Katrina and filmed a lot of the devastation and spoke to a lot of people. I just think there’s quite a bit our culture needs to re-evaluate, and appreciation of ourselves and of silence is a good start. Humility, lack of hubris is another.

Six Years Ago Today

July 06, 2011 By: admin Category: Coal, Filmmaking, Happiness, Living, Love, Meditation, Mom, Soma Girls

Ali and I were in the Sony studio offices and he was talking to me. Even though I was looking right at him, and hearing the words, I didn’t process one, single thing he said. I was, instead, hoping and praying that I would be able to make the flight from Orlando to Boston. It was the last flight that night and I was sweating, worrying that if I missed it, I’d be driving all that long way. Hopefully, though, if it had come to that, someone would have convinced me to take the first flight out the next morning, as I would not have been in any condition to drive.

It was something in Dad’s voice, in the way he said “Well, that’s up to you” when I asked whether he thought I should come up or not. I was working and it was a critical time for the project I was on, but… my mother was in the hospital.

Tomorrow will be the anniversary of the day after I arrived–my birthday. On that day, Dad, usually never one to forget anything, caught a bit of what my brother was saying to me over the phone (he was wishing me a happy birthday), and while I was still on the phone I heard Dad say under his breath, “Oh for heaven’s sake…” He’d just realized it was my birthday. We were driving, on our way back to the hospital in the early morning.

Saying I miss her still doesn’t even scratch the surface. Of course I do, but as grief evolves it turns into other things and today my grief feels like profound loneliness. There’s no unfilled hole anymore and no wrenching pain, there’s just that feeling of my other half being gone. I am incomplete.

The meditation helps me to stay centered and objective, and even joyful, but it also strips every barrier away so that I can more clearly see how lonely I truly am. I am, indeed. It’s not a romantic relationship that I’m missing, though, it’s someone who knew me, and saw me, and cared about me every day. Someone who thought about me every day. We need that, I think, and I’m coming to realize that it might just not be in the cards for me for a long, long while, if at all. I’m certainly not looking for it because… where would I start, ya know? That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone. So instead of actively looking for someone I’m just living my life, doing my incredible projects. I am so grateful that my day job and my independent artist work are the same thing: making films. Ridiculous. :) Amazing. :) The kind of love I need and want will come if it’s supposed to. In the interim, I will enjoy the joys of those I love. Seeing joy in the face of someone I cherish is worth a lot.

Thanks for all the vanilla cakes, Mom. I miss you.