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Archive for the ‘Love’

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. Β 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.

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. πŸ˜‰

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.

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.

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.

 

Sometimes…

April 22, 2011 By: admin Category: Love

Sometimes you just have to let go. It’s horrible, dreadful, you love this person… but they’re gone… even when they’re still alive. Sometimes.

I haven’t been able to write. Where do I start? So many emotional commitments now… Who will read this and think the wrong thing and not have the courage to contact me to ask?

Years from now I’ll start writing this backstory, fill in the blanks. But for the moment, please know that I did all I could for you. There’s so much more, but you’re not in a place to take it in…. and so I’ll take it all into the future with me and keep it safe. For when you’re ready.

“A Vision In A Dream. A Fragment.”

January 20, 2011 By: admin Category: Boston Beats, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, House, iPhone, Living, Love, Meditation, Michael, Unemployment, Video

This will be a very “meta” post, as I originally wrote part of the below in an email to my aunt, and then added to it a preface that I then, along with the email, published onto Facebook. It now here, in it’s entirety, with yet a new preface. A Pre-preface?

Anyway, I think the message contained herein should be shared far and wide, and so I’m publishing on the interwebs in the two places where I know it’ll do the most good. :) Enjoy.

“Hey everyone. This is my first FB note. It’s actually an email I wrote to my aunt who is a dream worker. I am adding it here because my situation is universal, and I thought maybe some of you are feeling the same way. I thought sharing might help some of you to not feel so alone and scared–as I do sometimes–and might help me let go of some of the hope I have that I will be able to keep my sweet, safe life exactly the way it is right now: sweet & safe. I’ve been studying Buddhist meditation and philosophy for over a year and have been resisting the concept of impermanence since the beginning. :) I guess sharing this note is my way of finally accepting it.

Anyway, I hope you can get something out of this. This is a terrible, terrible time for so many of us, but something I’ve learned recently is that the love in the artist community here in Boston is a-s-t-o-u-n-d-i-n-g. You all have helped me so much I almost don’t know what to say except that I am grateful. You are all so beautiful it actually brings tears to my eyes as I write this, and makes it sooooo clear to me why I’m a filmmaker: I have a classic excuse to stare at all of you FOR HOURS, and have the skills necessary to help share your beauty with the world. :)

Enjoy, and thank you so much for your grace and vulnerability. We are giants. :)

With love,

Alexia

“I had an intense dream the other night that I haven’t been able to forget. Thats impressive for two reasons: 1-I haven’t been dreaming much in the last few weeks, and 2-I think I can count on one hand the dreams that have lingered in my mind days after having had them.

The dream is very simple in imagery: my iPhone broke. That’s it. Here are the details…. I was talking with someone about the iPhone being very rugged, and that I’d dropped it a lot and had only incurred minor scratches and cracks. As I was talking I accidentally (truly an accident) dropped my phone. It crashed to the floor and looked fine from my vantage point of just bending my head to look. But then I bent my whole body to pick it up, and when I grasped it I saw that it had been split in two, vertically. This is almost completely impossible for an iPhone. In order to achieve this kind of break, you’d have to put the phone between two vice grips and forcibly snap it. Even then, you’d never get the straight-up-and-down break that I got.

I picked up the phone and rose. The edges of the breaks were jagged, but I could still push the pieces together and have them fit. So I did just that, and what do you know, the phone still worked. I had to hold the pieces together very tightly, but my friend and I thought it was pretty amazing that it still worked even in that scenario. Still within the dream, as I looked down at the blinking, broken phone, I thought to myself, ‘Well, there it is, I have to get the new iPhone 4.’ πŸ˜‰

That was the end of the dream.

There was an ominousness to that last thought, however funny, about needing to get the new phone. This thought has it’s origins in my very scary economic situation… For two years I haven’t been buying anything. At all. Food and gas and the occasional beer. That’s it. I haven’t gone out to eat, haven’t gone to the movies, haven’t bought a book, haven’t gone to see any of my friends’ bands play if there was a cover charge. The only times I’ve left the house, actually, have been when I was able to arrange for several meetings and events to occur on the same day so I wouldn’t waste gas. You get the idea… My current iPhone-a used one given as a gift to me from Michael (my brother)-has been testy and slow for over a year. I have needed a replacement for a long, long time, but haven’t dared spend $300 to get it for fear of not being able to make the following month’s mortgage payment. This is a fear that’s been with me for a while. It’s no longer a paralytic fear, but still there none-the-less.

Anyway, the fateful day has finally come: it’s January 20th and I don’t have enough money to pay for February’s mortgage so I have to open up one of my retirement accounts. I only have two and the one I’ll be opening was started for me in 2003 when I was at Harvard-Smithsonian. They contributed to the fund, I never did, so, in a sense, all the money in there is “free.” Taking any of it out, though, before I’m 65, will incur a tax penalty. So for something like $4000 I have to remove $5000 and lose $1000. Again, as this is essentially “free money” I’m not stressing too much. I AM stressing about what will happen if I don’t get a job before April 1st. Because if that happens, then it will mean that I have to go into my second retirement account, the only one I have left, the one I’ve been adding to and growing since I was 23, and the one that I hoped would be my nest egg. If I have to go into that one, then the small life I have come to know, the tiny life here that I have worked and saved so long to build around me, will slowly evaporate.

In the dream, when I looked down at my phone I thought: ‘If you hold it together very tightly, it’s definitely still a phone, but you can’t ignore that if you let go… it just won’t work any more…’ “

Touchdown

December 20, 2010 By: admin Category: Coal, Filmmaking, Love, Meditation

The first stop on what has been a very, very, very long journey came yesterday. I finished the stringout/1st roughcut of my second documentary, “The Dirty Truth About Coal.”

This journey began in August 2007 when I read an article that got me hopping mad. You can read all the backstory about the film on the website: www.thedirtytruthaboutcoal.com. I began researching everything I could about coal production and the dangerous and expensive options Big Coal and lobbied legislators were proposing for how to deal with the carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants that were contributing disproportionately to global warming. After a couple of months I realized how little the average American knew about the dangers associated with coal-fired power plants. We all know enough about the horrors of mining coal, but once it’s out of the ground the troubles are harder to see.

In September of that year I met the man who would change my life: Scott Terrell. Scott was from Truckee, CA and worked for the local branch of the major utility there. As a result of his job he heard that the utility was proposing to build a coal-fired power plant right there in Truckee. Scott freaked out. He knew about the dangers and so, putting his job in jeopardy, he told his neighbors, and before long a grassroots campaign sprang up to oppose the building of the coal plant. Here’s the kicker: they were successful.

I met Scott in San Francisco at a green building conference called “West Coast Green.” I was in the media room waiting for my next interview, which wasn’t for another hour. Scott walked in and said he had a story to tell about coal. I said, “have a seat.” And that’s where everything started.

At the end of the interview Scott connected me with Tim Wagner, then the head of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Clean Energy Campaign. He was living in Salt Lake City and traveling all over the state educating small communities about the dangers of coal-fired power plants, and helping them to organize protests. We talked over email for a few months and then I moved back to the East coast in June 2008. On my way driving cross-country, I stopped in Salt Lake and interviewed Tim and a bunch of local farmer activists. And got some amazing and horrific b roll of HUGE coal-fired power plants in otherwise gorgeous and unspoiled rugged terrain of rural Utah. Some of that footage is in the current roughcut. On that trip I also stopped in Chicago and interviewed a young activist, Dorian Breuer of Chicago’s P.E.R.R.O. activist group, who would tell me about Dr. Jonathan Levy, a public health scientist at Harvard who had written a definitive report on the effects on public health of emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Up until that interview with Dorian, I had no idea that the pollution from the coal stacks was so harmful.

At a media conference in Boston in February the following year, I met the VP of programming for PBS’ wonderful series, “POV.” I pitched her the film, which at that point was very broad but did include what I had discovered from reading Dr. Levy’s report. I told the VP that it was likely that anyone under the age of 50 in the United States hadn’t take a clean breath of air in their lives. Immediately, I saw her eyes sparkle. “This is definitely something we would be interested in,” she said, but also advised me to review the coal-related films POV had already aired and see if I could come up with something new.

Terrified, but up for the challenge given her interest, I did more research on the health effects of pollution… and the rest, they say, is history. :)

I’ve been editing the film for just over one year. In October, 2009 I went back to Chicago and captured three of the interviews that would become crucial aspects to the current film: Brian Urbaszewski (Respiratory Health Association of Metro Chicago); Dr. Susan Buchanan (MD with specialty in enviro health); and Kim Wasserman, coordinator of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization–a neighborhood youth org. that educates the low-income community of Little Village about air and other kinds of pollution in their neighborhood. Little Village sits 100 feet (across the street) from the Fisk Generating Station (coal plant). I have footage taken from a public park across from Fisk where kids play on a jungle gym in the shadow of the stack.

Even after all these interviews and then finding the legal activist treasure-trove of Conservation Law Foundation here in Boston, I still didn’t really think that I would actually figure out how to make a film that would have a real impact on society. After all, I thought, I’m not Spike Lee, this isn’t “When The Levees Broke.”

And yet, it is.

Somehow, after a year of editing and more interviews, and researching, and white-boarding and finally deciding to settle on a trajectory, I have finished the first roughcut… and it’s fucking GREAT.

This month I’ll add some placeholder b roll to cover all the talking heads, and then will send that out for the first round of feedback. I’ll also submit the film to festivals and grants. This is going to be quite a few months…

In the midst of all this there have been other changes and today brings about punctuation points to them too. Sometimes we have to let things go. It’s not giving up, persay, it’s saying to yourself, “This is no longer something that is helping me to see clearly,” and so if you have the courage you stand up and face your fear about leaving this thing by the side of the road. I’ve done that in a few small ways this past week and already feel lighter. I reorganized my bookshelves, picked stuff up off the floor, ate the leftovers, and sat down for ten hours and cranked out a film. As a result of letting some things go, I am seeing more clearly.

It’s important to remember that losses aren’t deaths. They’re just losses. We should take from what was what helps us and leave the rest. Not even deaths are deaths. The idea that death means the end of someone is silly. People live forever in our hearts and memories, and, if we choose, in actions we perform to honor them and the gifts they gave us. Today I choose to honor those I’ve lost by staying in the present moment and really seeing everything I see.

I also want to thank all of you who read this for your incredible support over these last years. It has made ALL the difference. :)

Happy Solstice!

Love,

Alexia