lextopia

my thoughts . my memories . my family . my projects . my fears
Subscribe

Archive for the ‘Living’

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.

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.

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.

 

“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.’ 😉

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…’ “

You Can Smell Onions From The Plane

October 13, 2010 By: admin Category: Happiness, Living, Love, Molly, Music, Nik

There’s something that used to happen to older Macintosh computers. They would lock up/crash in a way that would require the user to perform a fixit action called “de-fragging.” De-fragging was actually beautiful. All the colors of the spectrum would appear on the computer’s screen in little rectangles. They would push forward and forward until the whole screen was filled with colored blocks. The different colors represented different things that were wrong with the machine, and the progression of them across the screen was the “de-fragging” action trying to fix them. You literally watched a broken thing try to fix itself.

I always liked watching the de-fragging process, even though it meant that my computer was probably pretty fucked. I was so hopeful that the colors meant the process was going really well and that my machine would emerge like new. But that didn’t usually happen. Once the de-fragging process was finished the computer would display a message basically saying, “I’m really fucked. You need to do something drastic or I’m going to die.”

Well, it looks like I need a little de-fragging myself. You saw that one coming, didn’t ya? :) This morning I got another “Alexia was abusive and an aggressive and insurmountable horror in our relationship” song from Molly. Seems to be no end of them and their message has finally done it’s work and wiped me out. I’ve hit bottom and literally can’t take any more negativity being thrown at me. Molly’s morning email came on the heels of a night of fighting with Nikki, with whom I haven’t been in a relationship for months. She’s mad as hell at me too and let it out last night. So I’ll be going to Europe in a couple of weeks to see if I can’t reconnect with the lovely person I was then and find a little joy. There’s none for me here at the moment. Boston is all tangled up and needs to be de-fragged.

There’s A Post I Won’t Publish

August 27, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Coal, Faith, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, India, Living, Love, Meditation, Molly, Mom, PlumTV, Uncategorized, Valet Battleship Parking

A few days ago I received a message about something very painful that happened in the past, something that I had done. The event was horrible and was my fault, but what had led up to it was just as horrible and hadn’t been my fault, but the message I got didn’t mention any of that. It just tore open the old wound for all to see.

I’ve been exhausted. Like, really, really, hit-the-wall kind of exhausted, and so when the note came I faltered a little bit because I didn’t have any resources, any strength, to bear up against it. Now, after a few days and some small successes, I’m feeling much better, much stronger, and the note doesn’t have the same impact. I can see it for what it is now: just a big mistake that will end up hurting the writer far more than it ever could me. That said, the note did change something profound in me. Something snapped and finally released, and as I finished reading I knew it was time to put some things away.

I’m apparently going on a long trip, but I think it’s one of mind and not of body. My meditation practice slipped in the last two weeks because we’ve been working just too damned hard. The President & First Family have been on-island and we’ve been all over them, filming, editing shows together quickly, and wringing ourselves out. Well, it’s done now. The “Obama Shows” have aired and the crazy summer season is drawing to a close–which is why I can write this from home at 9:30am on a Friday. :)

One of the things I have to put away are the cats. I spoke to the Animal Shelter here and will likely be dropping the cats off in another week and a half. This will be terribly difficult for me. I care for them very much and am not, as we know, at all good with letting go of things I love. But I don’t want to care for them any more. I just don’t want to. They’re hard in terms of upkeep, and remind me too much of a past I want to turn away from so I can finally move forward in a brand new direction. I’ve been in limbo for over two years. Two years. A lot of that was the economic crisis, but at least 50% was due to raw wounds that have been taking too long to heal.

In mid-Sept. I’ll finally “move” back home and have some serious time to work on the coal film. THAT’S where I live now: in my work. I’ll try to craft a happy life despite the hole in it where Mom used to be, but the main focus will be doing what I do: making stories that I hope will have some impact on even just a few people. And I’ll travel. I’ll go to all the places Mom always talked about but was too afraid to visit. I’ll stay longer than one does for “vacation,” and I’ll get to know new cultures.  I’ll read and I’ll write, and make sure–as much as I can–that my friends are healthy and know that I love them.

We’re all in limbo, in transition. Chogyam Trungpa, the late Buddhist teacher used to talk a lot about negative/uncomfortable emotions being preferable to straight-up happiness because there’s so much energy in them. He said it’s better to walk right into the center of ill feelings and just hang out quietly because what you’ll learn will blow your mind.

Bon voyage, everyone. :)