Thursday, April 30, 2009

Release Me

This morning I had a massage. I've been getting massages since I was 22, when I saw a flyer in the Smith College library, after a long day hunched over heavy books. Could it be true? Some random person would rub my back for an HOUR? Just because I gave her money? And I wouldn't even have to reciprocate?

That gal was very good, but our relationship took a turn. Let me explain. She was nine months pregnant when I met her, and her belly used to bump me from every angle while she worked on me. She also had an alarming way of whisking off the drapery and leaving all my personal bits exposed to the elements. Now I know that's a big no-no, but then I didn't know better. She asked me if I would babysit in exchange for free massage. I figured, how hard could it be? What the hell did I know? Clutching her paint brushes, she would kiss the baby (already giving me the stink eye from her bouncy seat) and head off to art class. Bless her heart. Now I know how much she must have needed that. But the baby would take one look at her retreating back and start up yowling in a fashion that didn't cease until her mother appeared, two hours later. By which point, I would have cried a bit, too, and completely lost any sense of compassion for that snot-nosed, puffy pink amplifier. Her mother would look at me suspiciously, then back at the tiny slits where her child's eyes had once been, and I'd just know she thought I'd been beating the little one with a blunt object the whole time she'd been gone.

When I finally got around to taking those "free" massages," I'd hear the dad wrangling the little screamer upstairs, and I'd stiffen up. As soon as I shut my eyes, I'd envision myself getting blamed for the colic or separation anxiety or whatever the hell was making that baby scream. When I vanished from their lives, I was still owed two massages. Damn!

I've gotten a lot better at asking for what I need since then. Today, for instance, I told the gal that I didn't want any of that crazy karate chopping she finished with last time. Only I didn't use the word "crazy." She was gracious about it. And from the moment I slid under the soft sheets and plushy blankets and felt the warmth of the heated table on my stomach, I couldn't stop myself from sighing. The edge of her hand on the guitar-strung space between my shoulder blades was like a little voice whispering in my ear: "It's going to be alright. Stop fighting everything. Just give in."

And what might that little voice have been talking about? Readers, it's been an emotional week for me. Since I've become involved with the theater group I've mentioned before, people have said "Sam, you are so brave! Putting yourself out there in front of an audience!" But I know better. It might be brave for them, but not for me. I live for this stuff. But this week I realized that I am a bit brave, for a different reason. I am not very evolved emotionally. I have more than enough defensiveness, shame, guilt, inferiority complexes, petty jealousy and wounded inner child to go around. So it's not the acting part that's scary for me. It's not the stripping naked in front of strangers and letting them see my raw inner core that's in any way difficult. It's getting to that point without suffering a little soul death from a lifetime of festering neuroses, who rear their little heads to taunt me with my worthlessness at every turn.

Wow. I'm a bit melodramatic, aren't I? Which makes me a good fit for the theater world. It also makes me ripe for being raked with the flaying combs of my issues for a long time before I ever see an audience. I have just auditioned for my third show, and it's been hard for me each time. On the last show, there were nights I was close to tears when I called David from the car on the way home from rehearsal. Everything was constant change and chaos and challenge to my sense of order, and succumbing to the madness was like closing my eyes and diving off a cliff. In the end, I gained something from that. Dare I say, I triumphed over my demons? There. I just did.

It's going to be harder this time. Readers, I don't want to wear the colored coat of falsity so I won't start in with the self-affirmations yet. Here are the facts. I auditioned. I thought I did okay. It was hard to tell, really. I read for a lot of random things; basically, I did what I was told. I didn't really have much information about what I was auditioning FOR, but none of us did. And now that the dust has settled and I've been assigned my roles (confusingly, they were casting for three shows at once) I discover that both of them are verrrrrry small. I'm talking TINY. I'm talking, the first one is supposedly in a one-act play, but that "play" is less than 10 minutes long. We won't have a theater run--we'll perform twice at a local festival. I don't have many lines, and the lines I have seem a bit pointless. The second role is an outdoor festival type of thing, and seems quite fun...for the dozen or so men who have parts in it. There are only three women in the cast; only one has lines to speak of. I am not her. My part doesn't even have a name--I am "Second Gypsy." To add insult to injury, the powers that be have created Third Gypsy out of thin air--and I have a feeling she'll be eating my lines for breakfast. Of which I have, I believe, three.

These two endeavors will take my acting career through September. That's four months. And you know what else will be happening during that time? A big ol' avant-garde, award-winning, controversial full-length play by a famous playwright with juicy stuff like amesia, stroke victims, schizophrenia, guns and puppets. That I read for. And didn't get cast in. My friends are in this show, and I'm sure they'll do a bang-up job with it. I look forward to seeing it. But what I really want right now (here comes the petty jealousy and wounded inner child) is to BE IN IT. At the moment, I am obsessed with this fact like it's a mad crush. It fills my head at inappropriate moments. Perhaps this is the part of that process I mentioned where I bust out of my chrysalis and become a newly-winged diva. I don't know. But at the moment, it doesn't feel good.

In my last show, I played two of the greatest roles for women ever written for the stage. Now I'm a whiner who won't recycle, or somesuch. And Second Gypsy. (I'm definitely having T-shirts made.) I hear that in real life, people often don't get what they want, and they learn to live with it. So I suppose that's what I will do. But I am fervently willing myself to a place where I embrace the process, and let it work me over, you know, so I CARE what I'm investing my time in. Today when I took Jarrah to the library, I looked up "group therapy" in the on-line catalog (my first character is in group therapy, and our director suggested we find out about it.) That felt happy for a minute or two. I like to feel useful, to invest in something. And I realized that's what I'm going to have to find a way to do for the whole business this time. I have to find a way to invest. It's just that I'll have to keep playing badminton with my issues while I do it.

I don't usually share how acting makes me a psychic mess (well, I know a few of you would beg to differ) but this time I thought I could benefit from a vast pool of wisdom and, perhaps, a reality check or two, delivered delicately (please?) so as not to activate that defensiveness and shame I mentioned above. Care to join me in a great big virtual group therapy session? Maybe I'll find my character motivation somewhere along the way.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Inadvertently Irking The Almighty

Driving home from school. Jarrah is reciting "S! A! M! That spells Mama!" while holding a novelty name license plate that one of my students gave me.

Sam: Did you know that you, me and Daddy all have an "A" as the second letter of our names?

Jarrah: Whoa!

Sam: Yup! S-A, D-A, and J-A.

Jarrah: Only I have two.

Sam: Yes. Actually, I have three. You have two, Daddy has one. (Here is where I inexplicably thought to add:) Which makes sense, because I'm the oldest.

Jarrah: Also me.

Sam: Nope. Not you. I'm the oldest.

Jarrah: No. I am old, too.

Sam: Not that old.

(small silence)

Jarrah: It's NOT FAIR!

Sam: What's not fair?

Jarrah: You don't get to be the oldest!

Sam: Oh, yes I do.

Jarrah: You don't get to be the oldest without sharing!

Sam: (rueful laugh) Oh, I'm happy to share, but it won't help.

Jarrah: Not fair! You have to SHARE!

Sam: (sigh) Okay. You're the oldest, too.

Jarrah: You have to share...otherwise it makes God sad.

Sam: And we don't want to make God sad.

Jarrah: He gets VERY sad when you don't share.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On The Road Again...

Pretty soon we are going on a road trip for that wedding I mentioned a few posts ago. I am really excited because I haven't been on a road trip in years. Should I quash that optimism now?

David and I drove up and down the California coast when we were first dating (and we almost weren't dating after I freaked out one evening that I had to stop and pee and then eat Thai food NOW) but this will be our first big drive with Jarrah. We've flown with her a few times--longish flights--but I have blocked those journeys and a good thing, too.

I know driving is a whole other animal with a 4-year-old, so I thought I'd ask you good folks for your tips. Today I got the oil changed and the tires checked and a Trip-Tik from Triple A. I figure I will pack a cooler with drinks and snacks. But I assume the most important detail will be a delicate balance between when and where to stop, and what Jarrah will do while we're going.

Here are thing things I'm considering packing for her. Your comments, additions and, yes, even veteran derision will be appreciated.

1. Soft, collapsible lap desk, with edges, for keeping snacks and toys on her lap
2. Color Wonder books and markers
3. Preschool activity book
4. Crayons
5. Scotch tape (the kid is addicted to tape) and junk mail
6. Stickers
7. Etch-a-Sketch
8. Aquadoodle
9. Leap Frog book with interactive wand (it makes a lot of annoying noise, though)
10. Magnetic puzzle
11. Finger puppets
12. Plastic figurines (she's all about "imaginative play" these days)
13. Bubbles and beach ball (for rest stops?)
14. Kids books that she hasn't seen much yet
15. David's iTouch stocked with games and maybe audio books (plus head phones)

Am I kidding myself? Will any of this even make a difference? Any strategies you've perfected would be deeply appreciated.

And a shout-out to everyone who has participated in my meaning-of-marriage challenge--it's heartwarming to see so much positive feedback on a much-maligned institution in one place.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sin City

Readers, it's been a HAAARRRRD week. I wanted to whinge about it sooner but it was too hard not to say that David has been in Vegas this week on his annual pilgrimage, and I've been single-momming it in San Diego. I never want to tell the internet that I am alone in the house because I've seen Halloween, dontcha know.

So, David left last Sunday morning. Jarrah was in a hurry to drop him at the airport, because she had a birthday party at "Pumpinover" to get to (It's actually called Pump It Up.)

But Jarrah acted strange all day. I thought she was grieving that David had left, but I realize now she might have had a small wog. She was teary and listless and wouldn't eat much except copious amounts of candy and frosting (no cake) at the party. We had a really nice lunch at Sammy's with Stephanie and Nathan, and I tried to ignore the waves of dread that filled me every time I thought about the next few days.

I am nothing if not crafty, so I'd arranged for Nicole to come by when we returned and watch Jarrah while I took myself to a matinee. I lost myself in the swooniness of Shall We Kiss? , in which two couples (one in the story-within-the story) grapple with the consequences of kissing on a whim of desire when their lives are happily established with other partners. Mostly, this involved a whole lot of talking. Did I mention the film is French?

When I got home, Jarrah had a tantrum and put herself to bed, falling asleep instantly. Suddenly, I was alone, with nothing but time. I wandered around the house, cleaning, organizing and postponing the inevitable: going to bed by myself.

Readers, has this phenomenon happened to any of you? You used to do some of your finest sleeping all by yourself, stretched out and snoozing like a princess until the sun's rays flirted with your lashes through the the slats of the blinds? And then you started sleeping with someone else on a more-or-less regular basis, and without ever knowing when exactly it happened, you became physically incapable of shutting your eyes and tuning out the world unless that other person was breathing a few inches away? To take it further, you now find yourself honor-bound to stay alert for the bulk of the night, cell phone under the pillow, hyper-aware of the house's every creak, every passing car, terrorized by the newspaper arriving, vigilant for the moment that an axe murderer will fling open the door and announce, "I am nigh! Let's get busy with this axe-murdering thing!" (Because, you understand, the aforementioned bed partner would totally have handled this situation, holding off said axe murderer with heroic flair.) Or, if you happen to hear a phone ring, you don't answer it, certain that the caller is an axe-murderer, who just wants to give you a heads up that he's on his way over to axe-murder you?

Am I the only one thinking these things?

Below, a list of kvetchs and kvells for the week, before this thing gets any longer:

1. The universe decided that David's absence would be an excellent time to smash all the heat records for April in San Diego. We topped 100 (100!) one day, and it stayed hot straight through the night, so I'd wake up gasping in the still, fetid air. Not that I was waking up very much because...

2. I wasn't really sleeping. See above. The first night I slept about five hours; the second night--maybe three. Shouldn't I have been ready to keel over after the first night? No, I saved that urge for during the day, whens someone was incessantly repeating "Will you have a tea party with my doggies?" At night, I was sitting in bed reading STORItelling, alternately marveling at Tori Spelling's wedding details and clutching my machete.

3. The exterminator came, and I was convinced that I'd be seeing some dead upside-down vermin strewn around my home. Did this happen? No. But I was freaking out about it, and that's enough.

3. Jarrah freaked out when I dropped her at school Monday. I literally had to peel each of her fingers off my leg and run. I called a little while later, and her teacher told me she had written me a letter and now felt much better. See letter above.

4. I had a meeting with my boss. (Actually, she was very nice.)

5. I got an e-mail saying that there were auditions already on Wednesday. Three days notice! I had to scramble to book Nicole again. I knew I was going to be a sorry excuse for a radiant superstar after my husbandless vigil, but the stage waits for no woman.

6. All my roses died. See #1.

Okay, that was the kvetching, for the moment. Here comes the kvelling.

1. Let's hear it for my friends. A special shout-out to Mary, Grace and Stephanie, who re-arranged their midweek schedules, often with difficulty, to provide my child with playdates and me with adult conversation (sometimes the only such I'd had all day) while David was gone. Monday night, Mary and Joy met us for dinner at Red Robin, followed by a steamy stroll around the mall and an impromptu banquet of plastic foods at Pottery Barn Kids. Grace and Julianna came over for Chinese food on Tuesday, and Jules gifted us with a cello recital that blew Jarrah's mind ("Where's MY cello???") And Stephanie and Nathan braved the sub-Artic temps (what the hell was going on with the weather?) at Dino Park for a romp on Wednesday afternoon, including some tree-climbing and sword play with enormous sticks. What did I do to deserve such good friends?

2. Auditions. Maybe I complained about the lack of notice, but I sure was excited to get back to the theater. And it was awesome to see my peeps again.

3. Gossip Girl. They stack up on the DVR (David won't watch) and I got to watch one a night while he was gone. Whee! So good to see Chuck and Blair at it again!

4. Justin Timberlake. Each morning, I pounded out my single parent frustrations on the elliptical to the dulcet tones of SexyBack. Those other guys don't know how to act.

5. Can you believe I didn't drown my sorrows in a tub of Haagen-Daz on the couch even ONCE? Neither can I.

And, I'm happy to say, the man has returned. Per usual, he has no voice at all, and while Jarrah was very happy to see him, this change made her suspicious.

J: Daddy, what happened to your voice?

D: I lost it in Vegas.

J: Well, you better go back and find it, because you don't sound right.

Alas, what is lost in Vegas, stays lost in Vegas. Three days later, he still sounds like an out-of-practice frog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Now Pronounce You

So, did something a little unusual yesterday, at least unusual for me. Meaning, I've never done it before, and I don't think a lot of people do. I got ordained. I am now a reverend or minister or high priestess with the Progressive Universal Life Church.

This was a very difficult process. I had to go to the website (link provided by my soon-to-be brother-in-law's sister) and click on "Get Ordained NOW!" Then I had to decide if I wanted the Gold or Silver or Bronze package (none of the above, as it turned out--just the basic, which comes with a certificate and a wallet license!) and follow the link to Amazon (I can't make this stuff up) where I could and did initiate a One-Click Purchase for $19.99.

And now I'm qualified to perform exorcisms. Whew! No wonder I'm exhausted.

But seriously, Readers, there is a noble purpose to this hubris. I am going to co-officiate (along with previously mentioned sort-of-sister-in-law) my sister's wedding next month! This is a huge honor, but it will not be the first time I've performed these services. It will just be the first time I've performed them legally. That's right, the great state of California will recognize this marriage, just because I tell it to. I'm a bit giddy with my new-found power.

But soft, Readers. Don't click over to another blog just yet. I need you. With great power comes great responsibility, and I'm not equipped to handle all that without your wisdom. I have been asked to deliver a short sermon under the heading "What Marriage Means to Me." You'd be amazed how many people on the internet are trying to answer this very question. Bah. I need to hear what YOU think. That's right--YOU.

I have a few little ideas, true. But my gut (and heart) are telling me that you will have a few more, and that I do this wedding a great disservice if I don't hear them and perhaps steal them outright.

So what are you waiting for? Start writing. And send your brilliant, touching, tear-jerking insights to me, via this space.

A couple caveats: this is not a religious wedding. So no Biblical readings, please. Humor is always a plus (of course! who ya talkin' to?) And first preference goes to stuff I've never heard/seen/thought about before. That's why I need you, after all.

Do you have to be married, currently or ever, to play? Nope. But keep it clean and minimally cynical--this is my SISTER we're talking about. Which is not to say you should go all Pollyanna on me and ignore the hard stuff. Did I mention this is her second wedding?

Okay, you ready? What does marriage mean to you?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Again With Spring Break

Well, the tropical weather is gone. We're in like a lion again, rainy and windy. It's Friday morning and I'm still in my leopard-print jammies and muk-luks, and would probably stay this way except we're anticipating a call from Jane, who is making an impromptu visit from New York.

Yesterday, Jarrah attended Critter Camp at a local animal shelter, which is not really that local but my dear friend Stephanie was willing to drive my kid and hers AND pick them up, which makes her really nice and me really lucky. Afterwards, we went to the park and met up with Amy and her twins Maya and Zoe, so maybe it's no surprise that Jarrah wept all the way home (at nearly 5:00 p.m.) wailing "I'm not talking to you! You don't understand me!" (Is that starting already?)

I only got one sentence, initially, when I asked about Critter Camp: "We met a corn snake." Later, Nathan said they met a carrot snake, and a radish snake, so I guess all the vegetables were represented. Other information was leaked on a need-to-know basis. For instance, Jarrah's favorite part of the day, apparently, was when she and Nathan came upon a rattlesnake "on the path" and went to tell the teacher about it. Wow, that's quite the nature experience for a morning advertised as "Cuddly Animal Day." Jarrah also told me about "rescuing" a baby chick that she found "all alone" (was the kid having walkabout with nothing but a stick and her own profound musings the whole time?) and "rescued" it "very gently, because it was delicate." I also learned that "walking sticks" do not fall off when you turn your hand upside down because, "they hold on!" I'm guessing that is some kind of bug, so....ewwww. Jarrah explained that she was scared when she first got to camp, but there were cubbies with their names on, and then suddenly "Nathan's mom picked us up!" So I guess it was a success.

In other news, I am profoundly regretting having taken Jarrah to see Monsters Vs. Aliens last weekend. She is an ace movie-goer, as I've been mentioning since she was 14-months-old, which is good because that's necessary for membership in our family. However, movies have now become instant oral histories, available for retelling around the fire on a frequent basis.

The fact is, I don't remember that much about what Jarrah calls "Monsters Verse of Aliens" ("And Lo! The Aliens are Green, and Sleek/As a Monster, They Are What I Seek") except that there were an alarming number of laser guns, being shot almost constantly. It's bizarre to me that kids movies are filled with cartoon characters gunning each other down, but none of them smooch and roll around in satin sheets--no, we wouldn't want their delicate sensibilities being imprinted with...monsters loving each other.

But I've learned very quickly what happened in the movie, or at least in my version, because I am called upon to re-live it five or six times a day--in the car, at bedtime, when nature calls. I start off uncertainly with "Once upon a time there was a girl named Susan, who was standing in a gazebo on her wedding day when a giant, green meteorite fell out of the sky and almost hit her. BOOM! After that, she was green and glowing, and grew very tall during her wedding ceremony, frightening the guests."

Moving through "secret government facility" and "evil alien robot," my confidence builds until I am fibbing gleefully through the murky middle section: "Luckily, the army of clones was not very bright, and Susan and her friends were able to...penetrate the inner sanctum to initiate the self-destruct sequence." If Jarrah perceives that I've skipped something, she starts yelling, "No! NO! What about when Insectosaurus helps them on the bridge? You left that out! Start over!" so it behooves me to glide rapidly over the plot holes.

Much as I struggle with these mythic retellings, it beats the hell out of the times when she asks me to tell the story of Coraline instead, because that one I really have blocked. "When she climbs through the secret passage, she sees her mommy and daddy, but they have buttons for eyes, and want to suck out her human essence. Then a bunch of other stuff happens, and then, um...the end."

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Out Like a Lamb

Spring Break is upon us, and though we're only a couple days in, it doesn't feel as hard this year. My little girl is growing up, and has been mostly adorable (did I really say that?) at least until late afternoon. Check back after Wednesday when I'll be in Low-Carb Mode for Passover to see if I'm still so optimistic, unless of course I have been taken into custody by then, in which case you'll have to wait until my first scheduled internet time (do they do that in prison?)

Yesterday was warm, breezy, balmy weather that made me feel like I was on a tropical island (squinting, I could almost see an umbrella drink in my hand instead of an iced coffee) and Jarrah was a dream while I went to the gym and left her in her "other preschool"--you know, the one that inexplicably has "totally different kids" every time she goes! Then we shot up to La Jolla and enjoyed some food court vittles and watched the ice skaters ("Look! She just did another lovely twirl!") while we waited for Mary and Joy.

Then there were three blissful hours of intermittent shopping ("It would be a crime to pass up those purple leggings...and on sale, yet!") and elaborate dinner parties at Pottery Barn Kids ("Here's some coconut soup I made.") combined with train rides and jump-jumps and pink cupcakes (strawberry!) with pink sugar and pink marshmallow bunnies on top (you can bet I didn't even get a taste.) Jarrah and Joy are so respectful and sweet with each other, Mary and I have stopped saying "They're just like sisters!" because, from what I recall, sisters don't treat each other like that until their teen years and maybe not even then.

Today we had a rare playdate with Jini, Leigh and Abby (Jarrah falls between them in age) at the Grossmont Center, which has a pretty cool program in which kids (well, their parents) can "check out" a puppy from the pet store and walk it around the mall for an hour. Leigh chose a completely adorable little orange sheltie, who spent most of his "walk" lying on the grass, but was very cuddly and amenable to petting, so the girls were thrilled. Afterwards, we picked out some slightly hideous "collectibles" at CeramiCafe, and the girls surprised us by painting studiously for the better part of an hour, and not getting bored or spilling anything. And no one can tell me that Jarrah's blue, purple, green and black-spotted puppy figurine is not going to be in a gallery some day. We followed our self-expression with a trip to the candy counter, where Leigh very cleverly thwarted the "three items only" caveat by choosing a gummy snake large enough to swallow a rat.

It was so nice to spend some time with Jini, whom I rarely see outside of book club, and though I was very sleepy by the time we got back, I felt happy, knowing that Spring Break wouldn't be something to dread in future. Instead, school holidays will be a special time to break out of our routine, see old friends, meet new ones, and eat gross, multi-colored treats. Ah, the good life...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Roar of the Greasepaint

I just published a new post on the secret theater blog, all about our two-show "run" of Woman: Sometimes a Word Unspoken. Because I am a dainty thing, I won't share the totally obscene and hilarious parody of that name devised by Shelley, the resident comedian (truly--she gets paid for it) of our troupe.

Anyway, if you have an invitation, head on over and check it out. If you don't have an invitation, you have merely to inquire with your e-mail address. ;)

And what does it mean about me, that having gone to bed at 2:30 following the cast party Thursday night, I rose at dawn (okay, 9:00) to dress in robes and a headdress and dance on stage as a slave girl at Jarrah's preschool Passover pageant? And that I got compliments on my sweet tambourine riffs afterwards? And that I was asleep behind my eyes when I did it?

For those of you that just want the instant replay, here it is: We rocked it, it was totally fun (for us, if not for the audience) and I felt like a sexy goddess the whole time. How's that?