The Flood

The Fire Chief is in my driveway.

Water is pouring down the black macadam like a river, and rain is pounding on the windows of my house.

Flashing red lights bounce off my living room walls, as I stare out at the street, water levels rising.

It’s a flood.

I’m home alone, and call my fiance to make sure he is ok, and to let him know our street has been closed. When I go outside I see three cars halfway submerged, being towed onto a flat bed truck.

This wasn’t even in the forecast today.

It was a complete surprise, a flash flood, with three systems that are dumping an immense amount of water.

I feel unsettled, shocked, concerned for those drivers…..I look up at my house on the hill, and think,
Everything is ok, right?
The water is draining, so we are safe.

I head back inside to take care of some clients, and then go down into the basement, and as I turn on the light switch, I see the bulb reflected in a pool…..a stream of water running alongside the wall…..

Oh no…..

I start moving everything I can into the center of the room, and realize the corners of the carpets are soaked.

I grab towels, cloths….and my mind is racing,
I thought we were safe from flooding
Will this ruin our plans to make the basement a safe living space?

I could feel myself paralyzed for a moment, standing in the middle of the basement, holding a garbage bag, and not sure what to do next.

This is all new for me.
I’ve never owned a house before…..just apartments in the NYC.

Have you ever felt this; the moment of overwhelm when you are in a new situation and don’t know what to do?

How do you handle it, especially when it’s something you’ve always wanted?
Something you’ve been waiting for a long time?

Isn’t everything supposed to go smoothly once you get what you want?

Once you get your
Netflix Original Show
Your TED Talk
Your NY Times Bestseller
Your Sold Out Performance

Isn’t the flood leading UP to the payoff, not AFTER?

 

I’ve always wanted to live in a house.

I grew up in a military household, where we moved around a lot, every 1-3 years.  I used to love going into furniture stores as a child, and imagine picking out furniture for my house.

I had no say in where we lived, or what house we lived in, and certainly no say in how many times it changed.  So, there was an enormous thrill when I moved to NYC and rented my first apartment.

Through all my time in NYC, I held the vision of moving outside the city, starting a family, and living in a house; one I would settle down in.  I loved the city, but was clear I wanted to raise a family outside the noise and cramped spaces of the big apple.

I remember seeing when they announced the location for the 2012 Olympics and thinking,
I’ll be in a house with kids at that time!

Instead, I was unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant and in the last months of my marriage.

Time passed on, I moved into the smallest living space I had experienced, 300 square feet, and kept that vision alive.

Living in a house and starting a family.

I never imagined it would take five years to happen, and yet, when I met my fiance, I almost laughed out loud that he came with a house.

Here it was.
What I wanted!

I moved in, and then the education began.

We had to replace the washing machine
We had to replace the dryer
We needed to put in a new kitchen floor
We had to put in a whole new AC unit when it died unexpectedly
And the list goes on…….and on……

The little girl who used to skip around the furniture stores was so confused.  Is this home ownership?

Why do I feel even more uncertain?

 

We can work so hard on our Art.

We see the vision of what we want, and we spend all our time making it happen,
the promotions
the networking
honing our technique and craft

And then when we get to the next level, where we are starting to experience acclaim…..it just seems like there’s a WHOLE new level of things to do!

You may need to hire a team, agents or publicists, and begin doing interviews.

And really the feeling we want is,
SAFETY

I wanted a house for so long, but the truth is, I had NO idea what it would be like until I was actually LIVING it.

And trust me, I like to know as much as possible BEFORE I enter a situation:)  Can you relate?

Now I’m getting a crash course in duct systems, gardens, waterproofing, and french drains.

I didn’t know about these before, because I didn’t need to.  They weren’t applicable to my old life.
And now they are.

Because my vision wasn’t just to have a house, but a SAFE home, one that will nourish and feed my family to be; One that will nourish and feed me.

I got the house, and now I’m learning how to make it safe.

So, what is important to your vision where you are NOW in your Art?

What is possible if you opened to what you need to learn?
What will allow you to feel SAFE as you grow to the next level of exposure and acclaim?

When we can come back to a Student mentality, or a Beginner’s Mind, it removes the judgment that we are wrong, or stupid.

Which you are not:)

You’re just experiencing something new!
And that can be scary.

 

So, come back to what will HELP you in the flood.
Who do you need on your team?
What is the new skill to help you at this level?

This is a sign of growth. And it’s in growth that anything is possible.

The waters will recede, and next time the flood comes, you will know what to do.

Feeling safe, and floating in the waves……

The Dance

Photo Rache Bennett

I am beyond honored this week to have the beautiful and glorious Rachel Bennett of Rachel Bennett Yoga as the Guest Writer.  Rachel is a dancer who teaches private yoga and meditation in NYC and is a very talented writer.  She speaks to connecting movement with breath and finding the silence within.  Namaste, and enjoy.

 

In the winter of 99’ I moved to New York to become a professional dancer and actress. I arrived with what the Buddhists call “Beginner’s Mind.” I knew nothing and in that nothing state, everything was possible. My mind was like an empty rice bowl.

But, then my life changed. Six months later, my father lost his job and without health insurance was diagnosed with cancer. My parents lost their house and all their savings. They had no choice but to move down to DC to live with my Dad’s brother and his wife. My father received chemo treatment at John’s Hopkins while my mother worked Full Time and took care of him in the evenings. But my Dad’s cancer didn’t respond to the treatment and on October 21st, 2000, he passed away.

I was a senior at Hunter College.

Loss and suffering are odd. They work on us in ways we don’t always understand until later, marinating inside us, changing us into deeper vessels. The price we must pay is pain. But, the psyche finds ways to numb and cope, so as not to be obliterated by sorrow. We find ways to keep going and mine was movement.

Dance.

After my Dad’s funeral, I returned to New York, but felt numb. I was exhausted from watching my father turn into a skeleton. Grief makes us tired. There are some things we can’t be prepared for, only lived through. I remember the Spring following his death, walking to class, when I noticed flowers coming out of the ground. I was infuriated. I had the visceral desire to crush them under my feet.

I said silently to the colorful buds, “How dare you bloom with such life when my father is dead?”

But, I continued to dance. I landed a gig in Japan and some summer stock musicals, pushing through my grief. On visits home to my mother, I embarked on another loss: Her mind. She acted strangely. Dropped things, kept tripping, couldn’t remember where she’d put something. Eventually, she was fired from her job. Her boss told her, “I’m sorry, Shaunna, but you don’t make your deadlines and you can’t stop crying at work.”

My mother – the one who’d published a newspaper, championed women’s rights, taught Chaucer and Shakespeare and fought for equality of all kinds – I now found sleeping in the middle of the day covered in candy wrappers.

Our dialogue went from talks of art and my life in New York, to something like this:

“Rachel, have you seen my purse?”
“No, Mom. I haven’t. Where did you last have it?”
“I don’t know.”

Her psychiatrist told me her behavior was just grief from losing my Dad, but my gut told me there was more. I left the city to care for her. I thought I could save her, but the more I tried, the more I got pulled down under. She was an endless pit of tears, sorrow and questions and I found myself drowning under her weight.

Sometimes we must leave to survive.

So I returned to NYC, got a job waiting tables and entered what would become a decade of surviving and care-taking. I moved twelve times and secured five different homes from my mother from 2002 until 2008.

Then the phone calls from her room mates:

“Rachel, I’m sorry but your mother doesn’t flush the toilet and leaves milk out on the counter all night. I keep reminding her, but –I think it’s time you find another place for your mom to live.”

“Your mother parks the car half in the driveway, half in the road. I’ve reminded her several times, but – “

So I’d start looking for another home for her.

I kept the acting/dance game going best I could. I earned my SAG and Equity Cards, auditioned for managers and agents, but my mother was sobbing in dark rooms, her hair uncombed. I made an appointment to speak to her psychiatrist, seething.

“She can’t put a key in lock. She can’t find her purse or her lipstick or her notebook. She forgets things I tell her.” I tell him, venom in my voice.

“What is going on? Do you have her on too many drugs? Is her anti-psychotic mixing badly with her rheumatoid arthritis medicine?”

One night, my mother turned the water on in the kitchen sink and then went into the living room to watch TV.
“Mother, you left the water running. You need to turn the facet off.” I said impatiently.
“I don’t remember how.” She said.

I made an appointment with the head of the neurology department at Albany Medical Center the next day. After many written and verbal tests, an MRI and CAT scan, Dr. Zimmerman and I walked down the hall together and he said to me, with a clipboard under his right arm, “I’m sorry Rachel, but from the tests it’s very clear that your mother has early onset Alzheimer’s. It’s primarily in her parietal lobe, which monitors spatial relations, but will soon encompass the frontal lobe as well.”

She was 55.

By this time I’d stopped the dream of performing. Or perhaps the dream stopped me. I’m not sure which.

Pre-Alzheimer’s, my mother was vibrant. When she laughed, mountains shook. When she was mad, sparks seemed to fly from her green eyes. But, when she was happy, the world seemed to glow.  At different times throughout my mother would tell me,

“Rachel, there will be pain in life. And deep sorrow. But, there will also be joy. Remember that when you have the chance to dance, Rachel – DANCE. Always. Whenever the opportunity arises.”

And we did. Over the years we danced in the kitchen to Rod Stewart, at picnics and weddings. When my dad fished in the river, my mother and I danced on the bank.

My mother doesn’t dance anymore. She lives in a nursing home in the Bronx where she sits in a wheelchair, waiting for meals. Waiting for someone to wheel her to an activity. I visit on Sundays and when I do, I put music on, and swirl her in her wheelchair. It’s our new way of dancing. Last week we danced to “Moon River.”

“Rachel, wait!” my mother screamed at me.
“What mama? What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Do you see it? Over there!”
“What mama? I don’t see anything.”
“There! See, there!”
She now points to things that I can never see. “Delusions” the staff psychiatrist tells me.

I wonder if she sees my father’s ghost. Or perhaps she sees us dancing together when I was five years old, heart ribbons in my hair, in Barnstead New Hampshire. She’s in a realm now that is not held by time or space.

Then she proclaims loudly, “Rachel, I’m here! I’m here!”

“Yes, mama you are! And so am I.” I tell her.

Mama Rachel photo Bergen Reginonal Medical Center June 2014

Her words are a declaration, a prayer, an offering, and the highest expression of gratitude I’ve ever heard.

We are here. Now. Each word, plié, brush stroke, or kiss is our way to say, I am here.

If you listen in silence, with all the desire in your heart to hear, you will hear that proclamation spoken by anyone who ever lived, swirling in the cosmos. I am here. I am here. I am here.

What will your offering be?

Rachel Bennett NYCB 2