Momentum

Oh, for the sake of momentum
I’ve allowed my fears to get larger than life
And it’s brought me to my current agendum
Whereupon I deny fulfillment has yet to arrive

And I know life is getting shorter
I can’t bring myself to set the scene
Even when it’s approaching torture
I’ve got my routine

But I can’t confront the doubts I have
I can’t admit that maybe the past was bad
And so, for the sake of momentum
I’m condemning the future to death
So it can match the past.

-Aimee Mann

Keep moving.
Keep going.
Don’t stop.

This was what was playing in my head over and over again. 

I had my routine.

Snooze once or twice in the morning. 
Take a shower and listen to the radio.
Do some light stretching.
Warm up my voice. 
Set my hair in hot rollers and put on my makeup. 
Pin my hair into place, pack up my backpack with my audition book and dance shoes, and then grab my headphones and blast music into my ears as I walked out the door. 
Drown out the outside world, and then come home at the end of the day and watch 2-3 hours of TV.

Day after day.
Audition after audition.
Dance class, voice lessons, on camera classes.

Callback…..don’t book it.
Callback…don’t book it.
Callback….don’t book it.

I had come to New York City to be on Broadway, and come close SO many times, and yet it remained elusive as each year went on.

I worked in every other venue there was, Off Broadway, National Tours, National Commercials, Regional Theater, and yet…this was my ceiling.

I was so frustrated.

But I couldn’t stop.
I had to keep going.
I had to go to the next audition and the next, and keep up my classes, because that was what was going to GET me there.

There was great momentum behind me, and I wasn’t going to slow down.  Time was swiftly passing by.  I was approaching my late 30’s and freaking out.  And what was playing over and over again in my head was a record saying,
You should have BEEN there by now.

My marriage was falling apart, but I had to keep going.
I was drinking too much, but I had to keep going.
I was trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t working, but I had to keep going.

Until it all fell apart.

In one year’s time, everything I knew of my life changed.  I went through a divorce, was robbed twice, lost a dear friend to a heart attack, and was in two car accidents.

I didn’t work in my profession. There weren’t any Broadway auditions.  No one was calling, and even if they did, I was a mess.

I remember going in for a regional production and having to sing the classic ballad, My Funny Valentine.  The words choked in my throat, and I barely made it through the song.  The casting director knew I was going through a divorce and came out after to give me a hug.  Everyone in the biz knew, I was so embarrassed, and I thought,
Will I be able to sing again?
Will they ever hire me again?

The momentum of my life came to a screeching halt, and something radical came in.

Silence.
Quiet.

I started asking for help, and found Zen Buddhism which taught me that,
Change is constant. Nothing is permanent.

I started to meditate, took the headphones out of my ears, and truly took the time to ask,
HOW did I get here?
What led to this?

I stopped snoozing my alarm, and found I actually had time.
Time to understand the WHY and HOW of my journey.
Time to face my doubts and fears, and actually transform them.

And time to wake up and make new choices.

I realized I had been condemning my future to look JUST like my past, by not stopping and actually asking the question,
Why am I here?

And when I finally had the support to ask this in a loving way, and had skillful guidance to move forward, my life transformed.

I started singing again, and sang the best I had in my whole career.
I booked a ton of work.
And the industry now saw me for ALL of who I was, and most importantly, they saw me for my strength, not the ordeal I had gone through.

The fear that I would never “make it” literally disappeared, and in it’s place was just inspired action and creating a new life that fulfilled me.

I stopped chasing the dream, and instead woke every day to create it.

So, what is your routine?

What have you decided will just “always be”?

Complacency can be deeply destructive, and rob you of your confidence, and the longer we try to shove our fears and doubts under the bed or into the closet, the larger they become.

They don’t go away until we acknowledge them.

And that begins with the single most important tool you can cultivate to create change,
Compassion.

We first have to FEEL the disappointment in order to transform it to powerful action.

We can’t skip over this step, because it’s always running underneath and playing out in subconscious ways.  It’s playing out in your small audience, in colleagues who are untrustworthy, in low-balling your prices and never asking for what you are actually worth.

So, what if this momentum is purely driven by your actions?
This is great news, because it means you have the ABILITY to stop it.

You have the ability to CHANGE your actions.

You have the ability to make different choices.

What if your future could look different than your past?

Start by acknowledging it and allow it to be a teacher.  Allow your past actions to point to what hasn’t been working, and most importantly, accept this with compassion. This isn’t about making you wrong or bad.

There is no problem here.
You are just waking up, and that’s when you access your power.

Today is a new day, one you have never lived before.

With compassion and skillful guidance, stop and ask,
How did I get here?

The answers are within you, as is your greatest power.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

Hand Held

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I’m standing in the open frame of my childhood basement door, each stair’s wooden outline lessening into the thick darkness descent. The lights are out again from a blown fuse, and my brother passes me with a lamp to flip the switch. He plummets down into the abyss with ease, as I stand constricted in my spot, hearing his feet thud against the wood.

My body remains watching my brother travel out of sight, but my mind is below, standing before the basement windows, their rectangular panes peeking to the heavily slanted stone driveway outside. Except I can’t see out because the way is enshrouded in webs, endless dusty white in downward curves from frame to frame.

And then I see the legs, black as pitch, emerge and crawl from the frame towards me.  My whole body goes cold and my mouth opens in a noiseless scream.

 

Arachnophobia.

I had it my whole life, but didn’t really give it a name until I was an adult. What began with the basement terrors of my youth manifested into prickled skin and a choking fear at the sight of a web and eight legs.

I sought protectors, loved ones that would place the glass cup around the creature and take it outside, or flush it down the toilet.

Their glass kept my fear at arm’s length, and I accepted its place in my identity. What was more, I named it.
“I’m afraid of spiders.”

Two years ago I was the dance captain for a production of A Christmas Carol out at Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City. My husband had flown out from New York, and sat me down on Thanksgiving day, telling me he didn’t want to be married anymore.  The earth opened beneath my feet and a great divide yawned in its wake, a giant chasm between us.  In the ravine lay broken trust and built-up fears now exploding in our voices, the exhaustion, the lies, and a distance from him I hadn’t experienced before.  I was in shock.  Though things had been tense and strange for months, I honestly hadn’t seen this coming.

In the wake of his message, and because I had to go into tech the next day, I sent him home.  I spent everyday on the phone with my best friend or mother desperately trying to breathe, and to keep control in the midst of the maelstrom that was tearing my life apart. My best friend had given me the wise advice to not tell anyone in the cast, because if I did I would not be able to escape it, and during this initial shock and nights of endless crying, pleading, and fighting with my husband, I needed some respite.

Going to the theatre and doing the show was a coping mechanism and survival technique when I was drowning.  So I put on my costume, applied my lashes and makeup, and tried to find some normalcy in my world that was completely upside down.

Pioneer Theatre had their company Christmas party near the end of the run and hired Creature Encounters to entertain us. I walked into the large room to see giant tortoises crawling about and a huge Python wrapped around two of my dancer friends. They were laughing and I came over to take a picture just as one of the party staff placed a tarantula on top of my friend’s head.

I froze.

Behind my friends was a long white table with four tarantulas, each in their own case; my worst fear, multiplied and enormous. These spiders made the basement inhabitants appear as laughable toys.  Every spider I had ever ran from paled in comparison to these beasts.

“Would you like to hold the spider?”
As I took in the animal handler, something shifted.  I saw my community wrapped in snakes, playing with the tortoises, and allowing the spiders to crawl on them, and instead of bolting from the room, I felt awareness coming back into my legs.

I suddenly realized that the spider wasn’t my greatest fear. My greatest fear was losing my marriage, my husband, and the ability to have a family with him, or never becoming a mother.  I was actually facing that fear right now and somehow still functioning.

Maybe I could do this.

I walked over and held my hand out, and the handler placed the tarantula into my palm. It immediately started to freak out, scraping around the skin of my hand, and I realized it was matching my energy.  I needed to calm down so the spider would calm down. I relaxed my hand and the spider stood shaking on its legs, it’s abdomen quivering.

The spider was just as scared as I was.

I started to breathe, and the spider stopped shaking and a smile of relief and realization came over my face. The spider was nothing like I imagined.

The spider was soft.
The spider was light.

I was ok.

Within my palm lay an embodiment of my fear, not the thing itself.  Years of goosebumps and hardened beliefs vanished as I gingerly handed him back to the handler.

I then felt so good, I decided to hold a scorpion.

 

In the months that followed, back in New York City, I would imagine myself covered in tarantulas, their legs crawling over me.  As I relinquished control for the first time in my life and accepted the impermanence of my marriage, this was a great comfort. I was sitting in a pain far worse than any web could manifest, and allowing the real fear to surface instead of a eight-legged symbol was crucial.

 

While birding with my parents this year, we walked down a path I have traveled before.  Greenery rose all around us, and we stopped intermittently to take in a sparrow or warbler.  As we passed some leaves, my eye caught the web, and I walked in close to see the Orb spider sitting so neatly in the middle of it’s home, the bright yellow stripe down it’s abdomen like a lightning strike.  Coming in close, I exhaled,
“Beautiful.”

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