Halloween Transformation

Happy Halloween!

What are you dressing up as this year?

This may be one of my favorite times of the year, because it’s when everyone gets dressed up in fun costumes!  My mother says I wouldn’t come out of the womb until the lighting was right, so the dramatic flair has been present since day one.  And then, I went into a 20 year career dressing up for a living!

Except, Halloween was actually the time when my creativity went dry.

Do you ever feel this?

You would think I would be coming up with amazing new costumes every year, right?  Wouldn’t the stage performer just thrive in this holiday?

Yet as an adult, I was finding myself stuck year after year dressed as the same thing, and having NO idea why I wasn’t inspired to change.

It wasn’t until I lost everything that Halloween changed for me, and in turn transformed me.

And caused me to actually ask,
What do I want to be for Halloween?

I remember the day so vividly.  I was at college and Halloween was coming up.  I wanted to dress as something different and went to the costume shop just off campus.  I looked into the glass counter and saw them, fake vampire teeth.

My heart skipped. I loved vampires and was obsessed with author Anne Rice and her whole Interview with the Vampire series.  It felt powerful and exciting and I decided that year to dress up as a vampire.

I got a sexy outfit, a blue wig, and fake blood capsules so I could have my latest “meal” running down my cheek. It was so much fun and I got tons of compliments that night on my costume and how realistic the teeth were. I put them in a soft black bag in my jewelry box to return to for the next year.

It was a success, why not just repeat?

Year after year, I would go to that little black bag, grab the blue wig, and wear something black.  Years went by, and I just thought,
Well, I know what I’m going to be this Halloween, so there’s no need to change. I’m a vampire.

Party after party, wearing the fake teeth, and playing out the same role…..for over 15 years.

And as time went on, I was also feeling frustrated I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my career. I had hit a ceiling and couldn’t figure out how to break past it.  What was in the way?

Can you relate?

And then everything fell apart.  In one year’s time, I lost my marriage, my home, was robbed, and lost a dear friend to a heart attack.

Nothing was the same, and for the first time in my life, I asked for help, and I found Zen Buddhism.  I started meditating, and one of the largest lessons I learned was,
Change is constant.

When Halloween came around, I looked at the little black bag and did something radical.
I threw it away.

And I asked the question,
What do I want to be for THIS Halloween?

I found myself looking at the blue wig I had worn as a vampire, and asked,
Is there another way to use this?

And my inspiration hit.

I decided to dress as an Auror.  According to the Harry Potter universe,
An Auror is a member of an elite unit of highly-trained, specialist officers. They are trained to investigate crimes related to the Dark Arts, and apprehend or detain Dark wizards and witches.

I’m a HUGE Harry Potter fan, and I was re-connecting with what inspired me, plus, realized as I was re-building my life, that I was actually magical.

I walked around all day with my wand, casting spells, and felt something shifting around the holiday.
Fun was returning.

The following year, I asked the same question again,
Who do I want to be for THIS Halloween?

At this point, my life had radically changed.  I was in an apartment I loved, meditating daily, working with a coach, and had a complete resurgence in my performance career.

I had made the decision to become certified as a coach and was actually dating again.  Many of my friends were calling me something that really resonated, as I was building my life from the ashes,
A Phoenix.

So, I dressed as a Phoenix for Halloween.

The next year I was a dragon.
Then HIndu goddess Shakti.
Then Game of Thrones Mother of Dragons, Daenarys Targaryn

Every year it changed, and Halloween became a reflection of who I was at that moment.

Because I had learned, I was capable of change.
I was becoming and changing with every year.

And Halloween became a celebration of that.

So, who do you want to be this Halloween?

What if Halloween isn’t about being someone else, but actually celebrating your strengths and your inspiration?

Take out a piece of paper and a pen, and write down all the characters you have dressed as.  Now, write down the values and qualities you love about them.

When we see these qualities in others, it’s actually a reflection of our own inner power.  Those qualities you have written down are also what you own in yourself.

That first year I was a vampire, I was empowered and really wanting to celebrate that.

But, then, I lost connection and stopped checking in.  I became more concerned with putting on an act and looking like I was powerful, then actually accessing my true confidence. I got stuck, and dressing up as a vampire was really a reflection of how disconnected and scared I was.  If I wasn’t a vampire, who was I?

I lost track of the simple fact,
Change is constant
I am capable of growth
I can change

This may be the largest gift you give yourself.

What if the challenge you are in right now is there FOR you?
What if where you are stuck is calling you to make a new step?

Thank goodness I lost everything. It woke me up and cleared the deck so I could really see what was going on.

I wouldn’t be here with you, and I would have never connected with the fact that I am, and have within in me,
Magic
Wings
Fire
A Dragon
A Goddess

So, ask yourself this question,
Who ARE you?

You don’t need to pretend anymore. 

Let Halloween be the invitation to celebrate ALL of your glorious magical strengths.

The Phoenix Flame

IMG_4536

I’m staring at a wall of wings, black and white, different sizes. I reach for a white pair in the mid range, and take the package off the hook. All sales are final, and I smile at the youth costumes as I make my way back upstairs to the register where I pick out a long flowing red wig. I throw in some feathered lashes and face paint, and walk out into the crisp October air on Third Avenue.

Behind me the storefront is filled with ghouls and skeletons, and soon the streets will be filled with kids carrying pumpkin shaped buckets, holding their parent’s hand in between handfuls of popcorn and tootsie rolls.

I loved Halloween growing up. I was a sugar consumer to the highest degree, usually spending my weekly allowance to fill a white paper bag with Nerds, gummy peaches, and sour balls. There wasn’t a Willy Wonka treat I hadn’t consumed or a Bubble Yum flavor I hadn’t blown wide into expanding colorful circles.

My costumes varied as a child, but were most elaborate the year I dressed as Martha Washington, complete with period appropriate dress, white wig, and my personal glasses. The bifocals aided the First Lady look, and grazed my cheeks in true 80’s style.

I had an academic theme going around that time, including dressing up as a Lady from the Middle Ages.  My entire fourth grade class was knighted following our individual historical presentations on cathedrals, fiefdoms, and European society. My mother had crafted an impressive gown for the knighting ceremony, with bright gold and vibrant indigo, complete with a tall cone shaped hat and nude chin strap. I was happy to wear it a second time, and receive candy to boot.

As an adult, I got stuck on being a vampire. I bought this pair of really cool canine teeth I could insert with a moldable putty and wear all night with a bright blue bob. Adding fake blood dripping from my lips, and dramatic eye makeup, I had an instant costume topped off with tight black clothing. I repeated this for most of my married years, keeping the teeth in a little black felt bag and the wig in my closet, only seeing the light of my room come late October. I was consistent, repeating my habit. I didn’t wonder what I would be come Halloween, because it was waiting there for me from the year before.

Then, two years ago a Halloween came where I didn’t put on the wig or the teeth. Hurricane Sandy had ravaged the city, and I was just returning home from performing in a show. Trees were down on our block, subway service was minimal, many were without power, and a dark cloud was forming over my home. It wasn’t fully realized, but the energy had shifted, and an unnamed panic had settled into my heart and skin.

Seven months later, on an early June day last year, the contents of my closet and the jewelry box that held the teeth were all emptied into cardboard boxes, taped up with thick packing tape, and labeled with black Sharpie pen through shaking hands. Tears fell into the boxes before they were folded shut, all four corners closing in the darkness, holding my life within square and rectangular shapes to be placed into storage until they could be opened. They were moved by my family, and closest friends, who provided a community around me as the U-Haul was filled, and I lost my home.

A fire had begun, a raging furnace that burned ceaselessly, feeding on my identity, my ego, my marriage, my relationships, my belongings, and my job. I would burn with each loss, and from ashes lift my head to begin again, but as the fire continued, I despaired. I felt I was receiving the same message over and over. How much could I lose?

While licking my scorched wounds, I expressed my fears to a close friend. Her answer was simple:
“You’re a Phoenix.”

From her words, there appeared a door. Though the door was charred, I was still able to grasp the handle, twist, and pull towards me, seeing what lay through the blackened frame. My hands still worked, my feet could step forward, and my eyes could take in the present moment, as I exhaled the black smoke of my past.

And where those pieces, definitions, and material objects lay before, I felt something new.

Space.

I had convinced myself I needed all these things in my life to survive, that I WAS these things, and yet, here I stood breathing in the doorway, alive, without them.

Maybe now I was ready to truly learn who I was, now that I had the space, now that I had made friends with my fire. Maybe the only way I could rebuild, was to lose everything that had supported my previous state.

The holiday season came around last year, and I watched the pumpkins and scarecrows emerge in my new neighborhood. I tentatively opened my jewelry drawer to look at the small felt bag with the vampire teeth, and loosened the string. The teeth fell into my palm, yellowed from the years, the putty hardened and brittle, aged from the storage. I had remembered them as a much different color, more ivory or white. They appeared shriveled and small, transformed into something I no longer recognized.  I couldn’t imagine placing these in my mouth now.

I put them back in the felt bag, pulled the string, and then turned my palm upside down over my kitchen trash can. The swinging lid took them in with the momentum of the fall, and then closed back up, it’s red curved plastic edges aligning to a position of stillness.

In place of the vampire, I decided to be an Auror, inspired by the courageous character Tonks from J.K. Rowling’s glorious imagination.  I only went to work, not feeling any desire to go to a party, but tucked the wand into my belt and wore the blue wig, giving it a new association.

For this year, I considered repeating being an Auror, as it was a lot of fun, but a new image popped into my head, and I remembered that conversation with my friend. Plus, I didn’t need to rely on Tonks, and I was done with the vampire.

First one leg,
then the other,
into red fabric.
My hands reach through the elastic straps
to place so gently my feathered form
rising from my shoulders.
These wings,
tinged red,
honor the fire from which I came,
and from which I will return.

wings and wand