Driving Your Art

I’ve been in a car accident.

I start to go into shock, as I stare out the windshield in front of me, and the thought that rises is,
Am I going to die today?

My whole passenger side bashed in, I’m up on the sidewalk, spun facing the wrong way.

I look down and see my legs.
They are ok.

I look down at my arm which hurts,
but is moving.

Behind me the driver of the huge Jeep that hit me is getting out and moving towards me screaming angrily.

I slowly get out of my car and a man hands me a small bottle of water, asking,
Are you ok? I’m a cop. I’ve called in the accident.  Help is coming.

As I walk around to the passenger side of my car, I see the entire side crumpled in…..my car is totaled.

I am BLOCKS away from my home….and the craziest part is,
I just left the scene of another accident I was in. Literally 15 minutes ago…I rear-ended a car that stopped suddenly on the highway.

I was in two accidents back to back on the same day.

WHO does this happen to?
HOW could this happen?

Am I going to die today?

 

I usually refer to 2013 as  my Year of the Flame.  It began with a devastating divorce, and then turned into a raging bonfire where I lost my home, was robbed twice, lost a dear friend to a heart-attack, and then this day; the day I was in two car accidents back to back.

It was November, and I was still in shock over the loss of my friend in September.  I had gone up to visit my best friend just north of NYC, and had spent the day playing with her twins, and being outside in the vibrant fall leaves, taking pictures of them gleefully playing in their swings.

I left her house smiling, so grateful for the time, and soon was entering back into Queens….and then BOOM.

When the first accident happened, it was more startling than anything.  Everyone was ok, and I immediately called my insurance to let them know.  The other drivers were pleasant, but I drove away shaken.

Coming into Astoria, just blocks from my apartment, the intersection was blocked by a double parked van, and I couldn’t see.  As I came into the intersection, a speeding black Jeep came barreling down and completely took me out.

After the shock wore off, I found myself faced with a larger problem.

I was scheduled to drive to my alma mater, Penn State the following weekend to see my mentor’s one woman show, and now I had no car.

I knew I could rent a car….but could I drive?
Did I feel I could?

Two days later, I went to see my acupuncturist to tell her about the accident, as I was experiencing back issues.

She said,
It’s a good thing you came in right away.  Fear and trauma will store in the muscles.  This way we can move it.

I lay on my stomach, and she placed a needle right in the heart of my back muscle that took the brunt of the accident, and I immediately started to weep.

My fear pouring down my face.
My anger, my sadness, my shock.

This year…..

 

Have you ever had a huge accident?
Have you ever had a huge disappointment that took you out of your Art?

When we create from the deepest parts of ourselves, it can feel like a huge black Jeep pummels us in the face of rejection or something not turning out as we wanted:

The rejection letter from the publishers
The booking agent saying no
The gallery not responding
The show that barely sells any tickets

Not to mention, an actual life accident that leaves you really questioning,
Am I safe?
Can I do this?

What do we do in that moment?

I remember really questioning whether or not it was a good idea to drive to Penn State, days after the accident.  While I did have some bruising, the biggest piece was my fear.

I was scared to get behind the wheel again.

My best friend and my mother both encouraged me to drive again, otherwise the fear would set in. It would become something larger.

I would make it permanent, and start a new belief that wouldn’t serve me,
I’m a bad driver.

And what would be possible with this belief?
Not much….I would probably never drive again, and not experience new roads.

And for you?

What is the belief you have formed in the face of your accidents?

Is it serving you and your Art?
Is it allowing you to get back behind the wheel, back in the driver seat and receive the acclaim you desire?

I fully admit, I was terrified to drive again, but I rented a car and drove to Penn State with no incident, and you know the biggest gift I received?

That I could DO it.
That I was CAPABLE.

The only way you will know this is by DOING.

We can spend hours, days, YEARS stuck in a belief and wake up one day staring at gorgeous Art that has gone nowhere….and realize we let fear be the driver.

But, what if you got back in the seat?
What is possible for you in your Art then?

What is possible for this ONE life you have?

The first step, is to FACE your fear head on.
Love this part of yourself.

Indeed, this part has believed it was keeping you safe.

This is not a moment of shaming or saying you are wrong…this is when you LOVE this part of you as much as possible.  Allow yourself to feel.

Hand over your heart say,
Even though I feel terrified, I deeply love and respect myself.

Watch the fear rise and then fall.

And then get back in the driver seat.

 

You CAN do this.
You are CAPABLE.

Turns out the accident didn’t kill you.  The rejection didn’t kill you.  It was painful….but here you are.  You are still breathing, and with that breath, you have the whole universe.

So take your car out of park, and enter your new road.

This is your Creative Life, how do you want to live it?

Back to School

Freshman Dorm

One room: two beds, two desks, two closets, two large squares of cork board covered with colorful squares and smiles, tacked in place by plastic push pins. By the window, the ultimate convenience invention: the microfridge.

Plastic crates are stacked under the desk and by the microfridge, holding notebooks, pens, pencils, textbooks, and Hot Pockets.

Somehow, within a few square feet, I have squeezed my high school bedroom into this new shared space.

I’m looking out the window, overlooking the quad, seeing the families unloading their minivans; daughters and sons carrying their laundry bags and Doc Martens.

East Halls, Penn State University, my new dorm.

Freshman year.

My parents drive away and I walk to the dining hall with my roommate and friend across the hall, and it begins to sink in.

I’m here.  I made it.

 

I was the first class of the Musical Theatre BFA at Penn State University.  They called us the “guinea pigs” because every semester they were trying out curriculum on us, and our feedback was the deciding factor on keeping the course as it was, or adjusting it to better serve the program and the following year’s students.

This made for a very adventurous experience, and also our input was deeply appreciated.  Our successes and challenges were not only important for our personal artistic growth and craft, but for the development of the program as a whole.  We were the sounding boards.

My time at Penn State was rich and full.  I graduated with top-notch skills in my dance, acting, and singing.  I had a book full of audition songs, a well written resume, and professional headshots.  I had choreographed extensively during my time on campus, both locally and professionally, and enjoyed football games, deep friendships, and love.

I had the tee-shirt, the hat, and the Nittany Lion Roar, “We are PENN STATE!”

I was blue and white proud, and ready for my career, marriage, and post-collegiate life to begin.

Look out NYC…..

 

I returned to Happy Valley in 2001, three years after I graduated, to choreograph Pennsylvania Centre Stage’s summer production of Little Shop of Horrors, and loved being back in the theatre building, and a part of the arts scene there.  Campus hadn’t changed much since my graduation, and I knew a lot of the cast members.

And then a long time passed, a lifetime.

I didn’t return until the fall of 2013 and the surroundings had deeply shifted.

The HUB, or center building on campus had expanded out immensely, undergoing renovation and add-ons.  The building was new, enormous, and offered tons of dining choices, more space for students, and a larger main bookstore.

Streets that used to go though the middle of campus were now just walk-ways to accommodate the growing student body, and I lost track of all the new buildings rising from the once barren grasses.  The actual scope of the campus had enlarged, taking over a golf course, and fields.

I had rented a car to visit the campus, and drove on new roads.

There was so much that had been added, and as I drove all I felt was loss.

I was driving alone now, where for 15 years I had navigated from the passenger side of my marriage, changing the radio and enjoying companionship.

That companionship had begun here, within the blue and white cheers, and theatre parties.  Here I had fallen in love.

I had come into town to see my mentor’s one-woman show and dreamt that night of a massive flood, the waters washing me away.  I was held by a guardian angel and friend who wiped my tears, but I wondered when or if I would ever return.

There was so much change to process. Everything was so new.

 

Last week, I was camping with my parents and brother’s family at Little Pine State Park, over an hour outside of Penn State.  My brother and sister in law also grabbed their cap and gown in Happy Valley, so we planned a day trip to re-visit.

The morning of, I could feel the memory of my last visit forming a knot in my heart, so over breakfast, I looked at my mother and said,

“I’m scared to go back to campus today, and may need your support.”

She grabbed my hand and we both began to cry, as she reassured me she was there for me and always has been.

Just saying the words out loud released the tight ball, and in giving permission to feel it all, I exhaled and scooped a forkful of homemade quiche into my mouth.

Maybe I was going to be ok.
Maybe this visit would be different.

There had been heavy downpour that morning, and as we drove to campus, my parents windshield wipers worked feverishly back and forth to clear my father’s sight.  In the back seat, my mother and I laughed over emails and Facebook posts.

We parked in the Creamery Parking garage, and made our way in under umbrellas to partake in a college tradition:

Ice Cream.

Celebrating it’s 150th anniversary this year, the Penn State Berkey Creamery housed our family as we licked our spoons around the white circular table.  I didn’t even consider another choice, and eagerly asked the server to scoop my favorite into the cup, Bittersweet Mint.

Outside, new students were moving into East Halls.  Families were helping their sons and daughters carry their belongings and laundry bags into the stone and brick buildings.  Convocation was in two days, and the parking lots were full with suitcases and bins.

Much like years ago.

East Halls stood exactly the same, the same square lines and buildings.  What changed was who was entering them.

I savored each mouthful, remembering countless times I would buy ice cream after tap class or after rehearsal, and always the same flavor:  Bittersweet.

 

We left and the skies cleared, as our feet stepped through puddles on the concrete. We closed our umbrellas and began to see blue peeking through the dark clouds above.

In the clearing we took fun pictures on the Nittany Lion statue.
In the clearing we reminisced stories looking at our classroom buildings.
In the clearing I was able to visit with a friend who is now a professor, and hug that guardian angel who held me so tight two years ago.
In the clearing we went to the bookstore and I bought a new hat and long sleeve tee.

The clouds returned again, and rain poured down the slanted sidewalks towards the traffic lights on College Avenue.

I looked around at the students, the teachers, all preparing for a new school year and all the lessons ahead, and I felt the rain soak my skin.

I’m here.  I made it.

Back to School.

Kissing Nittany