Rising with “The Waves”

Since the age of 17, I have often found myself living in Virginia Woolf’s world.  I am drawn back to one of her novels in particular.  “The Waves” was first introduced to me in my senior year of high school. I’ve read it more than a few times since; each time Woolf’s novel reveals something new to me. It’s as if I read a different story each time I pick it up. I recently had the honor of attending a musical based on the novel and I don’t say this often, but it changed me.

The Waves

Like an old friend

I excelled in my English classes without really putting in much effort. Because of this, I was often bored. I passed my homework in late all the time, but still managed straight A’s. My English teacher had a rule that you could pass in homework up until test day, but 10 points would be taken off. Even late, I never scored below 90 on my homework. I have a memory of trying to complete essay questions the night before the test for “A Tale of Two Cities”: I had 5 chapters to complete; all chapters had at least 5 essay questions. We lost power at home that night. I ended up completing the homework using a vintage kerosene lamp. You’d think I would have learned my lesson, but it only seemed fitting to be using the kind of light that the characters in the book would have used. As difficult as it was to be attempting to write essays and read in that light, it’s a memory that still brings a smile to my face.

I needed a bigger challenge, and someone recognized that in me.

My senior year, I was given the choice to either read the Bible or “The Waves”.  I choose Woolf.  My God, what a challenge that was for a 17-year-old, but it was one I gladly accepted. I’m a determined person and if I’m struggling with something, it just makes me want to conquer it even more. I spent a good amount of my time going through that novel, writing so many notes and questions in the margins that I could barely read the text anymore.

Senior Pic
Even though I often tried to hide it, I was a total geek

I struggled through the whole book. There were times when I read pages and chapters repeatedly to try to make sense of it all.  I sometimes considered giving up, but what really kept me going was that it was beautiful. Even if I didn’t truly understand what I had just read, I knew those words were pieced together in such a way that they created the most stunning prose I had ever read.  This remains true to this day.

This novel came along at a time in my life when I desperately needed someone to tell me that there was beauty in life. I was in the darkest place possible and I could see no way out.

Senior year is typically an exciting time for students, but for me, it was a time when life as I knew it was falling apart. My parents’ tumultuous relationship was ending. I had known and struggled for years with the knowledge that my dad was having an affair. That year, I was struggling even more than usual. I couldn’t look at my father, starting to hate that he was making me keep this lie. Yes, he knew that I knew. He never once addressed it with me. Instead he ignored it and let his child keep a secret from her own mother. I knew if I opened my mouth, my whole family would fall apart, and I’d be breaking my mother’s heart. Honestly, I’m not sure how I survived this time of my life. I’m emotional, remember? This was torture.

Luckily, I had family who saw what was happening to me. They saw the dark path I was heading down and stepped in. It was the beginning of my parents’ divorce. The start of my world crashing down around me.

While other kids were applying for college, I was just trying to get out of bed. College seemed like a faraway dream at the time; no one was there to guide me along because their lives were falling apart as well. And even if my parents weren’t involved in a nasty divorce, we all know I wasn’t allowed to apply to anywhere that I really wanted to go, because if I went to NYU, I may “meet a boy and never come home again.” Not my words, of course.

I couldn’t see much of what life had to offer me but I could lose myself and the real world in Woolf’s words. I knew it would be the distraction I needed, but what I didn’t know was how much it would help me.

There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me‘.”

When I read this sentence more than 20 years ago, at one of the worst times of my life, I felt it in my core. I wanted nothing more than anything to consume me. All I could feel was despair. I wanted it all to stop.

Much of this novel focuses on identity: how the character view themselves, how the world views them, and how they view one another. At a time when I felt my whole identity was being lost, this novel found me. My family breaking up was devastating for me; so much of me was based on my family. I always preferred being with them, being my complete and total self. As an introvert, people can and do exhaust me, but my family never did.

My family, the biggest part of me, was gone. My parents were getting divorced. My brother was leaving for the Army. My grandmother, the matriarch of our family, passed away.  Our dog, whom we got when I was 8, had to be put down, and most of my friendships started to fade away. I didn’t know who I was anymore or where to even begin looking. My own preconceived notions of my identity were being ripped from me.

The characters in this novel became my confidants. They were feeling similar things, being lost and afraid while trying to find out who they were without one another.

I desperately needed to find out who I was without the family I once knew. Yes, I still had a family, but try to explain that to a 17-year-old kid who is watching everyone around her destroy the perfect world she knew. I was angry. I was felt like I was slowly drowning. In my eyes, I was alone. I couldn’t see that things would, one day, get better.  Different, but better.

Obviously, I made it through this time of my life, though I’m not sure how. I finished the novel as well which, at the time, felt like such a huge accomplishment.

What I didn’t realize about this novel was that it would rejoin me over and over again in life. Each time, it would be exactly what I needed in a completely different way. I owe Ms. Woolf a huge thank you.

Fast forward to now and let’s leave Woolf’s side for a few paragraphs.

We all know I deal with anxiety more often than I care to admit. I often use music to control awful thoughts that lurk in my mind and to get through many of my panic attacks. Raúl Esparza’s voice has made my life easier, time and time again. If you don’t know who he is then, I’m sorry, we just can’t be friends (kidding, but you should go to YouTube. Go ahead. I’ll wait.).

Here’s where I don’t know if words will do me justice: his voice. His voice is so raw, so emotive that it hits every part of me. I can feel it in my heart, my soul, my mind; it can consume my mind. His voice, his performances are overwhelming. They captivate me in such a way that even mid-panic attack, they distract me. Listening to him sing brings me peace. He has so much talent, but even more heart.

The cast recording of “Tick, Tick, Boom” has been a lifesaver.

 Just throwing this one out there for you..

His performance of “Hallelujah” helped to get me on the plane to London this past April.

I think you all get it now. I adore him as a performer, always have.

Yet, I’ve never seen him live. Timing never worked out for me.

Until…

Raúl was announced as the creative consultant for the musical adaptation of “The Waves” that would be performed at the Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College (seriously, this is crazy, right? Favorite performer, favorite novel.).  I bought tickets for opening night. Then I realized there was a Q&A with the cast and crew at the Tuesday night performance, so I had to buy tickets for that as well. When pondering what I was going to do in Poughkeepsie, NY over the weekend, Saturday night tickets just magically appeared (miracles, I tell ya!). I still had no idea if Raúl Esparza would even be there, but did I mention this is one of my favorite novels?

Then, maybe a month after I (obsessively) bought tickets to 3 performances, the cast was announced. Raúl was to play Bernard, 1 of 2 characters that I have always related to. Bernard is the writer, the person who always has a notebook with him to write down phrases and ideas. As he grows older, he starts to question if he’ll ever write that great novel, if he’s really as a gifted as he and others thought him to be when he was young. Hello, Bernard, my old friend, you and I would have tons to talk about these days.

I will admit that I fan-girled in my kitchen when I read the cast announcement. I was alone and had no one to share my joy. I sent my husband a text and luckily, he gets me (or at least humors me) so he let me fan-girl and was excited for me (or he, at least, played along. God love him.).

While I was excited for this performance, I wasn’t quite sure how “The Waves” was going to translate as a musical. I prayed that I would like it. I never expected to love it so much that I would be grateful to be the crazy woman who bought tickets for 3 performances.

My mom and I had front row for the opening night.

Let me reiterate that I have anxiety before we go into this next part.

I bought a dress that is a style I love, but not one I would normally wear. It was black, formfitting, mid-calf length and low-cut – very 1960’s bombshell. I had nude nylons with black seams running up the back and magenta-colored 4-inch heels. When I tried this on at home, I was in love with the outfit. Out in public, I was so uncomfortable. I was aware of every lump or bump on my body, my hands and arms covering my mid-section as I walked from my car to the theater. I wanted to keep pulling at the top of the dress, thinking that it exposed more than I normally allowed. My mother kept telling me I looked great and although she’s not one to lie to me, I still felt more vulnerable and exposed than ever.

my dress
The dress and shoes, though this model looks so much cuter than me.

As we sat down, I started to stiffen up. The stage was small. It was only about a foot in front in me and maybe a foot or two off the ground. I was already aware that the entire audience could look at the back of my head (and not that they would, but no one ever said anxiety made sense). I go through this often at shows. My mind wanders to what everyone behind me is doing: are they looking at me? Laughing for whatever reason? Judging me? There’s always a big part of me that just wants to disappear and not be noticed. This night I was wearing an outfit that people notice and every nerve ending in my body was suddenly overly aware of this.

The stage setup was not helping my thoughts. My favorite performer, a man I admire for so many reasons, someone who is the epitome of talent, would be a foot in front of me, probably at eye level at some point. I would have paid anything to will myself invisible. I didn’t want him to even get an inkling that I was dying inside (I was!). My self-esteem was plummeting; my anxiety was winning. It felt like the room was closing in on me. My mom was growing concerned beside me.

This couldn’t be happening. Not now. I needed/wanted to take in every aspect of this musical and if my anxiety took over, I may not even be able to stay inside the theater.

Then the lights went down, the cast was on stage, standing in a row and the opening song commenced. I focused solely on his voice. I didn’t even look at the stage at first. I needed just that voice. It did the job. I could feel myself relaxing. My breathing was returning to normal. I was coming back to myself. Everything would be just as it should be.

The musical was phenomenal. Not only did it make Virginia Woolf accessible and understandable to everyone (and still using her own words), but I’m positive the novel will, once again, be different for me. I’m looking forward to another reading of it now. What will it bring to me this time around?

I’ve seen a good amount of theater productions in my life; this was 1 of 3 that has changed me. I am not the same person I was before I saw this musical. Just as the novel came along at a time that I needed it, so did this musical. Both times, I was caught by surprise.

My reaction to the character of Rhoda really caught me off guard. Rhoda, the girl who always felt like the outsider, is the other character I can relate with on a very high level. She brought up emotions within me that I had forgotten about. I don’t usually feel like I fit in. Anywhere. I struggle to be seen while still wanting to be invisible most of the time. Rhoda reduced me to an emotional blob that night. I recognized the woman I was and the woman I long to be. Spoiler alert: Rhoda doesn’t get her chance to shine the way she wants.

I will.

We all know that this year has been a year of growth and change for me and this is what the story of “The Waves” is; every character learning who they are together and apart. I’m finally stripping away all the things everyone thought I should be and getting down to who I am.

After the production, I met Raúl. I was able to tell him just how much he has helped me. It was something I never expected that I would be able to vocalize to him.

Esparza - The Waves
After the show

I cried that night.

Not a full-blown sobbing, cleanse your soul cry, but tears were present. I cried because seeing that novel come to life before my eyes was so much more than I ever expected it would be. I cried because I managed to stop a panic attack with the same approach I use to stop them most times, but this time that voice was live and in front of me. I cried because I was able to tell someone how their work affects me. I cried because that opening night was exactly what I needed it to be and so much more.

I returned on Saturday night and realized I needed to memorize every moment of it. I wanted to always remember these performances and the feelings they evoke within me. I wanted to be able to dig in and relive those emotions whenever I needed them in my life. I vowed that night to watch the performance and listen to every part of me: the tears on my cheeks, the smile on my face, the tingle of my skin, the spark in my mind, the love and peace within my heart.

Novels move me.

Music moves me.

Talent moves me.

Theater moves me.

I’m emotional. Sometimes it hurts. And sometimes, it fills me with so much joy and insight that I’m grateful for every single emotion that falls from my eyes. My emotions give me the ability to write. They give me the ability to empathize. They give me the ability to be moved by so many different things. I wouldn’t want to change that, ever.

And I truly appreciate the creators who can help me work through my emotions: the ones who carry me through panic attacks, who give me new worlds when mine is not easy, who help me to see that I’m not alone. Art allows me to understand that there are others like me.

 

The Early Musings of a So-Called Writer

5:30 AM.

This is the time I wake up every morning.

It’s new. I used to be more of a 7:30/8 type of person.

Now here I am, yawning but awake no matter how much or how little sleep I’ve gotten the night before.

I find I enjoy this new time. It allows me to have peace in the morning before the world is awake; hell, the sun isn’t even awake yet.

I write at this time now.

My thoughts, once again, easily finding their way onto a page. But, it’s different than before.

As a teenager, my writing came to me at 2 AM when I hadn’t even closed my eyes yet. I still lived at home and everyone else in my house was asleep at that time. I’d be in my room, the door would be shut, and (most likely) U2 would be playing softly on my stereo. Back then I had this weird thing, that lasted thru most of high school, where, if I was home, I wanted the song “With or Without You” to be the first thing I heard in the morning, so it was often the last cd I listened to at night. I’d wake up, lean over to turn on the power to my small stereo and press play. What can I say? I’m a person of habit with some interesting quirks.

2 am
I used to think that’s why I stopped writing in the first place. Not because I stopped listening to U2 first thing in the morning (that would be crazy), but because I had lost that time of creative madness that only seemed to really happen in the middle of the night. The real world kicked in and I became someone who had to go to bed at a decent hour like most adults. My mind was overwhelmed with all the “rules” I had to follow: go to bed early, get up early, go to work, be successful, make sure every single person is happy (except yourself. Just take care of them. Your happiness is nothing).

There was a time for myself and my happiness. It was at 2 AM while I was alone in my room writing furiously into one of my many notebooks or journals that I kept next to my bed on my nightstand. I wrote like I physically couldn’t stop. Pages and pages would pour out of me a night. My hand would be cramping. My eyes would be red and watery because I never wore my glasses when I was supposed to. I would be overwrought; my feelings had stayed bottled up all day, but there in my room, in my notebooks that very few people had permission to read, they were safe to let out. I had so much to say and my mind wouldn’t let my body rest until everything was down on paper. It was cathartic.

Then it stopped.

Over the years, I tried to write a phrase here and there, but nothing felt right. I felt like a fake. It felt like my timing was always off.

Yet, after all these years, I found a time for writing again, a place for me again. I found the solitude I needed just before dawn. I guess it’s true, where there is a will, there is a way. And when I found my writing again, I found my joy.

morning coffee
Happiness = my laptop and coffee

I just had to change things up to find that creativity again. Instead of sitting cross legged on my bed in the middle of the night, I get up out of bed to not disturb my night owl husband. I, silently, tip toe into our kitchen to start a pot of coffee and then move into the living room to boot up my laptop. And somehow, I find that I can write again, that I want to write again.

Or is it now more of a need? A need that is so fundamental to my well being that my mind wakes me in the early morning hours to fulfill it.

Ideas, concepts, phrases; they are all always forming in my mind. Like they just float around there, waiting to be plucked down onto a page. For so long, I thought they were gone. I’d day dream often, but never be able to capture them like I could as a kid.

Somehow, at 40, I’ve reminded myself how I did it before, but I’ve tweaked it to fit into this adult life.

I have to laugh right now. I know that when I eventually go find my glasses and the blurriness of my sleep induced haze lifts with the help of coffee, I’ll find more mistakes in this than I’d like; the words and sentence won’t even make sense in some spots. I’ll wrack my brain trying to figure out what the heck I meant in this dream-like state. Because even though I’m awake, I’m pretty sure my consciousness hasn’t made its self known yet. I prefer it that way, drifting slowly into my day, into reality.

I’m still getting used this. I used to pour out my heart, my day, into a notebook before sleep would overtake me. Now I wake up and start my day that way. It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s me doing the most human thing ever; adapting to this ever-changing world.

adapt

And I’m Happy

Have you ever felt really truly happy? I mean that happy where you can feel it radiating out of you. The kind where you’re not just smiling with your mouth, but with your whole face. You know what I’m talking about; Your smile is so big your cheeks hurt, your eyes are bright with laughter and your skin is glowing.

 
I’m going to guess that you answered that you have been this happy.

 
You’re lucky. I’m not sure that I had until this past year. Now I never what to lose it.

 
I’ve suffered from anxiety my whole life. It has left its mark on most of my life. When I look back on my happiest times, I can also remember the doubts that seeped into my brain. They were always there. My brain never allowed me to fully enjoy any part of my life. Thoughts about my next word, the next step, my stupidity, the fat roll, the awkwardness would always be right there like a tick feeding off my blood. It was draining. Every social situation was exhausting.

story of my life
The story of my life

I can easily recall a time when I was 3 or 4 years old and with my brother. My brother was my hero back then (still is). As a child, I followed him around constantly. On this particular day, we were in his room and he was entertaining me by making up the absolute silliest stories ever. I was laughing so hard that I had tears streaming down my face. We were in our own little world that day for hours. My mother, later in life, would tell me she hid outside door, listening in on us and enjoying the laughter of her children. This wasn’t uncommon for my brother and I. We were together a lot. He never pushed me away; always happy to have me with him and his friends. He’s always been my best friend, my biggest supporter (and fan!). But when I think about that day in his room, even though I was happy beyond belief, I was also afraid; afraid I wasn’t cool enough, smart enough, funny enough to keep my brother interested in hanging out with me. I didn’t want the fun to end, but I was sure that when it did end, it would be because of something I did. These fears are nothing my brother caused (I did mention he adores me), but they were there. My brain has this thing it likes to do; it enjoys feeding into my doubts about myself. The doubts that tell me I’ll never be good enough for anyone.

61502_1629055166305_7434662_n
Bff’s from day one

I recognize now that those thoughts I was having were not normal; not normal for an adult and definitely not normal for a toddler. But they were my normal. They were all I’ve ever known.

 
I’ve spent most of my life wondering if people I met really liked me. I just assumed they were putting up with me for one reason or another. Even I know this is insane. I may not always be my biggest fan, but I know I’m a good person with a big heart who really tries to always take the feelings of others into consideration. Knowing this about myself, why would I assume that people whom I call my friends don’t consider me one? Why? Because my brain is messed up!

 

I’m a little angry that it’s been my own brain that has been holding me back.

 

It’s frustrating to have to constantly question if my intuition is speaking to me or my anxiety. Even those times when deep down I KNOW to my core that it’s my anxiety, I still try to convince myself that it’s not the anxiety.

 
But this past year has been different, and I don’t quite know why.

 
Maybe it’s because I’ve challenged myself in the most wonderful ways?

 
Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten rid of most of the negative people who were in my life?

 
Maybe I’m just getting to an age where I don’t care what people think anymore?

 
It’s probably a mix of all 3 and more.

 
This past year, I’ve become a different person. I challenge myself constantly; I’m in a state of continuous growth. If I want to go somewhere, experience something new and I have no one to tag along with me, I just go alone now. I am so much more secure in myself.

 
I’m having problems putting all of this into words, but as I write this, on Saturday morning, I feel more present than ever. I’m sitting on my couch, still in my super comfortable pajamas, drinking out of my “Annie” coffee mug and writing this blog. It couldn’t be a more perfect morning for me.

 

And I’m happy.

 
It’s a happiness I first realized I was feeling in London this past April. I wrote a tweet that said “I’m happy right now. Like truly, unbelievably happy. I can feel my smile coming from deep down within me. Make that happen for yourself! No one else will give that to you”.

 
Do I still suffer from anxiety? Always. And I probably always will. That’s ok though. I just remind myself how much stronger it makes me. I know if I can gather up the courage to try something new then I’ve really accomplished something because it took me so much more strength than it would for the average person. It’s the one time I can acknowledge I am a super hero. Seriously, I am.

 
None of this has been easy for me, but it’s been worth it. It’s worth it because I can finally feel that happiness I tweeted about in April. I am relying on only myself to create my joy.

 
My life is changing. It’s exhilarating. It’s frightening. It’s exactly where I want to be.

 
I’m finally at a place in my life where I can say I’m proud of myself.

 
I am full of a peace I have never known.

 
I am full of a happiness that overwhelms me.

 
And I will do everything in my power to make these feelings last for the rest of my life.

765571

Alyson, The Conqueror

I’ve felt stagnant for so long. For years, it’s been as if I’ve just been going through the motions which may be why I’m really feeling that I need some sort of growth spurt. That’s not to say that my life hasn’t shown any growth over the years, but it was really all about my career at the time. I enjoyed my last career even though I, for the most part, fell into it. It wasn’t my dream job but trying to get to the next level gave me a sense of a purpose. Then.

A few years ago, when I received the heads up that my department would be moving to another state, I was devastated because I loved my co-workers, but I was never frightened for my future. I figured I could just start my search for a new job within the company, but something always felt a little off with that. I found myself delaying that search. My life was up in the air. Yet, I somehow seemed completely okay with this. I didn’t recognize this person at all. Where was the constant worrier that I knew so well?

With a year to go, my life started to change directions. I was finally able to let go of a few toxic relationships which opened a whole new world to me. The thing is, I didn’t realize how toxic they were until they had been gone for a few months. My migraine headaches suddenly disappeared. The mouth guard I had to wear to bed because I clenched my teeth all night long, was no longer needed. I felt like the weight of the world had lifted off my shoulder. With the constant drama gone, I could finally think clearly.

I started to know me again.

But that wasn’t enough.

I knew I needed to force myself to grow as a person. It was time.

I’m almost 40 and I’m definitely not the same person I was 5 years ago. Heck, I’m not the same person I was 1 year ago. While I felt like I was fighting to find this new me, I didn’t know where to start.

I knew I would need to do something big to challenge myself. I’d have to, once again, face off against my anxiety. This is not an easy task for me or for anyone who has any sort of anxiety. All I knew was that I was sick of being held back because of worries that had never even happened. But, could I change those negative thoughts from something awful is going to happen to considering that maybe something great will happen instead?

challenge yourself
My brother once told that when you go through horrible things it means that there is something wonderful waiting for you on the other side. In my heart, I do truly believe in that, but my head never listens to my heart. There was one of my challenges; for once, listen to my heart. It deserves it’s shot at life.

With that in my mind, I planned a trip to London for 10 days alone.

I’ve always been awe of those super cool women who travel the world on their own. You could even say, I was a little envious of them. They plan and execute these amazing adventures with no doubt that they are going to have the time of their lives with only themselves to rely on. That, my friends, is the definition of fearless. I yearned to be one of them.

I’ve said this before, but a lot of my fear comes from how I was raised. I grew up believing that there were limits to what I could do. I’m female which means I’ll never be as safe as a male. I truly believed, for longer than I care to admit, that the brave women who traveled alone were putting themselves in harm’s way; that they should be traveling with either a male companion or a group to keep them safe. Yet, I still wanted to be one of them. My heart wanted me to be an adventurer. I so badly wanted to just pack up and go. I wanted that freedom.

If you’ve read my previous posts you know that I found some of that freedom in New Mexico. I can’t describe the feeling of just being ok with only yourself. It’s the truest form of self-acceptance. Knowing that there is no one to lean on if you get lost or even just having to sit alone to have a dinner in a busy restaurant. You also get to do whatever you feel like that day; there’s no running plans past anyone for their approval.

Getting to New Mexico was hard for me, but I had reasons waiting for me there which made it just a tad easier to get on that plane. My newest trek though was truly a struggle.
Could I actually get on a plane and head to another country on my own? I mean, it was just London. I had been to London before. Twice, in fact. It was just always with other people.

And I really love London. I’m a big history geek when it comes to the U.K. and the Monarch. I was so excited knowing I could take as long as I wanted in each museum, tourist site, whatever in London.

So here I was all booked for London and just waiting for the panic to kick in.

It didn’t. At first.

What should have worried me was the nonchalant way I was dealing with everything. I’m a pretty Type A person. I like to plan. I like to know next steps. I need to be prepared for almost every situation especially when on my own.

But the way I was approaching this trip was to not focus on anything. I had my plane tickets. I had my hotel. But I had nothing else. I managed to book the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio tour and to get a pre-paid Oyster Card for the trains, but nothing else. I hadn’t even investigated getting from the airport to the hotel and back. I didn’t map out where the hotel was in terms of other places I wanted to visit. Hell, I barely thought of where I wanted to visit.

This should have tipped me off to the fact that something was wrong.

I was leaving on a Sunday night. By Sunday morning, I hadn’t even packed. I went to the barn that morning and hung out longer than I should have for someone who hadn’t even pulled out suitcase yet. When I returned home and started to throw my clothes on my bed to figure out what I needed, the dread kicked in.

I can’t even put into words what I was dreading. I had no reason why I suddenly didn’t want to go. I just knew I couldn’t do it. Jason mentioned repeatedly that my face was not the face of someone excited and happy to go on vacation. I called my mother crying twice. I sent my brother a text freaking out. He, of course, called and told me to take one step at a time which, by the way, I repeated to myself all the way to the hotel in London.
I made Jason bring me to airport 4 hours early, as opposed, to the 3 recommended for international flights. I just needed to get to the airport because, once there, I knew I had to force myself onto a plane. I really think a big reason I went through with this trip is because I told so many people I was going.

IMG_7914
But another reason I cut through my fears and made it to London is because I needed to prove to myself I could do this. I’m perfectly capable of being in another country on my own. And I chose one that was easy; we speak the same language (I actually prefer their slang words), their money is easy to figure out, and the Underground is definitely easier to maneuver than the MBTA. Simple stuff here.

Except that for someone with anxiety, it’s not simple. And it’s definitely not simple for someone who was taught to worry about every little thing in life; someone who was always told that this just wasn’t how things were done.

For those who don’t know, I did get on the plane. Then I made it onto the Heathrow Express which brought me to Paddington Station. The next step was a taxi to my hotel. I relaxed at the Hotel. I had gotten myself to London!

Facetune_04-04-2018-17-06-15
Those 10 days in London proved to me I was so much stronger than I ever imagined. It may seem silly to other folks, but I really thought I was going to cancel this trip. I thought my anxiety would break me. But I crushed it with some help from my family (and by listening to the work of a performer I love – that could be a whole other blog post though). And I was all over that city. I conquered the train system, even to the point of giving directions to others. I never felt uncomfortable or awkward which are feelings I’m very well acquainted with, unfortunately. I had the most epic adventure ever, all the while, throwing up a specific finger to the person who taught me to live my life in fear.

One of my last few days there, I realized how truly happy I felt. I felt light and I was smiling the kind of smile that comes from within you. You know the kind of smile that lights up your whole face and makes your eyes twinkle? That was my smile!

It was then that I realized I had given myself a true gift.

I had not only taught myself to see past my anxiety, but I had taught myself to be truly on my own and to be happy about it. I allowed myself to find an inner happiness that no one else could have ever given to me.

This trip to London also helped to prepare me for things to come. I have a lot to take on in the next few months, such as, the idea of starting over in a new career. I decided to not go back to same old thing. It’s not what is in my heart. The more I thought about going back, the more my heart hurt. Yes, my brain tried to tell me it was really good money and I could be comfortable doing it, but I know I need to try something new. I need to follow my dreams. If I fail, at least I know I went down fighting.

In my world, going to London showed immense bravery. I’m holding onto that bravery to take the next steps in my life because it’s what I want. I recently heard a quote by former President Obama that said, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress”. That’s exactly what I intend to do; I will get where I need, no want, to be! I’ll surpass any anxiety that I may face because I’m on the path meant for me.

Here’s to me shattering the walls I had contained myself in for years. Here’s to trying new things. Here’s to not letting anxiety get the best of me. I’m on my way.

I hope you’ll all come along for the ride with me.

IMG_7916

It was a Hard Knock Life (for my family)

It’s Oscar night as I’m writing this which has me thinking about movies.

I always hate when people ask me what my favorite movie is; there are way too many favorites for me to name and most have people looking at me like I’m insane (I tend to like older movies and even musicals – THE HORROR). Though, my go to answer is “Sabrina” with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. I’ve seen it more times than I can count. The first time I saw it, I just happened to go into my mom’s room to chat when she had it on. As I started paying attention to the movie, I said to her that there was no way a woman like Sabrina would fall for Linus. She told me to just watch. I was wrong on so many levels! Sabrina and Linus were made for one another; even my young self could see that! Luckily, (spoiler alert), it all ends as it should. From that day on, Bogart has been one of my old-timey crushes. I can now see how any girl would (should) fall for him.

Sabrina
Opening a girl’s eye to the wonders of Bogart

And if you read my last blog, you know I’m watching any movie with Lou Diamond Phillips, especially “La Bamba”. I scoffed at Jason the other day when he decided to change the channel on it to watch “Rocky 3”. Unacceptable. I stopped the divorce proceedings because “Rocky 3” was almost over. It ended, and I still saw the last half of “La Bamba” for the billionth time. Marriage, it’s all about compromise.

But I bet if you asked my brother what my favorite movie is, he would have a totally different answer other than “Sabrina” or “La Bamba”. My brother would tell you that I love the movie, “Annie”. Yes, the one that came out in 1982. I was 4 and it was everything. I watched it endlessly! My poor brother, who was not interested in it at all, can probably still sing the whole soundtrack and it’s likely he’s not thrilled about that fact.

annie-movie-poster-1982-1020234935
In my room, I would play the record on my own personal record player constantly. You know the record player I’m talking about, they looked like they were a suitcase. You’d open the latch, lift the cover and there was the single turntable inside. My record player was “Strawberry Shortcake” themed and, you can take my word on this, it was awesome.

vintage-1982-strawberry-shortcake_1_c4a7e1bafe7191ee86c9a16d21d9ae85
Behold! My groovy record player…

By the way, this whole blog is making me feel ancient.

Anyway, I would play each song, singing at the top of my lungs, while trying to replicate what I could remember from the dance routines in the movie. After each number, I would lift the needle (this was the pause mechanism for you young people) and then do my best to act out the storyline. I would only play the part of the orphans; the adults didn’t matter to me. From there, I’d go back to the record player to find the correct spot on the record to start up the next song and do my best to not scratch said record. I repeated this throughout the whole soundtrack.  Look, I never claimed to be a normal child. But, I had an unbelievable imagination (still do) and I was never bored even when I was alone (this still rings true, as well).

A year or 2 later, we got a VCR and my mom did the best thing ever; she rented “Annie” from our local video store which was also a vacuum repair place (don’t ask; I can’t explain it). There was also a convenience store attached to it with the best penny candy, but I digress. I made the most out of that 3-day rental; I must have played that tape 20 times. I would watch it, rewind it, and re-watch it. Even if I was playing a game, “Annie” was on the background. But I would always stop what I was doing to watch the musical numbers; my audience needed me! I had to sing and dance along.

When that rental period was over, I was devastated. I can’t be sure, but I would guess that my parents and my brother were not as upset. Luckily, they made the mistake of bringing me to the video store with them the next time. I have no idea what everyone else picked, but you can ‘bet your bottom dollar’ (get it? It’s a lyric from “Tomorrow”. I’m so disappointed in you non – “Annie” fans) that I wanted to rent “Annie” again. This went on and on for ages. My mother would beg me to pick something else and a few times I would pick some other movie, but it just wasn’t the same.

“Annie” was the only movie I was interested in. If I wasn’t watching it, I was singing it. My favorite song to perform was “Maybe”, the heartbreaking slow jam. I’d sing it anywhere; in my room, outside while roller skating, in the car, while eating dinner. I, honestly, should thank my family for not actually muzzling me.

“Annie” wasn’t just popular with me though; the neighborhood girls all loved it too. I can’t describe how incredible my neighborhood was growing up. Within a 2 block radius, we must have had 10-15 children with ages ranging between mine and my brother’s. It was one of those places where you’d be outside, within range of your mother’s voice to call out for you, until sundown. The girls across the street, who were a little older, would often want to create plays in their backyard and we always voted to perform “Annie”. It was a big to-do. We’d make sets and costumes, audition for parts, etc. I never wanted to be “Annie” which was good because I never was. I was always cast as Molly, the youngest orphan. Figures, since I was the youngest girl in the neighborhood. Type casting is no joke, people! My dream was to be the orphan who always said “Oh my goodness” to everything. I can still do a perfect imitation of the actress saying that line. I do it often, but no one gets my reference. It’s tough being this cool…

Molly
Molly!

As you can probably guess, everyone’s parents were the audience for these performances. Looking back, I feel bad for all them, but especially for my poor mom. Let’s really all have some sympathy for my mother; she had to live through my obsession with “Annie” at almost all times and now she had to watch this neighborhood performance constantly over her Summer that year. She had no break from it. Yet, she smiled the whole time. She helped to make those costumes and never showed any sign that it annoyed her. I was under the impression she was just as obsessed as I was. Who wouldn’t be, right?

This obsession went on for, at least, a year. We rented that movie so much, we could have probably bought it 10 times over. My parents tried twice to buy me my own copy of the movie. Both times, it broke. The first 1 never played correctly. The second 1 stopped working within a week. I guess there’s a chance that I played it to death within the week. Anything is possible.

I, eventually, replaced my “Annie” obsession, but it never really went away.

As an adult, I do still enjoy it. I have the record, the cd, and the movie. They’re all put away on their shelves; never really taken out, but it’s comforting to know they’re there. I probably only watch the movie now if I catch it when flipping through TV channels.
When I watch it now, I’m brought back to that little girl who sang “Maybe” at the top of her lungs with no worry about whether or not I sounded ok (I didn’t). And while as a child, I hated Miss Hannigan, I can now appreciate how Carol Burnett just owned that part! We should really all bow down to her.

I do, however, have to admit that my favorite “Annie” memory is a recent one; my mom and I attended the theatre production of it together a few years back. It felt right to share that with her. I’m positive it will be something we always remember. Besides, let’s just acknowledge that she’s the only family member who would willingly go with me.

So yes, “Annie” is still on my list of favorite movies and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Sometimes movies are so much more to you than just a film; this one is a definite part of me. I’m thinking about throwing the movie soundtrack onto my iPod now; this week will have one epic “Annie” singalong going on in my car. My brother will be thankful he’s in another state for that, but I do wonder if my mom would join in? I’ll let you know how fabulous our duet to “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” is…

Eat Pray Lou

Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to get out of dodge, so to speak. I think it’s all part of this trying to “remember who I really am” thing. When I travel, I’m able to be a freer version of myself that I never allow myself to be at home. Not to say I go wild on vacation because that’s not who I am at all. I’m freer because I can stop the chatter in my brain that drives me crazy on a daily basis; My life becomes less about everyone else and more about what I need and want.

 
With that in mind, I learned about the wonders of traveling alone this past year which is even more liberating than I could ever describe. It’s definitely a feeling I want more of and soon. Though, it is a slight miracle that I even made the trip.

 

I mentioned before that my anxiety would kick into overdrive at the thought of traveling by myself, but not for reasons you may think. I’m perfectly ok with being alone. I even prefer it  at times. Oh, the joys of being an introvert. Besides, I’m pretty good company.

 
The things that stopped me from traveling alone in the past are stupid things like driving in an unfamiliar city, using a train system that I could get lost on, and worrying if I’m safe on my own. Though, I must say, my biggest fear all the time is looking like an idiot. If I can’t figure out how to buy a train ticket right away, are people behind me judging me? What if I pronounce the name of a street wrong when asking for directions? I shudder thinking of these things. Do I know these are the most inconsequential things in the world to be worried about? Yup. Do I still worry myself to death over them? Yup, yup. When I say worry, I mean obsess, by the way. Those thoughts would enter my brain and completely take over. They’d eat away at any logical thought process until I’ve driven myself mad with doubt. These are the inner workings of my brain; it’s not always pretty in there, but we’re happy together.

 
My first trip by myself was to Santa Fe this past May. It. Was. Glorious. Glorious, I tell you. I must give myself credit for going on my own, but it wasn’t all me. My awesome husband and Lou Diamond Phillips (LDP, unknowingly though) gave me the courage to get my butt on that plane.

 
Jason, my husband, is a pro at this travel alone thing. He likes to go on hiking trips by himself to clear his head. I’ve always been envious of his ability to just get up and go. I’m even more envious when he returns from these trips; he’s much calmer, more focused and ready to take on the world. He has an inner peace about him that I’ve never experienced.

 
He and I have often talked about my fears of going away by myself and he’s always encouraged me, but I still never did it. To hear the person you love the most in this world tell you that he has more faith in you than you do yourself is deeply moving and highly motivating, but you do still need to dig deep within yourself to make things happen. The thing with Jason is that he’s persistent. He kept telling me I could do this and that I would love it. My husband always has my back even when I’m doubting myself; He truly believes I can do anything. His faith in me always takes me by surprise because he sees something in me that I have failed to recognize; my strength. I found a good one. I know.

 

1375731_10202191109759246_2015947018_n (2)
He really does always have my back!

In March of last year, with my 39th birthday fast approaching, Jason asked me if I was finally going to do a solo trip since I had always said I would do it before I turned 40. I immediately thought of Santa Fe because I’ve always been fascinated by it. However, before I booked it, I found several reasons to not go (the dates wouldn’t work, the flight times were crap, it was too expensive, etc). Jason got back to me with flight times that were reasonable, not too expensive and they also made sense with my work schedule (there he is, saving me from the battles that go on in my brain). Every excuse I came up with, Jason countered it with something positive. He talked me through each scenario I created in my head repeatedly until I was comfortable. He was excited for me when I found new things I wanted to explore in New Mexico and often brought them up to remind me how much I wanted this. Jason assured me, more times than I can count, that once I landed the “spirit of the desert” would find me; I would feel calm there.

 
The thing is, I had done this before. I’ve booked an entire trip only to, ultimately, cancel it because I’m in a panic about traveling alone. Most times I haven’t lost any money, but, I’m ashamed to admit, there have been 1 or 2 occurrences where my wallet has taken a big hit from this. My anxiety is that bad; I’m willing to lose a grand just to stay home and be comfortable.

 
Here’s where the stars aligned and forced me into taking the trip of a lifetime.

 
By stars, I don’t mean the ones in the sky, but actually one particular star, Lou D. For those who don’t know, LDP has been a favorite actor of mine since I was 9 when my mom took me to see “La Bamba” on the big screen. Back then, it was more about how absolutely, freaking cute he was (still is, by the way), but as I got older, it was a mix of his cuteness, talent and how wonderful he had always seemed off screen.

 

la bamba
I’m not sure I knew what “hot” truly was at 9, but I knew this must be it.

There seems to be an unwritten rule in our household that we always check out whatever film, TV show, etc., that Lou is involved in (and yes, I’m thankful everyday that I married someone who shares my taste actors. Though while Jason thinks Lou is a good-looking guy, I’m pretty sure he likes him for his talent alone). Not that it would matter, but my LDP crush is Jason approved. Jason accepts it, I accept it, and, at this point, I’m pretty sure Lou may have an inkling about it so we’re all on the same page.

 
About a month before I booked the trip, we had started watching “Longmire” because Lou is one of the cast members. The show is unbelievably good (I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it). The acting is spot on throughout the entire series and the beautiful scenery almost becomes another character within it. We started wondering about filming locations so Jason looked it up. He laughed while saying “did you know this was filmed in and around Santa Fe?”. I didn’t. But it made things interesting since filming for the final season had just begun and would be ongoing throughout the time of my trip.

 
Here’s the part of the story where I become something I’m not; fearless. Never in my lifetime would I have imagined I would message a man I have admired and fan-girl’ed over for 30 years to ask for a set tour, but that’s exactly what I did. I’m just going to say that I must have lost my mind in those moments, but I wasn’t alone in that bout with insanity, because Lou agreed to the idea and set the whole thing up.

 
In all honesty, that man is anything but insane. He’s got one of biggest hearts ever and is beyond kind. Because of his generosity, I was able to look beyond my anxiety to get myself to Santa Fe. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to meet one of my favorite actors while visiting the set of a show I loved because I was afraid! He’ll never know how much that invitation meant to me. Knowing what was on the other end of that plane ride from Boston gave me the courage to get on the plane in the first place.

 
That trip changed my life, it changed me. It started me on this journey. A journey that was so long overdue, but one that I was never brave enough to take. I found my strength in New Mexico. To be a total cheeseball, I found parts of me again. I sobbed my first day there while sitting in a pew in the Cathedral Basilica. At the time, I had no idea why I was crying. Looking back, I now know it was because I felt whole again. I felt free from every title anyone had ever put onto me. I was just me.

 

 
By the way, the set tour was amazing and meeting Lou was even better. Words can not describe how utterly fantastic it is to meet one of your heroes only to realize they are so much more than you even imagined. I’ve heard of people who are disappointed when they meet someone famous, but the opposite can be said in this case; my admiration only grew.

 

Lou and I _ Santa Fe May 5th 2017 (2)
Dreams do come true!

 

On a side note, my only regret from that trip is not going to a party I was invited to by someone else on the show, but I think it’s for the best that I declined. I’m sure I would have had the time of my life, but I didn’t want to intrude. I managed a good few hours without embarrassing myself, it’s best that I didn’t push my luck with a party. For me, if not going to a party is my only regret then I’m in good standing since my usual regret would have been not going on the entire trip. I think I’ll have to forgive myself and be ok with this one.

 
So here I am, one solo trip under my belt thanks to the helpfulness of 2 wonderful people in my life (for this blog we’re pretending that LDP is a part of my life. Please, just go with it) and wondering when the next one will be…

 
I feel this overwhelming need to travel because it pushes my boundaries, but in a way that I enjoy. Traveling brings out the person I used to know and love, while allowing me to grow into something so much more.

 
A second solo trip seems like the next logical step. The world is calling to me, but where do I want to go?

 
Heads up – it’s in the works. I’ve had to scour the internet for something affordable and worthwhile, but I think I found it. Let’s see if I can make this happen and find the courage within myself to move forward with it.

 
You only get one chance to live, right? I’ve had 39 years of letting life happen around me; it’s time for me to take on a more active role in my own life. I want to feel every emotion straight through to my core. I want to travel the world and enjoy every single second of it and know that I did it while scared out of mind. Why? Because then I’ve proved to myself that I’m more than I thought I could be.

 
Adventure awaits…

6ba65793d163e781fd1e1af71045e195

 

 

That Night

I can’t remember what month it was. I could probably only tell you a vague description of the pajamas I was wearing. I haven’t a clue which jacket I eventually threw on as I ran out of the front door. I can’t remember if my hair was haphazardly thrown up or if it was down. I wouldn’t be able to give a clear description of the events that led up to it or any of the details during it. I do know I had socks on because I walked home with only them on my feet. I can clearly remember which cd was on and which song was playing. I do know it happened. I also finally understand it wasn’t due to anything I did.

I always knew I was a lame kid. I didn’t drink (had my first one at 18; much older than most I know) and I can’t stand the smell of smoke. I preferred staying in, listening to music and watching movies. I’m not saying I was an angel, but I didn’t really ever give my parents any reason to worry.

But if I had done any of that, it wouldn’t have mattered. What occurred that night should have never happened. My story is not uncommon though. In fact, almost every single woman/girl I know has a similar one.

Dear readers, I’m going to assume you know that I was attacked by someone.

Did I report it? No.

Did I tell anyone? I told less than 5 people and only 2 of those knew right away. I’ve since, in the past year, been able to speak about this a little more.

Was it long ago? It happened about 24 years ago.

Why am I talking it about now? Because I’m now getting comfortable enough to admit, even though I still feel ashamed, that it happened at all.

I was in 10th grade; sleeping over a friend’s house while her parents were gone. There were a few of us including an older member of the opposite sex. Some may say it was stupid of me to sleep over a house with no parents in mixed company and, at the time, I did blame myself for that very reason. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve learned that this still does not put the blame on me. It’s on him; all of it.

Back to my story, I changed for bed; I think I remember flannel like pajama pants and a baggy T shirt, but I don’t know if I remember those particular pajamas because that’s what I always slept in at that age or if I’m completely wrong. Again, not that any of that matters. It never matters. I don’t care if I was naked. If I don’t give you permission to put your hands on me then don’t. I don’t go around randomly touching people! It’s not that difficult.
I was going to sleep on the pull-out couch. Back in the day, I needed to have music on to sleep. It was a requirement for me or my brain would go all night. That night, I chose a cd by Jodeci and put it on repeat. Two friends, 1 male and 1 female crawled into that bed with me. I don’t remember feeling like we were crowded in so it must have been pretty spacious.

However, I remember being uncomfortable that a boy was sleeping in the middle of us, but I let it go. I knew him. We had been hanging out for a year, at least, and he was my friend’s boyfriend. I figured I was being my usual anxious self so I ignored what I now know were my natural instincts. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it and look like an idiot to my friends. No one wants to be the difficult, dorky friend in high school. This, right here my friends, would go under things you later regret in life. I’ve learned to not care if I look like a geek now. If I’m uncomfortable, you’re going to know, loud and clear!

I turned away from him, onto my side, so I was facing the wall and went to sleep. I can’t recall what time I was woken up. I do know “Come and Talk to me” by Jodeci was playing softly on the stereo; it was all I could focus on. I was frozen with fear. The boy next to me was all over me. His whole body was pushed up against me, a leg over my hips. His arms around me, holding me so I couldn’t move, yet they still managed to be everywhere. Shortly after I woke up, he turned me onto my back and moved on top of me; grinding his whole body on mine. I felt trapped. I was trapped. Pressure from his hands, limbs, whole body were bearing down on me. I’m getting nauseous just writing this; reliving being violated by someone brings it all right back to the surface. When I felt my clothes being moved, something in me kicked into gear. I started to fight more. I started to cry. I told him to stop.

I don’t want to go into details on this part and honestly, everything about this incident is foggy. I don’t know if it’s because I was woken from a dead sleep or if I just blocked it out, but it happened. I was petrified. I will tell you all I could truly focus on was that damn Jodeci song and the noises he was making. I can still hear his grunts and those fucking slurping noises from him trying to kiss me.

I somehow got up and ran to the front door. I grabbed my coat, house keys and left. I walked home as the morning was dawning. I was never a fan of that walk especially when I was alone, but alone in the street was safer than where I had just been.

When I got home, I walked by my mother’s room, only opening her door slightly so I could hide behind it. I let her know I had decided to come home. She asked if everything was ok and I lied to her. I told her I just wanted to come home because I wasn’t feeling well. She didn’t ask anymore questions because that was my deal with my parents. They trusted me. I was always the kid who did the right thing. She told me I should have called her; Even though she didn’t drive, she would have woken up my brother. I apologized for walking home alone and said I just wanted some sleep. She let it go.

I remember my feet were freezing. It wasn’t overly cold out, but I walked for a mile with only socks on my feet. My shoes were not near the front door and I was so overwhelmed with fear that I could only focus on getting out. Once I got past my mother at home, I went straight to my room and shut the door. I changed into new pajamas, warmer socks and crawled into my bed. I didn’t cry right away. I think that came a few hours later. My comfort that morning came from Rocky, a stuffed Ewok my parents bought me when I was 6 (for any “Star Wars” fans out there, yes, I changed the name of said Ewok). I knew he couldn’t tell a soul so he got to hang onto all my sadness.

My mom questioned me one more time the next day. I’m almost positive I told her someone made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t give her details. Uncomfortable? Really? I felt horrid. I felt so dirty and used. Would I be considered a slut now? Would I lose my friends? What would they say about me if they knew? I was scared. I was taking all the blame onto myself. I knew better than to sleep next to a boy; I was a smart girl and I was totally aware of what could happen. I was a worried about everything at that age, so I didn’t take many risks; I felt foolish for taking this one. I was disappointed in myself. I hated myself in that moment.

If only I could go back and tell my teenage self to not hold onto that guilt.

I don’t know what would have happened that night had I not been able to get out. I don’t know if it would have been just this or if I would have been raped. I don’t know if my friend would have woken up and stopped it. I don’t know if she was aware of what was going on and was just as frozen in fear as me. I don’t know if she ignored it because it was her boyfriend.

There are so many unanswered questions and honestly, I don’t even care about those anymore. He’s the only one who should feel any shame in this situation.

I said no. I fought. I got away. Simple story, yet, here I am cringing while writing this.

I still don’t truly know how to put this night or my feelings about it into words. I’m embarrassed that it happened. It makes me feel like there must be something wrong with me which is the stupidest reaction ever. If a woman came to me to tell me her story, I would flat out tell her she’s not at fault. There is no blame on her. Why is it so difficult for me to accept this about myself? I can be my own worst enemy. I guess, I still have some things to come terms with, like forgiving myself for feeling any guilt.

I don’t have to shoulder that burden any longer.

This story will be a shock to some who know me. I expect some may attack me and tell me I’m jumping on the #MeToo band wagon. All I can say, is that it takes courage to live through this and even more to talk about it. My courage came from, not only being angry that I stayed silent for so long, but also in the power I felt watching others come forward with their own stories. At this point in my life, I don’t really care anymore if you have something negative to say about me. Those words will never be worse than what I’ve already survived.

Say whatever you want about me, but please, don’t make me listen to Jodeci ever again.  I’m strong, but I’ll never be that strong.
Continue reading “That Night”