Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What is Best for You

It sounds like an empowering phrase but often it is a hemp rope slipped softly, loosely around your neck that tightens and pulls you off course. What is Best for you according to someone else. Here, step out of the drivers seat in your life and let this person take the wheel. Their words seem logical, plausible, or considerate. Truly empowering people never try to slip behind your steering wheel. They ride along and offer questions, maybe even offer to help navigate the path you've chosen.

Insert a compliment first, twist in a sincere plea for help. Seems alright, seems harmless, seems reasonable. It is easy to get sucked in. Take a step back.

Look at the compliment. Notice the unintend slight. "You should do this because I need you to, because you'll be amazing at it." Somewhere in there is the unspoken or sideways hint, what you're choosing to work toward is not valid and you're better off doing this instead because really in an outside opinion I'm suggesting passively that you should step away from what you value. I'm making it sound reasonable with compliments and couldn't do it without yous. Mutual need is often suggested. You need this. I'm helping you. I want what's best for you. Really?

They mean well, they're looking from a different perspective and different values color their sight. There is good reason they say the road to help is paved with good intentions. 

 Their statements also quietly tell you they feel you should let them make your decisions. Somewhere in the small print they're actually saying your decision making is questionable at best. Be aware. It is very small print. It is heavy. It can be paralyzing.

There are falsehoods in our heads put there through our lives by others. For whatever reason: control of your choices, fear and self interest, punishment for wrongs that could be as simple and huge as being born. They could be put there out of love, desire to see us achieve things they value or to see us avoid the hazards of life. 

Let's get a few things straight. You are not stupid. You are not worthless. You will be able to survive. You are valuable as You are. You are not crazy. Its not a fad or a phase, your choices and feelings are valid. Never let people whirlwind you into their drama. You are not responsible for anyone else.

So many statements are made to you throughout your life without really ever respecting or considering you. Every single one serving some emotional or financial goal of someone who is putting themselves first. There's subjective communication, it's rushed and assumptive. We're in this together, you are included but in reality it's as the willing meal rather than as an equal. It can happen at work, school and even at home. People drop verbal emotional bombs on each other without consideration. Sometimes they detonate at different times, some slowly lurk like mines waiting for the right pressures to set them off.

Honesty is important to me. I strive to be consistent. I said the last couple of years that my goal was to heal the sacred clown. In attempting this improbable goal, I found I had to rise up and determine my value, my goals and what really is important to me. I ended up healing myself and learning that each of us can only truly choose to heal ourselves. No one can truly heal someone else unless that person chooses to heal.

I changed myself. I grew. I found my value, my goals, my passion. I found myself. No one could do that for me. 

When you get multiple well meaning people putting words in your head that sound like their being helpful and encouraging you by discouraging you from pursuing your real path it gets easy to lose your way. It sounds reasonable. Ambiguity hides the truth. Camaraderie insinuates loyalty in a situation that in the end is really just self serving for someone else. Someone motivated enough to press a positive argument of stepping away from your goals for them because it's the nice thing, the safe thing, the best thing for you- besides, they need you and somehow you are suddenly responsible to them?! Parents and friends and partners do this without meaning to at times. 

You have to listen to yourself and attend your needs and goals first. No one else's life or career is your responsibility.
Unless you are a parent. If you are a parent, do one crucial task: teach your child to value themselves. Teach them to look out for themselves and do not try to manipulate them because of your own fears and inadequacies. If you fail at this one thing, they face huge struggles emotionally that they may or may not survive.

In healthy relationships communication is clear, each person takes care of themselves and then reaches out to empower the other. Each person is accountable for their choices. There's no pressure to fit a mold or to pull out some nails and martyr up.

I've known this for years. Taught it. I'm living it now and fully comprehending it. It is wonderful and liberating. Flying not falling. Truly flying, not just riding a draft.

You can tell someone a thousand times they are beautiful or incredible and they cannot grasp it until the day they realize it for themselves. You cannot make them realize it. You can ask them the right questions so they take a good look into themselves. You can hope that when they take that look they notice the mirror they've been using for years is warped. You can hope they finally throw it out, with it all the baggage they've carried for too long. It can go in a moment and all the stick feelings with it- if you choose to be brave.

Me?

I am an actor. I am an entertainer. I am a storyteller I am a writer. I work with words. Some weeks I may be eight to ten different people. I might pull off the role of cooking at a Mexican restaurant, I might be a mascot, might teach you to throw axes or guide you through a meditation. I might be reviewing your performance. I might be on a stage or talking down someone overwhelmed by panic. I keep learning new skills, there will always be new roles. Underneath it all, I am myself. I value the person I am. I value what I do.  The best way I can honor the people I love is by putting myself first; at my strongest I can be a healthy part of their support. At my weakest burdened by prioritizing the agendas of others, I could barely find the time to work on my goals and restlessness distracted me. My health suffered. I value my friends for who they are. 

What words are in your head, pacing back and forth? Who put them there? Why might they have done that? Who do the words serve?

If the words are truly empowering, there is no weight to the words. If the words were offered and you choose to keep them because they free you, strengthen you, and put you first: treasure that person or people! Those are your real supports. Its only taken me 39 years to really figure this all out. If not, realize you do not have to choose to allow that person's words in your head anymore.

I am working toward my goals and dreams. I found them. Its amazing how they suddenly exist when you take care of yourself. It feels wonderful. Problems get solved. You'd think there would be a lot of emotional rubble to clean up, but it vanishes as the sun inside you rises.

I hope to see the sun in you rise as well. I hope you choose to respect the people you love. The choice is yours. Be kind to each other, consider your words and intentions before you pour them into someone else's head. And be kind to those who with good intentions might have questioned your path, help them find their way back to themselves and their value. Most likely someone shook them off their path and they've followed through by passing on the cultural what is best for you. 


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It Doesn't Have To Be Hard

I storytell while patrons at events paint on me. I have spent ten years in the streets entertaining with the goal of transitioning onto stage.
I have talked to many other entertainers and entertainment directors. We've paced around the problem of "how to go from small and intensely focused to large and inclusive of a big audience."
I mentally beat my head on the figurative wall. I kicked that wall. I punched that wall. It didn't move or change. I sat against it full of melancholy. I walked away, focusing on other challenges and hoping the wall would fall on its own.

After years of introspection and frustration I returned to the problem. Stage times on a 360 degree stage loomed ahead. I decided to start where I was, then problem solve necessary changes. Not approaching the wall from an entertainment standpoint, just as another challenge to surmount.

The past few years have been full of challenges from survival, paying bills, wrestling with inner demons, developing other skills to weave a metaphorical safety net for myself. Walls may be insurmountable, challenges are something to overcome.

It Doesn't Have to be Hard. Friends asked good questions about how to engage the whole audience, to shift from a large group painting to an individual. This one detail was the springboard. The show shifted and the wall was gone as it had only existed in my head.

Major changes come with perception shifts. Life doesn't have to be approached as if it is a punishment or purgatory. You choose how you live it, perceive it and you can choose to change it.

Are you choosing to make it more difficult or unpleasant than it needs to be? Do you excuse unhealthy behaviors in those around you while they distract you from attending to your own needs?
Why choose to keep choosing to allow someone to hurt you, especially when the hurt has minimal impact on them: except perhaps the gratitude that you allow your time, energy, and focus on being devoted to their misery rather than on taking care of yourself?

It doesn't have to be hard. My friend Coop said these words to me this weekend as we talked about recent changes in my life. A lot of my blogs this spring have dealt with emotional issues; as I walked around rather than addressed the crucial issue of attending to my own needs and wants. I had to let go of the perception I was responsible for someone else. Each of us IS responsible for ourselves.

In any relationship, whether it is with yourself or someone who brings a light into your eyes, it doesn't have to be hard
It is not a battle. It should not feel like a Herculean Task.
It should be easy, communication should be a two way street, responsibilities and challenges shared. Instead of judgement and criticism, problem solving and empathy.
Years ago another friend, Cale taught me expectations and cautions to watch for in healthy and unhealthy relationships. I look up to my friends, when they teach me something important I do my best to honor the lesson. This spring I watched red flag after red flag go up, unhealthy were the signs on my emotional relationship roadmap. I tried to address issues but found somehow doing so was the subtle song heralding a parting of ways. I did not realize how gone I was until I was gone. Suddenly the tension, pressure, negativity, and constant sound in my head stopped. It was like stepping out of a hurricane into a peaceful forest clearing. The air was clear, my shoulders loose, and my smile came back.

I was asked "Do you have to keep making these choices- or can you choose to make healthier ones?"

It was the best question. I encourage you, look at your life: where you feel most stressed and frustrated would you take a moment and ask this question of yourself?
Remember, it does not have to be hard. It can be full of gentle, sweet, accepting kindness. No excuses, why not choose to heal and grow? It is as easy as letting go of what was never really yours to carry.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

It Comes Down To You

Life goes on like a river over rocks in a small stream. Moments pass like water.
Over time you have to look at that river within you, when you hear the concern in friends voices and see it in their expressions.
I spend so much time in that river shifting rocks to clear the water, sometimes I get distracted by the muddy water whirling away across the patches of algae. I know inside I'm healing and growing. I am becoming more aware of myself and what I need and want. I have learned that I truly have value. We all have value. Sometimes it can be easy to see our value from a warped perspective that makes something amazing look as unappealing as flotsam.
Then we shift a rock, a big one. We do this with the love of our friends. The rock groans and the waters darken. In the murk when all seems clouded, clarity hits like a branch riding the water. You see yourself as others see you. You hear finally, how they perceive you. The flotsam becomes gold without magic or sleight of hand, because it always was gold underneath.
I reached a point where I had to reevaluate where I was and where I was going, how I saw myself. I had to accept and let go of perceived responsibility over another person's well-being. We are each responsible for ourselves. We are responsible for being honest with ourselves and attending to our own needs before anyone else's needs or wants.
In relationships, we build boats, bridges, and shape new paths for the water to travel. Even with love, you have to look at reality: how you treat each other, the words you use, the connection strength and whether it is healthy for all involved.
When you love someone you have to respect their choices, you have to allow them to express their feelings without criticism. Communication is important or you build your ship to wreck in rough waters. There is a give and a receive.
This is all especially true of the relationship we have with ourselves.
Do you choose to ignore your needs? Do you justify and rationalize unhealthy patterns?
The best option is to attend to yourself so you can effectively be there for others and enjoy the scenery around you.
Are you feeling self destructive, self defeating, negative or passive? Why?
What do you need to choose to change to release this barrier?

Negative is not the same as depressed. Depression is an emotional and cognitive state say a block in the flow or ice on the water while negativity is an acid poured into your river that may damage the fragile ecosystem and leave you staring at scarred muddy banks and rust colored water. That IS depressing. 

When you become aware of blocks you've chosen to allow you can release them.
Need versus want. Address needs and you may find the wants are addressed in tandem. Skip the needs and go for the wants and come up empty handed, covered in mud feeling worse.

Several years ago I had to step back. To say I want to be the Painted Lady, she is an important part of me but I need my needs met to live. I communicated. Several events I had been at for years loyally, out of want, bluntly communicated in a manner that attempted to make me feel invalid. It knocked me back emotionally. I am resilient. I followed my river. I grew. Other events were supportive and the healing took me around the country.

I'm back. 

I put my badge on my painted hat "Scarborough Faire 2016." I was excited and wondering what it would feel like the next morning. The cannon roared and the season began. Patrons and crafters, teary eyed, found me. Their love radiated, their faces and eyes broadcast how much they value this character I become. Part of me had been critical of the fact I work with words and not physical props. It is tremendously difficult to reach a level of high regard with words, far easier to comprehend the skill of sleight of hand immediately than it is to see the effect of subtle words in a fantastic story upon the heart. Until you go away and come back. 


It rained. It was cold. I was caught up in the sudden flood of water and love into my river. What had been a trickle for several years straightened out and returned to what it should have always been. I had to be brave enough to open my heart. My heart goes out to the patrons at the events I have gone from, that perhaps one day in another venue or as a handwriting analyst I will find my way back to offer them up the unconditional nurturing that is a part of who I am. I hope we get our moment to reconnect and I hope you know I love and miss you. I hope you are still laughing and living!

My mentor looked at me recently, she had observed my interactions with patrons, peers and friends for several months. She told me that I lead from behind and that I use my strength to bring those I touch with me as I rise.
That I take time to offer tools and support that the people I meet need so they may choose to go higher and farther.

She is right. It is humbling and empowering. I have to take care of me, because folks, hold on tight. I promise, even when it is hard; if you listen, if you choose, we all rise together. Instead of being a lone climber on a stark mountain we become part of a team with a safety net, able to appreciate views and have needs met rather than living in negativity and fear of falling.

Who is in your net? Is your safety net strong or is it unreliable, is it frayed?
It is your choice. Choose well. Choose how how perceive yourself and choose how you would prefer to be treated. Life is change. No river flows stuck in one place.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Navigating Dental in A World Ruled By Insurance Coverage

Dental health is critical to overall health. Last year I lost a friend due to malnutrition and infection that started in his teeth and eventually shut his organs down. Without teeth to start breaking down food, a terrible, painful domino effect of health consequences begins.

Several years ago I was given an impossible estimate: almost $6000 in dental work needed including a fancy laser cleaning and two crowns. I despaired then shrugged, I didn't have that kind of money and it wasn't possible to raise considering my contracts. Somewhere I heard a rumor about dental schools, desperate for hope I did a Google search.

Eureeka!

A.Z. Still University Dental Clinic in Mesa was nearby and had a webpage talking about reduced cost and intake process.
Basically, you call and they schedule you for screening. They talk about how dental work happens at the school, do x rays, and schedule the two part intake process for $69. The first appointment is a thorough exam and casting of your teeth. The second appointment is the review of the treatment plan and scheduling follow up work. I remember hearing that I only needed a deep cleaning, two fillings and two sealants which totaled about $650. Way less in cost and in work: I didn't need anything the commercial chain dental place said I needed! They had lured me in with a $29 exam only to recommend unnecessary costly procedures!

The dental school had dentists and hygienists reviewing the students plans, observations, and work at each step. The work took longer and went slower, but each step had at least two to three people looking and critically observing it. The big thing: time! Call well ahead. If you need a lot of work be prepared to either adjust your schedule or to be available for theirs. It is excellent to learn you can get all your dental addressed free or at a drastically low rate if it "qualifies" a graduate but that's only certain months depending on the program and their pricing.  It could take one to three months for the work to get completed if you have a lot of work needed!

Today, Danny did his first screening appointment making the students and instructors laugh as they took him through each part of the exam. They consider income in the plans and do their best to try to offer patients who have "qualifying" dental issues to have free work done if a student can use their mouth to test out on. If I could have been in Mesa in May two years ago then my deep cleaning would have been free: my dental work would have only cost $250 as the deep cleaning ran about $400. They are looking at doing part of Danny's cleaning for free as part of a student's graduating exam. There may be other work that qualifies as well, sometimes fillings between teeth and other procedures can be available this way. 
This winter I plan to go back and have everything checked again.
I also learned from Still University that Carrington Colleges all have dental clinics that offer free cleanings. Do you know where your nearest dental school is, which one it is, and what services they offer? Help a future dentist get real world practice and see a dentist for work you can afford!

Plotting A Course

So many details to consider as the summer approaches. Contracts loom with excitement and potential for new experiences, new places and magic!

I water the potato plants, hoping the nine do well before the desert summer bakes them in the ground. I look at the succulents I'm trying to root wondering if they will fare better here or with me in Texas. We have gone through our tools and supplies dividing them tactically for my trip to Texas. Preparing for a long excursion isn't just loading the car, it is trips to favorite places to soak in the moments and sounds to carry forward. Sunsets, cactus flowers, and quality time with Danny, Sadhu, Gracie, Bruce, and local friends I may not see for several weeks or several months.
Anticipation rivals with melancholy. Knowing I will miss those I love, anticipating those I love and haven't seen enough of in the last few years. Wondering where in the country the contracts will take me. Wondering if chance will offer up the opportunity to share moments with thoserestlessmy heart yet far away. It would be amazing to get back up to the Seattle area; to finally set foot in Maine and see Michael and Jennifer; or back to Florida to see friends there again. So many places I could end up stepping out of a plane to experience.

Will I remember everything I need?
I could spend all day making a list or I can make physical piles and use the visual cues to make sure I don't miss critical details. Canvas, paints, dress, hat, sound system all loaded, faire boots, chemises, bubble wands, stripey socks and lane sign. Books on body language reading and handwriting analysis, Cherokee Myths and history, and Bavarian Fairy Tales. Plans to redesign the Winter Queen dress and make up with Rosemary, hopefully setting up a night of macabre stories to catch better promotional material for her.
Amidst the contracts in the next few months the goal is to prepare for a Sundance in Taos in June then head to Bristol. Looking at other events in the fall and winter for The Painted Lady, The Winter Queen, or Angela Hunt: Handwriting Analyst to become a part of.
The hectic goes away with the gardening. Watching the vibrant green leaves unfurl and shade the ground. Seeing more and more plants like stems through the ground reaching and stretching for the sky. Looking forward to the garden and plants I nurture in Scarborough, the plants are old friends I visit with my morning coffee. Our conversation is water on the soil around them, my hands ripping out weed roots to offer them no competition on the nutrient rich soil.

Together in those moments my mind savors beautiful memories and moments, soothed by the green life surrounding me. When I travel it is the wind that speaks to me, nudging me to explore and whispering feelings that are indefinable and vast. I will miss the Arizona sunsets but look forward to my Texas friends. Each of their smiles is worth a sunset and just as lovely. Technology makes everyone seem close until they are actually close and the difference is incredible. You are in my thoughts today, perhaps this summer our paths will cross and I will be more than a virtual ghost in your real world.