poeming on a slow to start day



after playing ophelia
(or: self sabotage in theatrics)


first, decide you could never
be a film actor
because you've been told
repeatedly
that your acne was too
out of control (and no, you
weren't willing to take accutane
just to get smooth skin
because birth defects).

then, set your acting goals up
in opposition to that first
(unrequited and still secretly longed for)
idea: you only want to do theater.
make sure to alienate all the actors
you know who just want stardom,
not just with that so-different
goal, but also with your major
(what? ophelia is a poet?
why would you bother with that?
poetry is ridiculously unpopular.)

add in a dose of superiority:
never take an acting class
at the new school you're in,
because there's no way it could
ever begin to compare
to your old classes. and you have
no time, anyway, unless
you want to be a perpetual
undergraduate.
(and you don't.
the clock is ticking.)

and then when the ebb and flow
is really, really, ebbing,
(someone makes fun of you
for claiming to feel married
to the man you'll legally
marry only a few years later,
and someone else
oversteps her bounds and asks
for all ophelia's songs to sound
"just like the ones last night"
when the director gave express
permission for them to be different
every time because that's
how it works, when it works,

and the costume designer
is in a snit because you won't
shave your armpits, you know, you know,
you'll use more deodorant tonight,
and please g-d, no more, no more)

and the flakes who want to act
because they like the idea
of fame for fame's sake,
but can't be bothered to show
up on time, or learn their lines
start digging in to the shell
you've made around your
talent for sublimating
yourself into someone else

and then the last straw,
an audition the next year,
juliet, wouldn't that be nice,
another part you've wanted
since high school
(playing ophelia almost ruined
that dream, but not quite)
and you don't even get called back

and at twenty-five, that just
isn't acceptable, to not get
a call back for a part you
were born to play.

and all at once, you give
up on all of it, theater, film,
fuck acting, fuck directing,
those flakes are everywhere
and that's all it is, flakes, and who
wants any part of that at all?
and suddenly the career you might
have had, is trashed, completely
overnight. and you never
audition again.

but you always wonder what if.
although you knew,
                             you know
you didn't have it in you
to do the things that need
to be done in order to make it.
that marriage you were made
fun of for, for one, the little dog
who needed all of your time.
the baby you desperately wanted.

the path you took wound sideways.

and it led to right now.

and that isn't self-sabotage at all.
_________________________________

This poem has been working itself out of me since M and I watched the awesome documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom last weekend. What a great movie! I could completely relate to the frustration of some of those ladies - I felt so frustrated when I was younger and wanted so much to make it big. To become a bona fide star. I loved singing and I loved acting and I wanted art to be my entire life.

(And art - and love - are my entire life. Not being famous doesn't change that fact.)

I completely related to the singer in the movie who just loved to sing, who was in it just for the transcendental joy of singing. That sublimation of self that is flow, that is creativity unleashed. That's the most amazing feeling. Singing with other people, poeming, making photographs. Find what you love and do it. That is my message to the world in the simplest form: find what you love and do it (and keep practicing til it becomes flow).

And I live that message. Every day I get to write, I get to poem, I get to make the most amazing self-portraits I can imagine. I get to shimmy myself silly in my office. And I get to sit with my kid while he's finding his joy. Oh that is an amazing thing. I get to listen - and sing along as my husband plays his music. I get to make my own music.

I love this life, this fragile, beautiful life because it's just fucking awesome!

(Even when it's hard and there's pain. No one gets out of here alive. Grief is love's mirror.)

Could I even have imagined this life as a possibility as a fame-obsessed teenager?

I had to. I had to imagine it because it was exactly what I wanted.

I didn't know one single person who was this happy in their relationship, in their family life, in their creativity (in all of those things all at once - I knew people who excelled at one or the other, but no one who combined them the way M and I have done).

I let go of that need for fame that I had when I was younger. But at the same time, I wonder how I can get my joy out into the world, if it isn't accompanied by some kind of fame. And I wonder if I even need or want to get that joy out into the world, in a big way.

(If you poem in an overgrown forest and no one reads your poems, are you really poeming?)

What feels like self-sabotage (saying, 'fuck you acting, I don't love you either!' even when you really do), at 25, might not be. Ditto my controversial decision to drop out of grad school. It is those choices that got me to this moment, this delicious, amazing moment.

At this point in my life, I don't really care much about biggification for the sake of biggification. I think more about it as a means to helping spread my message. But do I want that enough to do the work that biggification requires?

I keep answering that question no. Over and over. And saying yes to my family, to my self, to my creative freedom (to being able to surf FB for hours because I don't feel like vacuuming). And yet I keep asking the question. Maybe one day the yes will fall into place. I don't know.

Part of the power I'm finding as I get closer to 40 is the power to remind myself what choices I have actively made, over and over.

It isn't sabotage to make a choice that leads you to joy.

It isn't sabotage to not make the choice other people want you to make. (Or you think they want you to make.)

It isn't sabotage to want the things you want. To love the things you love. To not want to have to deal with other people's shit on top of your own. To make a life that looks completely different from everyone else's.

And so maybe I just reach one or two people at a time. I've been doing that for a long time, inspiring people in small numbers. Maybe that's my superpower.

And maybe I'm just getting started.

Who knows. Not me.