Friday, July 31, 2009

Gratitude - performing, writing

Last night I felt, for the first time, that I really loved standing in front of an audience and that as scary as it was, the pleasure factor, the ability to make people laugh and tell a story was so much fun that I actually enjoyed myself. I ACTUALLY ENJOYED MYSELF.

I have to repeat that because tomorrow, a few hours before I have to get up there and do it again, I will be thinking about leaving the country and wondering why I put myself through this really scary shit.

Several people came over to me afterward and told me how I had either captured their families, or were dealing with parents who are sick, or kids or whatever. And the laughs were there - although I know it always depends on each audience and that I just have to work with whatever is happening each night. So I have tonight off and I will rehearse. Zoe's here, going through her things and I will help her this afternoon.

I figured out the ending for "Scrambled Eggs." I also think maybe it should just be "Eggs." But I can't wait to sit down next week after all of this crazy stuff is over and start a re-write.

For today, I am grateful for all the good that is happening in my life and even though there's plenty to worry about, and feel sad about, there's also a lot to be excited about. I guess that's life.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

One down three to go

I don't have time to write much, but the reading of "Scrambled Eggs" at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab was a big hit. The cast was brilliant, the lead was amazing, Amy Von Nostrand coudn't have been better. She was everything I hope for in an actor playing the role. We got huge laughs, we see the ending needs work, I think I have a better idea how to fix it and also places I want to re-write. Matt Penn was a fantastic director, the theater was so beautiful, we had a large crowd (around 200), I laughed (and I never laugh at my own writing.)

Tonight is the first night of the solo show and I am very nervous/excited. I will write more tonight or tomorrow. Zoe's in town and I haven't seen her yet, I can't wait to give her a big hug. I missed her so much.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Catching up

I don't feel like writing much tonight - but it's been ages since I wrote anything. For two days I was in Great Barrington at the Berkshire Playwrights Lab, working with actors and a director on a play I co-wrote called "Scrambled Eggs" (crazy title, thought up by Eric Bogosian, so you can't turn that down.)

It was very challenging. The night of the table read, Matt Penn, the director, said the ending isn't quite there yet, so just re-write. The actor who's playing the lead, a lovely woman named Amy Von Nostrand, came to my room at the inn and we talked through the play until midnight. And then the following day I sat at the computer and worked on a new ending. It's not quite there yet, but it's getting closer. One of the best things about theater is that the play can keep on evolving.

Then I raced home last night in time to be here today for the tech rehearsal of my solo show and I got to see my dear friend, Jake Lipman's show tonight too. "Up a River and Down the Aisle." She was fantastic.

Tomorrow I go back up to Great Barrington (which is quite gorgeous, by the way) for the reading. I am prepared for a talk back afterward which will probably be difficult - it usually is. People like to put in their two cents and it's not always flattering. But I feel that I have to be there, not only because I have a chance to see the play in front of an audience, but because I really like the actors and want to be there to support them. I know we'll get laughs and I hope it works as a staged reading. I cringe a lot at things I would like to completely re-write, but at this point, I don't have the chance.

Zoe's flying in tonight from San Francisco and we will probably just miss each other tomorrow morning as I race to Grand Central. I have to say this is very very stressful, but in a good way. It's amazing that it's all happening in one week.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Being is enough

There is a book called "The Language of Letting Go" by Melody Beattie. I resisted reading it for a long time, I'm not sure why, but I recently decided to buy it. It's a book of daily meditations and sometimes when I read it, on a particular day, it feels very pertinent.

"Being Is Enough

We are not always clear about what we are experiencing, or why.

In the midst of grief, transition, transformation, learning, healing, or discipline - it's difficult to have perspective.

That's because we have not learned the lesson yet. We are in the midst of it. The gift of clarity has not yet arrived.

Our need to control can manifest itself as a need to know exactly what's going on. We cannot always know. Sometimes, we need to let ourselves be and trust that clarity will come later, in retrospect.

If we are confused, that is what we are supposed to be. The confusion is temporary. We shall see. The lesson, the purpose, shall reveal itself - in time, in its own time.

It will all make perfect sense - later.

Today, I will stop straining to know what I don't know, to see what I can't see, to understand what I don't yet understand. I will trust that being is sufficient, and let go of my need to figure things out."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stayin' alive

I think that one of the greatest gifts of being a human being is having other human beings in your life to give you love and support. (And to also give love and support to them as well.)

I just spoke to one of my dearest friends - Charley - I've known him for almost thirty years. Is that even possible? We met in an acting class and became scene partners. I think he is one of the most talented people I know, he's funny and a great writer and musician and actor and I love him. He's a dear friend and even though we haven't seen each other in a few years, I always think of him and his family and I miss them. They live outside of Portland.

He told me a great story about Lily Tomlin and her one woman show. I really needed to hear this story. On the night he went to see her on Broadway, she suddenly started to cough and couldn't stop. She had to get water and she was miked and it was really awkward, but she kept the audience involved and after those few moments of difficulty, the audience was even more with her and she recovered and continued the show.

I was telling him how nervous I am about performing again and just hearing that story about Lily Tomlin and remembering that everyone gets nervous - even comic geniuses - and that you don't have to do it perfectly. That coughing or dry mouth (which is what happened to me) and feeling your heart pounding out of your chest, or having your hands shake, or your knees shake, or whatever is shaking, is perfectly acceptable because we are human beings.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A better day

The interesting thing about pain is that one day you can be feeling awful and sad and then within 24 hours, you can have a better day and feel good. That's the kind of day I had today.

I picked up the postcards for my solo show at the Midtown International Theatre Festival and here is the link to buy tickets:

And I went to see someone to help me re-write my resume and she was great. She talked even faster than I do and the place I went to is called Fegs, which is an agency that helps people with all kinds of services, including career questions. I was floored by how many ideas she had for me and how she started re-writing my resume and I realized that I had many more skills that I hadn't even thought were marketable.

We set up another session for next week (did I say this was all free?) And as I left the building I checked my messages and found that I had a voice message from a producer who is doing a workshop of my play "Scrambled Eggs" up in the Berkshires. I wish I could go, but unfortunately it's exactly the same time as the solo show, the day before. I don't think I could handle seeing the workshop and then rushing back to town for the performance. That's disappointing, but great that it's happening.

One piece of sad news - I just read that Walter Cronkite died today. One of my friends recently told me that she went to his office for a meeting to talk about a project that he was interested in. I was surprised that he was still working, but I remember seeing him a few years ago at a restaurant on Madison Avenue and he looked very strong and alive. He lived to be ninety-two years old - another good long run. Most of us who are over forty or so will remember him as being such an important voice at CBS for so many years.

Anyway - life goes on and it's always bumpy, occasionally horrible, frequently exciting and totally unpredictable.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It sucks to be me

Right now, I have to say that this seems to accurately express how I am feeling. (It's a song from "Avenue Q.") I know that compared to most of rest of the world, I have it pretty good. But right now, today, it doesn't feel that way.

It feels not so good.

I had a fantastic time in Fire Island with my Women's Group. We talked and ate and I took long walks on the beach and we were in the pool for hours and we laughed and struggled with each other and it was all good. The weather couldn't have been more perfect.

But - I have to say that I am feeling very blue and very sad and no amount of reading Pema Chodron or meditation or crying or talking is alleviating it. It helps, but it's still there. Life is hard for me and many other people right now. I am feeling grief, deep sorrow, and I don't know about you, but I'd much rather feel happy or bored or tired or excited. Or pretty much anything.

I know I'm not alone and that helps. I remember when I've sat with friends who have been going through difficult times and the pain was palpable. I heard someone say the other day that when you are going through grief, you shouldn't make any decisions. Another said she sat on her couch for a long time and watched TV and cried. Today I have given myself a day just to grieve. I'm not enjoying it, but I guess it was what I needed. I wonder what is on TV?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fire Island and some other thoughts

I just finished packing a few things to take with me to Fire Island for my annual Women's Group retreat/talkathon. I wrote about it last year on this blog. I met these women in a workshop a few years ago run by Nancy Samalin, who wrote several books on raising kids. ("Loving Your Child is Not Enough" is one of them.) Actually, three of the women met in the workshop when their kids were very young and then I met one of them when our kids were teens.

Anyway, we like to say that we all have interesting kids who have given us some challenges, but we love them and they are doing well now. I think that when kids are between the ages of 12-19 they really should live on a kibbutz somewhere. (Sorry, Zoe, if you're reading this. Fortunately, I don't think she ever does.) They could come home for holidays, or maybe we could switch kids - but those are difficult years and although I miss Zoe now that she's living in San Francisco, I don't miss those years. I miss her though.

I'm reading a book about Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon called "Girls Like Us." Julie loaned it to me earlier in the week. I'm having a tough time getting into it, but I'm interested enough in those women and the times they have lived in, to continue with it. I think between them they've been married and in serious relationships with several hundred different men (although they shared a few too.) James Taylor is one that comes to mind, but I'm sure as I read further I'll discover some others they dated or married.

All I know is that tomorrow, when I'm walking on the beach and swimming in the pool, and talking with my friends and wishing that Mia was there making rhubarb, I imagine that I will be quite content. I love Fire Island and discovered it only a few years ago, even though I grew up on Long Island, not that far from it. I love that there are no cars and the beaches are so beautiful. I love riding a bike there and having barbecues. Summer in the city isn't ideal, but it's better than winter. And when I get a chance to escape the city and spend time in nature, especially around water, I feel so grateful.

Sometimes I think about my mother and I miss her. It's easy to say, "Well, she lived to be 96, what more could you ask for?" And these past seven or eight years have been quite difficult. But it's still hard to believe that her very strong presence in my life is over (in the a physcial way) and I can't help but feel sad that I'll never have another conversation, or sit by her side, or hear her laugh, or curse.

I know that many of my friends have lost parents when they were young or have parents that they have very mixed feelings about. When I lost my dad nineteen years ago I had a lot of ambivalence. He loved me I know, but he really didn't put a great deal of effort into our relationship so I can't say that I missed him that much. I loved him too and I am grateful that he lived as long as he did. He had a fantastic sense of humor and he loved food. Often that was the topic of our conversations, what we had for lunch, what we wanted for dinner, what restaurant he was going to. I wish that he had been able to pursue a career that he was more suited to - comedy writing or food critic. In those days people rarely had those kinds of opportunities. He made me laugh and my friends liked him. I have heard that they liked my mother too and she did have a strong life force.

I hope if there is such a thing as reincarnation that my father comes back as a chef and my mother comes back as a gardener. Or if I were really mean, she could come back as the chef and he as a gardener.

It was a good day

It's so up and down these days. But today turned out to be fine, a good day. And tonight I went dancing at Lincoln Center's outdoor dance festival, I think it's called Midsummer Night's Swing. There was a band from Kenya with kind of an African/Salsa beat and it was fun dancing under the stars and I actually enjoyed it. I went with two of my wonderful friends, Karen and Sharon (we all did Mama Gena's together) and my other dear friend Annie from Vancouver, Washington, the most most fantastic photographer in the Portland area (the entire state) posted "Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps" from Strictly Ballroom on her blog, so I thought it would be fun to post it here.

After we danced, we went across the street to Fiorello's where we shared great food and wine (I had two glasses!) our waiter and I just got home. (oh, that was a typo.) It feels like Spain, where you eat late and stay out late and there are so many people out on the street, at restaurants, talking and having fun. I loved it. And the amazing thing is that Lincoln Center has been doing this outdoor dance festival in the month of July for at least five years, maybe more, maybe ten. And I have wanted to go every summer and I never did.

Tonight I went, I danced, and i had fun. And I will return.

And now, for Strictly Ballroom:

Friday, July 10, 2009

An apology

After I wrote the last post, "The Summer of Grief, Part II" or "Grief: The Sequel" I thought, wow, how long are people going to be able to read this? This is getting tiresome for everyone, including me. You'd think I was living in a cave somewhere, with no food and no friends and nothing to do but mourn. I live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, surrounded by all kinds of people, parks, theater, music, summer, tonight I'm going dancing at Lincoln Center with some friends... enough whining.

So I am now choosing to be happy for at least one day. Or perhaps most of the day. Sometimes you can make the choice, even if you know it's not going to necessarily last.

Yes, I lost my mother. Yes, I miss her. Yes to all the things I am going through. But it is the most perfect of summer days and I am choosing to be right here in this moment and excited about the day.

So forget the last post. Or read it and if you relate, I'm there with you. And if you are more into the joy of the day, I'm there with you too.

I hope I have a good story to tell you about the fantastic day I'm going to have. Or perhaps I'm just a big fat fraud and I will walk out the door and start crying.

Perhaps...perhaps...perhaps. Don't you love that song? It's in that fantastic movie about Australian ballroom dancing....Zoe, where are you? I need the's not Mad Hot'! It's directed by Baz Luhrmann. Oh, I'll google it right now. Hold on.

Thank you IMBD. "Strictly Ballroom." Love that movie! Zoe and I love it.

And may I just add that I am so grateful for this fantastic week of amazing weather on the east coast. And raspberries. As my friend Annie reminded me, raspberries are awesome. As are cherries.

We'll always have fruit.

The summer of grief, part II

The first time I read "The Wisdom of No Escape" I remember being relieved about the concept that no matter how you are feeling, it's important to honor those feelings. So if you're angry, or sad, or feeling hopeless, it's quite all right to sit with those uncomfortable, annoying emotions and let them live inside you. You don't have to feed them, but you don't have to work on getting happy, or upbeat, or cheerful either. It isn't about wallowing as much as it's about feeling the feelings and sitting with them in your meditation, or your daily life for as long as they last. And knowing that eventually, they pass, just as everything life changes.

I was so accustomed to trying to numb those feelings by a) eating b) shopping c) watching television d) exercising and whatever worked at the time. I hear lots of people talking these days about wasting time on computer games or on Facebook. But when you're feeling grief over deeper losses, I find that nothing really works to alleviate the feelings. Certain things help - but unfortunately, this is what grief feels like.

And believe me - I know it could be far worse. It's just that pain is pain and so I'm not going to minimize mine.

The problem is that right now I don't enjoy eating, although I try to give myself healthy meals and sometimes a little treat. Actually, often a treat. (But nothing tastes good except fruit.) Last week when I was in Connecticut, in the woods taking a fantastic hike with my dear friend Julie, I kept thinking, "Wow, this is the most beautiful forest. Look at this, look at the sunlight as it shines through the trees. Look at this lovely, peaceful pond and the birds." Honestly, I couldn't take any of it in. The fourth of July party was really fun and I enjoyed talking to people, but I felt outside of myself sometimes, thinking, this is nice, I'm having a good time, wow, look at those fireworks!

Sometimes I feel like I'm just going through my day feeling disconnected, unable to take a deep breath, feeling like there's a bowling ball sitting on my chest, or in my chest. Sometimes I have a good cry and feel better and sometimes it doesn't help at all. I have to say that the times I've felt best in the last few weeks were when I did have some good cathartic cries, when I heard from someone who really cares about me, and particularly when I performed the opening of my show on the retreat, making people laugh. And for that five minutes, I was out of my body and my mind, just having fun and moving through the fear.

If I could skip all of this I would. But since I can't, I'm going to allow myself to sit with it and write about it and share it and just keep moving my feet, except when I can't. Then you'll probably find me somewhere in Central Park or Fort Greene Park, sitting under a tree. I have watched enough friends deal with really catastrophic challenges and I know how strong we all can be. It's just a matter of allowing oneself to sit with the pain and practice acceptance, I believe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My name is Robin and I am a fruitaholic

Yesterday was a bad day, no doubt about it. It felt like I had a thousand pound weight on my chest and I had a hard time breathing. But eventually it got better, but only after a long walk in Central Park, talking to some people and meditation. I am also reading "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron for the hundredth time and I would put some of Chapter 2 in here if I wasn't so lazy right now. Anyway, today I feel better and I just have to share, that if there was anything that kept my mother as healthy as she was for 89 years it was fruit. The woman lived on it. She always stayed fairly thin and nothing appealed to her more than summer fruit, or a good apple, or basically any kind of fruit. She always exercised (gardening mostly), and kept her mind sharp with puzzles, and volunteered at the hospital to have a feeling of community and giving back. Okay, true, she was a difficult woman who drove me nuts, and pretty much everyone who knew her, but we did admire some of her qualities.

I do love cherries and nectarines and peaches and figs and apricots and honeydew and cantaloupe and apples and all things fruit. And avocado, which I believe is considered a fruit.

Did I mention that the retreat was great? I was told by Paul Tenaglia, the founder of Unity NY that I was going through the dark night of my soul, and Barbara, a wonderful former nun and counselor, told me that my life was like a forest that had completely burned down and would eventually grow back. We studied the metaphysics of "The Wizard of Oz" and honestly, who knew? Talking about the idea of home was painful for me, but it was also very interesting and there were so many good people and so much talent...I think I may have written about this? Oui? No? I can't remember.

Anyway, to Mia, regarding the Mexican salad - definitely yes to that. Asap. Even though it's not fruit, I also love it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When breathing requires effort

You know when you have that tight feeling? Well, I have it. Breathing is a bit of an effort. The antidote is...whatever works. I will get some exercise and hopefully that will help.

Anyway, I'm home from Connecticut and trying to get back to the discipline of writing and rehearsing and just showing up.

Sometimes I have a hard time remembering that my mother is dead. After an entire lifetime of having her be such a major presence, it's very weird to know that I can't call or visit her. I guess a good cry would help with the breathing.

I wish I could write more, but I'm just not up for it right now. I'll be back soon, I'm sure.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Summer of Grief

I hate to write that, but a friend of mine, after finding out that her husband was having an affair with one of her best friends, said that last summer was "her summer of grief" and I realized that this summer is filled with a lot of sadness for me.

The retreat was wonderful and challenging. It brought up a lot of feelings of what home means and that was painful. The great part was being around so many brilliant and talented people. We all had to do a presentation and people wrote the most amazing things. Some of them were hilariously funny and some were sad. We also had a performance night and I did the first few minutes of my solo show and it felt great to have a chance to perform again. Good practice. And the talent at this retreat is truly brilliant.

Now I'm at my friends' Julie and Keith's home in Bethel, Connecticut. I'm getting ready to leave today, but we've had a great Fourth of July weekend. I just hate waking up in the morning and feeling down. The big mistake I made was that I purchased the book "On Grief and Grieving" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler and I read the section this morning on depression and I got really really depressed.

So I wrote a few emails and poured myself a cup of coffee and now I'm speedy and a little anxious. But I remembered other times when I was dealing with a lot of sadness and I thought about Pema Chodron's advice to just accept wherever you are as being in the right place, so that's what I'm doing. I cried a little, which helped, and did some meditation. But grief is grief and it is the journey I'm on right now. I'd love to skip it if I could, but I know that isn't really an option. It will just show up later on and I guess right now is the perfect time. The weather is beautiful, I'm off on a train trip back to Brooklyn today and to my dogs. And I just have to get through this a day at a time.