Advice for the Weekend

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I always find it so interesting when you receive an unexpected gift at just the right time.

Yesterday my friend, Kareem, gave me some amazing advice that I want to share with you all as we prepare for the weekend.

After chatting about Shampagne and the usual “How are you’s?” and “What projects do you have coming up?” I asked him if he had any advice about how to balance life as the creative lives we lead grow busier. This is what he said…

“Follow your bliss.

Structure your time.

Don’t feel bad being selfish.

Set deadlines.

Challenge yourself.

Be protective of your creativity.

Be generous with your creativity.

Sleep.

Drink plenty of water.

Trust your tribe.

Have fun!”

Pretty great words don’t you think? As we begin the winter thaw, and watch the days long and the grass and flowers grow high, remember these words as you tackle your projects and dreams.

If I could add only one thing to this list it would be: Don’t forget to breathe!

Ciao 🙂

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Ritual

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It was a week ago…
I was weak ago?
Converging together
Cars, trains, planes
Highways, railways, sky ways
irrigated with the tears of a clan
Kin
My clan, my kin
Smiles gave way to hugs gave way to “How ya been’s?”
Heightened attention was focused towards the table
That corner
That seat
At each phone ring
door opening,
plate of food delivered
memory spoken
The ritual
The exchanges
The reminders
A breath
Transition
Back to catch up:
“How ya been?”,
“How was the trip?”
“How’s the weather?”
“Thanksgiving wasn’t that long ago…”
Laughter, cards, beer and Jack
we find our center once again
The fog not lifted but easier to navigate with the headlamps called “family”
The ritual
The exchanges
The reminders
A breath
Transition
Clothes of black
Veils of protection
Cloth to soothe tired faucets
as they run free and clear without ceasing
The pats
The hands
The feeling of warmth radiated from outside constellations to yours
Laughter, cards, tea, and cake
We say our goodbyes
Reflect in our goodbyes
Knowing “good” and “bye” will never be said to you again
The ritual
The exchanges
The reminders
A breath
Transition
Peeling off the clothes
the foil
Saran Wrap
bottle caps
Holding one another with tall tales, peace and quiet, drinking of wine,
Liquor, both dark and clear
Burning out the fog to cling to one another and bathe in the faith,
Strength and love that sustains us.
Sustained you
Goodbye…

Wordy Wednesday

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“Goodbye” is a powerful word.

it begins a pattern of separation and acceptance, of grief or celebration, of “so long’s” and “farewell’s”

laying flowers by the gravesite of a departed loved one

throwing rice or blowing bubbles at the newlyweds as they embark on their new journey together,

“Goodbye” can live many lives,

depending on how it is used.

as a single word, “goodbye”, can string together the roller coaster of adventures shared between a group of friends graduating college

as two distinct words, “good” and “bye”, it has the potent energy of malice, strife, pain, and deception: the feelings engaged at the death of a relationship

contracted, “g’bye”, brims with warm familiarity which oozes from the heart of a young child speaking to a parent, stuffed animal, or imaginary friend.

but today, I use “bye.”

a shoddy attempt at concealing my disappointment that even as I was with you, breathing you in, keeping in step with you on the sidewalk, my heart only understood that the subway entrance drew ever closer

ready to separate us, once again, by distance, time and place.

Vacancy

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I live here...

there is a place for you here

inside, you’ll find a hook for your coat

a spot for your shoes

and a chair to ease your weary feet.


there is a space for you here

inside of my heart

where the caverns and vessels have been cleared for your presence

to pump in and out of me

becoming a part of me


you are welcome here

you are wanted here

you are already here


will you find your place, your space, your nook in the crannies left waiting for you?

better yet, is there a space inside of you as cozy, as warm, as welcoming for me?

or is your door rusted shut, with the curtains drawn and the lights sitting dormant waiting for the true resident to fill this vacancy of yours?

Tuesday Thoughts

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Yesterday, my dad asked me a question:

“What’s your testimony today?”

I rolled my eyes (he couldn’t see this) and said “Dad, that’s not why I called you this morning.”

“I know, but you know the last time I was asked that was…”

And my father went back to a moment, when he himself had to answer the unexpected question. Hearing him open up about the changes that were occurring in his life, and how it all worked out in the end personally, financially and professionally, I was moved to speak.

“Actually, Daddy, I do have something to say”

You see, yesterday was my niece, Ava’s, 6th birthday. My brother’s first child, and my parents’ first grandchild. Whenever Ava’s birthday arrives, it is a day of happiness and love, two-fold; one, because she is becoming more loving, beautiful, and exceptional with each passing year, and two, because my father has been blessed with another year on this earth.

Let me start at the beginning.

For me Ava and Papa’s lives will forever be intertwined for me. My brother and his wife announced the pregnancy with snow globes for each of my parents, with a small picture of Ava’s ultrasound, on a December morning in Jackson at the Cracker Barrel. In the new year, we found out that the soreness and pain my father had been feeling on and off for the past few weeks, were symptoms from his now diagnosed cancer.

Talk about facing life and death.

As the months progressed Ava grew and my father experienced numerous health setbacks and scares as the doctors tried to determine the best way to combat his internal foe. Meanwhile, marooned in New York, I felt helpless, unable to see Dad or celebrate with my brother as Ava’s birthday drew near. It was the first time my mother uttered to me, in the middle of the night, after waking from a terrible nightmare, “Lissa, we’re always where we’re supposed to be.”

In time, check ins with mom turned into “check ups” on Dad. I was afforded an amazing opportunity to flex my acting muscle at Williamstown Theatre Festival, I had my doubts about not going home for the summer, but Mom and Dad assured me, that I had to keep moving forward and if anything should happen, they’d get me home.

A few weeks passed before I got the phone call, “Hey Aunt Melissa!” from my brother. Ava was beautiful! All ten fingers and toes, and Dad was starting to receive treatment and was getting somewhat accustomed to his new circumstances.

Now I could keep going but I’ll stop here and say that just last month, my dad got to spend time with Ava and his two grandsons in Jackson. Look what God can do!

Birthdays are always amazing days filled with reflection, gratitude and joy. But when I think of Ava’s birthday, it’s a birthday for my dad as well. A day that symbolizes life for them both.

Ciao 🙂

Hello, June!

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It’s June?!

Jeepers, where did the first half of the year go? I have literally been going full speed for 5 months now, and there is no end in sight (fingers crossed). Between acting, teaching, writing, creating and networking, 2015 has been very good to me. I’m pretty sure you’re getting tired of reading me say this every month, but it is honestly true. I am finding my stride so easily this year, and I think it has a lot to do with my new year’s resolution of “persistence and consistency.” I have always had prided myself on being organized, focused, and driven, but this year it has hit a whole new level, and I am beginning to reap the rewards on the left and right.

Yesterday, I was fortunate to participate in the Brooklyn Generator Project’s reading of Eboni Booth’s, Worthy. Ever since my summer in Ithaca, at the Hangar Theater, I have always loved working with a playwright as they refine their text in the rehearsal room, learning more about their characters and the world of the play, as I read them aloud. After the workshop performance, I was overwhelmed by the comments our audience had for me afterward. This is not a humble brag, instead it was a moment where I was able to take stock and realize once again, “I am where I’m supposed to be, doing what I love to do.”

I think that is a great realization to have as my birthday approaches.

As I enter the second half of my twenties, there is a sured-ness present that I suppose just comes with time and life experience. I hope that this next continues to build upon this momentum and that there are amazing challenges and moments ahead that will continue to shape and strengthen me.

June, glorious June, so happy to see you again!

Ciao

Thursday Thoughts

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Holy Crap, I’m a teacher! It’s my one month anniversary this week and I think I can say, with confidence, that I am now a teacher. Super weird, when you reach those points in your life that you always dreamed about as a kid.

Living in New York? Check!

Finding my way in the world of acting? Check!

Writing lesson plans for actual students and then using them or completely tossing them out? Check!

Before my first day I was excited and anxious, no different from the feelings I had on my first day of studio seven years ago. I knew I had big shoes to fill (thanks Jason) and that Shakespeare and I have a love/hate relationship. I kid. I kid. It’s mostly love, but if I’m going to be truly transparent here: Billy requires a lot of work. Once I got past these fears, walked through the door, sat with my students (!) and absorbed the inspiring words spoken by Adler’s artistic director I knew I could do this.

I’m not going to make it all sunshine and rainbows. My students definitely keep me on my toes: forcing me to always be at attention, adjusting to their needs, listening, creating new rehearsal exercises to get them to the next level, and really learning to be more confident in my own approach as a teaching artist.

Want to know a secret? Ever since I saw the Winona Ryder version of Little Women when Jo inherits Aunt March’s home and turns it into a school for boys, I’ve wanted to do the same thing. Not a school for boys, per se, but an acting school to establish and run in Jackson. Teaching at Adler is so rewarding, so invigorating, and so challenging. I’m glad that I have been exposed to this experience so much earlier than I thought possible. Sure, it still is a little terrifying when I head to class each week, but it’s from the place of not wanting to let them down, or Billy Shakes either, I suppose.

Ciao 🙂