Tuesday, February 9, 2016

On her shoulders

I think my biggest problem in the primaries is people who are on the same side turning against one another. I am saddened and disappointed by the shaming comments from Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem, two women that I have immense respect for and have made tremendous change in this world that all of us women have benefited from. Many have attempted to pit us against one another. Or to shame anyone voting for our fellow democrat. It's working. Personally I love both Hillary and Bernie and we have an embarrassment of riches in terms of intelligent and caring candidates from the left. Compared to the ridiculous candidates from the right who can't fact check to save their hides. I don't understand why people are so willing to jump into camps one against the other when we are all basically fighting for the same things. We don't vote for someone just because she is a woman-- did we not make that point when Sarah Palin was running? I am so immensely thankful for the older feminists. We have the luxury of maternity leave and the right to vote in this election and actual women in office and we stand on the shoulders of these women who fought like tigers for us. This stuff from them is coming from fear. We got so close with Geraldine Ferraro only to have the rug pulled from under us in horrific style to lose that election. Gloria and Madeline were around to see that happen-- the Republicans played so dirty in that election and Hillary got so close in 2008. We want to finally see a woman sitting up there. It is our turn. I really like Bernie Sanders. If he is our next nominee, I will happily vote for him. I believe in Hillary, too. It is my great joy as a woman to vote for a woman I believe in-- and I hope all of you do that as well, whether it be a woman running for mayor or a woman running for senator, but a woman you believe in. I'm not here to change your mind -- I think if you vote of either of these candidates, we win. And I don't think you are anti feminist if you vote for Bernie. I can forgive Madeline and Gloria, they are impatient and enthusiastic and young feminists are not as educated as they should be SOMETIMES. It's the wrong tactic to try to fear or shame them. We get enough of that shit from men. But I forgive them because I feel they are afraid and that is where the stupid comes from. They should be afraid. But not of Bernie. Of division like this. I say this to young feminists. Please check out some older documentaries, some narrative movies. I recommend a couple of pieces. Look at the documentary on Geraldine Ferraro. An extraordinary woman who was responsible for Special Victims Unit in New York. Remember when marital rape wasn't a crime? You don't? Thank a feminist. Please take the time to watch Iron Jawed Angels, and the next time you vote, ladies, remember that less than one hundred years ago, we were not allowed to do so. On your way to the polls.... Thank a feminist. We stand on the shoulders of these women.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Thing you are meant for

I guess it is a lucky thing that I have always known what I wanted to do. Some people really struggle and falter and search, but for me it was always crystal clear that acting, writing and directing were what I wanted to do. What I needed to do. When you choose a thing like that, for me, it came with some huge insecurity. I didn't want to do any of it unless I was good enough. Not just good enough. Great enough. Because there was no point unless I could be great. And unfortunately, sometimes that means you wait until someone tells you that you are great. And people can be petty. My seventh grade teacher was the first person to tell me I was great. That my passion and obsession with writing was not ill thought out. I blushed radiantly with tremendous pleasure. She was not my friend or my mother and under no obligation to compliment me. She just did it anyway. I kept that for a long time. Held on to it. I still do. When just one person believes in you, that is magic. But mostly, I felt that I was a good writer. I felt amazing when I wrote. I felt amazing when I read a good book. And to understand the depth of what an author is saying. That is like something divine flowing through your very soul. A really fine piece of literature touches you everywhere and resonates through your being. I was never sure I could be that good. But I wanted to be. I wanted to tell a story in a way that people would pay attention and not be bored. An impossible task. You cannot please everyone. You never will. There are lots of people that will tell you that you are shit. This business loves rejection. I tell you what though, when you are doing what you're supposed to be doing, it will feel just right. And for me, it just fits so comfortably when I can take an actor to a deeper performance. When we can find a moment together. When I can pull out a beautiful talent and recognize it and nurture it. That's when I know that this business was meant for me. The other day I was rehearsing with the cast and I sat down with them and unpacked a scene. We talked it through and it went from kind of okay to next level amazing. There are those that say this business is frivolous and unimportant but plays and movies change the world. Our stories are important. What we do touches people and changes minds and hearts. And I fit there. When I am directing, I am home. I feel it in my bones that this is what I am on this earth for. To create this art and to connect with people and to bring out next level amazing. And when you find the thing you are meant to do, there is no other feeling in the world that's better.

Time spent in the Single Mom world

In some ways, being a single mother was a badge of honor, in other ways, it was the deepest shame I had to overcome in my life. But I made the choice to identify with it as an honorable trial that I went through. Not everyone respects me for it. Frankly, I don't give a damn. I've been through too much and come too far to allow that to hold me back. But it began with shame. The shame of getting caught having sex before marriage. Not getting caught by your parents but getting caught by the world. Like your virginity or lack of virginity is no longer private. Now everyone knows. And in some ways it's not like I cared that much but it was just one more thing I wasn't ever going to be able to lie about conveniently if I needed to, because it's nice to have the option of being innocent even if you're not. Oddly, I remember thinking, well, that's it. I will never be Miss America. The secondary shame of "getting myself pregnant" (how did I manage it?) Isn't it interesting how it always lands in the lap of the woman. She let herself get pregnant. Let's see. For the record, I begged my mother to let me stay on birth control and she told me to stop having sex. I didn't. My boyfriend refused to use any birth control and when I tried to go to planned parenthood, he told me he was most certainly sterile and made sure I didn't go. Not that I am blaming anyone but the two of us, but these are just facts. Then there is a the general naivete of being 17 when you think nothing bad can happen to you. You know, women try to get pregnant for years... it just wasn't happening and if it does, you know, I think I can handle it cause I want to be a mom anyway and he loves me and is going to stay with me. I was way too smart to be that stupid. And my boyfriend was pretty controlling. I was not who I am today and I am afraid I was raised to accept and accommodate a man controlling me. Then came the catch 22. Do I stay with the asshole who is abusing me and marry him "for the sake of the child" or do I leave him and face the shame of being a single mother? It is a relationship born in shame. I ran away from him when I was five months pregnant because I could no longer defend myself from the beatings and I feared he would kill the baby or me. I remember ridiculing myself for fearing him. I was tougher than that. But my baby wasn't, and it was time to go. I wish I had made that decision when I just had myself to save but it wasn't until I had a child to save that I felt the imperative. So, no. I did not do what my mother did. I did not marry my abuser. Aren't moms always saying don't make the same mistakes I did? No, I made different same mistakes. Being a single mother or giving my child up for adoption were my only viable options. I didn't have the emotional strength to give my baby away. I had to choose between living with my boyfriend the abuser or my father the abuser. I had run away from my father the abuser the year before and now I was running away from my boyfriend who had within months become the abuser. In spite of all the things he promised me. In spite of the way I believed he never would. He became all those things that I now see the signs that he would become. For two years, he never hit me. I was emotionally abused in many ways but he never hit me. So, I really thought I was safer with him. Until he hit me again, and again and again. And promised me he wouldn't and then did. I was recently told how I shamed and hurt my mother. It's not like I don't realize that she was ashamed but I am pretty sure that was her problem and not mine. Your kids are going to embarrass you. You get to stand up and claim them anyway. It's called being a parent. I have several friends that are adopted. I cannot imagine the shame their biological mothers went through. The religious shame. The general shame. All the shame I chose to live with that was made impossible for them. Seriously, the Catholic church needs to take down that statue of Mary if they want to shame single mothers...it's ridiculous. But that was not the worst part of all that shame. The worst part was admitting that I did indeed need help. That I am not an island and that I need a support system. There was a whole lot of "you got yourself into this mess." I hated that part the most. You got yourself into this mess with your promiscuous behavior. In some ways I will always be "the single mother". It was my first experience of parenthood. My parents paid those bills for me but there was no physical help for a long time. I had to learn my lesson first. If I wanted to keep that baby, I had to do this one hundred percent by myself. No one got up all hours but me. No one changed those diapers. No one else fed him and took him to the doctor and walked him until he gently fell asleep. Because I was learning my lesson. It hurt that it was more important to teach me a lesson than to lend a hand to an exhausted eighteen year old girl who was doing her damndest to grow up as fast as she could. But I was too stubborn to beg and too proud to admit I was drowning a little. Sometimes a lot. In a funny way, I was proud to be a single mother. I was modern. It was harder than anything else I had to do at that point in my life, but I was not going to allow the judgmental assholes of the world to defeat me and I handled that shit. I was not always good at it. In fact, I was not nearly the parent that I dreamed of being and that hurt most of all. Because I felt like a failure much of the time. But I didn't walk away from my responsibilities. I found a way to handle it. I found a way to survive depression. I found a way to survive shame. I found a way to leave people I loved that hurt me. I found a way to survive abandonment. I found a way to survive self loathing and anxiety. People would say "I don't know how you do it." Like it was something you have a choice in. You just get up every day and you do it. You don't know what it is like to have someone else carry the car seat, go to the grocery store for you. Get up in the night. It gets done because it must get done. Because you have to. In the end, I found joy but it took a long time. And I even found a way to a healthy relationship and co-parenting. And when it happened, I knew how to appreciate it. And some people have it way worse, yes, of course they do. But I cannot write about their experiences, only my own. And please do not presume that I am not infinitely grateful to my mother for taking me back, taking me in and supporting me when I might well have starved. She saved my ass more than I ever deserved and she helped me more than I can ever re-pay and there is no end to my gratitude for what she did for me. I always knew I was tough but no one else did for a long time. I wish many things were different but we cannot change our past. In the end, I am grateful, even for the abuse. It made me the strong survivor I am and it gave me the depth of my stories. I am somehow uncomfortable with the identifier "Mrs." even after ten years, I still want to correct people. I still feel like a woman in a partnership I chose without the ownership. Deep in there my strongest identifier is the single woman, the single mother, the independent girl. Deep in my past is the determination to not be owned by any man. I like that every generation lifts the shame a little more. But I wish for those single girls the partnership that is supposed to come with parenting. I wish them love and help and strength. It is the hardest thing to go through by yourself. But I wear my survival with honor. And without the shame they want to heap on me. Screw your shame, you can have it back. I have no use for it.