Extremists on Both Sides Give me a Headache.

With all the social distancing, many people have not seen anyone in person from outside their household in months. I am one of them. As we are social creatures, I, like others, have connected more online. I don’t want to stop doing that, but it feels like some interactions have been worse than they would have in person, and it’s seriously giving me a headache. 

When Trump was elected president, I couldn’t even believe that there were so many people in this country who would vote for such an ignorant, narcissistic buffoon.  I thought most of them had to be evil, or at the very least stupid.  They quickly identified themselves on social media by posting memes about how ‘liberals are crying because they lost’, and sometimes I was surprised to see who they were. When I tried to  explain that the reason many of us were upset was not because we were ‘sore losers’, but because we were terrified that a very dangerous narcissist was now in a powerful position to do terrible things to our country, they called me names and continued to jeer at me. It was like going back to elementary school trying to talk to them, and  I eventually realized that no amount of reasoning was going to change their minds, and that while some of them are evil, and some of them are indeed stupid, most of them are neither. Some of them are just brainwashed. They have been conditioned with this ‘us and them’ mentality over many years through a steady diet of very specific and concentrated news sources, and politics have turned into a game where  they’re metaphorically sitting in a sports bar, hurling insults at the losing team.  

From the Infowars site (screenshot)

Currently some people in this group are holding ‘anti-mask’ rallies, protesting for the right to infect themselves and everyone around them with a deadly disease, because they have been told that a global pandemic is a lie by the other ‘team’, which is being supported by the entire rest of the world.  To make it worse, they are using the slogan, “We can’t Breath”, which is deliberately mocking  the race protests that started when a man was suffocated to death by a cop.  I know that sounds evil, and the leaders of it are certainly are, in my opinion,  but a lot of the followers just don’t see the istuation as real. I have talked to some of them, and they really think democrats are making up the black people being murdered and the  Covid-19 pandemic just to piss them off and control them. So they join in to root for their home team. They seem to me to be in some kind of alternate reality,  and while I admire the people who are still trying to talk them out of it, I really think it’s a pointless waste of energy. They need deprogramming, like people who have been rescued from cults. Until that is acknowledged, nothing will change. 

From the Infowars site (screenshot)

 Recently, there was an ad put out by sensible Republicans  to try to convince MAGA-Hat people that  they should not vote for Donald Trump again.  It was a nice try,  but I can tell them for sure that  it’s not going to work, because they don’t mention in the video that they are Republicans.  They need  to tell those people they’re on the same team if they want them to listen, and  then work hard to start helping them to de-program. The video is here, if you’re interested. It looks just like something a liberal group would produce, and it is useless. https://twitter.com/murphymike/status/1268997121446801408?s=20

I had to cut contact wtih a lot of people in that mindset because my own mental health is worth too much to me to let anyone push my buttons, and nothing I say to them will matter anyway. Then I realized that I  have a different problem: extremists on the liberal side. These are usually people who I mostly agree with, but they are  so extreme in expressing their views, that they seem like they’re playing the same game as their right wing counterparts. They’re just wearing the other team’s colors. They seem to live to rant endlessly about every celebrity who uses the wrong pronoun or tweets something that might be interpreted as a slight to someone. They sit at their computers and  painstakingly correct everyone about every tiny mistake in whatever the ‘right’  way of saying something is at the moment. They seem to take great joy in finding things other people do that give them a reason to express how offended they are. They are self righteous and relentless, and they are generally armed with good grammar and at least a moderate gift for intelligent debate, which makes them harder to dismiss as crackpots. 

I usually agree with the general basics of the beliefs of these far lefters, so I just let them say what they want, and I don’t argue with them. I just try to ignore what they say when I don’t like it.  I agree that people need to be called out when they are wrong, but I just don’t agree with their methods. Therefore,  I can respect their space and keep myself from arguing with them on their own turf,  but often, when I share something on social media myself, one of these types will latch on to a word in the headline or a icture of a celebrity who is loosely related to the situation, and start railing at me and anyone else who has the misfortune to be looking at it.   Other innocent bystanders might comment  with a slight objection, or maybe they’re just not agreeing in the right way,  and they are then dragged into self righteous, inflexible debate for hours if they don’t just flee the situation. If I ask them to stop, I am ‘oppressing people with different opinions than mine”. If I just delete the post, I must be ‘uncomfortable talking about my  bias or secret bigotry’. They can’t imagine that it might be because I just don’t like endless, un-resolvable arguments over details. That I don’t want to see my slightly less liberal friends, or elderly relatives who aren’t as good at arguing get publicly humiliated.  I’m all for civilized debate, but if I know from experience that someone is about to jump on a soap box and refuse to listen to anyone else, I’m deleting the conversation. I don’t care how ‘right’ you are about what you’re saying.  We have enough bullshit to deal with in 2020 for that to ever be worth it. 

I don’t know what is in other people’s minds, but it looks from where I’m sitting that for these people, being right is far more important than other people’s mental health or even friendship.  Some of them have a particular pet argument, and others are like that about almost everything.  I knew a white man whose pet arguments were racism and sexism. He was very vocal about how against both of those injustices he was, but he spent a lot of his time telling black people and women how they should  feel about their oppression.  When anyone called him on it, he would freak out and claim to have been ‘attacked’ for his views. There is no way to win or find a compromise with someone like that. No matter what side they’re on. 

 Are they also brainwashed? I don’t know. I didn’t notice this happening any more than I noticed it with the other ones. Maybe they feel guilty about whatever privilege they have or seem to have, and they’re trying to prove they’re not bad people for it? Perhaps they have become so bored with the echo chamber they’ve created for themselves that they’re desperate for a debate and  have no more conservatives left in their lives to  argue with. Whatever it is, I’m exhausted with it.   I guess some people think arguing is fun, but I don’t. With these people, I’m usually on the same side of the issue. We’re almost always  just arguing about a tiny detail, and that is just draining. 

woman holding her head Photo by David Garrison on Pexels.com[/caption]

Both extremist teams seem to me  to lack empathy and don’t seem to remember, online anyway,  that actual humans are complicated. Every person comes to every situation with their own  complicated baggage. They bring with them everything they are born with, everything they’ve experienced and everything they have learned. All of these things factor into a person’s interpretation or reaction to the world. The difference between the two extremes is that one side isn’t pretending to care, while the other side loudly and adamantly claims they do.  Maybe it feels like a game to a lot of people to argue online because you don’t have to look into a person’s face while you’re tearing them down.   Everyone is just an avatar and black and white text on a screen, so it doesn’t feel like they are real. 

In order to live in a society, we must deal with other people, and other people are separate, unique beings. They have their own minds,and yeah, some of them are wrong in their speech and behavior. Hell, we all are wrong that way at times (even you, PC Peter). Sometimes minds can be changed,  but running at people acting like a pompous know-it-all with an ax to grind rarely changes someone’s mind.  It usually only makes people angry and defensive.  People on both sides need to chill the fuck out and choose their battles if they are actually trying to get people to listen, instead of having everyone they talk to that isn’t exactly like them quitting every conversation in defeat and frustration.  

If it’s just arguing that is fun, I recommend these people who feel that way finding each other and having a group for it or something, instead of continuing to alienate everyone else in their lives.   Don’t we have enough sadness and anxiety in the world at the moment without creating more? Just a suggestion. 

Dabrina Sandifer!

It’s been a bit since I blogged. I’m working on one now, but a lot is going on, so I keep putting it off. Meanwhile, I’ll do another ‘Fabulous Women I Know” post… this time, it’s about Dabrina Sandifer! 

She looks like a celebrity!

I met Dabrina when she took over a role in our play festival at the last minute and learned the lines and the part in like a day or something and knocked it out of the park with her performance. I was like… ‘who is this rock star?!” and I wanted to know her better. 

Well, it turns out, she IS an all around superstar. When you see her in a photo, it is obvious that she is a glamorous and beautiful woman with a strong mind and a confident personality (yes, you can tell all that from a photo. Look at the one I just posted!)

But other than that, you wouldn’t believe all the stuff she does. 

She is an actress,director and producer in Houston theatre. She is the Executive Artistic Director and Programming manager Esurient Arts, whose mission is To present art that reflects under-represented stories and making the arts and training accessible to all.  Check it out: https://www.facebook.com/pg/esurienttheater/about/?ref=page_internal

Esurient does all kinds of performance related projects, and is also going to do some programming for youth in under-served communities this summer.  Dabrina is also on the board of Mildred’s Umbrella, the company I founded that supports the work of women in theatre, and she works with many other companies in town, as well. 

about to perform in a play.

She is a guest host on the radio show, Living Art, on KPFT, and she’s got a solo radio show debuting this week on ALL REAL RADIO,  (it’s on https://www.allrealradio.com/ , and it’s also an app) that focuses on arts and community efforts. It is called ‘Dark Mondays”, so totally check that out! 

She is ALSO the program manager in Crisis Intervention & Supportive Services for low to moderate income and under-served communities. The goal for her position is to “bring resources to participants with a mission of empowering, improving quality of life, and providing opportunities for positive progression across generations.”

AND she’s recently done some extra work with the Honorary Mayor of Sunnyside, working alongside HPD to get food and supplies delivered to senior citizens during the Covid-19 crisis. 

her mask matches her outfit, because she literally always looks perfect.

Even though she is constantly working her butt off  to make the world a brighter and better place, she never looks even slightly bad. Somehow, in all of this work she does, she is always polished, coiffed and gorgeous. 

I know it sounds impossible for one person to do all of this, but she does. Sometimes, I think there might be 3 of her, and we just never see them all in the room at the same time. 

In addition to this, she is smart, funny, nice, and she loves nature and animals, especially dogs. 

So.. obviously I needed to tell everyone about this lovely person that I get to know. Everyone should check out her radio shows and her theatre page. She’s amazing!  

Laura Moreno!!

I haven’t done a ‘Amazing Woman Who I Know!’ post in a while, so here’s one!

The lovely and talented Laura Moreno!!

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Laura is a multi-talented theatre artist.. she’s an actor, director, costume designer, makeup and wig artist (and probably more. That’s what I know). She is also basically the ‘Miss Congeniality’ of Houston Theatre, always making sure we all stay connected, and trying to help support and promote the theatre happening here, whether she’s involved in a show or not.

Recently, you might have seen her acting in The Catastrophic Theatre’s FEFU AND HER FRIENDS, and you might have seen her fabulous costume/makeup design in Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre’s LADIES NIGHT WITH SAMUEL BECKETT.

(Above, here’s Laura acting in Fefu and Her Friends (rt) and costume design for Ladies Night with Samuel Beckett. )

She supports women in Houston theatre by running a fabulous page on Facebook, where she props up her sisters in Houston theatre by promoting them and their shows: Womxn in Theatre – Houston

Shes also a mom to literally the cutest baby who has ever existed (many people will back me up on this fact), Izzy, and she’s finishing up her MFA in Directing at The University of Houston School of Theatre and Dance after receiving a BFA in acting there in 2016. AND she is a teaching artist for The Alley Theatre and on the advisory board and play selection committee for the Sin Muros LatinX Reading Festival at Stages.

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Laura doing work (and Izzy!!!) 

I mean.. there’s probably more, but I have no idea how this woman is winning at life so hard with the stuff I mentioned, much less more. She’s a super hero. She constantly thinks of the community and does so much to prop us all up, while rocking hard with her own work the whole time.
So.. YAY TO LAURA MORENO! 

lauraMolly

 

Bite me, Phyllis Schlafly

 

This week, I started watching Mrs. America, which is about the women on all sides of the women’s liberation movement in the early 1970s. Later in the week,  I had a totally unrelated conversation with my mother, where she expressed regret to me about how much she missed out on doing in her life. She’d never really directly said that to me before, although I did suspect she might feel that way at times.  It occurred to me that she was a young woman at the time as the events portrayed in that show. She just wasn’t important enough to anyone with power  to have her voice heard about it, and I suddenly felt very sad about how hard that must have been for her. 

 

Mrs. America starts with Phyllis Schlafly, whose mission was to hinder progress on the Women’s Liberation movement. The first episode is from her point of view, which made me a little skeptical about watching it because I didn’t want to see her as sympathetic. The show in general deals with every side of the issue, including the way mainstream feminisim leaves out black women and gay women, but the main struggle is between the feminists and the women hell-bent on keeping them down. 

 

After watching that first episode, I still didn’t like Schlafly, but I could see how a selfish person who truly knows nothing of other people’s hardships could end up in her position. She is basically framed  as a woman who originally had other political interests, but settled on gender issues because that was the only way the men would let her into their politics. She used the desire that other women had to have rights as rungs in a ladder to get a little higher in the world, before pulling that ladder right up behind her. Just like the women she oppressed, she wanted more than just marriage and kids. She wanted to be a person, so she found a way to get what she wanted by keeping options away from other women. I think she is worse than the patriarchy. 

 

What really strikes me watching this though, is the place of privilege that a woman had to be in to get her voice heard at all in 1972.  In the show, and in real life, these types have cushy, safe lives, with financial security, and husbands with enough power in the world for them to matter. There is nobody who isn’t white in their lives except their maids, who had to be working women in order to support the lifestyle that the Schlaflys of the world were clinging to. That didn’t seem to matter to the conservative white women, because their ideals didn’t apply to anyone of color. The ridiculous thing is,  they were fighting for a right they already had so they were not really fighting FOR anything. Their real cause was to fight against the rights of anyone who wasn’t  like them.  

 

My mother was a young woman at that time, and the influence of people like Phyllis Schlafly affected the entire course of her life, sweeping her along on a path that she didn’t necessarily choose for herself. She wasn’t in a place of privilege, and there wasn’t anyone in her universe to help her change course. 

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My mother, Linda in the late 60s

My mother is from a middle class family. She was pretty and  intelligent, with a love for books and a talent for writing, among other things. She had loads of natural potential. But her parents were from Oklahoma. They were children of the depression. Their parents were poor people who had flooded into Oklahoma during the land rush, hoping to make some kind of life for themselves. They came from a long line of hard working people, who were trapped in tradition, with conservative voices leading their choices in life. Nobody went to college to help broaden their experience beyond their own community. There was no role model to tell my mother that she could do anything bigger than her parents had done. She wanted to go to secretarial school and learn a skill to at least make a living, but her mother talked her out of it and persuaded her that marriage was the best path. So at 18, she married the boy from down the street and had a baby soon after.  That baby was me. 

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My mother (right) pregnant with me. My aunt Gloria is with her. She was equally repressed. They both look like children who are way too young for motherhood.

By age 26, she was divorced, had three children, and was remarried to a man who could support a family so she could be a full time housewife and mother like she was told she should do. He was domineering and abusive, but instead of telling her to leave him, her mother told her that it must be her fault, and she needed to work harder to make him happy. She had found a provider, and it was her job to keep him, or the failure was on her.  My grandmother didn’t invent this idea. She learned it from the patriarchy. She was only preaching the same bullshit that the anti-feminists were also preaching. They were all brainwashed into believing it was true, and passing it on like a bad gene to their own daughters. 

 

When my mother finally got the courage to leave her husband after her mother passed away, she was left with three kids, no money and a foreclosed house, because he literally disappeared on her.  She found herself having to work 2 low-paying jobs  just to keep the bills paid, because she had no skills besides being a wife. She was 35 at that point. She almost worked herself to death for years, trying to make sure her children survived to adulthood. 

 

 I was there through all of this, watching my mother give up her life, first for the happiness of a man, and then for the survival of her children.  Being a wife and mother looked like the worst way in the world to lose your personhood. It looked like slavery to me. I didn’t feel that way because of feminists telling me. I felt that way because I saw it happen my entire life, to my mother and others.  I’m sure there were plenty of people whose experience with this is different,  but my beautiful, smart and talented mother sacrificed her entire youth to being a slave, because of ‘family values’ that were pressed upon her every time she tried to do something different with her life. She was born a bit too early to benefit from any women’s rights movement, and her family and community were driven by the ideas pushed in their faces by their churches and by conservative leaders, binding women to abusive men, or leaving them abandoned as single mothers with no skills to make a living. 

 

My mother didn’t respond by pushing that same crap on me and my sister. She made sure we knew we had choices. She never pressured me to do traditional things, but she supported my sister’s choice to do so. She never told me to get married, and supported my decision not to have children. She  is a feminist hero. She survived all the shit that the patriarchy threw at her, and then broke the freakin’ cycle. 

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My mother with me in the early 70s. She was probably around 22 or 23.

I am proud of her strength, but I weep for that young woman that she was. I weep for all of the young women who didn’t really have options, and I thank the ones who kept up the fight with other people in mind besides themselves, because without them, my life would have been totally different. So, I understand trying to make Phyllis Shlafly a person with reasons for what she did, but she can bite me. 

 

Women are still trying to hold each other down in the same way Schlafly did in the 70s. Why? Is it fear that their own choices will be taken away from them if other women do something different and everyone discovers that they can? Is it jealousy that they wanted to do something different and they weren’t brave enough? Or is it just an absolute lack of empathy for or other people? I don’t know. All I know is that the Shlafllys of the world were the ones whose voices mattered, and their words and actions hurt a lot of other women, then and later, and even now.

 

A Weird Peace….

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My grandmother under the crab apple tree.

 

My essay was published in the Houston Chronicle:

This is the link to the online newspaper:

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/A-return-to-the-Bower-Coronavirus-has-returned-15169071.php

Here is the text so I can preserve it on my blog.

Since the stay-at-home order, life has crashed into a wall. When it started happening, I was freaked out. Our trips were canceled, the theater I run was frantic about what to do about our shows, classes I teach were being forced online, people I know started losing income, and more and more people were being hospitalized. Would everyone I know become homeless, get sick or die? I was a ball of stress and fear those first few days.

I spent my entire spring break working nonstop to get my classes online. My brain was cluttered. I had this sense of panic, as if the fabric of the world would literally come unraveled if I stopped for a minute and just let things go.

However, a few days into it, I started feeling this weird peace. I went out for a few minutes to walk my dog, and I was flooded with nostalgia. I suddenly felt the reality that I wasn’t a slave to a calendar or clock, which is a feeling I haven’t had since I was 14 years old. It felt like even my heartbeat had slowed a bit. My brain was only acknowledging the present, and I wasn’t even thinking about work.

When I was growing up, my homelife was a war zone. My house was dominated by an unstable stepfather who made daily life into a minefield. His temper might have partly been because he was a workaholic. If he was home, we constantly had to be doing some kind of work. If we weren’t doing homework, we’d better be doing chores. If you weren’t working, you were lazy and a freeloader. Also, because of his job, we moved constantly. I’d just get settled into a school, and it was time to pick up and move again because he’d been transferred. My life was a blur of movement and discord most of the time.

After a stressful trip to Disney World when I was 8 years old had left unpleasant stains on my psyche, I chose to spend my summers alone with my grandparents in Oklahoma. My friends definitely didn’t understand why I chose to do that instead of going to Carlsbad Caverns or Mexico with my family, but I needed it.

My grandparents had a small, cozy house with a giant backyard. There was an old mimosa tree with flowers that looked like pink feather dusters, a crab apple tree with a swing hanging from the branches, and a row of pear trees in the back that always had fruit.

My granddad built me a gazebo with a porch swing on it. It had trellis posts and a ceiling, which were covered in honeysuckle and trumpet vines. He rigged it with electricity so I could bring my record player out there. We called it “the Bower.”

Once a week or so, my grandmother took me thrift store shopping, and I got books and random junk to make crafts. There was a secondhand book store a block away that I could go to trade in old books for new ones. I wasn’t lazy. I got things done. I climbed trees and read books. I discovered Beethoven, The Beatles, old soundtracks, Big Band music and jazz. I created art, wrote stories and played with my grandparents’ dogs. I learned to cook, did crossword puzzles and had conversations with my grandmother about philosophy and religion and life in general.

It wasn’t exciting. It was calm. The days were long, and the world turned slowly. Nobody cared what I was wearing or whether my hair was brushed. No alarm clock got me out of bed in the morning. I got up because I wanted to. I couldn’t wait to start a day that was all mine. By the time it was over, I was usually ready to return to regular life, but I never missed it while I was away from it.

When I was 15, I got a job, and I worked all summer. Since then, I’ve always had a job. Sometimes two jobs. Down time feels like a criminal act. Even when I’m on vacation, I’m working. I don’t think I am unique in this kind of life. The current situation is shining a harsh spotlight on just how precarious most people’s situation is, even if they constantly work.

I don’t want people to get sick or die. I don’t want people to lose their income. I want this to not be happening. But I feel like, in a way, the earth is taking a breath, and I am getting to take a breath with it. I’ll be glad when it’s over, but I also know that I don’t want to go back to my life exactly as it was before. This is a wake-up call.

Decker is a professor at Houston Community College, and the artistic director and co-founder of Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company.

 

Patricia!

I haven’t blogged for a bit, because my brain has been bouncing around with all this virus chaos, but while I sort out what profound wisdom I feel like sharing next (Haha! Just kidding. It’s just me venting!) I wanted to do another FABULOUS WOMAN I KNOW post.

This time, I want to tell you about my amazing my friend, Patricia Duran Hays. If you know her, you probably already know that she is wonderful, but if not.. Imma tell ya!

Patricia is one of my best friends. She is honest, loyal and wise. She has been there for me through every trial in my life since I’ve known her, with a calming presence and sound advice.

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The two of us a long time ago. I’m not even gonna say when, because I don’t even remember. 

She is also one of the most talented actresses I’ve ever seen. She is a superstar, literally. Last season, she won ‘Best Actress’ in The Houston Press for her work, and it was well-deserved.    She’s also a good singer, dancer, director and all around theater artist. She’s a founding member of my company, Mildred’s Umbrella, and has done everything from acting, directing. sound design, costume design, newsletter drafting.. whatever.  She’s also worked in almost every theatre in Houston now, and shines on stage in every role she’s in. I don’t think there’s anything  she can’t do. 

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When she won ‘Best Actress”

Anyway, she is AMAZING. If you want to see her acting bio, it’s here, but if you’ve ever seen her, you already know: Patricia bio

And, I know its not totally fair for someone to be this amazing AND gorgeous, but she’s also stunningly beautiful.

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Photo by Lyndsay Sweeney

Anyway, here’s a video I did for her on her birthday if you want to see it.

Birthday Video

So.. if you have any acting work right now that can be done under the current social distancing rules, I recommend her for it. Actors are out of work right now while the theatres are closed, and  this is one actor you definitely want to hire.

Love you, Trish! xoxo

Why I am a Buddhist Witch

I’ve never been a religious person. I’m not really a “joiner” by nature, for one thing. I don’t even like exercise classes. I prefer to find my own path with things. I have absolutely no bad feelings to people who do believe a mainstream religion,  as long as they don’t ever use it to hurt anyone or as a tool of discrimination. It just doesn’t work for me.  

I think if you get to the core of any religion, they’re all basically good, with the focus on just being a good person. They’re also basically alike at the root of them all. However, some of them have been mucked up along the way with negatives that were added here and there for the benefit of people who wanted to control others, and those are the parts I can’t deal with. Any religion that has the slightest hint of misogyny will be dismissed immediately in my world, and that includes most of the major ones. 

In my search, I have found two religions that I have embraced based on a lot of reading, thinking and comparing with my own intuition and the known universe. They are Wicca and Buddhism. 

I like Buddhism because there is no ‘God’  that you are supposed to worship. The whole religion is about how life equals suffering, and  the idea is to learn all the lessons you need to learn as a spiritual being. Nobody is expected to master it. We are all just expected to do our best. Nobody is going to Hell. We are all just trying again until we finish learning. This makes sense to me. We are human to learn and grow, not to be punished just for being what we naturally are. 

two buddha figurines
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

The five basic rules of Buddhism (in case you don’t know) 

  1. To avoid taking the life of beings. Most people agree that it’s not ok to kill other people, but this rule doesn’t apply to just humans. The idea is that all living beings have the right to their lives and should be respected. This makes sense.  Civilized and enlightened people are compassionate toward animals. 
  2. To avoid taking things not given. Obviously, don’t steal things, but to me, this extends also to things that are not material. Basically, don’t take anything that wasn’t meant for you. I think it applies to  forcing people to do things for you that they don’t want to do, or taking credit when someone else deserves it. Exploring this in myself, I need to be mindful that I don’t use passive aggressive behavior to manipulate anyone into anything. That’s something that might happen unconsciously, if we don’t stay aware. 
  3. To avoid sensual misconduct. A lot of people think this is only about sexual misconduct or excess, but it also extends to gluttony or any excess. As physical creatures, we each have our own issues with this. I feel like hoarding material things might fall here, too. 
  4. To refrain from false speech. It seems like this only refers to lying, but it also extends to any speech that is harmful to others, like gossiping or slander, or just saying mean things to someone. This one is the hardest, I think, because sometimes my harsh speech is reacting or retaliating, and that is an impulse that is harder to control sometimes for me. Also, gossip happens at times. I’m going to try to keep that in check. 
  5. To abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness. It seems they aren’t judging people for drinking or doing drugs because it is pleasurable, but only because it causes people to lose control and break the other 4 rules, which makes SO much more sense to me than ‘ don’t do anything fun because fun is not allowed’, which is what some of the other religions always  seem like they’re saying to me. 

These things are not rules that are there to make people unhappy or that one will be punished for breaking. They are guidelines to follow to further your path to enlightenment and happiness. That makes sense to me. 

 

I like Wicca because it is based in nature, and the balance between masculine and feminine is fair. One is not better than the other, and both are needed for the world to work. There is some magic involved and deities (It is important to note that they are Gods AND Goddesses), which usually makes me skeptical,  but if you take that as a metaphor for respecting and connecting with nature, it isn’t really that weird. Physics is just as weird, and nobody really understands that either, so I can take that part in stride. 

THE Basics of Wicca: 

Nature is Divine- respect everything, from plants to animals to elements. Um… care about the planet AND respect life. How could that not be right?  

Karma/Afterlife– No sin, just consequences for your actions, and a cycle of life that happens until you get it right and are ready as a spiritual being to move on to whatever is next. 

Personal responsibility – be responsible for your actions and accept the good or bad consequences that you bring to yourself. Totally logical. 

Harm None– no harm should intentionally be done to another being.  

Respect for others beliefs– Here we go! Each person must find their own spiritual path without coercion. Is there another religion that specifically states this? Because it is very important to me that this is part of my own belief system. 

The main idea of both of these paths is to be aware and responsible for your actions, and to have compassion towards other living beings.  The big dilemma for me personally is that while not enough concern for others will generate negative Karma, too much concern for others can be a hindrance and can also bring negativity.  The challenge is to balance it. I used to always put everything other people wanted before my own needs. I wasn’t always doing it because I am a good person. I was doing it because I have been conditioned with the particular events of my own life that my needs are not important, and making other people happy is the only way to hold value. I found myself resenting it, and that makes for bad thoughts and actions, and generates bad Karma, which to me is just bad energy that builds up when you are failing at being a good person for whatever reason. It is logical that bad actions and thoughts bring a bad response. 

 

So anyway.. I guess I’ve created my own label. I am a  Buddhist Witch. I am going to do my best to follow the rules of being an enlightened person, aligned with nature and respectful of science. I’m going to try and fail and try again. I encourage everyone to craft their own path. If you have one already, good for you! If not, find something that makes sense to you,and that holds you accountable without making you feel like a bad person if you mess up. Good luck! 

 

Becky!!!

This week, I want to brag about another fabulous woman I know. Her name is Rebecca Ayres. She is a friend who is like a younger sister to me, and she is the other half of the dynamic duo that took Mildred’s Umbrella Theater to the next level (nobody is Robin. We are both Batman). 

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how she looked when I first met her. A baby! 

She has worked in the arts in Houston since 2003 (and I’m not lying that she was basically a child back then).  She worked with Diverse Works and Infernal Bridegroom, which was the coolest theater back then, and is now Catastrophic Theatre. That’s when I met her, but then she went off to travel for a while and got a degree at NYU in Anthropology and Comparative Literature, because she’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She also started working for Mildred’s Umbrella here and there around 2007ish, doing set design and technical stuff for us. In 2012, she started helping more with the administrative side, and served as our Managing director for several years. Because of her, we now have a database, a ticketing service that we can control, and organized files that we can actually find.

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This is the only photo I can find of us working together, by our friend Eric Doss. This is us in NYC getting an award from the American Theatre Wing for our theatre company. 

While she was doing all that organizing for us, she also went and got a  Master’s degree in Arts leadership, and is working at a fancy job now at the American Heart Association, but still helping me with the theater when I ask because I basically can’t live without her. 

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this is how bad-ass she is like ALL THE TIME. 

She is a huge supporter of animals, and has gone above and beyond over and over to rescue hurt and lost animals that she finds or hears about. She’s also a pet whisperer. I think she talks to them telepathically, or she knows their language or something. 

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Anyway, she’s super smart, pretty, compassionate, organized and she can lift a couch by herself because she does that Cross-Fit stuff that I wouldn’t dare try because I would die. She is funny and nice, but she doesn’t suffer fools. 

The last photo is courtesy of Gentle Bear Photography, btw..

Hooray for Becky!!  

Goodbye, my friend. See you in another life..

 

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that my friend Wayne was dying.  It shouldn’t have been a shock. He had cancer several years ago, and he was in remission, but it came back, and he was losing the battle. 

The death of someone you care about is a life-changing event in anyone’s life, no matter how it happens. You not only lose someone you care about, but you also have to think about the fact that it will happen to all of us eventually.  I have had people in my life pass away before, but it has always happened either suddenly, like an accident or heart attack, or it happened far away, so I knew it was happening, but I didn’t actually see it. I always said before, “I wish I’d had a chance to say goodbye.” However, even when you do have a chance, it’s not easy to actually say it. You don’t always do what you think you will do. 

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Wayne was not just any friend. We were married for a while about a decade ago. Our marriage ended for various reasons, but not because I didn’t care about him.  I’ve had plenty of relationships where I needed to purge the person from my life when the romantic part was over, but I never married any of those people, so I feel like my judgement of him as a person was right. It was only our romantic compatibility that was wrong. At any rate, he always remained important to me.

 

 I didn’t divorce him right away when we broke up because he was diagnosed with cancer, and he was on my health insurance. He didn’t tell me when the cancer came back because I had found my soul mate and was getting married again, and he didn’t want me to feel responsible for him. I feel like we could call that love. 

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So, of course when his family told me he was sick again and going into hospice, and I should come right away if I wanted to visit him,  I went. By the time I got there, he was already standing on the platform of his upcoming journey, preparing to board the train. He seemed like a hazy version of himself, but he was still trying hard to be present, and conscious of not wanting to seem helpless.

We chatted like it was just a regular day. Nobody mentioned death. We joked with each other and recalled funny stories. He mentioned that he was worried about his cats. His family couldn’t keep them, and he worried about their fate when he was no longer able to take care of them. He reminded me that they were mine for a bit when they were kittens, before we broke up. I wanted to tell him I would make sure they were ok when he was gone, but I didn’t want to talk about him being gone, and I knew I would cry if I let myself think about it,  so I just said, “I remember.” I relayed messages from friends who were thinking of him. Some of them were hoping for his recovery. His relatives were still trying to get him to eat. We were all in the land of the living, trying to hold him there with us. 

 

When I came back two days later, he seemed to have boarded the train, even though it hadn’t yet left the station. I sat with him for a while, but I wasn’t sure he knew I was there. I told him I would let him rest and that I would see him tomorrow. Why did I say that, like I thought he would be better the next day? I should have held his hand and told him it was ok, and to let go. I always imagined myself being the strong kind of person who wouldn’t let denial hold me back from the right behavior in that situation, but I turned out not to be. This isn’t something you actually know about yourself until it happens. 

 

The next day, I came back, and it was clear that he was leaving us. His consciousness was somewhere  else, and his body was a shell full of pain. I started to accept it by then, but I wondered if it was too late to tell him. In hopes he could still hear me, I told him I loved him, and that a lot of other people loved him, and I promised him I would make sure his cats were ok. He died a few hours later. I wonder if that’s all he was waiting for. I think that’s possibly why he wanted to see me. He knew I would take care of his pets.  

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I spent several days crying every time I thought of it. My already busy life was packed with helping to organize a celebration of life event for him, and I was also frantically working to find a home for his cats.  I was moving nonstop and was able to distract myself, but now and then I would see something that reminded me of him, or come across something that used to be his. I had been given a couple of things of his that were prized possessions when he was well, and I felt like I was stealing from him because I had them.   Sometimes, I would be eating, and I would feel guilty that I was doing something that he could no longer enjoy, or I would be outside, wondering if the last time he was outside, if he realized it would be his last time to feel a breeze. Every little thing I did in my daily life seemed so ridiculous and unimportant. I spent a lot of time wondering what the point even is in doing anything when it’s just going to end anyway. Everything  that is you will just be gone, so why do we do anything? 

 

That feeling still comes and goes, but it’s starting to come less frequently. There is no way to really live if you think too much about dying. Forgetting about it most of the time is the only way we can keep having a life that matters. 

 

 I don’t know where he is. I don’t know if he just stopped existing, or if he went somewhere else, or if he was born into a new baby somewhere, or if he’s still lingering on the edges of here where he can see us. All  I know is that he is not here anymore, and I am. Everything that is him is no longer here, and everything that is me will also go away. And that is going to take me some time to get used to. I also know that as time goes on, the reality of it will fade for me so I can feel like things matter again. Meanwhile, forgive me if I don’t fully participate for a bit.  I’m still saying goodbye to my friend. WAyneJennifer

Cathy Power!!

I haven’t blogged in a while, because a lot of stuff has gone on for me recently, but I’m overdue for a post about an amazing woman I have the privilege of knowing.

This one is about CATHY POWER.  Power is her name, and she lives up to it as an artist and as a person.

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First of all, she is an incredibly talented musician. In addition to all the instruments she can play, she’s a beautiful singer.  I remember the first time I heard her singing voice. I was helping a band called THE MISFIRES get gigs, and she was the singer on their recorded demo CD, and I thought she had one of the prettiest voices I’d ever heard. Then I saw her in a couple of shows at Infernal Bridegroom and later Catastrophic, and it turns out, she is a good actress, too. I’ve gotten to know her a bit since then, and I’ve discovered that she’s also just a really good person. She always jumps in to help when she can, and she is kind and compassionate. Recently, she jumped right in to help me find a way to re-home some cats because she is just good-hearted. 

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Here is her official bio: 

Cathy Power is a multi-instrumentalist and singer. Cathy composes and performs with Two Star Symphony when they play as an eight-piece band. She recently worked with them on a new composition for Dominic Walsh and Whim W’him Dance Company to be performed live in Seattle in January 2016. She also recently contributed as a composer and performer to the critically acclaimed album Seven Deadly Sins, which was released in 2015. Cathy also performs and records with the band, Merel and Tony and The Woe Woe Woes. Cathy was a member of the Infernal Bridegroom Productions company and orchestra for over ten years and is currently a member of The Catastrophic Theatre Orchestra. Among the many highlights of her career are playing Laurie in Speeding Motorcycle, a rock opera based on the life and work of Daniel Johnston, being named “Best Spectacle” in 2001 by the Houston Press for her work as a performance artist, being a musical presenter at TedX Houston, being recognized with Two Star by TALA as 2012’s Artist of the Year, and winning awards two years in a row working as a composer with Hot Pixel Action for Houston’s 48 Hour Film Project.

 

I totally recommend checking out her work. She will also be playing with one of her bands, Houston’s A.S.S. ( an accordion cover band), at Mildred’s Umbrella’s WOMEN ROCK! Fundraiser at Rudyards on Feb 22. 

 

Here is her website. 

https://cathypowermusic.wordpress.com/?fbclid=IwAR2JqzKJKkKhT6hUhvrnojmZYl6RethJCwsdAb5tFpv34xi_oCxM5DVvXWg