Thursday, September 4, 2014

The End of the Lone Wolf Model of Entrepreneurship: Creative Collaborations Between Powerful Woman That Make Money and Bring Joy

Next week, my dear friend, Ann marie Houghtailing, a brilliant business coach, speaker and solo performer, is flying to Santa Fe, where we are leading a four day intensive called Solo Performance Mastery together.

I am bursting out of my skin with excitement about our collaboration. Her focus on the business of solo performance and how to leverage one's show into a well paying caree,r is the missing link for many of my clients. While I focus primarily on the creative aspects of developing a solo show, this retreat will offer an extremely holistic approach to those who are devoted to this journey as their life time work.

Ann marie and I met when she flew out to Santa Fe to create her own solo show, five years ago, and, since then, I have hired her as a business coach and referred her to many other people. We overlap in experience and areas of expertise, yet each of us has a slightly different primary focus as well as complimentary, yet different tones, both personally and professionally.

We joke about our differences and Ann marie once famously said "Tanya and I are pretty much exactly alike except, not at all." 

The chemistry between us, I believe, has to do with the fact that we are each strong and individuated woman. Both of us are quite secure in who we are and what we do. We also both genuinely love empowering other woman. That impulse and wellspring comes from a very deep place inside each of us. I know that we recognize it in each other. 

We both dislike pettiness and small mindedness.Perhaps most importantly, we make each other laugh. In other words, we share values that enable a collaboration succeed.

My friend Candace Walsh and I have a similar, yet, "unique to us" dynamic. Candace and I have created a writing workshop called Author It! that supports people, over a six month process, to complete their memoir. Candace is an accomplished magazine editor and author herself. I have edited two books and coached hundreds of people on writing and performing their stories. 

As with Ann marie, Candace and I have a deep and abiding respect for each other's work and contributions. We also are somewhat yin/yang in style with me focusing more in supporting people through their perceived writing obstacles while Candace offers them tons of insiders knowledge about both writing and publishing. Again, I would say that our skill sets are both complimentary and overlapping.Yet, we come to the table with strong differences that only expand our offerings to our clients.

These partnerships with Ann marie and Candace have been a fairly recent development in my work. They have already been so fulfilling, that I am planning many more strength based collaborations to add to my service offerings in 2015.

As I celebrate and embrace these partnerships, I reflect on another less successful pairing I once experienced in business partnership and the differences in these two models. I also reflect on the fall out from that negative experience which influenced my decision to act as a lone wolf ,almost exclusively, for many years. 

Based on what I've experienced, I've come up with a list of Do's and Don't when considering partnering with someone in creative and financial collaborations~

1) Do, choose to partner with people one project at a time. 

I am a firm believer in steering our own ships. One of the reason's that things went south with my earliest foray into partnering with someone, was because we became business partners in everything, not just one project.This was an enormous mistake that ultimately cost us our business and our friendship. It took me years of recovery time to get back on my own strong path.Powerful people have different talents and interests. They also have different ways of doing things.The course changes many times throughout our professional lives.

When my former business partner and I were starting out, I think our own fears led us to think that our success was contingent on the other. Neither of us trusted fully that we could go it alone and be ok. This turned out to be simply not true and lead to irreparable conflicts. 

This is a warning; do not become business partners with someone in all your professional endeavors! Not in intention and definitely not legally. No matter how much you love them. No matter how you swear that your friendship can handle anything. People change over time. Be a free agent.

End of rant. You've been dully warned. 

Instead, partner with individuals who share your level of professionalism on a project by project basis.One of the paths stated above is the road to hell and one is the road to bliss. Seriously, this one point cannot be overstated.

2) Do partner with someone you know and respect professionally. They may or may not be a close friend personally.

The criteria for investigating partnerships professionally involve stepping back and taking a critical assessment of who this person is in business. Have they already had success in their own field individually? Have you interacted with them in a group setting? How do they present in front of other people?

You want to make certain that you will be able to trust the other person in a group situation. Because not only will their reputation be at stake but so will yours. You will forever be associated with anyone you share public billing with. I know this from personal experience, both good and bad. As I have become more experienced, I have become more discerning.

3) Do partner with people who will enhance your own brand.

I am very proud to share equal billing with both Ann marie Houghtailing and Candace Walsh in the workshops that we co-lead. Each one enhances the brand I have worked so hard to establish and I believe that I do the same for them.

Last year, Theo Pauline Nestor, the author of "Writing is My Drink" invited me to speak and teach solo performance at writing conferences that also featured Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg as speakers. Of course,I jumped at the chance. All of these woman, including Theo are well known writers and creativity coaches. Their work is complimentary and, indeed, I have used many of their exercises and techniques with my clients over the years. And, better yet, I got to share my own work with people who did not know of me or my work. It brought me several new clients and some came to me because of the credibility that was attached to the names of the other teachers.

In a win/win situation, this will go back and forth. Your good reputation brings credibility to your collaborators as much as theirs does to you.

4) Do, create a workshop or service where you each play slightly different roles. Define roles and responsibilities from the outset.

Who takes the sales calls? Who creates the poster? Who provides the workshop space? Who teaches in the a.m? Who speaks on what topic?

Even if you like to create in an improvisational way without every moment defined ahead of time (as I do), it is important to respect your collaborator and work things out for everyone's comfort level. You want to know what each of you will focus on and how you can support each other during the actual workshop. You don't want to step on each others toes on the day of the actual event. A little planning ahead of time allows for a smooth first run. Then after a while, if you collaborate on more than one project, you will intuit more and more things about each other that can lead to an easy flow.

5) Do Collaborate with Generous People (And always be generous yourself!!)

Candace sometimes shows up with home made goodies for our writing groups. Ann marie offers the services of her graphic designer and her technical advisor to deal with deposits and payments. Theo made sure that I was comfortable at the hotel as soon as I arrived to speak at her workshop in California.

I too am generous with my treasured colleagues. I'm always happy to promote their new projects on social media. And, when I initiate a project, I always suggest a 50/50 split with folks regardless of who is doing the lions share of promoting. There is no tit for tat. 

A spirit of generosity, both emotionally and financially is what leads to win/wins. Everybody feels valued and there is no hierarchy on the team. Both people are equally invested in making the event a success. This is what you want.

This is actually what moves your event to a higher level. More people will be attracted to it. It's what leads to joy and long lasting relationships. Generosity is what makes your business and life sublime.

People who are small hearted and cheap, may get by in the short run, but over time they never get the home runs. 

The people who get very close with me have huge souls. And part of having a huge soul includes generosity. They are the people who I want to continue to collaborate with, over time.


1) Don't give up your own individual projects no matter how much success you have in partnering. You are adding to your own value and reputation as you individuate as well as partner.

2) Don't work with people who are rigid or attempt to dominate you.

3) Don't go "off brand" or bend too far toward a collaborators brand.

Recently, I had an interesting experience with a planned workshop with a potential collaborator that flopped. We just didn't get enough interest in it to do it. On a creative level, I know that it would have been a wonderful workshop with great value for the right participants. However, when I closely examined it, I saw that it was slightly "off brand" for me. My expertise, that I have been developing for years, is centered very specifically around creativity, solo performance, therapeutic monologues, memoir writing and promoting all of the above. It is a niche field based on the writing and/or performing of a personal story.

The workshop that flopped was centered around living an abundant life. It was more esoteric in nature and the outcome may have been viewed as intangible and therefore less valuable. I was attempting to partner with a friend who is a healer and psychic. Now, many other people offer workshops on similar topics, many to great success. But for me, it ended up being a valuable lesson to stick closer to my already established platform. It is the area in which I am trusted and already known as an expert. 

4) Don't partner with anyone who you feel is competitive with you or jealous of your success. 

Even if you only feel a small inkling, stay away from these folks. You may be able to navigate some as clients who have this issue, though you will need to have ironclad boundaries. It's a skill I've mastered through trial and error over time. Therapists also need to learn this skill and some of my work is similar in nature. But, even if someone is talented and gifted, if you suspect that she has unresolved issues with other woman, run the other way. This is a hard won lesson for me as well as most of the woman I've partnered successfully with. It can be part of our on the job training as creative entrepreneurs.

A red flag in terms of looking out for these woman: First, they will put you on a huge pedestal. They will want to be your friend, flatter you and assume an emotional intimacy with you right off the bat that is one sided.

Later, when they see something in you that disappoints them, or you are not available for the connection they want, or they reveal themselves to you and then feel shame, you will not only come down off that pedestal, you will become demonized. You will especially become demonized if you have a healthy boundary with one of them.

Understand, that these people are dangerous and when you are considering collaborations, you must be very awake that these kinds of people do exist. And they will be drawn to you as you stand more and more in your own light.

Trust your intuition and never abandon yourself, especially if you feel any red flags.

5) Lastly, don't forget to have fun. Taking risks and trusting yourself to show up and do what it takes to have a joyful and productive collaboration is totally worth it.

Though I still love my one on one projects with clients, as well as spending time alone with on my own creative work, partnering well can offer much abundance and fun to our business'. It also combats some of  the fatigue that so many solo entrepreneurs face of having to always create and manifest on their own. 

Take a risk. Look down your list of friends and contacts. Who could you partner with for a win/win workshop or other event?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Holistic Abundance: Making a Living and a Life Through Your Creativity and Authenticity

There is such an illusion in American culture, in particular, that equates abundance and fulfillment with money only.

Notice I said "money only" not "money." While money is essential to our well being as humans, how we generate that money is just as essential, to move from survival to thriving on this planet.

As a person who facilitates and witnesses so many people's stories, I know for sure that access to money alone, whether through a trust fund or undesirable job, does not equate true abundance.

Making money as a form of payment for doing what we love and sharing our gifts in the world, is another story.

True abundance comes from so many factors: sharing our gifts, loving ourselves, being in service, expressing ourselves authentically and having deep connection with each other and our communities. This holistic abundance will take as many unique tones and expressions as human's on the planet.

Like so many of us, I was a child born in the sixties who came of age in the early eighties. I not come from a family of artists, with the exception of a great grandmother, who was a painter, and died long before I was born. My family were appreciators of art, in other words, audience members. Art was valued, but was also seen as something for "other people." Something wonderful and slightly mysterious, but not for us.

When my propensity towards theater began to grow in early adolescence into an earnest career destination, the family misgivings were loud and clear.

"You will never make a living in theater"

"You better take computer classes as a minor"

"New York is dangerous. Actresses are a dime a dozen"

"You promised your grandfather you'd go to law school"

"It's not a real job, there is nothing you can do with a theater degree"

These messages were not enough to entirely stop me from pursuing my path. I will say, that as long as they were in my head, they did slow me down.

However, whenever I tried to take on any other kind of vocation, I was miserable. When I was connected to theater and later, storytelling and writing, I was happy. Joyful actually and what money I  did make from my true calling felt wonderful, like a natural part of the whole.

I was thirty six before I finally started to make a living off my authentic work. By the time I started putting it out publicly, it had had a chance to grow and morph into something that truly reflected my passions, my talents and my unique way of expressing myself in the world.

And, I too had a chance to grow, emotionally and spiritually through many process's that allowed me to create from a place that was organic to who I am, in my essence as a human being.

Over time, I created amazing my from a deep well inside me along with supporting many others in the expression of their stories, books and solo shows. People had amazing transformations and I was learning from everyone I worked with for a very long time. I knew I was on my true career path. I have  intimately taken ownership of my creativity for a long time.

For years though, I continued to struggle with making enough money to go beyond living only from month to month. I also felt hopeless for a long time in the area of creating a personal relationship with a loving partner that could go the distance.

Part of my own path to creating a truly abundant life, was to continue to embrace various healing modalities that would allow me to release any pattern of limitation.

About three years ago, everything began to come together for me, deeper than before ,in ways that were both miraculous and swift. As I released more levels of family programming, fear and doubt, I manifested the missing pieces to my own abundant life.

I recently turned fifty. I was able to look back in wonder and awe that I had actually come to embody a life that felt out of reach for so long. My creativity continues to deepen, my clients are working on higher levels of creative consciousness, my daughter is thriving and launched for her senior year in high school abroad and I have finally have been in a loving partnership for the last few years.


And what I know now is that devotion to the deep path of abundance involves a level of fierceness and tenacity over time that must be lived. It is not enough to visualize, go to therapy or 12-step meetings. It is not enough to work through The Artists Way, though any and all of these things can be steps along the path. That will help you feel some movement, but without a deep sense of wholeness in yourself, you may still feel frustrated by experiencing "Abundance Lite" This is the state of having money, but no personal power in your primary relationship. Or a loving relationship, but still having a job that pays the bills, but does not allow you self-expression In other words, something essential to your well-being is awry and you do not know how to shift.

If you truly want to step into your authentic abundant life, I have created this upcoming retreat with my friend and healer/coach Robin Duda to support you in making the necessary breakthroughs.

It takes courage, tenacity and a ruggedness of spirit to have the courage to once and for all create our lives in a way that matches our deepest desires.

If you feel moved and inspired, please check out this link:

Come and embrace your abundant life and receive the tools to finally create what you really desire. Go for the breakthrough~

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stories From the Tribal to the Universal: An Authentic Process to Create Peace on Earth

Watching the escalating violence in Gaza and Israel these past weeks has been devastatingly painful for all of us who are connected to our hearts.

Hopelessness can be easy to succumb to in the face of such an overwhelming violent conflict that carries the history of tragedy that spans not only decades, but centuries. The issues of these two tribes, closely related, but with marked differences, is the archetypal stuff of legends, stories and unfortunately, ongoing conflict.

The issue of tribalism and tribal allegiance really does play out on the world stage. So many shake their heads and wonder, why does cognitive dissonance and lack of critical thinking run rampant through communities of otherwise compassionate, intelligent, progressive people? How do people get so polarized? How do we bring empathy for the perceived "other" into the conflict?

This is a theme and process I have been exploring for many years as a storyteller, coach and originator of a therapeutic monologue process. When I began doing this work, I was drawn primarily to stories of deeply personal matters like those of my late mentor, Spalding Gray. Spalding was obsessed with the minutia of life and his own inner process. He was a brilliantly entertaining storyteller who was able to turn many events of his life into engaging stories.. He spun stories of his life from a most intimate vantage point. And, he did let us in on some of his own family stories, namely, his Christian Scientist upbringing and the suicide of his mother.

His inspiration was my starting place. My first and third solo shows, Honeymoon in India and Pregnant Pause were confessional and intimate, both stories of archetypal personal journey's. They were both well received and as I embodied and released my own narrative, through the act of being witnessed in performance, I found my self expanded and more concerned with other's narratives. In essence, as I had honored and released my story, my own capacity for empathy and concern for others grew. I guess you could say, my soul expanded.

I have seen the process happen with other solo performers as well. Often, once the deep personal story is embodied, told and released, a desire quite naturally arises to offer the space for others to have that experience. As we are generous to ourselves in the expression of our own stories, the generosity moves into the world.

After this, I began working with groups of people to support them in sharing their experiences and claiming them onstage. These early groups were mostly people with cancer, though this shifted to include many others over time. When people share their personal and familial stories onstage, the audience becomes their tribe, encouraging, bearing witness, empathizing, crying, laughing and loving.

This in itself shifts the limitation of tribal experience to one religious, cultural or ethnic group. This begins to expand the concept of tribe to humanity, whether the individuals personally know each other or not. And, the performing, opening his soul to share the true story with the audience, offers the audience a similar experience. Their notion of tribe moves from the familial to include all they are sharing the stage with and the community of the audience bearing witness.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to work with Israeli, Arab Israeli and Palestinian teens who came to a peace camp here in New Mexico. When they arrived from their conflicted homeland, where all of their tribal conditioning had taught them to see each others as enemies, I knew that this work could be used in a more powerful way than ever. As the girls went through the writing and performance process together, tears were shed and once hardened opinions about each other were softened. A tremendous amount of trauma was processed as well. 

Interestingly, much of the trauma was not the girls own , but the trauma of their families. Jewish girls wrote of the trauma of their grandfathers and great-grandmothers who perished in Auschwitz or survived and made the journey to what was then, Palestine. Palestinians also told stories of their ancestors, including ones of having their land simply taken and being moved off it unceremoniously by Israeli soldiers.

The girls moved through their own tribal pain and listened to the others tribal pain, including the Arab Israeli girls stories of being torn between two worlds and cultures, never knowing how they fit into the equation.

By the night of the performance, they had each others backs, literally and figuratively. As they stood, with roses in hand at their standing ovation together, there were all the tribal stories represented and yet no tribal domination.

The very human tribal experience, as it had been seen, heard and honored, shifted from the emphasis tribal into the Universal.

As I directly experienced it, in the moment I cried and got chills. Right there, I understood viscerally,  that I was being shown an authentic path to peace.

For others interested in StoryHealers work ( here are the orders of healing necessary for true deep and sustaining transformation:

1) The personal story is told in an emotionally connected and embodied way. It is honored, shared and released.

2) The family story is told in an emotionally connected and embodied way. It is honored, shared and released.

3) The tribal story is told in an emotionally connected and embodied way. It is honored, shared and released.

4) Now, we can move into the Universal story. One which not only recognizes oneness among all people, but which knows it as it's own. This is a place which transcends the trauma and pain of ego based tribal separation and knows itself AS the other. Ultimately, it comes to know that there actually is no other.

From this place of both vulnerability and great strength, one can step up as a leader in the quest for peace.

And, any person who has experienced this transformation will speak out, no matter what the consequence, when violence, trauma and injustice is being unnecessarily instilled in ANY one tribe over the other. They will not be swayed down tribal lines where there actually is no genuine free will. People in this state often use rage, name calling, bullying, hate and victimhood to distract from their deep terror that they do not matter. Or that their families and tribes suffering do not matter. Underneath all the revenge patterns lies the same wounded heart that needs support to be set free to love. The patterns will continue to play out on the world stage, as long as there is an attachment to the tribal beliefs over the Universal experience of oneness and love.

When I began working with stories through solo performance and storytelling over twenty years ago, I had no idea of their actual power to change circumstances. First they changed my life, by empowering me in finding authentic expression of my experiences and learnings from those experiences. But then, I found that they not only changed me, but shifted beliefs in both audiences and the performers.

No matter how long it takes, I believe that creating spaces for individual and collective healing to happen is the only way long term peace and emerge. That is the place where our hearts can move beyond the rage and violence that keeps repeating itself as a default, the place where old traumas have not had the chance to heal and the place of pain and separation for billions on the planet.

Please join me in holding the space for the disparate stories in ourselves and others so we have the opportunity to transform toward peace in our souls, embodied on earth~

In love to all~

A footnote: If all goes well, I will be taking the StoryHealers process to the West Bank and Haifa to work with theater artists on both side of this tribal story unfolding. With the escalating violence in the region, I ask you to hold everyone there in your hearts with good will toward all people. My team and I will be keeping you posted on the progression of the project and if the circumstances make it possible for us to go be in service to the stories....every human life matters. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

solo: What I've Learned by Fifty.....Reflections on an U...

solo: What I've Learned by Fifty.....Reflections on an U...: This is the last week of my forties. I was inspired by Anne Lamott's post a few weeks ago on turning sixty. I thoug...

What I've Learned by Fifty.....Reflections on an Unconventional and Creative Life

  1. This is the last week of my forties. I was inspired by Anne Lamott's post a few weeks ago on turning sixty. I thought I would comment on what it feels like to be turning one decade younger.

    I thought I'd share a few things I know for sure, to use "Oprah Speak" so to speak.

    Here goes:

    #1 I don't actually know much of anything for sure. But I do have some insights that are true for me.

    Coming from a linear upbringing on the east coast, going through the American school system and having my particular family, set me up to present myself as certain about everything in my life, even though, in reality, I have always been terribly uncertain. Part of my own healing journey has been to allow myself more and more, to live in the unknown and find off the beaten path methods to discover and create. As I allow myself to get comfortable with more uncertainty, I feel free, and, consequently, more alive. It is in the unknown that we open ourselves up to being surprised with our creative process and with life itself. Willingness to let go of set ideas offers more of a sense of presence which allows a deeper experience of all of life.

    #2 Traveling while I was young, especially internationally, has expanded and informed my entire life for the better.

    Luckily for me, I came from a family that saw great value in living and/or traveling abroad. By the time I was ten, I had spent time in Puerto Rico, Lebanon, Syria, England and Scotland. As a matter of fact, my most joyful memories of childhood were at my grand-parents house in Beirut, before the war. It was an extremely privileged life and we would walk down their stone steps, right into the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. My grandfather would take my to the King George Hotel for peace melba ice cream sundaes in the evening. We went to see Ella Fitzgerald at the Balbek Ruins. And yet, it was on this trip, which lasted an entire summer, where the seeds of my own activism were planted. My family and I went for a few days to visit Damascus, Syria. I remember when we got out of the car, we were surrounded by children, my own age and younger, trying to sell us Chicklet's gum. I asked my grandfather why they were so aggressive, so intense. He explained to me that they were trying to make enough money to buy bread for their family so they would have food to eat that evening.

    The shock of it blew my mind. I had never wanted for anything my whole life, and the full body realization dawned on my impressionable heart that there were children in the world who had nothing. So often, we hear and see bigots and racists spouting blind patriotism. And yet, these same people have never traveled to other lands and opened themselves up to even experience other people and cultures. They have not even tried to understand. Of course, this also happens in our own country, between different classes, races and ethnicities.

    The expansiveness of travel has informed my being more than anything. I create not for myself, or my country, but for all people. Traveling at a young age taught me that we are all connected and the place where we are born is pure luck of the draw. We Westerners have tremendous luck and privilege.....Which takes me to Point #3


    If you have been fortunate enough to be born into or with privilege, the only appropriate thing to do with it, is to use it to level the playing field for everybody.

    Is this clear enough?


    Longterm breastfeeding of my daughter was my greatest accomplishment in this life time.

    It challenged me to the max, it went against dominant culture and it was exhausting. However, the bond that we formed, and the extraordinary young woman she is, certainly has at least a bit to do with that ongoing act. And, when we hit rough patches during the teen years, I am fully convinced that it was the depth of that bond that happened in those early years, that brought us back to each other again and again. Love wins.


    No relationship is a failure, even if it does not last.

    This is an awareness that I have resisted and come to late in my life. For many years, I saw myself as defective because I did not create sustainable partnerships in romantic relationships. I've been married and divorced three times, over the three previous decades of my life. In my twenties, I married a sexy, handsome Egyptian. We met in New York and traveled to Cairo together in the winter of my twenty second year. Against family wishes, I married him. The marriage was doomed from the start. Values clashed as did cultures and neither one of us could see our way through the mess. In retrospect, I see the entire thing as a lesson in self love, self respect and a window into my father wounds that it would take years to begin to heal.

    In my early thirties, I married my daughter's father. We met in a twelve step meeting, where we were both seeking healing from family wounds and were each attempting to ready ourselves for adult lives. We wrote poetry together, made each other vegetarian dinners in our tiny apartment on Santa Fe Avenue and eventually created a perfect baby girl together. We went to India on our honeymoon and I came back and wrote my first solo show about the journey. He was my best friend. I thought we would be together forever. However, beneath the surface, he was battling a brutal and severe mental illness that would take him over completely and spit him out, just barely, many years later.

    My last marriage was the one that almost killed me. I married the man because he is a wild creative genius, and, I thought, my soul mate. Instead, I found someone far more broken than me and I was running out of time and steam in terms of being a savior angel for a wounded man. A few days after my 44th Birthday, I was sitting in my studio and a message dropped into my head. The voice was clear as a bell and came from the deepest realms of my being. It said " You need to leave this marriage, or you will manifest cancer within a year."

    And so, despite the "oh, shit" voice, which was going into panic and shock that I would be starting over, with my daughter, yet again, I moved out of our beautiful east side house, ten days later with $5,000 to my name. And the ending of that relationship took me to the kind of bottom/phoenix from the ashes for one more final and powerful time. And I knew, after that, that I would never give my power away to a man again. And, that led me to several years of deeper healing than I ever knew was even necessary. I finally landed in myself, around the age of 47.

    The fact that I landed in myself at all is a miracle and taught me that if we use all the heartbreak as food for awakening, we become more powerful than we ever know.


    I am teaching my daughter, that as a woman, she must learn to make and manage her own money.

    Thanks, Ann Marie Houghtailing and all the other powerful woman who have modeled to me that I must value myself in this way, to make an impact in the world and take care of myself and the people that I love.

    It took me quite a while to let go of conditioning that told me I must depend on a man or that I would never be prosperous as an artist. These past few years have really been about knowing this and embodying this in a much deeper way.

    It feels great to embark upon this decade knowing that I can ask for my worth and own my life financially, doing what I love.

    #7 Telling the truth about my age, is an act of power.

    I will not be bound by the patriarchy. My best is yet to come. I am grateful for woman who are empowered mentors who are rocking 60's, 70's, 80's and beyond.

    #8 I love you all and am doing my best. However imperfect I am, it has to be enough.

    So many of us have wasted years in rigid perfectionism and/or controlled by buckets of shame because we could never live up to an ideal, our own, or anybody else's. As a solo performance coach and memoir facilitator, I see, over and over again, how we all struggle to trust that our voice, our story and our very lives themselves are enough. There is so much suffering in these painful and illusionary beliefs. They are simply not true. If you are wasting your time, trying to be perfect, real moments will pass you by. Perfectionism is a way to torture ourselves and I refuse to partake.

    I am more ready than ever to enjoy the sensations of today, whatever is left undone. Paradoxically, that attitude allows me to get more done in the realms that really matter.

    It is through love of self, not hateful perfectionism, that I connect to my creativity, my source of joy, my empathy and my compassion. In short, my humanity, and after fifty years, that is where I intend to spend the rest of this journey. friends, frienemies, enemies, lovers, strangers, family and all the rest. You are all, at the end of the day, my own heart. My devotion is to our collective awakening, that we may know each other as our dearest self. Grateful for every moment of these almost fifty years~

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ten Tips for Artists/Family Mis-fits to Make it Through the Holidays!

Let's face it. Artists and the otherwise creatively self employed do not have an easy path in this culture. We are constantly asked to work for less than we're worth. Very few of us grew up valued and validated for our creative gifts. Instead, the messages we may have gotten ranged from " That's nice, Dear, now what are you really going to do with your life?" to " Artists are crazy, drunk and broke."

To stay devoted to a creative path as a life time practice and endeavor takes enormous determination and resilience. We often see others with steady pay-checks enjoying "extras" like regular vacations which we may have had to do without.

Fluctuating income is a constant state of life for many artists and may last for more years than we ever imagined when we began chasing our dreams in earnest. 

Personally, I have always found the holidays a particularly triggering time to deal with, in many ways because of this. Basically, for my business, cash flow stops for two plus weeks every year at this time. While those enjoying their paid time off do not feel this change, some of us may feel it accutly. Especially, as it is also accompanied by the endless obligatory pull to spend more and more money on gifts that we may or may not feel inspired to buy. Also, the pull to participate in family rituals that we may not resonate with can be overwhelming.

Artists are often also the family "mis-fit." That can make family get togethers uber-stressful. Many artists strive to break convention as part of their lives on a daily basis. Being in a creative mind-set opens one to different possibilities in every aspect of our beings. Going home and interacting with family of origin, may mean feeling like you have to shove your square-peg self back into a round hole, once again. Just like you did when you were a kid. Ugh.

Personally, I do not emotionally resonate with the holiday rituals. Interestingly, I have detached from them more and more as I have embraced my own sense of spirituality. The connection I feel to light and spirit, has nothing to do with the way Christmas or Hanukkah are presented. As much as I have tried, the ritual, dogma and processions leave me empty. The one thing I love, is spending quiet time with my partner and daughter and cooking us up some warm and comforting meals.

I have gone around and around with these dilemmas for years. And what I have come to learn that it is a great time of year for me to practice as much self care and self compassion as humanly possible.  

Here are some of my own practices in terms of remembering that I deserve as much love as anybody, and I cannot control other people, but I can offer it to myself.

Get back to Basics:


1)Drink lots of water, particularly lemon or lime water. Not only does water alkalize the body, it gives our brain what we need to stay energized and clear-headed. It de-toxes us and nourishes everything from the skin to brain. 

2) Take your supplements. Magnesium/calcium, Vitamin C, B-Vitamins all help the body manage stress. When I am in a bad place and begin to abandon myself, the first thing to go is drinking enough water and taking vitamins. I generally also begin to drink more coffee to compensate which wipes out my adrenals which makes me crave more sugar. An addictive cycle, which, while appealing in the moment as a quick fix, always wipes me out in the long run. A multi-vitamin goes a long way. This year I've also added tumeric and cinnamon capsules as both are supposed to be cancer and heart disease preventatives. 

3) Eat well. You know the drill. Fruits, nuts and vegetables at the top of the list. Protein and whole grains if that works for you. Gluten has been shown to be pretty toxic for most everybody.If you must have some holiday treats, make sure they're gluten free. We have a GREAT gf free bakery here in Santa Fe called Momo and Co...Here's their website. Check them out if you are in New Mexico 

4) Use Essential Oils. Nothing is more soothing to me than the smells of certain oils. I use lavender to soothe tension, eucalyptus to open sinuses, lemon to lift my spirits and oregano to support my immune system. The sense of smell can be so overlooked and yet, it can be so nurturing and sensual to make these wonderful oils part of our lives. When I had an acute panic disorder diagnosed many years ago, a friend brought me oils which contributed to my healing and eased some of the the terror I was experiencing. Now, I always have a few in my purse and by the bed. Certain oils, including cinnamon, clove and basil also raise our immune function and kill germs naturally.

5) Hot baths with epsom salt/baking soda: My doctor told me years ago that this is a great detox and super soother. And, a therapist once told me that if I am emotionally overwhelmed, to get myself into a tub of water pronto. Evidently, it helps the body/emotional body contain and reorganize itself. For me, there is not much more soothing that a detox bath and a candle. 

6) Juicing: When I started to go into menopause a few years ago, my skin started to break-out worse than when I was a teen-ager due to hormonal activity. I tried several products on the market to no avail, so began to research diets that might help my skin. Turns out that juicing veggies and fruits is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. It was a huge turning point for me to become willing to buy a juicer and juice daily. My skin began to improve dramatically when it began to get the nutrients it needed and turns out that juicing can help with hormonal balancing as well. Our local Whole Foods makes fresh juices at the counter. And, I bought a cheap juicer at Target last year that is going strong. My favorite juice recipe is: green apples, lime, ginger and celery. 

7) Re-Read Old Favorites: For me, there is nothing like taking a mini-holiday curling up in bed and  re-reading a favorite book. If I am in a tender spot, I like to go-back and re-read classics I love. Everything from memoirs, to cook-books, to childrens' books like Charlotte's Web or A Wrinkle in Time. Especially nice with hot chocolate or tea beside the bed!

8) Writing: There is nothing like getting in onto the page. Journal, do free-writes, write visions of what you would like to create, set intentions for the New Year, fantasize, start a dream journal, write bad poetry, plan a class you would like to teach, start a blog. Write by hand or on the computer. Let your mind and hand wander into some uncharted waters. Remember that you are an artist. You are a creator. During this down time or even during a family reunion, take some time to yourself to express who you are and what you want.

9) Connect: It can be easy to feel dis-infranchised over the holidays. Isolation and depression can really take hold. So, it is most important to connect to someone or something other than ourselves. This someone may be a dear friend, partner, community member or simply a walk in the mountains or on the beach to connect to our own souls.

10) Remember the Bigger Picture:  For me, I make a point to remind myself, that I am blessed and lucky to have a creative life and an authentic path, whatever the ups and downs. It's an enormous privilege and I know that I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Devotion to my Path as a Solo Performer~

I remember putting pencil or crayon to paper and the sweet relief I found from my own sense of isolation that seems to have followed me into this lifetime: a deep aloneness that I have never really shaken. For me, writing was about expression and connection right from the start. I would wake up early and write my mom a poem and slip it under the door before breakfast to surprise her.
It was sacred, it was a gift, it was an offering.
Some of my earliest memories are of writing. My mother, who was an elementary school teacher, taught me to read and write before I went to kindergarten.
She always tells me, that as soon as I could string two words together, I was obsessed with writing stories and poems. Forty plus years later, she still has some of my early attempts at storytelling as evidence. She has an upstairs drawer in a guest bedroom filled with little scraps of construction paper with my seven and eight word tales written on them.
By the time I was fifteen, I was ensconced in the world of theater. There was rarely a time when I was not in rehearsal for a show, both in and out of school. Theater became the defining center of who I was. It had already sheltered me through the death of a beloved grandfather. Early on I noted its emotionally transformative powers. It was a lifeline in an otherwise drab suburban landscape.
I went on to study theater professionally in college and at an acting studio in NYC.By the time I was in my twenties, I was becoming disillusioned with the offerings of the conventional American theater. I went to see “The Heidi Chronicles” by Wendy Wasserstein on Broadway. And though the character of Heidi was being touted as an archetype of the contemporary woman, I found very little to relate to in her high strung, over privileged neurosis. Then, I was cast in the second production in the U.S. of The Kentucky Cycle. It was an ensemble piece that explored the coal-mining communities of Kentucky through several generations. All the actors played multiple roles in the six hour production that played over two days for audiences.
Though undeniably brilliant, the play did not resonate with me or the issues I wanted to explore in theater. The female characters were all secondary to the men’s roles and although the play had just won The Pulitzer Prize, it did not speak to my heart and soul. And, as I had just devoted a year of my life to this show; that in and of itself was the beginning of a wake-up call for me.
My heart continued to return to an experience I had, in a small theater, when I was nineteen years old and studying acting in Boston. That was when I had seen Spalding Gray perform one of his early monologues. He sat on a stage and shared parts of his life with us that evening. It was fresh, it was raw; it was simple and it was honest. Above all, it gave me the feeling of connection that I so craved, even as a small child. He offered his humanity, even the embarrassing parts, as a way to create a feeling of intimacy. There was none of the artifice that hangs around most all traditional theater. I had carried the dream since I saw him perform and met him afterwards, that the personal monologue format he shared, was what I wanted to do, more than anything else in my life. And, I had no idea how I could possibly do it.
As I began to seriously contemplate turning the dream into a reality, some very basic questions emerged. How could I write my own shows when I didn’t write? And, how would I find the courage to stand onstage alone and offer myself to an audience? I figured that I would deal with the first issue first.
By this time, I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our small town is a hot-bed of creativity and turned out to be the perfect place for me to find my writing voice. One night, I was invited to a small coffee shop/bookstore for a reading of an author from Taos who had a new book out on creativity. The book was “The Artist’s Way” and the author was Julia Cameron. I bought the book and the journey was formally underway.
The next four years were devoted to daily writing. I wrote morning page. I wrote in my journal. I wrote poetry and read at poetry readings around town and in Taos. And, I began to write monologues.
During this same period of time, a local producer began to bring in solo performers from NYC to Santa Fe for shows (thank you Kol Heggerty!).. I saw John Leguizamo in “Mambo Mouth,” Anna Deavere Smith in “Fires in the Mirror,” Reno, Karen Finley and several more shows by Spalding Gray. It was as if I designed my own graduate studies program in solo performance and I was immersing myself in the curriculum. I might add that this was all happening in the early 90s and there were no official grad programs in solo theater, unlike the ones that are offered now.
I also immersed myself in other experiences that supported this path. I read Anne Lamott and May Sarton. I went to see Ntozake Shange, Simon Ortiz and Judyth Hill read their poetry. All of these people were exploring, in their own ways, intimacy. On the page and on the stage.
The other thing that was important in this mix was going to therapy and dealing with some emotional issues that had haunted me and blocked my full expression for much of my life. These parts of myself wanted to keep me smaller than I am and needed to be addressed if I was ever to realize my dreams of performing my own material. I think, that as creative beings, we all deserve to explore where we come from to truly discover what it is we most essentially need to say.  Also, for many of us, therapy or other forms of healing can be critically important when it comes to taking the brave steps required to offer our work to the world.
So, in 1994, between writing my own material and integrating my understanding of various structures, I wrote my first show. I was referred to a director, Wendy Chapin, who had a good instincts about what worked and what did not onstage. She challenged me constantly to write and rewrite for which I am now very thankful.
She understood the parts of the script that needed to be either deleted or transformed. Many of these passages were personally healing for me, but could be potentially seen as self-indulgent to an audience.
This is where the importance of voice and expanding my voice became the next step for me that was necessary in my process. It turned my personal material into something stage-worthy. I now see the same process happen or not happen with all of my coaching clients. And, when it happens, this is when we have a worthy public offering. Before this, it is still essentially a personal process.
Understanding this difference is part of moving from novice to professional is. For me, point of view or voice in its truest sense is where we marry our creativity, imagination, sense of humor and/or wisdom with our personal stories. It is where we have the opportunity to rise, for ourselves and others, to view our humanity with a bit more inspiration and levity.
In this place, we can fully claim ourselves as an artist.
Here’s the good news and the bad news. The good news is that this work of finding our voices, claiming our unique point of view, writing memoir, performing solo shows, facilitating others and all the other wondrous twists and turns our own paths can lead us into deeply satisfying, rich work of a life-time. For me and for many others I know, it is a joy, a devotion and a blessed, beyond dream come true.
And here is the bad news: There are no short-cuts in this work. There are many, many stages we each need to go through to claim ourselves in this intimate and powerful way. Your path may include many classes and workshops; it may include daily writing practice for one year or ten before you are ready to throw your hat into the proverbial ring, it may include acting lessons, it may include meditating and cutting out drinking or sugar. It may include watching every solo performance on Netflix you can get your hands on.
And then, there is the one illusive variable that separates those who end up having a creative career that moves past personal expression to one that is an offering to humanity. It’s called “Your Consciousness.” It cannot be duplicated and cannot be faked. It will show in your writing and in your presence. All the work put together plus your own earnestness and goodness of spirit must be included in this one thing for your life to truly soar. I have no hard and fast rules for you to follow to take ownership of this illusive, yet overarching energy. But I do know that it is absolutely essential to the soup. It is the secret ingredient. Only you can uncover it—and when you do—you will have a sublime and invaluable gift to share with us all.