so i'm doing this little thing called writing a book.
and i'm trying every which way but lewd to tap into my creative chi.
[is tapping into your chi more like mining for gold? or drilling for oil? OR searching for a vein?]
prayer, meditation, books. oh, and popsicles. LOTS of popsicles.
Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit" is a stroke of genius. or in the renowned choreographer's case, a "pas de bouree" of genius. she cuts right to the heart of an artist's agony with her opening line,
"i walk into a large white room". it could, and does apply to any medium along the artist's spectrum.
i walk up to a large white page...i walk upon a large white stage...
i'm in a large white daze...
[you get the idea.]
the white, the space, symbolizing the emptiness that grows exponentially with every second you flail, mired in a bland, beefy stew of mystery meat and unseasoned vegetables; stuck in a traffic jam of creative roadblocks, unable to put any miles between you and your creative destination.
your journey has come to a grinding halt.
[and you've got the skid marks to prove it.]
it happens. we can't all be brilliant, all the time.
so Tharp gives you exercises. fantastic, "what-kind-of-tree-would-you-be?", theatre school-esque exercises. writing letters to your dead parent, rehab-esque kind of exercises.
[i can dig it.]
one of her nuggets is attempting to do without certain things for a week. she has 4 suggestions:
speaking, newspapers, clocks and mirrors.
well, immediately i nixed suggestion #1. it would have given my husband waaay too much satisfaction, and quite frankly, i ain't yet that humble or serene.
suggestion #2 i pretty much do anyway. it's not like i'm floating around, all silky clean, in some soft, soapy bubble of denial about "the war of the worlds" out there; walking around like an alien who's just landed, ignorant to your earthly ways. no, it's popped virtually every day with a simple click, scroll or touch. by virtual osmosis, i can't ignore the crap out there if i tried. and i've tried. ever since the crash of '08, i've tuned out all talking heads whose only credentials for hosting the "news" seemed to be their 1/2 inch layer of orange, oompa-loompa makeup and voices so grating, dogs howl all the way down to San Diego - zealots suspiciously excited about Americans! losing! everything!
[uh, yeah. i know. livin' the dream...]
suggestion #3 was a bust, too. i haven't worn a watch since - well, honestly, i can't remember. there's always a clock on the dash of l.a.'s ubiquitous mode of transportation - your car. your cell. and even back in the day when i was barebacking the toronto transit system, every station had an advertising board with a clock, tracking my E.T.A..
about 20 years ago, k. gave me a lovely watch for my birthday. it had a gold face and a brown leather braided strap. i thanked my sweet boyfriend and laid it to rest in my jewelry box. you've heard of "the girl who can't say no!", well, meet "the girl who can't say WH-OA!". i am a barely disguised nudist at heart. jewelry is like bondage. i cannot deal with bras, as many of the friends i've flashed over the years can attest. if i'd wanted to be "lifed" into a corset, i would have become a re-enactor at a Ren-Fair. i am a free-floater. literally. even thursday, my beleaguered man had to remind me to don panties under the black shift that kept floating up around my thighs; the l.a. heat wave breezing hot, twirling my dress up "7-year-itch", subway grate style. and socks? socks are for athletes and men over 40 who wear sandals. i don't need anything tight around my permakankles, nor do i want a layer between me and my Viking heritage.
nothing gets between me and my Danish clogs.
but, mirrors. hmmm. now that sounded interesting. to go a week without looking in the mirror. the objective, according to Twarp, was to "see what happens to your sense of self...instead of relying on the image you see reflected in a glass, find your identity in other ways."
there was a period of time in high school when i thought i was a cross between Molly Ringwald and the fedora-wearing bassist from Duran Duran. yes, once i discovered midnight blue kohl eyeliner and colored mascaras, there was no going back. kinda like my infatuation for pills. eyeliner was to my 80's as Percocet was to my 2010s.
more is more.
no, even after graduating from The Sunset Gower Makeup Academy in Hollywood, i never really spent excessive amounts of time in front of the mirror. don't get me wrong. i am a girl and periodically, i really like being a GURL. i luv gooping on the lip gloss, sashaying through a wall of perfume and tottering out the door on my knock-off mules.
but, strip it all away and that's where i'd rather stay.
i get my groove on splashin' in the Woodstockian mud puddle. let me roll around free, hairy and bare, caking it on thick, covering myself up from the waxing and shaving and cutting. i could never, ever work under those migraine-inducing florescents, clocking in with a manicured punch, smiling with pageant-like precision, straining my glossy grin as i reach under my pencil skirt to adjust the pantyhose mummifying my legs, cutting off all circulation to my crotch and beyond. the upkeep is too tremendous. as soon as the drapes are dyed and hemmed, you're returning to brazil to remove the carpet. it's like weed whacking a yard fertilized with radioactive waste. it's keeps growing and growing...and glowing.
and you can still see my unibrow from space.
so, no. i do not have an office job. but if i did, perhaps Tharp would forgive a quick morning glance in the mirror - a brief survey of my landscape lush with pillow lines, eye boogers and cowlicks. conveniently, my hair fell out again - a side effect of over 32 years of medication - so my peter pan shag works really well for this exercise. quite frankly, i barely wash it, never mind check it. and yet, somehow, this woman can always find a way to incorporate hair products into her life.
what are those addictive scents they add, anyway?
strawberries? the rare fruits of Guam? opium?
yes, i felt ready to go out in the world without hair products, makeup and nothing Narcissus would fall into. ready to rely on the kindness of strangers to point out the piece of spinach stuck between my teeth or the toothpaste smear on my chin.
so i went forth. to boldly go where my ego had not gone before.
the timing couldn't have been more perfect. i was slammed with a Grade B chest cold [be damned, Ye Ol' Pipers of Pleasanton!]. a bug you'd be over by sunset, set up camp in this immunosuppressed chest for a couple of weeks. no, not sick enough to stay in bed all day, but frantic for 10 hours of sleep a night, leaving Halls like Easter Eggs scattered all around our house, and convinced my red nose could be seen from space.
i admit, i had a Mrs. Roper moment.
[step away from the visor, Jackie O. shades and moo-moo.]
but after my hands stopped twitching in the direction of my makeup case, they clasped and folded into stillness.
i'd wash my hands in public, and not look up. i'd brush my teeth and not look up. and i'd pass buildings [yes! i walk in L.A.!] and not look up.
on day #1, i happened to escort a dear friend on a trip to the ER. what a trip. i don't know that i've ever been the supporter and not the supportee of an ER experience. either way, it's nothing like Gray's Anatomy. no-one's fucking in a supply closet, no-one looks gorgeous after brain surgery and no-one remotely resembling McDreamy takes your blood pressure. although, there was one cinematic moment when my friend's attending physician answered his cell mid-diagnosis and barked, "Kish!". for a second, i thought it was a new medical term like "Code Blue! or "STAT!". no. just short for Kishineff, but long on impact.
["Kish" will soon be appearing as a character in Marmaduke 2: Look at the Size of his Poo!]
when my friend and i returned to his condo, his wife greeted me with a huge and happy hello, exclaiming, "you look beautiful!". really? i'd been deep-throating lozenges all night, was cross-eyed with exhaustion and was sure i had a soy milk stash.
and so it went.
the Starbucks barista called me "miss". score one for Starbucks. it's pretty much a 50-50 deal now as i round the corner into the home stretch towards age 45. half the time i'm a "miss" and i want to skip out of the store like a kilted girl in pigtails. which means the other half of the time i'm referred to as "ma'am" and the charlie brown theme of despair starts playing in my head as i duck and run.
but this was not an exercise in vanity alone.
i always wear even the tiniest bit of makeup. even to the gym. the "made-up-to-look-natural" look favored by most women of a certain age. even though no-one, to my knowledge, has ever flung their forearm across their eyes in horror at the sight of my naked face, i always felt i looked like Oprah without makeup - bare, startling, and quite frankly, kinda scary. but, when unmasked, Queen O becomes a face in the crowd, persona become person, a soldier joining rank-
-without her war paint.
and we like her even more.
"i walk into a large white room."
there was a physical freedom to not looking in the mirror. more time, less dress.
but the spiritual freedom came today.
as i dressed for a seminar on dialysis and kidney transplantation, i layered on the colors and creams, and a doll-face emerged, rainbow brite. and i looked like someone gearing up for war, smearing black under the eyes, answering the battle cry not of the "war of the worlds" outside, but of my "war of the worlds" inside.
there's a reason they call it war paint.
i would cover it all up and i still couldn't stand to look.
always fighting, never winning.
so, maybe it's all right to be a face in the crowd. bare. bold. free.
i don't have to stand out, to stand tall.
and the only one who has to like my face, is me.
and guess what.
walking into a large white room doesn't scare me anymore.