Friday, March 23, 2012

On forgiveness being the greatest gift one being can give another.

________: Friendship with you is a precarious thing.

You are mistaken in thinking
that your simmering anger
makes you strong.
You are wrong in concluding
that your fistful of grudges against her
honors your dead father.

She wronged you once years ago
and you have wronged her every day since
with cold stares from your dark eyes
or worse, by pretending she isn’t there at all.

You have frozen her in time.
Cold and blue,
she cannot move or change or grow.
She is a fossil of the girl she was,
a museum artifact inside a glassy case.

Don’t touch.

But time does not freeze selectively, _______.
If in your mind she will always be the same,
then your thoughts about her will always be the same
then your actions toward her will always be the same
[and what are we but our actions?]
So you, ________, will always be the same.

You are an icy figure,
and your ice has begun to look like stone.
If you don’t melt soon,
you will weather and disappear into dust.

Angry dust.

Yes, forgiveness is a surrender.
But your unsinkable resentment is not a victory.
Life doesn’t work like that.

I wish I knew you before,
it’s hard to know you now.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On loving myself and why I stopped shaving.

I've stopped shaving my legs... and my armpits... and my everything...

My sister Claire will attest that shaving has never been something I was any good at doing frequently. But the stubble on my legs always resulted from passive laziness, rather than an active choice. The decision to stop shaving wasn't a sudden one, but rather a gradual progression over the last few months of my 23rd year, the year I have entitled My Year of Becoming. This is roughly how the progression has happened...

Maura in December: 
"I sometimes forget to shave my legs, so there's often stubble. Sorry about that."

Maura in January:
"I don't really like to shave my legs, so I only do it occasionally. So, there's that."

Maura in February:
"I don't want to shave my legs, so I don't do it. So, deal with that."

There are a number of reasons that I think shaving sucks and have abandoned it:
  1. I often cut myself and bleed, thus attracting bears and vampires to eat me in my apartment.
  2. Good razors are expensive, thus leaving less money to spend on my vices, including, but not limited to yarn, cheese, red wine and costumes.
  3. Most importantly, shaving is something I've done continuously since I was 12 and I've never done it for myself, but because it's what I thought I should do.
Let me be clear... In choosing not to shave, I'm not making some grand feminist statement about how society is telling us women should look like Angelina's smooth, boney right leg thus we should all fight against the Man, wear burlap sacks and never shower. There is nothing wrong with shaving any part of your body... if it makes you, as a woman or man, feel more beautiful! In fact, my brother shaves his legs because he feels it makes him a more aerodynamic tri-athlete. However, I realized that I personally get nothing out of shaving. I don't feel more beautiful, or sexy, or desirable. I just feel annoyed that I could have spent that five minutes watching a clip of Sophia Grace and Rosie eating sandwiches on the red carpet at the Grammy's. 

I am not saying I'm somehow au natural in every aspect of my physical being. There are other modifications I make to my body to feel more beautiful. I construct elaborate hair-do's because they make me feel like a princess. I paint on blue eyeshadow because it makes my hazel eyes pop wide open (a trick taught to me by the strong and beautiful Gabra Zackman). I got a tattoo on my shoulder blade because I like the way it peeps out when I'm wearing a tank top (a look I stole from the lovely Anna Reichert). I get my eyebrows threaded because my unibrow starts to have a conversation with me otherwise. These endeavors to looks good outside make me feel great inside. That's the key.

I didn't throw out all my razors. I am an actress and will probably have to shave for a part. Maybe I'll want to be clean-shaven at a point down the road. And that's okay, because I'm not making a statement or a promise or an ultimatum. I'm just caring for and presenting my body exactly how I want to, right in this moment. My body looks different that it ever has before... and I really like it.

And as for the gentlemen, if they don't like it, that's too bad. I'm not worried. As I said to my brothers recently, much to their dismay, "I don't shave my legs, but when you've got a rack like these, it doesn't seem to be a problem." But seriously...

The whole point is, wait for it... 

Ladies and gentlemen, LOVE YOUR BODY. 
Dress it up or slum around. Be hairy or be smooth. 
Wear perfume or don't shower. 
But do whatever you do for yourself. 
Your body is home to only your soul. 
And it's effin beautiful.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On anxiety and contentment in this beautiful world.

We show great loyalty to the hard times we've been through.
-The Mountain Goats, "Riches and Wonders"

It's four in the morning and I can't sleep.
When recently getting to know someone new, I recounted one of the most troubled times of my young life. I don't remember how it came up, but the story of these few months always seems to resurface as soon as I begin to let someone in emotionally. This turbulent time from a few years back shapes my current mental landscape. Anxiety creeps back in and I am facing it head on.

In the summer of 2009, I was living on a dude ranch in Colorado. This summer was most adventurous and exciting. I hiked every week. I had an amazing guide horse named Josie. We reached an agreement that if I didn't kick him and gave him granola bars, he wouldn't run away from me when I dismounted to check my riders' saddles. I met some of the most fantastic women I'd ever met and made a few lifelong friends.

Pretty Josie.
Despite all the positives of this experience, at the end of the summer, under external physical and self-inflicted emotional duress from circumstances I needn't go into, I was enveloped by my first full-blown, crippling panic attack. Strong, confident me was now a crumbled mess, completely weak and petrified of the future. Thankfully, a group of heroes from Minnesota drove through the night to come rescue me. For that, I am ever grateful. I do not exaggerate when I say that I believe those men, especially one, saved my life.  Two weeks after this event, I moved to London to study abroad with my Guthrie classmates. I was not physically, emotionally or intellectually prepared to leave the country, my family, my boyfriend. Something had ruptured within me, a valve had broken loose and the weight of the world was now flowing through my veins. For two months abroad, I was miserable... and for no real reason. When I look though the photos of my first few weeks in London, I see a sad, shadow of myself. I look so lost.

One day, during that time, I ended up crying at the doorstep of Catholic church, where I met Father Tom. Father Tom was a charming, quirky old man, he invited me in saying, "Well, start at the beginning, dear, because you've just dropped out of heaven and I have not a clue who you are..." He made me tea and gave me a biscuit, which is required by British priest law. I told him everything, how delusional and afraid I was and how I wanted to go home. I wanted to give up the two years I'd trained in the program I worked so hard to get into. Although I'm sure he didn't fully understand what this hysterical American girl was saying, he gave me two pieces of advice which I never will forget:

you have one million dollars in your hand
and you are about to drop it to reach for a paper clip. 
Don't let your emotions get in the way of reality.

So I stayed. And on October 28th, I woke up and I felt better. Not perfect. But better. I traveled to Germany, France, Austria, and Scotland. I became friends with Tina Le and Anna Reichert. I crafted my mantra (My mission is to be humble and good.) The magic came back into my eyes.

This is all backstory to my original question: Why am I so loyal to this time? It is a time that I feel is vital to understanding the person I've become. But what is it that I am sharing... my weakness? my fears? Just so you know, this one time I lost it!

Lately, some of these panicked, anxious fears have returned to me... which is, of course, natural as I am 23, single, trying to make it as an actor, experiencing a brother just return from a war which has been going on too long, living in a new city, dealing with minor health issues, during an election year for a country with a financial crisis. But I never want to go back to that dark place, those fearful months when nothing was wrong but I couldn't smile. Someone told me yesterday that happiness is overrated; that may be true, but contentment isn't and contentment is a gift we can give ourselves every day.

I don't think it is wrong that our difficult moments define us... just so long as the jubilant, triumphant ones do as well. And so, if you see me and I look worried, put your thumb on my third eye and tell me to relax my brow. Tomorrow will worry about tomorrow. As my character Meg in Crimes of the Heart says after thwarting her sister's suicide attempt, "We've got to learn how to get through these real bad days... I mean, it's getting to be a thing in our family."

Lately, contentment looks a lot like this.