Archive | October 2011

An Empty Glass

The demands from work keep coming, your friends/family request your energy and time, the house could use some cleaning/organizing, your long range plans (vacations, career progression, health goals, financial budgets) need attention, and somewhere in between all of that you must make sure you eat, sleep, exercise, emote and have a little time to think.

Do you ever have those days when you’ve simply given all you can give?

I feel like I’ve lost touch with myself. When I wake up I’m still me, but for some reason I feel like a prisoner in my existence. It starts to feel like I’m just a lemonade stand with a constant string of customers each of whom has some issue- the price per glass is too high, the lemonade too sweet or too sour, the stand itself is positioned on an inconvenient street corner, one wants pink lemonade and another really just wants seltzer with lemon flavor…etc.

Two things seem to be at play from my perspective:
– Somewhere in my past I missed the lesson on boundary setting/enforcement
– I want to be accommodating, as it communicates that I care about the other person

The interaction starts as a simple one of trying to help, support or just spend time with another person – to meet their request of me. However, somewhere along the line it becomes a string of boundary testing…how far will I actually drive if my friend wants to eat at a specific restaurant chain only on the other side of town, how much of my personal life am I willing to lose in order to finish a report for a client in a short time frame, how much time can I spend preparing grad school applications to the detriment of time and activities occurring right now in real time?

For some reason, I have the idea that a good/kind person does all they can to accommodate the needs of other people/things, but also I seem to be under the impression that “no” does not exist in the dictionary – a competent person should be able to meet 99% of the demands of life. This is a very high standard, and one I should probably modify.

Another problem also appears to be that I operate differently. I expect that others will only ask me to do something they know will cause me discomfort (of any kind: scheduling, physical strain, inconvenience, etc.), when they absolutely must – why? because I only ask others to do difficult tasks when I can see no other option.
However, I have found this not to be the case — because once I give an inch, they usually take miles.

Well not today.

I’m only going to ask the world for one thing – to stop. Please don’t demand any more of me for just this one day. I’ve handed out all the lemonade I have; I’ve made all the changes to taste, location and color that I can. I’m shutting down operations and I’m walking away. You don’t like to hear “no” and I don’t like saying it, but there it is:

no

I need to recharge.
-S

Art (Life) in Unexpected Places

Dan and I have enjoyed our share of plays in the Austin area. Most recently we saw The Tempest as described in an earlier post, but we’ve also seen a couple of productions at Hyde Park Theatre (Good Thief, Marion Bridge – Good Thief was an amazing one man show), August Osage County at Zach Scott (excellent show, talented cast- very moving/tragic-comedy plot), a smaller production at The City Theatre, and a few others that fail to come to the forefront of my mind at the moment.

As life would have it, we, along with our friend Ali, made it out to Present Company’s production of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale over the weekend. Not only was it a complete coincidence to see two Shakespeare plays within a couple of weeks of one another, but it was also a complete coincidence that I stumbled upon Present Company’s website and we ended up sitting on a blanket on Rain Lily Farm in East Austin enjoying a well-done show by a troupe of seasoned actors with a passion for Shakespeare.

Before the show we met at Rio’s Brazilian Restaurant on Pleasant Valley, also in East Austin. The restaurant is brightly colored but rather small and modest from the exterior. Inside there are well-placed bursts of color and an eclectic assortment of modern art that echos the Brazilian/South American ethos. It was calm, laid back and cultural. The food was quite delicious – we enjoyed some beef, chicken and cheese empanadas and had some mussels and shrimp for dinner.

Then after the show, as we were walking about a mile to where we parked, we happened into an artist’s collective gallery space and took in some recent projects by local artisans – photography, collages, modern sculpture. It was in a mostly nondescript building along our route, and was just about to close before we popped in.

All of these experiences (Rio’s, Present Company’s show, the gallery) reminded me of how lovely it can be to find joy in unexpected places. I would have never anticipated Rio’s to have such a hospitable vibe and such vivid art inside; little did I know how pleasant Shakespeare could be when intermixed with the smell of hay, and seen from a seat on cotton sheet on a farm; and I although I know art can live and breath anywhere, I would not have anticipated a group of folks to be putting on a small gallery showing that just happened to be along the route we walked.

Now I know its often said that the little things are what matters, and that often times the simplistic/quaint can be the most beautiful. And I think those ideas are true. And it was nice to, for however brief and fleeting the moments were, experience joy and artistic creation (yes, I think the culinary arts are truly art along with theatre and fine art) when I was least expecting it. These experiences remind me, yet again, of how important it is to be present in the here and now as much as possible.

I’m an idealist – I can spend hours upon hours dreaming of what could be and what the future might bring, and to be honest the dreams provide me much bliss and inspiration. However, they are only dreams until they arrive, and in the meantime, I could definitely do well to spend some time savoring some seafood, enjoying the company of the people I love, experiencing Elizabethan drama, and exploring the arts. Because it’s only in the present that Dan and I grow closer and learn more about ourselves and each other; it’s only in the present that I can share experiences with friends; it’s only in the present that I can hope to understand emotion and the mind-body connection; and it’s only in the present that I can be who I am without the worry or trappings of a potential future or a burdensome past. It’s only in the present that I get to be, me.

Thanks for reading, S

Then and Now – NYC

Every time I go to New York City, during the ride into the City from the airport I get that little flutter of awe and excitement as the skyline crests in the cab’s windshield.

As a kid, I knew what New York City was – and I knew what a “big city” felt like. I grew up about an hour from Boston and my family would venture there about once every six to eight weeks to go to the theatre, visit the Aquarium, the Science Museum, or just venture around Quincy Market.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d been to New York City twice, once in elementary school/ my younger years, and another time as a teenager. Both were family trips – on the first we went to Long Island, took a ferry, ventured around Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and went to Times Square; on the second we stayed in Koreatown, went to the Empire State Building, went to see Rent (it was still on Broadway then), and ventured around Midtown.

Perhaps it was my experiences in Boston and family trips to New York City that made city-life seem accessible and interesting. I really enjoy urban areas – delicious food, cultural venues, lots to see (often just people watching is entertaining/amusing), decent public transportation, and of course varied and awe-inspiring public spaces and architecture. But whatever it was, I’ve always felt more intrigued by big cities rather than intimidated by them.

In any event, did I have an inkling at age 9 or 16 that I’d one day live in New York City? Nope.
When my plans for graduate school started coalescing in 2008 and it looked like I’d be attending a Master’s program in NYC, did it seem real? Not so much.

Now looking back on the flight to NYC dragging my big black trunk, giant suitcase, and paperwork with the school dorm’s address around the airport and out to the row of yellow cabs, I remember how I was exhausted (luggage is heavy and I was flying from my parents’ place in Nevada to NYC – re: going across three time zones), anxious about school starting, and excited about the adventure of it all. Once I was settled in my dorm room, I walked out to a Duane Reade and bought a laminated folded walking map, and started venturing around Harlem, Morningside Heights, and the Upper West Side to get a sense of my new home. Sometimes it would occur to me that I lived in New York City along with Howard Stern, Rudy Giuliani, the Yankees (yes I know, blasphemy for a New Englander), and so many other prominent figures past and present. I didn’t have to wait for a vacation to check out a Broadway show, or venture around the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, or see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on a TV screen – I could live any number of activities any day I wanted. But usually I was just me, I just happened to live in New York City.

Fast forward a few years —
This past weekend I went to NYC for matters related to my personal injury lawsuit.
Unfortunately, a bunch of events combined to create a mostly stressful and exhausting experience.
My connecting flight from Washington DC was canceled, I had to reschedule the car service to take me to an appointment out in Medford (Long Island) from LaGuardia, I ate a muffin for lunch on the public bus en route to my second appointment on the Upper East Side, one of my closest friends shared a lovely dinner with me but we found we barely had enough time to really catch up after not having seen each other for months, I visited during Yom Kippur when another close friend of mine was unavailable due to holiday services, and while I was out of the office – we had an active project going on for a client which I wasn’t able to monitor as I needed to due to a lack of WiFi connectivity as a result of my harried travel schedule.

But despite all of that, I had a few moments to myself.
After the second appointment, I ventured into the Guggenheim and although a few floors were closed due to a new installation, I took in some beautiful and thought-provoking pieces, and got to experience the work of one of my favorite architects (Frank Lloyd Wright!). Before meeting my friend for dinner, I also spent some (relatively) quiet time in Central Park resting on the green grass and watching runners pass by.
And Saturday morning, before heading to the airport to return to Texas, I ate brunch at a place on Broadway I’d always wanted to try and enjoyed some delicious food with only my thoughts to keep me company.

My lawsuit has definitely colored New York City for me.
While I certainly enjoy seeing my friends and prior professors/colleagues, and visiting restaurants I love (Nussbaum and Wu) and sites I enjoy (the view of NJ from Riverside Dr.; Radio City and Rockefeller Center), now whenever I go to New York City, I have to don emotional armor I didn’t need before.
I take a deep breath when I walk past the site of the accident; I have to force myself not to flinch when a car stops just a little too close to the edge of the curb before I cross; I have to still my racing heart when I hear a horn honk or tires screech.
I also have to arm myself against the invasion of privacy which is the lawsuit itself. Now my life is open to critique, speculation and what feels like the constant eyes of others. Doctors and lawyers know every treatment and medication, my every activity, dream and desire.

The lawsuit has shown me that there is much out there that is out of my control; and that even justice is not as black and white as the dictionary makes it seem. And for me, New York City has been forever changed, just in those few minutes on a Wednesday afternoon in September 2009.

However, as I mentioned at the beginning, I like big cities. And for as much as New York City is no longer the place of wide-eyed optimism I visited on family vacations, or the place I went to grad school and began my true transition into an independent adulthood, it is still the place where I learned about the factors contributing to job satisfaction and employee motivation, got to experience the inner workings of Sirius Radio, met some of the most kind-hearted and intelligent people, ate my first black and white cookie, learned the ins and outs of the 1 train, went to a Knicks game, and saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

And most importantly, I still feel those tiny flutters of anticipation and awe when approaching the City- when I’m struck at how the human race has created something amazing, and I feel fortunate to be able to continue to experience it, even if my perspective has been altered.

Thanks for reading,
S

Tempest

This past Friday we went to see the Actors from the London Stage put on a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest with our friend Rachel.

Both of us have a fondness for Shakespeare, and I appreciated the fact that The Tempest is not as commonly done as say, A Midsummer Nights Dream or Romeo and Juliet. Plus, I’ve always loved anything fantastical and the whole concept of being on a magical deserted island with a sorcerer is pretty freakin’ cool.

The play was excellent – the actors were all very strong but also, able to create a distinctness between their parts (as there were five of them splitting the roles between them). What I also enjoyed was that the context left much to the imagination. The actors wore limited clothing (and from where we sat – just beyond the edge of the stage- limited make up as well) and there was no scenery, only the occasional sound effect from a megaphone, or pre-recorded tape.

So while this post was initially to describe an enjoyable theatre experience, I suppose I’ll now broaden it to include my growing appetite for minimalism and continuing preference for the imaginative.

Now don’t get me wrong, in June while in NYC, I went with friends to see Spiderman on Broadway. Despite the taste of critics and the jeering of late-night talk show hosts, I actually enjoyed the show but it was, in every way, the complete opposite of the Tempest – pyrotechnics and a host of special effects (Spiderman was at one point, suspended over the lower level seats – not just the orchestra seats, the whole lower level), elaborate flashy scenery with lots of nods to the comics which inspired the story, the score crafted by U2 with its characteristic rock melodies…

As I said, I like Spiderman. Did I feel profoundly moved or pensive after the show? No, but I was thoroughly entertained.

However, what I appreciated about The Tempest was its ability to:

1) Bring Shakespearean English (and thus all the colloquialisms and cultural proclivities) to life

2) Communicate meaning with little pomp and circumstance

3) Entertain in an intellectually stimulating way

My little life in Austin, TX is just a glimmer in the great time and space of the universe, so it’s nice to know that actors from London with a passion for Shakespeare can share their love and craft in my neck of the woods, and that they can do so in a way that invites me both to suspend my reality, reacquaint myself with history, and experience joy.

If you’ve never seen the Actors from the London Stage, I highly recommend them.
Check them out here:
http://www.nd.edu/~aftls/at_a_glance/”>

Do you enjoy Shakespeare? What about plays with little in the way of backdrop or props?