Rough Waters by the Shore

This morning I sat on the side of my bed pondering my fate. Most mornings I utter some form of gratitude for seeing another day when so many others don’t. This morning it was a quick something, but my mind wandered to rough waters. The kind of rough waters that threaten to upend a boat right before it reaches the safety of the shore. The kind of rough waters that are overcome by the exhausted being who has found, somewhere deep inside, the determination, heart and scream-down the storm raging in your face will to continue on to reach the elusive yet visible shore.

The waters are crashing over my head, filling my eyes, nose and mouth with brackish water, but I saw the shore. About a year ago one of my business  mentors told me I was in the middle of the ocean. He said it would take as much effort to give up and get back to shore as it would to power on. I chose to power on.  I mean, really. That’s not much of a choice. I’d spent 7 years of my life in pursuit of my dreams, had one devastating set back and now I was offered the choice of giving up on all I had accomplished with not much to show for it but a mountain of debt and hope. The other choice was to take all of the hours I had invested in educating myself, the knowledge I had gained in those classes, attending film festivals, workshops and incubators, the manifestation of projects in various stages of development, the sweat, time and expertise of all of the freelancers who collaborated on my projects – unpaid, deferred and paid, the monies I was able to raise through crowdfunding, grants and platforms like Patreon and Fundly, the few messages of my need to capitulate and get a real job and the ocean of messages of support from friends, family  and mentors and push on. When you look at it like that, there is no choice. I had to keep moving forward.

The rough water is chest level and the punishing waves have elicited an unending barrage of stress, fear, anxiety and doubt, but I saw the shore.  In one of my workshops for artists, the instructor told us, “No one is coming to save you.” Damn. Damn. Damn. Seven years fighting each day towards this dream and no one would come rescue me? Damn. To tell you the truth, as frustrating as that message is, it is liberating to know that you are going to have to pull your head out of your own arse and figure things out. Sure there will be people to support your journey, but this is one trip across the ocean that you’re going to have to take on your own.

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If you believe, as I do, that everything happens for a reason and that you are where you are supposed to be, then the dark times can be paralyzing. I have always looked at it from the perspective that I am here because I still have something to learn before I can transcend to my next level of consciousness and overcome my worldly rough waters.

In 2008 when I was an actress deciding to write a show with my friend so we could see positive representations of ourselves on television and work in the field we so loved, I could never have imagined how soul crushing and financially debilitating this journey would become. I guarantee you that I would NEVER have decided to embark on the journey if anyone had shared that with my then 34 year-old self. I wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t have enough courage. I wasn’t worthy enough. I couldn’t tolerate that much pain, shame, longing and despair. That’s who I would have believed I was back then.

The woman I am today is in the boat with the rough pounding waters demanding that I turn back, that I give up, that I abandon this pipe dream and go back to where I belong. The problem is that I’ve seen the shore, and even more important than the shore is that lined up along the path to the shore are lifeboats of love, compassion, support, encouragement, inspiration, motivation, empathy, self-discovery and wonder! I’m not sure why I couldn’t see it before, but I am eternally grateful to know that although they can’t save me, they won’t let me go down with my ship! They are pacing me, lighting the way and making sure I know that we are in this together. I have to get my boat to the shore, but I am not alone. I see the shore. I don’t know how many days, weeks, months or years it will take me to get there, but I do know that I will get there and oh, the celebration we will have when all of our boats are on the shore together.

Keep going…

 

Life After – Remix

While tonight doesn’t feel like part 3 of the previous posts I’ve written about living life after losing Coby, it also doesn’t feel like “normal” or “new normal” or whatever. I guess it’s just whatever there is on the other side. For tonight’s sake, let’s just call it a remix.

 

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Today was a good day. It’s been an exhausting week full of client demands and creative hurdles to overcome but I’m keeping pace, and maybe even picking up steam. When I think back to the time when I couldn’t even answer the phone, I know that is huge progress. I still haven’t listened to my voicemail messages from the weeks following Coby’s death. My phone keeps sending me warning messages that my voicemail is 90+% full.

Do I listen to these messages that might sink me because they are full of my friends and loved ones concern for my family? The kindness hurts sometimes. As weird as that sounds, a hug can crush and tear-filled eyes have the power to unleash the feelings that are being held at bay by the hustle and bustle of the end of the school year, conference calls, piles of mail and happy occasions.

Nah. They can stay right there for now. For the moment I get to celebrate a few victories -My little one getting an academic award and a call back for a great project, hitting a significant milestone with our newest documentary and remembering most of my passwords while I plow through work.

I celebrate a tiny bit while being reminded that Coby will never graduate like so many of the friends I see on social media and in the world. I’m thrilled for them, yet I can’t help but think that he should be there clowning with his friends in a cap and gown. We should be showering him with love and praise for one of the greatest accomplishments one can have – successfully pursuing an education. Alas, it is not to be for Coby and that hurts. If I’m honest, typing that, acknowledging that fact brings on the tears.

I think of the shadows left behind in the souls of his classmates. I think of the carnage that is left behind after. After. After. After. I think of the carnage of the world we live in and I struggle to stay in the light as I wonder how the hell we can hold human potential and the essence of life in such disregard. A deranged man in a nightclub extinguishing precious lives, petty grievances in neighborhoods all over the country handled with terminal consequences, hate, fear and anguish all around.

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In moments like this I remind myself I have a choice. Light or dark. Each moment I get to choose and sometimes making that choice is a Herculean effort, but today – as I took my girl to try sushi for the first time (in honor of seeing a great indie film East Side Sushi) and told her how proud I was of her, choosing the light was an easy choice. In a year, where she lost the only “big brother”she was ever going to have, being able to find the light together is a blessing.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know that the sun will rise and the birds will sing, and that has to be enough for now.

Life After – Part 2

I think of Coby. I close my eyes. I don’t see or hear a train screaming down the tracks. It’s a brilliant breakthrough that I am eternally grateful to have experienced. I no longer have to rip my eyes open and calm my racing heart.

I think of Coby and a lovely thought mingles with the residual sadness leaving me with a  bittersweet warmth. It still seems unreal. It still couldn’t have happened to us, but it did. My little one put it best when she said that now when she thinks of Coby she isn’t sad anymore, but that she feels happy. Time beginning to heal.

Coby with his Grandma Gladys.
Coby with his Grandma Gladys.

I’d be foolish to think that there aren’t going to be many moments when the old feelings surface, but today I’m so, so, so grateful that they have given way and allow me to see another possibility. I miss Coby. I love Coby. Eternally 18 and eternally in my heart. I guess that will have to be enough.

 

 

Alas, My Twitchy Heart

Today one Twitter engagement was my undoing.

She only knew that Brene was one of her aunt’s favorite author/speakers. Although she has been struggling with identity, snarky comments from peers about her appearance, intelligence or whatever criticism du jour and general tween embarrassment about …everything, she had no idea that she was talking to THE expert in shame, human connection, vulnerability and so much of the stuff that makes our hearts twitch.

A long time ago, in an uncharacteristic aha moment, I realized that I had a ridiculously smart, sensitive and empathetic child. She seemed to be wise beyond her years and at times both fragile of spirit and courageous of heart – my little lioness. I was a newly divorced mom trying to find myself in the dark and often very scary emotional place that was my new reality. I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to handle the over the top needs of a gifted mind that was raging with curiosity. I just wanted her to be quiet. I wanted her to sit down, be quiet and let me think. Let me grieve the loss of my marriage and wallow in the shame of being alone, broke and afraid. If you’re a parent, I don’t need to say another word. For those of you who are not, I just described Fantasy Land. For most of us, you don’t get to turn off being a parent because you’re in a tough spot – I’m sure that’s part of the master plan. You are forced to find a way to the other side, often while falling apart into a beautifully authentic mess.

This isn’t about the mess, but about the breakthrough. Thankfully I had a moment of clarity where I recognized that I needed to empower my daughter to step into her voice, mind, heart and soul. I needed to be her champion in a world of images and messages that didn’t include girls that looked like her or thought like her. So we embarked on a journey about five years ago to empower her to get the answers to every question her little brain could conceive. In order to maintain my sanity, I decided the best way to do that would be to partner her up with experts who would delight in sharing their knowledge with a precocious little girl. Because I was an actor turned filmmaker I realized the power of the medium to connect with all of the other young curious minds around the world.

It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. We continue to build our show, On the JOB with Lani Lou, where she gets to interview experts in their field about how things work and how she can become that type of expert. In the last four years she has interviewed a restaurateur, pediatrician, attorney and paleontologist and has developed an ownership for this program. We come across a lot of people, and we tell a lot of people our story, but not everyone takes the time to make the connection and let the significance of who she is and what she’s doing land. That is what made her moment with Brene Brown so special. Brene saw her, really saw her.

Each time another human being recognizes her sparkle and celebrates with her, a criticism, doubt and emotional wound is tended to. The one thing I know for sure is that my worldly success, material gain and sense of professional fulfillment would be hollow if that little girl was left behind. It was beautiful to watch her step up into all that she is and to make an authentic connection.

So, Brene – Thank you from my heart to yours for being a blessing in a haze of crowds, marketing and the frenzy of commerce. The loving encouragement you offered in those few moments will arm her to go out and slay the next round of dragons.

Tearfully and gratefully yours,

The mom of an awesome girl!