Monday, April 25, 2011

Focus, Focus!!

"I don't know what the heck happened...!" I spluttered after the first botched take of Sarah Skinner's Little Mermaid, for the Venus Uprising DVD of their latest show, Objects of Desire.

Cast as the Sea Witch, it was my job to figure out how to convey the following in about 20 seconds of stage time:

(1) The Little Mermaid has fallen in love with a shipwrecked prince, whom she has rescued and wants to trade her tail in for legs.

Love-Struck Little Mermaid

(2) She asks the Sea Witch, yours truly, for legs -- but the Witch demands a price. She offers her jewels and hair, but I grab her voice instead.

The Sea Witch Claims the Mermaid's Voice

(3) Then, how to de-tail her (mmmm ... sushi!!).... Sarah, an expert seamstress, created a skirt with a mid-length side zipper. Armed with a scary (and real) knife, I appear to jab the blade into her side, then grab a cord looped into the zipper's pull tab with my thumb, and yank the zipper and knife down so it seems that the blade is raking through her body. (You can see the hilt of it in her side, here:)

The Little Mermaid Loses Her Tail

Needless to say, I was worried through the dress rehearsal and each performance that something would go wrong with the zipper or knife.

Thankfully, all went smoothly -- until the filming.

Earlier that afternoon, I had been talking with a dancer in another number about my segment. She remarked, "The stuff with the knife looks very scary and real!"

"That's good to hear," I explained, "Because it's hard to grab the zipper and keep the blade straight."

"Well, actually," she said, "You can't see the blade at all because your other sleeve covers it."

This was sort of good news, but I was a little disappointed to hear all my struggles with this prop weren't making much difference.

And this weighed on my mind straight into the filming.

At the moment I "jabbed" the knife into her side, my eyes darted for a half-second to my sleeve. Was it covering? No? Yes? Maybe? I hooked my thumb into the zipper's cord and pulled down.

And it jammed. I fumbled with the knife, nearly dropping it. I yanked the cord again but still couldn't unzip it. Sarah looked down, frustrated, and ripped the zipper open herself.

I felt like crap.

I apologized profusely -- but it turned out part of the frame was blocked so we were going to have to do another take anyway.

"I don't know what happened..." I bleated... But of course I knew exactly what went wrong. Focus, focus!! It is everything in live performance. It's important in filming, too, but less so...

And maybe it was because we had all been so perfectly focused during the mishap-free live run, that we simply had to let up a bit.

Ultimately, we did about four takes because each time SOMETHING went wrong with a prop (other than mine... :-> ) or costume piece.

So yeah, I felt bad -- but not all that bad!

And I re-learned a good lesson: Focus, focus, focus!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nutshells, Coffee Shops and Scaling Down Area 51

"I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams." Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii

I have been writing down my dreams since 1995.

Sometimes I can go a week or two without remembering a dream; and other times I will have so many that I am overwhelmed, and any attempt to capture their details is paralyzed in frustration.

But for the most part, I try to write them down fairly regularly.

Dream analysis is an extremely important part of Jungian analysis, which I began in 1994. Although some consider dreams simple jetsam and flotsam as the brain processes the day's activities and concerns, the Jungian school holds that they have important information and guidance not only about current concerns, but can point to greater trends and psychological developments -- after all, we can't hide from the truth of dreams.

Granted, we can force gratifying interpretations on them, but this becomes more difficult when dreams reoccur with increasing ferocity and smash our respective nutshells.

For example, I used to have a dream that a terrifying man was chasing me, usually through the upper floors of a house or building. I would try to hide in a room and shut the door against him, but something would always be wrong with the door: the lock would be broken or non-existent or the door would suddenly become flimsy as tissue. Once the door shriveled to swinging-saloon-door size, and my assailant easily banged through.

This we took to indicate a psychological porousness on my part -- especially to judgmental "animus" energies. Sometimes, this could literally mean vulnerability to men -- in particular the criticism of men (which has played out in many relationships), but more often it indicated my intellectual, unyielding criticism towards myself -- which gave the harsh words of the various boyfriends undue power.

About five years ago in a dream, I successfully shut the door on the attacker, only to find myself curious about him. I opened it again and began a conversation with him in the dream. And, as is often the case in life when we see those whom we had feared in a different light, he was not terrifying at all.

I never had that dream again.

Of course, my "animus" issue is by no means fully resolved, but this was good progress.

The night before last, I had another dream where both an animus (inner male) and an animus-driven anima (hyper intellectual inner female) figure appeared.

It occurred at a time when I was struggling with what I felt was very hurtful behavior from a puer-type man whom I had cared for (I'll call him Evan), and who had treated me shabbily the last time we met -- and it gave me some very useful insight and guidance.

So here is the dream in its entirety, followed by a brief analysis:

My friend Yolanda tells me that she has bought some “out there” real estate as an investment, having put $20,000 down on $3 million. She shows me an aerial picture of the investment property, which is of some structures in the Navy Yard near where I live, which is now now ("now" as in "the now of the dream") paved over with nice asphalt paths, similar to those of the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Two of the structures are round, and one is kind of box shaped, all are shaped strangely, with unusual borders and cuts on the roofs. It all feels very Area 51 to me, and I am suspicious for Yolanda who -- in spite of being one of the most intelligent people I know -- can also be very naive in some common-sense ways because she is quick to rationalize and justify others’ very f*cked up behavior. (Such is the double-edged sword of intellect.)

So I decide to check out this property for myself. I go to the site, walking along the pristine asphalt paths that allegedly lead to her property, but do not see the structures -- or much of anything, for that matter, except for a largish coffee shop run by an Asian family. I go inside for a cup and while I'm waiting, look at a display arrangement on one of the counters. There are two paper cups with sip lids and a small rectangular gift box -- like the kind you'd put chocolates in. I stand directly over it and look down. THIS was the "aerial photo"!! I run off to tell Yolanda but she doesn't believe me, so I take her to the shop and show her the display. “Who got the $20,000?!?” I demand. The owner of the shop -- a middle-aged Mandarin comes out to see what the fuss is about. Yolanda points to him. “I gave it to him!” she says.

I freak out on the guy. I mean I go completely crazy, furiously bellowing at him about fraud and criminal charges, and demand he give the money back to Yolanda immediately, or I will return "with help". With a relenting shrug, he gives us a check for $20,000. I further warn him that the check had better not bounce, and urge Yolanda to deposit it quickly.

Of course, when I told this dream to another male friend, he immediately thought: two cups and a box = female genitalia. And maybe it does -- as much of this dream illustrates an internal war between my masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) aspects. But it is so much more than that....

With the understanding that all figures in a dream represent an aspect of oneself, I must first conclude that Yolanda and the Mandarin man represent, respectively, the hyper-rational part of my feminine self, and the trickster part of my masculine self -- which often collude to cause me lots of trouble -- and can cost me lots of money, time and energy -- as I make "rational" excuses to justify obvious trickster behavior, and make outsized investments in people/relationships that are ultimately not worth it.

Archetypally, the non-animus-driven feminine can see right through the animus-trickster -- in the same way a mother can tell when her kid is full of crap. In many ways, the trickster in one's psyche plays games partly to show you creative ways of looking at the world, and sometimes he just wants to screw with you to make sure you are paying attention!!

So the trick that I often fall for is in believing a desired thing is worth more than it actually is. This has been particularly true of certain men in my life -- especially if they are achieving in an area where I have aspiration, as was the case where Evan was concerned.

And my psyche beautifully illustrated this with the enlarged (i.e. overvalued) photograph of ordinary paperware.

It is also worth noting that the animus figure is Chinese, and the fake real estate reminds me of "Area 51" -- which indicates that I still tend to see these dynamics as alien and not originating in my personal world. For example, in the current case, I believed that I was hurt more because Evan had been cold to me, and not because I had inappropriately overvalued him -- which I had.

Another important piece of information was the $20,000 on $3 million. Granted, $3 million is a lot of money -- but $20,000 is a miniscule .67% of that -- laughable even by savings account standards.

The lesson from this? That even though I am capable of investing HUGELY in relationships, my actual emotional investment in this particular person was minimal -- so I realized that much of my pain was only from wounded pride.

Why the coffee shop? That probably indicated I needed to freaking wake up about this!!!

And the final lesson? When I got mad -- really mad -- the guy took me seriously and, with a shrug, returned the invested money. Why the blasé shrug? Probably to indicate that the trickster plays tricks because that's just what he does, and so when he's caught, he makes good without regret or apology. But it takes a storm of fury to convince him that he is caught.

Now, I did not take this to mean that freaking out on Evan was the way to go -- but rather it would not be productive -- to him or to me -- to hide my feelings.

And with that in mind, I set out the next day to resolve the situation with Evan.

More later on what happened....

Monday, April 4, 2011

Emotional Ledgers and Why They Keep Us from Abundance (HuffPo Comment)

[The below is a comment to this HuffPo article on "Emotional Ledgers".]

I'm a great believer in "paying forward" and giving freely, without compunctio­n or obligation -- for the very reasons you cite. But sometimes this opens the door to exploitati­on and abuse.

For example, just over a year ago a friend of mine was in the dumps so I visited him and gave him a backrub. Later he raved about how wonderful it was to simply receive this, precisely because I didn't expect anything back. A few months later, he asked me over -- and expected similar treatment, again with no reciprocat­ion other than the joy of his enjoyment.

Over the following year, this pattern repeated itself several times.

Granted, he is hearty in his appreciati­on, but I began to feel so taken for granted that it made me physically ill. Bear in mind, he is not my boyfriend, and neither of us has any romantic interest in the other. In fact, we are not even especially close friends beyond this activity!

Then, a few months ago, he asked me to dinner -- and he didn't even OFFER to pay! And, worse, I felt horribly guilty for even hoping that he would because I had been so stuck in my "Giving Tree" mindset.

Not knowing quite how to handle this, I have simply avoided him and stalled his repeated requests for "manual" attention.

I want to tell him I'm feeling taken for granted, without it coming off like a demanding attack. Or do I just keep stalling, and hope he'll figure it out?

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost