You Are Here: The Summer of My Discontent

For the last week or so I’ve been letting it all soak in (that and panicking over whether or not I’d receive a Grad Plus Loan). After nearly two years of highs, lows, breakthroughs and disappointments I am now poised to take my seat in one of the most prestigious MFA programs for dramatic writing in the world. Any doubts that I had about deserving to be here have been obliterated. Fuck. That. I’ve worked my ass off, paid dues, took praises, and people’s  slick shit talkin’. So why do I still feel like a pimply faced 16 year-old most of the time? As the old adage goes: No matter where you go there you are.

One truth that my experience thus far has drilled into me is human nature’s constant state of flux.  The irony is we seem to be born equipped to detest even the slightest changes and will often do the strangest things, e.g. self sabotaging (my go to strategy btw), to avoid it. I at times literally have to be dragged kicking and screaming into transition. Sometimes I’ll put a toe in the pool of transition only to have Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed shove me, lovingly, all the way in.

And shoved I was this summer. Nothing, and I do me NO. THING. Has been constant since I’ve left the safety of my job, family, and friends in sunny Charlotte, NC.  I have been living a little of everywhere.  I have been jobless since July 20th. Now … in the grand scheme of joblessness, I know this is no major deal but going from knowing exactly where your next dollar is coming from for fourteen years to not knowing when the hell I’m ever gonna work again, for me is terrifying. Calculate in my baseline fear that this shit was gonna fall apart in any second and I would be headed back to Charlotte with my tail tucked firmly between my legs, and it seems that I should very well be a basket case. These are the times that I give thanks for my grounding practices.

Recovery, yoga, meditation, great friends, supportive family, arts, and culture have collectively saved my life this summer. The abundance of it to be found for free is proof for me that the universe wants to love us through the changes that we will inevitably go through no matter what we have or don’t have. More often than not this summer I’ve felt like the kid who’d ventured out to the middle of the monkey bars and lost faith that he could get to the other side. Then I’d call or text someone and find the courage to extend my hand to the next bar.  I got my heart broken. I headed to a meeting, and was off swinging again. My job hunt was essentially fruitless. I dangled wanting very badly to let go, but then I go to yoga and listen while Amy (the most amazing yogi I’ve met thus far) tells me to “root my tree”  and just like that, I am here,  on the other side of the monkey bar … only to realize that there is a playground called life that’s full of them.

The gift of my summer of discontent is my enhanced ability to thrive through unpredictability. Finding peace within while my clothes are scattered to the four corners of Newark, centering when in the midst of the realization that I may not accomplish what I came all this way to do, and taking the next required action with my hands shaking and the tears falling has served to make me ready for whatever is next. Even if I’m not, I know help is available for the Bible, Quran, Yoga Vedas, Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey, and my Momma tell me so.

Rosie.

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Having A Moment: The Unsolicited Blessing

The Unsolicited Blessing

witnessed by Stacey Rose

An act in one play.

Personae Dramatae:

Mother

Little Girl

First Lady of the Church of Self Righteousness Assumption

Setting:

Osborne Terrace, Newark, NJ (Outside Newark Beth Israel Hospital)

Time:

Early Evening

(A braless young MOTHER no older than 23 labors her way down Osborne Terrace toward Newark Beth Israel Hospital.  Her face is the struggle. At her hand is a tiny LITTLE GIRL, no older than two.  They both have braid extensions that look to have been in about a month too long. They are, to be sure, clean. Their clothing, however, seems to have come from the nearest five and dime. The little girl’s sundress is too large. The straps are continuously falling off her shoulders. Mother’s top is being stretch to it’s ultimate tolerance with the swelling of her expectant belly. Enter coming from the opposite direction THE FIRST LADY OF THE CHURCH OF SELF RIGHTEOUS ASSUMPTION. She is a petite feminine woman.  Her hair is cut in a smart cropped salt and pepper natural. Her clothing and accessories are the epitome of class and style. If one were to drift closer one would probably catch the aroma of an expensive Eau de toilette likely purchased at the nearest Lord and Taylor on credit. The three intersect. )

First Lady: Look at you!

Mother:  Hi.

First Lady: Awww she’s adorable!

 Mother:  Thank you.

First Lady: Heyyyy Baaaaby!

Little Girl: –

First Lady: How old is she?!

Mother: Two.

First Lady: Oh my god! And you’re  already having another one?! Ain’t that somethin’?

Mother: –

First Lady: Where’s your daddy at baby?

Little Girl: –

Mother: At work. He at work.

(beat.)

First Lady: … oh. okay. okay.

(The first lady takes her hands and places them on the mother’s belly and begins to pray and unintelligible prayer. She moves her hands on to the little girl’s forehead and concludes the prayer.)

First Lady:  Alright now. Y’all have a blessed day.

Mother: You too.

Little Girl: –

(Mother and little girl head in the opposite direction of The First Lady down Osborne Terrace. They may never  see each other again.  Amen.)

Fin.

Shake the machine.

It’s happened to most people at least once.  You’re starving.  You’re on your lunch break, or a break during some godforsaken symposium, or between classes at school. Your blood sugar is about 10.  You gallop your ass with the intensity of an antelope to the nearest vending machine and HOT DAMN they got those jalapeño pork rinds you geek out over. You are Pavlov’s dog. The saliva is forming. Your hands tremble at a rate that would measure about a 7 on the Richter scale.  You shove the change through the slot. Finally it decides to accept the rusty dime that you found stuck in the cup holder of your car.  You hit C7. You watch as the mechanical coil loops lazily clock wise and stops. Then … SON OF A BITCH!!! Your jalapeño pork rinds are suspended in midair, hung by a 1/18th inch section of the lip of the bag. There’s a hallway full of people and a small cluster of salivating antelopes behind you. You wonder if its a good decision. You wonder if people will think you’re crazy, but fuck that. Shake the machine. 

Shake that bastard until all the jalapeño pork rinds in it along with the barbecue Fritos, glazed bear claws, fruit snacks, and packs of double mint gum have to surrender to the force you generate and come tumbling out of their individual mechanical coils.  Shake that fucker til they call security and make sure they have to call reinforcements for your ass. Shake it until you have not an ounce of energy left, your blood sugar finally bottoms out, and they have to call an ambulance to drag your prostrate carcass out the door. Get all the other insulin deficient antelopes and dogs around you to shake it too because after all there is strength in numbers.

Keep going.  Keep shaking. Til you get them damn jalapeño pork rinds, or whatever else it is you desire in this life.

“Stay Hungry.  Keep Grindin’ ” – Barack Obama

Rosie.

That’s just how I feel.

  • There is a polio outbreak in Somalia
  • There are comparisons being drawn between the conflict in Syria and the genocide in Rwanda.
  • George Zimmerman got off scott free for killing an unarmed black teenager. 
  • Stacey Rose is struggling to find gainful employment, has a mere $70 in her bank account and only one more paycheck from her last job coming.

Guess which one of these headlines is keeping me up at night?  As self-centered as it is I often have my head shoved securely up my own ass that I’m unaware the world has bigger problems than mine.  Hell, people in my life have bigger problems than mine.  At times I feel incredibly guilty about my tendency toward self-centeredness until I remember:

  1. I’m human.
  2. I’m not ALWAYS self-centered and actually have times when I am incredibly generous.
  3. The world doesn’t need me to help it rotate more than it needs me to participate.

When the stench and hot of being lodged into myself gets to be too much I am often rescued by an opportunity to volunteer or be of service to someone  else. For the time I’m listening to someone, helping them with a task or otherwise engaging a situation that’s not my own, I feel better.  My finger is off the panic button and I feel like a member of the broader human race.

When those other times return, I try to be conscious of when they arrived. I do what I need to ride them out, the most import part is knowing that despite whatever else is going on in the world the things that are going on in my life are important too.  Does the world need give a shit because I have to have a varicella titer done and paid for out of my own pocket? Probably not. Do I need to? Yes, because caring for my own well being ensures that I’m contributing my very best to the world around me. What I can’t do is stay stuck or react in ways that will move my situation from bad to worse. I must acknowledge the fear (or whatever else I’m feeling) jump into the solution if there’s an immediate one, and accept the situation in it’s entirety. Being a self-serving dick head works in small spurts, no guilty trip required. That’s just the way I feel.

Rosie.

1-2-3 … Independence!

Confession:  I never learned how to play double-dutch.

Well I did, but I was often called “double-handed” (a reference to my inability to catch the rhythmic turning of the two ropes) and when I made awkward knock kneed attempts to jump in they were always dismal failures that ended with me bound up like a newly captured slave (yes it was that bad).  I was laughed at and almost always passed over for a turn when it was declared that there would be a game.

My transition into a life in New York has felt just as awkward and frustrating as my double-dutch exploits.  Today I have been away from Charlotte, NC and everything else that is familiar to me for one month and three days. I often feel “double-handed” trying to catch the rhythm of this new life. At times nothing feels “safe”, not even a trip to the bodega or Stewarts (my upstate balm in Gilead). Every now and then though … I catch a rhythm.

The click-clack of the subway harkens the sound of ropes slapping in perfect time against the concrete. The rhythm is steady and sure giving me the courage to jump in. Into Brooklyn diners with waiters named Carlos who flirtatiously offer rice pudding as an after thought to the gut busting meal I just ate.  Into the view of a gentrified Harlem from the Starbucks on 118th street where I find myself now. I smile at the kaleidoscope of skin tones passing the window to my left. I giggle a little as the men to my right discuss a friend who’s a “trust fund baby” that needs to get into filmmaking. I consider giving them my information should they need a screenwriter, but I think better of it. Missed opportunity? Who knows, time will tell. Guffawing maniacs cackle out the rhythm. Beautiful men bop to it. Breathtaking women with flip-flops and sandals that flap out the rhythm.  I’m feeling it. Until Tomorrow …

Tomorrow I head back upstate for work that I will gratefully be done with on 7/20. I will get that double handed feeling again I’m sure.  I will attempt to jump in only to be entangled in the ropes of Upstate New York‘s disjointed coldness. I know there is a rhythm there, I just can’t seem to find it.  There are microseconds, while I’m at a recovery meeting, or when I receive a genuine  “hello” or “good morning” but  this doesn’t happen often. I accept it any how because I know that part of finding my rhythm/my place in this new life is being off rhythm for awhile.

It is during the times when I feel “double-handed” or unsafe that I learn the most. Those are the time I use the tools I was given. Those are the times I experience the most growth. So I embrace my double-hands and knock knees as red light indicators that I’m alive and on my way to catching a new rhythm and doper beat, a faster tempo, a deeper groove. I’m on my way to this:

Ok, well maybe not this, but dammit I’ll be close to “1-2-3 Independence!”*

Rosie.

* “1-2-3 Independence” is a double-dutch chant that was used back in my time while jumping.  It was one of my favorites :). You can hear a few more here

I want to be a part of it …

Operative words: WANT TO BE.

See. To me it seems that the closer I get to New York City, the further away it is. Nothing is lining up the way I thought it would, and that little girl in me that was always taught not to ask for too much or expect much of anything out of life is sitting on a curb picking her nose and mumbling “told you.” And I’ve learned that slapping the shit out of her is not the answer.  Loving the shit out of her is. Helping her to see that there isn’t anything that’s too above her to reach.  Including big bad New York City. No, right now it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever be a part of that mad life that is captured so beautifully and simply on sites like Humans of New York. The little girl says “All the good ideas have already been had. You’ll never come up with anything original. Why bother?”, while the ice cream cone she grasps desperately in her right hand melts. She says I don’t deserve it. My resumé begs to differ.

In three weeks, I’ll make my way from the underbelly of Upstate New York into the New York metropolitan area.  I currently have no job prospects and far less money in my bank account than I’d anticipated. Everyone says: “It’ll work out, you’ll see.” Let’s hope they’re right. Let’s hope that the nightmare complete with me sitting on dingy street corners yammering to myself  donned in a floral print muumuu , wilted coffee cup for peddled change in hand that I have painted in my mind doesn’t actualize, or even worse (at least to me) a long bus ride back to my point of origin, dreams yet again deferred, with the little girl sitting next to me unfurling her thick braids saying “I told you.”

I can be a part of it. I will be a part of it.  You’ll see little girl.  You’ll see.

Rosie.

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If Wendell can, so can I.  (photo courtesy http://www.humansofnewyork.com   check it out. dopeness ensues.)

Truths being told, foreign homes and lonely bones.

I’m rounding the curb into my third week away from home. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to settle in. This is mainly due to the fact that I have been in perpetual motion since I arrived. NYC-NJ-Upstate NY-NJ-NYC-Amherst, MA-NJ-NYC-Upstate NY-Amerst,MA- and finally Upstate NY … again. I have had some AMAZING purpose confirming experiences along the way the most brilliant being the week I spent at the Summer Training Institute hosted by Ping Chong + Company.

The Institute is a week long writing intensive during which Ping Chong, Sara Zatz, Talvin Wilks, and Jesca Prudencio of Ping Chong + Company facilitate workshops, interview, and theatre exercises that instruct the technique used to developed their interview based theatre works Undesirable Elements. The intensive was so much more than I’d bargained for in that it wound up being an exploration into myself and into others in a way that I hadn’t conceived of before.  It deepened my appreciation for the value of a person’s story and challenged me to accept perspectives different than my own. I was allowed to sit into myself as a writer/theatre artist uninterrupted something I had not done in what felt like months. The potential for my work has been broadened as a result. Simply put, it was wonderful. But …

Now I am still. And it is quiet. And I live here …

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Schenectady’s answer to the Bates Motel.  Ok, so I’m exaggerating. I’m a writer goddamit, its what I do. It is different though, and feels more like a squatter’s colony than a place anyone should call home.  There is a weird hodgepodge of folks here. Some are professionals, like me. Some are professionals, like hookers.  There are displaced families, this makes me sad. Then there’s the park. The park with its rusty playground equipment long since abandoned by children. The park with it’s seedy goings on after sun down. The fucking park that is the view from my window hence I always have to keep the blinds drawn! Shitnhellfirefuck!

I know … I know what you’re thinking. “Well why didn’t you ask your company for better accommodations?” or “Why don’t you ask to be moved to a different room?” The answer to question one is: I’m on the bus.  This is the only “extended living” situation that’s on the bus line. Question two? It’s quite in this room. If I roll the dice to be moved elsewhere I may end up floor mates with the aforementioned “professional” and have to deal with all the undesirable elements that come with that situation … but damn wouldn’t that make for a good script! *digresses*

You wanna know the truth?  I miss home. There is still so much up in the air about school, and work, and finding an apartment.  This is scary. I don’t like it. There is not the comfort of my cats meeting me at the door when I get home. There is no Zion busting into my room demanding that I listen to the new rhyme he wrote. My mother is not speaking to me with the glare from her iPad on her face as she peruses weekly sales seculars online.

I’m incredibly lonely and afraid that at any minute this whole thing will come tumbling down on my head and I’ll disappear. Maybe in that fucking park even.  That’s it the park is gonna eat me alive! They’ll find my mangled flesh scattered between the rickety swings and the rotted through chain link fence outside my window.  Ok, I’m doing it again … the exaggeration thing. I’ll stop. Right now. The money will come or it won’t. School will work out or it won’t. Either way, life will go on and I will continue to do my part to follow the path I’ve been put on and keep the faith. More to come … if the park doesn’t swallow me whole ;).

Rosie.