A Final Farewell

By: Sadie Portman

As I look at my job references, it is an odd feeling knowing one has to be deleted. I highlight his name, his phone number, his email and cannot quite give myself the permission to hit the backspace. It is a definitive action, a final goodbye to my dear friend. I am not ready for the screen to go black on him. 

At 22, Bryan Gerber came into my life. Big smile complete with deep dimples, his love for everyone around him was contagious. From January to July we spent countless hours together. He personally chose me to be his intern at The Greenjackets, a minor league baseball team in Augusta, Georgia. We discussed our future goals, our family and our shared background as Ohio natives.

Bryan and I after a night game. I exchanged his hat for my sunglasses.

Bryan and I after a night game. I exchanged his hat for my sunglasses.

In the box office, night after night, we greeted fans and waited for my roommate, one of my best friend’s Melissa, to sneak us McDonald’s milkshakes. One-by-one she slipped them through the circular opening in the window. She knew our orders by heart. Bryan always requested chocolate, me, strawberry. We spent the first half of summer together beating the heat between sips of our shakes all while watching the sunset over Lake Olmstead. It was hard not to crush on a man who is magnetic in every way. 

A line to the box office at the Lake Olmstead Stadium.

A line to the box office at the Lake Olmstead Stadium.

When the rain poured, it was the interns’ job to entertain the masses by dancing exposed to the elements atop the dugouts. He sheltered me in the box office for as long as possible. The head of marketing, Jonathan called for me on the radio, and Bryan made excuses on why he needed me at that very moment. The charade came to an end when Jonathan opened the box office door and saw us laughing and practically twiddling our thumbs to keep ourselves occupied during the game’s delay. 

“Sorry Sadie, I tried,” Bryan would retort as I prepared myself for the unavoidable drops that were about to pound down upon me.

Poolside BBQ, nights of hockey, South Park and parties with our all too close coworkers dotted into the off days. Lots of stories are jammed into my memory bank, nights of clubbing, seeing The Hangover for the first time, and even some sad times of heartbreak. Halfway through the season, Bryan decided to further his education in graduate school. He prepared for his trip back up north, so he could study in Toledo, Ohio. The last night I saw Bryan, was the evening before his move. We had a few drinks at the bar, closed down the joint. We walked back to his place and opened the door to boxes piling up in a near empty living room. He looked at me to declare he was hungry beyond belief. 

Well, there were a few solutions. One, just forget the 2 a.m. hunger pains and go to bed. Two, order delivery, or three, rummage through his barren apartment for the last remanence of food, and throw some unknown concoction together. With our less than sober minds, we discovered pasta, ranch dressing, ketchup and a few tablespoons of Alfredo sauce. Alongside the last of his onions, carrots and tomatoes, we whipped together the best drunken pasta dish ever created by man. At least, that is what he would have told you. I would say in my coherent mind, it was adequate.

All smiles, all dimples, we scarfed down our inventive late night snack. I cannot remember exactly what was discussed in between bites, but I do know we both uttered the phrase, “I’m really going to miss you.”

Lake Olmstead's field where Bryan and I met.

Lake Olmstead's field where Bryan and I met.

As the sun began to rise, he tucked me in on his couch and told me to wake him before I left. I didn’t. I had to leave early and thought it would be rude to disturb his sleep before the long journey home. 

It is odd how people who once meant so much to you begin to fade into life’s background. I would occasionally send him a text and we would catch up. The last time I spoke to him, I was planning my move to New York over two years ago. I texted him asking if this was still his number, and if he would allow me to continue using him as a reference.

He replied confirming the number and gave me his blessing as a reference. We talked about life and I told him to please visit me in the city when he got a chance. He said if he found himself there he would look me up. 

Life is not fair. It breaks apart even the strongest among us. This past August, I received a text from Melissa asking if I had heard about Bryan. I immediately had images of an engagement, perhaps a baby on the way, a new home, all good and happy thoughts. Then I saw his twin brother’s social media post. I hit a wall as I read of his struggle and ultimate death due to mental illness.

This could not be how the man whose chuckle still resonates in my ear ends. I was completely dumbfounded to read of his fight against depression. The weird thing was the week before, I kept thinking about him. I thought about sending a message and catching up. Instead of following that instinct, I simply Facebook stalked him. I browsed photos of his family’s 4th of July party. I saw the happy dimples not realizing the pain he was hiding. I read about thoughts of his high school football days, and satisfied as none the wiser, I closed the window on my phone. 

I wish I could have kept him hidden from the storm, and sent him a message of hope. Of course my message may not have changed anything. He might have still taken his own life. But he might not have. I will never know because factor X is gone. We cannot dwell on the unknown or live in the past. We can only move forward. 

Although as I look at his name highlighted on my screen, I cannot bear the thought of saying goodbye to my dimpled, loving friend. I can only hope during his last seconds on this earth, he felt an abundance of energy fill him. I hope this energy was a confirmation of the overwhelming love we all had for him and still do. The love is felt in the tremble of my finger as I hover above that backspace. It is in the memories of box office milkshakes and early morning tarp pulls. It is hiding with him from the rain, and it is knowing I will forever live with his mantra, “Everybody love everybody” beating in the back of mind. 

Perhaps this love can be showered and transferred to those around me dealing with their own inner demons. All I can say now is, rest in peace Bryan Gerber. I close this chapter of my life with a soft prayer, “Into paradise may the angels lead you.” 

 

#remindmeofthisarticlewhenislipbackintodepression

by Kendra Augustin

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An action shot from Androboros: Villain of the State 

Often, as actors, when we seek classic monologues or projects we go to Shakespeare, or something European. But, I feel quite fortunate to have been in a classic American play. For the month of October, I was part of a 13 show run of what is considered “America’s First Published play”: Androboros: Villain of the State put on by The Peculiar Works Project at The Fraunces Tavern Museum. It’s a play that if I went into a random audition for the role I was cast in I probably wouldn’t haven’t gotten it to be frank! It’s a role that has one solo song, two dance numbers, classic text, and as a fellow castmate Trav says: “Prospero-ian machinations”. I was fortunate that the director, Ralph Lewis, was willing to give little ol’ me a chance. It’s a role that if I was offered it a year ago I’m not sure I could have done. I think I was able to do it now, in part, because I believed I could. Having just finished a physical theater/devising intensive at T. Schreiber Studio under the tutelage of The Ume’s Group Keelie Sheridan and Yokko I felt very capable. Also, I moved to a new place, and my mood was on the up and up. I’ve become someone much more open to challenges or to the things that scare me.

This year I declared to someone or the universe that I wanted to put more of my energy on being an actor. What I love about doing shows is that it’s very strange: you’re in this odd bubble with, in my case, 11+ people, and it brings about such an intimacy that we don’t necessarily get with people we work with at our day jobs or even our own friends. When you play with people like you are a child, when you’re funny with them, and you laugh with them, and they’re helping you do your makeup, or helping you with wardrobe malfunctions, or see you truly bloom a great deal from show 1 to show 13 how can you not fall in love with them? How can you not be your most open self? It’s that magic of “life is beautiful but it’s all going to end” because this bubble will not last forever. Our show is done now and it remains to be seen if we’ll stay in touch, if we’ll see each other in five years, or if we get married! Here I was “playing pretend”, but as a result I’ve never been more real. 

I remember the first time I had to sing my solo I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. But, how cool to be part of a production where the director doesn’t know if you can sing or dance or even act and still gives you the chance to rise to the occasion. I really think that’s what makes the arts so magical. You give people a chance to just fail. I had to fail repeatedly in rehearsal, in read throughs, in performances in front of people and I had to be okay with that. I had to accept that I’m gonna be bad and I have to keep being bad so I can get over it. I consider rehearsal and even performance to be like the rewriting process: you can go much deeper, you can be much clearer, but you gotta believe, at some point, that what you have is enough. That even when you’re screwing up that it’s gonna work out. I was surrounded by wickedly talented people who were upset if they didn’t get this or that word right and like a former teacher of mine said, “they (the audience) are not there for the words they’re (the audience) there to see you!” (FORGIVE ME WRITERS YOUR WORDS MATTER).

Even as a person who has felt rejected her whole life (but not too interested in the victim mentality these days) I find that I am less eager to jump at every opportunity. I’m happy if an opportunity comes where I can grow. OR PAYS ME EXCEEDINGLY. Ultimately, the best thing about this show were the people. I think anything in life can be great if the people you’re with are great. And many people in this project think I’m a happy, nice person. But, that’s because I was around happy nice people. Toxicity is so three months ago!

Tearing Down the Boxes of Female Oppression

By: Sadie Portman

Photo Credit: Sadie Portman

Photo Credit: Sadie Portman

I recently saw the now legendary play, “A Doll's House Part 2”, by Lucas Hnath. Watching Laurie Metcalf portray Nora 15 years after the original play ends, I was struck how viable Ibsen's voice is still today. Here we are, 138 years later and the public view of female empowerment has yet to change. Women have climbed ladders and have more choices than ever before, but still we have to prove ourselves every step of the way.

After seeing this piece performed, I took a stand against those who continually placed me in boxes. In many ways, I let them. Like Nora in the original “A Doll’s House”, I knew how to play along with the assigned role. I was the “cute” one who made cookies and cutout snowflakes partly because I loved doing so, but partly to make those around me feel at ease. I desired to please everyone but forgot to please myself. This is a place many women find themselves in. 

            I borrowed a cue from my dear friend Nora. I said no to the status quo, and was led by my true inner soul. I reconciled to find a balance of giving to the ones I love, but not accepting the belittling dialogue from those who were blind to the full me. 

Yes, I am home-baked cookies and Boston cream pie. I am swing dresses, and nights of carefree laughter. I truly believe in the wonderment and magic of the world. 

Photo Credit: Sadie Portman

Photo Credit: Sadie Portman

However, I am also strong, smart and steady in my convictions. I am the woman who cooks an entire meal and then debates you on why Jefferson is better than Hamilton. I look at life’s challenges dead in the eye with the goal of turning them into positive change. This is me, in a full Technicolor picture, no cropping wanted or needed.

This experience brought light to the notion women who are strong in their convictions, must constantly defend themselves against the backlash. They are often gaslighted and steamrolled by insecure men who want the facade of power. If we are portrayed as girls, we are under their thumbs. Sometimes women take the abuse. It is easier to remain complacent than to rise up and continually prove yourself to be a strong human, not some “unstable girl”

There is a cultural history of influential men who belittle, harass and abuse without the slightest implication. When a woman has the fortitude to say stop, we are stuck with the burden of proof. It feels as if women have to fight tenfold to be taken seriously. A man can detail everything “wrong” with a women or focus on her past missteps, but the minute a woman turns the mirror on them, she's a bitch, liar or drama queen.

We see this over and over again. Whether you want to use Hilary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, or the myriad of other women, we are pulled through the mud of masculine insecurity. We are not treated as academic or psychological equals.

Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault by a number of women in the past month, causing a wave of support for victims of sexual misconduct.  Photo Credit: Entertainment Tonight

Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault by a number of women in the past month, causing a wave of support for victims of sexual misconduct. 

Photo Credit: Entertainment Tonight

            I’m not alone in witnessing outrageous displays of power plays from insecure men. It comes out through verbal degradation and in the worst of cases, sexual assault. If a woman reacted in the manner of Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump, she would be deemed crazy and instantly discredited. Just imagine Sophia Coppola belittling her employees or calling men derogatory names once they refused her sexual advances. Think of how the media would portray Hilary if she had said “nasty men” or “grab them by the dicks”. 

Yet, many times men are permitted these releases without the blink of an eye, or even elected president. I have watched men walk back into the room after a rage-filled outburst, no apology uttered, without an inclining of what just occurred. It is business as usual, forgive and forget. This kind of behavior is deplorable and needs to be addressed. 

There is also a demeaning nature when men of this kin call women “girls”. It is to keep us small. The me now, knows I cannot and will not be locked away in a dark world of miniatures. I am a woman who is walking into the light, and does not fear those who may try to stop me. I am no one's doll. I am no one’s girl. I am simply a woman full of valid emotions, thoughts and ideas. 

I want male allies. Together we can organize to say no to the tyranny of masculine insecurity. Together we can stop the oppression of women and the breeding of a rape culture in our nation. We need a coalition of people who believe women and do not question what they were wearing the night of an assault or what was in their glass. Together we can proudly exchange knowledge and truly see women through and through in their full form. Anyone who cannot handle a woman standing up for what she knows to be true, can step aside. I demand the same love and respect I bestow upon you.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said, "Well behaved woman seldom make history."

As I take down my white flag, I say let's misbehave together. If there is a lesson in the Harvey Weinsteins and Bill Cosbys of the world, it’s that complacency on all sides is the ultimate enemy. If we continually cover up sexual assault and violent verbal abuse, it is giving these powerful men the go ahead. It is the complacency of men who do not believe in us or make us go the extra mile to prove our worth, that can lead to women being treated as if we are pawns in an adult playroom. Even when us, as women, stay silent after observing mistreatment or worse yet participate in slut shaming, can perpetuate the problem. A domino effect of power is at play, and the blocks continue to fall upon our confidence. We need to no longer watch the dominos fall where they may, but push back upward and balance them to stand on their own. 

Photo Credit: Sadie Portman

Photo Credit: Sadie Portman

            Idly standing aside and accepting this as our world is how we become stagnant and stuck in an 1880s frame of mind. If Nora can break through in the age of Ibsen, then so can we. Now more than ever, our lives are surrounded with social media and instant access. Women and men can find strength in numbers to fight against sexism and misogyny. We just saw how a simple hashtag, #MeToo can connect victims and allies. It is campaigns like this that encourage women from hiding in the shadows.

Some men of the Trump and Weinstein variety will undoubtedly keep their G.I Joe “macho” attitudes, but our diversity spans beyond the plastic smiles and stiff movements of this fake fantasy world. Women and fellow male allies of today, let us have the courage to say no to those who wish to display femininity in standard issued pink boxes. Let us raise and wave our suffragette flags of defiance. Because we are on the forefront of another feminine revolution, and I am through letting anyone portray me as their token Barbie Doll. 

 

Finding My Voice

by Nilsa Reyna

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Natural disasters, massacres, powerful men falling from grace and the current administration rolling back progress flood my news feed and I can’t respond quick enough. The words and feelings get stuck. Sometimes I struggle to say anything at all. Silence sends a message and not one that I intend.

I’ve been working on this for months. I’ve made progress. I’ve taken a stand on some issues yet words still fail me. I’ve started several blogs and posts and they are saved in draft form or have continuously been revised for weeks. Maybe I should aim to do quick posts.

Most recently, I experienced horror when Trump threw paper towels at the people of Puerto Rico, disgust when news broke of Harvey Weinstein, and dread when I heard about the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

I now wonder what news story will break next. I’ve started to play a game with myself and come up with the next outrageous story so I won’t be too shocked when it breaks. It feels as if tabloid stories are turning out to be true. In some cases they are.

I have to unplug far more than I used to: cut down on social media and news, not engage in a heated topic before bedtime and take more breaks than I used to. I’m reading more books and trying to laugh more.

I’m scared to post too much about “controversial” things for fear that some of my conservative friends and family will see them and comment. I also have little mental and emotional capacity to moderate conversations. I talk about this in almost every therapy session. Instead I write plays about the subjects that keep me up at night. The problem is that plays take years to develop.

How do I develop the capacity to do more speaking out? Do I make myself post at least one post when something terrible happens? How do I make space to do more of this?

Does it really matter if I post in protest? Who is actually reading my posts? Is it the people who think like I do because the algorithm has sorted my feed in this way?

If I have time to post hundreds of photos from vacation, then surely I can post something insightful. I try but get discouraged when the most likes from a post are of my professional headshot. I will keep trying. I will do better.

My words matter and so do yours. I am enough. You are too. I’m the spirit of practicing using my words I’m going to list things I’m for. They’re the unity principles found in the women’s march mission. 

Ending Violence
Reproductive Rights
LGBTQIA Rights
Workers Rights
Civil Rights
Disability Rights
Immigrant Rights
Environmental Justice

For more please visit: https://www.womensmarch.com/mission/

I also stand behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

I'm also developing plays and web series episodes that deal with Gun Control, Internalized Racism and Universal Healthcare.

How can I do better? What is your advice for me? I’m listening @nilsareyna.

#dobetter #action

What a Girl Wants

by Kendra Augustin

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Artist Credit: Lucas Werneck. As a kid Sailor Mars was my favorite. Or was it Sailor Mercury? Sailor Gals were out of this world and transformative and maybe I am too.

For most of this year I’ve been trying to figure out what I want more in life than being involved in the arts and I haven’t found it yet: except maybe to go to Berlin (probably because of its rumored wonderful artistic culture). In my desire to let go of the arts more opportunities have come my way. I was cast in three shows back to back and none I had to properly audition for. I said yes because it’s nice to be asked. For the first time I had to learn lines, but for more than one project and within short (for me!) periods of time and I had to act and I realized in all the years I’ve been pursuing this dream I haven’t really had this much opportunity to perform this consistently. I had to learn lines, I had to deal with disagreements, anxiety, frustration, or limited rehearsalsand I wanted to quit many times, but I didn’t because this is what actors do. They deal with all the nonsenseand the confusion and they do their job. For the first time (or at least in a new way) I understood what it meant to be an actor. And I now have respect for them. It’s a lot of work to take something on a piece of paper and make it work, make it funny, make it interesting, whatever. The director does their thing. The writer writes the thing, but it is the actor that brings the thing to life. There’s so much power in that, and also so much excitement. I understood that whether my director directed me or not it was up to me and my partner to make it work! Whether the script made sense or not it was up to me and my partner to make it clear and I felt like a true storyteller.

For one of my projects we had 8 performances! I used to hate having tons of shows but this time I got to see the beauty of it. I got to play each night: work on something I didn’t like the previous performance, work on different techniques each performance, work on diction, decide if the character was moregroin or or more airy,yada yada yada.. What a privilege it is to perform several times! I almost feel like it’s kind of disrespectful to give actors only one night to perform (which I do often when I curate shows but hey!).

Performing is becoming my new acting class. I’ve spent many years trying to be good. Taking classes left and right in the hopes that I could gain some understanding. And now when I’m on stage (or on camera) I get to do the work. I always feel dumb when I’m acting because I’m slow to grasp things and I don’t think I impress anyone on first impression or 15th but I eventually get it. I’m the “most improved” which I hate, but I guess for the people I work with it’s a relief because they no longer feel like they’ve made a mistake in casting me. This is not insecurity my friends, these are vibes!

Anyhoo, what I’m trying to say in all this is that life is strange. You try to run away from things and they come to you in abundance. I want to be clear that even though I was wishy washy about the arts I still worked at it. So, it’s not like I dropped everything to live in the woods (although I did do a four day residency in the middle of nowhere) and opps just fell into my lap. It’s just that I was uncertain and blue,  but the universe threw opportunity after opportunity my way and I took them all. To quote Christina Aguilera quoting someone else in her song, What A Girl Wants:

 They say, "If you love something let it go.
If it comes back it's yours, and that's how you know.
It's for keeps, yeah, it's for sure."

Maybe the arts are for keeps! Maybe this is where I belong! I wonder if I decide to not care about money anymore will consistent amounts come my way next?  Stay tuned.

The Wins of a Lifetime

by Sadie Portman

Twenty-one broke the American League record, but they didn't stop there. Cleveland went on to rally 22 wins in a row. Although they did not break the Major League record of 26 consecutive wins, they did bring triumph back to Northeast Ohio. A city once known to have nothing to offer but a burning river and rundown factory towns, came together to watch a game that is many times overshadowed by football and other fast paced sports. 

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The first thing I did after my college graduation was attend a Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees game with my diehard Yankee fan best friend. It took us days to construct these signs.

The crack of the bat is the sound of my childhood. From the days of watching my brothers play, to when I would eventually take a swing myself, the game means something beyond me. As a child in the eastern farmlands of Cleveland, Ohio, I dreamed of becoming the first girl in the majors. 

Those from the Cleveland area understand the importance of hometown pride. We stand in the cold rooting for teams that may only have a few token wins the whole season. We cheer on in the direct heat of the sun as humidity steams off Lake Erie. We are the Webster definition of the underdog and possibly hometown hubris. We wear hope on our sleeves from the first pitch to the last out of the season. 

We gave our salutes to the Municipal Stadium as we watched it crumble to the wrecking ball. The stadium laid in ruins, but it once sheltered a girl in her youth. I sat in those seats and took mental pictures of a structure that stood the test of time. I imagined my great grandmother sitting next to me and felt her excitement as my great grandfather got on one knee. He placed a ring on her finger, and asked her that age old question,  while the sounds of baseball echoed in the background.

A true Cleveland fan still refers to our new stadium as The Jake, and not the corporate sellout name plastered to its walls today. We remember opening day on April 2, 1994 as Jacobs Field ushered in a new era of fans. We stood and cheered them on in 1995 and 1997, hoping for a World Series win, a win we haven't seen since 1948. 

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Photo Courtesy of USA Online News. Cleveland fans come out to support the team on Thursday September 14. They would gain their 22nd win after playing through 10 innings.

There is history in this game, in this city I continue to love, even after my move to New York. There is a pride baseball fans take, and it connects us to our roots. A paupers’ game for years, it was considering a place for drunks, indecency, and the hangout spot of the common man. Although many a "proper" gentleman of the early 1900s didn't understand that it was an escape. It was a place to come together and connect with your neighbors. Families huddled around radios to listen in anticipation for the catch of a fly ball, or the crack of a grand slam. Young boys, too poor to purchase a ticket, waited outside stadiums to catch foul balls. Later, these same boys would gather for a rousing game of stickball in the streets. 

Baseball is a mental game. Tension rises between pitcher, batter and catcher. The pauses that cause some to yawn, are filled with excitement and build up for others. One base hit can turn a game around. Extra innings, two outs and full count is the highlight of any game as you wait for the factors of fate to ring through.

In the end, I know baseball is simply a game. However, can it be something more? Can it display injustice as Jackie Robinson faced blatant hatred when breaking the color barrier years before the Civil Rights movement hit the streets? Does the emotion packed picture of Bob Feller and Larry Doby hugging after a World Series win melt hearts even amid racial tensions? Can the legends of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Satchel Paige bridge generations together in the recalling of folklore? Is light and optimism released onto a small Midwestern city still redefining itself after industry has left?

Human connection is powerful. The energy shared on and off the field is one of euphoria for me. After all these years, I still take out my lucky number five Lou Boudreau jersey for those all-important Cleveland Indians post season games. This year my hometown is finding hope and pride once again in the sound the bat, the smell of hotdogs and the beating of John Adam's drum (if you do not know of this Cleveland icon, I encourage you to look him up). A winning streak of epic and record breaking momentum seeped into Ohio and the journey into the post-season will continue to gain crowds.

Yes, baseball is simply a game, and a game I hear more negatives comments and jeers about the older I get. However, these same skeptics were glued to the television rooting for a team that had a whole movie franchise created over their failure to win. 

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A picture I took at the last Cleveland Indians game I attended in 2015.

The Tribe proved you do not need all the money of the Yankees to maintain a successful team. Cleveland cultivates young men in farm leagues from countries as far away as Japan and the Dominican Republic. Together they have the fortitude to go the distance, to win the pennant and make history. 

Yes, I proudly display my love of this game, of my hometown and a history of connecting generations through a longstanding tradition of baseball. Years from now, Clevelanders will share the legacy of the 2017 season. A retelling of cheers, laughter and tears will be heard alongside tales of embracing the stranger next to you, and carry signs of encouragement with friends. It will be another dot on the timeline of Major League Baseball, a notation filled with the aspirations of a city, a state and a nation looking for something to believe in, even if just for a small dot of a moment. 

If You Feel Crazy, Eat a Potato

by Emily Comisar

Health is not something I write often about. I find it to be the well-trod territory of fashion magazines and WebMD. BUT, the truth is that it fascinates me to no end. Admittedly, I skew hypochondriac. Unfortunately, this has made me more reactive than proactive about my health (three times in my life I have been dismissed from an Emergency Room with little more than a prescription for Advil). I’ve tried over the years, but helpful routines to keep my health in check have never been my forte. In my defense, I did start running last summer, but found that healthy habit difficult to maintain through the winter (when I needed it most) as my work-life balance spun out of control and I started working nearly 80-hour weeks. I’ve started running and even biking again this summer, but the ritual has been difficult to maintain.

Then came the heartburn. Not metaphorical aching heartburn, but very literal, sear-me-from-the-inside heartburn. I wasn’t necessarily eating any worse than I had been (especially during those 80-hour work weeks), but I was suddenly FEELING it. I had a bottle of Zantac at home, one at my office, and one at my other office. Sometimes I even carried a fourth in my purse. That’s not normal. I tried to pay attention to my eating to identify what was causing it, but was never able to effectively parlay that into prevention.

That’s when my pizza-and-potato-chip-eating boyfriend suggested we do Whole 30 together (yes, it was that dire). If you’re not familiar with the eating plan, all you really have to know is that it calls for the elimination of sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and alcohol for 30 days, after which you run a series of reintroduction tests to get an accurate sense of how each food category makes your body feel.

The first week was easy and fun. We spent hours in grocery stores blowing our minds just reading food labels. We tried new recipes. We definitely lost weight. It was awesome. And best of all, I had NO HEARTBURN (of any kind!).

Then the second and third weeks got tough. I started experiencing extreme energy dips in the middle of the day. I was sleeping more than usual and often barely unable to get through the afternoon. I did my fair share of googling and WebMD-ing to figure out what was going on and my boyfriend resorted to eating pizza again in his alone time.

That’s when I got the simplest, and best, advice I’ve gotten in a long time: If you feel crazy, eat a potato. In other words, there are plain and healthy ways to take care of yourself if you feel like you’ve gone off the deep end. Go back to basics.

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My potato stash for this week.

In the month of August, I ate more potatoes than I’d care to admit, and by the time I’d passed to week four, I’d never felt better. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer. And sometimes when you feel crazy, you just need to eat a potato.

Preserving History: One Step of Love and Hope at a Time

by Sadie Portman

It's the year 2169. For over a hundred years, we have been driving down former Route 66. In 2051, it was renamed the Osama Bin Laden Interstate. Along the way memorials and statues dedicated to Taliban leaders and the 9/11 hijackers are dotted throughout the country. Between 50 - 60 years after September 11, 2001, high schools were dedicated to Bin Laden, Mohammad Atta and others in their kin. After all, this is how we rightfully preserve our nation’s history.

I know, America allowing such monuments and symbols idolizing terrorism and hatred seems crazy, and would clearly never happen. Why is it then we continue to allow Confederate statues to remain standing and dedicate infrastructures to soldiers who fought against the U.S.? Is this how we keep American history alive?

Does it convey the 3,446 recorded Black Americans lynched between 1882 - 1968? Do they depict the separate water fountains, and position in the back of the bus? How about the over 100,000 heroic slaves who successfully escaped and risked their lives to find freedom through the Underground Railroad? Where are the words and monuments dedicated to William Jackson, Robert Smalls, Miles James, and Andre Cailloux? How many of you even know one of these African American Civil War heroes? 

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Captain Andre Cailloux was one of the first black Union officers to die in the Civil War. During an interview with Octavia V. Rogers Albert, Colonel Douglass Wilson is quoted as saying, "If ever patriotic heroism deserved to be honored in stately marble or in brass that of Captain Caillioux deserves to be, and the American people will have never redeemed their gratitude to genuine patriotism until that debt is paid."

I am the first to argue the importance of history. But what part of history do we want to commemorate? What side of history do you want your children, your grandchildren, your nieces, nephews and future generations to learn? Just as you would be angered at the thought of constantly being reminded of the horror of September 11, 2001 by pro-Taliban memorabilia being scattered across the country, we should not now, nor ever, glorify The Confederacy. 

I would like to note, I hold no issue with general memorials to the loss of Confederate soldiers. You can find similar World War II memorials in Germany. What you will not find in Germany is specific stone moldings of Third Reich leaders.

The Confederates leaders are the opposite of patriots. They literally seceded from The Union in the name of slavery. You can argue states’ rights all you want, but in the end, it was for their right to own and keep humans like common livestock. Every Confederate who fought was by the very definition, a traitor and enemy of The United States of America. These monuments belong in museums where curators can offer appropriate background information. 

As Americans, in a post-9/11 world, we choose to bring light to the victims of September 11. We etched their names on stone and placed them amongst the calm and healing powers of falling water. Nowhere near the 9/11 monument will you see the names of the hijackers or images of planes. You will find them in the museum shown in proper context. The memorial allows us to mourn and remember those who perished. In doing so, we remember life. We remember people who lived, loved and died all too soon. This is how we keep history alive. Yes, the memorial is tragic, but it also offers hope. 

When you learn about the Confederate statues, you realize they were not erected until the early 1900s and into the 1930s. They were built during the era of Jim Crow Laws to remind minorities of where they stood in society. They are racist and derogatory in every sense of the word. These statues showcase Southern “heroes” and enforce the ideas of a segregated world. Let us not forget pre and post-Civil War society included rape, burning of crosses, lynching, criminal accusations based on color not evidence, “separate but equal”, church bombings and dogs unleashed upon children. Now tell me, is this not homegrown terrorism?

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Sojourner Truth was not only an abolitionist, but a woman's rights activist. Her 1851 speech, “Ain’t I a Woman”, continues to offer inspiration.

Do we forget this history? No, but we do not move on by continually showcasing the persecutors. Instead, we remind the victims of their triumph. We show them despite our differences and transgressions of yesteryear, today we stand beside them as brothers and sisters of America. We say no to hatred. We listen to their struggles, and we choose a better future. A future where Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, James Daniel Gardner and Powhatan Beaty are household names. Let us commemorate the fallen, those who fought to vote, to have a voice in a public forum, to live beyond a plantation, and dreamed of a prosperous life. Let us idolize the heroes who stood their ground and said no more. 

Yes, let us remember the past, but not through symbols of hate and oppression. Remember the past through symbols of hope and love. This does not mean we do not recognize the pain. There is pain when you see the struggle through the eyes of those who suffered. There is an unadulterated grief in the number of people who lost their life in the name of freedom. It is here, in the blood and grit, where we can find common ground. We look past the perspective of the oppressors and bring focus to the power of those who overcame. We realize we all want basic rights, a feeling of security and a desire to be cradled in warmth. When we capture the history of love and hope in the face adversity, in the midst of pain, only then will we find the same hope and love in our future. 

 

Planned Parenthood Can Benefit Us All

by Sadie Portman

The Affordable Care Act has dodged another bullet. We can breathe a sigh of relief for now, but there are sections of the proposed dead bill that will most certainly come back in other forms. Parts will be disguised under the belly of pork legislation, or in new budget plans. In particular, the defunding of Planned Parenthood will more than likely continue to be debated in the halls of Congress. 

Planned Parenthood has been around for over 100 years, and shrouded under controversy since it’s conception. The idea of slashing its cash flow has been a topic for years, but the organization serves American citizens on both sides of the aisles. How would the defunding affect you or your family? Would a domino effect ensue if such a plan were to be passed? Even those who stand outside, signs of protest in hand, are indirectly benefiting from Planned Parenthood. As they give affordable options for your neighbors, our government continually receives financial savings.

Those who adamantly oppose Planned Parenthood tend to voice their anti-abortion views. It is useful to note, only 3% of their government funding goes towards abortion. Most funds are from Medicaid and Title X. Title X forbids the use federal dollars for abortion. Medicaid since 1977, allows the allocation of funds in very specific and rare cases. The Hyde Amendment states Medicaid dollars can be used in cases involving rape, incest or the protection of the mother’s life. 

The Women's March in January called forth a variety of women's issues, including the importance of Planned Parenthood.

So where does a majority of the money go and where does this leave us? A majority goes towards the prevention and testing of STDs. The second highest percentage is used to provide contraception. Meaning, 34% prevents the need for abortions or unwanted pregnancy, and 42% limits the spread of disease. 

Planned Parenthood is a vital organization with an estimated 2.5 million people visiting their facilities every year, defunding would have a clear impact. Statistics show around 80% of their patients are from low income families. They are looking to stay healthy. They are seeking vaccines, cancer screenings, pelvic exams, general healthcare, HIV services, PAP tests, fertility and pregnancy services.

With so much focus on abortion, the fact Planned Parenthood also provides affordable maternity care is often lost in the chatter. Women across the nation are using the organization to increase their odds of a healthy baby. To call them “anti-life” is defamatory. Their goal is not to push for abortion. Their goal is to provide options. A woman can find adoption services, prenatal services, birthing classes, postpartum help and fertility education. A read through their list of pregnancy assistance depicts the betterment of life.

Sometimes it is noted, you can receive care from other sources other than Planned Parenthood. This is true. So why do so many place their health into the hands of their organization? Women and men are not just choosing Planned Parenthood for their abortion services. They are choosing a provider they trust, a provided that offers same day appointments, extended hours and are open on weekends so the everyday worker can maintain their health. 

One in five women have turned to Planned Parenthood for care in their lifetime. Closing the doors of Planned Parenthood could have dire consequences. Those who can no longer afford basic care, would turn to emergency rooms and high cost hospitals. These costs are substantial and many times, it is your tax dollar at work. Even if you could care less about the services provided by Planned Parenthood, or the people’s lives they save every year, the almighty dollar speaks volumes. Planned Parenthood is saving you money. In 2015 the U.S. Congressional Budget Office concluded, without their aid, government spending would increase an estimated $130 million over the next 10 years. 

January 21, 2017, women took to the street around the world to express the importance of women's issues. One of the organizers was Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. 

It is easy to demonize the things we do not understand, the things that scare us. However, I have found once I gain an understanding, for the most part, the things we are told to fear, are not so scary after all. Planned Parenthood has a long history of both good and bad, but it has become a vital institution for this country and the many citizens it serves. 

I Am My Own Wonder Woman

by Nilsa Reyna

Left: Nilsa Reyna and Geoff Barnes, friend and colleague, after the infamous circus skills showing. Right: Nilsa Reyna dressed as Wonder Woman at Halloween. 

One of the many lyrics that would stay in my head for days upon viewing another Wonder Woman episode was, "All the world is waiting for you and the power you possess..." 

Wonder Woman was the first comic book hero I related to. I've been a fan since I first wore Wonder Woman underoos at five years old. I wish my mom would have taken a picture of me wearing them but those were not the days of smart phones and we didn't own a camera. It was bonus when I found out Linda Carter was also Latina. 

I believed if I made the choices she made, all would be well. I secretly wished for an invisible plane when I needed a break from people or life. My childhood was rough and I often lived in dream worlds through books and entertainment. 

My sister and I would spin as many times as we could tolerate with our hand made bracelets of toilet paper rolls and aluminum foil, and try to spin just one more time. Perhaps the extra spin would transform us. It only made us dizzy or nauseous but we laughed a lot. 

Once the show was gone from syndication, I didn't think much of her until sophomore year at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University. We were brainstorming a theme for our circus skills showing for the faculty. We decided on a 1970s/1980s TV show theme and I would perform my solo trapeze act as Wonder Woman. 

We were about to re-audition to continue on to the third and fourth year of the program. It was rumored that if you were a female actor and did trapeze, you were more likely to get cut. I knew I was on the cusp but since I was actually good at trapeze and enjoyed doing it, I would be bold. Maybe if I had a sense of humor I could avoid the worst. 

Wonder Woman didn't save me from being cut but I'm a survivor. I struggle and thrive and find a way to make things work in almost every situation. I continued on and decided I would remain a theatre major and transferred colleges. I dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween and finally put the costume away. 

Fast forward to about ten years later. I'm happily married. Actually I'm not. I think I am. I won't realize this until two years later when we separate for a second time and decide to divorce. 

My ex-husband is going through an early mid-life crisis and doesn't know if he loves me anymore. He's questioning everything and having a hard time reconciling why he isn't happy despite having a beautiful wife, great job and a nice condo. I find similar words written on a piece of paper when I'm putting away laundry. 

I'm aggressively pursuing an acting career in Chicago, except there are no real prospects of creating a sustainable career. I will keep telling myself I'm still okay with this because my relationship is more important. At that time it was. It takes another failed relationship post divorce and a stroke to jolt me back into reality and remind me life is too short and I still want more. 

When I think about my married life, I compare it to the Rebecca Gilman Dollhouse adaptation. The Goodman Theatre in Chicago produced a wonderful production of it around 2005. It was also the first time I saw my life on stage. I think it influenced me to work on my marriage because Nora stayed in that version. I stayed too and I have no regrets because it was the right thing for me at the time. 

So what is this blog post really about? Developing a sense of self worth. If I could give my younger self advice I would say. "Foster a strong sense of self worth. It will help you get through almost anything. It is different than self esteem, which is more tied to how we measure ourselves against others. A strong sense of self worth is your anchor and you need to be your own anchor. It is how you act towards the value of your self. You need to be your own Wonder Woman." 

I didn't remember how strongly I related to Wonder Woman until I saw the movie last month. I teared up several times throughout the movie, especially during fight sequences and major realizations about the world. I believe Wonder Woman has a strong sense of self and I am my own Wonder Woman. It has taken me years to realize this and I'm grateful I can express these thoughts and feelings now. 

#wonderwoman #selfworth

“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.”- Sylvia Plath

by Kendra Augustin

Bissan Rafe's Clerambault

If you ask me what I want to do with my life I’ll say, “I want to be an actress, playwright, college professor, artistic director, film director/cinematographer/editor, archaeologist, astronomer, explorer, Aziz Ansari. A renaissance woman if you will. I’ll even add painter, graphic novelist, super rich, and a PhD while we’re at it. Some may call this ambitious! And I am! I dream impossible things. I want it all!!!

Or at least I thought I did." I started taking a 6 week life coaching course with the intention of leaving with tools to become a working TV actor at the end of it all. I began the group, told the coach what I wanted, but then I also told her I did not want to audition anymore and I did not want to do the trendy pay for play workshopsthat it took to get into TV. “If you want to act, but don’t want to audition then what do you really want?” She asked. And it hit me that maybe this was not the career I wanted. That maybe I didn’t want to be in the arts. After all, I was quite involved but, there was no joy for me in what I did, and I felt very alone, and overwhelmed by much of it. So, I had to face that maybe I only wanted this dream because I put so much energy in it and not because I actually desired it. The way other people talked about it (Excited. Happy.) I didn’t relate to. I didn’t want to keep putting all my energy into hours of rehearsal for a show that didn’t pay me enough to survive. So, I thought if I was only goal oriented then what am I doing with my life! I tried really hard to think if there was something else that I could be interested in, but I couldn’t find it. I didn’t know who I was outside of someone who wanted to be in the industry. And that’s scary. It’s like raising a kid for 18 years, and that being your sole purpose. Then the kid goes away and you have to discover who you are outside of this person you put all yourself into. 

In having to focus on what I wanted, I had to realize that maybe there were some things I didn’t want to be a part of anymore. That maybe it’s not that I want to quit the arts, but that everything I am doing is not serving me. It’s actually draining me. So, I came to the decision that I had to cut some things out of my life and I had to say no more often. I’m not sure I genuinely want to do any of this still, but I am working on not being tired (the kind of tired sleep can’t fix. –The Adjustment Bureau reference. Remember? I know you all watched it).

For so long, I feared having a job because I was worried that it would stifle my spontaneity and my ability to be ready for any opportunity, but when I think about it this is no way for me to live. Sometimes, this industry flings you around, and wants you to put your whole life on hold for a “maybe”, but that’s not cool. Who says that we can’t have stability? After all, the people who are running the studios probably live their lives the way they want while the rest of us work hours in the name of “art”. It’s a sort of abuse and I’m starting to understand that self flagellation is no longer my jam. Sort of. In fact, I learned that the most important thing for me to get out of this group was not to become a TV actor, but to be kinder to myself. In being kinder to myself, I could choose happiness. 

So, I still don’t know what kind of career I want, but I do know I want to be a better friend, and I want to be more connected to my family, and I want to eat less crap, and I want to be more active, and I want to live fully. Because isn’t that what anxiety is? Being afraid to die because there is so much you haven’t done yet? Maybe everything will come into place. Or maybe it won’t. What I do know is that before I started this group coaching session I was in a pretty bleak state. These last few weeks, in attempting to see the good in each day, I’ve been…dare I say it????...kinda happy? Not sure if it will last, but maybe being unhappy all the time doesn’t have to be the only way to be either.

 

 

Too Much

by Emily Comisar

I cannot remember a time in my life that I was not an overachiever. My mom remembers that even as a little girl I was hard on myself. I’ve pushed and pushed and seen results, and because I saw that pushing myself worked, I just kept doing it. In the sixth and seventh grades, I beat myself up over what I’d felt were sub-par PSAT scores. In high school, I had to be talked out of taking AP Physics just for the sake of taking AP Physics.

In college, when I found that a school schedule could literally work you from dawn to midnight, that’s what I did, adding time-consuming extracurricular activities to my already full course load. The more work I did, however, the more validation I received, and nowhere have I found this to be more true than in the professional world. In my four years at my first job out of college, I was promoted three times, and eventually ran the organization’s national programming department. Nevermind that I had found myself in an industry that I didn’t want to spend my career in -- I was hiring staff, speaking at conferences, developing a reputation, a good one at that! Of course, at the end of the day, it was just one full time job. Even when I was doing other projects on the side, I could walk away from the office at 5pm and leave it there, without feeling any threat to that all-consuming sense of validation. 

But when I finished graduate school at the age of 31, everything changed. Much to my pleasure, I had cobbled together a career composed not of a single day job, but multiple part-time and freelance jobs. I was (and still am) the master of my own calendar, I can organize my day however I want and take and leave new projects as I deem them to be worth my time. I cannot sing the praises of this kind of lifestyle highly enough. For one thing, it allows me to work with the rhythms of my own body. At 10am when I’m at my most alert and productive, I’m at the office, but at 2pm when I’m at my slowest, I’m at the grocery store or the gym, and in the evening when I get my focus back, that’s when I’m back at it from home. 

As it turns out, the only major drawback besides the lack of employer provided health insurance, is my lack of self-control. One of the perks of being in my line of work is that you rarely get a job by just applying blind in response to an ad online. Jobs come your way through colleagues, friends, people you worked with that one time last year who are still thinking about how you slayed that project. Each new job offer I got came with a rush of that same old validation. I was being seen, I was being recognized for my talent, my intelligence, my ability. Sometimes multiple jobs were coming from the same people over and over again--to my mind, there were few compliments much bigger than that. 

True words written on the bathroom wall at Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam Avenue. Put this in the category of lessons I'm still learning.

I couldn’t say no, not to paying work, not to the real jobs that kept getting bigger and bigger, providing me with more experience, and access to a more professional network, more people who might want to hire me down the line. At first it was an incredible high. I was busy all the time, too busy for a social life, working sometimes from 9am to 11pm on a daily basis, but I felt important, and necessary, and that was what mattered. 

What I didn’t anticipate, and what came as the nastiest shock, was the day I would hit the wall. In my case it happened over a series of days in which it stopped being validating and started being too much. Pulled in too many directions, and drowning in to-dos, I felt angsty and angry, cynical and tired, and mostly importantly, not myself. The worst part was that there was no immediate way out, not without burning bridges, and not without seriously letting some people down. For maybe the first time in my life, I learned what it felt like to truly be...let’s call it flailing. And while that flail sucked, while I sincerely hope to never repeat it again, I know it was important because it was the kick in the pants I needed to say, “validation be damned!” Or maybe “work-related validation be damned!” It was the wake-up call that I needed to realize that maybe my worth didn't have to be exclusively tied to my work, that maybe there are other ways to feel purpose, to feel contentment, and to feel valid.

On The Table 2017 - Everyday Activism

by Nilsa Reyna

Inspired by artist/activists and feeling like I'm the poster child for the Generation X stereotype of disengagement, I recently hosted a lunchtime talk called "Everyday Activism" at my day job for The Chicago Community Trust. Now in its fourth year, On the Table is a forum to encourage conversation and take action on challenges being faced.

The Libra in me always wants balance and peace. During our talk, we came up with a set of ideas for creating a foundation for engaging in acts of daily activism.

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1.) Stay informed. No matter how crazy the headlines get, try to read or listen to news. Podcasts now report the biggest stories in a shorter format.

The Daily

UpFirst 

2.) Approach things with loving kindness. Are you a loving person? Do you recognize when you are not? Do you apologize when you are not coming from a place of love? Do you wish others loving kindness when they hurt you? Actions have a ripple effect so why not approach life from a place of love. It feels better to smile than to frown. Laughter is also a great stress reliever. We need more laughter in the world.

The Power of Loving Kindness: Cultivating Metta

Stress Relief from Laughter? It's No Joke

3.) Make donations to organizations you support. Don't know where to start? These articles help give direction.

How to Find a Charity to Donate to That Supports the Causes You Care About the Most

Upset About the Results of the Election? These Charities Could Use Your Help.

4.) Attend events marked as rallies or celebrations. If protests aren't your thing or they trigger something negative for you, sign up for events that come from the perspective of being for something, instead of against it. Also, read up on the history of marches as it may inspire you or lead you to a better understanding.

History of Marches and Mass Actions

5.) Find ways to include others. Talk to someone different than yourself. Get to know the people in your neighborhood, especially if it is going through gentrification. Try to listen to others, even those that do not share your opinion, and engage in conversation. Do not make others feel guilty for not agreeing with you and instead aim for understanding. 

#everydayactivism #chicagocommunitytrust #onthetable2017 #lovingkindness

Moving Beyond the Cycle of Assault

by Sadie Portman

He followed me home from the subway. I gave him a quick smile and he pursued me, stalked me for two blocks before cornering me. He stuck his tongue down my throat and went up my dress to penetrate me with his fingers.

I screamed, "No!" 

I gave two tough pushes, and pulled him off. My legs took up speed, and I took one last look to see him gone, blended into the two a.m. shadows.

Photo by Sadie Portman

My assault took place a year ago this June. A night that had begun with a viewing of Finding Dory and friends, ended in a nightmare. Police asked me if I had wanted it, questioned whether I had given him signals to come close. They suggested because of his French accent, his customs and understanding of sexual cues might be different than my own. 

Assaults can happen in more than one way—I was physically assaulted in June and emotionally assaulted a few weeks later. Emotional assaults are sneaky. Unlike physical, they are not as apparent. They prey on you when you are looking directly into their eyes. They swoop up, and you invite them into your life to fill a void.

There was a guy I welcomed in because we had mutual friends. He instantly had a lust for me that was apparent as he waited outside the bathroom of a dimly lit Manhattan whiskey bar. He texted the next day and we began to vigorously write back and forth into the late hours of the night, sometimes leaving an open-ended thought to begin the next day with the comfort of each other's ideas. Then he told me he had a girlfriend, someone he was apparently unhappy with, but nonetheless attached to. 

I was always honest with this man. I told him I was upset, but we could not carry on like this. The texts ceased. I moved on, getting a new job and trying to play the field. Two weeks later another text. Perhaps he was bored. After being stuck at an airport in Kentucky for hours with each delay, one's thoughts begin to wander. So the charade began, but once again, after a few days he informed me that he was still in a relationship.

To say I was surprised would be a lie. I knew it in my heart, but was hoping beyond hope that the connection I felt so strongly—a connection he clearly felt too—was real. I longed for the reality of love, to be desired for who I was, not just for my blonde hair, big boobs, legs and ass. I sent a text of epic proportions detailing how I liked him, how he was clearly unhappy, and despite it all, I would not move forward in whatever it was that this had become. I said we could remain friends at a distance. I told him of my assault. I was upfront hoping that if I did not keep, secrets from him, he would follow my lead. It worked to some extent. I felt our dialogue was open and unadulterated. 

Then one August evening, the words I waited for appeared on my phone. He was single, a free man. We spent our first night together at his place. He knew he was the first one I had let in since the attack. This fact left my lips very early in the night. He was patient and kind. Held in his arms, I felt safe for the first time in months. I felt appreciated for the Sadie I was, not only in the full vulnerable flesh, but inside as well. I laughed and joked on the way home, a weight lifted from my shoulders. I was somehow strong again, confident in the person I had become in the face of adversity. 

I have an incurable open heart. Once I like someone I like them to the fullest extent. I want to delve into their ins and outs. I want to know them on the deepest of levels, and I leave myself split open from head to toe. However, I am not a girl who falls easy. I believe in connection, in an energy that directs us all. If I can't feel the flow of electricity coming out of you and into me, you are quickly left by the wayside. I have only truly felt this and invited a man into my life a total of three times. He was the only mistake among them. 

I let him in, and there he stayed for six months weaving mixed signals and wavering back and forth. One night he would text me his intimate writings. We analyzed his fears, his thoughts of the future. Hours on end we would type out words of us, words of hope and encouragement, words of darkness and words of light. Then the next day he would build the highest of concrete walls, and cut me out as if those moments of before never occurred. He did not want a relationship, but he insisted on asking for advice or sending me sexually driven texts. Up and down the roller coaster went, and I stayed on the toxic ride. 

The night of my roommate and dearest friend's birthday arrived. He showed up, and still being his flirty self, we marched on as normal. Singing karaoke, drinking champagne, flashing selfies and group shots to commemorate our fellow friend's journey into his 30s. From singing Mariah Carey to Katy Perry and The Cranberries, it seemed like a normal night. 

My decision to go to the bar would become our undoing. What started in the lights of a hazy whiskey bar, would end in a crowded Irish pub in the early hours of Sunday morning. As we walked in, he made it apparent he was scoping the joint for his next kill. I was jealous, and confused by his behavior. Just a week before he was singing my praises, telling me I was always cute, and that the thought of me was turning him on. What had happened in the last seven days to spark such a distance? 

I tried to brush it off as too much alcohol. However, I could not ignore his next move. He began to make out with another girl as if I wasn't even there. The strength in my muscles fell to jelly. All I knew is that I needed to make my way to the bathroom so I could fall apart in the emptiness of the next available stall. The line stretched long in between tables. I was trying to hold myself together picking up any distractions I could. Inviting the attention of other males, but nothing worked and the long wait to the restroom was too much to bear. I left, no coat in hand, not a dime to my name. Every possession in a heap on the floor. I stormed out and broke down in every sense of the word. I was torn to pieces, ripped to shreds and my heart left barely beating on my exposed chest.

Photo by Sadie Portman

I was emotionally assaulted, and the guy I thought appreciated me had used me in a way that was akin to the stranger that stalked me on the streets. To both I had been just another notch on their belt, a conquest to be had. Post-traumatic stress creeped into the night and confirmed the thoughts of that foreign man from the murky depths of June. I felt used, dirty, and ultimately alone. Branded by the male race as a cheap piece of meat. When I finally went back to the bar to collect my things, I luckily had the support of two incredible friends to try and lift me up, to carry me home. 

The events leading up to this night were too much for me to comprehend all at once—two men, one woman, a twist of safety and a warped sense of reality. It took me a good month of reevaluating every word, every step taken to form this scenario before me. 

From the ashes of both assaults, I have grown taller. It has been a year since my physical assault, and six months since I was left hung out to dry by someone not worth my time, but I am not a prize to be won. I am worth more than any predator, and I choose to be of value to all those who deserve my respect and love. I choose to be a woman who plants her stop sign in the dried up mud, and halts to examine herself as well as the occurrences of the past. I continue to learn, and move to a brighter future, not because of what has happened, but in spite of it.

I know I am not the only woman who has a story, and together we can gather the shattered pieces of our past selves and create a prism of strength, love, and hope for the generations of tomorrow, because it is in the here and now when we need to say, "No more!"

 

Dates with Cool Girls: Episode 1

by Emily Comisar

And now we're trying something new, a podcast in which I, Emily Comisar, being of sound mind and body, take really cool girls on hopefully somewhat cool dates.

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Jacqui Rêgo: Victim...I mean, Cool Girl Date #1

I recently interviewed fellow LOST GIRLS PROJECT blogger Jacqui Rêgo about her work as a performer over drinks at Santos Anne in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Here's what she had to say:

I Don't Know Where I'm Going, but I'm on My Way

by Kendra Augustin

Image by Bonnie.

This year, 2017, I have decided to quit auditioning. How can an actor who wants work not audition anymore you ask? Great question! The answer is insanity! Every year I like to play Russian roulette with my career.

I have auditioned millions of times and have gotten mostly nothing. Basically every acting gig I got last year was via connections I had made. So, this year, I decided to try something different:  get a day job. I haven’t gotten a day job yet, and I may never because I actually don’t want one, but I know that my financial woes are making any success I have feel empty. I have no idea if this stance is me being strategic, or self-destructive, but I’m not giving up the arts! I got into a play lab, I am in two sketch comedy groups, I’m going to take more sketch writing classes, I’m going to take acting classes again, and I’m going to go to workshops more.

Isn’t the true definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results? Maybe the choice I’m making seems impractical, and maybe it is, but all I know is I want to live a full life. One where I visit my family more, use the passport I got two years ago, get a one bedroom apartment in Park Slope (or The West Village), pay off student debts, and make my art in (mental) peace. Like the title of the old World War I era song: “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.”

The Alt-MAJORITY calls each other by name

By Jacqui Rêgo

"We are one." Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

"We are one." Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

Surrounded by tens of thousands of people, fellow Lost Girl blogger Emily Comisar and I join a winding sea of bodies. So many men, women, and children are holding signs about love and dissent both. Emily and I are running late so we miss marching in Battery Park and it's full view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We slip into the rally while moving up Church Street. We are absorbed by the masses, not yet tired or huddled.

My favorite protest signs are a tie between a stern looking Lady Liberty with the words “She Mad,” and one baring the simple New York City truth “I mean, have you even had Halal Cart?????”

“I mean, have you even had Halal Cart?” Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

“I mean, have you even had Halal Cart?” Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

I mean, have you?

I glance around to take pictures and look to my left and see the Freedom Tower. The nearby footprints of the World Trade Center Memorial are obscured by another building. It doesn’t matter, I know what they look like and their image leaps into my mind’s eye. I have walked by them a hundred times.

I know this part of town very well. I have a tentative fist in the air and join the chanting. “No hate. No Fear. Refugees are welcome here.” My lips curl around the long “o” sound to bellow while I make eyes at the cute two-year old perched on her father’s shoulders marching in front of us. I notice the woman in the hijab behind me holding her daughter’s hand. Her chanting is quieter. I check that I haven’t lost Emily in this crowd the size of a small city marching. Then I read another protestor’s sign, “First they came for the Muslims, AND WE SPOKE UP.” It makes my heart stand at attention as I catch it’s invocation of the famous Martin Niemöller Holocaust poem. 

"First they came for the Muslims...AND WE SPOKE UP." Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

"First they came for the Muslims...AND WE SPOKE UP." Battery Park Immigration March: Sunday – January 29, 2017

The parallels between this weekend’s immigrant ban, mismanagement of green card holders, back turning on allies of the U.S. army, and the denial of Syrian war refugees can’t help remind me of the authoritarian government that birthed WWII.

I’m the daughter of a Latin immigrant father from South America, but I am also the daughter of my German blue-eyed mother. My mother’s mother, Elisabeth Peller was twelve years old when she came through Ellis Island in 1928. Lisbet’s father was conscripted in the German army during WWI, he was killed when she two.

Only a year after emigrating, family left in Germany talked about eating the wallpaper glue to combat the far reaching hunger of the Great Depression. Years later after WWII ended, cousin Erika jumped out the window to keep from being raped by Russian soldiers. I don’t know what happened to Erika. I hope she survived the jump. During the war, I hope she resisted.

My mother’s mother – twelve year old, Elisabeth Peller listed on the passenger manifesto bound for Ellis Island in 1928. She would later swap out her German nickname “Lisbet” for the Americanized “Betty” and formally change the spelling of her name to “Elizabeth” with an American “Z.”

My mother’s mother – twelve year old, Elisabeth Peller listed on the passenger manifesto bound for Ellis Island in 1928. She would later swap out her German nickname “Lisbet” for the Americanized “Betty” and formally change the spelling of her name to “Elizabeth” with an American “Z.”

During the 1930’s the U.S.A. was at war with an extremist madman and anti-German sentiment was rife. So much so that my grandma’s first fiancé left her when his family found out about her heritage. My grandmother was quite likely the most kindhearted person I will ever meet, but she isn’t unique. There are many good people out there, and the bias she faced was a drop in the bucket of the bigotry exploding in the world at that time. Desperate people look for scapegoats. Islamaphobia is the new anti-semitism is the new anti-Irish is the new anti-Pole is the new anti-Japanese is the new anti-Puerto Rican is the new don’t-even-get-me-started on the centuries of systematic discrimination of *Black Americans.

Emily’s family is Jewish and I am half German and here we are marching together in what feels like a Twilight Zone time warp to the 1930’s. **The alt-right rallying behind the G.O.P. is intentionally sprinkling words like “Lügenpresse,” into their rhetoric. It’s a Nazi phrase meaning lying press. I think about how bullies use taunts to create shame and threats of violence to encourage apathy. How words like “Snowflake” are spit out and meant to discredit so many people’s internal alarm bells, but why?

Bullies like to point the finger at others to distract from the bully’s own faults. The lies and photo stunts are so blatant I wonder if #45 secretly enjoys getting caught. Like how serial cheaters eventually so tire of the charade they stop covering up their tracks to their blinded partners. Unfamiliar lipstick on a shirt collar is hard to face. The facts sometimes are.

Photo of the Albert Ballin, the ship my grandmother took from Germany to Ellis Island on February 24, 1928, to become an American citizen. ***By September 14, 1930, the Nazi’s would rise to become the second largest political party in that country.

Photo of the Albert Ballin, the ship my grandmother took from Germany to Ellis Island on February 24, 1928, to become an American citizen. ***By September 14, 1930, the Nazi’s would rise to become the second largest political party in that country.

How did the Republican party of my tolerant German-American Methodist grandparents get hijacked with hate? With the current White House discrediting the free press and courting “Christian extremists” by omitting the mention of Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day it is a clear message. I am far from the first person to say this, in both public office and in private lives, silence is consent. I feel like I’m living inside the 1915 supremacist propaganda film, The Birth of a Nation, but the only person I’m asking to be saved from are the men wearing white masks and calling themselves crusaders. What ever happened to thorough vetting and calling each other by name? Immigrants are people, and as an American you know this, because chances are someone in your family came from someplace else.

“Don’t get distracted by what they say, focus on what they don’t.”

Quote from Russian journalist Alexy Kovalev’s article giving advice how to cover the current U.S. administration based on his experience covering Putin. The Guardian – January 23, 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/23/reported-putin-journalists-trump-media

Times are strange. I wake up each morning as if I’m balancing giant buckets labeled ‘hope’ and ‘heartbreak’ on each shoulder and walk around doing my best to keep each from sloshing out. This past week I’ve walked in multiple protests trying to keep this sense of weight from tipping over and drenching me. Very few Americans have experienced a terrorist attack in their city. I have seen people jump out of the towers to their death from two neighborhoods away, and unlike the uncertain fate of cousin Erika I know they didn’t make it.

If I, and so many others who witnessed terror first hand can separate blatant racism, from actual threats to our safety; I do not understand why people so far removed from any conceivable threat continue to hide behind bigotry. If you are not Native American or a descendant of an enslaved person, you are an immigrant. This country welcomed you. Now it's time to return the favor. 

That is the alt-MAJORITY, decent people who believe in the founding principles of the United States of America, and we’re everywhere. I am what an immigrant looks like, and so is your family, and your family, and your family. Mr. President, if you haven’t eaten Halal Cart yet, you should.

New Yorkers lined up around the corner to eat Halal Cart food. Put simply, it’s delicious.

New Yorkers lined up around the corner to eat Halal Cart food. Put simply, it’s delicious.

*If you have a chance check out the documentary “13th” which explores the connection between slavery and incarceration. Created by the Academy Award nominated documentarian Ava DuVernay. (She’s also the first Black female director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.)

**http://time.com/4544562/donald-trump-supporters-lugenpresse/

***Caption citation: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/elect.htm

I Have Something in Common with Viola Davis

by Nilsa Reyna

We-the-People-17x30-02-1 2.jpg

Shepard Fairey We the People Series to Protest Trump.

I've been thinking a lot about why I didn't march two weeks ago. I got the invitation early enough to attend the big one in DC but did nothing. I've been feeling depleted lately and chose to stay home. I've tried letting myself off the hook for not attending when almost everyone I know attended one of the many marches and the questions linger.

Recently, I watched a CBS Sunday Morning profile on Actress and Producer Viola Davis. When she told Lee Cowan “When you’re poor, you are invisible. Every poor person will tell you, nobody sees you. So being famous was me just wanting to be seen.” This broke my heart and resonated deep within me. It was like being punched in the stomach, passing out and then being shocked back into reality, picking myself back up again and standing tall.

I never wanted fame but I now realize I set my goals too low. When I was in college and began thinking of my career, I thought I would work with various theatre companies and make a living as an actor. I would direct and be a guest teacher when I got older to supplement my income. In my naive and optimistic heart I told myself it would be okay to make $28,000 a year! For a girl that comes from poverty, that's a lot of money! 

I lived the first 18 years of my life in a sky blue and white trailer. When my parents separated, my dad remained there until he passed away. I'd like to think he died happy in that trailer but I always wanted more.

I come from a long line of quiet women who don't call attention to ourselves. A few boisterous relatives are the exception. I was also raised in a conservative and religious household to work hard, keep a low profile and follow the rules. Differing voices and opinions were rare. Healthy discussions with opposing views never happened.

My saving grace was reading and theatre. I got lost in other worlds and lived other realities when I read books or acted in plays. I also benefited from having good mentors. Thus, I live in New York and work as an artist. Sometimes I get paid for it! Sometimes I get recognized! Sometimes people seek me out as a collaborator!

So, why do I still feel like I have no voice? I think it is linked to why I didn't march. I've been exhausted from moving at a fast pace and dealing with multiple doctor visits and tests (as a stroke survivor this is the norm). I'm also allowing myself to slow down and say no. If I'm honest and on a deeper level, I still feel like I have no voice. I still feel invisible. Sometimes the only time I don't feel invisible is when I write or act. I haven't quite made that transition in my personal life consistently.

I stayed home two Saturdays ago and watched the live stream of the DC march and was transfixed. I couldn't leave my apartment and felt empowered by the diverse women, artists, women's movement pioneers and especially by the first time activists. 

I want to do more. I want to march. I want to wear a pussy hat with pride. I will. I am ready for action and I do have a voice that matters.

#WomensMarchGlobal #protest #transitions #violadavis #shepardfairey #wethepeople

Baby's First Feminist Stance

by Emily Comisar

There's one VERY important fact about my life here in New York City that I don't believe has come up yet: I'm not the only Comisar in this town. My father lives here, too, and with him, his wife, and my absolutely delicious 4-year-old sister. This child has a level of sass and style that I came nowhere near as an 80s baby, and she constantly blows me away.

Evidence of my lack of sass and style, circa 1991. Photo credit: Mom.

One thing she does get from me, however, is the desire to play hostess. In fact, her favorite game is restaurant--you know, the one where she takes your order, pretends to cook, and then brings you fake food. Last week we were playing restaurant without the usual aid of the actual stolen restaurant menus she keeps among her toys at home. Left to her own devices, she designed a surprisingly gender-specific selection:

For girls: cookies and chocolate milk

For boys: salad and tap water

This, coming from the child who once told me that orange was a boy color...My dad thought it was unfair, and I thought: welcome to being a woman, let the boys feel the pressure to stick to greens for once.

Now, it should be evident to you by now that I am no child psychologist--I'm a writer with an interest in starting public conversations. That said, getting to hang with this kid on the regular means that I've generally observed her developmental trajectory up close and personal. I've seen as she's become more aware of sex and gender and watched as she's internalized what that means for her behaviors. The whole experience has made me think hard about what I would do if I ever had a daughter--what I would teach her, how I would educate her in the face of all that pink (for the record, I hate pink).

In some ways the question is moot. At this point I'm not actually counting on having kids myself. BUT I know that I will be lucky enough to spend much of my adult life around them, especially living in a city where the children of close friends often end up being your de facto nieces and nephews. As I unpack the pressure that I feel to find an maintain romantic relationships, I realize that some of it is what I'm putting on myself. My parents NEVER told me as a child or teenager that romantic relationships would be a vital part of my life. Even when I've been in long relationships, they've never asked when I was going to make it official.

So, if it didn't come from them, it had to have come from somewhere else. Movies? TV Shows? Magazines? Popular Opinion? Those are some tough cookies to chew on.

You Are Where You Need to Be

by Nilsa Reyna

I enjoy taking on challenges and thrive on being busy but it is also hard for me to unplug. The older I get, the more I find I need to unwind. Once I allow myself the gift, I feel calmer and more present. I also have more fun! 

Deadlines are necessary but sometimes they're detrimental. Perhaps if we took a moment to just breathe and recognize, "you are where you want to be," things would be less complicated. I'm currently practicing this.

I'll take on an assignment and get a clear deadline. If life and my day job begin to demand equal attention, I take a moment to breath and see where I can reprioritize. Sometimes this means taking an unplanned day off at work or being up front with when I can realistically deliver on a deadline. 

Lately, I keep coming back to the "you are where you want to be," quote. (See Stephanie Zamora's post.It resonates because it acknowledges my accomplishments and also helps keep me motivated.

I push myself hard because I want to achieve all my life and career goals. Now I'm checking in with myself and asking questions such as, "How can you be gentler with yourself and begin to see the progress you are making," as referenced in the article above. The answer...

Just breathe. The silence will speak to you. Things usually fall into place.

#justbreathe #stephaniezamora #transitions #stayinthemoment