Thursday, December 31, 2015

Power Sources: a New Year's Hi Def Resolution

At this point in our modern society, I think we all know where we get our power. We get it from the sun, a farm of wind turbines, and the little switches on our walls that turn the lights on and off.

Too bad everything in life isn't as simple as generating power for the very computer I sit behind.  Ironic Note: generating power isn't simple, therefore everything IS that simple. #mindblown

The thing is, as we (and by we, I mean someone else) tries to figure out how to efficiently power our increasingly technological world, I believe we also need to monitor how we power ourselves. Same idea, different realm. Where do each of us get our personal power?  From our faith? Maybe our loved ones. On a Friday night, maybe it's ice cream and a #7 from Mr. Chow's. 

The answers really depend on a couple of factors: the person, the situation, and believe it or not, the trends. There are trends in personal power. It wasn't that long ago, for example, that Instagram followers didn't exist, let alone carry the weight of our self esteem. 

Lately, however, the power trend that has most caught my attention is an unexpected one. "Persecution." Now you wouldn't think at first glance that "Persecution" would be a source of power. People are usually persecuted in order to feel the exact opposite of powerful. But that knowledge, and a more empathetic society, is bringing it into a new light.

Let me use myself as an example. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have ancestors that literally walked and pushed handcarts across the United States to find a place where they could worship freely. I've spent every 24th of July since as a long as I can remember honoring those Utah pioneers that led to me being born where I was born and raised how I was raised.

As an adult, I keep the trials and persecutions of my ancestry like a badge of honor, and when I feel I need to take a stand, I take that badge out and pin it on my chest. I talk about how there was an extermination order against my people. Yes, that's "exterminate" like on a box of roach poison. In 1838, if you lived in Missouri, you were allowed to shoot a Mormon dead, and when the President of the United States was contacted about it, his official response was something like, "I feel bad, but it's an election year, and you guys are kinda weird."

Now if I'm being 100% honest with myself, the times I play this "persecution card," are usually when I'm trying to bring perspective to someone painting a stereotype that Mormons are squeaky clean, privileged white people that build sparkly temples and hate gays. Trust me; it's simply not true...except for the sparkly temple thing. #sequinsforever

Still, this is basically the current trend I'm talking about. People feel persecuted, which leads to outrage, which leads them to share their outrage, only then to be met by others that are so uncomfortable with it, they point out their persecution to level the playing field. It's a polarizing game of "My Life Sucks Just as Much as Yours."

So what if when met with the injustice of someone's experience, instead of leveling the playing field, I were to simply stop and look at them? After all, if I really have been persecuted, I would no doubt look at them and recognize myself. 

That's why in 2016, I'm giving up "Persecution" as a power source. I will take lessons, not definitions, from my opposition in life. I will wear my ancestry with pride without viewing martyrdom as an achievement where both persecutor and believer are celebrated. 

I will walk with a sense of unity, knowing "life's suckage" is something that makes us all the same, not what makes us competitive. When confronted by someone's injustice, I will give them empathy. When people find joy or outrage, I will not point to something else. And when I recognize my feelings begin to rise out of me, I will own them without making others do it for me.

This is what I'm calling my Hi-Def Resolution, a New Year's Resolution so crystal clear, it displays a picture of not only who I am but who I want to be. And that, my friends, is a little scary, but very powerful.


Friday, November 13, 2015

My Brake Down

Recently I took a bus to the evil stepmother queen of all airports: LAX.

It seemed to me the responsible choice, what with morning traffic polluting the route and airport parking costing as much as bailing out your car when you park in a tow away zone. (Or so I've heard...)

Unfortunately, if LAX is an evil queen, then the bus turned out to be a poisoned apple.

It's not like the bus wasn't nice. It had tall, plush seats, high def TV monitors scattered throughout the interior, and best of all, a friendly driver at its helm WHO WANTED TO KILL ME.

Okay, I don't actually know if he wanted to kill me. And honestly, I can't even say whether or not he was an unsafe driver. All I know is on that warm California morning I may have been driven to LAX (and arrived late, by the way), but I was also driven to what I've named, "My Brake Down."

It all started because I'm pretty sure the bus had new brakes. Which, by the way, is fantastic! I'm thrilled safety would be a high priority for this company transporting my fragile body. But if that was the case, I would have appreciated a brief announcement of warning, like when tanning salons post a sign announcing their beds have brand new bulbs. (Or so I've heard...)

Unfortunately, what I experienced without any preparation was an hour and a half long drive so convulsive, I'm sure the other people on the freeway took us for a bunch of head-banging metal lovers on our way to Warped Tour. If only! How I cherish the thought of spending that early morning thrashing to some band called Chronic Doom.

Instead the driver attempted to ease our brain damage by popping in a DVD of Il Divo In Concert. Now, I hope you understand the gravity of what this means. By putting on the DVD, not only were we forced to listen to the concert; we were forced to watch the concert because of the very high def TV monitors I had just praised moments earlier. With my earphones stowed in luggage under the bus, and a phone low on batteries because of the Uber I took to the bus station, I'm afraid there was simply no way to escape "the divos."

It was at this point that the panic started setting in. I had traffic as far as the eye could see, a looming flight departure, and now a classical shouting match of ABBA's "The Winner Takes It All" IN LATIN. I was on edge.

Then, as one of the tenors made, wait for it now, ANOTHER KEY CHANGE!! (this time while holding a single rose because that's just what you do), the driver pumped the breaks which once again slammed my forehead into the seat ahead of me, and... I lost it.

A loud, steady moan erupted from my soul. My face felt like it was on fire, and I was overcome by a fit of hysterical laughing in which tears secreted from both of my eye holes. I was broken. I had reached my limit. If I had any government secrets, I would have given them up right then and there for the serenity of one Colbie Callait song.

I did recover, albeit several hours later on the plane, probably a couple thousand feet above Kansas, but I was left with this awful guilt. I wasn't proud of my "brake down," but it seemed so involuntary at the time. I mean, what do you do when you reach your limit? Do you just feel bad? I wanted to because nobody else on that bus seemed to be suffering the same way I did. Who knows, maybe they like Il Divo...

Who am I kidding? That can't be possible. The real explanation must be we all have different "braking points." We all have our moments when, excuse my language, the crapper gets a little full, and you have to excuse yourself to take care of it.

When we're feeling volatile, hopefully we're mature enough to keep from hurting anyone that may wander into our line of fire. And hopefully, as we gain more experience with our limits, we can make a U turn when the brakes are a little sensitive or stuff toilet paper in our ears before it gets too late.

Most of all, I think when we have a "brake down," we need to give ourselves a break! Give it the ol' "this too shall pass," and own it. So I wasn't built for waterboarding? So what? So I get frustrated? So what?!

What I can't do is get frustrated and then hate myself for it because that's stupid, and I hate myself for that.

All in all, I'm grateful for "my brake down." It's a good story, and I love a good story. But beyond that, I'm grateful for having learned something new about myself. Good, bad, or ugly, these little pieces are what make me who I am. And who I am ain't so bad. (Or so I've heard...)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life is a Cabaret

There are many perks to doing Musical Theatre for a living: free cardio, for example.

"Fun" is what I hear most from people. "Oh, that sounds like fun," is a common response when I mention life behind the footlights. And to their credit, those people are right. Theatre is fun! What they don't know, however, is "fun" barely cracks the Top 5. 

Much higher on my list of perks are the moments you see the story you're telling onstage relate to what's happening in the world offstage. It's sometimes scary, often inspiring, and always magical. It's what we call "life imitating art," and I'm experiencing a healthy dose of it right now.

I'm currently in a production of Cabaret at the Welk Resort Theatre San Diego. Cabaret is a brilliant piece of theatre because it's a musical about WWII and the Holocaust without literally telling the story of either of those things. Instead, we tell the story of how some people made those things happen while many others let them happen.

So how does something so dark bare a striking resemblance to 2015? Well, if you had asked me two weeks ago what this year would be remembered for, I would have said "racism and hate." This week, I'm happy to say those things might only come in second. 

Now believe me, I would much rather give second place to something else like Jurassic World, or, I don't know, the return of culottes. Anything, really! But the acts of hatred that keep popping up across our country are impossible to ignore.

What's really disturbing is these events are being treated more like tropical storms than what they are. As it happens, one area is devastated; the tragedy grabs the nation's attention and sympathy, but then the storm somehow disappears, leaving that community to clean up the mess and allowing us to go back to our lives until the next one falls from the sky. I'm sick of the cycle. Are we too easily distracted? Or do we choose not to see the issues at hand?

In the case of Cabaret, it's both. To me, the show is about what can happen when we're asleep in our lives. These characters demonstrate how easy it is to convince ourselves something has nothing to do with us when it's not knocking down our doors. And heaven knows there are plenty of things to distract us: greed, addiction, and maybe most terrifying, the apathy of being too comfortable. 

But the common denominator between these distractions is their ultimate conclusion: When you only do something if you have to, it will always be too late.

I wish I had a good solution for the problems that currently face our nation: Get angry? Write a Facebook post? Light a candle? They all seem futile at best.

Where I find gratitude, however, is right now I get to do something. I get to be onstage in Cabaret and tell this story to an audience who will hopefully carry it with them out of the theatre and do something as well. 

So Wilkommen. Bienvenue. Welcome. For better or worse, we're all in the Cabaret, and the time for action is now.

Cabaret @ Welk Resort San Diego
May 1 - July 26