The Standing Ovation I Will Treasure for a Lifetime

For the last five days I have been basking in the joy of a moment experienced. I have written several blogposts about how the practice of mindfulness and gratitude can transform your life. It’s nice when I can share a personal example which might inspire you to dream and visualize despite your circumstances. First though, the experience and then its significance. And for those smart alecks reading who are asking yourself whether reliving this moment has caused me to lose five days of other present moments, the answer is ‘no’. It has enhanced them all.

JoyFriday night was the opening of the comedy play ‘Becky’s New Car’ by Steven Dietz at The Mariemont Players where I portrayed the role of Becky. We received a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd. I can still hear the applause over the curtain call music of the Beatles singing ‘Baby You Can Drive My Car’. I can picture the smiling faces in the audience, and feel the warm stage lights. I had imagined this moment in my mind for over two months and it is exceptionally precious because it almost didn’t happen.

Those who have read my previous blogpost know that I was absolutely shocked to be diagnosed with breast cancer only six weeks after landing this role. I found out I would need to receive chemotherapy for the beginning of my cure which would run consecutively with rehearsals and performances of this show. It seemed the only fair thing to do was to give up the role for the sake of all involved. My director, however, received the news with an air of openness and possibility. He quickly developed an understudy plan which would keep me in the show if, that is, my health would allow it.

“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.”  ~Robin S. Sharma

That’s when I became determined to make it happen and the prayer and visualizing began in full force. I sat in chemotherapy sessions with my script studying scenes. I dragged the IV pole around reciting lines in front of nurses. I imagined myself over and over standing strong on that stage and giving the performance of a lifetime. This got me through so many scary, tentative, and sick moments in between when doubt would start to show its ugly face. I should also add that I am visualizing this tumor shrinking and gone in full faith I will be cured. But, I see the role in this play as a gift from God to soften the blow of what I am having to endure. It became hope in the wake of a misfortune. It allowed me to remain an actress over a cancer patient. I was intent to succeed not only for me, but for all those in the show depending on me and the plan. And let me say, that my castmates and crew are fabulous. We together earned the crowd’s great response all weekend and I could not be more proud or grateful. And we will do it for the remaining two weeks of performances.

Every amazing thing ever accomplished started in the mind of someone. Bring your dreams to life with unwavering belief and faith. Trust the power of God and the universe he gave us to fulfill your soul’s destiny.

Becky Walter

Photo Credit: KPIX Photography       http://www.kpixpro.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Faith, God, gratitude, Inspiration, law of attraction, Mindfulness, Uncategorized, Visualization | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Year 2017 Was Looking To Be The Best, Then BAM………

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…….I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October and the year got better! Well, let me clarify. Breast cancer and its treatment is no walk in the park and I am NOT glad to have it. I have, however, found an abundance of blessings and reasons for gratitude within the experience. But, let me come back to this after I review the previous parts of the year. It was a year of ‘firsts’ on all fronts.

I started out the year performing with the American Immersion Theatre, formerly known as the Murder Mystery Company. I nearly chickened out of the audition that previous Fall because improvisation and generally unscripted material scares me. However, I firmly believe that if you can’t stand discomfort now and then, you are not growing. 16807775_10212825259728626_3507438238633669879_nWhat I found on the other side of this fear was that I AM good at it and it’s so much fun! Performing at private parties as a wide variety of over-the-top characters while making people laugh is truly a privilege. It has, without a doubt, made me a better actor and brought some beautiful humans into my life.

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This gave me the courage to audition for Tony and Tina’s Wedding, an off-Broadway traveling interactive show that came to Cincinnati in the Spring. After I was cast, the director from New York informed me that my character sings a song at the wedding reception – Mambo Italiano, no less. What?!! Again, despite voice lessons and previous intentions to do musicals, I had conveniently avoided the risk of putting myself out there. I agreed, but shared my reservations. I was met with confident encouragement from him. It was followed by his public accolade to the cast at the end of the run when he pronounced, “Traci, you  worried about your Mambo, but it was perfect!”

BlitheSpiritsocialready-77-MDuring that time, I auditioned for Blithe Spirit at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater and was thrilled to receive a call-back for Mrs. Bradman, a small supporting role in the show. The director had a change of heart and asked me to read for the iconic role of Madame Arcati, instead. Neither he nor I had originally seen me as this character, but it was the role I was meant to play. Portraying this older, eccentric, British, psychic medium from an early era is the most challenging thing I have done to date. I can now honestly say that half the time it thrilled me and the rest of the time I was scared to death.

Soon after this, I was cast as Becky in the play Becky’s New Car at my community theatre home where I had not performed for several years. I was very excited to play this fun loving but conflicted character who dominates the stage most of the play with periodic lengthy monologues in which she interacts with the audience. I quickly set about memorizing the lines in preparation for November rehearsals, but at the end of September felt a lump in my breast.

I am the picture of health, had no family history, and boasted a perfectly clear mammogram only 9 months ago. I felt certain it was nothing but random fibrous tissue or something. I was stunned when I learned yet another unexpected role had come my way – that of breast cancer patient. While it is an early stage, it is aggressive. Though the prognosis is good, it will require a year of treatment including surgery, radiation and continued infusions. It begins with four months of chemotherapy, not later but now. There is no way I can play Becky. Or is, there? A wonderfully supportive director found a way. The assignment of an understudy, a plan for shared performances, and a caring, flexible cast of actors will allow me to do the role. What a gift!

In fact, cancer has gifted me other beautiful humans I would have never met, knowledge, strength, and a new perspective. It has shown me the value of so many already in my life who have filled my fridge, inundated my mailbox, lightened my load, prayed for me, over me and with me. I am living on savings with no current income, but know it is only temporary.  Amidst this violent and turbulent world, there is so still so much goodness, love, and humanity. I have been inspired and feel called to inspire, whatever my circumstances.Personality Glasses
This blog is not about cancer or my acting career though these things are currently my life. It’s about trust, facing your fears, and embracing the unexpected. Our God wants so much more for us than we can ever imagine or dream. We limit ourselves with doubt, fear, and trepidation. We are rewarded when we step out in faith. You must not sit where it’s safe and expect to soar. God gives us the free will to get in our way, to block the blessings if that’s what we decide. Choose, rather, to live in faith and believe that all is possible. Only then will you will see the miracles in it all. Even the unexpected trials which threaten to rock your world will not break you.

Happy New Year!

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Wrecked by Grief and Restored by God

This year’s blessings have propelled me to heights of happiness which could be no more welcome after the pits of despair in 2014. Last October I was still reeling from the sudden loss of my father earlier in the year. Almost overnight a suspected rare heart cancer took a healthy man on no medication off the tennis courts and out of our lives forever. In those awful last days I missed an important audition so I could sit at my father’s bedside despite the contrary urging of my sister and mother. My response was simple, “If I’m meant to be on that stage, God will give me the opportunity later.” Everything in life stopped when Dad was gone except comforting my mother and teaching her to live in a world she had never navigated on her own. Fish photThere was little time to work and less time to write, so I watched my bank account plummet. In the meantime amidst the grief, I received constant messages from my tenants leading to one expensive repair after another on my home which they were renting. I continued to live between my mother’s home and that of a friend. I cried more tears than I thought possible holding onto that day when I knew happiness and peace would return. That’s the thing about faith. It’s the life preserver which saves those who have it and the one missing for those I’ve seen drown in the troubled waters of this world. There was a Bible verse posted on my vision board last year which I read almost every day. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Earlier this year I experienced a series of events which I call miracles, precious pearls of the proof of His promise. As each gift came I felt God’s wish for me, as if he was declaring, “I have not forgotten you. This gift is for you and you are worthy.” A play I had written was accepted for a staged reading by a local playwright’s group. My house sold after one day listed on the market. A small, affordable newly renovated condo with a river view appeared on the market. It has become my urban haven and is more “me” than anything I could have conjured up on my own. The theater I was eyeing posted their upcoming season. It included a non-musical comedy which is rarely done; featuring a favorite role I had previously played at the only other theater in town to have ever produced it. Coincidence, some might say, but I think not. In fact, I did not consider what followed as an audition. I went over there and CLAIMED my part. See, it didn’t matter if more talented people showed up or that I didn’t know anyone. It didn’t matter if I had minimal experience or how many people read for the role. I knew this was arranged by God especially for me. All of these above mentioned things flowed into my life as if ordained, consecutively with relative ease. As long as I received them (which I did, of course) I believed it would be impossible to mess it up. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to go play in traffic or anything, but you know what I’m saying. In Peter 5:10 it says, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ Himself will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” Sign me up for the latter half of that.  I’m ready.  We can count on the fact that we will have pain in this life and there will always be things outside of our control. We have a choice, however, how we view, face, and manage these things.

sunriseIt’s amazing how quickly things have changed form me in such a short time.  Today I witness my mother, because of her faith, blossoming into a different person as her life transforms into something still unknown but wonderful. She is independent and confident with new friendships. She displays aspects of her personality I’ve never seen. It’s like watching a child play in the ocean for the first time as she discovers the woman she is without my father. My bank account is fairly restored. I sit on my terrace drinking coffee as I watch the rising sun turn the sky and river beautifully pink and purple, thinking about the show opening this week. I never stop feeling gratitude these days for every sweet experience. I’ve dedicated my upcoming performances to the memory of my father who greatly enjoyed me in this role three years ago. My earthly father, this wonderfully smart, dependable and loving man I thought we could not survive without is certainly still with us in spirit. We are, however, not only surviving without him here, we are thriving in the hands of our heavenly Father.

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One Week Stand Without Remorse

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I fled snowy Cincinnati for my lover two thousand miles away at a pace still faster than the laziest cheetah. Slowed only by the annoying airline connections characteristic of the budget traveler I have become, I cursed every barrier between us while distracting myself with imagined visions of our reunion. We would have only seven days together, but I would relish every precious second. The plane landed in Phoenix at night forcing me to wait (a few hours less thanks to the time change) until morning to see him.

I couldn’t dress fast enough the next day in my recently neglected shorts and tank knowing that he was waiting just outside my door. Would it feel as good as I remembered? With a shiver of anticipation I stepped out to greet my lover, the Sun, who did not disappoint. He bathed my body from head to toe in a luscious, familiar warmth which filled my being with the nostalgia of previous rendezvouses – a houseboat on the lake, a riverboat in New Orleans, a beach in the Bahamas, and a terrace in Greece were just a few flashing through my mind at warp speed.blazing_hot_sun_0515-0909-2912-5042_SMU

Tears of joy sprung instantly to my eyes and the cold months of our separation fell away. It only mattered that we were together in this moment. He was more attractive than when I last saw him in Cincinnati. Here he shined big and beautiful amongst white wisps of cloud and vivid blue sky framed by mountains. I closed my eyes to shut out the tears and to better feel his hot kisses covering my pale limbs. What a hottie, my lover the sun! I was ready to give myself quickly and wholly to him without reservation, but I pledged restraint. I must go slowly and I should use protection. He means no harm with his strong rays and can’t help himself.

I have fond memories of several other long distance relationships in my life. They offer love with a different flavor which is sweet to savor. Unlike an everyday relationship, there is a longing during absences, a sweet building of anticipation in the travel planning, and an exhilarating thrill at reuniting before the sad goodbye. We all know what that famous English dude said about parting. Then the cycle wonderfully repeats itself. Long distance lovers appreciate and celebrate all that they love about one another when together. It likens relationship to a vacation, an experience untainted by the boring details and restrictive routines of regular life. Such couplings are usually a challenge to sustain and more fantasy than reality. Every time mine ended, I need only wait. Like a boomerang each man came back to me. And, I let them for a while. After all, neither party wants to let go of a fantasy though the love inevitably dies.

Tomorrow I will bid adieu to the sun and go home to a foot of snow. Unlike other lovers, the sun will always return to me. As long as I live in the Midwest, we will maintain that thrill ride relationship of which I will never tire. I will dutifully mourn his absence, daydream of his return, never take him for granted, and welcome him back with my mind, body and soul each and every time. Ah, nature erotica.

 

 

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Contradictions in Character

traci2 lo resContradictions in character make for interesting people in real life and stories. I sometimes feel like a walking paradox. This struck me the most scrolling through my Twitter feed to see multiple tweets by Eminem and Joel Osteen, one on top of the other. No one is more confused than the people at Twitter who have no idea who to recommend that I follow. I mean, do they suggest the latest religious gurus or gangster rappers? Ha Twitter! In the lyrics of Eminem, “they’ll never figure me out” while Joel would say that God knows everything about me and still loves me.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

The thoughts, preferences and beliefs of deep people are seldom black or white. In an effort to understand others we strive to classify people into a type so we know how to relate to them; democrat or republican, stingy or generous, straight-laced or promiscuous, neat or sloppy. There is almost a pressure from society to declare what you are, one way or another. I remember John Cougar (Mellencamp, at the time) singing that you have to stand for something or you will fall for anything. It rings like a warning for us all to think hard and choose wisely. But for goodness sakes, pick a side. Those who don’t are often viewed as weak, impressionable, or not knowing their own mind.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

I think this mindset is way too easy and severely limiting. While there are times when we do commit ourselves with strength and fervor to something our soul holds true, there are other things that do well in the land of shades of gray. Living there can make us more compassionate, flexible and balanced.

My inconsistencies? Here’s a few. I support abortion laws, but would never have had one myself. My IQ appears wildly different depending on my mood and whether you meet me at a party or a professional lecture. I used to regularly run for exercise and sometimes smoke. No, not at the same time. Duh! I would run ten miles, drink a lot of water, then sit down and have a cigarette. Yep, I did. I hid it because the world said I was whacked. At the time though, I enjoyed both and didn’t think I should be forced to quit one for the other. I have long since given up both addictions, one for my lungs and the other for my knees. I didn’t quit either, however, because others said I should.

We’re all on a journey to figure out the world and ourselves in the process. Our incongruent traits are what make us richly unique. This paradox personality syndrome, as I call it, is especially useful when creating fictional characters. What is it about you that doesn’t make sense? What things about you would cause quizzical looks from people if they only knew? Author Walt Whitman is quoted as saying, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large… I contain multitudes.”

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Why Not Choose Happiness?

TT-5885-(ZF-2557-58274-1-018)I recently attended an all-day conference on happiness entitled ‘The Habits of Happy People’. It was sponsored by the Institute for Brain Potential and the speaker was Dennis Marikis, Ph.D. The beauty of the social work profession is that you earn education credits for your license and improve your personal life at the same time. This pleases me because I am the mother of multi-tasking. I recite lines from my plays while driving in the car, rehearse songs in the shower, and eat at my computer. This could be hazardous to my happiness as you will learn. I do not text and drive, nor do I walk and chew gum. One has to draw the line somewhere.
With almost 200 people in attendance, I’m obviously not the only one interested in happiness. Even the forefathers of our country made sure to enlist protection in the constitution for our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit? Why not say the right to life, liberty and happiness? It’s as if happiness is a mysterious and elusive concept, something to chase but not possess. It poses the question of ‘who’ or ‘what’ we believe is responsible for our happiness. Is it the government, our spouse, our job, our church, or our children? Is it dependent on our wealth, our health, or our circumstances? If so, then happiness will always be out of our grasp, a mirage that appears in front of us only to vanish before our eyes when it seems we have reached it. If happiness is something outside of us, then it will always be in the control of others or subject to the whims of the world.
What if happiness were ours to have at will? Happiness is a choice and much more within our control than most realize. That’s not to say we aren’t challenged by genetics, other people, and circumstances beyond our control. We often, however, fall into the traps of the primitive brain; fear, insecurity, and anger. These things trigger chemical responses in the body that separate us from good health and a sense of peace. Those who don’t know happiness is largely a choice, are just plain miserable. Because, let’s face it. Society offers us plenty of reasons to feel bad about life.  We innately hold the tools for happiness and they’re free! Practicing gratitude and mindfulness are two of the biggest ones for me. We can do this through meditation, prayer, forgiveness, or a multitude of other exercises every day if we become intentional about it.photo - Copy (7)
I was walking with a friend recently on a beautiful fall day being very mindful of the moment. I was admiring the big, billowy white clouds overlapping the vivid blue of the sky. I was feeling the breeze in my hair and the sun warming my cheeks. I then spotted three deer in a side yard about 300 feet away. I stopped my friend and the conversation to watch them eating and looking around. I was in heaven until my friend interrupted my bliss. “Don’t stare”, she said. “We’d better go or they might charge us.” Really?! In the cognitive business we call these ANTS or Automatic Negative Thoughts. We need to banish these little buggers or they will ruin the picnic every time. I asked her if she had ever been charged by a deer. No. Had she ever known anyone charged by a deer? No. How many times in her life had she seen deer nearby? Hundreds. So I asked her the origin of her thought. “I don’t know. I think I heard or read something somewhere that it could happen” was her reply. As ludicrous or irrational as this may sound, we all do it…every day. Our brains are so wired to protect ourselves we routinely become paranoid. Are there deer who charge people? I guess so, but we have to use common sense.deerx
The numbers on meditation have been in for years. The research clearly supports the benefits of meditation over any medication. We westerners just don’t want to hear it. Mmmm. Maybe it’s because it would call us to stop blaming others.
At the end of the seminar I had to wait in a very long line for my certificate. I exited to a horribly congested parking lot leading to a backed up side street. Ultimately, I was funneled onto the interstate into rush hour traffic. Grrrr! Is this a test? Sitting in my car, I speculated what our world would look like if we learned the practice of meditation, mindfulness and gratitude as children. What if it was a mandatory class in our school systems?
I’m sure our crime, suicide and divorce rates would be much less. I bet our family relationships and our medical health would be significantly better. If it were practiced globally, I doubt we would hear much about war, famine and genocide. If we want to start solving the major woes and crises in this world, we need to start by tending to the soul at the earliest age possible. If you are hearing these concepts for the first time as an adult, I’m sorry. Start today, though! Google the terms. Find the books and articles. Read the research. Develop a plan. Change your own thoughts and your own life and we can transform the world, one soul at a time.

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You Got An Ear To Go With That Mouth?

earRecent experiences have reminded me that there are many people who don’t take the time to listen to those around them. I’m torn about whether this is a social flaw or something that speaks to the core of one’s character. I suspect it depends on the person. It’s particularly frustrating, however, if it’s your date.

My date, better known as the Red Scare

The first time I meet this guy is for a coffee, (let’s call him ‘Guy”, in fact). Guy speaks extensively about his job, salary, education, real estate and cars. I realize afterwards I had little opportunity to share about me, yet learned quite a bit about Guy who has been in my life all of 45 minutes.  I decide not to rush to judgment.   After all, some people over-talk when they’re nervous. Besides, Guy seems nice enough and he’s easy on the eyes. My shallow side emerges again. Or, is it desperation? Let’s hope not. Maybe it’s hope. Yeah, that’s it, hope and optimism. I decide the red flag is really just a pale shade of pink.

The next occasion we converse (if you call it that) is over drinks and food at a local bar. I learn more about Guy’s current and past real estate deals and the way he has manipulated them to his advantage. I hear how Guy has cleverly edged himself into his current job, as well as his plan to proudly use the company before moving on to bigger things. He tosses out more numbers; percentages, dollar amounts, and test scores. Now some people (including Guy, I’m sure) might call this good business.   I am, however, getting a creepy, crawly feeling on my skin. Don’t ever annoy the creepy, crawly feeling, by the way. It’s usually a sign, not an allergy. I’m now convinced Guy is more than just cluelessly (I know it’s not a word, spellcheck, but I like it) self-involved. Guy is a pompous, selfish ass!   For all I know he is a sociopath, but some things are better left a mystery. The flag before my eyes is now such a bright, frightening, blazing red that I call it my own personal Red Scare. red flag

I give up even trying to break into the conversation (I mean, monologue) at this point. What a bummer! I had felt a strong physical attraction, but this has vanished. I assume, however, this tendency toward one sided discourse would transfer in bed to one sided intercourse, so I’m really not missing anything. So……. I let the crushing wave of disappointment fade into pure fascination. Can Guy really not hear how he sounds?! I wish I am filming this and think briefly about whether I can activate the recording app on my phone without his knowledge. Instead, I eventually make excuses, to his disappointment, and end the evening. He tells me how much he loves hanging out with me.   I choke back a laugh and my mind screams, “Of course you do.   I listened to you talk about yourself all night long (okay, it was only an hour. It just felt like a long night)”. I let him pay the check, by the way, instead of my usual offer to split the tab. It still came to less than I used to charge for an hour of therapy. He’ll never know what a great deal he got. Or maybe he does, and he’s bragging about it right now to another girl (poor thing). I wish I had ordered a bigger meal or some wine. I know how much money he makes, don’t forget, and I am a starving artist now.

Before you judge me for bashing Guy and writing about him, I should say that I will be politely honest when he calls to schedule his next therapy session. It still blows me away that Guy never once asked me anything substantial about my interests or my life.

A different encounter: Conversation Interuptus

A recent networking event with other creative types has me sitting at the end of a long table next to a new face. I pleasantly ask this gentleman what drew him to the group. Forty five minutes later, I am still trying to extricate myself from a one way conversation. Every time he asks me a question, he immediately interrupts my answer when it triggers another thought as to how the subject applies to him. He is probably a great guy. All those who monopolize conversations are not selfish and uncaring like Guy. When I was younger, I was a big offender of this (so says my ex-husband) and am probably still guilty from time to time. Sometimes people are just very excited about what is going on in their lives. Maybe they have never learned to stop and listen. One of my very best friends carries this trait. She will ring me up (oops, I went all British there), share her entire day, and then say goodbye. Sometimes I call her out and she will apologize. She claims she is “a poor listener” which she inherited from her Dad who “has untreated ADD”. Mmmmm. “Well, since you’re aware”, I tell her, “get yourself some Ritalin and quit it.” That said, she is a deeply caring and sensitive human being who would do anything in the world for me. I just have to tell her to shut up sometimes, and then specifically direct her to listen.   I still love her and wouldn’t trade her for the world. She is a blessing in my life.

What does it all mean? I need to hear from you!

I do sometimes wonder if it’s just me.   Is my previous life as a mental health therapist working against me? Do people sense something in my presence and subconsciously think, ‘here’s someone to whom I can tell all my shit.’?   I mean, does my genuine concern and innate ability to listen radiate from my pores like cheap perfume (or my healthy sense of self-esteem)?  Or, is all of this the consequence of a more egocentric, ‘me’ mentality which is present in today’s world? Please, someone tell me your thoughts. I’d love to hear your experience (yes, I really would listen).

The older I get, I am more drawn to the mutual aspects of communication and less interested in fighting for air time. If you want to know about me, you will ask. And if you really care, you’ll wait to hear my answer. I am increasingly grateful for people I encounter who do both. Okay, your turn……….

 

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