I’m off to Edinburgh, like, now, to perform my solo show Mother Tongue at the Fringe Fest- the biggest arts festival on the planet. If you know people over there, tell them to come! I’ll be blogging about it over at the Huffington Post and here, always, of course. We’ve already had a great write-up in The Herald.
I feel as ready as I’m going to be to take this show on the road. It needs an audience now so it can come alive.
I tell T that this house is a monster-free zone. There are no monsters here. Ever.
I do not tell him that there is no such thing as a monster, because I don’t believe that’s true. Holmes and Sandusky are just a couple of the monsters floating in our consciousness lately. Whenever there’s some horrible tragedy like what happened in Colorado, there’s always a public impulse to assign blame, to cast about for reasons, to connect the dots and come up with a picture that makes sense.
My feeling is that there are monsters in the world. There always have been and there always will be. The most satisfying explanation I’ve found for it is in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. In the beginning of the tale, a demon mirror shatters into a million pieces. Some of these splinters lodge in people’s eyes or hands or hearts and compel them to darkness. I think the monsters among us have a demon mirror shard so big lodged in their hearts that there isn’t room for anything else. That’s the best I can do. I can think about it all day long, but I will never truly be able to emotionally comprehend a mass murderer or a child molester.
A bigger concern of mine are the Joe Paternos of the world. The people who are not monsters per se, but stand by and are complicit with monstrous actions. The people who compromise their ethics in service of money, fame or fear. It’s easy for me to point a finger at the people who let those boys be raped, raped, in the name of winning a game. That’s an easy one. But there are murky ethical waters in my life, too. Ways in which I’m complicit with injustice, ignorance, bigotry, waste. Often it’s because I’m lazy, or greedy, or ambitious. Or just too concerned with what other people think.
There are no monsters in this house, true. But I want to do better than that for my kid. I want it to be a house of heroes. If we’re going to go toe to toe with the monsters, we need to be.
Having no regrets is a nice concept. It’s what I generally say when I talk to the media. I wouldn’t change anything because if I did, who knows- I might not have this child; I might not have this life. But it’s sort of bullshit, honestly. Of course I regret things. Who doesn’t?
I was emailing with my old friend Garrett, with whom I’ve corresponded in one way or another for about twenty years (check out his amazing Cricket Trailer), and he told me he liked my blog post about saying yes to things but yes has to be tempered with balance. It’s possible, of course, to say yes to all kinds of things that are blatant mistakes. Things that are dangerous, self-destructive, addictive. I’ve said yes to a little of all of that in my life. Garrett was foolish enough to travel through Europe with me when we were in our early twenties (that’s us above at a chateau in France), so he knows a thing or two about my talent for winding up in dangerous situations. He still talks about a party I dragged him to in Amsterdam, with performance art so extreme that he actually passed out.
As far as regrets go, I have a few doozies. But if I had to choose, I’d rather be the person with too much yes in me than the person who is restrained and dignified, with no messy stories or bad tattoos. I try to look at the bad tattoos as a reminder not to take this fleeting shell too seriously. I try to look at them as emblems of the fact that I take enough risks to wind up with regrets.
But when I think of my son, I pray that he’ll be someone who intuitively knows how to strike the right balance between “yes” and “no fucking way- that tattoo will look totally stupid when I’m forty.” Or, more importantly, yes, I’d love to backpack through India but no thanks, I won’t try that heroin because I hear it’s a really bad idea. I’m banking on the fact that if we teach him to love himself, that balance will naturally follow.
Here is some of the footage DJ Mendel and I shot today for the Mother Tongue video projections. Big thanks to the lovely and talented Meghan Daum for the use of her pool! And to Scott (as always) for the music.
Mother Tongue is a multi-character, autobiographical performance piece written and performed by actor and bestselling author, Jillian Lauren. Revolving around the themes of adoption, blood, tribe and identity, Mother Tongue traces Jillian Lauren’s circuitous and humorous journey to get pregnant and, when that proves unsuccessful, to adopt her son in Ethiopia. Directed by DJ Mendel.
My more spiritually evolved husband is always encouraging me to say yes. Any new thing that comes up, he steers me away from my characteristic neurosis and toward an attitude of openness and curiosity. Every once in a while, he gets particularly emphatic about it. When the offer came in to take my show to the Edinburgh Fringe Fest, I believe he said, You can’t say no.
So I said yes. And that’s why this will be a very short blog post- written over a green juice at the Tribal Cafe next to the theater at which I’m rehearsing. I’ll be running from here to meet T at Capoeira class, to drop off some podcast stuff for Melinda, then to dinner with T’s Uncles, who are in town from San Francisco. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to answer some emails and to attack the stack of baseball/preschool/occupational therapy etc questionnaires while T is obsessing over Dinosaur Train, before trying to keep from passing out long enough to read him A Mother for Choco (adoptive parents, check this one out, btw).
It occurred to me this morning that it’s not a bad chaos, as far as chaos goes. I like having a million people running in and out of the house and sticking around for turkey burgers. I like the fact that I have a bunch of creative projects up in the air. I like that fact that what I’m attempting feels almost out of my reach- it might all fall apart at any minute, but it might not. One of these days, I may be the artist/person/mother I want to be if I keep shooting just a little too high.
That said, I can’t keep this pace up forever. There’s a time to get quiet. When I get back from Edinburgh mid August, I’m going to finish my memoir and to that end expect to be completely anti-social for anywhere from two to six years (in case you’re wondering where I went). Until then, it’s all loud life all the time.
I started rehearsals yesterday. The delightful Matt McRay has been kind enough to let me rehearse at Son Of Semele Theater. I’m working alone until my director DJ Mendel shows up from NY next week and it’s a lonely thing to walk into a theater solo and face the first day of stumbling through rusty lines and characters that have become strangers and staging that no longer works. It’s enough to make you want to take a nap, go get a yogurt, check your email again, stretch some more. Anything but face the doubts and the work and the doubts about the work that inevitably arise.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the a-mazing (see it as soon as humanly possible) documentary I just saw about Marina Abromovic, The Artist in Present. In it she says, “The artist has to be a warrior, to conquer not just new territory but himself and his weaknesses.”
I have a surprise for you, he calls
out, again and again, a chant
announced by the ring that follows the
slam of the screen door. A ring like
the one from the Tibetan meditation chimes
I once had- where did they go?
a gift from an old boyfriend who liked to
leave and come back bearing gifts.
He told me to listen to the ring until it faded to
silence. When you couldn’t tell
one from the other, you were supposed to hear
God. Or something.
I listened. I listen.
I have a surprise for you, his shoes with the thick
rubber soles, the better to grip a skateboard,
tapping an irregular tattoo on
the stairs. Now he can take them one
at a time, a march of triumph.
I have a surprise for you, he holds out a
fleshy ball of fist that smells of french fries and dirt,
almost forgets to open it, to reveal the surprise.
The surprise is always crushed jacaranda blossoms,
scooped from the yard. It is the season they fall, leaving
the lawn frosted with a garish embarrassment
of lavender. The flowers are nearly pulp,
pressed into the grime in the creases of his
palm. It’s for your hair, he says,
and if it breaks, I will go out there and get
you another. He points into the day, nearly gone.
Out there, he repeats. An adventurer.
One who makes outlandish
promises. How long before he learns that blossoms
from the ground are already
broken? Before he learns what a surprise really
is? Before he brings me no blossoms
at all? They’re for your hair, he says, as he
tilts the shy wilt of purple into my hand.
In all the long forgetting of my days,
if I could cut a swatch from the fabric of my
time and take it with me for my shroud-
Wrap me in this.