Wherein I Express My Gratitude & Share Some Wisdom

Over the past 12 or so years of my life, I’ve noticed a trend: when I follow my gut and take a chance by stepping forward  — particularly when I’m unclear on my destination — I meet someone (or more than one someone) who is willing to guide me in the right direction. By “right direction,” I simply mean the next steps toward an increasingly clarified idea of what I want to do/where I want to be. The trick is in having enough faith & trust in myself and in process (Divine, creative, or otherwise) to take that step forward into the unknown.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I met the person who is my mentor/keeper of sanity, almost a year ago, when I registered for my first semester of grad school. She’s my academic advisor & professor — but really she is so much more. There were (several) times when I considered dropping out of my program — really difficult times when I doubted my talent, my intelligence, my ability to make a difference, my entire worth as a human being — and then I’d have a conversation with my professor, either via email or in person, and my perspective immediately shifted. Some people have the gift of helping others to “see better,” [¹]  and that is exactly what has happened over & over since the day I registered for classes. This woman speaks my language. She walks her talk and, in doing so, clears away the arbitrary bullshit that so easily trips me up and ties me in knots. I’ve learned so much from her, not the least of which is that most of what I view as obstacles are the result of buying into arbitrary timelines and ideas of how things are “supposed to” be.

But these “rules” & “official timelines” were created by groups of individuals who believe in sticking people in boxes, whether or not they fit, for the sake of data processing — because, to them, that’s what we are: data points. But  I know I’m more than a number, and I’m lucky enough to have someone in my life to remind me of that fact when I forget.

So, just in case you’re in need of a reminder: you’re allowed to take your time, you’re allowed to change your mind, you are not required to contort yourself in order to fit into any box, you are allowed to make your own rules and pave your own way. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to get from Point A to Point B; there are an infinite number of possibilities. Allow yourself to let go of whatever limiting beliefs that may be holding you back, close your eyes, listen to your gut, and take a step forward — just one step — then open your eyes and take in the brilliant new landscape awaiting you.

 

[¹]  Shakespeare, William. King Lear 1604-1605.

Article: Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

Check out the article for the science of it all, or read the brief summary here.

Here’s what brain research says will make you happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label those negative emotions.Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of “best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.

If you want more in-depth info, check out The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, and/or check out his blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Definition (or lack thereof)

I’m still in the process of defining the purpose of this site, so last night I decided to make a list of my interests. It looked something like this:
child development, creative process, dis/connection, intuitive knowing, expressive arts, expressive arts therapy, drama therapy, acting, singing, dancing, emotional regulation, life-as-process, creation (as related to art), neuroscience, creation of “self,” authentic expression, theories of personality, neurodiversity… the list went on & on, and I’m not even finished writing it.

As a result, I decided not to limit myself here; I’ll blog about my interests. I’ll post links to things that interest me, and hopefully you’ll find something that interests you amidst it all.

In taking this “interest inventory,” I noticed a common thread: my interests relate to people. This wasn’t news to me; I’ve always wanted to understand how people think and what they like and why they like what they like. In middle school and high school, I spent most of my time in the psychology section of the school library. I particularly liked memoirs filed in that section. Looking back, I was clearly trying to understand myself, but over time my interests evolved and broadened, as is typical of an adolescent maturing into adulthood. Now as a self-aware adult I’m more interested in helping other people understand themselves and discover/build on their strengths.

I seem to have a knack for it, which I discovered in grad school when I was studying mental health counseling. But I’m also a very creative person and have found that creative expression can play a huge role in healing. As can removing the labels so eagerly assigned to individuals in need of mental health support. Once upon a time, I accepted the medical model of mental health treatment. I even bought into it. However, I have experienced a lot since then — both good & bad — and can’t authentically render those services from within that medical model. I know a lot of people who can work well from within the system — they can guide people toward healing in spite of it. But I have never been good at following the rules when I disagree with them, and on this subject I am in fundamental disagreement with the prevailing norms.

So here I am, looking for another way in.

 

Broadway Virtual Lottery Cheat Sheet

My first recommendation is to download the TodayTix app. TodayTix offers virtual lotteries and virtual rush tickets to many shows, and it’s not only NYC-based. You can also choose from the following locations: London, Chicago, SF Bay Area, Los Angeles + OC, Washington D.C., Boston, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Seattle, & Toronto.
TodayTix now offers discounted tickets up to 1 month in advance.

ALADDINhttps://lottery.broadwaydirect.com/show/aladdin/
$30 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. If you win, you have one hour to claim your ticket(s) for that evening (or matinee) performance.

ANASTASIAhttps://my.socialtoaster.com/st/campaign_landing/?key=anastasialottery&source=iframe
$42 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. If you win, you have till 11:00AM to complete your purchase for matinees, and till 4:00PM to complete your purchase for evening performances.

BOOK OF MORMONhttp://www.luckyseat.com/book-of-mormon/
$50 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. You may enter lotteries for up to 8 performances (a week) at one time. Winners are notified at approx. 12:30PM the day before the performance, and have until 10PM to purchase tickets.

CATShttps://lottery.broadwaydirect.com/show/cats/
$40 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. If you win, you have up to one hour to pay for your ticket(s).

DEAR EVAN HANSENhttp://www.dearevanhansenlottery.com
$42 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. If you win, you have till 11:00AM to complete your purchase for matinees, and till 4:00PM to complete your purchase for evening performances.

HAMILTONhttp://www.hamiltonbroadway.com/lotto
$10 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. There are two methods of entry: online via this link above or by downloading the Hamilton app. The lottery opens two days in advance of the performance and accepts entries until 9:00AM the day before the show; winners must purchase tickets by 4PM on the day prior to the performance. Hamilton is now in CHICAGO and LOS ANGELES, in addition to New York (and soon in London’s West End!); lotteries are open for each location.

KINKY BOOTShttp://www.luckyseat.com/kinky-boots/
$40 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. You may enter lotteries for up to 8 performances (a week) at one time. Winners are notified at approx. 12:30PM the day before the performance, and have until 10PM to purchase tickets.

THE LION KINGhttps://lottery.broadwaydirect.com/show/the-lion-king/
$30 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. If you win, you have one hour to claim your ticket(s) for that evening (or matinee) performance.

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERAhttp://www.phantombroadwaylottery.com
$28 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. Entries for matinees are accepted until 11AM on the day of show and entries for evening performances are accepted until  3PM on the day of show. Winners must claim tickets (online via credit card) at least 60 mins. prior to curtain.

SCHOOL OF ROCKhttp://schoolofrocklottery.com
$37 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. Lottery starts at 12:01AM and closes at 10:59AM for matinees, and 2:50PM for evening performances. Winners are announced at 11:15AM for matinees and 3:15PM for evening performances.

SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAYhttp://www.luckyseat.com/springsteen-broadway/
$75 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. Entries for the lottery for each performance will be accepted until 10:00 AM ET the day before the performance. Winner and non-winner notifications will be sent at approximately 12:00 PM ET the day prior to the performance via email. Tickets must be purchased online with a credit card by 4:00 PM ET the day prior to the performance using the purchase link in your winner’s notification email. Winning tickets not purchased by 4:00 PM ET are forfeited.

WAR PAINThttps://lottery.broadwaydirect.com/show/war-paint/
$40 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. If you win, you have one hour to purchase your tickets.

WICKEDhttps://lottery.broadwaydirect.com/show/wicked/
$35 tickets if you win — when you enter, you can choose to enter for 1 or 2 tickets. Lottery opens at 8:30AM for matinee and evening performances and remains open until 10:30AM and 2:00PM when winners are drawn. Winners are notified shortly after each drawing and have up to 60 minutes to purchase their tickets online.

Negativity Jammers: Ten techniques that help students control their emotions

https://www.edutopia.org/article/negativity-jammers-todd-finley

How many times have you been thrown off your game by a student’s random emotional outburst?

Many of my high school students acted impulsively in class, sometimes violently. And my response was equally impulsive—I tried to suppress their feelings, which, I should mention right away, never works. Unfortunately, when we direct kids to leave their emotions on the playground, students hear what we mean loud and clear: “Be quiet and compliant.”

Directing students to celebrate only after academic wins is equally misguided, as most championship-winning coaches know. They’ll tell you that emotions—inspiration, intensity, exhilaration, frustration, love, and compassion—when carefully cultivated, strengthen kids’ capacity to meet goals.

Children need to express their emotions, and we can help them learn to do this appropriately. The following negativity jammers, or state-change strategies, will improve students’ attitudes, beliefs, and enjoyment of school.

1. “Stop” This is a neurolinguistic programming formula developed by James McClendon III “to arrest negative, disempowering feelings and memories that fuel negative behaviors and replace them with more powerful emotions and behaviors.” The technique always helps students feel happier and more confident. When you notice your mind perseverating on hopelessness or self-criticism, interrupt debilitating thinking loops by doing the following:

  • Notice when your thoughts turn negative.
  • Change your posture immediately. Sit or stand up and say, “Stop!” while shaking your arms to interrupt unwanted thoughts.
  • Cue up an image of a time when you felt unstoppable. This step works better when your replacement memory has previously been identified. Feel the positivity in your bones.
  • Squeeze your fist and say, “Yes!” to celebrate.

2. Priming This is a well-documented technique to trigger subconscious thinking and put students’ brains in drive. In a 1998 study, one group of college students wrote about the attributes of professors for five minutes. Another group listed attributes of soccer hooligans for the same amount of time. Those primed with professorial words scored 13 percent higher on a subsequent test. Prime students in your class by posting the following words prominently in your classroom: focused, engaged, determined, disciplined, confident, creative, and successful.

3. Box Breathing When introduced to Navy SEALs, deep, diaphragmatic box breathing (this illustration explains the name) reduced performance anxiety and improved their focus during battles. Before an exam, direct students to:

  • Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds.
  • Hold their breath for another 4 seconds.
  • Breath out slowly for 4 seconds.
  • Wait 4 seconds before breathing in.
  • Repeat all the above five times.

4. Good New and Gratitude (G.N.G.) At the start of each class, I have students stand in a circle and briefly report on any life events that make them feel grateful: birthdays, trips to the beach, pizza for lunch, a new Beyoncé album, etc. In three minutes, everyone feels elevated and ready to learn.

5. Touch Humans need to be touched. In the ’80s and ’90s, Romanian babies who weren’t touched suffered lifelong cognitive and physical hardships. NBA teams that performed more fist bumps, chest bumps, and hugs in the first half of a season won more games in the second half. This is because touch builds trust, lowers stress hormones, and improves performance. So direct students to fist bump you and each other (fist bumps spread 90 percent less bacteria than handshakes) at the beginning of class.

6. Flow According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow performance is an “effortless, spontaneous feeling” of engagement. When learning challenges are too hard, teach students to break up a task into smaller parts to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Or have them race against the clock to avoid boredom when work feels too easy. A few adjustments can make academic tasks flow.

7. Emotional Goals Ask students to write down one specific emotional goal; e.g., “Caring: Tomorrow I will smile, greet one peer in every class by name, and ask a specific question about his or her life.”

8. Meditation Chaining Meditating for 11 minutes a day enhances positive emotionsand decreases anxiety. For motivation, I recommend that students download this free calendar with all the days of the year printed on a single page and X out every day that they meditate. Although Jerry Seinfeld developed this system to motivate himself to write regularly, the technique can be used for any goal. “After a few days you’ll have a chain,” says the comedian. “Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day.”

9. Loose Intensity: The Contest Many kids simply don’t know what it feels like to be simultaneously focused and relaxed—the way Muhammad Ali looked before fights with Joe Frazier, and the optimum stance for any task. So I hold impromptu contests to determine which learner appears the most observant and at ease. Are shoulders, hands, and jaws loose? Are eyes focused or checked out? I encourage the entire class to imitate the winner.

10. Bliss Break Before a team activity, ask students to silently group up with peers who have the same eye color. This will necessitate kids actually looking into each other’s eyes. Keeping the activity silent means nobody can shout, “Blue eyes over here.” They’ll giggle nervously and produce oxytocin, the love hormone, which leads to feelings of well-being.

Neuroscience suggests ways to make kids happier and less resistant to learning. Moreover, students who are in control of their emotions can accomplish anything.

What are your tips for helping students manage their feelings?

Let’s start at the very beginning….

When people ask me what I do, I’m never quite sure what to say. At the moment I’m in grad school, studying educational theatre. When I’m not in classes, I work as an assistant director and stage manager for musical theatre productions in schools and with a community troupe. I have an experiential background in performance (acting, singing, dancing), but my diplomas read “Bachelor of Arts in Psychology” and “Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.” 

Once upon a time, I had a “Plan”: I would go to school to study theatre and become an Actor. Then, life happened. I didn’t even get as far as college auditions because, suddenly, I couldn’t remember my choreography for a community theatre production of Anything Goes in which I’d recently been cast. I assumed my cognitive dysfunction was a side-effect of the medication I’d been prescribed for depression and anxiety because that’s what my doctors told me. So I turned my back on the theatre and focused on my other passion: psychology. I earned my BA and was working towards my master’s degree when I was finally given the correct diagnosis of Lyme Disease.

Over the years, I had been misdiagnosed with innumerable conditions on top of the initial diagnoses of depression and anxiety. Somehow, I managed to complete my master’s program (with distinction) and then commenced with what would turn into 5-plus years of disability and treatment for Lyme Disease and associated co-infections.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details and just say that recovery felt like a miracle, because 1) it doesn’t happen for everyone, and 2) I regained the cognitive ability I’d lost prior to college (and even more-so thereafter). It felt like a second chance. As my health improved, I worked alongside my cousin, who had been teaching theatre and dance to kids, as well as directing and choreographing musical theatre productions, for about twenty years. My résumé grew as I assisted her with production after production, slowly realizing that, instead of dusting off my master’s degree in counseling, I wanted to work with kids and continue making theatre.

Eventually, I applied to (and was accepted into) the program where I’m currently studying, and I can say with 100% certainty that I am exactly where I’m meant to be. I’m still figuring out how I want to use my education — for example, I’ve come to the conclusion that I do not want to become a certified teacher. What I do includes teaching, but is more a process of facilitation. I’m also very interested in learning more about the use of expressive arts (fine art, theatre, dance, writing) as therapeutic tools in promoting growth and self-discovery in children and adults.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way I’m going to figure out how I want to use my education is by fully immersing myself in what I’m doing, here and now, seizing opportunities as they’re presented to me. In focusing on the present I allow my creative self & ideas to evolve and emerge more organically than if I were to plan for the future before I have the information necessary to make a decision I know I’ll be happy with a year, five years, a decade from now.

This blog is where I intend to reflect on my experiences as a student-artist-facilitator-creative human being in an attempt to refine my understanding of what it means to be all of these things and to carve out a place for myself to operate as such in the world.