Baby With the Bathwater.

Where do I begin?

I’ve never been so confused in my life. (Not true, but you can imagine what’s next.)

Last week, I was gifted with…myself. My friend treated us to a girl’s serenity weekend in Switzerland with her aunt who is a bit of a healer. While her aunt lead us through exercises that opened our hearts, our minds and our iron gateways to tears, we exhaled.

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I exhaled pretty hard. Comforted by candles, we set our intentions and during that exercise, I had a moment. A big one. My friend’s aunt said some trigger words: “nurture yourself” (of all things), and suddenly I was out-of-my body wailing, which lead to hyperventilating followed by several moments of them rubbing my back and holding my hand while I tried to pull myself back to this world. I don’t know where I went, I don’t know what happened, I just now know that I 100% need to take care of myself because when I don’t, I hurt myself. Deeply. Black hole deeply. And the hurt comes pouring out like that.

Taking care of myself means going running because I want to and not because I worry I’ll get fat; it means being nice to myself when I mess up, it means putting myself first. It means writing.

Knowing that I can do these things is easy. What’s hard is this: change.

My dad got married recently. It is his third marriage. I only think this trifecta is worth noting because each woman he’s married is vastly different from the other. This shouldn’t be such a huge surprise, as people clearly change from decade to decade. As I stood in their wedding, I thought, what do I need to change about myself in order to get to this point? What IS it?

I’ve been told I’m cold emotionally. I’ve been told I’m controlling. I’ve been told I’m selfish. I can see the truth in these things: I’m afraid to be vulnerable in crucial moments for fear of revealing information (ie, feelings) that can/will later be used against me in a gunfight with my own words as someone else’s bullets. I’m afraid to let go of doing what I know because I don’t like to be called “stupid” or appear as though I don’t know what the f*ck I’m doing in every situation at all times in every moment of every second. And lastly, I can’t always find the words to express myself verbally; to show someone I care, to heal them when they are hurting, to say the right thing to make it better. I can barely do this for myself. So I keep my words to myself. Selfishly.

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I hope I can be more warm, less controlling and more giving. I hope I can change while still honoring and nurturing myself in ways that I’m still (at 46) learning how to do. But what do I do? How? There is that black hole inside me that likes to howl when I touch it. When I open the door to it.  How do I nurture myself without betraying someone else or even myself? I don’t know what to do. I’ve had one meaningful relationship in my life. One. In 2009.  (Yes, it is okay to ask, “What’s up with that, Pep?!”) Here’s something: Back in 2003 in NY, I was crying to my therapist and he asked me, “What is the common denominator in all of these failed relationships?” I thought for a moment, Kleenex in hand and said, “Men?” He blinked. “No, Peppur. You.”

“Oh.”

I know I need to change. I know I need to let some things go, including that of still going for certain dreams and seeking out certain stages. I know I need to let go of fear and let go of things that no longer serve me. I believe I’m ready for the change, but like a child being lead away from Disneyland at closing time, I often turn, with a finger pointed at something shiny, “….But…!”

I’m in a relationship now that pulls me in places I don’t want to be or feel comfortable being pulled. I question daily if it is the pulling or the place or even the person that is uncomfortable. I try to be open and honest and willing to change so that a relationship can grow…just like the baby I want.

[And then there’s that. The Baby Elephant in the room. If I don’t change, there most likely will be no baby. There will be no relationships. With anyone. There will be no euphoric baptism in a shower of love instead of tears. I will be sucked deeper and deeper into that comforting black hole.]

I hope I learn how to not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I’ve been told I’m not ready for a relationship. I was told this while in the Relationship Numero Only. So, something hasn’t truly changed in all these years. Unless, maybe I just don’t really want a relationship, says the Common Denominator. I need another therapist.

What am I afraid of?

I’m not afraid to be alone. I cried about that through my 20s. I’m not afraid that I won’t accomplish what I want in life. Cried about that through my 30s. What I cry about now, in my mid-40s, is I’m afraid I’ll never learn how to turn the frickin’ key in my heart, soul, psyche that unlocks that door to abundance. Because, behind that door is all that I’ve ever wanted. And I know it. Maybe all it takes to turn that key is a little bit of nurturing. Or to simply stop being afraid to let go. Because maybe, just maybe, that black hole isn’t a black hole at all. Maybe it is a big soft fluffy bowl of marshmellowy mushies swimming with babies and stuff. I pray I learn to let go.

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Getting what you’ve asked for.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m anxious. It’s 14:01 on December 31st. After my birthday (November 8th), New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday. I’m giddy with excitement just like how I know my niece and nephew were last week in anticipation of opening Santa’s gifts in sunny Arizona.

The problem is that my giddiness is also filled with just as much angst. Visions of “Didn’t Finish-ness” dance in my head; so much so that I find myself waltzing around my flat in a scattered rush to find my checkbook so that I can do a year’s worth of balancing or flitting about on the laptop feeling I should update my website and each one of my social media platforms. Right Now. My anxiety doesn’t end there. It doesn’t end with one foot stuck in 2016; it also starts with the other foot tap-tap-tapping into 2017 because I stress about being prepared. Did I do enough? Have I been diligent about welcoming this new year? Did I write in my journal enough? Are my intentions clear? Have I clearly asked for what I want? Like, clearly clearly?

Yesterday, my friend Nicole and I sent our other friend, Belinda, off to the States to embark on a journey of new beginnings for herself. In the middle of Václav Havel Airport, we fiercely grabbed hands and became The Charmed Ones, the power of three. We shared, we cried, we wished her well. And then we let go. We rejoiced amidst our anxiety of knowing our spellbound three-some of sisterly support was physically dematerializing. But, as we sent her off to the unknown, we knew that she needed this change and although temporarily painful, that she in some sort of way gracefully asked for it.

This past year was my first full year in Prague. I went summer to summer. Fall to fall. Christmas to Christmas. I learned a lot about myself.I learned a lot of it during conversations with those two girls. In October, I expressed that I thought I had High-Functioning Anxiety. Belinda pointed out how this made sense because she noticed I giggle at strange times and that I seem like I don’t like to get too close to people. Around June or July, I learned through Nicole that if I want love, I to have to ask for love, to fight for it, to be prepared for it in order for it to happen. I also learned that I’m still fighting to love myself. (I’m much better, even from when I started this blog, but still, it is a fight for me.) Through their love and their conversations, in November I got the courage to truly shout out loud that what I really want in 2017 is a kid…more than that, I want a family. This is not new information, I just haven’t been able to say it with conviction out loud to most people. Like now.

I admit there is some kind embarrassment or guilt or something I feel when I say I want to have a baby. It feels weird when I say it, like when you try on an orange-neon dress that should be totally cute on you and you can’t figure out why it ain’t. I don’t know what this feeling is. I can’t find a name for it yet. Maybe one of you guys can tell me. What I do know is that the feeling has a voice. It answers back, “Who do you think you are to ask?” The feeling uses its voice. Well.  Icy and sarcastic, its words are like mean soldiers marching about and travelling through different parts of me leaving dirty footprints and tacking up cut-out question marks to painfully remind me who’s boss.  “Who do think you are to ask?”

Earlier this month I got my fertility hormones tested, FSH, AMH etc. etc. and my numbers are loooooow. Like, I have three emaciated eggs left who are sitting on the edge of an abandoned pool at an LA mansion shivering on a pre-dawn morning, wondering what happened to the party. Ha! I seriously laugh because should I be surprised? You guys know my age.If you don’t, just lean in because the soldiers are about to scream it for you.

But, I asked for this.

I find myself shoving lentils and Brussels sprouts and zinc and folic acid into my mouth and chewing or swallowing these saving graces with a ferocious voracity as if shoving them into my body faster will make up for the baby that could have happened in 2004 or when I didn’t go through with the planned artificial insemination back in 2011 when I had good numbers or when I didn’t fucking spend more time on OkCupid in 2014. I literally have had to put the fork down and tell myself to slow.the.fuck.down with the food. And then I quickly do 17.5 minutes of meditation while roughly attempting awkward reflexology on the ovary and uterus parts of my coconut-oiled feet.

Didn’t I ask for this?

Nicole and I had to re-materialize ourselves with breakfast after dropping Belinda off. At a cute cafe over her goat-cheese omelette and my blueberry-topped pancakes with decaf coffee, we spoke of many things. I cried as I confessed to her that during my ultrasound last week the doctor wasn’t sure if I even ovulated this month. In almost the same breath I was able to pull my shoulders back, smile courageously and say: “I don’t believe it. I believe I am healthy. I believe this will happen.” I do believe it. I have to.

One more thing. Earlier this year I was blessed with this super gig where I sang at an upscale event. I got to wear a sparkly dress and sing “Feelin’ Good”. Before that happened, I had told Bel and Nic how I was craving a dose of my former glamour that seemed to be crushed by my dingy white Chuck Taylor’s. When I got home from doing that gig, I was thankful because I knew in my soul that I got what I asked for. That one gig lead to a year’s worth of gigs that I thoroughly enjoyed. I drank champagne, I met business people. I made the Czech press where I was identified as “černá zpěvačka, Peppur Chambers”or “black singer, Peppur Chambers”.To sing live like this was my dream in New York. In 2001. Before I got to LA and before now.

I know that I will get what I ask for, because when I stop to think about it in moments like this, I realize I always have. When I initially asked for these particular things, of course I didn’t know how they were going to happen. And of course, we never know when they will happen. It’s simply important that we have the courage to ask, right?

So. I’m anxious this New Year’s Eve.

I’m sitting here in my flat, surrounded by bottles of vitamins and bottled water. A chicken stock is cooking on the stove (I’ve NEVER made a chicken stock) as I type to you for courage and with hopes that the soldiers will march through my fingers, through these words and out of me. For the third time today, at the top of my lungs, I’ve sung along with Christina Aguilera’s words “Thanks for making me, a fighter!” I’m about to play it a fourth. It is dark now in Prague and the people’s fireworks are starting to start. It is now 17:33 because it took me a long time to get through this. But I did. I had to.

I’ve asked for this.

Happy New New Year, everyone! I wish you everything and more.

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Being honest.

Berlin to Prague Train

I’m from #Wisconsin.When I was in 7th grade or so, I was at a girlfriend’s house and as we finished our ice cream and were about to go down into the basement for our slumber party, my friend’s mom said, “I don’t like black people, but Peppur, you’re alright.” That hurt my feelings of course, it also made me sick to my stomach. I knew it was wrong, but I was confused because it felt like some kind of a compliment that I was to say thank you for…which I may have actually done. That comment was all kinds of things, but what it really was, was honest.

Yesterday, we made America not necessarily great again, but we made America honest again.

For the people who have honestly had to bite their tongue, or feel marginalized by the masses or felt forgotten and ignored and wronged and stomped on and stolen from and cheated upon and looked over and have been really. really, bitter and angry for the past eight years or more, I hope they are finally happy.

I was happy when Obama won. I felt some kind of wonderful that I can’t put into words. I hope some people feel that way today. It is a fantastic feeling. It makes you stomp in the streets and clap up clouds of hope and excitement. It makes you dance. I hope people are this happy.

I know I wear rose-colored glasses. The color keeps me protected from the truth sometimes but it also keeps me humane. It keeps me connected to people because I always try to see the good in them so that they in turn will see the good in me. I ran for Junior Class President and Senior Class President, and won. In Wisconsin. I don’t know how many of my classmates had parents who were as honest as my friend’s mom. I don’t want to know. I do know that I have a lot of classmates and people in my life now whom I will and must still call friends who are finally very happy.

I’m not sure what to do with all of this. I feel sick to my stomach. I feel confused. Because something feels very wrong. It’s true: the truth hurts. So, my glasses have been knocked off, and will probably stay off for awhile so that I can clearly watch America be really, really, honest again.

 

*originally published on my Facebook page.

What does it matter?

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After rehearsal last night, I sat at the edge of the Vltava river, sort of mourning a non-relationship relationship that ended. The full moon hung in the distance as a patch of lightening in the far off velvety sky flickered and reminded us of things that exist in far off places. Like missed family and friends and bills that need to be paid and laundry to be done and stupid elections.

I’d gone to the spot where he and I had hung out and to the bar that served the beer he liked. Yes, I secretly hoped that maybe he would be there, too. You know, just there. Waiting for me. But what I found was a plastic cup turned over and crushed onto the tap signaling that the beer was…out. Done. I took that as a sign. Done. Out. Over. I switched gears and ordered a Pale Ale in my limited Czech and sat myself down at the river.I sat alone between other couples enjoying one another and friends sharing wine. I took my shoes off and made friends with the ducks swimming quietly in the moonlit water. I resisted the urge to call a friend to join me or play on Facebook to ward off the healing feeling of feeling alone.

The non-relationship relationship ended with a text, in Czech (thank you Google), that said he had too many worries and troubles and didn’t want to burden me with them. Ok. Fine. I can get down with that. Whatever. As I sat at the river, with my legs crossed over one another in what I like to call a sultry-ish pretzel, I pulled my shoulders back and simply let the balmy night smooth my forehead with a gentle hand and tell me it was gonna be okay.

Later, at home, via Facebook messenger, I told my girlfriend that it was over and I sort of said, “What does it matter?” …I don’t like to feel too many feelings or share this sort of thing with people live. She knows this. That’s why I told her. She encouraged me to go ahead and be bummed. Writing is my form of being bummed.

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What does it matter? I am on a journey. This is one step closer to love, I told her. It will happen. I’m moving on. Blah-blah. Luckily, I didn’t have to dig too deep this time to remind myself of the amazing woman I am. I do deserve someone my age that will not ghost on me and not be afraid to share their “worries and troubles” with me and not use them as an excuse to not get closer. And ultimately, what does it matter? It doesn’t. This blip is so minimal in the scope of so many other things. The lightening in the distance reminds us of this.

The other night, I had a lovely time at a friend’s birthday party and enjoyed many, many cocktails. I looked nice. I felt confident. I had on lipstick and jeans that fit me. And heels! I was walking across “my” bridge, over the Vltava river, towards home. Alone. It was late. Very late. I’d done this many times before. Suddenly, instinctively, I felt something. I turned just in time to see and feel some man trying to do something to me. I say “something” because I don’t know what he wanted or why he was touching me. What he was doing. I think he went for my purse. I don’t know. What I do know is he put his hand around my mouth and was holding onto me. I screamed. I fought. I pushed him. I fell or he pushed me. I hit the ground hard on my knees. He ran. I did what I could. I used the weapon I had. I yelled after him in a hoarse, frightened, foreign voice, “Asshole!” “Coward!” “ASSHOLE!!” Until I couldn’t yell anymore. The full moon was the only witness. The balmy night wrapped her arms around me and helped me get home to where my roommate held me while I cried and then made me tea and called the police while I cried some more.

What does it matter? If he really wanted to hurt me, he could have. I don’t know why he didn’t. I’m thankful he didn’t. I now have to work through interesting panic attacks I’m having when people get too close to me. I’m now having to work on getting across the bridge at night again without hyperventilating. My girlfriends are helping me through it. A new journey has begun. This is …ok. I can let this fear grip me or I can say, What does it matter.

Yesterday, I tried a new cafe for my office. Which is where I am right now. Walking into a hip, new cafe to try out as your office is like walking into your new 10th-grade homeroom for the first time. I held my Karlovy Vary film festival book bag close to me as I navigated to my seat. With no alphabetical seating chart to assist, I was on my own. I chose to sit at a long lunch-room, communal type table, opposite a girl with a cool shaved head and a baseball cap. I sort of smiled. She sort of smiled. She returned to her shiny Mac. I pulled out my beat-up HP from 2012 only to discover I hadn’t plugged it in the night before. Battery was low. I needed an outlet. I had to move. Not fun on the first day. Everyone stares when you move. I had to do it. In three trips I moved my laptop, my Karlovy Vary book bag and my pens and pencils to a new table near an outlet. The last trip was to get my coffee. The coffee was in one of those cool glass decanters on a cool wooden tray. I used to be waitress. I decided to carry the cool wood tray and cool glass decanter full of coffee like a waitress. Well. I dropped it. I was never a very good waitress. The coffee seemed to fly in the air and quadruple flop and splash all over me and my light grey tank top and a cute couple nearby until cup and decanter landed in a loud, blustering crash on the trendy, reworked wood-beamed floor. And, just like when you drop your tray in the lunchroom, time stopped. Everyone stared. Thank God I’m an actress. I took a beat. Found my light. Then loudly delivered my sassy line,”Sorry!”

I returned today. I look nice. I’m wearing lipstick and a dress that fits. When I walked in, I raised a fist in the air and called out “ještě jednou!” (once again!) to the server who recognized me and we laughed.

We all “struggle” to work out our matters. Big and small. Scary and not scary. Hopefully we can remind ourselves that this is living. That this is life. And that’s what matters.

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xo,

Peppur

Ps. #Blacklivesmatter 🙂

 

 

Pss. Why I was at Karlovy Vary:

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When being close ain’t close enough.

Y’ know how it’s funny as shit to watch 70s movies like Shaft or Every Which Way But Loose and in the mandatory big Chevy Impala chase scene, an old white-haired lady is caught in the middle of the street and tumbles over the hood of the Chevy, groceries flying, only to find that if you s-l-o-w down the movie and watch it frame-by-frame, you will see how the tumbling white lady is actually a burly stunt double; in fact, a big black man with a mustache?

Well, that shit is funny until it happens right in front of your FACE!

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The other day, I was riding up the metro escalator at Mustek (Green). In this land where personal space is not exactly a thing, I like to create my own. Especially on the escalator. Pavel will absently bump you with his briefcase from behind with nary a “Pardon” or Honza and Bara will be sucking each other’s faces off right in front of you as though they were on take number five of an Orbit gum commercial. So I’ve started giving one step of space in front, minimum; more, if I can.

Alternatively, I’ve noticed something about myself. Sometimes I get too close. I get close because I want to be noticed and I don’t want to give people, strangers specifically, the opportunity to push me away. (The opposite is true with family and close, close friends. Sometimes I push them away because I can’t handle the demanding intimacy of all that closeness! This then prompts emails and texts from my dad that end in, “Stay close, ‘Roni”.) Also, I’ve realized I get close with the children I teach. I don’t have the language to use to participate in their lives, to connect with them, especially when we play. So, I get close. I hug, or I grab noses. They sense my clinginess; they don’t like it and they do, they literally push me away. Or with my adults, my peer-evaluator gave me feedback that maybe I smile too much, maybe I’m open toooo much. So, I’ve been trying to give more space. To close off my openness. To be okay in my own space and not need others to fill it with something. To just go unnoticed sometimes. To not be so close.

So.

An older, slightly-balding, white-haired lady with a short, layered haircut like your Aunt Martha (on your mother’s side) was in front of me. As our steep ascent began, like the beginning of a roller coaster ride,  I watched and saw how she gingerly held the arm of an older man; we’ll call him Uncle Stu. Aunt Martha and Uncle Stu have been together for awhile now, as they usually are, and their non-verbal communication is great, until it ain’t.

Martha and Stu were about three stairs in front of me because when they got on the escalator, I had mechanically moved on back to allow for my space. As we rode along, Aunt Martha turned to the side and I saw her profile. In that moment, I remember thinking, “I should move a little closer.” I think I thought this because I had caught something a little vacant in Aunt Martha’s eye. A cloudy nothingness, let’s say. Or maybe I saw her fingers gently slip away like water from Uncle Stu’s arm, unbeknownst to him.  Believe me, I wish I had followed my instincts because in slow-motion, frame-by-frame real life, Aunt Martha started to topple backwards, toward me. I heard myself shouting, “Hey! Hey! Pozor. Počkejte!” As I tried to do something, but my own arms were jumbled with my heavy camouflage book bag and a Tesco shopping bag full of supplies for the show and the Brown Betties workshop. I was making sounds, groping for my Czech words, just like Aunt Martha was groping for Uncle Stu’s arm.We both failed at grabbing onto what we were reaching for.

Aunt Martha, quite expertly, fell. Worse than that, I’d had a chance to catch her and I didn’t. Because, in that split-second that she started to fall, I’d truly thought, “Nope. Not this time. She’ll be fine. They  don’t need my help. I don’t need to be so close.”

In a flash, she fell down to her butt. Then, her legs buckled and slid along the chrome walls of the escalator which sent her into a momentum-gaining backward somersault where she then banged her head on the razor-sharp grooves of the steel stairs. Her face contorted into a painful wince when she hit;  I can tell you that I never want to see something like that again. Ever.

And, by the way, a similar thing happened two years ago in Berlin! Mom and Nicole and I had just arrived to Berlin Hauptbahnhof and suddenly a person fainted or had a stroke or something on the escalator and ended in an unconscious heap at the bottom, sprawled horribly on the highly-polished marble floor.

Uncle Stu, realizing that Aunt Martha was no longer by his side, ran down after her. Panic and fear registered in his eyes, wide behind thick tortoise-shell glasses. He yelped something in Czech and stooped to pick her up from her sort-of sideways fetus position. I’ve lost my own balance on these crazy escalators, and I’m no Aunt Martha; so you can imagine Uncle Stu, being an older gentleman himself, tying to gather her up. It was a struggle, to say the least. I sprung forward and grabbed Aunt Martha’s elbow and helped pull and push her up to her feet. Her body was slightly stabilized, but that was about it.

Another kind patron, who spoke Czech, helped the both of them and the journey up continued. I was sincerely thanked and left rightfully forgotten in the background. But from behind, I could tell Aunt Martha was not herself. I was hoping she would be alright. And that’s when the blood started dripping down the back of her head and onto her winter-white, puffy coat.

Blood makes me sick to my stomach. Like, really. “Oh, God.” I thought as I staggered a bit myself. I mumbled something  in some garbled panicked language, that maybe sounded like the word, ‘Blood’. I wanted to throw up. The words got stuck in my throat. They didn’t hear me.

I kept thinking. What do I do?  Do I touch this person? Do they want my help?  There’s blood. I don’t have any rubber gloves. What do I do? And then I stopped thinking. I got close. I reached into my parka pocket for the only thing I had, which unfortunately was a not-clean Kleenex (like the kind your babička has tucked in her sleeve) and I stepped forward and pressed it onto her bleeding head. That’s when they finally noticed there was blood. And by then it was really dripping. Fast. In globs. Smearing all over her white coat. Soaking my tiny, crumpled Kleenex.  Uncle Stu quickly produced a checkered handkerchief from his pocket which totally caught the bleeding better.

We reached the top of the escalator, finally. They took Aunt Martha toward the metro booth to get help. They thanked me again. Sincerely. I wanted to give Aunt Martha a hug; to wait with them until an ambulance came, to be close with them. I really did. Instead, I stood there holding the bloody Kleenex. Frozen. Shaken. Aunt Martha’s blood clinging to my hands. I stood like that for a while until my own two feet turned me in the direction to where I was supposed to go and I returned to my own journey.

Stay close, my friends.

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Wanting something.

As I walked home Saturday night after what was an amazingly fulfilling performance on stage, I found myself wanting. For what, I wasn’t sure.

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Earlier, I had been wearing some cute black-heeled booties at a Tinder party I organized as a post-show event. As their host, I’d flitted about in my heels among guests wanting to meet others, wanting to feel something for someone.

For the walk home, I had changed into what were shit-kickers in Arizona where I bought them, to what have become my cobblestone beaters in Prague. The hard, rough soles of my weathered boots slapped against the uneven sidewalks dampened by an earlier winter rain. They echoed as I walked, fueled by this wanting, like a scary scene from Jack the Ripper, but not. As I zig-zagged my way through the arterial maze of narrow streets of which I still need to learn their welcoming names, I looked up at the golden-tinged skyline of ancient buildings topped with carved, expressive art that easily remind you: things happened here.

As I cleared the maze, I came upon what I call the Yellow Building. It’s more than that, of course. Depending on where you’re from, it looks like your old county court house, your plantation-style mansion nestled in a garden grove or your historic building re-purposed into a 4-Star hotel. I pass it often on my way home. It lives along the Vltava River, slightly out of reach, and it is becoming my friend. That familiar face you begin to notice on your tram commute to work.

I’ve been watching the Yellow Building through my seasons here. There is always something going on. Summer wine parties sophisticating outside on the expansive grounds. Holiday fête’s silhouetted by the glow of yellow, festive lights. Waitstaff in profile waiting at the ready near the windows. Dignified parties beckoning, of which I have yet to be invited…leaving me feeling like the wanting, nosy neighbor; hands gripping the wrought-iron fence, peering over the gate, and wondering, “Hey, what’s going on in there?”

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The Yellow Building during the day.

I’ve passed the Yellow Building so many times while wondering what it is and who goes there. So, like the day where you finally say, “Hello” to the friendly face on the tram, I approached the building’s mounted sidewalk marquee. Turns out there is a restaurant inside. A-ha. Not an exclusive diplomatic residence, necessarily, but a restaurant. One of which I could simply make a reservation for myself.

Tonight, on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day, the building was alive, spilling over with revelers. My friend was full. As I waited for the well-behaved traffic to pass so that I could cross the street, I noticed a woman wearing a long, pink fluttery dress. Her petals peeked below what seemed like pea coat. I’ve noticed this look a lot on this corner. Fancy dresses peeking below thick, short coats. I watched as she stepped from the curb and her companion instinctively, protectively grabbed her shoulder to pull her back.

I want that.

I have a lot. I have what someone like me or unlike me may look at and want. I know this and that’s okay.

Still.

I didn’t want to stare at them. No. That’s not true. I did want to. I wanted to see what their smiles looked like together. I wanted to see how his eyes looked out for hers. I wanted to see how they fit. Why they fit. I wanted their whole togetherness history shared with me in that moment via a reservation at their table. I wanted that little explanatory note card placed next to an exotic sculpture in a museum. I hungered for it. I tried to stare at them, to study them. But. I missed the moment because I had to look both ways as I crossed through traffic. By myself.

There were other couples coming from the place, shorter dresses, longer coats, more smiles and more togetherness. Some of them stared at me. What did they see? What information did they want from me and my history?

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Breathtakingly romantic.

I continued to walk from there, the night air resting a chilly arm across my shoulders as it escorted me across the bridge. We stopped to breathe and to take in the beauty of the magical castle in the horizon. My attention turned instinctively to the welcoming, dark, rushing river below. I think about jumping in that river sometimes. I think about gently setting my vintage red and white polka dot hand bag and my black duffel down on the wet sidewalk; comforted by how my history, flyers for the show and copies of my book, are resting quietly inside the bags. I think about taking my big parka off, but keeping my boots on; I think about climbing over the railing and jumping into the rushing water waiting below. I think about how freezing cold the water would feel as it would lovingly suck me in and envelope me like my thoughts and carry me off toward nothingness, swirling me deep into a cyclone, casually or perhaps violently, to be documented into this city’s garishly romantic history.

The night air grabs my hand gently. Leads me away from the bridge. Off Jiráskův Most. Toward home. He laces his fingers with mine. Pulls me close, his eyes looking out for mine, as he whispers in my ear and says, “Wouldn’t Burrito Loco be better?”

I smile, holding my bags close, thinking that that is much easier and simpler to want.

Shit kickers and Burrito Loco.

Thanking the night air.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m different.

I have a huge knot on the left side of my head. It is literally the size of a silly-putty egg (ok, maybe 1/3 inch smaller). I know this because I check in on it often to make sure it is not growing into some thing that is going to sprout or hatch a prehistoric animal out of my head and at a very inopportune moment.

Harlem's Awakening opening

Photos by Antonín Malý, Fotofellows

Years ago, when I first discovered the thing, I asked my mom, “Did you drop me on me head when I was a baby?” She said, “Yeah, I dropped you all the time.”

My mom had me when she was 18; my dad was 21. To this day, they both tell me I’m different. Sometimes, I don’t know what this means. I sort of look at them with my head tilted to the side and I feel like I’m a baby brontosaurus looking up at them as they lumber off chomping on a bunch of leaves.

In my last post, I wrote about this concept of “knowing I’m the girl“…I examined how I should be nice to myself and that I am deserving of things and shouldn’t put myself last. I know this because as I started writing this piece, I thought, “Oh shit. I know I’m on a self-discovery journey, but this is about to sound like a broken record.” But no, I do have something new I’ve discovered.

I’m different.

I’ve been in Prague now for roughly eight months. I feel pretty freaking different. At first, I was for sure feeling different for obvious reasons. Then I felt different because I didn’t speak Czech. Then I felt different because I was American. Then it was because I wasn’t different enough and wanted to be more different and have my cutie clothes from LA and be stylish and amazeballs and sassy in a land of not-so-much this. I think I just like force-feeding myself a bowlful of goulash with I’m different sauce drizzled over it, served with a side salad of chopped I’m different and washed down with a pint of frosty I’m different.

Perhaps I should just get over it…?

What I’m really saying is that I get scared and seem to drop myself in this sort of negative glass vial labeled “DIFFERENT” and shake myself around in there rather than live outside that vial where I shine as being different. It is safer in the vial. There’s a stopper. I can’t get out. Everyone can still see me, I can sort of breathe. But that vial is only so big.

So apparently I’m not so afraid of being different, I’m afraid to grow.

I’m a big deal. (This made me giggle. My friend and collaborator, Nicole, has pointed out that I giggle at odd times. I really want to delete delete delete those big deal words. But I think a therapist and my former acting coach would make me keep it and also make me shout it out loud; like really loud.) So. Ok. Here goes.

I’M A BIG DEAL.

I….oy. That feels weird on me.

Last Tuesday, we debuted my one-woman show “Harlem’s Awakening: Storytelling. Live.” based on my novella, Harlem’s Awakening. I stepped onto a stage that was magical. The floor-to-ceiling European windows were covered in an exquisite hand-painted New York panorama. The white walls were artistically transformed into a set-design that points to North Carolina…I disappeared into my book and then I emerged as an actor becoming the characters in my book. I was in heaven. Who gets to do this?? Me. Then later that night, I was dancing in my underwear with other girls to a song I sang and recorded years ago.  And then I got to sign copies of my book to people who were kind enough and intrigued enough to buy it. Who gets to do all of this and on the same night? Me. Me, again.

“Maybe …. she would see her new self …the one free of bad things that made her walk in line with the shadows and speak with the whispers of the wind rather than with real-live folk at dinner parties and such. Maybe… she would be turned on.”

-Harlem’s Awakening

Luckily I have a really bright light inside me. I know this because people who believe in me, tell me so. (Especially all the people who are working on this show and friends from high school!) It seeps through my eye sockets and through my smile and my hugs and my walk and my talk. It leads when I don’t, won’t or can’t. It knows better than I. So, even when I don’t really comb my hair or I wear these really baggy jeans that I like that Nicole said I should never ever wear again and I find myself standing next to “that girl” with her black satchel, leather jacket, black heeled boots, messy bun and red lips and I can’t even find my stupid jar of vaseline in my camouflage shoulder bag, my light whispers, “It’s ok, sister. Just stand up straight. You’re different.”

And, sometimes, I do.

Harlem's Awakening Did you get the money

We all have these moments. I wish for you to be different. Or to force yourself to do something that makes you feel so. To take yourself out of your vial and really live. It can be the worst feeling in the world, but has the best results.

I don’t know. Maybe I can blame the knot on my head for how I think. Maybe it has tentacles that reach far into my psyche and it plays with me, making me think and act…differently. Maybe the creature is to blame for why I can’t just live in the me that I know I am and be bold and brazen and beautiful all the time (ok, I’ll take 89%) instead of not. To proudly be different, to be the woman I am on stage, or the woman signing books or the woman at her computer…in real life…because I’m a big deal. I am a big deal. I’ve been blessed with at helluva lot. A helluva lot. I know this. But sometimes, guys, I do make choices that keep me common. That keep me bottled up. I l clutter myself and put too much on my plate. I take care of others instead of myself. I work on other projects before working on my own. I shrink when I should straighten. I do weird shit. So sometimes I’m sure the man upstairs is shaking his head, his hand slapping his knee, “What, what is she doing now? I’ve given her everything she needs…why is she wearing those pants again?!”

If you have a hard time like I do, hopefully you have a few friends in your corner, like Nicole and like my friend Arielle, who after that opening night of wondrous wonders at Studio Savec last Tuesday, she shouted at me, as she was leaving the event to go walk her dog, “I better never see you hide again! Ever.”

She’s right. And tomorrow, I’m really doing to try.

By the way:

Harlem’s Awakening: Storytelling.Live

2-20 February (Tues & Sat, 7pm)

Studio Savec

The Believers:

Lighting Design by Marek Eisler, Set Design and Photography by Antonín Malý. Performer/Writer/Producer, Peppur Chambers . Interactive Stage Manager, Noah Krause. Conceptualized, Directed and Produced by Nicole J. Adelman and Executive Produced by Antonín Malý and Belinda Filippelli atStudio SAVEC

 

xo,

Peppur