Lost & Found

AliceAsMarilynTiger (2)

Dear Friends,

I am very excited to open the door to Room Two this week but first I want to spend a few moments looking back at Room One and Marilyn. It feels necessary.

I have been away from the project for about five months. I went on retreat shortly after the installation and then came back to a whole host of domestic things large and small to take care of. I went back to my natural hair color mid-September and haven’t read a single Marilyn article or book since August. This has been a welcome break. After more than a year soaking in the story that was Marilyn and transforming myself physically into her all the while; it’s good to be me. I have been taking my time coming back to the blog too because I wanted to allow the experience to settle in before attempting to describe or label it in any way.

Last week, I was able to articulate some of the experiences when writing a blog post for the Shambhala Times. (You can read the full post here) I wanted to share some excerpts, and then wrap up Marilyn/Room One with some well-deserved thank you’s.

Last summer I lived twelve hours as Marilyn Monroe.

I started at 9:00 am in front of a live audience and a video feed which was broadcasting across the country. By 9:15 am I was completely panicked. I couldn’t pick up the handle, the phone, the truth, the fullness of it. I had no way of managing the situation, no place to hide.  Furthermore, I created nothing, I had nothing to show…just the space, me, her, and the invited audience. I had no plan.

As was her custom, Marilyn arrived late, meaning that I was this weird herky jerky thing for the first hour, not sounding nor moving at all like her but also not entirely like me either. Sometime after 10:00 am I put on Frank Sinatra and start to dance around the room, and suddenly she arrived in full force, wild, angry, sad, lonely, manic, loving and so vulnerable. Emotions arrived suddenly like giant waves and then were gone.

In the emptiness I am hyper-aware that all my usual ways of coping – making a cup of tea, snacking on something, checking Facebook – none of these things are available to me. I have stocked the room with three record albums, a record player, three books, some personal papers, champagne, and about four outfits. I quickly explore these things in the first three hours, reading from books, listening to the albums and getting dressed and undressed as I get in and out of bed restlessly.

Throughout the whole day I am haunted by the questions: What if this was my last day? How would I spend my time? There is this itchy feeling of waiting for time to pass, yet knowing that time is short. At one point I ask the audience “How do we make this time matter?”. They are quiet, eyes wide open…my partners in silence.

It’s sad joy to live in this world, knowing that I will have to let go of everything. I always resist that truth by building up my identity, my schedule, my agenda, my goals, never letting go enough to just be seen and loved by others, always proving something. In that twelve hour space and time with Marilyn, I experienced all the messiness and beauty of being human, all the expectations, the neediness, the wanting to be loved, the mystery and the itchy terribleness of staying there all the while, with just these three albums, these three books, this cactus and this champagne (which wasn’t even real, by the way, so there was no escape there either).

I think this is what Marilyn offered as the gift of her lifetime…or at least this is what she gave to me. The most beautiful things that life has to offer: sensuality, beauty, sex, and playfulness. And the messiness of being human, the not being able to hold it together, the addictions, the drama, the holding on too tight for too long, the self-hatred and closing off from others. The waiting for time to pass, waiting to get it perfect, the forgetting about the preciousness of this experience and feeling overwhelmed by all there is to accomplish. And the moments of complete surrender, where life is only what it is and that is good enough.

thankyou

There are so many folks that helped out in ways large and small, and I am going to include everyone I can think of since this really was such a community effort. I’m sure I will forget some folks, and I apologize in advance. First, I want to thank my husband Sean. He offers so much time, patience, editing skills, laughter, and heavy lifting to this project. Here is a picture of him heavy lifting with Natalie & Alicia the night before the performance:

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Special thanks to the Fabulous Four, who made the set-up, performance and take-down a total dream. Lisa Blandford, Natalie Panaia, Shelley Ray, and Alicia Vogl Saenz.

Fabulous Four

Thank you to Jmy at Pieter for making it possible in that beautiful space.

Thank you to Kathy Gronau for publicity.

Thank you to Rachelle for being my hair and make-up guru.

Thank you to Greg Schreiner and Scott Fortner of Marilyn Remembered.

Thank you to Siran Babayan & Drew Barillas from the LA Weekly.

Thank you to these exceptional women:  Jude, Sonora, Cynthia, Alicia V-S, Alicia T, Katie, Shelley, Erica, Vicky, Jenny, Sharon, Anne, Debra, Amy, Laura

Thank you to the Indiegogo contributers who made things a lot more financially possible:

Dustin, Ava, Eric, Janice, Jared & Annie, Heidi & Ben, Elke, Kirstin, Natalie, Nicole & Dan, Shannon, Sharon, Matthew, Alicia T, Barbara, Jenny, Valerie, Suzanna & Philip, Sulai, Patty K, Annie May, Debra & Malcolm, Patrick, Alison P, Aunt Kat, Katie, Mary Beth, Cousin Anne, Mike & Amy, Shelley, Jessica & Jennifer (PPC), Beth & Truax, Jude, Lynn, Tammy, Joseida, Lee

Special thanks to Janice of Success is Sweetest and Ellen of Bohemian Bookshelf for engaging and inspiring me.

Thank you to Mykl & Mary Lynn, Guy Blume, Margaret Kemp, Mat Keel, Julie Civiello, Lisa Oxley, Jason Elias and Philip Lasker for asking me how it’s going, listening, and advising when asked.

Thank you to the Shambhala Los Angeles sangha for support and friendship.

Thank you to everyone who participated that day (near and far) and sat with Marilyn for a time.

And thank you to my family, each of whom continue to inspire and encourage me.

Giving & Receiving

Dear Friends of Room One,

I have created an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to help this project come to fruition. If you are able to make a donation of any size (even $1 helps!), please do so here. Furthermore, it would be a great help to me if you could also share this campaign with your people and help get the word out.

I want to share some gratitude today. I have been thinking of the last year and all that has transpired since I set out on the path to become Marilyn Monroe. This choice has created a dialogue with a network of supportive and creative friends. My blog has attracted other creative and open-hearted individuals, and we have read each others writing, commented, liked and generally celebrated the act of engaging with this thing called life.

I have also grown closer with friends and family as a result of sharing myself in a more open way through this project. There is really something to be said for going to the places that scare you and then looking around to see who else is there. There is a special bond that grows when we can be with each other in a way that says “Yep, me too.” I have always craved this kind of connection and feel very lucky to experience this giving and receiving.

Throughout the year, I have had the opportunity to look with honesty at my relationship with this body of mine too. I started out thinking that becoming Marilyn Monroe would encourage me to slim down at last. What I discovered is that I am an emotional eater. When I feel groundless I turn to food to feel grounded. I have felt groundless a lot this year and I have turned to food a lot. And I am okay with that. I realized that this project, Marilyn Monroe, or any book, diet or exercise regime is not going to change this relationship with food.  Only I can dance this dance of not enough/too much until I tire the whole story out. Since it is a lifelong habit, I might need some time and space to really learn the dance.

I have been a witness to Marilyn’s relationship with her body and in the witnessing have found a lot of compassion for all of us women who fear the true beauty of our hips/breasts/mouths/minds and all the rest.

Often I ask myself if it is necessary to keep going with this project and see it through the performance. I have wondered if it will be of benefit to anyone. But lately, I have felt that I am cracking the code. I am opening the doors and saying have a look, don’t be shy. There is safety in groundlessness. We are born in the space of not knowing. In that space we live and die, each day a new chapter of the story is being revealed to us one moment at a time.

On August 4 I will perform as Marilyn. We will step into that unknowing together and exist there for a full twelve hours, our existences blending. This happens to be the last full day that Marilyn lived (She died August 5, 1962 at age 36). In the performance space I will be posing this question: How will we each spend our last day? I invite you to come and spend a few minutes or an hour or the day contemplating this question with me and Marilyn.

If you are unable to come, you can support by giving something to the Indiegogo fund. Also, I will make sure that you are linked in on the webcast the day of so you can take part from afar.

Things Fall Apart

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There’s this…

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” – MM

And this…

“When there is a great disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure.” – Pema Chodron

Eating Seagulls

Marilyn scale

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When I started this project, I had a secret fantasy about something. I dreamed that as a result of committing myself 100% to this transformation I would lose weight. This is a common dream of mine lacing through my whole life and narrowly evading me.

In Buddhism this is called the realm of the hungry ghosts. The hungry ghosts have gigantic bellies and little tiny mouths. They can never seem to fill their bellies, and they are always ghosting around looking for just the thing. Not surprisingly, this is called a hell realm.

In January, I went for an annual physical and found my BMI to be in the overweight category and my cholesterol to be a little high. I was not losing weight for my art – I was gaining it.

This started yet another round of trying to find the perfect combination of food and exercise that would melt the pounds away. I have cut out a lot of meat and dairy to lower my cholesterol. I feel great about this because factory farming is terrible for the environment and animals deserve happy free lives too. I also went back to my favorite yoga class and increased my vigorous walks with the Finn puppy. And in March? Still the same. No change.

I look at Marilyn’s body in pictures and wonder why I can’t capture that.

I look at my beautiful strong under-appreciated body and wonder if there is another way.

What is going on with me and food? Why am I snacking away in front of a movie, or making multiple trips to the kitchen while surfing the internet. Finn knows the habit and he trails right along beside me because he knows I may drop a chip in transit.

On those nights when I don’t make the trip back and forth to the kitchen, I feel something is missing. It feels like life is dull if I am not trapped in this drama of being good/being bad/eating/drinking/more/less. It’s not so much the food I miss, but the torment of it all. That might sound weird, but it’s true.

So today I walked outside at work and ate a seagull.

I didn’t eat the seagull, but I ate the sight of the seagull swooping down to land on the building. I ate huge and wondrous mountains on my morning walk and three coyotes that passed by. I noted the life in between the food, and those feelings of blah. I acknowledged my glee around eating. God, I love to eat.

As of today, I am still holding the dream that in the four months before the performance I can slim down. I am holding in mind that this is four months of my life not eternity. I am decreasing my food intake, increasing exercise and reminding myself to notice that I am not in the hell realm but very lucky to be alive. I am buddying with a friend who also wants to lose weight, listening to a hypnosis app, and telling people about my goal. I call this the everything plan…do all I can so at least I know I tried.

The good news is that I have so much more time and energy since I’ve been exercising and leaving out the extracurricular snacks. I’ll update you about my progress. I have 17 weeks to go.

Here’s a brief video from the front lines.