finding a more authentic, playful life --- finding your story

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Story

So the other day, after performing two shows and feeling a bit tired, I left the theatre without my pants on. Not intentionally, mind you. I just forgot to put on my pants. In the interest of full disclosure, I was wearing silky long johns, but no pants. No pants.

There is no lesson in this tale, no moral to learn. This has nothing to do with living your life fully in the spirit of improvisation, or even living authentically.

It's just a story of me walking out with no pants. Yup.

Merry Christmas.

And...your welcome. See you next year.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bah, Humbug!

Its been a tough week of tech rehearsals. Difficult to be holed up in a dark theatre for 12 hours a day, 3 days in a row. I don't do well when holed up in a dark theatre for 12 hours a day, 3 days in a row. Heavy sigh. ( I can do that now that my corset is off! Hallelujah!)

The play is A Christmas Carol. It's a Christmas play---maybe you've heard of it. This ol' dodger named Scrooge gets transformed. It's kind of a sweet story. But these long days, I tell you. It makes a Scrooge out of all of us. Bah Humbug!

But what is my point? I don't know, really -- It's been a long week, as I may have mentioned.

Wait, I remember. Maybe my point is this: just how far kindness goes. A little kindness helps us all out of our tough spots, right? Whatever they may be. Kindness is underrated. It can make or break a day.

Improv teaches it as "making your scene partner look good." When we make each other look good, we look good. And feel good! Crazy! So what does "make your scene partner look good" look life in real life?

maybe it's simply...
  • holding the door for someone
  • saying thank you
  • offering to help
  • smiling
and then maybe it goes deeper...
  • listening to what someone is truly saying to you
  • being present in the moment with your "scene" partner
  • allowing ego to dissapate for the sake of something else
  • being more patient than maybe you want to be other words...kindness.

Plato is attributed with the quote: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." I love that one and try to remember it when I don't feel like being particularly kind. We all have our own hard battles--each and every day.

Kindness. Make each other look good. It goes a long way.

I'm gonna try it my black hole.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Fake Paralegal

Years ago, shortly after moving to New York, I needed a job. God Bless. So I found myself working as a paralegal. Yes. A paralegal. A girl with no legal experience or interest really, found herself, due to the kindness of friends lies, claiming to be a paralegal. And working as one! I won't go into all the secret bathroom phone calls I made asking my friends (who got me the illicit gigs) how to do something that my resume said I knew how to do or the amount of times I fake-delayed work organizing pens or staplers, in order to spy on my coworkers so I could learn how to do exactly what it was we were supposed to be doing. No, that is not the point of this blogpost. Sorry. Another time.

The point of this blogpost is that after the initial glory and excitement of my fake career subsided and I began to really be a paralegal, skills and all, I found myself woefully unhappy.

I mean yes, this was not my dream job and I wanted to be acting or writing or artist-ing in some way that was true to whom I am, but it wasn't just that. It was something else. I was withholding.

I never told anyone I was an actor. I wasn't filled with the joy I usually am. I kept to myself. I was simply "Kim: the quiet paralegal"-- and unhappy at that.

I don't know why I was withholding. I guess I just didn't feel like sharing my whole self at this job that was not me. Does this sound like you? Is this feeling familiar? Are you in a job or career or situation that does not feel entirely like "you"? And because of that, are you withholding some or all of yourself?

One day I decided life was too short. I needed to be who I was. I started to share, to divulge, to be myself -- my actual self. And guess what? I got happy! By sharing who I was with people and being generous with my spirit, I found more contentment than I ever had. I made friends. I got a raise. I was happy. Was it my dream job? No. Do I want to do it again? Not really. But I know that no matter what the work, when I bring ALL of me to the job, for better or for worse, I am better off.

And so are you.

No reason to withhold. Share who you are! There is much to be lost if you don't.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Running Into Your Past...

As many of you know, I have worked a great deal with Iraqi refugees --  trying to create awareness and change for these millions of displaced people. While in New York, I have done this through working with The List Project, selling paintings and writing various articles, a play, a book with Veterans Book Project and most recently, a memoir.

After touring the play for 2 years and finishing the book, I have taken a bit of a step back from advocating for Iraqis. I needed a breath, some space. I made a move across the country. I'm even doing a Christmas show for Pete's sake!

But one day, after climbing up the 3000 stairs of the elevated Chicago "El" train platform, I make fleeting eye contact with a man. I smile and turn away to look at the train map of Chicago (...still being new here and all) when suddenly I sense the man next to me.

"Excuse me," he says in broken English. I recognize the accent. Come on, really Chicago?

He shows me a piece of paper with directions written on it in English and sure enough, Arabic.

"Chicago?" he asks, pointing to his paper. Still not super fluent in the Chicago public transportation system, I look at the map with him, locating the Chicago stop in Chicago, both of us strangers in a foreign land.

"Yes, 11 stops from here" I offer at last, trying desperately to remember my numbers in Arabic before realizing I only learned 1-10 anyways.

"OK," he responds. "Sorry. I speak Arabic. No so English. I Iraqi." Of course you are. What else would you be? I smile.

"Asaalam al-aikum" I greet him, grateful to remember the phrase.

"Ahhhh!" He is clearly happy to partially recognize his own language. "You? Arabic?" he asks, confused.

"I only speak a little. Shway-shway," I answer.

"Ahh, shway-shway. Little! Yes! Very good!"

Once onboard the train, I try to explain that I advocate for Iraqi refugees, that I do plays and books to tell stories like his. Forget about it! Neither his English, nor my Arabic could help us through that attempted communication! He goes on to tell me that he and his wife and three children just settled in Chicago two months ago. They fled Iraq, spent a year in Lebanon until fleeing to Damascus for three years, waiting for resettlement.

"At end, Damascus very bad, no good, very bad," he adds with both hands gesturing no, as well. His face changes when he speaks of those years.

"But you are all safe?" I ask, needing to act out "safe" and let's be honest--- "you all". Why can I remember no other Arabic!?! What is the word for "you"!?

"Yes. Now. Ensh'Allah." There's one! Ensh'Allah, yes. Ensh'Allah: God-willing, they are now safe.

It's not easy, this transition to a new country, new city, new people, new culture, new language. It never is. Being a refugee has to be one of the hardest things there is --- especially one from Iraq, with all our prejudices and stereotypes in this country. I can see it on his face. But I also see the joy on his face meeting me...a possible friend, someone in some strange way familiar, or at least kind. I think it is no accident that I was to meet this man today. I think I needed it and I think he did too.

"Thank you," he says to me before he gets off at the 11th stop. "You very nice."

"Afwan," I respond. His eyebrows raise in recognition of my attempt at his language. "Yes! Afwan. You welcome. Very good!"

"Ma'asallama!" I shout out to him waving goodbye, now in full glory mode with my Arabic.

After I settled back in my seat, I smiled once again: my first Iraqi friend in Chicago; first of many, no doubt.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Memoir sampler...

A little bit from my memoir: THREE DAYS IN DAMASCUS
We just finished with the last official interview of the day. Thank God. I’m exhausted. After listening to the torture victims today, I am done. How do aid workers do this every day? I need a break. We’re all meeting back up at the Beirut refugee center, before heading back to the hotel. I’m in Beirut, yes. This was before Syria and Omar and I think before Amman. Although I’m not sure, all the stories are becoming one. It’s hard to say what took place where.
            As I enter the basement of the center, dreaming of my bed, a bath and a glass of wine, I see a bunch of Iraqis hanging out and chatting in this room. Please God, no more stories. I can’t handle any more stories today. Please let them want nothing from me. Let them have nothing to say to me. I want nothing right now. Just breathe, Kim. I smile and sit with my colleagues.
There are both women and men here, mostly sitting separately. Some women are in the headscarves. Some are not. All ages are present – from young, single, twenty-something men to older women. I take it all in. Iraq. In Lebanon.
Then suddenly someone begins drumming. Huh. Fun. An Iraqi man has grabbed a drum and then another grabs an oud, the traditional Middle Eastern guitar-like instrument, and they are playing together. It’s lovely and Iraqi and makes me happy. We start to smile and laugh and move — the Iraqis and the Americans. I start to loosen up. As there are no translators here, we can say very little to each other, but with music, we don’t need to. So we dance, teaching each other our cultural moves, and laughing to see the other try them on.
            Before I know it, a long-haired, olive-skinned man in a bright blue shirt, whom I hadn’t noticed before, with big, big eyes, has taken center stage. This man wants to dance! We all step aside and let him have the focus, as it seems that is what he wants. He is dancing joyfully, fully and with abandon. We are all laughing as he flirts with both girls and boys, and begins to do a mock strip tease. This guy’s a character!
            “Oooohhhhh!” we all shout. Someone yells, “Dance baby!”  But now, clothes really are coming off. Is he really gonna get naked? The energy is shifting. We are all sitting by now and he has the stage. It’s getting slightly awkward. He’s dancing half-naked with an empty wheelie chair, sending it spinning violently in every direction and I am beginning to feel dizzy…and uncomfortable. I look to my colleagues. They look as mystified as me. This is not a Dervish dance. Something different is happening. I look back at our dancer. The blue shirt is off and the pants are about to be. But this is no longer flirty or fun, it has turned frenetic and desperate. Something has shifted. I feel scared for some reason now because strangely, this dance now feels — like… war. I start to cry. I want him to stop. I want this to stop. I don’t want any more of this — any of it. What is happening? He is now in just his underclothes and comes up to each of us to dance. He wants a partner. No one wants to be his partner. We all shake our heads no —“La”. At the last minute, I almost say “yes”. I feel like he needs someone, but I hesitate; he is scaring me with the uncertain emotion underneath all this. That, plus he’s almost naked. I’m not quite sure what will happen, so I decline him like the others.
We all watch in silence — awkward, apprehensive, melancholy silence — as he spins some more, sweating profusely, his hair and chair flying frantically, until at last, he collapses. It’s over.
            The room is silent. No one moves. I can hear my heartbeat. Time suspends, with everyone uncertain as to the next move. At last, he stands back up and actually bows, his apparent performance over. We carefully applaud, unclear as to what just happened or the appropriate response. The blue shirt guy picks up his blue shirt and the rest of his clothes and says to us, “You made him appear, you know,” and then walks out of the room. I think I saw him crying.
            I want to go back to the hotel now.

copyright 2013 Kim Schultz no reproduction without permission

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

why i hate bucket lists

...because you should do it now. There might not be an opportunity tomorrow. The end.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Knee Signs

I need my knees. We all do. Knees are necessary to walk, move, travel -- all things I have been doing a lot of lately! Transplanting to Chicago requires knees. Well, of course, do the math, I somehow damaged my right knee a few days ago, half way into my move, making it very difficult to walk, climb stairs, move know...basic moving stuff. Sigh.

Why? Why, oh why knee god would this happen now!??! Why!?

It made me think. Is there a reason I have a knee injury, of all possible injuries? (Especially since I own braces for ankles, elbows and wrists, but nothing for knees. Of course!)

As my mom would say...there are no accidents.

This injury has literally forced me to slow down and accept help. My sister went to get the car so I wouldn't have to walk, I hired movers, I accepted the fact that I couldn't unpack in one day! Maybe its the universe forcing me to slow down, forcing me to accept help, forcing me to just breathe through this transition. Maybe the breathing will help me land, maybe the pace will inspire peace. Sometimes the signs are obvious. And simple. We just need to listen.

Just sit, Kim. Slow down.

Oh, and ice. Don't forget to ice.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Overnight Train to Prague or The Manifestation of "Jump"

I awaken to my friend Dena hitting me on the arm and yelling.

“Wake up, Kim! Wake up! We’re here! We must have overslept! Hurry!” We are apparently already in Prague. I barely remember falling asleep last night. I was so tired, but afraid to sleep. It’s our first morning out of the U.S. and we are on an overnight train to Prague, Czech. (although at the time there was a "slovakia" at the end, but I digress.)

“Kim! C’mon! The train is stopping! Get your stuff.”

I’m still half asleep. I’m wearing jammies. (Don’t ask. It seemed like a good idea last night.) My backpack is unzipped, I unpacked half of it last night when we settled in. (Again, don’t ask. First time on a train.) I stand up, throw on my boots, grab my bra and try to fit thru the door with my over-packed pack. Dena is in the hall.

“Come on, Kim!” She pulls me through the small compartment door.

We are now standing in front of a closed train door. Crap. I’m still half asleep. My pack is unzipped, my boots are unlaced and I’m wearing my shorty jammies and holding my bra.

“I’m gonna open it” Dena says as she manhandles the door open. The train lurches. Under her force, the door opens. A miracle! Then the train starts to move.

“I’m gonna jump!” Now I’m starting to wake up. My pack is unzipped, my boots are unlaced. I’m wearing shorty jammies and holding my bra and the only person I know on this continent is about to jump off a moving train. Aaaand she does. Well, now I’m awake.

And alone! I move to her vacated spot in the doorway. The train is, of course, moving faster. I see Dena, laying on the platform, looking up at me, getting smaller and smaller in the distance. And almost in seemingly slow motion, she shouts: “JUMP, Kim!!!”

Jump, Kim…This feels like a moment. Could I do it? Was I a jumper?

We all have these moments in our life (maybe just not on the edge of a train car) -- moments that define us, that make us who we are, that seperate the jumpers from the non-jumpers.

Sometimes jumping means just standing up for yourself or speaking your truth to someone or even jumping into a new job or a new relationship because you just felt you had to. Maybe it means jumping in and doing the right thing, protecting someone. But it always involves bravery and going somewhere you’re not entirely sure you are capable of going. We all have these moments when the universe calls on us to make a choice: jump or don’t jump. Which action do you usually take?

Turns out, I am a jumper. Yup, I jumped. Bloodied, battered and bruised, but successfully reunited with Dena! We look across the platform at each other, laying limbs askew, smiling. Ah, success!

(And sure, then there was something, I guess-- if you must know--about the train stopping and then the train reversing and then hundreds of heads popping out the windows to watch as the conductor came out of the train, standing on the platform, shaking his head and wagging his finger at us to tell us in his best broken English that we had jumped off at the employee station and that Prague was still 10 km down the tracks where apparently the doors open on their own, and they wait for you to walk off the train, creating no need to jump off...but whatever. I jumped.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

As Seen on Twitter...

  IMPROV LIFE LESSONS seen on twitter @kimschultz1...

KSi Improv Life Lesson #1
Say YES.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #4
Play more.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #15
Speak your truth.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #33
Be more of who you are.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #51
Be brave! Success comes to you when you are willing to risk failure.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #59
Follow. Your. Gut.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #77
Just jump.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #101
Be the expert you already are.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #178
Commit. Commit. Commit.

KSi Improv Life Lesson #623
When people show you who they are, believe them.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Expectations of Paradise

Today's rainy day has me thinking about expectations and how often we live in them. For example, I am sitting in paradise, otherwise known as Akumal, Mexico during rainy season. And it is raining. A lot. I knew this was a possibility. I knew it would likely rain, but I mean, come on. How many tropical storms are gonna hover over us!?! It's raining a lot people! I came down here expecting sunshine. I want the beach! I didn't bring enough rain gear or warm clothes or books for this. Come on Mexico! I mean, really. Come on!

But this is the stuff of expectations. And unfulfilled expectations are what lead to disappointment. Expectations mean you are living in the future with hopes of something happening or not happening. Expectations are what create disappointment.

No expectations = no disappointment.

Improv teaches us to live in the moment, to accept what is. quote my friend Randy...and his t-shirt. This is the stuff of present moment living. Where are you living in your expectations? Where can you live in what actually is?

So I drink my coffee, feel the breeze, listen to the sound of rain, enjoy the respite from the heat and live in this moment -- which I know I'm lucky to have. And I'm grateful.

Also. I'm writing a new little book of improv with my friend Jim illustrating. More soon. But don't expect it. :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I'm ready for my close-up, Ms. de Mille

"Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how … we guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark." 
~ Agnes de Mille 

I love this quote from Ms. de Mille. 

"Life is a form of not being sure." There are so many things I'm unsure about. Worrying or fretting or trying to be sure, seems to do me no good. So what if I just accepted the uncertainty -- even embraced it?! What could happen then? What might be possible? I love the idea of taking "leap after leap in the dark". Easy? Not always. Fun? Mostly, yes. For me, that's just kind of a Tuesday. Just keep leaping and see what nets appear to catch me. A cool act of daily bravery.

So here's your shot of daily bravery: Where can you leap in the dark? What might be possible when you do?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

So I ate cheese curds...

Last week I ate cheese curds, corn dogs and lots of other deep fried things on a stick with a dear bunch of friends at the Minnesota State Fair. We had come from all over---NY, Florida, Philly, LA, Texas---to "reunion" together for a wedding..and go to the fair.

Friends are important. Relationships we build can sustain us and do sustain us. Family comes in all forms. I am grateful for this form. Grateful for friends, efforts put in to maintain these friendships, laughter (so much laughter!) and, yes...cheese curds.

What are you grateful for?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Little Patio of Horrors

My mom has a hanging plant on her back patio that is a creeper. It is always looking for something to climb and creep on. I sit at the table out there and work on my laptop quite a bit under the plant. Sometimes the plant starts to climb on me. I feel it moving closer, until a piece of it is in my hair. Eventually, another piece rubs against my arm, or my ear. It's creepy! I move. But it follows. For reals! I feel like Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors!" It's like the plant is alive or something, for cry-i!

This plant is clearly seeking connection. It needs it. I get it. We humans also seek connection. I need connection. You need connection. We all scream for ice cream. We seek connection through touch, eye contact, breath, shared interests. We are always seeking connection. It's how we are productive and happy. Like the plant, we thrive on connection and need connection to thrive.

The skills of improv teach us to be present, connect, breathe together, to live a shared, undefined, constantly evolving moment together, discovering the path only as our foot lands on it ---to connect! That's cool...and scary. And it takes bravery --- kinda like sitting under this plant!

So keep seeking opportunities. Keep being open to what is being presented to you in this moment. Keep being willing to be affected and informed and moved. Keep reaching out.

...and if you don't hear from me for a while, check my mom's patio. I'm probably "connecting", i.e. being held hostage by a plant.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Finding Your Voice

I've been teaching a class lately called, "Finding your Voice, Writing Your Story". I've taught it in several cities across the U.S. I try to help writers do just that: find their voice and write their story. We all have a voice. We all have a story. Sometimes we have forgotten that fact or ignored it or have been shamed out of our voice or are afraid of what it means to write our story. (What if someone reads it!? What if they think differently about us?)

A friend of mine recently "lost" his voice -- couldn't talk for over a month. It made me think: What does it mean to lose our voice? What does it mean to find our voice? My friend hated not having his voice. He felt he had lost a part of himself. Indeed, he had! But many of us don't even recognize that we have also lost ours.

In one of my classes, a student referred to your writing voice as the "who of who you are". I love it. I love helping people find the "who of who they are" in improv, writing or in regular old life. And I think the "who of who you are" comes from writing from your gut, from all of you, not censoring, but allowing the truth of who you are to emerge and be present, to write as you think and speak, not as you think you should, to write you

That's your voice. That's your "who". You're not trying to write like anyone else. You are just being yourself -- the only "who" you can be.

Blogger Madisyn Taylor in Daily Om writes, "Everyone wants to be heard and know that they matter. Reading your story to others meets the human need to be heard. Writing your story helps validate your life. We all want to know that what we have to say matters."

Speak. Speak "who" you are.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

3 Days of IMPROV!

Want to apply some of the skills of improv to your life? Here's a way to spend a day! Each of these "days" can be done independently or consecutively. Choose one that inspires you and commit to it for a full day. I recommend writing it down in multiple places, sending yourself periodic reminders with your smart phone throughout the day, putting a post-it on your computer screen -- anything to help you remember this game and change your old habits.

1. spend a day saying yes
Try for one day to say YES to everything offered you. Crazy, huh? Try it. Say yes to lunch, to the phone call, to the request for help, to time with your kids, to everything that is asked or offered. Think it's possible? What could happen? Pay attention when your "no" wants to come out? "No" is always a valid option, an important one sometimes -- but is it your "go to"? Does it always need to be? IS your answer always "There isn't enough time, money, fill-in-the-blank? Is this your pattern? Is their fear or another emotion surrounding it? What might saying "yes" lead to? Make any discoveries? Don't worry tomorrow you can start saying no again. If you want...
2. spend a day being brave; go outside your comfort zone
On this day, do things you would not normally do: Drive a different route to work, take a walk to nowhere particular at lunch, do something that scares you a little bit, speak in front of that group, walk up to a stranger and engage in meaningful conversation, wear something different, ask for that raise, tell your spouse the truth, sign up for that class. Today is the day to be brave and take a chance. How does it feel?
3. spend a day listening
Today, make it a goal to TRULY listen to what people are saying around you. Be present and LISTEN. Listen not just to the words, but to the actions, to the body language, to the tone, to the mood, to the emotion, to what's not being said, to what's underneath, but yes...also to the words. Don't worry, soon enough it will be your turn to talk again, but when it's your turn to listen: pause, breathe, make eye contact with speaker and hear them fully, and then respond, and not until then. Give them space to speak their truth and be heard. How does it change your day? How does it change your conversations? How does it change YOU?
After trying a "Day" or 3...comment below with your thoughts, discoveries, questions! Happy to discuss! Play!

But remember--- remind yourself all day of your goal---or you will easily forget and revert to how you always do things!! Ok! Go!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Like A Goldfish! I decided to move to Chicago for a year. I had great responses from several theatres after a bunch of meetings. I was welcomed and shared and introduced and auditioned. I felt like now was the time, if there ever would be a time. But I wanted to wait until I had a job offer to secure things. I was nervous. The sensible thing to do would be to wait.

But I've never been particularly sensible.

I decided to just jump! After all, this is what I teach: JUMP! So move to Chicago, I decided.

And then miraculously, two job offers came in. Big job offers. Good job offers. I had to laugh. I have been stuck in molasses for a while regarding my living situation. But when you jump, the net appears. I believe this! Improv guru Del Close said it like this: "Fall, then figure out what to do on the way down."

I have been not jumping for a year. I have been "hopping" from place to place like a frog, but the minute I actually jumped, support came.

Lesson: Be brave. Jump. Your net will appear too. And if not?'ll figure out what to do on the way down. :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Night with Dudley

I recently went back to Minneapolis for a visit and returned to my old stomping ground, Dudley Riggs' Brave New Workshop. I spent many years of my twenties and early thirties there, treading the boards -- or whatever that phrase is...walking the boards? Treading the planks? Whatever. It was my improv home for many a year.

It was loverly to be back. It was opening night of their "best of" show: Attack of the Best of the BNW. It was a very funny show. I laughed. I also felt old. Everyone their was so young...blahblahblah. I'm old.

The founder Dudley Riggs was also there. It was great to see the bow-tied legend again. After catching up and chatting during intermission, I excused myself to use the restroom, turned around and felt a hand brush up against my arse. Did someone just cop a feel?

I turned around to find Dudley still there. I smiled and said, "Dudley, did you just touch my bottom?"

Full stop.

Okay, first of all: who says bottom? Seriously, who says "bottom"? He's not 3 years old! Second of all: I said it almost British-like: Bot-tom. Deed you tach mye Bot-tom Dud-lay? Third of all... WHO SAYS BOTTOM?

Dudley awkwardly admitted to the accidental contact, clearly embarrassed for being called out unnecessarily, or maybe embarrassed because he is a married man in his eighties being accused of sexual harassment, or maybe because any normal person would have let it slide and not said a word about the incidental contact, or maybe because I accused a grown man of touching my BOTTOM!

Who's says bottom?

That's what you get when you return to your ass grab from an icon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From the archives: How My Intuition Saved My Technology!

          My super just left. It’s 4:30 am. And we just took a giant bath together.

          See, over an hour ago I was awoken by a doorbell (strange at 3am in your first night in a new condo). I had been dreaming of swimming and as I put my feet on the floor, I was — there was an inch of water everywhere. Oh my God, what is happening?!

          Apparently, a water pipe piece thingy broke (who knows, whatever) and water had been literally pouring on my floor for hours as I slept. The entire condo was flooded, with my downstairs, doorbell-ringing neighbor experiencing “rain” in his unit.

          The reason I write this story is not just to tell you why I’m up at 4:30 am. (But please note, I am.) No, it’s to tell you that I’m so grateful --- things could have been so much worse. Because I followed my intuition, I saved my technology.
          My mom calls it “a tap on the shoulder” or “angel nudges”, and before I went to bed, I had one. I had been working in bed with both my laptop and cell phone. Ready for bed, and with no bedside table in my new digs, I chose to lay them on the floor until morning. I simply placed both very water-sensitive items on the floor until morning. No biggie. What could happen to them? But as I rolled over to sleep, (pay attention now…) something nudged me. It said, “Pick them up. Put them on the chair.” 

           Through my years of improvisation training and practice (and listening to my mother!), I have learned to heed these universal clues occasionally sent. Improv is all about paying attention to signs, making something out of nothing, listening. In improv, I teach (and learn): Trust your gut! Follow the signs! The training translates to life. I have become a firm believer that all the signs are there. It’s just a matter of whether we notice them or take heed.

           Luckily last night, I took heed and even though I woke up almost under water…my technology was safe. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lessons From an Old Irish Man

I was walking in the park today, kind of in a hurry to get home after my brief respite in the park when I saw an older gentleman sitting on a bench. He was wearing an Irish-looking cap and a nice shirt and pants. I wondered if he was lonely. He reminded me of my grandpa, who is always looking for people to say hi to him or to visit with him for a while. So as I passed by, I paused and said hello to this man on the bench, and after his return greeting and some idle chit-chat about the weather -- sure enough -- he engaged me in deeper conversation. I was a little eager to get home, but recognized his desire for company and relented, allowing myself to be present in this moment.

"Sit down for a bit, why don't you," he offered at last. "I can tell you some stories."

So sit I did. I could tell it made him happy. It was almost as good as sitting with my grandpa.

He talked about how the neighborhood had changed, how if he wasn't smart with his money he would be destitute now since the rents have risen so much. He brought up how important going to mass has been for him and how his family is all gone now, save a son who lives upstate. He talked about the old days working in the post office and how now there's not much to do. He wishes he could be more useful. They asked him to speak at some post office event, but felt he would have nothing to say of interest. I disagreed with him, but it was irrelevant. He thought he had nothing to say, but talk and talk he did.

He asked me very little and could hear even less. (Maybe the two were connected). Most of my comments seemed unnecessary intrusions, so I mostly listened and nodded. I let go of the clock and the to-do list relentlessly forming in my head and just sat with another human being who wanted companionship. And not even for all that long! It wasn't that much to ask after all. We're always in such a hurry, especially in New York. Maybe we need to take more time for those who want a little slice of our time. Just maybe.

I listened and smiled and thought of my grandpa and hoped someone was sitting with him at this moment, spending time with him and providing some company. He also has things to say.

And then, finally, at some lull in the conversation, my day's activities weighing on me, I mentioned I should get going.

"Yes, yes, of course. Well, if you see me sittin' 'ere again, say hello. It was nice to talk to you."

I assured him I would.

Some things he told me and asked me to remember:

1. Save money.
2. Praise the Lord.
3. Keep a sense of humor.
4. Don't smoke or drink: "Look at my teeth! I still got 'em! It's because I never smoked or drank!"
5. Slow down. Life goes by quickly.

...sage advice from an old Irish man.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

5 Ways to Bring More Play to Your Day

[written by Kim Schultz, as published on policymic!]

“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.” - Charles Schaefer

Alarm. Shower. Breakfast. Kids. Kiss. Commute. Work.  Lunch. Calls. Meetings. Commute. Dinner. Family. Television. Sleep.

Sound familiar? Did you breathe? Did you laugh? Did you have fun? Or was it all work?

There is a Japanese term for working yourself to death: Karoshi. Now I’m not saying that’s what you are doing. (There certainly are people in Japan who are. After all, they coined a term.) But how much of your life is work and how much play? Seriously, right now, give me the ugly statistics. 80/20? 70/30? 98/3? (I know, I know! Math, Kim!)

But seriously, what is your life worth and what do you want out of it? More fun? More play? Yeah, me too. Weird you guys, we’re like the same person.

Play is often looked at as frivolous and unnecessary, but more and more studies are coming out touting the value of play and how play leads to happiness and ultimately more productivity and success in work and life. Shawn Achor, in his bestselling book, The Happiness Advantage, wrote, “Companies and leaders who take measures to cultivate a happy workplace will not only have more productive and efficient workers, they’ll have less absenteeism and lower health care expenditures.”

Well, that sounds good, no? He also is quoted as saying, that “every time employees experience a small burst of happiness, they get primed for creativity and innovation. They see solutions they might otherwise have missed.”

Wow! All that from play! So HOW can you bring more play to your day, you ask? Let’s look for some of those “small bursts of happiness.”

1. Surround yourself with people who play and make you happy.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
Nothing like finding/creating your network of like-minded folk. We are only as happy as those around us. Find the laughers and the players.

2. Allow yourself the freedom to fail. You won’t die, I promise.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
We are raised to believe failure is bad. What if you could free yourself from that fear? What might be possible for you? Where are you most afraid?

3. Turn off your devices and look, listen and connect more.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
What are you missing on the subway, in the restaurant, on your walk with your face glued to your smartphone? Turn off, look up, and take in! Life is happening all around you. Enjoy it.

4. Take a risk; do something outside of your comfort zone.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
I know, I know. Your comfort zone is more comfortable. But stretch yourself. What do you want to do? What could you never imagine being brave enough to do? Do it.

5. Laugh more.
5, ways, to, bring, more, play, to, your, day,
This is the easiest of all. Find more in your life to laugh at. Start with a smile. It grows from there.

So next time you are tempted to accept the status quo, do what you have always done, choose the boring (a.k.a. safe) option, hide in your cell phone, hang out with people who make you unhappy and avoid any and all “small bursts of happiness,” remind yourself to play more, take a chance, look silly and laugh. Your family, friends, boss and heart will thank you. I’m off to take a statistics class now.

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” 
Ralph Waldo Emerson