Sunday, November 20, 2011

150 miles on the back of a Harley: A Lesson in Trust

Early morning mist in Calistoga
"Do you have patience to wait til your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving til the right action arises by itself?"
--Lao Tzu

I’m having a hard time trusting the universe right now. Or rather, it’s not that I’m having a hard time trusting—it’s more like “Why am I still here? Am I insane to trust this? Am I looking at the world with Pollyanna, rose-colored glasses?”

I got to San Francisco five weeks ago. Since then, I have had a falling out with one of my dearest friends, I can’t seem to find any reliable source of income to save my life, I haven’t performed on stage or film in months and the littlest things make me burst out in tears. I feel a profound sense of failure much of the time and a general confusion about who I am and what I am supposed to be doing in the world. All I want to do is go home and have my mother take care of me.

“Who’s gonna save me!?”
“When is it all gonna pay off!?”
“I’m a good person, when do I get to be in the spotlight?!”

I hear my whiny little victim voice. I pay attention to her, listen to her, love her, and then keep going back into the fire.  Where I face all the ways I steal energy from other people. Where I flash a lot of sexy bravado, but run away at the most tender intimacy. Where I take shortcuts in getting what I want rather than standing in my power and simply asking. Where I kill other people (with a smile on my face) because I am secretly jealous/threatened/insecure.

And I am supposed to trust that everything is being perfectly handled by the universe to guide me in fulfilling my sacred contract?


A few weekends ago, I got an invitation to spend the night in Calistoga, right next to Napa. A night away from it all and among the beauty of wine country sounded like a dream to me, so I immediately said yes. The catch was that it was a 75-mile trip north and I would have to ride on the back of a motorcycle. Well, I’m a tough bitch, I thought, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Whoa. First of all I had some intense gear to wear, plus a heavy backpack. Second of all, the seat can get mighty painful to your lady parts after straddling it for some time. And third of all, there is no freakin’ seatbelt (windows, airbag, protection, etc.) on that thing. It’s just you, the asphalt and a lot of metal zipping by you at 80 miles per hour.

This was an experience in total trust. I had to trust that my driver knew how to handle the machine and not play my usual helpful-but-fearfully-controlling-backseat-driver. I had to pay constant attention to the road and to the turns. There is no enjoying the scenic view and jamming to your favorite tunes. You lean when he leans. You brace yourself for the bumps as they approach. You hold tighter as he accelerates. You remain still and centered as he slows down. It becomes an intense meditation—and if you check out in any way, there is no reset button. So even though there’s cold rain and wind on my thighs and my feet are vibrating intensely and my shoulders ache and my wrists are sore from gripping him and I am silently freaking out as we inch past 50…60…70 mph, I just stay focused on the ride and don’t let go.

Because I know it won’t last forever.

So this is where I am now. Through the crying and depression and lack of focus and intense fears and ugly parts of myself, I know it won’t last forever. And it is a necessary step on my path in order to enjoy the warm bath and fine wine to come. And I know it’s worth it. I can feel it deep within my core.

My night in Calistoga was an extraordinary collage of wine, food, spa and landscape that was well worth the price of cold fingers and a sore butt. And when I look at my desires for my life (to create films that bring the taboo into light and find the gift within it), I think to myself, “ Well, I suppose I should actually feel what it is I want to express if I am going to express it.”

So now, this trust has become sort of a game. Can I actually love my crying fits? Can I enjoy feeling the pain of a thousand unfulfilled desires burn through me? Is there a chance to “get off” in this wet, slimy, hairy underbelly of existence that keeps pulling me down?

Really, the choice is clear. Anything less than a full, surrendered “yes” is a step back towards suffering and victimhood.

Incidentally, the 75-mile ride back down to San Francisco, was a LOT friendlier. The sun was out, I knew how to handle myself on the bike, I had a sense of how long it was going to be and I asked for towel to cushion my ass. I suppose life really is just a practice in exploring our edges and pushing our boundaries beyond our known limits. And then that which we found unbearable before, becomes easier to hold as we expand.

That is, until an even scarier ride comes along…and then we do the whole thing all over again.

All photos copyright Candice Holdorf. Taken at Solage resort in Calistoga, CA. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Occupy My Heart: An NYC Love Story

13 years, 1 month, 8 days.

13 years.
1 month.
8 days.

How do you measure an era of one’s life (ok, that sounds a little cheesily Rent-esque, but you get the point).

That’s how long I lived in New York City—that sprawling, electric rainforest of cultures, experiences and concrete. Lots of concrete. Love it or hate it (or love to hate it), it’s a city that demands to be respected and pushes you to the edge.

I arrived there one week before turning 18 to embark on the dream of an acting career. I left at 31 to embark on an evolved version of my dream: to bring orgasm to the world through acting in film (if you had asked me two years ago if I would have ever written that sentence, I would have looked at you like you had three heads).

I lived in Washington Square, Kips Bay, South Williamsburg, Clinton Hill, Morningside Heights, Yorkville, Washington Heights, Cobble Hill, Astoria and East Elmhurst (with a 2 week stint in Midwood, Brooklyn thrown in for good measure).

I was in Brooklyn during 9/11 (four days after my 21st birthday), walked from the Upper East Side to Times Square during the 2003 blackout and spent part of my last evening in the city at Occupy Wall Street.

I worked in the offices of NYU, behind the bar of an East Village 24-hour diner, taught in the studios of numerous yoga spots, served coffee at the Washington Heights Starbucks, sold jewelry at a fine crafts gallery in Brooklyn, and coached many people in the subtle but extraordinary practice of Orgasmic Meditation.

I performed in theatres in the Lower East Side, Times Square, Hells Kitchen, the Upper West Side, Chinatown, and both the East and West Village. I co-founded a theatre company that is still going strong and co-wrote/co-produced a play that went on to the 2007 NYC Fringe Festival. I shot an indie film and numerous commercials all over the tri-state area.

And yet, none of this really matters on the surface. What stays with me is the feeling I have when I look back. The lightness and freedom when I fall into a pile of fresh snow (immediately followed by the dread I feel when hiking through the dirt slush that hugs the curb for the next 3 months). The sticky, thick wetness of a NYC apartment in summer—sans air conditioning. The electric buzz of Times Square blinking her offerings to tourists hungry for…well…whatever they can imagine.

And the people. Actors, writers, musicians, yogis, teachers, students, homeless dudes, people posing as homeless dudes, drug dealers, waiters & waitresses, prostitutes, lovers, haters, fighters, peacemakers, Wall Street champs, drag queens, buskers, subway drivers, bodega owners…I can’t possibly list them all here.

My last day in NYC was a Friday. October 7, 2011. Warm. A little Indian summer just before the apple-crisp winds of autumn. I spent the morning packing up the last of my things. Sent a few last minute packages in the mail via the post office a block and a half away. A bus ride and a few subway stops later, I’m in Union Square. I swing by Trader Joe’s for a bottle of wine (thank-you-gift) then walk down Broadway and stop by the $1 shelves of the Strand. Looking for an airplane book (something Paulo Coelho-ish?), I instantaneously stumble upon The Celestine Prophecy, a parable from the ‘90s focused on the energy of the universe, synchronicities and the next phase of our evolution. “How perfect is that?” I think to myself. And in that moment, a book by that exact title (How Perfect is That) pops into my view. Follow the synchronicities. I walk through NYU land, past Tisch, beyond Houston and into Soho. I make a quick stop by my work and then I am off to the southern tip of Manhattan.

And it is here, at Occupy Wall Street, that I finally felt like I was perched on the perfect bridge between the life I once wore and the open space I now faced. I know the rosy, warm, soft hum of human connection, having spent time in SF and Burning Man and through practicing Orgasmic Meditation. And right there, in the cultural epi-center of the planet, the energy of fiscal greed was alchemized into pure love. It blew my mind. I could dance here to the drummers and whatever came out of me was innocent perfection. Old men, young girls, dirty punks with metal in their faces and crisply-dressed Wall Street players (their ties coming out of place as they self-consciously swayed to the beat) all met there. All accepted exactly as they were. Myself included. And for a few moments, in that swirling, intoxicating rhythm of my heart, I fell through the veil of self and other. We all…just…were. Together.

Holding my breath, I slipped out gently (so as not to tear the fabric that snuggled the group) to a friends place on Wall Street. I connected with her, floated on back up to Union Square for some goodbyes at Bar 13, and then made my way to the R train (the first train I took when I moved to NYC in 1998) for my final subway ride.

And as I stood on the late night platform, the raspy, singular sound of a man and his guitar jangled in my ear.

His song?

New York State of Mind.”

Now…how perfect is that? 

All photos and video shot at Occupy Wall Street, October 7, 2011. Copyright Candice Holdorf