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Bertha's List: January Edition
It’s been my experience that all unfinished business has a way of coming back exactly when you least expect it. Nothing ever really goes away. It simply reincarnates as new circumstances and different people. Tuesday night and we were all in attendance for a 3tO5 meeting. Now, it is only natural that artistic differences will arise when working as a group. But add to that the pressure of three of those people living as roommates, two of whom have despairingly different personalities, and you’ve got the formula for an emotional Hiroshima. OK, that was an exaggeration. But it’s me we’re talking about here- everything is hyperbole. In retrospect the disagreement itself wasn’t all that remarkable but my reaction to it was. The first jab to my ego and I instinctively shut down. In a matter of seconds I’d become so irrationally angry I stopped listening. I let my expectations hook in their claws to the point where I could see nothing but my own righteous anger. I hadn’t approached this friend with compassion. I’d closed off my heart. In a single moment all the training had gone out the window. Regardless of his demeanor, I should not have lost my cool. I didn’t like myself very much in that moment. Afterwards, I considered leaving the company. If I could avoid a situation in which I was clearly not comfortable then it made sense to walk away. And yet that seemed as effective as covering a gash with a band-aid. Turning away was easy, working through it was growth.

It was already February so seemed like a good time to get those New Year resolutions under way. First off was health and wellness. As a result from an overly indulgent holiday season I’d gained five pounds. Turns out Cuban food plus zero physical activity, save for getting up for seconds, doesn’t make up for the healthiest lifestyle. It was time for this vain Libra to move it! Since winter didn’t want to budge even a few degrees (damn you, Groundhog!) exercising outdoors was out of the question. Running in 20 degree weather was not my kind of fun. Neither was a gym membership but it was the lesser of two necessary evils. I took a tour of the neighborhood gym and I liked its Mighty-Mick’s-Boxing appearance right away. Added, of course, to its convenient location (two skips away from my apartment) and it was a match made in Rocky heaven. It would do just fine. The next order of business was getting health insurance. What I’ve learned in late 20’s is that we’re not the invincible titans we thought we were in our teens. It was shameful to admit that I didn’t remember the last time I’d had a general check-up. Maybe it was as far back as when I had to squeeze on to my mom’s hand during shots. So after finally getting around to it, I enrolled in the Marketplace (reason #578 why this temp loves her President!) and appointments were set for the general physician, the optometrist, and yes even the dreaded dentist. I only hoped my sweet tooth wouldn’t get me into too much trouble. In the spirit of holistic wellness I also gave up alcohol. Not for Lent or the foreseeable future but for good. It probably sounds like I had drinking problem, which I don’t. After two shots I’m in for the count. Instead, I gave it up because I realized that I didn’t drink for me as much as for social pressure. Truth be told I was reading Walk Like a Buddha in which the author explains how drinking is fine as long as you’re mindful, don’t use it as an escape, and don’t do it for other people. Three strikes and I was out. I gave it up as easy as pie because I’ve never liked the taste anyway so I doubt I would ever miss it; except maybe for the occasional glass of Moscato. Does wine even count?

For Maury’s birthday weekend we had a scavenger hunt all over town. I remember three different clubs, dancing with a drag queen who kept calling me Selena Gomez, a picture taken at the Washington Park fountain à la Friends, and a one tumbler glass filled to the brim with tequila deceivingly called a ‘shot’. Clearly this was before my vow of sobriety (one would think I had a drinking problem…). But drunkenness has a way of making you bolder than usual. Wasn’t there a pit stop at Potatopia where numbers were exchanged? After hitting up Open House to celebrate with Alain, the other birthday boy of the evening, we were all danced out. Wasn’t there also a blue-eyed boy whom I kept finding on the dance floor? I vaguely remember it not ending well when he keeled over against a wall, literally drunk off his ass. I helped him regain his balance (although I’m sure his dignity was a little harder to steady) and I bade him good night. I woke up the next day sleep deprived and groggy. I got dressed, stopped for a breakfast bagel at the corner Dunkin’ and hailed a cab to the Bronx Museum where Vicky’s Mosquita Muerta video diary was having its premiere. We ended the night with a succulent birthday dinner on Fifth Avenue (who knew Tommy Bahama had such a fantastic restaurant?) and later on with two containers of Magnolia Bakery's banana pudding and an episode of Girls. Clearly this was before my vow of clean nutrition.

February is also pilot season which means that if you were slacking off before (read: October, November, December) now was the time to get serious. I printed a fresh batch of headshots. I auditioned and was subsequently accepted into One-on-One. I went to the Drama Bookshop and compiled a new target list of agents, casting directors, and managers. A trip to Actors Equity Association and taxes were begrudgingly filed (Lordy, is it expensive to live here or what!). Rehearsals for Psychosis – a short film I was set to shoot in April- was underway as well as rehearsals with Ryan for our upcoming Actors Studio audition. I was feeling so productive!

Early Tuesday morning I wake to an email from my Dad in which he writes that he had been denied his visa during his interview that morning. I was shattered. His biggest dream had always been to visit New York and I could feel his disappointment and sadness in every line of the email. I felt solely responsible. For months I’d been writing to him about all the things we would see and do during his visit to the Big Apple. I knew full that the chance for denial was 50/50 but I chose to not even consider the alternative. I felt angry. How could a government be so transgressive of a person’s basic human right to freedom? I felt sadder still. I wanted to give my father his heart’s biggest dream: the chance to see the city he loved so much. The same dream that once upon a time I didn’t know we had shared. My friend Nina, upon hearing the news, said “I know your Dad will able to come. He has to see your life here.” I called up the embassy and set another interview for March 2015. I didn’t know when or how he would see my life here. All I had was the certainty that he would.

By the time Valentine’s Day came around I was in no mood to celebrate. I’m usually a huge fan of the holiday, with or without a date, but for this one I had planned something low-key and fun. On the agenda: takeout, mani/pedi, and a chick flick. My good humor lasted until I got to the office and everyone kept talking about their evening plans. I’m not the girl that proclaimed it a corporate-invented holiday and watched slasher movies out of spite but on the train home everybody carrying flowers, balloons, and chocolates was annoying the hell out of me. Damn it, I was that girl. I finally made it to my apartment where the only red and white object in sight was the kitchen clock. I didn’t plan to leave the house until the next when the world would go back to normal, albeit a little less pretty.

Saturday night. Vicky’s opening night. We make our way through the slushy snow and arrive to the theatre just in time. Afterwards we go for a celebratory dinner. On the search for a good margarita & guacamole joint Ryan gives me the terrible news. An old classmate, with whom I had a rocky track record to say the least, was moving to New York in the summer. I stopped walking. I didn't want salsa chips, I wanted to scream. Every atom in my body flared up in a fit of rage. I thought leaving Miami meant leaving that broken friendship behind me. New York was MY city full of my memories and my landmarks. But now she was moving which meant that I had to deal with her whether I wanted to or not. We had the same circle of friends so it would be nearly impossible not to run into each other. I cringed at the thought of going back to the days when passive-aggressiveness and hypocrisy was thinly veiled as social nicety and fake smiles. Couldn't she stay on her side of the country where I didn’t have to deal with any of that crap? Life has a sardonic sense of humor. It won't leave you alone until a thing is done and over with. I worked myself up into a tizzy and by the end of it the only night who was ruined was mine. I didn't even make it to dinner. Instead I left to go dancing with Ryan and Jian at the Gansevoort Hotel where Jian's co-worker was celebrating his birthday. I needed to blow off steam and right then that meant dancing.

One of my favorite things now to do on the weekends is get up at 8AM, have breakfast, hit the treadmill until I'm weak in the knees (which only takes about 45 minutes) and afterwards take a long shower. Then I sit down by the foot of the bed, assume the lotus position, and meditate. The apartment is quiet; you can barely hear the soft sounds of neighbors going about their morning.  If it’s a sunny day the rays of light fall breezily on the hardwood floors. It is my piece of Nirvana. I ask my mind to sit with me and it is in that moment when I find the higher wisdom to realize that everything is a teacher. My ego still refuses to let go of past grudges and old trespasses but some days are better than others. Some days I’m filled with so much compassion for those who’ve wounded me and so much compassion for myself as well. I give myself permission to heal a little slower than I’d like to or probably should. I understand that I have to thank both my roommate and my old friend because they are my gurus. They teach me about equanimity and all the other great principles of Buddhism better than any book. And on most days I thank them.

Another Friday night. I meet Nina for her friend's birthday. After a few songs we put on our coats and head out for one dollar slices. Biting into that doughy piece of New York I realize how silly I'd been. I had made such a big deal about her moving here based on what-if scenarios staged completely in my head. I wasn't giving her enough credit. Who's to say she hadn’t changed? After all, I had. By the same token, I wasn't giving ME enough credit either. My life in New York was as real as the Chrysler building and my memories would always be mine to keep. New York was a beacon of hope for all seekers and dreamers. It was always welcoming. It had always asked for the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” My New York was big enough for the both of us. At our next company meeting we talked about upcoming projects. They were projects I felt very passionate about. And so did they. I had made the right decision to stay. I was in the right place.

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"The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche once pointed out, 'If you put one hundred percent of your heart into facing yourself, then you connect with this unconditional goodness. Whereas, if you only put fifty percent into the situation, you are trying to bargain with the situation, and nothing very much will happen.' " ―Lodro Rinzler, Walk Like a Buddha

Copyright © 2012 Bertha Leal, All rights reserved.
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