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Bertha's List: June Edition
I was welcomed home from my Miami trip with a bouquet of wildflowers and a makeshift dedication on colorful Post-Its. I truly have the best roommates. Although it felt nice to be missed vacation time was over and it was now back to work mode. Barely four days after being back, I hopped on the New Jersey Transit Train and headed to the Tainted Love set. I had a small yet hilarious part in the short film. While the shooting process was fun, the best part about the day was the three hour train ride. Seeing Manhattan from the other side of the river, getting smaller and smaller, was magical in itself. There’s something about embarking on a trip not entirely sure of the final destination or in this case the final train station that can feel daring. In the quiet solace of anonymity of that train car, I genuinely understood the appeal of Eat, Pray, Love. Traveling alone is the perfect way to spend time with the one person you sometimes forget to talk to. I used the hours to read and finish up some revisions. By the time I boarded for the ride back two things were certain: draft number two of my play Detours was complete and I needed to plan a solo trip somewhere. I’m thinking Paris. Perhaps India! I returned to the apartment late and tired but completely satisfied. Getting paid to do what I love wasn’t too bad either.

I'd missed Repertorio Español’s submission deadline for their playwriting competition but I figured to give it a shot anyway. I submitted Detours in the hopes of having it produced and when they kindly accepted it all there was left to do was wait. Deadlines weren’t the only thing backed up because of my time away in Miami. Piled up assignments at work kept me chained to the computer desk for four weekends in a row. I'd also been working with my writing partner, Victoria, on a concept that we eventually titled Love* (Asterisk) : a web series about two single girls dating in a post-Tinder world. We’d been formulating the idea since January and were now cementing the last minute details of pre-production—  meetings, calendars, and agendas ad nauseum. It was a hectic, productive time yet I was worried that summer, short as it already was due to a long winter, would pass me by without even so much as enjoying an ice cream cone in DUMBO. And almost as if the Day Planner Gods heard my plea, the scheduling seas parted and it was time for fun.

I trekked out to Central Park with Vicky in search of the stranger who’d found her lost wallet and decently offered to return it. While she called her bank for the third time that day, we sat on the great lawn and looked out at the fading sunset. Life is what happens when you’re busy looking for your wallet. That night we celebrated a friend’s birthday on a rooftop with the most unbelievable view of the Empire State building. Sunday morning Jian woke me up for an early audition. Afterwards we met up with the gang at Corner Social for brunch, followed by a picnic at Sheep Meadow, and ending the day at Nina’s to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones. By the end of the episode it got pretty late so Matt thoughtfully offered to drive me home. In the car he asked if I had to rush home or if I had time for a detour. I’ve come to know that detours are the best part so I acquiesced. He drove his convertible up Grand Central Station and took a sharp right turn a few feet shy from the swooping eagle. Driving past the Station's tunnel, leveled with the third floor of the adjacent building, I had to admit he was right, it really did feel like Batman’s Gotham. We continued up Fifth Avenue, top down, Philip Glass playing loud, the barely visible stars outshined by the bright city lights, and then it happened. I fell in love with New York all over again. Maybe it was the epic music or the embrace of the cool night air but I was enamored by it all. Remember to always take the detours. They really are the best part.

In trying to squeeze in some meditation before our scheduled production meeting, I got home from work on Saturday evening and made a strawberry-banana-peanut butter milkshake which I intended to drink on our kitchen fire escape. I slurped up my milkshake happy as a bug and, just like Siddhartha many centuries before me, I assumed the lotus position ready to breathe from my open heart chakra. “Look at her! Coming out of her apartment to do yoga! She gotta come out of her house? Look at her right there! On the fire escape, that’s not what that’s for!” The rude comments from the loud neighbors across the alley kept coming for what felt like an eternity (in reality it probably only lasted five minutes). I considered telling them off or at the very least going back inside but I held my ground. It was easy to preach compassion in a conflict-free state but far harder to practice in the midst of resistance. Which is exactly what I did; sat there and tried my best not to lose touch with my soft open heart.

Sunday afternoon I got all dolled up and posed with the quintessential props that make for a “successful blogger” picture. These are also known as a MacBook Pro and, in my case, an empty Starbucks cup— a tell-tale sign of all the brand name coffee I don’t drink while writing my posts. The illusion sure did look cute though. Now if I could only find a way to write these posts as easily as posing pretty they would practically write themselves. And punctually so! I barely find the time to keep them on deadline anymore. Maybe if I wasn’t so busy watching the Boston Ballet perform at Lincoln Center or taking pictures of friends in front of Manhattan-henge, April's edition wouldn’t show up in your inbox by late July. Then again, you’ll have to forgive me dear reader because I’d much rather be submersed in the world of a SummerFeast, held captive under a director’s vision, than to stare at a computer screen attempting to write about it. Life happens when you’re busy trying to write your belated blog.

On my morning commute, I’d just finished reading Pema Chödrön’s “Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living”. As I floated down the stairs feeling enlightened and pious I see an old lady stooped over her two heavy bags labouriously making her way up on the opposite side of the rail. Eager to help and revel in my Buddha nature, I flew down the steps and leaned in “Do you need any he— ”. Before I could finish my sentence she let out a loud and guttural “NO!” that reverberated across the entire platform. Completely startled, I keeled over backwards and quickly ran away. Once I was some distance away, I giggled to hide my embarrassment but still felt every eye on me. It was unnerving. A man turned to me and said “You did a generous thing. Don’t feel bad. They’re just always scared someone’s going to hurt them. You did a good thing.” My impetuosity to show compassion had blinded me. I hadn’t seen her clearly. True, I also have very bad eyesight, but what I’d chosen to see was my grandmother struggling with her groceries and not a homeless woman struggling against the world. By the time I got to Union Square I was still feeling a little rattled. That aggressive NO resonated in my ringing ears, in my shaky knees. As I made for the stairs a blond haired boy bumped into me, unintentionally wrapping his tiny arms around my legs to break his fall. His big sister scolded him “Were you watching where you’re going?” They walked away before I could say “It’s okay. Neither was I.” I smiled and felt my body relax again. That child’s innocent touch also had the power to resonate. My knees no longer felt weak. So that’s thing about New York and, I would be so bold as to even say, that’s the thing about life: you can have two completely different experiences in the same subway ride. You just have to try your best not to lose touch with your soft, open heart. 

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“True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.”
    ―Pema Chödrön

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