i'm a white writer. in new york. original, no? i've been blogging since october 2002. this blog picks up in october 2008, when i moved from DC to NY...(and then I moved to Maine in 2012)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Artist Statement


I've been trying to figure out how to share what is probably the biggest epiphany I've ever had about myself, about my identity.

Last summer I went to have my hearing tested, since the Meniere's Syndrome I was diagnosed with at 18 is something that leads to pretty severe hearing loss, and I finally had insurance that would cover it. I was surprised to learn that the Meniere's was a misdiagnosis and what I have is more like Central Auditory Processing Disorder. I went to the Center for Hearing and Communication in NYC, which is I guess the top place for this particular disorder. I've been seeing a therapist there who is helping me learn strategies for coping and process the huge internal shift over what this means.

It has taken me a full year to really grasp what this means (and I'm still working on it), and it's been a few months since I had the diagnosis confirmed with hours of testing for me to figure out how to put it into words. I've written the Artist Statement below and put it on my website on my About page, since it's central to who I am as a writer as well as a person.

I'm not sure who will read this other than the dozen or so loyal readers who are subscribed to this blog. I don't think I'll share this on Twitter or Facebook because...well, I'm figuring out how to share this and who to share it with. I've told maybe six friends and my mom--half of my friends were totally supportive, but the other half offered radio silence, which is understandable but has made me doubt I'm doing a good job describing it. I think the main obstacle to friends understanding it is that this is an invisible thing and I think I hide it pretty well. So you guys are my guinea pigs.


Why do I write the way I do? What do I care about most? What questions and problems pull me into a play and set it spinning? The answers don't fit a tidy third-person bio, yet they’re certainly the most important in understanding my work.

Many of my plays explore themes of emotional violence and parasitic relationships. I like to set up collisions between characters who have run out of words and characters who have too many of them. My characters live at the intersection of language and power, and struggle to break free from the constraints of class, race, gender, and systemic abuse. I also enjoy writing plays that are adapted from or inspired by literary works—they're especially useful as a lens through which to examine topical and political issues.

My work is informed by a nomadic early life spent at first on welfare. I went to 12 schools by the time I graduated high school. I mention this because it’s at the core of who I am as a person and writer—I'm deeply invested in telling the stories of marginalized people. I also had Major Depressive Disorder from around age three until quite recently, and you can find blog posts about it on
this page. Connecting with people online in 2002 was the start of my journey away from depression—I learned that the world is filled with people who are deeply kind.

Another specific wrinkle in my identity that informs my work is that I have a hearing problem. I was diagnosed with Meniere's when I was 18, but in 2012 I learned that was a misdiagnosis, and that my lifelong struggle of feeling lost, stupid, and overwhelmed most days stems from something more like what's called Central Auditory Processing Disorder. I'm still dealing with testing to figure out what it all means, but so far they've pinpointed that my challenges are in the area of Auditory Memory and Recall. Basically I get exhausted easily because I'm working so hard all day long to pretend like I get everything. I think for the most part no one notices, and yet sometimes I get so stuck that I freeze up. When that happens, if I can't cover, I've learned to quietly leave. This is my first attempt to write about it—trying to explain it face-to-face has sometimes not gone well. Understandably, people are puzzled because this is something invisible and which I believe I generally hide well.

I can't overstate how meaningful this discovery has been about the ways I work each day to understand the world. The greatest gift has been that I can relax, because now I understand the following:

• I'm not stupid.
• There's a reason I often feel detached from experiences or confused.
• My preference for writing over speaking is not a weakness.
• My need for solitude and prep time before meetings or social outings makes sense.
• Trying to hide my struggle usually increases it.
• It's likely that my depression was a secondary symptom, though it was more problematic.

I've taught myself how to talk to people from scratch. This is not as much of an exaggeration as you might think. While I'm sure I had chatterbox moments at times growing up, most of my life was spent in profound unhappiness and shyness. I mean the kind where you somehow manage to embarrass others. In my 20s, I saw how I was making people uncomfortable, so I began to study how "normal" people acted—what they said, the jokes they made. I began imitating them, building a sort of database that I could pull from when I felt stuck. I even wrote these things down in spreadsheets to keep track of them. I learned to ask questions of people so they would talk while I could regroup. I learned how to "cover."

When I explained this new diagnosis to my mother a few months ago—that I didn't have Meniere's, as we'd thought all those years, but something more like a language processing disorder—I fully expected her to dismiss it. We had, after all, been at odds for the first few decades of my life. Instead, she teared up and, I kid you not, said, "Oh my god. This explains everything. Everything." I'll never forget that moment. Before then, I'd had no clue that my struggle with this impacted her in any way. It turns out that whenever she’d ask a question and I couldn't answer, she always assumed I was being difficult on purpose. The fresh understanding for us both in that moment was profound. We had been locked in a perfect circle of mutual misery.

Until I can anecdotalize all of it into a more digestible chunklet, this, in a long-winded nutshell, is why I write so many plays where people aren't speaking the same language, where everyone's realities can seem so starkly different.

Early poverty, moving each year, my hearing problem, and depression made for an isolating early life. Social media and the playwriting that followed have changed the quality of my life for the better. There's an element of translation in both, of using a medium (actors or social media) to connect to someone on the other side, to someone I most likely will never see. The Internet as lifeline.

I'm lucky to have figured all of this out, and I doubt I would have without the hyper-connected world we now live in—I can't bear to think how my life would have turned out without it. I know many people out there are struggling like I have, people who haven't had access to the resources I have, who feel alone and desperate, lost and silent.

In my humblest of hopes, I want to bring understanding to them through the stories I tell.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Just the afters.

In case you don't have the time or inclination to scroll through all the posts with before and after pics of my new home, here are just some after shots. Probably easier to get a sense of the place as it is now by looking at just these...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

To continue the tour...

Okay I've left you in the kitchen for nearly three months. Let's get the rest of this house tour cracking. Less narrative, more pics. SHOW, DON'T TELL.

But first, a couple of small touches I've made to the kitchen since January. I found a cool idea for utensil storage here. I bought two long drawer handles, a bunch of S hooks, and slapped these puppies up.

I liked it so much that I put two more up on the side of another cupboard. I also bought this cute bottle opener off of Etsy:

I finally had to cut myself off from Etsy because I was buying so much stuff. I lost hours searching "octopus" "cherries" and "nantucket." The charm of the site wore off when I was trolled by an Etsy merchant who accused me of being on drugs.

When you turn from the kitchen and look down the hall toward the living room, you used to see this:

Now it looks like this:

The birch hardwood makes a big difference, and the grey trim. I feel like the pale colors really open it up and look soft in the light. I also painted the paddles on the ceiling fan to match the creamy yellow walls. I've put up a better curtain on the door by now, but I'm too lazy to take new pics. I also want to get a paler rug, and an ottoman kind of coffee table to switch out the one in the pic that was $40 from Housing Works second-hand store. Maybe I'll do a post of only beauty shots when it's really REALLY finished.

Here's my favorite octopus painting, which hangs on the wall in the hallway:

I got it at Alex and Lorenzo, which is a store on the upper east side right across from where I used to live. They ordered it for me, and when it arrived, it was cracked. Dad managed to fix it so it didn't really matter, but I let the store owner know just so she was aware. Well. She insisted on having the artist make and send another one along, so now I have two and I promised the extra one to the nice Twitter pal who gave me the super kitchen table. Except we live eleventy hours apart, so I haven't actually given it to her yet.

Okay. So the only thing left on the first floor is enormously exciting...the hall bath WITH A WASHER AND DRYER. For four years I lugged my laundry two blocks to the laundromat each week in New York. Six months later and I still smile when I do laundry. It's nothing short of amazing. Sometimes I think everyone should have to live in New York just so that they are grateful for things like laundry and queen size beds and pest-free apartments forever and ever.

First floor bath before and after shots:

I really like the pale green paint for the "laundry room"--Behr Cabbage Green in a flat finish. There used to be wooden bifold doors hiding the washer and dryer, but I like it turned into a cheery little space. Next: The Living Room.

Living room...

Before, during, and after:

 The sofa is Pottery Barn, as are the picture ledges on the wall. The art on the wall is a mix of my father's pen and ink drawing, my grandfather's photographs of Eliot, Maine, and photos of the old family home on Perkins Cove, when it was the only structure on the point.

From another angle:


I got the white shelves from Crate and Barrel. A splurge. I also got the little table that I'm using as a liquor cabinet at the Crate and Barrel outlet in Kittery--I think it's called the "Qube." It's pretty rickety but fit perfectly in between the shelves.

I'm really feeling the limitations of the Blogger photo layouts here. Anyway, here's another angle:

The parlor palm has since died.

I think painting the door to the courtyard gray made a big difference:

(And I've since put a better sheer curtain on the door.)

And one last angle...

The blue vase is from my sister. When she came to visit me for my thesis production last year, I didn't have vases for all the gorgeous flowers I received, so I bought gallon jugs of water and cut the tops off to improvise. She picked my favorite color.

And now, looking up the stairs that I had recarpeted. (To have the birch hardwood custom cut for the stairs was crazy expensive--carpeting them cost 1/6 the price.)

Second floor...

Here we go, some Before, During, and After shots...

Hallway outside the bathroom...I feel like this shot shows what a difference the birch floor and paint make:


I took down the existing plastic medicine cabinet and installed a nice Pottery Barn mirror with a shelf:

And this is looking down the hall to the master bedroom:

There was an awful odor in this room when they pulled up the carpet, so I painted several coats of Kilz on the floor before they laid down the birch.

I just love the creamy yellow wall color--the light is so soft on it.

Next: the bedroom...