Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The CA Family Play #7: Enough...For Now

"Your creative endeavors can never be throughly mapped out ahead of time. You have to allow for the suddenly altered landscape, the change of plan, the accidental spark -- an you have to see it as a stroke of luck rather than a disturbance of your perfect scheme. Habitually creative people are, in E.B. White's phrase, "prepared to be lucky." - Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It And Use It For Life

Matt, Stan and I are waiting for our flight to board at SFO. The research trip portion of the yet-to-be-written-California-family-play is essentially complete.

As I write these words, thoughts are running through my mind of all of the dozens of people we did not talk to, all of the places we did not go, all of photographs that were not looked at and so on and so on.

Once you begin a project like this, you begin to realize the MASSIVE amount of source materials available to create from.

I cannot imagine being a biographer...studying someone's life and all the source materials surrounding them and trying to piece together anything resembling a "complete" picture of their life. It's just impossible. Impossible.

So...because creating a complete picture of the Wilcox family is something that cannot be done (and certainly not in a week...HA!), I will choose to believe that everything that Stan and Matt experienced was exactly enough...enough to get a sense, enough to spark an interest, enough to begin to make connections...

"What's next?" You ask.

1. Fly home to NY

2. Get back into swing of daily life again

3. Do NOT actively think about this week, just let it sink in.

4. Get together with Matt and Stan in a couple of weeks and have a post-trip-meeting to discuss our experiences (Probably over beers and BBQ beef brisket tacos at MexiQ)

5. Figure out the next step in the process to keep us rolling with this project (looking toward some kind of something workshoppy in the fall and some kind of something performance-ish in the winter)

I will keep you posted with the details as they become clear.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you....to all of my very brave and loving friends and family that have opened their hearts, memories, and homes to us on this journey so far.

Thank you to Matt and Stan for listening with curiosity, expressing empathy, putting up with my obsessive promptness, cracking jokes at all the appropriate (and inappropriate) moments, warm hugs and thoughtful conversations.

And thank you so much to all of YOU who have been following the blog this week and writing comments of encouragement. I promise to publish another post again in a couple of weeks to give you an update and let you know how our MexiQ meeting goes.

I think this project may turn out to be one of those things that I will look back on at the end of my life and think, "I'm really glad I did that when I had the chance." It's been a really meaningful process of for my family, sharing our stories with each other in the name of this creative endeavor.

As the Boston Marathon bombing reminds us, life is fragile and fleeting. Hug your loved-ones close today.

Oh! Gotta go. The plane is about to begin boarding.



"This above all -- ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? [or act, or paint, or dance, or compose, etc.] Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity;  your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it." - Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet

Monday, April 15, 2013

The CA Family Play #6: Letter From 1950

Good morning, friends...

My grandparents passed away right around the time I turned 16. Grandma Pat loved music and art and was one of the most generous, kind-hearted human beings I have ever known. Grandpa James was highly intelligent, had three Master's degrees (in science, physics and education -- something like that), and was stoic man that didn't express emotion much. They both became school teachers. Pat taught elementary school and James taught high school science.

The following is an old letter that I discovered in a drawer of our family's cabin in Cobb Mountain, CA. It is written from my grandmother to my grandfather prior to their marriage and three children. (My father is their second born son.)

I believe my grandmother was living near Coalinga, CA at the time this letter was written and she must have been about 21 years old. I think my grandfather was studying at the University of New Mexico and was about to be deployed to Korea to serve in the war. That could be incorrect though. I don't know all the details for sure, but it's neither here nor there. The letter really speaks for itself.



J.Wilcox looking south on Westerly ridge of the Valley of the Moon

November 20, 1950

Dear James,

I've been thinking about us. Prepare for profound observations!

We don't talk the same language. I guess it's really just as simple as that; a matter of semantics. It's understandable, too. We've had different, very different backgrounds and bringing-up. You're an introvert, I'm not, at least not as much as you, though you're not as (much) as you used to be. I'm an idealist, you're a realist (except on rare subjects, no names mentioned).

Besides "bringing-up" in general, our life-experience in particular has been different. I can't fathom your needs, though I try. You don't understand mine, I know you try too. Your heartaches have been far removed from mine. Yet here we are groping around trying to reach each other. Our reasons for even this are different. No wonder I shriek with dismay and you call me stupid. 

Is it profound? At least it'll do till I find a better theory to go on. It's fun anyway to arrive at some kind of theory or postulate.

Hope you have your job by now, since that is what you hoped for. If you go to New York you can expect a letter from Mom with details of what you "can't miss" etc.

Foo on February. (I'm from the hill country.) I'm not going to ask any more questions. All I can say is, I hope Uncle Sam doesn't surprise you along about then.

We have been having diversified weather here. The King's river area is in critical flood condition. Millions of dollars of land, cattle & house losses are a result. (A cheerful bit of news from the West.)

Sorry I have no clever prattle or witty chatter to write. I'll refrain from making comments on your letter in lieu of our recent sordid experience as a result of my taking you to task.

Oh yes, a descant is an obligato or counter-melody, sung by solo voice (usually), against the rest of the choir singing the regular melody. Comprenez vous?

By the way - Please, may I correct the erroneous impressions you have - I do not dislike your singing. And pleas don't apologize for it - it's your gift and I  like it, use it all you can and want to. I'd like to hear you sing to me, for me, at me, with me, or even without any connection with me what-so-ever. Simply, I like to hear you sing. I'm glad you like to, too.

My very best love to you, right out of the top of my heart.

-- Patty

(I love you, Grandma! I miss you!) ~V

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The CA Family Play #5: Life Is Art, Death Is Certain

"Accomplishments are fleeting.  Your life will be over in the blink of an eye.  If there is a heaven, take some beautiful moments up there with you to remember.  Don’t sit in the sky thinking “I sure worked my way up the corporate ladder.”  Smile and laugh remembering your loved ones and the time you swam in the ocean and the broken umbrella kiss in the rain and the time you taught your child how to juggle.  And if there is a heaven, smile without regrets that your life was a piece of art and you treated it as such.  May you love in every moment and enjoy the temporary beauty of life." - Markus Almond, Brooklyn To Mars

Near death experiences that lead to spiritual awakenings that lead to a profoundly changed attitude toward life = reoccurring theme and topic of conversation this week

Hopefully, we won't be experiencing anything near death any time soon, but it's incredibly compelling and inspiring to hear about it after the fact.

Going through hard sh*t is how resiliency is developed.

On one hand...you wouldn't wish hardship on anyone, especially not someone you love...

But on the other hand...that very hardship is the thing that forces you to develop that strength of character, self-awareness, compassion and insight that'd you wouldn't get otherwise.

So, in a way, I'm glad for it, glad for the pain, glad for the opportunity to grow, glad for the awareness that is gained through tough experiences...for myself and for others. It's all a gift.

And once the sh*t has stopped hitting the fan for a second...

 I ask myself..."What really matters?"

"What do I want to do with this short time I have here on earth?"

"How do I keep my focus on what is truly important when the distractions of life are threatening to take up my every moment?"

I ask myself because I know that death could drop by my place at any time, so today I choose to LIVE...to live artfully...and love people as much as possible.


"We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future.  It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance."  - Marcel Proust

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The CA Family Play #4: Love Being Difficult

"People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold to what is difficult; everything alive holds to it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself in its own way and is characteristically and spontaneously itself, seeks all costs to be so and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is certainty that will not forsake us;...that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it." - Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet

Every day of this trip has been emotionally exhausting...and I expected this. However, there is no doubt in my mind that all of this is well-worth the effort and I will continue without fail.

In the name of creating this "family play" I am hearing stories of my family members and friends that I've never heard before. It's overwhelming and exhilarating.

The skeletons in the closet are getting exposed to the light.

And not only that...the process of exposure is bonding us all together in LOVE and acceptance. And I am so grateful for this opportunity to deepen my connection with my family members and friends.

It is a gift to be able to use this opportunity to scratch beneath the surface and learn more about these human beings that have been so influential in my life.

I am fascinated hearing what comes up as soon as the convention of silence is broken.

"So, tell us about your relationship with the family..."

How would you answer that question for your own family? What is the first thing that comes to mind? What do you think your mother would say? Or your best friend from childhood? What are your most significant memories? Might you be surprised at the memories that others find significant? Or are you certain that you've heard it all before?


See what happens.

It may be difficult at first, but everything worth doing usually is.


"To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation...Whoever looks seriously at it finds that neither for death, which is difficult, nor for difficult love has any explanation, any solution, any hint or way yet been discerned...But in the same measure in which we begin as individuals to put life to the test, we shall, being individuals, meet these great things at closer range. The demands which the difficult work of love makes upon our development are more than life-size, and as beginners we are not up to them. But if we nevertheless hold out and take this love upon us a burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in all the light and frivolous play behind which people have hidden from the  most earnest earnestness of their existence -- then a little progress and an alleviation will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us; that would be much." - Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet

Friday, April 12, 2013

The CA Family Play #3: My Nature

"Human interaction can be hell. Or it can be a great spiritual practice." - Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

With this project. We are all discovering our roles as we go. It's like life, I suppose.

I'm coming in with an idea of what I'd like to do/be/create/reveal. But the process is unfolding in it's own way.

My constant struggle is to stay out of judgement with "how we are doing" in the moment. Sometimes I wish I could turn of the part of my brain that has such thoughts. But I can't...and that's the way it works and that's just fine. Gotta accept my process.

It's an odd thing, to be both a "subject" and a "collaborative participant" in this endeavor. But that's the nature of my role, I suppose. To deny one or the other would be inauthentic. And I greatly value authenticity.

~~~ øøø <> øøø ~~~
"When walking or resting in nature, honor that realm by being there fully. Be still. Look. Listen. See how every animal and every plant is completely itself. Unlike humans, they have not split themselves in two. They do not live through mental images of themselves, so they do not need to be concerned with trying to protect and enhance those images. The deer is itself. The daffodil is itself." - Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks
~~~ øøø <> øøø ~~~

Matt & Stan & I spent the morning wandering around Muir Woods National Monument.

I took them there because Muir Woods is a special haven of peace for me. When I used to live in San Rafael, just 15 minutes from the redwood forest, I'd bring my journal there, find a lonely log and pour out my soul on the page as often as possible.

Where do you go to feel connected to nature?

I love the smell of redwood trees.

Breathing in the clean air that the trees exhale brings comfort to my heart and clarity to my scattered mind. Sensing the support of the towering trees above helps me to feel connected to something larger and more eternal than my petty worries of this moment.

The temperature = absolutely perfect.

In the serenity of this beautiful place, I gave myself permission to crack my heart wide open and share many things with Stan and Matt that I hadn't discussed with anyone in yeeeeeears. (It was like a redwood forest therapy session. Ha!)

I'd tell you about our conversation in more detail, if I could...but I'm still processing it all. I really don't know what to say...other than...well, feeling vulnerable is scary.

Then, later on, we spent the evening at a local restaurant, hanging out and socializing. I had invited a few friends and family to stop by and enjoy a drink. It was nice to get to be with people that I hadn't seen in a long time and introduce them to Matt and Stan.

After a long, emotional morning of walking down my own personal memory lane (and all the rocky ground on that pathway). Honestly, it was a relief not to be the "subject" for a while...but to get to ask questions and listen to other people's stories.

Oh, boy! More stories will be told and experienced today. Whew! It's exciting...and exhausting.

Just gotta keep moving forward...and staying open...accepting life's situations as they come. Who knows what will happen next?

Thanks for reading.


P.S. If you're curious about any part of this process, please feel free to leave me a question in the comments and I'll try to address it in a future post.

"DANCE with fear. Dance with done. Dance with the resistance. Dance with each other. Dance with art." - Seth Godin, V is for Vulnerable

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The CA Family Play #2: Memory Attack

"The first steps of a creative act are like groping in the dark: random and chaotic, feverish and fearful, a lot of busy-ness with no apparent or definable end in sight...I look like a desperate woman, tortured by the simple message thumping away in my head: "You need an idea"...You can't just dance or paint or write or sculpt. Those are just verbs. You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun -- paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into dance. Even though I look desperate, I don't feel desperate, because I have a habitual routine to keep me going. I call it scratching. You know how you scratch away at a lottery ticket to see if you've won? That's what I'm doing when I begin a piece. I'm digging through everything to find something." - Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

I'm home in the Bay Area now.


I say, "home" though it doesn't really feel like my home anymore, though it is a beautiful place, a familiar place, a place that I love, appreciate and enjoy...

And one that gives me anxiety attacks of unexpected memories around every single corner.

As I began the drive from SFO to Walnut Creek, just the act of being in the driver's seat and turning onto the freeway onramp, I was reminded of the hundreds of times I had done that very same thing years ago...only...back then the person in the passenger's seat was my ex-boyfriend...the one I thought I was going to marry and spend the rest of my life with.

"Yeah. That guy, Virginia. Remember him?"

The memories of our 6 years in a relationship together flooded back all at once.

What the heck was happening to me!?

I couldn't breathe.

My heart was pounding in my chest.

My hands were sweating and gripping the steering wheel for dear life.

Adrenaline pumping through my veins.

I gasped loudly with surprise, so much so that my friends and creative collaborators Matt and Stan (unlucky passengers in my vehicle) turned to me to see what had happened.

Nothing had happened...well, not in this moment...But EVERYTHING had happened...years ago. And now, I was OVERWHELMED with the memories of a life that I had once lived, and if I had made different choices back then...I could be living a VERY different life right now...probably still in the Bay Area and probably still with him.

Whew! INTENSE...and very surprising.

I didn't come here with the intention of reflecting on HIM...I came here to think about my family and be with THEM!

"What in the world is my brain doing to me? Why am I thinking about him? Why can't I seem to control it?"

I do NOT like this feeling.

I went from "totally fine"...to "emotionally distressed and missing him terribly," (like I haven't felt in YEARS) in about 0.2 seconds.

Very interesting.

I don't think of my ex-boyfriend very often in my current New York reality and there are very few physical landmarks there to trigger my memories of him.



"Well...this is what you wanted, Virginia. To come here and see what happens...Well, guess what? You are having painful memories of a past relationship that ended. THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING. So don't resist it."

So I started telling Matt and Stan all about the source of my powerful gasp for air and my memories of heartbreak and thoughts of woulda-coulda-shoulda.

And it sparked a great discussion between the three of us...with Matt and Stan sharing their personal stories and similar feelings.

We were all sharing our nostalgia and longing for a time when you used to be able to open your heart with reckless abandon, before your heart had been wounded, before mistakes had been made, before you became jaded and closed-off to the simple beauty and tender romance of youth. When had our views of love become so utilitarian, practical and pragmatic? Was all-consuming love even possible for us in our 30s? Or was that something that we'd never be able to experience again? Would any of us even want to?

(Any thoughts, feelings or stories you'd care to share in our discussion? The comments section of this blog is always available to you, if you so desire.)

I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of these kinds of fantastic discussions, sparked by unexpected realizations and surprising visceral reactions to seemingly innocuous things.

Inspiration is everywhere...even in the painful moments...maybe...ESPECIALLY in the painful moments.

And that's my method of "scratching," I suppose (as Twyla describes above).

The pain, the emotion, the strong reaction...means that there is something THERE...something underneath the surface, and if I just scratch a little deeper...perhaps we can find something there...a story...reflecting an authentic human experience...and that by sharing that story we can create connections between us. And bring us all closer...and spark some empathy in this world of separateness...some compassion in this world of judgement.

But I'm getting a head of myself.

For now...let's just take a breath and get to Walnut Creek...in one piece.


"VULNERABLE is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we've made. When we share it, when we connect, we have shifted all the power and made ourselves naked in front of the person we've given the fit of our art to. We have no excuses, no manual to point to, no standard operating procedure to protect us. And that is part of our gift." - Seth Godin, V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The CA Family Play #1: Time To Evolve

"When you get to the end of all the light you know and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly." - Edward Teller

Good morning, my friends...

It's 3:30am right now in New York City. I am about to pack a suitcase and get on an plane to fly to California with two of my dearest friends (Stan Richardson and Matt Steiner) to embark on a brand new project that is going to be an incredible adventure.

An adventure that I'm going to share with YOU!

What's this trip to CA about, you ask?

Stan Richardson of The Representatives will be writing a play inspired by a one week visit to my hometown of Walnut Creek, CA, and his time spent meeting my family. Matt Steiner will be along for the ride as Stan's research assistant.

Is that crazy, or what?

A play inspired by my family.

I mean...What the hell are we doing? I have no idea, really...well...I have an IDEA...

It's a new experiment in play-making...a "theatrical portrait" of some kind, but what it will actually turn out to be is not so clear.

However, I do know that it is time for me to EVOLVE as a creative person...beyond applying to grad school.

So I've decided not to over-think this (okay maybe there was a little over-thinking involved) and to SNAG this amazing opportunity that presented itself to collaborate with people that I love and trust and respect on this creative project that I am supremely passionate about. (More on the origins of this project later perhaps...)


"Do what you love. Love what you do. Do it lovingly and with people who love YOU." That's my motto for this project.

Since I am all about PROCESS...and SHARING it on my blog helps me reflect on that process... (BIGTIME)

I will be blogging every day for the next week about the process of immersing myself in this CA family  research trip and telling you all about how the adventure unfolds and how it feels to take this journey...

Imagine what it might be like to take a playwright to meet YOUR FAMILY and introduce him to your hometown and your past.... all the memories and places that helped to shape you becoming who you are now...all in the name of inspiring some kind of play, some story that will reveal itself...finding a story that needs to be told!

Creative inspiration is everywhere if we're just open to recognizing it.

So wish us luck!!! I'll be in touch... See you in CALIFORNIA!

But for now...it's a little after 4am and I have not packed a single item yet...true story. So I'd better get on that, because Matt and Stan will be here to pick me up in an hour and 15 minutes.

This is about to get REAL, people.

Ahhhhhh! Exciting!


"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope." - Thomas Merton