Staring into the Void

I was feeling depressed yesterday. In truth, in started on Sunday evening, but yesterday while talking on the phone to my partner I was able to give the feelings some structure and more importantly to name them. I was at work and I was feeling frustrated. I had woken up a little heavy and reluctant but I have some pretty good tools in place for those kinds of mornings. So I was able to get out of bed , journal and then say some mantras out loud, to help get myself into a new head space. Honestly I feel uncomfortable revealing this stuff even though it’s the truth and I am 100% certain other people have some version of this in their own lives. Anyway, I made it through my morning funk and I got to work. But I was feeling extra guarded like I did not want anyone to really look at me. So I tried to just get busy with some project so my colleagues would see that I was focused and not try to talk to me. By the time my break came around I was near tears. So I texted my partner and asked if he could talk, thankfully he was able call me. I told him how I was feeling and I immediately started crying and as I was trying to understand where these feelings were coming from, knowing full well I might not be able to find their origin, in fact, I even said “It’s such an amorphous feeling of dread”. But then I said “I feel like I am staring into a void”. And that was it. That was the thing that made clear to me the what and why of my feelings.

During the holidays I was working a lot at a “day job”. I was able to work on a couple of play readings and do stand-up but the bulk of my time was spent working at my job. Now that the holidays are over I am back to working part time (two days a week), which leaves the rest of my time for creating and building my acting and comedy career, skills, body of work etc. Since the new year I have created a vision board (sort of), re-organized my desk (sort of), placed inspirational reminders in places that I will see everyday, made lists of habits that I would like to develop. I have made new to do lists etc. etc. All of these things help but these mostly represent the busy work, the admin work; which is VERY important. But the real work is the work of the imagination and the work of steering oneself (myself) towards that imagination and THAT can often feel like staring into a void. And in reality it IS starting into a void, but that is not a bad thing. A void is still full of something, it is full of your gaze, if you choose to sit and really stare at it. It is in the act of staring you fill the void. You fill it with your hopes and ideas and your imagination. It is important to spend time with the void. It feels scary but it’s a good scary. That void is your life, when you are not filling it with shopping, errands, appointments, coffee dates and other numbing agents. Not to suggest errands, maintaining a home, your health and relationships is not important but a lot of time we do those other things waaayyyy more than we need to, in order to avoid the void. But the void can be where great learning and change can happen. It has happened for me in the past, usually with great pain and desperation. Because I did not realize that the void could be my friend. I thought it was punishment because there was something wrong with me. But it is a totally natural part of being a human especially a human who is driven to create. But I actually think all humans are driven to create whether they are in “creative” careers or not.

So after my phone call with my partner I spent the evening thinking about the void and trying to fall in love with it. That may be extreme but I am an extreme person, maybe. I began to realize that the void is also part of that discomfort that we feel when we are trying to grow and change. The void is there when we drop one bad habit but have not yet developed a new good habit. There is no need to rush to a new habit if we can be comfortable with the void. My void right now is the space where I know I want to do more than I did last year and I want to build on everything I did last year, but I do not yet know what I am building. So I will sit and stare for a while and maybe an image will start to appear, or maybe I’ll take a break from staring and go for a walk and maybe I’ll see something outside and that image will makes its way into the void. Or maybe I’ll read an article, book, essay or see a movie or t.v. show or a play and maybe something in there will make it’s way into the void. Who knows? I just know that I am now less scared and more curious about the void and that seems like a lot.

Here are some things I recommend:


The Last O.G. on TBS- Tiffany Haddish and Tracy Morgan are excellent and they manage to actually tackle real topics. Also Cedric the Entertainer is always a joy to see in anything.


Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff is excellent. I don’t quite know how to describe it. It is about a relationship but it’s full of magic and mystery and art and grief and humanity.


Waves- written and directed by Trey Edward Schultz. It’s very moving and kind of stunning.

Force Majeure- Directed by Ruben Ostlund. My jaw dropped three different times while watching this movie. It is excellent!

Sociology 101

The NY city and state government is failing its citizens in really stark and stupid ways.

The Governor has decided to crack down on subway fare evasion by hiring more police. This tactic, in effect, fines and sometimes arrests people who have no money already. Thereby exacerbating their problems and the city’s problems. Even those who chronically evade subway fare are not always simply criminals or people intent on committing petty crimes, they are often people in a predicament who see no other way out or through their predicament. It is a form of willful myopia to resort to policing the crime of systemic poverty. This, of course, is old news but that is what stings the most. New York is a city full of very smart people, how are we even here? How are we at a place where this was even considered a solution? Meanwhile the subway system is failing paying customers every single day.

As far as those people who ride the subway who complained about the vendors at Broadway Junction and elsewhere. All I have to say is: you are probably on your way to a job that pays you enough to have a decent apartment probably with roommates but maybe decent nonetheless and you are probably college educated. So this person who is trying to make a living selling some foodstuff in a subway station is in your way momentarily as you commute to your presumably better life? Let it go! It’s momentary, also target your anger at the system that places people in impossible predicaments through willful acts of oppression and harm. I had to commute through Broadway Junction, at morning rush hour, last year and I hated it. Yes it was frustrating and I had to maneuver around tons of people to get through, but more than anything it made me sad. Sad that this place that could do so much better for its people chooses not to, so that it can build places like Hudson Yards for people who don’t even live in New York City.

Just last night a Bronx Public Housing building did not have heat for 2,440 people. This should feel humiliating to those that run Public Housing in New York. Instead of taking pictures of yourself in brand new subway stations painted by fancy artists Mr. Cuomo how about stand in front of a public housing building in the Bronx with a family who went without heat on a day when temperatures dipped to the 20’s? Seriously though, we as a community should be more interested in seeing the Governor and the Mayor taking pictures after they have fixed the elevator and heating and rodent problems in public housing units rather than at fancy subway stations or operas or professional sporting events. All those places already have money and recognition. People living on the margins of society and the margins of the collective psyche need to be brought to the center, in order for us to help them.

I recommend:

Books: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Watch: Dolemite is My Name on Netflix. It is funny and beautiful at times.

Sitting still for a few minutes a day or every other day if possible.

Counter-Social Media

So I am leaving facebook. Finally. One thing I keep coming back to is the fact that I was never comfortable there. If social media is like going to a party, then I kept going back to this a party that I did not want to be at in the first place. So I am finally following my instincts.

I kept trying to make myself better at it, thinking that I was the problem. But I am definitely not the problem. I hear people regularly joke about how social media makes them dislike people that they liked in real life; they just hate that persons’s online persona. Isn’t “IRL” what matters most, ultimately? How have we let this thing become our primary way of being social when it in fact destroys our REAL social skills? To be social is to be with people and I have only seen social media erode people’s ability to be with people. Like really with them, to look them in the face, to sustain discomfort with another person, to sustain joy and sadness in the presence of another person, to communicate without words. That is social.

Not to mention the fact that it makes everyone a marketing manager of their own lives. This is the craziest thing to me. It’s also tricky because I am a performer and I have to market my shows but that is the only thing that I market and no, I am not judging others. The thing was built so that people would do that, everyone is only doing as directed. But I just think it makes people devalue themselves if they believe they have to market their lives. It makes people look at their lives through this really damaging lens. In marketing if a product does not sell or is not successful, that product is discarded and the company goes out of business or they replace it with a new product. Can you do that with your life? NO! So marketing one’s life might lead a person to distort the inherent value of their life.

This is why I think social media is not just anti-social. I think it is counter to everything that being social really entails and what it can provide us as humans.

I have tried to make facebook work for me by not having it on my phone, by limiting the time that I spend on there. That certainly helped my sanity a little bit. I was mostly using it to find articles that I otherwise would not have come across and to support my fellow actors and comedians. It actually was really lovely in that way. I was able to cheer someone on when they got an exciting acting opportunity or experienced some growth. Some people actually communicate really beautifully on FB, most of those people are writers and artists and I have access to their art through other means, thankfully. I will probably miss it a little because like I said I have been working really hard to use it for good. But inevitably I would be on there and find something to dislike about someone who was otherwise likable. But also all the mental acrobatics I was doing to make using it less-damaging for myself started to seem counter productive.

AND of course a BIG factor is the fact that it’s creation was always profit based not people based. There is so much information out now about how willfully damaging it was set up to be. A good lesson here is that if someone is getting rich off of a free product, we must be paying deeply somewhere else. Fuck Mark Zuckerberg. (Yes I am on Twitter-for me it is less addictive but still shitty in similar ways.)

Here are some things I reccommend:

Getting off FB

Gary Gulman’s Special on HBO The Great Depresh is a comedy special bar none. It is beautiful and very funny!!!

Read this Martin Scorsese op-ed in the Times (But also try not to read too much of the Times, read other papers)

Watch Sharon Van Etton on Tiny Desk Concert, her rendition of Seventeen here is haunting-

-The Watchmen on HBO is very good. Regina King is fucking incredible and now Jean Smart has joined and she is unbelievably good!

Follow Jason Hickel (@jasonhickel) and Anand Giridharadas (@anandwrites) on Twitter and me (@mariselagrajed1)

Middle Age

I just turned 43

My birthday was six days ago and in those six days I have mostly talked about anti-aging marketing, mid-life crises and the invisibility of women over 40. I guess you can say that I am feeling some type of way about having turned 43. One of the many cool things about getting older though is that while I may be feeling some type of way, I am also totally equipped to deal with these feelings. That’s not say it is an entirely pleasant experience. I’ve also had a two day hangover from one martini, stared at my face deeply in the mirror in search of signs of aging and considered dyeing my gray hairs at least 15 times. But I’ve also started two new satire pieces about aging and committed myself to a short (or feature) film idea that revolves around my current age obsession. So some good things too.

What I mean when I say I am equipped to handle the feelings is that, well first of all I turned some of these things into creative energy, so that’s good. But also I have mostly just sat back and let myself have these feelings; I have not felt like anything is wrong because I am feeling this way. I’m not worried or sad or scared about the feelings. I may be worried or sad or scared about gray hair and about becoming invisible. But that’s a pretty rational way to feel. Especially in this society. But I won’t talk about the shitty double standard of how women’s aging is viewed, I’ll save that for comedy. Actually I probably will talk about that here, just not right now.

Here is something I want to talk about and this has probably helped me stay rational and peaceful through these worries over aging, and that is my desire to write and create my own work for myself. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was laid off and I had kind of wished for more time to focus on “personal” projects. Well first I went away to Cape Cod then I had my birthday then it was labor day. So it’s really only been the last two days that I have this schedule with time to write and focus on what I want to create. Leading up to the last few days, when I wasn’t on a beach or at a broadway play or a Keanu Reeves movie (I am bragging about my previous week), I was making lists for myself and I was searching for inspiration and I was taking notes and emailing myself ideas. So even though it’s only been two days and I am sure the worst is yet to come, I have been pretty focused and generative the past two days. Yay! I started two new satire pieces. I submitted a piece that I have been sitting on. I applied for a part time job. I wrote new jokes for my stand-up. Yada, yada. As I said I am sure the worst is yet to come, however, since I am 43 now I will bask in this good part because one thing I have learned is that everything is finite. I’ll bask in the glory and and swim through the mud because both are just temporary.

Things I reccommend:


On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. This book is devastating. It is perfect and beautiful and affirms the need for more stories and for life.


My Own Private Idaho directed by Gus Van Sant. I had not seen it in 20 years, went to a Keanu Reeves marathon. It is funny and dark and deep and scary and vast and brave and weird and beautiful.


Killing Eve (on Hulu). My Phoebe Waller-Bridge obsession continues. I’ve watched two episodes and I can’t wait to watch more!


Oklahoma on Broadway. It is so fucking cool and smart and should be studied.

My Week

Jesus! This is starting to get humiliating; every time I write it’s after a long ass break in between. I guess so. Here I am. I titled this My Week because I have had a challenging week. I also want to write about the week’s preceding this week. I had gone away to visit family in Austin and I wanted to write about that visit and about family. Here goes.

I’ll start with my week. I had a “tough” week. I put tough in quotes because it was not tough in the conventional sense. Mostly because the “conventional” sense of anything is usually too simplistic and lacks nuance. I wanted to make it clear that the week was really good because of the difficult things that happened. That’s what I mean by tough. It was tough or difficult to work through some of the moments/events that happened. But they were all things that I needed, I learned from and that resulted in something better.

Shit, I already don’t feel like writing the details of my week. But I will. So last week I had a couple of really bad days. They were bad because I messed up times/schedules, I rode the subway about 11 times in one day. I felt humiliated, my alarm went off three times during a casting director class. Yes, three times. My phone is on silent 100% of the time. But on this day I had set my alarm for p.m. instead of a.m. and I never corrected it. So when the alarm went off in class I was so flustered that I just pressed any button on my phone-which of course only snoozed it. So it went off again at which point I turned the phone off. I was so upset that when it was my turn to do my scene I was very distracted ( I had also gotten laid off earlier that day), I ended up doing a shitty job. When I was done I turned my phone back on so I could text my partner the fact that I was having a TERRIBLE DAY and right when I turned my phone on THE ALARM WENT OFF AGAIN! Thankfully no one said a word, probably because I was so mortified the first time my phone went off that they all just felt bad and could tell I was just having a bad day.

Yea, so also I got laid off. That was tough. I have a summer day job, it’s inly three days a week but it’s making it possible for me to not be on unemployment since my main day job is Teaching Artist, which I can only do during the school year. The funny thing is that I had really wanted something part time this summer because being on unemployment is stressful. But I had kind of been complaining about the fact that I was having a much busier summer that I had wanted. I wanted some time of nothingness so I could make some new intentions for myself and my career. But my summer has been pretty full-in wonderful ways, but still full to the degree that I wanted more nothing. Well I got it now. Or not now, but starting next week.

I also stepped away from a play that I was to start rehearsals for on Friday (Friday was the day I officially stepped away- I know!). I had been feeling apprehensive and resentful of a lot of elements of working on this show and I did not think that was the best way to engage in something. I loved the play and the playwright. I had done a reading of it back in December of last year. But there were some issues I just could not get past. So I spoke with the playwright/producer/my friend and I told her how I felt. She was so understanding in spite of the timing and she was really wonderful. I hope to make these decisions much earlier in the future. I think that it’s hard to listen to my own voice my own feelings and desires sometimes. Especially around my career because working on something is so important. BUT working on something I want to be working on is far better than just working on anything.

I was humiliated. Yup. But that is kind of an everyday occurrence for me because I find waking up humiliating. I find being alive humiliating. But I was humiliated in a very specific way last week. And it sucked. But once again it was in service of a greater good. It is part of my growth in this particular area of my life. I’m sorry I’m being so vague, I don’t have the language yet for how to discuss this. Soon, I hope.

O.k. that feels like a lot. I will save my family trip for another time.

Here are some things I recommend:

A Black Lady Sketch Show on HBO- It is masterfully done.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh- It is devastatingly good. The characters are veiny in their embodiment of modern desires/follies.

The Beach Bum a Harmony Korine film. (I watched it on Hulu)- It is a work of comedic genius. So many great performances. It is a horror tale of modern life told with unparalleled gall. So good!!

This week

(This is from a couple of weeks ago- I was in the editing process when I went on vacation. I am back and I figure I’ll post it anyway)

Hi, I am writing again. At this moment I honestly do not have a clear idea of what I want to say but I do have some opinions on some things that happened in the news this week.

Obviously my opinions will seep out of what I end up writing on this blog, but it was never my intention to simply comment on the world with my opinions. In fact, my hope is that I am offering ideas. Either way, it’s important that my efforts are in the service of adding something useful or learning something useful.

Cool, so this week there was discussion about whether what T*ump tweeted was racist. I know that most people agree that it was racist, but there are a few people, like T*ump himself, who think it was not. He even went so far as to say that he “does not have a racist bone in his body”. AND THEN today, racist Biden said if T*ump doesn’t have a racist bone in his body “that means he has no bones”. Wow! So first off ,one of my opinions is that Biden is very bad with words. This “burn” is not funny or clever nor does it make much sense. Oof, truly an embarrassing attempt at a put down. Secondly, I am of the opinion that it is useless to even try to get T*ump or his many supporters to see this from a sane, reasonable perspective. I think the only way to deal with a person like him* is to ignore him. Sadly that is nearly impossible because of his current office. But honestly that is the only way to respond.

Now as far as this racist thing; o.k. so here is where I have some opinions, that I would prefer to call ideas. Everyone is racist in a racist society. Our views are formed through the prism of the society and the organizations in power. We live in a deeply racist society (and world), our institutions and organizations are deeply reliant and embedded in racist practices i.e. our justice system, education system, our media etc. So because we are all in some way complicit in society, in so far as we participate in our lives, we are racist. This is how I see it. Now, I also think that on an individual level people can act on racist and bigoted assumptions to an offensive, harmful, detrimental degree. So yes T*rump does and says racist, sexist, bigoted shit all day long. Everything he says is harmful, offensive, and because he is the leader* of this country, it is deeply detrimental. But let’s be clear Biden is a racist too. The fact that Bernie does not see Identity as an issue is a racist view. The fact that Elizabeth Warren did the DNA test to prove her Native American roots is racist. Do these last three people engage in bigoted and harmful language every single day? No. They are products of a racist society that views whites as supreme and all others as “other”. They may not hate the “other” but they still view them as other. And that is racist.

Things I recommend:

Russell Brand on Pete Holmes’ podcast You Made it Weird

On the Media’s Eviction series

My Process

Well I wanted to give you a view into my process and I sure have; write regularly for a a few weeks and then disappear for several more weeks. That’s about right. BUT I am not going to spend anytime feeling bad about that. Starting again without judgement is now also a part of my process.

I did attempt to write over the last several weeks. I just looked at one such attempt, in it I talk about Ocean Vuong. He is a writer who has just released his first novel to rave reviews. The reason I wanted to talk about him is because I had read some reviews of his book, it sounded good, but his personal story really resonated with me. When I saw him in an interview, he talked about his life. He spoke with such clarity, ferocity, care and pride about where he came from; I was in awe of him. His story is one of difficulty, poverty, immigration and anguish. These are all things that usually lead to shame. But Ocean is proud and he has turned his life into poetry. I want that.

I think one of the reasons I have such a tough time being consistent with blogging and in other areas of my life, truthfully, is because of shame. Recently I have been plagued with some pretty severe social anxiety and it really sucks. It makes expressing myself very difficult, and this blog’s primary focus is to express myself. So that is why I have been away.

I also just closed a play, it was part of a play festival called ICE FACTORY which takes place at the New Ohio Theater every year. I had a great time, I worked with some BRILLIANT and kind people, it was truly one of my favorite theatrical experiences. But boy did it trigger my imposter syndrome. All of the cast has been making theater in NYC for much longer than me, most of them knew each other beforehand. It was a real challenge to shut off my inner voice that kept telling me that everything I said and did was stupid. Thankfully that voice was only there to comment on the social part of the experience. I did not question my choices or freeze up when it came to my acting work. Thank God! I think this is because of my training or because of Flow, either way, I knew that I belonged on that stage and in that rehearsal room, to do work. The part was was painful and difficult was the building relationships and friendships part of the process. But I still managed to build those things too. I worked hard to quiet the negative self-talk; I meditated and I talked to my partner and my therapist. All of this to say that I was busy with the end of the school year ( my teaching job) and rehearsing this play, which caused me to feel like I had less time to blog. But let’s be honest, the main reason I did not blog was my shitty, anxiety and perfectionism.

O.k. I think that is all for now. There is definitely more, but I will likely blog again soon.

Some things I recommend:

Re-watch or watch for the first time Point Break with the great Keanu Reeves and the great Patrick Swayze.

Look for anything Rebecca Solnit writes, particularly on Lithub

I recommend getting off of your phone, taking breaks from it at least.

Watch Ocean Vuong’s interview on Seth Meyers.