Waking Up in Hawaii
Yes, Hawaii woke me up.
I left my happy New York life to move to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away from anyone I knew and everything I loved, and I was fine. Better than fine.
It’s not only about place, I learned… it’s the tapestry we weave wherever we land. I discovered, in Hawaii, that the weaving can be rich and complex with new colors, maybe even more vibrant than colors I had experienced before, if I said yes to the work of creating. If I said yes to putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, not focusing on what was left behind.
Not long after moving here I discovered that I had lung cancer. Instead of dying I woke up. That is, in part, because this place, the place nicknamed the “healing island,” held me in its black lava arms and rocked me back to health. That embrace was a deep healing. But there was more. Joseph Canpbell’s words, “Follow your bliss” became a reality… this was something I said to my daughter so many times in her life that she recently told me she wants it tattooed on her arm in my handwriting. I agreed and said that I would do the same, in her handwriting.
Since then, life after cancer has been all about waking up. Waking up to what I eat and a commitment to macrobiotics. Eating food I could grow, if I grew food. Luckily there are local organic farmers who do just that. I don’t eat meat or dairy. No processed sugar. No hard alcohol. And I feel good. I feel fit and I’m leaner than I was when I moved here. I sleep less because my body’s not digesting food all night. I’m literally awake.
Finding artistic collaborators whose work thrills me and creating with them — that came out of waking up in Hawaii. And that work had to be NOW; there would be no concession to later. Looking cancer in the eye is the loudest wakeup call and the reason that now happens before it used to.
Hawaii woke me up and the words took on much greater importance. And then people, mostly women, started walking into rooms and writing words based on prompts I create. And the words are hard and deep and funny and poignant and urgent and, for me, they’re everything. And then we all wake up, all of us, because we’re writing our truth and listening to others’ truths in this process I think of as mining for stories. Someone recently called it an excavation, this digging for our stories. I agree. But I associate mining with gold, and to me the stories are worth everything. So I’ll say mining.
There are stages to sing on and I do, with gratitude beyond words for a voice that can produce sound that people seem to want to listen to, and there are others to move around on a stage, which brings such pleasure to me and hopefully to the people who come to watch the shows I direct. And there was a theatre to rescue and I was part of that. A point of pride.
There were also two children to raise and that work is done. Off they go, this week, to college and grad school… one 2,500 miles away from Hawaii and the other 7,500 miles away. And now there will be Hawaii without them and waking up, even in the morning, will mean something else.
We wake up constantly until the day we no longer wake up. But it takes work and a conscious decision to live an awake life. I owe a lot to this island — the scene of this awakening.
And this site is where I’ll share what I do.