Monday, June 30, 2014

Breathe

Usually during the summer months, I become much more vibrant and active. I'm excited about hot days and warm nights. I look forward to the thunderstorms rolling through the mountains and rainbows appearing after almost each one of them. My home is more conducive to inviting loved ones over and having BBQs, fire pits and enjoying one another's company. But lately, I'm finding myself very fatigued and weak. My joints hurt and my sleep is next to none. In fact, the past couple of summers it's been like that. And then I realize that we're approaching July. July is supposed to be the best month of the season, but it's the month my father passed away back in 2012. I guess my brain still has that same day, same time imbedded in the archive files of my mind. I'm not even sure if those files are considered "archive" yet. So I acknowledge it, accept it and try focusing on the better memories, instead of his last days.

I remember a friend of mine always used to say, "February is just a bad month for me. Please keep me occupied or I'll fall into a depression." And coincidentally, it happened to be when she had lost her parents. I don't know why dates stick in our minds so vividly, as if we were revisiting the past somehow. And too often enough, I always see 12:21 when I look up at the clock. I saw this a few years before Dad passed. It was the time he died. July 21rst is also the date of his passing. Many of my relatives have died on the 21rst of whatever month. Strange. I can't help but have a tinge of fear every 21rst of the month. That's a whole other issue. I see the fatigue, aches and pain my mother goes through during this time. She's quiet, more introverted - introspective - as if she's in a far off land. And she is.

And old friend of mine who had moved away down in North Carolina years ago, is coming up to visit us for a few days with her little Chihuahua. My little Lola will be thrilled to have a friend to play with. I'm finding out that these beautiful distractions is really what's going to save me. Not to say that I'm going to completely forget - but it helps to have a dose of happiness in the house when the months of remembrance looms over our heads. So, I won't be writing much this week. She is on the road now and supposed to be here tomorrow morning or afternoon. I'm taking some days off and focusing in on what's important. We're just going to catch up, enjoy the nice weather, BBQ, watch the fireworks and have a nice, peaceful time. I'll most likely be back later this week or next Monday. Until then, please have a happy and safe 4th of July!

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm Running on Empty

This is not my typical blog post you're used to reading. I'm basically just jotting down how I feel and what's been brewing inside my lil' ol' noggin. I've been thinking and thinking and thinking…and it's time to turn the 'thinking mode' off. I want to be free and not have to worry about anyone right now. I want to enjoy life with whomever I want - not whoever is here. I want to be around sincere people who don't criticize or judge the way I live. I want to be around those who are truly positive about life - people who will uplift me and not tear me down…or apart. So bear with me as I vent it all out today. 

Breathe…

Clearing your mind and heart and gaining some sort of perspective on life is truly one of the most important things everyone should do from time to time. Who's important? Who's important enough for your time? Choose your friends (and perhaps family members) wisely, because time is the key factor in whether or not you've lived well. Don't do things just because you feel bad. Some things are just not your responsibility. Yes, we have obligations and loved ones to take care of, but when does it come to the point where once you need something - those people you help and give all your time to are never there to assist? And once you stop doing all the things you do - people will take notice. Once you're absent from the usual ebb and flow of the good and bad adventures of everyday life - you will be looked for. And if you're not, you were never appreciated to begin with. It's almost like that saying, you don't know what you got until you lose it. When you use people or 'lift them up' just to get something from or out of them, it'll usually backfire. Insincerity always rears its ugly head. It just can't hide.

So I thought about it all and decided to remove myself from certain equations. I have no obligation to make other people happy - the ones who expect it 24/7. I am only responsibly for my own happiness, and by giving myself a dose of happiness, I'll be able to afford giving others some happiness as well. If you love or happy tank is on "E" - then there is nothing to give to anybody else. Once you suck the life-force out of someone, they'll no longer have anymore resources to give. I truly believe this is why I have been having so many panic attacks and sleeping problems. I feel obligated all the time and pretty much used.  And that's pretty draining. You either do things with a sincere heart or go home. Nobody wants things done grudgingly. At this point, I'm afraid I'm doing everything grudgingly, because my tank is empty.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Whoz' Out Dare'?!?!

Our security system.
We all want to feel safe. We all want that sense of security with whoever and wherever we are. Maybe it's based on our survival instincts or maybe it's due to each person's own experience and anxieties. Maybe all of the above. Who knows. I just remember when I was a little girl living with my parents and three older sisters - there wasn't anything that could've harmed us. Dad was always the strong and mighty one - nobody could move past him. If there was a noise outside, he'd come out like a big redneck holding his rifle shouting, "Whoz' out dare'?!?!" Whatever and whomever it was, fled real quick. We never worried about intruders or if we were ever going to get hurt at home in general. A sense - a feeling - a contentment that just was imbedded in us. We've seen "outsiders" fall ill and some pass away. But not our family. We were strong and nothing could get us…nothing.

Safety is all a facade. And even though we used to hide behind firearms and a 300 lb Italian man, we were all vulnerable. We just felt safe because Dad made us feel safe with his feathers all puffed out. I remember he used to always say, "Make em' think ya' crazy! Yell! Scream! Act like a psycho and they'll run! And rememba' - everything's a weapon. Grab da' ashtray n' troe' it at dem'! Grab dose' towing chains and whip em' till dey' fall! Fuhgeddaboudit' kid." He was once called a "Teddybear" by a neighbor giving her account to what she had witnessed to the newscasters when we were raided by the FBI. And he was a teddybear. She saw right through that toughness. 

I was instructed to take care of "his baby" when Dad was sick. I was asked to always look out for Mom, even though he knew I would anyway. It wasn't a 'task' or some dreaded chore. He was telling me to look out for my best friend. I promised I would, because it would be a promise made effortlessly. But seeing Dad dwindle down to a 150 lb weak old man - no feathers, no rifles, no feisty Italian temper to scare off the sane people - it scared me.  My superman had no more powers. 

Dad never wanted to see me cry. "Don't cry baby - don't cry!" It wasn't meant to have me not feel anything emotional, he just hated to see any one of his daughters sad. At 4 years old, I remember I had the worse cold and flu. I was sitting on the floor crying. I was so stuffed up, I couldn't breathe out of my nose. 

I said, "Dad! I can't breathe! I can't breathe!"
"Den' don't cry! Stop dat' cryin'!" 

I'd try my hardest to stop, and then begged, "But just a little bit?" 

"Noooo, don't cry! You won't be able to breathe kid!"  

He told that story till I was in my mid 30's. And then one day, at the age of 37, he caught me crying. He dropped everything and came running toward me with his arms extended out. He hugged me to tight that I could hardly breathe. It was the first time I ever cried on my father's shoulder before. My tears made his blue t-shirt all soggy. I really was trying to hold it together and not cry in front of him because he had his own anxieties over his illness, but I couldn't hold it in. And he was there for me. He let me cry for the first time. 

Within those 3-4 grueling years of his illness, I watched him cry as well. I watched him have panic attacks. This was the man who once asked me, "What's an anxiety attack?" His anxiety was valid though. I saw tears stream down his cheek, never once telling him, "Don't cry, Dad." However, I tried giving him hope. "It's going to be okay. We're gonna get this cleared up," even though I knew otherwise. So maybe by appeasing his fears, it was another way of saying, "Don't cry." 

He no longer felt "safe". I watched him put locks and deadbolts all over each door, including his bedroom door. I watched how he prepared the house for 'strength' and made sure his baby (Mom) was safe and sound. Watching him run around fixing everything also scared me. He was afraid for the first time. And the rifle that sat at the head of his bed became a threat to his own wellbeing with all the suicidal talk he had begun. He didn't want to die from his illness. I took the gun away. Every single thing: Dad, the rifles, the weapons, - everything became unsafe. And without them, he was still…unsafe.

There is nothing that can prepare you when a loved ones falls ill to cancer or any other terminal illness. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to handle it. Mom always asks, "What if we were to have left him alone and didn't make him go to those doctors and oncologists?" The "what ifs" consumes Mom's mind to the point of regret. There is no safe way to do anything when it comes to cancer. There are no concrete answers or cures or security in thinking, 'maybe' I'll go into remission. And even if you go into remission, there's still that percentage of a comeback. 

In fact, nobody's safe.

Release your fears…or try to.
Once I started to realize how unsafe this world really is, and how our own bodies work, I stopped visiting the ER for 'that pain on the right side' and that excruciating chest pain from anxiety. I stopped thinking that migraine was some sort of aneurysm. If I'm meant to go and it's my time, then so be it. The safety of going to the hospital when thought-to-be sick was maddening in itself. The anxiety of feeling unsafe in my own body only increased other ailments to come. And so, I accept the fact that I, and everyone else on this planet, is at risk for anything at any given moment. 

Even if installing big security alarms with cameras all around the house makes me feel safer, then fine. Even if leaving a bottle of aspirin on my nightstand makes me feel at ease, okay then. And even if I always carry a couple of Benadryls in my pocket plus an EpiPen when I go out to eat, then let me. If these things ease my mind, then that's all that matters. 

Whoz' out dare'?!?!
Someone once told me, that when you lose a parent(s) - that you begin to grow up, even if you're in your late 50's or older. You never truly become an "adult" until you lose a parent or both.  There is always a feeling of security, safety and a soft spot to land when you're in an emotional crisis. There's always a welcome mat at their door, a place to stay and food to eat. There's comfort in knowing Mom and Dad are there for you. And once you lose that sense of security, whether one or both leave - you have to grow up. You have to recreate your own safety. Wow, that's pretty scary, huh? I actually feel like Dad manifested within me in many ways. I have taken on the role of making others feel safe. I've turned into that redneck outside with her rifle and puffed out feathers, screaming, "Whoz' out dare?!?!" 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gossip Kills Three

Yesterday morning while cleaning up and getting ready to head out, I was listening to Joel Osteen as I usually do.  I flip back to Joyce Meyer when he has nothing updated on his app - but he is my absolute favorite. Anyway, he was talking about waste in our lives and how all the crap we go through is basically "fertilizer", which will eventually bloom new flowers so to speak. The "stinky stuff" in our lives will manifest beautiful outcomes in due time. And without the fertilizer, nothing positive will grow. Makes sense. Great analogy, I thought. Every aspect of our lives has these growth periods, whether it's work related, relationship issues or family struggles - we all have these ruts we fall into that we think won't ever change. I used to throw in the towel way too soon with every single thing in my life that gave me a challenge. I didn't want to deal with it, plain and simple. But, when I stuck it out and learned that my faith alone will push me forward, it does get better. Different point of views, different attitude and of course, the willingness not to respond to an issue that doesn't need to be addressed…by me. For example, I just saw a tweet by Epic Women that said, "Be selective in your battles. Sometimes peace is better than being right."

There were so many times during this past year, where certain people had gotten on my last nerve. The "old me" would have sprung up like the feisty Italian and fought back, because well, I was right. Not that I'm always right, but in these instances, I was. And so, by remaining silent, it miraculously disappears. "But that means you're losing your backbone, Deb!" No. In fact, it takes more courage to remain silent than to rise up and fight to be right. You don't need to attend every argument that you're invited to. Don't quote me on that last line, I'm not sure who wrote that first. Anyway, I thought to myself, all that fertilizer that I let 'settle on its own' either gave me growth in character, growth in my relationships with other people, or just growth in learning how some people work and how to accept the flaws with the people you love, because let's face it, we all have our own flaws to deal with.
I've learned a great deal about certain people and why they do what they do. I've learned that insecure people have this need to talk badly about other people just to make themselves appear better. I've often come across insecure people talking about why 'so & so' had just gotten a divorce and how 'this one cheated on her husband' and how 'this one put on 20 lbs', and on and on and on it goes. And hey - I'm no stranger when it comes to a little gossip here and there, but I just keep seeing these blabbermouths getting all the stories completely twisted - like a game of telephone. There is nothing worse than someone telling a mutual friend about your problems, or - your 'thought-to-be' problems as well as false information altogether.

So here's the breakdown on why sometimes, I have to cut certain people out of my life whether temporarily or for good:

Gossip kills 3 people:
  • The speaker
  • The spoken of
  • The listener 

Now let's say friend #1 says something bad about you to friend #2 of yours? Everyone's involved. Everyone's views and reputations are tarnished. Only good stuff can happen to you if you're the "spoken of", because these "crappy people" have just fertilized your life. All you can do is rise up, dust yourself off and find some quality friends who will share only good things about you, because that's the initial reason why they befriended you to begin with. Believe me, by weeding out your garden, you'll find some beautiful flowers rising up.

I guess you can say this is a part 2 of yesterday's post. It all relates. There are a few things that I'm totally committed to: I don't go to places I'm not welcomed and I don't tolerate bad mouthing mutual friends. I've stated this many times on this blog. If you see me gazing off into space while you're going on and on about whomever - you'll need to know I'm tuning you out. I've also noticed that people who are 'bad mouthing' their friends are also the ones who have done the same thing or similar to - total hypocrisy. I have no respect for people like that. None whatsoever.

So as of now, I'm going through a little adjustment period, shifting and weeding out some of the bad eggs in my life. Maybe it means I just need a break from "you" or maybe it means, you won't be seeing me ever again. But the one thing you can count on is, I have zero tolerance for disrespectful and insecure people in my life. I can't do it. Life is so short to be in the company of insincere and disloyal people. Again, like I said, I only have a handful of people I trust, respect and want in my life. And that's okay with me because I'd rather be alone than be with someone who'll stab me in the back later on down the road.

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Trust No One

Nothing can bring you peace, but yourself. ~Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Sincerity. It's a rarity these days. As I always thought, asking a simple, "how are you" doesn't require an answer any longer, in fact, it usually doesn't want one. A "how are you" is a another form of, "hello" - and if you do decide to expand on how you are doing, eyes will start rolling. Although I know there is an unwritten rule of the good ol' "how are you" - I will always ask you and expect a truthful answer. When I ask how you are - I wanna know the good and bad and I will always try to be of some help to you or just lend you an ear if you need to vent. I have found a few friends who are very sincere (not more than a handful mind you.) A little over a week ago I was going through some turbulent times. A good friend of mine recognized I wasn't quite myself and so, I decided to text her some bizarre message of the craziness that I was going through. She quickly texted me and said, "Call now." I tried blowing it off saying, "Oh it's nothing, I'm okay - really," not wanting to bother her.

"Call. now. Deb."

Those are the rare breeds who will always leave a footprint in your life. Those are the ones who truly mean "how are you". Actions speak louder than words, and words are often left meaningless. I have a hard time trusting, and that's been a big issue for me all my life. For instance, I've been having really bad sleep problems lately. I jolt and gasp for air every time I try falling asleep. It has gotten worse and worse, to where I nearly convulse, until Madelene holds me down or comforts me in some way. We thought maybe it was neurological, so we went to a sleep specialist who wanted to check for mycologic seizures.

Lovely image, huh? 
Off to the sleep study I went. They hooked up a million and one wires on me. They stuck electrodes all over my head with vaseline-like glue that clumped up into small greasy balls onto my scalp. I cannot tell you how uncomfortable this was. I even said an hour into the sleep study that I didn't think I would make it. I can't sleep at home, so how the heck ---- and then I fell asleep. (I actually believe they have some sort of subliminal hypnotic crap blaring out of their secret speakers.) Anyway, to make a long story longer, they found nothing. NOTHING. Heart's fine, I do not have sleep apnea as thought and my 'jolts' and seizures were not neurological.

Anxiety. Panic. Fear. In other words: I'm a hot mess.

So off I went to see some money hungry psychiatrist who specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy and other types of relaxation methods that would help me. But he was so focused on money and kept asking me, "Are you sure you can only pay this much?" He was charging $150 per session for only 45 minutes. He was so scatterer-brained and blinded by the sight of cash that I couldn't possibly believe that he really wanted to help me. He wanted to help his bank account grow. He had no interest in how I felt, nor had any desire to help me other than give me textbook psychology bullshit. The entire hour was a complete waste of time and money.

You can't even find professional sincerity.

If there is one thing I cannot stand, it's fake people - the ones who pretend to care about you for the one hour they're in your home or the ones who call you since they have 15 minutes to spare. I usually don't like to bother people with my problems, but now - I will never go to anyone, ever again if I have any issue about anything. They will either use whatever you tell them against you, or they'll give you the "I'll be there for you" which is basically all pseudo gestures. So, I remain as one - as to only help myself - to only trust myself, and most of all, to trust God and let him be the one to be my psychiatrist in the sky.

I think in some aspect, I've become more antisocial with having to deal with so many insincere people. I've seen some people release top secret information about their best friends to their mutual friends. Reputation automatically tarnished - pass GO and collect $200. I've seen betrayal, I've gone through betrayal and I have witnessed so many people being so damn cruel to one another. I wonder if I'm starting to develop a dislike in humanity altogether, or if it's a subconscious fear from being hurt in the past. Maybe both? People are too loose with their words and careless with how they treat others. I'm not a saint either. I have my own flaws to deal with, but I try my hardest not to hurt others or make them feel bad about themselves. I will bite back if there's a heated argument though. And even then, I try to carefully pick my words wisely. Words can hurt more than physical pain.

They say that a person changes every 7 years (which may explain the 7 year itch), and I'm wondering if this is the case. I'm not the same person I was 7 years ago. I was very sociable and loved being around other people. I didn't care if someone spoke badly about me - screw it - but now, I guess I am kind of sick of the drama that goes behind being a social butterfly. I find myself very content with being alone or in the company of my family. Occasionally I have a wonderful group of friends I hang out with - but again, not deep-connected-soul-sister connections where I can let people completely in. At an arm's length, I'm quite comfortable, until someone can prove me wrong. And even though I am a very forgiving person who never  holds grudges, I wonder if this is an indicator of holding a grudge of some type - maybe not towards anyone in particular - just toward humans…?

Or maybe it boils down to having a trusted person tell all of your personal problems to someone in a derogatory manner. Picture this, Sicily, 1924 --- no wait --- picture this: you pour your heart out to someone, and that someone goes and tells a mutual friend about everything you've gone through and mocks it out in the open, even around others that haven't even met me yet. Then, the "listener" tells me! So that's where I am today. It's not even about forgiving and forgetting and blah blah blah. It's more about, you just cannot trust a soul with anything that you hold true to your heart. And that really sucks because you wanna give the benefit of the doubt to the ones you love. You. just. can't. And I have seen this happen to so many people! It's crazy. There is no value in secrets and personal conversations anymore. It's all out in the open and made to be mocked at.

So, I don't trust anyone anymore. It's me. It's God. I'm not on my own, but I do have the big guy upstairs to lean on for all my problems. I doubt He'll mock me.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Time…

There are many times when I get down on myself. I tell myself I'm not good enough, I don't have 'this' or I don't have 'that' - and my life just plain stinks. I'll complain about life's challenges and difficulties and all the things that I should've done, or should've been graced with. I complain and complain and complain. Then it hits me: "I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I'm not where I used to be." - A line taken from Joyce Meyer. But even then, it wasn't so bad. But there were great challenges, like seeing my father fall ill to cancer. We all took turns and shifts sitting all day and evening with Dad in the hospital, even if he was knocked out cold by the pain meds, just so he wouldn't feel alone. I remember standing in the elevator with about 5 other people. I played this little game, guessing why they were here, or if they were a patient getting clearance and finally out of their 30 sq ft room. Maybe the man on my left just saw his wife suffer a heart attack. Maybe the gentleman to my right just saw his wife give birth. Maybe the lady right in front of me just went to visit her best friend who was sick with pneumonia. I didn't know. But I did know we were all here for something significant, even if they were wearing a white lab coat and a stethoscope - that's significance in itself. Maybe the healthcare professional just saved someone's life or had seen someone pass away on the table. Can you imagine?

Please watch this video if you're like me and sometimes forget how fortunate we really are. Most of us aren't hearing a terminal diagnosis or seeing a loved one die. Maybe we already have, or will have in the future, but the reality of it is: we all suffer in some way, whether emotional or physical. There is good and bad - positive and negative. And without the negative, we are not able to fully see the positive. When we witness those grim days, we also witness relief. If you can't view the video below, please click here.



Back in January of 2012, I clearly remember one of the directors of the oncology department coming into Dad's room while he was having lunch. He was sitting up in the reclining chair just to get a different 'feel' for the room that he was stuck in for days, sometimes even weeks. He was in ~okay~ spirits that day. My mom had just ordered him a chicken salad sandwich with some fruit and coffee. The director asked who we were and how we were all related before she went to give him the worst news of his life. First let me backtrack just a sec… We already knew Dad was terminal. The doctors told us this already. Thing is - we wanted to give him hope, so…we didn't tell him. If we were to have told him, he would have given up.

"Charlie, I'm here to talk to you."

Dad just stared at her, so sick of "talks" and doctors' long-winded jargon.

"Have you made preparations?"
"What?"
"Have you made preparations for your family? You only have at most, 6 months to live."

Dad's eyes widened, as if he had seen a ghost. He dropped his plastic fork on the slide out table and started banging on the arm of his chair in frustration. I saw tears streaming down his cheek and then saw Mom's eyes widen, entirely black, full of rage.

Mom cried out, "Let our family talk about this by ourselves! Just leave us be!"

"We're all going to die," she said, as if this would make the situation any better. "I can die tomorrow from an accident. We are all mortal."

Not good enough.

I tried holding it together, because for me, this was the first time hearing a concrete life sentence. I quickly grabbed the lady by the arm and asked if I could speak to her outside in the hallway. As I was telling her about our plan - to not tell Dad about his "sentence", she was swaying from left to right, as if ducking from physical punches that weren't being thrown. She was incredibly nervous, and rightfully so.  I told her that I understood this is protocol for her job, but not this time.
Not this time.

That evening when I was in the elevator in silence with Mom, I didn't play the game of "who's here for who and why" - but more so, replaying the words of that oncology director and the coldness that swept through her lips so easily, so effortlessly, as if we were used to hearing this type of thing. I wonder if the people in the elevator were wondering why we were there. At that point, I didn't care about anything else other than what I had just experienced and heard for the first time.

Bad/Good
Poor/Rich
Sick/Health
Negative/Positive
Sad/Happy

You truly cannot appreciate the good things in life if you haven't experienced the lesser. For instance, I used to take for granted pain-free days because I never experienced back problems before. Today? I'm ecstatic that I can fully walk around without falling from my leg going numb from my sciatica. I appreciate every single person in my life who's healthy and doing well, because I have seen the total opposite for the very first time within my immediate family. It's not that I ever took my family for granted, but sometimes you get into this sort of mindset like, "This'll never happen to our family." And it does. And it will.


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. ~Ecclesiastes 3

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Hurt You Because I Loved You

A long time ago when I was around 11 years old, I had this boy named "Mikey" on my bus ride home from school, taunting me and pulling my book bag straps. He wouldn't stop. I was fuming, but also at the verge of crying too. I really couldn't figure out his motive, but in my mind, I plotted and schemed his impending demise, because his stop also happened to be my stop. I made sure to get off the bus before him, so I could sucker punch him right in the face. And I did. This was totally out of character for me - I wasn't a bully or retaliated so violently before, but this time was different. He fell down, but quickly got right back up. My mother was at the bus stop waiting for me, holding her face screaming, "Stop!" He ran up to me and hit me right in the head, as I kept punching him, left-right-left-right. I was so angry that I started to pick up a ton of shale that was on the driveway and started throwing stones at him. Talk about barbaric. The kid ran down the street so fast, that I never really knew what exactly happened.

Until 30 years later.

Facebook is wonderful for reuniting with friends and well, 'thought-to-be-friends'. "Mikey" contacted me through Facebook. He said, "You look beautiful, how've you been?" I immediately thought he may have mistaken me for somebody else, because back in grammar school, I was a tomboy with messy hair and boy's clothes, aside from us being complete enemies. I was awkward and a bit of a misfit. I always thought that was the reason why he was taunting me that day on the bus.

"I just wanted to let you know that I always had a crush on you in school."

What? 

I asked about the incident that never left my mind and he responded with, "Didn't you know I did that because I liked you?" And then everything - all the memories after that started to make a lot of sense. Isn't it funny how kids are? How about adults? Why do you think adults play "hard to get" with the ones they want to get? It doesn't make sense, but the psychology behind it does. I also wonder if the same psychological madness applies to those who hurt the ones they love the most? Why do some people feel the need to verbally attack or put down their loved ones, whether the heat of the moment some twisted form of raising their self-esteem by putting someone else down? This can even apply or 'should' apply to physical abuse. Why would you hit the one you love? It just doesn't make sense to me, and yet it does. I know I can be one cranky sonnuvabitch sometimes when my wife doesn't "get me" or understand why I'm having 'this' problem or 'that' problem. Maybe it's the passion behind the friction that makes it blow up even more so, or maybe it's the frustration of someone who is supposed to know you inside and out who fails to understand you. I'm not really sure. Maybe that old saying is true - that there's a fine like between love and hate. You not only have to love your significant other, but you also have to like them. If you don't like who you're with, the love will definitely fade or turn rancid.

"Tell this bitch to shut up!"
Friendships can be quite volatile as well. I've met a few people who seemed to have it in for me. For example, a friend who constantly insults you or criticizes every single thing you do - what's the point? If you're going to be platonic friends, why would you be so critical and insulting? Those are the types of people I don't need in my life. I criticize myself enough as it is. I don't need negative people to bring me down, so why in the world would I want them in my life as a friend? That's not a friend. And I totally understand constructive criticism as far as trying to help or guide you in some way so that your life would improve for the better. And mind you - that better be a longtime best friend of yours for them to even go there. Regardless, we should be more accepting, less insulting and try to seek out a commonality that binds the friendship, not tears it apart.

So whether speaking platonically or intimately, why do some people choose the harder road? Why do they like to test the waters so to speak? Why on earth would someone want to hurt someone they love? And this 'hard-to-get' strategy - does that even work? Has it ever worked? Or is it one big myth? Do we want what we can't have? And if so, why would we want to be with someone who clearly doesn't want to be with us? Is it that our hearts don't know better, or do we just want to challenge ourselves on a whole new emotional level? What do you think?

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Give Without Expectations

Generosity

While growing up in my mid-teens or so, my sister and I would sit on the floor of her bedroom and play Rummy 500 for hours at a time. She always won, until one day when she told me her secret. We both knew the rules of the game, but there was a strategy to it. She said, “Always give up your most important card and you will always win for some reason.” It didn’t make sense to me - why would I want to give up my most important card if I wanted to win? But after losing a million & one times, I tried it. I started giving up my most valuable cards, and in return, I ended up receiving them back and then some. I then started winning. I guess that’s how it is in real life: when you give, you get back in return. And it’s not meant in a selfish way. To genuinely give in real life is rewarding in itself, but to see someone else happy and take joy in seeing that person happy, says a lot about who you are. And yes, it may be a “risk”, just like in Rummy 500 - but it’s a risk that you’ll never regret. I learned the hard way that if you loan something to someone, treat it as a gift and you’ll never be disappointed. Give without expectations. It’s a win-win situation.

“Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later.” ~Ecclesiastes 11:1

“If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving --large or small-- it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” ~Luke 6:38

Gratitude & Attitude

The scriptures above sound like the game of Rummy 500, but it’s so true. Looking back, when I was in my deepest depression, I had tons of pity parties for myself. “Why am I not further along? Why does everyone else have everything and I’m still here?” I was speaking more about where I was in life and very upset and angry about the stagnant place I found myself in. Nothing was changing...neither was my attitude. I had lost my faith, hope, and all means to be happy in the least bit. It reflected on how I treated others around me, and 98% of the time, I was just miserable to be around. People “felt” my vibes and when you’re around someone who is depressed or angry, you feel that - even if they pretend to be happy. It’s in the air somehow. I knew I needed an attitude adjustment, so I spent hours praying and meditating every single day. Although I wasn’t receiving any “gifts” or big hefty checks in the mail, I was starting to realize everything around me: my home, my loving wife, my family, friends, food in the fridge, a job I love, health and the most important of them all - my faith in God.

"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say 'thank you'?"~William A. Ward

Competition & Envy

Even if you are in the same work or situation as somebody else - 
never compete with someone, because you don’t know how bad they may have it in other areas of their life. You can only do the best you can do - and that’s all. Never want what someone else has. You may get what you wish for and be highly disappointed. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could live somebody else’s life who we admire for one day and see what it’s really like? There’s a story that I love so much that puts many things in perspective for me. 



Is Your Cross Too Heavy to Bear?

The young man was at the end of his rope. Seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer. "Lord, I can't go on," he said. "I have too heavy of a cross to bear." The Lord replied, "My son, if you can't bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room. Then, open that other door and pick out any cross you wish." The man was filled with relief. "Thank you, Lord," he sighed, and he did as he was told. Upon entering the other door, he saw many crosses, some so large the tops were not visible. Then, he spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall. "I'd like that one, Lord," he whispered. And the Lord replied, "My son, that is the cross you just brought in."

For me, life is all about giving, sharing with one another and being grateful for what you have right at this very moment. It’s about thanking God for all you have, and thanking Him in advance for what’s to come, because without faith, life would be meaningless, at least for me. I learned a very valuable thing while going through a narcissistic phase (before the Rummy 500 game with my sis): when you are completely self-absorbed and everything is about 'me me me' - it is an instant people repeller. People sense narcissism just like dogs can sense a person with negative emotions. Sometimes, you don't even have to sense it - it's just there right in front of your face. I have never heard so much 'me talk' as I do today. Is it because of social media? Is it because we're sort of disconnected on a person-to-person level? I do find a difference when I talk to people who are not connected to the internet (and yes I still have friends who haven't "logged on" thank God), who hardly ever talk about themselves. It's always, "How are you?" They don't even want to say anything about themselves, even if I beg to ask how their day was or how they were feeling. I literally sat on the phone with a friend for nearly 2 hours listening to him go on and on about his life in every small and big detail he could have mustered up. I listened, and at times, whenever I would chime in, I was cut off and run over by more 'me me me' talk.  

I hate the saying, "It is what it is" - but it IS. Either you accept these people and absorb their self-absorbedness, or you can move on to people who will enhance your life in ways that doesn't cost anything but a sincere concern for your wellbeing and happiness. I'm all about giving, but when does it come to the point when all your giving isn't appreciated or perhaps just taken advantage of? Then the answer is: do it anyway. 

Pay it Forward!
I recently got involved with a Facebook 'Pay it Forward" project, where the first 5 people who respond will get something either homemade or some sort of thoughtful gift by me. And the ones who participate have to do it for 5 other people of their own. It's basically a trend to start a little kindness around your circle of friends and to let them know that YES they are special and YES I will take some time out to make you at least smile. Isn't the world better when people start giving? Nobody became poor by giving…nobody. 

Appreciate those who help you. Appreciate the ones who go out of their way and take time from their lives to make yours better. Never take for granted those types of people because one day, you may end up with the narcissistic ones. 

"Give. Remember always to give. That is the one thing that will make you grow." ~Elizabeth Taylor

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

My Interview with the One & Only, Marlo Bernier, as She Talks About Her New Show, "Myrna"

With great pleasure, I'm super excited about my interview with my dear friend, Marlo Bernier, writer, director and creator. She has a new TV series that will be her 5th project as producer/co-writer and her 6th in an originating-creative capacity. The interview took place via Skype, so to the best of my ability, I jotted down all of her answers. Never once, has there ever been a show quite like this before. A few select movies have made their way across the board, but never one so truthful and so raw. Not only is this show entertaining, funny and revealing, but it also sends off an inside look into what is involved personally, and what it's like in the everyday life of being a transgender woman. It demonstrates the misunderstanding of society, the importance of knowing who you are in life and the bravery of those who take that next step to be more comfortable in their own skin. In this interview, Marlo (who plays Myrna) answers some typical questions that anyone else would ask. This is a show about Marlo's life - "Myrna's" struggles as an actor and what she has to face when her past rises up to the surface. Not many people know there's an etiquette on how to approach someone who has transitioned or who is still in the process of becoming who they truly are. This series should be a reminder, a lesson, perhaps even a course in life itself. With the vast majority being ignorant to the unknown, to which this topic is based upon, I'm hoping that Myrna shines the light on all of those gray areas. These questions I have posed will answer anybody's inquisitive mind when they hear someone say, "I'm transgender."

What inspired you to create Myrna?

A couple of different times over the past few years, I saw a couple of advertisements on Craigslist where someone had posted that they were a Reality Show content producer or looking for Reality Show content, with the key phrase, “character driven”. I submitted my personal story which was my one woman show out here in LA called, At Least I’ll Own a Dress, and I got responses back shortly after I sent it off and they said, “This is great, this is exactly what we’re looking for,” and I then chimed in with an email back saying, “Hi ‘so & so’, that’s wonderful - when can we meet? I have some ideas.” I was trying to - without saying upfront, I was trying to move that person off of the reality show concept and more into a scripted kind of show concept.

Anyway, it never worked out and approximately two years ago I saw another ad, similar to the ones I had seen before and I thought, oh - you know, it’s the same kinda’ thing again… So I sent off my PDF of my story with a little note and within minutes I got a response. A woman called. She said it sounded great and asked when could we meet and so on and so forth. I said, “To tell you the truth, I am a little reticent about a reality show - I mean, my life is not that interesting in of it itself - I mean, I get up, I take a shower, I have my coffee or vise/versa...and that’s about it. I struggle looking for work - that’s it.”

So we met and I brought into the mix one of my filmmaking partners, Ted Campbell, who happens to also be the co-writer on the Myrna pilot script. I asked if he would want to do something with this and he said, “Let’s meet with this person and find out.” So we talked with her and she said she needed us to create what’s called a “sizzle reel” which is kind of a teaser of what the show might look like. So I asked, “What’s it going to contain?” And she said, “You know - your daily life - like fixing your hair, putting on your lipstick and...” I just said, “Good Lord, I’m gonna go to sleep already. This is not, you know - a ‘trick’, it’s not a magic show.” I eventually ended up doing it, so we put together a little thing and kinda’ made it all up. I then said I wanted a script - a couple of pages of dialogue where my manager is the one who comes to my house and offers me this ready made Reality show, all about me. At the time, the show wasn’t called “Myrna” it was called “Marlo”. This comedic over-the-top moment happened, when we edited this little piece together with me getting ready in the mirror and given a list of chores to do by the woman of whose house I resided in - and then my manager showing up, it became this kind of - offbeat kind of comedy thing.

So, I said to her at that point, “I don’t want to really investigate the reality concept any further, but if you think that your connections can get us in front of people that will be willing to look at a scripted television pilot, then we will produce and deliver a tv pilot.” So she said she would be willing to take a look at it. So we began the writing process of putting together a ‘dramedy’ or ‘comedy’ as opposed to a sitcom. It kind of started out like a sitcom kind of morphing into more of a dramedy - a full half hour. No commercial breaks, titles and credits at the top and in the back end, and that’s basically how it happened. Our first attempt at a crowd funding campaign almost two years ago was unsuccessful. (But we’re now underway with a fresh outlook and financing campaign that myself and my co-producers, Jennifer Fontaine and Ted Campbell are confident that this time we will deliver the pilot).

We learned a big lesson from the first campaign, we walked away from it and in the meantime, I kind of drifted away from the Myrna concept, because with Myrna, I’m putting it out there that I have this transsexual past. I had come to a point in my life, since beginning to transition seven years ago, to make this voyage, from male to female, from Mark to Marlo, at a certain point, I kind of crossed a line where I no longer felt gender dysphoric. I no longer had an “gender identity problem”, because I was finally presenting and living in the gender that felt and feels…correct for and to me. I also came to the self-realization that one can be born transsexual, but that one does not have to remain transsexual if one chooses to undergo hormonal and surgical therapies and/or treatments in order to align one’s mind with one’s body. So I steered away from Myrna and walked away from it for a long time.

Back around the holidays, out of the blue, a dear friend of mine asked, “What’s up with Myrna?” I had explained that I wasn’t going to do it anymore and that I wanted to move on. I’m not saying it’s not a valid project, but I was no longer interested in bringing it back to the fore. A couple weeks later she brought it up again and said, “You really oughta’ take another look at it and you really need to do it. You, Marlo need to find a way to get this made and you need to play Myrna, it’s important.” So I thought about it long and hard for about a good month and got back together with Ted and brought it up with him. I asked Ted, “Do you still think that it’s a viable project and should we reboot it? Should we resurrect it and take another look at the pilot script?” So that has led us to this point where we kind of changed the tone of the show for the better, I believe and along with Jennifer Fontaine, my other filmmaking partner of many years plugged back in, we are well on our way to delivering Myrna to the audience. It’s a bit of a happy mistake that we didn’t raise the money to shoot what we had two years ago - I really do believe that.

So that’s about it, the way Myrna came to be and now we’re back on track again to put it into production and get it shot - the full pilot episode and the goal at that point is to get it seen by industry people who are in a position to, you know, who can make a decision one way or the other, whether they dig it or they don’t. We’re hoping they can put it into a time slot on one of the networks or a cable network where we feel Myrna will be best served and have the most impact.

What are you looking to achieve from airing Myrna - is there a subtle or strong message to the mainstream public?

Yes, absolutely. That’s a great question and that has not been answered yet. Most of the time, any kind of trans character is played for the joke or made out to be the brunt of the joke. Myrna does not do that. Our show allows for the joke, but the joke is not in any way related to what anybody’s ever seen before. I mean - I make fun of myself, you know, but I’m allowed to do that. Listen, there’s been some really decent of portrayals of trans women, specifically like Transamerica, which is one that comes to mind because of Felicity Huffman’s solid portrayal of Bree (should that role have been played by an transperson? Perhaps. But maybe you’ll ask me that kinda question a bit later and I’ll really p-p in someone’s Cheerios - ha!) I want Myrna to be a teachable moment, in a very gentle, nonjudgmental, non-preachy kind of way. If people feel differently about what it is that they see, or feel differently from what they’ve heard - it’s a free country. You can say whatever you want to say, but Myrna will not speak for or pretend to speak for the trans community at large. It’s impossible...it’s impossible. Myrna can only tell the story through my worldview, which are words that I’ve written because they are influenced by and originated with my world’s view. I’m writing my truth. This is all I can do.

In your career, as in the show, do you find people turning you down business-wise because of your transition?

That’s a good question too, Debra and I don’t know the answer to that meaning, but it’s been a tough road being seen again and getting connected again outside of my immediate circle. With the advantage of the internet and how easy it is for people to vet you before they’ve met you, if they type in Marlo Bernier, the top five results on Google are going to be IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) related links which will have the credits to all the work I have done. And all of the work in front of the camera will be seen and credited as “Mark”. Although there are new and current photos up there of me - now - there are also three or four that are lingering from the past that are from when I did work as pre-Marlo. I cannot be responsible for how people react to me, I can only be responsible for how I present myself, as well as how I respond to others.

There seems to be a lot of confusion among the general public about the difference between sexual orientation vs. gender identity, for instance, if you’re a MTF, that you are most likely attracted to men. Does this preconception frustrate you?

It doesn’t frustrate me, but I do understand where the confusion can come from. I wrote a quote many years ago towards the beginning of my transition that says, “One’s gender identity is invisible to everyone…except you.” And what I mean by that is: you can appear as a man integrated into society - good job, blah-dee-frick’n - blah -blah -blah, date women in a straight heterosexual kinda’ way, and, you can still be gender dysphoric. You can still have the essence within yourself - of seeing yourself - or feeling yourself as female, yet we would never know. Their sexual preference is that they prefer women - that they’re attracted to women, romantically, erotically, etc., etc., etc. When a person transitions, if it so happens, they might still maintain their same sexual preference, or it may change. And it’s not on purpose, because we don’t choose who we love, or to whom we’re attracted to. The transition does not mean that they are now going to switch from liking women to liking men just because they’ve transitioned and vise/versa. But I’ve heard of such a thing happening. (Ahem,…it happened to me.)

How do you feel when you’re cornered in a situation where you have to reveal that you’re transgender? Also, how do you feel revealing this to someone special?

This is important. To tell or not to tell, that is the question, yes? I’ve only had this happen a couple of handful of times. And I will state this, upfront, for the record that I am very fortunate, and I know that I’m very fortunate, that I have been able to assimilate into the conventional binary - the female of the binary, segment of society.

For instance, I’ve been to the doctor’s office about a handful a times in the last couple of years, where I had to fill out the form where the questions asks, what type of medications are you on, blah blah blah, and when was your last period. I sometimes would either leave it blank or I would answer in some kind of way by saying, “I don’t have one.” I never lied about it. Then the nurse would take my vitals and she’d look at the form and she would say, “So when was your last period?” And then I would say, “I don’t have one.” And then she would look me up and down and look at my age - my chronological age, and say, “Oh, when did you stop having your period?” And I would say, “I’ve never had a period... I’m transsexual.” I would always get the reply over and over again, “Really? I wouldn’t have known!” When you hear that enough times, you start to wonder - like - okay - is this because I have assimilated into my gender well? And people would ask me questions that they would ask any other woman, because for all intents and purposes, I am ‘any’ woman of middle age. So, when to reveal it and when not to reveal it is the question.

Without getting into the specifics - although it is quite funny - I tried online dating. I met this person to whom I felt it incumbent on me to tell them that I had this transsexual past and to which they wanted to ask me all the personal and anatomical questions. And so, I quit online dating seconds after that little coffee date, because I really didn’t want to be the object of curiosity. I just wanted to have a conversation with another human being. If it went further than that, then perhaps, there was something there. It just didn’t work out.

A friend of mine - a male friend - (just for reference) told me something very important a couple of weeks ago when I relayed the story to him. He was laughing hysterically because I didn’t leave out any of the details. So I asked him, “Do I tell or do I not tell?” He’s a fairly conservative guy, so his response was, “You’re a woman - you’re a middle-aged woman. Period. End of story. There’s a difference between something which is private and keeping secrets. And if you so choose to share some part of you that is private with someone, that is because and should be because they have earned the right and/or privilege to be told that piece of private information. That is not the same as keeping a secret.” When he said that to me, it really rang true and it really made sense to me and I thought ok, that’s how I’m going to handle it from now on. “It is impossible for me to escape my past. This does not mean however, that I must continue to reside in it.” To conclude, I haven’t had the experience to be confronted or challenged with that item, ‘do I tell, do I not tell,’ or ‘is this person special enough for me,’ but if you type my name into Google, you’re gonna find me...and you’re gonna find my past. So it takes two seconds and you’ll know, unless you’re blind and can’t read English…ya’ know?


For young viewers transitioning themselves, what advice can you give them having had your own experience?

That’s a tough question because everyone comes from a different and unique background. Even though we are at our core symbiotic in nature, I can only tell you from my experience, my only regret is that I didn’t stand up for myself sooner in life. I kept convincing myself that it was a phase, that I would overcome it, that I would triumph over it and that it would eventually dissipate. At the same time I was saying that to myself, there was the voice deep inside me telling me, “try as you may, you know that this isn’t going to depart from you. This is who you are and you know it.” And I refused for many, many years - decades - to listen to that voice until it became imperative for me to transition or to die when I was faced with those choices. I’m no medical professional, so please don’t quote me, but the sooner you deal with - if you are indeed - and I don’t know what the politically correct term is these days, whether it’s gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder - even though it’s not a DISORDER in the conventional sense - this condition - and I will call it “transsexualism” where you are faced with that option to continue to live against yourself, or come to terms with yourself, my suggestion to you would be to seek professional help - and that means good psychotherapy. You may need to go through three, four or five therapists until you find one who can help you and one who’s not just feeding you the company line. You need to find someone who really takes it seriously. There are good therapists out there who understand the condition. A good therapist who knows people, that kind of therapist can help you even if they don’t have that “speciality” attached to their name. I know from personal experience because it took me going in and out of therapy multiple times for years before I found the therapist who told me the truth - not what I wanted to hear, but the truth. I am eternally grateful for her. And I’ve been with her now, for seven years. She saw me through my entire transition - from start to finish and with some really tough places throughout. I would have died had it not been for her.

You also need to have the talk with your parents, if you’re young enough, where you’re under their roof and even if not - they’re still your parents and hopefully you have some kind of reasonably loving relationship with them. Tell them, be open with them - it’s gonna be hard. No one’s going to be doing cartwheels down the middle of Colfax Avenue when you tell them. Just know that. The other thing you have to remember is, once you say it, you kinda’ can’t take it back. It’s not like saying to somebody, “Oh hey Jim, I’m thinking about taking up hang gliding tomorrow - whaddya’ think?” It’s not the same thing. I always knew that, even as a little kid, that once I said it, there’d be no taking it back. You have to know those things going in. This is not "I’m thinking about taking up fly fishing next weekend" This is your life and the longer you wait, and if you are so lucky and fortunate enough to begin transitioning before puberty takes full control and begins to really do its job on your physical body, the better off you’ll be.

It’s no secret that I was born in 1959, so when I became aware of my gender incongruity (transsexualism), and didn’t know what to call it at the age of four. I later found out that they were treating people (diagnosed with transsexualism) by the time I was eleven or twelve, it was a little tougher in the 60s and I was always on the brink of telling somebody and I didn’t until I was thirty-three years old. Even then, that was many years before I decided to transition.

Looking back, what was the hardest step to take in your journey of transitioning? 



Marlo, as "Myrna"
The hardest step was deciding, heels or flats?! No, really…the hardest step? I would say was coming to the realization in my mind that I had to give people the liberty to respond to me however they were going to respond to me, no matter their political and/or social awareness. The fact of the matter is, I’ve been surprised every time by the reaction of my friends and/or family no matter what their political or social leanings were. For the most part, people have been very kind and understanding to me. And the second part which was difficult was just being able to be me. No smoke, no mirrors - just me. The word “transitioning” has a limited meaning - to transition to a final product. What does it mean to be “done transitioning” and are you ever “done” transitioning? And, was it really ever, a “transition” spiritually?

I’m of the mind, of my mindset, of my philosophy that for me, there was a beginning. There was a “beginning” and there was an “end” to my transition. That had little to do with my having had surgery, meaning - I was done transitioning a couple of years ago, because I was living four years full time at that point. At first, I wasn’t quite comfortable in my own skin, but certainly a couple of years after beginning, I was. I had made the journey through to where I was just “me” - I was just being me. I was no longer hiding from myself or others. And for me, that speaks for the spirituality part of this question. It’s the way that we carry ourselves. Listen, hormones are not some kind’a “magic pill”, this is not what makes one a woman, or makes one a man. It is however (I believe), when one owns their presence with assuredness. This character trait is what defines each and every one of us, regardless. I can go into the store with no makeup and no whatever and have them say, “Anything else Miss,” and I wonder what they’re looking at - because in my mind I’m thinking, how could you possibly not know…? But they don’t. So obviously, something has happened to me, that I’ve allowed myself to finally be comfortable and confident in my femininity - and I’m not particularly “ultra feminine”, either. But I have arrived to a certain level of comfort, regardless of what kind of clothing I have on. Do I wear the clothing that is appropriate for females? Yes, of course, but clothes are not what defines a woman.

Biblically speaking, transgender people were here from the get-go. There’s not one word listed about the sins of transgender people, however there are a ton of scriptures about homosexuality. What are your thoughts about this on a religious point of view, even if you’re not religious?

You know, we like to ‘pick & choose’ our sins. So I’d like to ask you, of the 613 Levitical sins, which one will you choose? We like to pick the top two and wave them in everybody’s face. At the end of the day, you have to answer to two people: yourself, and if you believe, “God”.

There are many people with strong opinions that being transgender is purely a physical notion. How do you explain your inner most spiritual gender that you have always been - the one that has no physical attributes, surgery or genitalia?

I’ve known people who have known me for three decades, four decades, five decades, who’ve said, “I never knew.” And it was at that point when I realized, I know that you didn’t know because I hid it from you. It was my deep dark secret - the one that I would hold onto forever. This is why I say, 'one’s gender identity is invisible to everyone…except you.'  Because, you’re the only one who knows. If it’s never dawned on you and you’ve always felt female, or male and you were born ‘natally’ so - then no issue. And it’s not the same as somebody saying, “Ya know, I wish I were a man.” That’s not the same. I think we’ve all said that sort of thing - “It would be easier to be a man,” like from a woman, you know? If a person is saying, (let’s just say, a transwoman) “I was never a boy,” - I understand what they mean by that. What they mean by that is - “My essence - my spiritual essence - my gender identity was never male.” I get it. But the fact of the matter is that probably 99.9% of the time, they were born anatomically male, however, that doesn’t mean that one’s sex is congruent with one’s gender identity.

In the show, does Myrna start transitioning from the physical attributes of a male or do we only get to see Myrna after feminine qualities have been introduced?

Myrna was always, for discussion’s sake, “mid-transition-ish”. It’s not like she started yesterday, or we’re gonna watch the whole transition take place before our eyes - she lives as a woman, she’s been living as a woman for X amount of a reasonable length of time. We didn’t want to do that ‘thing’ - you know, the entire transformation, not that it’s a bad thing, but that was not what the show was about.
Myrna is about a woman, a middle-age actor, who has lost her career and is trying to get it back, who just happens to be on the road to having a transsexual past.

Her struggle is two-fold:
  1. Coming to terms with herself, being comfortable in her own skin, regardless of what others have to say.
  2. Regaining her place in her profession and garnering respect for the work that she delivers.
How do you feel, or what’s your take on whether non-trans actors should play transgender roles in television and or film? And I’m talking specifically about the whole Jared Leto controversy with his having been cast as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.

HA! I thought perhaps you’d let me slide on this one. Guess not. Okay, so here we go and I will try to break it down the best way I am able. So let me first kinda bullet point it.
  • Film, especially film is known as the director’s medium - so she, or he (they, that director) can cast whomever they want in whatever role…
  • And when one has investors to whom they must give account (as in answer), and those investors/producers want to know who it is that you’re going to consider for the role of “____” and will that actor bring cinema goers to the cinema show and you the director tell them that it’s so and so “insert no-name actor” and they go,…ah,…um,…who? Never heard of ‘em! (you see where this is headed)
  • And additionally, are we then saying that “trans-people” can only play trans-roles? This is an (in my opinion) “Fool’s Errand” - and no, and before you begin with the hate mail, please, I’m not calling anyone a fool. But it’s a “Lost Leader” kinda thing. If we say this kind’a thing, then we will ultimately paint ourselves into the proverbial corner from which there will be no escape.

So now let me put more than my “toe” in the water on the Leto controversy and Dallas Buyers Club by saying this: the text did not lend itself in any way (other than cursorily) to Rayon being transgender (in the sense most people would consider someone transgender.) Gender Non-Conforming, perhaps. Though it’s impossible for me, or anyone else for that matter to “see” inside the mind of the writer, I really didn’t get a feeling that the character (Rayon) was a person in the throes of transitioning. And as far as I can recall, no one referred to Rayon using the correct pronoun. I mean the story itself is about a guy, a straight guy who has found out that he has AIDS and he’s got a month to live and all that he’s faced with and how he’s going to push through and triumph over his circumstances.

But again, regarding the whole controversy over the Dallas Buyers Club and whether or not Jared Leto should have played this character as opposed to an (authentic) trans-woman, well I think his work was solid. My only desire would have been that we’d been allowed to see more of Rayon - Rayon the (trans) woman you kept telling us she was (in the press) afterwards, maybe then it would have been more fully flushed out in the picture.

And listen, I absolutely want trans-people to have a shot, to be considered for (quote unquote) non-trans-related roles in television, film and on the stage. And that one day it might be the norm for one of us, or if we really catch a break, for many of us to actually “smash through the Glass Ceiling” (there has been one woman I personally know who did just that back in the 60s-70s and her name is Aleshia Brevard (she’s also attached to play a role in Myrna). Aleshia played women’s roles. Period. (and no one knew of her past - ah, the days before the advent of the “on-line machine”)

And myself as an actor of many years, I have been cast as gay men on more than a couple of occasions for instance. And no, I wasn’t (in real-life) a gay man. But I am an actor and I can only hope that I delivered the truth in those roles, regardless.

We could go further back and look at John Lithgow’s work as Roberta Muldoon in George Roy Hill’s, The World According to Garp - Lithgow’s portrayal was superb and deftly handled and Hill didn’t use Roberta as the joke. (some may disagree with me and that’s ok)

Then we had Vanessa Redgrave’s work as Renee Richards in the TV movie, Second Serve. And again I will tell you that yet another actor delivered an honest performance.

Also, let’s not forget the indelibly haunting performance delivered by Lee Pace as Calpernia (Addams) in Soldier’s Girl (a Frank Pierson picture) - breathtaking master class work at every turn.

And now, thank god - today we have Jill Soloway’s show (which just got picked up for its Season 1 on amazon.com Prime) called, Transparent with Jeffrey Tambor in the role of Mort, a middle-age person who has finally made the massively impactful decision to transition from male-to-female. Seriously, who, which, what (authentic) trans-actor should Soloway have found to play Mort? I couldn’t think of a better person to play Mort than Tambor. He navigates the piece and plays the role as if he has his fingers lightly wrapped around the neck of a finely tuned Stradivarius - yeah, he’s that good. Period. (could I have played that role? yes, but I already have a vagina. oh no, here comes the “hate-mail” - ha!)

And lastly, my question back to anyone who’ll listen and not just “knee-jerk” react, is this: Do you want to change the dialogue? Seriously change the dialogue? In Hollywood and yes, even in Middle-America et al? Then we must change that dialogue from inside, from within the room “at-the-table”, not from outside the bubble looking in.

Which means we must (continue to) write, produce, shoot and screen our own work. Work that will tell the kind of stories we want and need to tell.

And this is exactly what we’re doing with Myrna. Myrna’s worldview isn’t going to plug into everyone’s philosophy, but I promise, we promise that she’ll tell the truth, the whole truth, “warts ’n all”.

Well, this concludes our interview. I just want to thank you, Marlo for taking time out from your busy day to answer a few questions that I had. I'm hoping this will educate as well as inform those who are either unexposed or those who are either transitioning themselves. This interview was a very important one. I'm completely honored to have had the chance to ask you these important questions.

And thank you, Debra, and all of us involved in the making of Myrna are very excited that you took the time to talk with me (about me) about the show.

To learn more about Myrna, please click here and "LIKE" her Facebook page so you can get the latest updates. Also, if you'd like to learn more about Marlo Bernier and what Myrna is all about, please visit this page for more detailed info.
Please CLICK HERE for more info on Myrna! 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!