Surprised by Life

I have been on the road for six months now.  And most of those Road Trips taken were without being able to drive my car.  My legal rights to a driver’s license buried in some endless bureaucracy.  At first, I felt like the inability to legally drive would become a boulder sitting right in the middle of my life and block my deep intentions to follow the flow of where the river would take me.  For a month or more I reacted and resisted this interruption in my perceived plan.  Once the likelihood of driving wherever my heart led, was challenged, I relaxed into the “interruption” and began to relate to it as a gift.  “What might this unwanted experience provide for me that I could not have known or perceived without it?”  And the answer was: “Surprise?”  The answer was,”The unexpected”.

What I am coming to understand is that MY “plans” are only one possible future.  And my attachment to the outcome of those plans can limit my life.  If I could have driven, my two week stay with my daughter with an intention to drive North to Maine would have me leaving Asheville.  But, because I had to pause for a moment, breath, let go of my attachment to any outcome, I stumbled into my own desire to create a website while waiting for what I thought would be a few weeks before the debacle of my driver’s license was behind me.

I interviewed two people for the job and hired one.   Mary Long brought love, joy and creativity to my creating a clearer identity and I hired her.  Richard Gannaway was equally as gifted, but somehow in our interview we never truly discussed my budding website, but fell into a mutual love for music, for his work as a composer, singer and musician with AO Music.  Richard sent me home that day with his newest album and my life changed forever.

The music did what music only can.  It opened a part of me long-buried and reminded me of a part of myself that had forgotten a core inspiration in my life which lead me to aligning my self with AO Music and it’s care for changing hearts and helping children.  My life ignited. If I had driven away as planned I would have missed Joy breaking into my life.

 “The Law of Attraction is responding to your thought, not to your current reality. When you change the thought, your reality must follow suit. If things are going well for you, then focusing upon what is happening now will cause the well-being to continue, but if there are things happening now that are not pleasing, you must find a way of taking your attention away from those unwanted things. You have the ability to quickly change your patterns of thought, and eventually… your life experience.”  Abraham

I stayed much longer in Asheville than had been planned.  I had time to sit inside of my own dreaming, my own inspiration and my deepest wants and desires and could not “drive away from them”.  The minute I claimed these hopes and dreams my energy changed, my happiness increased and as the law of attraction is trying to teach us, suddenly and immediately people, ideas, opportunities and gifts that MATCHED those dreams and inspirations began to flood into my life. I was offered the chance to write a screenplay and then to attend The Film School in Seattle.

Tom Skerritt, The Film School

I did not chase my dreams in my car. I couldn’t.  I did not make a ten point list of goals for the year to tick off one by one. I waited, I practiced deep self inquiry and I listened to promptings that had been drowned out by my assumptions about my life and what I should be doing.  And in return, the Universe was given room and space to spill into my life with opportunity that I could not have seen.

Since “having my wings clipped”, so to speak by unforeseen circumstances, I have found that in fact, I do not need a car.  That I do not need to spend all that money and gas for something that I have done just fine without.  I can stop polluting the planet.  I can create a slower pace instead of knowing that my car is right outside my front door so I can dash anywhere.  That has been another surprise.  The cost of a periodic taxi, taking the bus when I am in an urban area, being a passenger with a friend who I get a chance to chat with, and generally limiting how many places I need to be in a day has slowed me down to a rhythm that I am liking. That is healthier and more centering.

I have spent time on the ocean in Washington with Icelandic Ponies, I have lived in a hotel for a month while going to The Film School here is Seattle, I have aligned my life and heart with a cause to open the heart through music. I am nearly done with the first draft of the screenplay I have been asked to write.  And my website reflects the constant unfolding of me as I move toward being the most authentic expression of myself.  And come the end of May, one year after the death of my mother, my daughter, who I have been staying with in Asheville will be moving.  The lease is up.  And the question that comes back round is:  What’s next.  Where will my next stop be?  I cannot wait to be surprised!

I was directed in a scene by Tom Skerritt as the infamous “Mrs. Robinson” from the movie The Graduate.  Acting is NOT my forte so I will stick to being a writer!

And The Winner Is

I have been in The Film School here in Seattle for five days and some undetermined amount of hours.  I have lost track of when the sun rises and sets, since all my classes are in a grey walled room with no windows and too many banks of florescent lights.  Even though the Seattle Needle is right outside the front door, the Monorail runs overhead and I can smell the waterfront, I only can imagine these things since the four walls of the school are where I will spend every minute of daylight for the next three weeks.

I live by day in a utilitarian room built to show clips of now famous films at the drop of a hat.  Lights on. Lights off.  We then all scramble to determine the arc of the scene, the intent of the character and the question the protagonist is missing the answer to, but chases for 120 pages. We watch Cassavetes, Newman, Altman and countless directors shape films that will live in us forever.

I am in this room for about 10 hours in a day, with an hour for dinner that starts at 4pm when we should all just be having “happy hour” to drown our sorrows, as we realize we are green writers at best. We crawl out of the womb of film at 9pm.  Homework till midnight and by then who gives a crap when you showered last, you flop into bed with all your clothes on, forgetting when the last time you shaved your legs was.

At the end of each day I gather my arsenal of pens, papers, my computer, water bottles, energy bar wrappers that are strewn over the table I share with 19 other shell shocked soldiers of fortune, throw everything into an all too heavy back pack and head for the solace of my hotel. The Mediterranean Inn.  When I push through the now very familiar doors, Cory, who is on duty for the late night shift says, “Ms. Maya?  How was your day in class?  I smile, not having a clue what to say except for, “I found out today I like acting.  Who would have thunk it?”.   And, did I say I am exhilarated?  Did I say that I am exhausted but blissed out to the nth degree?  I will next time he asks.  And Cory always does.

This school is one of a kind, founded, directed and taught by those who have a burning desire to teach a new wave of screenwriters the ancient craft of story telling, long ago lost on Hollywood.  They are reminding us how to craft a story with rich characters and endless tension.  The hero at the center the quest is the driving force of the story and write with few words, with ample non-verbal information and with dialogue sparse and too the point.  Sound easy?  It is grueling. It is yoga with a pen.  It is bootcamp.

I am mentored by famous actors like Tom Skerritt of Alien, A River Runs Through It and Mash.  I have teachers who have written award winning screenplays, have won Oscars and are clear that “story” is everything to any movie and unless we as writers know how to tell that story we will go the way of thousands of writers every year: into disillusionment and back to our jobs at Starbucks.

And I have one amazing man who is changing my life by the minute.  Stewart Stern.  Oscar winning screenwriter of Rebel Without a Cause, The Ugly American and the right hand man for decades to Paul Newman and JoAnne Woodward.  He wrote Sybil with Sally Field and also won the Oscar.  Stewart is 90 years old.  He teaches us about the power of words.  When he speaks to us, he speaks of how his personal life informed every word he wrote for every movie he made.  Every mother was his mother, every troubled teen was his life up on the screen.  We all listen to him until the late hours as he shares his journals and his stories of how his life is the movie he writes over and over again.  Stewart reads to us complete with cookies and milk,

 I put the crusty bread and cold slabs of butter in my mouth with a spoonful of hot soup and the mixture of the cold and hot, the melting butter and the edge of bread in my mouth, took me back to another time when I was sick in bed as a child.  The combination brought back my mothers care of me when I was sick.  I suddenly recalled my entire boyhood room and my mothers steps up the stairs on a winter day. I remembered my mothers foamy egg nog, left by my bed in the sick room and the photo of Johnny Weissmuller I had seen in the barber shop window.  Mother had gone out to Columbus Ave., to the shop there and she bought it for me.  Her face was cold and her nose was running when she arrived back to our house and I made her tape his photo to my window pane so I could look at it from my bed.  I suddenly knew why I had wanted to be sick as a child;  so my father could find stature as the doctor in our house and my mother could show me love that was so hard for her to show most every day of my life.”

Stewart makes every story a tasty morsel that no screenplay can do without and that each of these stories are universal.  When he finally wears out and needs to pack up the dozen photos of him in WWII or the pictures of him with Paul Newman or winning an Oscar one after the other, I float home.  A dozen hours a day with Stewart would simply not ever be enough for me.

But, I am told that to be a writer, a real and deeply meaningful writer, I have to understand the story as the actor and the director would.  So, yesterday acting classes were followed by classes on direction.  What do I know about such things?  Well, apparently more than I thought. And I am thrilled with the opportunity.

At the beginning of the day yesterday I was handed a surprise script.  I had to ACT!  The first of the day.   Piece of cake I thought as I shook, knowing I had never acted a day in my life.  Maybe I would play a pensive housewife, or maybe a political figure with wisdom like Meryl or Helen Mirren and with something poignant to say.  I hoped for a meaty roll to test my true metal as an actor.  But, that is not what happened.

I got the part of a 16 year old girl siting in the back seat of a Subaru with my 34 year old leach of a professor, played by the hottest young guy in the class.  Not only did I have to be 16, but a sexually molested messed up teen, one that had never done drugs before and I had, in the end, to come on to my professor with a out of the box line that went something like this:  “I know you want to fuck me, so just go on and do it!”.  I fell out of my chair hoping that someone much more qualified would jump at the chance for a juicy part like this, but NO.  The job fell to me.  And this was the first scene of the class.

Me, Hot Guy and Tom Skerritt directing.  Oh and did I say I had to jump my co-star in that cramped back seat and have a long passionate kiss?  This new married guy with a 20 month old boy?  Yep!  That’s right.  Me the grandmother of the group and Hotty Boy. I knocked it out of the park, to my own surprise.  Who knew there was an actor lurking in the depths of my screenwriting?  And tomorrow I get to direct another students scene that looks something like The English Patient.

But, before the day was over a surprise guest walked into the classroom.  This woman was so unassuming that I thought that she was a secretary at the school or maybe she was someones mother in class.  Thelma Shoonmaker.  Three Oscars, 22 nominations,  and the editor for all of Scorsese’s films.  She just sat in a chair and talked about 40 years as an editor for films that will go down in history.  This is a daily occurrence.  And I am only on day…5.  16 to go. Pinch me now!

Thelma Schoonmaker

So, it is midnight and I think I will wash my hair, wash out a pair of underwear in the sink, put some hot water to boil on my one hot plate and go to bed.  All I can say is that I am nearly 62 years old  and finally finding out the truth about following my heart and doing what I deeply love.  This choice leads to more of the same.  More of what I love, things with more heart and inspiration and way more joy.  I wonder why it has taken me so long to simply do what I love?  Now I will get to find out if the money will follow. It is certain to.  Or maybe I just won’t even care. This adventure is already worth its “wait” in gold.

From Rural to Urban

New Stop….Seattle.  I have just spent one month in a place, cut off from the United States but still part of Washington.  Point Roberts.  You have to go over the Canadian Border, drive a bit and then go back over the US border to get there. Then to go shopping at the nearest Safeway equivalent you have to do that all over again.  The rub?  Sometimes the border crossings are an hour wait.

But, Point Roberts turned out to be a haven for my writer’s soul:  Pastoral, wild, rural and  bordered on three sides by the Strait of Georgia. And if the solace was not wonderful enough, the place was crawling with film industry writers, producers, camera men and great interest in the screenplay I am writing.  I found that as I kept aligned with my inspiration to tell a story, to care for self and find joy in the beauty around me, I continued to experience the magic of living in the flow.  Wonderful people and experiences have flooded my life and led me to deeper and more meaningful expressions of myself.  But time was up and I needed to head for Seattle.  My next home for a month.

Seattle is where I will be attending The Film School ( to immerse myself in a month long intensive bootcamp for screenwriters.  Working with Tom Skerritt  (A River Runs Through It) will be amazing.  My hope?  To polish a form of writing that is not a perfect fit for wordy ole me and to create a final version of the story I am currently writing.  As I will most likely be the age of most of the other participants parents, I am excited to have this opportunity to strip down to the most basic me, pull out all my writing weaknesses and build my skill as a screenwriter.  Somehow, at this moment I am remembering Demi Moore in GI Jane and a shudder runs up and down my spine. Twelve hour days, six days a week with Sunday for sleep and laundry.

And, since I last wrote about my travels, my trials and my over the top excitement about the life I am living, the following things have happened:  I was ultimately denied a driver’s license after five months of effort with my lawyer.  I am quietly considering my options and have not a bone in my body that is having a problem with my new non-driver status.  My not driving has led me to more experiences and people I would never have had or met otherwise. I am determining which radical path I will take to solve the issue.  But ultimately  I  have found out first hand that no one really needs a car.  No one.

I have met producers interested in the film I am working on and I have joined as a full partner with AOMUSIC which I count as the greatest gift from my not driving, for if I had my driver’s license way back in September I would have been off to NYC and I would never had met Richard Gannaway, who is the heart behind the music that I believe can change the world.  It has certainly changed mine. (please read about AO and Richard on my new website

I have a new website which has been the best therapy I have ever done with people I love helping me to create myself in the world…. anew.  I have attended an Oscar Gala hosted by Tom Skerritt and won a raffle that benefits The Film School, to do something I have wanted to do all my life:  Fly Fish!   And fly fish with Tom and his wife for three days on the Yakima River here in Washington at the Canyon River Ranch Resort.  Pinch me now. Gotta get some waders!

I have also teamed up with Todd Huston to start an independent production company, Light Show Productions, to create films with heart, soul, integrity and inspiration.  Todd has been wonderful to write about, wonderful to work with and he is now headed back to Missouri to the little cabin where we had our “Deliverance” experience.   I am oddly happy not to be going back again if I may say so myself and will just stay tucked in here at the Mediterranean Hotel in Queen Anne.  Hotel living is pretty great.  Simple, small, efficient, friendly and has a 24 hour business center and a coffee shop on the ground floor.  My Leo self really likes this.

And this tiny accounting of life in the flow for a Gypsy without a car, is just scratching the surface of the amazing things that have been rushing into my life since I made this commitment to living on the road as a way to discover what makes me happy.   What I have found out it that I never once had to even look for happiness.  It was there all along and the Universe simply was poised, ready for me to  open my heart and my arms to life in it’s fullest.  Happiness has been that easy all along.


Next Stop: The Pacific Northwest

At the most northern border of Washington sits a little peninsula called Point Roberts, which is the only spit of land that is not hooked to the United States, but is still called America, since you have to go into Canada and then back over the border again into Point Roberts to get to it at all.  Three sides of water, 1700 people and a wild terrain make it an unusual destination for anyone.  But not for a writer.

I am here for a month to finish a first draft of the screenplay I have been hired to write.  There is no cell phone service for me and even land line service is unreliable. That is good.  I have the fortune of waking up ever morning to opening my large windows that look out on an idyllic scene.  Right in front of my house is a large winter pasture, filled with Icelandic Ponies that exude a kind of old world energy with their shaggy coats, long trailing tails of rust and black that blow in the persistent wind, and their plush manes.  It is a frequent sight to be watching them and as they are sipping at a winter pond in the field, a Bald Eagle will joint them for a bath.  Everyone completely at home with one another. Everyone certain of their own unique nature and living it without restraint.  Oh if that were true for all of us humans.

And, looking past the field, are the Strait of Georgia, a grey blue ocean with rolling hills of Canada in the distance.  I have not seen the whales yet and do not know their winter migration habits.

So, The Point is full of writers, retired folks, old timers, hermits, eccentrics and transplants like me.  Individuals and families, most of them women so far, that find the seclusion, the simplicity and the rural flavor and rhythm to be just what they are looking for and have moved here from all over the world.  I can see the benefits immediately for me as a writer.

And getting here was momentous.  I left Asheville on the 17th and flew to Denver for two big events.  The first was to meet with my Lawyer about my non-existent driver’s license.  Last judge, Higher Court, made an appeal to change the spelling on the original name change document that was ten years ago, and once again, an inexplicable NO.  So, a new tack is being taken.  I am going to Canada and getting an International Driver’s License.  Now this is creative.  Please send good thoughts my way that this will be easy and simple.  And of course Marriage is not ruled out, so a lottery might just be created in the future.

There is a letter in the mail to my Congressman, I never got an audience with the Governor of Colorado so a letter to him is underway and I am almost finished with an expose for Channel Nine in the special interest category.  We will see where any of it leads, but it is certain that I am having ample opportunity to use my voice in creative ways.

The second big event was re-uniting with a dear friend who I have not seen for ten years , who now lives in Sweden. She is an exceptional international painter and brought a body of her newer work to Denver.  She has had an extraordinary life and was graced to lived inside the wonderful Miracle of finding love on 9/11 while others experienced  the endless losses of that day.  I am so privileged to know her and trying to catch each other up on our many twists and turns of life over a decade filled with love, death, children, changing careers, travels and aging was quite an exercise.

So, I am here now in Point Roberts to write and prepare for my next leap of faith.  Just before leaving for the West Coast for some of my very own seclusion, I was seized with a knowing that I wanted to apply to The Film School in Seattle.  I have wanted to attend their Screenwriters Bootcamp for years, but my faith in myself as a screenwriter was not strong enough and time never seemed to be right.

The school is the creation of actor Tom Skerritt ( and has reached international acclaim for their commitment to helping writers remember the art of story telling and character development, which we do not see much any more out of Hollywood.  So, as I can feel the power of the story I am writing about the triumph on one man’s spirit, I decided to apply for their Bootcamp in March.  Then of course I noticed they only took 25 people internationally.

There they were.  The voices at my left ear whispering:  “Maya what are your thinking? You are 30 years older than every applicant, you have no production experience on your side of the ledger, you are a woman and you know how that has been and always will be in Hollywood, and you know you won’t get in so what are you thinking…WHAT are you thinking?”   So I applied and told the voices to shut up.

I got in.

Wow is all I can say.

I will leave here on Feb 25th for Seattle, renting a room with a kitchenette and starting a 6 day a week, 12 hour a day writers dream, complete with no time to shower or sleep and lots of coffee I don’t even drink. I need to relearn the bus system, remember how to take a backpack everywhere with my computer and camera, find a local health food store that is open very early in the morning, and forget about all those supplements I usually take and just dive in.

I am so very appreciative of this opportunity.  It seems that when I simply quiet myself and listen intently to what my guiding voice from my heart tells me, no matter how unfathomable, how outlandish, how inconvenient or how much money I think I don’t have  etc…..I am always led to exactly where my soul needs to be and most of the time I did not even really know my soul needed to be there.

After four months, it is clear that living in the Flow of Life, fully surrendering all control, is the only way I want to be living from this time forward. And oddly enough as I arrive at this commitment it is exactly what is called for to live in the year 2012.   I have come to realize that the most important part of living is for me to be deeply aware of what brings me Joy and Inspiration. Period.  People think that living for love, or living for what brings happiness means that you don’t do the responsible parts of life.  That is not true.  You just bring a happier more inspired person to those tasks we have to do to be a responsible global citizen.

All the years of thinking life was about what I DID and not about just BEING happily in myself were years that I know I created my own ill-health and my own struggle to do the right thing, to do the acceptable things, to do too much and overdo it in so many ways that never led me to a sense of calm knowing who I am and why I am here.  I am glad to have found my way out of that illusion and into a space in my life only filled with possibilities.