Transcript for Carla Vega: Our Next Neighbor

Arielle: Carla and I met on a weekend trip to Florida West Coast beach back in 2002. Both of our then boyfriends were involved in an Off Broadway show and we have been invited to come along for the ride. When I soon after found myself living in LA for a brief period Carla was my closest friend, inviting me into a woman's collective of incredibly talented and diverse theatre artists who met at St almost village in LA that community of women especially Carla helped me through one of the darkest periods of my young adulthood.

 

She's one of the people I make a strong effort to see every time I have gone to LA over the past 20 years. Her conversations always inspire me, and I hope you will come away from this episode feeling what I always feel in Carla's presence. She is a multidisciplinary performing artist to assert her talents live on stages on TV and on national and international award-winning films as an actor, voiceover artist, writer, poet, solo show creator, theater, director, and ensemble creator, singer, martial artists, dancer, yogi, and teaching artists. We will share her full bio in the show notes page and hopefully we'll be linking to some clips of her most recent multimedia one woman show produced during COVID that we talked about in this episode.

Hi, Carla.

Carla: Hi Arielle. Thanks for having me.

Arielle: Thanks for being here. Everybody you just heard a little intro about Carla, but Carla and I have known each other for almost 20 years.

Carla: Isn't that crazy.

Arielle: That's wild. So, and we fit in each other's lives but always only connect again it's just feels like it was a second. So, so I want to ask you, because the screening you went to, I didn't do the thing that I usually do where I have people fill out these questions, so you haven’t even filled these questions out.

 

So, when you hear the phrase belonging in the USA. What does that evoke for you, belonging in the USA?

Carla: It feels like something we're all searching for. It’s why people come here, maybe, I feel like it's also, you know the work you do with it, with the term, it's a, it's a sound, it's a healing because so many of us are trying to find our way, or find a sense of community of family, of, you know where we fit in. Yeah, there's a lot of, especially in LA, you know, with the drive everywhere there's, you know, we're really spread out so it's something we must search for, you know, it's not just automatically built into our village or built into our living space. Even so, yeah, just belonging in general is a phrase that has been coming up for me as part of my healing of just remembering that I belong. Not just in the United States or in America but here the middle nowhere on the planet. Exactly.

Arielle: Just because I don't know if you've been to my website lately but it's basically, I came to this realization that it was so something that was so deep rooted in me that I've come to over years which was just the basic premise that if you belong, if you exist you belong right there's no, there's nothing else that's just true. If you are here on this planet as a spirit you incarnated, you belong here and then, that doesn't mean you feel like you belong. That might be your journey in life might be to find that sense of belonging, but the basic truth is you're here you belong.

 

Carla:  Yes, and I wrote that I wrote that in my, in my journal, as I was writing the end of my, my latest solo show what current messages now does My Grandmother Hand for me. And that was one of them, you know, if you were here you belong, and it was the beyond the veil sequence of video at the end of my piece and that was one of the strongest things that came through you.

Arielle: Beautiful and everyone, I just got the privilege of seeing this beautiful one-woman piece that she performed through a theatre company in San Francisco but over Zoom. So, I got to be there, and it was incredible. You were channeling your grandmother. And sort of like at different ages because it was, it was beautiful, it was like, multimedia taken to the nth degree. And like really harnessing technology but it was so present, and it was so powerful, and it was so about this theme I feel like because, you know, I think that the sense of belonging or not it's just part of the sort of foundation. And the reason I'm using the term belonging the USA it's kind of the roots of this country this issue right like who belongs here who decides then all these sort of warring factions right, but like you come from a family that has various immigrant backgrounds right or not really because I was thinking about this I was like no way

 

I'm going to talk to you like, are we go such an interesting example of just what is like, how does that fit into this concept of the US right and identity and all of that but in general I would say being a person of color in this country, any kind of minority. There is a blanket message, you don't belong. The way that these other people do, and you must prove yourself more and there's just a lot more barriers, so I feel like your piece brought up a lot, but your grandmother was clearly somebody who, regardless of all that had a lot of spirit and joy, and wisdom that see that you were channeling so it was just gorgeous.

 

Carla: Thank you. Thank you, even, even just being half Puerto Rican and thinking about her journey from Puerto Rico to San Francisco eventually. Even for me, I'm like, Am I an immigrant do I come from immigrants because Puerto Rico was part of it, you know, so this even the sense of, you know where my identity, belongs and where I come from. And again, just using that piece as an example. What really, really, was one of the deepest themes for me was that no matter who you are, you do belong, no matter where you come from or whatever socio economic, you know, background. You don't have to change or do anything to change the world. My grandmother was very humbled simple person who the single mother grew up in the projects and in San Francisco and, you know, didn't wasn't a grandiose person who fulfilled these big dreams for herself, but her voice matters. Her presence was needed to tell the story.

Arielle: It matters and you're in, you're telling her story or pieces of her story is this way of just celebrating reminding, I mean, we all do have this legacy we all do make a difference, you wouldn't be here without her, you wouldn't be who you are without whatever riches she brought you there not in the form of financial when we capitalistic country which celebrates those kinds of achievements but that is not the only way to leave a mark right.

Carla: And value, and to look at value, the value of a person you know, because we have everyone on tick tock trying to get all these followers and you must wear this and that and just really honoring the value of anybody.

 

Arielle:  Well, everyday people, I mean, and that's why I'm saying the stories of our neighbors and we're all neighbors and this is just, every single I mean, I've said this so many times and I feel like people kind of give me a sideways look but I really do feel like if I every time I have sat down and just really listen to somebody's story, as much as they feel like sharing with me, it's always an inquiry. Everyone on this one is on an incredible journey. There's not one exception to that. I agree. And so, being able to tune into that and make space for it. And then do what you're doing, which is taking it to that next level of, I don't know I feel like it's really affirming to see what the work you put into that piece over many years right because it's evolved. It started as one piece that you were doing, and it's now become this new piece.

 

Yeah. And I feel like a lot of people maybe people listening to this have that voice in their head, we all sometimes especially creative expresses to have this voice of like, who am I to do this, why is the story matter. And you're clearly demonstrating that and living that out and, and I'm sure you have those thoughts. I can imagine.

Carla: Oh yeah, yeah. And I think because I chose to deeply listen to grandmother's spirit or honor the connection that I have with her or honor those little moments of like a solo show from eight years ago, let me apply to this solo festival and maybe I can do it again you know and then letting it evolve into what it what it came to be, and making it current and relatable to now but, and then if I'm still constantly like staying open to the feedback of that my voice matters, you know, and trying to penetrate that.

 

Arielle: I feel like somewhere there's some cousins of yours on there somewhere. Yeah, I feel like someone was saying that you really did capture her, and I think that, yeah. Whether you, you know, for me that I didn't know your grandmother, but I guess, and I wonder if this connects and your grandmother, but as a kid. Where do you remember feeling like you belonged or if you did have that feeling ever?

Carla:  It's a great question. I'm having a vision of being at my uncle's house and with all my cousins that come from my Filipina. And we're at my grandparents’ house, my aunt and uncle's house, and we were sliding down their stairs with cardboard. Cardboard pieces of cardboard, and just the joy of just playing with my cousins, you know, and running around and doing those simple things. Another place I feel like I belonged was at my dad's karate school in San Francisco. When I would have that black belt mentality. It's like a good place to put the zone, you know, I got in the zone I knew what I was doing and then when I would do karate tournaments when I was young, I wasn't ever like competitive in that sense of like, wanting to be other people but I knew that I was competitive in the sense of how can I do my best and Did I do my absolute best for myself. So, when I push myself in that way, that's when I feel like I belong. I also feel like I belong in the theater in a black box, you know, hours can go by in rehearsal, and 12 hours and I'm like, still like to live with creativity and ideas it's just the coolest that collaborative spirit.

Arielle: When did you start in that space?

Carla:  Well, I was doing like little plays and stuff in elementary school in middle school I started to practice more theater I took an after-school theater program and then went to AC T during high school. [Arielle] What is it? [Carla] It's an American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. It was a part of a young conservatory; you just didn't study and being in that collaborative spirit of theater and create. You know, creating, figuring out what it was that I felt like when all my senses were, you know, used, that's when I felt like, fully present, and I belong.

Arielle: Yeah, and I mean I know not everybody gets the chance to even experience theater, right and some people are naturally drawn to, and some people aren’t, but I just really firmly feel that regardless of your, I don't know quote unquote talent or abilities in that regard I think it's just good. It's amazing, empathy training right it's amazing. Yeah, psycho psychological training, it's this amazing training to be like humans beingness, like, let's to get the most pivotal and deep parts of what it means to be human is to theater studying at its best is right, you're in like the emotions, the relationships conflict that problem solving, I mean ensemble gets at all that it is again.

Carla: Yeah

Arielle:  And I think the way that maybe if you've never done theater and you look at it from the outside it can seem like show off a or performance but like for me theater was always a space of absolute sort of surrender to the unexpected, the unknown, fear right because there's a lot of confronting yourself right, and also being there for other people listening deeply and holding space for you know magic to happen and witnessing that that there's so much magic in transformation that's what I really felt coming through you to what like beautiful and it's, you know, Gus. I think that is a huge challenge at this time, right, that's the missing of that connection for people who are in the theatre arts like that they will perform when you feel the audience energy, but I feel like he did a beautiful job, he rose to the occasion you brought that spirit to Zoom, which is not easy to do.

 

Carla:  So very hard and so unexpected. I really dislike. Okay, we have this opportunity. We're part of a solo Theatre Festival. What does that mean?  Am I just going to like to find a black box and like set up my tripod, you know, but that's not going to work? Sorry I just happen to have this footage; I happen to be a technical director what the possibilities where she happens to be savvy and bringing all these different technical aspects. Later layered into Zoom. And then, you know, working with the FBI director but I also wanted to say as far as the healing power of like theater and ensemble. I was working. I've been working with theater productions here, and it's a multicultural theater organization that really works with, with refugees, and I did programs with them just the last two years I think last year especially, two years ago, we worked with refugees from, from, from different parts of Africa.

And we created an ensemble presentation at the end of this program with them and they have another one coming up actually this coming Monday on Zoom, which is now transferred to zoom but when I did it, we did it live and to support their voices to give them a platform to share their stories and then to support them through this VC theatre game was a really healing place for them, healing process for them in their transition being here, and, and then for just to stand as a person from here and holding space for them as a welcome, you know, was really powerful.

So, there can be so much healing and empathy and honoring of each other's stories and just connecting on a human level to bridge, you know, to bridge us to a more peaceful place and more, you know, connected. Yes, exactly connected place was 1000 pounds, that's powerful, because there's so much power in theater so I, that's where I come from and that's what I love so much.

Arielle: Is that where today you feel like you belong the most and because you also have a love in your bio and I just I love because I'm like this too  you're just so multitalented you have so high here this is this is this is and it's like yes, celebrate all of the allness of who you are, you know so much of our society I think does sort of fit us into these narrow boxes but you do so many things so I mean you don't have to narrow down for me here either, but like where do you feel the greatest sense of belonging, these days, especially in these really, you know, difficult, strange times of potential feelings of isolation and when you're used to being such a community builder.

 

Carla:  Well, at this moment. I feel. I spent a lot of time writing. And you know, over the last year and I am part of a writing community right now. That is really making me feel inspired and having a sense of belonging. I'll just plug, Kevin pals writing workshops, it's a group on Facebook and we have workshops, free workshops right now, every Tuesday, seven o'clock East Coast time but just happens to be gay, he offered some free writing workshops and this amazing community came together for supporting each other on this journey and that's usually so isolating, you know when you're writing by yourself and you don't really have that unless you're like at an open mic or something but after the end of the first 10 week course we ended up creating a, an anthology, and now it's up on Amazon. And there's this epic anthology called 2020 the Year That Changed America.

 

Arielle: Amazing we'll put it in the show notes so we can promote that. Yeah, I didn't know about that. That's awesome.

 

Carla: Yeah, now I'm a published poet, and, and part of the organizing and support team to help these workshops continue but that's a real sense of belonging that I'm, you know I've been kind of putting my energy towards because it's been a lot of fun but um, generally, I would, I feel like I belong when I'm on the dance floor in my healing dance class with bare feet and drums, you know, just when I'm in community doing things that heal me internally you know I, when I took a yoga teacher training and I'm on the mat with everybody just breathing, you know. So, but yeah, it's a little harder to find a sense of belonging and community in isolation.

 

Arielle: Because we're recording, you may be listening to this later but we're recording this in February of 2021 So, we're going on almost a year of this and almost you and I know we've, we've spoken maybe a couple times but we definitely spoke early on in COVID and that was a beautiful reconnection time I felt really I still remember that conversation and I felt like at the beginning of this time there was a lot of reaching out and connecting and then I don't know about you but I got.

Then I got really into my introverted space and sort of, for my family nesting are just sort of like, okay, but I want to be outside, I don't want to be on the computer I don't want to be on technology I want to see what happens. Why, you know, remove those, those kinds of connections, even though there's so it's so limiting right now what we how we can connect. This is very bizarre sort of very bizarre but very healing year, in many ways for everyone.

 

Carla: It's been an absolute it's been an ebb and flow, and, and, in that sense to the other sense of belonging, where I've been able to find is at the ocean, you know, luckily, I don't live too far from, from the ocean and so to be able to take those walks it feels safe, to write right at the edge of the water where the breeze is coming in, you know, and that's where I feel the safest right now, and really thankful that I get to experience that when I can, because it is it's an ebb and flow and there's been so much like wanting to reach out and then like being inward.

 

Arielle: You know, the retreat connects and retreat connectivity but yeah there's something about the water, particularly because I feel that to have that connection with water. And there's something just about the massiveness of like an ocean or even like Michigan has this huge body of water that just for me, it can be really humbling, but humbling healing and like, ah, like I just know Okay, I am. It's how I also felt the moment feel the mountains like it's just this tiny little droplet of water. There is so much more than what you know, what is happening to me or what I'm struggling with or what I'm celebrating you, and it's just, it's a blip and it's not to minimize anything in my life but to just perspective.  

 

Carla:  I guess it's about, historically, put things in perspective.

 

Arielle: So, what is freedom to you and how do you define that?

 

Carla: Okay. Good question. Yeah, it is freedom is that sense of abandon that I have when I'm, you know, when I can take up as much room on the dance floor, as I want freedom is when I can share my voice. Freedom is singing to me, like I have this like love and fear relationship to singing, and I've been on a journey of liberation and freedom is that liberation to me, that sense of, again, abandoned, and no limits, no doubt, facing fear and doing it anyway.

 

Arielle:  It's like the creative journey is always that process right where you I mean, I think that's the biggest myth maybe that I, people who are like the difference between people who are making things and putting them out and the ones who maybe want to but aren't yet. Yeah, I mean just people who don't maybe think that there is this place you're going to get to where there's no fear and that's just not, at least for me, there's always fair. Right.

 

Carla: Exactly. And I was just going to say it's that it's that time of getting out of your own way and doing it anyway. You know, when I listened to that little voice and make that call when I listen to that little voice and write it down and go with the idea, you know, we're. When you see someone that you want to talk to when you do it anyway, even though you might, you don't know if you should because they're afraid or whatever it is.

 

Arielle: So those impulses follow.

 

Carla: Yeah, it's like listening like knowing your impulses listening to them.

 

Arielle: And I think that's a learning thing I got trusting them, but I got that type of like from all my theater training to with this. This awareness of my impulses now got, I grabbed so it's a weird, weird I just feel as someone who like I have the impulse to like to lift that person here but I'm not going to do that. I'm aware of that. That's probably too strange but I wonder what that is about am I looking for connection, am I just being, I want to be weird and goofy and express that wacky part of myself was a case of bottled up when it was simply, although I did get to perform on the subway once again. And that was so much fun because it got me to finally just see sort of wild on the subway in New York. There's a point of like dining right freedom can be a feeling of this fully showing up as yourself.

 

Carla: Yeah, and it speaks to like to the glass ceilings that are there, outside of us, and then the ones that we have that I've created for myself and because of constantly breaking through so I'm constantly asking where can I find my liberation, you know, how can I liberate myself from my own glass ceilings because really that's, that's the key not fighting the outside one as much for me. If I can, if I can relieve myself from my own, I can get somewhere.

 

Arielle: Yeah, and I know I can't remember who said this, but I know there's some wise person said something about the only limitations we never really faced, are the ones we place on ourselves right. And that's what we're breaking through I mean there are these external barriers that in society so we can talk about those, but then there are always those people who find the way through that and you're like, Oh, well, what was the did what made the difference. Right. And I think it must partially have to do with just, I don't know us, illiberal in internal liberation, right just saying, I got this. So, when have you felt the freest?

Carla: It's like that feeling on the dance floor, but I have a I have a moment in my mind when I was in India, traveling to an ashram and upon a bus by myself. The early in the morning and I stuck my head a little bit out the window because the cars are like, I just felt that breeze, I felt that air you know that that foreign air, or that freshness, Knowing that I'm kind of lost, nobody knows where I am, but I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and open to like whatever magic was to come, which did, but just that feeling of that breeze, you know, that it was like alive in this yes those little moments of feeling alive, you know, I just recently went to the beach and I looked out, I had this impulse to look out and shoot the ocean.

And I looked back on it the next day and there were dolphins that I didn't even see I was just like taken by these waves that were coming and I'm like, and I have a little connection with these out myself and so I was like oh of course I was being called by the dolphins and then there they were. Remember to look out further than the waves crashing, you know. And remember, you know our connection, you know, there being so what was the question. Where were you feel the freest? And then I guess also like talking to like-minded people who we were gave each other, you know, I mean even in this this conversation we've said the same words at the same time a couple of times already where I thought it was going to say, you know, so just meeting people on a wavelength of the heart, flow. Yeah, and letting that flow.

 

Arielle: I mean it's huge and, and I, and I feel like there is risk involved in that, which, again, it's that being maybe afraid, like getting comfortable with the fear of like oh I'm going to say something, It might sound really weird to you, like oh my gosh, that's exactly what you were thinking but you have to be the one that like take that risk to say the thing because I feel like even in how you and I met, we could have just been two women dating some guys on some beach and some same show, we could have just not really had a real connection right. I don't really remember anything about that trip except meeting you.

 

Right, and it was one that was probably one, one or two days most I mean, I don't even know. Whatever it was, it was like we were vulnerable enough with each other are brave enough to really feel that connection, that has been decades long doesn't mean we talk every week or anything like that, it just means that there's sort of that wavelength that vibe that you can trust, just allowing yourself to trust someone that you don't know, quote unquote, that is a stranger, and that's that sort of concept is what I am hoping to open people's hearts to in my films and in this podcast that people can be a little bit more brave in approaching and trusting their impulses to approach someone that they don't know though may look different or may seem different or whatever.

And then just being themselves and really showing up and being and being present for that person pinback just what a gift, I mean that's been my favorite thing in life in a way of my whole life and the more I do that, the more I guess free I feel and the more connected I feel.

 

Carla: You've always had this openness or curiosity, you know, and I guess we do on some levels but just so I appreciate that about you and I think that's kind of magnetized, for, for a moment there. But even in this, you know, before this, and like I'm not quite feeling present but, you know, I'm, I'm willing and I'm practicing more and more now to just breathe and be present and, you know, there is no right answer there is no tests happening right now and can I accept myself as I am in this moment. And can I listen to you ask me a question, and breathe and take it in and trust my answer, right, just trust what comes out and so I think our relationship is so beautiful because it's built on honoring Where we at, and that authenticity of, of just connecting, you know?

 

Arielle: Throughout many, many different paths. Our lives have taken. And I think, you know I just listen to another podcast and I'm totally blanking on what it was, but it's become my become like my password this year and other things with radical self-love like to go beyond acceptance, you might want to change your password. It's a little different than that, I just, that's it. Yes, if you really wanted to try you could probably figure it out. No, but no radical self-love, is this concept that, you know, just to remind ourselves like beyond tolerance, Acceptance all those things, there's this deep well of love that we can have for ourselves, and I think if we have that.

Sometimes it may be easier to have it for someone else right and then that mirror of that and they can do it for you and then it can start to sort of trickle into yourself but being open to that. And this, I feel like we've been talking about this whole time, and this is a new question that I'm adding to these questions because I really realized the other day I was like, oh and I wanted to be the first person I asked this question to what is power.

 

Carla:  Wow, it's so interesting because I have a love kind of hate relationship with that word because power has been used to oppress us. You know and colonial capitalists, you know, American life has dictated and suppressed my power in so many ways, many ways. And as a woman I've given away my power, or was born, not feeling like I had much, you know, so it's been a process of reclaiming it this whole time. What I can say is that, that kind of ties into an aspect of self. Self-love right and worth and value. That's where we have what is true power, right.

And for me, I've been Reclaiming my sense of identity. The idea of decolonization, you know, moving this society or in this world in which I came in the American life, and all the impositions of society that tells me who I'm supposed to be, and stripping those away and going into where my where my people come from, what are the indigenous ways of the land that you know and the most natural way in which we share, share our lives here, and survive. I think power is really sustainability what sustainable. You know what, and what nourish is kind of a weird answer to your question.

 

Arielle: No, it's a resonates so much, because I guess I was watching. I watched the film, the new film, Judas and The Black Messiah, about the murder of Fred Hampton Did you see that yet?

 

Carla: I haven't yet.

Arielle: Well, my documentary, about Michael D McCarty is about the same chapter in some ways or at least part of the film is because I just kept thinking about that phrase fight the powers people. And what was that mean, right, well, how are we going to embody that. What do we, what are we asking for in that what kind of power, and I know I hear a lot of people talking about this sort of difference power over power with power to the different ways to define it, but I agree that I mean for me yes, it is some, it has something to do with decolonizing ourselves?

Carla: Yeah, I feel like it's partially, being willing to break through and change to something new, but that's something and that something new is connected to remembering what was before all of this. I mean even, even this conversation, we're, we're made to say we have to answer things this way there's a linear process to, you know, everything, and there's not, you know, like every day, like we've been going in circles and like taking things here and like abstractly like talking about our visions and, and that's okay, like I've been practicing. That's okay, I'm not going to apologize about that, and that's also. That's also the feminine flow, it's a spiral, it's circular, it’s the divine movements, you know, of our existence, and we were taught to, you know, block it off.

 

Arielle: And put it away, pack it in and get it into a tangible bite size marketable package, right.

 

Carla: Yeah. you know, it's the practice and then feel like that I have that turnout in my own way. Okay like what do? I do next to like pay the rent, or whatever, but to really allow that to not apologize about the way we're, you know the way my mind works the way this circular conversation is going. It is okay. And it's okay that we're not going to stop exactly at one hour.

Arielle: You know what I mean? That there's not these parameters that are externally imposed but that's kind of what I always feel about my films or whatever it's like I'm not going to say, sort of what I mean maybe, I don't know, maybe I will never be commercially successful, maybe I will like, I don't want to limit myself that way there but I'm not willing to be like, Okay, I'm going to say these lines in this way so that you can understand this thing better, I just want to make this thing and then you can watch it and you can take it how you take it.

Yeah, it's like the whole concept of just being independent and I think all the connections, I have been what you've been saying to power. I mean, you are standing there in your karate dojo like being in power right or like even the power of sliding down the stairs right there, I just went sledding today with my daughter. And it was so scary. Really scary, but I felt a power at the same time, in my able-bodied miss and being able to slide and potentially fall but still be okay, right. and I think this about all the things we were talking about with creativity too like creativity is, is power. Expressing itself expressing his power.

Dance is power like, I think that's why I'm asking this question why because the way power has been defined is not the only definition of power, the way power has sewn up in the world is not. Its only way. We have to talk about it in a different way or conceptualize in a different way to start to bring that to the forefront more, or, you know, it's powerful that you have a connection to dolphins and that you happen to pull out and feel this impulse to pop his camera and not even know that they were communicating with you I believe that right power that you have the power of magic right the power of channeling. Those are all powers. So, yeah, I just wanted. I'm glad you were the first person.

 

Carla: Oh, yeah, it's not it's not always like we're fighting something to change something, and I always come back to myself and like these little conversations are these moments of breaking my own glass ceiling are these one on one conversations that he'll or that speak to something in maybe one person. I really, really believe in the ripple effect. And, and the power of creativity and the belief and possibility, beyond what we can imagine right to, to push through some of these hard things that we're facing.

 

Arielle: That to affirm to affirm that we all individually, I do feel we all individually have power, nobody, just like nobody can give you belonging. Nobody can give you power. Ours is something you have just like the longest something you have I know that maybe people, that's probably a controversial thing to say and people may not agree with that, but I feel like, deeply, it's just, it's not something you have to earn it's like worthiness, like you said, it's not a sin you are worthy. You are here, and owning that sentiment, I feel like almost all my favorite creative pieces or literature, novels or better films, ultimately centered around that, that sort of journey of the human spirit to own oneself and own one's own “beingness”.

Carla: Right

Arielle: The point of it all, maybe.

Carla: Totally. It comes through, like you said that, you know, if we're here we belong and if you know I'm seeing that little spark of life and if we're here we belong, we have this spark of life, and that spark is power.

Arielle: Essentially, and it doesn't have to do with what age you are right? Because babies have a ton of power if you look at babies and babies the world. In some families if you're if you're lucky enough to be born into a family and you're the kind of baby that has everyone's around, knows the world revolves them. A baby has power. No, not everybody gets that experience but gradually over time, all I think we can come to that.

But I think storytelling is a power that we collectively like you were talking about the refugees you're working with. That is something that unites us, no matter what country culture you're from wherever country background. We all have this origin of storytelling as being human. And story. Stories are used for so many different purposes. But I guess, how do you see yourself as a storyteller and using story what is, you know, what have you seen as the power of story or maybe how you use it to shift the us and them paradigm. It's a closer consciousness.

Tell me about your storytelling process or journey?

Carla: Yeah, yeah, I love that, I think, you know, it's been it's been a journey. I grew up, saying, oh I tell bad stories. I'm bad joke teller. I can't tell a good joke to save my life because of a sense of not belonging or feeling like too small or, you know, not knowing how to share my voice when I was younger, so it's been a real journey of uncovering and I've, I've gotten to work with organizations and people throughout my life that have supported me in sharing my voice, you know, it's, it's kind of its relationship of going towards it and being willing and then feeling, either a embracing a community around it, and continuing to stay involved from writing poetry and then sharing it, and then feeling that sense of community within the spoken word community several years ago, to working with the great leap, and then my one of my mentors Nobuko Miyamoto she, I started in with their company.

 

As part of a kind of devised theater storytelling experience as well. So, learning the tools, telling my story, seeing how they align and being supported by other people in an ensemble that that is really encouraged and excited me to keep digging and keep sharing, you know, yeah, there's been so many moments of honoring that process that has really meant a lot to my own evolution as a person, be like, I don't know still how I besides the process for myself. I haven't really dived into a lot of workshops. Besides being in an ensemble, I haven't like created the platform yet for other people, but I think that's coming.

Arielle: Well, I believe so too, but I also think in just so I think a lot of me I think we tell, there's sort of these layers of story in our lives right like we are always telling ourselves stories in our heads. And then we're also but sometimes we tell stories to one another in our families or friendships, but then you've taken that bigger leap to sharing stories to an audience right or to, to an ensemble or to a community that is beyond your, your mind, you know, first just beyond your own mind, because that's a leap that a lot of people never take. But I think there's something just about the power of breaking out of breaking out of one story to tell another you know to tell a story we don't even know we're telling us I think sometimes when we are storytellers. We don't think we're good storytellers or whatever it is, the world will tell you differently.

I don't necessarily. It took me a long time, honestly, it's my probably my therapist has made me feel funnier than I ever anyone else ever did, but like I don't necessarily I don't always think of myself as funny, but I also know that a lot of times I'm talking to people and they laugh a lot, but it's not like I'm like a joke teller. Right, right, but like something I'm doing or saying clearly brings laughter and I think well that's a gift I can't necessarily put my finger on it, but I'd say same with, there's something about the way you are just a natural community builder. And I think sometimes we also have these gifts that we can see in ourselves, but other people experienced from us. Yeah, those are inherent, that's just our inherent light that we came in with, and maybe we can recognize that at some point but maybe we never truly know what that is.

Carla: Yeah, yeah, it's, it's so wonderful to have reflections of that. And it's a lot of work to see it clearly or to, to embrace it, right. Because when somebody tells you you're funny like really, I don't know, like, I can't see it but okay let me believe it and like let me like embrace it, go for it. Am I funny?

 

Arielle:  Right trust the process.  I mean I make myself laugh

Carla: Like, yeah. Where do we belong?

Arielle: When I ask you this, what are some of your daily practices? Especially that you've used in the past year that helped keep you motivated centered inspired creating and continuing to do the work that you do.

Carla: Well, it's been a lot of self-care. It's been a lot of forgiveness, and allowing and with others and myself, so I mean I lost all my jobs. You know, when everything happened, so my sense of time and where I'm supposed to be and when I'm supposed to be there totally shifted. So, I leaned into friends who are yoga instructors who are offering free classes on Instagram or wherever.

I leaned into free writing workshop or once. You know, I let myself kind of listen to what my spirit needed throughout this time, and showed up, you know, but my daily practices I'm, I'm just trying to stay hydrated. I was really taking my vitamins and you know, doing what I can to keep my immune immunity boosted because of everything.

 

So, it's been like meditation, yoga, it's been writing, staying in touch with family and doing all those things is like listening to the impulses and just allowing myself to not do anything. Sometimes, or allowing to trust that when that my expectations aren't met, or things aren't going the way I thought that because of another person or whatever that we're all trying to navigate as best we can right now, and things are crazy. And this is new to us all and we know we're all doing the best to take care of ourselves and be there as much as we can for the people who need us. This has been a lot of space, space and forgiveness to really allow ourselves to get through this.

 

Arielle: Well, I want to ask you something about what you said, which I feel like is one of those things that maybe you do naturally but I'm curious if that's true, which is that listen to your spirit, right. Listen to what your spirit wants, is that something that you feel like you've always known how to do or always tuned into or was that a process of learning throughout your life.

Carla: I think it's been a practice; you know, I think I do naturally have this like enthusiasm and curiosity and like childlike, you know, wonder. Yeah, I wonder an impulse to like, want to play and do things I'm extroverted generally, you know. So, what was the question?

Arielle: Like I always felt a sense of what your spirit was asking of you.

Carla: I think it's been encouraged in different ways. Through the people that I've met through the risks that I have taken and seeing the payoffs, you know, and trusting the validations of my own intuition, you know.

Arielle: Can you tell us a story about one of those risks specifically that you took that you might have been nervous about?

 

Carla:  Yeah, what comes to mind is my trip to India. I have this phase of feeling. Mother, energy, some type of Mother energy in me, I'm like, what is, what does this mean, like I couldn't quite place it or feel it, but I just knew was like am I supposed to be a mother. Should I have a kid? Do I need to move back home with my mom? Do I need to go like, to the ocean?  And pretty much, or, like, I don't know, hug trees I don't know. Mother Earth, like do I. I had this mother energy coming forth, and I didn't know what it was and then. And then my teacher at the time was a used to go see Amma, the hugging Saint from India who used the tour in the States and has people as a blessing. And so, I heard of her, and she was in town and then like Amma. She helps people for a living.

People stand in line for hours for her, like, Okay, let me see. Basically, I go, and Amma means mother, people call her mother. And I had this. Out of Body Kundalini experience when I first met her which was amazing. I remember I was sitting outside on getting to a little bit, sitting outside of my friends and you know we had just done the first blessing and then people were getting in line to hug, and I had my little token, and it was like, 5000 people, later hours you know you have to wait hours. And so, we're eating yummy Indian food and drinking chai, by this hotel pool, and smoking cigarettes. It was like one of the devotees come to me and they're like she knows what we're doing right now. And I'm like, Okay, sure.

So, I'm like whatever I like.

Five more hours and we're talking and eating and drinking, amazing time. And then I go in and I see this guy again. And he's like, have you have you been on stage with her, like, now you can do that. Oh yeah, like a magic carpet ride. Like, okay, so somehow, I found myself on stage and I'm in my meditation, just listening, my eyes closed, and all of a sudden, I feel is my spine. And I can see the whole room, and I just, you know, in my meditation like I can see the whole room, and then all of a sudden, I go out through the double doors outside to the, to the pool area. And I'm like, oh, that's how she does it. And then like I come back, and I opened my eyes and I'm like, Oh, what happened. Tell the story a little astral travel. Yeah, I did and somebody, a couple years later was like at the Kuwaiti uprising or Kundalini.

 

Yeah, So I had that moment I was like, wow. And then a few months later I found myself in India. A couple of my friends were going through ashram. And it was her 60th or 50th birthday celebration. And I was broke, I didn't know how I know, but all of a sudden, my friends like hey I'll pay for a ticket, hey here's like my backpack. Here is my little sleeping bag we can take that suddenly, you know, if you would have told me three weeks before that I was going to be in India, I would have laughed. I didn't even want to go. And then I find myself, you know at her ashram at her 50th celebration in Cochin and having more magical moments there. And that's the moment when I'm on my way to her ashram and I felt that breeze that I was talking about freedom and like trusting the magic. I don't even remember the question that you asked.

 

Arielle: I don't even know it doesn't matter but I feel like that is it, that sort of story ties it all together this whole conversation I feel like because it is because there's something about trusting.  Yes, trusting your path, trusting the universe, trusting the universe like that I'm constantly, you know, affirming for myself every day I must do it because it isn't something that comes naturally, I think, to me through my own.

I don't know cultural inheritance is like epigenetics like there's so much. I feel like trauma in the Jewish people, that is coming down that I just must constantly affirm that this is, this year of life loves me like this and I'm like, Louise Hay right this, you know, this is a good universe it's here for me it's supporting. I don't have to be in struggle like this, you know, there is struggle, it's not all, you know me today my daughter fell off my house, so.

Oh, really, again, another thing like I feel like the house is upset with us but, you know, was in all that it's like okay but trusting. We can always see what's ahead we can always see the most effective some of those beautiful moments in our lives are those ones that we could never have imagined happen Yeah, some of those beautiful relationships of our lives and the most beautiful friendships, the most, you know, all of it is, we can plan only so much and then we just have to allow, which is what you were talking about too.

Carla:  Yeah, just being open, if I wasn't open to these signs and ideas, you know.

Arielle: And even accepting help to write like a story to accepting people's grace, accepting people saying hey, I'll lend you this, I'll take that with me, like, being open to receiving.

Carla: Yeah. And now I have so many stories because I've just, I've allowed myself to. I've been great to do some traveling to, you know, say yes to these experiences and show up, even when I don't want to sometimes. And so, and you know, now I'm older now, like as time went on, 20 years later, you know, we do a mass these experiences that have meaning for us right and so now I do embrace my storytelling, much more.

And I feel like I have so much to share. Now, finally, and so, and now with the tools to, to express them, you know, I'm more excited to share them in different ways, whether it's through poetry through movement through new zoom storytelling or theater, I don't know, I guess that the idea of freedom and power, go together and it grows within us, you know.

 

Arielle: As we live courageously allow ourselves to evolve allow ourselves to, you know, and I think your piece had this too, like, we also must laugh like we must have a sense of humor about ourselves. It has a sense of humor about places we're still even stuck in or can't, you know, see the other side of or the cycles are repetitive thoughts, all that stuff that is just also part of being a human, and especially like in a year like this where everyone.

Like you said, everyone's doing the best they can basically but also everyone is dealing with this, and dealing with different struggles and, you know the meaning of let's say I don't know, George floods murder to me versus you versus somebody in his family versus, you know, there's just so many different. There's not one story and there's that one experience and that's what makes this world so beautiful too. And so terrifying and opposites makes it life. So, amongst all this what lifts your spirit right now? What makes you hopeful and inspired?

Carla: Witnessing people's creativity. During all of it, connecting to my, my family, my nieces and nephews and witnessing their sense of play, and in a sense, just staying in gratitude. You know that I can, I'm able bodied, I am alive, I can go to the beach, because I live near one dish. Just these meaningful moments of connections with people I care about, I think as I stay in gratitude. I find out what keeps me going, you know, or even making a gratitude list keeps me going, but I'm out of, out of it I'm like Okay, write down five things. And that brings me back to center, and I did that for a while for over a year, every day. And it shifted so much of my life with a tool that I have shared with people to.

 

Arielle:  I have been doing that for a while, five things every night before the bed. And it's funny how some days it's to start some days it's like wait, I know there's things, or I will write though, and I don't really feel it but I'm writing it because I know I you know I said I was going to write this list, but look I know there's a grateful for. There's so much to be grateful for.

But, yeah, there's days where it is more going through the motions and then there's days where I'm just deep, but I could write 50 things right.  It's so that ebb and flow of things. I thought that was going to be my last question to you but I just thought of one more so this will be the last one. Yeah, I'm sure you familiar with the notion what you resist persists. So, as it's been a wonder, I want to hear your thoughts on like being a spiritual warrior.

 And that concept of what you resist persists because I'm having trouble reconciling the two a little bit in my head I just wrote a piece about it, but I'm like okay but you know there's so much that is wrong, or unjust in the world there are so many things that I want to see transformed and made better for my daughter and her generation and even hopefully my life had.

And yet, I also know that what you resist persists so and resistance has been the sort of go to mode of change, I feel like right we're going to resist this we're going to fight against this we're going to, you know, speak out. And that is a way of resistance, right. So how do we?  Carla you're a warrior right. Just curious any thought about this ever and what do you think about God?  

Carla: Oh God, yeah, it's a big question. First, like, it's so funny because like this idea of spiritual warrior.

Arielle: Like is that in itself an oxymoron right like is that an oxymoron.

 

Carla: In a sense, and I'm trying to resist this commodification of the spiritual, the spiritual way now, like, on social media. So, I don't know sometimes like feels weird to label, even our spiritual paths right or our, our journeys like that, but yeah, I think I've talked about throughout my life, you know, being a warrior for peace, you know, fighting for peace and it's like there is that you know.

 

Arielle: Contradiction inherently and fluently.

 

Carla: Absolutely and I think rooting myself as much as possible in load as often as possible, helps me get through the fight the contradictions. You know all the things that cloud, the vision right

 

Arielle: So, yin yang of life to it. Yeah, that there will be there will be both. And I also want you to know I'm not putting, I don't want to put me on the spot, because this isn't always, and I don't want this podcast to be this, this isn't always about answering I feel like it's just in exploring the question like, it's fun to explore the question with you because I feel like you'll have something juicy. Yeah, to maybe add to it.

Carla: Yes, like rooting in love. It's the idea that, to that I, what works for me instead of fighting against something is what do I stand for, what, who do I stand with me. I understand that everyone has their role, some people are meant to infiltrate and get in there and blow it up from the inside or whatever it is you know, the, the concepts that we want to destroy.

And for me I also, I end up leaning towards what can I support that already exists. If you know, in acting, what can I create, to heal, like this the piece that I did grandma's ham, my show it's as I created it, I, people were passing from COVID and losing family members and, you know, passing on through other things. It was kept through being revealed to me that this is an offering for us to remember that we're not alone.

First, remember that the loss is just a different relationship, like, my, my relationship with my grandmother who has passed, has grown since she's been gone, because I've been listening. So that was an offering of healing, knowing that we can still have relationship with, with these people that have moved beyond the veil. Right.

Arielle: What he said is, and what a relief that is to people. I can see that in the audience, just in the comments that people were making too but I mean I feel that I there's, I always say I have the spiritual board of directors I mean there's so many people that I've worked with, or, you know, hurt, held their story for them or just in my own personal life have passed away in my lifetime.  I'm at the beginning of COVID made a list of how many people were lost, quote unquote, right, that I've lost, just to be like, I've got this like let's just say worst case and I feel this is like sort of my ego needs this right it's a sort of grounding of like. Hey, what you have had hard things happen and there have been these tragedies, you're okay, and there's still a connection.

And I think you're yeah, it's your grandma's hands, but that piece. It does have that both the reminder that you can stay in tune with and in touch with your ancestors. But also I think I felt a sense from people in the audience too that they're also reminding, if your hands if your ancestors are still here, physically or if your elders are still here, or if you're the elder, make the connection to tell your story or spend some time asking the question so that you can tune in and then again if you haven't done it, that's okay it's not too late. You can, you can tune into that story and even like I love that you said, I think you said in the q & a. It's not all theirs, artistically license right like you can trust yourself to know what the answers is you need. What is coming through. And I think the specificity of creating something like that that's so personal. That's what makes it so relatable and universal.

 

Carla: That's part of the trusting too is like, I mean, and a lot of storytellers and writers will tell you this advice to like get specific and get as personal as possible and it's, it's the most relatable, but it's really hard to trust that it is hard to trust that, But, but, yeah, leaning into like, trusting that that story is important, I still have to remind myself. Her story matters, and how can I continue to share and support, everyday people, right, and their voices and their stories and reinforce that belonging in that park, right.

 

Arielle: Well, thank you so much for this beautiful conversation.

Carla: Thank you so much Arielle. So good to talk to you.