Check out these books!

I love books! For me, like a great movie, they get me excited – move and inspire me. I want to share a couple of books I’ve read in the past few weeks and for 2 very different reasons. One is non-fiction and the other fiction…though funny enough they have an unintended connection.

The books are The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and Not A Self Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by Yi Shun Lai.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I’m actually a big fan of leadership and self-help books as I am on the constant road of personal discovery. A friend gave me the Happiness Project to read during my recovery. It was a good choice. I wouldn’t say it is the best self help book I have read, however I really enjoyed her personal perspective and her process of finding new ways to bring more joy into her life. There are a lot useful guides and ideas and a ton of pertinent quotes…which gets me every time! I also really enjoy that the author has a blog. Her followers offer an additional perspective on Rubin’s personal journey. What I found most interesting is how she and the book have inspired others to create their own Happiness Projects, god knows we can all be a little happier. In fact she’s inspired me to start (or add to) my own project (more on that next week). I am addicted to ideas and people who can inspire others to make their lives better.

Not A Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by YiShun Lai

I actually have a personal tie to this one, a friend wrote it! It is her debit novel and I can objectively say it’s awesome! Making this all very exciting for me. The book is written in diary form and Ms. Lai’s unique voice is so clearly expressed; from witty sarcasm to the unique brand of self reflection in her main character Marty. The novel draws the reader in immediately on a clear ride of self reflection, family, cultural dynamic and personal growth.

Being a lover of self help books myself I can relate to Marty’s addiction to them. In each step in Marty’s journey as she faces a challenge, Ms. Lai includes the advice Marty has taken from the many books she has read. I love how she includes the title and location where it was bought and the cost (“Dreams Unwoven, Strand, $14″) . It adds to Marty’s quirky personality.

What I truly enjoy about this book is that it about a real person with all too real experiences. She is funny, quirky, confused and flawed. There is something so relatable about Marty. I personally found her relationship with her mother, a key plot driver, both frustrating an moving. The relationship between a mother and daughter is incredibly complex, especially when a parent’s life circumstance contains so many multifarious components; age, career, family, status, culture. We as children don’t and often can’t see why our parents are the way they are, only how it relates to us. It is difficult to take a step back. They are the parents and we are simply in search of love, support and understanding (the way we have been taught it is supposed to be by our all too lofty American standards) and it is too painful to look past being hurt to want understand that often it is our mother/parent who is struggling. They are doing the best they know how.

It is amazing how fully culture shapes who we are. In Not A Self Help Book, Mama is truly shaped by her Taiwanese culture, while Marty is American and living in the world with those ideals. However she must adapt to a belief system that is or at least seems foreign. I myself, though not to the extent, related deeply to Marty’s struggle. My mom and I come from South Boston (home of Whitey Bulger, The Departed (based on Whitey Bulger), Good Will Hunting and memoir All Souls  by Michael Patrick MacDonald- another GREAT book by the way!), which at least in the past bread a culture of privacy, anger and distance. One was taught that you do not speak about one’s business, if you do you are branded a traitor. It somehow deems your own life and experiences insignificant when your memories and experience are not yours to share. As family its all interconnected,  often there is not one without the other especially when that person is a huge part of your life. Ms. Lai  successfully shares the complicated, confusing and desperate need to both separate and connect to the key human in our lives. She does it with humor, witty sarcasm and true compassion. When I started the book I found it difficult to find anything redeeming about Mama and by the end I had honest compassion and wanted to know and understand her as I have begun to do with my own mother.

To anyone looking for a great quick and fulfilling read, the perfect vacation book this summer, do not hesitate to pick up Not A Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by YiShun Lai which is, by the way #3 on the Small Press Distribution List! I think that speaks for itself. You’ll not only be supporting a great independent publisher, Shade Mountain Press…you won’t be sorry!

To purchase the book simply Click Here

For anyone in NYC YiShun will be signing at Word Up July 21st @ Amsterdan & 165th, I’ll be there!

Nichole Donjè




I love this picture for two reasons. One is that its a great photo and it was taken in a moment when my creativity recently took off again. Two is that its a reminder. This was taken at Fort Wetherill in Jamestown,Jamestown, Rhode Island. My family and I went there a few months back to get out and chill out for the day. For me it is far more than that.

In high school my best friend Shawn and I would spend hours on the weekends climbing the cliffs and wandering the abandoned fort, talking and laughing for hours. In college I went often with my friends Liam, Gamache or Jonathan and sometimes a group of us. It’s a beautiful ragged place filled with forgotten history and caverns of secrets. To this day some of my most vivid and favorite memories are sitting on the rocks in one of the many coves listening as the waves crashed against the cliff walls. To me it will always be magical and is a huge symbol of creativity, friendship, memories and dreams.

I think I’m thinking of this site, because I am seeking. There is a mystery in the tunnels and caverns of that old fort, places to be re-discovered. These locales have been filled with debris; covered and sealed to keep others out or warn them of possible danger. I’m realizing this is a bit of where I have been. Hiding in the caverns and under the facade of danger.

As I start digging myself out I am realizing that I have covered and hid so much beauty. I have forgotten about the precious secrets and ignored the treasures lying in the debris. Its a puzzle. I am pulling my world apart not to rebuild or change whats there, but so that I can actually see what exists. There is such potential and life behind the walls and within the mysteries. Its exciting! Under and inside all of this is who I am and how I got to where I am.

It’s as if I’ve climbed out from a dark place and there is a new world to explore. It has been a week of acceptance and breath, of peace and true clam. Today I have managed to do a bit of everything I love. I am moved by the simplicity. I have uncovered the joy I feel in a quiet day filled with thought, nature, physical exertion, friendship, love and art. I have a new perspective and clarity. The time I have had for my recovery has been more than physical, it has given me the nourishment my soul has been searching for.




The Next Phase

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face”. Eleanor Roosevelt


Today I am sitting here at my desk in my studio simply grateful. Grateful to all of those who have been there for me during my recovery and all of those who have reached out. It is a wonderful gift to have someone you haven’t heard from say hello and check in. Its a simple thing, but knowing that they are there and that the connection we made however long ago still exists is fulfilling.

Something that has become very clear for me in my life is that connection is imperative. I love people. The relationships I have built mean the world to me, even if time has distanced us. Everyone we create a moment with, creates meaning. It may be an acquaintance, a colleague or a friend.

It was a leap for me to share my post yesterday. I have come to realize that as much as I long to connect, I have kept so much to myself. I don’t like to share things that may seem sad or negative, so I simply don’t. When I started this blog I really wondered if I would be able to open up. I am not someone who wants to get on a pedestal about some political topic, I don’t love an argument; and lets face it that’s what most people do on the internet. What I want is a dialogue. I want to built a pathway of openness. You may ask what that means…hell if I know! All I can say is I’m working to find out and sharing my life, my art and my observances is how I feel I can.

We all have stories and experiences. I hope that somehow I might peak someone to share theirs. I don’t necessarily mean with me or the world wide web, but with someone. Being open, vulnerable and taking chances are how we face that fear Mrs. Roosevelt mentions. I myself fear vulnerability. I like to be strong, to know, and admittedly to control. Control is exhausting and lonely. What I realize now is that I was using all the wrong words. What I truly want is to be empowered, wise and collaborative. This is my next phase, this is my intention. This is where I begin again.





Such an interesting day. I had a deep conversation about what I want and how to get. Or really, my issues around why I need to understand WHY I’m not living up to my own expectations. I fascinate myself at how complicated I like to make things. The idea of “just do it” somehow needs to have reasoning and planning behind it, which of course defeats the purpose! There is this need for everything to have meaning and that must be considered no matter how trivial what I want to do is.

I have, in this strange place and age in my life, forgotten the freedom of whatever. There doesn’t have to be a reason. I just want to. Yes that little recording in my head plays, “but, why, what if, how, etc and so on”. I’m determined find and embrace “who cares” again. React to my impulses and just do it!

Why…well who the f%&*%k cares!


Breaking Walls


I’m finally breaking down the walls I’ve built around my life. Yet I still find myself looking at the broken pieces scattered and feel the need to gather the scree and collect it like a hoarder grasping for something I don’t understand. Like a magnet reeling me back and holding me down I fight to retain my strength. Trying desperately not to rebuild, I sit in the wreckage not quite ready to leave the walls behind but my heart is open to new beliefs waiting to arise and fill me with the power I know exists deep within.

Its a new day where I cannot find a reason or excuse to be too angry or sad. Its strange. Human beings long for the struggle it seems. Seeking something negative or foreboding. I have started to sweep away the scree, now there is dust that at times catches in my throat until my heart moves toward the invisible doorway. The broken framework I am finally willing to let go of, step by step piece by piece and breath by breath.

I see what is possible. The walls gone and the air expanding; change. I think inside me there is a belief that if I let go of the past, of the things I have always known and believed, somehow I have either failed something or someone. Really, what can I accomplish without moving on? My memories are mine and always will be. I am the past and the present, and now I need to not be or expect more. Instead I simply need know more is out there and that I belong to each new moment and it belongs to me as long as I exist. Why measure or contain it. Time is finite but it does not control. It is us who work to control time, a futile dance that only wastes energy and has the opposite effect. Releasing that control is what helps us to see the truth. All my life I have said life is hard. But without these walls holding me in I see my reflection in those around me. I see more often than not it is perspective and denial that is hard; life is simply life. Most of us choose hard, we choose to focus on the negative, to make choices we then presume measure luck.

Life is losing a job, a loved one, dealing with illness and yes these are hard. Life is pain and fear and sadness, but it is also love and laughter and hope. If we spent more time living there in the perspective of love I know life would seem a just little less hard.

Like everyone I grew up with challenges some in my control, some not. I never thought I had a bad life, but I was often sad and angry. People told me I had it hard so I finally, to get past anger and sadness, I had to explore my denial of reality. I suppose my life was not easy, but opening that door to remove denial and face the truth allows me to see beyond it. It has taken years but I now have the courage to see my walls not as protection I believed them to be but as a cage. A prison I had built for myself; me protecting me from life.

Its an amazing thing to see yourself new, terrifying too. To know that I ensured my sadness and anger had nowhere to go. With this new vision I have begun to see opportunity like energy floating through the air, tiny particles that must be seized or lost. What I have learned by observing myself is that I would watch the opportunities float by, knowing they were there but too afraid of the unknown to grab them. There is so much there to go around. I watch others pay no attention or deny their existence. I do the same. I do it less, but still I watch them float away wondering what it could have happened had I jumped. The difference now is that I know. I know when it’s missed, but I jump when I’m ready. I want to jump more.

In the past few years my life has changed drastically and for the better, for a while I just kept questioning, why me? Why am I the lucky one? Then I remember that I have to apply my observation of others to myself. I can’t only see the good in others and deny my own accomplishments. Why did I not lose my job, have the bad marriage, stay poor? Choices, good ones.

Those floating opportunities that I did seize were key. I saw the person I wanted to be with, not the fantasy I wanted to create and I pursued it. That led to a dream that seemed out of reach coming to fruition. This led to growth and experiences, which led to finding who I really am and for the first time wanting to be good with that. I’m not finished there’s so much more. Because of where my choices have led me I no longer see change as the enemy it is the opportunity. That doesn’t mean it makes life “easier” but how I perceive these challenges does. The more I face, the easier it gets and leads to more. I sit listing my challenges and thinking, could be worse. I’m told more often than not that for everything happening I seem to be very positive. I do still find myself denying the positive even when its present. I’m still getting used to what it feels like in both my mind and body. It is a feeling, but it is also a state of mind and being and that is far bigger than I comprehend however I am so very excited to learn.



This Thing We Call Art

Chakra Series 2: Letting Go ©NicholeDonjé


What is it really? This thing we call art. I have had so many opinions on it over the years. My disagreement with some concepts and executions. Truly though, as I begin with an open mind. What is art?

I think art is more than the forms we see or performances we experience. I heard recently that art is often the artist themselves. That struck me. One of my focuses as a theatre artist has always been on the process, the artists themselves, the creation of the work and what happens within that as much as the final experience.

Many don’t have the inside seat on the relationships and personalities at play behind the scenes. So much of what makes art good or bad (in each and all’s opinion) is founded in the process; the sharing and shaping of the the work. The vision is a piece but not all.

Since I have been revisiting my visual art and writing, I see it again. So much is in the process. In the heart of what is being created and why. The outcome may not appeal to everyone but there is life in it, at least for those who take it seriously. I have seen this over the years repeatedly. What is the difference from one thing to the next. Why do I love this dance piece or that. Its all perspective.

Some people truly see only the technique and appreciate it above all else. Some see through that and find the personality, the essence of the work. For myself I most certainly prefer the latter. I have seen my fair share of perfectly executed art; dance, theatre, photography, literature, etc. I certainly appreciate every aspect of it. The talent and skill required is astonishing. However I have found myself often bored with perfection( so why is it that I often strive for it?).

What pulls me in and excites me is the collaboration. To me fantastic art includes its audience. It leaves an open door for them to walk through, to explore and to leave filled up with inspiration, emotions, ideas, whatever. Its not my place to judge that. Even as the artist, I have an intention but it is my intention alone. If an observer leaves with something different, perhaps somehow the work took a step beyond the itself. If they find something personal and unique, how spectacular is that! There is nothing better than art that grows beyond its own boundaries.

So as I sit here contemplating about what is next for me. I am letting go of what it is I “think” I should do. I am entering my creative experience as an observer of self willing to to find something different. I am releasing shoulds and musts. Embracing the simplicity of color and space, of heart and mind, of light and touch. I am confronting the simple DO to see what happens.

This is a whole new experience for me outside the theatre. It’s time to take those skills I gained and spread the wealth, to find the the connective thread that moves me. Its time to allow myself to be the art, expressive and free. As we all should.