The Holy War

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Mourning is a non-linear experience. I keep thinking I’ve let go of something, only to discover it is so deeply embedded in me, that it has never left. That I am still in mourning, still waiting for the world to right itself again. I keep expecting my patience to pay off – because it has to…. because my heart, mind, and body says it is undeniable. Sigh.

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We want to be seen. We want to be chosen. We want to be loved. We want to be fought for. We want to be ‘the one’.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking truth is that you CAN be ‘the one’, you can be exactly right …and still not be chosen. You may have been utterly perfect for that role, that project, that experience…exactly what was wanted, better than even dreamed…you could be right about all of it…. but if “they” aren’t able to see and embrace all that you are, then it is also true that it wasn’t the experience for you. It’s a hard lesson for me to learn. It feels unfathomable that you can be the acknowledged-best in the room and instead of being fought for, decisions are made based on entirely different (and seemingly ridiculous) details outside of you. Again, sigh.

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Heartbreaking, but you step away with grace and shake your head at their loss and keep moving forward. You aren’t meant to be ignored. You aren’t meant to settle. You aren’t meant to have to convince the world to be brave. The best things in life take courage… and not everyone has it at the moment it is needed. You are meant to shine like the sun and those who want to share in your light will rise up beside you. You need those who see your magic and will fight for it like it is a Holy War, because it is. Nothing is more sacred than what sets your soul on fire. Honor those who choose you. Those who make the effort. They are your tribe. Those who stick their neck out and fight for you. People are what they do…not what they say they will do. Ignore the lip-service….celebrate the people who are DOING. Protect them fiercely. Cherish their loyalty. And build together.

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Trust that what you love, what lights up for you, what ignites your soul – the people, the projects, the moments, are where you should be spending your sacred time. That feeling – is a gift that tells us who we are and the life we are meant to be living. Honor the messages from the deepest part of your being about what you can do and which direction you should choose. And honor those who will fight along side you. This life, this industry, can feel like we are made of paper mache and everyone around us is playing with matches….we MUST find our warriors, our protectors, defenders, our creative cohorts, and build our tribe.

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You (or your work, your performance, your _____) are not for everyone.  Have sympathy for those who are unable to see what is before them….and have even more sympathy for those who are stunned into silence when what they have always wanted, appears before them. Some are in terrific awe over the possibility of happiness, of dreams fulfilled. Some look at the option of having everything they want, and after years of denial, they see it as the Hilary-step… unclimbable and become immobile, glued in place by their fears and habits or through what others might think or are telling them to do or what they feel they deserve, think is ‘right’ or expected or big-box-office or…or…or.   “They” have to be ready to experience you. Sometimes they simply aren’t. Sometimes they are too caught up in their own chaos to understand your magic, sometimes they won’t see any magic at all….and sometimes the power of your magic scares them.

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When others aren’t seeing your magic – when your work isn’t catching on fire…that doesn’t mean it is anything less than spectacular. It means that was not a member of your tribe. Keep hunting.

And have endless gratitude to your warriors who recognize and fight for you.

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Dear Fear,

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FADE IN.

INT. BRAIN – DUSK.   Cue: Long, deep sigh followed by shiver of terror.

EXT.  RIVER OF TRANSITION – NIGHT.

It’s the middle of the night.  You are alone in the middle of a swirling black river.  The current is strong.  The waves are lapping. Your mind is racing.  You’re fighting to keep your head above water.  You can’t touch the bottom or see what is below.  You are blindly trying to make it across to the other side.  Trying to move far enough ahead that your toes finally touch solid ground and you can start trusting that you are again on the upward incline, even if just an inch at a time.  That is the year it has been.  A year of surprising challenges, unanticipated changes, devastating heartbreak on a number of levels, confusion, unexpected losses… a multitude of strifes.   A year of transitions.  We’ve all been there.  A year of doing your best to let go of what was, but what is coming next hasn’t yet arrived, so you are sort-of-lost, sort-of-drifting, sort-of-desperate…to find meaning, understanding, solid ground.  Don’t panic.  Think of it like jet lag.  Your body has arrived but your heart and mind are still catching up to this new reality.  Whether you are putting in endless work, or feel unable to do anything at all, the effects are often the same – because right now you are in the middle of the black river of transition….and it simply takes time, to get through it all and find your feet again.

I pride myself on being ‘aggressively optimistic’ and always fighting for and believing that the perfect thing is just about to arrive… but in a year full of tragedy and set backs, fear has been nipping at my heels, and finding its way into my heart. It is certainly not all bad, and I trust I’ll reach the other side soon…but I am owning the reality that it has been a year full of painful change and loss and I don’t feel like I’m quite on solid ground at the moment…which inevitably brings vulnerability, stress and fear roaring to life.

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Fuck that.  Who needs it?   And yet…

Is there anything more seductive?   How easily we fall into that trap.

INT.  HEART – LATER THAT NIGHT.  Enter DOUBT stage left.

Fear is familiar, addictive and paralyzing. For whatever reason, words that wound us, fears that plague us, and beliefs that bind us are the ‘stickiest’.  They convince you they are important.  Assure you they are right. Fear brings its evil twin: doubt.   Why does doubt get to be the thing we are certain of?   Doubt is not the one who has earned victory here.  Doubt is not the one who deserves the power.  You must doubt your doubt.

Yet I’m fascinated watching how our minds work…how others handle this black river.  It has been a year of deep conversations with family, friends and coworkers on their own triumphs and failures. Their desire to leave a valuable mark, and reach their own goals and milestones in the way and on the timeline they expected – and how they cope when things go sideways.   How my heart bursts with love for those who curl towards you in times of strife instead of adding distance, or placing blame. Those who never take it personally when you have to pull back and focus on yourself.  So much gratitude to those who know they don’t have to supply an answer just an ear to listen.

I’m disheartened by those who have been thrown a rope, yet still refuse to grab hold – fearing letting go of what they’ve grown used to. Staying in situations out of the familiarity of what they know, what they can predict, even when it is predictably so far from what they want most.

I’m bemused by those still struggling to trust they have made it through the river and are back on solid ground – even as their new plateaus are publicly undeniable.  A dear friend is in the middle of a whirlwind second-life in her career, and her life.  A banner year of so many projects getting wonderful attention that have brought her the success and notice she so deserves.   I sent her a note saying how inspired I had been by her this year, and was shocked at the sincerity of her thank you as she admitted to her own insecurity over ‘whether her work mattered and was worthwhile’ and her fear of ‘whether it would last’.   This entire conversation was a glimpse into the heart of all of us, for her level of success, the beauty of her work, the power of her spirit, are all things that I aim for, and feel she embodies implicitly…and yet her doubt is as strong as the person who has never experienced success.  We humans are such silly creatures.   Doubt your doubt! 

I’m devastated witnessing some walk away from what could be the best thing in their life, out of cowardice, weakness, fear of change. I can say with utter certainty, I would rather be in middle of the black river – unsure of what comes next, but trusting it is coming, than to be resigned to a life that is slowly suffocating me. Change is hard, but change is good.

I’m enchanted by those using both hands to claim the latest successes of their lives with bonafied glee and unabashed revelry.  I’m bursting with joy as I witness ‘the ship come in’ for someone who had been stranded on shore for far too long personally and professionally.  An extraordinary friend who has landed smack in the middle of success after some terrifyingly difficult years.

And I remain inspired..by so many things, including my little dog, who I affectionately call Chicken Little, as she is convinced at every second that the sky is falling.  Yet I watch her tackle her fear each day and become this brave little bolt of lightening, as the power of her desire for what she loves, and what she wants, will overcome her fear: Every. Single. Time. That is the courage I want.  The kind that weighs the odds, is unconvinced of the outcome and jumps anyway.  Optimism winning, hope succeeding, love triumphing.  I can’t stop fear from visiting, but I refuse to ‘live’ in fear.  I just refuse.

So what’s a girl to do?  Find her inner wolf and give fear the finger.

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And surrender. Life is beauty and pain.  Life will break your heart again and again, and heal it over and over. Let it. This is its job. This is how we grow, and move on, and transition.  Change is hard…but change is good, as long as fear and doubt are not in the drivers seat.  Find your courage, embrace your optimism and ride the current.  Now is the time to lean forward instead of back, to give more instead of less, to be bold.  Sure, the waves are choppy, the water is cold, and the circumstances feel impossible. Tip your head back and laugh. Smile even in the middle of the black river.  Doubt your doubt.

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INT.  HEART – PRESENT DAY   Pulse jumpy, blood pressure shaky, confidence wavering.

EXT.  FACE  – SAME TIME   Close Up: delighted smile, laughing at the circumstance.

INT.  MIND – MOMENTS LATER  Cue: long, deep sigh…of amusement, followed by a shiver of delight over this thing we call life.

FADE TO BLACK

Crybaby

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The only time I feel kinship with male porn stars is when I have to cry on camera. It is the actor-version of a porn star having to ‘get it up’. You can’t fake it….and there is no fluffer for tears.

In real life, I love a good cry….and seem to cry at the drop of a hat.  Tears help me through the loss, hurt, and the slings and arrows that each of us have to wade through in life.  But I can also find myself crying over news stories, commercials, books, weddings, births, beautiful songs, breathtaking choreography, particularly anything that is unexpected compassion…stories involving animals or children… people overcoming adversity or rising to a challenge, people being their very best selves…  Let’s just say there are a lot of things that resonate with me and can bring me to tears. I’ve learned there are topics and conversations I have to avoid, because they immediately pull me down to a level of emotion I can have a hard time crawling out of. 

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The beauty and the horror of the world can overwhelm, and yes, it can feel so good to let go. To dive into big emotions and let those waves wash over you. But having to cry ‘on cue’ is another animal entirely….it gives me massive compassion for guys with erectile dysfunction. Your “tool” works on any normal day – but under pressure you can experience performance anxiety. You can find yourself sobbing during rehearsal, then with cameras rolling, with the sun going down and needing to get this shot RIGHT NOW, and with dozens of eyes on you silently screaming ‘cry!’, you may find your self dry as a (…yes, I had to do it …pun somewhat intended) bone, and you suddenly wish there was a form of Viagra to produce tears. That is where the training kicks in.

Acting is hard to describe to ‘civilians’. It is manufacturing truth. But it is TRUTH. At the dawn of movie history acting was dismissively described as ‘shaming’ or ‘posturing’. But acting that connects with the audience is committing so fully to what is happening in the scene that you are blurring the line between you and your character – really living that experience, being fully in the NOW.

Your goal is to be so ‘in the moment’ that all emotion floods naturally, and you can’t make a wrong move. It’s not about TRYING (that never works, and just looks like you are TRYING- which is painful)… it’s about BEING.  In the midst of the chaos on set, that can be more of a challenge than you can imagine. The pressure to deliver results and to deliver them this second can be terrifying.  If only there was a little blue pill.  

Apparently this is a fear I was meant to face, as almost every job I’ve had for the last two years has asked/required me to cry. I’ve had my daughter kidnapped, my lover murdered, was kidnapped myself, forced to kill someone to save my children, I’ve been beaten up, had loved ones killed before my eyes, been emotionally unstable, raped and tortured. Whew.…it’s been a brutal couple years. (Btw, universe, let’s try some lighter fare for a while!)

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Not long ago, I had a writer friend excitedly call me to discuss an idea for my character in a project we were working on together. His idea was that in every episode of the season, my character would burst into tears which he commented “will be easy for you because you cry on cue”. Though the idea was actually hilarious for the character, I thought about punching him in the balls. I have no idea how to cry on cue…though I wish I could. It is instead often a stressful and misery-making task, that leaves you emotionally drained and often in a funk all day. Yes, there are those rare, mysterious birds who are able to drop tears at a moment’s notice…some special ‘muscle’ they have control over, like the random people who can wiggle their ears or arch either eyebrow….but they are few and far between. I’ve only known one actress who could truly cry on cue and she booked a lot of jobs because of it. I was surprised when she admitted she always believed she was a fairly bad actor because she never felt the emotion, she just had the ability to control her tear ducts.

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There are behavioral psychologists who study emotion and how our bodies function, and it is fascinating to hear them talk about studying actors during performance. That the best actors truly transform themselves and their most intimate body functions follow obediently along… they sweat, pulse races, pupils will dilate, faces will flush and tiny muscles that are impossible to manipulate on cue…will nevertheless be stimulated when one is truly crossing the line between their life and the life of the character.

Reminds you of the elusiveness and the purity of good acting. It is also the reminder of the respect you must have for the character between action and cut. You can’t be flooded with your own life, your own junk (unless it is helpful).  You have to be so engaged with the life of the character that you experience it all and it feeds your performance. I remember an acting coach talking about watching an audition for the role of a woman who had just lost her husband. The audition had a distracted quality. When asked, the actress admitted she was unfocused, that she had car trouble on the way to the audition, that she had missed an important call and had other things on her mind. The director stopped her…. while all of that was undoubtedly true, he made a point that I’ve never forgotten. During that 5 minutes, none of her sundry issues should have mattered… everything was about having enough respect for the character to be fully in that moment living and breathing her life. And a woman who has just lost her husband, doesn’t care about the car trouble, or the missed phone call, or the rent that is due…. so in those 5 minutes, neither should you.

Don’t tell me I have to cry. Don’t write in the script that the character is uncontrollably sobbing and expect that to be gospel. Maybe it’s ego – but demand something of me and I’ll instantly want to refuse. Just tell me to be in the moment…trust that as the actor you’ve hired, I’ve done my work and I know my character and whatever should happen WILL happen. Acting should be like real life – which isn’t always predictable – sometimes you keep it together when your world is falling apart other days the tiniest thing makes you fall to pieces. I find it far more interesting to watch someone fight to not cry. Just like playing drunk is about fighting to look sober.

So…it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…at least I hope I will…I plan to.   I’m really gonna try.   But if an actor-version of Viagra does come along, sign me up for a sample.

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The Bakery

There are two kinds of people in ‘the industry’.  The first category:  the people who are convinced they are starving because you are stealing their piece of the pie.  They are certain this is the only pie that exists, and that pie is obviously a finite resource.   They will hoard their pie and hide their pie.  They will hold tight to the recipe in fear that you could somehow duplicate their pie.  They won’t tell you where they buy sugar or who taught them how to get that perfect flakey crust.   They might event tamper with your oven or try to convince you that you are diabetic and simply not made to enjoy this delicious confection.   They will talk about how making a pie is impossible, and now that they have found the pie NO ONE will take it from them(!!).

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On the other hand are the people who understand that we live in a bakery.

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They know the secret.   You can always make more pie.

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They function with generosity and inclusion and (surprise, surprise)…they are the most successful.  They understand we are surrounded by the best ingredients, state of the art equipment, the perfect oven and we are each bakers…or know bakers…and we can share baking tips and recipes and learn from each other…we could even create pies that no one has ever thought of before.   And not just pie….now we can make cakes and cookies, muffins and chocolate croissants!  It can be dessert-apalooza up in here.

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Happy Baking.

Foreplay?

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Pilot Season – the perfect storm that brings out the crazy in all of us. Where (even more than the other 8 months a year) each day has the potential to take you from rags to riches.  Where the world is suddenly rushing past at light speed…and where you most acutely feel you are riding the comet to success, or standing perfectly still as it passes you by.   It is exciting.  It is panic inducing.  I’ve had pilot seasons where I was so busy, it was a blur….my record is 9 auditions scheduled in one day.  I’ve tested for pilots.  I’ve booked pilots.  I’ve also had years where I’ve gone the entire season without reading for a single project.  I’ve had everything in between.

I’m starting this season with big dreams, and some bigger obstacles.  The details aren’t important, but the pieces of my chess board were unexpectedly upended recently…so I’m starting the year without all of my ducks in a row.   Maybe this won’t matter either way….but the odds – while always awful, today feel crushing because so much is out of my hands. I’m tempted to curl up in a blanket and hibernate. Sleep through pilot season and wake up once the opportunities I’m missing aren’t right before my eyes.  I have to remember- all it takes is 1 appointment…it just has to be the right one.  I also have to remember pilot season is not the only route to success… opportunities come in all shapes and sizes – and usually are not what you’ve been expecting.

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So I sit here, amused that I have absolutely no idea what is around the corner.  I only know:
a) It will surprise me.
b) I will give my everything to whatever comes my way.
c) My effort is all I have control over.

I feel READY.  I’m ripe for the picking, bursting with flavor, a juicy f*cking peach…but you never know the appetites of the industry.  Maybe this year they are on a cleanse and only gluten free-vegan-organic-raw-sugar free-Kombucha infused foams are on the menu.

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I can’t complain….I signed up for this roller coaster ride.   I shall remain optimistic and driven, even on days when everything is sprinkled with a dash of overwhelming and impossible. And though some days, if my career was a person I would want to punch it in the balls for giving me the run around –  I will remember to be grateful for each opportunity coming my way – despite the size, the budget or the distance from what I most want.  I have no idea what seemingly small step is leading to the next big milestone.  I must focus on doing great work and trusting it is where I’m supposed to be.

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I had a very auspicious beginning.   The first day of my first acting class, led immediately to my first audition, which led immediately to two major job offers.  Although due to circumstance I was not able to accept the jobs, that validation convinced me this career path wasn’t entirely crazy.  It gave me the confidence to be brave enough to give this career a go.   Months later, I moved to Los Angles feeling like I would be employed within days and on warp speed to ‘making it’.   It never occurred to me to consider the odds.

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Which is actually a good thing.   The odds are impossible and if you allow yourself to truly admit to the numbers, you would be paralyzed in fear – or headed home to start plan B. I love/miss the insulation youth gives you.  You are brave without realizing it.  Audacious swagger seeps from your pores, blind faith is the pheromone you give off.   You arrive a bright shiny penny that has no idea what awaits it.

I’ve had a couple of difficult years and I feel a bit like I’m waking from a slumber, from anesthesia of heartbreak and loss and disappointment.    Now I’m on the edge of the cliff ready to dive in.  Every career ebbs and flows, but when the years start to pile on, it’s a whole new reason your confidence can begin to shake like a leaf.  My career is a shameless flirt. Teasing me like a stripper. Batting her eyes at me, dropping one item of clothing at a time, giving me a glimpse of the goods to keep me interested, but staying just out of reach.  Leaving me frustrated.  Alas, I am sick of this casual ‘flirtationship’.  I’m looking for commitment.   Give me the (brass) ring.
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When I first moved to LA I assumed I was on the same playing field as everyone else – it was calming to be so naïve. I quickly realized that much of my competition had been working professionally since they were children, even infants – and had resumes, connections and on-set experience that was 20 years deeper than mine.   Whoa, wake up call.  I want to take comfort in the fact that I’m the one who now has a hefty(ish) resume – but the quirk of working in this business, is that A+B doesn’t necessarily = C.  It might as well equal monkeys or mason jars.  This business is like a platypus – it’s super cool, but you don’t really understand it (is it a bird or a mammal?  Part duck, part beaver?) and you have a hard time describing it to others.

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This is a career where you are constantly starting from scratch after each gig.  Your job is fulfilling the needs of the character and it’s basically a level playing field in terms of what you bring into the room. The finances of the project may dictate that your resume gives you more sway, as might your prior connections, but not always.   In fact, it is horrifying to realize that sometimes the only sin you commit is being familiar…just the fact that you already have an established relationship with them, can sometimes work against you.    Can stop someone from seeing you in a new way.   You have to push for the chance to change their minds, to SHOW THEM that you are more than what they expect.  More than they imagined

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In this business I fluctuate daily between being amazed, downright flabbergasted that my life is so fantastic, and being paralyzed by how agonizingly far my life is from what I hope it can one day be.  So much is beyond our control….but hard work and bravery are rewarded.  Tides turn every day.  Fortunes change.  Circumstance shift.  Almost anything can happen at almost any time. Even (some version of) this:
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(*Shout out to PulseStudios for making/sending me this hilarious photo… and no, I’m not stalking BP, nor is this supposed to represent ‘ideal’ – just thought this image was too funny to keep to myself).

So shake off the disappointments.  Let go of the ‘what should have been’ or ‘almost was’.    There is no room in your heart to hold on to complaints, heartache, or the bitter pill of ‘not yet’.    Stop telling yourself the same old story of how it didn’t work and how high or frightening the stakes are.   Remember, you are a juicy peach, it is a new year, a new pilot season, a new beginning and anything is possible.   The past?   Well, that was just foreplay. The best part starts now.

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I can’t wait.

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Leading Ladies?

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I’m not even sure what to say about this project:  Actors-As-Women but I’m facinated by the images.