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.

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

Grrrrrrr.

Just read this article:   Where have all the women gone in movies? By Rebecca Keegan

Not great news.  Some excerpts:

Despite the success of recent female-driven movies such as“Bridesmaids” and the “Hunger Games” and “Twilight” series, female representation in popular movies is at its lowest level in five years, according to a study being released Monday by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Among the 100 highest-grossing movies at the U.S. box office in 2012, the study reported, 28.4% of speaking characters were female. That’s a drop from 32.8% three years ago, and a number that has stayed relatively stagnant despite increased research attention to the topic and several high-profile box-office successes starring women.

When they are on-screen, 31.6% of women are shown wearing sexually revealing clothing, the highest percentage in the five years the USC researchers have been studying the issue.

For teen girls, the number who are provocatively dressed is even higher: 56.6% of teen girl characters in 2012 movies wore sexy clothes, an increase of 20% since 2009.

Full LA Times article here.

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.

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I found this interesting:

“This is the difficult truth of the artistic situation, particularly in the performing arts: Our choices define us and decide our fates. This is both a criticism and a confession: I have made my poor choices, and I strongly accept that I deserved what I got. There is a belief, calcified into holy writ, that one must work; one must generate interest and heat in one’s career. This attitude leads people to keep working, even when they know that the play or the film is bad; the director is a moron; their costar is a simpleton. The childlike belief is that all work is good, because it leads to more work. However, in the process of continually or regularly doing poor plays with bad people, you become this thing: Your DNA is altered by virtue of the work you have run through your body and your mind. Far more than your resume is stamped. But what are people to do? Rent must be paid. One has to eat. I have known visual artists who work as typists or retail clerks. Perhaps more actors should do this rather than the bad plays, but who am I to judge them? I’ve believed that I could alter or save bad work, and I was wrong, and my DNA bears the scars of the bad work. More talents than you can imagine remain undeveloped or become discarded because they were put into circulation merely to work and to be seen and to buy groceries when they should have been placed in the service of good work. But how do we alter this? There’s your question. And I can’t answer it.” Arthur Penn/Interview with James Grissom/2006. From the forthcoming “Artistic Suicide.”

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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I’m not a doctor. I just play one on TV. AKA: We aren’t curing cancer.

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Stumbled across this amusing article of actors gently dissing their profession.    Gotta say, I dig people that can find the balance of respect for the craft and awareness that we are playing pretend for a living.   It takes a healthy dose of both to do good work, and not fall into the trap of believing your own hype.

A few highlights:

Johnny Depp
“I despise those prick actors who say, ‘I was in character,’ and ‘I became the character,’ and all that stuff. It’s hideous. It’s just masturbation at the highest level.”

Jennifer Lawrence

“Why would I ever get cocky? I’m not saving anybody’s life. There are doctors who save lives and firemen who run into burning buildings. I’m making movies. It’s stupid.'”

Katharine Hepburn
“Acting is the most minor of gifts and not a very high-class way to earn a living. After all, Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four.”
“Acting is the perfect idiot’s profession.”
“It’s a business you go into because you’re an egocentric. It’s a very embarrassing profession.”

Robert Downey Jr.
“I know very little about acting. I’m just an incredibly gifted faker.”

To read the full article/list of quotes click here.