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

The New Frontier

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Love this essay from Adi Shankar.  Fresh POV, undeniable truths, real motivation and inspired perspective.

An excerpt:

Understand and Believe that Art is Important
Art gives our lives context.  It helps us understand the culture that makes us who we are.  And, if you are lucky, one day you may be able to shape the culture that influenced you. If you claim to be an artist, but you’re motivated by money… You’re a douche.

Do What You Love. Period.
Friends, parents, educational institutions, and marketing companies all seem to really enjoy telling people what they should want out of life.  Fuck them.  Figure out what you want and do that. Don’t sacrifice your integrity early on for a paycheck. It’s your life, and you are beholden to no one.  Living your life according to what’s cool at the moment is the ultimate form of servitude.

Hint: If treading water doesn’t feel like drowning, you’re not doing what you love.

Don’t Be Discouraged by People Who Don’t Believe
A fatal flaw in the human condition is that even if there is a great likelihood that something is true, we don’t want to believe it. A potentially fatal flaw for many creative people is to be brought down by the doubts of others. People without vision will likely never believe that things can change. But once it happens, no matter how great the tectonic shift, they are quick to accept this new reality as the one true reality.  Anyone who has ever set out to do something even slightly outside the norm has been mocked, questioned, and ridiculed.  Realize that people’s doubts aren’t a reflection on you, your abilities, or your ultimate outcome.  They are just upset at their own lack of imagination and inability to step out of their comfort zone, and you become a walking reminder of those insecurities.  Ignore the haters.

read the whole thing here:

Bits & Bobs

Some bits of wisdom I felt like sharing:
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According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary the word “amateur” comes to us from the Latin word amator”meaning “lover” or amare”which means “to love.” “To love,” when you are young and relatively innocent is, of course, quite easy. You are filled with nothing but great expectations and very little real experience to temper those dreams. Grown-up love (the kind that lasts, anyway) involves loving not just the dream, but also the reality. I try to instill in my students that most careers are a wonderful mash-up of the good, the bad and the ugly. Glorious victories. Shitty disappointments. Rapturous praise. Rotten tomatoes. Enduring friendships. Freaks and Fiends. Lavish attention. Followed by periods of complete and utter invisibility. During my first “professional” gig, I stupidly asked an elderly character actor why we had to do eight shows a week. To me, it seemed like a lot to ask. He smiled thinly and replied, “We do eight shows a week, my boy, on the off-chance that we might get one of them right.” Turns out he was correct about that. More often than not, that “one” – that happy attempt that goes well – does seem to make up for everything that proceeded it. Whenever we did a performance that went better than expected, I remember the old character actor used to clap his hands together and exclaim, “All is forgiven!” Being young, I had no clue what he meant by that, but it now strikes me the most elegant and concise definition of love I have ever heard.
     – From the hilarious and brilliant David Dean Bottrell http://partsandlabor.blogspot.com/2009/03/amateur-night.html

“An actor knows that this thing we call life is nothing more than a series of moments strung together in a mystical chain…. The actor therefore trains himself to pay attention to ALL moments… to live mindfully, beholden only to his sense of truth, without anticipation, without fear. The moments bind together, forming an endless wave which the actor rides like a tiger, never knowing where the tiger will turn next– never caring, if the truth be told. For the actor knows that there is never an outcome and never an ending. There is only the ride.” -William Esper

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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.

F*ck Yeah!

*Shamelessly stolen from by friend Robin:
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Some days you’re the windshield. Some days you’re the bug.

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My brilliant friend Katherine Fugate has a beautiful blog you should check out. She covers a range of topics, and at least 1/2 of her entries have left me in tears.  Her post on being a Geniot is spot on and well, genius. I read it again today and wanted to share.  An Excerpt:

The word “Geniot,” however, comes from the ultimate truth of Hollywood: one minute you’re a genius, the next minute you are an idiot. You, my sensitive friend, are a Geniot. The word Geniot, forcibly stolen from director Allison Liddi-Brown, has been turned into merchandise: hats, t-shirts, and the like, and a prop: a large handmade paper wheel, placed on my office wall.

You must also accept that once you walk down the red carpet and enter the magical land of Show Business, you are not just a Geniot, you are forever strapped to the Geniot Wheel. And the Wheel is always turning.

The top of the Wheel has the word Genius; the bottom has the word Idiot. Each day, depending on the studio or network’s reaction to the latest draft of a script or the box office of your latest movie, a large dart is placed on the word Genius or the word Idiot. One glance at the Wheel allows others to know precisely who and what you are that day, so they might adjust accordingly in how they greet you. This is especially beneficial to the cast, crew, and your significant other. While in production, it is recommended to check the Wheel hourly.

Ultimately, though, the biggest lesson of the Geniot Wheel is that you are not alone. So, you can’t invest too much time in what others think about you—because they, too, are strapped to the Wheel. They, too, will hit the top; they, too, will hit the bottom. And the Wheel stops for no one, so it’s best to remember that who you were when you were a genius is probably pretty close to who you are now as an idiot. Yes, their perception of you might have changed in this hour, but the only thing that really matters is your perception of yourself. You are still you, glorious as ever. So hold tight to that inner magic, watch the wheel keep turning, and smile like a Geniot.

Love it.  Read the entire post here.

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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