A Reason for Being…The Way That I am

Gooey in the middle…with a serrated edge. Good times for all. :)

My close friends know this about me: I text random notes of love. A lot. If I’m thinking about you and how wonderful you are and how much you mean to me…I write or call…to let you know. I do this because life is so short and it’s important for me to tell people how I feel.

Sometimes I freak people out and they run for the hills. I get it. Especially if we haven’t known each other for very long…you may think that I’m planning our nuptials. I’m probably not. :) This is just the way I am.

There is a very specific reason that I am this way. I’ve held this story in my heart for a long time and have debated in sharing it. It’s time.

A few months after my ex-husband and I separated I was sitting in my new apartment with my roommate and her boyfriend. My phone rang. It was him. My insides leapt. I thought that this was the call…you know the call where he tells me that he loves me, that he doesn’t want to live without me, that he wants me back. It was not that call. Instead, he told me that his brother, Ben, had killed himself. I shattered. I didn’t know that my heart could break into more pieces than it already had. That’s the crazy thing about the heart…it can hold much more love than we could ever expect…and with that…the breaks are infinite.

I made plans to fly back to Detroit for the services. I asked my ex if it would be an open casket…because I wasn’t sure if I could handle that if it were. He told me that because of how he died that it would be closed. He was wrong. There truly are certain things that you can’t “un-see”. For one thing, they had put a hat on him to try and conceal his head wound. But, that didn’t work and you could see where they had tried to fix it. I don’t want to get too graphic because it’s painful…not only for me…but for others who might read this. I want to be sensitive to their hearts. The other thing that made it so excruciating was the fact that the genes in that family are incredibly strong and in looking at my brother-in-law…I also saw my husband. The whole experience was surreal and fucked up.

At first my ex was very kind to me. We held each other for some time. He was in so much pain and I wished with every particle of my being that I could take that pain from him and into myself. Again, our hearts are pretty incredible to hold so much love.

After the service I went to Ben’s mother’s home for a gathering to celebrate his life. Ben and my ex had the same father, but different mothers. Carmen was Ben’s mother.

My ex treated me very differently there than he had at the service. He was cruel and said some terrible things to me. I accepted it. He was grieving and he needed an outlet for his anger and pain. I guess my wish had been granted. But, it still broke my heart.

I stayed at Carmen’s house for quite a while. I sat with her and we talked and laughed and cried. In fact, this woman, this incredible woman who had just lost her son, held me while I cried. I cried for my lost marriage. I cried for Ben. I cried for a life that I would never have. She consoled me. She told me that I would always be her daughter. She told me that my picture would forever live on her mantle. She told me that she loved me. I’m still in awe of how much compassion and empathy she had for me. In what is, probably, the most pain any human being can experience, she still had room in heart to comfort me in my grief. Amazing.

As I left, I told her that I would keep in touch. I told her that I would call and write. I knew now that my marriage was over. I had been fighting for the hope that we could reconcile, but I knew that when I got back LA, I would finally sign the papers and release my love. I did. And, I shattered once more.

I spent many months in the darkness. I didn’t reach out to anyone except those friends and family closest to me. It took all my strength to get out of bed, shower, go to work.

Those months passed and I found myself again. I found love again. I even lost love again. The months became years and I didn’t reach out to Carmen.

About six years after the passing of Ben, I was talking to my ex-husband’s biological mother. I hadn’t spoken to her in years. My ex had remarried…not even a year after we had divorced…(insert pain and little bitterness here). So, I let that relationship go as well. That’s the thing about divorce…you lose so much. It’s not just the relationship with your spouse, but all the family and friends you can’t have in your life anymore. And, so, I was speaking to his mom. It was lovely and strange. At one point she said something casual…”you know about Carmen, right?”

“No. What?”

“She died.”

I shattered. Not only my heart, but I physically shattered and fell on the floor. I tend to pace when I talk on the phone and my legs gave out and down I went. That’s something else that I learned to be true…when someone tells you to sit down to hear horrible news…it’s for good reason. Sometimes your body can’t take it and it breaks.

Carmen had been diagnosed with cancer and after the loss of her son…she didn’t have much fight left. I don’t know the details.

I beat myself up for a long time after learning of Carmen’s death. Why didn’t I ever reach out to her? This wonderful woman who loved me. I never told her how much I loved her. I never told her how much that moment where she held me and comforted me meant to me. I never told her. I’m still trying to forgive myself.

So, now I tell people. It could be at noon on a Tuesday and I have a thought…I think you are amazing! I don’t hesitate. I tell you. It might freak you out. That’s ok. It’s part of honoring my truth. Because, life is short. It’s so incredibly short and I want to honor what I learned from Carmen…1.) That the heart can always love more if you let it and 2.) Never get so wrapped up in your own shit that you lose sight of the beautiful humans in your life.

Long post. Jesus. But, I wanted to share in its fullness…

 

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Surviving the darkness

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my entire adult life. I remember the exact date, time and space when the first shots of anxiety surged through my body. It felt like I had stuck a fork in an electrical socket. I didn’t know what was happening. I was terrified. I was shaking uncontrollably. I sat on the floor of my bedroom, looking into the mirrored closet doors, and cried. Wailed. Shattered. It was the first time I truly hated myself. It was the first time I felt crazy. It was in that moment that the darkness first descended and now, 14 years later, I am still trying to keep it at bay. Sometimes I win…but, if I am honest…I mostly lose.

This torment has caused great consequences in my life. It led to the demise of my marriage. (There were many factors in this, but my depression and anxiety was crippling). My ex-husband couldn’t understand what the fuck was wrong with me. Because, there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was young, healthy, and we had a great future ahead of us. I tried to explain it to him many times, but how do you explain the color green to a blind person? (Ok, in the movie Mask there is a fantastic scene where Eric Stoltz does just that…it’s pretty amazing). I tried to tell him that I felt like I was being held hostage inside my own body. That I knew in my brain that I wanted to go run on the beach or spend time with friends, but I couldn’t make my body do the things I wanted it to do. It got to a point, in the darkest of hours, where I was terrified to even answer the phone. I isolated myself. I wouldn’t leave the house for days when he was on the road. It was awful. And then there’s the guilt. I would be wrought with the shame and guilt of squandering this wonderful life that I was supposed to be living. That would only fuck me up more and send me spiraling…once again.

It was like that for a very long time.

After I got divorced things got better. I got therapy, made some wonderful friends, and started to discover who I was. What I wanted in life. What my ideas and opinions were. I was shocked to discover that I had completely dissolved into another human…well, not completely shocked, but quite disturbed that I had allowed it to happen.

I started to see colors again. If you have felt what I have, you know of what I speak. It was as if I had been living in a sea of grey and now I could see the beauty of the world and humanity and the hope of possibility once again…for me that color is yellow. It was wonderful. I had moments of darkness, but they were few and far between.

Until recently.

The past few months have been dark and lonely. I feel myself being sucked into the black hole again and I’m terrified of living the rest of my life here. Again, my brain knows that that isn’t true, but the heart doesn’t feel logic.

What I have learned in the past 14 years is that “this too shall pass”. I also have learned that it’s ok to be honest about this with people. There isn’t any shame in opening up, being vulnerable and raw. In fact, that’s strength. There is a big difference between being strong and having strength. Strength is about who you are. It means standing up for what is right when no one else will, it means raising your hand to ask that “stupid” question that everyone wants to know the answer to, and it means honoring your own truth. Even when it isn’t pretty. Especially when it isn’t pretty.

I’m struggling right now to close this with a cute “button”. I don’t have one. That’s probably because in life there aren’t any.

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A Steady Rain!!!

It’s been far more than a minute since I’ve written anything…for a myriad of reasons. 2015 was a challenging year. When I write challenging what I really mean is fucked up beyond belief. And what I am left with now is something grand. I am in that place where I have to learn some fundamentals…again. It’s always humbling to be reminded of what really matters. Life. Love. Passion. Gratitude. Family. Friends. When you have your world shattered and are left with, what seems like, a black hole, it’s so beautiful to be reminded that you are not alone.

I am reminded of a movie quote…it always goes back to a movie quote for me…in this scene a girl is applying eyeliner to another girl and they are chatting. The one receiving said eyeliner asks, “why are you being so nice to me?” The applier responds, “because you’re letting me.” That is truth. We can only receive the love when we are able and willing to receive it. Maybe I wasn’t fully ready to receive until now. Maybe I thought I was. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it takes a devastating event to bring you to your knees. Maybe only then are you in a place to look up. To look up and see the glory that is around you…all the time.

I don’t want to lose what I feel now. Thankfulness.

I’m fucked up in a lot of ways. But, what I do know is that I am blessed. I am lucky. I want to honor that. I want to be able to give that back to humanity…somehow.

One of these ways is expressed through my chosen art. Theatre. My company, Player King Productions, is producing, A Steady Rain, by Keith Huff. This text is brilliant. These actors are incredible. These designers are insane.

I don’t what success is. I don’t know what it means to you. I don’t even know what it means to me, but at this moment…as I sit listening to some incredibly heart-wrenching music, I feel very successful. Because, I am here. Still. And, I am fortunate enough to work with people who inspire and challenge me into becoming a better human. Yeah, that’s pretty fucking amazing.

What I have learned is this: do what you love. Fuck money. Fuck status. If that comes with doing what you love…awesome! But, never lose yourself to gain another. That comes in many forms. Cheers, my loves. 2016…please don’t suck balls like 2015. Thanks.

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More than “Just”

Just a girl. Just a waitress. Just an actor. Just. Just. Just.

How often to we preface whatever it is we are talking about with the word, “just”? Why do we do this? It’s a minimizing word. And yet, we are all a magnitude of things. We are daughters, siblings, friends, artists, leaders, lovers…the list is endless.

Take, for instance, “just friends”. Pow. Bam. Ouch. Those two words can feel like a punch in the gut, but why? I think that friendship is one of the most profound relationships you can ever experience with another human being. Friendship means sharing an intimacy and a connection that is deep and lasting. Because, here’s the deal: you can have sex with someone you barely know…or even like. You can disconnect from that act completely and then go on your merry way. And, yet…when someone wants to “just be friends” we take that as a personal assault. So, what does it mean? I don’t want to fuck you. Ok. Down the rabbit hole we go. Because, then our thoughts consume us. This must mean that I am not beautiful enough, funny enough, smart enough, sexy enough. This must mean that I am not…enough. These are lies. Fuck that. You are enough. Let me write that again…YOU ARE ENOUGH! So, when someone wants to “just be your friend” try to shift your thinking to the possibility that that is the most amazing phrase you could ever hear. I don’t know about you, but I share my heart, mind and soul with my friends. They see me…they truly see me…and love me anyway! How amazing is that?

And so, in an attempt to change my own perspective, I have removed the word “just” from my vocabulary. (When it pertains to this issue, anyway). I want to see things clearly.

I am not “just” a server, “just” a woman, “just” a friend. I am a full human being. I am complex and magnificent. I am tragic and flawed. It’s really good stuff!!

Oh, and go see Birdman! If you are “just” an actor it will rock your world!!  :)

 

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Surviving the darkness

There has been much talk on the subject of depression in the recent weeks after the world lost a spectacular artist and human, Robin Williams. I can only speak for myself on the matter…it made my heart, my soul, my bones scream out in agony. I grew up watching his films…Dead Poets Society changed my life. It made me want to be an actor and I even quoted it when I gave the speech at my honors convocation for the liberal arts college when I graduated from my university. The work this man did had a profound effect on my life.

I’ve been wanting to write on this subject for some time, but was scared to open myself up. I am a survivor of severe depression and anxiety. I struggled for years…and I still struggle, but I now have tools to help me with what I know my triggers to be.

When I was married I tried to explain to my husband what it felt like to have this disease. He didn’t understand why I wouldn’t just go out and do something that would make me feel better. I would try to explain that I felt trapped in my own body…that I knew it would help me to simply go outside for a walk, but that I felt powerless to do it. I spent months isolating myself from the world. I was terrified all the time. I was lonely. I was lost. There were many times that it was so awful that I wanted it to end…it all to end. I got help. Help from friends and professionals.

The first step is telling someone. I felt so much shame about the magnitude of my depression that it took years for me to be honest with anyone about it. But, once I did I felt a sense of freedom. There was nothing to be ashamed about. With every person you open up to, it gets easier and easier. I realized that I was not alone.

The irony in my story is that from the outside it appeared that I had the perfect life. I had a beautiful husband who loved me, he was talented and successful. I lived at the beach. I was young and had a world of opportunities opening up to me. That was the perception others had of my life. The reality was that I was petrified all day every day.

My life is very different today. I am single. I live alone…well, not completely alone…I have my feline companion. I am a server in a restaurant. My career has ebbed and flowed, but I am not a working actor. I am broke. But, guess what? I have joy. I am happy. My life is my own and the choices I make are for myself. The perception of others might be…and I have been told by certain “friends” that I must be sad and miserable because of the things I don’t have. The reality is that I look at every day as a gift. I love life and I love myself.

Perception is not reality. Run your own race. You are the only one who truly knows what is in your heart and soul. Never give up on yourself.

My mantra to myself in my darkest hours was, “this too shall pass”. It does. I promise.

I also reflected on a poem I love…Splendour in the Grass by William Wordsworth.

It’s the small things you can find that let a little light in.

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety there are people who can help. People who understand. People who have struggled too and have clawed their way out of the abyss. Here is a link for help in LA.

This life is pretty incredible. It doesn’t always turn out to be what you thought it would be…sometimes that’s a really great thing. :)

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It is never ok to hit your server!

Or anyone for that matter, but your server…really? I was chatting with a co-worker the other night and he told me that a woman slapped his hand and then punched him. Punched him. Punched him. What?! I laughed at the ridiculousness of it, but after the laughter subsided, I began to think…and I began to get angry. First of all, this server is one of the most kind and loving people I have ever met and to think that someone would punch him, is appalling to me. But, even if he weren’t…it is still abhorrent to punch anyone.

My job as a server is to help guide the guest through the menu and do everything I can to make sure that guest gets the drinks and meal he or she wants. My job is to say, “yes” to you. Maybe that’s why there are some people out there who feel that they are entitled to exploit this fact. I get waved at (I, in turn, wave back with a big smile), snapped at, yelled at or completely ignored (I must be wearing my invisibility cloak again). When any of these things happen, I get annoyed. I am a person. A real girl. But, I have been working in this industry long enough to not take it personally…I know who I am. But, there is a line which is not ever to be crossed: do not touch me! Do not poke me or grab me. Do not slap my hand. Do not punch me.

Now, before I climb down off my soap box…I would like to take a little bit of time for some kindergarten education:

1. Don’t hit, pull hair or bite

2. There is a difference between need and want. You need water and food to survive…you want more bread.

3. Always look at the person you are talking to…not at your phone!

4. If you would like something…ask for it. There is no need to become passive aggressive and say things like, “you used to bring more bread than this”. Do you want…not need…more bread? Then, ask!

5. Discussing what you want with your friends is not the same thing as ordering it from your server. If you want something, you have to tell your server…that’s how that relationship works.

There are so many more, but I will save them for another time. :)

On a positive note…I was walking to my car after work the other day and I passed a car that was very dirty (I appreciate this as we are in the worst drought in history). Written in the dirt of  the back window was this phrase, “it gets better”.

Yes, it does.

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Live the life YOU want

Not the one your parents want you to live. Not the one your 15-year-old self vowed you would live. Not the one your friends may want you to live. But, the life you want…for yourself. Right now. It’s a scary and daunting idea. Sometimes the picture you have conjured in your brain as to what that life may look like is in complete dissonance with what actually brings you joy and feeds your soul. Sometimes…shit, all the time. That picture is a fake…a phony…an interloper trying to sabotage your life. Fuck that picture. That picture is not you or your life. Rip it up. Burn it. Smack it up, flip it, rub it down…oh,  no, well, that’s Bell Biv Devoe, but you get the point. Destroy the picture and the story you have created that goes along with it.

There has been a lot of chit chat about the article recently seen in Backstage, How to Know When It’s Time to Give up Acting. When I read this article I was encouraged. My journey has been long and very often I get depressed, anxious, frustrated and angry at the state of my “career”. I have, often, questioned what I am still doing out in LA, pounding the pavement and dealing with rejection after rejection. Sisyphus ain’t got nothin on me. This freaking boulder is heavy and keeps getting larger and larger as the years go by. But, then I search my heart for my inner truth. Do I want to be here? Do I enjoy my life? Do I have great friends and family who know me and love me…not what I do or how successful I am at doing it…but me? The answer is, “yes”. Today. That answer might change tomorrow. (Not the family and friends part, but other stuff…I hope :) ).

The only thing about the aforementioned article that rang false or harmful is the notion of “giving up”. That idea has a very negative connotation. To give up means to concede defeat. To admit you have failed and are now, in fact, a failure. If you are an actor and decide that you want to explore new opportunities and you have joy in this…you are not “giving up”. You are moving forward. If your truth tells you that pursuing a career in acting no longer feeds your soul…because, it very often sucks balls…give yourself the freedom to find something that does. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Choose happy.

For me, today, I continue on the path of trying to be a working actor in LA. Today I feel good as I listen to Thriller and dance around my apartment before going to one of my jobs. Today I toil on. But, tomorrow I may feel differently. I’m cool with that.

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Do what scares you!

Take a risk. Make a big change for yourself. Move. Quit your job…if you are stuck in the hamster wheel. Go on an adventure. Get up in front of people and give a speech. Jump out of an airplane…preferably with a parachute on. Get the shit kicked out of you by love. Live the life you imagine it could be. Because it can! With hard-work, determination, passion, integrity, strength and, yes, a little bit of luck, the life you want is there to be lived.

Ok, if I believe this to be true…which I do…why is it so damn hard to do most of the time? If I were to be completely honest with myself, the answer is clear: fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Shit, fear of success. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I feel the world closing in around me and I feel powerless to make changes, changes so desperately needed in my life, that I remain stagnant.  I guess it’s the whole, “the devil you know” mentality. Well, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts. It’s this: Fuck it. I’ve always been careful, thoughtful, pragmatic, responsible. In many cases it has served me well, but in many others it has kept me from really enjoying life. I don’t want to do that anymore.

And so…there are many changes on the horizon for me. I’m terrified. But, what’s really fantastic is that I’m ridiculously excited!!!! I feel free. I feel liberated. I feel like I can do anything I want. So, I’m gonna. I’m gonna do the things that scare the shit out of me and see what happens. What’s the worst that can happen? Bum, bum, bum…famous last words. :)

For some reason I am reminded of a poem from the movie, Mask. I love that movie. Who am I kidding? I love all movies…

These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a Harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face.
These things are a drag: dust in my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun shining on my face.

 

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The unexamined life is not worth living

A friend from college passed away this morning. I had not seen or spoken to him in 15 years, but even with that giant chasm of time and distance, I am profoundly affected by this loss. Chet was my first college crush. (The fact that he was gay did not deter my emotions from wanting him to date me…I sure have a knack for being attracted to “unavailable men”). He was a senior…a god of the theatre department…and I was a lowly freshman. The first play I was cast in was, A Christmas Carol. I was the giggling sister and he played Bob Cratchit. My greatest joy was watching him during the performance slowly uncurl his fingers and try to warm them over a candle flame. I would spend hours at his apartment with friends talking about plays and pontificating on life. He was gracious, kind, smart and spectacular. College remains one of the best seasons of my life. I met some of the best people I have ever known and made some of the best memories I have…I hold them in my heart. That’s where I will hold Chet.

We don’t know what kind of affect we will have on others. Whether someone is in your life for a few minutes or a lifetime…there is great power and potential for making an impact. What kind of impact do you want to make? Be kind. Be loving. Be generous. Be respectful.

There is so much importance placed on being beautiful in this world…especially in the US of A. Even when we see babies we say, “what a beautiful child”! As if it’s an accomplishment in some way. And no parent ever wants to think their kid is ugly. We are conditioned to believe that there is more meaning or that we are worth more if we are beautiful. We spend ridiculous amounts of time and money trying to achieve perfection. Spoiler alert…perfection does not exist…except in nature. I lost years to a disorder that kept me from living because I wasn’t perfect on the outside (story for another time). I vowed to not ever do that again and when I feel the all-too-familiar pangs of anxiety creep up, I try to squash them like a bug. (I rarely squash bugs…I prefer to set them free in the outdoors, but I digress).

I guess my point is this: life is short. Live a life without regret. Love your family and friends. Be kind to animals and strangers. If someone means something to you…tell them. I used to tell my now ex-husband that I loved him a hundred times a day. He hated it. He thought it lost meaning the more I said it. I told him that I said it when I felt it. All the time. I don’t regret that. Even now.

Rest in Peace, my friend. You made me happy. Thank you.

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There is always a choice

There is great power in this awareness. True, there are situations in life that are far beyond our control, but even in that there is a choice as to how we will handle those situations. Will it be with compassion, empathy and grace or will it be with anger, bitterness and resentment? I must admit that I have dealt with many issues in my life with the latter. When certain things did not go my way…or the way I had planned for them to be…I stomped my feet, screamed, cried and hated the world. It felt great. Until it didn’t. Until it started to fester and grow like a cancer in my soul. (Well, this is turning out to be a light and fluffy post). :)

It’s so easy to have a myopic view of your life. The focus can become centered around what you don’t have or how things were supposed to be. It can be devastating. The challenge here is to choose to “see” your life as it really is…and only you know what that is. I try to ask myself questions when I get into this mind set: why do I feel this way? Is it because I’m afraid of what others might think of me? Do I feel lacking because I don’t have the career/status/money I think I want…or deserve? Do I feel lonely because I don’t have a husband or boyfriend? Or…am I actually happy? Do I go to sleep at night feeling confident in WHO I am? Do I care about people and show them my heart in tangible ways? Do I treat people with kindness? Do I know what’s important…to me? When I ponder these questions I begin to feel very good about my life. I’m not perfect, by any means, but I have some things figured out.

And, it’s not over. There are still many years I have to live and I want to make the most of them. I want to love, laugh, dance, be silly, learn new things, travel and snuggle Nefer. Life is good. It has turned upside down and inside out many times, but I’m still here!  My heart is still open to new opportunities and adventures!

Tomorrow I have the adventure of serving hundreds of people on Thanksgiving. I could choose to be miserable. I could choose to hate everyone and be bitter and ruin my day. Or I could choose to have a joyful and thankful heart. In this instance choosing the latter is a grand idea.

Choose Happy. :)

 

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