Just what is a no?

No is a pretty powerful word.  When we are growing up, it stops us from putting our hands on a hot surface, keeps us from eating all our candy at Halloween and as a teenager, creates wails of agony, foot stomping and cries of “you just don’t understand” when it follows a request to hang with the crowd.  We learn pretty quickly that no is not a good thing.  Avoiding a no becomes an eternal quest.  Anything to feel that disappointment or shame from hearing it.

When you choose to become an actor, no becomes in intrinsic part of your world.  It’s not often expressed verbally but you know the no is there when you don’t get that call back or the shoot date comes and goes and by golly you weren’t on set.  Or heaven forbid, you don’t even get the call in the first place.  Ugh.  It’s hard not to take that personally.  Especially when the product you are behind 100% is yourself.  And if you hear, or don’t hear but it’s implied, no often enough, you start to believe it.  I’m not right.  I’ll never get hired.  I’m just not good enough.

I had an AHA moment recently when I heard something about the word no and it hit like a 2 x 4 between the eyes.  No is just a result, it’s not a judgement of me or my talents.  So while it’s not the result I wanted, it is nothing more than a result.  And I can take that result and refine whatever it is that I’m doing so I get closer to the result I do want.

Taking the judgement and rejection out of no really helps dull the sting.  It is merely a notation in the grand experiment of life that gets you closer to the yes you want.

Living Through It All Again

It’s been a really tough couple of weeks.  My focus has been awful, sleep has been interrupted at best, my emotions all over the place, I can’t write anything for lack of concentration and my productivity non-existent.  It started in a subtle way and was hardly noticeable but before I knew it the wheels had come completely off the bus and it was a train wreck of chaos.   I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  Maybe it was the change in the seasons.  After all, we’ve been living with tropical storm winds for over 72 hours now and it was starting to get on my nerves.  Maybe it was my moon was in Virgo and Pisces was in retrograde.  Maybe it was my biorhythms (remember those?!)

Whatever it was I kept plowing ahead feeling like I had a lead shoes on my feet and a kryptonite helmet on my head.  Nothing was coming very easy.  Everything was a challenge.  It was really starting to get to me.

But last night I was awoken yet again at around 4:09amish but this time I remembered the dream I was dreaming just before I woke up.  I was being laid off all over again.  There were a few minor details that weren’t the same, like for some reason my Mom was with me and what I was cleaning out of my files included lots of bags of vegetables and a squashed PB&J sammie which I never took to work, but everything else was the same.  Except for one vital thing, this time I wasn’t happy to be leaving to start my new life, this time I was anxious and worried.

AHA!  Finally some enlightenment.  You see the past several weeks I’ve been looking for new health insurance.  I stayed on my old plan because it was really good and surprisingly wasn’t super expensive.  But now I’m making the last break with my old life and it’s a biggie.  I never realized how difficult it is to compare and select plans because for so many years I just picked between the 2 plans my job offered.  Now I’m having to do all the leg work and evaluation by myself and apparently I’m a lot more anxious about this than I thought I was.  What a relief to finally realize what was holding me back and to identify the dark cloud in my mind.

I think I’ve found a few plans that I’m interested in.  Once I get that done I’ll be able to get back to my new life with excitement, hope and energy.  It’s funny how something can weigh on you and you don’t even know it.  But it sure is great to figure it out and take the boogy out of the boogy man.

45000 Personal Bests

This morning I hung out with 45000 folks.  It was a lovely way to start a Sunday morning at 730am.  You see today was the annual Chicago Marathon.  The course, as it winds it’s way through the city, usually runs somewhere in the vicinity of my house.  I can remember one year it went right by Wrigley Field.  It was really cold that year, I was wearing my Columbia jacket with the lining zipped in.  I rode my bike down with my dog Lily and we arrived in time to see the elite runners.  They are amazing to watch.  You can’t hear them as their feet barely make contact with the earth as they fly by.  It was incredible.

This year, the weather was much warmer, although not as hot as the year they had to stop the race.  The humidity was really high that year and the organizers didn’t have enough water out for folks.  This year it was dryer and there was plenty of H2O for the runners.  We learn lessons really well in Chicago.  Like how snow removal, or lack thereof, will ensure you don’t get re-elected the next time (see How Jane Byrne Became Mayor in Wikipedia).  So the organizers were very ready for conditions this year.

I had a special reason to get to the course.  My friend Stephanie was running in her hometown and for a wonderful charity (PAWS – Pets Are Worth Saving).  I donated to her fund as did others and she wonderfully dedicated each mile to a furry friend she’d known throughout the years.  My dear departed Lily was mile 8 which is where I was standing.  A nice bit of serendipity wouldn’t you say?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to spot her.  After all, there were 45000 people running, how on earth would I be able to pick her out of the crowd?  And since I was still pretty near the front, there were coming in big groups as the crowds hadn’t had time to thin out.  I kept my eyes peeled all morning long.  But in the midst of all this pressure, I was cheering on whomever came into my eyeline.  Lots of runners put their names on their shirts so I was calling out to random people urging them on.  Lots of thank you’s came back.  The sheer magnitude of what they were undertaking was overwhelming.  I was blaming it on the sunscreen getting in my eyes, but I found myself tearing up thinking about their quest.  It was humbling to see all those people from all over the world running for themselves and any number of charitable causes.

Finally I hear my name being called out and look to see Stephanie with the biggest, most beautiful smile on her face waving at me.  I was so excited for her I started whooping it up, bad for the voice but oh-so-necessary for the accomplishment!  She finished with her personal best even with the hot conditions.  I’m so proud of her, proud of all those who even signed up to attempt such a goal.  They stuck their necks out and just showing up that morning was a win for them.  Kudos to all.

Makes me think…nah.  That’s just crazytalk.

The Gift of Aspiration

Everywhere in this world there are people who are further up the spectrum than I am.  People who have more money than me, have achieved more fame than I, are skinnier, more proficient, more talented, you name it.  But there they are, ahead of me in some way.  As I write this, I am sitting on a plane in coach 2 rows back from first class so I have a bird’s eye view of the way they get to fly. I usually sit further back on the plane so while I know first class is there, I’m not as acutely aware of it. Lunch has just been served, on china and the flight attendant is bringing around petit fours for dessert, along with a refill of wine.  I haven’t even been asked if I want to buy an overpriced snack yet.

I say this not to complain about how awful air travel has become but to highlight where they are versus where I sit.  Watching the lovely way they are being treated made me want to be up there.  To figure out a way to get in the club.  Research the challenge.  Problem solve to achieve the goal.

Having those backs to look at as I travel my path is a wonderful gift. It lets me know what I want is achievable and if they can do it so can I.  I don’t look at those who have achieved with anger or envy (ok maybe a little envy, lunch sure smelled good and I would kill for more leg room) but with assurance that one day I’ll be up there, eating lunch on china at 35000 feet, accepting accolades on my performance and finally fitting into a wee size (or at least a wee-er size).  Just need to keep aspiring.  That’ll make it happen.

I coulda been a…

Salesperson for a membrane leak testing company.  Really.

Recently I was on a flight traveling to a voiceover conference (FaffCon in case I haven’t mentioned it several times in the past) and the gentleman seated next to me was reviewing his presentation for a meeting he was travelling too.  Being the nibnose I am, I was looking over his shoulder at the Powerpoint and realized I was looking at lots of pictures of holes in roof membranes.  Pretty earth shattering stuff.  It made me think of all the jobs there are that are of necessary but mundane nature.  Airline fabric manufacturer, car battery supplier, subway train operator.  Necessary but hardly invoking passion.  I wondered if those people who held these jobs loved what they did.  You see, I’d just come off of a week of filming a television pilot, working with some very talented cast and crew on a hilarious script.  I had an absolute blast and though the days were very long and work challenging, the time just flew.  Before I knew it I’d been on set for 6 hours and it seemed liked I’d just arrived.  And now I was on my way to meet with a group of incredibly talented Voiceovers to share ideas on growing business and creatively collaborate.  I can’t tell you how lucky I felt.

Now I was in sales for many years.  I sold television time, or bathroom breaks as I like to call them.  That job could be considered necessary but mundane.  But it was in advertising and television and there was a bit of glamour attached to the job.  And for a long time I was passionate about it and got to the point where I’d call myself an expert at what I did.  I’m sure lots of people would consider my old job in the category of “how can she do that job?” but I liked it and it was fun.  And I’m sure my seatmate likes his job and considers it interesting.  In fact he even said so.  But as I sat there looking at his presentation I couldn’t help but be thankful for my life and my career.  I was doing something I absolutely love and how many people get to say that?

I’m pretty sure my seatmate will do fine with his presentation.  He was also reviewing on from a competitor and on one headline in a huge bolded font they’d misspelled the work “leak”.  For a minute there I thought we’d switched to onions.  Not so good for a membrane leek testing company.

Stupid Tax

One of the shows I used to catch every once in a while was The Dave Ramsey Show on the Fox Business Network.  Dave is a financial guru who helps people get out of debt and stay out of debt.  I’ve read a few of his books and was saddened to see that FBN cancelled the program a few weeks back.  He had a great way of putting things that were no-nonsense and full of common sense tips to help one and all get their financial houses in order.  He was ardently opposed to credit cards and their use as a tool for cash flow.  He called the interest they charged a “stupid tax”.  This just made me giggle.  He applied the term to several other areas of finances, basically saying that to use or lose your money for silly and unnecessary reasons was just plain stupid.

I think the phrase can be extended to other areas of life and not just financially.  And I have a perfect example of how I paid the stupid tax the other day when traveling.  Let’s just start with the premise that traveling these days includes a certain amount of hassle, annoyances and endless supplies of patience.  The days of travel being a pleasant and luxurious pastime are long gone-alas!  Anywho, I was going to LA for a voiceover conference and had booked the first flight out so I could be in LA early enough to do a little sightseeing.  I wanted to do an official studio tour as I’d been on a lot but wanted to hear the history of studio.  So I was going to take the Paramount tour at noon LA time.  I get to the airport at 545am in plenty of time for my 735am flight and I’ve already printed my boarding pass.  No problem right?  Well for some reason I decide at the last minute to go to the bathroom and then oooo, wouldn’t a banana be good for the flight?  So I toodle down the concourse in search of a banana.  As I return to the gate, I notice the door is closed so I wait outside as the gate agents sometimes step away to take care of some business.  Someone finally showed up and asked if they could help me.  I said “I’m on this flight” and hand her my boarding pass.  “I’m sorry, the flight is closed”.  “But there’s 10 minutes until you leave, they plane’s still right there”  “But the flight is full”  wherein we got to the root of issue.  They’d given away my seat and they’d have to compensate someone in order to honor my seat.  So instead I paid the stupid tax of having to wait for the next flight and potentially missing my tour.

Fortunately I made the tour but the entire episode highlighted for me some of the ways that I short change my career and my life by paying this tax that I don’t need to pay.  Sure getting a banana was innocent enough but the result of my loss of focus could have been a lot worse than it was.  Staying focused is very important and not letting myself get sidetracked.  If I don’t, I may end up holding a boarding pass going nowhere instead of continuing forward progress.

Getting Unstuck

I’ve been working out recently with one of the DVD programs you usually see advertised on TV late at night.  It’s a pretty good workout with enough variety to keep me going to the next day.  One day I’m working a muscle group, the next I’m doing some form of cardio workout.  I feel good after each workout and I like all the workouts.  Except for this one workout.  It’s 50% longer than all the others and I really don’t enjoy doing it.  It’s a Yoga workout and while I usually like Yoga, I really don’t like this one.  I struggle with the moves, holding the poses and the overall length of the workout itself.  I find every excuse I can to not do this workout.  Which throws off my daily routine of trying to get a workout in every day.  I abhor this workout so much, it has completely derailed the good momentum I had going about a month ago.

I’ve noticed this happens in other areas of my life as well.  If I can’t seem to get a blog post written the way I want it sound, I’ll let my writing languish for days.  I let it stop me from my goal of trying to write everyday.  Or if I am craving a certain usually off limit food or type of food, I’ll eat all the way around the food, most likely adding WAY more calories than if I just ate the dang thing in a moderate portion size.  Or even if I’m having difficulty reaching a contact I really want to do business with, all other cold calling stops until I reach that contact.  Instead of replacing the ickey workout with one of the multitude of others available in the DVD set, or starting a completely new blog post, or eating the craved food, or putting aside the elusive contact, my stubbornness and narrow-mindedness allows these situations to take control of otherwise good progress.

No more.  Tomorrow I start fresh resuming my walk/run.  I’ll get to the DVD’s on Monday when it’s supposed to be over 90 again.  And the elusive contact goes to the bottom of the contact list bumping up every other prospect higher in the list.  And the troublesome blog post gets saved as a draft, perhaps never to see the light of day.  Instead I published this one.  You’re not the boss of me frustrating situations.  So there.

My New Favorite Place

It’s been a brutal summer in Chicago.  We’ve had 9 days over 90 degrees and the forecast is for 90’s through the next 8 days.  I really don’t like the heat at all which is why I live as north as I do.  I always say, you can put on a sweater if you get cold but you can only get so naked if you’re hot.  As a result of this heat and the accompanying humidity, I’ve become a bit of a hermit.  Really not going outside unless I had to.  But tonight I ventured up to my rooftop deck to water my plants-BTW if all these flowers are going to become cucumbers, I’ll be eating cukes until they come out of my ears.  And while it had only dropped into the mid 80’s, the humidity had dissipated and the wind had picked up.  As a result, it was unbelievably pleasant up there.  I brought my book up and read for while and then as the sun went down, plugged in the icicle lights that encircle my deck.  It’d been a long time since I’d done that so only about 30% were working.  I spent the next hour checking each strand and replacing bulbs, replacing strands that were beyond repair and reconfiguring the remaining ones.  Once finished, my deck was glowing quite nicely.  It was too dark to read so I brought up my laptop to see if my wi-fi reach this far.  I’ll be dog-goned if it didn’t.  I spent the few hours surfing and writing and listening to life in my neighborhood.  It even got chilly and I had to put on a sweater (see reference above).

It sounds silly to get jazzed about sitting outside but I’m not used to this kind of heat.  It really impacts my enjoyment of the wonderfulness that is Chicago in the summer.  I’ll make a deal with you Mother Nature, if you insist on pushing the mercury above 90 during the day, please provide me with nights like tonight.  They are truly magical.

Pretty Good Progress

Today is the 4th of July.  I’m kind of dork when it comes to this day.   The parades make me smile, especially the one that just went down the street with tricycles, strollers and doggies on leashes all decked out in red, white and blue.  Patriotic music chokes me up.  It’s just something about the way the notes come together that really puts a lump in my throat.  And don’t even get me started when I see a Veteran wearing his uniform or his cap.  I can remember 34 years ago when we celebrated our bicentennial and how proud we all were. 200 years sounded like such a long time.  This was put into perspective when I spent the summer in France studying and I stayed in a hotel that was 107 years older than our country.  We really are such a young country.  And it is truly quite amazing how far we’ve come in those 234 years.  We went from being a scrapping colony to the only leading superpower in that time.  It took a lot of hard work, quite a bit of civil strife, tolerance and dedication to get to this point but here we are.  And we continue to evolve.  Which is ever so hopeful.  I am very proud of this country, warts and all.  We aren’t perfect, but we keep trying.

Makes you wonder, if this Titanic we call the United States can change that much in 234 years, what can one person do with the same hard work, tolerance and dedication to change their future?

Happy Birthday Dad

Today would have been my Dad’s 76th birthday.  He’s been gone for about 18 months now and while I don’t feel his loss as acutely as I used to, I still feel it.  The funny thing is I actually feel him around me more now than I used to.  I still miss being able to pick up the phone and call him whenever I get the urge.  I used to do that quite often, especially when it was a call about the latest idiocy from some government or large business.  He was so interested in the workings of these monoliths and how the right hand often didn’t know what the left hand was doing.

He would have loved this past weekend.  We were at a family wedding of one of my cousins, a niece he was particularly fond of.  She’d lost her Dad, my Dad’s old brother, in the mid 90’s so another uncle walked her down the aisle.  I can imagine that if Daddy had still be alive, he would have proudly stepped in for his brother.  The reception was wonderful with a really good band.  Dad would have been up the whole night dancing with my Mom.  They were great dancing partners having had so many years together to practice.  I love watching couples who have been together forever, there is no awkwardness in their dancing, they follow an easy pattern that is so indicative of their marriage.  I was sad for my Mom that she’d lost her partner but plenty of friends and family picked up the slack and she rarely rested.

I know it was Mother’s Day yesterday and I’m supposed to be lauding my Mom.  I am thankful for all she’s done and still does for me.  But my Dad was a pretty important guy to me and his birthday is a day that is very special.  Forgive me a bit of self indulgence.  Happy Birthday Dad.  Miss you more than I can say.