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.

From Worst to First

I don’t know if you heard about it, but the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup Finals a few days ago.  I know, it’s old news.  But in Chicago, where we don’t have much to cheer about athletically these days, the celebration lives on.  The players have been all over town with that massive cup and many a true and bandwagon fan has been able to touch or even drink out of the cup.  All I can think of when I hear that is all the germs that are living on it.  EWWWW.  But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take a swig if given the opportunity.  After all, I wasn’t even born the last time this team took the cup and the only other team I can say that about is the Cubs.  With a 102 year drought, I don’t think I’ll ever catch their record.  Anywho, one of the things that’s come up is the fact that only 5 years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were rated the worst team in the NHL.  Dead last.  And in 5 short years, the franchise did a dramatic turnaround that touched all areas of their organization from the top down.  The first big thing that happened was the elder Wirtz retired and passed the leadership on to first his son Peter and then to Rocky who runs it now.  The new generation had a different way of operating that was greatly needed.  Fans had been ignored, games not televised, star players dealt away or cast away, new talent recruitment was non existent.  It was clear changes had to be made.  Difficult changes.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy to tell Dad that his way of doing things was no longer the way of the Blackhawks.  Family dinners had to have been fun.  But time marches on and if you don’t evolve and reinvent, you become irrelevant.  Change is never easy but if you don’t ask yourself why you are doing the same thing the same way over and over, you run the risk of getting stuck in a rut and not staying cutting edge.  Turning around an entrenched organization must have been a monumental task but look at the rewards the Blackhawks reaped for doing so.  It all started with the thinking at the top.  This type of reversal can happen to any organization, company or person.  You just have to start at the top.

A Sparkle or a Smolder

For a long time now I’ve been struggling with my voice.  I know, it sounds silly.  After all, it’s something that is so intrinsically a part of us that how can it be a problem?  It’s kind of like my struggle with clothes.  I want to be a size 4 but in reality I’m not.  Probably never will be.  GRRRR.  And that’s not easy to accept.  But that’s a topic for another day.  With my voice, I’ve always longed to have that sultry, husky voice that I so admire in many female voice talents.  The kind that envelopes you in texture and feels all cashmere and warm.  And I do have that voice, in the morning before I warm up the vocal cords.  The problem is, I’ve been trying to make that my default voice and it’s not.  Trying to change my voice at this stage of the game isn’t a wise thing to do.  Not only is it like trying to change the hand you sign your name with, awkward at best, it can be dangerous to your vocal cords if try to make them do something you naturally aren’t supposed to do.  But I’ve been dinking around with placement for over a year and all I’ve managed to do it screw it up magnificently!  Any of you who’ve tried changing your golf swing know from whence I speak.  It’s brutal.  I finally came to the realization that I’m not and never will be that voice I so admire.  Sigh.

Just as I was getting used to this idea I was talking with a fellow voice talent, Philip Banks, and recounting this oh-so-tragic realization.  I am not and never will be a sultry voice, my voice is bright.  In his inimitable British way, Philip said “some people are a sparkle and some people are a smolder.  You are a sparkle.”  In those 15 words, Philip managed to take news I’d considered shattering and make it instead a wonderful thing.  I’m a sparkle.  Yes indeed I am.  Just like diamonds and emeralds and rubies.  Who doesn’t like a little glitter in their life?  Pretty dang cool.  All of the sudden I’m kinda happy about my voice, at least the one I used to have.  I just need to find it again.  Maybe it’s in that drawer I’m afraid of opening.  All I know is, I’m a lot more content with the voice I was blessed with that I was 30 minutes ago.  And excited to see where it can take me.  It just took some mental adjustments accompanied by a long distance kick in the pants.  Thanks Philip.

Excruciating Increments

One of my favorite shows is The West Wing.  I’m thrilled that Bravo shows 2 hours of it every morning from 7-9a and get annoyed when the programming is changed even slightly.  It’s how I start my day most mornings while I wait for local weather on the 8’s on the weather channel.  I told you I’m a weather dork!  Anywho, the writing of Aaron Sorkin on this show, on any show he’s done, is really good.  I’m constantly impressed at what comes out of his characters mouth.  On this particular day, the main story line focused on a big budget bill that had a last minute clause inserted before it was passed that went against the First Lady’s beliefs.  This story line was juxtaposed against another story about a big glacier that had melted on the polar ice cap and drowned several residents of an island with the rise in water levels.  Now when I think of a glacier, I think of a slow moving massive hunk of ice that floats around the ocean not really changing it’s shape or size.  Things are often described as moving glacially, meaning really slow.  But here this glacier had completely melted and rather unexpectedly as the residents were taken unaware.  At the end of the hour POTUS and the First Lady are discussing with that witty Aaron Sorkin repartee the budget issue and how he’s going to fix things.  POTUS answers her pleas for expediency by saying “Change happens in excruciating increments”.  Interesting that a glacier melted to show this juxtaposition.  But boy is he right.  Change does happen in excruciating increments.  It takes a lot of backward perspective to realize that any change has been achieved.  But with consistency, change can occur.  I just hope I’m not treading water before it happens to me!

Change your tomorrows

I’m a big Project Runway fan.  I’ve watched it for several years now, through both networks and the lawsuit that threatened it’s existence.  Some years are more interesting than others and some casts are more engaging than others.  This year has been an in and out year for me.  Thursday’s are especially fatiguing as I intern in a casting office that day.  So my TV watching isn’t very regular and I keep forgetting it’s on.  The cast this year has been not great, but above average.  The producers don’t cast the strongest designers, they want the most interesting mix of personalities that will make for the most gripping television.  After all, people want to see conflict not humming sewing machines.

One of the designers that really jumped out at me this year was Anthony Williams, an African American from Birmingham Alabama.  He made a statement on the first show that “it was hell being black and gay in the ghetto”.  And with that, he took my heart.  He is hilarious in his musings which were frequent and unsolicited.  Unfortunately he was eliminated last past week as his stylings had fallen into a rut and he was turning out the same dress in a different color.  As he stood alone on the runway waiting for Heidi to give him his auf wiedersein and his cheek kisses he once again left us with a classic.  He gracefully thanked the judges and said “this isn’t the last you’ve heard from me.  I still have breathe in my body to change my tomorrows.”   Indeed.  What a reminder that the path we are on can be altered at any moment if it no longer incites our passions.  And just because the Project Runway people deemed him no longer fitting for their competition didn’t mean he couldn’t continue being a designer any more.  He  didn’t take their dismissal of him as a death sentence of his designing career and now he must become something completely different.  He has it within himself to take what he’d learned, refine his process and tweak his direction.

At any point, a direction can be changed, an alteration made.  Nothing is written in stone, even if the overwhelming evidence makes it seem so.  You still have breath in your body, change your tomorrows.

Uncomfortable Changes

I have an ancient car.  Not quite a Model T but a pretty old one nonetheless.  It’s a 14 year old Geo Prizm with over 210000 miles on it.  You read that right.  I wanted to get a car to over 200000 miles and I reached that goal this past summer just outside of Memphis.  Oh and the car line doesn’t even exist anymore.  But my little gal keeps hanging on.  I had some extensive work done on it while on that road trip last summer, it helps to have a mechanic who’s a future brother in law, and she’s been running just great.  Just a few quirks, like I don’t really have any heat in it when I’m on the highway as the heat core is shot and needs to be replaced.  The part is pretty cheap but the labor is almost a grand.  And the back passenger window doesn’t roll down anymore.  And the check engine light is lit up again.  But she still gets me from point A to point B and she doesn’t look bad at all.  The paint is in great shape with no rust.  The body is dent free.  I did have an owie this past winter when a snow rut rolled me into the back end of an SUV with a trailer hitch that pushed out a bit of my bumper.  So she’s not without a blemish but overall she still looks great.

I know I’m waxing eloquently about a car, and not a very noteworthy one at that, but you have to understand something.  I’ve only ever owned 3 cars in all of my adult life, 4 if you count the 68 Chevy Nova I used to drive in high school that was really my parents car.  And this little car has a lot of memories connected to it.  I bought it with my Dad’s GM family discount so he’s still on the title.  And now that he’s gone, it’s still something that connects us.  And I used to cart the dogs back and forth to my parents house, first Lily by herself and then later we added Bailey to the trips when I shared custody of him with my parents.  I have many a memory of Lily in her cage on the passenger seat next to me checking in to see if this was going to be  a quick trip or one where she needed to settle in for the long haul.  When we got close to our destination, I’d let her out of her cage so she could sit on my lap and sniff out the window.  Her little paw on my leg as she emerged still makes me smile.  Bailey’s ear shattering bark from the back seat when he got bored or bladderful still makes me jump.  They’re both gone now as well but I am reminded of them frequently when I’m tooling around town.

The reason for all this reflection is I have the opportunity to purchase my Dad’s car, a 3 year old Camry in fantastic condition and kitted out to the extreme.  It’s a great opportunity and one I don’t want to pass up.  It’s just that I wasn’t ready to let go of my old car just yet.  Maybe I won’t.  Maybe I’ll just keep the old one and slowly make the transition.  I wasn’t given that choice with all these other losses.  I think I just need some time.  So I’ll take as long as I need to say goodbye.

29 months

As I’ve been known to say, Holy Macaroley.  I was talking the other day with my career coach, Kristine Oller , whom I’ve been working with for a while.  I started with her when I wasn’t happy with the way my acting career was progressing and some of the things I’d heard her say at a conference really resonated.  As they say, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  So I contacted her and on my next visit to Los Angeles sat down with her.  Her forte is organizing but one of the things she said that struck a chord with me is her favorite space to organize is the mind.  That really hit me.  I felt so helter skelter in my career planning.  I was going at fits and starts and really not gaining any traction.  It was at that first meeting that we started to map out the transition I could make from full time day job/part time actor to full time actor.  That day was was pivotal to me as it was the first day I really considered acting as a full time career.  It was the first time I’d allowed myself to entertain even the possibility of giving up the career I had worked at for over 2 decades to take on a new challenge.  Over the months that ensued, she and I reviewed my progress and set new targets for the next steps to take.  That arrangement continues to this day.

But purpose of our conversation on this particular date was a coffee date she was recording for her new venture and she wanted me to tell my story for those that were contemplating the switch to a full time creative.  In her introduction she mentioned that we’d begun working together in October 2007.  That stopped me cold.  We had only been working together for 29 months.  29 MONTHS! I couldn’t believe how far I’ve come in so short a time.  I was amazed at my progress.  All too often I bemoan the fact that this or that hasn’t happened and certainly nothing was happening at a pace that was fast enough for me.  I am so grateful Kristine happened to mention that date.  If she hadn’t I wouldn’t have taken the time to look back and see how far I’ve come.  I know I have so very far to go but I am so encouraged by my progress. And proud of myself.  Who knew I had it in me?!!  And who knows what lies around the corner?

A bargain at $5

When I was home for Thanksgiving this past month, I made a return trip to my old high school for a basketball game.  You may not be aware of it, but when I was growing up in Indiana, high school basketball was king in the state.  Like high school hockey is in Minnesota and high school football is in Texas.  There was nothing that could compete with a Friday or Saturday basketball game in my gym, which just happened to be the second largest in the US but was also the second largest in Indiana.  It seats 8996.  Just to give you a little perspective, 9 of the top 11 largest gyms in the country are found in the state.  Like I said, we take our basketball seriously in Indiana.  Or at least we used to.  Time, manufacturing leaving the area, changing to a class system and competition from other forms of entertainment have taken their toll on attendance.  Shockingly so.  I was pleasantly surprised the ticket prices were still $5 for adults.  But even at a price that was 30% lower than a movie ticket and a strong push from an alumni group to go to this particular game, there were probably only about 1500 people watching the game.  The band, which used to take up the entire stage and spill out the sides, was so small the sound barely reached beyond the heavy velvet drapes that still hung from the rigging.

I know change is inevitable but it broke my heart to see what had become of the school I loved and hated at the same time.  High school for me wasn’t the glory years usually portrayed in film.  It was more like Sherman’s march through the south, brutal and unrelenting.  But regardless of the battle wounds I’d received, I still was saddened by how far it had fallen.  There was even talk it might be closed permanently.

Nonetheless, the game went on and the Indians were triumphant.  I’m going to try to go to another game sometime before the winter’s out.  If only to support the effort of the athletes that are surrounded by the glories that once were. They’ll never know what it was like when the room was filled to the rafters and it was standing room only.  But maybe my whoops and cheers will add to the meager chorus and show the “spirit seldom seen” as our school song says.

There’s no place like home

Do you ever get that uneasy feeling?  The one that comes from the realization that not enough right is happening in your life.   So of course you need to shake things up, make some stuff happen, just get SOMETHING moving in a direction, any direction will do.  You can call it restlessness if you want .  Or maybe it’s dissatisfaction.  Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel good.  So by golly let’s make a change.  All of the sudden you start considering things you’d never consider before, like oh I don’t know, maybe moving to New York or LA.  After all, I am an actor right?  Why wouldn’t I make a move there?  Makes perfect sense to me.  Or sheesh, I haven’t had a decent date in the back half of this decade so of course it’s a good idea to ring up an old flame to reignite something that is long dead and buried, thank heavens.  I’m sure all of the things that weren’t quite right then have all resolved themselves.  Or you quit your job, fire your agent, finally tell off your sister.  Anything to move the needle.  Get out of the funk that has overtaken your life.

I found myself in this exact situation recently.  Things aren’t moving as fast as I want them to in most aspects of my life.  I’ve got plans after all and a timeline which I expect to be met.  And when reality crashes into my expectations like 2 atoms at the new Hadron Collider, it really sends me into a downward spiral that threatens to overtake me.  So add to this lethal mix 2 New York based movies, Sex and the City and You’ve Got Mail with all their pretty pictures, nice people, beautiful apartments, perfect wardrobes, snappy lines, and you have the makings of a hare-brained idea to chuck all this and move to NY.  Brilliant right?  The rub is, when you get to NY or wherever you run too, once you unpack everything, you realize you’ve brought with you the same problems you had in the old location.  The only thing different is the zip code.  And you’ve compounded it once you realize you’ve left behind the support system you’d painstakingly built in your old locale.  So now you have to start all over building a new one and in your spare time, deal with your problem all by your lonesome.

It is said if you want to hear God laugh, just tell Him what you’ve got planned.  Whatever it is that isn’t right in your world, you have to fix it before you can move forward.  It sure would be easier to run away.  Sometimes being a grown up ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Tater Tots for breakfast

Yes you read that right.  I said Tater Tots for breakfast.  I’m out of eggs, having scrambled my last ones before I left for New York for the weekend.  I keep forgetting to stop at the store to pick up more.  I know what you’re thinking, “seriously, she can’t remember to go to the grocery store?!” so let me explain.  I live behind a grocery store.  Or at least I used to before they closed it to tear it down and rebuild it.  Just like Steve Austin, “we can rebuild him, make him better, stronger, faster”.  In just 18 short months, I’ll have a bionic grocery store.  Or 18 take forever months if you are trying to record on a very sensitive microphone and every beep and vibration from the big dig gets picked up for posterity.  But I digress.

Like I said, I’m out of eggs.  And because for 16 years, I’ve walked out my back door through the parking lot to my grocers, I can’t seem to remember to stop at the store.  I’m stuck in a rut, an old way of doing something and I haven’t made the conscious change in my mind.  That’s the step I’m missing, the conscious change part.  That’s the hardest step to take because we create shortcuts in our lives and brains to get through the myriad of tasks that need to be accomplished in any given day.  It’s the one thing that needs to happen to create any sort of self revolution.  Rather a dramatic statement.  Weren’t we just talking about eggs?

I’ll try to remember to stop tonight on my way home tonight.  But just in case I have more tater tots in the freezer.