the road less traveled blog turned 1 today! how appropriate that it is thanksgiving here in the united states. I am thankful for the insights I have shared and received through writing, and hope to be inspired to post more in the coming year
"I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself."
A brilliant director friend of mine recently asked me if I would give a friend of his who was just starting out as an actor some advice. Here’s what I came up with:
Time is a funny thing. I hope this comes to you at a time that feels right to you.
I was given a lot of advice when I first came to this city. Most of it was well-intentioned, though I’m sure a lot of it was motivated by fear. There is a lot of fear in this town. But there is also a lot of beauty, courage, adventure and even love, though it can be hard to find. Here’s a little about my journey.
When I first came here I was frustrated by the seeming lack of a clear “path” for an actor to take to reach success. I thought that many other professions in the world, creative ones included, had developed a pretty clear set of instructions to follow; degrees to acquire, hours to sacrifice, expectations to be met; in order to reach a level success. I had never considered myself to be “naturally” talented, but thought I made up for it with dedication. I took it upon myself to follow nearly all of the advice given to me. Starting with doing background work to achieve SAG eligibility, attending commercial classes, voiceover classes, casting director workshops, cold reading classes, shooting with THIS photographer and then THAT one, mass mailings, accountability groups, networking events, marketing, improv, etc. etc. (if some of this is foreign to you, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter). I starred in several student films and a feature film that is 3 years later still caught up in legal issues. I got a manager through a friend of mine whom I grew very close to and listened to everything she told me to do, yet also grew resentful every time it was something that felt against my instinct for my own path. I had a couple of “close calls,” where I felt I had almost gotten the job that would have changed my life. I became so disheartened with this city, the business, auditions, actors, everything. Luckily I had found time amongst all this to find a neighborhood I loved, a day job I don’t mind, an array of beautiful friends (though a lot of them stayed for awhile then passed through as we outgrew one another) and a wonderful partner to come home to.
I went through a very rough year following my mother’s cancer diagnosis and lost all interest in acting for the first time since I can remember. I spoke with my boyfriend often about moving from L.A., relocating in Nashville where he could pursue a songwriting career. I had been writing and playing with him and seriously considered giving up acting for a music career. Or to be closer to my mom. Or just to get the hell out of here.
Then I woke up. I started meditating, reconnected with an insanely talented friend of mine and did a play with her company, and everything changed from there. I shifted my perspective, of everything, and all of the sudden I wasn’t filled with doubt and fear every time I encountered a friend of mine who was having success, or at auditions, or while writing emails or having meetings. I remembered that I was once a pure-hearted child who wanted to become an actor to inspire people, to connect, to have an adventurous life. I started making my awareness of this a priority, my absolute presence in every situation, be it walking the dog or meeting an agent, my first priority. It is from here that I am writing to you.
You haven’t even met me, and I know this may all sound crazy to you. I have to trust that whatever parts of this are meant to reach you right now will. The only advice I will give anyone is to get in touch with who you really are, what you have to offer that no one else does, and to just embody that in every situation in your life. Listen to anyone’s advice knowing they probably mean well but no one knows your path and what you want it to be but you. Because when you come from that place of confidence, awareness and excitement in an audition, meeting, performance, that is when magic happens and you can create anything you want in this world. That’s all I have for now.
"I remember reading books as a child and promising myself I wouldn’t forget. Because you’d read books, and they’d obviously been written by someone who’d completely forgot. And I’d go, How can you forget?"
- Neil Gaiman
Remember being a kid and having boundless energy, excitement and curiously about the world around you, and absolute certainty that magic existed? It is nothing new for me to say that it was not the world that has changed, but you, yourself that changed since then, but have you ever wondered why? At some point, after the adults in your life grew bored coming up with answers to your endless “whys” (because they didn’t know and hadn’t thought to go find out themselves) and told you that some of the stories they had told you had been made up in order to protect you from some of the awful truths of the “real world,” you decided that the world you had seen up until that point had been an illusion, and the one they were telling you the rules for, the one they existed in, was real.
As you grew older, the memories and feeling of the world you had first known faded, and you forget it ever existed (it did). You sometimes feel restless, unsatisfied, out of place and guilty for feeling that you deserve more than this world can give you. But everything you want only exists because you want it, but you have to believe in it and in the world you create for yourself, in order for it to exist!
Have you ever wondered where the phrase “following your dreams” comes from? Think about all of the people you admire; artists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs who “made their dreams come true.” They live like gods with no limits, seemingly full of boundless energy, excitement and curiosity for their constantly evolving environments, and usually talk about some sort of “magic” that the rest of the world would rather dismiss with resentment than explore with interest. But that world they are living in, that Olympus would not exist had they not “seen” it first.
If you’re tired of living in a world other people have designed out of fear, all you have to do is look at everything with new eyes. Shift your perspective. See that things only have the meaning you place on them. So every moment, every sound, every image is a chance to create your new world. Just like a kid. Pay attention in a way you never thought you had to. Practice opening your eyes, your ears, your awareness of your body and your environment. Follow what feels good, because that is the truth of the world you should be living in.
As I type this I know it is easy for me to say this, but I may not have understood it before I started to see things this way. But all I can do is write the words that come to me, and trust that they will be of some help to you on your way to enlightenment. As they are for me. You’ll start to see that the truth of this is in so many things, so many words we’ve heard before, but words only have the meaning we give them. When you realize that you don’t “know” anything, you are free to see that neither did anyone who has told you anything you have come to believe as an ultimate truth. If every one of us stopped believing in the necessity of war, it would cease to exist. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it’s possible. Everything that is, we have created. Imagine what we could create now, or dis-create, if we just believe in the magic within us…
I chose this title because it brings to mind two images that have been prevalent in my recent experiences. The first is electrical current, which has to do with energy being connected, and the second is the flow of a body of water moving in one direction. The word also describes the present moment.
As I wrote in my last post, I haven’t felt the desire to write lately, probably because I have been heavily involved in an artistic collaboration that has kept me creatively fulfilled. I have been continuing to meditate, alone and with the group of artists who all helped to create the interactive show I am blessed to be a part of, currently in the middle of our run.
About halfway through our rehearsal process, which involved a lot of group meditation and improvisation, which had me feeling more connected than I have before (to myself, the energy around me, my fellow human beings, everything) I got that familiar pang of fear that happens when you start to wonder what will happen when whatever you are currently involved in ends. This feeling can come up concerning almost every aspect of life, from relationships to projects to travels, and despite how far I have come on my journey towards a more enlightened life, this has been a difficult fear for me to overcome.
The answer is so simple, and it also applies to everything, which is to stay present in this moment, because it is the only thing we can do anyway. I realized how much of my time I have spent analyzing the past and looking forward to or worrying about the future, and the only result is that I was not able to fully appreciate my life as it was happening. Of course there are those special moments we have all had, when we felt elated, extra-sensitive to our surroundings and in tune with ourselves, but what I have finally realized is that every moment of life can be that way.
While it is a challenge for me not to be making plans for what will happen when we are through with this show (which I have no control over anyway!) I am invested in appreciating THIS time. In trusting that the path I am currently on will lead to more and more of the life I envision for myself. In continuing to create meaningful art with the tools I have now, and trusting that more opportunities will come from these. Staying connected to the current of energy and going with the flow of it, wherever it is in the present moment.
If any of this speaks to you, check out the show that inspired it all and was inspired by it :)
I haven’t had much desire to write lately, and I have been trying not to force myself to do anything just because I think that I “should.” Since I took up a daily meditation practice I have felt so much more harmony in my life, and I find that, even if it’s only once a week, if I wait until I feel inspired to work on something, the result is profoundly more exciting than if I just do it for the sake of doing it.
I can’t say for certain what it was that caused the change in my attitude and energy, but I know that meditating is a part of it. I noticed a profound difference in my approach and the experience of my first two auditions of the year. Every actor knows the typical challenges of auditioning: trying to keep up your energy, confidence, and whatever emotional preparation necessary for the scene while encountering unexpected traffic, excessive wait times in the lobby, and possibly exhausted and/or apathetic producers/casting directors when you finally get into the room. Not to mention that while you are waiting in the lobby, you are usually watching at least twenty other people dressed exactly like you going into the office, one after the other, and sometimes you can even HEAR every word of their auditions (AND the praise they receive from the other end of the table). In the past, I have recognized my biggest weakness in auditions as being too susceptible to these external elements, and letting them weaken my energy, confidence and preparation. However, I have learned that attitude makes all the difference. Instead of becoming annoyed by the long wait times, I embraced them as times for meditation (before the serious role) or making new acquaintances of other actors (before the comedic role). Instead of feeling self-doubt upon watching other actresses walk in before me, I thought, “I hope they do well. It will challenge me to do even better.” Luckily, I encountered a warm reception in both of these recent auditions, but in case I do find myself walking into a cold room in the future, I am confident that I will be able to find the excitement in the challenge, and see that people who act indifferent or hostile are usually just scared and are probably even more desperate to witness something inspiring like an artist who is excited about their work. I believe this probably applies to most forms of art.
I cannot recommend a daily meditation practice enough for artists who are facing the challenge of, well, being an artist in any time period other than the Renaissance ;)
I’ve been holding on to this photo for awhile, realizing immediately it was relevant to me but waiting for the moment when I really “got” it. I have been thinking a lot lately about resolutions in general, how there really is never a perfect time when it’s any easier to change a habit or an attitude. Every time I think “I know I need to take a deep breath and take a positive attitude” when I am feeling down or anxious, it is always immediately followed with “just not now, not today; today is depressing and stressful, I’ll do it tomorrow.” And I KNOW this is ridiculous, there is no time but NOW, every minute, to guide one’s thoughts on a positive path. Because days turn into weeks and weeks into years unbelievably fast, and every moment is too precious to waste on a way of life one does not feel is right.
This has been the underlying theme of this whole time away with my family, I think. I kept waiting for the day when I would figure it out, my career path, a way to fix my mom’s illness, but the thing is, in the same way that we cannot wait for the perfect moment to quit smoking, start volunteering, change cities, whatever, we cannot expect one magical moment to turn everything around. After the moment you decide to quit smoking, you have to decide every moment after that not to start again; once you finally go volunteer, you still have to choose to go again; and even if you finally make a move, wherever you go, there you are.
I am sitting on my parents’ beautiful patio facing a small forest of North Carolina trees, listening to rabbits and squirrels rustling the dry leaves two days before my departure back to Los Angeles, and I have not had any certain revelation about my life that was bigger than another. What I have done is enjoyed spending time with my mom (including a spontaneous road trip down to my birthplace, Miami, which is mainly the reason I have not written for some time), and grown up just a little bit in accepting that even if I could convince her to do what I thought was best, it may not actually be the best thing for her. I don’t know if I will be able to meditate every morning when I get back to California; I don’t know if my new head shots or new attitude or new actions will bring about a significant change in the amount or quality of opportunities I have to act in Los Angeles; I don’t know if I will one day regret not being geographically closer to my family. I do know that I will always love movies, for how they inspire my life; I will always be adventurous and ready to try something new, and I will always continue to work on being a more enlightened, positive being.
And it may take more than one night, but I will learn to appreciate and be aware of every moment, until they are all beautiful.
I love the title of the final book of the Twilight series, and it is fitting to me that I saw the film version of it tonight as I am seeing this time in my life as a dawn that is just breaking. I suppose the fact that we are a few days from a new year is fitting as well. Just a few days of meditation has changed my perspective in a small but profound way. It is as if the purest, wisest, strongest part of my being gave me a hug and reminded me that I am on the right path. I think I was dangerously close to veering from it (i.e. ceasing my belief in myself and my future) after this year of really having to face mortality for the first time.
It is difficult not to “do” anything when we see a wrong that we believe we can right. I am learning this every day with my mom. I have tried every tactic I know to get her to see things the way I do, finally today resorting to hysterical sobbing as I pleaded with her to try to change her attitude. Every time I am met with the same lesson - just as I am asking her to realize that she cannot change her outer surroundings without first changing her inner perspective - I cannot change her, I can only be one force of love and positivity in her life.
I went to see Lincoln two days ago with my mom, my dad, and my sister. Probably the last time the four of us went to a movie together was well over ten years ago. It reminded me of that time in my life when I decided to be (or realized I was meant to be) an actress. Coming home from movies, shutting myself in my room and thinking for hours about how it made me feel, what I wanted my life to be. Movies are what make life seem magical to me. It has always been movies that keep my faith alive that my life can be whatever I want it to be. I believed, in spite of all the cynics in my life, that I would find love as powerful as movies like Twilight. And I did. I still believe, without a doubt, despite the fact that I wasn’t born into a film family, or that I didn’t move to Los Angeles when I was twelve, or that I haven’t gotten there yet, that I will be in great movies that make people go home and think about their lives and what they want them to look like. Because there is no other way for my life to go.
Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go
on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace,
like a clock during a thunderstorm.
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Now that I have been at my parents’ house for two days and the chaos of Christmas is over, I set up my makeshift office for the next twenty days here, wrote my to-do list, and as I opened up this page to write this the anxiety started to creep in. What if I don’t accomplish all the things I want to while I am here? Will I go back to my life in California with the same wavering uncertainty about my career? What if I don’t feel like I have done enough to get my mom to the “right” place to heal herself? As I started to feel the stress that only goal-oriented types can feel on a holiday, I noticed that just upstairs my sister was playing “Let it Be” on repeat. And then I remembered that all I wanted to come out of this “retreat” with is to be more conscious of the present moment. Everything I was concerned about came from a fear of how I may feel in the future.
It is difficult to find the balance between “doing” too much (which often involves a noisy mind) and not doing anything at all. I know that my constant urge to do something (for my career, for my mom, just to make this day feel worthwhile) usually does not help, mostly because it involves more worrying about what I could/should be doing than constructive action. But then you also cannot expect to see the results you desire only by wanting it to happen. I definitely believe in the power of visualization and positive thought, but mostly because I think that they inspire action. I think the reason I have been feeling stuck lately is that since moving to California, I have fundamentally changed the way I approach life, only I have not quite devoted myself to one way of life or the other. I used to be totally goal-oriented, believing that hard work and persistence were the keys to attracting the kind of life I wanted to be living. At some point, though, I got tired of “the life I wanted to be living” being only in the future. I started to learn to appreciate what I already had, to cultivate aspects of my life that already existed and trusting that it was all unfolding as it was supposed to on the way to the life I envisioned for myself. After awhile of doing that, though, I started to get impatient and fearful that I wasn’t “doing” enough to make things happen. The thing is, I feel like either way works. You can either be completely goal-oriented and work hard to get what you want, which sometimes involves sacrificing enjoying life as it is at this moment, or you can fully appreciate your life as it is right now, slowly learning to just do what you want to do now. The issue, I think, is not quite being able to commit to one way or the other.
The root of this issue, for me, is over-analyzing. Which is why the only thing I am going to make myself do every day that I am here is meditate. Everything else; writing, playing guitar, going to the gym, reading, even (and especially) trying to “fix” my mom’s health, I will only do when I feel like it. Because I do believe that if you stay present, and follow what feels good, life brings you the answers you are seeking.
Stay posted ;)
It has been surprisingly rainy here in Los Angeles lately, which, as I have said before, I tend to love. However, today is sunny, the future looks bright, and I heard some great news from my mom, so right now I’m kind of loving the sunshine! I chose this picture because it looks like it was taken after a rain (or before, but it depends how you look at it) and because I have been talking a lot lately about paths (albeit metaphorical ones) and this looks like a beautiful one to be on.
I don’t have too much time to write today, as I just decided to shoot some new headshots on Friday so we can have them ready by the time I get back from my “retreat,” so I need to do some research on the types of shots I want, book a hair appointment, and talk to the photographer, but I just wanted to let anyone know who may be following this that my mom got the news today that her CA-125 levels went down 300 points (basically it is a way of determining the likelihood of cancer in your body, if you are responding to treatment, etc., and it has been 9 months since hers have gone down, and never by this much)! I am so grateful to have this wonderful news to start my time there and to help my whole family to feel optimistic about the future.
I can’t wait to get some great new shots, have my little pre-Christmas with Kyle on Sunday evening, and then spend three weeks with my beautiful mom!
You are perfect. You are complete.
Your inner voice always knows what to do,
but it is a quiet voice.
You can only hear the whisperings of your inner voice -
your inner compass - when you turn down the volume
of your fears, your regrets, your resentments,
and the fear-based advice
your neighbors are so willing to give you.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
In the past week I have had a multitude of conversations about different aspects of my life with an array of wonderfully unique individuals whom I am blessed to call friends. I want to work it all out through writing somehow, but I am just so overwhelmed with thoughts and fears and impulses and advice that I don’t even know where to start. The idea of meditation has been coming up in my life lately so I’ll start with that…
I briefly explored Buddhist chanting a couple of years ago. I never followed the rules or attended many meetings, but I used it as a sort of meditation meets visualization exercise to get clear every day on what I wanted and how I could see it happening. What is interesting to me is that, about a year into my scattered study of Buddhism, my sort-of mentor of the practice encouraged me to chant every day for one month on a specific area of my life that had me feeling stuck (my mess of a love life). Three weeks into it I met Kyle. And yet, after that, I kind of fell off the wagon. I have picked it up again, once in awhile, but never unreservedly. I notice this tendency in most people I know. We may KNOW what will help us move past a debilitating situation in our lives, but too much of the time we won’t do it. Or we will only do it until we see an immediate result and then leave it again. Why is this? It is different for everyone, but I think it all boils down to fear.
I have also tried meditation several times in my life. Being a student of drama, you are sure to run into an eccentric teacher at some point who works it into an acting course. I have had fleeting moments of understanding what meditation is, but never enough to keep me doing it on a regular basis. One of my best and most spontaneously courageous friends recently told me that what she thought I needed was a retreat. I suppose, in a way, I am about to take a sort of retreat when I go to stay with my family for three weeks next Monday. I say “in a way” because, although I will be away from my daily life pursuing my career here in California, it is only to be thrust into all the issues I have not yet dealt with surrounding my mom’s illness. I have felt all of these unsorted thoughts bubbling up over the past few months, but haven’t had the energy to delve into them. I know that my time at home can be a wonderful new turning point for all of us, so I know it’s time that I really look inward and summon the courage to take a step in the direction my inner compass is pointing. This blog was actually a step towards this for me.
My most respected and admired friend is going to call me shortly with some meditation advice that I am hoping to practice during my time at home. I am hoping that devoting myself to a daily practice, along with the knowledge that life can change in an instant, the way mine did the night I met Kyle, will set me back on an enlightened path and away from this, what my oldest friend whom I spoke with today called, “stop sign” I have been sitting at for far too long.