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When did I become so afraid?

How many times have you heard a story begin “When I was in college…” among the thirty-something set? We seem to draw upon that just-out-of-reach chapter in our lives to desperately try to understand how we ended up in our current situation. What was it I wanted to be again? What was I passionate about? What did I do when I was fearless? Of course that’s not everyone’s recollection of their college years, but for me, I was fearless.

Recently I’ve been infiltrated by a foreign emotion when it comes to my ability as an artist, namely an actor. I could call it insecurity or self-consciousness. It started out as doubt. I’ve been insanely insecure about many other things throughout my life, but never my ability as an artist. I could boil the rest down to two fears. Being fat, and being a loner.

I hate the word fat. Almost as much as I hate chubby, plus-size, and lately the patronizing overuse of the word curvy. The unfiltered kids who would tease me in grade school just went straight to fat. My trying-to-be-polite “friends” thought chubby would be less upsetting. I’ll never forget the girl who sat next to me in 4th grade calling me “pleasantly plump.” This is no doubt something she’d overheard at her mother’s weekly Weight Watchers meeting. The women’s clothing section at Macy’s obviously feels that plus-size is somehow comforting. And now the overdue positive body image movement has appropriated the word curvy to describe any woman larger than a size 12. To me they’re all touchy, but that’s largely my own madness. They all push the same button. The same weak spot on my soul that reduces me back to that 10 year old girl on the playground crying at the edge of the field where no one will see me because Thad just made fun of my fat stomach while playing foursquare. Yes I kind of want you to feel sorry for me. Whatever though. I’m over it. I really am. Over the past 10 years I’ve worked so hard to get over my body image issues and can proudly say that for the most part, I have. Not that I love myself all the time, I just don’t really care that much anymore. Yes I wear a size 10 and sometimes 12. Yes I’m too heavy for my husband to comfortably whisk me off my feet while we’re walking barefoot on the beach. Yes I have a huge butt. Whatever. Over it. The point is, these things do leave weak spots that become susceptible to other insecurities. I think that’s what’s happened.

Oh, I also said I was insecure about being a loner. Totally true. I possess this completely irreconcilable set of traits where I love spending time by myself and at the same time am totally pained to be without a set of friends. I enjoy being alone, but I don’t want to be a loner. I like being by myself, but I long to be part of a group. Classic Gemini. Someday I need to accept one or the other. I can’t have it both ways, and for now the struggle makes me feel sort of crazy and sad. But this topic is a post for another day. For right now I just have to put my finger on how my weak spots have been invaded by an insecurity of something totally foreign to me, my artistry.

Fat loneliness being the only thing that truly ever kept me up at night, I somehow always maintained a strong faith in my ability as an actor. I don’t know why. It’s an easy thing to be insecure about, but I was immune. I was never cocky. Humility is not the same thing as insecurity. I was humble, but confident. Ruminating on this for several weeks now, I’ve come to the conclusion that it was because I was doing it all the time.

Last year was the first in 18 years that I did not do a play. Seriously. That dawned on me recently and I about died. How depressing, and weird. Save the two or three years that competitive baton twirling replaced theatre as my extracurricular activity, I’ve always been in plays, even as a kid. Plays at school, plays at River City Theatre Company (youth theatre), or plays in adult community theatres, I was always acting. A funny thing happens when you’re doing something all the time. You don’t have much time to doubt it. You can feel frustrated and shaky, maybe challenged and even overwhelmed, but not deep-seated insecurity. That is the kryptonite that prevents you from even being able to get on the stage.

So flash forward now to 2014 and I audition, and I audition, and I audition, and I audition, and for the first time in forever I do not get cast in anything. Whoa. Unlike before, I am not asking you to feel sorry for me about this one. When I made this observation to a friend of mine his response was, that’s amazing. Not the response I was expecting because I saw it as a negative. He reminded me that I could just as easily see it as a positive that I had been fortunate enough to ALWAYS be practicing my craft and playing from the time I was 11. So yeah, that turned me on my feet real quick. I’m grateful. I’ve lived a charmed actor life.

But gratitude doesn’t dismiss the detriment NOT acting is having on my spirit. To use the phrase I began this article with, when I was in college, I was acting every day all day. I was fortunate enough to go to an amazing acting conservatory program at an amazing university (BU pride forever baby!), where literally everyday from 9:00 am in the morning to 9:00 pm at night I was stretching my creative muscle. I was moving around like an earthworm in movement class. I was playing status exercises in scene class. I was thrown into an existential crisis discussing Plato’s takedown of the arts. Is he right? Oh my God. Is art too far removed from the truth? I was learning about what my body could do for itself in Alexander technique. I was getting to know my voice. I was discovering my knack for German, Scottish, English dialects. I was in London! Acting! I was living my absolute dream studying theatre in my favorite city in the entire world. Who has time for doubt when DOING all the time? Not me.

Then graduation comes and goes. You move on. The real world hits. Bills hit. College loans can’t be deferred any longer. Cars need to be bought. More loans. You decide between a soul-sucking restaurant job and a stable 9:00-5:00. You pick the 9:00-5:00 to spare your soul but consequently put a huge barrier in your way to auditioning. However you do leave the evenings open to continue to do theatre. You join a theatre company. Yay. You audition and get cast sometimes. Yay. You audition other times and don’t get cast. Poo. Then one year, 7 years later, you audition again and again and again and you don’t get cast in anything and you’ve been working your 9:00-5:00 job to pay off the college loans you took out to get a degree that you’re not using and you’re so tired by the time you get home that you veg out on the couch watching other people act on your TV instead of figuring out why you’re not. And you wake up one day and you’re 30 and you realize that although you’re happy and you actually like your 9:00-5:00 job and you’re married to a wonderful man and you love your apartment and your car that you’re still trying to pay off, and your priorities have changed a bit, you realize that despite all of that, you’re not acting. You really thought you’d be acting. You were fearless. And not acting has made you bad at acting. And you’ve never been worried about being bad at acting in your entire life. And so how do you reconcile the fact that you’re no longer afraid of being fat or being a loner but you are terrified of being a bad actor.

I’m pretty sure the answer is simple. Just start acting again, right? Easy. Except it’s kind of not. It feels like there are limited opportunities to act. The trick is to take what you can get and take it seriously. The other night a friend of mine was having a very informal reading in his apartment of a pilot he wrote. They needed readers. Normally I would say no, because I’d rather go home and veg out on the couch and watch other people act. But I thought about my struggle of late and said, you know, this is an opportunity to act. Even though it’s going to be very casual and you’ll be among friends, it’s an opportunity to read words that someone else wrote and try to bring them to life. So I said yes. And I had a great time. Yes we just sat casually in his living room drinking ginger tea while we read. Yes it was a room full of female actors even though most of the characters were men. Yes it was super casual. But it was fun and I acted. So there.

This is what I need to do. Not because I need a career as an actor. I’m not sure that’s my fate. A career is beside the point. What I do know is that I need to be acting. Because acting is what turned the fearless switch on when I was 11 years old.  Acting is what made my fear of being a fat loner tolerable. Acting is fun. Acting is the very core of my imagination. I have to be acting. To not have done a play in the past 12 months has felt like a part of me is trapped. My wings have been bound. I guess it’s sort of an addiction. I can’t shake it. No matter how much I turn to writing more seriously than acting. No matter how much I paint, or twirl baton, or practice the guitar, or run. All of those things are great, but nothing is as fulfilling to my very soul as playing make believe with someone else’s words. My acting fuels all other artistic pursuits. Like a shark that stops moving forward, if I stop acting my imagination dies and I can kiss goodbye to writing, painting, or whatever else.

It’s like those new Ben & Jerry’s Core ice cream flavors. Acting is my chocolate fudge core. (You can kinda see how I ended up a chubby kid, huh?)

Do any of you feel this way too? I know it’s hard to be working professionally all the time but we have to keep working out. We have to get to the creative gym. When I was in college (there’s that phrase again), we had this weekly event called Locals. It was a lifesaver. Freshmen at BU are not allowed to audition for any of the mainstage shows. It’s wise. You spend the first year getting acclimated to college, acclimated to the conservatory environment. You learn before you apply. But the professors acknowledged the importance of casual pressure-free application. So they started this thing called Locals. Every Monday afternoon the entire Freshmen class of theatre students, as well as some professors and upperclassmen, would gather in one of the larger classrooms and just do stuff. People would get up and perform whatever they’d been working on. Sometimes you’d get a scene partner and spend the week working on a scene you always wanted to do and then you’d perform it at Locals. Maybe you’d sing songs, dance, play an instrument, or tell a story. It was an exercise in fearlessness. No one was expected to be perfect; everyone was expected to be brave. It was fantastic. I miss Locals.

This got me thinking. I’m a part of this large community of artists at Theatre of NOTE not unlike my community of artists in college. All talented, supportive, top-notch types who don’t get to act often enough. Wouldn’t it be great to have Locals? I don’t think we could organize it every week, but what about once a month? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a safe space where you could just work on stuff?

A friend of mine, Bill, started something similar to this called The Creative Fete. It was very Locals-esque. From what I understand it has since been somewhat dissolved and that makes me sad.

I’m just putting it out there to gauge interest. What do you think LA theatre nerds? Do you want to play? Because the 11 year old I once knew is looking me in the face and asking with a snarky expression, “When did you become so afraid?”

Changing Seasons

In the land of eternal summer I long for things I can’t have. Things like red fall leaves and the sound of brown ones crunching under my feet on a crisp autumn day. I see glimmers but let’s be honest, the mercury hit 70 at the beach last weekend. Fall is mostly a fleeting hallucination here in L.A.

I feel the need for change so acutely and can’t help wonder if my yearning for a change in weather is a misplaced yearning for a change in my life, one that I’m too afraid to face so I keep complaining about the heat and lack of rain. It’s possible.

This post is going to be intentionally vague, sorry. Until I suss things out I don’t want to be too specific. To clear one thing up, no this change has nothing to do with my personal life. I’m still a madly in love newlywed and couldn’t adore my husband, home, kitties more. This isn’t about my hearth and home. If anything the solidity of my personal life has afforded me the freedom to muse of change elsewhere. I know my husband is there to catch me if I make a bold move.

It’s true that certain things come into your life for a moment, a season, a lifetime, and always for a reason. We know this. The hard part is determining what’s what. Let me rephrase that. The hard part is accepting what’s what. My heart knows when to let something go but my brain gets in the way. “Maybe if you just hold out a little longer things will turn around.” “Maybe you’re over-thinking/over-reacting/over-obsessing.” “Maybe by letting go you’re going to miss out on a huge opportunity.” Fear-based thoughts. The truth is I have a feeling that opportunities are in fact being missed by not letting go of patterns that distract me from what I’m capable of accomplishing. My potential is anesthetized by fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of regret. Not new concepts, and so very human. No doubt if trees had feelings they’d be terrified of spending half the year dry and naked, wondering if the birds and sunshine would ever return. Tree wouldn’t shed a single leaf. But it does. Every year. It’s a good thing trees don’t have feelings or we’d never see the spring.

Then there are the trees of Los Angeles. I’m onto you trees. You’ve reflected our collective fears. We look around and see your hoarded green leaves weighing down your branches and we hold on ourselves, because it must be best. It’s what we see.

My land that never changes, Los Angeles, you mystify. I love you but your sunny perpetuity has tricked me into thinking I’ve nowhere to go. You slippery city you. I’m going places. I’m going to force change if not in you then in me, and I’m going to terrify you with my falling leaves. Don’t let the sun fool you into complacency. It’s a trick. An illusion. We must make way for the spring.

falling-leaf

But wait, new thought.

 

Perhaps this constancy in my environment is a gift. Yes, trees, I get it! You give me no swirling changing world to distract me from a swirling change within. I think that’s it. My gaze outward for change fails and fails, so what then? The gaze turns inward. Isn’t that what’s happening right now in writing through this? No harsh winters to freeze my thoughts, no scorching summers to melt my concentration (people of the Valley, I hear you, you scorch), no romantic autumns to lift me off to dreamland where nothing happens but nostalgia and swoons. No. I’ve called you the land of eternal summer but Los Angeles by the sea you’re something more like spring, a time when life is born and the world is new. Is that what you’ve been trying to tell me, trees? Eternal spring? That’s much nicer. You give me a constant fertile playground for my own creations, my own forms of change. I can accept that. I can paint on your springlike blank slate all my new ideas and dreams. I’ll still long for sparkling white snow and the smell of fresh rain. Maybe someday when we’re through with changing, we’ll retire to a sleepy little town and let nature do the work. Let the world change around us as we sit there and just watch. For now, no more time for waiting and watching. Time for changing. Time to sprout.

Growth concept

 

 

My Irish-Ghost-Theatre-Love-Child

About 6 months ago I was sitting in a company meeting at Theatre of NOTE while the Artistic & Management Committee asked its membership for someone to step up to produce one of the plays in our season, BANSHEE by Brian C. Petti. I had been particularly fond of this play ever since it made its way through our play selection process the prior year. It contained my favorite elements. Grit, family drama, ghosts, folklore, dialects, and a banshee, and it was slated during my favorite time of year, the October Halloween slot. I raised my hand. Hell yeah I’ll produce.

Then I looked at my calendar. At the time it was April-ish and I had pretty serious Bride Brain. Totally discombobulated as the clock ticked down to our July wedding, I may have raised my hand in haste. My wedding was on July 21st, auditions for Banshee would have to be in early August. Pre-production would have to begin simultaneously with the most important production of my life. Ok.

I can do that.

I have this habit of saying yes to everything. What can I say? I’m a worker bee. Saying no feels like turning down opportunity, and I love opportunity. I decided that despite perhaps the best interest of my sanity I would do both. Here on the eve of opening night of our Irish ghost play, I’m so glad that I did.

I mean I really love banshees. If you know me you know that I am a nerd for two things in particular: holiday traditions, and Disney. Well, did you ALSO know that one of my favorite traditions established with my Nana when I was just a wee bairn, was to watch the Disney movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People every St. Patrick’s Day while making homemade green butter. And if you’re still with me then you know that Darby O’Gill is all about banshees, or specifically, the BanSHEEEE! Man that’s a great movie. Actually it’s really ridiculous and kind of offensive but when you’re 8 and making butter with your Nana while Sean Connery serenades you on TV, it’s the best. My intrigue into Irish folklore was sealed.

Fiddle? Check. Pot of gold? Check. Tiny King Leprechaun? Check.

Fiddle? Check. Pot of gold? Check. Tiny King Leprechaun? Check.

but then Sean Connery

but then Sean Connery

So I was sold on this play from the beginning. It’s nothing like Darby O’Gill (thank God), and it’s everything it CAN be. It’s dark, it’s haunting, it’s spooky, and at the heart of it, it’s a classic family drama, my favorite.

Kit Jun 5

Producing this play has been hard. Very hard. It’s hard work and there’s just no way around that. If it wasn’t hard though it probably wouldn’t be as delicious right now. I’ve heard tell of the post-wedding blues that plagues brides after their big day (I actually hate that phrase, “big day,” but I can rarely think of an alternative synonym), and this production has done the trick of keeping my mind too busy to get sad that the wedding dress hangs limp in my closet and the wedding cake gets frostbite in our freezer. Too busy. There have been nights when all I wanted to do was collapse on the couch with my new husband and coo about our newly married life together. Sure. We’ll have a lifetime for that. Besides, the wedding already had me in producer mode. Let’s be honest. Planning a wedding is basically producing a show, only you’re also the lead, and you only get one performance. Although the past 6 months of my life have been back-to-back INSANE, I do not regret it for one second.

Cuz look at this…

Cara Jun 3

Our show rocks. The beauty of it has made it all worth it. It’s like making a baby (well, without the most fun part), and might be just as difficult as giving birth. I somehow managed to pull together a team of rock stars. I mean our sound designer is a Tony-nominee for cripes sake! (Cripes, that’s an Irish thing). Our entire team of designers are so brilliant. Matt Richter, Bill Moore, Abel Alvarado, Cricket Myers, David Thomas, JJ Barrera, Maggie Blake. Y’all make cool stuff happen. Our director James Carey has captained this ship to its full potential. My soul sister Kelly Egan keeps my head screwed on straight and nerves at bay. Doug Burch is the absolute best shoulder to lean on, or cry on, or anything on. I completely lucked out in finding a co-producer in Nadia Marina who happens to be responsible, talented, amazing, organized, and married to an artist who painted our entire set! It’s so beautiful. My associate producer Kirsten Vangsness who, I mean, there just aren’t words to describe her really. Kirsten was among one of the first people I met moving out to L.A. I interned in the casting office for Criminal Minds and I recall the first week coming into the office and Kirsten was sitting there wearing a cherry blossom dress and she introduced herself and was so friendly, inviting, warm, and funny. That was 8 years ago (hard to believe!) and since then CM has turned into a television phenomenon. She’s still one of the kindest, warmest, funniest, and most generous people I know. It’s an honor to be in a theatre company with Kirsten, and with a hundred other people who share her attributes of generosity, humor, and family. It’s a damn fine family, and I’m honored to have reared one of our children (that means one of our plays, are you following my metaphors? I’m almost lost myself).

To my cast, oh my Lord, I love you all so much. Lynn, Bill, Joe, Norm, Alysha, Jonathon, Suzanne, Jenny, Brad, and Tim. Your talent is the absolute backbone of this play. You all know that I’m an actor at heart. I feel your role in all of this more acutely than any other, and I thank you for your patience with me as I try to make this production worthy of our humble black box.

Kit Neil 2

I still have a million and a half things to do before we open tomorrow night, but I really wanted to take a moment to write down some words of thanks, to spread the word about our new playby (that’s like a baby, but a play, because plays are like babies. I’ll stop now), and to invite you to come meet the Banshee! Tonight we have a free invited dress rehearsal. Tomorrow night we open! Tomorrow night is really the place to be to tell you the truth. Following the show there will be Irish whiskey. And food and other treats too. And whiskey!

And look, I know it’s hard to budget for the theatre. I am broke as a not-funny joke right now and I myself could not afford for Brad and I to spend $50 for a night at the theatre. Combined with parking, perhaps childcare costs, dinner, you’re looking at a $100+ evening easily. Although I know our show is worth the price of admission, I also know that many of my friends can’t swing that right now, or ever really. I got you covered. Just go to LA Stage Alliance for half price tickets. Or you can get tickets directly through our website and use the code word KERRY for half pricers. Or just email me, rmsigl@gmail.com. For up to date info on discounts and ticketing, why don’t you join our Facebook event? All the cool kids are doing it. So many options to see this show. In the words of Oleta Adams, I don’t care how you get here, just get here if you can.

Banshee Card Junior

See you at the theatre friends!

No Time Like the Pressure

Whenever I talk to my husband about something I need to do, the conversation usually veers towards me finding a way to procrastinate. “Oh I’ll do it tomorrow,” “I’ll call them tonight,” “We’ll deal with it later.” This came up time and again throughout the wedding planning process. We’d talk about a vendor we needed to contact and I would say, “Ok we’ll call them tomorrow” and Brad would reply “How about right now?” He would almost always follow this up with the quip “No time like the pressure.”

Isn’t that so true? Obviously we’ve seen ‘No Time Like the Present’ plastered across multiple self-help platforms, but I love Brad’s little adjustment. Because the present is very beautiful, there’s nothing like it, I appreciate it, but the present is in fact accompanied by pressure where dreams are concerned. The present is lovely, but pressure is active. Do things right now.

This morning I ran 5 miles along the Venice Boardwalk; a route that takes me past my dream house. My ABSOLUTE DREAM HOUSE! I love it so much. It is everything that I am. It’s a two story craftsmen right along the beach, accented with a sort of Indiana Jones adventure vibe. Jungle flora fills the yard (there’s a yard!) complete with yeti-like footprints through the grass. Tiki torches and palm trees line the house. But it’s classy. It’s beach, mountain, adventure all wrapped up into one house. It is MY house. Today as we ran past we noticed the house had a For Sale sign out front. You’ve gotta be kidding me. It’s for sale! Damn! It is actually possible to purchase this house… if only I were someone else. After all it’s only 10 million dollars. Now, the point of this story is not that my life’s goal is to obtain a ton of money and a big house. Sometimes I wish that was my life’s goal because it would probably be easier, but it’s not. This house represents something and today that For Sale sign brought everything into focus. The house is a dream. I’ve run, walked, or biked past it repeatedly throughout the years and every time would dream to myself “one day…” with a sigh. “One day” is so safe. Kind of like saying “we’ll call them tomorrow.” This morning the universe gave me a gut check. It said, here you go, and I wasn’t ready. You have no idea when opportunity will present itself to you but one thing is for sure, you can be ready.

The truth is I will most likely never live in that house. No matter what I do I will most likely never be financially successful enough to justify the purchase of a two-story double-plot dream house along the sand in Venice Beach. So that will probably always be a dream, and that’s ok because I don’t actually believe that things like dream houses would make me happy. BUT, as far as metaphors go, message received loud and clear. Thanks universe. There’s a lot of other stuff I dream about that I’m realizing I’m not ready for. Real stuff that I could actually have.

Like babies.

I think I want babies. I’m not positive but I’m pretty positive. When you get married it’s funny that you do start to think about things like that in a more realistic way. At least I do. I fantasize about a growing family. No matter whether we end up childless (save two furry faced kitties), Brad will always be my family. I love our little family of four (the kitties of course), but I won’t deny that I dream about reading to my kids before bed, and trips to Disneyland with offspring, and Halloween costumes, and seeing Brad teach our kids how to snorkel, and rubbing the backs of babes with upset tummies, and bake sales, and soccer games, and all that jazz. It sounds appealing to me as a dream. Like a house I can’t afford. Just like my bank account prohibits me from purchasing that house, my emotional account is not ready for an extended family. I don’t know what’s going to happen to our finances. I hope they improve but who knows. However, if I feel like I’m really living the life I was meant to live, if I’m telling MY story, then I think I could be ready to help a little one into the world to tell his too. But I have to get my story ready first.

The past couple of years I’ve had a realigning of my personal priorities. If you’ve been reading my blog then you know I’ve become rather disillusioned with the industry of acting. Although I still do it, and I still love it, I don’t feel compelled to throw my heart and soul into “making it.” It would be nice if it was just, y’know, handed to me. That’s not how life works for most people. You have to work for your dreams and if they are the right dreams the work will pay off. Not sure acting is the right dream. I still struggle with this, and my split focus has me a bit paralyzed and discombobulated. What do I throw myself into? Whimsy Do? Acting? Writing? Or should I work my way up the ladder of non-profit administration? It’s important to have many interests but dangerous to attempt pursuit of them all at once. Success requires focus, so what should I focus on? I try to listen to the little God voice in my head about this and still she whispers to me about writing. She doesn’t seem to denounce the others, but writing sings a little louder in my heart.

So today I finished a story. It’s one I’ve been working on since my friend Scott McKinley passed away and although I have dozens of story ideas and rough sketches for manuscripts, this is the first one that feels really incredibly close to finished.

So there you have it. I wrote. And I feel a little bit more ready to buy that dream house, metaphorically speaking.

I leave you with this article I read on Huffington Post this morning. It’s a good-bye letter from a woman who died two days ago. She asked that the article be published posthumously. How odd to read the words of a ghost.

It basically broke my heart and lit my fire. There really is no time like the pressure you guys. Between my dream house being on the market and the words of this dearly departed writer, the message is clear. Let’s love each other, love life, “Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it.” Go get that house.

No time like the pressure.

Where we'll one day drink our morning coffee from the roof of our dream house. *le sigh*

Where Brad and I will one day drink our morning coffee, watching the dolphins play in the surf… *le sigh*

Beauty in the Chaos

When opportunity knocks… it’s probably going to be when you’re incredibly busy and don’t have time for opportunity but it’s opportunity and you don’t want to say no so you figure out how to get it done and politely and enthusiastically say “yes, come on in.”

My life right now is chaos, but there are two definitions of chaos:

chaos : complete disorder and confusion.

OR

chaos : the formless matter supposed to have existed before the creation of the universe

What I’m experience right now is incredibly profound. I feel that I am swirling in a turbulent yet somehow welcoming and pillowy ocean storm. I’m shedding layers of myself left and right, not sure what I’m about to transform into or if I’m going to regain any sense of identity at all, yet I hold on to faith. Faith that the one thing I can count on in life is change, and that change requires transformation, and that transformation requires at least a brief moment of chaos. So with that, I’m quite fond of the second definition of chaos. I exist in some sort of liminal state but what I’m about to do is create something amazing. I’m about to become someone’s wife. I’m about to forge my own family with another person. We’ve been together almost 7 years but marriage makes things different. I’m 30. I’m learning what that is like. So many things.

So in brief I welcome the chaos, as I must if I want to create the universe. I welcome the chaos of this post, bouncing from subject to subject and thought to thought. I welcome the chaos of my apartment, with its stacks of boxes, candles, flowers, croquet sets, and gift bags. I welcome the chaos of work, and the uncanny sense that every huge project I could possibly have has reached a fever pitch NOW. I welcome the chaos of my family, which is a topic for another day, but trust me, chaos.

Somehow out of this, love will mold the universe.

So why was I talking about opportunity? Oh yeah, because of course Murphy’s Law would suggest that since I’ve found myself in the most chaotic stage of my life thus far, now would be the time for opportunity to come knocking. And I’m grateful! Again, I simply embrace it all and laugh! Laugh as I see all the balls in the air. Somehow they’re still in the air!

Last week I was contacted by Buick with a fantastic promotional opportunity for my blog. I won’t go into the details here. Right now I’ll just tell you that it involves running and traveling, which are the exact topics that spurred the creation of Running to Tahiti. I want to devote an entire post to this project so look for that tomorrow. Today I simply wanted to set the stage of my life. Beautiful chaos.

I had the opportunity to see an original Jackson Pollock today at MOCA with one of the museum educators. This piece could not have been more perfect right now. I may as well be looking in a mirror.

20140625_131536

 

The guide really took us through the painting. I would say that I’ve always “liked” Jackson Pollock but mostly because I didn’t really see a reason not to like him. He obviously made a strong signature on the art world. But today I really got it. I saw that the painting itself is beautiful chaos. That within the “mess” is the act of creation. Looking at that painting was like looking at a song being orchestrated or a city being built. There is motion in it. The layers, the colors, all playing different parts and evoking different feelings. Kind of amazing. Good job Jackson.

Beautiful chaos. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Beautiful chaos!

Why I Won’t Be Losing Weight For My Wedding

I could go on and on and on and on and on about female body issues. I could probably go on about male body issues as well. I haven’t really tried; but I’m sure I could. Today I’ll try not to go on too much, but ever since I got engaged there’s something I’ve been meaning to say. I won’t be losing my weight for my wedding. For several reasons.

There’s this strange expectation when you get engaged that you’ll want to get fit, lose weight, tone up, look perfect. I’m not going to bash the idea. I understand it. It’s a significant day. One in which dozens of people will all be looking at you, sizing you up whether they mean to or not; and one in which you’ve spent dollars, lots of dollars (probably thousands) to have your picture taken. You likely want to look your best. It doesn’t surprise me that getting fit and looking great become a priority to engaged ladies. What saddens me is that it often seems to become priority #1, and that our culture is obsessed with it.

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To each his own. I’m not here to judge anyone. If getting married is a catalyst for someone to get healthy, who am I to condemn that? My instinct is to criticize that we seem to equate thinness with worth in our society, and no where is that more apparent than the pressure put on a bride. But perhaps I’m projecting. Let me remove myself from the position of casting judgement and turn the focus inward. I’m only here to talk about my own experience, and if anyone out there can relate perhaps we’ll start to open our minds a bit about what it means to be a beautiful bride.

My entire life I’ve been in a perpetual state of trying to lose weight. Truly, for as long as I can remember. I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting when I was 12. I was a chubby kid. I got teased. It sucked. Make no mistake about the power of bullies on a sensitive young heart. I wish I had the magic elixir to protect my future children from the nonsense of bullies, but knowing that I don’t have it just as my own mother didn’t have it no matter how much she tried, keeps me up at night. Children can be cruel, and I let myself be a victim. I grew up throughout my teenage years always wanting to lose weight. Always. All. Ways. I begged my mom to let me do three-day crash diets that consisted of canned beets and plain hot dogs, cabbage soup diets, grapefruit juice fasts, the master cleanse, Atkins. All of it, I did it. And I lost weight a lot of the time. I fluctuated between being in a state of weight loss which made me feel FANTASTIC, and being in a state of weight gain which made me feel utterly worthless as a human being. I was addicted to dieting. A weight loss junkie. The highs were so high, the lows so low. But man, those highs. It’s a dangerous state. That being the pattern I allowed myself to grow up in, I began to equate happiness with weight loss.

I had these flights of fancy about what would force me to “finally lose the weight” in a once and for all kind of way, as if it wasn’t me in control, but an external force that could finally put the nail in the chubby coffin. I had some dream of a weight loss fairy Godmother in the form of these motivating life benchmarks. I thought going away to college would do it (apparently I’d never heard of the freshmen 15). Then I thought going off to London would do it (all those cute Brits. I had to be ready). Then I thought graduating from college would do the trick, or moving to L.A. After all, I couldn’t in any way participate in Los Angeles looking like “this.”

With all of those benchmarks come and gone, some hit, some missed, I thought there was one down the road that would be a surefire win. One moment in time that would surely be the catalyst for my final victory over the fat. That moment would be when I got engaged.

That would do the trick right? There’s no way I would allow myself to walk down the aisle looking chubs. And besides, it’s what women do, right? Then a funny thing happened.

I got engaged.

And I felt no desire to lose weight. It didn’t even cross my mind. In other significant moments throughout my life such as getting into college, getting asked to prom, getting cast in a TV show, the absolute first thing that entered my mind when these things happened was “I have to lose weight.” So believe me when I say that I was the most shocked of all when Brad put the ring on my finger and the first thing we did was go eat a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and salad covered in delicious ranch dressing, capped off with chocolate gelato.

So let me take a step back, because the truth is the weight monsters began to drift away a lot earlier. Namely, the moment I fell in love with Brad. That’s not meant to sound sappy because I’m actually a bit critical of myself for it. I’m disappointed in myself that it took the opinion of a male in my life to finally shift my thinking. But that’s the way it went down. Brad fell in love with me, all of me, especially me, with no condition that I lose weight. He didn’t say “oh yeah, I totally love you, but we’ll only really be together once you lose 20 pounds.” See, that’s what I told myself. “I’ll only get a boyfriend when I lose 20 pounds.” So if I recited that to myself then of course I believed it was the steadfast condition upon which I would find a mate. Then along comes Brad and the condition evaporates. It’s not because he loves me that I learned to love myself. It’s more like his love was a wake up call. I finally opened my damn eyes and got over the idea of only loving myself -20 pounds.

And then of course there’s running. Magical, beautiful, blissful running. I attribute a huge portion of my current happiness to my running habit. My feet make me grateful for my calves, and my calves for my knees, and my knees for my spine, and my butt, and my arms, and my lungs, and my eyes. I love running, and I need all of those things to run, therefore I love all of those things. The best thing I could have ever done for my body and self-esteem was to take the first step onto the running track.

So fast forward again to the engagement. Our relationship is built upon the foundation that we love each other as is. Warts and all. Or weight and all, in my case. If Brad’s nose fell off, or he grew a third arm, or his skin turned green, I would still love him. Those things would be weird, but I would love him. So now that we’re planning our wedding the condition, the code that I’ve always lived by which dictates that I must lose weight before accomplishing anything, that code is gone. It feels false, not to mention regressive, to reinstate it just because that’s what brides seem to do.

I’m happy, truly happy, with exactly the way I look right now. And it’s not the same as the volatile roller-coaster of happiness I was on before when my weight would go up and down and up. That happiness was dependent upon something external. This happiness comes from within. Yes I could stand to lose a few pounds to make my doctor happy, but that will come in time. After all I’m about to begin training for a marathon. Something is going to be lost. It might be my weight, it might be my dignity. Time will tell. For now I’m stable. For the first time in my entire life, my self-esteem is stable. I don’t get nervous to look in the mirror, not knowing if I will respond with adoration or disgust. I love every inch of my body and not because it’s thin, but because it keeps me healthy. It’s an absolute miracle, the only one of it’s kind.

Would I like to look the absolute ideal version of myself on my wedding day? Sure. Of course. But I’m not sweatin’ it. I know how my brain works. If I lost weight for my wedding day I would obsess over it. It would consume every thought from here until July 21st. It would make our day about how I look. I don’t want my wedding day to be about how I look. I want it to be about how I feel. And how Brad feels. And right now, I’m in love. Brad loves me just as I am. More importantly, I love me just as I am. I’m a bride. A bride takes a leap of faith in the name of goodness. A bride places the importance of another person’s life right alongside hers. A bride makes a declaration that love conquers, fear falters, and fidelity reigns. A bride (and groom) in love truly is the most ideal version of herself, and that ideal has nothing to do with size.

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Plus! There’s sound equipment that needs renting, and paper flowers that need making, and rehearsal dinner that needs planning, and ceremony readings that need picking, and hair that needs highlighting, and a mini-moon that needs booking, and gifts that need buying, and, And, AND! Yeah. I’ve got enough on my plate to not have to worry about what I’m eating off my plate.

Until next time.

Love,

Becky

 

 

 

How to Know if You Should Run a Marathon

Last week I bumped into a neighbor in our building and got to chatting about his experience having just finished the LA Marathon. To use his words, it was the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life, painful as hell, a humbling experience, amazing, and life changing. This sort of contradictory reflection is not uncommon I’m noticing. I myself have never run a marathon, though I’m sort of obsessing about it lately and trying to compute in my head whether I’ve got it in me. About 70% of the time I’ve got that optimistic runner’s brain that says “hell yes I can run that.” But there’s that 30% that throws me, and I’ll tell you what populates that 30%. The content is completely anecdotal. I hear stories from other runners about seeing people collapse, cry, vomit, and even go into cardiac arrest on the marathon course. Yes that’s probably rare but it’s still terrifying and begs the question: should we be running this kind of mileage? I hear women say things like “it was harder than giving birth” and all I can think is, well damn, why would I do THAT? I don’t even get a baby when I’m done. I’m not going to lie people, as much as runners proceed to talk out of the other side of their mouth using phrases like “life-changing,” “spiritual experience,” and “incredible,” the allure of those terms are not quite outweighing the fear of heart attacks, collapse, and vomiting in front of thousands of people (I’ve already done that, rather not repeat it, ask me to tell you the story sometime).

Ultimately I think I get it. As a runner I can understand the thin line between pain and pleasure. The sense that the accomplishment isn’t worth it unless it was earned through sweat and tears. We run BECAUSE it’s hard, not in spite of it. But I don’t know, this whole marathon thing seems to take that to a new level which leaves me wondering, is it necessary for me? Can I get that same feeling of achievement, accomplishment, pride, from my happy little half marathons? The problem is that I think the answer is no. We always have to top ourselves. We need a stronger fix to get the high! It’s no wonder that veteran marathoners often evolve into ultra-marathoners; but the truth is, we all do have a line that we really can’t cross without seriously endangering our health. We push that line, boy do we push it, but it will only bend so far. For some runners, that line is a 135 mile ultra-run through Death Valley in July. For Bruce Dern, who has run over 104,000 miles in his lifetime (he’s 77, you do the math) that line was to run from California to Colorado. Why stop there? For runners like Robert Garside, there pretty much is no line! He ran around the world.

So I guess what I’m really struggling with is not whether or not marathons are a healthy or smart thing to do. Thousands of people successfully complete marathons every year. The evidence suggests, overwhelmingly, that it’s possible. What I’m struggling with, what I don’t know is… where is my line?

There are a lot of things I don’t know about myself. I have of late been struggling with, to turn an overused phrase, an existential crisis. Questions eat away at me. What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What career should I really be pursuing? Do I really want to have children someday? What kind of actor am I? What is my myth? What is the story I’m meant to tell. Who the hell am I?

It’s all so annoying. Such first world problems,but they plague me. There are really two things I feel certain of right now in my life. I’m certain that I’m in love with Brad Light and want to spend the rest of my life with him. And I’m certain that I enjoy making Whimsy Dos and bringing a little floral beauty to the world. There are more ancillary certainties as well. I know my cats are the best cats. I love California and I never want to leave. I know I know I know that cilantro tastes like soap. Those small certainties comfort me, but the big questions remain.

I chip away at them. I try to breathe and remember that worrying about the questions often distracts us from the answer. I try to just live, because ultimately these are all rather western concerns. What I am supposed to be determines my success rate. My success rate determines my status in the world. My status in the world determines my value in the world. My value in the world is EVERYTHING. Very western. To quote my brother, “sometimes a beautiful sunset is more important.” I believe that. I do. I guess I can’t help but still succumb to the pressures of our little western definitions of identity. I do want to feel as though I’ve fulfilled some sort of destiny. Made a contribution. I’m turning 30 this year. So many of my friends have already done so much. Mothers, fathers, doctors, lawyers, physicists, teachers, movie stars. What have I done? Doesn’t feel like a lot.

Oy! Now I’m falling down an existential rabbit hole of doubt and self-pity. Not my intention! Wow, not the direction I thought this post would take, but what a discovery that is. I’m not going to edit it. All of this has been on my mind. I’ve been trying to work it out, and I’ve realized as I’ve put it into words that THAT is what that line represents for me. Running takes on metaphorical meaning in so many aspects of my life, this being no exception. So that line, that limit, whether it’s running a marathon or running around the world, where is it for me? What am I made of? What can I accomplish? Who am I? Not knowing has obviously been incredibly frustrating, on the course and off. So I guess there’s only one way to answer my own question. I have to run a marathon.

30 Days of Thanks – Day 8: Theatre of NOTE

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Yesterday my little blog here had the most views in it’s short history; a statistic deserving of Scott’s visit. Thank you for reading everyone. I know the bulk of those readers were members of my lovely theatre company, Theatre of NOTE. They are my extended family and like any family we have our share of occasional drama, but only to match the presence of love.

I am so thankful that I found a little black box in Hollywood filled with compassionate creative artists, and that they let me hang around. They are the most talented people in Los Angeles. And the wackiest. Both admirable attributes. The truth is, without you guys, I think I would have gone crazy. Probably left L.A. This town can be a vortex of ego and loneliness and you need a tether to keep you from getting sucked in. A community. For the past 6 years I’ve had the most wonderful tether.

Without NOTE I would have never met the love of my life. That one gets the theatre brownie points to last a lifetime no matter what ever else happens.

I’ve had some of the most incredible theatrical challenges both at NOTE and because of NOTE. Every year I eagerly await what new opportunities will come down the pike, either to perform in or just shows to see that I know will blow me away.

For all of the late rehearsals, the fundraisers, the company meetings, the dance parties, the terms of the AMC, the endless font of acronyms (just when you think you can’t come up with one more…) the committee meetings, the drama, the love fests, the long emails, the joy of being cast, the heartbreak of not, the love that keeps you coming back despite the heartbreak, the performance marathons, the NOTEwoods, the Scott McKinleys. I love it all.

It’s good to have a family. You all are so precious to me. Maybe more than you’ll ever know. I’ve always wanted to feel like I was a part of something, and here I do. It’s a warm and Thanksgiving-y feeling.

Go theatre club. Now turn in your hours!

At a company meeting. Packed in like sardines.

At a company meeting. Packed in like sardines.

Holy Ghost

Holy Ghost

Holy Ghost

Holy Ghost

Scott McKinley photobomb series

Scott McKinley photobomb series

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NOTEwood

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a band

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PTSD

Rehearsal for Mulholland Christmas Carol

Rehearsal for Mulholland Christmas Carol

Mulholland Christmas Carol

Mulholland Christmas Carol

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See ya tomorrow

30 Days of Thanks – Day 7: My Lucky Penny

Yesterday a series of events occurred which reinforced my belief in serendipity and magic. Before I begin there are a few things you need to know.

Earlier this year the corporeal Earth lost one of its best creations. Scott McKinley. He was an angel on earth and as of yesterday I’m even more convinced he continues to be an angel of the universe.

I think about him often, and most often in scenarios where I ask myself “what would Scotty do?” You see he was the kindest and most loving man I’d ever met. No matter what troubles befell him or what mood he found himself in on a given day, he made everyone feel special when he saw them and he greeted them with the most warm and loving “Hey there.” I often think that he played a part in my life to teach me about kindness, to be a living example of what the Golden Rule is really all about.

Now here’s another thing you need to know before I tell the story. There was this thing he and I had with pennies. One evening at Theatre of NOTE Scott handed me a penny. I was in a grouchy and cynical mood and guffawed. I told him half sarcastically that I thought pennies were stupid and lucky pennies just perpetuated their ridiculous use in society. Of course, magical love creature that he was, he was shocked and appalled and insisted I take the lucky penny, while he proceeded to school me on their magical attributes. It all made such perfect sense. In a moment of cynicism and grumpiness, here is Scott to remind me that beauty and goodness is a better choice. From that moment on every time I saw a “lucky” penny on the ground I picked it up and thought of Scott. And the pennies have reminded me that I always have a choice, to be good, or to be a grouch. To be like Scott, or not.

The night before last he visited me in a dream. It wasn’t just a dream wherein he made an appearance. It was one of those conscious/aware dreams where I knew I was dreaming and I knew he was visiting me. I said to him “Scott! Thank you! Oh my God it’s so good to see you!” And we caught up a little, and he smirked his Scotty smirk. And then I woke up.

So that’s what you need to know. Now here’s the story:

Yesterday evening I was walking to my car after work. Traffic was heavy downtown, as it often is. I’m waiting on the corner of 8th and Olive to cross the street. It was one of those situations where cars were pulling into the intersection because they had a green light, but the traffic was so backed up there was no way they were going to make it all the way through before the light turned red, and thus the cross-traffic wouldn’t be able to make it through their green light, causing even worse traffic. This is a pet peeve. I feel like there’s a special circle of hell reserved for those who block the intersection. Back to yesterday. There is a minivan stuck in the intersection obviously hoping to get through, but her light turns red and MY light turns green to walk. What I could have done was wait a minute before I started walking and let this poor woman in the minivan who’s probably late to something important just pull through so she wouldn’t feel like a jerk for blocking the intersection. But I don’t. Like I said, I’ve got a beef. I want to teach her a lesson. The moment I walk in front of her car and grab a glance at her distressed face, I think, “This isn’t right. What would Scotty do?” i.e. what is the kind thing to do? Once he enters my mind I realize instantaneously that I should have done the right thing. I make it to the other side of the street feeling a bit like a jerk and thinking about how I failed the Scott test today. For whatever reason I look down briefly. What is the first thing my eye catches?

I’m stunned. The exact moment I’m thinking about him, there he is. I stoop down to pick up a lone penny. To make sure it’s real. I don’t know what compels me, but I check the year of the penny thinking, now THAT would be weird.

1957.

The penny was from 1957.

Same year Scott was born. This penny and he came into the world the same year.

I stand there on Olive and 8th under the lamplight and start to cry. At once sadly reminded that such a good soul has parted, and joyfully reminded that he never truly left. Serendipity. Goodness. Magic. It’s real.

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I want to keep the penny. I want to make it into a necklace and wear it next to my heart every day. But I wonder if I shouldn’t send it back into the world. Leave it on another boulevard for the next person who needs it. I don’t want to be greedy. I do, but I don’t. What would Scott do? My heart’s desire is to take this little sign of him and hold onto it with all of my might. Should we keep such tokens? Or send them down the river? I haven’t decided yet.

Everyone slips away into the cosmic dust. Maybe when we do we get to leave little signs of ourselves around the ol’ neighborhood. Little bread crumbs that we’re still there.

Thank you for being my lucky penny Scott. For being everyone’s. I’ll keep following your bread crumbs. I love you. I miss you.

Rebecca and Scotty 1