Presence in the Pursuit (Or the Art of Letting Go): One Pre-Enlightened Actress’s Guide to Living The Dream

# 5: Cultivate Your Immense Garden of Gratitude

photo  “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

– Cicero

“It’s a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation.”
Roberto Benigni

Happy New Year, all you gorgeous people! It has been nearly 6 months since I last shared on this site and life is mind-blowing-ly different than it was this summer. Time has been speeding by, autobahn style, and I sometimes feel like I can barely catch my breath to take it all in.  But since I’m now officially the girl who voiced / performance captured Tracey De Santa, and my people move fast when they’re out jackin’ cars, I’ll do my best to bring you up to speed.  ; )

Since my last virtual update, “White Hot” got extended for another month and we won Best in Ensemble out of of 200 plus shows.


In between performances, I flew across the country to Virginia to bring my father, who’s health was not doing so well, back to California (where there’s now the potential for nothing but yoga and beaches!) to live near Joseph and me.


imagesI started working as an Associate Producer on a biopic on Rick James (who’s “Give It To Me Baby” Tracey coincidently dances to on Fame or Shame in GTAV.)  And (shameless plug right here,) yes this link to my acting has over a million hits — hey a girl has to promote where she can (at least until I can bring my Fan Page above 600 likes, that is).  At the time of shooting that scene a few years back, I didn’t even know who Rick James was, lol!  Oh the places we’ll go in this lifetime! Skip ahead to this past summer, and I had a big role in bringing aboard Tanya James, the late Rick’s wife for her Life Rights in association with the project.  More on this as the feature gains momentum.


I threw a giant art show fundraiser for The Vagrancy and raised all of my 2013 goal and even some of my 2014 goal towards company membership.
(awesome artwork pictured by Andie Bottrell)





In September, I flew to NYC for 5 weeks, where I had some side projects, including the ongoing, never-ending repairs of our 1890’s big blue house, and of course, Grand Theft Auto V came out at that time, which was it’s own wild, wonderful ride.

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Since returning to LA mid October, I’ve been busy with all my previous projects, as well as some new ones, as I’ve started to shoot publicity pics, give press interviews for GTAV, and navigate the convention world.

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Some highlights from the last few months include attending Spike TV’s VGX Awards where we won Game of the Year! In addition to being reunited with cast mates for the first time since the game’s launch, I also had the rare pleasure of meeting so many amazing people from Rockstar North in Edinburgh who greatly contributed to making the game such a cultural phenomena. It was a delightfully humbling experience to meet seven or so Scottish brogued lads who each told me separately what an honor it was to meet me in the flesh, as they’d been pixilating (or something to that effect — I’m tech challenged) my face for the last 3 years and couldn’t believe I was actually real!


As the year rounded to a close, I did my first Spree Cast interview on the game and found out I’m gonna be on the 1st cover of the year of Steppin’ Out Magazine. My face will soon be gracing / littering the stools of every bar and restaurant in the Tri-State Area. After 10 years as a New Yorker, it doesn’t get much cooler or more surreal than that. If you’re on the East Coast, pick up your free copy the week of January 8th.

The possibilities are wide open and wondrous for 2014, and I’m at once humbled and curious as to how it will all unfold.

Acting is a long road, a life pursuit.  And it doesn’t all come at once. No matter what anyone tells you, there’s no such thing as an overnight sensation or a born star.  I’ve been working at building a life in this field for over 20 years.

Sometimes I find myself making the mistake of focusing on how long it all takes. But a glass half full will always be a glass half full.  In times like that, I’m teaching myself to stop and look at just the things I have, not the things I don’t.  Before long, those have-nots fade away and my heart starts to burst wide open with gratitude.

I have so, so many wonderful things / people  in my life to be grateful for.  As many as I have numbers in this blog (the randomly numbered past entries go up to #100), and in no particular order, save for how I think to list them, here are a handful of a hundred I’m thankful for.  By the way, I hyper-linked each item on this list.  But, please, only selectively click, lest you while away an entire afternoon.  This list, somewhat random and grossly incomplete, poured out of me in almost an instant.  The links I later found to accompany the items of gratitude took a wee bit longer (like, days).  Ain’t that a perfect mirror for life: the rewards are short and sweet, and the work in between is quietly, dutifully laborious.  The goal, of course, is for it all to viewed as a gift, for when we can learn to enjoy the struggle, we are always rich.  Dance on, dear ones, here is my Gratitude One Hundred:

—  My mama who taught me love.

— My husband who is a constant support, super funny, and this girl’s best friend.

— My two pups who teach me so much about presence and fun.

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— Family.


— The ability to pursue what I love.

— My gorgeous neighborhood. I’m three blocks from the ocean, 2 blocks from a Farmer’s Market once a week, 3 blocks from free yoga overlooking the ocean on a bluff, a block from an art house movie theater, and right next door to my best friend.

— My childhood friend Amy who lives in my building!  How exciting to live next door to a friend I’ve had for 20 years!

— My theatre company The Vagrancy and the collection of beautiful people that inhabit that dear company.

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Wylie, a noble animal, that teaches me much about grace.

— My husband’s cooking.

— Being a part of of a game that made a billion dollars in 3 days.

— People that inspire me:

John Lennon.

Tori Amos.

Mother Teresa.

The director of Boys Don’t Cry and Carrie.


My mother

Many people that I have met just in a moment in my lifetime.

Roberto Benigni

My Aunt Lisa

my brothers

The Buddha


Marina Abramovic. My former business partner and best friend Mary and I saw her in NYC when she was living like an animal on display in a gallery in Chelsea. How extraordinary to make your entire life an act of art!

The many NYC taxi drivers I have informally interviewed at 4 in the morning on my way to the ferry from working a bar job during my 10 years in NYC. I was once driven home by a Nigerian Prince. And he was light and grateful and kind — and was excited to be driving an actress! Talk about looking at the good side of life in the midst of your circumstances!

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The guy who danced to the Bon Jovi song in a stadium. Talk about commitment.

Just about every person who’s spoken at a TED talk, especially Amanda Palmer who simply won me over with her talk on the art of asking.

C.S. Lewis

Cate Blanchett

Woody Allen. I love his humor and wit, and that touch of the unexpectedly weird you get from his films. Oh, and the atmosphere. Boy, can he capture a city.

Vanessa Crocini, a young woman I had the pleasure of meeting when the film she directed won best documentary at the film fest I host. Vanessa is beautiful, big hearted, brave, and always shining.

Jazz Smollett, the gorgeous, vibrant, intelligent founder of The Women’s Independent Film Fest I host. Jazz / Janine is helping to give female filmmakers a forum and a voice for their work. And I think that’s extraordinary.

Eric Anthony. Eric is ferociously talented with an unstoppable positivity that is deliriously infectious.

Michele my publicist. She works hard and cares much. She’s tenacious and funny and tough and often tells me when I’m wrong. You need people on your team like that.

Rose Ruddy. If I ever become a mom, I’d want to be like her.

my cousin Mark Taylor. He’s generous and kind and has a quietly surprising humor that always delights.

The co-artistic directors of The Vagrancy

indie filmmaker Steven Tanenbaum

the spirit and zest of actress Liz Fye

August Wilson

Toni Morrison

Regina Spektor

Rachel Corrie. It doesn’t get much braver then this.

so many

Weeping willows. When I was young and uber light, I would climb half way up their branches and swing out over the lake at Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach. Yes, that’s a real place and yes people take their children there for recreational purposes. It’s quite nice.

—  The lion table in my living room.

My travels: 26 countries on six continents! In Trinidad, Joseph and I once found ourselves on the beach helping hundreds of baby sea turtles head into the ocean rather then the shore after they’d just hatched and were headed in the wrong direction. They continued to blindly crawl in our hands as we lifted them and set them back towards the sea so they’d escape the attack of hungry gulls out for a snack.

Caramel Ice Cream. Joseph and I had high hopes of making our own ice cream after his dad gifted us an ice-cream maker. We failed miserably, but if this recipe helps you, please let me know and I’ll give it another go.

— Thought provoking new releases: Gravity, Carrie, Captain Phillips, and The Hunger Games. I feel like mainstream movies are becoming more contemplative.

—  To live 3 blocks from the ocean and to see it almost every day. This pic is of Rosie’s Dog Beach where I take Wylie and Jasper every other day.

—  My education.

—  New York City. For a million reasons including access to the best, affordably delicious and diverse food on earth.

Porto’s Bakery, just down the street from our old place in North Hollywood. A carb and sugar lover’s mecca of goodness and satisfaction.

cherries.. I never knew there was such a variety out there until I lived in Seattle post college. If you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods in July, go and pick them yourself!

— All ice cream. This particular spot is one of my fav’s in NYC.

—  sushi, which one can make at home. For extra points (not to be made at home) or possible death, fugu, which I once tried in Japan. There’s a pretty big rush when you know that what you’re about to bite into just might kill you, but likely won’t.


—  meeting people from other countries other then mine.

— my Grandma Joan who was so lovely and good.

—  my time in Italy. Especially, the off the tourist map places my speaking partner took me like the Island of Ponza, a popular destination for Romans but little known to Virginia girls.

—  my former life as a flight attendant.

—  Maggie Flanigan. When everyone is telling you you’re really good, go see Maggie and she’ll set the bar higher for you. If you want to be a good actor, she’ll make you realize that there’s always more work to be done. And she’ll be kind and gracious about it, too. But she won’t coddle you. Don’t see her until you already have the confidence from some of those other great teachers that do coddle and easily praise. Sometimes we need that too.

bees. I used to be scared of them but now I know how lucky I am just to be in their presence.

trees. My favorite living things.

dolphins. About as magical as ordinary life gets.

BatKid and the City who Opened It’s Arms to Him.

Gay Pride Day in NYC and Long Beach. It’s hard to be who you are. And I am grateful when people have the strength and the solidarity to be just that.

artist Chuck Connelly.

artist Barbara Fritsche.

Chuck and Barbara are my super talented, intuitive hair stylists on each coast, but what sets them apart for me, is their miraculous talent outside of the salon. Both their apartments are filled to the brim with their enormous paintings and their loud, distinct artistic voices that they convey through oil, color, and canvas.

—  yoga photographer Meera Michelle. She graces everything she captures.

—  Chateau blue in NYC. Sleepy St. George, the neighborhood where we have our house is one more testament to the amazing diversity of New York City, the capital of the world, in my humble opinion.

Halloween. Here’s to a day that celebrates the imagination.

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Christmas. And a day that celebrates love and giving.

Arches National Park. I visited this Park with my ex boyfriend John when I first graduated from college. Utah, far and away, won me over as the country’s most breathtakingly wild and unusual State.

The Amalfi Coast. They have lemons that are sweet enough to eat like an orange.

Rome. No one can ever know this city completely.

Tokyo. Ancient, ultra modern, modest, daring, contradictory at every turn.

The West Village. Quaint, romantic, hip. Home.

The East Village. Cutting edge culture and youthful vitality.

Long Beach. Small town sea-side feel, next to big town concrete LA.

Santa Monica pier. I’m a glutton for a ferris wheel on the sea.

Wildwood Canyon. Best go-to-hike ever.

elephants, which I have ridden.

Bjork. She just does her thing and everyone can’t help but watch and admire. She’s bizarrely unselfconscious.

shooting stars.

Marilyn Monroe.

Paul Newman.

The Graduate. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading and watch it now. Cinema doesn’t get finer.

The Piano. Ditto.

The 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada. a sleeper gem on the power of redemption if ever there was one.

— jazz, especially Nina Simone.

fun hats. If ever in the East Village, don’t miss this spot.

the color green. Pink was my favorite as a girl, but by age 12, it had become green. Here’s a little bit of pigment history for those of you who have extra time on your hands.

the dog beach in my neighborhood.

my neighbors.

boat rides of all kinds. Someday, perhaps in another lifetime or when I’m old or in a movie, I’ll do like these folks in this blog I found.

mussels and fries. So easy and cheap to make at home. Affordable luxury.

Etaly. Touristy but good.

Central Park. Joseph and I lived just a few blocks away when we first moved to NYC. I loved discovering all the hidden gems of that magical retreat-land that is Central Park.

Vogue magazine. Especially nice while sunbathing at the beach.

The New York Times.


matinees alone ; )

— Jasper, the ridiculous creature.


tiramisu, especially one with cherries that I had at a party in Rome with Alessia.

the ocean. it’s strength, cleansing and healing properties, and it’s ability to make me feel small in the scope of the universe.

swimming. Especially skinny dipping if you can get away with it without getting arrested.

—  yoga.  hot yoga. or the yoga overlooking the bluff that I adore.

— my time spent in writing.

— the opportunity to escape into another life through acting.

you.  anyone that makes a connection with me.



—  The number 7. It always pops up in my life. And it has been said to be a holy number. I like that.

— the smell of flowers, especially Magnolias in the South.

hiking Mt. Fuji. If you go, don’t do it like we did: at night without gear or money to sleep in a hotel along the way, with 100 yen flashlights and no slickers during a Typhoon. Still worth it, but still, one can’t just be grateful, one also has to be pragmatic in this lifetime.

— backpacking through Thailand.

sticky rice. 90 % of the food I cook at home is Asian inspired. Don’t know why. I’m not one inch Asian. But might have been in a former life.


homemade pasta noodles.

The Met.

The Whitney. I performed here once.

—  time.

the possibility.

the road.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Love this talk with its director.


— love and what love means for the world.

Eddie Vedder. His song “Society” can make me cry on cue.

—  Redwood trees.

escapes into nature. If you live in LA, escape to Santa Cruz Island someday for dolphins and foxes and silence.

— the desire to grow always.

this immense life.






As a SAG-AFTRA and Equity member, Michal has appeared in dozens of plays and over fifty principal / starring roles for radio, television, and film. She is the voice, likeness, & performance capture artist for Tracey De Santa, one of 7 main characters out of a cast of a 1000, in the billion dollar phenomena Grand Theft Auto V. Her starring role in the LA Premiere of ‘White Hot’ at Hollywood Fringe earned her a Best Actress Award & her Ovation nominated theatre company, The Vagrancy, a Best Ensemble Award with knock-out reviews in ‘LA Weekly’ & ‘The Examiner.’ Film highlights: roles in Spike Lee’s Inside Man & Quid Pro Quo with Vera Farmiga. Born That Way, which she co-wrote with Mary M. Parr and Rob Travalino, was a Sundance Screenwriting Lab second rounder and one of 5 Finalists for Big Vision Empty Wallet’s Screenwriting Career Lab. She is the official Host of The Women’s Independent Film Festival and heads The Field Trips Department of Film Fatales where she’s a member in NYC and Los Angeles.
  • Amy

    -The stingray- for teaching me how to bounce like a wild banshee on the sand. Who taught me to speak in tongues and showed me that I could rotate my head in a complete circle (which has to come in handy somewhere). And who taught me whats like to be truly “in the moment.” Here, Here to a great new year with great adventures together!!

    • Michal

      I love you lady. Yes. to all of that. : )