For much of my life, I had a tight and constant knot in my chest.
It was always there and it stood as a constant, unsettled reminder to do something with my life. It pushed me to excel. To be GREAT. And it hinted that in return, maybe, someday, if I did well enough, it would go away.
I was always striving to get where I was headed for fear that I’d never move past where I was. Talk about going around your elbow to get to your toosh! Like so many of our problems, I can predictably trace this to an unstable and sometimes scary childhood. More on that later.
The knot always magically disappeared, however, when I was acting. Slipping into the life of another: someone else’s words, clothes, thoughts, wants; I was free. I started acting when I was seven. I was terribly shy prior to this, but acting brought me out of my shell, and as the years passed I became an overwhelming extrovert. I loved acting because it offered me a single space in time that had no consequence. I could experience love, hate, death, destruction, the lightest and darkest of emotions, while I truly connected with another human being, and when I left that magic box, everything that I felt and experienced disappeared. And people even clapped! It was glorious.
After being in NY and acting professionally for a couple of years, the worst possible thing happened: I started to get nervous in auditions. I was, up to this point, getting very close to a lot of big things, but always coming up second choice, and instead of accepting this as a win, I started to have self doubt, which brought anxiety into the room whenever I started going up for a role. The irony is that I never experienced this nervousness when I actually had the part, only when I was up for it. Again, I was jumping to the end of the story instead of living the journey.
This of course, was absolutely horrifying, because all of a sudden, that knot started getting even tighter. I couldn’t book a role to make it disappear because I was no longer present and relaxed in my auditions, and in the rest of my life I was constantly feeling like I definitely was NEVER going to get where I was headed now.
But the beautiful thing about the world not opening up to you, is that, hopefully, you eventually learn that you just have to open up to the world, instead.
I started on a spiritual quest of sorts to figure myself and my issues out. Otherwise, I was quite certain that I would die, or at least my soul would die. Same thing. With the help of fantastic classes / seminars like Acting Success Now, Margie Haber Studio, and Maggie Flanigan Studio, and self expanding / ego shrinking books like Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth,” and Michael Brown’s “The Presence Process,” I began to find a way out of my future centric thinking and the nervousness I started bringing to job prospects. I am now enjoying more and more time in the actual NOW.
The fantastic result of that is that now LIFE itself is becoming more important than ACTING. I’d say that’s sad — that its taken me all these years to reach that point, and that it’s still a rival at times, but it is what it is. Of course, LIFE is so much bigger then anything. I know that in my heart, but I don’t always practice it in my head when the stakes are high and I’m faced with life changing opportunities like an audition that, if booked, could change my life.
Of course, all of these problems are symptomatic of the ego. Like so many actors, I’m way too focused on myself. Which is tough and contradictory too, because we have to be to a certain extent. I mean, we’re the only profession that requires a life sized color copy of our own head to accompany us to the interview. How could we not turn out me-ccentric?
But the best actors have learned how to give of themselves and not take. They fearlessly give us their vulnerabilities, fears, truth, love. I want to be this kind of actor. I challenge you to be this kind of actor, too. More importantly, be this kind of human being.
I want this blog to be a journey of self discovery about getting away from that tightness in the chest. By connecting with others to help them on their journey, and by being constantly and joyfully surprised by what life has to offer when I learn to let go of control and make the person in front of me more important then myself, I believe this tightness will go away permanently. Even as I write this, it is shrinking : ).
I should note also, that it goes away when I’m engaged in direct love and communication with another living being and the world at large: holding a baby, traveling somewhere for the first time, really listening and learning something new, teaching kids, laughing at something fantastic that my husband just expressed to me in quite possibly the most brilliant way, hiking with him and our dogs. Basically, it goes away when I am not the focus of my universe, but instead become a part of the world’s shared universe.
I have a long way to go, and I’m far from an expert, but I have a sinking feeling that I’m not alone. In these uncertain times, so many of us, performers and not, are struggling with trying to find the balance of being where we’re at while we work to get where we’re headed.
Travel with me, and let’s find a way to let go of our knots…