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

# 82: It’s Hard to Be Human (Part Two), (Or: If you don’t feel ridiculous often in life, you’re not paying attention)

bunny nose

Continued from “It’s Hard to Be Human” (Part 1)

This past month, I wasn’t feeling ridiculous, just very serious and very stressed. So you know what that means:  some-bunny was taking themselves too seriously and not paying attention.

I got laid off from my day job a few weeks back (yup, for all those of you who don’t already know, I partially support my expensive acting habit with a glamorous waitressing nightlife), just as we were entering tech for the show, and all in the midst of still feeling very, very lost concerning this ridiculous AND lacking in paying attention bunny above.

When I first read Sis on the page, I didn’t know whether or not I could play with her without judging her.  She’s so easy to judge.  Spoiler alert:  She hires prostitues.  She pops pills like M&Ms.  She sleeps with her pregnant sister’s husband.  She stabs her lover in the leg with a knife during sex.  She’s pretty awful (and wonderful, as are her play mates, come see for yourself).

What I didn’t read on the page is all the stuff that I needed to fill in about her in order to play her with compassion and love. The sexual abuse at an early age. The physical and emotional abuse by her alcoholic father. The strict farm life. The lonely adolescent escape to NYC on a dance scholarship and the pressure to stay thin and perform in that cut throat world.

After all the research and imagining, it should have been easy to play her, not judge her.  But I was still having problems putting her on.  She just didn’t quite fit.

It wasn’t until a day before opening, when I (and a very patient Caitlin, my director) really felt like we had quasi found the bunny tail I’d been desperately searching for on Sis.  I need this tail to hold onto with my characters so I can really dive down that rabbit hole with them, have them pull me along, connect to them, share their instincts.  Now that sounds ridiculous, probably, yes it does, but it makes sense to me, so I hope it quasi makes sense to you.

I have to find a way into her that’s like me and once I find that, I can be her.  But if I can’t find the connector, I’m lost.  It’s me.  And her.  Separate. Me commenting on her rather then being her.  Not us.  Make sense?

How exactly it all came together would take way longer then this post, but it did somehow, so I’m incredibly grateful.  It’s just not a play you want to do badly.  It’s like bad sex.  You’re already naked and there you are doing it badly on top of the obvious, awkward vulnerability.  The only thing worse then that is bad sex on stage.  Oh, yeah, that’s what I would have been looking at (or rather what every one else would have been looking at) if I hadn’t found that bunny tail I speak of.

There’s still progress to be made, of course.  Lots. She’s a work in progress, just like me.  I’ll be chasing the rabbit down the hole for as long as I’m allowed to hold onto her, but at least I’ve got that tail in hand.

But chasing is exhausting. And if you’ve read Part 1 of It’s Hard to Be Human, you already know that May was quite a month, too.  I’m tired.  I wanted nothing more then to rest following our opening.

But there’s no rest for the jobless.  So, these past weeks has been consumed with Craigslist and dress pants and online questionnaires and do I have my California Food Handler’s Card and Am I Certified to Give CPR to a choking baby, which has led to breathing less and less and oh let me take a cigarette break with my neighbor because that’s gonna help and crying fits and bitchiness to my husband and general malaise and bouts of despair.  Because I’m a drama queen and that’s how we roll sometimes.

Lucky for me (and for Joseph who has to live with me) I have the world’s best free yoga just down the street, where we had the bright idea to go and take a proper, healthier breather.  There, I was able to refresh my stressed out monkey brain and knotted up pretzel body and hear gems like the very wise “if you don’t feel ridiculous often in life, you’re not paying attention” given out by cute and happy yoga bodhis intent on giving back solely because they’re awesome that way.

When I got back from the yoga bluffs overlooking the ocean, I felt like a new person.  I mean this so fully.  So what if I don’t have job?  I will in time, and in the meantime, I’ll work it out as long as I keep at it and remember to not take myself so seriously.

It’s a good reminder for us anxiety ridden peeps.  When transforming into a little spastic monkey-rabbit, take time out to breathe.  

Because life keeps on truckin’.  And I’ll say it again: It’s Hard to Be Human.

For example, a month back, in the height of rehearsals, at my every-minute-counts-towards-work-worst, my car was towed.  This sucked: $796 dollars in tow fees, diminishing my savings meant for a new computer down to $2.  I would rather have had a urinary tract infection. But not, NOT, NOT, NOT — a stingray sting (see Part I).  No, give me 100 towed cars and the fees attached before I have to experience THAT again.

Lil:  I always had this vision that some day life would straighten itself out. But that never happens does it?

Sis: No. It wouldn’t be any fun. Death straightens us out in the end. Lies us cold and content in the hot ground. 

Seriously, it’s not the loss of a parent or a life threatening disease, both of which I’ve witnessed friends and family dear to me struggle with these past few months.  It’s just a minor set back. It’s just money. Things. You can’t take it with you.  I am so very lucky, really, for it’s just life, good old messy life that happened.  

And in a weird way it was gift.  Because it made me pause.  I needed to take a break after this event and I listened to what I needed.  Instead of racing to accomplish, instead of getting my workaholic fix because now I felt more behind then ever, after being driven around in a golf cart at the City of Long Beach Impound, I asked Joseph to the beach.  Time to dive into the water and baptise ourselves with the sun and salt of renewal.  Time to shake off the stress.  Time to float next to him for no reason other then YES.  Time for a reset. Sometimes the best you can do when everything is going wrong is just breathe into acceptance and play hooky from that unending list.

Life has a way of railroading us sometimes and it’s very easy to see how one thing can lead to another and suddenly you’re completely and utterly lost.  Or drowning in pain.  And once you’re in it, it’s not always easy to get out.  Emotional pain doesn’t have the easy fix of 110 degree water to break up the enzymes of its poison (see my prior post referencing my stingray incident for more on that).

With a nod to Sis in “White Hot,” we don’t often see all the stuff underneath when we see someone who’s continually messing up in a major way. We just see the damage. We don’t always take the time to walk in that person’s shoes and question why. But it’s there. There’s a story there. If we listen closely we just might break through and make a connection, break up some of those pain enzymes, see life for the ridiculous ride it is, and start paying attention, to me, to you, to us, and how we connect on this wild, white hot, ridiculous bunny hole road better known as 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.
  • Nina Harada

    yes, yes, yes. love this. and can so relate as i scour CL for jobs and used cars i can’t afford and feeling like a failure and a mess. but cars are just things. money is just money. i’m grateful for what i have. for my life. thank you for the reminder!

    • Michal Sinnott

      Thank you sweet Nina! You are amazing and so very far from a failure. But yes, it’s good to remember that we all feel that way sometimes. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jazmine Green

    Great stuff! Love your voice. Keep writing!

    • Michal Sinnott

      Thank you Jazmine! I so appreciate you saying so! : )

  • Allen Resha

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