Failure is just the beginning

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I quit writing. I said I wouldn’t, but I did. Anyone else automatically think of that “Said I loved you, but I lied” song???

There was a legit reason so just hear me out before you start with your judgmental ways.

A couple things happened:

1. After my cousin passed away in April of 2015, I lost my foundation. Nothing seemed to matter and I sort of went into this phase of letting go. In fact, I completely lost the inner desire to soar and simply resorted to float by for a little bit. We all go through stages in life, and this has been sort of a coasting period. A waking hibernation, if you will. It was necessary; I needed it. I’m starting to wake up out of it, thank goodness, but it feels slow, like gaining consciousness from a coma. For some reason, I thought I should have been able to save her. I don’t know why – it makes no logical sense, but I should have been able to keep oxygen pumping through her and I didn’t. It was a guilt that I didn’t know how to live with.

Now I wear a tiny little ‘E’ around my neck on a silver chain to remind me every day of Erin – to live life for Erin.

2. I also started taking an anti-depressant. It is very commonly used by masses of Americans and it’s that little bouncing ball miracle drug called Zoloft. I was, and still am to be perfectly honest, somewhat conflicted by this. If the creator made me perfect, then maybe I’m not supposed to mess with the balance of my mental state, even if it was drowning me? By choosing to medicate myself, was I saying that this “issue” I have is bigger than God and than universe?

Oh, I battled all sorts of questions – What if I don’t feel anything anymore and I’m just numb all the time? What if I become this whole other person? What if it changes my acting or my ability to emotionally connect to a character? What if I’m one of those odd cases that gets more depressed and I get the sudden urge to go throw myself off of a building or a bridge on Tuesday afternoon?

Needless to say, none of that happened.

After owning up to the undeniable fact that I did indeed suffer from depression after having it assigned a name by my doctor – ‘Chronic Depression.’ I choked down my pride and agreed that this would be the healthiest choice for me. It was at least worth a try. I fought of migraine meds for years and it ended up literally giving me my life back.

The thoughts and the feelings are all still there, but they don’t consume me anymore. I can’t explain it – it’s like instead of getting suffocated and pulled down into the deep by my emotions, they sort of just float on the surface now. I can identify them and picture them sitting on little orange plastic inflatable tubes holding a glass of lemonade with tiny umbrellas in their glasses as they lazily drift across the pools of my emotions. Hey sadness, I see you there, but let’s just hang out and chill for a bit today ok? No diving off the deep end – deal? Deal.

So it took me a while to work through all of that. Mainly my spiritual connection to the great creator. It changed. I was no longer constantly coming in a state of need and despair, but instead I was coming in a spirit of Thanksgiving and longing for more. More gifts, more purpose, more calling. You’d think I’d be happy about this, but it was unfamiliar to me. It was like being married to someone for a really long time and then discovering something weird about them and suddenly you feel like they’re a stranger in the room. My time spent in meditation and focus felt awkward and uncomfortable. Like I had to get to know this relationship all over again.

So, we’re exploring this new territory, the creator and I. We’re taking it slow.

3. I went through some life changes. I moved, I decided that I do want a family and I’ve been relishing the opportunity to do something that has a social and creative impact, which means less acting and more …. well, I didn’t know yet.

I shouldn’t say that. I knew.

I have lists upon lists upon lists stockpiled up of all of the stuff I knew I should have been doing. I even have an idea board with different colored and categorized post-it notes about different life goals and project. It’s just that life kept getting in the way.

It’s nothing new, there’s artist after artist that belts out the same gripe. There’s never time. They always need to do something to make money which distracts them from their work. They’re exhausted and not able to give their creative work their full attention. I’m not alone and certainly not the first.

I’ve done the first step though, I made a conscious choice to shift my priorities to better align with the new desires of my heart.

Because I am who I am, that meant being all dramatic …

I thought I needed to throw it all away and start with a blank canvas. Ummmm not necessary.

Once I let go of that sixteen year old mentality of wanting to just run away from home and all the problems of life, I decided that I just needed to make some changes. It’s never that simple though in my little brain. With change there is always the guilt that I am in fact changing things, and guilt that I’m leaving things behind and there’s fear that I’m making a wrong change which leads to a period of stagnation where I do nothing.

I sit and think about it. A lot.

I journaled about it, I dreamt about, I thought about it, I day dreamed about and I became so dull and distant off in my thoughts that I don’t know how my mate put up with me. Finally I arrived at the day where I realized it was time.

So that’s where I am. I pushed the ‘GO’ button on life while sitting in bed in my Charlie Brown PJ’s, wearing my broken glasses held together by wire and my hair up in two buns on either side of my head that make me look like a human Minnie Mouse.

I don’t make any apologies for this current state. After hearing an interview with Patti Smith on NPR’s Fresh Air, I felt such a connection to her. I didn’t know why at first. She seemed so different from me – so brave, so direct and unbridled by conventionalism.

I bought her book and was struck right away with her mind. She thought like me – taking in people, places, odd things and assigning them life and meaning. She prefers to work in a similar environment that I do – she writes in her book about preferring to work from bed propped up with a fort of pillows. “Me too!” I squealed when I read it. She doesn’t use commas or really lots of other things regular grammatical standards that would make editors at my day job cringe. I smile every time I see it. Screw you comma, who needs you!? I’ve never been a strong technical writer, I know that, but I also knew that I had something to say and I don’t think the proper or improper use of a comma should get in my way of saying it.

Books have become something of a personal tribe for me. I don’t really have a crew that a roll with, but I have my army of books.

Right now I’m reading Felicia Day’s memoir because I wanted to understand and harness some of her brilliance. The woman built an empire. She’s underrated and totally relatable to me – her insecurities, her struggle with depression, her humor, her years of stalling before unveiling her true superpowers … The whole being a math genius thing and a violin-playing savant is a little less identifiable for me, but still, I felt like I had found one of my own kind. A homegirl.

I’m also reading ‘M Train’ by Patti Smith, as mentioned, Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ which I have totally mixed feels about, a fiction called ‘Fates and Furies’ an acting book to help me be a better teacher, The Bible, to help me be a better human (Obviously) and a book about the history and evolution of Tarot cards.

All of these minds and stories constantly remind me of how human we all are and how similar we all are. It’s beautiful.

See, the thing is that I’ve made lists my whole life. Lists of long term goals, daily lists of stuff that has to get done before my head hits the pillow, lists of stuff I dream of doing but know I probably never will, lists of more people that I should read about because they inspire me, lists of things I want to try because people told me I shouldn’t, lists of stuff I know other people think is a really good idea for me to do but I’m not quite so sure …

Other than making me one of the most organized people you’ve ever met, what has all this excessive commitment to list-making done for me?

Not much.

It can become a prison of paper promises.

That’s why this year I have chosen to give myself permission to just enjoy life. That’s right; for one year, I am free to do nothing but enjoy the hell out of it, in whatever course it decides to take.

No pressure, no standards, no predetermined outcomes, nothing but wide open space to live however I want for this one spectacular year.

I am aware of how hypocritical this is, but I’ve always owned being a hypocrite so it’s an honest flaw. It was immediately pointed out to me that not making a choice to make any resolutions in the beginning of the year is in itself, a resolution. To that I said – Poo poo to you too, sir.

Seriously, it’s a significant year – I’ll be turning 30 in April. Yes, I had a list of all the things I thought I’d do by the time I was 30. I didn’t do most of them, but I did some pretty amazing things that I never even thought to put on the list!

I’m focused with being healthy and living healthy. I recently realized that even with my magic happy pill, my brain still had a tendency to default into a set pattern of destructive thinking. Because I couldn’t seem to just not think that way, which is what my mom always advises, “Well stop thinking those bad things about yourself! They’re not true.”

…. Thanks mom, great. Now that you said that, let me just stop thinking those things …

I decided to disrupt the pattern. In a rather painful experience I sat down and made 3 separate lists (yep, I realize how hypocritical AGAIN the whole list thing is, but hear me out) that stated positive things about myself that I could whip out and read as soon as I started to think or feel negatively toward myself.

I have a list for when I feel like a failed artist, a list for when I feel like a failed professional and a list for when I compare myself to other women and come up as not enough. I had to enlist help to identify all of these glorious attributes about myself on the lists, but they were made and stored in an easily accessible place and sure enough, I have started to interrupt the signal of self-inflicted mental abuse.

It actually works. Who would have thunk?

Self-awareness, happiness, success – they are such volatile things for sensitive creatures such as actors. It can be hard to ride the wave and not come out with the bitter taste of saltwater stinging your tongue.

But every time I’ve had that happen, I realize one thing – I survived.

I got divorced – I survived.

I was diagnosed with depression – I survived.

I didn’t get the promotion – I survived.

I will turn 30 without doing a significant film – I will survive.

Failure is just the beginning. Like I tell my improv students, sometimes the result of a mistake being made is better than something you had planned. Sometimes a mistake turns out to be the best gift life ever gives you.