I wasn’t going to share what I am about to share because it felt too personal and revealing but then I thought about one of my personal favorite writers Elizabeth Gilbert and how revealing she always is and how grateful I am to her for that and how much it has helped me to know that someone else feels the same things I do, so I decided to go ahead and share after all in case anyone else can relate to and be comforted by my personal reveals.
The truth is I have come to a crossroads with my acting career. Here I am finishing up my second level at Second City and getting out there doing the background work and what I have come face to face with is that if I ever want to be truly great at the craft of acting and Improv (and I really really do) I am going to have to wrestle with some of my greatest fears and win.
I have backed myself into the proverbial corner where there is a big ole monster between me and that door I desperately want to go through and the fears that keep me held hostage in that corner are the fear of my own emotions.
Believe me I understand how ridiculous it sounds that someone who chooses to be an actress is afraid of her emotions. Why would someone do that to themself? But I guess maybe it’s just human nature to be drawn to the things we need to master.
I don’t know where or how this all began but I do know I was always a bit of a sensitive kid saddled with an uncontrollably compassionate heart that just wanted to love and make things better for everyone all the time. In trying to figure out how to deal with this life challenge I spent a lot of time observing this diverse world I was living in and spent very little time expressing what I observed. I wasn’t trying to be secretive (not at first anyway), it was more that there was just so much to observe. So many people, so many beliefs, so much passion and I wanted to understand it all because I felt that if I could understand where people were coming from I could love and support them better.
I could write novels and novels about what I learned from actively observing from this sort of detached, non-judgmental space but for the sake of sticking to the point I will say that one of the things I observed was that when people’s emotions were stirred it often marred their judgment and lead them to say and do things that they didn’t mean hurting both themselves and others at the same time.
Since hurting people was the exact opposite of my goal, I guess I made the very practical decision to let my mind take over management of this important business called My Life and with its new power my Mind’s first management decision was to put all those emotions I perceived as dangerous under lock and key where they could be managed and controlled properly, only leaving free joy and happiness because they never seemed to hurt anybody.
For a while this was all well and good. My Mind was incredibly good at its job. It couldn’t stop all the feelings from coming in, I still felt those as deeply as ever, but it was absolutely impeccable at not letting them sneak out and cause any sort of outside inconvenience for myself or others and this talent served to get me (and probably many of my childhoodfriends that surrounded me) through the teen and early adult years largely unscathed.
So you would think this would be a great thing, I certainly did for a long time, but it turns out maybe it’s not always so great, because as it turns out sometimes keeping things in hurts people too and also because, and this is a biggie for me, My Mind eventually got so good at its job that it had no desire to let go of the reins.
So here I am a grown woman, wiser from years lived in some ways, but still like a child in other ways, realizing I am way past due in my need to explore the challenging landscape of human emotions for the sake of both my professional life and my personal relationships and I’ve got this bossy Mind over here acting like Hal from 2010 a Space Odyssey. Hal’s had the keys to the kingdom for a long time and has no interest in giving them over.
My Mind knows its days are numbered. It knows I want to experiment with letting my emotions lead for a little while. That, in fact, I need to learn to let my emotions lead if I want to progress as an artist, so what does it do? It pulls out its secret weapon: Fear! It tells me the key to the emotions box is gone. Lost years ago! Don’t even bother looking. Maybe I should consider another profession.
When I say there is no way I am changing professions and that I’ll do whatever it takes to find the key, even if I have to make a new one, then it tells me to go ahead and open it but I’ll be sorry. That I’m gonna end up like an emotional tornado of a person expressing every feeling I have every moment that I have it leaving a wake of destruction in my path.
As I’m writing this I can see that this is ridiculous but this fear is like a phobia, completely irrational yet fully immobilizing. It feels so real when it comes up. But maybe that’s the answer. If it’s gonna act like a phobia then maybe I should treat it like one.
I’ll just strap myself in like a lady with a fear of flying who gets in the flight simulator with the intentions of working through it by facing it head on. Maybe it’s time for me to take on a role that forces me face it head on and just see what happens.
That will be my next challenge. Oh boy. Wish me luck. Any nice Directors out there that want to coach me through this process? There’s a lot bottled in there. Could be the not-necessarily-intentional performance of a lifetime.