Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Take it from Aunt YaYa

My beautiful niece Rachel has come a long way!
She calls me YaYa. It's her attempt to say Leah. It's like the gold flecks of an angel's whisper when she tries to say my name. It means everything to me.

There aren't quite words to describe what becomes of the heart touched by a little life. 

She is a reminder to my heart of all the good things that come when we slow down and get to ground level...and open our eyes and ears...watching and listening with excitement at every moment. 

My niece Rachel reminds me how an adult's life can get too complicated for enjoyment.  It's a lesson she doesn't consciously teach but an all-too important one. Adults lose enthusiasm and wonder because they wrap themselves in complex and monotonous pursuits that are somehow supposed to prove our worth.

Children have the brilliant knack of discovering, learning, delighting and sharing.
How is it that we adults become swallowed into the drudgery of a life we design?

The mindfulness movement, in many senses, integrates all things regressive. It teaches us to go back to the simplicity of childhood. Currently, I see Rachel as my greatest mindfulness practitioner. She's my pint-size Pema Chodron.

Watching her discover splashing water, making sounds and adapting them to the squeals of her admirers, watching out a window at the birds swooping down into the trees.

 Her life is one new miraculous and mysterious discovery after another.

I urge those of you who have previously been thinking yourself ultra-enlightened (and yet ultra-burdened by the world) to find a way at some point in the day to stop the cycle. Get down on the floor, pick up a crayon...study what's outside your window, instead of what's on your newsfeed.

The decreased time and increased demands of life have a cost. The cost is our awareness, our appreciation and our enjoyment of the simple wonder of everything and what it means to be alive.

Seriously, laugh at a fart noise. 

Stop being an adult long enough to remember that we get to be child-like when we choose to be and the reward is the time to open our senses to all the things we miss, the life right around us - waiting for our attention. Thanks Rachel. You are teaching Aunt YaYa so much!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tell them now...tell them every time

I've had a sleepless night or two lately. I think the coverage of the train crash grabbed me in a way that I had not expected a disaster story to grab me.

That train route of D.C. to New York my husband has taken twice in the last few weeks for auditions.

It's kind of caught in my throat that this was his very route...and thankfully, this wasn't his week to make that trip.

The circumstance, the timing, the randomness of why we find ourselves where we are when bad things happen are out of our control. Sure the astronomically rare odds that someone we know or love could be there in the midst of such a freak accident are small.
But for those that lost a loved one Tuesday, those odds don't matter because there they were in the midst of astronomical odds - shattered by disbelief.

It's one lesson I'm going to take to heart today.

My family has had this funny little habit through the years of never quite wrapping up a conversation without saying 'goodbye' and 'I love you' multiple times in every parting - phone or in person.

I love you.
Bye, I love you...
okay talk to you later...I love you.
(**Random forgotten mention & more conversation**)
Okay...Love you.

It kind of has been the thing my husband and my sister's husband have laughed about in knowing our family and this kind of funny repetitive ritual.

Byes and I love yous are always extended, sometimes almost to a parody-worthy level. 
Somehow, through it's wackiness both of our husbands have also over time adopted it lovingly. 

But it's what we do. Silly or not.

Say you love the people closest to you in your life...say it often, say it always. 
Never part with those nearest and dearest to you without making sure they know.
Tell them now, tell them every time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Here's to the scrappers

Yesterday was a tough one. And yesterday was a great one - all in the same breath.

Let me explain something...I'm the wife of an actor. I married my husband's auditions.

Callbacks and gut feelings can trap you with a sense of hope that you always want to be careful not to mistake as the sure thing. It's the dusty dance of rejections and rejoicing.

It's the fickle and sometimes mystical process of casting. And it is also the way we must let all things go after choices have been made...and settle in on, it's just the way it is.

Anyone who has stayed the course in the arts knows this is the way it must be.

For actors today it's a life of following a dream that cuts you down and builds you up over and over and over. You have to weather it with grace or be eaten by it whole. Every actor who has stayed in the profession knows this feeling with a very sharp and honest acceptance. 

Cue the "I Hope I Get It" song from A Chorus Line and all who have limited concept of careers in the arts will at least understand it on a 'scratch the surface level'.

Within ten minutes of hearing that his 'hope I get it' was not to be - "the hope I get it" we had been both praying on, we were both thinking the same thing. New plan - scratch that, what's next?

Somehow, something else is meant to be at this time. That's just what we believe because that's life and how we better ourselves. 

"We're scrappers, you and I," Patrick said last night.

And then I agreed with him. I'm no actress...that's for sure. 
However, what my husband and I have in common is seeking out something special out of the most challenging circumstances.

I'm not saying missing most of your high school experience through misdiagnosis that comes back to bite you as cancer (twice) is the same as an actor's path. Yet, we're cut from the cloth of hard knocks optimism. Somehow in that way, we speak the lingo - one that helped us fall in love in the first place.

Curveballs. Bends in the road that take you down another. 

Transformation of sour lemons with the addition of sugar.


So after a heartbreak like yesterday...I've learned sometimes a door opens almost near the same breath to one closing unexpectedly.

Let me explain. One day, two scenarios. 
Heartbreak. Happy news.
Florida in July? Ughhhh thank God for air conditioning.

I write this post because there are people in many professions who have to 'dog it' hard. I have to say actors have it tough. Forget your pre-fab Hollywood vision of the actor's life. Forget the public relations semi-fictional account of rags to riches stories of stardom.

The craft and its decisions are governed, at least partially, by layers of influence that even its hardest working actors have no control over. Those actors with the biggest hearts accept that as part of the profession...dust off the heart on the floor and move on to the next thing.

I am so proud of my husband and every other actor who lobby to stay with the ride of a lifetime - as hard as it may be, especially in its unpredictability. But that is life.

The safe choice is not always the choice of our wildest dreams.

Many have left this profession - the world of the arts can be thankless and colored with one too many tough clubs to the ego. Many have realized that this dream brings with it too many sacrifices and understandably, reroutes on life's winding road.

And don't let anyone fool you - husbands and wives, partners and families of those who work in the arts make incredible sacrifices. It's something we learn quickly. 

Yet, if the fire burns, we let it.
And we scrappers will find a way.

My husband and any other actor could tell you scores of stories of the 'almost big break' or the role that got away. Yet, somehow they are just muted Kodachrome memories that fade into the distant background. They blend into the collective reminder that no gig is for sure and every chance, even if it isn't the one you wanted most, is a new opportunity.

My husband has the most wonderful combination of mid-Western boy next door and plucky confidence - it cut him through nearly two decades of living in New York. I remind him that his television and film residuals help pay the dues of what rent robbed him of with this long-suffering address.
Talk about Throwback! check him out!
Twenty one years ago Boston University paid for a full page ad in the back of American Theatre magazine. They featured a young actor who had won the Rex Harrison Award given to one actor each year who showed promise and carried on the tradition of one of theater's greats. My husband never talks about this...I once found it nestled in the few bits of memorabilia he brought on his move from New York. (He's the minimalist I long to be.)

That kid got his face on the back of a national magazine for this award. Rex's Harrison's widow personally congratulated him as part of his honor. Big stuff in a time when all seems possible on the road following college. Yet, there are no sure things. 

Except one, true heart.
In the poetic way of life, my husband just accepted a role in 'Hounds of the Baskerville' at Florida Studio Theatre. This work is a hilarious take on Sherlock Holmes. He accepted it mere minutes after learning of the other disappointment. 

I've been watching Youtube videos of Hounds productions and laughing my ass off. Tying my husband's comedy with one of his first roles after college...is my idea of poetic forks in the road. 

Back in the day, one of Patrick's first professional gigs was as none-other than Sherlock Holmes. It's kind of like coming full circle, at least I think it is. It's all about taking the shot you're given. After all, he took an extreme gamble taking a Rochester cancer survivor out for pancakes on the final week of a three week gig. 

We both took a gamble believing that this city I love and one he has grown to love could allow us a place to both live our dreams. It's a challenge.

We're used to challenge. We're kind of hard-wired that way.
So, yes, if I have to make a trek up to Sarasota in the swelter of summer heat...it's where it's at. I'd rather him within driving distance and home for breakfast (our little joke). I was looking forward to him finally getting to see the Independence Day fireworks up at Pine Grove...
It's so freaking hot in Florida in the summer. Snowbirds evacuate the place. 
But you know what...I can't wait to go sit in air conditioning and see him in this role.

Here's to the scrappers.