How the fuck am I supposed to do this? How am I not too broken to be another person’s one person?

On Jun 20, 2013, at 5:26 PM, Awrote:

As of late, due to the general hectic-ness of life, you’ve been feeling your feelings. Which is great.

Because of you feeling your feelings, you’ve been more internal as you’ve been going through the world. Also fine – totally understandable.

I think what I’m feeling is just a sense of being left out. Often I find, whether I’m the one coming home or the one home already, when I ask about your day and things that have happened, I’m getting a short answer in response and that’s about it. However, I’m often looking to discuss it a bit more.

For example, today: it was your first rehearsal for a new play. Granted, you didn’t do much and you were reading through the play-within-the-play, but I guess I was expecting more conversational traction from that – people in the cast, your expectations, any other design stuff that wasn’t brought up, your general thoughts.
Now, if you’d prefer not to talk about it, I understand and I don’t mean to nag or place pressure; it’s just an example of how I’ve been feeling of late. I miss you. In no circumstance am I trying to make you uncomfortable, or would i want you to be anything but real with me –

I know there’s a lot happening right now and if you really do need all that space I will most assuredly grant you that and do whatever I can to be of help or comfort. I just wanted to let you know what was going on in my head and how I’ve been feeling. Bear in mind this all may certainly be magnified by what I’m going through and how I’ve been pretty non-social of late, but it’s still what’s going on with me.

Also there’s just that silly part of me that wants to make sure everything is really ok.

So much love,
A
xoxo

On Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 6:24 PM, B wrote:

Lover,

I appreciate this email more than you know. Sometimes it’s easier to get thoughts and feelings out in writing– I know that’s the case for me– and you reaching out like this reminds me how much you do care. It also helps me understand better how you’re feeling. I want to know how you’re feeling, especially when what I’m doing effects you.

Frankly, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know why I feel this way. I hate that it pulls us apart. I don’t know why I don’t want to talk. Maybe it’s because I genuinely don’t have anything to say. Or I feel like I don’t have anything to say. Right now, I don’t have opinions. I don’t want to "do" anything. I’m not interested in anything. I’ve mentioned to you how the world can feel like "too much" for me at times. This is one of those times.

I’m not okay, babe. I’m never going to be completely "okay." We can pretend that mental illness is like Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, but it’s not. It’s quiet and pervasive and distancing. It’s not cute. This email took me over an hour to write because I literally have no words. Nothing I could say could possibly be worth saying.

I feel like this is bullshit and sounds like I’m trying to "excuse" my behavior, which I know makes you feel left out and isolated. I wish I could tell you why, and I wish I could tell you how I was going to fix it. I can try. I WILL try, and I’ll do my best.

I’ve never spent this much time with anyone. I sort of include my parents. For most of my time at home, they found me utterly unbearable. It wasn’t until I moved out that we had a relationship at all. This EXACTLY is why Chris broke up with me. This is what got me down to 90 pounds and got me to cut myself up. I’m terrified that I’m hurting you, and I’m terrified that I’m pushing you away. I am terrified that I don’t know how to weather these patches with someone else. As you can see from the whole of this paragraph, I have NEVER done so successfully.

I don’t expect you to respond to this. I know I’m an over sharer and I’m already second-guessing myself. But there’s also a part of me that feels like if I can muscle out SOMETHING, that’s better than the nothing i’ve been giving you.

I recommend reading this blog article. http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

I love you more than anything. I have never loved so hard and so deep. I promise to continue to try and let you in.

Your B.

Dearheart,

I know and understand as much as I can. I’m not sure if recent events in life have exacerbated the distancing, because – to be honest – it’s never felt as much as it has the past week or two. (Unless I’m just in some kind of place because of edit-stress that allowed me to feel it fully.) But either way, I just wanted to let you know about it.

I love you. I love how much you love me, and the way that you love me. I know you’re trying to be the best, most productive you you can be. Remember that I like and love the you that you always are.

I’m so happy we’re life-sharers.

Can’t wait to kiss you tonight.

A

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Doing your Homework

Like most people who call themselves actors, I’ve known what I wanted to do for about as long as I knew what “acting” was. I started in dance, and I was quite good, but the parts I liked most in dancing were the acting parts. I always got the bit parts in The Nutcracker (“sled girl”, “naughty ladybug,”) and was always better at modern dance than ballet, where I could more openly express emotion. I still love dance, but really, it was a just a portal through which I discovered what I actually want to spend my life doing– theatre.

As you all know, if you’ve been reading, I’m well-trained. I went to the premiere performing arts boarding school to study theatre for my last two years of high school. I attended a top-tier university in New York City to study acting. I’ve been an apprentice at two different, well-known festivals, and I received my union card about a year after graduating from college. No one can deny it– I’ve done my homework.

As a kid, I had OCD tendencies. I was a perfectionist. I couldn’t ever be late. No “puffies” in my ponytail. I never missed an assignment in school. But I was also a very, very angry and a very, very sad little girl. I mean, let’s just diagnose it right here– I was bipolar.

I’ve written here about how my eating disorder(s) is a part of my psychological struggle, which I’ve been fighting since childhood. I started restricting unconsciously, because I was working too hard. I was trying to be too good. In recovery, I “let myself go,” got messy and angry and ugly and gained too much weight and fell apart and was late and fucked up all the time. Neither were gold-star moments in my life (and by moments, let’s call a spade a spade, I mean YEARS).

I think a lot about those two parts of me– the perfectionist homework-doer, who crosses her T’s and dots her I’s, and loves the feeling of succeeding because she put in all that hard work; and the messy girl, who forgives herself when she falls apart and trusts herself to make it to the other side, and who knows that sometimes hard work just means getting through the day.

Being an actor, or an artist of any kind, I think is finding a constant balance between these two extremes. And I don’t think I quite anticipated it upon embarking on my life. I guess I expected that if I did all my homework, I’d just be a really good, successful actor. And god knows I did my homework. But life isn’t quite like that.

There is the work, of course. The side of the “biz” that’s just nose-to-the-grindstone.
1. Look at audition listings every day. Make notes about when the EPAs (Equity calls) are.
2. Attend the EPAs (this means getting downtown to sign up for a slot at around 7am, while your appointment may be as late as 4:20 and the auditioners aren’t even really looking, since the call is just required by the union.)
3. Say yes to any audition that comes my way via my agent or some other means. Appointments are how you book jobs. Getting appointments is the key.
4. Say yes to any reading/workshop offered. At least you’ll be acting, and maybe, just maybe, someone will see your work.
5. Keep your headshots updated. Spend 500+ on top-notch headshots every two years.
6. Make a demo reel. Film it professionally. Spend the money to get it put on Actors’ Access.
7. Prepare for your auditions/readings/workshops/roles IF YOU’RE LUCKY.
8. Attempt to follow your agent’s suggestions– lighten your hair, lose weight, clear up your skin, dress better.
9. Stress out over what outfit to wear for each audition. Have days where you pack three changes of clothes and shoes, plus makeup and hair stuff, plus resumes/headshots and sides, and carry them in a backpack over your huge winter coat in 3 degree weather in NYC.
10. Oh, and during this time you’re not actually making any money acting.

Now, that’s all very extreme, and not every day is like that. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been blessed to have had a number of auditions (that 3 changes of clothes thing is a real true story from last week), and even a couple of callbacks, but failed to book the job. I’ve gotten so close I get apology emails from the casting directors (this NEVER happens).

And that’s where we come to the funny thing about the arts.

You can get an A+ in “being an actor,” but it still doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.

Frankly, some of the people I run into at auditions are those kinds of people– they go to every open call, they send thousands of postcards to CDs and agencies, they buy books to help them organize their finances, and they know EVERYTHING there is to know about EVERYTHING.

Hilarious true story– those aren’t the people that get cast. Those are the people who wait tables and wait tables and work HARD and never book a union part and end up as waiters. Or as indie theatre producers, or who get married and move to Philly. Now, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course. Everyone should do their homework.

But acting isn’t like school (unfortunately for those of us who did really well in school). In school, you turn in your homework on time, do a great paper, test well, and you get an A. Just like that.

As an actor (or an artist of any kind), you show up on time, do all your work, do it really fucking well, and then you never get a call. It’s like working really hard on a ten-page paper, turning it in on the due date, and having the teacher take one look at at it and say, “Oh, no, I prefer Georgia to Times New Roman,” and trash it right in front of you. You want to say, “But look harder! It’s so good!” or “I can edit that so easily, just give me a chance!” but it’s already round-filed.

All this to say, I think that it’s important to balance. If all I did was “work” on my “career,” I’d feel like a major, total failure. Because after all the hard work of the last month (okay, no, monthssssss since my last job) I haven’t had any measurable success.

But it isn’t just about the homework. It’s about being ME, and living my life, and knowing, deep within myself, that this moment is temporary. To forgive myself when I get another “no” or I’ve gone months without a “real” job. To acknowledge that I’m WORTH forgiving. To trust myself enough to believe that the next job will come.

It’s not that you don’t do the hard work– it’s that you don’t depend upon it to make your life perfect. I don’t think I expected that when graduating from high school, or when I moved to New York, or really… ever. Until the last two years of being in the world. I’ve become more and more comfortable with it, but I have to constantly remind myself that the balance is the key. As one of my favorite professors loved to say about the process of acting (and, ergo, the process of living) is “always balancing, never balanced.”

“The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.”
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

“You will be fierce. You will fearless. And you will make work you know in your heart is not as good as you want it to be.”
Ira Glass

“It was possible to feel superior to other people and feel like a misfit at the same time.”
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

Transitions and Tears

Today, as A and I were walking from Cosi back to the car to bring a box of clothes to the Goodwill, I mentioned how much I appreciated being able to share my life with him in real life, rather than just take my feelings, go home, cry, feel them, and journal– working it all out on my own. He asked if I still journaled.

“I do,” I told him, “In my small hard-copy journal. I write about feelings and thoughts but also have notes and quotes I like and stuff. I also have a journal on my computer [I didn’t say blog] which was mostly for sorting out my feelings and emotions in a more structured way.” At this point I looked at him. “I noticed that I’m writing much less there since you came into my life.”

“Is that a good thing?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “I think it is. I think it means I’m able to release my feelings with you– that I can open up to you in real life, not just in the safety of a journal.”

And it’s true. I haven’t been on here in a while. Part of that is that I’ve been busy and spend most of my free time with A (now, living with him). But part, I think, is that on some level I have a person close enough to me to be able to release a lot of what I write about in real time. I don’t talk specifically about my ED (I’ll reserve that for the journals) or my depression/mood swings/etc, but I can tell him when I’m feeling self-conscious, when I have a bad day, when I’m not at my best, how I feel. What a privilege. To have a person like that.

Today was meant to be a big move– my bed to be delivered by car to a friend in NJ, then bring boxes of clothes and books to Goodwill, Buffalo Exchange, Strand, and linens to an animal shelter. A rented a car and we got up at 5:45 to begin.

The day was pretty miserable. The bed didn’t fit in the car, so we brought down two pieces for nothing and I STILL have a bed in my old apartment that I don’t need. We had an extra hour or two to kill because we didn’t go to NJ. There were lines at the Strand, Buffalo Exchange AND Animal Haven, and the Goodwill didn’t open on time. A got a ticket on his way home because he had his phone in his hand for a SECOND to talk to me. $130 fine. No joke. Don’t touch your phone in NYC, drivers.

I cried probably four times over the course of the day. I was already anxious going into the day, and all of these things that went SO wrong just put me over the edge. It was the first time that this move has really gotten under my skin. I don’t think I was blogging actively during the time of my last move 2 years ago, but it was traumatic. The move into a temporary sublet came during my senior year, when I was trying to balance school, a show, work, a stupid relationship, and the worst bouts of depression and ED behavior I had faced for a while. After a month, the sublettor kicked me out, saying I was “dirty” (perhaps I was a little messy (ED does that) but, REALLY). She stole my second month’s rent of $800. I had a week to find a new apartment. It was horrific.

So I think some of that fear is creeping into this move… the desire to not trust anyone with any part of it. The desire for it to all be over and to erase what was before and just have my new life immediately.
In fact, even my first move in NYC was traumatic– I moved just before I studied abroad in Russia, also at the height of my ED. My mom helped me move, but I had to spend Christmas in NY and CT with my family instead of going home so I could fly to Moscow on the 26th. My first night in my apartment was when I returned from Moscow to a letter my mother had sent to my therapist behind my back (something I have written about). I have never been so angry at my parents and I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them. I didn’t speak to them for weeks. The year I lived in that apartment, I was actively struggling with the beginnings of ED recovery and enormous depression. My roommate, although I told her, was actively unsympathetic. It was terrible.

So moving is traumatic. For everyone, but really for me. And although I couldn’t be more excited for this transition, I know that transitions are hard for me. And needing help and needing support and not being able to hide… that’s hard.

There is no one better than A.

But it’s a journey. We’re on a ride. And this is just the first drop.

Thanks, y’all, for sticking around with me, too. I know I’ve been MIA. I still read, and I’m still here. And happy. Just trying to get through the day. Love to all corners of the earth.

“Hopes were wallflowers. Hopes hugged the perimeter of a dance floor in your brain, tugging at their party lace, all perfume and hems and doomed expectation. They fanned their dance cards, these guests that pressed against the walls of your heart.”
Karen Russell, Swamplandia!

The Times’ They are A-Changin’

Times review came out.

It came out halfway (at least) through the show tonight. I have a Google alert on my name so I got it during scene 2 in Act I.

It’s not great. In fact, it’s pretty bitchy towards the play and the theatre that produced it.

However. And the big however.

He liked me. And I quote: “Thanks to competent actors under the direction of [director], this hodgepodge manages to achieve some semblance of reality. The honey-voiced Mr. S does his best to make the obviously written [character] appear not too openly villainous at first, while Ms. B invests [my character] with considerable youthful fervor.”

It’s a testament to the power and strength of this cast that we didn’t reveal that we ALL had seen the article until tonight, as we were enjoying a glass of wine after the show. And of course… pretty much all of us (who have any technological skills at all) had gotten the alert and read the review.

Truly, and maybe this is my personal bias about this play and my personal bias about what I want my career to be like…. I can’t see it hurting us. I guess the playwright’s agents (who had previously beem full throttle interested in a NYC transfer) wanted to talk to him tomorrow. BUT. BUT. For me… this can’t change my belief that this play will transfer to NYC and succeed off-Broadway and change my life. I truly, truly believe that this will not be the end for this play. And that thought gives me such unbridled joy and enthusiasm, I can’t even express the level to which I feel it would influence my emotional life (which, like it or not, is tied to my theatrical life).

My parents loved it. My grandmother liked it, and she loved me, which is actually,betterthan I had expected. Truly. I wasn’t sure if she’d survive the New Jersey experience and remember my performance positively. Apparently she didn’t even know I was the lead? Hm. Sounds like selective memory to me. (Oh, and did I mention my grandmother grew up with Marlon Brando and didStreetcar Named Desireon Broadway with him in the ’40s? Cause that happened.)

So basically I can’t see this review derailing the train of this play. I firmly believe (for, fair enough, selfish interests) that we will transfer somewhere in NYC in the Fall (it has to be fall because I am quickly aging out of the part.)

Although, after most everyone had gone to bed (the playwright and his actress wife snuggled up taking care of each other like a goddamn little happy family goddamnit), it was just me and R, the older man (old enough to be my dad), left, finishing off our glasses of whiskey.

“You’re not going to listen to this.” he said to me, slurring a bit but clearly on a track. “You are going to have a career. You’re not done yet. You’re going to be FINE.”

Of course, I tossed my hair self-consciously and said, “oh, oh, sure… haha, thanks…” But hearing those words from someone who by NO means has to give them? And who continues on by asking how I do what I do and play 14 so convincinly? I believed him. I allowed the compliment and the faith he had in me to inject past the soft fleshy bits, dogding the firm, stodgy bone, and squeeze out right into that wonderful heart muscle, that pumps me full of self-worth (sometimes) when there’s some great compliment that made it there. And that one? More than any of the others I’ve gotten so far… that one made it. And I let it bloom quietly in my little personal happiness greenhouse… where I can tend for the blooms of good feeling and good will that sprout; where I can keep them calm and secret and purely mine; where I can enjoy them without the guilt of owning them… my personal garden of sweet, sweet statements.

On a totally other note.

My body. Obviously. What else is new.

Isn’t it remarkable how every day your body can look completely different? For some reason today, my legs looked lean and thin today… my stomach looked extra flat… my collarbones said hello more than once. I obviously did not lose weight in 12 hours. So… it’s clearly just my mind. But is there some way to control that, so I can hold onto the beauty of how i see my body at this moment and reject the days where I want to slice every non-essential lump off with a machete?

I mean, no. No is the answer. But that’s how I feel many days. And perhaps, in my dreams, in my dreams of career and jobs and future and more than anything else in the world, the kind of life I need, want, crave…. I will be able to experience each day, each feeling, each body sensation as fine. I will not have days where I feel as though I have 8 chins and flabby thighs. Or if I do have those days I will let them go. I will not dream of being a waif because I will see my body as strong and important and in a totally “normal” place.

As a recovering bipolar, balance is the place I crave, normal is the place I dream of…. and I think I will be fighting to find that place, those places, for the rest of my life.

And I do believe I’m up to that war. I’m just going to have to fight one battle at a time.

xoxo to all.

And EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS to those of you who commented on my last post. Truly. You made an enormous difference in how I felt. I am beyond grateful for your continued interest in my silly little life and your support when it goes off the rails. I am here for you too. Seriously, email me, write me, whatever. I am consistently amazed by your strength and your ability to share those strengths with me. My heart is very full of you right now. 🙂

Sleep well, my loves. Until next late night in my little regional theatre world…
xoxo B.

Don’t Mean to Disturb

But what I really need is for some of you virtual friends to tell me I’m not crazy. To tell me I’m not insane for thinking I’m fat and worthless. To tell me I’m not looney tunes for second guessing my every move. To tell me that fucking up is an everyday thing. To reassure me that the shape/size/weight I am does not determine my abilities…. although I may not ever believe that.

Please? Can you do that for me?

Pins and Needles

My last post didn’t post… grrr WordPress. This has happened before and it’s the most annoying.

So. I’m back in the city till Thursday afternoon, when we reconvene in NJ to continue the run of the show. Opening night was last Saturday (all of this was in my last post, blerg), and it was great. The development producers loved it, the subscribers loved it, the casting director who gave me her card (!) loved it… All is well. It’s weird not doing the show at the moment, but it’s okay to be back in the city.

I can’t stop binging, though. Part of it is definitely that I’m on my period, but I have just been eating too, too, too much. It’s not crazy, out of control binging to death levels, but I am eating everything in the house. I only needed to supply myself enough food for a few days, but each day, I’ve eaten all of it. What the fuck? Part of the problem is that I’m way too focused on my weight right now. I need to calm the fuck down. Easier said than done, obviously.

Went to the doc on Monday and she told me flat-out what my BMI was and that it was “perfect.” Which truly did make me feel good… but also not good enough. I really enjoyed being called “healthy” by this doctor, but it didn’t change my currently obsessive desire to lose about 15 pounds. And like THAT is gonna happen anytime soon. Shit.

Anyway, many critics have come to the show so far, but we’ve only gotten one review, from the NJ Star-Ledger. The New York Times came on Sunday, so I am literally googling my name every hour like an asshole just WAITING for it to show. For some reason I’m not nervous… (I don’t think I’d be singled out as bad)… I just want to SEE it.

The first review, though, was a rave. And in particular about my performance.

“And [my character] is marvelously portrayed by B. She can give a sharp retort when it’s called for, but she’d just as soon be nice to everyone. To watch B try to maintain her composure when events conspire against [my character] makes for a heartbreaking performance.

[Director], [Playwright] and all the characters make clear how much they admire [my character]. So will many who make their way to [the show].”

So THAT feels good.

Hold onto that, B, hold onto that.

you are enough.

Form and Shape

Just a warning… this isn’t a positive message about my body. Don’t read it if you don’t want. Just FYI.

I miss the way my stomach felt taut under my hands when I ran them up lightly across the skin. It felt pure and simple, just the necessities. None of the soft fleshiness I feel now, the rounded corners and the creases and curves. It sounds so stupid, so cliché, so ED, but there was something so very comforting about being pared down to the essence of a body shape, skin and muscle over bone. Now I feel this extra, this unnecessary, these parts that move and shift and don’t cling tight and taut.

Sometimes when I run my hands over my stomach now and there is much to grab and ply. I wrap my legs around each other and soft, plush parts press and rub, expand and spread. I miss the way my body seemed and felt aerodynamic, how every movement felt defined and clean. Now I wobble, I rub, parts bounce and  flop.

There is no way to get back to there in the way I want it to. My brain flies to that summer away, the way those round parts melted slowly into a person-shaped person. But I can’t go back to that, and I shouldn’t go back to that. Aching for it breaks my heart, and just makes each moment worse. I am trying to love myself, trying to allow the shifts in shape and the roundness in my flesh, but I yearn for that lithe body. I yearn for that feeling of purity, self-sufficiency, solidity. There was something about feeling like that, looking like that, that let me off the hook. No one thought “oh, she should be thinner to fit her type,” “why is she eating all that?” or “that girl is not thin.” I could eat, and be, and cut myself some slack because I was in a perfect form—no excess, no mistakes.

Now, I feel like every failing, every error, every slight, every part I don’t get, every calorie I put into my mouth, every bad feeling that washes over me is digested and sticks, gummy, to my thighs, to my stomach, to my arms, my hips. I am covered in the thick, viscous fat of sadness, of self-hatred, of loneliness, of anger. I want to shave it off, even if it’s bloody and foul, and strip myself of those feelings that feed on me and grow fat and full of fluid.

It’s not what I should want, it’s not what I want to want, but I do. I want to be a body without extra, without bits that bulge out, the fat that drips with “I am flawed and imperfect and unrestrained and emotional.” I want a body that  is nothing more than the physical pieces it takes to stand, to move, to sleep.