An Attitude of Gratitude

I’ve been in Alabama for about two and a half weeks now. I’ve settled into the apartment: figured out how to work the dishwasher and the heat, which way the door locks, and how to angle the showerhead. I’ve learned all my lines for show #1 and we’ll run through the whole thing off-book for the first time tomorrow morning.

IMG_1812I need to remind myself to take a step back and appreciate how incredibly lucky I am.

  1. I am working at one of the best festivals in the country.
  2. I am the only girl in a cast of five in show #1, and I’m playing a lead in show #2 as well.
  3. I like my castmates.
  4. I’m making good money.
  5. This job could have gone to ANYONE. But it went to me. Can you believe it?

I started this blog so long ago, it’s insane. I started it before I had an agent. Before I had my AEA card. Before I had gotten a single job worth bragging about. I was single. I was sick. I was unhappy and struggling and anxious and alone.

And now, look how far I’ve come.

Life is funny like that, and being in my industry reminds me of it all the time. Hard work is part of it, of course– beating my eating disorder was probably the hardest things I’ve ever done, and god knows I wouldn’t be working right now if I hadn’t worked REALLY hard to get the auditions in the first place and then nail the auditions later on– but a whole lot of it comes down to luck, or the way circumstances shift. I used to believe that people “deserved” things, but now I’m not so sure. I think everyone deserves everything– we just don’t always get those things. If everyone got what they deserved, there would be nothing left. We are all just pioneers, trudging forward on a path with a vague idea that we’re headed in the right direction.

So. Alabama.

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My days generally hold the same shape. I get up around 7:30am. Most mornings, I meet M (my costar, who is my age), and we go to the gym. We work out until about 8:45, when we come back to the apartments. I turn on the coffeemaker and hop in the shower. Often I have to be at rehearsal at 10am, but I’m not in every scenes so many times my call is later. I eat a smoothie with peanut butter and oats. I pack an apple for a snack. I walk to rehearsal, through the apartment parking lot, under a small arbor, down the road between the park and the parking lot, and to the rehearsal room, punching in my code to get in the back door.

Rehearsal is slow, occasionally frustrating, but generally fine. I trust my fellow actors (well, I only have scenes with M) and I enjoy being around them, though the director is kind of a weird dude. I have issues with the play, but I know it’s going to be very well-received. Sometimes, that’s enough.

IMG_1825We get out for lunch at 1pm, and if one of us drove the car over (I share a car with M and our fellow costar L), we carpool back. I usually eat, watch some TV, and go over my lines. Nothing too rigorous. We’re back in rehearsal at 2:30 and work till 6:30 or 7pm, depending on the day. We drive back together to the apartments. Most nights, I come home, feel lonely, and eat dinner solo. My brain hurts at the end of the day, so I rarely want to work, even when I know I should. Sometimes I go out with M, like last night, when we went to a Mexican restaurant. We get along well, though we’re quite different. The more we get to know one another, the more fun we can have onstage.

I’ve never had issues with romantic scenes (even when I’m not a huge fan of my costar, I can suck it up and kiss ’em like nobody’s business), but there’s always a negotiation. You want to be the best possible partner for your partner, which means everything from making sure your teeth are brushed to pushing through to the intimacy early (especially as the woman, because men tend to get nervous that they’re doing too much too soon– I like to take charge to ease the tension and show it’s okay to touch/kiss/whatever in a scene).

I go to bed around 10:30/11pm.

We open this first show in early March (I can’t even remember) and I’m excited. And I am SO, SO lucky. Who knew this would be my reality.

xo,
B

There are the stars–doing their old, old crisscross journeys in the sky. Scholars haven’t settled the matter yet, but they seem to think there are no living beings out there. Just chalk… or fire. Only this one is straining away, straining away all the time to make something of itself. Strain’s so bad that every sixteen hours everybody lies down and gets a rest.

–Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Wanting It

Acting is a weird business.

You’re not supposed to want anything. WANTING fucks you over.

I want something right now. A part. Even talking about wanting it makes me feel really jinx-y. But I also feel like pretending I don’t want it is actually impossible right now.

The closer I get to the part, the more I want it.

The fewer auditions I have, the more I want to book them.

COMPLICATED.

It’s always right now.

As everyone knows, Robin Williams was found dead of suicide yesterday. His son went to my high school. He was 63.ROB MC EWAN

Less people know that a costume designer I worked with died yesterday too, from complications from breast cancer. She was 41.1798508_10151940610942213_1498390837_n

Everyone is about to learn that Lauren Bacall passed away today. She was 89.20140611125457-lauren-bacall-white

Life is so delicate. I’m doing a play called Steel Magnolias, and the title is hitting me very hard today. We are all always on the edge of it, you know? Depression is a terrible disease. So is cancer. And aging? We’re all on our way, every day.

I whine occasionally because everyone I know (it seems) is getting engaged. It makes me feel behind, in a way, but simultaneously closer to old-maid-dom (even though I’m in a very serious relationship anyway). And isn’t that the thing? We are all things at once– past and future selves, behind in some ways and ahead in others.

As the boy (now a man) from Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood states at the end of the movie, “It’s always right now.”

I am grateful for my right now— more today than usual.

Awful, awful, awful.

I’m sure you’ve all heard now about the tragic shootings in Santa Barbara. 7 people dead, shot by a young man who shot himself in the seconds before the police got to his car.

It’s terrible. Truly awful.

What is really different about this case is the fact that this young man, Elliot Rodger, left behind a deep, horrifying blueprint all over the internet. Comments on forums, an enormous (over 100,000 word) manifesto of his “retribution,” and YouTube videos that outline his disturbing views on, in particular, women. One video is titled “Why do girls hate me so much?”

I’m not sure what my feeling about the whole thing is, beyond the most basic sadness and horror and disturbance.

But watching his videos, in particular the one he posted hours before the attack (now taken off YouTube, but of course accessible elsewhere), makes me feel such incredible sadness. Not for him– although it’s hard for me to not feel sad because he was so lost– but because I am honestly unsure what could have prevented this.

People did call the police on him. He was questioned. They didn’t find the gun in his bedroom.
His parents were clearly not the best parents (not that I blame them) but they also made an effort, at least when he was a kid, and he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. He was incredibly wealthy– mental health care was accessible to him.
Gun control would have helped. Perhaps if he hadn’t been able to buy a semi-automatic weapon.

There will be the assholes who blame women (like he did) for not giving him a chance. “That was all he wanted!” they’ll say, “He’s not unattractive, why won’t you feminists just fuck him?”

And of course, that’s one of the real tragic parts of the whole thing, and what disturbs me so much. We always search for reasons for acts like this– Elliot Rodger gives us one. “If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you.” Obviously there are societal issues in place that allow this opinion (and those who defend it) to profligate. Again, you can’t hang his actions on society. But I think this brings up an important conversation.

I’m not sure I’ve ever written about my one experience of harrassment (mild, but it happened). This is also brought to the fore in my mind because I’m working on a short film about relational abuse. I spent a summer at a theatre festival, which has a program that admits two apprentices per summer that have some kind of special need (things like blindness, asperger’s, amputees, etc). There was one young man who had Asperger’s. I was kind and friendly, of course, as always, and we ended up in a lot of the same groups. Fairly quickly I realized that he was attracted to me. This happens, and I gave off the signals that normally do the trick. That didn’t work here, which makes sense, considering his diagnosis. So I became more clear. But he continued to approach me, to touch me, to engage me, and also to hug me– hugs which went too long, and, more than once, devolved into his thrusting his pelvis on me. I was incredibly uncomfortable with this, but didn’t know what more I could do beyond what I’d already done. I had told him to leave me be, that I wasn’t interested in him like that. So eventually I approached the program director and asked if we could possibly stop being put in groups together, or at least LESS (it was every day now) and explained how I felt very uncomfortable. In no uncertain terms, I was told to “get over it” and just be nice to him. “He just wants to be your friend,” and “You have to be clear with him.” Completely unhelpful. Eventually, the flirtation took a turn, and he started making comments about how “nobody likes him” and “girls never want to date me because they have something against people with asperger’s.” It was a very sophisticated guilt trip and made me feel terrible. That little voice was always saying “there’s something wrong with YOU that this is happening, YOU must be a bad person, YOU must be doing somehting wrong, YOU are hurting this person.”

So reading about Elliot Rodger, I think I become extra uncomfortable because I’ve heard that rhetoric before about “girls don’t like me” because “girls are bad.” Obviously there was other stuff going on, both in my personal experience and with Rodger, but the repetition of it strikes me as problematic. No one “deserves” a woman’s body. No woman is “required” to date or sleep with a man just because he’s attractive.

Anyway. Long story short… This is a sad day, and I don’t recommend the internet wormhole I just fell into.

Tomorrow I turn 25.

1. What was your favorite birthday and why? Who was there? Did you have a party? What presents did you get? Be very specific about what made it so special.

I was lucky in that I always had really successful birthday parties. They were almost always themed, based on my interests (Italy-themed party, animal party, mystery party, etc). Probably my favorite birthday, and certainly one of the most memorable, was my 18th birthday. I turned 18 on the day of my senior prom in high school, which is kind of insane. I was in boarding school, and spent the night with my best friends downstairs. That morning, when I woke up, my friends rolled down a blanket over the bottom bunk, where they tucked me in with headphones and some episodes of Sex and the City while they made secret things happen. After a little over an hour, they rolled up the blanket and I was treated to an incredible sight– a dorm room covered in balloons and signs colored in marker with various memories and statistics (the average girl loses her virginity at 17– me too!). Also there were boxes of sugary cereal and treats– donuts, Lucky Charms, Fruit by the Foot, Gushers. I wasn’t allowed to have these things when I was a kid, which my friends knew. The best surprise, though, was that somehow they got approval to have my boyfriend join us. I don’t know how they did it, but it was magical and glorious and gave me such joy.

2. What was your worst birthday and why? Be extremely detailed about what made it such an awful memory. As always, you can make it into a character’s story and exaggerate all the details to an extreme degree.

My best birthday was 18, but it wasn’t perfect. I’ve never been a huge fan of dances, and I was shy all night. And THEN I lost one earring (beautiful earrings my boyfriend had given me). I found it, but there were tears.

Also tough was my 21st birthday. All my friends were in a play that I wasn’t in– and this was also a time of very tenuous recovery from my ED. I ended up finding something wonderful to do– my parents paid for a nice dinner with one of my dear friends from high school (who was a part of that 18th birthday), but I still felt slightly abandoned.

3. How do you feel as though you will change with your upcoming birthday? Will your responsibilities change? Will your clock start ticking a little faster to do something that you’ve been meaning to do? Be specific and detailed.

25 is a big year. I won’t lie. And yet, even today, when i was freaking out about my life and my career, I never once thought “I’m 25, and now I’m old.” 25 is still so incredibly young. All that will change, I think, is that I will continue to grow and change. I will ride all these waves of feelings, and hopefully will continue to grow and change and have to redefine myself at every turn. Not that I enjoy that at all. It would be preferable to understand everything all the time. 😉

4. What is the best present that you’ve ever gotten for your birthday? Not necessarily the most expensive, but the one that was the most important to you. Talk about it and try to remember where that present is today. 

So many good presents. So, a list.

This year, a trip to the UK with my folks.
Luggage. Well-, well-used.
Those earring from my high school boyfriend.
Every piece of art my sister has ever given me.
American Girl dolls. I loved them ALL.

5. You have been given a five million dollar budget for your birthday party (from an anonymous donor). You can only use this money if you spend every penny. What do you do with this fantastic party budget?

Oh man. I would rent a large space. Perhaps somewhere outside. I would hire caterers. I would invite every single one of my friends to come and eat and drink and play with me. Or I would schedule a whole week where every single one of my friends came over to my place and dinner was provided and we just gossiped and loved. Or maybe a totally all-expense-paid vacation somewhere warm with A (and all my friends maybe!!) Haha, this is like the 25 million dollar party.

My Sister: An Exegesis on Patterns and Ice

Okay.

I’ve written about my sister before on this blog. She is probably, apart from my mother, the person I have the most complicated relationship with. In fact, it’s probably more complex than my relationship with my mother. At least we communicate.

My sister is 4 1/2 years younger. As you know if you’ve read my blog, from about age 8 to age 14 I was a hellion– or in less inflammatory terms, a very troubled little girl with symptoms of OCD, bipolar, and depression. Now, as my parents jump to remind me, she wasn’t a perfect kid either. She had learning disabilities and struggled in school. But really, that’s no match for a little girl who bangs her head against walls and threatens her mother with a knife. Yup. Both those things happened.

When I was struggling, I didn’t get along with anyone except, perhaps, a teacher or two. I had friends but I didn’t feel like I did. Basically I was too sick to really give a shit about much at all. The moral being that I CERTAINLY didn’t get along with my sister.

We fought in the normal ways, but she also was part of the collateral damage when things were very bad. It never got much more violent than an Indian burn (wow, looking back, that’s a terrible name for that), but the intention to hurt was there. I certainly made her cry because I was mean, and most importantly, my behavior scared her. I was unpredictable and lashed out at the smallest provocation. i wasn’t a safe person.

But, being my sister, she also learned how to provoke me. And when she provoked me, she knew exactly when to call for Mom’s help. And no matter what, on every occasion, my sister was comforted and put somewhere safe and I was punished. Because I reacted. I know this is basic sister stuff. Everyone does this. But for a kid whose ability to hold it together is on incredibly thin ice, and for a kid whose parents are hyper-vigilant about her moods, and for a kid who doesn’t really feel much of anything thanks to the psychotropic drugs… An angry reaction from me is met with severe consequences from my parents. And of course, because no one believes the “bad kid,” I could never convince anyone that there was an instigator in the sweet, sticky face of my cherubic sister.

We also struggled because she took on every activity I did, again, like most sisters. But again with us, this tension was on crack. Getting to feel special and good at something was, for me, the only way out of my unhappiness. Dancing was something I was good at, and made me feel good. My dad teaching my flyfishing made me feel closer to him. The boarding school I went to was a magical place that was mine, that I had made. And each one of these steps, she stepped in after, and they stopped being mine. And I felt forgotten and lost. I still feel this way sometimes.

And, of course, the icing on the cake was that I moved out at 16 to go to boarding school. My sister was 12. I missed her entire adolescence, which was fairly “exciting,” though in a different way than mine. She dated boys who treated her badly. She drank. She had ceaseless health problems. When I fucked up, I must have done something wrong. When she fucked up, she was damaged and needed protection.

The clearest recent experience of this dichotomy was when I was deep in the early part of my disorder. I’ve told the story about Russia a million times, but in a nutshell– I was moving into a new apartment, then was flying to study in Russia for a month. My mom came to help me move, then my family spent Christmas together on the East Coast before I flew away. I had a blast, despite my disorder. My family pretended to. When I returned from Russia, after a month of cheery emailing, I came back to my therapist who had a letter my parents had sent her behind my back. I was falling apart, they said, and I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was tightly wound and treated other people like shit.

I was infuriated for a million reasons, but key among this was the assumption that I wasn’t in control of my own life. Someone needed to come in and MAKE ME change, FIX me. There was no encouragement. There was no compassion. There was a mistake that needed to be fixed.

When I decided to go back on Zoloft, I called my mother, since I’m still on my parents’ insurance. I told her, very practically, what I had chosen to do. I had recently suffered an injury (which was NOT caused by the ED, fyi). My mother’s response was, “Well, it’s about time. It’s too bad it took an injury to get you to see the situation clearly.”

My disorder. My fault.

My sister’s poor decision-making. Well, she was sexually assaulted so her boundaries are fucked. Well, she’s just confused. Poor thing. Let’s make sure she has the resources to recover and let’s love her all the way through it.

My mother never came to New York to help me recover or support me in my struggle. She never offered.
When was being treated for endometriosis and migraines, my mother moved to San Francisco for a month to take care of her.

My eating disorder is selfish. I should get more help for my depression. I suck at getting “well.”
My sister’s assault is obviously not her fault, so her actions after the assault are not her fault. She’s recovering, in her own time. She gets time.

I am the perpetrator.
She is the victim.

The pattern continues.

Another layer is petty but real. My sister is beautiful. She’s 5’9″, slender, long-limbed, with a round, stunning face and big brown eyes, hair that naturally curls in ringlets. She’s got that sweet sexiness of a commercial model.

I am not unattractive. But I’m not a model.

Boys flock to my sister. Girls flock to her too. She’s popular, and always has been. She gets what she wants because people want to give her things. She’s like Jon Hamm’s character on 30 ROCK.

Haha, now I believe we’ve finally gotten to the crux of the matter.

Here’s why I’m writing this entry.

My sister is studying abroad in London this semester. She whined about the program at first, but is relishing in the fact that it’s apparently the “best” ceramics program in the world.

She has also been traveling. She’s visited friends in London, Copenhagen, Munich, and now, Iceland. She’s seeing a number of different boys of high quality and doesn’t seem to understand that most people don’t get to have their pick of international hotties. She’s spending my parents’ money on all of this. Her lifestyle doesn’t take money into account at all.

None of this is objectively THAT BAD. But here’s where it gets tricky:

I’m jealous.

I live a pretty “fancy” life in New York City. I see Broadway shows, I pee in bathrooms with Julie Andrews, I go to world-renowned festivals. But I don’t travel. I am here, or I’m at “home” with my folks. MAYBE I’m in PA with A’s folks, MAYBE spending the weekend in CT or a day in Cold Spring. When I studied abroad, I chose a frugal and logical choice. I know Shakespeare well, and I didn’t want to miss any time in NYC. So I went to Russia for a month instead of London for six. Russia is a terrifying place, and I learned a lot about myself. But we didn’t travel. We didn’t have time. And when we did do “big” things — New Years’ Eve in Red Square, for one– I was scared because Russia is FUCKING SCARY. And I was logical enough to know what I needed to do to stay safe. My choice to go to Russia was a bold one, in that way– Western Europe is COMPLETELY different from the Eastern Bloc. But I didn’t travel the world. And I only spent my own money and scrimped and saved beyond belief.

But I see her pictures– traipsing about Copenhagen without a care, sipping Guiness at the factory in Dublin, jaunting up to Rejkjavik with a boy she doesn’t even really like, while money is flushed away. This really hit me when i called my mom recently, and I told her how I was jealous my sister was in Iceland. My mom heaved a sigh and reiterated that my sister is frittering away funds that they don’t have, and she doesn’t get it. She’s mad and jealous too.

So a part of me is grateful that I’m sensible and responsible.
But another part of me wishes I could do what I wanted and not fear the consequences.

My whole life I have been aware of consequences, aware that the way I act will affect the way my parents see me. I’ve lived my entire life as though I’m on very thin ice with everyone. It’s not a great way to live, but it has kept me safe.

My sister blows through her life without a sense of how she takes advantage of people. She is loved no matter what. By my parents, by men, by friends. And there will always be someone new for her.

So yeah. I’m jealous, and I’m mad, and I’m a bit sad.

And maybe I needed to talk about this?! Jeez!!

Homecoming

For all my “feeling good” posts of the last few days… i’m having a problem.I get home from tech & rehearsals late — between 9pm (if I’m lucky) and 10:30pm. I have been at work since usually 11am, packed lunch, had snacks like a Larabar, apple, latte, and whatever generally unhealthy food there is at the theatre.

I know I need to eat when I get home.

The problem is I OVEReat.

I know that being hungry is triggering for me, plus it’s my only time alone ALL DAY (I love A, but seriously, I NEVER have the apartment to myself, which drives me NUTTY), which is also triggering. I’m trying to come up with a way to make it less hard to eat enough and healthily.

Ideas?