Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Asking for your good thoughts and your crossed fingers.

This is one of the most exciting moments of my life. Mike has finally deemed his novel COMPLETE. He's submitting it to his top choice publisher tomorrow morning. He's also prepping queries to his top five lit agents - some to be sent via email first thing in the morning, some to be sent via snail mail, depending on the agents preference. I am shivering with the thrill of it all. I read the new draft over a 24 hour period because I LITERALLY COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN IT IS THAT GOOD. And please believe me when I say that I am almost as harsh a critic of him as I am of myself. There is no biased-ness going on here. The man is gifted. This is as exciting as the day my agent called me to tell me I booked 'Life On Mars'. I can't sit still. I'm totally freaking out. And you know what else? He told me today that he is 23,000 words into his second novel AND HE WON'T LET ME READ IT UNTIL THE FIRST DRAFT IS DONE. 

I'm asking for all of your most positive thoughts and feelings and crossed fingers and crossed toes and goodwill. I can't think of a better way to close out 2008 - and a better way to welcome 2009.


I'm so happy I could cry. 

Happy freaking New Year, people. I could kiss each one of you!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Touched by the Christmas spirit. Not in a creepy way, don't worry.

Surprised by a day off - I thought the temp agency was going to call me for work today but they didn't - which is too bad because, holy crap, I'm unemployed - but it's also good because who really wants to spend a snowy, wintry day stuck in some crappy cubicle at some crappy temp job? I mean, really.

Anyway, since I've some spare time today, I thought I'd tell you the story of how the Christmas spirit touched me this week. It all started this past weekend when my husband and I had a little falling out because I felt like he wasn't taking Christmas seriously enough and he felt like I was being childish. And maybe I was. I don't know. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and the weeks leading up to it have always been my favorite time of year. In my family, as I imagine in most families, Christmas really is a wonderful celebration of, well, family. And it's not just the 24th and 25th that are special. Weeks before, we gather together to drink eggnog and trim the tree. Even after all of us were grown and had our own trees in our own homes, the trimming of Mama and Papa's tree continues to be a family tradition: A chance for us to joke and laugh and talk about our Christmas wishes and admire all the ornaments that we'd made throughout the years. My parents tree is not draped with store-bought balls and trinkets. No, no. My parents tree is hung full of memories - each ornament has a story, a memory attached. The family Christmas tree, hugged by hundreds of ornaments made by each of us over the last forty some-odd years. Here are egg-shell ornaments made by Nana before any of us kids were born, here are the milkmaids and geese-a-layin' and golden rings made by Mama when her children were babies, here are ornaments made by my brothers and sister when I was still just a glint in Papa's eye, here is the first ornament I made in pre-school, here hangs Sweetie's scarf, here is the glass ball gifted to me by my brother when I was five, here is the little cardboard Santa put on Mama's dinner tray when she was still in the hospital after Trina was born, and it goes on and on, this tree shrouded in the past of my family. 

I am married to a wonderful man who cares deeply about the environment and what Earth will be like for his grand-children. This means that he does not believe in cutting down a tree to put in one's living room for a couple of weeks just so that it can end up in a landfill by January 1st. Then there is the matter of us being Adults with Responsibilities and A Budget and the fact that one of us (me) is Unemployed. So even if he did believe in the cutting down of balsam firs for the holidays, a Christmas tree is not in The Budget. Especially not an environmentally-friendly reusable "fake" tree. And this is largely due to decisions I have made that affect our life, so please do not think I am laying blame. I am not. But as a result, I have been feeling very sad at the absence of Christmas in my life this year - because that's what it's felt like. 

Maybe you, like my husband, think I'm being ridiculous about the whole thing. But in my childhood family tradition, the tree is always at the center of things, like a symbol of the family. It is hard enough to spend such an important day away from my family, but to have to do it without any semblance of the things that make the day special for me? And of course, I left all of my Christmasy things in a box in my parents garage in California, apparently to give myself a reason to feel blue for the holidays. I know, this is a superficial, first-world problem. If this is the worst thing that happens to me all year, I am extremely fortunate. I know. And I try to take comfort in that. Call me ridiculous, but maybe I would be further comforted if I thought my husband felt as strongly about the holiday as I do, because then at least I could believe that we would make our own holiday magic. But instead I think that for him it is really just another day. He's spent more Christmases at work than he has with family, so it doesn't hold the same kind of importance for him. And so I feel very, very alone.

Until last Sunday.

My dear, sweet, wonderful husband went against his beliefs and brought home a Christmas tree. When I walked into the living room Sunday night and was met with the spicy sent of pine and the beautiful tree sitting there, proudly spreading her boughs, I nearly collapsed in a pile of sobs. And he started laughing and wrapped his arms around me and whispered sweet nothings until I was laughing too. And I suddenly realized how silly I've been because I am not separated from my family this Christmas. My childhood family is in my heart and my husband, my chosen family, is right here with his arms around me. It turns out I was all wrong about him - he's thrilled to share the Christmas magic from my childhood and he is eager to make our own memories and traditions. This is our first Christmas as our own little family, just the two of us and our animals. So our first tradition? Crying over the tree. No, no, I kid. We started by making our own special ornaments to hang on the tree. A tradition in my childhood family, and now in my married family. We pulled out my collection of craft supplies and combed the tenement for things that could be turned into ornaments. We dedicated a whole evening to making ornaments. And years from now, our children and grand-children will recognize these ornaments as the ones we made for our very first Christmas alone and together. 'Here is the cork from the bottle of champagne they opened on their wedding day,' they'll say. 'And here is the lacy snow drop Papa Mike made, here is a broken crystal saved from great-great-great Aunt Sue's crystal lamp, here is a wind-up toy from Mama Ish's 2003 Christmas stocking, here is the box of Christmas Cheer that great-Grandmama sent to New York for their first Christmas away from home,' and on and on.

I've been told over and over that it is time for me to grow up and become my own family with my husband. I don't want to have a separate family from the one that I was born into, but I suppose that is the way it works? My parents had to separate from their childhood families in order to create the family that I so treasure. I am just so thankful that I found such a wonderful person to do it with. Not to mention that whenever life leads me back home to California, Christmases spent with my childhood family and my married family all together will be treasured that much more.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's still on my mind, pretty constantly.

Remember when I posted this? About all the sacrifices that actors make? Well, it was recently brought to my attention that that quote suggests that if you aren't some kind of an artist living an exciting life, then you must be a regular old boring home owner. And I was really unreasonably hurt when I discovered that someone I love and respect thought that I was trying to say that. The thing is, that is not what the quote meant at all. Not even a little bit. At least not to me.

David Ackert, the guy who I quoted (and who, by the way, I don't know anything about except that he said that and I love it) is not referring to, let alone idolizing, celebrities and famous actors. Celebrities are freaks of nature - and I mean that in a respectful way. I believe that Mr. Ackert is referring to your average working actor. He's talking about me. He's talking about the fact that I am pursuing a dream despite the very real possibility that I may NEVER own my own house. I may NEVER be in the appropriate financial situation to purchase a new car, let alone a weekend cottage. I may NEVER be in the right situation to feel comfortable starting my own family. He's talking about the fact that every single morning when I wake up, I have to deal with the reality that I have no idea where my next job is coming from. I have no idea how I will make my rent in two weeks. I don't even know if I will be able to pay my electric bill. And on top of that, my refrigerator is literally nearly empty. Not packed full of food and I just don't like what's in it. No. It's literally almost empty. Open my refrigerator and find some expired condiments and the stale heel of a loaf of bread. And I have to figure out a way to make a meal out of that. But please, don't think I am complaining. I live this way by choice - because I believe that if I persist, if I am patient, if I work hard, I will get another acting job and it will have been worth it.  (And besides, most of the time I earn enough at whatever J-O-B I'm working that I end up able to cover the rent and stuff, so it isn't all THAT bad. But sometimes it is. And that's why I'm consumed with credit card debt. And also why I no longer socialize with friends. It's too damn expensive.)

When I get called for an audition, I devote hours, days, sometimes weeks to developing a character and researching the role - I give my heart and soul. And then I walk into the audition room and open my wrists and let my heart-blood spill on the filthy floor and 99 times out of a 100 they knew before I even opened my mouth that they would not hire me because I look too young. Or I look too old. Or I'm not pretty enough. Or I'm not tall enough. Or they really wanted a redhead. But I do it anyway. I have no security, no way of knowing for sure, no health insurance, no IRA, no 401k, no savings account. But I have hope. And I work my ass off. And it's fucking terrifying. It is the most terrifying thing I have ever done in my life. Sometimes it is so terrifying that I spend months in a black hole of despair, unable to do more than function on a most basic level. And in those months, I disappear from the internets because I can't think of a single positive or funny thing to say. That's where I was for most of September, all of October and the majority of November. And then, miracle of miracles, my hard work paid off and I booked a role on ABC's 'Life On Mars'.

I posted that quote as a way of trying to clear up the despair that was fogging my brain. It had been so long since I'd had an acting job that I'd forgotten why I choose to live this difficult life. I wanted to feel a connection with other actors and feel like I'm not the only one who feels as if she is giving up everything. Because the truth is, if I'd taken another career path, I'd probably already own a house. I'd surely own a car. Maybe I'd even be getting ready to welcome a baby into this wild world - an event I have dreamt of my entire life. I do not feel like people who are not actors aren't worthy or loyal. I envy them. I envy their lovely lives and pray I might have that life one day, too. I just wanted to feel like what I'm doing has some sort of purpose. And it does.

It hurt me that that quote was taken so out of context. It's taken me a while to respond because I couldn't figure out why I took it so personally - I know I'm being ridiculous. Surely my beloved family member didn't intend to hurt my feelings. I know I have a tendency to take things WAY too personally and I'd really like to be the kind of person who lets stuff like that slide off my back. I've really had to think about it and I think what it comes down to is that I felt grossly misunderstood. And terribly unappreciated. But why should anybody appreciate the choices I make? In some ways, my life must seem pretty ridiculous. Why would I choose to be so broke that I risk having my lights turned off and I can't afford to make a grocery run? Why do I spend my electric bill money on another acting class? It's fucking crazy. It's absurd. But if I spent the time and energy it takes to earn a larger income, I would not be able to spend the time and energy required to book that next acting job. So I make the trade off. I am broke and I won't get to spend Christmas with my family because I can't afford the plane tickets or the days off from the J-O-B, hell, I can't even afford a Christmas tree. (Have you ever had a Christmas without a tree? This is my second one. Talk about bleak.) But what I get in return is the time to go to auditions. And I can't give more of an explanation than that. I can say that I've just spent a week on the set of a network television show and EVERY SINGLE DAY I had to pinch myself because I couldn't believe I was actually there. For a full week, I sat on set looking around at the lights and the props and the other actors and the make-up crew and I felt absolutely breathless. It took every ounce of self-control in my body not to break out dancing like a maniac to the constant chant in my head of "THIS IS MY JOB THIS IS MY JOB THIS IS MY JOB!" And I may not know when the next job will come along, but I know that my rent is covered this month, thank god. And I believe that another job will come along eventually and if I get to be that blissfully, perfectly happy for another couple of days, than the weeks and months of hardship in between will have been totally worth it.

You don't have to understand. You don't have to care. I just had to explain it. Maybe more to myself than to you. Believe me, I quietly envy your beautiful home, your weekend cottage, your gorgeous car, and your happy family. And I hope and pray that one day I might have a life like yours. I respect you and all that you do. I love you. And if I never get to achieve the many things that you have worked so hard for, well, maybe you'll invite me over for dinner so I can live vicariously through you? And anyway, life is a journey and I will have to find whatever good I can along the way. I am blessed with a loving family, an exquisitely supportive husband, and the wisdom to enjoy what I have - despite the fact that it is nothing like what I thought I would have at my age. 

P.S. Just in case you're wondering why my husband doesn't get a higher paying job so that we don't have to be so broke, it's because he is also an artist and he is making the same sacrifices I am making so that he can pursue his dream. This is our gift to each other. The ability to recklessly chase our dreams until we succeed or decide that another dream is calling our attention. And it is worth it. It is worth it.

P.P.S. Yes, I realize that in our current economic crisis, many many many people wonder how they will make their mortgage, rent, buy groceries, etc. I realize that I am not alone. I know that I am actually lucky, because at least I don't know how I'll pay my rent by choice. But were we not in this horrid economic crisis - fuck it. You know what I'm trying to say. Hopefully. If you don't, nothing I say will make you understand. And when I say "you" I'm not talking to anyone in particular, but to everyone and anyone who reads this. 

P.P.S.S. Can I get an award for Worlds Longest Blog Post Ever? And also maybe an award for Girl Who Takes Herself Way Too Fucking Seriously? I have definitely earned that one.