A Visualization

I’m in my seat on the plane as it flies at 30,000 feet in the cloudless blue sky over the Pacific. Endless blue above and below as I sit and enjoy my complimentary beverage and pre-packed snacks of nuts, jerky and a sandwich from a little place in the airport. I picked it up before boarding. I knew the flight would take a while, I would get hungry, and I didn’t want to wait for a palm-sized bag of peanuts. Plus, I don’t like asking for a second helping. It makes me feel a little weird. So now I pack my own snacks. Cheaper that way too.

I’m watching the ocean under the plane. For some reason, the U.S.S. Indianapolis comes to mind. Headphones in my ears and listening to a podcast about creativity and how to keep it going. Munching on my vittles and almost done with my plastic glass of Club Soda and Cranberry, I glance over at the empty seat next to me. The script is waiting. I pulled it out of my bag before takeoff so I could keep reading and studying and working on it through the flight. It’s already been flipped through, dog-eared, highlighted, underlined and marked with notes in a code only I could decipher. Mostly because my handwriting is atrocious and even I have a hard time reading it. So even if someone got their hands on it, they would have no clue as to what I have planned for my character. I pick it up as the plane continues on it’s path. The sun is setting.

I’m in my hotel room. It’s nice. It has a little kitchenette near the door, refrigerator, stove, oven, sink, cute little basket of bagged coffee and creamers and those little bags of air thin napkins and a stirring stick. There’s a huge bed. Far bigger than what I’ve ever had. It takes up most of the room and looks so comfortable. I want to crash on it after such a long flight and car ride from the hotel. I did my research before I came and saw there was a train I could take from the airport to the city. But the studio told me they would send a car. They made good on that promise. They sent a black Audi A8 with a driver in a black suit, holding my name on a tablet. Nice guy. Great driver. There’s a small couch and photo of my family on the desk by the window. I put it there before I unpacked. I always put their photo up first. There’s a sliding door that leads to the bathroom. Big bathtub near a window, that’s a little weird, but not so bad on the 35th floor. Kinda cool. A stand up shower with a rain shower head, I love that, a toilet and a… is that a bidet? That’s going to take some getting used to. But there’s going to be a lot here to get used to. Because for the next three and a half months, this is home. I walk back to the living area and to the window and pull open the blackout curtains and sheer drape. There it is.

I’m at the window in my hotel room, staring in awe of the city at night. Ancient and modern. Bright and busy. Massive skyscrapers and tiny alleys with countless shops and places to eat. There’s so much to do. So much to explore in this new and beautiful world to me. There will be time. But for now, next thing to unpack is the script. Tomorrow, the studio is sending a van to pick us up and take us to location.

Don’t Let It Get You

It isn’t Thanatophobia, a fear of dying. It’s not even Aquaphobia, the fear of drowning. That’s not where it comes from. It isn’t even Galeophobia, a fear of sharks.

It’s none of that. I actually have a healthy respect and love for sharks. I think they are some of the most beautiful and incredible creatures on the planet. The way they look, the way they swim, the way some of them can leap completely out of the water. I mean, have you seen it? It’s incredible! A marvelous thing to see.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s Phagophobia, the fear of being eaten alive. I guess that’s the closest to come to what I feel every time I get in the ocean. It’s consuming some times. I’ll go to the beach on a blazing hot California day, put the sunscreen on – because you gotta have protection – and start to walk towards the water. The cold will touch my toes and I’ll feel a small relief. Then in a little more past my calves. I’ll taste the salt air and feel the waves roll in and wet my trunks ( why are they even called that?). Then I’ll take a deep breath and think, “I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna drop down and put my head in the water and swim. Like those preteen kids that are doing it. I can do this.” Then I don’t do it.

It wasn’t always this way. When I was a kid, my family would go to the beach and you couldn’t drag me out of the water. I would dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge all day long in the water. It was freedom. It was beautiful.

Then I got older and realized one thing. I’m mortal. That makes me vulnerable. That makes me a target.

Sure, like so many other people, Jaws had something to do with my fear.

But I do not, ever, blame the sharks themselves for this fear. I know, this is all me. Because I know I’m more likely to get hit by a lightning bolt, contracting an infection in a hospital, or getting hit and dying by a champagne cork than getting attacked by a shark. There’s about a 1 in 3.75 million chance of me being the one attacked by one of these amazing creatures.

But the fear is still there, and that’s what’s keeping me from jumping in the ocean and enjoying my best life now. Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe there are others out there who have the same fear.

And that got me thinking, if I’m not alone in this fear of something that isn’t anything truly to be feared, then maybe I’m not the only one who lets fear keep them from doing things they would enjoy. Like, success.

Jumping in to anything takes risk. It takes a healthy respect for what you’re taking a leap in to.

You want to go to school, but you’re afraid you’re too old. All your classmates will be the same age as your kids, or grandkids. But it’s something you want. Do it.

You want to change your career because what you’ve been doing after you graduated college is what other’s wanted you to do. You want to be a photographer, a chef, an architect. Do it.

You want to learn how to dance, how to play an instrument, how to swim, how to become a coffee roaster. Do it.

There is not enough time in this one and only life to let fear take any of it from us.

Some time ago, I finally – kinda – took this to heart. My family and I went kayaking and snorkeling. In the ocean, in La Jolla. I love kayaking. It feels good to be out on the water and use my strength to propel myself around. See, it’s not even Thalassophobia. We stopped our kayaks near the caves and it was there I did the thing I feared. I strapped my snorkel and mask on, took a deep breath and dropped out of my kayak into the water. It was cold, it was heavy, which surprised me. But there I was, swimming around the ocean, scanning the water with my mask and snorkel and loving every second of it. I wasn’t in long, I will admit. Maybe a few minutes. But I did it. And now I’m writing about it. I survived!

I do still have that fear, but it’s waned a little. I’m pretty proud of myself. Just like I’m proud of myself for writing these blogs and posting them. Because I had a fear of putting myself out there. For showing my writing, which was once relegated to notebooks and hidden from the light of day. Now I write and put it out there, because I don’t want to let fear take any more time from me and my words.

Putting my fears aside and just doing it. Doing something.

I hope you do it too.

Short, But Important

There is this little sign we have on our desk at home. Not too big at all. It’s just the right size. I tried to guess how big, or small it is, but I just used my phone to measure it, because we don’t have a tape measure. Kind of a cool feature to have on a phone. Turns out, this little sign is about 5 1/2″ x 3″ in size. It’s made out of wood, not sure what kind. It isn’t heavy. It’s painted white on the face and sides, but not the back. Not sure why, but I guess it isn’t noticeable, seeing as how I just noticed it isn’t painted back there. It has black lettering on it. Not calligraphy, but some kind of handwriting. All of the letters are lowercased, which probably would have driven my handwriting teachers nuts.

This little sign was sent to my bride some time ago. A very good friend of hers sent it to help get a short, but important, meaning across. Something she needed to hear, or read, at the time. It came at the perfect time in her life. Good friends have a tendency to come through to you at just the right time.

Now, this little sign sits near the corner of our desk with its message. Giving me something I get to read every day. A short, but important, message a short glance away from this screen I’m looking at right now. A short, but important, message to remind me when I get in doubt of what I’m doing, or writing, or creating, or trying to create. A short, but important message, when I get a rejection email, or read something unsettling on social media, or when I need to self-tape and I think I just don’t have “it”.

A short, but important message.

So Strange

It’s funny how it feels. The nervousness. The doubt. The feeling of shame and fear and strange elation before it happens. That inaccurate, but almost truthful, idea of Impostor Syndrome. That idea that you’re not supposed to be there. It’s so strong. So, so strong.

And then, in an instant, it’s gone when you hear your cue line. Or when you hear, ‘ACTION!’.

Such a strange business, this Acting business. So very strange.

I Watched Myself

The other day, I was scrolling through social media. That was my first mistake. My second, was I happened upon a video of a show I was in not too long ago. It was a great show. Unique and fun and widely received as an instant classic. But my mistake wasn’t being in the show. It was watching the video of my performance.

There I was, on a stage in a professional and well respected theatre, doing my thing. But what I saw was something I didn’t even think was possible.

I sucked so bad!

No joke. It was so, SO bad! My pacing was off, my walking was lumbered, my projection was lacking, my accent was horrid. A lemur on crack could’ve turned in a more convincing performance in the dark and underwater. I watched in shock and sadness as the video rolled on. Fortunately, the section I watched was only about a minute long. Any longer and I could’ve thrown my phone outside the window of my third-story apartment and then run downstairs to step on it and let my dog defecate on it.

It was that video, and the embarrassed and sad feelings after, that clearly put me in the company of those performers who are always saying they never watch their work.

But then it hit me.

If I had never seen it, and felt the way I did at that moment, would I have learned anything?

Sure, there was the feeling of wanting to quit this Show-Business thing and finally take that job as a railroad brakeman somewhere in the Southwest, smoke unfiltered cigarettes and drink White Dog to fall asleep and drown out the memories.

But then I got an idea. Learn from this.

You don’t know it all. You’re not as amazing as you think you are, but you’re not as bad as you think you are also. You are on a journey and not every step is going to be perfect. In fact, no step is going to be perfect. But you don’t leave the journey. You just keep going.

Since that day of watching that video, I’ve watched it again several times. Because I am in the mindset to improve. Maybe I wasn’t as bad as I think I was. Lots of folks said I did a great job, and I don’t think they were just being nice.

But I want to get better. To be the best Artist I can be. So I watch and learn.