Feeling Sorry For Myself and the Actor

I am in this writer’s group. The thing that amazes me about the group is their utter resilience. I get anxious sometimes in going, because I know I’m going to hear some hard shit. There’s a mother who writes about her struggles with two autistic children, a young woman who writes about her mother’s suicide, and a man and his wife who both write about his near death experience with a cardiac arrest. It stresses me out. But all of them always smile and laugh in between the tears that reading their work might cause. And I think to myself, “Well, why the hell am I miserable?”

Granted, I struggle with chronic pain that no doctor has been able to diagnose or treat effectively for the last eight years. I finally have a name for it, “Persistent Daily Headache.” Despite the title, and the somewhat comforting knowledge that I am not alone and I am not insane, there is still too little known about it to do anything except give it a name. After eight years, I’ve been able to get used to it, at least to some degree. The bouts of depression that such a thing causes have calmed down quite a bit, but I still have my bad days.

But more than the frustration with my health, I get even more frustrated with my career. I have been consciously trying to focus on the good things in my life. First and foremost, of course, my loved ones. I’ve got an amazing wife and a great kid. I’ve got an amazing group of friends, and they are indispensable. I have to remind myself that I am loved, and they love me for no reason other than me. They gain nothing as far as measurable quantity from hanging with me. It’s just the hang, and the company, that makes me worthwhile. That’s an incredible truth, but it can sometimes be easy to take for granted. For the last several months, I take time every day to reflect on that. When I get down, I think of all the laughter. There is a lot of laughter in my life, and some of the wealthiest people I’ve met don’t seem to have such an element to their lives.

Still, when shit happens, I can click into a downward spiral. A couple weeks ago, I went into the weekend in a good state because I had just booked a national commercial. Those are my big paydays. When I don’t book enough, money gets tight and I get understandably stressed out. I feel lost, start spinning my wheels. So knowing I had one made the weekend sublime. Cruelly, however, I got a call from my agent on the following Monday saying that the booking had been cancelled. I went from the comfort of knowing money was coming in right back to the, “Ah, shit, what am I going to do?” thing I feel when work is slow. And then I started getting angry about all the other things that haven’t happened for me. I am forty-one. I am a good actor. I have turned in great performances. Why do I still exist on the outside of things, banging incessantly on the door? Why haven’t they let me in? I am being wasted by the powers that be. Then I’ll drink too much and feel guilty about it and then I have to rally and get my head back in the game. It is an aggravating cycle.

I don’t want that shit in my life. Yes, it is okay to get angry, sad, and frustrated when rotten things like that happen. I just need to remember that while I need money, I don’t need validation from the entertainment industry. All the validation I need is right at home. And that’s where I need to be my best. At home.

I clean my house when I don’t have auditions and things are slow. I listen to podcasts or music while I scrub the toilets and such to keep from thinking that I shouldn’t have time for cleaning toilets. I should be on a set somewhere doing what I do best. I should matter more. But when the family gets home and the place is clean, they are always grateful. So at least I can provide them that. With a less than regular line up of gigs, I do get something precious: time. I spend more time with my family than the average husband and father. When I work, I see very little of them because of the long hours.

But money, you know?

So. I have slips and falls, but I’ve gotten much better about not going into that dark place of self pity. That in itself is a major accomplishment for me. It makes my acting better, too. I have more energy for the work I have to do when I don’t spend my days off getting pissed at the world.

I don’t want to become some happy zombie, though, that’s not my aim. It’s just to be cool with whatever comes. Sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s good. I can’t control a lot of how things go down, but I can control my own perspectives. I can control how I handle the shit the world throws at me. I don’t have to let it control me.

And it doesn’t.


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