Regular readers may have noticed a gap in my posts of one week. So briefly, before we proceed, I owe an explanation.
My computer is quite old and it misbehaves. Its most recent malady is that it, upon waking from sleep, had decided that various keys on its keyboard should no longer work. I had this idea that I would type a kraftily konthtrukteg blog thit uboigeg the eppekteg keyz (though I see now just from this sentence that that would have been murder to read, so perhaps it’s for the best that it didn’t work out), but the affected keys included more than one key required for my password and thus the whole notion of blogging last week was scuppered.
Happily, as a lovely gift for Christmas, I received a USB keyboard and I’m therefore able to continue upon my journey, and if you’re still here reading this then I’m delighted to have you along.
It’s time for that year end stuff. This was a year of great turmoil for me; of many endings and new beginnings. Some endings were personal, such as the death of a beloved relative and the collapse of a long-standing relationship, and some were professional, such as the recording of the final episode of Littlest Pet Shop, which has served as my largest and most consistent income stream for the last three years. In either case I haven’t discussed them much – the personal for I believe there exists a line over which I ought not to cross with regard to my personal life, and the professional because most of what I do is governed by contracts that may or may not exist and if they did exist they might or might not prevent me from legally discussing things until they’re publicly known. It makes blogging reasonably difficult.
The great lesson I take form all of this is about moving forward.
The stresses and tragedies one experiences that really knock you to the curb are in actuality quite few and far between. Lounging in the pain and difficulty of those things, grief and loss and the stresses connected to them, is like staring too long at an old photograph. One will feel the pain and the stress and the loss regardless – and it’s important to honour that – but why sit inside those feelings and remind yourself unnecessarily of them all the time. It’s a trap we all fall into. It feels good to feel hard done by. But to do this is turning your back squarely to the future that is barrelling towards you, and it’s wasting the present in an effort to stop that photograph from fading, which, if you’ll excuse my pre-digital metaphor, the photograph shall inevitably do anyway.
The better option is to move forward. Place your back toward the loss and heartache and whatever difficulty. Allow it to inform and instruct you as is useful, but not more than that. And step towards the unknowable mess of whatever comes next openly, joyfully, bravely and eagerly.
2016 holds much promise for me (and for you too, I’d hazard, if you choose to seek a positive vision from within the mists of the unknowable, as opposed to a negative one). I have love anew, and I have several professional prospects at every stage of possibility awaiting me in January, from promising auditions that may or may not mean a thing, to possible casting that may or may not come to fruition, to jobs I already have but don’t know how frequently I’ll be used. For the moment I choose to feel like I have them all in the bag (Joy!), and move forward from the disappointments if and when they ever occur. After all: I could be right!
There will be travel and laughter and, I can only hope, a steady fading of all that has made 2015 an exhilarating though somewhat uncontrolled ride down the rapids. I look forward to a more peaceful journey in the months to come. I hope that by choosing joy in all the moments between tragedies, and facing forwards in their wake, we can all find harmonious paths through the rocky stream of time yet to pass.
Happy New Year!
There are days.
I mean there are bad days, obviously, where the events hit you like a sucker-punch to the gut, and I am talking about those. But I’m also talking about the good days; ones that fly by in a blaze of colour and electric joy. I’m also talking about the days in between. The ones that tromp past unnoticed: drudgery and work, errands and taxes. Stuff. They usually harbour a few pleasant interactions, a few forgettable ones, and suddenly you’re in bed, falling into tomorrow without a particular memory worth filing into the log.
There are days.
The ones which are a clock’s tick. A lonely trudge toward the welcoming arms of merciful death.
Depression isn’t an emotional state – it isn’t sad, as such. It’s a physical state. It’s a depression in the road, an inescapable dip through which all traffic must pass. It’s a sinkhole. A well.
There are days and days and days I spend at the bottom of the well.
Anyone that knows what I mean, knows it all too well. Anyone who doesn’t might never understand.
I spent much of the last 2 years at the bottom of the well. It’s dark. The walls are smooth. There is no rope, no ladder, nor any reason to escape. It’s hopelessness incarnate. I thought I might die down there. When you’re at the bottom of the well, you’re alone among friends, you’re sad when smiling, you talk of the future even though you don’t believe there is one. When you’re at the bottom of the well, there is only the well, and the cruel reminder that just up there, out past that dot of bright light at the top of the impossible shaft, everyone (and you do believe it’s everyone), is having an electric, joyful day.
Much of the last few months, I’ve been trying to discover the way out. But what can one learn limited by such geography, immobilized at the bottom?
Well. Quite a lot as it turns out.
Somewhere around 200 BC a Greek mathematician named Eratosthenes was the first to measure the circumference of the earth. All he needed was two wells, in two different towns. He knew if you looked into a well in Swenet (situated, as it happens, directly on the tropic of Cancer), that at the sun’s zenith, your shadow would block the reflection of the sun from shining straight down off the water. However on the same day in Alexandria this was not the case: the sun shone into the well at an angle, creating a shadow. By measuring the angle he determined what section of an arc equated to the distance between the two towns, and from that he extrapolated the first accurate measurement of the size of our ball of dirt. All without ever leaving Egypt.
It occurs to me that I haven’t been looking at my well in the right way. I’ve been seeing it as a trap. Eratosthenes clearly saw a well as an astronomical tool. Sssso… that’s pretty different. And really what are wells for? To give life by giving water. They are a cornerstone of civilization. And all I can seem to do is sit at the bottom of one?
I’ve been scrabbling at the sides trying to get out for so long, perhaps I have forgotten that I’m looking at it the wrong way, as a puzzle with only two solutions. Either scramble upwards, or dig more deeply. But as is so often the reality, it turns out that that dilemma is a manufactured consent – there are a host of third alternatives one fails outright to even consider. My solution? Fill the well!
I’ve decided to write, and I’ve been doing that more. I’ve been listening to more music. Paying more attention to art and politics, and somehow, suddenly, the top doesn’t seem so far up anymore. There’s more and more water floating me up towards those electric joyful days, or at least towards the gut-punchingly sad ones. Either way, I’ll take them.
My well is not as bleak and dark as it once was, thanks to this. Now its… refreshing.
Back in 2011, before all of this started, I was forty pounds overweight, and four months shy of my 40th birthday. I wrote a blog called Forty In Four By Forty wherein I detailed my quest to lose that weight by then, and I did ok too. I was still trying to make a mark on the world, create something for which I’d be remembered, get famous!
I was living in a mouldy basement suite that I rented with my then partner and our small daughter. We were broke mostly and I would take walks in the rain and wonder what else I could do with my life because acting was not paying the bills. But by the summer of 2012, I was 35 pounds lighter. I was in New York. And I was Horsefamous.
For the uninitiated: I play 20+ Characters on the hit animated show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, most notably a monosyllabic apple farmer named Big McIntosh. The show has a fandom called Bronies, mostly adult men, who have been hosting meetups, gatherings and large conventions to celebrate the show. I’ve been lucky enough to have attended more than 20 of these conventions on three continents. I’m greeted like a celebrity, and in the vernacular of the fandom that makes me a famous horse, notable among horse fans, aka “Horsefamous.” I find the term endearing. It’s been a heady and exciting ride, often difficult to navigate but mostly deliciously fun.
But as with everything, the bloom wears off and the business of getting on with one’s actual life resumes. I no longer live in a mouldy basement (hooray!), nor with that partner (…yaaay…), nor my beautiful daughter 100% of the time (Boo!). I’ve also regained all that weight and I’ve just turned 44 (…collapses…). I haven’t had a steady income since recordings stopped on season 4 of Littlest Pet Shop in the summertime so I can barely afford food. I say this not to elicit sympathy, but just to elucidate the realities behind the fiction of celebrity- being an actor is hard, inconsistent, unreliable and just as often destitute as it is lucrative. So here I am: Broke, hungry and taking walks in the rain and wondering what else I could do with my life to make ends meet. Sounds familiar.
Now it’s not all dire. I have work lined up for January. And things trickle in. And things change in a heartbeat, too. I could get a call on Monday telling me that I have work enough to pay for Christmas. Or not. Who knows? But one cannot plan a life waiting on a phone that may or may not ring. And I’ve spent the last few months in hope and idleness, waiting on just that. Meanwhile the bills -and the debts- pile up, and the weight piles on.
So: What to do?
Well, in part inspired by my new love’s recent effort to draw every day, and in part by my own history in writing as a form of personal growth and motivation, I’ve decided that starting today, November first, I will write daily (like I used to do!). This will take the following form: Sunday I will update this blog with my weekly progress towards fitness, creation, and solvency through tales of misadventure and distraction. Monday through Saturday I will generate scripts for original films and TV shows (like I used to do), with an eye to actually producing things instead of letting them sit in a drawer (if anyone wants a screenplay to produce I’ve got about six dusty ones I can show you). And throughout I’ll be eating better and doing more and reporting back on my progress.
This week’s goals:
1. Write a blog (check)
2. Log meals (I’ll explain that next time)
3. Write daily (self explanatory)
4. Be active daily (instead of be-in-a-chair-playing-candy-crush-on-my-phone-because-I-feel-like-holding-it-might-make-it-ring-daily)
Ok, that’s it. Thanks for reading. And thank you for coming with me on this adventure. Your eyes on my words inspire me. Till next week, then. To action!