Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring (Life) Cleaning

I am ashamed to say that I have had a closet at my parent's house that has been stuffed full since I started college.

On Saturday, Jason and I finally tackled it. We needed to be out of our house for the day, and since my parents were out of town, it was perfect timing for us to take conehead Indy with us and do some serious purging.

At the top of the closet are two shelves about six feet long. Up there I had crammed about 400 scripts, binders and books on theatre. Ten years worth of collecting and no purging. The shelves had so much weight on them that they were bowed about 4 inches in the middle! Below, a dresser and closet packed full of clothes and a full organizer of shoes.

My patient parents have been subtly suggesting that I get in there and take care of it. For reasons that I'll explain in March, the time was definitely NOW.

So we started at the top with the tough stuff. Sorting through all of the theatre books, saving only the most important - RESPECT FOR ACTING by Uta Hagen, AUDITION by Michael Shurtleff, both volumes of the SHAKESPEARE LEXICON. Purging myself of hundreds of small playbooks, giving away anything that I can easily find in a library and keeping only the classics - Shakespeare (Complete Works), Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams. Then there were the notebooks - scripts/notes/scores from all of the productions that I have directed or choreographed in ten years - upwards of forty notebooks. All representing umpteen hours of sweat, agony, tears, joy - some more than others. We call this the director's book - All of the research, scenic designs, contact info, notes, blocking, prop lists, calendars that the Director amasses in the weeks or months they work on a project. These binders are heavy and huge. I cannot cart them all around with me for the rest of my life, so I only saved the ones that I am proudest of - SEUSSICAL, ALL SHOOK UP, DREAMGIRLS, STONES IN HIS POCKETS and the very first shows I directed all by my lonesome, THE STRAINS OF TRIUMPH and EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF AN AUTHOR. I went through every notebook, saved any important mementos or photos, and then recycled the pages.

It almost killed me. All that work into a Recycling Bin.

But in those notebooks, I found some things that made me think so hard.

The toughest one was a newspaper article from El Camino College, the "Rising Star" column, featuring yours truly. It was the Spring of 2003, tech week for the One Act I was directing, "HIVers". It was the week I decided that I would accept the offer to transfer to Michigan. I was also Co-Directing and Choreographing BYE, BYE BIRDIE for Starlight Productions. I was carrying 18 units in my college classes. I was working Part-Time at Gymboree. I was in rehearsals as "Babe" in CRIMES OF THE HEART. I was about to play "Polly" in CRAZY FOR YOU. I'd just finished playing "Sister Mary Amnesia" in NUNSENSE. I was teaching a dance class.

I was insane. Or at least depressed, even then, and in denial about all of it. And I was exhausted, but I would never let anyone know it. I was trying to prove something to myself - that I had "it". That intangible "it" that all artists pray they have, and that will bring them success.

And I was willing to work harder than anyone else - and I proved it.

I was a success in all of my endeavors at the time. I have been a success in all my endeavors since then, except the elusive career as a professional actor. In the five years since I graduated with my BFA in Acting, I've had lots of small successes, but never that job I could point to and say - "See? I finally made it."

I had this fire, this drive in me.

And for ten years, I pushed so hard that I lost track of the other side of who I am. The woman who loves to write, garden. Who misses her years of horseback riding. Who had friends who loved her for more than what she could DO*. Who valued herself as a WOMAN and not just as an artist.

*The comment about my friends is an oversimplification - even through all of that, I had friends who loved me DESPITE what I could do - some of them were my bridesmaids and I've written about them on this blog!

I pushed so hard that I burned myself out.

Now, at age 28, I don't know what my dream is anymore. I've gone cold turkey on almost all of my artistic endeavors. Giving myself some space and getting off of the hamster wheel. You know, the longer I'm off the hamster wheel, the less I want to get back on it. Maybe in time, I will. But I can't right now, not until I know it's what I WANT to do.

What I do know is that I've finally learned to cook. I'm mentally and physically healthy for the first time in at least ten years. I work in my garden. I clean my house. I spend TIME with my family. Quality time, REGULAR time, not whatever moments I can squeeze out of my too busy schedule. I sleep normal hours. I work on deepening my relationship with my husband. I read. I don't work on weekends or evenings (except during Caroling season, and that's my one exception - I still LOVE to sing).

I'm still subbing, but hopefully that will change soon. It's the only black spot in my world.

In stepping back, I've disappointed an enormous amount of people - who have only ever seen me as the performer, the director and the teacher. Who don't know my desperate yearning to read, garden, write, cook, love and find balance.

Even scarier, I've passed my old neurotic work habits and singular focus onto many others. People who saw me "succeed" at the expense of the healthier parts of my life, and have adopted that lifestyle as their own.

It feels like I'm starting over at 28 - it's my "quarter-life crisis" (thanks, John Mayer).

And I don't know what's coming.

But I'm excited. And ready.

I'm Spring Cleaning - not just in my home, but in my life.

It feels damn good.

By the way, at least 2/3 of what was in that closet was either donated (to the Goodwill or a library) or recycled. :)

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