Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Resolutions Suck... Be Grateful Instead!

                  Well Christmas came and went, and so did my blog. I took the last week (plus) off from my writing, mostly because of time constraints, and partially because I needed time to reflect on the past year and everything that occurred. Now would normally be the time I’d start spewing out a list of resolutions for the coming year, but I’m not going to do that. New Year’s resolutions always seem so forced to me, something we all *think* we have to do. Guess what? We don’t. I don’t need to make a list of stuff I want to do in 2018 just so I can feel warm and fuzzy about ending the current year because I now have a game plan for the year ahead. Be honest… resolutions very often make us feel like crap in January, when a week or two into the new year we discover we’re not even following them! And yes, that includes all of you who joined a gym during some December sales blitz, and will diligently work out for a week or two into January and overcrowd my work-out space, only to disappear a few weeks later. It’s okay. I get it. That’s why I don’t make any resolutions. I started my work-out routine last year in FEBRUARY. Screw January! January is a limbo time as far as I’m concerned… a waiting period for all of those resolution-setting people to do their thing. That is, until many of them figure out that WANTING to do something is much easier than ACTUALLY doing it. I think it’s much more important on this last day of 2017 (which also happens to be the day of my birth) to express gratitude for the current year, so we can move forward into the year ahead with a whole lot of love and a positive attitude. So here is a list of things I am grateful for in 2017 (in no particular order):

1) Tessa Faye – It’s difficult to put into words how grateful I am to this woman. She is my career coach, audition coach, part agent/part manager and all around super hero. Besides all that, she is a wonderful friend and confidante to boot, and she is not afraid to use a boot to give me a kick in the you-know-where when I need it! She’s the kind of person you can contact last minute and beg her to record audition sides with you over Skype and she will move mountains to try to do it. Tessa has rejuvenated my acting career, but more importantly, she has rejuvenated me. Together in 2017, we discovered things about me that neither of us knew and delved into new areas of my acting and writing. We are partners in crime when it comes to my art, and I truly couldn’t ask for a better sidekick. Simply put, I adore her.

2) Matthew Corozine Studios aka MCS – Oh, MCS! The history I have with this wonderful studio, and its wonderful founder, Matthew Corozine. Matt has made me a more courageous actor and taught me how to make choices in my work. He pushes you to explore your heart and express what’s inside… even when it’s scary. And we MCSers do it because Matt sets up a safe space, full of wonderful, loving people who all WANT you to succeed. It truly is the only judgment free zone I’ve ever been in. It’s the one place where I feel seen as my best self (even on days when I'm not).  MCS brings out the best in you, as an actor and as a human. And if it doesn’t, you can use the exit door to let yourself out! Bad energy isn’t a part of MCS’s vibe. I often wonder how Matt is able to sustain such a loving and enlightening environment for so many years, especially considering I’ve been with him since his early days as a teacher. I’d say it’s “Disney magic” but there are no hidden tricks here. Matt has a gift. Period. And I’m truly grateful to be a part of his world and all of the people in it. And it should be noted that Tessa wouldn’t be in my world without Matt, so if that doesn’t speak to how much MCS has touched my life, I don’t know what does!

3) Friends and family — Okay who isn’t grateful for their friends and family, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a shout out! Heartfelt thanks to all of you, for your support, love and belief in me. You are my rocks, who keep me sturdy!

4) Slowing down — Yes, I said slowing down! I truly feel progress was made in 2017 in the area of taking things one day at a time. And I want to give props to myself for it. It does come with a price however… certain things don’t get done, and they could be things you really wanted to do. But I’ve come to realize the only timetable that matters is mine. If something is meant to be done, then I will do it. Everything does not need to be done TODAY or even tomorrow. I just have to do my best to balance the things I want to do, and make sure I come up for air along the way! Standing still is every bit as important as moving forward, after all!

5) European vacation with my mom — nothing says slowing down like a vacation! And I’m super proud of myself for taking the time to slow down and enjoy the world around me. And boy did we go to places no man (or at least my mom) has ever gone before! In fact, my mom had never left the country other than Canada until this year. To see the joy on my mom’s face at each destination is something I will always treasure. She was like a kid in a candy store. Every tour we took, I would always find her glued to the tour guide’s side, taking in everything he or she said. I guess being a former educator herself makes my mom extra interested in learning. My mom calls it “The trip of a lifetime” and I agree. There is nothing so special as sharing 1-1 time with your mom, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has a rock star mom like mine!

6) Health/Fitness — I’ve talked about my relationship with health and fitness ad nauseam in past blogs, so I don’t want to beat it to death here. That said, I am so grateful that I have come to a much more peaceful place with my eating and exercise habits this year. I still have progress to make, but when I look back to where I was a year ago, I feel proud. I don’t have the toxic relationship with food I once had, and I actually LIKE exercising. Who ever thought I’d say that again? I definitely didn’t.

7) My blog — I actually have Tessa to thank for making me revive this blog, as well as all of you who read it and share your words of support and kindness. I hadn’t written my blog since 2013, and I was reluctant to start it again. I loved it, but I didn’t LOVE how much time it took me to do it. I agonized over each entry, sometimes spending entire days trying to get each word “right”. Tessa helped me realize that the overall idea I’m trying to convey is more important than each individual word. So this year, I set a time limit on my entries and only allowed myself two hours to write them. And perhaps some were more “right” than others, but the point is, I DID THEM. Except for a few missed weeks, I wrote a blog EVERY SINGLE week and I am so grateful to be doing it again!

     I don’t want to poo poo anyone who may be finalizing their New Year’s resolutions as I am writing my gratitude list. I’m all for setting goals. I am the Queen of “To Do” lists, and ironically, my “To Do” lists often have “To Do” lists! Anyone that is goal oriented is setting goals throughout the year, so why stress yourself over New Year’s resolutions? Maybe it’s just me, but  I think some perspective today is more important than worrying about January. It’ll be here tomorrow, anyway, whether we like it or not. I personally think some reflection on what has already happened will help us determine what we want to happen in the future. And whether you start your New Year’s resolutions tomorrow or the week after, doesn’t really matter in the long run. So if nothing else, please take a moment today to look back on 2017 and count your blessings. I’d love to hear them if you feel like sharing. Happy (almost) New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sometimes You Need To Let Someone Else Have The Win… And Be HAPPY For Them!

                  That first part was a nugget of wisdom imparted on me a few months ago by my lovely coach, Ms. Tessa Faye. The “be happy” bit is my recent addendum and is honestly much harder to do. I think I’m the quintessential “good sport”, cheering people on for their successes i.e. “wins”. But am I always happy for them? No. Sometimes that ugly green monster inside me—the one whose name is ENVY—wants to come out and stomp all over someone’s triumphant moment. And it’s not because I don’t want said person to have their moment of glory… it’s that I want MY moment of glory too. And my personal moments of glory can feel like they are few and far between, even if that is my imagination lying to me. (It often tells me tall tales.) And as the end of the year is rapidly approaching, I thought it was a good time to look at this ugly green monster and see if I can stomp all over IT once and for all!

                  Nothing brings out the ugly green monster in me as much as a different but equally evil green monster… MONEY. Somehow at work, I let both green monsters get the better of me. I work as a server, and thus my money is at the mercy of many factors that are beyond my control—how many servers are on the floor, how many reservations we have, how much people are tipping me (or NOT). So within that, you’d think I would be zen about the money I make or don’t make since so much of it is essentially in the hands of the Gods. But I’m the opposite of zen. I’m constantly looking around at my coworkers… jealous that someone has a better section than me OR that they got a huge tip OR that they are flipping their tables faster than the speed of light and doing twice as many covers as me. It goes on and on, and my jealous heart creates scenarios where everyone is making double the amount of money that I am. Most of the time, it’s not even true. But what if it IS? Shouldn’t everyone have a great night? Am I so greedy that I can’t be happy for someone else’s good fortune… literally? Sure, on the surface I congratulate the lucky tip winner, but if I didn’t have an equally fortunate night, then my inner voice is saying, “Why not me?”

                  Ah… why NOT me? That is a question I have often asked myself when it comes to matters of the heart, and by heart, I mean LOVE. Sometimes it feels like I am perpetually single and destined to remain so. Again, my imagination loves to create wild stories. (Good thing I’m a writer and have an outlet for these wild stories!) I’ve had wonderful relationships with great guys, most of whom are still my friends. But that’s just it. All of them have ended at some point. And I get that part. But I keep wondering, when is the relationship that has no expiration date going to happen? And thus my BFF Envy comes out again. I look around at everyone who is matched up and think, “Why them?” It gets so bad that when I have a customer who is not-so-nice but is wearing a wedding ring, I’ll say to myself, “Someone married THAT person, but I’m alone?” It’s equally hard to watch friends be “lucky in love” while I feel like I’m continually bowling gutter ball after gutter ball in the romance department. However, please don’t get out your tissues and shed sympathy tears for me. There is another part of me that truly enjoys being alone and wonders if I can ever have someone around me 24/7. When you’re super independent, being “matched up” is as scary as it is enticing. I’d just love the chance to find out if it’s more the former or the latter!

                  And then there’s my career… boy does the green monster like to come out in full force! With any career, you are in constant competition, both with yourself and everyone around you. But when you’re an artist, it’s a bit different because once again there are so many factors beyond your control—your height, your physical type, your age range—and those factors can be perceived differently depending on the casting person. Now, anyone that is in it for the long haul gets these realities and accepts them. But it doesn’t make it any the less frustrating. So when it seems like everyone else (and not you) are the right type, it’s hard to say “Yay for you!” And it can even be a guy who clearly isn’t the same type as you or in competition for the same roles! Let’s face it,  I’m never going to play Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”. Still, that “yay” thing can be hard to say with one hundred percent conviction when a part of me wants to have my piece of the winning pie too!  

                  But the reality is, wins come at different times for different people. And whether someone is truly deserving of that win, is not my business or even the point. Being a good sport with your words or your behavior is not good enough anymore. I want to be a good sport in my HEART. I want to feel true joy and happiness for other people’s prosperity—whether in love, career or work. And I believe it’s what will open up space in my heart to win more in my own life. A part of that comes with recognizing that ALL good people deserve to win. “The universe always gives you what you need,” is something I often said to friends, but I need to start saying it to myself. Consequently, if someone else is the winner on a given day, there’s probably a good reason for it. If someone has a financial windfall at work, maybe they needed that money to pay for some critical item. When a fellow artist has a career achievement, perhaps he or she was on the verge of giving up and needed that gig to keep him or her in the game. A dear friend once told me that no one knows what goes on behind anyone’s closed doors except for that person. He was talking about relationships specifically, but it applies to all of these situations. Everyone wants to win. This much we all know. What we don’t know is what’s going on behind someone else’s closed doors and when that someone else might just need the win more than you. So be happy for them and shout “Yay for you!” And really MEAN it. Here’s to many wins for all of us good people in 2018. Merry Christmas, and as my acting teacher, Matthew Corozine, says, “Have a holiday!”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Do Not Forget, Stay Out Of Debt

            Oh, how I loved “Gilligan’s Island” as a child! It was already in repeats when I discovered it, but I loved the idea of a group of strangers being trapped on an uncharted desert island and having to rely on each other for their survival. Sound like the show “Lost”? It wasn’t. There were no “Others” or polar bears on this island, thankfully. But they DID have the Professor to invent things like a metal-barrel-washing-machine, powered by pedaling on a bicycle or a battery charger made out of coconut shells. And when everyone needed entertainment, they had the beautiful Ginger, an actress who for some reason, went on a supposed three-hour boat tour wearing an evening gown! (Oh, the sitcoms of the 70s.) With Ginger’s expertise, the cast could mount shows, particularly if a theater producer just happened to wash up on shore. (Yes, that happened in one of the episodes). How fortunate this theater producer was to catch their production of “Hamlet”, set to the music of the opera “Carmen”. Check out a clip here:

            And finally we get to the heart of the matter, with lyrics sung loudly and proudly by the Skipper and later with the entire cast: “Neither a lender, nor a borrower be. Do not forget, stay out of debt.” Oh, if only I had heeded the Skipper’s sage advice! I have been in debt for as long as I can remember. And I’m not talking about student or car loans, or even a mortgage. To me, all of those things are GOOD debt. You’re getting something out of it, once it’s all paid off. When I say debt, I mean credit cards… those evil, EVIL pieces of plastic that most of us can’t seem to live without. Or at least I haven’t been able to. The ironic thing is, I should be preening like a peacock right about now. This Friday, I make my final payment on a debt consolidation plan I started about four and a half years ago which totaled a whopping $37,000. That’s right… $37,000. And I paid it ALL off while also paying for a car. (A car being the good debt, remember?)  It’s hard for me to conceive of how I got into that much debt. What the hell did I spend $37,000 on, exactly? I have no idea. Stuff, apparently.

            So yes, I am super proud that I diligently paid $840/month instead of declaring bankruptcy. I bask in the glow of knowing that I finally DID it. That is, until I remember that I actually HAVEN’T done it. Not yet, anyway. I have MORE debt to pay off in the New Year. And no, it isn’t a car loan. (That’s paid off too.) I am ashamed to admit it is MORE credit card debt. See, while I was working on paying off my consolidated debt, I was still accumulating NEW debt. Silly me kept a few credit cards on hand for emergencies only. And in my defense, my play was in the Fringe Festival a couple of years ago and it cost a pretty penny! Credit cards come in handy when you’re self-producing a show, believe me. But honestly, I can’t even remember what else was such an emergency that I needed to fund it with “fake” money. Ah, it seems so exciting to swipe that card in the heat of the moment, knowing you’re buying something you really WANT. But do you really NEED it, is more the question. Like I said, I can’t remember! And I am not alone… so many people I know are in credit card hell. One of my coworkers tried to comfort me by saying when you’re an artist things come up. You take an acting job that doesn’t pay a lot of money, so you have to buy food on a credit card. Or there’s a class you HAVE to take with an industry professional you HAVE to meet. Sure, there are all kinds of scenarios we can come up with to justify bad spending habits. The bottom line is, if your debt is so high you can’t pay it back within a few months, you are doing something TERRIBLY WRONG.

            I don’t want to live in regret. What a waste of energy that is! What’s done is done. And for the record, my current credit card debt is nowhere near the debt I am paying off this Friday. It’s just important to note what happened once can happen again. Because it clearly did. Now, I must move forward and recognize there is another way. And it will involve really asking myself what I want versus what I need. Those lines get blurred very easily, especially when you have that evil piece of plastic to provide the answer for you. “No” has always been a hard thing for me to say – to other people as well as to myself. But it’s something that must become my mantra. “No, I don’t need that.” “No, I don’t have to do that.” “No, that’s too expensive.” These must become my catch phrases. And it’s hard to acknowledge you can’t have everything, because I’ve always been a dreamer who tells everyone that you CAN. In dreams, anything is possible, and we should all have a little bit of a dreamer in us. It keeps us going and inspires us to take chances. When it comes to money, however, I think a little less risk taking is in order. The buck needs to stop HERE and by here, I mean my wallet!

Monday, December 4, 2017

My Love Triangle With Exercise and Food

            Yes, you heard that right. I’m in a threesome. And it’s complicated… and messy. Mom always said once you get three people together, things get difficult. There’s always an odd man out and decision-making is problematic. Is it any different with food and exercise? I certainly have relationships with both of them, though exercise was a slow-developing love. Our dating period was rough and sometimes I wanted to end the whole thing. It was one of those “I love you/I hate you” situations, as evidenced by my blog earlier this year ( Food, however, was truly a love-at-first-sight scenario. With so many yummy things to eat in the world, how could that not be the case? When people say, “Oh, I’m not really into desserts,” I want to punch them in the face as if I’m a scorned lover. And therein lies the problem. How do I LOVE food in a way that doesn’t undermine all the love and care I give to my exercise?

            ‘Tis the season to eat EVERYTHING. While that’s not true, it certainly feels that way every time you go to someone’s holiday party, or in my case, every time you WORK a holiday party. “I DESERVE to eat that pasta during shift meal,” I tell myself immediately followed by, “I’m working soooooo hard and I went for a long run in the park today!” And here’s another favorite from my Dina-Loves-Food-Playlist, “Oh I can have just ONE leftover dessert, can’t I? It’s so small.” (Not when you eat TEN of them in a row.)

            But honestly, using the holidays as an excuse is simply that. An excuse. Eating is a struggle for me all year round, in terms of finding a balance. I want to say “Yes” to practically any delicious food that’s put in front of me. Isn’t there an expression, “Say yes to everything?” Maybe I’m making that up, but I don’t think they were talking about food in any case. And the truth is, I DO like to say yes in life whenever I can – you feel agreeable and positive. However, with food, no matter how much I love it, I have to say NO or at the very least say YES to better eating options. Besides, just as in a human relationship, saying NO to food feels empowering, and makes you enjoy and appreciate when you do say YES all the more!

            I’ve always been a rule follower. Give me structure and I will thrive. Leave me to my own devices and I stress and angst over what to do. Call me a “good girl”, but I like knowing what I can (and can’t) do. I have so many decisions to make as a grown up. Can’t I have some things where I don’t need to think and I can just go into auto-pilot mode? That’s kind of how I feel about food. Left to my own devices, the desire to eat with reckless abandon and treat every day like it’s Jesus’ Last Supper is very tempting. Thus, I joined Weight Watchers earlier this year and I totally geeked out on entering my daily meals into the app and counting my points. And being the overachiever perfectionist I am, I LOVED when I was under my points goal for the day. The structure of Weight Watchers really suited me at the time and I lost weight too!

Flash forward to the present. I still want structure, but a different kind of structure that doesn’t require me using an app, and something that focuses on my nutrition and not primarily points. Enter my nutrionist pal, Avia. She’s going to help me design a plan that targets my health but also my love of food. She asked me to write down what I eat for three days in a row so she can see what my normal routine is. I’ve been avoiding doing it because I’m afraid she’ll say, “That’s what a 200 pound MAN should be eating, you cow!” She also asked me to name my three favorite foods—I’m assuming so she can make sure to incorporate them into my plan. I told my mom about it and we both said at the same time, “Ice cream, ice cream and ice cream!” (My college roommate Michele and I were known to scarf down a half gallon of ice cream together during all night study sessions.) I'm not sure Avia can include this delicious treat into my daily eating routine, but maybe once a week if I behave myself?

I’m grateful to finally be in love with exercising and hope it’s a love, like any good relationship, that will last a lifetime. I actually feel bummed on days I don’t make it to the gym, which ironically makes me happy! As for food, I don’t necessarily think it’s bad to be equally in love with food. It’s recognizing in both cases that too much of a good thing can be, well, too much. I don’t want to be the over-obsessed gal who is running on the treadmill when I have the flu and should be in bed resting. Nor do I want to be someone eating like there's no tomorrow. Note to self: How about stopping at one Oreo, instead of devouring the entire sleeve? The New Year is rapidly approaching and I would like to put my best foot forward now instead of waiting until January. So with that said, I am off to the gym to burn some calories and hope I don’t consume them all at the party I’m working this evening. Hope you’re all eating, drinking and being merry… just try your best to keep it in check!