Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with lots of family, food and happiness!
One of my favorite yoga instructors says, "Gratitude is the antidote for perfectionism." Whatever remedy exists for perfectionism, I can certainly use it. I have high goals and expectations for myself and my future. While that kind of internal drive is a gift I'll cherish forever, it can also get me into trouble because when does our life ever actually look like what we think it will. The cure for the common cold known as negative thinking is gratitude.
Once on the fifth day of a six-day film shoot, I hit a wall. It was long hours, lots of pressure and my character was so high energy I was essentially the energizer bunny doped up on coffee and sugar pills. An hour or two into the day I realized something was off. There were no complaints from the director, but I felt it. I wasn't doing my job the way I knew I could do it. I wasn't bringing the energy, the charm, the funny. It all felt forced and so NOT what I wanted to do. That realization opened the door to a very intense, unshakable fear. Where was my mojo? Why was I now so insecure? Why had what was so effortless in the previous four days now seemed forced and phony? I just felt out of the rhythm of my own instrument.
I was able to hang on till lunch and fortunately the scenes that morning weren't really mine, so the film didn't suffer. But on my break I snuck out of the trailer to a nearby park and took a few moments to clear my brain. It was up to me to let it go, whatever it was. I sat for a few minutes to breathe through the fear and let it go. I started meditating on everything I was grateful for... There in the park, speaking softly to myself (like a total actress weirdo), I literally started listing things, however insignificant they seemed:
Thank you healthy lungs for keeping me alive and thank you crisp air so that I may fill my breath.
Thank you strong legs for literally carrying me through my life every day to this day.
Thank you heart for beating non-stop, without fail for the last twenty-something years.
Thank you craft services for having a vegetarian option.
Thank you coffee for being on nearly every corner so that I may never have to go without your sweet bitterness.
Thank you wind for blowing my hair into my lip gloss to remind me that there are many things out of my control and to not take myself too seriously.
Thank you yoga for keeping my mind sane, and my body in shape so that I can feel comfortable shooting in Daisy Dukes and a bikini top.
Thank you movie for getting funding so that I am able to just be here, doing that which I love beyond words.
After twenty minutes of light yoga and drafting a mental checklist of everything -- even the sarcastic and comical -- for which I am grateful, I could no longer remember what had triggered the mental spiral I had been in. I returned to set and killed it for the remainder of the shoot.
Whenever you're stuck in the negative/fearful/insecure/worried mental cycle, start making a checklist of your own. Instead of thinking about how far away your dreams seem, thank yourself for everything you're proud of achieving. Be specific, actually list them one by one. It sounds cheesy, but do it anyway. If you feel lonely, list all the people you're grateful to have in your life. When you're late for an audition and you can't seem to find a parking spot within the same zip code, thank your car for driving you to and from every audition without breaking down. When you're annoyed because there's a certain chord on the guitar you're having trouble nailing, thank your ear for hearing the difference between a well-played chord and one that's less than perfect. Thank your fingers for trying, and for learning all the other chords you've asked of them.
Then keep working on that chord. You'll get it eventually.