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The Stuff You Don't See


I was recently in an acting class - that was awesome - and the last day of class I received this feedback: "You've got the funny stuff down - the timing, the delivery, you've got that. But I want to see the ugly side. I feel like you've been through some shit and I want to see it. The vulnerable side."

Oh crap. Yeah, I've been through some shit, and yes he is accurate: I bury it. I bury it not to keep appearances or anything but I bury it because I'm afraid to go down the rabbit hole.

But here's the thing: he's on to something. Not just for acting world, but coaching world as well. As Rich Litvin, super awesome and brilliant coach said, "People see what you do, not how you feel". So I'm going share some of the stuff you don't see.

Often times I have zero energy. One of the most common 'essence' things I hear about me is 'you're so energetic', and on the inside I laugh because 98% of the time I am exhausted. I can't count the number of times after teaching a class I have said goodbye to my clients with a smile on my face, cleaned up, and then lied down on the floor for 20 minutes because I couldn't physically stand, walk to my car, drive home, or get in the house.

On the outside I'm cool as a cucumber. On the inside: squirrel in traffic. Another essence word I get is Poised or Confident. Again, I can't count the number of times I've heard, 'Yeah, easy for you do _______! You're so confident!" or "I don't have your confidence." Ya'll: I DON'T HAVE MY CONFIDENCE! I don't know what about me projects this confidence or poised demeanor, but it is definitely not the case inside.

I am very insecure. I often think I'm not enough. Sometimes I'm lazy.

Somedays I’m all 3 at the same time.

I’ve wanted to be an actor since as long as I can remember. At age 5 I declared I wanted to be a 'Singer, Dancer, Actor, Cheerleader'. I still want to be an actor. I still love to dance. I now also want to be a writer. That's the first time I've said that out loud.....

But due to fear, doubt, and insecurity I haven’t made any of it happen. Also, that same fear, doubt, and insecurity is why I rarely sing anymore.

No matter what I’ve accomplished – I give myself about .2 seconds to be proud of it or myself before I dive into how it could have been better, how it’s wrong, how I messed up, and how it’s just luck that I accomplished it in the first place.

I am constantly trying to 'prove myself' and gain acceptance. I know this began at an early age - trying to prove myself to my Dad and Brothers. With my Dad, he considered it 'reverse psychology': If I tell her I don't think she can do it - she'll get mad and prove me wrong. And it worked. To prove myself to my Dad I got really good at 'achieving' - good grades, good at sports, practice a lot, prove myself, prove myself, get the accolades. So I got good at doing what I needed to do to get the accolades. When my Dad died, do you know what the number one thing people said to me? First sentences out of their mouths: Your Dad was SO proud of you. You can't see it, but right now, as I type this, tears are streaming down my face. Intellectually, I know this is true. But that's not how it feels. Again, Coach Rich Litvin has said (to this topic specifically): You can never have enough of what you don't really need. I never needed to do anything to have my Dad be proud of me. This is why I've never felt like I've done enough. It's a process. I'm still working.

October 2004 - November 2005 nearly destroyed me. I lost my Aunt Carol (my second Mom) to Cancer, my cousin was in a motorcycle accident, another cousin passed away from Cancer - this was October, November, December. I came home from my semester abroad on December 11. December 28 my Dad had a quadruple bi-pass. On January 18 I had my first day at Bradley University as a transfer student. On February 5th my cousins knocked on my bedroom door to tell me my Dad had passed away. I collapsed. The next weeks, hell, even months are a blur. I wasn't even close to having grieved my Aunt Carol, and here I am starting the process with my Dad. March and April - 2 more deaths - same immediate family. Unfortunately, this trend continues. In November 2005 my Grandma Alice passed - my Dad's Mom. I remember getting the call and just saying, "Ok" and hung up the phone. No emotion. Completely deadpan. I looked up, caught eyes with one of my acting teachers, and told her, "My Grandma just passed away." Again, completely stoic. She took my hand and said, "Lets go for a walk", and she walked me over to Mental Health Services.

I wish I could say 2004-2005 was an isolated incident, but it's not. Our family was dealt even more blows (and yes, I realize all families go through this): My Mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in December of 2006. My Uncle Ike passed in Spring 2008. I moved home from Chicago because I needed to be with my Mom. He was my second Dad. I had barely began to scratch the surface of the grief process with my Dad, and losing Uncle Ike was like losing Dad all over again. I am as much raw about the death of my Aunt Carol and Uncle Ike as I am about my Dad. No doubt about it. In 2012 my oldest brother passed away. This was new terrain for me. And again, we continued to lose even more members of that immediate family, and not that I don't love them and miss them, I do, but I'm still lost in the grief process.

I have panic attacks, mostly at night, sometimes during the day. Yes, it's directly related to the two paragraphs above. I have panic attacks around losing my Mom. When I lived at home, even when I visit home, I am constantly listening for her to toss and turn or cough just so I know she's breathing. I will wake in the middle of the night gasping for air out of fear of receiving 'that call'. I've also been known to send a search party to the house to check on her if she doesn't answer her phone or text or call me back with in a day or two. It's better now, but man, 2005 - if she didn't respond in 8 hours I had people banging on doors and tracking her down. Last year I had a panic attack in Whole Foods when Mom said she wouldn't be able to fly out to LA for Christmas and I was facing my first Christmas with out her.

These panic attacks are not just around my Mom. If Eddie is super quiet at night, I put my hand on his stomach to see if he's breathing. I used to shake my cat Milo and yell his name if I couldn't feel him breathing. I've also tossed and turned and shaken Eddie to wake him up - on purpose - for my own comfort. And yes, if you don't respond to my text messages in a day or two, the panic sets in for my friends as well.

Moving to LA was the hardest choice I've ever made. Yes, I wanted to chase my sitcom dreams, but that meant leaving my Mom. (Please see paragraphs above). I could rationalize that it took me so long to make the move because of the cost, I had to save up so much money, I was barely making enough money to save that much, my relationship I was in the at time, etc, etc, the list goes on. But that's the thing with rationalizing: these lies are completely rational. The truth of the matter is: I was scared. I feared leaving my Mom. I feared success. I feared failing. I feared losing my friends - I saw them daily and now I'd be so far away. SO MANY FEARS. Eventually the pain of not taking the leap was greater than the fear. When I moved - I still didn't have 'enough' money saved. All the reasons I gave myself for not moving - they still existed. But I became more committed to my dreams than to my stories.

I arrived in Los Angeles in January of 2015 - and I started all over with the same challenges, stories, and fears. I'm still working on them.

I've felt more anger towards others this past year on a level I never knew I was capable.

I don't tell you this for sympathy, or comfort, or pity. I'm writing this for me - for ownership. By shining a light on these things that I don't like about myself, that I don't acknowledge because they hurt, these things that are blocking me and holding me back to where I want to go, by stating them I can begin to control them and not let them control me.

There's a quote I love that says, "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy is when adults are afraid of the light". This is me shining my light so I can move forward.

In making this public, and sharing it, I hope to be of service. Perhaps you can relate to a bit of what I've said. Perhaps not. But I'm fairly certain there are others going through the same things. I say that not just as a coach, but as a human being operating daily with other human beings. We all have our shit and our blocks and our blind spots, and until we shine a light on them they will continue to control us. My hope is that I can work through them, maybe even accept them. How radical would that be?! Accept that I am a person who likes affirmation - that I don't need it, but I like it, and it's ok that I like it and I don't need to beat myself up for it. Whew! That would be freeing!

Here are some more I'm betting some of you have felt:

I was picked on for being: fat, stupid, smart, blonde, theatre kid, band geek, athletic, being a girl, and being a tomboy.

I’ve struggled to pay bills and worry where the next paycheck is going to come from - both in CA and IL.

I’m comfortable on stage in a room full of people. I’m comfortable in the back of a room full of people. I'm unbelievably uncomfortable in the middle of the room making polite conversation.

Sometimes when plans for a night out get canceled I'm secretly relieved.

I can zone out on Facebook, Netflix, or reading a book like no other - I consider it 'research' for my Coaching Business, Training Business, or Acting. Again, lies that are rational. If I'm being honest, it's because secretly I’m afraid of what I really want to do out in the world and it's easier to put it off and pretend I'm working towards it.

I get incredibly jealous of other people’s success. I am genuinely happy for them - but utterly jealous.

The closer I get to the success I want the more scared I get because there’s more to lose.

And finally, this is a big one:

I felt powerless as a child and I didn’t know I could say No. Be good. Don't talk back. Be nice. Be a good friend. Always help. Be a good employee. To this day, I struggle to say No, no matter how exhausted/stressed/struggling/scheduled I am - I struggle to say No.

I'm working on that now.

But just as all of these above have shaped me, they've served a purpose. Both for bad and good. Take this one for instance - I've felt powerless as a child, but one of my gifts is that I see your Power. I'm constantly trying to prove myself, but man can I see how amazing and successful you are in your life, and I am happy to show it to you.

Now it's time to apply it to myself.

Yes, this is about ownership and a little about acting and coaching, but really, it's also about life. My life.

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