Defy Logic or Die

I had to laugh when, after hours of agonizing over this week’s topic, I realized this weekend celebrates my twentieth anniversary of moving to Los Angeles.
My sister and I drove cross country over Valentine’s Day weekend, 1998. We made incredible time, but managed to stop for important stuff. The most important was visiting the Oklahoma bombing site that had happened just a few years prior. There was this tree.

Survivor Tree 1998.

This tree was the only thing left standing at ground zero. It defied logic, yet made so much sense. When I arrived in L.A., I only had theatre credits and two co-star roles – I had neither connections nor representation. I did, however, acclimate very quickly. The weather, the driving – I never owned a car before – and the possibilities! Unlike Chicago, I could meet dozens of casting directors face to face and no one had a preconceived idea of who I was or who I should be. That first year I booked three network TV shows and a national commercial with no agent. It defied logic.

As the years went on, I embraced my newfound freedom by joining a theatre company, teaching improvisation, directing for the stage, performing stand-up – and partying.  While I had some successes, I focused more on my “failures”. I began to take on the insecurities of my fellow actors. I saw my early success as a fluke that would never happen again. I worried that my hometown friends and family expected more than I could produce. So between crappy day jobs and theatre rehearsals, I commiserated with others over beer. I had at least four theatrical agents over a dozen years with huge gaps in between, while my acting credits grew increasingly stale. I was also living in a tiny studio that had thin walls and no light.
At the top of It’s a Wonderful Life, Clarence asks God, “Is he (George Bailey) in trouble?” God replies, “Worse – he’s discouraged.” That was me, and I felt deserving of nothing. My sister noticed this, and reminded me of my talent for defying logic. So without knowing how I’d pay for it, or what I’d study, I returned to school. Again, I walked through the process with easy, yet laser-like focus. I loved it, and discovered I didn’t have to pay a dime for my Graphic Design degree. My sense of accomplishment returned, my energy came back, and the universe hugged me. I started to book again. Upon graduation, I decided to create my own business, because I was done working crappy day jobs. When I hired a coach to help me, my business began to grow. This time, unfortunately, I took on the insecurities of my then partner and chose not to grow too much. I developed a serious skin condition, and I stopped booking. I spent the next three years putting his needs above mine.As soon as I made the decision to end this long term relationship, the universe welcomed me back with open arms. Where you been, girl? I was happy, hopeful, and younger. My energy was bright and attracted good things. I booked two national commercials and four network TV spots within that first year. I created a living space full of sunlight and peace. Soon I obtained amazing representation in both L.A. and Chicago. I was free from the fear that had been disguised as “good common sense”.

I have always loved living on the edge, not knowing how things will turn out. I love it, because deep in my soul I know everything will always turn out fine. And now I am determined to love my way of living more than others fear it.

Survivor Tree, 2011.

My Name is Doreen, and I’m an Addict

As much as I wish I was as hip as a tragic, dysfunctional artist, I’m not talking about substance abuse. I’m talking about something that is perhaps a bit more universal – my dependence on creative highs. Followed by, of course, inescapable what-am-I-doing-with-my-life lows.  tragedy-comedy_01_446A friend compared the closing of her show to post partum depression. And I knew what she meant. It’s what used to drive me from show to show to show, looking for my next “high”, so I wouldn’t have to feel . . . nothing – the worst place for an artist to be. There’s nothing like that creative “mosh pit” called a show to make you feel alive! I flitted about unconsciously. Like it was something that was just done. Over and over and over. This is what actors do, right? But I was unaware.

It was just before I moved to LA that I began gravitating towards a place of balance. It was unfamiliar territory. Using Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, I started to experience periods of calm without restlessness. Paper-boat-4d677a1e20b7f_hiresI let the Universe guide me, like a paper boat in a stream, to undertake a 560 mile bike ride. I worked a full-time job for the first time in my life, and didn’t do a show for a year, I think. I still took classes and had acting gigs, but they gave me a sense of satisfaction as opposed to a “rush”. Needless to say, when I got to Hollywood, I fell off the wagon, the adrenaline kicked in, and I got back on the the treadmill of creative “highs”. And of course, the extreme of lows kicked in right on cue.

Six years ago, on the advice of a dear (since departed) friend, I did the Master Cleanse. It culminated with the odd realization that I no longer needed to eat meat. Huh? Yeah, just like that. If you would have told me this ten years prior – me, a Chicago girl through and though – I would have choked on my Maxwell Street Polish. Look it up. Two years ago, the “extremes” took a relentless toll on my skin, and a drastic change had to take place. I amputated the usual suspects from my diet (gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, etc. – yes chocolate!), and cleared away any stress with daily meditation. I had regular acupuncture treatments, and swallowed a colorful lineup of probiotics and supplements several times a day. The diet modification was the toughest change I’d ever made in my life, but it put me face to face with one CookieMonsterawful truth: I was eating to get high. My naturally slim exterior hid my chaotic interior. Daily intake of buttery pastas, cream cheese laden bagels, toasty garlic bread, cheeses of every variety, cereal & milk – no wonder I had brain fog, was irregular, and felt like everything was a chore!

Two years later, my skin is fully healed. I’ve gradually brought some goodies back into my diet (like replacing Snickers bars with organic dark chocolate), but my recent awareness has taught me to listen to my body. Mostly I hear it say, “Give me balance.” Meditation is a permanent part of my life, and I host weekly Action Groups, where creatives lead with their hearts instead of their adrenaline. My current relationship with food has inspired me to introduce a new segment to my Newsletter and Facebook Page called The Recognized Body. I hope you find it beneficial and heartening. Peace.


Accidental Gifts

Sarcasm’s a tricky thing, isn’t it? Last week I was heading into the 7-11, when I noticed an elderly man in a wheelchair asking a couple for a handout. The boyfriend stopped, but the woman – who was using a walker – paused in front of the doorway. “Oh he’s always asking people to do things for him!” she snapped. opendoorBut before anyone could respond, I opened the door for her and said, “And let me do this for you.” She thanked me several times and told me how sweet I was, completely missing the irony. This ticked me off. I wasn’t trying to be nice, I was trying to teach her a lesson in compassion! How annoying to mistake my finger wagging for a courteous gesture! Truth? When she saw kindness in me instead of a smartass, her focus changed, her mood changed, and she went inside the store with a big stupid smile on her face. I gave her crap, but she saw compassion.

So how do we take life’s crap and as see it as a gift? postman A crappy gift I received last year was facial eczema. It was horrible. It worked its way across my face in excruciating two week cycles: first the skin became inflamed like a severe sunburn, then it dried, pulled and tightened across my eyes and mouth like latex make-up, and finally it would crack, peel and flake. No sooner had the flaking subsided, did the painful “sunburn” start all over again. I could no longer wear my contact lenses, and the slightest brush of my hair would trigger insatiable itching. This went on for months.

I didn’t want to be angry about this – my skin was trying to tell me something, right?  I saw a Doctor of Asian Medicine, early-acupuncture-imageand she prescribed an extreme diet change: no gluten, dairy, coffee, soda, spices, alcohol, chocolate, onions, garlic, dark fruits, brown rice, nuts, etc. This truly sucked. She also prescribed frequent acupuncture sessions and many, many Chinese herbs. After three months, I saw waves of healing and recurrence, but I could no longer afford her. I still stuck with the diet, though. Along the way, I found a meditation practice that provided the only peaceful time in my day. About five months later, things were starting to improve: the cycles were now separated by longer time periods of peaceful skin. Yet it would always return. I knew I needed help, so I contacted my aunt who is an Integrative Doctor in the adrenal_test_kit_clinical_pakMidwest. Before I could say anything, she generously offered to work with me long distance. After a full lab analysis, (did you know you can FedEx your body fluids?) it was determined that something was “off” in my gut. She prescribed supplements: fish oils, probiotics, vitamin D, folic acid, digestive enzymes, etc. She also warned me against corn and soy. Really?

What’s working for me, may not work for you. Every body’s different.  I’ve been faithfully taking my supplements (about six a day),  and I’ve reduced my daily diet restrictions to gluten, coffee, soda, and dairy. Now and again I will see barely noticeable rough patches when I eat “bad” foods, but they clear up quickly.  It’s been fifteen months since the eczema began, and today I am grateful for it. It has brought about lifestyle changes that I had put on the back burner for years:

  • Integrative Medicine
  • Daily meditation
  • Conscious eating

If not for the eczema, I’d still be bombarding my system with “harmless” foods, until a perhaps worse situation appeared. I never would have investigated my gut health and discovered deficiencies before they got worse. I also never would have committed to a meditation practice, which grounds me, and regularly brings sweet insights. I awoke to this one last spring:Lotus position on the edge of a cliff

And at every moment, in every day, there is opportunity to receive all gifts.