Hugs

You can tell a lot about your relationship with someone by the way they hug you. Space left between, loose arm hold, fast release…you know when the hug is social, something they feel they must do rather than something they want to do.

I received one such hug yesterday. It came from the student who had to leave the country; her visa is up and she’s going home in a week. I noticed she sat a seat or two apart from the rest of us as we watched the film, and she didn’t join in the conversation often. Maybe the final production was tough. Maybe there was tension and some sort of fight over the film. Or, more likely, she was already feeling too much and she didn’t want to ache worse by engaging with us and then saying good-bye. I’m sad to think that. But I totally understand. The rest of the hugs I received ranged from true friendship to intense love. And I was a glutton, asking for hugs when meeting and hugs when leaving. Gimme, gimme, gimme. I don’t get many hugs, and I wanted to store them up. Plus, I love these people. Totally.

Was happy to find the people I felt most strongly about also felt the same way in return: their hugs told me so. Did not want to leave their company. I also did not want to force them into hanging out with me all day, so we did eventually end the afternoon. But the end came with promises of more calls, more visits – after exams and deadlines, which all seem to be happening in the next ten days. Asked S if I’d offended her with any of my comments on her writing. How I love this young woman! She turned shining eyes – really, her eyes were shining – to me and said ‘Oh, no! You gave me so much great information; I really appreciate it!’ and went on to tell me about the exam and deadline schedule. We have plans to get together once her calendar quiets down, to really talk about the script. And she’s promised (like a teenaged best friend) to help me with my hair and make-up on the night of the awards ceremony (which is black tie – gulp!).

Oh! I have a friend!

Talked a bit about my writing. Mentioned how I want to take my work to film. Everyone wants to continue working in the industry. And the director said, on the way out, ‘maybe we should just do another one’, meaning maybe we could get together and film MY story. He mentioned how little some films are made for, the funding and support available here in NL. I responded enthusiastically, saying my stuff is made for the stage so it’s already story heavy and FX light. …I know it’s not Ridley Scott or some other famous director, but the very idea has me all a-tingle. It might happen. I might see my script on the big screen.

Speaking of the big screen, OH MY GODDESS! Now I understand why Hollywood actors starve themselves. That screen blows you up to inhuman proportions. It doubles your size, and doubles your flaws. The part of me that always wants to look attractive winced. We used overhead lighting in the shoot – the type designed to throw shadows under any puffiness and exaggerate every crease and wrinkle. Ugh! I looked awful. And when I tucked my chin in, the skin on my neck just hung there all flabby and gross. But the part of me still addicted to being attractive is pretty weak. She gasped once or twice in my head, horrified at our appearance. Then the rest of me shut her up. We’re clay, I told myself. This is what they wanted. Look at the final product. And even she had to admit it added to this off feeling in the scenes, the tension and the something’s not right here that we wanted the audience to feel.

Oh, the excitement! The joy! All those times I was forced to work in groups, all those times I was told to pull as a team… I never felt it, and I never was in a group I felt included in. Not until the film. Now, I get it. I get the power of a team. I get the power of working together. It. is. amazing. And it’s effortless and fun and full of so many good feelings I often find myself near or in tears.

Guess I haven’t let myself care this much very often. I’ve wanted to, I’ve just not found people I felt I could trust with…all of this. I want to dance and sing, jump up and down. Show them all how much I love them. Support them, cheerlead for them, listen and help and be happy as I see them succeed in life. And I don’t want to freak any of them out, either. This old woman who’s so odd. Who just walked into their lives and now has set up camp. Trying to limit myself. Give a lot, but hold back from the all because…well, it almost overwhelms me. I don’t feel right burdening someone with it – and that’s what it feels like, even tho I’m so very focused on their happiness. Too much of anything isn’t good. So I shine that light on them, that bright burning joy I have around them, when I’m in their presence. Then, I try to tone it down. Not hound them every minute with it. I could; I’d like to write to each of them right now and tell them how much I love them.

I said it yesterday. Not with my words. That might sound weird. I told them how proud I was of them, how happy I am with the film, how much I loved being a part of it all, how I knew they’d all go on to be great successes. But my hugs said more. That’s how I told them I loved them.

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The Devouring Snake

Is this hurting you?

I wanted to tell him no, that it was just my fear that made tears leak out of my eyes. But my mouth was full of dentistry tools, and all I could manage was a negative uh-uh guttural sound, which seems to be understood by everyone in every language. Particularly dentists.

This morning I had the last bit of root canal work done. Sat down and talked first, told my dentist firmly that this wasn’t a tooth problem, took him thru an abbreviated version of the last two weeks. He kept asking me ‘Why did the dentist at Erasmus do the root canal?’ I told him all my teeth could have been pulled at that stage; I really didn’t care. The pain was too much.

The good news is he didn’t hurt me this morning. I told him to please numb the area out heavily because I was still having pain, and thankfully, he listened. So much so that I’m sitting here typing with half my face still feeling dead. The not so great news is I think he’s a bit angry at the emergency dentist for doing a procedure that wasn’t needed. Wouldn’t outright say that, naturally. Doctors tend to stick together. But his repeated questions and puzzlement told me that someone is going to hear about this.

Now I’ve more appointments for a mouth guard fitting. Joy, joy. And I need to get moving on the physio for this.

So, let’s add a bit more excitement to the mix, since it’s excitement and good things happening in my life that set this off in the first place. Signed into my writer’s email and found a message from the theatre group in the states. Blue Whale has made the semi-finals, out of 250 entries. Sent a reply out to the artistic director thanking her for the news and her continued support. Also apologized for not sending out Taman, which was my intention. Played up the health issue a bit – and I’ve gotta say, I’ve no shame in playing the sympathy card at this point in my life. If it gets my work performed and seen, I’m all for it.

Been working on the second installment of the trilogy. It’s a big re-write – but I knew that. Needed gender flips, different deaths… Still working on the last four scenes. And I’ve cut and cut and cut because it swelled up to over 7000 words. May have to add in another scene, but at this point I’d rather be pumping it up than cutting it more. Have two pages of notes/self talk written out as I work. Mostly stuff like ‘What are you doing here?’ or ‘If this is gonna happen in scene 7, you need to do this in scene 2’. The number one question I keep coming back to is: Does it drive the scene? Oh, yes. I’ve become one of those. Every word, every glance has to mean something. I don’t have time for fluff in this format. And so I’m analyzing my own work. This has to be there; it establishes this and that. If I want this, than I’ve got to have that somewhere earlier. And spread out the scares. Had them bunched up one on top of the other, with long stretches of important but not-so-scary dialogue.

I think I’m close. Don’t plan on much today after the dental work and anticipated soreness once the numbing agent wears off. But a few more days should do it. If I’m in the groove, I should be able to finish if before New Year’s.

January hangs in front of me, full of unscheduled pops of excitement like the fireworks that are already being set off in the neighborhood. I know the theatre group is going to get together to finally watch the vids of the play. I know the film group will get together, once to watch the finished film as a group and once for the awards ceremony at school. I’ll be hearing one way or the other from the theatre group in the states on Blue Whale. And it’ll be back to language classes, back to trying to write the children’s story in Dutch. That’s enough excitement to be dealing with, and I’d bet my last euro that something else is gonna pop up, too.

Mm. Can’t tell you how pleased I am that my refill on the morphine pills came with another refill.

Need to start pulling it together. Smoking too much. Not going to the gym. Gotta finish up my work and get my head out of my ass. My bro’s working on re-writing the lost chapter of his book, which means I’ll need to start sending out feelers for that. Gotta wrap my head around Dutch again. It’s there, almost, but it’s floaty. Indistinct. I know I should know it, but the meaning escapes me and I’ve reverted to just using English.

Geez…and I don’t want to start beating myself up again about doing this or that. The list above looks like my justification to begin berating myself. And I know I need to still rest and relax.

*SIGH*

…Is this hurting you? Hell, yeah! I hate sitting here feeling like I need to start accomplishing things again but holding back because my body needs to heal. Fucking hate it. Especially when I know it’s me hurting my body. It becomes one big circle: hurt yourself somehow, need to take time down, beat yourself up for being lazy, continue to hurt yourself… And it’s all the more bitter knowing it’s come to me from mania, from joy, from overloading excitement and amazement at good things suddenly showing up in my life.

I am the snake devouring it’s own tail.

Ta-da!

The more I physically heal, the more anger I feel. Old stuff. Same old stuff. No need to go thru it again.

Trying to monitor this shit for real, ’cause…well, pain. That, and I figure I’ve had enough of it at my age.

Spent two hours on the phone talking to S last night. It’s strange to have a friend who just wants to chat on the phone. But I was happy to catch up with her, happy to feel good enough to talk normally. She made me laugh – hard – when she told me the guy who played my husband in the film got cut. The crew got to the editing suite and no one like his footage or performance. Even their teacher watched his stuff and said ‘cut it’. Now S is ducking the actor because she doesn’t want to tell him he’s been completely cut out of the film. Oh, I empathize with her dilemma! I wouldn’t want to tell him either, tho I suggested to her that she play to his ego and start with something like ‘I know you’re a real professional, so you’re aware that sometimes scenes get cut in the editing room…’. But, you know, in the nugget of perfection on that shoot, he was the sore spot. Things were a little less fun, a little less together while he was there. And he was a lousy actor. Best they could find, and I’m sure he’d work in some situations – but he was bad. Everyone knew it at the time. S thinks she might tell him the premiere got cancelled by the school. She’s also considering sending a special cut with his scenes to him, just to appease him. I don’t want to sound like a bitch, but…it’s funny. If you’d heard him speak about his acting, you’d understand.

I’ve been told I’m on the posters and marketing info. Apparently, my tongue is now the director’s screen saver, too. I be everywhere. And according to rumor, my ass and tits look great on screen. So glad I’m old enough to know the difference between the illusion and me. No worries about trying to look like that all the time…tho, honestly, if I someday find members of the press outside my door, I’ll at least brush my hair before I leave the house.

Received an excited confirmation on Taman. Good golly! Must have really written a great 100 word bio. They don’t know me from Eve. I was apologetically informed my entry was early, most authors don’t get their work in before December 31, and it would take months to sort thru everything and make a decision. I was thanked sincerely for my work, and left with their hope that I would continue to work with them and write about more women. Not what I was expecting. Again, it’s more. More than I dreamed of getting.

Coming to the realization that I’ll need new pages under my writing name and as an actor. Hi, this is the new me. Again. This time, tho, I’m not fluffing things out with nonsense. I’ve already got concrete realities to talk about. Scripts, films, plays, interest and excitement. One more project under my belt and I’ll hire someone to help me on the side. I so hate social media pages.

The morphine is doing its job. Brushed my teeth last night without any electric feeling jolts in my molars. Determined to stay on three a day until Monday. I want this thing down. Quiet. Subdued. A week from today I get my temporary filling replaced, and I want to be pain free for days before going in. Feels a bit like cheating. I’m not screaming in agony any more. I could probably get by on less. But it’s so damned pleasant to not feel pain. I just want a little more of that. And I don’t want the nerve to start up again.

The time is coming. My hair is getting chopped and changed. I’ve been thinking about it more and more lately, a sign I’m well acquainted with. I want to go back to auburn. That color looked particularly good on me. And I think my new cut will be jaunty and asymmetrical. That also looks real good on me. I’m dithering a bit. There are elements of longer hair I enjoy. Mostly tying it back or up. But it’s hard to keep nice. My hair tangles easily, so when I do wear it down and free I always have snarls to deal with. It’s a pain to wash, a pain to dry, a pain to keep out of my eyes. Other than that, I like it. But, new me, new hair. And I’m ready for the ta-da! of a new ‘do.

Hell! I’m ready for the ta-da! of a new me.

Thoughts and thanks

Ninety minutes.

I’m not a big phone talker. Maybe when I was 14, but not since then. Use the phone to make a date or a plan to talk in person. So much better! But last night, I was on the phone for an hour and a half with S, the casting director from the film. Unexpected? Absolutely. But not unwanted, even tho the call came in around 10 at night (she’s a night owl).

I think I might have found a real friend.

Heard about the last day of filming, which went great. Heard how much everyone missed me, which felt great. And then, it was just talk. Talk about life, relationships, self confidence, our past…Well, we had a long conversation, so we covered a lot.

She said I was a role model. That she thought I was brave. I’m a bit stunned. Me? Brave? Maybe in front of the camera, but other than that I know how deeply chicken shit I tend to be. Yet, there it was: I was tagged as brave. I think that might be the first time in my life I’ve earned that particular label. I don’t feel like a role model. But then, I’m older. I’ve let a lot of stuff drop. I used to worry about people finding me attractive. Now I think about being a good person. I used to worry about saying too much, being too blunt. Now I state my opinions simply, without an argumentative tone in my voice. I understand how, as a younger woman, that might look brave and like someone you want to emulate. And good if that’s what it is! If I can take one day off of another woman’s internal suffering because they admire how I deal with life or men or politics or whatever, then I’ve lived a life worth living. I know how long I’ve sat in the shit. I don’t think anyone deserves to feel as bad about themselves as I have.

And I am so tired of seeing women tear themselves down. That shit that surfaces from competitiveness and petty jealousies. The nasty comments behind the back and to the face. The use of male branded put downs, male dominated ideals, male led lives. We have allowed ourselves to be led around the ring by our noses, just like the pieces of meat so many misogynists see us as. And those of us caught in that web deny it: I’m not jealous; she’s just a whore.

Can we be honest? Can we say that a lot of that surfaces because we’re all dick hounds after a good fuck? Because we all want this fairy-tale ideal we were fed from birth, that a perfect life includes a husband who has a good job? Okay, I know I’m ignoring the lesbians (sorry) and the non-sexual people out there. I’m making a point. This shaming of women BY women comes out of competition. It’s insidious, and it’s been instilled in us for forever.

Every time we do it, we play their game. Every time we do it, we support their foul opinions of us. Every time we do it, we kill ourselves and hamper our futures and the futures of all our daughters.

It’s got to stop.

If the only way you feel you can get ahead in life is to tear someone else down, you’re not making any progress.

I guess considering the world these days, that attitude alone should make me a role model. Embrace it, Beeps. You’re a knight in shining armour. Hm. And thus, comes understanding of how roles are thrust upon us. You just…live long enough that you become an oddity. An oddity that people admire, but an oddity nonetheless. And then they tell you, and you begin to monitor your own behavior. You start to become what they see you as, because a part of you doesn’t want to let them down. So you try. You reach for the bigger part of yourself. You keep doing that, keep trying.

And so you become.

That’s not to say you buy your own marketing. Therein lies the problem. I guarantee you that at the base of any star’s suicide is a deep seated belief that they didn’t really live up to their image. Maybe it’s not the ultimate tipping point, but it’ll be in the mix. It’s a big and ugly problem. Because people need those heroes. People need role models, the personalities larger than life to inspire and lead them thru dark times. But it can feel like a lie. I’m not really that good, I’m not really that smart, or that talented, or that beautiful… You need to balance what is and what is perceived.

Tread lightly, oh walkers of life! You never know when you will become. And you never quite realize, from where you are, just how difficult that balancing act is.

So. I have a friend. Admiration. Dizzying amounts of respect. It is as tough to take as the opposite. Especially after years of having no friends, no admiration, and no (or little) respect. And I don’t want to fuck it up. I want friends. I want people in my life. People who are happy to see me, people who are sad if I’m ill. People to share things with, because fun is amplified a thousand fold when you share it.

I am…at a loss. I don’t know why I’m getting this outpouring. I don’t know what I did so right to deserve it; if I did know, I’d keep doing it. All I can do is be the brightest me I can be. Listen, care. Slow down enough to really interact. Share my sense of humor. Hug people when I know they need it.

Waking every day with a sense of thankfulness. It’s totally new. I’ve had it for short bursts, over little accomplishments. This feels big, and solid. Like a river of lava flowing thru my life: huge, encompassing, and burning away all those truly inconsequential things that have been hampering me for so very long.

Thank you.

Blend me

There. Downtime taken. Not easy. I was super squirrelly. Couldn’t actually nap, but I rested as much as possible and applied arnica lotion to my bruises throughout the day. Kept getting little jolts of excitement every time I went online, seeing posts from my film friends and friend requests and happily confirmed friendships and DAMN! I’ve never felt like I’ve had this many friends before.

Those feelings from the set are still oozing out of me. No longer from my hands; that part is over. Now it oozes from my eyes, as I tear up thinking about how much fun we had. I just felt so included and wanted. I still do, because of the continued online explosion.

But today it’s back to reality. The big equalizer: scrubbing out the toilet. Doesn’t matter if you’re King or Shit-Sweeper; scrubbing out a toilet brings everyone down to the same level. There’s dishes to clean, garbage to take out, a few items to pick up at the store, laundry to shift around. Get up and get moving again at the gym. Try to keep it all light, drink juice, take a break if I need it.

I still don’t have my holiday lights up yet.

Winter has come to the Netherlands. It’s been here for several days, but I’ve been too busy to pay much attention. Hail, sleet, and snow rain down from the cold skies every day. We might even get a little accumulation before the day is out. Almost hope for it; some of my new friends are from warmer climates and they talked about wanting to see a real snow. 🙂 I refrained from saying anything about ‘real snows’ or drifts five feet high when they said that. Dutch snow, I can handle. Even if a lot comes down, it doesn’t stick around.

…Have to admit, my deepest dreams are for family members to notice my posts about the film and show some interest. Maybe say ‘well done!’ I’m not holding my breath. They’ve had 52 years to tell me ‘well done’, 52 years to support me doing what I love, and so far all they’ve offered me are half-assed jokes at my expense. But I’d be lying if I said any different. I want that recognition from them. I want my mother to be proud of me. I want my father to acknowledge my beauty. Even with both my parents dead, and voluntarily cutting myself off from the rest of the family, I still want it. There’s the saddest thing of all, because I know I’ll never get it. Not from my mother or father. Not from my oldest brother or sister. Not from any of my aunts or uncles on my mother’s side. The extended family from my father’s side has always supported me from the moment time I met them. That was my very first clue: here were family members who took me as family, shared their lives with me in words and pictures, and supported me. Said ‘wow!’ or ‘well done!’ or ‘I’m so excited for you!’ They barely know me – we’ve never actually met in person – and yet they are so much more open and loving than my real family. It told me so much.

And it made me so sad. Oh, I’m done asking why. At least for today. The why doesn’t bloody well matter in the end, does it? The only thing that ends up mattering is what the hell you’re going to do with the mess you got dealt in life.

I see now, in hind sight… Ach! I was going to start saying I should have this or that. Fuck that. I did what I did. Chose how I chose. It taught me things, things I wouldn’t have learned any other way. I’ll embrace that. It’s hard to say thanks for it. Felt like a lot of shit to go thru, but maybe that’s because I’m bull headed and stubborn.

For now, I feel inspired. Fired up with standing up and being noticed. Moving forward for reals. Feels like my feet are firmly planted on the ground. I’m not building castles in the air. I’m not living on pipe dreams. I’m doing. I’m being.

And while part of me wishes I could take this knowledge back to myself and change things, let me make this abundantly clear to the Universe and anyone who’s listening: I DON’T WANT TO GO AROUND AGAIN. I want to see and be in the now, take the joy I can, love who I trust, do what I’m meant to do.

Holy fuck. Am I saying I want to…live?

That word has new meaning for me now. Live used to mean exist. I existed. I put up with the pain. But there’s a whole other dimension to that word. To truly live. Wow. It’s an immense feeling.

I want to keep that feeling, even when I’m scrubbing out the toilet today. I’ll live it. It’s just a tiny seed in the huge fruit of life. It’s hard, and tasteless. You might hurt yourself if you bite down on it too hard. It might be a bit bitter tasting, or slimy, or just gross. Don’t eat it. Consume the fruit. Spit the seeds. Everyone’s been telling me that, in their own words. Stop focusing on all the bad in life. Look on the bright side. Why can’t you take a compliment? But I didn’t have enough fruit. I was getting all seeds. My life was a pomegranate. And I don’t like pomegranates.

I’d been eating life raw. Very raw, and with no help from a cheery television chef telling me how to make this shit edible. Now, it feels like I’ve got a fully stocked kitchen with all the latest gadgets and gizmos. Just hit a switch and all the work is done for you.

Go on; do it.

Blend me.

May I have another?

Behold, the knees. I’m on the left, with the grey socks. My 21 year old co-star is on the right. After cut was called yesterday, we went up to change clothes and compare bruises. Don’t know how many times we ended up doing the death scene, but as you can see, we put everything we had into it.

This has to rank as the number one experience of my life. Been trying to think what might even come close to topping it, and I’m drawing a blank. The dedication of these young film makers – barely any sleep, push, push, and keep a great attitude. The sheer professionalism of them, from the camera work to the thought behind the shots. And damn! They were all so nice. I think I’m in love with each and every one of them.

That love translated into good work. When it came time for the big scene I drew it up – the tears, the despair over watching as your own child turns and kills you. Time after time. It was right there, behind my belly-button, and all it took was a bit of breathing. M, my costar, locked eyes as I went into it. And the further I went, the further she went. We began to feed off each other – the kind of thing you hear about on celebrity talk shows. The room faded, the crew were a background noise. It was the two of us, staring into each other’s eyes, falling into a world of pain and torment. And it. was. glorious. The best work I’ve ever been able to do, because everyone around me was that good.

…To be able to do that… To have an opportunity like that… I can’t even BEGIN to tell you how much it means to me.

Oh, Goddess! And to work with an actor who could match me!! That was another world. Gone were any inhibitions, any doubts. Had the director asked us to strip naked to do the shot, I think we could have without blinking an eye. That’s how intense and personal it was.

My hands never stopped leaking an oily sweat the entire shoot. That was the mania: uncontrolled, and oozing out of me even when I didn’t want it. But I didn’t shake. I didn’t falter. I didn’t back down or compromise. And it all got funneled into the role.

And there’s a story within a story here. Because not only was the shoot itself fabulous, the time around the shoot was fabulous, too. We did the filming at the home of the casting director, and her parents were around for most of the time. Her father honored me several times – he tried my homemade cordial for my voice, loved it, and promptly shoved some money in my hands to buy two bottles. He shared a family photo album of a trip to India. He spoke to me of his daughter, and his life. And his daughter! Oh, she’s a bright one! Found myself, as usual, spilling my guts in that no-nonsense way I seem to have these days. She said, ‘It’s kind of like therapy for you, isn’t it? I can tell by the way you say these things’. And yes, she’s right. I knew that a while ago. She’s just the first person to bring it up. She also told me how difficult it was for her to think of me as 52. ‘You’re very young. Like part of you hasn’t aged at all.’

Oh, I’d love to spend more time with her, and with her family! Good people. Straight talk, unafraid to say those things that need saying. Unafraid to hear what I have to say.

…I’ve had a taste of being a film star. Not just in name, but truly being a film star. Because it’s not what you do, it’s how people treat you that makes all the difference. I can only assume this translates into whatever field you study; that finally getting the accolades and notice you’ve worked so hard for always feels this good. I have been passed over so much – wait! I’ve allowed myself to be passed over so much! better! – , and these past two days are a big wake-up call on that front. Gratitude. Real gratitude for who I am and what I do. I feel accepted. In full, and without having to apologize for my weird sense of humor or the funny voices that sometimes burst out of me or anything else I do.

This is amazing. Absolutely amazing.

And all I want to do is fall down on my very bruised knees and scream THANK YOU! at the top of my lungs because prayer is far too quiet for what I feel.

This is me, actualized. In total. Giving it my all. Burning the way I know I was made to burn. Not turned away. Not ignored because other people were uncomfortable or didn’t know what to do or say. I was watched. I was admired – and TOLD. I was – dare I say it? – loved as much as I loved. I saw it and felt it. I was hugged not because that’s what you do at the end of filming, but because our emotions were overbrimming, because we knew we’d all shared something special and unique.

…I’ve no real plans, other than showering and babying my injuries. Thinking of maybe making a surprise visit on Monday to the set. I still owe the casting director’s dad a bottle of my cordial, and, well… As I was saying good-bye, and telling everyone how sad I was that it was over, someone said ‘you could always come visit on Monday’ and that’s just been turning in my brain overnight. I could see everyone again. Take care of the cordial, and pick up the lights. Drop off my expenses.

The more I consider it, the more reasons I find for going one more time.

Thank you. May I have another?

Bliss

For the first time in my life, I have to (gulp) admit to the reality of my mother’s fears. I could have got a big head doing this. A really big head.

I was admired, complimented, and helped to within a hair’s breadth of my life.

Got there early because, well, that’s what I do. Always, if possible. The director was working on script changes. In 20 minutes I had a new script in my hands. Essentially the same, but the group couldn’t find a fake hand that looked good, so they changed it to brains. So, arms to brains, move around the eye references a bit…basically, screw with the dialogue just enough to make it maddening. No worries; that’s what rehearsal is for, right? Use the new script and learn it. Met my fellow cast members, and I’ve got to say the group did an excellent job. The female playing my daughter has my blue eyes, and the man playing my husband is appropriate looking age-wise and body-wise (not to tall nor too short). We could be a family. Spent the afternoon running scenes, trying out different approaches, different timing and actions. Worked on establishing a believable connection between daughter and mother characters.

But it was the side stuff that truly affected me. The fact that during the rehearsal runs, I received no corrections, no ‘try this’ – nothing! – while the other actors were asked to do it again, try this, I don’t believe you’re feeling that, etc. In fact, I just had to ask. Is this working? Do you like what I’m doing? Oh, the shiny, happy face the director turned to me! Yes, he said, I love it. You’re believable and creepy all at the same time. Or how silent the room became every time I opened my mouth to give my opinion. Or how everyone stepped back when I offered a suggestion to another actor. How the casting director took me shopping afterwards to find a dress for my role, how she told me she’d noticed me during the theatre open meetings, that I’d stood out from the rest of the crowd immediately for her, that I was SO bleeding good and would I please help the other actors and lead them in warm-up exercises before the shoot? Goddess! She even told me how she was the driving force behind hiring me, even before auditions. I kept telling them they want you, that you’re the one who can do this, she said. They kept asking me, why are you pushing her before the auditions? Let’s see what she can do. I told them they don’t know who they’re dealing with, that they should be thanking you for taking the role… Or how my ‘daughter’ automatically helped me in our fight scene to gracefully fall to the floor without hurting myself. The sheer respect I felt! Wow! Now I know why old white men fight so hard for that chairman’s seat on the board of directors. Power and respect. Heady stuff.

I kept in mind everything I ever said about having acting opportunities. I made sure to compliment the other actors. I thanked everyone. Cracked a few jokes now and then (it wasn’t hard; my wig kept falling off) to make everyone laugh. Be not just a good actor, but a good person to have working on your team because she’s pleasant, nice, and just fun to be around.

Was told that of course there’s an opening night to which I’m invited. Hells Bells! From what I heard yesterday, it sounds like this is a very serious final project. They’re going to be advertising on tv. The school also hosts an awards night for best this and that, including actors (the casting director told me this with a knowing tone in her voice, as if she felt I really had a chance at winning an award).

This is bigger than I anticipated. …What did I fall into? A dream?

…No, it’s not a dream. My feet hurt too much for it to be a dream.

Scheduled for two hard days of filming, Thursday and Friday. Hopefully they won’t need me on Monday, but we have that, too, if we need it. Most of all, I’m worried about sweating. Can tell I’m off my exercise schedule; my hot flashes are back with a vengeance. And the wig is hot. The dress is hot. I’m just really, really hot the entire time. In some ways, that’s working for me. I can’t get too excited right now when I’m in costume or I’ll sweat all my make-up off. But it’s a forced calm, and that takes effort in itself.

Really need to use my mini-break today to get to the gym. Stood for most of yesterday, and my hips/back are feeling it. Add in hours of travel on the metro, and I need to move for sure today or I’ll be in agony by Saturday. Also need to meet the casting director downtown. Overheard a concerned discussion on lighting, and offered up our two LED stage lights. My bro mentioned them earlier, and here was an opportunity to ‘shine’ (ha!) just that bit more with the group. So I’m bringing them downtown to her, since she’s traveling from Den Haag. Easier. Meet half way. And it goes on my expense account.

Did not smoke yesterday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And it was only on the trip home that I even thought about it. Then, I wanted it. Before then…never even crossed my mind. Who needed a toke during all that excitement and fun? I had a reason to stay sharp and clear, a reason to stay sober. Everything I expected from myself. Get me into an environment I can truly engage in, and I don’t even think about smoking.

Two more days of standing. Two more days of heat. Of early mornings and a plastered, false smile. Of false eyelashes, a dress that’s a little tighter than I want, and nylons.

Ah! Bliss.

A breath is all you need

Rehearsal today. Ten a.m. to 4 in Den Haag. Bring stuff, think, do my best, stay healthy! Mantras and mania; that’s my morning. Mania takes over – tense muscles, holding my breath. Then the mantras kick in, mostly: let it go, let it go. Whatever I’ve forgotten or failed to do by this point doesn’t matter. I have a long day ahead of me, with plenty of stress.

My hair will be played with. My face will be painted. I’ll be screamed at, choked, slapped, and asked to repeat lines ad infinitum.

Take no body issues with you! You are just a piece of marble. A sculpture called ‘actor’. This is the way you were carved; live with it. Use it, even. You can do things now that you were incapable of 30 years ago. Remember that.

Nodding. Frozen smile. Slow blinks. Got it.

Focus…

Wish I could have a look at the shooting script. It would tell me so much, like will my feet show? Where are the close-ups? How will we break the scenes? None of that is known right now, so I feel a bit unsure. I like to be prepared, but truth is, there’s only so much prep you can do for a film. Last minute changes are legendary. Best to have a good basis but not be entrenched in your ideas. I think I’m there.

Uploaded, formatted, and sent part three of the thriller off to the director. Did it yesterday morning, and paid for it with a headache that lasted all day long. Seems Celtx works for me now; I created three stage plays in my folder. Now I can load up parts one and two, and begin real work. Plus I get to keep them there, on my workspace, to modify as needed while the group works.

Turned in my kid’s story in Dutch. Or, what I have so far. Ugh. Made a million mistakes, and I know it. For one, found out for the VERY first time yesterday that the ‘u’ form is always handled as a single person, even if it means a large group. Really? Good Goddess! Now there’s a rule that wasn’t made clear to me when I first learned it. Well, that adds about three thousand errors to the kid’s story, because I used ‘u’ throughout. Fuck. Also, I keep writing ‘loopte’ rather than ‘liep’. Damned irregular verb! And it’s one that catches me out ALL THE FLIPPING TIME because ‘lopen’ (verb, ‘to walk’) is used so much. Add another several hundred mistakes to that story…

Still. Even with all those errors and rookie mistakes, my writing is improving.

Putting the rest of writing – even thinking of writing – in the closet. It’ll come out next week, when all this hub-bub is over and done with. Not the easiest to do. The writer is exploding with confidence, wanting to push out even more. Telling her to do her thing in the corner. Figure out what she needs to figure out. When it’s her turn again, her work will go that much quicker.

In the meantime, the rest of me is facing out. Looking at people. Interacting as well as acting. Listen to what they say. Think about your words. Be kind, be supportive. Most of all, be gentle with others and with yourself.

Gods. This is gonna go on the entire metro ride, you know. The repetitive pep talk. The calming reminders. And I’ll sit there, alone, with a small smile on my face, nodding and blinking. Over and over again. …Yeah, like that won’t look strange!

At least I’ve trained myself long enough to be fully alert at this hour. Ready for breakfast, even. That’s new.

Last minute list: things to bring. Water, juice, a bottle of my cordial. Wig, apron, jewelry, make-up. Script. Paper and pen. Hair stuff, teeth cleaning stuff, pain killers, phone. Sanity.

Excited. At that ready to jump spot; just point me in the right direction. I feel like a racer waiting for the starter gun.

Didn’t put money on my ov chip card. Should have enough to get up there; can always add more there. It’s a big station. They’ll take cash somewhere.

Let it go, let it go

There’s a quiet spot in me that’s been growing stronger and stronger. A calm in the storm. Somewhere I can reach to, close my eyes, and breathe. Don’t know how I’m doing it, but I’m thankful. It doesn’t work for a long time. Sometimes the calm only lasts during the breath I take.

But sometimes, a breath is all you need.

Who you are

Four a.m. is a lonely time. I suppose if you see four a.m. because you’re still up partying it doesn’t seem so lonely. But getting up that early is another matter. It’s dark – nighttime dark. And cold, and quiet. If I needed the time to tease a story out of me, it would be perfect.

Instead, I’m just re-setting my time clock: live normally, only a few hours earlier. That’s what makes it lonely. Get up alone, eat breakfast alone, spend hours alone because I’m off of the rest of the world.

Really makes me feel for those third shift people out there.

Another call from the casting director, with an apology for calling me on a Saturday. Ah, the Dutch! Even if the world was about to split apart, they’d apologize for bothering you with it on a Saturday. Called to see if I could make rehearsal on Tuesday. We need to test make-up and hair, check the dress she’s got for me, meet, greet, and rehearse with the rest of the cast, talk, and take care of whatever else comes up. Yep. Expected as much, and ready for it. Dug out my mother’s wedding ring and my pearl necklace. Finally! A chance to use them.

Me: played Susie Housemaker and cooked up dinner. Usually that’s my bro’s job, but Saturday is his comic day, so it fell to me. Didn’t need to do much, but I kept thinking about the role: she would make a full dinner. She would do it and be happy about it. She would lay out the table, make hot bread, think three steps ahead and be serving up the food the moment people walked in the house. So I did just that, to get in her skin.

Also spent time in front of the mirror. Usually, the only time I look in the mirror is to fix my hair or brush my teeth. Now I’m trying out smiles and small nods. I’ve determined the key to this role: I can’t move my eyebrows. She is cool as cool; as the old saying goes, butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. And so, always a smooth brow. A small, almost sad smile: look how much I do every moment for you! It’s both believable and surreal – too real to be fake and too off to be completely comfortable with. Keeping my eyebrows still is a challenge. I’ve the kind of face that moves with expression, and in my natural state I’ve been told many a time I could never play poker well. My eyebrows jump and twitch. I can feel them doing vaults over my eyes – in particular, that right eyebrow raised to a pitched arch with my left eyebrow steady and glowering. Yes. I speak with my damned eyebrows. …Like right there, when I realized there was no more coffee. Pop, went that right eyebrow. Really and truly? Hm. That’s a shame. She doesn’t do that. Smooth forehead. Slow turns of the head. Slow blinking, even. Been practicing it. I like the way it looks in the mirror. Hope the director likes it, too.

Chilled yesterday in between bursts of Susie H. Felt I deserved it and that it was warranted. I did well on my audition, and I need to conserve my strength (which means relaxing when I can). Today I want to walk at the gym and get thru my Dutch homework. Also want to prep for Den Haag. I might need to head up there on Wednesday, as well. Sure that will depend on how Tuesday goes. Must make sure I get laundry done; it’ll be my last opportunity before next weekend. Trying to keep my cuticles under control and my nails neat. Do a last check for earrings; haven’t found any I felt were appropriate.

Things I really should invest in: a pair of natural looking false eyelashes. A pair of pumps, for a (ugh) dress. A new bra or two. Pantyhose. Earrings. Maybe some make-up that isn’t so garish. All could be used for the film, and I don’t have any of it. Seems a bit weird. The shoes, anyway. But I gave up on all that. Stopped caring so much. I am me. I shouldn’t have to window dress myself like that. Groom myself, yes. Take care with my appearance, sure. But paint myself up with poisons and dead animals? Throw my back and hips out of balance by tip-toeing on some impossibly high shoes? Hell no! That’s…insecurity. What about you makes you feel you have to do that? It’s not comfortable. It’s not healthy. I just don’t get it.

She, of course, gets it. She lives it. And so I must change. Drop my attitude and embrace hers. I’m not going to torture my feet with pumps all week, but I will try to remember that’s the way she lives. I did it at one point in my life. The memories are there. And I fully expect to be handed a pair of shoes to wear. If I can wear my sneakers because my feet won’t show, I will. But I’ll think pumps.

…I sometimes wonder how much of this is me. I am very visceral, and must do to learn. Want to know what madness is like? Go there. I am also a parrot, picking up gestures and phrases and mimicking them back. Right at this moment, I can’t think of one thing I do or say that I haven’t seen or heard done by someone else. I am not original. I’m just kind of an idiot savant at parroting back exactly the right thing at the right time to the right person. A spliced together sound and vid file that seems to answer you with the appropriate response.

What’s underneath all the learned bits? That’s what I keep asking.

Time to anchor myself solidly again, before I drift off into another persona.

Punk. Toker. Joker. Brilliant. Powerful. Feminist. Person. Student. Teacher.

That’s who you are.

Film star

Wow. I was gonna do some improv… I thought the dialogue wasn’t that good. But you…somehow, you made those words sound natural. I don’t know how you did that.

That was the director, yesterday afternoon. Truth is, I was made to stand in front of three 20 something year olds and forced to listen to compliments. Yes! Torture. The casting director told me how, when she first heard from the theatre group that someone was interested, she prayed – prayed – that it was me. I heard how blown away they were that I’d memorized the dialogue. How brilliant my delivery was, how perfect I was, how wonderful and amazing everything that came out of my mouth was.

The ego is stroked, people! WOW! Is this the way other people feel? I mean…good about themselves? Is this how other people can have such a positive outlook on life – because they allow themselves to hear the compliments and really take them in? Because there’s no one in their lives raining on their parade, telling them they’re not really good or successful because of whatever reason? Is this success? Self confidence? …Even self-like? (Won’t go so far as to say self-love, but self-like is a big step for me.)

I knew I had it. The call that came in at 8 in the evening to tell me I had it was anti-climatic.

So, to business. I’ve three days of filming in Den Haag. Going to have to be there by 7 or 8 in the morning, so I’m prepping now by getting my ass out of bed at 5. Get used to those early hours again. The script is in flux, as most film scripts are right up to the point they shoot the scenes. I was told they’re thinking of doing it straighter, hold back on the creep factor (which, apparently, I nailed as well). The casting director wants me in a dress; I was asked my dress size and a full body picture was requested. Don’t yet know if I’ll be wearing a blond wig or going natural, but I was told to expect make-up and hair preparations. Ooo! I’ll feel like a real film star. There may be rehearsals as well, so my three days in Den Haag might stretch to four or five.

For moi, it’s taking care of the animal. Getting to the gym to walk each day – no push, no pull, just walk. Keep the back in shape. Take my vitamins and pills. Get to bed, hopefully a bit earlier each night to help me thru these 5 am wake-ups. Stay calm, and focused. Do what I can to combat the bags under my eyes.

Because I was also told the group’s teacher was a working film director who has worked on many Dutch films. Ding! There’s my in. He’ll see my work no matter what; he’s the one who’s got to grade it. Have a little fantasy of going to the screening – film students always have screenings, even if it’s only at their school – and their teacher comes up to me. Ah! he says. You do wonderful work! You know, I know of someone who could use you… And the next day I’m contacted by someone who’s in the biz, who’s offering me a small part with pay. Which leads to another part, and another part, and bigger paychecks all the way along.

I like that fantasy.

…You know, for a 52 year old woman who’s spent a long time in rural situations far from the glitz and glamour of movie-lands throughout the world AND who doesn’t have an agent, I think starring in my second film is pretty damned impressive. No matter how you want to cut it up: it’s a student thing, I’m not getting paid, blah-de-blah. It’s still fucking impressive.

And I get to miss another week of language lessons. We’re filming next Thursday and the following Monday. My Monday teachers will get the full news, along with what is now an 11 page hand written kid’s story in Dutch (not yet finished). My Thursday teacher will get an SMS on Wednesday telling her I’m not coming. No reason given; I don’t want to waste the money on my phone and I don’t know how to correctly write it all out.

I feel like a kid. Not only do I get to go, dress up and pretend to be someone else for three days, I get out of school for it.

…Oh. For the record: I went relaxed, but took everything with me. A change of clothes, some make-up, jewelry, and the wig. Had occasion to laugh heartily on the trip there: I was waiting at Beurs metro station for my connection when the casting director called and asked me if I could bring the wig along, just for the director to see what I looked like as a blond. Sure, I said, knowing it was in the bag at my feet. Got there, loads of time, no stress, no worry, with the easiest possible path there and zero confusion on directions (even without buying a map). Into the bathroom to get my hair tied up and under the wig. Damn! Was I pleased I’d brought along a change of clothes! Huge sweat stains under my arms. Change the shirt, put on the wig, darken my eyebrows…even had time to just sit in the lobby and acclimate myself to the hair. All in all, no, I didn’t need that extra time but I’m VERY happy I built it in.

Now it’s a weekend of mirror work. Tilt my head, smile, try different facial expressions. Keep running the scenes each day for memory’s sake.

‘Cause a week from today, I’ll be a film star.