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A New Year’s Redirection

Hey everybody,

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

You know those things people do at the beginning of each year, new year’s whatchamacallems, readjustments, redirections, resolutions?

Resolutions!

You know, those?

Well, I’m going to make one now,

I’ll probably fail miserably because it scares me but I’m going to try.

At least for a couple days.

I’m going to try to make some actual human connections.

The virtual world is all fine and dandy and shit because I feel like I’m sharing in your lives because I know what you’re doing based on your posts.

It’s a connection.

But it’s pseudo-connection.

Last year before I wished you all a Happy New Year, I looked through my friends and I felt good thinking about you and what you mean to me.

This is what I said on December 31st, 2014;

 

“I just went through my friend list, all 771 of you, and I smiled a lot.
I did that because I want to wish you all a Happy New Year.
But I want to make sure I know who I’m wishing it to.
Now I do.
Thanks a lot to all of you.
And HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”

 

And I still feel like that.

But some things happened this year, one of them today.

I lost five friends, Tom Towles, Dan Taylor, Dan Fante, Fred Pittman, and Fred Ochs.

I liked them all. A lot. Maybe even loved.

I had experiences with them all, real world experiences, but it’s been a while since I’ve spoken with any of them.

And now I won’t be able to

That sucks.

So I’m going to try to have some real world experiences with you.

Probably not all of you because, you know, I’d have to hang out with two of you a day every single day all year long and still not go through all of you.

But I want to at least try a little.

Because I went through my friends list earlier today and did the same thing I did last year, looked at your faces and smiled thinking about you.

Thanks.

And HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

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CTS.

My pal says what we, the CTS family, think.
Thanks, Sarah.

CTS.

CTS..

Before I open my eyes in the morning, my first thoughts are, “What are you doing? You’ve wasted your life! You’re too old! Do you still think you have time or smarts to make something of yourself?”

Then I wake up.

Then, when I’m completely alone, the same thoughts start happening again, only way louder and clearer.

It’s exhausting being this self-critical, having this much of a deep seated sense of valuelessness. Despite whatever modicum of success I attain (?), I’m convinced it’s either a total fluke or a smart assed universe that wants me to get comfortable with this ‘success’, only to yank it away.

So imagine my surprise when my friend, Alex, asked me to guest blog for her telling people how I’ve ‘done it’.

We talked about it and I said I was really uncomfortable doing that because I don’t think I have any advice to give any body. She said, “Just tell them what you do, not what they should do.”

What the heck, here you go. Do with it what you will.

This essay is due yesterday. I’m just getting to it now. But it will be ready for her, even though I’ve spent the last three weeks putting it off, because like I said, I don’t have anything to say about it. But I said I would so I’m going to.

That’s a big part of it, doing what I say I’m going to do. I don’t always but when I don’t it hurts me because my word and my deed are all I have any control over.

I wrote a play once, “Soul Mates from Hell”, and Alex was one of the leads in it. The idea had been floating around in my head for years, the result of a drunken conversation I was having with my ex-wife when she wasn’t and I said we were soul mates. From hell. It was sort of funny at the time, but true. Then we got divorced and I went through some personal demons and got to the other side and I started doing some writing and got into acting and the idea stayed there. The studio I’m a part of, Carter Thor Studio, which is just amazing, did plays. I asked if I can put one up. They asked me what it was about. It was still a germ of an idea but they sounded kind of interested and said I could. When they asked me for two dates when I wanted to put it up, I said the one date as far in the future as I could and the other date  just before that. And it got written, it got cast, it got rehearsed, it got produced, and it got performed. Because I did what I said I was going to do. You want to talk about self-doubt and loud voices in my head? This was an extremely raw autobiographical piece about my life when I went through those personal demons I was talking about. But I did it.

It was well received, it showed me I could actually write, it showed me I had a voice and a point view. In spite of my total lack of worth.

The other thing I do is I do. Every ounce of self doubt I have, every screaming voice in my head telling me I’m an idiot for even thinking I can, every time I try to get someone else to tell me how great I am and they don’t because they want me to get a real job because this acting thing is never, ever going to work out or they do but it’s obviously a lie because, like the voices keep telling me, I suck, in spite of all that, I do. I write (not enough) and I act (not enough) and I audition (not enough) and I try to live a creative life (nowhere near enough). I keep plugging along.

When I first started acting, I put together a resume of the scenes I’d been doing in class and the extra work I did in friends’ films and I got some headshots and started submitting myself to everything. I started auditioning for student films and that terrified me. But I kept doing it. The first thing I submitted for was for a Palestinian father. I thought, I’m Palestinian, I’m a father. This should be a no brainer. This was in the old days when you mailed out your head shot. I expected the guy I sent it to would see it and cast me immediately. That’s not what happened. Three weeks later, I was still waiting for a phone call. I swear to God, I was going to quit acting right then, but I finally got the call and I went in and I auditioned and I booked it.

And for over five years I kept doing the student film work, the scenes they recorded for their classes and the scenes they did live in class and the short films they made, I just kept doing it.

And I learned. I learned how to audition and I learned what a mark was and how to stand on it and I learned what back to one meant and I learned about making movies.

I worked for free for a very long time but it allowed me to gain experience and put together a reel and how to have a point of view.

Then I started going in for paying stuff. I remember when I got paid $20.00 to be an extra in a short film I don’t remember. I remember when I did my first TV show and they paid me $50.00 for a few hours work and somebody I know in Florida saw me in it. I remember when I got $100.00 a day for five days to be the lead in a short film. I made $500.00! ACTING! I remember when I did my first ‘real’ TV show, The Unit, written by David Mamet. I got to speak David Mamet’s words for a character that they hired me to play so no one else will ever say them. And then I started doing other TV shows and movies and plays and sketch comedy and, in spite of the voices I still have every single morning, I’m getting better at it.

Because I just keep doing it.

I hope this helped.

And thank you, Alex Choi, for asking me to write it.

Help a Brother Out!

You know what I do? I’m an actor.

You know what else I do? I sell cars.

Here’s the thing, I know my sense of worth, my self-esteem, my validation, come from within. I know my destiny is no one else’s responsibility. I know that all I can do is the best job I can and it’s not up to anyone else to prop me up.

But, for God’s sake, give a guy a break.

I’m in two different careers that are riddled with rejection. I’m an actor and I’m a car salesman.

It made my stomach hurt writing it.

You know what else I am? I’m a Palestinian-Muslim-American.

And finally, I’m a single middle aged man who has become invisible.

Come on!

I’m a walking, pulsating, quivering ball of insecurity, wrapped in some weird cloak of seeming self-confidence.

It’s hard.

Some of it I chose and some of it chose me but it is, ultimately, who and what I am.

You know what would come in really handy?

A mentor.

A guide.

A champion.

Here’s the fourth definition of champion on dictionary.com:

“A person who fights for or defends any person or cause.”

This idea has been floating around in my head for a while now, some sense that we need someone in our corner, someone to believe in us when it feels like we’ll never do anything or be anyone or accomplish what, in our moments of faith, we’re convinced we’re capable of.

And someone to remind us to have humility and appreciation and gratitude when we do accomplish to our capacity.

Someone who fights us for us and defends us to us.

I don’t want someone to tell me how great I am or tell me that I’ll never succeed. I don’t want a group of yes men or naysayers.

What I do want is honest feedback with constructive criticism and a heart-felt pat on the back.

I gotta tell you, I love doing it for others. I love to see their successes and I’m honored when my advice is asked for and it helps. And when it happens to me, it makes it easier for me to do it for others. It makes me feel like I’m a part of a community. It makes me feel more secure. It let’s me know someone cares for me.

And I love it when I get it, like when Blake coaches me for an audition or I get a seemingly painful note from Cameron in acting class that ultimately makes me a better actor. Or when I am counseled on how to be more effective as a car salesperson by my colleagues and bosses.

Or even when I get lessons that make me feel stupid for not already knowing them or  knowing them and not using them or forgetting them.

Ultimately, it’s up to me. It succeeds or fails on me.

But it sure is nice to have someone in my corner to help get me there.

 

 

 

HAVE FUN!

A friend arranged a read through of a play in my apartment. A group of fellow storytellers were all here.  As actors do, we discussed acting and auditioning and the inability to book a gig because of nervousness in the audition process. A friend thought it would be a good idea to do a process on it.

The process he was talking about is something this cult I’m a part of  suggests we do when we’re struggling with something. What it  comes down to is this:

Who or what it is, what he/she/it does, how it makes me feel, and most importantly, what my part in it is.

Here goes.

Who/what it is: The audition process.

What it does: Makes me nervous, therefore not relaxed and incapable of showing my ability.

How it makes me feel: Like a loser, incapable of doing what I think I changed my life to do. Afraid, because I feel like I really need the job to validate myself. Nervous, because almost every time I go in, I feel like I’m flubbing the audition. Like a failure, because I always feel like a failure, even when I should know what I’m doing.

My part in it: Caring too much if I get it. Not doing the best job I can without an expectation of a result. Putting too much pressure on myself to get the job instead of enjoying myself. Not letting my personality out. Giving “them” too much control over my life. Not having fun.

Not having fun is the biggest part of this thing. All the other parts of it that are mine come from not having fun. When I have fun, it’s the doing of it that is the reason for it. If it’s the job or the impressing them or the self imposed pressure, then it’s not fun. I need to tell myself before every audition to have fun, to remind myself why I’m there. If I’m there for any other reason, I’m destined to fail at it. This is what I used to tell my salespeople. Have fun! If I’m having fun, all the other facets of my personality come gushing out.  I can’t separate my life from my work and I have no control over who says yes to me but I can HAVE FUN! Nothing is that fucking important.

It all happens the way it’s supposed to. All I can do is to take the next indicated appropriate action and leave the results to God/the Universe.

I feel like I’m fifteen again. It sucks. It sucks because when I was fifteen, there was a girl who worked in the Jack in the Box close to the gas station I worked at who I had a crush on.

I steeled myself to do something that’s hard to do, put myself out there in an attempt to connect with another human being. Okay, yeah, there’s a sexual component, but only from the perspective of the initial attraction on which we build a long term relationship. I have two ex-wives and a few ex-girlfriends that started that way.

Anyway, I walked over to the Jack in the Box, ordered a Jumbo Jack Meal, and tried some small talk. We talked for a minute, she handed me my meal, and, with time running out, I blurted, “Do you want to go see a movie or something?”

She looked at me for what seemed like an hour. You know that look, like, “What rock did you climb out from under?” Like, “Who the hell do you think you are to ask me a question like that?” Like, “I’d rather stick my head in the French fryer than be in the same room with you.” Like, “If they weren’t paying me, I’d spit in your food. And I may have anyway.” And then she said, “No.”

It was devastating as only being blown off by the object of your affections can be devastating. But it wasn’t the girl, it was the blow off. The rejection was a decision that said I had no value, that I wasn’t worthy of her attention, that she’d rather stick her head in a French fryer than be in the same room with me. That’s a tough thing to face when you’re fifteen.

It put me off girls for a while. Like five years.

I got a little older, a little better looking, a little more self-confident.

I guess I got over it because, like I said, I have a couple ex-wives and a few ex-girlfriends.

Fast forward three plus decades and it just happened again, just like when I was fifteen. Déjà vu all over again.

I got divorced ten years ago so I figured maybe it was time to start dating again. I didn’t want to be inappropriate by starting to date too early. Plus I figured ten years is enough time to give the ex a chance to see how she made a mistake kicking me out. I guess she doesn’t have the same clarity about it I do.

I haven’t dated in a while, fourteen years of marriage and ten years of post marriage. That’s a really long time but I figure it’s like riding a bike.

So, anyway, back into the dating pool I try to jump.

There’s this woman I’ve known for a few years. I’ve always had a little crush on her. We were having a conversation and I asked her how she was feeling and she said she was doing okay. Then she said she felt like she didn’t think she was ever going to date again.

I know an opening when I see one.

“Do you want to go see a movie or something?”

She looked at me and laughed. She looked at me. And laughed.

“Why is that funny?  Why is me asking you if you want to go see a movie or something funny? I don’t understand.”

She stared at me for a moment and realized I was serious, I guess, and said, “Okay, I’ll go see a movie but I won’t sleep with you.”

What the fuck?

Here’s the thing, we all have an image of ourselves, a sort of a societal caste system, but I don’t think it’s clearly defined. I think that we think we’re in different classes than others think we’re in. I think we think we’re in a much higher caste level than we are, immediately followed by the idea that we’re so far out of our league that security is going to bum rush us out the door for being that close to the person we’re trying to ask out. At least, I do. Maybe the confidence I hear about in others is their ability to hang out with anybody, to date anybody, to be friends with anybody, to feel like they belong anywhere.

I used to be able to do that, to feel like I belong anywhere. I wonder what happened. Is it age? Is it not being where I think I “should be” in my life? Is it feeling financially inadequate? Is it a sense that there’s some mad dash into a mortality that is getting a whole shit  load closer than it was five years or twelve years or twenty-two years or three plus decades ago?

Just like the first time, it wasn’t the girl. Truth is, it wasn’t even the blow off. It was a bright light being shone on my own insecurities.

And that’s not her, it’s me.

I want to say I need to regain the confidence I used to have but that’s not it.

What it is comes down to an acceptance of who I am and, if a person I ask out says no, it’s not a decision about me, it’s something that just happens.

“Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like noone’s watching. Sing like noone’s listening. Live like there’s no tomorrow.”

Or figure out where I stand in the societal caste system and accept my position.

By the way, it’s been a year since my last essay and it’s all Alexandra Choi’s fault. This woman writes a blog every single week. For the past year and a half! I gave up because I figured I couldn’t do that then I decided that if she can do it every single week, I can at least try for once a year.

If you want to read Diary of  a Thriving Actress, here’s the link:

http://www.girlwhereyouat.blogspot.com/