The Light Fandango
A few weeks ago, a friend posted a beautiful quote on Facebook. It’s from Island by Aldous Huxley, a book I read a couple years ago and loved.
"It's dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you're feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That's why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling.."
Proud that I recognized the quote (hello, ego), I liked the status, spent a moment reflecting on Huxley’s words, and moved on.
But these words have been simmering in the back of my mind ever since. You see, when you choose to be an artist, to be independent and creative and free, you also may end up buying into more than you bargained for. Being a “creative type” comes with its own set of rules and assumptions, and they can be every bit as restrictive as being chained to a desk 40 hours a week (not that everyone finds that restrictive- we can be shackled in any circumstances).
Part of what actors/artists seem to cling to is the struggle and the sacrifice required to make art. (This has already been and will continue to be the topic of many long conversations in my life- whether struggle is necessary to make art and so on. But suffice it to say, at least part of this drama, in my opinion, helps propagate the idea that being a starving artist is glamorous in some way. Not quite. That’s all I’ll say on that for now.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something to the effect of “You should only be an artist if there’s nothing else in this world that you could possibly do with your life.” Portrayed as the ultimate sacrifice, making art seems to ask for nothing less than an all-consuming passion of body and mind, heart and soul
I. took 5 months off from auditioning last year. When I returned, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about diving back in. Happily, I discovered I still had a great love and passion for performing, and I rededicated myself to singing, dancing, and acting in constructive ways that have helped me progress in the last 6 months or so. Great, wonderful, happy times.
But what I didn’t realize was that when I took up the mantle of actively working on my craft, I unknowingly shouldered this “do or die” attitude as well. And it made everything so heavy. All my work, success in the audition room, whether I booked a job- I kind of put my life on hold, waiting to see if this would all pan out. If I, at 30 years old, was going to continue down the path of artistry, choosing to put that ahead of financial stability, and perhaps other life goals as well, then it had better be because THIS WAS THE ONLY CHOICE I HAD. It had to matter SO MUCH in order for me to justify the choice. I had to live and die by whether I booked a job. Falling short had to make me miserable, because that was how deeply I cared. If I didn’t care that deeply, then I didn’t deserve to be an artist and I should just give up now.
It’s amazing what a few small words, working on your subconscious mind, can help you realize.
I’ve come to terms with this in my yoga practice, and I think the same is happening with my love for theater. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My love gets to be mine, and I get to express it, and feel it, and manage it in any way I see fit. I don’t have to cry or be sad if I don’t have a summer job, just so everyone knows how much I love being an actor. I know. And instead of turning my relationship into a co-dependent one, where I’m always waiting for my lover to disappoint me, I can stand on my own and let some of the joy back in. Feel it all, but lightly. I’m an artist. The only person who needs to believe in that is me. And at the same time, I’m so much more.