From the set of ‘Silenced’ by James Barris
In the past few months, I got to see Coney Island for the first time. I got to sit in a hospital room through the night with my mother. I got to see my son build his own game controller. I got to talk and share and feel for hours with a fantastic boy.
In the past few months, I’ve also had to give up at least six acting jobs. A combination of:
-getting cast and then turning now the part (surefire way to never get to work with that company again; and that was an incredible part. This is one that still stings.)
-scheduling several auditions and then cancelling
-being outright offered roles and refusing them
I look back with at least a little regret and anger at all those. Pointless but there’s truth and lies. Them is the truths.
Now, as I started many paragraphs and bulleted lists ago, I was able to do some important and very worthy things. I got to spend a weekend in the city of my heart, NYC and see my favorite band. I got to see my son run in waves at the beach. And then I got to rescue him from the airport when his return trip from his father’s wedding when ridiculously awry.
I couldn’t have done any of those things if I had been in rehearsals for a play or on set.
I look back on those choices and I’m fine with what I picked. No regret or anger. Them is also the truths.
I wonder if I’m just justifying. Rationalizing. Piling on the horseshit high and wide.
That’s not impossible.
Maybe because I’m not getting cast or because life and it’s collars forced me back out of parts I could do, that I feel a compunction to tell a story. A story where I’d rather feel ineffectual and irrelevant as an artist than feel guilty for being an absent and selfish parent.
Maybe I just want to feel good about myself. So I spin a story about stepping away intentionally from my world of self, when it could be they pushed me off stage for being a cheap hack. I’m not the best actor.
Poor guy isn’t the best masker either.
Cause look at this kid.
I make this exact face every day. He often hates doing things out in the world with people. Just like I do. And I love him for it.
He made me a birthday cake. Something I could not have seen if I hadn’t turned down a recent acting offer.
I’m a mom. This is what I do. You give up the last slice of cake and you turn down leading roles in classic plays.
What worries me, if I let myself go to the dark and scary places, is what I don’t?
What if I don’t act again?
Conversely, what if I get an incredible professional chance, and grab it with both hands? To metaphorically keep the last piece of cake for myself sounds lucious sometimes in its indulgence.
What if to chase that, I run away from my kid and let him fend for himself with whatever family member takes over for me? I’m afraid because if I had the money and assistance I might. (Luckily or unluckily, that’s not my family’s lot. Not a healthy bunch. See above night in hospital. )
What if, as I’ve always feared and suspected but kinda knew, I’m not that strong an actor and that’s why the drive and journey and success eluded me?
Or what if I just shut the hell up for a second? What if I accept with humble gratitude all my immense privileges and the freedoms, experiences and opportunities for profound happiness that comes with that shining gift? The ability to have a job and a home and a healthy kid is the holy grail and only a fool keeps searching once they’ve found at least one scroll.
Also, obvious and crystal, sparkling clear, I think the women who work and parent and pursue their art are goddesses and I bow to their glory. Being any of those three things should not lessen the worth or might of the others. I know personally several brilliant actor mamas and they have my daily awe and jealousy. Just because I can’t make it happen for myself doesn’t mean I judge what they do. Of course, I cringe and melt into a pile of self-pity and why esteem vacates when I see their pictures from set on Instagram. But I don’t judge them. Nor do I the moms who left our little acting and art world to play in the realm of motherhood forever and always. I applaud them all. At least I try.
And I’m so, so grateful for what I’ve been able to do. I have gorgeous memories and friends to take with me as I continue through my script. Other pulls abated for a bit, now I have time and space to focus on the people fate has brought into my life and home. Much more guitar and laughter and hugging than I ever thought my sphere would hold. Lucky girl.
So, tonight, fine at home with no pending outlets, I’m not sad. I’m listening. I’m trying to turn out and not in. I’m staying open.
Maybe that part will be back. I have some ideas for when it’s time.
For now, there’s my novel that is on a second draft and won’t find and editor on its own. There is a lovely boy who is coming to Nashville with me.
And there is a small-ish Chewbacca that needs a Rey to take him to the Halloween dance.
Don’t mind if I do.