On vacation

I’m leaving on a jet plane to Toronto to visit with friends and family.  With my kid.  On my own.  Pray for me, people. 

The crucial moment

Did I tell you I get yet another gig – bringing the total for March to 4 count’em 4 gigs?!  I filmed one day last week on a movie of the week for a “Christian lite” network.  I worked on one of their movies last August.  It was a nurse role, but I had a name at least.  And the star was super sweet and wonderful to work with.  The moods on sets  these days are great.  Everyone is just so happy to be working.   I’m happy to be working and it makes me feel purposeful and appreciated.   It was just last summer when the industry was having town hall meetings practically begging the public to take notice that our industry was being decimated and that long time union members could not even pay their mortgages.  And now with all the best crews being snapped up,  I’m working on sets with kids fresh out of film school or are actively being taught how to do their jobs.  Also, some budgets are lower than others which leads to people getting a little stressed out cause they’re trying to churn out a movie with time, resource and monetary constraints.  I asked this props guy to bring me some wrapping paper that didn’t make any noise so I could wrap some items up in the scene.  He brought me a few sheets of tissue paper.  15 minutes later, the sound guys were asking me to wrap as “quietly” as I could.    I knew that was going to happen because I was miked(sp?) and so any rustling near my mic was going to drive them nuts.  He also  had to be reminded not to use local newspapers as set decoration, a no-no, in case brand names or city specific headlines get caught in a shot.  Oh, well, you gotta learn through trial and error, I guess.  I wish I had seen him later to thank him for his efforts.  I had a great time and really enjoyed my time there.

I also had a chat with my agent about another gig – one that I am not available for the outside shoot dates as I am gong to Toronto next week.  I’m not going to tell you how many times I’ve been close to getting a gig when I have travel plans.  It’s uncanny.  Hubby was all over me about that one cause these days, he’s quite anxious about money.  Seems as if things are about to go downhill again as the companies he consults for are going to be bought out.  This is great news if we actually had significant shares with them.  But we don’t, so that means our income is about to drop drastically.  Of course, since he’s the breadwinner he’s always concerned about money and to say he’s been stressed is putting it mildly.  He comes home with a dark cloud hanging over him and it breaks my heart.   I’ve been trying to be supportive and encouraging, but finally I had a breakdown and had to let him know how neglected and isolated I was feeling with him.  I can’t even have a decent conversation with him, he’s either staring at some TV show or devoting all his attention to the kid.

It did not go the way I had hoped as he takes such relationship talks as criticisms and then all of a sudden I’m getting blamed for this and that.   And so, long story short, I took to the internet to dump all my feelings cause he certainly wasn’t listening.  I started a whole new anonymous blog and dumped some words on a page, all the  while wondering what kind of cause I was making by doing this.  Where was I heading with all this?  I was seeking commiseration, validation, a place to vent my frustration and anger without interruption.  Honestly, why on earth did I stop going to a therapist?  Oh, yeah, money.   Neither one of us has much time for ourselves, but we both spend a fair amount of our downtime tuning out and before you know it, it’s lights out. I’ve lost count of the times he’s actually walked out of the room or turned his attention to our son in the middle of my sentence. And when I try to tell him that, well, I’m just being peevish or demanding.

I was so exhausted that I never finished my rant post anyway and never hit publish.  When I woke up, he was already up with the kid and I decided that instead of my usual icy silence, I would try to be civil. When I got out of the shower, I found a cup of coffee on my dresser.  Mmm, that hadn’t happened in a while.  I called out to thank him.  He came to me, full of emotion to tell me that he was really worried about our future and he will make efforts to pay more attention to me.

Now this man I can deal with.  Open and vulnerable.  I actually didn’t have all that much to say anymore because he was actually present for me.  We had a few minutes to talk before Boo figured out something was going on without him and came down the hallway.

I’m finding that the past few months of Buddhist study is becoming more and more crucial in my life when encountering life’s obstacles. I really hope I can find the wisdom in all of this.  I won’t lie, I’ve about had it with life seemingly going one step forward and 2 steps back for us.  I have a sneaky feeling that we’re about to be tested and I want to be strong enough to deal with it.

 

Working vacation

Last week, hubby stayed home with Boo for 4 days while I was working on set.  (I love saying that, “working on set”!)  It’s also a 2 week March break here. They had quite the active week, with Boo being in soccer camp for 3 hours in the mornings then hanging with DH’s best friend and his sons for the rest of the day.  They went to the science centre, and Playdome and the movies…leaving me with precisely nothing possibly as fun for this week.  And now Boo has a cold, so great, no play dates.

I worked 2 nights, arriving back home between 3 and 5am.  Needless to say, I was pretty darn tired, and trying to get quality sleep during the day was next to impossible.  (IS MUMMY SLEEPING?!!! YES, BOO, BE QUIET!   WHY IS SHE SLEEPING?!!! crash of soccer ball on bedroom door, squeal, thump, thump, thump, crash) It was interesting to note that while hubby was having a blast with his little man, this week’s breakfasting of the kid, shopping and tidying was mostly still left to me.  He’s always saying that he’d rather be a house husband than go to work everyday and have the stress of being the breadwinner so I thought he might have used this rare opportunity to show me how organized and efficient he is.  He just mainly kept the kid busy by hanging out with his buddy.

I pretended I was working full time and I’d “help out” where I could.  Boo’s diet consisted of a lot of pizza and cookies, didn’t eat home most of the time. The vegetables in the fridge went bad.   They also had a sleepover, but I had deadlocked the back door and hubby came home about 4 hours after I had gone to bed and I had to stumble out like a zombie and let him in.  Then the kid was home an hour later because he had had one too many late nights and hubby had to go back and pick him up.  No break for daddy, boo hoo.    Perhaps he has a inkling that it’s not all beer and Skittles for a stay at home mum.    You get very little personal time and that time is usually filled with walking the dog,  answering emails, grocery shopping and personal hygiene.

Meanwhile on the movie location shoot, I had my makeup done for me, dinner was cooked for me, someone brought me a bottle of water and I read my book.  I was cold (but there was someone there with hand, foot and back warmers) and I had to stand a lot, but I also enjoyed talking with other actors.   Seriously, I had one line and some ad lib stuff, it was a sweet deal. In my world, this is as good as a vacation!

The snippets of time I did spend with Boo, I swept him up and covered him with kisses and I just wanted to eat him up.  He did not mind that at all.  For once, I could savour exhaustion without feeling guilty.  Working actor, that’s me.

 

Who, me?

Three  gigs in one month!   This is a record for me!  I suspect our falling dollar has something to do with why it’s so busy around here, but I’m auditioning like crazy.  The upside is that I have felt more and more like my old, confident, creative self.  The bad side is that I’ve felt more and more like my old self-loathing, insecure self.

Yet unlike my old self, I have figured this out in record time and interrupted those old tapes.  A couple weeks ago, I got a call from my agent saying this production wanted to know if I would do a no liner part playing the great grandma in a flashback scene.  Obviously I did not get the part I auditioned for.  My ego was hurting and I was bummed about that but what the heck, here was an opportunity to make some good money.  I had to seriously change my attitude and chant to raise my life condition.  In the end, it was really fun to be made up in the 1960′s style, the crew was nice, I had a great talk with a fellow colleague, I smiled and had a great time.  Seriously, I made a ridiculous amount of money for what was 30 minutes of work.

Yesterday I completed one day on a new series for Hallmark.  Sorry, can’t tell you about it.   First good sign, I didn’t have to drive an hour out of town to the production’s usual location, I was only 20 minutes away!   When I arrived on set, I went to the “honeywagon” (trailers) to look for my character’s name on the door.  I didn’t see it.  Perhaps I had arrived too early or they had a lot of cast on set? The AD ushered me to a “star” trailer.  Oooh, I was so excited, it was so nice and big and warm.  Now this is more like it!  There was an electric fireplace, a table and chair and a sofa, a make up area and a closet to hold my wardrobe.  Oooh, an Ipod player and TV.  The bathroom had a shower and a nice glass bowl for the sink.   I enjoyed it for all of 1 hr and 15 minutes before he had to take me back to the honeywagon trailers cause the producers wanted to hold a meeting in there.  The usual trailers are tiny room with a padded bench and crappy toilet and sink in a 2ft closet.  Oh, well, at least I had my lunch on an actual table instead of my lap and so I just settled in and read my book.  Now I could have gone from Heaven to Hell and bemoaned my trailer fate (see previous post) but I just laughed to myself.  Really, I was still happy that I had time to even READ A BOOK and I enjoyed reading hubby’s texts about what he and Boo were up to.  I’m lucky that hubby can even take time out of the office to take care of our son.  I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful, well known Canadian female director and the stars were Canadian and they were gracious and funny.   I made sure that everything that came out of my mouth was kind and positive.  I realized that I was fortunate to have parts that were not that big so I could relax, do my thing and not put a lot of pressure on myself.  I could get comfortable on sets, watch other actors, stay present and be aware of my surroundings.  In the past, I’ve learned that I can become easily distracted by my environment and stop listening.  Perhaps I’m getting warmed up for bigger things in the future?  We’ll see!

For the next two nights I’m working on a feature film – I’ve got one line and I don’t know how I managed to get 3 days out of this, but whatever, I’m thrilled.

 

 

The Ten Worlds – or how my life went from heaven to hell in 5 minutes

Two days ago, I had what I would call a shitty day.  Not that the whole day was like that mind you, but I’m the type of person who can call it that when one thing goes wrong.  I was busy trying to organize a meeting this weekend over email with others, it was pissing cold, sleety rain outside; no school for Boo and no play date and that meant it was on me to keep him entertained.  And the dog had to be walked.   I did not want to walk the dog in sleet.   I spend about an hour reading emails, online news and filling food requests for Boo.  We had a potluck at the preschool that night and I had no idea of what I was bringing.  Should I buy something or should I make cupcakes?  No, I was on a diet.  Hubby was going to have a long day.  In truth, I was in the full grip of PMS and all I wanted was to curl up and read  a book.  With a pint of ice cream.  That has not happened in 4 years during daylight hours.   Boo wanted to play with me.   His plaintive cry that he had no one to play with got to me and I kicked a Spiderman ball with him in the hallway.   I’m fighting to be present with him, but most of the time I’m running a dialogue with myself in my head.  And feeling guilty.  So I announce we are going to the local drop in for gymnastics. That will get us out of the house.  He loves to bounce on the trampoline and I get so sit on the spongy floor and stretch my aching body.  A few hours later, it stops raining hard enough so we walk the dog and eventually get to Safeway.

I went from feeling perfectly happy to the world of hell in about 5 minutes.  All it took was a phone call. Well, technically, two.  Earlier, I had called a Buddhist friend to tell her that I had some great news and to call me back.  I had just booked a gig on a new TV series AND a small role for 3 days on a film.  I felt like the old me, the working actor me, the let’s celebrate and buy stuff me and then she called but I was just at the till and I would call her back.  She’d be so happy for me!  We went over to get a hot chocolate for Boo at the Starbucks in the store and then my agent phoned, I let it go to voicemail cause I was yet at another till and then I called the agent back.  Apparently the offer had not been firm, so sorry, casting made a mistake, and there was the issue that I was booked for another project the day before my first shooting day of the film.  You see, once you are officially booked, you essentially belong to that production and they reserve the right to change your shoot day.  So if one production changes their schedule….well, there could be a conflict it the two days are too close together.  I was once booked on a production and then they wrote my part out.  I still got paid because it was an official deal, but still I would have loved to work.  I said to my agent, oh, well, what can I do and she said she’d let me know how things went the next day.

Bam, my world was shit.  This is why I tell her not to tell me if I’m on hold or if I’m on a short list, just call me when it’s official, I’ll worry about scheduling my life when I get the part. Her job is to get me a decent trailer and good money.  I can’t tell you how many times I was on a short list and didn’t get the part and I would be disappointed.  Hey, you know that thing you love to do and make money at it?  You may get to do it, just wait a minute, no, sorry, never mind.

Boo has already consumed his hot chocolate by the time I get off the phone and is non-stop chatter all the way home.  I yell at him, snap at him, to just be quiet!!!. I’m a grumbly, bumbly bear and by the time we get home, I apologize to him and tell him that I’m upset and angry and mummy’s so sorry.  He turns those dark eyes at me and tells me that sometimes he gets angry too, it’s okay and gives me a massive hug.  Now I’m a shitty mother.

Just last week, I attended a basic study meeting in our district.  We talked about The Ten Worlds, a very important Buddhist concept.

  1. Hell
  2. Hunger
  3. Animality
  4. Anger
  5. Humanity (tranquility)
  6. Heaven (rapture)
  7. Learning
  8. Realization
  9. Bodhisattva(compassion)
  10. Buddhahood (enlightenment, absolute happiness)

For example, picture a day in a life:   getting up, having coffee, reading newspaper, ah life is good. (Humanity)

Heading out into traffic,ack!  So busy, Lions Gate traffic is bad, you’re going to be late, person cuts you off, gives you the finger, you give it back, a bit of road rage (Anger)

At work, passed over again for promotion, boss is mean to you, work is dull, snap at assistant, give them unpleasant tasks (Animality)

Go out for coffee, see people who are attractive, despair that no one will date me, feel despondent I have no one  (Hunger)

Go back to work – get fired, your car gets towed, etc. (Hell)

So you finally take the time to go back to school – get your Master’s (Learning & Realization), get a new job, feel confident and competent, realize getting fired was the best thing.

Do my best to help people without contempt or pity (Bodhisattva)

Buddhahood  -   enlightenment, employing wisdom, compassion, courage to help others attain absolute and lasting happiness

Please note that this is the Coles’ notes version.   I’d be writing this for months if I were to go into further detail.   In all the worlds, there is an up side and a down side.  There’s nothing wrong with anger, for example, if you feel anger at the injustice in this world and it motivates you to do something positive.

***Further detail on the Ten Worlds here at SGI-UK or SGI International

Now the fact that I acted this all out in the meeting in under 7 minutes makes it all the more laughable that I actually went through it a week later in spectacular style.  I called up a fellow member and proceeded to gnash my teeth and bemoan my fate because I felt completely upset and pissed off and undone.  Not that at that point it was officially booked, but in my mind it was and I was just being positive and claiming it was mine anyway.  I had just booked another part on a new TV series and was eager for more.  Even though it was a small role, it was for 3 days on a feature film which would mean I could actually afford to go to Toronto without worrying about the hotel bill or sleeping on someone’s floor with my kid.  All my insecurities flooded up, and somehow I had blown it all up into the I’m not worthy, when is it my turn, how come I don’t get the parts I want, I’m so fat that’s why, why didn’t I go on a diet last year, look I’m doing my practice and encouraging everyone else and studying so hard and now hubby is worried about his job and why don’t we have this, why don’t we have that, I just want to work and feel good about myself and it’s all so unfair and I’ve been busting my ass at these auditions, when is going to be my turn, if I can’t get the role I want how about something that will just pay my bills, ohmigod this is why I started to chant because I so sick of putting myself on an emotional rollercoaster about a crazy ass business that does not give a crap about me……you get the point. The kid is now all up in my grill, I try to go into the office and close the door so I can talk in peace and quiet and he’s banging on the door as I seek the physical space to just be upset and feel sorry for myself for a moment.  Hubby arrives unexpectedly home early and I am granted a reprieve.  And then my friend said ” It’s a test, isn’t it. The eight winds and all that.”

And then the proverbial Buddhist penny drops.  Ah, for fuck’s sakes.  It’s not about the part, it’s about my life.

Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds.

“The Eight Winds” (WND, 794)

Suddenly I’m off the ledge of doom and despair.  The whole time I was more enamored about the amount of money I COULD be making because it was more than one day for a change.  I know this business is crazy and really, the part could have been written out, the scheduling wasn’t firm yet, a hundred reasons that had NOTHING TO DO WITH ME could happen at any point.  Even hubby reminded me that it wasn’t official that I WASN’T going to get the part, but people had to make sure that I was clearly available whenever they would need me.  Here I was upset and miserable over a few lines that might never make it into the movie anyway!  (Yes, that has happened to me before as well.)

Guess what the role was….wait for it………….FRUSTRATED MOM.

So instead of watching myself on an episode of Almost Human, knowing full well I would just criticize the way I looked and the way I acted, I sit down and watch a Buddhist study video.  It was dry and boring, but it postponed the inevitable and perhaps, just perhaps I would learn something.  The next day I wake up determined to have a better attitude and after I drop Boo off to preschool and walk the dog,  I hurry over to chant with a few fellow practitioners.  I had to just chant that I would not be swayed by the eight winds.  I get a phone call about typing work.  I’m fine with that.  I set back out with my life condition just a smidgen higher.

Later that day I OFFICIALLY  book the part.  I am happy about that, but not overjoyed and all attached and crazy about it anymore.  My life is bigger than a tiny role in a movie.  I have a strong feeling that the next few weeks will be a test indeed.

 

After 15 years of Buddhist practice

Water lilies

 

 

 

 

 

(My own picture)

When you’ve been a Buddhist for 15 years, you have the opportunity to receive a special okatagi gohonzon. The gohonzon is the object of devotion for Nichiren Buddhists.  It is the scroll that contains nam myo ho renge kyo written down the centre (in Chinese and Sanscrit) along with other characters depicting important Buddhist figures and principles.   It embodies the life of the Buddha and it representative of the state of Buddhahood in each of us.  Okatagi literally means “woodblock”.  The difference between my first one and this one is merely the material it’s printed on and it’s a bit bigger. After 15 years of practice, there are many days when I feel like I don’t know jackshit about life.  Other than the fact that I’ve managed not to lose my nut.  Okay, well maybe I did a few times, but I got it back.  I think it would be difficult if not impossible to practice on my own, so I’m grateful to my fellow practitioners who have continued to give me support and encouragement all these years.  I’ve been privileged to hear some amazing experiences of lives transformed through this practice that only demands you seek the truth from within and to always question and study.  I know that without their encouragement and daimoku, I would have packed up my stuff and run away.  I have a community of people who are positive and uplifting and when you’re an actor, stay at home mum and transcribe for mind numbing hours, it sure helps.  In return, I can encourage and help others by sharing my experience with them or by chanting with them.

So many times the sound of daimoku will fill my head instead of the negative noise that my insecurity generates when I’m freaking out about shit. It’s not the sound of just empty words but a powerful key to awaken that stand alone spirit.  I know that no matter what life holds, I always have hope that I can begin again, I can get up and try again and one day I will believe that I am indeed the Treasure Tower. Someone once doubted that my practice truly worked as I had prayed diligently for a child and it seemed as if my prayers weren’t answered. In fact, it was 7 years of shitty things happening to me.  Yet I hadn’t given up, I hadn’t run away, and in the end, I brought home a son.  I thought that once that had been achieved that yes, I truly would be happy.  And I was -  for five minutes and then it was, oh my god, now what do I do?    At the end of the marital struggles, elder care, depressions, job loss, and infertility, I KNEW I had the ability to survive any MOTHERFUCKING thing.  Including myself.

This is my mission, my path.  For me, happiness is not a destination.  I’m not going to say one day, oh, I’ve got it all,  NOW I’m happy.  Cause there’s always something coming down the pike to change that one moment, isn’t there?   Sometimes I think the whole world is in a conspiracy to remind me how unworthy I am, that I’m not skinny enough, white enough, pretty enough, smart enough,  successful enough, etc.  Cause if I was, well, I’d be HAPPY.  It’s a journey of cultivating appreciation, compassion and realizing your true nature. I’m talking about unshakeable happiness, which is not defined in one moment.   It is not attained by  gaining something outside of myself.  Even if I won a million dollars (or by Vancouver standards $30 mil), I’d be thrilled…. then worried about how what I could afford and how long it was going to last and who was going to ask me for money.  And yes, I’d like a million dollars anyway.

I want to learn more, expand my capacity to do more with my life and learn to suffer what there is to suffer and enjoy what there is to enjoy. 

 

 

 

It’s a journey of cultivating gratitude and appreciation and compassion.

How does a mum get a day off around here?

The BC government finally came to its senses last year and gave the province an official day off to celebrate “Family Day”.  They should have called it something else really but you know how politicians like to believe they are doing “families” a favour.  They don’t report to the legislature for over 200 days but yes, you can have a “family day” years after all the other provinces have one.  It’s basically a made up holiday to break up winter.  So anyways, I was planning to go to Mount Seymour to do something fun like toboggan in the snow and have hot chocolate but of course, it pissed down rain that day and we ended up doing something I truly hate.  We went to the pool.

Now hubby and my son adore the pool, but I couldn’t care less.  Lately, I’ve been pushing myself to do things out of my comfort zone, so last month I took Boo to the pool twice in one week!  Not wanting to get a bikini wax just so I don’t scare a man with an errant hair, I dragged the kid to the mall to buy a pair of swimshorts and a matching top.  On sale supposedly, but still overpriced, but I got one and then off we went to the pool in West Van.  There is one closer to us, but this pool is so warm it’s crazy. That’s one reason I will submit to it.   And there’s a separate family hot tub so the kids can go in without disturbing the old(er) people who frequent hot tubs all day long.  And there’s a huge slide that starts at the top of the building and safely deposits your kid at the bottom.  It’s usually not open during the week, but Boo just loves to grab a paddle board and go down the “river” while I traipse after him looking like a complete geek in my 1930′s swim outfit with a bathing cap stretched over my head.  All I’m missing is my parasol. Did I mention we’re the only black people in the entire pool? (Cause it’s Black History Month and I’m enjoying myself.) Now I know that’s not always the case – later that week I spotted an Ethiopian (Eritrean?) family in the changeroom.  I wanted to talk to them but I think my outfit scared them off.

Back to the pool.  Like I said, Boo loves it!  We have put him in lessons since last summer and now he really likes going into the water.  He still can’t swim but he’s much more comfortable.  It’s great to see him enjoying himself and he’s willing to show mama the ropes. But I can’t swim.  And I’m very uncomfortable in the water.  I won’t even submerge my head.   It takes everything in me to plaster a smile on my face and pretend I’m enjoying myself.  Oh, I’ve taken lessons before, years ago now.  (After 2 sessions, I managed to learn how to float, not actually swim. I also had goggles and ear plugs.  So attractive.)  I go down the “river” with him, pretending to be a monster but really I feel awkward inside because I can’t relax cause I’m afraid I will be swept off my feet and bash myself.  I play mommy monster and chase him and do knee squats for most of the time.  That time being mainly 90 minutes to 2 hours.  What I won’t do to see him smile!

Well, on said family day hubby was with us, so I had some time to sit in the sauna for 10 minutes but after 2 hours, I was officially done and left hubby and Boo to get out and get dry.   And then I felt exhausted.  Eventually,  I went to bed super early only to wake up in the middle of the night with heartburn and a sense of impending doom and the chills.  And doom it was because I spent most of the next day in bed feeling like a lead balloon.  No nausea, just exhaustion.  Flu? I don’t know.  I even paid a sitter so I could spend more time in bed yesterday as I had a very important meeting at the Buddhist culture centre to go to.  More on that later.

I’m feeling much better today and Boo is yelling at me to get up, so off I go. Thanks to hubby for coming home early and bringing me soup in bed.  I may have to have a relapse again so I can get some more “time off”.