I saw a dear friend today. We’ve been friends for over a decade; have raised our kids together, collaborated on a number of creative and work-related projects. We drank vanilla spiced Chai and talked about the state of our lives, as the snow softly fell outside. We’re both baffled by how difficult things have become and how the two of us, usually really industrious women who can find a solution to almost any problem, feel like we’re continuously running uphill. We talked about how the job search is the hardest we’ve ever seen in either of our professional careers and the endlessly creative ways we’re coming up with just to make ends meet, and barely at that. We shared stories of being told by hiring managers that while our resumes are impressive, our track records solid, they’re looking to hire a ‘superstar,’ or a ‘guru.’ We both understand that this term usually translates into someone younger than either of us. We find comfort in our talking like this because if the work search is this hard for two women who have never had a problem finding working in any economic environment, just imagine what it must be like for those whose careers have been limited to doing one thing for many years and who now have to reinvent themselves? And both of us have come to the same conclusion – time to step back into the reinvention chamber because it’s obvious that the only ones who are going to come out of this depression/recession financially alive are either those who are benefiting off this awful situation or those who have perfected the fine art of reinvention.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Have a Little Faith
I’ve been reinventing myself since I started acting at 15 years old. It started in ninth grade when I accepted my first acting role: Annie Sullivan in William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker” at Culver City Junior High. I’d never stepped on stage for anything other than a fifth grade choir concert where I promptly passed out from not breathing. But I loved the story of Helen Keller and especially loved the tenacious Annie. I was articulate and passionate and that seemed to be enough to cast me.
The thing about acting that grabbed me was the inventiveness of it all. Words on a page, spoken out loud with emotion, memory and intention. Add to that lights, costumes and a sense of creating a particular shared set of moments in time? Magical. It was never about the performance, about being the center of attention, which I’ve always been ill at ease with. For me, theater was about taking life and making it more so, good, bad, funny, tragic, and then offering it to a live audience who could filter it all through their own individual experience lens.
What does this have to do with my life right now? I’m reinventing myself through this process of self-scrutiny in the public eye, not that dissimilar to being on stage. Life is very heightened right now, from the deep lows to the highs and all those in betweens that seem to provide some safety net for the emotional pendulum I’m on.
One of the most difficult parts of walking away from acting 20 years ago was how much I would miss the craft of creating characters, of defining the specifics of that character’s life, not in relation to mine, but as distinct as possible. I grieved that this skill I’d honed would be put in a drawer to never to be used again.
But in my second year at Naropa’s Writing and Poetics department, I realized something. I was working on a character history for a story and as I was defining the time, space and place, it hit me that all those years in theater were now being used as a writer. It was like opening a closet and finding a long lost favorite sweater to wrap yourself up in and I was so happy to consciously welcome a huge part of my life back into this part.
What does it take to reinvent oneself? First of all, it takes the deep belief that no experience is for naught. Every job I’ve ever had, every industry or organization I’ve worked is something I can bring to this present moment. Reinvention is about self-flexibility and if there ever was a time in my life where my skills needed to be flexible, it’s now. Just as an actor rehearses the same words in hundreds of different ways until just the right one is landed on; just as a writer revises a piece until all the words flow together in just the right tone and meaning, so I have to retune myself for this time, this job search, this financial turbulence. What worked the last time I looked for work will not work now because it is a different market. What financial solutions I’ve come up with the past are not ones that are working now.
To reinvent one self is to bring all that with me, but to adapt it for what is needed today. That’s what it will mean for me to get beyond the bare sense of survival I’m struggling with right now and into a place of thriving. And in the act of reinvention, when the door is wide open, what will be waiting there?
Trust. I have to trust that things will get better. And they already have. Our house is warmer, better lit and we’ve made a renewed commitment to keep making it better, within our means.
Hope. Reinvention is all about hope because it points to the belief in possibility.
Love. I’ve found such kindness in the last week, since I began this series, from the weatherization crew, to another mom at our kids’ school whose been reading the blog and who gave me a big hug on Friday, to time with new and old friends.
Faith. Spiritual, religious, whatever you call it, but I have deep faith in the innate goodness of people. Faith is what I have in myself, my husband, our ability to learn from and rise out of our situation. Faith is my safety net, my in between that carries me from good to bad and helps me stay whole.
My friend and I finished our time together and I think we both felt better. Our commiserating on our mutually stressful situations was not just another complain-fest. We’ve had plenty of those. This was quieter, different. We share this hard and heart-felt space because we care deeply about each other and about what is happening to us, to our friends and to our country. And we also believe in one another, deeply. We both know that we’ll get through this and in another three, six, nine months, we’ll be wine and looking back with a shared, ‘whew, we made it.’ And we’ll clink our glasses because we believed in ourselves and each other enough to know that we could.
We all need someone to believe in us, so we can believe in ourselves a little bit more, or enough to get us through another day. Sometimes that’s all we need. A little faith, with lots of trust, hope and love as our in-betweens.