The other night, in my acting class, we did an exercise. The instructor (the amazingly talented and wise, Jamison Jones… shameless plug), asked the class to get comfortable and close their eyes. Now, to any civilian, that sounds like a lovely idea, to an actor in an acting class, it’s a setup. I rolled my eyes, and prepped my brain for what I assumed was going to be some weirdly uncomfortable drama therapy.
Now, to be fair, I was having a shitty day. I mean, a REALLY shitty day. It was one of those “why is nothing going right, when do I get a break, throw-your-hands-up-in-the-air while screaming WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”, kind of days. So, when Mr. Jones asked us to think about our top five happiest moments in our lives, I laughed out loud. Great timing, right?
But, nevertheless, I was given specific instructions in a classroom setting, so I decided to play along. I sat there, eyes closed, clutching my legs, for a solid eight minutes digging through my memory bank for my top five. And nothing came. I would have a thought like, “The day I moved to LA was pretty happy”, but, “Oh yeah, I spent my first night alone in a cold dorm room with no blankets because those didn’t fit in my suitcase and I couldn’t sleep because the constant sirens going down Hollywood Blvd. terrified me”. Onto the next, “What about that audition for ‘Once Upon A Time’ a year ago? You were SO excited about it!”, and then, “Yeah. But I didn’t get it.” One more try, “Remember your first date with (names have been omitted to protect the not-so-innocent)?”, which was immediately followed by, “I wish I could forget it”.
Cue: Pity party!
Time was up, and I listened to people share their happy memories. First kisses, engagements, traveling, childhood… all beautiful stories with happy endings. Why didn’t I have that?
Well, I do. I was just having a little trouble seeing it. In the past thirty years, I’ve made countless happy memories. Sure, I’ve never been proposed to or left the country, but I’ve lived and loved and laughed, just like all those hallmark cards tell us to.
My point is this. It’s so easy to focus on the negative, to settle for an un-happily ever after, especially when you’re at a crossroads and nothing seems to be going right. We have a tendency to default to the bad stuff, to think about how things didn’t work out or what we’re lacking. You know what that does? Yes, my mindful meditating, Michael A. Singer reading, spiritual gurus, it creates more lack. The more you dwell on loneliness, emptiness, and scarcity, the more of that you’ll find looming into every aspect of your life.
Let’s be done with that, okay? Let’s choose to focus on what we do have. Instead of waking up every morning thinking, “I didn’t get enough sleep”, how about we wake up grateful for a bed and a home and the iPhone blaring that very loud alarm noise. Instead of thinking, “I don’t have enough time today”, let’s be thankful for our jobs and meetings and appointments.
With that being said, I’d like a do-over on that acting class exercise. One of the happiest moments in my life was the day I moved to LA. I was nineteen, the odds were against me, and everyone thought I’d come running home within a month. Eleven years later, I just woke up in my apartment in North Hollywood, next to a freshly bathed Shiba Inu, with the biggest smile on my face because I’m still here, and I’m really freaking grateful for that.