Saturday, June 7, 2008

What should have been my 100th post

I'm reading Eckhard Tolle's "A New Earth". I'm only about 50 pages in or so, and I can see why you need a highlighter and post it notes. It's pretty deep. Not hard to understand but deep. It's basically Buddhist philosophy without the metaphors.

He talks about the ego equating having with Being. The more I have, the more I am. How we view ourselves by what others see. How we view ourselves by what we have and how much we have. He poses the question of how we let go of our attachment to things. He says it impossible because when we no longer seek to find yourself through things, the attachment drops away. This thought is completely in synch with my practice. I'm cool, yay.

Being an "artiste" can be fun and rewarding, but it does have its drawbacks. I can be a really great actress and still get absolutely no reward for it. I am constantly underemployed. Some of us work all the time and make bajillion dollars a years and some of us make squat or diddley squat. There are tons of horrible but good looking actors out there making more money to put more plastic in their bodies. You know who they are. Oddly, we continue to pursue it. It's like a curse really. I've had really great years and really crappy years. Before I started practising, I definitely was doing okay, I was younger, hotter and not bitter. I didn't work a lot, but when I did, I felt like a million bucks. When I didn't book a part, I felt like a failure. I felt worthless, invalidated, etc. I would do extra work because I was in the union so it paid well, but the whole world of being an extra is basically set up to be demeaning and soul sucking especially for someone who is spent most of her education training to be an actor and sacrificed lots of perfectly good jobs to do so. To an actor, it's the equivalent of working a McJob. It pays the bills, but lordy, we'd rather not do it.

What's it like? Basically, you hang out on set for hours and hours with no idea of when you get to go home and watch the person who did get the role get the attention and money you want. They get to to be in the spotlight and you try not to get yelled at for being in the spot you didn't know you weren't supposed to be in. They get someone bringing them water, you hold your pee until they release you from your designated spot in the freezing cold under the rain towers (a big sprinkler). You get to watch a well known, highly paid actor screw up take after take because they don't know their lines while you stand under hot lights sweating in winter gear praying you'll pass out so you get to go home. They get hot snacks brought to them, you are lucky if there is any generic peanut butter and cheese whiz left by the time you get back to your mud-filled, dark, drafty tent.

I was 32, single, living alone in a new city: intelligent, cute, outgoing and fun, blissfully unaware of my inherent worth. I had a lot of fun. I had a lot of energy but did not know where to direct it. I produced a spoken word event, but missed the energy and drive of my hometown of Toronto. I had no inner peace, I was basically drunk every chance I got - and I was lucky to not end up in the clutches of some fucking idiot or worse. I did hang out with gay guys, which protected me from a lot. I was looking for Mr.Right but found Mr. Potential Date Rapist, Mr. What's His Name, Mr. Probably Gay, Mr. Would Rather Date a Blonde Chic, Mr. Hot but Way too Young for Me and let's not forget Mr. Ex-Boyfriend who Still Had No Clue. Inside, I still yearned to feel connected to something that would really make a difference in my life.

To make a long story short, when I learned about Buddhism, I began to understand that a source of my suffering (I had a few) was that I attached my sense of worth to what I did. If I booked a gig, I was a somebody, if I didn't book, I was nothing. If I worked as an extra, I was less than nothing. Hence, in the quiet moments, I could hear a giant flushing sound. When I started chanting, I heard nam myo ho renge kyo instead. I finally felt like I could do something for my state of mind instead of waiting to be rescued by some one or some thing. Happy "coincidences" started happening. I felt lighter, happier and determined to not give up on myself. I continued with extra work for a time, but it was easier. I said no a lot more. I didn't put up with crap. I didn't believe I was worthless or believed the "wouldn't work in this town again" line when I demanded the right to be treated respectfully.

One of the greatest challenges we face in the IF community is that we attach our self worth to being a mother. If we get to be a mother, we're in that club, that spotlight, that ultimate expression of womanhood. If we don't, we're nothing. We're worthless. We're ghosts, there but not there. Extras just waiting to come in from the cold. While we wait, it's like purgatory. Is it my turn yet? Even after disappointments for years, your turn can come, any day, any day now. It is indeed possible. There's plenty of proof to see. Time runs out on some of us, though. Choices are made in the name of good sense or sanity. I have asked myself a million times, who am I now? What the fuck did I do in my previous life to deserve this?! For a while, I felt like nothing, and I could hear that giant flushing sound again. And so I turn to daimoku again to transform and fill that aching silence. I am repairing my heart so that I can open up to love. I can expand my capacities once again to become the person I need to be to encompass this pain and live with strength and compassion for the child that awaits and the people I already have in my life. I want to fill up so I can give.

What do you do to repair your heart?


Guera! said...

I am certainly struggling with my self worth and believing that I am not worth much without children. I am a big avoider. I avoid people, situations, movies, music, parties etc if they in any way concern babies, pregnancy or motherhood. I have a couple of friends who are trying to get pregnant and I am worried that when they do get pregnant our friendship will be reduced to the once or twice a year phone call and occasional email once the baby is born and we won't be the friends we are now..not because of them but because of me.
But what do I do to heal my heart? I turn to my Christian faith when I have the discipline and humility to do so.

loribeth said...

I like your "extra in the rain" analogy. And I agree that too many of us women attach our self-worth & identity to motherhood. I really do believe that I am more than my ability to procreate. But sometimes I have to practically chant it, like a mantra, in the face of society trying to tell me otherwise. ; )

What do I do to heal my heart? I focus on my dh & my family, whom I know love me no matter what. I try to be good to myself & do things that lift my spirits. Even an afternoon spent lazing on the couch with a simple cup of tea & a good book can do wonders sometimes!

Anonymous said...

Coming from a family of physicians, I learned early on to tie my self-worth to what I do. Luckily in choosing medicine myself, it's pretty easy to see yourself as one of the good guys working to stamp out disease. But when you lose a patient, you do see it as something you did or didn't do, rather than understanding that something bigger than you makes the ultimate plan about who lives or who dies.

I ended up leaving clinical medicine because I felt myself being sucked dry with the responsibility for so many people, especially as I was not (and still am not) able to accept nurturance and succor for myself. Pharma work allows me to feel like I'm still doing the good works without the overwhelming stress I faced while in practice.

And about motherhood, interestingly, though I am so thrilled that I have become a mother, I don't feel a part of that club of mommy exaltation. Motherhood, like being a wife, is not as self-defining to me as my role as a physician. Again, I think that comes from my family where female physicians were exalted.

But to heal my heart, I try to reconnect with the things that I've learned make me who I am.

Interesting post!

Barely Sane said...

Great annalagy!!!

I filled my time with sports and activities but avoided pg friends or those with kids like the plague. I guess the fact that I stayed away just proves I wasn't really healing my heart, just trying to preoccupy it.

I'm glad your chanting provides you with the comfort and peace you need. It sounds like it's so wonderful and theraputic.

annacyclopedia said...

As always, Deathstar, a brilliant post. I'm a Buddhist, too - sort of. (I have lots of questions around what I believe and a weird and strong pull to go to church which I'm a bit scared to explore just now, although I'm softening up a bit. No rush.) But when it comes to repairing my heart, vipassana meditation is what does it for me. Sitting with my own experience, no matter how grisly or weak or uncomfortable, is how I get little glimpses that the truth of me is not about my job, my mistakes, my character, my relationships, my family, or whether I ever have a baby. Creating the space in my heart and mind for things to be just as they are. It's not like I walk around feeling at peace with everything all the time, but it's more like every time I can find some peace in the midst of all my resistance and pain, even for a breath or two, it changes me. And since I started meditating 4 years ago, I've changed a lot. I'm still very attached to having a baby, among many other things. But I know I'll suffer no matter what happens, and I know I'll heal no matter what happens. There is a whole lot of peace in that.

Thank you for this beautiful post.

dmarie said...

I have no answer for your question. I honestly really wish I did. I need to keep telling myself that happiness is a bunch of little things strung together.

Wordgirl said...

Deathstar --

I love this post -- I've been thinking about you, and your doggie -- hoping he's recovering well.

We do have a lot in common -- I relate to so much of what you're talking about in terms of acting -- I can translate it easily to writing/publishing... and for years I felt the same sense of worthlessness and failure if I hadn't 'accomplished' what I felt I should be -- I still struggle with perspective -- but then I have moments of clarity -- about the illusions the mind creates, about what is most important.

I find the natural world is healing to me. Even my yard and the wind in the trees -- I used to think it had to be some grand vista -- but I find that it's just in the everyday -- a place in my house where the placement of things looks pretty, or sunlight falling on the sleeping cat. Reading has always been soothing.

When I started reading about Buddhism it was like someone had rung a bell -- and it resonated to every nerve ending in my body as true.

You know for me? Strange as it sounds -- healing my heart has come from not sheltering it, but opening it. The more I opened my heart -- to X's child, for instance, the more I felt whole -- even in moments when part of me battles with jealousy --for someone's life and what I perceive as its 'perfectness' , children and the like -- if I can be there with that person's child and absorb their wonder and talk to them and think "what a miracle she is" even if she isn't mine...

that has helped me immensely.

Some days are easier than others though -- always that push and pull...



Anonymous said...

I wrote a book called Fertile Prayers. Jesus is mentioned only 17 times for a book that speaks to people who may not believe in Jesus, so I for one am not going to beat someone who is Buddhist or Hindu over the head with a name.

We nurture everywhere we go in some fashion. The pain isn't easy for anyone, but the nurturing may be saving our hearts from becoming cold.

I just saw the Sex and the City reference and would like to read it on your blog. It is true that many women get surprise pregnancies when they quit trying. It is true that people like Indochinova get their FSH down. It is true that some women heal in a more complete way after treatment than before or during.

luna said...

another thought-provoking post. I wish I knew how to heal my heart. what helps? loving my dh,l earning to love and accept myself without being a mother, and like wordgirl I find solace and beauty in nature which has tremendous healing and grounding power.

I'm also reading that book and like how he applies buddhist principles to other religions and makes it accessible to a broad audience. but I'm still struggling with eliminating the longing -- I mean it's not a ferrari we're talking about here... great post.

Anonymous said...

I have been recommending a book called "My Stroke of Insight - a Brain Scientist's Personal Journey" by Jill Bolte Taylor and also a TEDTalk Dr. Taylor gave on the TED dot com site. And you don't have to take my word for it - Dr. Taylor was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People, the New York Times wrote about her and her book is a NYTimes Bestseller), and Oprah did not 4 interviews with her.

eemilla said...

Thank you for this; it is quite difficult not to tie one's self worth to motherhood. There are the constant inquiries and then watching other people accidentally have children.