Competitive Progress

I’m writing a novel. It started out as a journal response to a break up, and then blossomed into a much bigger entity. Its been a slower process, because, it takes a LOT of time to write a book, especially when your life isn’t focused around it. It takes a lot of time to do anything if your life isn’t focused around that thing; raising a child, advancing your career, becoming better at sports, getting a performing career regulated. I was also in final rehearsals for a show I was about to open. One of the gentlemen in my cast was on his computer a lot while not on stage. At one point, I teased him about taking notes on other actors in the show, and he responded that he was working on a novel. I asked questions and was an appropriate level of excited for him and interested, outwardly. Inside, the competitive streak awakened. I mentioned that I was working on a novel as well, and shared a little about mine. We have a similar amount of page numbers, so I felt around his same level. But something was ignited in me. I felt competitive, and something inside me seemed to take a starting position, ready for the starter pistol to fire. Although his book is a completely different subject than mine, and really outside of rehearsals, I don’t know his life… As in, his book could be a culmination of writing from the last 10 years, or it could be that he has lots of free time that he can spend on it, or maybe he’s just much more regimented than I am. Also this is his second book—whereas this is my first large work. Instead of coming home from a long day of rehearsal and just relaxing, I opened up my computer and tried to dive into writing again. Why did I do this? Simply because I saw someone else writing, my brain thought: oh, he’s getting ahead of me in the Race of Life—I have to hurry up and catch up with him! Which, frankly, is a really dumb thought. However, I have it all the time. All. The. Time. Why? Competitive progress.

Whenever I set out to do something, and I see someone else doing something similar it ignites the passion and competition in me. Sometimes this is a good thing, but sometimes, I sacrifice things so I can “keep up with the Joneses.” I didn’t sacrifice much but sleep last night, but sometimes that is enough of a sacrifice. I have this crazy notion that I need to finish because a colleague might get ahead of me—this is a completely ridiculous thought. So, the questions arise: Why am I letting someone else’s actions spur me on? Why do I feel the need to be competitive? And why does it matter if it inspires me to move forward with my goals and ambitions?

Writing happens for me in spurts, any project that takes time, I often do in segments. In between writing the above and now, I read an article about jealousy. I started questioning myself, was I jealous of my colleague who was making sure he devoted time to writing? In a way, yes, but I turned it into a positive. It spurred me on to do my own work. Jealousy is only jealousy if it turns you against another person and in a way against yourself. If you’re starting to feel a heightened emotion and feel badly towards yourself because of something someone else is doing: STOP. Make that into something positive instead of just sitting and bemoaning your life. Take that energy and allow it to be positive, and creative instead of negative and a vacuum. Do as I did—I saw someone else doing something that was similar to a project I was working on. I felt shame and a bit jealous that he had thought to work on his project when he had spare time. He wasn’t flashing it around, he was just being present in two genres of his life at the same time: rehearsing and writing.

First, take the ridiculous jealous feelings out of your brain, set them aside, and tell yourself that you don’t want to be negative about whatever achievements the other person is making. You just don’t. Refuse! You’re feeling this because you wish you had more time to work on something, or were more creative, or wish you had thought of it. Whenever you start feeling jealous, tell yourself it’s a natural need to create something. Start brainstorming.

Brainstorming and creativity can happen at anytime. You just need to give yourself the permission, and the outlet. Put down the game on your phone and give time to yourself instead. Once you start sneaking in the time to create, you’ll start making time for yourself to create. I now sit down every morning for an hour and work on creative things—whether it’s writing or working on my website or working on something creative or even just doodling or making lists on the creative ideas I have; anything that gets the ideas out of me and into the world.

Also remember, my dear snowflakes, that you are totally different than any other person. Your timeline is not the same as mine, and mine is not the same as Lesley’s or my cast mate’s, or the guy sitting across from me on the subway, or any of your “friends” on social media. I don’t have a baby, a 401K, or a mortgage like many of the people I went to school with. However, I have a blog, two almost-books, a burgeoning theatrical career, and an apartment in Manhattan. I will get to where I need to go, when I’m meant to get there. Things will show up in my life when they are meant to. My stories will get written when they do.

That brings me back to the blog. Last week I was looking at our blog stats. A few months ago we hit a record number of views in a day for us. It was so great. Lesley and I are asked for our opinions and advice all the time and we wanted to reach a greater number of people, so we started this blog/book/movement. I’ll admit that when we started, it was a lovely outlet to express my thoughts. When the momentous day happened ( it was our first triple digit day, so we got excited). Then, we seemed to dwindle back down to double digits. Like any other high in life, the fall out is hard. Especially when your hope and expectations are up. At times like these, the fall outs, you can do several things. The most popular being: wallowing in self pity, and giving up. However, if Edison gave up, we wouldn’t have the light bulb… or at least the version of the light bulb he created and as soon as he created it. Someone else would have done that, but not shared with the world some other gift… anyway… The point I’m getting around to is this: if I didn’t fail in life as much as I have, I wouldn’t have anything to share with you. I wouldn’t try as hard to write a book, tell stories, be an actress. Failing, or roadblocks that diverted my path from the ones I thought I wanted to take brought me to exactly where I’m supposed to be. Yes, it all might not be momentous realizations and creations, but instead encouragements and redirections. The blog not getting as many views spurred Lesley and me into figuring out other directions (and really at three months old, we’re doing GREAT at LiveClareLesley—I just want it to be 1000 views a day. Now!) If I hadn’t had the terrible relationship, I wouldn’t have started a novel. If I hadn’t seen my acting colleague working on his book, I wouldn’t have been spurred to write both my novel and our blog. We all have things to share. We all have gifts to give. We all want to make a mark on the world.

Stop worrying about the mark. Like all good acting/art teachers will tell you: be true to your art. Go out and create, be, live, do. Stop worrying about what others are doing. You’ll make whatever you want, and make it your own, on your own timeline.

Clare

(oh and if you’re interested, you can follow the novel’s progress at The Time Turner)

Advertisements

Round Peg, Square Hole, or How To Make Situations Work For You

Whenever I hear this analogy I think of the kids toy, either the wooden puzzle like thing where the player replaces the cutout shapes in the correct spots or the plastic tetrahedron like thing that the small plastic bits are pushed from the outside into the center. I have a vivid memory, or maybe it’s a created thought of trying to make one just work into a spot. Not having the cognizance yet to know that a triangle shaped piece goes into a triangle shaped hole. (I also was BIG on coloring outside the lines for a good amount of time as well). I’d try to manipulate both the piece and the whole. Sometimes I’d find a different hole that it would “fit” into but it wasn’t the correct one.

There are several views or thoughts on this one. First, the child hasn’t learned that a certain shape corresponds to a specific hole-but in time with practice, will understand. (Mind out of the gutter. That’s a different topic!) Second, there is creativity and ingenuity in trying to make things work that just don’t. Third, conformity is something that will develop as an adult, so why bother to force the child to conform now—conformity is overrated and dampens creativity!! Maybe the last one isn’t extremely popular; and I’m sure there are more thoughts on this. Feel free to share yours by comment below, tweet (@liveclarelesley) or email (liveclarelesley@gmail.com), about this subject.
But moving on…I was always trying to put whatever I had in my possession into whatever place I wanted. I got pretty good at it. Creative and intuitive they’d say about me. I LIKE being thought of as creative. I LIKE being thought as ingenuitive. I delight it these traits and make it my daily quest to continue to maintain my status in these areas. This is a blessing and a curse. As an adult I’m daily handed a crate of shapes to deal with. Some days, I go with the flow and put the right parts in the right spots. Other days it feels like all I’ve gotten handed is square pegs, and all that are in front of me are round holes. Some of these days are awesome. Sometimes I can make magic happen. No, strike that, often I make magic happen because I’m not about to be limited by only what I’m handed. Now this is instinctive for me, but I think everyone can learn to do it. The first step is thinking positively.

Not to sound all new-agey or sparkly optimistic, but there really is something good to every situation. And, in a way, you asked for whatever change happened. Last spring, I was sitting around my apartment for months wishing my room was just a little bit bigger or that I had more space to spread out all of my stuff. Well, I was told in April with two months notice, that I need to find a new apartment, that the person I’m renting from is moving back in. It sounds harsh, but that is kinda the way it is in New York. Even though I was upset—this was the fourth time I’d had to pack up and move in less than 15 months, and looking for an apartment is time consuming and a complete crap-shoot, moving was good thing. There are many things, I started to realize, that I wasn’t a fan of about that space. Yes, it met many of my needs, but it didn’t meet all of my wants. I squeezed myself into this round hole with my square peg, because 12 months ago it was a necessity. But, I now can search around and figure out exactly where I’m going. It’s a frustration that I’ve moved so much, however, its allowed me to get rid of lots of things I don’t need or use. It also makes me better at packing things up and moving.

Figuring out how to make Lemoncello when life hands you lemons (you can make Lemonade if you want… I’ll take it a step further, and have a party, too) isn’t as difficult as it may seem. First, you have to come to terms with whatever happened. I had to move. Ugh. Ok, moving on. If you sit and allow yourself to continue to be upset, then you’re not going to be creative and figure out how to get out of the situation with which you are faced. Figure out all options. This is something you can do anywhere. You don’t need to sit and make time to do it. Also, reach out to friends and colleagues, the more ears and eyes you have to help you out, usually, the better. Start working on your options. This is the difficult part, because you might work better going in multiple directions at once, or you might do better focusing on one specific option or goal and then completing it and moving on. You’ll have to figure that out as you go. Again, ask for help if you need it. Many friends don’t know that I need help because, I’m always so resourceful and I rarely complain about things. If I don’t ask for help, they’re not going to just offer it—everyone has their own life and their own problems, and things they want to go do and enjoy… so don’t be scared, just ask for help. Worst they can say is: no, I hate you. Which they won’t, not if they’re a real friend (and if they did, you might want to check out Growing Out Of Friends.

Once you start working on options, others will appear. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times, moving and doing creates options. Even if they’re not the ones you originally thought of. There are many versions of this favorite quote of mine out there but: worry is negative imagination. If you’re sitting on your sofa, chewing your nails, and worrying about your situation, nothing is getting done. Get off your butt, and go do something. Even if it isn’t related to the thing you need to accomplish.

I had to move in a month, and I was offered a role in a play that went up two weeks before I had to move. I was panicked because I didn’t know if I should take the show or not—it would take time away from work which would cost me money, it would take away time from apartment hunting which might not give me as many options, it would take time away from packing, meh—I just have to throw my stuff in boxes, I’ll invite friends over and make a party of it and work it out after my show closes. So, I took the show. Maybe it was the right choice or maybe it wasn’t. I didn’t sit home waiting for an apartment to fall into my lap. Things work themselves out. I went out and did things and lived my life (Limoncello in hand). I still made time to browse apartment listings. I picked up boxes and figured out how to get all my things packed. And in going forward and living my life, I met new people who reached out to their friends about apartment possibilities.

I’m sure you’re wondering what happened. Well, this “fairy tale” has a happy ending. I found an apartment (which I’m sure you’re aware of if you read Five Things I’ve Learned From Moving.  I have found the most amazing roommate and clandestinely, I live upstairs from two great friends. The show—wasn’t a mistake; I made amazing connections and made a brilliant piece of art. Was it perfect: no. Did I work it out: absolutely. Next time life hands you lemons, stare those lemons down, take a breath, and start web searching Limoncello and lemon meringue pie recipes.

Clare

Stick Your Neck Out

In this day and age we are all about sticking our necks out and trying something.  “You Only Live Once” lately seems to be a commonly used phrase or hashtag.  Try something that scares you each day is an encouraging statement that many a self-help guru is chanting.  Its not that I don’t believe in any of this—in fact, my life is about taking big leaps and choices, daily.  Part of being an actor is continually putting yourself out on the line.  I have successfully stuck my neck out in terrifying situations, but found myself the better for it.

It is all nice and fine to sit around and talk about living for today, and putting one’s self out there—again, which I am 120% on the affirmative side.  Put your neck out there.  Try something new today.  Stand up for yourself and make steps in a positive direction: apply for that new job, ask that person out, change careers, change cell phone plans (ok, well maybe that last one is a bit crazy…) I think you should go out and put yourself on the line occasionally.  Even if you don’t prosper, it has many benefits.  That is what this article is about.  It’s all nice and fine to stick your neck out, but what happens during the waiting and after the result?

Let us start at the beginning (and we’ll eventually work through the entire thing).  You get an idea from somewhere, and it sits in your brain.  Maybe it takes a day, or maybe a year, but it grows in your mind.  You wake up one day and decide to stick you’re neck out (yay, you!).  Sometimes planning is required, but most times you have talked yourself into whatever it is that you’re trying for long enough, that you’re psyched into taking your chance.  You reach out, you take action, you send that resume or email or text or have that conversation.  And then, the dreaded waiting happens.  The thing that we’re not reminded of when we are encouraged to take a leap, is that there is inevitably a waiting period.  Sometimes it’s a short time, sometimes it’s a long time, and the worst is that sometimes it’s indefinite.

Many times when we stick our neck out into the world trying to make ourselves or our situations better, it depends on someone else.  Which, handing your life and your future over to someone else is completely terrifying.  When I go in for an audition, some days I’m totally confident in my abilities and my knowledge of my material.  Other days, I’m full of self-doubt and in a waiting room where I’m the anomaly—which sometimes works to my favor, but at the time makes me feel like even with all the courage, vigor, and verve I woke up with, I look around me and feel like I’m going to fail.  Actors, put ourselves out there daily—we basically job interview 365 days a year.  I’ve become good at pretending that I’m not feeling like a failure.  Some days I ignore the failing feeling.  Some days I steer into it, like a sailor into a storm—sometimes I sail through and sometimes, I sink.

You may be saying to yourself at this point—wow, this gal uses the word “some” a LOT in this article.  Well, its true.  But, isn’t “some” a good word to describe results of taking chances?  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  There isn’t a good ratio for courage.  Either it is or it isn’t.  It depends on the day of the week, the weather, the amount of coffee someone had that morning.  Sure, it also depends on qualifications and chemistry and whether this situation is the right fit.  There are so many “what if’s” in taking a chance.  Again, let me be clear—TAKE CHANCES.  I’m an advocate of them.  These fears and hesitations, are what hold us back.  They stifle us.  They cut us off at the knees.  They make us believe we are not good enough to deserve the outcome on the other side, heaven forbid, IF we receive it.  Self-doubt is debilitating.

I hope my credibility isn’t ruined when I say this: the truth and the inspiration of this entire article is it was inspired while I was waiting for a text message.  My life seemed to be on pause while awaiting a response.  This is an extremely silly situation for me to write to the world about—at least in my head.  I’m a strong, confident, talented woman and I’m sitting around, feeling like my fate is in someone else’s hands and waiting for a man to give me a “yes” to spending time with me.  Yeah, sorry to throw you for that loop—and I wish that this was about sticking my neck out for a job, or my career, or the general betterment of the quality of my life.  But its not.  Its about a date.  Don’t scoff.  To be completely honest with you, dating is terrifying for me.  I don’t put myself out there that often—at least not in romantic situations.  My rejection ratio feels incredibly high.  (Yes, everyone has dating or romance issues.  Yes, its difficult for most.  And really, the chances of finding the wrong person are so much higher than finding the right person.)  But we still have to try.  Dealing with relationship (or starting one) is just like sticking your neck out in any situation, and vice versa.  And as this is one area of my life I have yet to be satisfied with, I continually make myself take chances.

Here I sit, waiting.  Writing.  Because if there is one thing that Lesley and I believe in is that you can’t just sit around and do nothing.  Living is an active verb; you have to go out and do.  You truly have to have the courage not only to take the chance, but to patiently wait for the answer to come.  I have thrown myself, into what feels like the deep end of the emotional pool and I’m trying to tread the water, but the more I churn my arms, the more it feels like I’m making pudding in the deep end of the pool.  So, I’m just waiting, and now stuck in a pudding of my own thoughts.  Sigh.

There is a saying that the only thing that you can truly control in your own life are the feelings you have for every situation. So, instead of wallowing in my pudding-like feelings—I walked away and DID some things.  I got some great groceries, made dinner, watched a movie, went to bed, got up the next day, went to work, went to my book club, did some yoga, went to bed again, got up the next day… you get the picture.  I just keep moving forward.  I keep fighting for my own life back, which sounds dramatic, but sometimes the voices in my head are very loud and they give me an awful headache with reasoning and bargaining and analysis over the whole situation.

Whether I got a response or not (I eventually did) this waiting period—or actually, I should call it a “doing period” because I went out and did things and lived my life (even through the onslaught of the voices in my head)—was productive.  I wrote this article.  I figured out where I really stood in the whatever-this-is with this dude.  I painted my toes, I finished a book, I found some great recipes, I exercised, and I conquered another 20 levels on Candy Crush.  I’m sure I did some other things, but these were what came to mind just now.

So I started this talking about taking a chance and sticking my neck out… and if you’ve been paying attention, you are probably saying to yourself: wow, nothing really happened.  She wrote an article about nothing and I’m still reading it.  Well, its not nothing.  I did take a chance.  I tried to move a relationship in a different direction.  I put myself out there.  In doing so, I learned things about myself.  They were little small things, but I still learned more about me, and how I want to live my life.  Because I took a step in a direction, I found out more about that specific direction and where it might lead.  In fact a few days later, because I took this little chance, I decided to take another one.  I applied for a new job.  The same sort of waiting situation occurred while waiting for a response there, too.  Because I took one step out of my comfort zone, I realized there were other aspects of my current life I didn’t like.  Current being the operative word.  You can change anything in your present.  You can take steps to cure your own unhappiness.  Maybe its right, and maybe its wrong, but because I took a step and stuck my neck out—yes even just for a text, or applying for a job—and then walked away and lived my life, I am all the better for having done it—small though either of these might seem.  And even better yet I’ve reaffirmed it is up to me to make the decision as to where I am headed next.  So big or small, get out there and stick your neck out in the world.

Clare

Take a Leap of Faith

I have fallen into most jobs I’ve ever had. My first job was at a very cute coffee shop near my high school. My mother mentioned it seemed like a great place to work after visiting there. Less than two weeks after our visit, I was hired. I don’t even remember interviewing.  My second job, my classmate put my name in for her job at a doctor’s office when she moved to Arizona. Two weeks later, I was a junior in high school and I had a new job making more than I did at the cafe with weekends off.  In college, I turned in applications at an upscale mall. One of those applications, I handed in to Clare, and the next day I interviewed with the manager. The next Monday I was working for the same boutique as Clare. We became good friends and even business partners.

I stayed at that store from 2002-2007 moving up from cashier to store manager at my original store, and was later transferred to another location 50 miles away to manage that one.  I was good at my job, but it wasn’t fulfilling.  I needed a change of scenery. In hindsight, I needed to change careers. I had already discovered Pilates but wasn’t listening to the voice inside my head telling me “go this way.”  Instead, I tried to “fix” things by doing the same job with a different backdrop. Hello Patterns and Change. I still needed to learn something here.

I thought moving cities, locations, new friends a new life was what I needed. I also thought I was waiting for the next promotion to be a regional manager. I kept thinking that if maybe if I just waited a little longer…I’m sure you may know what I mean here. For years, I thought I was “next” in line. In fact, even other managers in the company thought this. It never really occurred to me if I wanted to be “next” or if I just liked the idea of it.

Think back, or maybe think now! Are you in a job that you wanted or that you just got because it was the next step? Jobs are often like relationships and can “happen” to us if we are not present with our own wants and needs. If we are not clear on our goals then someone else will get clear on their goals for us. This was the case for me. While I was “figuring” out my early twenties I wasn’t clear with myself on my goals and I began working very hard for someone else.

While waiting I decided to start training as a Pilates instructor. I thought I would do it as a hobby. Something to keep me busy. As I mentioned back in my Orange County life I had already discovered Pilates. I freaking LOVED it! As an ex athlete, Pilates made me feel like I was back in training again. But this time instead of training for a race I was preparing my body for my own life. I loved how strong it made me feel and I also enjoyed how no matter my mood walking in I always walked out focused, present and invigorated. But, when I moved to LA I struggled to find a teacher I could jive with like I had back in the OC or afford. I went to a training mostly for my own self learning. I knew enough about the body (I went to college originally to become an Athletic Trainer, the dream was to work for the San Diego Chargers) I figured I would just teach myself. A girl on a budget I could save a lot teaching myself.

The thing about callings is that once you’re called you have to answer! If you don’t it’s like a phone that doesn’t stop ringing. You can ignore it, even try to silence it but the call list still shows it’s trying to get a hold of you. Try not answering see where it gets you.

I couldn’t though. I answered it! Except, I tried to conference call—I tried to do both, manage a store and start my Pilates Teaching business. What happened? Well after a couple months of working 7 days a week some days 6am to 8 or 9pm! I needed to hang up the old landline. I just didn’t know how.  My transition from my manager job to full time Pilates extraordinaire was a big deal for me. Many around me tried to give advice. Tried to tell me I cared too much. To just put in my notice and move on with my life. The thing is, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I was still caring too much about someone else’ goals for me. I was still not fully engaging in my calling. I was on the phone, but I was also talking to the person next to me. Eventually, I was forced to get f’ing on my call and hang up the other. Callings are like that. They are demanding. Selfish. And they should be. It is your calling—what you’re meant to do with your life.

I wish I could say that those on my other call were still part of my journey. They are not. That’s ok, as we all know when someone doesn’t join us on our journey we can take it personally. We shouldn’t though. Now, on my own journey I have worked hard to support those who have to take their own path. In fact, I get excited even through them a party! Today I will encourage anyone who wants it to follow their bliss as soon as they can. Why? Because I took a little too long to admit that I didn’t want to just keep getting promoted. Of course new titles are exciting, more money in my pocket. But, what did any of that matter if I was following someone else’s dream and not my own?

I will never say it’s easy. Actually, it’s probably easier to ignore the call then it is to hang up and answer the new one. I knew what was on the old line. My store manager job was a salaried job with commission. I knew exactly what the minimum I was going to make each month. Security is a big deal. I knew I had health insurance and vacation time. Leaving that for my bliss too a huge leap if faith. Faith in myself and the Universe.

That leap was the best jump I’ve ever had. I’m still flying high 6 years later. The thing is when you start following your bliss, when you answer your calling. You’re rewarded!

How do you answer your call?

Well, turn off all the noise. Yep! Put the distractions away, the apps, gossip magazines, the reality TV shows, your email. Sit still, go for a run or swim, grab a notebook. It’s time to hear what you’ve probably been avoiding. Change is scary, leaps come with fears, what if’s, how’s and unknowns. All those distractions keep you busy avoiding that nagging voice telling you you’re meant for something bigger!

You know deep inside your heart what that is. What if you had zero obstacles keeping you from your calling. Forget money and time and anything or one that is putting doubt in your mind. Take a step in the direction of your dream. It’ll pay off!

As I said it’s not always easy. But wouldn’t it be the greatest to wake up and be excited about what you have on your calendar that day? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have career love? To have Life/Work balance? (Yes, I wrote LIFE WORK balance.) wouldn’t it just be grand to live your dream, and not someone else’s? Leaving a consistent guaranteed paycheck for a “service job” where I’m paid only when I work was scary. I had and still have bills just like everyone else. I have student loans. I still had to make a certain amount. But, looking back and looking forward no regrets or worries interrupt my call. I am excited for what I know is coming ahead and for what I don’t.

LL