decision time

On Monday I sat in the bowels of Zellerbach waiting for my acting class to start, fidgeting in my folding chair, sadly turning down Ben-jammin’s offer of Junior Mints by thinking of what a fatty-fat-fat I would be if I ate them, listening to conversations flying across the room about what show was this weekend and who was in it. The usual.

Then our instructor arrived, and we started class by circling up and listening to him read select passages from books that follow Stanislavski’s method of physical acting. At various intervals, he punctuated our intellectual storytime with his recurrent statement that “Acting is action,” then, at one point, the admission that there were parts of his life he probably wouldn’t have gotten through without art.

I think we could all relate.

He talked about how when you feel like shit, it’s really easy to do nothing, but how doing nothing makes you feel even more like shit, and how you have to get up and do something, anything, as long as it’s active, and it doesn’t matter if it’s the wrong decision because you can find out later. The point is you can’t sit there thinking about how miserable you are. You can’t even sit there and think about what to do. You have to just do.

And then he segued neatly into the next topic.

There are a million different ways a person might brush his teeth in the morning. The student rushing to an 8 AM class looks different from the old man with only four teeth left, who looks different from the hypochondriac, who looks different from the guy preparing for a first date, who looks different from a vampire. An actor’s job is to figure out which of those actions looks best for the character, and to decide to do it, and commit to it, and execute it. Committing to an action is the difference between a half-assed actor who looks like he’s acting and an actor who looks like a human reacting to a situation. When an actor doesn’t decide on an action, it’s just a body onstage with words spewing out of it.

And the lesson of the day was to Make The Decision. Action brings things to life. If you’re rehearsing for a performance or if you’re lying on your couch eating your way through your third pint of Ben and Jerry’s, decide on an action. Commit to it. Execute it. Try something new. Fail spectacularly. You’re not going to get it right every time. You’re not supposed to.

I mean, I don’t think this is a novel idea or anything, but it is so true, and so hard to actually follow. But sitting around moping and letting your self-critical thoughts eat away at you (while you eat away at your ice cream) is probably the worst thing you can do to yourself when you feel like shit.

So here’re three pieces of internet gold that help me deal:
And when those just don’t cut it for me, I have my own personalized Sad Trombone List, which includes but is not limited to the following:
  • Go to Union Square and get lost in the crowds. People-watch.
  • Buy cute underwear. (This perhaps explains why I have 40+ pairs of cotton underwear.)
  • Eat donut holes and old fashioned donuts. (Or whatever your favorite is.)
  • Take a bath. (Because I can’t remember when the last time I did was.)
  • Pick a musical and sing along to every number.
  • Go for a swim. Be sure to wear lipstick.
  • Watch videos of laughing babies on YouTube.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot more crying than is probably healthy, and I'm sick of it. So starting today, I am going to try to make conscious decisions about what I am doing with my time and then follow through on them, and I will stop wallowing in miseries past and wondering what's wrong with me and instead be present and conscious and responsive, in the hope that fully engaging in the life in front of me will prove an effective way of making my own luck.

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