Jan 1- RuPaul Made Me Do It

Meditation: Headspace, Basics #1
Length: 11 minutes
Where: Home Office, Michigan
How It Felt: Exciting!
Day 1 of 365- preparing to meditate on the floor of our home office. Not terribly glamorous, but it did the trick!

Happy New Year, everyone!

It’s possible I’ve never been more excited about leaving a year behind. 2020 was rough, guys. I know I’m not alone there, and I will also say some incredible things happened for me and my family during the hardest year ever, but still….

It was time to move on.

It’s no secret actors haven’t exactly been busy during these COVID months. Theatre actors especially. The things that usually fill my days: improv classes and performances, auditions, getting onstage, spending twelve hours on set- these things that anchored and motivated me my entire life- they all just sort of dried up suddenly.

I was left to float around most of the year in a sort of stress daze. Some days I was so anxious I had full on panic attacks. My manic episodes got longer, sometimes lasting weeks instead of a few days, during which I struggled to sleep, didn’t want to eat, and nervously chattered nonstop. I asked for my first ever prescription for Ambien (which barely worked), learned the benefits of micro-dosing THC and CBD, and basically just tried to survive most days.

What was I so stressed about? Some things more tangible than others, I guess. The election, the mounting death toll of the pandemic, worrying about my loved ones who were operating at varying levels of caution, my lack of work, limited options, and the uncertainty of, simply, everything, mostly.

I’ve always been extremely independent, vowing never to become financially dependent on “a man” (shudder) or anyone else. The lack of control was the worst part. I couldn’t do what I loved, and even what I didn’t love. My “hustler” identity was taken from me, and suddenly I was just… drifting.

I tried reading books but struggled to concentrate. I tried yoga, which helped. I volunteered for the election, which gave me a feeling of some control. I tried leaning into the introvert part of me, but found it really needs to be balanced with social contact. In short, I tried every which way of existing in my new reality, some more successful than others, and I made it. I survived the year.

Along the way my marriage grew ten times stronger, I worked through some painful but necessary family-related trauma, and I dedicated the time to working on myself as much as possible. I wanted to feel I used this time wisely, and that I could be the best version of myself available to me when I emerged from our strange hibernation.

In this spirit, I found RuPaul’s course on the MasterClass website. Let me tell you something: I will do anything RuPaul tells me to do. This is someone who has life figured out. The course is titled “RuPaul Teaches Self-Expression and Authenticity.” Is there anything more amazing than a human being who truly knows themselves to the core and uses their gifts to inspire others, create art, entertain, guide lost souls to themselves, and look fabulous doing it?

Whatever he said, I was listening.

“There’s a frequency that is unique to you, and your job is to locate it.”

This was one of the first things he talked about. Getting quiet, nurturing your garden, and sitting in stillness so you can tune in to who you are and what you are here for. And, wouldn’t you know it, meditation was the key.

I was here for it. I knew I should be meditating. I’d only heard it maybe 4,000 times or so. Yoga instructors, acting teachers, spiritual gurus, Oprah, fellow artists, my sister, strangers on planes- everyone talked about how important regular meditations are to a calm mind and balanced life. I knew it. I got it. Yes, yes. “Meditation, sure. I do it,” I would say, mostly to end that conversation.

I do meditate. That is to say….sometimes. When I need it most? Definitely not. Daily? Absolutely absurd proposition. Basically, it was usually something tacked on to something else I was doing, such as a yoga class, or something I made time for only when I was organized and things were, well, already calm.

But I knew better. I’d heard all the statistics, of course (though sometimes they came from someone trying to sell me a mantra for $700). I felt completely different when I did it somewhat frequently. I knew I had great bursts of inspiration and some of my best ideas when meditating. I knew sometimes I cried or laughed almost uncontrollably, too, so clearly it was helping me move through my emotions. I knew it fought inflammation and stress that contributed to poor physical health. I knew it would help balance my Bipolar II (which I manage, in non-pandemic years, quite well naturally), and all stats pointed to meditation as a path to living in a “less reactive” state, something I desperately want.

So I got up the next day, started meditating daily, and now my life is amazing!

Haha, just kidding. Not even close. After hearing RuPaul tell me my life, too, could be fabulous if only I would take a few minutes to get in touch with my own center regularly, I went ahead and did nothing. I was in full survival mode, folks. Then things started changing. I could feel the energy shifting, and I started to come back to me again. The election, the vaccine, things in my personal and professional life- slowly, bit by bit, I could breathe.

By mid-December I could think again. Plan. I started feeling- dare I say it?- downright optimistic about things! And, once again, I started to have ideas.

So here, what you’re reading, is one of those ideas. This blog is the culmination of three major lessons I learned in 2020:

  1. I can’t count on my life to always offer me some sense of (usually winding) structure. I need to have to tools to find some sense of routine on my own.
  2. I need to be able to access a calm and peaceful part of myself much more readily.
  3. There are so many things we can’t control in life, so we have to learn to control the things we can.

A few days ago, my husband and I were doing yoga together, and in the quiet, I had a thought: What if I meditated every single day for a year? And, further, what if I wrote about it every single day, also instilling a habit of writing regularly? Two good habits for the price of one!

And, even further, what if I wrote about it in blog form to keep me accountable along the way?

I hadn’t felt so inspired to start something new in a long time! I was positively buzzing with excitement, and definitely a little scared (ok, a lot), so that was that. I knew I had to do it.

I also knew I needed a project, something to focus on, to keep my mind busy so I didn’t just start….floating again.

So, welcome to my experiment! So far, here are the rules I’ve come up with to keep me on track and honest:

  1. I have to meditate every single day of 2021. No exceptions. Even if it’s only for 3 minutes in a pinch. If I haven’t meditated by bedtime, I can do a sleep meditation. It just has to be something.
  2. The format doesn’t matter: Headspace, part of a class or group activity, alone with a word to focus on, whatever. It just has to be time I intentionally set aside to clear my mind, breathe, and see what happens.
  3. The place doesn’t matter: in bed, on my meditation cushion, on a plane, on vacation- I just have to find somewhere I can focus.
  4. I will do a blog post for every single day of meditating, even if the post isn’t up that same day, as in the case of a sleep meditation, for example. BUT- I must post by the next day in those cases.
  5. I will write about how I’m feeling, changes I notice, ideas I have, challenges I face- anything and everything I want to remember about this journey, or that I feel may be useful, informative, or even inspiring to anyone reading.
  6. While I’m sure I will usually meditate alone, sometimes my husband joins me, and I think it could be fun to invite others to join me along the way. Our kids, perhaps, or a friend who visits, or someone I’m traveling with. The point is to find ways to fit meditation into every single day, so flexibility reigns. Plus, I definitely want to inspire others to do the same!

What I hope to find:

  • Increased calm, less anxiety
  • Better balance & handling of my manic episodes
  • Much less reactivity in my daily life
  • More empathy- for myself & others
  • A better understanding of who I am at my core
  • Inspiration, ideas, & solutions
  • A more direct connection to my emotions
  • Forgiveness
  • A deeper capacity for love and acceptance
  • More range & confidence as an actor
  • An even more loving marriage
  • Some wisdom, perhaps
  • Less annoyance at the world in general when things don’t go the way I think they should
  • Greater flexibility
  • The ability to meditate well– to sit comfortably, to let thoughts pass without grabbing them, to actually get the most out of the practice (with the understanding it will never be “perfect” & that some days will be more challenging than others)
  • A clear map to that quiet place that lives inside all of us

This is a long post- but I imagine most will be quite short, don’t worry! Generally, they will contain something like this:

Hoping they really mean this- my thoughts, they were certainly a-wanderin’!

Today was Day 1 of 365! So excited to be on this journey. I decided to start at the beginning and do Headspace’s most basic course, aptly titled “Basic,” though I did complete it last year. I wanted to relearn the building blocks and be sure I remembered their style and suggestions.

I was too excited to focus much, and had to keep bringing my mind back to Andy’s words. I also had to deal with my own rookie mistake- I forgot to put my phone on DND! Just when I was finally starting to really focus, Siri started reading a text from Steve (my husband) that started with “Look what we got!”

I immediately silenced the message, switched my phone to DND, and started up again….but honestly, I couldn’t stop thinking, “What?? What did we get?!” It was just too much excitement!

This is life, though, isn’t it? Even with all my planning and preparation for day one, I didn’t get it quite right. Ah well. That’s the lesson. Do your best. Show up. See how you feel. Try again tomorrow.

Really, though- was there a more apropos way to say goodbye to 2020 and hello to what’s next? I can’t imagine one.