Scared, Hollering Out, Feeling Like A Failure

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Callum, Oct 15, 2008.

  1. Callum

    Callum New Member

    Yesterday, I received a call from a theater company that I've always wanted to work with, one I've wanted to get a foot in the door.

    They asked me to understudy for three roles in a play that opens in four weeks. One is the lead.

    I can still learn lines, but with rehearsal.

    Understudies don't get rehearsal until after the show is open.

    I'm sure most of you with this DD can empathize with my lack of short-term memory, and how difficult it will be for me to learn.

    Impossible? Hard to say. I'm so afraid of making the attempt and failing.

    If I can't do it, then why am I bothering persuing a career in this?

    Part of me thinks, "You have no gumption!"

    Part of me answers, "The only way to survive with this disease with quality of life is gumption - and even THAT is no guarantee!"

    I have been so stressed since receiving what should be a joyous offer that I'm having heart palpitations.

    I also have to leave for Arizona next week, as my mom, at the age of 71, is mysteriously deteriorating. They don't know why. They can't do an MRI (staples from brain surgery in the 80's) and she is highly allergic to CAT scan dye, so it's all a guessing game. But the deterioration doesn't follow Alzheimer's or Dementia, but it's more rapid than they are used to seeing.

    Besides my partner, she's the only family I have.

    It's horrible to discover at 43, FORTY-THREE!!! that you don't have the ability to "release", and you don't have the ability to compartmentalize.

    And although I appear to be blessed to be more "functioning" than so many of my compatriots here on the board, I seem to have lost my "life".

    Thanks for letting me vent. Much better to have a pity party on the board than someplace where I'd make a mess...

    Thank you for being here.

  2. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    What a richly unsettling time this for you... and, also, wow.

    I wish you could come over to my book lined nest and have a little pity party even if you'd make a mess. I'd give you chocolate.

    I'm so sorry that you are feeling so sad and frustrated.
    But, as you know, worrying about what might happen simply gives that narrative more energy.

    Just be where you are, do what you do, and what happens will happen.

    I would be frightened to death. But, I think you'll be ok. I really do. :~)

    You will need to breathe. You will need to do the Hoover Breathing for sucking up angst. I'd be happy to try to share it with you.

    You will be just fine, suffer as little as you can.

    And, of course, you are SO BEAUTIFUL people will pay just to look at you :~)

    (Slapping self upside head: it's an understudy role, they won't see you... unless they are lucky :~)

    Thank you very much for sharing with us! Makes me feel better to know I am not the only one who ever feels the way you do right now.

    Peace to You,

    ETA I did not mention your mother. I'm so sorry. I hope her situation stabilizes and improves. I have been where you are. You will get through this and you will be ok but it's a dreadful and difficult experience. Again, I'm so sorry.

    [This Message was Edited on 10/16/2008]
  3. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    "Great news is oft fraught w/ bad, and, as w/ the death of kings, the country must seize the happenstance of fortune good or ill."

    Glad to hear you have a foot in the door. Or is it three feet? I couldn't possibly learn lines now. Only you know what you can do. Is there any possibility of cutting down on the assignment?

    It's a real dilemma. You don't want to take on more than you can handle, and you don't want to sever ties w/ the theater before they even are attached.

    I don't think you're lacking in gumption. I think you just want to make a sensible choice. But, of course, that's hard to do when it involves guessing about the future.

    Best wishes to you and your mom, old boy.

  4. fibromickster

    fibromickster New Member

    Rock is right, only you know what you can do. Therefore, you will just really have to think about this situation with your head and try not to let the anxiety and fear get in the way of the decision making.

    You know if you can do it and if you can't you will know that as well and they should respect you for your decision if you do turn it down. We are all with you Callum, so please no we are backing you up 100%.

    I wish I could see one of your plays. Good luck!!!!!

    Also Callum, you Mom is in my prayers that they can find out what is wrong and be able to fix it.

    [This Message was Edited on 10/16/2008]
  5. Rosiebud

    Rosiebud New Member

    my heart would be in my mouth if it was me but I say, grab the chance with both hands, give it a go and have no regrets whatever way it turns out.

    I'm so sorry about your Mum and hope they can find out what's going on with her and do something to help.

    Pity parties are often necessary for 'us' but leave this one as soon as you can.


  6. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    thinking good thoughts about you.

  7. Callum

    Callum New Member

    Rafiki - I LOVE chocolate! Such a God-given comfort food! I would love to learn the Hoover breathing method - I do so need to learn to let go.

    Grammy27 - We so often leave off the rest of FDR's quote - and it makes it much more powerful and rich in it's entirety, don't you think? Thanks so much for sharing!

    As for accepting only one of the roles... It's all or nothing. There is usually only 2-4 understudies for the entire production, so each understudy is responsible for 3 actors.

    I think you're right that, although leaving for AZ IS an additional stressor, spending the time with my mother will be a healing tonic that can only help the rest.

    Rock - I don't know where that quote came from - please share! It was important to read.

    Cate - So you know... If I was asked to play the lead with only three weeks time, I know I could do it, because I would have that public rehearsal time that drives things from short-term to long-term memory. It's also the fear that I have never done it! I have no experience to say "You remember, it's frightening in the beginning, but it will come." I don't know that it will!!!

    But I think you are so right about the importance of reigning in the anxiety and fear. Nothing will be accomplished until I do that.

    Mickey - Thanks so much for the supportive words.

    Rosie - How true! The secret to a Pity Party is to leave early and let other's clean up! LOL

    Thanks so much for the words of encouragement, and the sweet words regarding my mother. Perhaps later I will post about the incredibly strange journey of how a 13 months ago she was a perfectly normal 69 year old, and in one week she couldn't write a check, dress herself, remember to take her medication or eat.

    Thanks again!! Time to go start learning lines!

  8. TwoCatDoctors

    TwoCatDoctors New Member

    It makes me wonder what would happen if one of the people for the parts was hospitalized at the last minute and they needed an understudy for the first performance--opps, they didn't plan for that!!!

    I'm sorry about your Mom. See how your Mom is doing after you arrive and what the tests reveal. Hopefully having you there will give her more strength and Huey Lewis sung about the "Power of Love."

    Try the theatre and keep giving yourself positive reinforcement that "you will do this, you will be able to memorize the parts" and not let doubt fill your mind. I think you will do it. Good luck.
  9. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Whatcha got cookin'? How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?

    You can hear Hank Williams sing that on Youtube. From 1951; I was in 6th grade.

    Callum, do you have any tapes of your performances? Could you, or a friend, put up a clip or two on Youtube. (I read ten minutes is the maximum length, but a scene could be posted in more than one video.)

    I was thinking about that after Mickey said we would like to see you in action, so to speak.

    Yes, chocolate is a wonderful thing. We should all thank the Swiss Mister Henri Nestle for inventing milk chocolate. (Unless of course it was somebody else like Daniel Peter.)

    The Frugal Gourmet said he thought the Aztecs mixed their cocoa w/ chicken broth. (He did not say how he came to this conclusion.)

    I saw a program about chocolate. A gal said, "I'm honest. You could trust me w/ your money. Just don't ask me to hold your chocolate."

    Your mother's condition sounds like those cases Oliver Sacks writes about. I have read several of his books, but the last one, dealing w/ music, was too depressing. Does your mother recognize you?

    Oh, the quote I posted was from a play still undiscovered written by Shakespeare or Marlow or Bacon or some other gifted scoundrel. No doubt some scholar will be writing about it in the near future.

    What is this Hoover breathing business? Herbert Hoover? Hoover vacuums? W. H. Hoover?

    I'd better quit before this all goes up in a puff of frustration. Glad to see you sound more optimistic. Lots of nice people here to talk to.


  10. zenouchy

    zenouchy Member

    Hi Callum,

    First of all, I'm SO SORRY to hear about your mom. The ambiguity of her illness arrives right around the moment that you get that magical call from the theater company you always wanted to work for? Adding to that the ambiguity of your own health situation. Talk about stress and drama.

    However, my prediction is that you will turn your fear, stress, and anxiety as an understudy into nothing less than a stellar performance. Easier said than done though I know. I don't blame you for being scared. It's not an easy thing you are going through, and you pride yourself on doing your job well. Maybe you can work with a counselor to help you channel that anxiety and stress? Learn some breathing techniques and biofeedback?

    It's really ok though if you make a mistake. What's the worst that can really happen? They can't throw you into theater jail for forgetting a line, and I'm guessing that you will think of another apt word or two so that no one in the audience would notice for a second. You have such passion for theater; I'd hate to see you not try out.

    (P.S. Totally off topic, I remember you once mentioned that you played tennis with Dick Van Patton. My mom's uncle lives in LA and used to play tennis with DVP also. He must really enjoy tennis.)

    Have a safe trip to AZ and I hope your mom feels better soon.

    All the best,

    Erika (aka, The Pep Talk Department)
  11. lgp

    lgp Well-Known Member

    I so understand about the short term memorization, or lack thereof. Two years ago, I was in an independent film. I played a woman who was always arguing with her husband. You would think I could ad lib that one!! I had such a hard time memorizing those few lines and yet I can remember with precision the Shakespearean sonnets, passages and solilloquies (sp?) that I was forced to memorize in grade school. When we were making the film, I started to get very stressed because I couldn't seem to remember my lines. You are a professionally trained actor, so I'm sure you must have a few techniques or tricks up your sleeve to pull it off. But I empathize with your stress level. Try and keep that stress to a minimum and keep in mind that you are so very lucky to be doing something you dearly love.

    (Don't) break a leg!!--

  12. jole

    jole Member

    Okay, I know nothing about acting.....I was in a high school play, had 3 lines, and barely remembered them! Also had to be shoved through the curtain when it was time to go on :) but I was sure proud of myself afterwards, because I was so terribly shy.

    But...after years of maturing, I still know nothing about acting, but DO know a little about passion towards a profession, and you have passion! People can study and perform for years and "fake" their way through, but with passion, you can do anything!!!!

    I too wish I could see one of your performances....I know you must be wonderful! Love Rock's U-Tube idea.

    As far as deciding on the understudy parts,just think of your health...if you feel you can manage it, go for it; if not, don't. I have no doubt that you can do anything you put your mind to when it comes to acting, but don't cause your DD to become worse, okay? Give yourself a little slack and if you can't do it, don't feel guilty. We all wish we could do more at times.

    There has got to be an answer to whatever is going on with your mother....too bad they can't do the MRI. That has got to really be doing a number on you to see her fail so fast. Try to make your time with her special, and I pray for the best. ***Jole***
  13. Callum

    Callum New Member

    Pity Party over. I bought a digital voice recorder as I memorize faster with audio and visual stimulation. I jumped in with both feet, and I'm now about 10% memorized (not bad as I haven't even watched a rehearsal yet).It's going to be tough, but hey - what isn't that's worth it?

    Rock - Love classic Hank Williams! About chocolate - I heard Martina Navratilova on a talk show speak of how she always allows herself one tiny square of Hershey's chocolate a day. The interviewer asked how she could stop at one tiny square. Martina said something like "Easy. If I eat more, then I could never eat it every day and be a world class athelete." That's will-power!

    Chicago Shakespeare is doing an 87 minute Edward II of Marlowe's. Barely.

    Erika - Wow, what a memory. Yes, Dick Van Patten and two of his sons, Jimmy and Nels, allowed me to play doubles with them while they were performing in Flint (this is in 84, and I was 19). The entire family was just - incredibly warm and genuine. And Dick was VERY MUCH into tennis. His other son, Vince, was ranked in the top ten briefly.

    My therapist is working with breathing techniques, but it's only working now when I'm NOT that stressed...LOL.

    Terch -So good to hear from you. My mother's quality of life, fortunately, is much higher than many in her situation. I found this incredible group home that is like her family. Only four women live there, plus the care-taker, and they sit around the table for all meals, and there is nothing institutional about the home whatsoever.

    In fact, in a way, she's strangely better off. All my life, she suffered from a personality disorder, bordering on split personality. Once side was incredibly loving; the other, terribly wrathful and manipulative. Whatever is happening in her brain seems to have disabled the dark side... I've never seen her happier, kinder... it's the first time in 40 years she's had friends! It's just that she's terribly confused, and isn't able to take care of herself.

    Laura - I SO KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN!!! I can learn a play, with the rehearsal that comes with it, but I have stopped auditioning for commercials. I can NOT retain those lines! It's embarrassing!

    Jole - Thank you for the very kind words... I was shy, too! My first play, I went to open my mouth for my only line (I was 8) and all that came out was a hiccough! It's good to be reminded that health comes first. The other, no matter how much you love it, is "just a play" in the end.

    *As for YouTube... As soon as I do a play with no copywright issues (usually a new play whose playwright is working with the company), I WILL post something. Promise.

    Best to all,
  14. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    Hey Callum,

    I hope things are going well for you today. I never doubted that you have what gumption you required to do what you wanted to do! I hope you are enjoying your theatrical adventure very much!

    I had a similar experience with my mother who also had a personality disorder and suffered both rage and dementia. The last part of her life was strange but a not altogether terrible experience, thank God.

    In preparation for passing on the Hoover method of breathing away stress, I give you Ani Pema Chodron on Tonglen, the method from which I improvised Hoover Breathing one day when I couldn't manage Tonglen and needed a quick path to letting go.

    Hoover breathing helps right away without the need for prior practice but, of course, practice just makes it better. It's a quick calming breath. Hoover is a great breath to prepare for many types of meditation ~ it centres.

    One vacuums up one's tension and distraction on the inbreath and transforms it into compassion on the outbreath.

    I struggle with language just now so will wait to explain. It's very simple. Do not want to make it seem complicated.

    Hoover is just a quick, yet highly effective clean-up of difficult feelings and thoughts. Tonglen is the more complicated inspiration.

    Here's Pema Chodron on Tonglen, which is a very interesting broader and deeper practice.


    In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves.

    In particular, to care about other people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean —you name it— to have compassion and to care for these people, means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves. In fact, one's whole attitude toward pain can change. Instead of fending it off and hiding from it, one could open one's heart and allow oneself to feel that pain, feel it as something that will soften and purify us and make us far more loving and kind.

    The tonglen practice is a method for connecting with suffering —ours and that which is all around us— everywhere we go. It is a method for overcoming fear of suffering and for dissolving the tightness of our heart. Primarily it is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us, no matter how cruel or cold we might seem
    to be.

    We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and who we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the wish to take away all the pain and fear of that child. Then, as you breathe out, you send the child happiness, joy or whatever would relieve their pain. This is the core of the practice: breathing in other's pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness. However, we often cannot do this practice because we come face to face with our own fear, our own resistance, anger, or whatever our personal pain, our personal stuckness happens to be at that moment.

    At that point you can change the focus and begin to do tonglen for what you are feeling and for millions of others just like you who at that very moment of time are feeling exactly the same stuckness and misery. Maybe you are able to name your pain. You recognize it clearly as terror or revulsion or anger or wanting to get revenge. So you breathe in for all the people who are caught with that same emotion and you send out relief or whatever opens up the space for yourself and all those countless others. Maybe you can't name what you're feeling. But you can feel it —a tightness in the stomach, a heavy darkness or whatever. Just contact what you are feeling and breathe in, take it in —for all of us and send out relief to all of us.

    People often say that this practice goes against the grain of how we usually hold ourselves together. Truthfully, this practice does go against the grain of wanting things on our own terms, of wanting it to work out for ourselves no matter what happens to the others. The practice dissolves the armor of self-protection we've tried so hard to create around ourselves. In Buddhist language one would say that it dissolves the fixation and clinging of ego.

    Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we being to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata. By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being. At first we experience this as things not being such a big deal or so solid as they seemed before.

    Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have just died, or for those that are in pain of any kind. It can be done either as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. For example, if you are out walking and you see someone in pain —right on the spot you can begin to breathe in their pain and send some out some relief. Or, more likely, you might see someone in pain and look away because it brings up your fear or anger; it brings up your resistance and confusion.

    So on the spot you can do tonglen for all the people who are just like you, for everyone who wishes to be compassionate but instead is afraid, for everyone who wishes to be brave but instead is a coward.

    Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world.

    Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

    Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.


    ~*> CHOCOLATE <*~

    [This Message was Edited on 10/17/2008]
  15. Callum

    Callum New Member

    I've tried it today - it certainly helps to get one's mind of oneself and on to the bigger picture!

    *Lot's O' Chocolate*
  16. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    I agree, Tonglen rocks.

    Sometimes, though, I need a really quick remedy for painful thoughts and feelings including fear, stress...

    Sometimes it is more than I can do to settle down and take in one calm breath much less a longer session of meditation.

    I have to get rid of a lot of the litter that's making me feel totally overwhelmed, first. I need to Hoover!

    Get comfortable - sitting, standing, lying down, walking...

    Smile just a little bit and gently close your eyes or lower your lids.

    On the in-breath, breathe in all the tension and anxiety you feel inside your body. Hoover it up!

    Breathe from your diaphragm and suck up as much of your difficult feelings and pain as you comfortably can. You don't have to get everything in the first breath.

    This breath can be ragged, hot, heavy, tight... that's ok, good in fact.

    Hold for a beat and think "transform"

    as you imagine all the negative energy transforming into compassion or peace

    or you can just Release it, just let it go...



    and you let yourself sink into the compassion you are creating from your pain.

    Hoover again, searching yourself for tension and discomfort. All your pain becomes the fuel for the peace you generate.

    Transform it and surrender yourself to the peaceful state.

    I find this really helpful when I think all hope is lost :~)

    and, of course, the nectar of the Gods.

    Chocolate be with you,

    PS Still struggling with English as a first language, today :~) I'll explain again if is incomprehensible.

    ETA I forgot to mention that this is particularly useful because it can be done anywhere, anytime for as many breaths as you wish or can squeeze in. Even just one breath helps, three can change your entire outlook!

    [This Message was Edited on 10/17/2008]
  17. Granniluvsu

    Granniluvsu Well-Known Member


    So sorry i came in on this late in the game;. I saw your post but just have been lucky lately to pop in a little at a time here and there. It looks like you have made your decision to do the understudy part or audition. Sorry I do not remember which it was. I know you can do it. Just continue to think positively. I know that feelling sometimes when you don;t have any confidence in yourself for one reason or another.

    I like the chocolate part of those "exercises" or whatever. MMM, sounds good to me. I am also very sorry to hear abou tyour mom. What a scarey thing. She is just a few years older than I - od dear !! How scarey that must be to see her deteriorate but cannot really do any test on her. So they (the docs) are blind so to speak. I hppe they find the problem pdq and can help her. Have a good visit with her and keep studying those lines. We all know you can and will do it.

    Bye for now.

    Hugs and blessings,

  18. boltchik

    boltchik New Member

    I just popped in and read your thread. So glad to hear that you are feeling better. I see that many people on this board have come through like the wonderful people that they are to give you support and advice.

    Sorry I didn't see the thread earlier but it is so nice to read about your improvement since it began. I will say a prayer for you. I am glad that your Mom is in a nice home with caring people, how fortunate she is to have that and you!

    I remember when I was a little girl, my Dad used to listen to classic Hank Williams while he was exercising. When he did his sit ups, I would lay on my stomach across his ankles. The weight helped him not to raise his feet up when he sat up. It made me laugh because my little body would roll back and forth. Funny memories.

    Now I have a youtube video to look forward to! Hope you enjoy your weekend! Kim :)

    PS Gotta love the chocolate, life's little pleasures![This Message was Edited on 10/17/2008]
  19. SerenityPheonix

    SerenityPheonix New Member

    i say, think chocolate for comfort...breathe the words of ecouragement you have received here...go forward with gusto standing upon the support and strength from your friends not look back lest ye falter forward.

    i believe your choices will be what they are supposed to be and all will turn out as it is intended.

    i wish you and your mother the best.