My husband jokes still joked about how different I am now from the woman he met fifteen years ago in our graduate acting program at Rutgers University, and I recount what I told him at that time.
“I may be a mess now, but I’m going to be amaaaaaazing in my 30’s,” I would proclaim. Luckily, he stuck around.
I wore a lot of makeup, straightened my hair, ate McDonald’s quite a bit, and wore a lot of black leather jackets. I also chain-smoked, but these aren’t the main differences, really.
When we met, I had a veneer of indifference to most things.
I was an emotional tornado in our acting classes (likely because I was repressing so much), but cool and distant to most outside of the classroom. I maintained a cool resignation and cynicism toward people, didn’t put a whole lot of effort in, and rarely admitted that most things bothered me unless I had a bottle of wine and it was..tears and fireworks. Of course, I now realize it was because I was struggling with myself, and keeping people at a distance was a way to keep them from seeing “the real me.”
When I was 19, I spent an entire season as an apprentice at one of the most famous theater festivals in the country, Williamstown Theater Festival, surrounded by incredible artists, silently crushing on Chris Pine (yes, he was there too), smoking in a corner, trying NOT to be looked at or noticed (and also furious that I was never looked at or noticed).
Staying “casual” about life helped me feel in control.
One day in acting class at Rutgers, led by one of the fiercest and most incredible artists I have ever known in real life, Deborah Hedwall, she called someone out for their “casual” responses in acting class.
She coached a scene we were all watching,
“For Christ sake, don’t be cool! Go get your heart broken! Lose someone! Live! Fail epically! But don’t be cool!”
No one goes to the theater to watch casual behavior. They go to the theater to be moved.
I remember that day being a turning point for how I approached life. We don’t come here to this life to be casual and collected. We come to this life to be moved.
As I grew up a little bit, I softened and realized part of this apathy was a protective mechanism because I actually felt SO MUCH all the time. I built this wall to cope with the enormity of my feelings. As I did more and more internal work, I became more and in touch with my sensitivity, more and more willing to own up to where I was not “fine” and things were not “cool.” It became easier to become vulnerable, to be real, to deeply connect with people and to pursue my goals.
But there were still areas of my life I didn’t want to touch, that I kept distant from my heart, and here is what I told myself to justify it.
It’s fine. I don’t really care.
This is just the way things are.
It won’t matter anyway.
It was a big old “whatever” accompanied by a sad half smile and shrug.
It’s cool. It’s fine.
I told myself this was acceptance.
But it wasn’t. I was bypassing my crap, walking around instead of through and whether or not I was recognizing it, it was affecting my daily life and the patterns I was finding myself in every day.
Pretending things are “cool” and treating our own life casually is one of the most obvious ways we sabotage ourselves, and completely remove ourselves from the arena of our own self-responsibility in getting to the root of our “stuff”, which is of course, the key to our true empowerment and the ability to create the most meaningful life possible.
It is the first layer we turn to when someone gets close to something.
I just don’t care. It’s cool. I’m over it. I don’t go there.
I know when I hear these words, it is almost never true.
Really? It’s cool? It’s fine? You’re fine?
So, hey. It’s okay if you are not fine. It’s okay if it that thing, that day, that comment still hurts you. It’s okay if you hate that it still affects you. It’s okay if you don’t know how to fix it. It’s okay if it is complicated and messy. It’s okay if you wish it could be different but you can’t control it. It’s okay if you are filled with murderous rage. It’s okay if it all feels too big, too enormous, too messy. It’s okay that you feel awkward or ashamed. It’s okay if you are grieving the loss of it, or someone or something.
But don’t be cool. Don’t be casual. Be REAL instead. Be TRUE .
Don’t live through this area of your life being cool, distant, resigned and an arm’s length from self-responsibility. Don’t live your life an arm’s length from your truth. Because we can’t move through anything until we fully acknowledge the truth of what is going on for us.
“What we resist, persists.” ~Debbie Ford
If we can’t be with it, we can’t pick up the reigns of our own responsibility. When we pick up the reigns, we can move through it and transform it into something purposeful and dare I say, beautiful. We can actually let the past fully go.
I get it. That veneer of indifference is really tempting. We convince ourselves that we are indifferent, because doing something to start to heal it, or take responsibility for it, or acknowledge it, or be with it feels vulnerable and uncertain. So, we keep our truth tucked away, the same way I kept the “real me” tucked away underneath those leather jackets and my veneer of indifference.
So, try this for a moment. Think of an area of your life where you have been keeping something at an arm’s length and using this veneer of cool resignation and cynicism to distance yourself from it.
I have been telling myself that_______________is cool, but the reality of it is this:_____________________________.
As I result of pretending things are cool, I have been exiting the arena of self-responsibility (the only place real change can occur).
When we finally acknowledge this is when we can begin to start to heal and transform something that has been asking for our presence. We can start to find our own responsibility in how to move forward toward the truth of what we want.
But we can’t move forward from it until we look at it.
We can’t accept it until we completely move through what happened.
The day we stop pretending it is cool is the day we start to invite in the fullness of our truth, and the power of grace, showing us our next step. It is the opening for possibilities, and dare I say, a miracle or two.
Rock On & Be Well,