Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cave Dwelling

This is highly indulgent - maybe even irritating. But then, I set out to reveal the warts and all.

Yesterday was a tough day. And I have no idea why. I have no idea why late last night, I wanted to crawl into a cave and not come out - or why this morning, for breakfast, I have swallowed down the lump in my throat multiple times. I feel isolated and alone and as though my mind is sucking me into some version of hell where all I see is disappointment. And I have no idea what brought this on. I rarely do. All I know is that these moments are happening more and more frequently, and I don't know how to push the rolling boulder back up the hill; its weight threatens to crush me into a version of myself that is simply...lost.

My beautiful and empathic partner sensed my darkening mood last evening. I tried to talk it out with him. In doing so, I had a moment of silence - like one of so many "beats" I insert into my plays - and I simply said, "I'm a complete failure." Michael almost laughed - not out of cruelty...really out of sweetness. He said, "You would never accept that from me...if I said that, you'd smack me down." He's right. In my tough love Texan way, I'd probably hug him, give him a kiss, and then say, "Quit whining, Little Camper!" as I bopped him on the head.

But in that moment, it is how I felt - feel?

I am almost 36 years old. I live pay check to pay check. I haven't had a play of mine seen outside my immediate community. One of Portland's beloved theatre companies closed under my watch - and with that closure, my passionate dream for a thriving new works driven theatre company was obliterated. And I was humiliated. My band, Zero G, dissolved - really because I was unable to compromise my principles - but was that smart...or once again, short sighted? My family is divided - I have not seen or spoken to my mother or littlest sister or nephew in over 6 months. And my anxiety disorder is ramping up to a point that I now have major IBS issues along with painful aches and deep energy collapses - which make every single work assignment nearly impossible. Every day is filled with terror. And as I manage to push myself through - sheer ego navigating the way - I come out the other side exhausted - more and more each day. And in the quiet moments, I have no idea how I became...this.

I am aware this sounds like a pity party. It is. It's my blog. So shut up. :)

I'm also aware that I have much to be thankful for. I have a partner that is a truly magical spirit...he would take one to put up with me. I have many wonderful teaching assignments and have gained much respect from my colleagues in this field. I have many students and parents who show me incredible gratitude. I have also had an amazing two years regarding readings of my plays - and have been well received by audiences and colleagues. And though I do live pay check to pay check - I AM making a living completely in the arts. Independently. And I am thankful for this.

So what gives?

I came across an old file of recommendations. The amazing Charles Helfert...long time Associate Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts...and largely responsible for my being able to attend SMU, given his determination to find financial aid for a blue collar family trying to send their son to an "Ivy League of the South" school - this amazing man wrote me a recommendation two years after my graduation. I asked for this letter as general testimony of my potential - something to give theatre folk as I tried to move ahead in the business. It is a generous letter and in it he says that the Meadows School is often looked at in terms of the eras of its now famous alumni. The Kathy Bates Era. The Beth Henley Era. Etc. He closed by saying "One day, we will be talking about the Matt Zrebski era."

I almost ripped this letter into tiny pieces. Such embarrassment.

What makes things worse - is I can't simply wallow into a pool of sadness - because I know how stupid it is to do so. Even as I type this, I'm berating myself. I have a spiritual awareness that there is a cosmic logic to why I am exactly where I am right now. As I continued talking to Michael about this last night - I may have landed on something that gets to my dilemma.

I said, "Michael. My arrogance is the only thing that pushed me through my twenties and early thirties. And arrogance only hides insecurity. As I worked to reign in this unpleasant aspect of my nature, the vulnerability took hold. Because the fact is, I'm not confident in what I do, and I never have been. Because secretly, I've not been pleased by one single artistic offering I've ever produced. It is never good enough by my standards. I fail every time. Others may compliment my work and have nice things to say, but in truth, I feel I have simply pulled the wool over their eyes. My work is a series of failed experiments in artistic expression, none of which have brought me a bit of satisfaction."

And then a small epiphany. (Is that oxymoronic? Anyway...) I must learn to be thrilled by and completely accept IMperfection. This is not a completely new concept to me. I have long known my "all or nothing" self-assessment is an evil in my life. How did I get to be 75 pounds overweight? Because if I couldn't have the perfect body, why try at all? This is ludicrous, but it's something hardwired into my brain. And I know where it comes from - but no mother and childhood bashing in this post...

What this means is I feel I am living in my own cesspool of "mediocrity". And no word I can think of is more repulsive than that.

I'm now trying to find a way to bring this post to a close...and I cannot. So it's simply going to end. And I'm simply going to hope this day will turn up. I am going to see A Christmas Carol at Portland Center Stage tonight. Barring any anxiety attacks - which I have 90% of the time I attend theatre - it will be a pleasant evening with Michael, watching a terrific adaptation with magical stage craft...maybe I can learn from the ghosts...maybe.


Jeremy said...

I know you'd rather hear from your doubters right now, but you can't expect your believers to not say something.
My something: You can see yourself in the bowels of darkness. You have the gift. You have the work ethic. Go FURTHER. You shouldn't have any fear now. Explore the possiblities. Experiment. Mutate. Transport. Play with the shadows. It will make your doubters and demons very displeased.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a classic mid-life crisis. Maybe slogging it out is not the right move. Change the game. Go out beyond the confines of Portland and experience some place completely new. Maybe going to Europe and going broke will be the best thing that ever happened to you. And if it isn't you can always come back.