Finding Gratitude for all the Things That Got Me to Rock Bottom

Everyone keeps asking me what my aha moment was. To write this blog, to start living, to start healing, to re-surface.

I don’t believe that my “aha” moment was this big bolt of lightning that struck me on my way to Schmackary’s for my second red velvet cookie of the day. No one gave me the “aha” moment in a gift-wrapped bag. No quote on Pinterest inspired it.

It was sort of just, another little moment in time, just like the rest of my previous moments in time, that was way more profound than all the others.

Sometimes, your moments have to lead you to a very dark place before the next moment can come along and change everything.

And my God, have I had quite a variety of little moments that have added up over the years.

So I think I want to explain the timeline of my personal little moments, in hopes that it will inspire you to turn around and think about your own. I actually wrote this timeline on August 1st, 2013, on my six hour plane ride from Phoenix, Arizona to Honolulu, Hawaii. I have all sorts of documents on this computer of mine, meant for blog posts at a later date, and this one hasn’t seemed appropriate until now. Because, as I begin to retrace my own steps with my beloved Geneen Roth books, since I’ve been finding myself sneaking entire bags of mint milano cookies (Karen Walker’s favorite!) during momentary setbacks this week, I feel that now is the best time to share what got me to this point.

I hope that this week’s post helps those who are looking for answers, or looking for someone to relate to. And if you yourself don’t need this help, I hope it invokes empathy in you for someone you love who may be stuggling with similar timeline events to mine. As unbelievably therapeutic, and occasionally hilarious this was for me to write, I encourage you, my strong, courageous, ferocious readers, to consider doing the same for yourself. It’s okay to embrace our funny and sad and ironic and amazing pasts so that we can learn from them, find gratitude for them, and then look to the future with hope. Because remember, my friends: all the little moments, the teeniest, tiniest of moments, have added up in their own unique ways to get all of us to right here, where we are right now.

Ladies and gentlemen, a story.

Once upon a time and all that jazz, sometime around the age of 18, a girl found herself in a land called Rock Bottom. Girl has never been quite sure how she got there, but all of a sudden, it was her new home. A home that she didn’t feel at home in.

Girl had freckles, blue eyes, unmanageable curly hair, and a tiny indent of a scar on the very tip of her nose from a chicken pox scab that she scratched when she was 4. She started dancing when she was three years old, around the time that she learned how to sing “Ten Little Angels” in church. She grew up riding forewheelers and horses in Pennsylvania. She always loved the winter because it meant hot chocolate and sledding on huge hills on her grandfather’s farm with her cousins.

Through many series of events, girl came to love food. The comfort of it. The memories it could bring back to life. The holes that it filled during times of confusion, loneliness, insecurity, emptiness.

Without her realizing it, a lot of moments in Girl’s life led her to her new home in Rock Bottom. Some of it was growing up in a dance studio, comparing herself to the other prettier, skinnier, more talented girls in full length mirrors every day. Some of it was being a band nerd instead of a cheerleader. Some of it was dating a gay man who didn’t know he was gay. Some of it was just part of growing up.

When Girl arrived in Rock Bottom, she knew that it was a place she wanted to leave immediately. So for the next six years, she came and went a lot. No really, like, a lot.

First, she went to college. For musical theatre. Some might say that was the first mistake. Looking back, it really was just all part of the journey.

She left Rock Bottom with a suitcase packed with t-shirts from every show she ever did, Abercrombie & Fitch tank tops that were too tight and too short in the stomach, pink tips at the bottom of her waist-length hair, and a broken heart. Not only did she get rejected from NYU’s Cap21 Musical Theatre program, she was dumped by her high school boyfriend that you met in Blog Post 5. So she arrived in Winchester, Virginia at Shenandoah University in August 2005, where she hung her dance pictures (aka cut-outs from ballet calendars, thank you for your time) on her closet door and decked out her entire side of the dorm room in Little Mermaid garb. Basically, Girl was nailing it. In every way.

While at Shenandoah, she discovered she couldn’t sing well enough to be in the fall musical, Sweeney Todd. So, she decided that the spring musical – the tap-dancing, showgirl-packed The Will Roger’s Follies – would definitely be where she would get her chance to shine.

Too bad there were five months in there to steal pie from the dessert bar in the cafeteria. Too bad there were no parents around to tell her not to eat peanut butter out of the jar. Too bad she discovered her tolerance for Natty Light straight from the keg.

Too bad that by the time auditions for The Will Roger’s Follies rolled around, she weighed 189 pounds. Showgirls do not weigh 189 pounds. Girl did not get a chance to shine once while at Shenandoah. Too bad, so sad.

Somewhere in there she talked to her friend Christine from high school and found out about AMDA – The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. It was a two year musical theatre program in New York City. It was her ticket out of Virginia. And after all, she really only ever wanted to be in New York City. This was it. It felt right.

So, after just one year, she left her friends and her chance at a four-year college experience at Shenandoah behind.

Just want to throw in there the near-death car accident Girl had on July 8th, 2006 which made her immobile for most of the summer before her transfer to AMDA – helping her maintain the 189 pounds with flying colors.

Girl moved to New York City in October of 2006. AMDA happened. It was great, at the time, for what it was. Are there things that could have been better? Absolutely. Were there teachers who promoted staying fit in order to make it in the business? Yes. Did Girl take those teachers seriously? Yes. Could Girl control her binge-eating, knowing that if she could stop binging she had a better chance at being cast? She tried. She really tried you guys. But no.

At this point, Girl had done Weight Watchers twice – once after her car accident and once during her second semester at AMDA in 2007. Full out, no marking, Weight Watchers program. Tracking points, losing 25 pounds, keeping it off for a hot minute, and binging it back on in a matter of days.

Girl was struggling. Trying. Trying. Boy, did that bitch try to keep that weight off.

Graduation came. There Girl was. Freshly 21. Freshly graduated. Freshly clueless. In New York City.

Over the next few years, she made frequent trips back to Rock Bottom but always left as soon as she had the chance. She was given a lot of opportunity to run away from Rock Bottom and she always, ALWAYS, took the opportunity. But she also, always returned to it. She was always so unclear on how she got there to start with, but at some point, it just became her permanent home base.

Life after AMDA looked like this:

May 25th, 2008: Girl graduates from AMDA. 160 pounds. This is fifteen pounds heavier than she was two months before when she auditioned for her senior showcase.

May 26th, 2008: Girl says good-bye to her best girlfriend from AMDA who goes home to New Jersey for the summer…and stays there.

May 27th, 2008: Girl starts bartending at Broadway theatres for survival job. Pounds are being gained.

July 2008: Girl and fellow AMDA alumni start talking about doing an all AMDA-alum production in the city.

August 2008: Girl gets drunk and meets the chef from Peru, who we shall call, The Little One, who strung her along for a year and a half.

September 2008: Girl starts working at Jake’s Dilemma, a frat-boy bar on the Upper West Side of NYC. Girl continues going home with The Little One after working all night. She also starts rehearsals for the AMDA-alum production. Pounds are being gained. Cigarettes are being smoked. Beer is becoming a staple.

October 2008: Girl, age 21 at this point, produces and choreographs Lucky Stiff in Times Square, and forms a non-profit theatre company while cocktail waitressing and trying not to piss off every friend she’s ever made with her insane mood swings and binge-drinking. What the fuck? Too much stress. Too much stress.

November 2008: Girl starts guest bartending at McFadden’s (Douchebag Central, 42nd Street and 2nd) and Turtle Bay (Douchbag Central Overflow, 51st and 2nd).

January 2009: Girl starts working at Equinox Fitness at the spa in order to get a free gym membership. 170 pounds.

Sometime in 2009: Girl’s only female cousin gets engaged.

Sometime in 2009: Girl realizes she has to sing in front of people in a bridesmaid dress. Girl gets a personal trainer through Equinox. Girl drinks a lot of Carnation Instant Breakfast and eats a lot of tomatoes with salt and pepper.

June 2009: Girl gets a sweet job working at Poco, a new restaurant downtown in the east village. Spanish tapas. Sweet, specialty cocktails. Pounds are gained.

August 2009: Girl is making so much money as a waitress and bartender. Auditions? What auditions?

Labor Day Weekend 2009: The Little One fucks up royally and girl finally cuts him out of her life before heading to New Jersey to visit previously mentioned girlfriend who was bestie at AMDA.

Labor Day Weekend 2009 continued: While visiting best girlfriend in New Jersey, Girl sleeps with the man she will proceed to date for the next two and a half years. His name in this blog is New Jersey. I know. The cleverness.

October 2009: Girl continues working at Poco. New Jersey comes to visit a few weekends and between that and a lot of phone dates they decide they are official. Cousin’s wedding comes and goes. 160 pounds. The thinnest Girl has been since March of 2008.

October 31st, 2009: New Jersey tells Girl he loves her.

Thanksgiving, 2009: New Jersey meets Girl’s family for the first time.

January 1st, 2010: Girl starts Weight Watchers for the third time.

Audition season, 2010: Girl gets called back for everything she auditions for. She is still working with personal trainer. She gives up her mild attempt at following Weight Watchers and just eats 1100 calories a day. And a lot of Splenda. She weighs 148 pounds and she is ripped.

May 2010, right before Girl’s mother’s birthday: Girl books her first professional gig at an Equity theatre. Damn Yankees. Happy birthday, Mom.

Night after booking first professional job: Girl starts a two week binge period that takes her weight from 148 to 157 in mere days.

June 2010: Girl goes to get measurements done for her Damn Yankees costumes. She tells the girls (who are dear, dear friends now) that she has just returned from vacation and they should take an inch off of all the measurements because she never weighs this much. Girl was lying.

July 2010: Girl starts rehearsals for Damn Yankees AND moves apartments during tech. Strong life choices.

August 2010: Girl closes Damn Yankees and goes to live with New Jersey for a month while doing next professional job – Anything Goes. She arrives for the first day of rehearsal 15 pounds heavier than when she auditioned. New Jersey does not ever want to have sex.

October 2010: Girl is sitting on the couch eating a pint of blueberry ice cream and gets a call that she booked Mame in Florida.

November 2010: Girl finds out New Jersey has a porn addiction. Girl drinks a lot of alcohol and looks at herself in the mirror naked a lot.

December 2010: Girl goes to Florida. Rehearses for Mame. Keeps porn addicted boyfriend a secret until halfway through the contract. Meets some of her best friends in life.

February 2011: Girl returns to New York from Florida.

March 2011: Girl goes to upstate New York to play Fraulein Kost in Cabaret. Costume designer is disgusted by how curvy all the women in the show are. Costume designer makes sarcastic comments about the size of corset all the Kit Kat girls need.

May 2011: Girl returns to same theatre to dance captain Crazy For You. Cheats on New Jersey. Dates new guy from contract. Weighs 170 pounds.

June 2011: Girl breaks things off with new guy. Girl is a total asshole about the breaking off. Girl is confused. Girl is fat. Girl can’t book any jobs because she is fat and she is a dancer and there are no fat dancers in 42nd Street.

July 2011: Girl starts talking to New Jersey again.

August 2011: Girl bartends the US Open. So. Much. Grey Goose.

September 11th, 2011: Girl moves to New Jersey to be with New Jersey for three months. Understudies a role at a theatre near his house for Equity points.

September 29th, 2011: Girl starts Weight Watchers for the 4th and final time.

December 6th, 2011: Girl gets new headshots at 155 pounds.

January 1st, 2012: Girl and New Jersey break up. For the last time. It’s really over.

February, 2012: Girl is nailing it and weighs in at Weight Watchers at 143 pounds. Girl is doing an off-Broadway show. Forty-eight of Girl’s friends come to see the show. A rich guy starts courting Girl and turns her life around, or so it seems, for two months. Life is good.

February 19th, 2012, 1pm: Girl receives an offer for How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying in Hilton Head, SC.

February 19th, 2012, 10pm: Girl starts a two week binge that just, never ends, that gets her up to 150 pounds by the time she leaves for Hilton Head on April 2nd.

April 2nd, 2012: Girl goes to Hilton Head at 152 pounds. Battles a ten pound window for most of the contract. Living with boys doesn’t help.

Two hours before invited dress rehearsal on April 24th: Rich dude tells Girl he’s not in love with her and cuts all contact. Fries are ordered. Ice cream is inhaled.

Beginning of May, 2012: Girl finds out she booked another contract, George M!, immediately following this current one. Only thing is, she auditioned for it at 12 pounds lighter than she is now. Now what?

May 22nd, 2012: Girl cuts out sugar, carbs, and alcohol for the last week of her Hilton Head contract in order to drop weight quickly for her next contract.

May 28th, 2012: Girl starts rehearsals for George M! and tries not to let anyone see her eat. Ever.

Sometime in May, 2012: Girl starts sleeping with a man who is in a relationship.

July 1st, 2012: Contract ends. Girl orders Bareburger delivery a lot. Continues sleeping with taken man. Gains back all weight she lost during contract.

August 15th, 2012: Girl meets Stallion. The man who will distract her from her depression, binging, and anxiety for the next 8 months.

August 15th, 2012 – March 12th, 2013: Life happens. But Stallion is in it. Life is like, kind of good. Girl choreographs two shows. Does Les Miserables in Illinois. Eats ice cream out of half gallon containers with Stallion.

March 12th – March 22nd, 2013: Stallion says he needs a break. Girl doesn’t eat. Girl wants to look fierce when they have the final “talk”.

March 22nd, 2013: Stallion admits to being depressed and emotionally unavailable. Girl looks fierce though. 150 pounds. The relationship ends.

March 28th, 2013: Girl’s birthday. Single. Unemployed. Many croissants are eaten.

April 2013: Out of all the callbacks Girl has in 2013, nada one works out.

April 14th, 2013: Girl looks great. Hasn’t been eating carbs or sugar. Goes to pick up things she left at Stallion’s house.

April 15th, 2013: The worst of the binging over the years begins.

Beginning of May 2013: Girl returns to Rock Bottom. And stays. Lays there in her gray little bed. Looking at her gray little ceiling. Pretzel crumbs on one side. A Yeungling bottle on the nightstand. Many a “not feeling well, can’t make it to your party/thing/birthday/lunch/housewarming tonight” text is sent.

May 9th, 2013: Girl goes to see her friend, Rachel. Rachel gives her two books, including Geneen Roth’s When Food Is Love.

May 10th, 2013: Girl goes home for Mother’s Day and brother’s graduation from college. Brother graduates with a degree in Landscape Architecture. Girl feels really great about her Associate’s Degree in Musical Theatre.

May 12th, 2013 at 1pm: Girl starts reading When Food Is Love on a bus back to New York City after brother’s graduation.

May 12th, 2013 at 5pm: Life is changed forever.

The story doesn’t end there. The story, this story, my story that you read every week, actually started there. A new, difficult, eye-opening story began there. Somewhere between May 12th, 2013 and May 31st, 2013, it all started happening. The calling Renfrew Center and the eating disorder diagnosis, the taking it all in and accepting and sharing of the news with friends and family, some friends being weird about it – some friends being awesome about it – some friends only finding out months later via the blog, the application and the acceptance to volunteer in Hawaii, and, the decision to share it all on the internet, with you.

I’ve had so many moments that have led me to my “aha” moment that are not the obvious. I listed pretty many of them for you.

I’d say, that there wouldn’t have been an “aha” moment without all the little moments leading up to Rachel handing me that book. I had to really be in a place where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet anymore in order for that book to speak to me.

When I opened that book, and realized that all these years, my binging was not a personal flaw, everything changed. I was using food as a drug and I had no idea. I always thought I was just really weak and had no self control and just didn’t want to be on Broadway bad enough to give up ice cream cake forever.

Sometimes, your “aha” moment will come when you least expect it. In Weight Watchers meetings, ironically enough, they ask new members what their “aha” moment was. Some ladies say it was seeing a picture at their son’s high school graduation and seeing how wide their hips were. Some say it was when they found themselves binging on their kid’s after school snacks while making dinner for the family. Some say that their doctor told them they needed to lose weight or face serious health issues for the rest of their lives.

I guess I didn’t realize that all these years, I didn’t have to be doing Weight Watchers to have an “aha” moment. Because this “aha” moment for me, in May of 2013, was the most important of them all, and it took place on a dirty bus on a Sunday afternoon coming into Port Authority after a weekend at home in PA.

I just want to say, that I think that it’s okay for us to embrace every little moment, no matter how small and trivial, with love and acceptance. Because all of those small moments make up our life. They are what makes each of our journeys unique to us. And without the shitty moments, the great moments wouldn’t stand out so much, don’t you agree?

I don’t really know what I’m doing. One day I want to choreograph, one day I want to write music, one day I want to keep Nutella in the house, one day I’m terrified of walking down the grocery aisle that even holds the Nutella, one day I want to be a vegan, one day I want to move back to New York even though there’s two feet of snow, one day I want to open a theatre in Hawaii. I am constantly changing my mind. I cry a lot. I laugh a lot. I drink too much coffee. I confuse my boyfriend constantly. But if I look back at my past, which half of my self-help books completely ban, I am reminded that I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve changed my mind or I’ve been utterly confused. Where I’ve drank too much and where I’ve made, ahem, interesting, decisions. But I’ve still landed on my feet.

I might be 178 pounds at the moment. I might not be a showgirl at the moment. But I’m learning from my mistakes, and I’m recording them so I can look back on them when I need reminding. I’m alive and breathing. I can stop at one beer. I can keep chocolate chips in the house for over two months. And at 26, approaching 27, after a year of frightening health scares and depressive periods that scared my nearest and dearest, I’m thankful to be here – not just surviving – but learning, growing, living, loving, crying, laughing, and recovering, one day at a time.

May your personal timeline reveal to you what you need to see, learn, or revisit at this moment in your life. May your personal journal entries and recorded moments inspire you to embrace your mistakes and your successes, your gains and your losses, your failures and your lessons. I said it once, I said it twice, I’ll say it again and again – we all have our shit, dude, and that’s why we have to keep spreading the love to each other. We’re not alone. We’re all in this together, and we got this.

Peace, love, and aloha.

aha-moment

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This Is Live Theatre, Baby

Last night, for the first time since moving to Hawaii, my friend Ethan visited me in my dreams.

Ethan was from the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and he passed away in his East Harlem apartment very suddenly when he was 23 years old.

Ethan and I went to the same musical theatre conservatory in NYC, but didn’t really get to know each other until my theatre company produced a production of Lucky Stiff in 2008. The musical is a hilarious story about a man whose dead uncle has left him six million dollars and he can only have the money if he takes his dead uncle’s corpse on a vacation to Monte Carlo. If he doesn’t, all of the money goes to a charity instead. Basically, just know that there is a man who is trying to acquire a fortune by pushing his dead uncle around in a wheelchair pretending that he is a alive and chaos ensues.

In our production of Lucky Stiff, all of the roles in the show were cast by August of 2008 except for one.

The dead uncle in the wheelchair.

That’s when Ethan contacted us and said he’d like to do it. Not to be morbid, but he was the best dead character I’ve ever seen in a show, ever.

He didn’t just sit in the wheelchair and play dead. He bounced up and down when the characters were on a train and he fell over when the train hit the breaks, like a dead body would if it was merely sitting in a wheelchair. He had his head and limbs move loosely when he was wheeled around and he literally stole the show. He had people doubled over in laughter – especially when he came to his nephew in a dream and tap danced as a ghost.

When I first found Kalani, the yoga retreat I volunteered at this past fall, and found out it was in Hawaii, I knew that it was right. I had always felt a pull to come here, especially once Ethan passed away. I wanted to see where he had come from, and to see where all of his closest friends had traveled to in order to celebrate his life in the summer of 2009.

The entire time I’ve been here, I’ve thought of Ethan often, when I’m alone looking at the ocean, or when I have one of those spiritual moments at the end of a yoga class.

But last night was the first time he visited me in my dreams since I arrived here on August 1st.

In the dream, we were doing Lucky Stiff and for some reason, Ethan was wearing a mask. Under the mask he had a ton of eyeliner under his eyes – in black and white – and he had ridiculous red lips.

He went missing halfway through the show. The actors were cueing Ethan and the actor who played his nephew onstage, but Ethan was no where to be found. In the dream, since I was offstage watching the show, I went to look for Ethan.

I found him in the backstage area trying to put his mask back on, but for some reason, the eye holes of the mask were glued shut. So every time Ethan put the mask on, he couldn’t see anything.

We both tugged and pulled at the eye holes to get them to open up and they wouldn’t budge.

So, I took the mask off and looked at Ethan. His face was full of fear.

“What if they see my face? They shouldn’t see my face if I’m supposed to be dead. What if my eyes flutter by accident?”

I looked at him and said “Honey, it’s just a show. All we can do is our best with the circumstances we are given. This is live theatre. The unknown of it all is the best part.”

We wiped all the makeup off his face (why the hell was he wearing makeup?) and he went back on stage and tap danced his face off in the ghost number, maskless.

After waking up from the dream this morning, I remember almost every detail of it. I remember what the black box theatre looked like, what his dressing room looked like, and most of all, what his face looked like when he turned from me to go back on stage.

He went on stage as though he could care less what happened, but yet he loved that part of what he was about to do. He was ready, and fearless, and excited.

I feel incredibly calm this morning, for the first time since I returned to Hawaii after my two and a half week visit home to the east coast.

I think Ethan was trying to teach me a lesson.

First of all, the whole mask thing with the eye holes being closed?

Simple lesson. Take the mask off. Take the hard shell off. Let the guard down and be vulnerable. Shutting life out is not the answer.

Since I’ve returned to Hawaii, nothing has gone right. I almost set the apartment on fire this morning, I had only one student in the hip hop class that I taught on Saturday, my boyfriend and I are sharing a car that I don’t know how to drive (fucking stick shift man), and I’ve felt extremely lost and confused, wondering if I’m doing the right thing.

So I clench up and hunker down in my cold-hearted, New Yorker shell that I brought back with me without realizing it, and pretty much snarl at anything that comes within a six inch radius of me. Including my beautiful roommate – the man I love.

First lesson of the dream is to open my eyes and take in whatever is happening – even if I don’t like it at the time.

Second lesson: life isn’t a movie.

One of my directors used to say, “This is live theatre, baby. If you want predictable perfection, go to the movies.”

Life is live theatre, guys.

Sometimes, people are gonna forget their lines. Sometimes, zippers don’t zip in a quick change. Sometimes, we trip over our own two feet because we were too focused on the next scene instead of staying right here in the present one.

And finally, today, with the help of Ethan, I woke up from my obscene obsession with perfection and laughed a little bit over the smell of burning plastic in the kitchen.

It’s like, dude, we have to laugh.

Okay, so there’s traffic and you have to pee really bad before work. (No, just me?)

Okay, so the milk in the fridge is sour so you have to drink black coffee and it’s horrible. (No, just me?)

Okay, so you’re only back in Hawaii for less than two weeks and already want out because everything isn’t dreamy and tropical and easy like you assumed it would be. (Yea, probably just me.)

But dude, in the next five years, will any of it matter?

This isn’t a movie. It’s real life. Shit happens.

Five years ago, Ethan and I were putting together Lucky Stiff. Naive, young, and full of hope for what the future would bring.

We literally never, ever know what tomorrow will bring. So we have to live today.

Right now, I’m lucky enough to be living in Ethan’s home state, just trying to do the best I can while I’m starting a brand new chapter from scratch, with not a clue of what I’m doing. I’m just going off my intuition.

My gut tells me I’m supposed to be here, so I’m figuring it out one day at a time.

I want to honor Ethan this week by spreading the message I think he was trying to share with me.

Stop expecting perfection, and just move through your day the best you know how.

One of the four agreements in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, is simply, “do your best.”

Just do your best.

Today.

I guess, this is my newest mantra.

Life isn’t a movie, baby. This is live theatre. Shit happens. Hiccups occur. We trip and fall. And as soon as can, we gotta laugh about it.

So, Ethan – man oh man, mahalo, my friend, for visiting me in my dreams last night and reminding me that it’s all gonna be okay. You are deeply missed, madly loved, and forever appreciated.

Mele Kalikimaka, everyone.

And to my entire Company 1B family – my Lucky Stiff family from days gone by – look at how far we’ve come. Know that five years ago, we were naive, young, and hopeful. I hope all of us still have bits of those traits in our hearts even now, as we grow older. And all of you – no matter where you are across the world – are always in my heart.

 


Finding Forgiveness for Show Business in Eating Disorder Recovery

This week, my best friend Melissa said the most amazing thing to me. She texted me and said, “I have to say. I was blow drying my hair today in my underwear and I looked up myself for the first time in a long time and felt really proud of myself. I’m not tiny but I love the way my body looks right now. It looks connected to how hard I’ve been working with my running and the gym. So I felt really peaceful and happy.”

“[My body] looks connected to how hard I’ve been working…”

I fucking love that.

It got me thinking about forgiveness. Melissa totally forgives herself for whatever has happened in the past with her body and she’s open to loving it for what it is right now.

Forgiving myself for what my body has been, what my body is now, and what my body will be in the future has been a really difficult part of this whole healing process. Remember the process? I said it like 18 times the other week? Recovery is a process. Aghhhhh the process. The process. But hey, listen, I feel what she’s saying for the first time in my life. And it feels so good to feel that connection to my body. And in the joy of that connection, I legit do not have time for hating myself for what’s happened in the past.

So basically, this brings me to this thing called Facebook. And, the thing about Facebook, is that its really easy to flip through your past and look at everything that’s led you up until now.

College frat parties. Throwback Thursday. Opening night parties. Ladies nights at Brother Jimmy’s. Holidays when my mother makes my brother and I take Christmas pictures in front of the tree, with the year written in sharpie on a piece of printer paper, before 8am. You know, the joyous occasions of yesteryear.

Facebook allows us to look back at pictures of ourselves like this:

Image

Dear God just look at that tiny waist! And this:

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No arm flab! And in turn we then hate ourselves because we now look like this:

rosie the riverter

And this:

1375691_332000303610432_608651746_n

Curvacious. Bodacious. Bootylicious.

See the thing is, the second weight, is not actually that bad. It’s actually pretty great. I mean look at the muscles on that Rosie the Riveter picture up there – mahalo for your time. But the thing is, is that it ain’t showgirl weight. And that’s what I’ve been beating myself up for.

At the “lighter” weight, I was booking jobs, dating a rich man who used me as his toy, and being called back for Jersey Boys and Mary Poppins.

At the “heavier” weight, I’m living in Hawaii, dating a man who is absolutely in love with me (who I maybe manifested in blog post 10?), and performing tap numbers in burlesque cabarets to raise money for Hawaiian Gay Pride.

The “heavier” weight isn’t actually that bad. It’s just…different.

Two very different lives all in the span of two years.

And I have to stop hating myself for that. Each of those lives is mine, and each of those lives are different and lovely in their own way. And so this post, is about forgiveness.

It’s taken me months, but I forgive myself for not looking like that anymore.

This is me now.

standup

Happy, healthy, free, emotionally stable, kind of sane, and strong.

Let me say that again for my own sake.

Dear World, this is me now. Thirty pounds heavier than I’ve ever been during any audition season. More sane, and more happy, than I’ve ever been during a week where I’m starving myself for a showgirl call. Stronger than I have ever been doing any sort of Weight Watchers business where I’m consumed by points but take no time to work out. And healthier than I have been since I’m about twelve years old. This is me now. I accept it. And I forgive myself for no longer looking the way I once did while I was striving for a goal, but not taking care of myself.

“Our job…is to seek a greater capacity for love and forgiveness within ourselves. We do this through a “selective remembering,” a conscious decision to remember only loving thoughts and let go of any fearful ones. ‘To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten.” – Marianne Williamson, Return to Love

UM, HELLO. MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE MS. WILLIAMSON.

Homegirl is telling me to let go of the anger, fear, and animosity I have for myself because I’ve gained weight back and I have to restart life and find a new way to take a stand in my career. It ain’t easy. But she’s totally onto something. Instead of focusing on those past thoughts of Weight Watchers and failure and wearing a different size pant every three days, she’s just saying that maybe it would be more helpful to let that go and just focus on the love I had during that time, even amidst the failure, and the love I have now, even amidst hardships of the recovery process.

Here’s how I’ve been working on it.

I wrote it all out. And I hope I inspire you to do the same.

Here are the ways I have been letting go, and moving on, and forgiving.

  • I cry sometimes when I think of the comfort that food still brings me. Knowing that through my recovery, I will one day be at a place where I never again fully indulge in a box of Cheez-its, a carton of OJ, a box of Bagel Bites, and a half gallon of cookies ‘n’ cream is hard. Sometimes I just want to finish a bag of Reese’s and be done with it. I forgive myself for that, even though my ego slips in and tells me it’s disgusting.
  • I forgive my friends for saying things like “are you sure you wanna eat that” and “you’re stronger than food” because they didn’t know that things like that only made me want to rebel against my own disorder.
  • I forgive the teachers in college for pretending to be brutal about physicality but not actually being brutal about physicality. As 19 and 20 year old girls, we were never really properly warned about what lied ahead in showgirl land.
  • I forgive the director that taught dance to me in college who will never be down with a curvy girl. I am so sorry that I was never skinny enough to dance in your company. I feel like you are missing out on some excellent skillz, but I finally let that go.
  • I forgive the casting directors for the looks on their faces when my weight fluctuated every time I went in to sing for them.
  • I forgive the agents at Actor’s Connection for never calling me in after my initial meeting with them. Although I come across “confident in who I am” and “completely comfortable in my own skin”, I also lied about my weight and wore two pairs of Spanx to meet them.
  • I forgive the musical theatre world for what it has done to my body, heart, and soul. It’s really not show business’ fault. I’ve been allowing myself to be controlled by it for so long and I was unaware. At the end of the day, the choice is mine. I decide where I fit in. I decide how my body type will fit in. I decide the way my career goes.

I feel like I’m a bit all over the place this week in my writing but I’m just on fire lately. Like, dude, there is a fire under my ass that has pushed me to new edges in the past two weeks and progress is happening and love is happening and acceptance is happening and courage is happening and inspiration is happening and changes are happening and basically…

…this is what I have to say for myself.

When I return to New York City, I will actually be unstoppable. To have let go of all pent up frustration, hatred, and negativity towards show business has turned my entire world around. To forgive the business for what it is, has opened my heart to whatever comes next, and I will embrace it with open arms, a graceful bevel, and full beat. Like my sisterfriend Brooke says, “We knew what we signed up for. We just have to figure out how to be happy within the perimeters.”

There is a strong possibility that I will not be cast as a showgirl, a secretary in How To Succeed in Business…, or a chorus girl in 42nd Street for the rest of my life. But there’s also a strong possibility that after a year of healing, the passion I have for performing will be so ferocious and pent up that when I unleash it on Auditionland I will land exactly where I am supposed to land. And I am willing to let it all go, in order to see where exactly that is. The unknown is so exciting in that sense. I have no idea where I belong in show business these days, but that’s like, totally cool, because all I know is that I belong and that’s all that matters right now.

Take a deep breath and feel whatever frustration, hatred, and negativity that has been built up in your heart around what you really love to do and see if you can figure out the root of it. Can you forgive? Can you really forgive, and then completely and totally let it go?

I wrote a post about three weeks ago forgiving all my ex-boyfriends. The reward for forgiving all of them, and dealing with my emotional baggage since I’ve been in Hawaii, has been absolutely, balls to the wall, fantastically beautiful.

So I suppose this week’s post is the letter forgiving show business. Because you know what? It is what it is. And this is what we signed up for.

Either we drive ourselves crazy trying to fit the mold, or we take a step back and remember that just like any job in the whole wide world, this career does not have to run our lives. I know that it seems like it has to – what we eat, what we wear, what color our hair is, when we sleep, who we are nice to, etc. etc. etc. And most of the time, all of that is true. But the key words are, most of the time. You are allowed to be you within all the guidelines and you are allowed to take the time you need to heal yourself from whatever you may have put yourself through to survive in the biz, or in the city, or in the passion of it all.

Auditionland is always gonna be there. But your life passes by every day and no one else is going to force you to take the time to live it but you. Take it from me. Look where I fucking live right now:

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Forgiving people and events of the past has put me in the most loving, supportive place I have ever been in my entire life. Look at my fucking face dude:

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Just an average morning in Hawaii, FaceTiming with my best friends. The most supportive, beautiful, compassionate, amazing friends in the whole world. Sending me love every day and encouraging me through my journey. I am blessed. I am strong. And I am on the right path to recovery because I forgive whatever has happened in the past and I’m ready and waiting, with open (and very tan) arms, for whatever is next!

Mahalo for your time! Now go forgive someone! Ahh! Life is good!

Next week’s post:

How To Change Everything In Five Days


Empathy for the Men, the Skinny, and Those Who Need to Gain Weight

On April 1st, 2012, I took a break from packing up my bags for my next contract and met my friend Hernando for dinner. We met at the Brother Jimmy’s on 92nd and 3rd (the one that no longer exists, RIP) to catch up on life.

Now, I hadn’t seen Hernando in a few weeks. So when he walked in, 15 pounds heavier than the last time I saw him, I was shocked.

In the best way possible.

You see, like many of my male friends in the performing industry, Hernando has always been skinny. Too skinny.

Now, if you’re glancing over at your fridge right now – the fridge that you’ve covered in cut-outs of Victoria’s Secret models and magnets that say “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – wondering if being too skinny is a thing, just hear me out.

Being too skinny is actually a thing. Seriously, it’s a thing. For boys especially, it’s a THING.

These days, when artistic teams are casting shows like Anything Goes or The Little Mermaid, they are looking for beefy, broad-shouldered men to play their sailors and their ensemble men. And although a lot of my skinny friends can dance circles around the beefy men, they have a harder time getting cast. Being skinny makes them look younger. Sometimes it makes them look weaker. And so they have a hard time.

I’ve found that even I am a culprit of turning up my nose at the skinny boy stereotype. When I’m choreographing a show, and I sit behind the table, I look at a skinny dude and wonder if he’ll be able to lift the girls.

After all, as a 5’7″ woman, I have been paired up with skinny men during musical numbers wondering if they can even lift my thigh, much less pick my ass up and throw me over their shoulder.

But they do it.

Appearances are very misgiving. The skinny boys are strong, they just don’t LOOK strong.

And in a business that is based on looks more than 60% of the time, looking strong is kind of key.

So what the hell are they supposed to do?

Well, I’ll tell you what some of them do.

Hernando decided he wasn’t going to sit around and be too skinny to be cast.

So, over my dinner of a house salad and a beer, and his dinner of two chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, and a green vegetable I can’t remember, he told me about his process to gain weight.

He has been working out with a personal trainer for three days a week for over a year and a half.

And he eats 3200 calories a day.

3200 calories, people.

He drinks two protein shakes each day that are 900 calories a piece. In addition to those shakes, he eats three meals each day, and when he can, he eats high calorie protein bars as snacks.

Problem is, he has a hard time eating enough because he’s just not always hungry for all that stuff.

Remember when I said to listen to your body and only eat when you’re hungry?

Well, here this guy is, having to force himself to eat when he’s not hungry just to keep his weight up.

If he doesn’t keep track and eat all his calories, he could lose two pounds in a day and a half just because his metabolism is so insane.

His eating regimen sort of sounds like diets I’ve been on – if I don’t track and eat the right amount of calories, my weight is affected. Just, in the complete opposite direction.

So, really, it’s all relative.

The body confidence journey has been just as hard for Hernando as it has been for me, just in different ways.

And like I said from the very first blog post, we all have our shit.

That night, when I left Hernando after dinner, I went home, finished packing, binged on some Nutella, and went to bed. I flew out the next day to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a two month contract.

While rehearsing and performing down in SC for two glorious months, I saw the boys I lived with get up and go to the gym religiously six days a week.

The boys on this contract were those beefy, broad-shouldered men in the biz.

And while I ran on the treadmill every day, I watched the boys skip right over the cardio machines to go lift. I cursed them every. single. day. I knew they were lucky, and I knew I was not. That’s all I saw.

What I have learned is, these boys don’t go to the gym to lose weight. They go to maintain their weight. They have worked so hard to put extra mass onto their shoulders, their arms, their pecks, and their legs in order to be cast as the beautiful, muscular men that you see on stage when you see a show. But they have to maintain it. If they don’t go to the gym and lift, they lose the muscle. And some of them end up back in the skinny boy body they started with.

And yes, they can eat whatever they want, but they are also expected to maintain a certain level of muscular stature to be accepted into the roles they want to play.

It’s taken me years to realize that everyone has a story. Everyone has something body-related that they have to deal with.

Have you ever thought about all this crap before?

I, personally, had never thought about it this way. I was too busy focusing on all the pizza those boys were eating that I couldn’t have – but would eat anyways when they went to the beach – that I didn’t realize they don’t have it easy either. I have always been focused on how hard life is for me. I never looked up to see that everyone around me has their own struggle too.

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Listen up, people.

People work really fucking hard to make it in this business.

Hernando dedicated his time, energy, and money to gain 25 pounds in the past year and half. Not only do I admire his drive and his bravery – I also drool over his pecks.

The guy friends I worked with in Hilton Head are still hitting up the gym every day. And you know what? They’re booking jobs at Goodspeed Opera House. Going on tour. Being called back for Pippin.

For all the time I have spent counting calories and doing Ab Ripper X, they have spent the same amount of time adding weight to their lift routine and drinking protein shake after protein shake.

We do what we have to do. We all just have different things to do than the people that surround us.

So next time you’re in spin class, swearing at the instructor and wishing she had pressed repeat on “Blurred Lines” – cuz that song is so fucking baller – maybe you can find solace in the fact that your best guy friend is at the gym, trying to add five pounds to his entire regimen because he didn’t book Chicago yesterday. The sexier, taller guy with bigger pecks than him did.

We all have our shit dude.

Let’s remember that we’re all in this together.

Throw some encouragement out to each other. If you go to Mark Fisher fitness this week (and amen for Mark Fisher Fitness – LIKE AMEN Y’ALL) and you’re in class with people of all shapes and sizes, keep in mind that you’re all there for different reasons. If you’ve been too nervous to go to Mark Fisher Fitness because everyone there is a muscle daddy and they all did Broadway Bares, call their asses up and ask them some questions. Those people are the nicest fucking people I have ever talked to. They’re just very into making you feel awesome about yourself. I am willing to bet that they’ll help you figure out when to go to class, and how to not feel shitty about working out next to a girl that’s been going to every Snatched in Six Weeks program since the beginning. Not everyone that goes there is there to lose weight. Some of them go to gain it. So comparing yourself to them is not helpful to your well-being.

If you have no idea what the fuck Mark Fisher Fitness is, you can still throw some encouragement out to each other. If your friend is never willing to go for a run with you, consider that maybe it’s because they spend an hour and a half lifting every day. And they don’t do cardio because if they do, they’ll burn all the calories they consumed in their Sun Warrior Raw Protein-blueberry-banana-chia seed-peanut butter shake this morning.

Next time your friend orders two chicken breasts and fries and you hate them for it, just keep in mind that if they eat a salad with you, it throws off their entire eating regimen.

Isn’t that crazy?

Yea, maybe it’s crazy. But we all have something we have to do to to make ourselves marketable. And if it’s not for the performing industry, maybe it’s for dating. Maybe it’s for self-confidence. Maybe it’s to become a personal trainer. Maybe it’s to overcome a quarter life crisis and feel really sexy every single day when you look in the mirror after you take a shower. Whatever it’s for, we all have something we are always working on.

So if your skinny friend has complaints every now and then, let them vent to you. Let them. They are having a hard time and although your story might be different, and you wish you could literally cut 25 pounds off your ass and hand it to them wrapped in a bow, ya can’t. Believe it or not, being supportive of their struggles will mean just as much to them.

You’ll find that empathy can really save your sanity. And that goes both ways. Receiving empathy and giving empathy is a really special thing in this world.

Appreciate what you have and admire others for their own struggles.

Everyone has their shit, but we’re all in this together.