The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Posts Tagged ‘coaching’

Day 305 The Times They Are A Changin’ …

Posted by themirrenlee on 03/11/2012

Bob Dylan said it best. And we certainly do got us a whole lotta change happenin’ everywhere at once right now.

Weather challenges, The Big Election challenge, economy changes, policy changes, legal challenges on so many different fronts, changes in what constitutes a family – the list is pretty overwhelming.

On the personal front, here, with me, the changes are so potentially positive that it’s exciting and scary all at the same time. No, not scared of the changes themselves – I LOVE change – just a slight worry that the changes won’t continue to develop, and improve my life back to how it was about five years ago,when I could cope with the Fibromyalgia. And sleep!

Ever since I started sleeping with the Circadin, other supplements have worked better and I can now actually get deep REM sleep. Only slight problem with that is the troubling dreams once I get into deep enough sleep. I have post traumatic stress from my childhood – something they’re taking seriously now. And it comes out in my dreams. But hey, as long as I can continue to sleep, I’m willing to dream about all the villains from DC and Marvel comics together!

The sleep is steadily relaxing my muscles and reducing the pain. Plus I don’t feel constantly like I just want to crawl back into bed and stay there forever. In other words, I’m AWAKE!

I’ve gone onto anti inflammatories again for the arthritis in my back (which has been the cause of my walking pain), and I seem to be tolerating it this time around, while the back pain has receded a bit. I’m seeing the physio who fixed my leg pain before – but not until week after next, because (he reminded me) this is Melbourne Cup Week coming up.

It’s held the same day as the U.S. election, so we may not get much other coverage except horses! The season goes for a couple of weeks, but Tuesday is the BIG race, held about 3pm, and people who don’t ever gamble have a flutter on this race. Usually, the bet is made because of some frivolity like the horse’s name, or the famous trainer, or what color the jockey’s stable is, and yet nine times out of ten the outsider wins! They hold pools in offices, and it’s called the “Horse Race that Stops a Nation”, but really it only stops Melbourne because it’s a state holiday here.

April, 1969 was my first month in Australia and I knew nothing of this. I was living in Sydney, and needed a stamp, so I went to the post office, and it was deserted. I rang the bell and a highly irritated guy came out from the back and said, “Don’t you know what time it is?” I had picked the moment of the important race to drag him from the back where they were all watching the race on TV. I’ve never made that mistake again!

But I digress. I really want to say that yes, I can count this as the first day of the month because I’m feeling so positive. I have had such an extraordinary week of energy, and controllable pain, and building stamina, that I feel like a fresh start is coming on. Who knows if it’s one thing helping, or a combination? All I know is that I can actually get out of bed – for a whole week I have been up IN THE MORNING, and stayed up. I’ve had to go to bed early, but I’m even increasing that stamina as well. It just feels like a new me trying to break out from within.

Today I coached an actor via Skype. She needed New York Italian for Arthur Miller’s play, “A View From the Bridge”. God, I hate Miller’s work – so call me a cretin, I don’t care. Anyway, I sorted her out in an hour, and she might need some top ups as she gets a good grasp on the fine tuning. It was such a pleasant session, I’m going to start letting agents and others know that I’m coaching again. Now THAT’S a breakthrough, to feel I have the energy for that!

This is a great way to coach. I don’t even need to see them – that can be distracting. I only need to hear them; I can tell what their mouths are doing (or need to be doing) just with my ear. Nobody has to travel, and we can stay in our “comfy clothes”. And I can coach around the world, which I’ve done before.

Maybe suffering through The Menopause from Hell in my 50s means I get the trade off of feeling good in my 60s. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

So today may not be the first of November, but it’s the first day of the rest of my life. And right now, it’s looking more promising than it has for years. I just need to make sure that I don’t overdo it all at once in my excitement.

I still want to talk, in another post, about what success means to individual people, but let me start here by saying one example of success to me is when I’m not restricted in doing what I want to do because of outside influences, like chronic health challenges. It’s a form of feeling trapped that is soul destroying. If I can continue to come out of that entrapment, I will feel like the luckiest, and most successful, person I can be!

I’m just changin’ …

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Day 304 Finding Me

Posted by themirrenlee on 02/11/2012

I thought yesterday could be today, making it a fresh start at the beginning of a new month, but alas, no.

The good news is that my sleeping pattern continues to improve – so much so that I’m actually able to get up in the morning feeling like I’ve slept. It’s been three years since I’ve felt that!

Unfortunately, I’m running myself a bit ragged with this new energy, which doesn’t translate into the stamina yet that I keep thinking it does.

So I’m too tired and sore to write properly now.

Maybe tomorrow can be the beginning I wanted. It’s pretty auspicious because I’m going to coach an actor via Skype for the first time in awhile.

All in all, I’m afraid to jinx it by saying anything, but I’m feeling like I’m slowly but steadily getting back to me.

How incredible that would be.

I’m just hopin’ …

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Day 302 The Aussies & Halloween

Posted by themirrenlee on 31/10/2012

Such fun tonight to see a few kids around the neighborhood make an attempt to scare up a costume, and then come for their treats.

When my 25 year Sarah was about 6, and trying to experience her mother’s heritage by going trick or treating, she got very interesting responses.

Some people gave her lollies, after scrounging around in their cupboards. Some gave her fruit (like Michelle Obama) and some, totally unprepared, regifted bath salts & lotions. One lady will be in our secret Hall of Fame for giving Sarah a can of baked beans!

At least they all tried. In between, there were houses telling my little 6 year old that it was an “American Holiday” (dripping with sneer drool), and we didn’t “do that sort of thing in Australia”.

No problem. I taught her in high scholl how to toilet paper a house as a “punishment decoration”. Only to be used in extreme cases.

When Nicky was recovering from leukemia, Sarah printed up flyers that she distributed all over the neighborhood asking people if they could please give the little bald Jedi Knight a few lollies. It worked really well and he was so happy. (Her great secret for success was to give all the houses the candy they’d need!)

Now I see Halloween is growing every year, on all levels: in the shops that have cheap costumes and decorations, in the grocery stores that sell Halloween themed candy, and even in small stores where they sell a variety of “stuff” from China.

It’s a fun holiday, and kids love it. I’m waiting for the year when the houses start to dress up as well, and we get the full Halloween experience.

I am quite excited for another reason. I actually managed to get up at 9:30 am today! I’m still getting sleep. Scary to say it out loud. I think there’s a Yiddish custom where I have to spit quickly 3 times to keep the evil eye off it.

I did errands, booked for a massage back at my favorite student clinic, and went through Sarah’s house to see exaxctly how much I’ve got stored there.

To top it all off, I’ve got an acting client for a New York dialect this Saturday. More details as we get closer.

As a result of all this busyness, I’m ready to go unconscious at any moment.

My 50s were pretty much poo poo, what with The Menopause From Hell, a long overdue divorce from a person with “problems”, and health that seemed to steadily go under in quicksand.

However, my 60s are looking promising. It’s the first time in about 5 years that I dare to have hope that I’m going to improve, and get back on track. Spit – Spit – Spit …

Time for bed, and to see if I can feel good tomorrow.

I’m just hopin’ …

(and may all the candies you have, be the ones you like!)

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Day 19 Progress

Posted by themirrenlee on 19/01/2012


Is your life progressing along as much as you want it to?

What about 2012 so far – is it turning out to be full of the kind of progress you’re looking for?

I’m wondering because this website carries a heading that it’s about my journey in 2012 as I enter what I think of as The Third Act of my life. A journey implies progress of some kind, whether forward or backward, so the subject in general interests me.

I remember a motivational saying that I used in all my goal setting sessions with students when referring to their progress: “Are you making measurable progress in reasonable time?”

This is such a simple, elegant way to put it. It’s only asking if you feel you’re going forward at all, not putting pressure on you to reach all your goals tomorrow!

(I think I heard it first from the late Jim Rohn, a great motivational coach who Anthony Robbins credits with being his mentor. Do yourself a favor and get hold of Jim’s books/tapes. He’s especially wonderful to listen to as his speaking style is funny, folksy and soothing.)

The concept of progress was bubbling around in my head today because one of my commitments to myself this year is to keep looking for better and better ways to manage my chronic health issues (under the umbrella of the horrible condition known as fibromyalgia), so that my life becomes my own again. When “The Hell of Menopause” (my doctor and I joke about that being the technical term) hit me over 5 years ago everything rapidly started deteriorating until I was almost bed bound. I stopped being able to sleep (I think it was karma – when I was young I used to be so smug about insomnia, always wondering why people “couldn’t just fall asleep if they were tired.”), which, of course, helped turn my chronic fatigue into acute fatigue. Muscles need sleep to repair and rejuvenate themselves. Every day I would wake up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck because I didn’t get the deep sleep that they needed. It’s been compared to the same feeling as being tortured with sleep deprivation, and that’s exactly what it felt like: torture.

I became a Type A personality living a Type Z life.

I had to start curtailing my dialect coaching, especially on TVCs (TV commercials) which were my specialty. I loved the speed I had to work at to make an actor “talk like me” here in Australia on American productions. Unlike film shoots, TVCs take days, not weeks, to make, so speed is of the essence, and that suits my hyperactive personality. However, the downside is that the days are very long and start very early, so beginning at 6am and finishing at 9pm was not unusual. Unfortunately, this got harder and harder for me to do, until I had to retreat to only coaching classes and my private students, with the shorter sessions and the timing I could control. I was still able to coach acting, voice, creativity and motivational sessions, so I thought I was compensating well. Then I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t even manage those, with my stamina giving out and the pain kicking in long before a day was over.

It was very clear that my health problems were the ones making the measurable progress, and not in a reasonable amount of time, either, but very rapidly! This last year, 2011, was the worst one yet for me. I had tried everything under the sun to help myself (which I’ll cover in detail when I open my Category for those with chronic conditions), and not only was nothing really working, I felt I was actually starting to go backwards.

Those were dark days. I got so depressed at the thoughts that this was it, the rest of my life was going to be filled with nothing but pain and fatigue, and I would never be able to experience creative productivity again in any area, that I really felt myself giving up. Even my counselling wasn’t helping (I believe having a counsellor to help with your mind/body connection, pain management and cognitive behavioral therapy is vital for people with chronic conditions). I was so fed up with my physical self; I was so fed up with constantly telling people I felt like shit; and I was REALLY fed up with spending my life exploring options that weren’t working. It’s exhausting trying to get well!

Then a breakthrough. I was just too sick to get back to Sydney where my wonderful doctor is (I’m now in Melbourne), who has patiently been on the journey with me all these years, trying everything possible, whether medical or alternative. I couldn’t have asked for more from her, but we still hadn’t found the key. So I had to see a new doctor, who ordered a CAT scan of my back, among other tests, and told me that I had something new that explained my increased pain: osteoarthritis in my lower back. This happened in December. “Oh, okay, I said, so what can I do to help it?” I asked.

He looked at me and said, “Nothing really. It’s normal degeneration for a woman of your age. (On January 29th I will turn 61, which, as everyone knows, is the new 41!) Just take ibuprofen and codeine every 4 hours.”

I sat and looked at him, stunned into silence. My brain was working overtime, but nothing was coming out of my mouth. “Oh really,” I was thinking, “normal for a woman of my age? It’s fucking “normal” for every woman of my age to have so much pain that she can’t sit OR stand OR walk for longer than 15 minutes? And the fucking answer is to keep taking codeine forever until my poor stomach and/or bowels decide they’ve had enough?”

I couldn’t seem to ask him these questions, though. I just felt defeated. So I started to cry.

I told him that without the ability to sit at the computer (forget standing or walking) I wouldn’t be able to write my coaching books that I hoped would help me to “make money while I slept,” so that I didn’t have to try and find the energy to coach in person. I asked him if basically he was saying there was no hope, that I was simply destined to suffer this much pain and fatigue (exacerbated, of course, by chronic pain) forever?

He just looked at me. His silence was my answer. (See my blog on Empathy. He was lacking any.)

I left his office, went home to bed, and stayed there for a week, crying the whole time. Seriously. I gave up. I’d “hit my wall” many times before, and always managed to go around it, but this time it was made out of triple brick and I was out of strength. (If you’ve seen the movie, “Run, Fat Boy, Run”, and watched Simon Pegg trying to crash through a brick wall while running a marathon, that’s exactly how I felt.)

Then my daughter gave me a great insight. Towards the end of the week, she came over and asked me a really important question:

“What happened to your anger?”

During my whole life, through a “beyond dysfunctional” childhood that carried all the way into adulthood with endless responsibilities and challenges, anger was the passion that fueled my strength and stamina. I had discovered early on that it was anger that helped me cope and find the energy to solve every problem that cropped up. When I got angry I felt I could do anything. In fact, I loved it when I was challenged and told that I “couldn’t” do something because it made me angry enough to find the power to accomplish whatever it was!

In counselling I uncovered, not surprisingly, rage issues that I didn’t realize I was holding onto. Not healthy, motivating anger, but crippling, depressing rage. Unfortunately, I had worked so hard, and successfully, to let go of my rage, that it seemed I had also lost the ability to get angry!

My daughter knew what I was like – she knew that I needed my anger so I wouldn’t give up and become a victim. I needed to maintain my anger at my condition, at my apparent lack of progress, and at anyone who wasn’t helping me to get better. She knew that without my anger I wouldn’t be able to make any progress in my life. It’s just the way I am – it works for me. It was a big “Ah Ha!” moment. (In Gestalt therapy, it’s the “Ah ha’s” that help us to make the changes we need.)

I got mad, went back to Sydney and saw my “real” doctor. She listened (with empathy), we tried some new things, and then she sent me to a guy who I hate to call just a chiropractor because he’s so much more than that. He doesn’t only crack you and say goodbye. He’s dedicated as a sports specialist to getting his patients mobile and functioning. I call him a miracle guy. Again, details later in another section, but let me just say that, in a nutshell, between the two of them, I am starting to get my life back and am making hugely measurable progress in a rapid amount of time. We finally found the keys! This blog is part of that progress – the fact that I can sit at the computer for several hours at a time now, AND commit to something without being afraid that I won’t be able to keep it up due to fatigue/pain.

I am controlling my health issues, they’re not controlling me. And it’s only 19 days into 2012! Now THAT’S progress.

Progress in anything gives a sense of possible achievement, and in case you don’t know, that is THE biggest motivator of all. It motivates people more than money, prestige, power or fame. Surprising, isn’t it? But it’s true. Because a sense of achievement fills us with a sense of purpose, and what’s the opposite of that? An existential void. A feeling of emptiness. You start questioning why you exist, what’s the point in living, etc. If I asked you to pull a lever for 8 hours “just because”, you’d go crazy and not want to do it. But if I told you it was a slot machine and you might win a million bucks by pulling it, you would keep doing it knowing there’s a possibility that you might achieve something. A simple, almost silly analogy, but it’s a good example of how our brains work.

If you feel you aren’t making progress towards what you want to achieve, or don’t feel you need to achieve anything because everything’s been handed to you and there are no challenges left, then my bet is you aren’t real happy. The good news: you can change that. Spend some time thinking about either how you can make more progress, or what challenges you’d like to undertake all on your own.

I have spent the last 5 years not making the progress I so desperately wanted. I went forwards, then backwards, then stagnated. Oh god, isn’t stagnation just a living hell?

Today, now, I feel a sense of great hope and excitement about the progress I’ve made so far this year, and the continuing progress I plan to make with all the commitments I’ve worked out for myself. Talk about a new lease on life – I feel like it’s been renewed for another hundred years!

I wish the same for you. I’ll tell you a secret: the answer lies in PERSISTENCE. As Winston Churchill said, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

That “enemy” might be your health, your job or financial situation, your career prospects, your family/friends, your own sense of inadequacy. It could be anything. Fight it. Get angry. Persist in finding a way to make the progress you want, the progress you need to feel fulfilled and happy in your life.

If I can do it, so can you. Start today, one step at a time, and make your measurable progress in reasonable time. Just persist, even when you feel you can’t, and NEVER give up. That’s the recipe for it – and believe me, progress is a wonderful feeling!

I’m just progressin’ …

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Day 6 What Defines You?

Posted by themirrenlee on 06/01/2012

What defines you?

Your work, your relationship, parenthood, your hobbies, your beliefs, even your addictions can make up who you feel you are.  So you might say, “I’m a lawyer, a husband/wife, a father/mother of 3, a movie buff, a smoker and a Christian.”

Ways in which you define yourself are often the areas that people look at when making resolutions for a fresh start, especially at the start of a new year.  They might say, “I’m going to quit my job, get a divorce, leave my kids, stop going to the movies, give up smoking and relinquish my faith.”  Of course, most people don’t go to that extreme in one hit, and nor should you!  If you give up everything that defines you in one fell swoop, then as my counsellor once said, that way lies psychosis.  You have no idea who you are or your place in the world, and you can suffer an existential breakdown.

What is interesting, though, is giving up just one part of what you define as who you are can really tear a hole in your psyche.  For instance, we’ve all heard the stories of people who lose their jobs not knowing then how to redefine their identities.  If you’ve done the same thing all your life, especially if you’ve been respected for it, then losing it can be very traumatic.  It not only involves a loss, it may also involve a change as you look for something else to do if the previous identity door is now closed to you.  My post on change talks about how scary it is for many people.

The thing is, changing what defines you is often a good thing.  Addictions spring to mind first, of course.  There is a school of thought that says when dealing with an addiction the best way to get on the path to breaking it is first to stop making it part of your identity.  So you would say, “I smoke,” not, “I’m a smoker,” because then you’re identifying a habit you’d like to break, not making it part of what defines your identity.

Maybe you’re in a job/relationship/whatever that isn’t good for you or doesn’t make you happy.  Then it would be a good thing to look at how you want to redefine some areas.  The only change I would say you’re not allowed to make is being a parent.  Back to my post on choices.  You chose it, your kid(s) didn’t.  Don’t add to the misery of bad childhoods and missing parents.  Step up to the plate and suck it up.  You’re not happy as a parent?  Too bad.  Make it work through the choices you make.

As for the other defining areas, my interest in writing and pondering about them comes from my own big changes this year.  Since I was a preschooler, I defined myself as an actress.  My nickname was Sarah Bernhardt (look it up).  It’s all I ever wanted to do.  I came to Australia at 18 years old after years of acting classes – I had my first Method class at the age of 9!  (On reflection, not that wise because what 9 year can draw on emotional memory effectively?  But I digress.)

I worked on TV in Australia and found out my theater training hadn’t prepared me for it, so I went back to Los Angeles and onto England (with my son I had at 16 in tow – more on that later) for further training.  Somewhere along the way I found I had a gift for teaching, and in my 20s that’s what I started doing.  I started with actors, then moved into business and psychology based courses and soon, before I knew it, even though I was still doing some acting, I had defined myself in my own, and everyone else’s, eyes as primarily a teacher.  Or the term I prefer to use is coach because I feel I coach people to go out on the field of life and win at whatever it is I taught them.  At the beginning of the new Millennium I started coaching actors in the American dialect for the U.S. productions that are made down here.  Somehow, that mushroomed and now I’m defined primarily in that role.  I am a voice teacher first, an accent/dialect coach second, but being known for my dialect coaching led people to ask me if I knew a good voice teacher!  You have to watch out for how narrow those definitions of you can get.

I was in long term relationships 4 times, but I found you’re not identified as a “wife” until you actually get married.  I hate that term with its baggage of pre feminist roles, and always used the word partner.  But I was still defined as someone’s other half.  I found it hilarious that when we spoke of our friends, my partner at the time and I would say things like, “Is that Sam of Sam and Susie, or Sam of Sam and Rebecca?” Defining the partnerships instead of the individual people.  Now I am divorced, but have been so for 20 years, so I’m not really defined that way anymore.  Now I’m defined as alone.  Interestingly, so many people seem to think that is a bad thing, but I found that after years of being the other half of someone else, I love now being the complete whole of myself.  It was no one’s fault, either.  I just wasn’t very good at keeping myself well defined and intact when merged with someone else.

I am a mother of 2, and was a single mother at 16, which was a far bigger deal in 1967 than it is now.  My son was defined as the only child in his class with a single parent – today it’s as common as not getting married.

I’m known as a reader because I read constantly – it isn’t just a hobby to me, it’s a source of creative input and emotional solace.  I also believe the answers to all life’s questions are in books!

So I have all of these aspects of what defines me, plus, of course, many others, just as you do.  This year, for me, part of the changes I want to bring to my life is to change some of my definitions.  I want to be more of an actress and less of a coach, for instance.  I want to live in a different place, meet some new creative people, and finish my many writing projects (finally) so that I can truly define myself as a writer as well.

So that’s why I ask, ‘What defines you?’  It’s a very good question to ask yourself as we start 2012.  Do you know all the answers or are you confused about your identity?  It’s hard to live a life satisfied with what you have if you don’t know whether or not it’s what you want!  Or maybe you do know the answers, and you’d like to change some things.  You’ll be a lot happier if you do, even if it seems hard and scary at first.  Finally, maybe it’s a question you’ve thought a lot about and are perfectly satisfied with where you are in life and with what you’re doing.  But, frankly, I doubt it.  From my years of coaching experience, I found that most people don’t question or examine their lives enough, for fear of what action they might have to take – those scary ol’ words “change” and “choice” start poking their heads up and asking for attention.

It’s a new year.  Is it also going to be (maybe at least partly) a new you?

I’m just askin’ …

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