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The maker of my happiness

How do you feel? what are you feeling right now? Are you sure?

I often catch myself getting my feelings wrong and then having to deal with the consequences. Like last week when I had a solo show that I hadn’t performed for the last 22months due to Covid restrictions.

When we premiered 2 years ago, my boyfriend and I had just gotten together and he had never seen me on stage. I was very nervous about how he would like it and when he told me that he was overwhelmed and in awe of my transformation into the rather dark character, I was pleased relieved and proud.

Acting is part of my lifeforce. I grow and stretch through it and it is very important to me to be able to share my passion with my partner. That winter he watched the show 4 times and glowed with pride that I was his girlfriend.

Fast-forward to now: We have been and still are happily together for over 27 months and he is still convinced that I am the best actress ever, ( Yeah, I know, still rose-tinted, but I must admit that I love it)

So last week when I finally had the show back on. he told me in the morning that he would love to come to watch me again that night and to feel proud about me all over again.

Shortly before I had to get ready for the stage, he asked me if I would be very disappointed if he wouldn’t come after all? He didn’t feel like socializing(my students were part of the audience). I told him that it would be no problem at all and that I totally understood where he was coming from. And I totally believed it.

But then my feelings kicked in.

I felt sad that he wasn’t feeling a strong pull to watch the show a 5th time. (Unfair, I know, but actors can be peculiar in that way.) Then I remembered that he once showed up as a surprise guest after having said that he would stay at home and I thought, “Hey, maybe he’ll suddenly feel the strong urge to see me on stage after all”. This cheered me up a bit only to feel resentment welling up again when he didn’t show up a second time that night. (Which is outrageously unfair since he never even hinted at anything the like in the first place.) It was just my hopes and false expectations that made me feel let down. I had underestimated my feelings and then had been too chicken to admit that I had been wrong. Being mad at my boyfriend wasn’t fair at all. But I must admit that I felt angry and disappointed even though.

After the show when he asked how it went, I told him that I had misjudged my emotions and he was totally sweet about it. The next morning I still felt rebellious and hated myself for it since it was so unfair. So I finally gave in and journaled about it. And it really did help. I had slowly been sliding into making my boyfriend responsible for my own happiness and thus abandoned myself. I immediately felt better and stronger when I resolved that I was the maker of my own happiness as he was of his. That’s our whole secret. We just need to remind ourselves every now and then that we love to spend our time together, but that we are still separate individuals who can make ourselves very happy independently of each other.

So that’s my life lesson from last week. Bet I will forget about it every now and then but happy to know that I also have the power to remember my freedom.

This guilty feeling

I am sick.

It started yesterday when waking up. I felt dizzy and queasy and had to lie on the bathroom floor.

Being a freelance actress this is bad. I called my director and asked her if I could stay in bed for the remainder of the day instead of attending rehearsals so I would be fit again today to do the show in which I am the leading lady.

This morning, I got up and still felt off but not as bad as yesterday, so I aimed to push through it. Then it hit me, and I had to lie on the floor, shaky and dizzy.

The theatre manager called and said that I should stay in bed, that she would cancel today’s show (no understudy), and find a colleague to step in for me tomorrow.

The team reacted super nice and understanding, and everybody was so kind and loving and still,

I feel guilty for being sick.

I never had to cancel a show in over 22 years. This is a first.

As an actress and person, I strive to be reliable and to have to excuse myself due to a disease feels like a failure.

My rule has always been: if you could still attend the Oscars, you have to show up for rehearsals..Yesterday and today I wouldn’t have been able to attend the Oscar’s even if I had been invited by Steven Spielberg himself

Being ill feels wrong. Self-indulgent. As if I let myself go. I live super healthy go to bed early, don’t do drugs or alcohol, eat a whole food plant based diet, move everyday, journal,- the works, and still I couldn’t prevent this.

Very revealing, isn’t it? So deep down, I must be convinced that all diseases have a cause in how we are living.

This is empowering and motivating on the one hand,

but blaming and accusatory on the other hand.

I need to rethink my ingrained views.

But right now, even thinking is hard. I am lying on the sofa, writing this blog post on my mobile, and am freezing even though it is warm outside. Something is definitely off. I have to embrace this and be grateful that I am surrounded by loving people who are caring and understanding.

This is the hardest thing. To not blame myself for being sick. To be kind and loving to myself and view my judgemental thoughts as something I don’t have to listen to.

It’s a challenge.

Do you ever feel guilty when not functioning the way you want to?

Trust

Yesterday my director called to tell me that our feature film has been accepted at a film festival this summer.
This is huge.
It means we will be shown on the big screen and interviewed on the panel and I hope that it means new film offers and possibly a new agent.


It also means that my boyfriend will finally meet some of my most admired and loved people.


They have been super curious about him from day one, but thanks to Covid we didn’t get a chance to visit, which was fine by me because there was a secret fear I entertained:

What if they don’t like him?

What if they get into political discussions?

My boyfriend is lovely, kind, loving, intelligent, and self-reflecting, but he also is the penguin with the “against” sign.
He loves to hold unpopular opinions.
We have had so many discussions over the past 2,5 years and while we agree to disagree and are fine with it, I don’t want my friends to think badly about him.
When we first met, he even hid his political opinions from me, so I wouldn’t be scared off.


Don’t fret, he is neither a Nazi, nor a racist or anything terrible like that, but he is convinced of a lot of things that my largely artistic friends would be opposed to.


And since I know that they will meet only for a brief time, I don’t want them to judge him.


I want the people I love to love the man I love.


What exactly am I afraid of?


That they will judge me for tolerating his views?
Or that they will dislike him because of his sentiments and thus severe contact with me?


I did fear both of the above when we had first gotten together in 2019 but since then I have gotten to know and love him so much that I know that he is the man I can fully commit to exactly as he is.


Today’s media seem to suggest that we need to agree on most things especially when it comes to politics and it is easy to fall into the comparison trap when starting out as a couple.


But there are so many more important things than which party you vouch for.


I believe that my friends are emotionally and intellectually intelligent with big hearts and souls and I know that my boyfriend is a wonderful person inside and out,
so why do I feel like I should navigate them meeting for the first time and getting to know each other?


I will trust all of them to sense the beauty within the other soul.


Trust is a huge part of love and life.
It’s good for me to remember that.

Worlds apart

My boyfriend is upset and it bothers me.
He is not upset about me, but somebody else triggered him and he feels ill-treated, not respected and attacked in his personal freedom.


When he feels like this he verbally and emotionally lashes out at the world.


Not at me, he always is lovely to me,

but his rage at the world at large,

and THEM in particular( whoever THEY might be),
makes me feel uneasy and sick.


I see the world as a place where everybody tries the best they can under the circumstances.
My boyfriend sees the world as a dangerous place with a lot of people in it that shouldn’t be trusted.


I see the future as infinite potential.

He sees it as something to be dreaded.


I experience the world as a place where kindness and benevolence rule,

he experiences it as a place where he is not safe.


We share our life but if you would film it from our individual points of view you would watch two completely different movies.


Why does his anger affect me so much?


Why can’t I just listen and experience his feelings, without trying to change his perspective?


Why does it make me sad and queasy when he speaks of the ill intent of others?


My sister once said that it doesn’t matter if the intentions were good when the outcome is bad.


I disagree.


I think intentions are important.


If somebody does something with the best intentions, I can cope with a negative outcome because failure is a part of life.
If somebody does something with ill intentions it scares me.

If my boyfriend feels the world wants to attack him,

it is completely different from him being triggered by something that wasn’t meant to hurt him in the first place.


I want to understand and empathize with my boyfriend without seeing my worldview under attack.

We disagree often about politics and it’s all rooted in our contrary worldviews.

He says he loves my healthy positive attitude but he can’t shake his conviction.
He is very highly educated in politics and history and his dystopia sometimes feels like a shadow that threatens my sunny world.


I believe that we are inherently good.


I believe that if we communicate with each other and listen, most people would get along.


So I will do that.

Communicate.

Respect his anger but hold tight to my love for him.
And the world.

My kind of love

I am engaged as an actress over the summer at the other end of the country. It’s lovely and sunny and good to be working regularly again but it also means 3,5 months away from my boyfriend my parents and my sister’s family.


I used to be gone over the summer every year before Covid, but things have changed.
Until 2019, it was me and my dog on one side and my sister and my parents on the other.

Now my sister has two kids, a husband, a dog and a house; my parents are older and more isolated (they live apart from each other, each braving the wilderness of old age),

and I have a boyfriend.

So instead of just hitting the road and diving into my other life, there are several ties to be considered.


Last year, when working here, I drove back every other week, just for a day to see my boyfriend.


This year, I am not just an actress but also the director’s assistant, which means less time off.
But that’s not what’s keeping me. I could have hit the road last night, seen my boyfriend and my parents today and left again tonight to do two shows tomorrow. One way is a 6- hour road trip, but I’ve done it before.

What has changed?

I feel very safe in my relationship, am not afraid that the time apart will make him forget me,

and I am hungry for my free days. We don’t get weekends off, so a free day occurs only randomly.


He comes and stays with me for weeks and then goes back home to look after his cats, his house, his daughters,

and we share our every -day-thoughts and life via WhatsApp.


But here’s the thing: I am fine with this.


I feel guilty for not missing him as much as I thought I should in a loving relationship.
I used to live by myself for the last 16 years and always loved the freedom that comes with it.

I am a loner and an introvert, so living with my dog, my writing and my books when not on stage was what I needed and longed for. My boyfriend, on the other hand, needs company to be happy. I love having him around, but when he isn’t, I fall back into my old ways.
I miss my dog, who died last year because she was always by my side.

I sometimes miss my boyfriend too, but it’s not the painful longing that feels like my heart is stretched out to its painful limit.


And then my old fear creeps up:
Can I truly love, can I do this, can I be a loving partner, am I capable of being in a romantic relationship?


I could google it. But I know that the answer lies within me.


I wanted to be like the Disney princess who can’t live without her prince.

On the other hand,

I want my independence, don’t want to become a WE or US but want us to be free within our bond.

Love is so much.

It is so hard to grasp.

I used to think that love meant needing somebody, not being able to live without the other, but for me, Love is much more wanting than needing.

I want my boyfriend,

I want him to be happy and healthy and safe and I want to share my thoughts and feelings with him. I love to look at him and to feel him and feel seen by him. I love his happy face and his sensitivity and dorkiness. I love that we can tell each other embarrassing things and be open about our fears and doubts. I want him in my life and am looking forward to our next adventures.

And I also want my solitude and my days spent hiking through the woods, reading and writing.

Maybe this is awkward.

But it’s how I love.

Everything happens

Today I listened to a podcast by Kate Bowler, who wrote the book “Everything happens for a reason.”
Kate is a cancer survivor who got diagnosed with stage 4 cancer when she was in her early 30ies happily married with a 2-year toddler.
Facing the very probable threat of death, she then experienced all the well-intentioned but unhelpful tips and memes from friends and bystanders.

Thus the title of her book.


Having been a committed reader of the secret and other like-minded books I felt guilty as charged when listening to her.

I would never have said to somebody’s face that everything happens for a reason, but I would happily have provided the secret of my happiness to those who asked:

“I am focusing on the positive to attract all good things into my life.”

And I did. And it worked.

Sometimes.

Often.


I still focus on the positive and feel guilty for complaining about anything (I do complain about all sorts of things -on a daily basis-, but I wish I wouldn’t)

Kate’s story resonates with me and my initial shaky feelings about the secret.

It seems to accuse people who get bad news of having attracted their fate.


“Own your story” feels powerful.


“Take responsibility” even more so.


But what if you embraced all the above and still got terminal cancer?

Like my wonderful photographer who introduced me to the secret, held monthly meetings with friends to introduce them to the miracle of the law of attraction and then died of cancer within a short period of time?


I admire people who meditate daily and manifest their dreams, but what if they suddenly get bad news?


The New thought movement and the belief in the law of attraction may have helped many people, but they also seem to blame those who find themselves suddenly afflicted with a disease or other negative situations.


Everything happens and can happen to everybody.
Let us not add to their load.

Me in the mirror

I listened to an interview with Esther Perel on feel better, live more

She is a relationship expert and very healing for any kind of conflict.

Here is her advice in a nutshell:

99% of all criticism is a wish.

Try to find your wish behind what triggers you in your partner’s behaviour and constructively formulate this.

Be curious.

Instead of looking at your husband/wife/lover as somebody you know inside and out, try to look at them in a new light. Discover them.

Listen.

If in a conflict situation and in general.

Hear the other one out.

I know this can be hard especially if you are upset and have the feeling that you have heard those words a hundred times already.

Picture yourself as the therapist, who listens actively by mirroring the patient.

Try to understand the other person.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Start with yourself.

Rather than trying to change the other person, start with yourself.

What can you change about your behaviour?

Step into your power.

“If you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make the change.” (man in the mirror)

When no one is watching

“I am who I think you think I am”

That’s a quote by Jay Shetty.


This is me.
I want to be authentic and free,
I want to not care about what others think of me


but I always see myself through the filter I project
in the eyes of others.


I want to be caring, kind, dedicated, helpful, engaged, loving, uncomplicated and beautiful.


And when I say I want to be, I essentially mean that I want others to perceive me as such.


I also want to be all those things, but if I don’t come across like this, it doesn’t count.
If others don’t perceive me as all the things I strive to be,
I failed.


“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” (Dr George Berkeley)


So if I am kind, helpful, loving, and all the other things I want to be, and no one experiences me as such,
am I?


Who am I when no one is watching?

That’s a quote by Jay Shetty.
This is me.
I want to be authentic and free,
I want to not care about what others think of me
but I always see myself through the filter I project
in the eyes of others.
I want to be caring, kind, dedicated, helpful, engaged, loving, uncomplicated and beautiful.
And when I say I want to be, I essentially mean that I want others to perceive me as such.
I also want to be all those things, but if I don’t come across like this, it doesn’t count.
If others don’t perceive me as all the things I strive to be,
I failed.
It’s like that famous quote:
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” (Dr George Berkeley)
So if I am kind, helpful, loving, and all the other things I want to be, and no one experiences me as such,
am I?
Who am I if no one is watching?

Trying and failing

If you live you fail.
That’s the side effect of learning.
And it will hurt.
How you deal with failure is vital for your mental and physical health.
As a child, I was so afraid of failing that I didn’t do a lot of things the other kids tried.

I dreaded the shame of failing in front of an audience.


Only when everybody was gone,
and I could be sure that no one was watching
I would take out the unicycle/skateboard/the stilts
and try secretly.


These days I am still afraid of failing and a huge part of it is the fear of embarrassing myself and feeling exposed.


I still remember how awful it felt to be the clumsy one, the unsportive chubby child.


I guess no matter how much we try to move on, our inner child remains within and carries the hurt and fear that we experienced in our early lives.


I try to love and understand my inner child while encouraging her to dare things even if she very possibly might fail at first attempts.
You only truly fail when you stop trying.
That’s my secret.

I’ll never stop trying.

Walk through the fire

“If it just singes you briefly

don’t worry, you’ll be fine

if it consumes you,

you’ll rise from it as a phoenix”

This stuck with me after hearing Elizabeth Gilbert talking about being coached by Martha Beck.

Hopeful.

And daring.

I try to recall if I ever went through the fire so far.

I’ve had some rough patches. 

But I sort of accidentally passed through them. 

To me, “walking through the fire” feels like something you choose to do rather than accidentally finding yourself in a burning house.

Did I ever choose to walk through the fire?

I faced my fear when daring to meet the man who is now my boyfriend.

That felt like walking through fire since I had been single my entire life.

But does that count? 

What could have happened realistically?

Me not fancying him,

him rejecting me,

not fire-worthy dangers in hindsight.

Who can say what qualifies as our personal fires?

Dating someone might be the fire for me and child’s play for you.

Facing hundreds of people in the audience while performing a One-woman show might be an invigorating thrill for me 

while it would be hell for somebody else.

I think we all face our personal fires.

At times we get to choose if we want to walk through it, 

sometimes there will be no other way.

Like getting a terminal diagnosis

or losing somebody.

But even then, we might find healing in the thought that we might rise from the flames as a firebird.

The low after the show

We had opening night yesterday.
Cinderella.
It was a blast.
The sun was shining, we were sold out,
-there were a few tiny slip-ups-,
but all in all, it went super well.

It felt like a carousel ride.

Afterwards, we were asked to stay in costume for some photos and a meet and greet with one of our sponsors.
We took a few photos and then
we were free to stay in costume for champagne/orange juice and a chat or go back to our dressing room which is a long way away across a meadow and a wooden bridge( it’s an open-air summer stage).

Everyone stayed in costume and clinked glasses,

except for me.

I packed my props and -although permitted-,
stole away from the congregation.

I was elated by our success and also empty after all the excitement.

I needed solitude.

It’s always been like this.

Ever since I started as a professional actress 22 years ago.

The protective armour of the role is gone
and I emerge, spent,
happy but empty
and oh o vulnerable.

I always need some time to say goodbye to my adventure and the character of the night, to find myself again and be able to chat and celebrate.

Maybe it is just the low after the adrenaline rush,

maybe it is that moment of being without a shell
between being my character and being me,

Who knows.