Remember in preschool, right after recess but before snack time how you were forced to lay on that crunchy old mat and dare I say it, take a nap? As a kid, I detested that hour of the day. I wanted to get dirty in that not so hygienic sandbox or burn my butt on that piece of metal they refer to as a slide. As an adult however, I have done a complete about face. I have zero interest in the smelly tire swing and any moment to shut my eyes is a gift from the slumber gods. Be it power naps, bedtime, or the coveted sleep in ‘til one pm zees, a jolt of euphoria runs through my body at the mere thought of being cozied up in some soft cotton sheets and my cheek hitting the pillow. To me, my daily slumber habits are like a perfectly coursed out meal at a fine dining establishment.
Let’s start with napping. Like tapas style appetizers, I take two twenty minute power naps a day. I find that napping boosts my creativity, especially when I have a deadline looming. I swear this isn’t just some lame procrastination technique. Every time I have napped before an audition, it has been a smashing success. Prior to my accidental napping revelation, stress and anxiety used to run havoc on my professional life. I was going up for a series regular role on a major network television show and it was a disaster. I had my agent and manager calling constantly, switching audition times and delivering rewrites. I was in a complete state of panic throwing myself on my bed and balling my eyes out over the pressure. Somehow in the midst of my melt down I fell asleep. When I woke up half an hour later, I felt calm, clear about my character choices, and learned my lines effortlessly. I went into the audition surprisingly confident. I was not chosen for the role, but I did get a callback and felt good about my work. Since then my version of the quick “nooner” is a twenty minute power nap and I have them quite often and shamelessly, like a guilt free tuna tartar.
Naps are the appetizer, which makes a proper eight hours of sleep the main course. Yes, I said eight hours because that’s how much sleep as a grown ass woman that I personally need. It is during this hiatus from the world I delve in to dreamland setting my imagination free. My dreams are very cathartic allowing me to forget the woes of the day, coming up with solutions to problems that my awake brain can’t figure out, and even opening up my third eye to allow a prophecy or two to take place. I have woken up knowing that my best friend Stephanie is going to call me at two pm on Tuesday, heartbroken about another dud she is dating and guess what...at exactly two o’clock on Tuesday my phone rang and it was Stephanie! Now, I dismissed this as mere coincidence, but then the trippiest thing happened: she started venting about David the dud! Was I turning into Miss Cleo? Though being able to foretell the future via dreams is a rarity for me, what is not are several good REM cycles where I wake up the next morning as if life hit the reset button. I am clear headed, my muscles are relaxed, and I am a kinder human being. The exact same effects as a petite filet!
From filet to finish there is the final course: sleep in day. It is that sugary hit that you are oh so rarely afforded but are always highly anticipating. Now, because I wake up at the crack of dawn to workout, sleep in days are cherished. It is in these moments of partial cognition I get to daydream about my future or inhale the scent of lavender laundry detergent permeating off of my fresh linens. Part of my personal joy with sleeping in is being present. It is the one segment of my day that has no agenda except just being with myself. It is my own version of a zen garden, but in bed! In these sweet short lapses of time, memories of burning questions that have been plaguing my brain for ages reveal themselves...like what color were the kitchen countertops in my childhood home? I pondered this question endlessly. I thought about it on the treadmill and in the car. I even tried to meditate on it. Nothing. Then one early afternoon I’m sleeping in and boom! Ten year old me is grabbing a banana from the wicker fruit basket that was on the slate gray countertop. The countertop was slate gray! Not only that, I remembered the detail of every tiny square tile including a pink punch stain on the grout. The answers flooded in effortlessly. I don’t know why but remembering that random fact brings me so much satisfaction, maybe because now I could have other thoughts on the treadmill like, how many more miles until I burn off this tiramisu.
If it has not already become evident, like a scrumptious meal I love a succulent siesta. Be it a power nap app, a main of eight hours, or a sleep in confection; slowing down my brain waves is one of my favorite parts of the day. Unlike scorching my tushie on a slide, concocting my own sleep recipe brings balance and elation into my life. A stark contrast to the cranky kid who restlessly flailed on her crunchy preschool mat after recess but before snacks.
To me luck has always been either fantastical circumstances or an unfortunate incident of being down on my luck. They seem to go hand in hand. Sometimes you get the fun, colorful marshmallows and sometimes life gives you the slightly healthier part of dry, lightly frosted oat cereal. Well, it certainly does not involve a leprechaun who is trying to run away from children because they are always after his lucky charms which are strangely still kind of magically delicious to a woman in her thirties. I have moments of out of this world experiences that give me wondrous stories to recall. But I also get those hard, painful predicaments that usually provide a lesson leading to personal growth.
Here’s an example of a moment I felt that occurrence of luck and unluck hitting me at once in a tidal wave of a very unexpected event. For legal reasons I probably can’t say the television show or the host this involved, so I will censor the names for this piece. I was always a big fan of this show and the talented comedian/actor who was the host for many years. I even went to three other tapings after moving here. I used to watch this show when I was a teenager before moving out to Los Angeles from Colorado. I can remember laughing at him doing sketches as the Queen of England. Making her talk about her corgis, while drinking gin from a flask, which the dogs weren’t even visible in the scene. Don’t even get me started on his impression of Prince Charles with these gigantic prosthetic ears, bubba teeth, and comb over bald cap. It all made me laugh out loud. I can still remember laughing and watching this on my little VHS player TV in my bedroom. My fandom for this show stemmed not only from the host's unique style of comedy, but he did everything different from the other shows. He was brilliant, funny, and not afraid to get personal in his opening monologues.
That day of the fourth taping I attended felt like one of the most surreal moments of my life. I was seeing the show with my friend and we were seated in the third row. My hair was extra bright red from a fresh salon visit and I was wearing a black and white polka dotted dress. Ironically the late night host was wearing a black and white polka dotted tie as well. We were matchies! He did his opening monologue and we all laughed and cheered. Before the commercial break he had to do his cold open which involved pulling someone from the audience. Sure enough he looked over at me and said, “Okay, Red get up here.”
I was shocked and was looking around to make sure he was talking to me and not someone else who could be called Red for obvious hair reasons. Then he insisted I come up so I walked up as they parted the set dividing the audience and stage. I was getting the mic put on me, a nervous wreck. The host shook my hand, said hi, and asked if I had seen the show before. I, of course, informed him yes and the many years I had been watching. He then said with a grin and a let's-see-what-you've-got-kid kind of tone, “Oh, great then you know what the fuck you’re in for!” He swiftly walked to the opposite side of the set. I looked back at him certain with a look of what?!? I turned toward the sudden rush of live television coming at me. The crew announced they were starting back up in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and I felt like a deer in the headlights. As cameras were zooming in, lights shining down on me, an entire audience of people watching and waiting. It was extremely intimidating and yet as a natural born performer I also felt at home. I took a deep breath thinking about how much I needed to heighten my game to match his amazing comedic timing. This was seriously happening right now and somehow I had to figure out how I was going to step up to the entertainment plate. Bring it on TV man! My right leg was containing all my nervous energy because it was the only part of my body shaking like a leaf. I decided since I had no idea what to do with this moment I would use this nervous personae I was already channeling and played it up a notch for the audience.
When the recording began, he walked around me like a detective in an interrogation and my eyes were wide eyed staring straight ahead. Immediately the audience began to laugh as he asked me to state my name for the camera. With my saucer eyed stare into the camera I faintly said my first name. He then insisted I say the full name which I did as if recalling oh yes I do have a full name. Oh yeah! The audience continued laughing as he circled me and asked his questions. Throwing comical jabs at me and me answering back with equal silliness. It was one of the coolest, most magical moments I ever had. I felt all my improv training and skills were riding on an electric slide. In my mind I took on a female Don Knotts persona but also being myself. I played up being a nervous wreck as I was being circled by one of my favorite people in the entertainment industry. I was up for the challenges he would throw my way. Jokes and innuendos and I played along all my wit. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins, my heart was racing and I felt my thoughts were firing off like fireworks in my brain. My words are perfectly in sync with my mind. My responses to his jokes and jabs felt perfectly timed. I don’t think he was expecting it quite honestly. Not to toot my own horn but I could tell he was expecting me to just blush and giggle in embarrassment on stage. I stayed there right with him the whole way through. The audience continued laughing at our comedy spar off. We talked about my hair’s reddish hue, my home state of Colorado, and my terrible British accent delivery when he asked if I could do that kind of dialect. It really was rubbish at the time.
After that few minute intro was done and they were moving on to the interviews, the cameras stopped rolling and were being moved to the interview desk. He shook my hand, told me I did a great job, wished me luck with everything, and kissed my cheek. I thanked him and took my exit off stage. Suddenly all the adrenaline from my nerves hitting me on the inside like a tsunami. I crawled my way up the audience back to my seat where my friend was ecstatically excited to tell me how fun it was to watch. It was fun and throughout the show little jokes from the intro were reappearing with guests. I was thrilled, but to this day I consider it a fluke. Perhaps a stroke of luck. Definitely a happy accident.
Now for the unlucky part. The day the show was taped to air was the exact day of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. Absolutely scary and tragic. I received a phone call from the show’s producer that unfortunately because we referenced Colorado so much in the intro and the host had joked about the movie in the monologue, both segments had to be scrapped and reshot. I was also told that according to the television lawyers I couldn’t get any of the footage, not even a still of the comedic fun moment occurring. I was bummed for so many reasons, I also felt guilty for being upset when people lost loved ones and lives in that tragic shooting. Way more important than my comedy kismet moment. Once I saw the new intro the host shot I realized he made the right decision to reshoot that introduction. It was very honorable and I respect him greatly for it. I mean, it really was just a fluke anyways. That’s what I always tell myself and one hell of a story to retell. What a fun experience it was and that feeling of being in front of that audience and making them laugh with him I am seriously grateful for that memory. I will treasure it forever. I later did a stand-up show with a bunch of Colorado comic friends to raise money for another Colorado Native comic’s hospital bills. It felt good to be part of a group of people helping out one of the shooter’s victims and families.
I’m sure my future out here will continue to have moments like this of luck and unluck. The ups and downs of the difficult business of being an actor with those few exhilarating happy accidents from being at the right place at the right time. My ambitions are like the Lucky Charms Leprechaun. I am one of the kids chasing him for the opportunity. Who knew my life could relate so much to that silly cereal cartoon fella. I think I will always chase after these dreams and why not because, after all, they are magically delicious.
Have you ever met a self-professed mean person? Have I witnessed this phenomenon in a vacuum, or do most people, at least upon meeting them, hold the opinion that they are, at the very least, good?
Given the state of things as of late, I have got to call “cognitive dissonance” here. Excuse my Freud, er I mean French. I’m calling bullshit: plain and simple.
I have always thought of myself as a kind person. I grew up in the South, drenched in the infamous smiling-at-strangers Southern Hospitality. The logic behind this sharing of perpetual happiness allegedly derives from the concept of loving one’s neighbor. Smiles begat conversations spontaneously erupting only to end in an invitation to lunch or dinner (whichever meal was closest). This was presented to me as kindness. Perhaps, in many ways, it can be.
Moving to Los Angeles in my teens meant journeying to a land where an errant smile is construed as either stupidity or selling something. It was jarring to learn that smiling does not necessarily constitute a measure of one’s kindness, especially when some smilers in LA will begin hurling obscenities your way seconds later.
Back to my initial query: what person trying to develop any sort of rapport with another human doesn’t use at least one of these terms as a self-descriptor? It is almost as if, societally, there is an importance in being at least perceived as a good-hearted person, veracity be damned. Anyone who has met a human before can easily say not all humans are nice or kind. Yet in English, there is the term “humankind” to refer to the lot of us on this spinning wet rock…but I digress.
Thanks to COVID, I definitely spent a good deal of time waking up to just how unkind humans can be, how niceties are either manufactured or non-existent “these days.” Emails “hope to find me well” when I sincerely doubt anyone is really doing “well” by any previous metric. Everyone else having time to think gives us space to see how unkind we, as a populace, are to our environment, to our fellow beings (be them animal or human), and to ourselves.
This leads to an exact counterpoint that kindness and vulnerability are seen as weaknesses in modern American culture. If you’re kind while working in an office, that’s the surest way to end up working late or through the weekend for people who left at 3pm on a Friday because they felt like it. If you’re kind in the stock market or big business, that’s the surest way to piss off investors since your dividends aren’t competitive with other sharks in the water. If you’re nice to a salesperson, that’s the surest way to walk away too-many-dollars poorer for something you still don’t understand even hours after the initial exchange took place.
Perhaps this is where the distinction comes in. Why, in such a selfishly “independent” nation as America, are there so many who are willing to smile wide in the midst of outright meanness? Why is there a subset of the populace placating these people with the smile of “perseverance”? Kindness is key. I can’t be nice to everyone; believe me, I have tried. All that gets you is fatigue that sleep can’t cure and disease-causing repressed anger. After a good wrestle with denial, I took a look at how either of those adjectives might apply to me specifically.
Predictably, what I found within was as ugly as what I found in the world. I found an inner critic so harsh, it’s no wonder I hadn’t lived up to all of the potential heaped on me from a young age. That monologue on loop in my mind had an answer for every question of failure and confirmed why future choices would be wrong with what felt like searing accuracy. Upon deeper questioning however, the Critic sputtered and defended itself, talking in circles until I would relent just to get some mental quiet. The judgements I would make on the smallest of ideas made me second-guess if my creativity existed at all. Friends and acquaintances would laud my zaniness at happy hours and remark about off-the-wall thinking that came naturally to me, yet I couldn’t convince the cassette tape in my head that I had any value.
Beneath that cacophony of negativity beat a heart overflowing with concern and care for others. When you’re cruel to yourself yet want to be kind to others, what ends up happening is saccharine-sweetness oozes out instead of genuine care. Why would I stay in wretchedly awful situations until tears would spring to my eyes so I could confidently yell “I DON’T CARE ANYMORE!” when, in fact, I cared a great deal.
Since when did trying one’s hardest to be a kind person become so problematic? In my case, it had to be due to my complete erasing of myself in favor of others. When I was a kid, my father would take me to school every morning. Without fail, before I was allowed to hop out of his truck and rush into class, my father would make a point to tell me to “be a helper.” For 6 years, 5 days a week, I would hear that phrase and do my utmost to live up to it. When other kids were angry that I ruined the curve of a test and told me to fail to make it easier, I seriously considered getting questions wrong. I learned that not having to study for tests got me A’s, but I made a point to never try much harder so as not to upset the other uniform-clad kids around me. I was told to sing quieter in choirs because the others “couldn’t be heard.” Rather than quit the choir and start my own band, I allowed that criticism to inform my hobby of singing until it became the quiet, self-deprecating thing I can’t help but do in the shower, car, or rarely in public when my itch to perform leads me to signing up for an open mic. All of these efforts were to at least seem like I was kind. The older I’ve become, the more one question has begun to nag at me with ever-increasing volume:
By becoming less-than, who was I helping?
I have stepped into every single situation with which I was entrusted and poured an obscene amount of care and attention into it, hoping to high heavens I would get a shred of said care back. I now hope to serve as a cautionary tale to say no, that’s not how it works. That’s not kindness. The peculiar thing about kindness (and my theory on why customer service is work that is vastly undervalued) is its anti-transactional nature. When you consider computer coding or making a sale, there is a transactional if-then element to the motions required to execute an action. Kindness, sure, can beget more kindness in the way that if you smile at someone and they smile back, both of your days are made. But as sure as you take the risk to smile, the other person could easily respond in various other negative ways.
In the same way that people say you must love yourself before you can love others, the same caveat applies to kindness. You must be kind to yourself, which means forgiving yourself when the most you can do effectively that day is wake up, and allow yourself to forgive your human frailty. This is the only way to garner enough empathy for that jerk who cuts you off or what have you, and that isn’t even, necessarily, a failsafe.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there is no failsafe to much of anything. I also know that being kind is vital to surviving this life. It’s the only hope we’ve got, and, happy to get this song stuck in your head after such a heavy thought, “We’re All In This Together.” That simple thought is the ticket to a kindness that won’t kill you. Knowing that others are in the same boat is oddly reassuring. I’m not the only person who has cried on the planet, nor am I the only one prone to a fit of giggles over something mundane or innocuous. If someone cuts me off while I’m driving, I try to remind myself of the times I’ve been running late and cut in front of someone else (hold your gasps of horror; of course, I’ve done it, and you know you’ve done it, too). If I am ever down, someone out there can help pick me up. The frustrating thing about this anti-transaction of kindness that many can call the Golden Rule or Karma is yes, you “get what you give,” but it is never how you expect. Putting yourself out there and being vulnerable means risking getting yelled at by strangers. But haven’t you had the kind of day where all you want to do is swear at anyone who crosses your path? Because I definitely have. Should you be yelled at like that? No. But can that little edge of empathy make hearing it a little less of a drag? Perhaps.