Category Archives: Inspiration

Handling Oppression

Some of you have followed me for a long time, so you know my story and how I came out of a pretty wild childhood. For those of you who don’t, you can check out my book, or just give me the benefit of the doubt. But when I tell you I know what it’s like to be pushed down, oppressed, sat on (literally), and told to believe that I am less than I am -consistently  from many different people in many different walks of life, I am really not kidding.

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On day I realized: I am a magnet for people who like to make others feel bad. Why is this? Do I have a sign on my butt that says, “kick me?” Do I give off “walking wounded?” I don’t think so, and my friends don’t think so. So what’s the deal?

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I finally figured it out. I’m an artist, but not just as in the “I paint canvas” or in a “I’m a good actor” kind of way. I’m an artist in that I have a special gift, that I really love people. It gives me joy to help another human being. This is just a fact of who I am. I am also a communicator. I help people far and wide. This is also just a fact or who I am. I can’t be any different.

 It gives me joy to help another human being.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-10-55-45-amThere are some folks out there who are just the opposite: they like to smush people. The only way they feel good about themselves is when other people feel bad about themselves. I’m sure you’ve met some along your walk in life. Sure, there can be something appealing about the whole “gossipy/bitchy, I’m better than you are” thing, but deep down you know that’s One Unhappy Person, and that it makes you feel bad to participate in that kind of talk.

My documentary is taking the issue of oppression and bias head on, but men aren’t the only offenders. Women may be the one’s who are suffering from being oppressed but we are also contributors to our oppression and therefore an essential part of liberating ourselves from it.

Women may be the one’s who are suffering from being oppressed but we are also contributors to our oppression and therefore an essential part of liberating ourselves from it.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “WTF? Dude’s be like, frickin’ rude to me sometimes! I don’t deserve that!” And you are right. You don’t deserve it. But what are you doing to stop it?

I am not letting myself off the hook. Here’s an example of when I should have done something and didn’t.

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On a soap set, a few of us actors were gathered waiting for a scene to begin. I had recently cut bangs in my hair. One of the men (a pretty famous guy whose job was secured by his many years of work there) said to me, “I’d never f*#k a woman with bangs.”

Yes, he actually said that. And this was one of the “nice guys.”

What did I do? Did I say, “That’s totally inappropriate and an unacceptable way to speak to me.”? No. I did not. I was shocked, but I laughed it off. I didn’t even say, “Well, thank goodness because I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole.” I said NOTHING.

What did I do? I said NOTHING.

This is me participating in my own oppression. This is one of a thousand times I have heard this kind of talk on set.

I was worried I wouldn’t be seen as cool. I was worried I would lose my job. At that moment, my personal dignity and the respect I should have earned (I had two Emmy’s at the time) was less important than my need to “keep the peace.” But what peace? Who’s peace?

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It has taken me a long time to come around to this, but this is what I believe: I believe that because I did not RESIST the oppression, because I did not correct it, I allowed the oppression to continue.

 I believe  that because I did not RESIST the oppression, because I did not correct it, I allowed the oppression to continue.

I don’t think I am the only woman to whom this has ever happened. In fact, I’m damn sure this happens far more often than women like to talk about because it hurts to talk about it. What can make it harder is that (sometimes) we are shamed for talking about it, or blamed that it exists in the first place. Let’s just call the shaming and blaming for what it is, shall we? JUSTIFICATION by the person oppressing, for behavior that is beneath their own moral standards. AKA a shifty tap-dance of B.S.

So what can we do, as women, to stop getting trash talked? Or worse, hit? Shamed? Blamed? Attacked?

We have to speak up. We have to support one another. We have to take action. We must not give it power by silently allowing it to continue. Because when we do, we become complicit in the oppression. We not only let it fester within ourselves, we allow it to be passed down to our daughters, our sons. We allow it to become a habit. We allow it to become acceptable.

We have to speak up. We have to support one another. We have to take action.

Please know, I don’t blame you. I’ve jumped right into the game as an “equal opportunity offender.” In the vein of the old, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” routine, I thought, “Play the game they play. Be more rude, more wild, tougher than any dude.”

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-8-06-26-pmI got so tough in my years in New York City I was literally challenging men to fight me, on the spot. With a loud voice and shaking hands I was 100% ready to get the crap beaten out of me just for the opportunity to fight back and exhibit all the rage I felt from the constant, merciless disrespect. I’m not that person anymore, thank god. I had to let all the rage and hate go. It did not serve me. I had to find another way, a better way. A stronger way. I had to regain my self respect, my dignity, my sense of having something about myself that was worth fighting for. And it all came down to this: I HAD TO SPEAK UP IN THE MOMENT TO SAY NO.

I HAD TO SPEAK UP IN THE MOMENT TO SAY NO.

NO. What a  beautiful word. Total and complete in it’s meaning. Start a sentence with it and the rest of the words will come rolling out as they need to. “No, I don’t like being talked to that way. No, I will not let you speak to me like that. No, you cannot pay me less than my colleague.”

You can also stand up for other women. Letting people know that it’s not okay to talk badly about your friend or colleague is not only a show of your strength, but can change the dynamic of an entire group. “Hey, she’s my friend and I think it’s not cool to talk about her like that,” is a lovely thing to say.

However you choose to handle it: RESIST. RESIST. RESIST THE OPPRESSION. The person exhibiting it is like a balloon filled with hot air. They will not last. They will not succeed.  Join with like-minded women and good men who support this kind of resistance and the oppression will not last.

They might even realize how wrong they were and change their tune. It’s been known to happen. And you know what’s so awesome about that? It gives us the opportunity to forgive and allow that person to come back home to their true, good self.

It gives us the opportunity to forgive and allow that person to come back home to their true, good self.

Which is one of the most awesome feelings of all.

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The Pain of Creating

From the desk of Cady McClainI’m going to be honest with you. Creating is not easy.

Making anything, even a quiche for goodness sakes, take effort, thought, concentration and caring.

Making a film? Fogettaboutit.

NOT EASY.

Since I’ve started on this journey I’ve had a handful of breakdown/breakthroughs. I’ve cried wondering why some men in show business can be so thoughtlessly dominating. I’ve cried wondering why some women can be so competitive and cruel. I’ve cried from feeling a lack of support. I’ve cried wondering why I chose such a difficult subject.

I’ve cried the hardest realizing how so much of all of this is really about my mother.

Mom… Truly, the most powerful influence in my life was that nutty, brilliant, madwoman. She who often gave up on herself, but who (despite her harsh words sometimes) never gave up on me.

Her pain at feeling like there wasn’t a place for her voice in the world sunk deep down into my bones. Her fear at putting her work out there echoed into my heart. Her loneliness, her anger at men, her wounds… they have been my encyclopedia of womanhood.

The other day I turned to Jon and said, “My mom at my age was massively overweight, fighting cancer, a heavy drinker, and unemployed. She had all but given up on herself in every way. I could hardly blame her.  Life had ostensibly beat the crap out of her from an early age. So when I live a life completely differently, without any other woman who I am holding onto for guidance or support, I am not only breaking the mold of what I was taught being an adult woman is, but I am forming an entirely new one completely on my own. And that, sometimes, is very scary.”

However, for me, there is no option but forward. Because one day not so long ago, I realized I can only go in one of two directions: toward drinking, overeating, giving up on my art and myself and getting sick; or toward health, spirituality, and continuously risking to make the art that calls to me. That’s it. One way or the other. Because it’s the way my DNA is coded, the way the story came down to me.

I can choose: one way or the other.

Sometimes I feel guilty for being a survivor, for not following her path of suffering. Who am I to succeed, to thrive, to be well?

I am my mother’s daughter. And I must believe that despite her pain and loneliness, she would not want for me what she endured.

I am my mother’s daughter. And I must believe that despite her pain and loneliness, she would not want for me what she endured.

So, I hang onto the motto: NEVER GIVE UP. Because by not quitting, by staying on the path, by gluing myself to the task at hand, I know I am evolving myself into what my soul wants me to be. I am the EVOLUTION of my mom, and all the women in my family before her on both sides. I know she, and every one of those women, would want me to be more than a survivor.

They would want me to shine like an exploding sun.

And I, in turn, want that for every one of you. Because we are all capable of great things, and of lifting up this beautiful, troubled world up, together.

We CAN ALL be heroes… one day at a time….

 

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Can You Live Without Comparison?

Me and my Co-editorAs some of you might know, for the past year I’ve been working on a documentary about women directors. It’s kept me a hella busy, so I apologize for not blogging more!

One of the directors I spoke to (Kimberly McCullough)  had an interesting insight. She said that making independent film is a lot like starting a business… over and over again.  In my experience that is absolutely right.  Every project you make is it’s own entity that you hope has a long life of it’s own from inception to distribution.  But you are always starting from the beginning, and that’s hard work.

So it’s really important if you think you want to make a documentary or any kind of film to think about the whole journey.

Ask yourself, “Who is this story for, really?”

This will guide you through every step of the decision making, and get ready because there are tons of decisions to be made.

If I’m brutally honest with myself,  I started out making this film for me, because I felt really lonely as a director that happened to be female. Every festival I took my short films to was crammed with dudes. In 2015, I didn’t see any women treated like “up and coming visionaries,” only young men were. One time I was given a “producer” tag when I was the producer, writer, AND the director, as well as costume and production design… In short: it was my vision! My film! And someone doing the tags at the film festival basically couldn’t believe it.

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(note: the pink sticker, qualifying me as a “producer only.”)

This, as you can imagine, sucked. And then I won an award for “Best Comedy Drama Short!”  Ironic to say the least.

I recall looking at the few women who were at these festivals. I can’t say they looked that happy about what they were having to deal with either, which was, if it boils right down to it, a basic lack of imagination.

Men aren’t the only people who can have a vision and execute it. What’s so hard to imagine about that?

Because of these experiences I realized that I couldn’t just make the film for me or even just for women in the field, because the issue isn’t relegated to women directors.

It’s much, much bigger than that.

The issue is one of perception. How we as a culture SEE women.

Sometimes it feels like any time a woman really steps out and stands up for something, like crabs in a barrel, there are thousands of people (men AND women) who are ready to tear her down for her smallest faults or imperfections.

This really needs to stop. We are all so much better than this.

One woman’s success does not mean your failure.

In fact, it means there is a strong possibility that YOU COULD DO THE SAME THING.

Bethany Rooney, a director of over 200 episodes of television, gave me this wonderful quote: “Can you live without comparison?” Think about it. Instead of comparing, how about we get inspired by great women? Instead of thinking, “Oh I’m not good enough,” saying, “What do I need to do in order to be my greatest self?”

Here’s a fantastic video to help you start to see just how powerful and amazing women can be! Yes, someday, YOU could join this amazing list of women who have overcome incredible obstacles.

And how wonderful would that be?

 

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Photo by Jimmy King

Tribute to David Bowie

Rarely am I shocked when a public figure dies. They seem to go often these days, and I think of myself as kind of immune to it. But when I saw the news that David Bowie died yesterday morning I was in a cab on my way to JFK to catch a flight to London.

“Oh my God, David Bowie died!” I exclaimed out loud to the taxi driver.

See, I had a strange encounter with David Bowie when I went to see him in concert in Battery Park in NYC in 2002. It was something I never forgot.

Before the concert began, I had the fortune to go “behind the scenes” to the back area where refreshments and such were being offered. (The friend who took me had access to these kinds of things.)

Anyway, I was waiting around for him to come back with a beer, just standing there looking at the trees, when I turned to see my friend rushing towards me.

“Cady!” he said, “David Bowie was asking about you!”

“What?”

“Yes! He wanted to know who the girl with the green hat was!”

I was wearing a little green hat, some kind of sweater, jeans, and platform boots. I had long blonde hair almost down to my waist at the time. I probably looked like some kind of character out of 1960’s London.

“What did you tell him?”

I think I was relegated to “some actress.” I wished he’d said I was a poet. Actors always get the bad rap. Still, I was pretty thrilled. David Bowie noticed me. I instantly turned into a groupie.

Here’s what I looked like back then. At my best, I was pretty cute.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 5.00.54 PM

Just before the show started, we all gathered around David’s trailer. By this point I was  ready to do whatever was necessary to make David happy, and I mean anything.  He had noticed me! What else did a girl need? (Insert older Cady eye rolls here).

When he emerged from his trailer I noticed he was actually quite small. This was something that had never occurred to me before. That such a big star would be so petite.

As he came down the steps I was determined to make sure he knew that I was there. (Groupie mentality in full gear, as I mentioned. Who was I to get in the way of what Mr. Bowie wanted?) I waited until he was just about two feet away from me, right in my path, and I stepped in front of him.

“Hello,” I said.

“Hello,” he said.

Then something quick passed between us, or rather from him to me, that felt like this: “In another time, another place, I might ask you to wait for me after the show. But I’m a different man now. A married man, and I don’t do that anymore. So thank you, I’m flattered, but I have to pass.”

I felt all of that in just a moment. It was both gracious and clear. So I stepped aside and let him pass.  I honestly don’t know where I got the nerve to get in his way in the first place, really. What cheek!

During the show my friend and I got to be in the orchestra section with all the “Very Famous People” and we acted like the big, stupid David Bowie fans that we both were: singing along with the songs, sitting on the wall between us and the crowd, waving our hands up in the air. I even noticed David glancing over at us once or twice as if he were wondering, “Are those two going to be a problem?” until he realized that we just loved the music so much. When he saw that, and I believe that he did and understood what we were really there for, I think it lifted him a little bit. Because I saw a tinge of the young Bowie come out. A “spark” that was clearly a part of his younger art and self. It was dazzling.

Where he’s looking and gesturing was right where we were sitting, up high on a wall. I know, I know… I sound like a crazy fan…. but we WERE!

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This was just before he had heart surgery in 2004, so there’s a good chance his calmer demeanor was a reflection of the health issues he was dealing with, it’s possible is all I’m saying.

Of course it’s possible this was all in my mind, total projection, and I was just a fan and he was just a superstar. Of course, if he hadn’t ASKED about me, that’d be what it was. But he had asked. So it felt like a little something more.

But as someone who has walked around naked in my apartment to Bowie music blasting from cheap speakers, I like to think he appreciated the rock and roll gesture.

Meanwhile, I share with you one of the most gorgeous fan tribute videos ever made. It made me weep, it is so perfect and beautiful. What’s amazing is that it was made BEFORE Bowie died, so he got to see it, and called it:

“Perhaps the most poignant version of the song ever created.” ~ David Bowie.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who was touched by the man and his music.

Now I shift my younger instincts into something else, my work. I hope that I can be as risk-taking and redefining of my Self as he was: willing to let everything that once worked GO in order to experiment with the next thing that feels RIGHT.

Because we aren’t here forever, that’s a fact.

Safe travels, Spaceman. Hope I get to see you again somewhere.

 

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Documentary

Yeah. So. I’m doing a doc on women directors. Why? Well… it’s kind of a long story. The basic skinny is that it occurred to me that every once in a while I would hear about a woman director, and I’d sort of “pine” for her. Like when you hear there’s a new Jimmy Choo shoe coming out that you know you can’t afford but you’d really like to see all the same. Do you dare to look or will it make the pain of not having even worse? I know it’s sorted of effed up to compare a woman to a Jimmy Choo shoe (or is it?) but that’s how I felt. Like there were these women out there who had created something and I knew I should be closer to what they were creating… but it just kind of HURT to even think about it.

Funny thing about pain… it’s always the great motivator.

So the pain got bad enough, or the desire to be out of pain got big enough… and someone actually said, “OH MY GOD THAT’S A GREAT IDEA YOU SHOULD DO THAT” in such a way and at such a time that I said to myself… “Well, shit. I guess I should do this.”

So what happened is, my husband knew this one woman who he thought I should talk to. She’s a director named Shana Betz. We had had dinner with her a few months back and I really dug her, like a mini, unexpressed girl crush kind of dig. She was a bad ass. My husband said she might be a cool person to start talking to, so since we were already friends on FB I screwed up my courage and messaged her.

Here’s exactly what it looked like. For real.

Say What?

 

I seriously couldn’t believe this. Almost fell out of my chair.

(Isn’t it funny how all you have to do sometimes is say “YES” to a deep idea, and th universe is right there, waiting for you?)

 

 

 

More "What the..."

 

Okay, so I said YES in a really, um, BIG way.

(Forgive me if it offends.)

 

 

 

 

I thought this was totally hilarious.Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 10.45.12 AM

 

 

 

And that’s how it began… the journey has continued and I have so much more to share and to say… I’ve learned and grown so much in these past few months… but meanwhile, please join me on the FB page for this film:

https://www.facebook.com/WomenDirectors

And THANK YOU!

xo

Cady

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Better Choices + Time = New Life

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.00.44 PMOne question I have been asked often recently is this:

“After years of childhood misery and years of unhappy, unsuccessful adult relationships, how did you manage to change it all and ALSO find a great guy?”

Basically they are asking me, “How did you get happy?”

The simple answer is: I realized I was the common factor in my unhappiness, and changed my choices.

Here I refer to three bits of wisdom a therapist once gave me.  (Did I mention he’s Italian?)

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PITHY ADVICE FROM THERAPIST #1

He said something like this:

“You walk into a bar. You see a person at the bar you’re really attracted to. S/he’s got that “spark” that all the other people you once loved (and went through hell with) also had. Walk over to where s/he is sitting, TURN AROUND, AND TALK TO THE PERSON STANDING NEXT TO THEM.”

I never forgot the simplicity of this advice. The message is: what is familiar may be a “draw” for you. “Spark” may resonate with all the hope of finally fixing your love life, or maybe even your childhood, but when you go down that path… you usually get drama. Despair. Frustration… and end up back on the usual emotional merry-go-round. What to do?

TURN AROUND AND TALK TO SOMEONE YOU WOULDN’T CHOOSE.

Yeah, yeah, I know…

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But look. If you are like I was, your “picker” is broken. You simply have to look around at all the people you are not currently picking.

So be brave! Say hi to someone you might not have.  You never know where it could take you. Honestly, it’s how I met the love of my life.

Speaking of which…

PITHY AND REMARKABLY USEFUL TID-BIT FROM THERAPIST #2

…went something like this:

“Take a pencil and a piece of paper. Draw a simple circle. Make a point in the middle of the circle. Now draw a line from the point in the center of the circle to any point on the outside of the circle. (This is a lot easier than I am making it sound.) Now draw a second line from the center point maybe 3 degrees from the first line.

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If you kept on drawing those lines further and further out, they’d end up really far apart from each other.

Line ONE is the path you are on.

Line TWO is where the new choice takes you. Just 3 degrees of change can make you end up far away then where you were headed.”

BETTER CHOICES + TIME = NEW LIFE.

BTW SARK has many suggestions as to how to make what she called MICRO MOVEMENTS fun. (I love SARK.)

PITHY AND SURPRISINGLY USEFUL ADVICE FROM SHRINK #3

“Here’s your homework. Go home and WATCH JUDGE JUDY.”

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 12.41.57 PMSeriously… my therapist told me to watch Judge Judy. When I did, I realized that I was being really “wishy-washy” in my life, giving some people FAR too much credit, and definitely not standing up for myself. I needed a New York Overhaul and JJ was just the lady to help me out. I can’t say it worked overnight, so if you are shy, like I used to be, repeated viewing is highly suggested.

Finally, in order to accomplish any goal, all you really need is one attribute. I think this ONE THING is what separates those who change their lives from those who never do.

WILLINGNESS. If you are willing to change, or can cultivate the willingness to change, then you can change your life. I admit, sometimes I know what I have to do in order to change, I’m just not willing to do it. But at least I am 100% clear that I am choosing to NOT be willing. The willingness to change sometimes comes slowly and is usually accompanied by great pain, and pain… well, pain sucks. But enough of it sure can make you willing to change.

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How to Be a Spiritual Warrior

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.29.08 PMA lady friend of mine asked me recently how I felt about personal responses to my book.

“Do you get triggered?” She asked politely. We were at a dinner party and I could tell she was trying to be sensitive to certain topics I write about. Abuse, alcoholism, and dysfunction aren’t exactly super fun dinner conversation.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I wasn’t sure what she was trying to figure out.

“When people tell you about their pain… does it bother you? You know, bring it all back?” I was beginning to wonder if she might have something she wanted to share.

“Occasionally I despair for our species,” I laughed, “But when people feel compelled to share their stories with me (whether in person on online), I am really very honored. I think of their impulse to share with me as a sacred trust. But it doesn’t upset me. Not at all.  And since I finished the book, my past is just a story for me. It’s a true story, and my story, but it’s just a story. (Thank God). EVERYONE has a story.”Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.25.32 PM

But this conversation got me thinking. Since everyone has a story, that means everyone suffers. It is simply a fact of human life. How we choose to deal with our suffering is what creates our character.

Some people like to hold their suffering close to their heart. They nurture it as if it were a precious plant they were keeping alive. I have heard many, many people say something like this: “I will never forget what so-and-so did. It will always echo in my mind.” I’ve said it myself! I take this to be a sign of two things:

1) That the event that occurred was traumatic

2) That the person holding onto the trauma might (unknowingly) be defining themselves by that event.

So it doesn’t sound like I’m being judgmental here, let me tell you how I know this is true. If you read my book, you will know I had a crap load of craziness to deal with. Even though I later figured out I had all the symptoms of PTSD, I couldn’t think of myself as a survivor because I hated the word. It still seemed so limiting to define my whole self in relation to a past I could do nothing about. But I couldn’t think of myself as someone who HADN’T gone through these humiliations. That would be a lie.

I was in a pickle. How could I define myself WITHOUT my past informing everything?

Then I had an idea, inspired by a saying from 12-step meetings: “We will know a NEW freedom and a NEW happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it…”

I loved the word “freedom.” It rang in me like a bell for years. Could I find freedom from the pain I was feeling AND freedom from the past? Could that be possible? I didn’t know, but it was an idea that compelled me to go forward and at least try.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 3.15.56 PMDeep down, I knew I was a fighter. I was tough, without a doubt, but I didn’t want to approach life as a battle, always having to fight off this or that asshole. I decided that the best way to describe myself was as a spiritual warrior fighting an internal war. This worked for me. Every day I would go to war against my internal pain and memory of my past.

Having grown up on the TV series “Kung-Fu,” I remembered there were students, deciples, and masters. I decided that I would stay a student, endlessly willing to be taught, until I really had something to pass on. I decided that going forward, no matter what, everything that happened in my life, and everyone I met would be a teacher.

My pain? A teacher. My past? A teacher. My body, my anger, my fear?  A teacher. Even my resistance to being taught would be a teacher.

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When I looked at my life from this perspective, I found myself in a position of choice as to how to think about myself. I could choose to feel at the effect of another’s behavior, or make another choice.

When I chose to fight for my peace of mind, to find the wisdom in the pain, I was actually fighting for my FREEDOM from that pain.

Now I do this as often as possible. Sometimes I forget (hey, I’m only human) but as soon as I can remember to it gets me out of pain and into FREEDOM from pain, which I like to describe as peace of mind.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say I get an uncomfortable feeling: a blast from the past, a moment of shame, loss, grief, or fear I will be attacked unjustly. Or say I suddenly feel deeply judgmental of myself, and I’m no longer “enough” in any category. (You know how the mind turns on itself. It can be such an a-hole!)

Instead of fighting the thought, I say, “Hello teacher. What do you have for me to learn right now?”

Usually, the upsetting thought says something like this, “Oh, I just wanted you to know that I was here.”

Then I say, “Okay. I recognize you. Perhaps you need something. Do you?”

And sometimes it needs a hug, or for me to cuddle in a blanket and watch TV. Then I do that.

Sometimes, however, it just wants me to know it’s there.

That’s when I say, “Okay. I hear you. Don’t stress. I got this. I can handle almost anything, remember? I’m a warrior.”

And that seems to do the trick.

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“High station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.”

~Tennessee Williams

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Roles in an Alcoholic Family

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 4.30.44 PMI grew up in an alcoholic family system.  The illness in my family effected all who were in it, or around it.  It took me years to recover.  To this day, my recovery is a practice, a never ending series of decisions and growing awarenesses.

I have learned that alcoholism is only one face of addiction.  There are many things to have addictive relationships with: anger, sex, shopping, food, exercise, TV, sugar, drugs, pills, work, gambling, even the internet!  Here is a good definition of addiction from Psychology Today.  In effect, addiction is a compulsive reaction to stressors, a need to take action rather than deal with or “feel through” the feeling that is bothering you.

Typically, an addict will deny their behavior because they feel it is essential to their surviving whatever stress they feel. Addiction is compulsive and yet cunning. It is important to note that being an addict doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person who has something to overcome. So many of today’s heroes are people who have overcome great obstacles!

In order to help myself overcome what I experienced growing up, I find it is very helpful to continue to look at the behavior and emotions around alcoholism/addiction, as well as its effect on those around it.

The following is attributed to a book that is, unfortunately, no longer available by M. Davis, called “Surviving An Alcoholic Family.” I find it a very clear description of the roles we are often assigned in a family struggling with alcoholism/addiction. If you recognize yourself in one of these roles, please do not feel ashamed or hurt by it. You are also not a bad person, but someone who is seeking wisdom and happiness! Those who seek are those who want to find!

Awareness is always the first step toward healing.

The Alcoholic

– other family members revolve around this person
– likely to be experiencing quite a bit of pain and shame even though they may not see it as the result of excessive alcohol or drug use
– as things get worse, the alcoholic is faced with increasing feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy, fear, and loneliness
– develop a number of defenses to hide their shame and guilt – may include irrational anger, charm, rigidity, grandiosity, perfectionism, social withdrawal, hostility, and depression
– project blame or responsibility for their problems onto others including family members who take on unhealthy roles in order to survive


children of alcoholics feel guilty for their failure to save their parents from the effects of alcohol

– “The alcoholic parent is not satisfied with his own childhood, he wants yours too… When the father vanishes into alcohol, the son/daughter lingers and lingers, searching for a lost part of him/herself.”

Codependent/Enabler/Caretaker
– steps up and takes control if the alcoholic loses power
– enabling is anything that protects the chemically dependent person from the consequences of their actions
– spouse often takes on the role, but children and siblings can also be enablers (multigenerational alcoholic families will sometimes designate a child in this role, a sign of more serious pathology)
– tends to everyone’s needs in the family
– loses sense of self in tasks of a domestic nature
– never takes the time to assess his/her own needs and feelings
– person never gains what they need most in order to get better: insight
– never are confronted with the facts that would drive home the point: drugs or alcohol are destroying their lives and their family
– as long as the enabler and the chemically dependent family members play their game of mutual self-deception, things never get better – they get worse
– others cannot bond with the caretaker due to the bustle of activity
Caretaker’s purpose: to maintain appropriate appearances to the outside world.

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Hero
– high achiever; takes focus off the alcoholic because of his/her success; perfectionist; feels inadequate; compulsive; can become a workaholic
– alcoholic bestows this role onto the individual whose accomplishments compensate for the alcoholic’s behavior
– often the oldest child who may see more of the family’s situation and feels responsible for fixing the family pain
– child excels in academics, athletics, music or theatre
– gets self worth from being “special”
– rest of family also gets self worth (“we can’t be that bad if one of us is successful”) – his/her deeds assure the family that their definition is more than alcohol
– hero does not receive attention for anything besides an achievement; therefore, inner needs are not met
– he/she loses the ability to feel satisfied by whatever feat he/she has manifested
– as things get worse, the hero is driven to higher and higher levels of achievement. No level of super responsible, perfectionist, over achievement can remove the hero’s internalized feelings of inadequacy, pain, and confusion
– many others grow up to become workaholics and live under constant stress as they work in the service of others seeking approval for their extraordinary effort
– they often end up distancing themselves from their family of origin
– interestingly, many family heroes grow to marry alcoholics and become enablers
Hero’s purpose: to raise the esteem of the family.

Scapegoat
– goes against rules; acts out to take the focus off the alcoholic; feels hurt & guilt; because of behavior, can bring help to family
– lightening rod for family pain and stress
– direct message is that they are responsible for the family’s chaos
– family assigns all ills to the person who harbors this role, e.g. “Mom would not drink so much if (Scapegoat’s name) were not always in trouble.”
– in reality the misbehavior of the Scapegoat serves to distract and provide some relief from the stress of chemical dependency
– child has issues with authority figures as well as negative consequences with the law, school and home
– on the inside the child is a mass of frozen feelings of anger and pain
– may show self-pity, strong identification with peer values, defiance, and hostility or even suicidal gestures
– this role may seem strange in purpose. However, if there were no scapegoat, all other roles would dismantle. He/she allows others a pretense of control
– alcohol is not identified as an issue – often, the scapegoat is identified as ‘The Problem.’
Scrapegoat’s purpose: puts the focus away from alcohol thereby allowing the alcoholic to continue drinking.

Mascot/Cheerleader/Clown
– uses humor to lighten difficult family situations; feels fear; others see him/her as being immature; limited by bringing humor to all situations even if inappropriate
– this individual most popular in the family; brings fun and humour into the family
– learn to work hard at getting attention and making people laugh especially when the anger and tension of substance use are dangerously high
– often named a class clown in school; frequently demonstrates poor timing for the comic relief; most people don’t take this child seriously
– often hyperactive, charmers, or cute
– inside, they feel lonely knowing no one really knows the real person behind the clown’s mask
– may grow up unable to express deep feelings of compassion
– may put themselves down often as well as cover up their pain with humour
– accepts laughter as approval, but the humor serves to hide inner painful feelings
– the laughter prevents healing rather than produces it
Mascot’s purpose: to provide levity to the family; to relieve stress and tension by distracting everyone.
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Lost Child
– no connection to family; brings relief to family by not bringing attention to the family; feels lonely; does not learn communication and relationship skills
– has much in common with scapegoat – neither feels very important
– disappears from the activity of the family
– sees much more than is vocalized
– reinforced for causing no problems
– build quiet lives on the edges of family life and are seldom considered in family decisions
– they hide their hurt and pain by losing themselves in the solitary world of short-term pleasure including excessive TV, reading, listening to music, drugs, object love, eating and fantasy
– favorite places for the lost child are in front of the T.V. as well as in his/her room
– due to the sedentary lifestyle, a lost child tends to have issues with weight
– as adults they feel confused and inadequate in relationships
– may end up as quiet loners with a host of secondary issues such as: sexuality problems, weight problems, excessive materialism, or heavy involvement in fantasy
Lost child’s purpose: does not place added demands on the family system; he/she is low maintenance.

In my experience, it is easy to fall into more than one of these categories. Sometimes I was “the scapegoat” in my home of birth, other times “the mascot,” and other times “the hero.” As I moved into having adult relationships, I was often an “enabler,” while feeling like “the lost child” within myself.

Now I know that I do not need to be any one of these things. There is a greater role I must BE: that of my authentic self. If I sense that I am falling into a role, or having one put upon me, I can recognize that this is only an old, familiar system, and I do not have to play the part that is being thrust upon me. Nor do I have to react or respond to any accusations. I know who I am, and I know what the truth is, for me.

I hope this blog has been of some insight or help for those of you struggling with similar upbringings or issues.

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Love,

Cady

 

 

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A Nose Knows

 

The nose has it.
The nose has it.

This morning I discovered that quite a few people do a google search on my nose. This totally cracks me up. Why in the heck are some people obsessed with a nose that is not “average?”

My nose has been called everything from a “beak” to “stately,” pretty much right to my face. Trust me, I am aware that my shnoz projects past the usual sniffer. I used to joke when I was a teenager that I had a “Judd Nelson” nose, and could stick a big martini olive inside each nostril without an issue.

The fact is, I have inherited my dad’s nose, which had quite a bulb on the end, and got bigger as he aged. Not exactly something to look forward to, but considering I don’t drink as much as he did, there is a chance I might escape the dreaded honker. Then again, I might not.  What to do, what to do…

Many a time I have looked in the mirror and adjusted my nose with my fingers to see what I would look like with a smaller nose, or at least smaller nostrils. I can see it would make a nice difference, but once you go under the knife… there’s no going back.

Oh yes... I see the resemblance.
Oh yes… I see the resemblance.

 

Then this happened: a fellow (with a rather large proboscis) who worked in the building I was living in (in NYC)  told me said he remembered watching me in my early days on AMC. He told me he liked my character because I had a big nose, like him. He said seeing me on TV made him feel better about HIS nose.

I mean… how could I get a nose job after that??

My nose seems to make a statement, and whether or not you like that statement… well, that’s up to you.  But I think I get some credit for having never cut off my nose to spite my face. Yes, I would look more like your average pretty lady with smaller nostrils, that’s for certain, but then I wouldn’t look like “me.”

Might as well roll with it and love the big nose!

inspiration

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