I am so pleased to be able to share some of my story with the broader public via the generosity of the people at ET and the warmth and kindness of Cameron Matthison. If you missed the interview on air, here it is in it’s longer version.
I 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Yesterday, I was on set talking to Peter Bergman and one of the Y&R directors, Owen Renfroe, about a kiss that was to occur at a particular part of a scene. It is my belief that there are all kinds of kisses. Some are passionate, some are full of love, and some come out of compassion and kindness.
Kindness gets a bad rap sometimes. It can be equated with weakness. One of my favorite sayings is, “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness” because sometimes it takes an enormous amount of strength to be kind, especially to someone that hurt you. Kindness can be a courageous act.
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?
Why aren’t we kinder? What is it in our culture that has suddenly equated cruelness with honesty? I don’t think we’ve always been this way. I don’t think we’ve always been a culture filled with violence, bullying, and self-interest. I don’t even really believe it is in our nature to be mean. I think we’ve simply made it into a habit.
There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there’s also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf — seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
I think Kindness can become a habit, just like meanness. And it’s fruits are far more bountiful. In our scene, it made my character feel more loved, and as if she might be able to trust a man once more and is helping her make her own generosity grow. In my own life, my husband Jon’s kindness has made me feel just the same way.
Forgive and be kind. Forgive and be kind. Or at least… strive to be kind.
You never know what another person is battling with inside themselves.
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.
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!
Every day, all day, I feel the choices I have to make dogging me: Am I going to be in fear or faith today? Am I going to be strong, or give in and finish the last of that bottle of white wine with a bag of peanut M&M’s?
Sometimes I make choices out of discomfort: because I am afraid of what other’s think of me, because I want to be liked, or because I am not feeling good about myself. I don’t like how I feel when I make choices from this place of self-doubt. It always feels like I am not accepting my vulnerability, which is a real part of who I am. Fragility is not the same as weakness.
When I’m feeling particularly challenged, I try to call up what my self-created “inner wise woman” would say. I imagine her wearing lots of beads and interesting prints, with long grey hair wrapped up in a bun, or over her shoulder in a braid.
She says to me, “Everyone is afraid, most of the time. Try and remember this. The greatest gift you can give yourself is the companionship of people wiser than yourself. Seek them out. Lean on their wisdom. And be kind–they came by it hard, just like you.”
Since I released my book into the world, people have asked me, “How did you do it? How did you liberate yourself from all that inner turmoil?” I have been thinking about it for some time now, and I think I can say, it was a choice. I chose to fight. I chose to believe that I deserved better. I chose to believe that I was strong enough to get through whatever pain I was feeling to get to the other side.
It’s a small thing, a choice, in the moment, but very powerful.
You might not believe it, but it’s a totally BIZARRE coincidence that I am both releasing my book, “Murdering My Youth,” publicly, and having my first air day on Y&R TOMORROW, April 16th. I assure you, I planned to release the book in March, and then one hundred and one things got in the way. When I was able to get down to the nitty gritty of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” it took far longer than I anticipated. Then Michael Logan asked when it would be ready and I forced myself to set a date. Which I missed. Then it just happened that his article and my release date coincided. Magical, weird, wonderful… and SCARY!
Yes, being on Y&R has been a whirlwind: great writing, incredible actors, an amazing directing and producing team… it’s really a dream come true. And let’s not forget the fantastic Peter Bergman, who has been my sherpa, so to speak, helping me get into the groove of the studio et al. I count my blessings every single day.
As for the book: I am offering a better price on my website (order form below or just email me at email@example.com) for those who want an autographed copy, or just want it cheaper. It may take me an extra day or two getting to you, but it will cost $9.99 plus shipping from me. I have to ask a bit more on Amazon and Create Space since they take such a big bite out of the price (I see 5 bucks from the $15.25) however, you will be able to buy the ebook version there, which I can’t provide, and the book itself will probably get to you much faster.
I must warn you: the book is intense. It is also FUNNY, (as they say, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Fart, and you fart alone”) but I don’t want to sugar coat it. It’s my story of my upbringing and it’s a real one. I won’t blame you if the book is not for you, (I’ve thrown one or two books across the room, myself) but I DO hope you check out Y&R if you haven’t already! I’m having a BALL and I think the story is wonderful. Good, old-fashioned, daytime DRAMA!
In the article you will find out that my book, Murdering My Youth, is being released April 15th.
You will be able to buy it through my website or on Amazon. I am doing my best to make sure it is at a reasonable price as things are still tough out there.
If you would like to pre-order or have a signed copy write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form below. I will contact you to arrange payment and shipping.
Thank you in advance for your support of this book. A warning: it is a fast read but not a light one. Issues of child abuse, death, trauma, and grief are dealt with in detail. Yes, there is humor, and sometimes there is strong language but I do not mean to offend, minimize, or sensationalize. My hope is that in sharing my story those who can relate will feel less shame, those who once judged will feel more compassion, and those who suffer in silence will consider reaching out for help.
Where to begin… let’s start with how INCREDIBLY LUCKY I feel to have been asked to come and work on this amazing show. The people are so nice, the sets are awesome, the writing is fantastic… I could go on and on…
I got up at 5:30 AM this morning (yowsa!) and after my new routine of hot water and lemon first thing in the morning (really, don’t knock it ’till you try it) I drove to CBS Television City, which is right next to The Grove. (When I was a kid it was only the Farmers Market. Now when I say that people ask “Which one?” as if I mean an outdoor fruit and vegetable market!) I drove into the Fairfax entrance and got my parking pass from the guard pinching myself to make sure it was all real.
Then I found my way up to the hair and makeup room where the lovely and talented Kathy Jones graced me with a face for television. The first person I can remember (hello, no caffeine) coming up to me is Amelia Heinle, who was on All My Kids but also on Loving back in the day. The Loving studio was right across the hall from AMC, so we got to see a lot of one another for a few years, waving across a crowded hallway!
Well, as you might have imagined, she was absolutely lovely. It was so nice to see her. I know she’s playing “Victoria,” “Billy’s” wife (for you who have not yet tuned in to the glories of Y&R my character, “Kelly,” had a one night stand with “Billy” and screwed up their marriage) so she and I will get to glare at each other now and then… or rather, she will glare and me and I will cower appropriately.
Then I met the delightful David Tom, who is the brother of Heather Tom and such a nice guy. Of course we laughed at his character’s terrible luck these days!
Suddenly, Peter Bergman flew into the dressing room and said, “Cady McClain!” swooping in to give me two big smooches! (Friendly ones, of course!) It was SO nice to see him after all these years… I think the last time was in 2004, when I was in Los Angeles for something-or-other. I reminded him what he said to me then.
“Cady McClain! You always land on your feet!”
I just loved that. Never forgot it.
We were soon all called down to the set to get dry blocking. The director today was Casey Childs, from All My Children. We knocked out his excellent blocking in a jiffy… and oh, I also got to see Kristoff St. John, who I have run into 100 times at various events, ever since we were kids… you know, back when the earth was cooling. SUCH a nice guy. He likes to give a lot of razz to one of the stage managers, Herbie, who is as cute as his name.
Peter was nice enough to fill me in on some of the details of “Kelly” and “Jack’s” history. I knew a fair amount from the producers and writers, but those little details that can only come from a fellow actor were so helpful. Then I had to tromp back up to hair and makeup to get my hair more fabulous, and then to my dressing room where, voila, my costume was awaiting me.
Back at AMC and ATWT (As the World Turns) we always had to pick up and return our costumes so I gotta say, I was feeling pretty damn fancy.
After I was all dolled up, Peter and I had some time to do some catching up about old pals we both knew and remembered fondly, as well as the wonderful examples actors like David Canary and James Mitchell set for us. We both felt so lucky to experience those golden days.
Soon we were called down to the set and I got an RF mike, which is a microphone that is attached to your body via a wire. It really helps when you are deep in a set where the booms (microphones on a long pole attached to a stand) can’t reach you. We had a very nice dress rehearsal and then some notes and then recorded our scenes for you all to watch! I don’t want to tell you too much about this process, but let’s just say it is GREAT to work with PETER and DAVID! Such PROS! I LOVE THAT!
Oh and they did a really nice thing for me: the stage manager announced my name to everyone and they all applauded to welcome me to the show. I mean, seriously. I don’t know if I’ve ever had that! WOW.
I had fun, what can I say? It felt soooo good to be acting again. Sometimes acting can be exhausting, but I don’t think that’s going to happen here. I think this is going to be a very fulfilling experience. I am so looking forward to sharing it all with you.
Thank you so much for the lovely and supportive comments on Twitter and FB. You really lifted me up today, and I appreciate that so much.
It may be too simplistic to put it this way, but I have been through a thing or two. Because of what I experienced I had to dig deep to find words of wisdom by which to live. Fortunately, there is a lot of wisdom out there! I thought today I would share with you some of what has been helpful for me.
I have carried this pamphlet around with me for about twenty years. Even if you are not an “ACOA” aka the adult child of an alcoholic parent, it’s not hard to relate. What they call “dysfunction” is something many families can relate to, whether the grandfather was a rage-aholic, or ones mother was a control freak, or someone you love is trying to recover from an addiction.
I hope it is useful to you today. I wish you a day full of gentleness toward yourself and others.
So many people have shown an interest in what I shared at my keynote speech in Kansas City that I thought I would share a boiled down version of it. We did video record it, so one of these days that will be up somewhere, but in the meantime, here are the points I thought were important for writers (and all creatives: this means you) to hear.
1) Facing the fear and doing it anyway:
Desire is what drives us to write. Desire to create, desire to be heard and understood, desire to understand ourselves. Sometimes it is a desire to be applauded by others. What immediately follows is fear: fear of rejection; fear of failure; or fear of success. It is important to understand that everyone feels fear. What one must nurture and develop is courage. Courage is like a muscle: weak at first, but stronger the more you exercise it.
2) The art of listening:
Once you have geared up your courage, I find that it is important to practice listening to your inner voice, the voice that gives you good ideas. This voice that is usually pretty quiet but the more you practice listening, the louder the voice will get. There are many ways to get that voice louder. What is key is that you spend time alone doing something that takes some kind of focus. Cooking, sewing, gardening, driving, journaling… all occupy the logical mind and allow your subconscious to offer up the idea. What matters is that you don’t discount or judge yourself or the idea. Just jot it down. Say “thank you” to the voice. You are practicing getting in touch with what many people call “flow.” Then when you begin to write, that same voice will be present, offering up quiet little gems, suggestions, and ideas.
3) Developing a relationship with your creative self:
What word do you say most often to yourself, “Yes” or “No”? Positivity is a practice. Our creative self is a child, and that child needs to be listened to, fed, nurtured, and allowed to play. Most importantly, it needs to be allowed to make mistakes. If we are always in “discipline” mode, striving for perfection in all things, it is no surprise that when you sit down to write you are in agony. Being kind to oneself also takes practice, but it is key for getting the kind of creative work out of yourself that you know you are capable of. Everyone, repeat, everyone is creative in his or her own unique way. It is one of the great gifts of being alive. Only you, however, can give yourself permission to let that creativity out. Being kind to your Self and letting your Self gently play is a big part of achieving that permission.
4) Risk and Authenticity:
The willingness to risk is what separates those who want to write from those who do write. You’ve got to simply jump onto the page. There is no other way to go about it. The more you “think” about it, the less likely you are to do it. Writers write. Actors act. Painters paint. It is a physical practice that only develops with attention. There is no question that very few writers are geniuses from the get go, so give yourself a break. If you have shown up at the page today, you deserve a gold star.
As for authenticity, do you want to be successful posing as someone else, or would you prefer to be successful on your own merit? It doesn’t really feel that good when you cheat on a test in order to pass, so why would it feel good to follow a form that someone has imposed upon you as a writer? Structure and technique can helpful, but any teacher worth their salt will tell you that once you know the rules you are free to go ahead and break them. Some people need to go right to breaking them and that is okay too, as long as you are trying to strive for truth and authenticity in your work you are bound to have some success at connecting to your reader. And connecting to your reader is the whole point.
5) Preparing for “kickback” from your inner critic and how to handle it:
There are many names for the voice that comes up within once you have taken that giant leap out of your fear and onto the page. The “inner critic,” “my personal demons,” and “Guardian asshole,” (my personal favorite) are some of them. That voice tends to be especially loud right when you are about to let your work be heard or seen. The fact of the matter is, that voice comes from somewhere in your life, whether from a tough teacher, or an impatient parent, or even a well-meaning colleague. Their words grabbed a hold and stuck. Now they belong to you. What a special gift. They can stop you from writing, from re-writing, and definitely from putting your work out there.
Knowing that those voices will come is key to moving past them. There is no writer I have ever heard of or known that didn’t struggle with self-criticism or perfectionism. We’ve all heard of writers who have tried to drink it away, eat it away, or even shop it away, but I have found the best way to silence the voice is to acknowledge it.
Next time the critical voice comes up, try this: say to yourself, “Thank you for sharing, I know you are trying to help me.” Your kindness can truly stun it into silence. If it persists, say, “Thank you for sharing. Now stop it!”
I believe the inner critic is connected to the inner child. When indulged it becomes a wild brat that just wants to tear the room (and all your relationships) apart. Be a good parent to your inner critic: kind, understanding, and no-nonsense. If you’re having a particularly rough day, make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, take a nap, and then get to work.
6) Handling criticism from others:
We all have had that cringing moment when a friend or well-meaning colleague gives us advice about our writing that they clearly could have kept to themselves. Online, I’ve been personally attacked for several of my essays and called choice names I won’t repeat here. The Internet is now a place where everyone is empowered by anonymity to share whatever bile is brewing within. Choosing how to handle this criticism is similar to how you handle your inner critic, but takes into consideration that you are dealing with an uncontrollable live human being.
Here are some suggestions on how to deal with criticism from others: You can say, “I am sorry you feel that way,” or “Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts,” and then change the subject or find an excuse to end the conversation. The point is to simply not engage. Engaging with someone who is determined to be right is not going to help you move forward with your work, nor is getting into a pissing contest. The fact is, there are millions of people in this world and some of them are simply not going to like what you have to say. We as writers have to come to acceptance about that. Again, it is a “yes” versus a “no” mentality. The more you chase acceptance from people who want to simply “be right,” the more you risk getting shut down in your work, or worse, becoming self-righteous yourself. You risk becoming so affected by their hurtful words that you start to change yourself to please them – this critic that you might not even know or like, and by doing so move further and further away from your authenticity.
Your truth, your authentic Self is a gift to the world, and accepting it is the key to your happiness, your sense of self-worth, AND your writing. Furthermore, I suggest that you try not to judge where acceptance for your writing comes from. The audience that embraces you is going to grow and blossom and expand as long as you allow yourself to grow and blossom and expand. Acceptance from others doesn’t mean we don’t still have learning and growing to do, but it is a nice arrow saying “This Way.”
It’s funny how our minds so want to hang onto the hurtful words, as if they were proof that our fears were right all along. It reminds me of an old story:
One evening a grandfather told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute, and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins the battle?”
His Grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”
Feed yourself loving support.
7) The importance of committing to yourself and your work:
It is nice to get permission to do the things we want to do. It is nice to get encouragement. It really, really helps to have someone in your life that will say to you, “You can do it. You are worth it.” We really need those people in our lives and if you don’t have them naturally in your birth family you must seek them out by all means. But bottom line, it comes down to you committing to your life as a creative person. Your belief system about what you are allowed to achieve in this life is something that only you can control. It may take time, but it is a battle worth fighting. Because there is no way you can change your life without you making the commitment to change first.
In twelve step meetings there is a saying that goes like this: “Awareness, acceptance, action.” We first become aware that we want to accomplish something: we want to write. We want to write a book and have it read by others. Then we must accept that this is a calling. This desire is in us for some reason and we must accept that it is there. Then you must take action, over and over again. YOU MUST NOT GIVE UP. No matter how many years it takes, no matter how much you must overcome to get to that page, you MUST NOT GIVE UP. Stoke the fire of your dream. Nurture it. Feed it. Practice awareness, acceptance, and action over and over again. You deserve to have that wonderful feeling of making a dream come true. But only you hold the key to making it happen and that key is commitment, commitment to doing the work.
As they say: writing is re-writing.
8) Finding a sense of purpose in your work:
There is a difference between fiction and non-fiction, for certain, but there is also a commonality. The best fictional stories touch something deep within us. They take us on a journey that makes us look into our humanity. The bottom line is that as writers, we are connecting with our audience, CONNECTING with others through our storytelling and that can be a powerful experience, if you allow it to be.
That feeling can also be uncomfortable for some people. We don’t want to shine too bright for fear we will be shot down. My feeling is, “what other choice do you have?” You can be silent and miserable, or put yourself out there and be freaked out. Which is worse? Both are uncomfortable.
Here is a secret most people don’t like to talk about. There is a deep, quiet satisfaction in putting your authentic Self out there in your work. We are not only helping ourselves have a more meaningful life by committing to our writing, we have the chance to take our lives on a journey, a journey that will without doubt draw new people into our world. In this way, writing and publishing your own work is a great adventure.
You are the captain of your ship. Where would you like to go today? I invite you to dream big. Imagine the impossible. As the saying goes, “If not you, who? If not now, when?”
I would like to leave you with this quote from one of my favorite writers, the playwright John Patrick Shanley.
In the third scene of “A Dreamer Examines His Pillow,” Dad says, “The individual life is a dream.” For me this is a most moving idea. It frees me from my fear of death. It puts my ego where it belongs, in a place of secondary importance. It binds me to the human race, and binds the race itself to the atoms in the stars.
Who am I? This is a courageous question. As a writer and as a man I am involved in one central struggle – to discover and accept who I am. I believe all fear has its roots in denial. I have at one time or another denied everything. Every fact of my specific self. My parents, my Bronx origin, my Americanness, my Irishness, my appetites, my morality, my need for love and acceptance, my jealousy, my violence, my anger.
I am not a courageous person by nature. I have simply discovered that, at certain key moments in this life, you must find courage in yourself, in order to move forward and live. It is like a muscle and it must be exercised, first a little, and then more and more. All the really exciting things possible during the course of a lifetime require a little more courage than we currently have. A deep breath and a leap.
Writing is acting is directing is living your life. I have told you the things I have just told you so that you know something of my approach to playwriting. I see no difference between writing a play and living my life. The same things that make a moment in my life succeed, combust, move, these same things make a moment in my playwriting have life. And when I move in my writing, I have moved in my life. There is no illusion. It is all the same thing.
Other than the JPS quote, copyright Cady McClain 2014