Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

gratitude - goals - guidance = grounded

Life's a roller coaster these days, so the way I keep grounded is a three step process I developed that's easy to remember and recite to myself to maintain my focus: gratitude, goals, guidance.

I have so much for which to be grateful - I maintain a gratitude list to which I keep adding; time for review. I also have a list of what is working in my life that I review. Sometimes when tumult strikes, it's hard to remember just how much is working just fine - bumps are the oddity, not the norm.

I review and renew my goals; prioritizing them and picking just one or two so they feel manageable with all the upheaval surrounding me.

Then I get, like, spiritual and ask for guidance - as I do the legwork, I also let myself be open to whatever insight, inspiration, instigation or intuition I need to make it all come together and go forward. Whatever pops up is worth considering, no matter how unrelated it seems.

Somehow, this works to put me on the right path to whatever next step I must take, doing what I need to in order to create the next chapter in my life in a way that is positive, contributing and rewarding.

Whether it's an up or down day, I enjoy some degree of happiness because I remain convinced I'm in the right place at the right time doing the right thing with all the right people (and animals) for all the right reasons.

'cause I welcome the changes that make that true day after day. The real priorities remain - health and nurturing the important relationships in my life.

It all adds up to feeling grounded in an insecure, dynamic, uncertain world.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Our brains are "elastic!"

Which means we can literally, physically, change our minds.

When we move our emotions from anger to compassion or love, scientists are finding our brains not only light up in MRI scans, but actually create a change in physiology. Sort of like growing a healthy brain - it's possible at any age.

In short, we can actually find happiness through experiencing feelings like love and compassion; they can actually replace negative and self-defeating emotions. This opens us up to new ways of perceiving and dealing with the same problems we've always dealt with in our lives that lead to more positive outcomes.

It's not a way to dismiss or deny the issues, it just gives us more tools to work with.

The article even includes a way to help you move from stuck in negativity to positive processing.

Here's the story, reported on oprah.com.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ever feel brand new?

Like you stepped outside of who you used to be - and are entirely comfortable in your new skin?

That's the way I feel with so many changes taking place. Most have been instigated by me because I want to raise my life game considerably; other changes resulted from my reaction to unexpected events because this determines how I respond to just about everything in the future.

I think all the work I've done relating to who I am, how I want to deal with the world - and how I want the world to deal with me - has come together, and I could not be happier.

My new "awareness - intention - action!" lifestyle makes a noticeable difference; it influences my perceptions (what's *really* important as opposed to what might feel important in the moment) as well as motivating me to do what I know is necessary and get long awaited tasks done I've postponed all too long.

Employing the "broken window policy" keeps me energized. It's the policy that says when you see something that needs fixing, fix it now, don't wait for the one break to become more broken, which is followed by more broken windows showing up, and before long those windows are so broken they need to be be boarded up and the entire area looks unsightly.

I still have some catching up to do - but attending to what needs to be fixed steadily, day after day, ends up with a very happy, healed outcome. Basically, it means taking care of the business of life and not letting less important tasks or activities distract me from what's really important - life, heart, home, relationships (human and pet), and making my films.

Doing some strategizing of how to get things done and planning what I'll need to have and do in order to implement those strategies is crucial as well. If this sounds rigid, it's not. In fact, it's a way to keep myself open to everything that comes my way so I can make solid decisions based on what I want, rather than feeling torn in several different directions.

It's sort of the Aikido of reasoning and decision making.

Aikido is a martial art that translates loosely as "the Way of unifying life energy" - it takes very little energy to deal with any attempts an opponent may make to attack because Aikido movement simply helps direct their own negative energy to be used against them.

It's going to be such a sensational year, 2010.

Bring it on, life!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 20, 2009

One person's reality is another person's ...

...you fill in the blank.

Most "serious" film critics consider "reality" a gritty, tough, downer drama.

As if, in the real world there are no laughs, no high points, no fun, no hope, no promise, not a glimmer of a brighter side, no light at the end of the tunnel - only gloom, doom and disaster.

Only worlds in which characters we are lured to care about suffer loss, loneliness, abuse, self-destruction, grief, beatings, arguments, drug addiction, misery and title credits-to-fin strife.

Mind you, even in the most dire of circumstances, in *real* life, we find something to laugh about. Journalists, doctors, nurses, soldiers and others who deal with life and death every day always find something about which to laugh - although in many cases it may not be politically correct because it's usually a "dark humored" way to release the tension of the moment.

I'm not saying every dramatic film needs a laugh or two - although that would actually be more "real."

But there should be at least the minimal understanding in the industry that "serious" films can also be comedies.

Artistically, screwball comedies are the toughest work for an actor. The range is great, the circumstances unusual, the interpretive beats are counted in the hundreds - whereas a serious drama's interpretive (subtextual, emotional) beats can be relatively few by comparison for the average drama.

This is not to dismiss a great dramatic performance in any way - good acting is hard work for any dedicated performer.

But imagine your favorite dramatic actor being in a comedy. How would he or she make the transition? Could he or she make the transition? It takes guts. Comedy is hard - writing, performing and directing - to make it work.

Mercifully, Kate Winslet - someone with whom I hope to work one day - says she's near desperate to be in a good comedy after playing two seriously tortured, self-destructive roles that won her many well-deserved kudos and awards, including the coveted Oscar.

She will bring the same extraordinary, award-winning brilliant talent and massive skills to a comedic character. But she'll have more fun and have to work even harder because great comedic performances demand it. I believe she is a superbly gifted comedic actor. She was hilarious in TV's Extras, and needs a great comedic script to devour!

There are so many different types of comedy - the best, the most intelligent, has anger at its core, but diminishes the power of whatever makes us angry by putting the subject on its ear so we can all laugh about it.

In THE WHOLE TRUTH, it's the injustice of the American "justice" system. I think that pisses off nearly everyone. It certainly does me - enough to produce, write and direct a screwball comedy about the subject embodied in the lead character of Angela Masters, brilliantly played by Elisabeth Röhm. Originally, I started writing it as a drama, ala Michael Clayton.

But I love to entertain audiences, and who would want to sit through that morose bit more than once? Also, we feature filmmakers must devote at least a year of our lives living with these characters and plot twists and turns. Myself? I'd much rather have fun and laugh through the excruciatingly detailed process.

Actually I start all my comedies by writing the "serious" and "real" dramatic logical story, with psychological profiles and backgrounds of the lead characters. Then I flip everything into comedy.

Of course, there are those who believe film should reflect the reality of the difficulties faced by millions of our sisters and brothers around the world. That is absolutely fine with me.


There's a 1941 Preston Sturges film called "Sullivan's Travels." It's about a film director, famous for doing comedies, who decides to do a nitty, gritty, pity drama about how shitty it is out there. To understand just how bad it is, he takes off - without a cent - to find and live with the despondent, miserable and heartbroken "common man."

Long story short - and worth watching - he ends up living with a group of these depressed, disillusioned and destitute folks.

And guess what he discovers they want more than anything?

To. Laugh.

They don't want to see more of the grief they are living.

As he watches a film with them, he sees these former sad sacks lost in laughter, enjoying the socks off a silly cartoon.

He finally realises: he is doing something that actually helps them. That they genuinely want. Something needed in any culture. To laugh, no matter how dire a circumstance.

But I digress.


When I coached actors, we'd role play the all-important casting interview. This is an interview conducted by casting directors or directors intended to gain insight into the actor. It's thought the more open they are, the more intimacy they give their performance. Likewise, the more insightful their answers, the more insight it is believed they'll give their characters.

One of the questions I like to ask: "Tell me about something you'd like to do over again if you could."

Literally 100% of the answers revolved around a mistake they made they'd love to rectify, that they hurt someone and want to take it back for a do-over, take school more seriously instead of blowing it off, tell someone they loved them when they had the chance .. you get the idea.

Finally, a little dismayed by years of never seeing a totally different way to answer the question, I started giving them another type of answer idea, which made them light up, show a ton of subtext and far more personality than their "serious" answers ever did.

We (directors, producers, casting agents) like to be surprised. To see something we weren't expecting.

Here's what I told them: "Instead of going the way of regret, why don't you take the enjoyable route?"

As in:

"Wow. What I'd love to do over... You know, I'd really love to re-live my weekend skiing with my girlfriend at Whistler Mountain. It was amazing. We played all week-end. Skiing, snowboarding, throwing snowballs, building a snow 'person' -- boobs and what have you. The meals were fantastic and we even had a fireplace in our room. Where we built a fire of our own, if you know what I mean. It was the best. I'd love to re-live that weekend; do it all over again."

If you want to make it super real, add that you broke up when you got home fighting over who the better skier is - or whatever really happened. If you broke up.

Or maybe that you got married - and never went skiing again.

Or maybe you got married and actually lived happily ever after.

Whatever really happened.

At the end of shooting THE WHOLE TRUTH, one of our lead actors had to rush off to do another film - which was not going to be fun. It was going to be rushed and working with a not-so-well written script, but for good money.

Like other actors on the production, s/he said it was the most enjoyable production and most difficult work they'd ever done, and was very sad to leave.

His/her parting words: "Well. Back to reality."

I said, "Working on THE WHOLE TRUTH was also reality."

There are different types of reality.

Happiness is just as much a reality as sadness as pushing through the crap out there every day.

As for me, when I realized this? I became much happier.

Seriously, I decided my reality was going to be positive, happy, fun and make the most of whatever the world handed me. A sense of humor is a valid value and personality trait, too, ya know.

That was many years ago.

So far, so good.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ooooooooooo.... *secrets!*

What is it with people who are so "secretive?"

Or at least try to be.

We somehow always find out what's going on, anyway.

Like the person in the office that everyone *knows* is gay but who pretends to be straight. How painful is that?

Or the couple having the affair who insist they are "just friends." Yeeeeeeeah, right.

Or the dog who swears he wasn't in the garbage while he sits with last night's dinner dangling from his mouth.

It's like lying by omission rather than commission - and the ramifications can be unnecessarily painful for themselves and the people around them.

For most, it's a way to maintain some sort of control of other people and to prevent them from getting close - profoundly close. These folks generally sabotage relationships that start to be too "real." Too intimate - not necessarily sexual, but genuinely positive and close.

I mean, these people claim to be "private" but it feels more to me like they are afraid of sharing who they are. Emotionally parsimonious.

Like a story I wrote long ago called The Feelings Miser. It was about a massively disfigured old woman who tried desperately to conceal her feelings, making her uglier with every feeling she concealed from others - and herself.

She also became more and more desperate to control all those feelings. She caught them before they escaped, shoved them in corners, compartmentalized them, categorized her emotions by color and then locked them away.

Until one day a little girl innocently discovered a feeling the gnarly-fingered woman tried to hide from her - but not soon enough!

The little girl told the old woman she must feel very bitter.

The old woman imploded!

Realizing that even though barely a dollop of her "secret" world of feelings had been exposed, she started to feel vulnerable, scared, fearful, and was suddenly incapable of withholding any of them back! All the colors she had hidden away for all that time escaped from underneath her large black dress - from the area of her heart.

A massive streak of every color with every hue imaginable flew around the room, filling it with ribbons of emotions she had been holding so closely, terrified of showing her real self to anyone.

Interestingly, as her tears fell, as she laughed and cursed and loved and showed every emotion she had attempted to conceal - the gnarled old woman grew younger ... and beautiful! More, she was so excited and happy to not just own and experience her feelings but to share them!

She was amazed at the sheer beauty of every shade she experienced that permeated every inch of the chamber.

The little girl squealed with delight, clapping her hands gleefully.

From that day on, the little girl and woman shared their feelings and secrets, filling their lives with meaning and significance, after which they blew emotion bubbles, which always made them smile, no matter how serious, sad or bleak the feelings they shared that day.

I know people who clutch their emotions and stories so tightly even standing next to them they feel as if they are a tick away from bursting.

But they are too afraid to talk about the feelings that ensnare their minds and lives, preventing them from connecting with others in a healthy, fulfilling way.

I hope one day they appreciate how enjoyable life can be when they release all that pent up emotion, letting everyone around them know who they are - and just what fantastic people they can be - or already are.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Proust's suffering and happiness

If you've seen the film Little Miss Sunshine, you know Steve Carell's character explains that Marcel Proust is considered as great or greater a writer than Shakespeare - whose life was filled with suffering until the last few years of his life.

At the end Proust said his happiest days were those fraught with suffering; that the time he ought to have considered himself happy were dull and unfulfilling.

Knowing me as you do (if you're a regular cp blog reader), I have to ponder his reflection and make a comment or two.

Fortunately for you, I won't use Proust's writing style because he was exceedingly loquacious, and by comparison my notes will be as concise as a three-year old's short term memory.

My first response: Hmmmm. I'm happy and don't consider my life unnecessarily difficult. I have faced challenges that most might consider suffering - like breast cancer, several biopsies, lumpectomies and surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, unpleasant ups and downs of any career in journalism and the arts, PTSD from the many traumatizing experiences I experienced as a child (my family moved 17 times by the time I was 17), Air Force veteran and journalist; a serious bout of depression; one truly miserable relationship (among others that were quite pleasant)-

Whoa. A biographer only reading this list without actually knowing me or having the perspective of reading the extended list of what I've done that is considered exciting, positive, valuable, fulfilling and/or rewarding would not have the slightest idea or understandng of who I am . Mostly because - except for that one relationship - I've enjoyed taking on life's tests and challenges.

I mean, bring it on.

What I'm saying is that what others may consider suffering, I take as simply one more thing in life with which to deal, along with all the other wonderful things I've been so fortunate to experience.

I have a feeling what could have happened to Proust is that he also got a emotional kick out of all the things life handed him - but then didn't have an awareness of the emotional impact so many of his challenges had on him. His life was full because of all the physical and emotional challenges he faced daily.

Then, like it happens with most of us, when he no longer had that emotional kick, he realized something was missing - finally having an awareness the impact those experiences had on him.

And perhaps at the end he simply gave in to what was handed him and relaxed because he wasn't forced to deal with a deluge of circumstances that previously made him feel fully alive day in and day out.

I read that another great novelist, Leo Tolstoy, was so successful that he basically allowed himself to "go to seed." People around him did everything for him - to a ridiculous degree - as he was left free to write and write and write some more.

That sort of "man of leisure" existence could become boring and tedious for someone like Proust, making life much less fun or engaging.

With success, at last, Proust may have found he no longer had the urgent sense of living with fewer stressful challenges that used to fill his life and provide the passion for creating his novels whenever he could.

So perhaps his definition of happiness was simply to be fully engaged - emotionally and physically - with life every moment, because he was forced to.

Then he didn't realize how to adapt, creating that sense of urgency and passion within himself when it wasn't shoved in his face.

IMO, happiness is a state of being we choose to have - no matter what is or isn't happening in our lives. And feeling fully alive - completely engaged in life - is also a choice that we make every minute of every day, whether we realize it or not.

A great example of making attitude choices in life is the film Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray's character morphs from a self-centered, arrogant, unhappy, immature jerk into a fulfilled man - who learns how to live happily ever after when he decides to enjoy - and share - every minute of his life by becoming genuine, empathetic, compassionate and generous.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 20, 2007

Can someone else make you happy?

I had an interesting conversation recently about this with someone who believes that other people can make you happy.

I, on the other hand, believe that we make ourselves happy.

She insisted that unless other people make us happy, we become lonely, depressed and downhearted. Especially as we age.

When I tried to explain why I believe it's important that we learn to make ourselves happy - not at the exclusion of other people - but without being clinging or dependant on people to "make" us happy, she insisted we terminate the conversation.

She said she didn't want to "argue."

I didn't consider us anywhere near arguing, just disagreeing.

I love to talk with people with whom I disagree. Not to convince them as much as to see if I'm missing something in my own reasoning - no matter how steadfastly I defend my idea.

She considers hers the only valid viewpoint, and as far as she's concerned, that's that.

The only problem I see, however is that she's not a happy person, so she keeps wanting others to make her happy. To entertain her and make her feel special.

I'm happy. I'm happy in the company of others and on my own. I'm especially happy in one on one or small, intimate social situations rather than large groups. I'm happy around my two dogs and kitten-becoming-a-cat.

On occasion I miss specific people and when I do, I call or write them to let them know they're appreciated and make a date to see them or talk with them if they're far away. I'm also one to text folks out of the blue that I love them, heart them, miss them, care about them, am thinking of them, and ask if they need anything.

Sometimes I wonder if being happy without being surrounded by people or living with a significant other makes me somehow a loner or someone who is a little too independent.

I definitely enjoy my alone time; but coming from a background of writing in noisy TV, radio and newspaper newsrooms I'm able to write under just about any circumstance - so it's not imperative to be alone while I'm writing.

But I'm not really alone - I'm surrounded by three pets who love to be loved and played with and go for walks, a couple dozen clients who come here to be coached (some of whose sessions last several hours), my masters' writing group, friends, family...

Plus I'm socializing and networking more this year, which is turning out to be fun and exciting.

I guess the point here is that when it comes to the people in our lives, each of us has our own way to make ourselves happy with and without them.

My wish for you is that you have found your own personal way to feel good about yourself, the people you are around and happiness!

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 23, 2007

Are you happy? (part deux)

Responses* to yesterday's happiness essay were twofold:

First fold: spot on! Great blog! So true!

The second fold is the subject of this blog.

It's the concern that sometimes we indulge ourselves in the delusion that happiness is an excuse to do nothing. To simply accept everything going on around us no matter how dysfunctional, abusive or empty.

Um, no.

Genuine happiness means we know and are pleased with who we are, how we treat others and are treated and how we live. That doesn't happen if we passively let life happen without participating, therefore letting life itself pass us by.

In fact, the reason I believe that happiness should be such an important component of our lives is because when we are happy - we are true to ourselves, we're energized, we excel, we are industrious, we are caring, generous and loving, we are forgiving, we do what we were put on earth to do - for ourselves and others.

Fundamental happiness is created when we dig in, discover who we are (our true identity) - like and even love the person we find - recognize our life's passion, determine how we want to live, the type of people with whom we want to surround ourselves and how we would define our personal state of joy.

None of which necessarily comes easily or without cost.

True happiness takes courage.

Don't like your job? It's making you unhappy and you wish you could quit. Think of the courage it takes to speak up, to try creating a more positive atmosphere, better personal interactions and performing tasks in a way that would not only make you happy but please your coworkers and boss?

Most people would rather stand by and allow whatever miserable developments take place - and remain unhappy; quitely accepting a miserable working circumstance; waiting nervously to be laid off or transferred.

The worst dilemma takes place when there is a buyout.

A medium-sized local company - where employees were over the moon happy - was bought out by a very large company with the promise that the healthy positive working culture would continue as usual.

Loyalty and hard work were supported 100% by every employee at the company being bought out because they were included in all decisions that would affect them, people were allowed to be creative and were actually rewarded for speaking up about problems they saw or were concerned would grow. The very reasons the company grew so much, so quickly.

The pitch was that the financial support from the mega-corporation would only boost business, create more possibilities to be innovative, expand the number of employees, yadda yadda yadda.

I warned someone working at the local company that the buyout corporation has a wretched reputation of being greedy, cold, inconsiderate of non-executive employees and having serious customer service problems.

Despite that, my friend told me they were "guaranteed" that the fantastic working conditions, creativity and freedom at the company would continue. As usual.

Ouch. I knew avoiding the truth would leave everyone consummately unhappy. The mega corporation has a reputation of not just buying out companies, but of crushing them.

Sure enough, the megacorporation changed a healthy working environment from literally feeling lucky to show up for work (on time) into fear; employees no longer felt important or part of the process but just lackys expected to execute orders - and not very interesting tasks at that.

Mega corporation executives who knew nothing about the smaller, successful company or its culture were placed in key positions and dragged it down rapidly with their inappropriate rules and treatment of the employees. And last, but not least, these formerly happy workers found themselves fielding ridiculous customer complaints they never had to deal with as part of the original business.

The quagmire: whether to continue unhappily, to challenge The Powers That Be (which was seen as useless or they may be seen as a "complainer" or "troublemaker") or to quit.

Having experienced a genuinely healthy, happy working situation before the buyout, the vast majority quit.

Not everyone found employment right away - some remained happily unemployed until they could find a new position at a healthy enterprise; some became entrepreneurs, creating their own businesses - willing to ride the rough tide as they worked to establish themselves pursuing their passion.

In short, they loved themselves enough to find their passion, to love what they do, who they are with and how they live.

If simply showing up to do the tasks assigned for money so you can go home and live a rich, rewarding life makes you happy? Kewl. That's your definition of a happy life and you're living it!

Of course the same is true of relationships.

It can feel way easier to live from day to day without paying attention to your needs, wants or desires; without paying attention to your partner's needs, wants and desires; or without paying attention to your relationship's needs, wants and desires.

While you might present yourselves to the world as "happy," you know exactly what is going on behind closed doors.

I don't feel lonely. That is, I don't need to be around people to feel OK or not alone.

However, the only time I did feel lonely was when I was in a dysfunctional relationship. I felt extremely alone and unhappy.

It takes tremendous courage to step up and discuss these matters because it may mean the termination of the relationship.

True, but it can also work the other way. It can strengthen the relationship if both people are equally as invested in the relationship - finding new ways to make each other and themselves comforted and happy.

I confronted a relationship in which I lost trust - a relationship I did not want to lose, but the thought of being treated in a way I experienced as neglectful, untruthful and disrespectful was worse.

The relationship ended.

After grieving its loss, I found myself surrounded with people I not only trust, but who treat me very well, indeed.

I've also discovered happiness is dynamic.

The more we understand it, the more successful we can become at re-defining what happiness is, how it feels and what it looks like.

Being in touch with ourselves and our feelings can give us the courage to seek what we need to be happy - finding and living our passion and enjoying the company of others who share those values.

Caveat: The one person whom I have known to never recover from trauma and unhappiness is the adult who loses a child. No matter the age of the child, no matter the reason. To them, I can only say I hope you find some comfort in this lifetime before you, hopefully, join your child in a more peaceful, loving place.

*Please feel free to respond to my blogs by clicking on "comment." Thanks for the emails - they are wonderful! But feel free to share your thoughts with the community as well. Incredible readers from 68 nations read my blog!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Are you happy?

Happiness has been the subject of discussion, research and philosophy throughout history.

La Vita è BellaThe US is the only nation in the world that defines "the pursuit of happiness" as not only a constitutional objective, but an inalienable right for citizens.

Many cultures do not consider happiness a goal in life, let alone a "right," but only something that happens here and there - almost incidentally or coincidentally.

I believe happiness is an attitude we can all achieve - anyone, in any circumstance.

That's precisely the message in Roberto Benigni's 1997 Academy Award-winning film Life Is Beautiful (La vita è bella), which told the story of an Italian Jew helping his son live happily and carefree through the family's concentration camp incarceration during the holocaust.

Roberto BenigniPeople for whom happiness is a true goal live with the intent to be happy, they pay attention and figure out ways they can help themselves live happily where they are and in their circumstances and they take action, step by step, learning how to be or become happy most of the time.

Starting from a foundation of that desire helps build a lifestyle that develops for them in a positive, spiritual and grounded way.

One place you may want to start is the University of Pennsylvania's Happiness Project.

Each of us has a different definition of happiness, just as we have individual understandings of success. In order to become happy, each of us in our own way, we have to declare exactly what happiness is to us, what it means, what it feels and looks like.

Then figure out how to make that dream become a reality. Little bit by little bit.

The most interesting part of the journey for me is that while I've had to work hard to learn how to be happy - I can sit back and enjoy the benefits now.

I recently realized that being happy and positive has been a firm goal, a dream and literal prayer for me since I was quite a young child. And for reasons too many to mention I had to create it on my own.

Which in hindsight I do not mind at all.

And it's all been worth it.

Today I wish for you true happiness - exactly the way you define it and want to live it, with the very people you are happy to surround yourself!

Lake Moraine

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Growing up too fast"

There are several news stories out now in newspapers, TV and radio about protecting kids from "growing up too fast" - from being exposed to - and partaking in - drugs, alcohol and violence.

But ask any psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor: engaging in these activities and abusing mood-altering chemicals at a young age results in preventing an individual from growing up.

They actually keep us immature.

Significant steps in our maturation stop literally the day a child takes his or her first drink, drug or is severly traumatized by violence. Addiction is much more likely to occur if a kid takes a drink or drug at a younger age.

According to Robert Downey Jr., his father gave him his first hit of marijuana when he was 8 years old and was allowed to partake in addictive substances, including alcohol, as a child. According to addiction experts, children and women are more easily addicted to alcohol and drugs because of their physiology than adult men.

And addiction is no stranger to grown men.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, a noted child psychiatrist I interviewed from Seattle's Children's Hosptial and Medical Center told me the way children can recover from even the most traumatic experiences is to talk about their feelings.

However, addictions prevent abusers from processing - recognizing and talking about - memories or feelings in order to mature. When kids aren't taught systems with which to handle negative emotions or experiences, the fallout from those feelings and troubles can linger and fester - harming the individual's ability to deal effectively with life's ups and downs as well as blocking a significant part of the emotional and intellectual maturation process.

Several adult friends of mine regret ever lighting up that first cigarette or joint, or abusing alcohol. Not because they ever got "hooked" or addicted, nor were these "gateway" drugs ("lighter" drugs that lead to hard drug abuse) or because their lives were in any way messed up or ruined by them, but because they simply were not necessary.

They only took time away from the clarity they enjoy now not taking any mind-altering substances - especially the misery and time it took to quit smoking!

I'm one of them. What a waste of time. Even though I started when I was a young adult and not a kid, and quit smoking and drinking decades ago, I still wish I had never started. I'm someone who wants to make the most of her life; chemicals don't enhance that experience for me - they detract from it.

It's probably impossible to convince youngsters how much of their youth is robbed by sucking up cigarettes and booze or taking drugs because they mistakingly believe abusing drugs and alcohol is a sign of maturity - where in fact it is a sign of immaturity.

It's immature to get behind the wheel of a one-ton lethal weapon after drinking or drugging.

It's immature to escape feelings and refusing to grow up drinking and drugging.

It's immature to instigate violence.

Violence not only enforces simplistic, ineffective solutions for complex problems, but witnessing violence traumatizes not just those who experience it, but even those who execute it; those doing the shooting and hurting others.

Why do you think there are so many soldiers - who firmly believe they're doing the right thing - suffering from post traumatic stress disorder?

Again, from all I've seen and experienced, smoking, drinking, drugs and violence keeps those parts of us that have not developed immature. Literally preventing us from becoming all we can become, all we can genuinely experience in order to live life fully.

It always makes me laugh when notorious alcoholics and drug addicts die and are described as people who "lived life to the fullest."

Um, no. Drugs, alcohol and violence actually prevent us from living life fully - I mean, what good is having a "great time" if we can't remember it or suffer the sickness of a hangover the next day or two or three after - preventing us from doing anything except recovering?

Or suffer from life-altering injuries, severe trauma, are killed or put in jail because of violent acts?

It's true of artists. Who can create honestly, love openly, share our talent fully, if we're "under the influence" that prevents us from accessing our deepest thoughts and feelings.

An interesting study in Canada revealed that great artists don't do great work while they were under the influence or suffering from depression or bipolar disorder, but in fact when they were free from those things - lucid, sober and not distracted by demons.

However, because those experiences tended to be their most vivid and recent memories, that is what they tend to create in their work - painting, writing, and so on.

You may consider these things when you are creating characters as a writer, actor or director.

To be clear - I personally don't care if adults imbibe or partake of anything they choose as long as they don't endanger anyone else as they do it.

However you choose to define living your life to its fullest and being genuinely happy - whatever that is - is just right for you.

It is your body, your mind, your life.

I thought you might find these thoughts interesting.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I am *on fire!*

OK, this is not meant to sound at all as if I am bragging - I'm just telling you how I feel and why, honest.

But WOW!

Even though I have so many irons in the fire, my camera acting coaching practice is phenomenal - which means that my actors are doing fantastically!

Every session feels like we're kicking up our game to another level! It's so exciting to feel like I am sensing and hearing everything they need and empowering them to go out and get the job, do a tremendous job performing on the set and generally kick acting for the camera booty.

It is so exciting for me to do it time after time after time throughout the day.

Pretty thrilling for them, too.

It's also great to get calls from actors far away who seek my paid counsel based on recommendations from some major "players" and what they've read on my website; to write my latest movieScope international filmmaking magazine column on Finding Your Voice as an actor for the camera, continue to finish my book on subtext, start yet another business (that I can't talk about yet) and have a great time attending great functions as well as have wonderful dinner party fun with friends and their French Bulldog puppy named Winston!

And these are the just the headlines!

My hope for you today is that you are *on fire!*