Friday, February 22, 2013
Disappointment and Ancient History
I read once that actors do well to learn how to process disappointment quickly. That when something disappointing happens, it is worth knowing how to grieve and get over it in seconds instead of hours or days. This is not always realistic, possible or even focusing on the crux: it isn't how fast you work though disappointment that is key, it is protecting the future from being ruined by disappointment that counts.
Whatever happens in life, professionally or otherwise, there will be things that don't turn out how you want them to, or things stop being like you liked them to be. Change happens, expectations get broken. A role you wanted but don't book, a work relationship that doesn't "go" or ends, a great gig that falls apart or goes into turn-around. Things happen.
Sometimes it's no big deal, that's not what I'm talking about. Sometimes it feels like getting punched in the gut, that things have fallen apart. One step forward, 12 steps back. It is no fun, but things sometimes don't go as we'd have them go. This is life.
Letting yourself off the hook for any part you played, or think you played, can be the hardest part. It gives a sense of control to see ourselves as having a hand in a setback. "If only I'd..." "I should have..." Second guessing and blaming yourself is easy.
Whether or not the cause of disappointment is your fault at all, in any way, if there is no way to change it now, it is ancient history. Or may as well be. Learn the lesson if there is one to learn, so you can do better next time. Then, in every way you can: let it go. Release it. Breathe. Let. It. Go.
Do not let its hold continue. Work to let it go. Emotionally this isn't always something you can do just because you want to. Disappointment can't be turned off like a light switch. Things that hurt hurt. We care, as we should, about our work. Dashed expectations don't evaporate just because it would be nice. But their impact on the future can be contained. At least to some extent.
No matter how angry you are, at yourself or the situation or both, no matter how much you hurt, whatever the disappointment, do not let it touch the future. The next moment is a blank slate. It may not be possible to shield the next moment, minute, hour or day from a setback that just happened, but it is deeply worth doing it as much as you possibly can.
How does one protect the next from the disappointing last? With some difficulty, to be sure, but I think it is done in part by continuing to do what needs doing. Didn't book the role? Ok, go to work your day job anyway. Didn't get the meeting? Ok. Not fun. Go grocery shopping just the same. Lost out on a great opportunity of any sort even possibly through your own mistake? Ok. But still: do the right thing, right now, in the right way. Anyway.
Sometimes taking action, doing it anyway, acting because it still needs doing, may avoid some disappointments in and of itself. We are actors. We act. The unchangeable past from just an instant ago may as well be from the ancient past, a thousand years ago. If something can be fixed, or retrieved, by all means set it right. If not, work on what can be done, what is in your control.
At least that is what it seems like to me. Learning lessons, hard though they may be, and living through grief is not easy, nor fun. But it may be all there is left to do. So I'm off to look at my to do list, eat some dinner, meet a friend, look forward to the future possibilities and somewhere, in the gaps between: grieve for what could have been but won't be. Have a great weekend.
Recently, I was a tiny bit bummed out seeing a role when to someone else. Then I saw the video and thought, "So glad I didn't get that. Not my style."
You have to not just embrace the roles you get but be thankful for the ones you didn't. You never know.