Tag Archives: competition

Joy in the Moment

There are days I wake up and feel like Sisyphus.

Do you know who I mean?

Sisyphus was an ancient mythological figure punished for all eternity to roll a boulder up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. Albert Camus called him an absurd hero; he struggled perpetually and without any hope of success.

That describes me on some days. Broken promises, lack of perceived ‘progress’, low bank accounts and good old self doubt are my boulder. I struggle daily to push it forward and upward, only to watch it roll back at day’s end. In the reality of my profession, the boulder is mine. I am aided and supported by an amazing set of friends and family, but the responsibility is on my shoulders. Sometimes this burden is crushing.

When times like this occur, I stop and breathe. I count my blessings and I look at my situation from a different attitude. Picture Sisyphus smiling.

The idea is so simple: here is Sisyphus, the wretch, interminably pushing his boulder up the hill, watching it roll down and repeating.  In my mind he was always completely defeated, hopeless.  And then, as I read Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, everything about the picture changed.  Imagining Sisyphus smiling, embracing his situation as his reality, not wanting a different past or a different future, but accepting the present, the scene totally rearranged itself.  He was no longer hopeless, but happy in his acceptance of the situation.

He must, in order to accept the absurdity of the situation, adjust his attitude and fulfill what has been put before him.

On the road to your dreams, there are certain absurd truths you must acknowledge. You must work as hard and as tirelessly as you can. There is no guarantee of success, but the burden and the struggle contain a successful measure of their own. To simply be doing what you love, and to master it, may be enough. Our ultimate fate is all the same, so why be miserable? Live your passion in the task at hand, and find satisfaction in your minor successes and your crushing failures.

Like Sisyphus, some see no other option than the mountain and the rock. Burdened with obligations, lack of control, hopelessness, low expectations and no alternatives, they continue to toil in dead-end jobs and uninspiring environments.

You, however, can see opportunity in obligation, freedom in failure and hope in hopelessness. You are unique, as are your burdens. Keep shouldering on, and be thankful for the journey.

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May 11, 2017

Journal

Bit of a whirlwind, the past couple of weeks. The Monthly Monday Magic show pulled about 15 people. Strong audience, powerful feels, but I question my ability to draw people anymore. This wasn’t helped by the small crowd at Citylight the following Sunday. The people who came were awesome … but I’d certainly like to attract more.

Short travel to Greensboro to see Lexie in Peter Pan: she’s powerful and rules the stage, but doesn’t have the confidence in herself offstage, yet. She cannot see how she affects people. (Doesn’t that sound a bit familiar?) Toodles almost stole the show, he’s a natural. The following night was a corporate show in Durham, followed by dessert and a deep conversation/ confessional with Katie A. (which was more needed than I knew). I see some things from a better perspective. Time to leave Faire? I think so … I never want to dread working, and I know that bitterness wouldn’t be helpful at all to that atmosphere. It was a great run, and lots of laughter happened … I want to part on good terms and on the proverbial high note.

USO Warrior Reset – three great days in Jacksonville. I’m getting the groove better, feeling the message and relating to the group. I’m proud of my role, helping them connect with the USO team, and with each other. I want to reach out further than these boundaries.

Long time in the car over the past couple of weeks, lots of time to look at myself and what needs improving, where I want to go next, what kind of legacy I’m leaving in my wake, what does success really look like? I wonder if the help I’m giving really lasts.

Hollywood is upcoming, so I’m in rehearsals for that. Performance therapy … Eddie and Lili therapy … straight, hard talk and love on the west coast.

In my prayers I’m dealing with regret. I hope I’ve decisively broken some cycles … so people can heal and move on. Time will tell.

After the final day of USO I went over to Topsail, where i spent my summers as a boy. I collected some shells for an idea I had for a routine20170510_141906, then sat on the beach as the evening turned to twilight. The ocean was calm, and I studied the horizon, getting the nostalgia I’d left there when I was 12. The sea was bright green in the shallows, and rolling over to deep blue about thirty yards out. I reflected on the journeys I’ve been on in the four decades since I last sat there. Have i lived up to that boy’s dreams?

You know … I have. I’ve even exceeded what he imagined. I can be proud of this road. For the most part, I’m walking it well.

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The Guts of the Matter

“Deep inside, all folded up … where real magic happens? Is your signature and hers. Maybe.”

Me and my friends? We live to serve. We serve You, our audience. The artists, the performers, the show people. Dozens of different names and flavors.

We will perform sick and loaded up on medication. We will perform in pain, our backs hurting, our feet or knees screaming. I know personally that several of us have taken the stage with kidney stones in full press, barely able to stand upright just beyond the curtain, but full arrogance, pomp and swagger under the lights, smiles wide and voices booming for all we are worth. Even then, the little voice in the very back of our mind telling us: ‘You’re going to pay for this.’

We play with our hearts broken. We’ve taken the stage mere moments after a loved one has said something cruel, or even said goodbye. I got the call about one of my parents, fifteen minutes before curtain, and the house was full. I went on, and I delivered. I took it to the stage, and I left it there.

When asked to choose, I chose the art. Even though I lost almost everything else.

We go on and do our jobs. We strive to be better, to reach for excellence. (Not perfection. Perfection is a lie that is lethal to real art.) We were made such that we cannot do anything else and be true.

I do this for You.
I do this for Art.

Selfishly, the Truth is … I do it for me, more than anyone else.

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Failure is Not an Option

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” ~ C.S. Lewis

 

My Friend, I have some news to share: You are going to fail.

That sounds kind of harsh, but I know you want the truth from me.
It’s a part of the journey we are on. Gird yourself and prepare: it will come along.

Failure will happen to you.

In following  your road, you will make some mistakes along the way, in fact you need too. Some really big ones.

This is how you grow. There can be no creation or growth without some pain. It will shape you, mold you. Like refining silver, you have to purge the impurities. It’s going to be hard, but it’s the only way.

To paraphrase the movie ‘Apollo 13’, ”Failure is not an option.” That’s very true, failure is not optional … in fact, it’s a necessity. Don’t fear failure. Since I’m quoting art, how about this one: “Fear is the little death.” (Dune) To fear failure is to lose the battle before beginning it. Fear tells us to keep ourselves bottled up and protected. It tells us to play it safe. It warns of impending failure. Fear lies to us, deceives us into thinking that if we fail, our dreams are over.

Sorry. It’s just not true.

Failure Brings You Closer to Your Goal

Here’s the truth: Failure helps you succeed. It shows you what not to do or when something doesn’t work. It is the fertilizer for experience. In my career I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, if you want to keep a record. I’ve been fired, mocked and even booed off stage more than once. I’ve had my phone, my lights and my water cut off. I’ve had my car repossessed and evicted from my home. If i hadn’t been to the bottom, I sincerely couldn’t be as grateful as I am. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this to you.

I’ve been robbed, protested, preached against, assaulted. I’ve been cheated, swindled and lied to. I could fill a book with promises that have not been kept. Show biz. Because of my faith, I can say that I’ve forgiven all of these. I believe in the greatness of the human spirit. I’ve failed, and I’ve kept on down the road.

Failure is the potential of success, not yet fully realized.

So Now What?

You need to keep dreaming. Keep moving down your road. What we have is this moment; so treasure what it holds. Keep breathing.

When you stop dreaming, you become afraid. You get paralyzed, and that is where you really fail.

You will mess up. You will fall down. On your face. Hard. It will hurt.

“The righteous man falls seven times but rises again.”

Not once, not twice — but seven times. Getting back up produces character and character produces hope.

With failure comes perseverance. With perseverance comes success.

Keep failing, keep learning. Failing means you’re doing. And if you are doing … you’re growing.

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Taking Umbrage

At the request and gentle urging of my trusted beloveds, I began searching for a therapist. One that could understand my unique situation … a little background is needed, I suppose.

I’ve lived with depression for as long as I can remember. It’s not like a cloak that I shrug on and off: more a tattoo that is always there, but sometimes burns and itches like it was still healing. Due to some intense stress over the past 8 months or so, it has redoubled its hold on me, and my sorrow it so great sometimes it worries even my friends.

The Contest is a big one. I’m voluntarily putting my art up to be judged in comparison to others’ works. I had vowed to never do it again, but … peer pressure and pride.
Robin’s suicide. The man I patterned my drive after. He couldn’t make it. His sorrow took him. For all my brave talk about picking up the flag … I’m a fraud. I’m not fit to tie his shoes and … he couldn’t hold on.
Cancer … yeah.
Dawn’s sickness. Slow coming yet sudden in the swiftness in which it took her down. I felt helpless and was then accused of not acting fast enough. This is most likely correct. I’m going to shoulder the blame.
Success. Overwhelming and undeserved, I’m still waiting for the fraud police to show up.

So, I received a recommendation from a trusted friend and made an appointment. I’m going to call her Brady.

She and I seemed to hit it off right away. My first thought in seeing her was that she resembled a very distinct villain from the world of Harry Potter. How cute. How funny.

We started off with her asking some very pointed, direct questions. Events from childhood, life status of my parents, grandparents … tragedy, joys, triumphs and failures. We spoke in plain, raw words for nearly 45 minutes. It was very comforting. We were able to communicate much quicker than other therapists I’ve spoken too. After a short pause, she began speaking.

It seems … I have a generational curse. Now, my health is tied into this. My sickness is hereditary, probably. Something, some defect in my DNA triggered this sickness. It’s probably been in my bloodline for centuries.

My traumas, from the divorce of my parents to the suicide of my hero are my burdens … and my Art is God’s gift to me to help me deal with these burdens. Not eradicate, not heal … deal with.

All the depression, the anxiety, the sorrow … I caused these things by not giving my gifts as a sacrifice to the Holy Spirit.They are entirely, securely, totally mine to bear forever. I own them.

This was all caused by … wait for it … a deal made with Satan. (now, Brady didn’t use the word ‘Satan’, that would be too direct. The phrase repeated was ‘The Enemy’. I swear, you really could hear the quotes around it.) Someone, somewhere, sometime in my bloodline made a pact, whether explicit or implicit with him … and the curse shall be visited even unto the last generation.

The cure may be found in a rigorous treatment of Splankna, acupuncture and chiropractic medicine.

Disclosure here, folks: I don’t believe in the treatment. on the other hand, I don’t have any serious doubts about the diagnosis.

But what I DID get from the meeting was: my misery is real and it’s a part of me because I absolutely deserve it. An honest to goodness professional confirmed what my father first told me when I was eight.

So i went and visited my old ‘hometown’, which isn’t really that far away. I put my feet in the lake in the spot I was baptized in. I felt cold water and … not much else. Same as the first time. (I appreciate the water much more now than I used to, so I did take time to watch for a little while.) I went to the bleachers in the ballpark. On this spot, some forty one years ago, my father (in a very kind, loving voice) proclaimed to me that I could never really hope to amount to anything worthwhile. I was doomed to be a failure and a burden. It was a shame, he said, because he had certainly hoped for a real son to share his interests with.

I feel worse than when I went in, and that can’t be right, can it?

What I’ve written here is just the surface. I can’t bring myself to type all that I’m really dealing with. (Yes … I AM dealing with it. There’s no cause for alarm, please don’t misread my words)
I can’t express it to my family, or my best friend. Not the depth of feelings.

I have work on the stage that still needs to be done. There are things I consider important that I want to say.

But right now? Right now I’m just sad.

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The Warrior, Part One

I am inspired by people who pour their heart and soul into their craft. Usually this kind of dedication comes from someone more seasoned in life, but my story today is about a truly passionate young lady who is only twelve years old.

She has lived her dream for most of her young life, overcoming obstacles and kicking past barriers. She has guts and determination … this warrior will change the world! Her name is Elena, and I’m going to let her Mom tell her story.

Elena Maree Sarmento

“I found out my (soon to be) baby girl was destined to be a “survivor” during my ultrasound at just 16 weeks pregnant, 1970469_303422263145432_216369535_nalthough I already suspected she was a girl, the technician had confirmed the news. What I also learned at this appointment was that she did not have two functioning kidneys developing as they should have been. They diagnosed her with severe (UPJ) stage IV Hydronephrosis in her left kidney. (http://urology.ucsf.edu/patient-care/children/Hydronephrosis) This is one of the most terrifying moments in a mother’s life. During any women’s pregnancy, regardless of religion, she prays only for her child to be born healthy. Elena was born November 28, 2001 after 22 hours of labor and less than a week after celebrating Thanksgiving. Just a few hours after arriving into this world Elena underwent a series of diagnostic tests and exams to check her kidney function and determine whether or not surgery would be immediate or if it could wait. Fortunately her surgeon opted for the less aggressive approach and decided to wait…for the next three years of her life, we waited…throughout numerous trips to the hospital, one infection and illness after another and an endless amount of medications, we battled on. Although she has always been just a tiny little thing, she is one tough kid. At just three years old, after over 8 ½ hours of surgery (pyeloplasty), she came out of anesthesia ready for battle (tearing out her IV & pulling on the stint sewn into her side) she looked straight into the nurse’s face and shouted, “I want to go home”. For the next two weeks, I remained in the hospital room by her side, learning how to care for her because the nurses couldn’t get close enough to my little warrior. After just a short week home, we ended up back in the hospital with a serious staff infection raging through her tiny little body. Two weeks later we were finally home and beginning the process of healing both the wounds from the surgery but also the emotional toll we went through. Just a short year later we were to see a new specialist, ENT Physician to determine what could possibly be causing Elena to have problems with sleeping, breathing and even swallowing at times. It turned out she required a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, & repair of a partial deviated septum, she was only four years old! Because of her previous and ongoing visits to the hospital and Dr. offices, my warrior developed what the medical world calls “White Coat Syndrome” and this is serious stuff. Taking your child to the doctor can be scary for any parent, but when you have a child that is normally a happy, strong-willed child turn into a creature you don’t recognize it is terrifying. I would watch my daughter become a scared, caged animal each and every time we had to see the doctor. It was devastating.

Once she started school a whole world of challenges presented themselves because no parent wants their child to be “different” or teased because of a health condition they have no control over. Living with kidney abnormalities caused her to have incontinence and she lacked the ability to “hold it” like other children could. I learned this the hard way after the first day of kindergarten resulted in tears because the teacher would not let her use the bathroom right when she needed to go. The next 6 years of elementary school began each year with a quick private meeting with her teacher, an explanation and a change of clothes being left in the office.

The warrior becomes a mighty soccer player at just 5 years old. She is one talented little athlete and plays soccer for the next four seasons. At 8 years old she decides she wants to try cheer-leading and the fire ignites in her heart, she has found her passion…we also find out during this same time that not only does she have kidney/ bladder abnormalities (left over from surgery) but she has developed further complications as a result of the antibiotics and other heavy medications she had to take during the majority of her life until now. Another round of testing and visits to the doctor cause more emotional strain on the entire family. We are so concerned about not only her health physically but also her emotional well-being. No child wants to be teased or have the peers around them know they suffer from an illness like this.

Her ailments are obstacles that my warrior will continue to battle for the rest of her life, yet to the outside eye you see a strong willed, very athletic and courageous girl who fights for the things and people she loves with more heart than most people I know. She is strong and mighty and doesn’t allow anyone or anything to stand in the way of reaching her dreams.

She has broken bones (performing a Nationals Champion Competition with a fractured wrist), suffered a concussion and never lets any injury sway her determination to get back to what she loves.”

 

If only we could capture that spirit and share it with the world.

Elena: You are my hero!

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The Cups

The opening scene of “LIAR!”

There was once a street magician …

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August 1, 2013 · 12:53 am