Monday, August 18, 2008

Constant Cravings.


A wise teacher of mine introduced me to the concept of weighing my cravings up against my desires. (His name is Colin Campbell and I can provide details of how to get hold of him should anyone be interested.) I realised that in my life I am constantly being presented with a choice between a craving (instant gratification) or my desire (long term goal). For example: It is my desire to be in a mutually beneficial relationship with a man that I love and respect and who will stimulate me both mentally and physically (duh!) But it is often my craving to get “jiggy” with Mr. Dark-horse on the dance floor who is clearly 100 miles of bad road. Mr Dark-horse is not going to improve my life in any lasting way. He might provide one supercharged and electric (if not shady) experience and then prove to be emotionally unavailable and spiritually ill in all other aspects. But God he is soooooo HOT! And sometimes that which we know is not good for us is irresistible, like that cream stuffed chocolate ├ęclair which they clearly seemed to forget to mention was allowed in the Abs diet.
Daniel Goleman, Author of Emotional Intelligence, talks about a test that was conducted on hundreds of small children to determine whether or not they would prove to be successful in life. It was called the marshmallow test and was more accurate in determining a successful future than IQ tests and whatever the socio-economic backgrounds of the kids were. It was not their intelligence, nor their level of education and financial situations that determined whether or not they would succeed in life. But rather, whether or not they were able to delay their gratification over a period of time which set them apart as overall winners. The test involved presenting each child with a marshmallow and then leaving them on their own after being told that if they were able to wait until an adult returned that they would then be rewarded with an additional marshmallow. If they could not wait, they were allowed to eat the marshmallow but, then would not get another one. Follow up research found that all the children that were prepared to wait were the highest percentage of achievers out of all the other tests that were taken. The recipe for success therefore seems to involve huge lashings of delayed gratification. That means I have to tell Mr Dark-horse to giddy up and keep my ├ęclair in the fridge until Sunday (International cheat eating day.) I wonder if there is any value in buying a pack of marshmallows and storing them in my cupboard for a few weeks to remind myself to focus more on my desire rather than constantly indulging in my cravings. Weird thing is that I really don’t like marshmallows unless they are in a chocolate Easter egg or melting in a mug of hot chocolate. Why is it that we are attracted to so many things that could do us such serious harm over a period of time? Why do I crave bad foods, bad relationships and bad thinking habits? I suppose a goal is that much more satisfying to achieve if it is achieved after great effort. It seems so simple in theory. Say no to today’s pork sausage and so, say yes to tomorrows perfect six pack. But in practise these things are deceptively challenging. Lust is very good at overriding the brains mainframe as is the stomachs argument for a whole slab of whole nut chocolate. In essence I guess I need to reclaim my goals and desires by owning every decision I make along the way. Every bite I take or flirt I make with the wrong slice of cake (be it chocolate or beef) is one step closer or further away from who I want to be and who I want to be with. As my friend Catherine says: “Baby steps.” Baby steps indeed Cath.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Self-Help and Divining Rods.




I’m on the balcony overlooking the gorgeous Indian Ocean. I’m listening to Suzanne Vega and have just enjoyed the lyrics of Marlene on the wall. She speaks of a picture of Marlene Dietrich hanging over the events of her life with a mocking smile as Vega is in the process of discovering her destiny.
I realised today over a mammoth mug of green tea that sometimes it’s actually best not to know what’s coming next. But I think it does help to have a rough idea. I have read just about every self help and pop-psychology book to be found and have consulted literally hundreds of psychics, tarot readers, traditional healers, automatic writers and trance mediums but I think I have missed the point. I have been too focussed on the destination and not making the most of the journey (thanks superchilled.) I was thinking about whether or not the Khoi Khoi or any other aboriginal tribes ever felt the need to create a five year plan. (Perhaps that’s what they were painting on the cave walls.) They definitely had to plan for future events like harsh winters, by storing foods and accumulating enough warm pelts. But, did they devote even five minutes a day to establishing and planning their goals? I think maybe there is a little too much pressure to know what we are here to do and how exactly we plan to do it. These ancient peoples must have exercised foresight and self-discipline but not to the extent many of today’s self-help books would advocate. Then again if their living techniques were so successful why have all of these amazing original peoples been almost completely wiped out by society? I suppose the concept of everything in moderation including moderation applies to self-improvement as well. I have learnt some amazing things from my books which I would like to condense and share. Stephen R. Covey taught me that habits can be exchanged for better ones and that self-discipline can provide liberation. Robin Sharma and Julia Cameron taught me the value of spending the first hour or so of my day devoted to better understanding myself through writing or meditation so that I can be more compassionate and understanding towards others for the rest of the day. Neale Donald Walsch helped me realise that God only wants what I truly want in my heart and that I can become the best version of the vision that I have for myself. Dr John F. Demartini taught me that everything in life seeks equilibrium and that in every moment we are being tossed ecstasy or devastation and that we can choose which we want to catch and that it is preferable and more beneficial to catch both at once. All of these authors are only going to improve your life but they are not a prerequisite to a good life. Books too can become a crutch and an addiction to contradictory living systems. I think it’s important to take what you need from what you read and see in the media but not swallow everything whole like a pill and then later wonder why it clashes with your life. As for the psychics and fortune tellers, they have not disappointed because they were fraudsters and\or inaccurate. Most of them were disturbingly accurate and I found myself ignoring the wisdom of the author Eckart Tolle and constantly living in the future and so dying to myself in every present moment. It was like being so obsessed with what’s going to happen in episode three of “Heroes” that I completely missed some of the plot unravelling in episode two. It’s best to try and live in the now, but if you struggle, I can strongly recommend going for an astrological chart reading with a reputable astrologist like Rod Suskin in Cape Town if you know the time of your birth. He is very in demand and I had to wait six months on a list before I could see him, but he provided so much clarity about my planetary and therefore personality influences and three years on I still consult the reading which he allowed me to record on tape. He is also an author too so any one of his books can be found online or at any Exclusive books which will also provide much clarity. He is an earthy Capricorn and his no frills tell-it-like-it-is manner is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise quite wishy washy esoteric world. It’s beneficial because he helps you to focus on your present challenges and character influences and has helped me with my addiction to trying to control the future. Otherwise I suppose we are all pawns in the process of natural selection desperately trying to discern what makes us special and what purpose we serve. I am going to work harder at living in faith and trusting that I am fulfilling the purpose of my design, otherwise I suppose I would cease to exist. I am going to enjoy all the amazing moments as they come at me and I am going to start by having another ridiculously large mug of tea and maybe taking a swim in the sea that seems to be flirting with me from this balcony.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shanti.


I finished the matinee show and then decided not to go with my fellow cast members to a screening of the new Batman on Imax. I had some thinking to do. I sat on my ace and devoured a mediocre but filling lasagne, did some people watching and then popped into Exclusive books on my way home and bought a CD called Following Sound into Silence “Chanting your Way Beyond Ego into Bliss.” It’s a chant CD by a guy calling himself Kailash (previously known as Kurt A. Bruder.) It is now playing off my lap top as I write this. He is a little off key at times but it is quite soothing mixed with the steady cyclical “whooshing” sound of the dryer (I am washing my stinky hunchback and fishnets.) It’s nice to type this and hear the gentle click of my laptops space bar punctuated by the occasional “shanti, shanti” (even if it is a bit flat.) I am wondering what I should do with the rest of my life. AGAIN.
I love acting and singing and I feel completely alive on stage but I hate the uncertainty and the less than adequate salary. I’m always scrimping and saving just to pay rent and every month I bend my credit cards as though they were made of silicone. What are my options? I could teach. There is security as a teacher and benefits but the salary is not much better and my gut tells me that I’m not ready yet. But one day I will teach. I would love to study some form of applied psychology like Logotherapy or alternative medicine like Kinesiology so that my Cancerian desire to heal and nurture is satiated at least. But how long will my Leo rising sleep before it throws me back in the spotlight? And what of the big Gay pressure? You know the pressure that says you must have a good home that looks like a magazine photograph and a hot set of wheels? The same pressure that keeps us doing stomach crunches and sleeping in layers of self tan. This industry is a sea of insecurity and here I am in a gorgeous flat in Durban overlooking the sea and wondering how I’m going to make next month’s rent. I have decided to say in Johannesburg until the end of the year so that I can at least start feel a little bit more settled. Then there’s the one man show. To be honest I don’t really feel ready to do that just yet either. I don’t want to risk all that money (that doesn’t belong to me) on a project in a city that still has very little idea of who I am. I can’t imagine anything worse than creating a show only to see it bomb because nobody comes. I feel I need to wait a while. I know that I’m going to get it in the ear from quite a few people who I’ve been promising I’ll do the show to. But I have to follow my gut. I have no real sense of security at the moment, but I am beginning to realise that all notions of security are an illusion. Lovers come and go as do friendships. Shows rehearse, open and then in the blink of an eye they close. The family you make in these tiny dressing rooms and the life stories you shared as you paint on new faces, fade like wisps of smoke. I have to quote Riff Raff in the Time Warp: “It’s astounding, time is fleeting...” I wonder if Oprah, Ghandi and Bill Clinton have had days like this where they wonder if they weren’t sent to the wrong place like French luggage to an Ethiopian Airport. I pray that by the time I’m 30 I am at least clearer on what it is that I am supposed to be doing while I am here on this earth and also how this occupation will keep me in Calvin Klein’s and Clinique facial products as well as cover all my costs.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Man Enough?


Is it just me or is it really getting tough to measure up enough out there? I thought it was sufficient that I was a man who happens to be attracted to other men in order to qualify as a gay man. But these days the bar seems to have been raised and there is all this other criteria that has managed to sneak in. In order to qualify as a good specimen of homo preference you have to have washboard abdominals, big chunks of chiseled arms and legs and enough tattoos to put a map of the London underground to shame. We gay men are even beginning to outstraight the men who don't have to act straight cos they are. Its not that I'm so camp that my wrists are like an oscillating fan or anything, it's just that I'm beginning to feel ashamed of the fact that I'm sensitive and can be vulnerable and even (Charles Atlas forbid!)emotional at times. I meet gorgeous and intelligent gay men who seem to be putting in overtime at Butch camp because they feel that if they don't act masculine enough that nobody will find them attractive. Ironic, here I am, an actor, frustrated because I feel so much pressure to act a certain way. But the truth be told I want the softer albeit feminine side of me to be loved and appreciated as well. I can act "straight" but will doing so help me find someone to Love all of who I am to the fullest? It's not as though I've been smoking Texan plain and rearranging my balls in public in order to catch myself a squeeze but I have noticed a warmer reception from good looking guys when using the lower registers of my voice and greeting them with a firm handshake. Then later on when things are going well I notice the panic and repulsion once they learn my job often involves make-up and the occasional pair of heels. I am happy to be a man. I love the strength in my body,gruff in my voice and the rasp of my morning stubble. (Don't get me wrong there are plenty of strong bodied women out there, but there are also women out there with raspier stubble than mine so lets leave it at that.)However, as much as I love my manly traits, I also love talking about my feelings, nurturing the ones I love and occassionally shedding a tear watching Oprah. I am blessed with a father and a brother who I believe to be fine examples of what a man should be. I am doubly blessd because both of these men love me to bits, and just the way I am. I love that I am at once soft and yet also strong. (Kind of like toilet paper I guess:-) So I'm going to leave my acting to gigs that pay, and keep flying solo until I can land somewhere where all of me will be allowed through customs. Please fasten your seatbelts and make sure your seats are in the upright postion. Chicken or beef?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Not a happy camper.


Just got home from doing two shows of Rocky Horror. I pumped myself full of a generic cocktail of pseudo ephedrine, Ibuprofen and delivered a particularly manic and somewhat nasal rendition of Riff Raff twice. The audience was great and enjoyed the show. You gotta love coastal towns. They all get so hammered I'm sure they would've given a wet fart a standing ovation. Okay so I'm feeling a little cranky. I think doing the time warp in heels four times in one day with a head cold qualifies me for that. I don't quite feel like sitting in a corner rocking myself and playing Sade's King of Sorrow on repeat. But I'm not exactly a box of sunshine cuddles either. Things haven't been going the way I'd hoped but I think I am dealing well with the disappointment. What is freaking me out is that I am finally going to be getting a one man show to start running hopefully by mid October and although I know I've procrastinated enough the thought makes me feel like I could lose the rushed dinner I had between the two shows. It terrifies me and I'm not even sure why. I would hate to spend the rest of my life just surviving and being mediocre. But, how very daunting the prospect of carrying and maintaining the responsibility of possibly being a true success also seems to be. My sentences are getting too long. Over and out.