Like many at 12 years old I started delivering newspapers, but this was no ordinary paper round. My patch was miles away down a steep cliff that I’d have to climb twice to reload with hundreds of copies of the local rag. One day I weighed it up and concluded the cash equivalent of 383 penny sweets just wasn’t worth the irreversible curvature of my pre-teen spine and chucked them all in the Irwell (the guilt still haunts me – as if it wasn’t polluted enough with ASDA trolleys and dead bodies).
Next, at 15, you’d find me run ragged delivering deep fried meals to the elderly in Bury’s finest chippy. Mates would wave on their way to Carol Godby’s Theatre Workshop, soon to be choreographing to N’Sync while I was battering haddock. It was a gruelling time and I’ve only just managed to get the stench of fish out of my hair.
And so it went on and on. Did A-levels while working 40 hour weeks as a chef, University it was care homes, bars, and restaurants. I graduated into the same energy. Every minimum wage job a young woman can get without qualifications I’ve had. Looking back I would regularly burn out – I was stressed, anxious and miserable. Eventually I became ill, emotional, mentally and physically. You might be able to relate. When I realised the only thing that would bring back my joie de vive was to honour my childhood promise to myself to become an actor, guess what? I threw myself into that with the same gusto. Sometimes working 3 jobs while auditioning for fringe plays, student films, recording self tapes and trying to secure an agent – I was spread thin as a steam rollered frog.
I enjoyed acting, yes. I liked classes and live performance but everything that went with it – the pressure, the rejection, the stress – was way too much. There was no time to explore myself, my creativity or what made me happy and feel alive because I was moving from a place of desperation and need for validation. It was like being on the travelator at the end of Gladiators but I’d spent the past year on the pies – no matter how hard I ran the incline was too steep and I’d collapse in a defeated mess.
I couldn’t stop and I wouldn’t let myself rest, so attached was I to this dream of ‘making it’ (whatever that means…).The dream just didn’t seem worth it. Something had to change.
It was only when I said ‘enough,’ and did something my twenty six year old self would’ve hated me for – I pulled the breaks and I quit. Gasp. I know and guess what? I survived.
I decided to step away from acting for at least a year. I listened to what I needed; simplicity, stability, routine, ease. I got a temp job, released myself from any evening or weekend obligations, I gave myself space and time. I could breathe, maybe for the first time in my adult life, the pressure was gone. I was free to spend time nurturing myself, finding out about who I was, what I needed, what I wanted.
Soon I remembered and rediscovered my love for writing and story telling – with no pressure, for nothing other than the simple joy of it, not for a competition or to show it off to the world but for me and my inner child. I learned to play again. I found myself reading more, singing, laughing, Being. Slowly things became clear. I still wanted to be involved in theatre and performance but from a very different energy. I would write my own stories and roles for myself and women like me who were working hard for the opportunity to perform but the roles just weren’t there (more on that another time…).
In Women who Run With the Wolves Clarissa Pinkole Estes talks about the necessity for rest when we lose energy and focus;
Neither should we panic when we lose our momentum or focus. But…we must calmly hold the idea and be with it for a while. Whether our focus is on self development, world issues, or relationship doesn’t matter, the animus (male aspect of the psyche responsible for our drive and ambition) will wear down. It is not a matter of if, but of when…for women it is best if they understand this at the onset of an endeavour, for women tend to be surprised by fatigue. They then wail, they mutter, they whisper about failure, inadequacy, and such. No, no. This losing of energy is as it is. It is Nature.
It is when we let ourselves rest, drawn back, sit, rock and soothe ourselves we regather strength, focus and motivation. Whether you’re an actor, writer, director (or any kind of Human) this is vital to understand. Rejection comes thick and fast and can be overwhelming. We conclude we’re not enough, that we’ve failed. No such thing. If what you’re pursuing sets your soul on fire then you must guard it and continue on but you also must learn to recognise when it’s time to retreat and restore your energy.
Take your time, find ways to deeply connect with yourself, learn to listen to the whispers of heart, mind, body and soul. Don’t be afraid to step back; take long baths, read, do yoga & meditate, take long mindful walks, re-fill your depleted cup; dream, pray, dance and laugh with loved ones.
The path will wait for your return, re-nourished and re-energised – your ideas shining brightly lighting the path ahead once more.
Happy Resting x