Aggghhhhhhhhh! SHIT! Aggghhhhhhhhh!
That was me for the first half of last week.
I’d been waiting for Monday for what felt like an eternity. It was the day I finally started my 16 week acting course at the Actors’ Temple. Every afternoon, Monday to Friday.
In my mind, life was going to get busy, but manageable. Mornings (for February at least) I’d be figuring out ways to earn my £30 a day for the challenge and raising extra for the Alzheimer’s Society. Afternoons I’d head to my course and I’d go from there to any shifts I could pick up at my part time theatre job.
But after a week at the Actors Temple it became evident there were a couple of major things I hadn’t factored in…
1. Each session is like running a marathon. It leaves me physically and emotionally exhausted in the extreme. It’s like living your whole emotional life in the space of 4 hours. Every. Single. Day.
2. Homework. They DIDN’T SAY there’d be homework before I handed over my cash to pay for the course. And yet I found myself, in week one, having to write and learn a monologue.
SHIT. SHIT. SHIT.
How the hell am I going to cope with all of this? How will I fit in homework between my £30 a day challenge and working at the theatre? When will I find time to eat? How will I cope with the late nights and early mornings? How will I find time to blog, respond to emails, stay fit, keep up with the people who are important in my life?
So for the first half of last week, instead of feeling busy but in control, I felt totally out of control and completely exhausted. I found myself stuffing peanut butter and jam sandwiches down in the 10 minutes I had between acting classes finishing and theatre shifts starting. And cadbury’s cream eggs at midnight when I got home from those shifts (oh, the shame!) and having melt downs in front of my poor flat mate who was probably wondering how on earth she’s going to deal with me for the next 16 weeks!
My plate was overloaded. And I was overwhelmed.
But 16 weeks of overwhelm was not going to get me very far. What to do?
1. Live with the overwhelm, for a while.
I’ve always fled from overwhelm. My brain registers immediate panic when I think there’s too much going on and I find the first opportunity to make my life less busy so I can go back to having a comfortable existence.
But I’ve learned this week that an important part of becoming an actor is getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. So if my partner is in front of me screaming at me that I’m a bitch, or if I’ve got a seriously good looking guy holding my head in his hands inches from his, looking deep in to my eyes, or if I’m in floods of tears in front of someone because they’ve told me I’m a demanding cry baby (all of which happened this week, by the way), those things are seriously uncomfortable for me. But staying with it and living through it, eventually makes it less so.
And I figured I could probably apply this to my life too.
On Monday and Tuesday last week I was just about ready to pack in my £30 a day challenge, or the acting course, or the blog, or anything that would give me a sense of control back. But a couple of constructive conversations with people who could see my situation from the outside convinced me just to let the days go by and see how my feelings changed.
And change they did. By Friday I’d settled in to the course. I’d done 3 late shifts at the theatre but miraculously hadn’t yet turned in to a pumpkin. I’d found a few minutes to work on my monologue, done some work for my blog and met a couple of friends for lunch.
I can fit in more than I thought. Breathe.
2. There’s only now
My overwhelm was based on my idea of what the next few weeks would be like. I’d formed an image in my head based on my past experiences and what I expected to happen, none of which was the reality of the situation.
Accept each day, each hour, each minute, each moment as they come. All we have is now. The past is over and the future is yet to come.
Right now, in this moment, everything is ok. Breathe.
3. Failing is ok
I’ve connected with a lot of people in the last few months who are following a more unconventional life path. And something they’ve all told me is that failure is good, that it’s where you learn the most, that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. And yet my stubborn nature still finds that hard to accept. Failure has always meant weakness and an inability to cope.
But fail we must if we are to succeed. Whoever learned to walk without falling over, to ride a bike without falling off, to speak without getting the words wrong?
Getting things wrong is an essential part of eventually getting things right.
The £30 a day challenge is yet to start and no doubt that feeling of overwhelm will come once more as I try to deal with an even fuller life. But if I live with it for a while to see what the reality is, take each day as it comes and remember that failure isn’t my enemy, it will all be ok in the end.
Tell me I’m not alone! Share your overwhelm stories and your top tips for dealing with it. Comments and feedback BELOW!