I'm taking a sabbatical from the life I used to know. I've traded cosmopolitan noise for quiet contemplation. One activity that is really feeding my soul is gardening. During a particularly thorough weeding session recently, I gained some insight into keeping your garden (or your mind) in balance.
In this moment, I'm in love with the world.
In this world, joy is my currency.
In this currency, there is give and there is take.
In this take, the scene climaxes in raw beauty.
In this beauty, I exist.
I exist, in this moment.
My glasses broke today. I guess it was time for a new way of seeing the world.
When they broke I was on my way to a singing lesson. I wasn't in a very good mood by the time I got there. My coach and I spent a long time talking (which happens a lot, our lessons are always more than music). During our colourful conversation, she asked me something.
She asked me who I am.
Not what my name is. Not what I do. Not all of the occupations that I identify with. Not where I'm from. The core of my being. My singing coach challenged me to take some time and really figure out who I am. I'm up for the challenge. I think it's one of the most important things I can do right now. I'm willing to let go of who I thought I should be or who I used to be. I can see how a lot of the tension inside me has come from my perceived identity.
Numb hands. Warm tea. Glad to be inside. As I was sitting in the café, a friend noticed me through the window. He came in and joined me for a few minutes. He gave me a good hug. I was just thinking how it would be nice to see a friend. Like so many thoughts, this one materialized into something real and brightened up my night.
Speaking of thoughts coming to fruition, it's good to be aware of the power we give our negative thoughts. I noticed my friend in the café knocks himself down a lot. As lovely as he is, he seems pretty hard on himself. I guess we're all capable of that in various ways. I've had moments where I've told myself I'm not thin enough, not muscular enough, not clear-skinned enough, not productive enough, not ambitious enough, not rich enough, not talented enough, not sane enough.
I know it's not helpful for my well-being. I work at eliminating that kind of thinking from my daily life but it can creep in during vulnerable moments. Often when I reach a new chapter in my life, the stakes are raised and the fears pop up with more vengeance. Hello fears, thanks for sharing. This type of thinking keeps me victim to my pity. It can feel safe. It feels like shit, but it can feel safe and familiar.
Perhaps we've been conditioned to use negative self-talk as a way of keeping ourselves modest. For fear of going to the other extreme - arrogance. While I was sitting in the café, another friend spotted me and popped in. Without any prompting, he started talking about the topic at hand. He told me about a conversation he had just had about his art. He had told his friend he was a really good artist and the sarcastic response was, "Ooooh, aren't you modest!" If we get scorned for talking about ourselves with pride, what effect is that going to have on our self-talk? Is it possible to assert our strengths without being arrogant?
I went crazy for coconuts this week. Coconut oil in particular. Everyone's been talking online about oil pulling as this mystical cure for all that ails us. I first heard about it a couple of years ago from a good friend. Someone else I know who's very knowledgeable about holistic health brought it up a few weeks ago. Now everyone's sharing links to oil pulling like there's no tomorrow. The theory behind it is that the coconut oil (or sesame oil or whatever you use) will pull out toxins from your body through your mouth.
Well, I gave it a go. I swished that coconut oil in my mouth for twenty minutes. It didn't feel as long and arduous as I thought it would. It had a pleasant taste. It left my teeth feeling nice and smooth. I tried it again the next morning. My teeth looked whiter. My lips were nice and moisturized. I didn't have any proof that toxins were being pulled from my body but it felt nice.
I swished and swished every day for a week. And I didn't stop there. After further investigation, I discovered that coconut oil is effective for soothing and clearing the skin. I always knew it was an awesome moisturizer but I didn't realize it would clear up acne as well as it does (it has a really high level of lauric acid). Back around New Year's, while I was moving to my new home, my skin broke out like nobody's business. It hasn't been the same since. Until now. After applying some coconut oil twice a day, It's starting to clear up nicely.
I've also been lathering my tropical new friend all over my body. I've used it as deodorant and soon I'll probably start conditioning my hair with it. I used it in a stir-fry. It seems there are a bazillion uses for coconut oil. Other forms of coconut have complemented my week as well - coconut chips, coconut milk in my Thai soup; the list goes on.
All this coconut talk is bringing me to my point. The moral of this story is that sometimes one ingredient, one piece of the puzzle, one small but powerful thing can be a simple solution to many issues. Rather than hunting around for a dozen products with complicated ingredients, I can use one. Sometimes one thing is enough. Sometimes one person is enough. One person can do a multitude of jobs and create a whole lot of magic.
Be the coconut. Do it all.
I bumped into someone in our building who told me I'm her favourite neighbour. Who knew? We don't see each other very often and when we do, it's just for a few minutes in the lobby. I guess you never know the impression you're going to leave on someone. I was really touched.
It's also been touching to hear people's experiences of reading my blog. I've been surprised a number of times when friends have brought it up. It turns out this internet contraption works and I'm not just speaking to myself. Thank you for reading. Thank you for connecting your feelings to my humble words.
There's another sweet neighbour who lives next door to me. A couple of days ago I could hear her in the hall; she lets her cat roam around out there. I decided to join them out there so I opened the door and sat in the hall. We talked for a while about cats, dogs, neighbours, and eventually acting. She brought up a job opportunity for me, which was nice and fortuitous. Who knew?
Back to the first neighbour in this story, my lobby buddy. I made a conscious decision to go through the front door more often in hopes of seeing her more. Sure enough, the next day, there she was. She said to me, "See, you thought about it and made it happen."
“She's a lying bitch."
It's not a phrase you hear every day in the seniors home. But there we were, old and young alike, hearing the words and laughing hysterically. We were listening to the tragic tales of Linda Richman's life, from her novel I'd Rather Laugh: How to Be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans for You. The same Linda Richman that was parodied on SNL by her son-in-law, Mike Myers.
The charming woman I volunteer with brought Richman's book in for a change of pace. In our reading sessions, we usually stick to books that are safe. Gentle stories of boys with their dogs in the Maritimes. Mishaps in the drug store. To be honest, I was becoming uninspired. Our faithful group of white-haired listeners seemed to be losing enthusiasm as well. In our efforts to be inoffensive, had we become boring?
Well, let me tell you, Linda Richman sparked a fire in my storytelling soul. I was practically jumping out of my seat while narrating her anecdotes of dysfunctional family life. I felt like the star of a play with the audience hanging onto my every word. Clearly, Richman's been through a lot. But somehow she manages to paint her picture with incredible humour. A type of humour that is loads of fun to share.
The woman at the café I'm writing at holds her hand under mine when she gives me change. It's a tender, two-handed gesture that I've never experienced before. Gestures like that mean a lot to me. I've got a table in the sun and the tea I'm drinking is called Kiss and Tell. It seems appropriate.
This week has been full of dreaming. I was really inspired after talking to one of my favourite people. We haven't spoken in years but in this age of photo-sharing and thought-posting I feel like we're somewhat in touch. He's at theatre school in Windsor so we Skyped. We talked about work, play, and love. I also met his beautiful girlfriend.
After talking to these free birds I felt a sense of wonder and adventure. I was reminded that anything is possible. You can move, you can travel, you can start a new career, you can start a new relationship. There are so many cities in so many countries with endless opportunities. I have a dear friend in Wales working at a hostel that I could join. I could work on a farm in Argentina. I could join a theatre company in New York. Of course I'd need to come up with the money to get to all these places but it's within the realm of possibility.
Perhaps one day I'll do each of those things. For now, I'm happy being here. My family is here. I get to watch my nephew grow up. The film and TV industry is here. I've got a good thing going on. I guess what I'm saying is that knowing there is a world of options makes me feel free. We have choices. I choose to be here.
Writing is very cathartic for me. After writing my last post, all the noise in my head went away. I needed to let the thoughts out in order to sweep away the cobwebs. Once my head was clear I was able to let things happen. What's that Lao Tzu saying? "By letting it go, it all gets done." That kind of sums up the week.
Once I began trusting in what I was doing, what I was working on, and who I was connecting with, everything came together. A new job landed on my lap. I got an audition for one of the biggest roles I've been considered for. I marvelled at the connections my friends set me up with. Craving a free massage? Done. Need a ballroom dancer at the last minute? No problem.
I was half-joking when I asked Alicia Bernbaum if she knew a ballroom dancer. I was looking for someone to instill the necessary posture and attitude in me for that audition. Turns out she has a friend who teaches. A few moments later I was signed up for a complimentary private lesson. Now, if you have any inclination to try ballroom dancing in Vancouver, head over to Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Don't delay. They're amazing. Each person I interacted with there was so warm and welcoming. From my feet to my chin and everything in between, I learned a new way of holding my body, a new form of confidence and elegance.
You never know where an adventure will take you. Not knowing is part of the fun. Last night, a friend brought me to a dinner party and I ended up having the most fun I've had in a long time, laughing to the point of tears.
I've always hated the notion of the starving artist. For years, I've refused to identify with that kind of persona. I've refused to approach my career with an attitude of hardship and lack. Yeah, I don't have a typical job. Yeah, I play in a land of make believe. But I do it because I want to change people, I want them to feel something, I want to move them. I do it with all my might. And I believe there is success in that. Artists can be successful.
I've put a lot of work into myself. University, applied programs, acting classes, production workshops, voice over courses, singing lessons, dance classes, spiritual workshops, therapy, travel, working out, diet changes. . . Many thing have gone into making Michael Barry Anderson.
However, this week I find myself looking back at all that work and thinking, was it all worth it? This week I've been hung up on one variable in the equation: money.
I don't like to talk about money. Over the years, I've always been modest in my conversations about my livelihood. When people asked how I got by I would always maintain that I was making it work as an actor. It's true, I have been making it work and I've had many successes along the way.
Now I see that in my efforts to shun the starving artist persona, I've created another persona. The in-control, wildly successful, got-it-all-together Michael Barry Anderson. The person I want people to see. The person that everyone loves. It's exhausting being that person. I wouldn't go as far as saying I'm a façade or anything but I think I go out of my way to maintain an image. Sure, my best friends know every little dirty secret but to the general public I like to put my best foot forward.
Well, I don't always have it together. I get messy, like everyone else. I have moments where I'm not sure what I'm doing. This is one of those moments. I worry about money. I have a fear of failure. I have a tendency for depression. I have trouble living in the moment.
What I have learned is that it's way easier to just accept what is actually going on. I want to be blah, blah, blah. Right now I'm this. It just is what it is. I still have goals and things to work on. But I'm okay being exactly where I'm at. And I'm okay with people seeing all of me.
A few weeks ago, I challenged one of my best friends to delete all of his online dating apps. He seemed to be having trouble concentrating on dinner while being bombarded by unsavoury men on his phone. He was getting frustrated by lacklustre messages and unsatisfying connections.
If you've ever been on a dating site (and come on, who hasn't?) you know the messages I'm talking about. Short, generic greetings. The occasional lewd pickup line. Sure, it can be nice to get attention but such unimaginative messages can leave a person unstimulated.
My friend took the challenge and promptly deleted each and every app. He started to feel more at ease and less frustrated. We made a commitment to going out more and meeting people in person. At one of our regular stomping grounds, he met someone. The two of them are now turning into an adorable couple.
Now I feel like a hypocrite.
Recently, my curiosity led me back to browsing on OkCupid. In a matter of a week, I got in the habit of scouring endless profiles each night, captivated by the way people described themselves. The behaviour that I had scolded my friend on was becoming a regular routine for me. After exhausting my search in Vancouver I began looking in other cities. Seattle. LA. New York. Berlin. How did people differ in other parts of the world? Were they more upfront? More adventurous? More committed to finding a serious relationship?
There's nothing wrong with meeting people online. But I recognize some of the ugly behaviours I have when I'm trolling around. I become really judgmental. In my mind, I find myself criticizing haircuts, outfits, spelling, attitudes, facial expressions. Finding reasons to dismiss people. Simultaneously, I zoom way into the future. Instead of deciding if I'd like to have a conversation with someone, I'm assessing whether we'll be compatible as a married couple and how many children we should have.
Online dating becomes a project. The project of finding a match. If the project isn't completed, I wind up feeling like I've failed or like I have some sort of lack. I'm not lacking anything. I'm a completely whole person with an amazing life.
Whether I keep online dating or not doesn't matter. What matters is the way I interpret it. I'm giving up my ugly behaviours. My judgments. My fears. My pressure.
That goes for life in general.
Thank you for reading my thoughts. Thank you for inspiring me to connect more purposefully and more honestly. Most of all, thank you for loving.
My friends are really funny. I love that. I spent the day with four of them, two couples, each hilarious in their own ways.
You can come back two years later.
We're laughing; we're talking.
Everything has changed.
Nothing has changed.
the light creeps in
longer and softer
the fight gives in
the sung song grows
louder and deeper
the one he knows
we show up strong
fuller and harder
we keep it on
I love The Kingsgate Chorus. Every time we sing I get the warm and fuzzies. Tonight we played our last show of the year. Our venue was Chapel Arts, a former funeral home. The building now looks a cross between a gallery and a stately home. I weaseled in a private tour of the old embalming room. It was beautiful in a way. It's nice to think of all the care that goes into treating people's bodies after they are gone.
As I left Chapel Arts, I felt a little sad that it will be a few weeks until I see my choir mates again. Everything is wrapping up for the year. Singing lessons with my amazing voice coach, acting classes, auditions, time at the seniors home, and fun with the choir. The end of this year is a time to say goodbye to all the events, adventures, romances, heartbreaks, fears and tears that were experienced.
With every end is a new beginning.
Thanks for your huge smile. Your smile lights up a network of impulses in me, warming and firing my future.
are like waves
crashing into me
are like flames
licking the wind
sparking a change
in each of us
Sitting in front of the fireplace in the seniors home, reading aloud to my trusty gang of listeners, I almost teared up at the end of one of Stuart McLean's stories. This one was about love. The things we do for someone we love. The way it shapes us. As I looked up from the book, I could see that it had warmed the hearts of everyone in the room and I was grateful for that moment of connection.
A year ago I was in Maui with my family. Minutes before departing, I received a call from a friend of mine who is a beautiful singer and actor. She informed me that she was going to be in Maui a few days later and that she'd see me there. I was excited about the coincidence but it wasn't until I saw her in our tropical hideaway that I realized she had moved there. It was a spontaneous move, a decision she made only two weeks prior.
The day she found us, she used her instincts or some kind of built-in compass to walk up from the beach right to our door. After meeting my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, my friend and I took a walk along the quiet shore. As the beaming sun set, we were the only two people in the world. She talked passionately about her plans for her new home, her thoughts on life, and a man she had met a few days ago.
"We're soulmates," she said. Even though they had just met and even though she had just moved three-thousand miles away from him, I believed her. This friend of mine is like no other. She lives fiercely and deeply, honestly and vulnerably. I could feel that what she saying was true.
I was utterly inspired by her tale of love. Out of all my adventures in Hawaii, that moment was the most memorable, the most powerful. It changed my perspective on trust and instinct. When I came home and she remained, I often thought of her and wondered what had become of their relationship.
Tonight I found out. I went to a Christmas party and as I walked through the door, there she was, looking as beautiful as ever. And lo and behold, sitting beside her was the man she had described to me a year ago. Strong and warm, with a peaceful calm to him, he shook my hand. The two of them were now reunited and living in the city. When I asked my dear friend why she looked so beautiful, she said, "it's because I'm happy."
I love to act. It is my favourite thing. We filmed a bunch of scenes tonight and it was really satisfying. It's a treat to work with such talented friends that I trust. Thank you to both of you.
For the first time, I put up a Christmas tree. It's tiny - two feet tall - but it's alive and lit up with light. It has the wooden decorations that have been around since I was a baby. My home feels warmer and full of extra love.